The Princess of the Pugs meets a Mermaid
(Written for the final portfolio of my creative writing class)
As the oldest child, the Princess of the Pugs had decided long ago the only reason her parents continued to add contenders to the throne was due to their quest to please the mermaid of the Blue Lake. Either that, or he was trying to have enough children so every tree in the backyard needed to be outfitted with a ladder swing of PVC-pipe rungs and rope simply to entertain them all. Her favorite tale to be told, when her mother wouldn’t be distracted by the screams of the youngest princess, was that of a promise a mermaid had told her father years ago.
Before he was King of the Ladder Swings, her father had been an amateur competition water-skier. A photo of him in the center of a pyramid of skiiers prominently was displayed on the fireplace mantle. He stood between two other skiers, laughing as two skiers waved from his shoulders, their other hands locked securely on their ski ropes. The man on top of the pyramid pumped his arms in triumph.
Since then, her father had purchased a boat that lived in the backyard under a moldy green cover and only emerged on Sunday mornings, when her father hitched it up to her mother’s Jetta and drove it to the lake down the road. Even though her mother made her wear a life jacket and swim around in the boat, close enough to be fished out at a moment’s notice, the Princess of the Pugs loved going to the lake. Muffy, the royal Pug, did not. After an unfortunate incident overboard, she preferred to stay at home or wait on the banks for her Princess.
The Princess, however, was waiting for someone else at the lake. Someone who could solve the mystery of why her parents wanted more children after her.
“Your father was slow to want children,” her mother told her each night, stroking back the fly away white wisps framing her older daughter’s face. “One morning on the lake, he had jumped out and I pulled the boat around, waiting for his signal to throw the engine into gear and pull him up.”
The Princess nodded and raised her thumb in the universal skier’s sign.
“A large boat passed us and the waves rocked the boat, nearly capsizing me,” her mother continued. “When I turned around, your father wasn’t there. I screamed and called his name. I threw the ladder over the side of the boat.”
The Princess nodded. Her father hung ladders of PVC pipe and rope from everything, not just trees.
“Just when I was about to jump out and start searching, I heard a young woman laughing. I turned and saw a girl with hair like long tangled seaweed, pulling your father toward me. “Lose something?” she asked me.”
This was the princess’ favorite part. She recited with her mother in a smaller voice, so her mother still felt like she was telling the story. “She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. And the strongest. She lifted your father over the side of the boat like he weighed less than a feather and put a hand on his chest. He coughed up half the lake before opening his eyes. When he tried to thank her, she just shook her head. ‘No need,’ she said with a wink. ‘For your daughter will help me more than I could ever help you.’ “
“Now I could see that your father was disappointed. ‘Daughter?’ he repeated.”
“Oh yes. You’ll have lots, but it’s just the one that I need, with hair of sunshine and eyes of the lake. The first one is always the best.”
That was the Princess’s favorite line of the whole story.
“The girl just dove back in the water after that and your father swears he saw fins and a tail, though I’m pretty sure he was hallucinating. After we had you and found out we were pregnant with your sister, I asked your father if he was upset we never had a boy and he said, “Why would I argue with a mermaid? She was right! One princess is so delightful, why not have a whole house full?”
Unfortunately, her parents had taken that quest to new extremes. This summer, the Princess was determined to find this mermaid and convince her to convince her father to stop adding princesses to the castle. The bathrooms were already too crowded, there was an abundance of pink everywhere and she never wanted to see another doll in her life. “We must find her, Muffy,” she informed her furry companion. “If we don’t, we’re going to have to go live in the treehouse soon!”
Muffy licked her nose in agreement. As much as she liked the treehouse, she liked air conditioning more.
The next Sunday, at the lake, the Princess convinced her parents to visit Bikini Beach, where all the high school girls and moms who thought they were still in high school liked to lay and wave to the boys skiing by. “We can get a burger at the ski shack,” the Princess wheedled. “It’ll be fun.”
“A burger would be nice,” her mother mused.
“Burger, burger, burger!” her younger sister changed, setting off a chorus of squawks from the baby princesses. The King of the Ladder Swings crinkled his eyes, his beard reaching his temples. “Do you want to ski there?”
“Really?” the Princess had never skied such a long way before. The last thing she wanted to do was disappoint the King. “Sure.”
He threw the ladder over and she jumped in, bobbing until he flung the rope in her direction. She fished around in the water for her skis and pulled them on, holding the rope between her knees. He raised his thumb. She raised hers. He threw the hammer and the engine roared, pulling her above the frothing waves and across the green glass beneath her skis. The Princess was flying.
She zipped across the rapids and over the waves, weaving back and forth. Her mother waved and her younger sister raised her thumb. The Princess jerked her head back and her father’s proud laughter could be heard over the roar of the engine. Never had a Princess skied this fast before. Soon, she’d be big enough to be a flier on a pyramid. She could learn flips and jumps and…
The glass water below her grew choppy and hard and she gripped on. She would not let go. She would not let go. She would make it to Bikini Beach.
The waves, however, had other ideas. They tossed her up, stealing her skis and pulling her down under into the brown murkiness of the lake. Her lungs burned and she flailed her arms, suddenly so heavy without her life jacket. She opened her eyes to a pair of sparkling green ones that matched a glittering tail.
“Hello, little one. Did you know you look just like your father?” Her mother was right. The mermaid was more beautiful than any woman she had ever seen. “Let’s get you some air, shall we?” Before she could nod, the mermaid wrapped her to her cool bosom and kicked her fins back and forth. They burst through the surface and the Princess gasped. “But I’m supposed to help you,” she sputtered as soon as she could find her breath. “You weren’t supposed to help me!”
“Oh you will, little one. In time.” The mermaid fished her life jacket out of the weeds of the bank and helped her draw her arms into it, buckling it up. “You’ve been looking for me, haven’t you?”
The Princess nodded, ashamed. “I wanted you to tell my father to quit having kids. Ever since he met you, he’s obsessed with having more and more girls.”
“Funny. I don’t think it has anything to do with me. I think it has something to do with you.” The mermaid tapped her nose. “He once told me you were the happiest part of his life. Humans sometimes think that more is better, when usually it’s just more.”
“Can you tell him that?” the Princess begged.
The mermaid just laughed. “Promise me something, little water princess.”
“Anything.” The Princess meekly took the skis the mermaid offered her and clutched them to her chest as she bobbed in the water.
“On your 16th birthday, promise you’ll have a party on the lake. I have a gift for you.”
The Princess groaned. “That won’t be for ten more years!”
“It’ll go faster than you think.” The mermaid turned her head towards the roar of the boat fast approaching. Over the side, she could see her father’s face pinched with concern under the frayed crown of his worn cowboy hat. “See you then, little one.”
“Wait!” the Princess of the Pugs called. “How am I supposed to help you?”
The mermaid flicked her tail. “For now, I wouldn’t mind a hamburger with from the Ski Shack. I’ll see you next Sunday, Princess.” With a wink, she dove back under just before the boat pulled up. The Princess didn’t even have time to climb the ladder. Her father yanked her out by the scruff of her lifejacket like a naughty kitten, tossing her heavy fiberglass skis in the back like they were as weightless as cardboard. Her mother wrapped a towel around her and kissed her head. “What happened, darling? Are you ok?”
“The mermaid would like a hamburger,” the Princess informed her mother.
“When I turn 16, I’m having my party on the lake.”
“Is that so?” The King of the Lake laughed and steered the boat toward the shore of Bikini Beach. “You know, a hamburger sounds pretty good to me.”
Muffy agreed by licking her face. Pugs always were in the mood for hamburgers.