Fiji Mermaids

Melusine stirs in the murky water of her tank, and they press close, fat, sweaty faces. They tap on her glass, greasy fingers thudding through her; she feels them dig deep into the delicate lining of her stomach.

She is developing an ulcer.

They gawp, the rubes. That’s their role: to look, fish-mouthed, exhaling small bills and loose change. She stirs, is sullen, is unbelievable. That’s her role: half-fish, half-monkey, all fraud. She heaves water heavy with nicotine through her simian gills.

She resents the imposition, enjoys the wonder.

After working hours she hauls herself to the top, and smokes one honest cigarette in the open air. They shut off the lights in the tank and she is mercifully erased. She pulls on a delicate mask of laurel leaves and dreams of deep water.