Mermaid 1 - Copy

by LeAnne Hunt

The phone’s ringing surprised me. The ringing of that phone,
the one with the smashed screen. I hadn’t charged the battery
in two months. Still, a phone rings, and someone answers.
That is life. I knew who was calling. Her last call cracked the
screen and burst my ear drums. I got off lucky.

She was the epitome of a poet junkie’s beauty queen—
the dark, sad eyes and red lips that foreshadowed
every novel’s sad ending. For her bedtime story, the prince
stopped at a tavern on his way to rescue the princess
from the dragon. She would have been the barmaid who
poured drinks and spent the night with him in the barn. She
was that girl. She was a carousel horse,
going up and down on a pole in an endless circle.

One year ago she met him. He was married, of course. Somehow
another woman’s ring on a man’s finger
always became her prize ring. Usually, the relationships ended
with some broken windows and cracked ceilings. For the serious ones,
the shingles split and pipes burst. When her hand
touched his on the martini glass, the whole bar shook. Californians
are used to 4.5 tremors and shattered glass. Their first night in the hotel,
the fault lines buzzed like electric wires,
all hot and burning. Three people died, and an elementary school
slid into one of LA’s cement rivers. All that summer and fall,
wildfires ravaged the hills and valleys, and the ground trembled. When he
ended it for the kids’ sake, the Pacific rocked out of its cradle
and spilled over the beach cities. Thousands drowned,
and communities floated away. She never apologized,
just cried until my ear bled.

She calls to say she’s met someone. I listen to the throb in her voice, and
start shifting the plates and glasses from the top shelves
to a bottom cabinet. After she says that the sex is the best ever,
I check the emergency supplies. I begin packing. Perhaps, it’s time
to move back to the Midwest. Acres of cornfields just
whisper in the wind; the ground doesn’t open up and swallow mistakes
no matter who is at fault. She drops, casually, that he has
five children. I start checking for flights to St. Louis.
Already I feel a rumble.

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