Friday, 19 September 2008

Challenge - write a story involving a mermaid, a paraplegic gymnast and a traffic warden

The Rescuers

Colin, lulled by the gentle slap-slap of the water against the pedalo, savoured the peace and quiet away from grimy streets stalking abusive drivers. The thud-thud of water soothed him. What an inspired decision to hit the beach before the screaming kids and nagging parents! He sighed contentedly, rocking and sliding around the seat the more relaxed he felt. Laughing as a spray of foam tickled his back, he turned towards the horizon. The beautiful blue haze he expected however, was a fifteen-foot wall of grey-green. He found himself flying through the air and was suddenly very wet.

Simon swam powerfully for the sandy cove in the near distance, arms pulling majestically, shoulders aching with the effort of dragging the still-toned gymnast's body. He wondered about his gear, was it still on the jetty? The area was famous for its surf, but he figured that huge wave wasn't entirely normal. While he was up for a challenging swim, this was unexpected. He made it to the beach, thinking he wouldn't wait long before families arrived - it was the middle of August, after all.

There was a yell behind him.


He rolled to avoid the white blur that sailed past, trailing a weedy looking man whimpering and flailing miserably, who dropped onto the sand next to him. They grinned sheepishly at one another, then were startled to hear someone say, lazily, but somehow quite stroppily:

“Excuse me!”.

They were shocked to discover the body of a young woman nearby, who appeared to have lost both legs. Colin puked. Simon, after dragging himself to her, stared in amazement.

"She hasn't lost them - look!"

Colin chanced a peek. No legs, just a long, iridescent fishtail. On it, a nasty gash, in which a kitchen-knife sized piece of white plastic was embedded.

"Had a good look?" she enquired.

"You're a .. .a..." stammered Colin. Simon's eyes travelled upwards, taking advantage of the opportunity. The mermaid looked perplexed, as though staring humans were an occupational hazard.

"Yes, yes, I know. I'm beached. So do me a favour; get that thing out of me and stick me back in, will you. I've got land-sickness kicking in big time."

"INCOMING!" yelled Simon, ducking, as another piece of pedalo pitched up on their cove.

"Ditto!" called the mermaid sarcastically, as a wheelchair cart wheeled past, disappearing behind a ridge.

“Cool!” Simon turned towards it. "Fancy that landing here!" Then he wondered how he'd wheel along a soft, sandy beach and decided to save his energy.

Colin was still staring at the mermaid.

She stared back in exasperation. “And I'm starting to dry out! Can you splash some water on me, please, before I'm smoked?"

Simon thought longingly of the kippers he'd had for breakfast. Focusing on her tail for a change, he licked his lips. Then remembered his manners, holding out his hand:
"Hi, I'm Simon."


"Colin. You need to get back in, you say?" Colin plonked himself next to Eleri, gazing into her perfect lilac eyes with great effort.

"Der! The Coastguard’ll be along soon and if I'm caught I'll end up in some bloody laboratory being dissected. You wouldn't want that, would you?"

Colin and Simon concurred; no, no, they certainly wouldn't want that. If she's going to be cut up, thought Simon, let it be here, after I've built a fire. And it struck Colin that here was a woman who, after he'd made dinner, couldn't make some excuse and bugger off.

"Can't you roll towards the water?" he suggested tentatively. She was a lot bolshier than he’d imagined mermaids to be.

Eleri gave a sarky smile, pointing at the plastic wedged into her scales. "It acted as a brake."

"Allow me." Simon grasped the plastic and yanked. Eleri screamed. Colin fainted. Simon, mortified, tried pushing it back in.

"OWWW. You dozy g…no, chuck it away. Hell, that hurt."

When Eleri calmed down, Colin woke up and Simon apologised for the fourteenth time, the two men gave the mermaid a decent shove to start her rolling.. .however, not being experts in the laws of physics, they hadn't allowed for the difference in circumference between tail and body. Consequently, she rolled in a circle right back to where she started from.

Colin wandered off. Maybe he could find a kind fisherman, who knew mermaids existed and could pick her up. He'd tried: Mermaids were heavier than they looked. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the family friendly, commercial beach he’d started out from. Standing at the top of the sand dune he realised it was a small island, desolate and rocky apart from their one, tiny oasis.

Simon could have picked Eleri up easily, just not taken her anywhere. He noticed she was rubbing her back.

"Backache?" he asked, sympathetically.

"It's lying down for too long, the tail goes into spasm."

"You know what's good for backache..." Simon scanned the beach. Eleri followed his glance, taking in Colin’s path of exploration.

"Yeah, sex. However..."

They stared wistfully at their respective bottom halves before Simon said:

"Ibuleve. There's some in my bag but I can’t see it anywhere."

Colin trudged on through the sand, spotting the wheelchair upended against a dune. Habits being exactly that, he felt in a non-existent breast pocket for his ticket pad and pen, before remembering where he was. Grasping the wheelchair, he pushed it back to the others, an idea forming. He collected the broken bits of pedalo as he went. Then:

"Damn! COASTGUARD!" Colin threw the pedalo's remains at Simon. "Break those into long thin pieces." He put two bits on the sand to one side of Eleri and balanced the wheels of the chair on them. "Pull yourself up and swivel, brake's on."

Colin arranged the rest of the pedalo’s pieces in line with the first two; they stopped five metres short of the water.

"Not a problem. Push it, Si."

Simon looked dubious but could see orange lifejackets coming closer. The wheelchair rolled along the plastic rails and, as it cleared the first two sections, Colin picked them up, legged it down the beach and placed them at the end. He positioned another section down as Eleri arrived. She met his hand in a high five by way of a 'Thank You', before the chair tipped and she catapulted into the water. Colin and Simon shared an elated “Yes”, both punching the air.

It was a shame, really, that the coastguard hadn't actually seen them.

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