Deprived (Story by Risa Peris)

In the morning, I ate a hunk of bread, some cheese (even if moldy), and perhaps some fried pork if the butcher across the way had cheap cuts to sell. The butcher wasn’t very kind and he limped. He wasn’t keen on selling the cheap cuts. Those usually went to his family but money was money and it meant they wouldn’t lack milk or bread. The butcher would have ate meat morning, noon, and night. You can’t raise nine kids on that though. Three were sick. Milk was more important than hoarding cheap meat.

The weather was never warm until July or August. I was a fisherman and rode the choppy waters casting my nets. I was always in a cable knit sweater and coat it seemed. My boots were wearing thin. Cold settled in my bones. Made then crack when I pulled the nets. I had a steward I gave twenty-five percent profit to. He was virtually useless and some days I wanted to kick him overboard. I had no choice though. The village was barely a village. So few people lived there and the ones that did were settled farmers. Each day a giant coach came to collect our fish, potatoes, cheese, and butter to take to Galway. Then the coach would come back and divvy our profits based on marks in a large ledger book. I knew the coachman was cheating us. So little money for such hard work. I was fifty-six. No bride. No loose woman nearby to release myself with. I was grim about the mouth and pained I was devoid of intimacy. 

One tumultuous morning the boat rocked violently. I should have turned back. Docked and let the storm pass, but the landlord was coming to collect on Friday and I needed the money. I manned the boat and let the inept steward, who was looking queasy, cast the nets. A wave nearly capsized us. My bowels quivered and I held the ship steady. 

“O’Hanlon,” yelled the steward in the rain and wind. 

“Do you want us to die? I’m manning the boat.”

“Look at this.”

I growled, locked the wheel, and staggered out to deck. Tangled in the webs was a mermaid. Her skin was ivory and her fish parts iridescent green. Her hair was a shock of purple. She was coughing. Harshly. And then began gasping. She looked directly at me with her piercing, aqua eyes. 

“Do we put her in the water?” asked the steward. 

O’Hanlon loved her. Yet, something else overrode his desire. Money. She might garner enough money to pay the landlord off. I would own my land and not have to fish every day of my life. 

“We’re heading to dock. The man from Galway will sell her.” 

Yes, that’s the right thing I thought. She was a mermaid deprived of her water, I was a man nearly mad for intimacy, and soon I would be a man deprived of debt. I pushed through the storm. 

“Love and the extraordinary be damned,” I yelled into the howling wind. “I would have no debt.”‘

Sometimes it’s like that. Money narrows your feelings.

THE END

 

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