Her daughter, Janey, had the flu, so Tess had to take care of her and
watch the film about the mermaid, but she wanted to go to the man, who
waited in his apartment on the other side of town. She kept asking
Janey if she was maybe feeling a little better and the girl shivered
under her electric blanket, managing to look both dull and panicked at
the same time.
"Let's take your temperature again." Janey's medicine made her smell
like peaches. Tess had gone to the expense of having her legs waxed and
now she sat on the sofa wearing a sweater and boxers, running her hand
up and down the cool smoothness, imagining her hand was the man's hand.
She went into the other room to phone him, but got his message. His
voice made her a little horny.
When she came back, the mermaid had legs and was dancing with a prince.
She'd seen this movie before, but couldn't remember how the mermaid got
her legs. The man Tess was dating looked a little like this prince if
the prince were older and bald. When the phone had beeped, all Tess
could think to say to him was please.
Janey's fever spiked and now she was sitting up, teeth chattering.
"There's a peacock in the kitchen," she whispered.
"No, no, there is no peacock in the kichen, darling." Tess thought she
might carry Janey upstairs, lower her into a tub of cool water. When
Janey was nine months old her temperature had spiked once when she was
strapped in her car seat. Tess heard a terrible animal noise and turned
around to see Janey's eyes roll back, her arms and legs jerking. She
didn't look like a baby anymore, but something mechanical.
The kitchen curtains had a paisley pattern, bright blue. Tess pointed.
"There's your peacock, Peanut." Janey lay back down, pulled the blanket
to her chin.
Tess went to Janey and held her hand. She wanted to pull the blanket
away, it felt too warm, but Janey wouldn't let go. The phone began to
Sometimes the man drove over to the nearby town and played pool in the
bars there. He liked the people there better. He said it felt like a
Tess closed her eyes and a negative image of Janey's face swam behind
her eyelids. She thought it might be good to sleep awhile. Maybe curl
up under the blanket with Janey. The phone stopped ringing and the
mermaid was singing. Before she sprouted legs, and because her longing
was so terrible, the mermaid collected objects from the dry and
mysterious world, treasuring them and keeping them secret.
Kathy Fish's stories have been published or are forthcoming in Quick Fiction, Night Train, Spork, Denver Quarterly, Storyglossia, RE:AL, [sic] literary
elimae, New South, and
elsewhere. A collection of her short shorts has just been published, along with collections by Amy L. Clark,
Elizabeth Ellen and Claudia Smith, in
A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women, from
Rose Metal Press.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200805peacock.htm
Photo detail on main page courtesy
of Thomas Hawk.
w i g · l e a F