The star attractions at Six Forks Palladium sat on the center island of their expansive pool, but they weren't alone. A temporary ramp spanned the waters to admit a local reporter. He prepared to photograph the mermaids: blonde Binia, emerald Ellie, and the brunette Sirtis. They dangled fins over submerged steps, having just completed a water dance to the tune of Delerium's Stargazing. Country music resumed as they prepared for the coin toss so popular with fans.
Click! The photo caught them unawares.
Binia frowned at the digital proof. "Why'd you do that? I'm actually looking down!"
The young photog schooled them. "I liked that spontaneous flare of flukes. Besides, I don't want posed cheesecake. This is the real you--relaxing between acts."
Ellie used her fluke to push a submarine back out to sea. "That old Captain Ahab type over there bothers me. He's been eyeing us like the gooney bird of doom."
An announcer blared a special sale on ATVs. When the echo died down, the reporter looked out over the plexiglass barrier thronged by onlookers tossing coins. "Right--that's Captain Mortimer. We've interviewed him before--a regular encyclopedia on sea lore. Bit of a know-it-all, though. Say--wanna meet him?"
Before anyone could object, the reporter traipsed cautiously across the bridge, arms out for balance. Moments later, Captain Mortimer came out the access door and crossed the bridge with a sailor's grace. He reminded Binia of a yacht captain, complete with white cap and silver buttons on his peacoat. The muttonchop sideburns were a little much, though.
Mortimer crouched next to Binia. "When a real mermaid sits, there's a gentle bend instead of the sharp angle of knees, they not having any."
"That's why we never stand," Sirtis said. "We aren't supposed to have any either."
"Ever seen one?" Mortimer pushed his cap back. "I caught one off Rockfish Cove in my nets. My first mate was wantin' to sell her for a fortune. But I set her free, and he's so mad he pulls a gun on me. Then she flies out of the water and grabs 'im by the hair. It's the last I ever saw of either one."
Ellie leaned closer to Sirtis. "Wasn't that Twilight Zone?"
"Serling's hair was fuller," said the brunette. "Night Gallery."
Sensing levity, the captain turned to more serious advice. "There's a way you can protect each other when you leave here after hours, what with how things are goin' and all."
"Got it covered," Sirtis said, swooshing a spray with her fluke. "I pretend to have a sneezing fit into a tissue. It clears out the parking lot in a two-block zone." The girls laughed.
"It's hardly a funny topic I'm tryin' to advise," Mortimer insisted.
"Well, Captain," Binia began, "there's one thing about mermaids you can't teach us."
"Really. That would be. . . ."
"What it's like to be one."
Pails and shovels in hand, the mermaids dove into the deep to retrieve coins on the bottom.