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Low Tide

Low Tide © 2012 all rights reserved. Story by Ellen Hecht
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Mid-point during the war years, a young British wife received a telegram, the one that all families dread. She and her husband were expecting their first child together and after hearing of his death this way, she was devastated. Virtually alone, she made the decision to move from living just outside London to go live with her late husband’s parents who had a home by the sea in Brighton.
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She found solace in a daily walk on the beach. After the baby was born, she continued the practice and as the child grew older, in the warm summer months they would take a picnic, plant themselves on a blanket on the sand and make up stories about the strangers they watched walk by. Over the years, the little girl looked forward to the summer months and their special game as they took turns making up the stories.
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One day, after consuming their picnic and stretching out in the sun, they observed an elderly couple holding hands and slowly walking along the beach with their little dog at their heels.
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After watching them until they were almost out of sight, the young widow asked her daughter if she could guess what the old couple’s story might be. Eager to play their traditional game, the girl began in the usual way.
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“Once upon a time, there was an old man. He had a dog and the dog was also old. They couldn’t walk very fast because of them both being old and both of them had the Arthur-eye-tis, but they took a walk on the beach every day for exercise. The old man had those bandages old folks wrap their legs with so they can still get about.
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One day, as they came to the place . . . you know, where at low tide you can see a cave and craggy rocks, the little dog ran to the water’s edge and started barking. The old man saw a big fish had gotten itself caught in the rocks. When he got close enough, he saw it wasn’t a fish at all. Instead, it was a beautiful mermaid who had gotten tossed onto the rocks by a big wave. The man could hear the mermaid crying, “Please help me!”
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The mother interrupted the daughter’s story. “You mean the mermaid spoke English?”
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“Yes, Mum,” the girl answered with a slight hint of exasperation.
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“Of course she spoke English. She spoke the King’s English as well as you or I do. She was born right off the coast of Brighton!”
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Her mother might have had to discipline the cheeky girl if she’d continued by finishing her sentence with “. . . for pity’s sake, Mum!” Fortunately for them both, she didn’t. Instead, she rolled her eyes in her head, as 10 year-olds do, and asked, “May I continue with the sto-ry?” Her mother nodded.
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“Sooooo,” she emphasized her displeasure at the interruption, “. . . the old man helped the mermaid to get unstuck from the rocks. There was a frightful gash on her shoulder. The old man removed a support bandage from his leg and wrapped her shoulder to stop the bleeding. Did I say she was bleeding something awful? Well, she was. He said some words to calm her and added that he had some medicine at home. He knew she couldn’t go with him. So he suggested that she return the following day and he would treat her so as not to get an in-fec-tion. He was a pretty smart old fellow.
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“He returned with the medicine and a vacuum flask of delicious fish broth. She was waiting for him when he got back. The following day he brought more medicine, a new bandage and a seaweed salad. Well, of course it doesn’t sound good to you; you aren’t a mermaid! But she enjoyed it.
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The next day and the next day after that, they met right at the place down there. See where I’m pointing? Yes, right there. And they continued to meet until one day she announced that she was all well. The old man must have looked disappointed, because the mermaid asked him to meet her again the next day because she wanted to reward him for his kindness.
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“She waved goodbye and disappeared into the waves. The old man just about had a fit when his dog ran right into the sea after her and disappeared into the salty foam as well.
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“After calling the dog and seeing he didn’t come back, the old man hung his head and slowly walked home. He came back the following day hoping that at least the ocean would have given up the little dog’s body. Sad. Yes, very sad, Mum. Let me go on.
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“But as he approached the place where he last saw his dog go into the ocean, he noticed an old lady on the beach walking slowly towards him and, running circles around her, barking and wagging his tail, was a puppy.”
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At this point in the girl’s story, her mother encouraged her to put on her wrap as the afternoon wind was coming up. But she continued speaking as she put her arms in her sleeves.
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“When the old lady and the puppy got closer, the old man recognized his old dog, somehow magically trans . . . trans . . . Yes that’s it; trans-formed into the puppy he once had been!
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“The old woman stopped right in front of the old man. She reached out her hand and gently touched his cheek.
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“I want to spend the rest of my life with you, even if it’s shorter now,” she said. The old man squinted at the woman and was surprised to see that behind the wrinkles, it was his beautiful mermaid.
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“After my accident, my mermaid magic wasn’t strong enough to make you young. But, my dear, I could make myself old. Now we can be old together.
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“And that is the story of the old man, the old woman and their puppy. The End.”
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The girl’s mother showed her appreciation by clapping her hands together and exclaiming, “Splendid!” Then they packed up and left for home.
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The next day it was cooler and a bit overcast. The young girl and her mother felt the chill in the air that signaled the end of summer and decided to stay in that day. So they weren’t on the beach at their usual spot, when an old woman came slowly walking up the beach, alone.
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It was low tide when she reached the place where the cave and rocks were exposed. No one saw her make a shallow dive into the sea. If they’d been there, they would have heard the slap and seen the splash of a mermaid’s tail disappearing beneath the waves.
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If you enjoyed this story, I invite you to visit the folder in my portfolio entitled “Writing. Short Stories.” Maybe you’ll find others you like as well.

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A short, existential fairytale.

Tags

ocean, beach, mermaid, fairie tale, fairytale, fiction, short story, british, briton, great briton, england, english, seaside, sand, dog, puppy

I am a photographer and a writer. If you enjoy odd, short stories, I have a folder in my RB portfolio titled “Short Stories / Writing.”

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Comments

  • solareclips~Julie  Alexander
    solareclips~Ju...about 2 years ago

    I loved this story! Thank you for sharing your “magic!”

  • The biggest compliment of all. Receiving a Feature for my writing is even more thrilling than being awarded one for my photography. Thank you so much, Julie!
    Cordially, Ellen

    – waddleudo

  • walela
    walelaabout 2 years ago

    Terrific

  • Wow! So happy you enjoyed it. I have many more in my writing folder. If you have time I hope you’ll drop in for a quick read.
    Cordially, Ellen

    – waddleudo

  • Writers-Block
    Writers-Blockabout 2 years ago

    wonderful- This is inspires me try my hand at writing a ‘fairytale’ too ;)

  • Very nice of you to slog through my work! You really should take a stab at a fairytale. I love that I might have inspired you. I hope to be the first to read it!
    Cordially, Ellen

    – waddleudo

  • trish725
    trish72510 months ago

  • Super honor! Thank you, Trish!
    Cordially,

    – waddleudo

  • TeresaB
    TeresaB10 months ago

    October 25, 2013

    Beautiful work!

  • Thank you, Teresa, I appreciate the time you took to read this and the work you do hosting this great RB group!
    Cordially,
    Ellen

    – waddleudo

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