“The Mermaid and the Weary Traveller” by Bob Rich

“The Mermaid and the Weary Traveller” by Bob Rich

After fighting nobly in a war, an exhausted soldier wandered off from his troop at night to rest in peaceful solitude, with trembling clouds of black and red ascending like smoky billowing sighs above the ash-covered trees that lined the pale winding road behind him. As he ventured away from the path into the dark forest, with the lingering memory of crackling radio transmitters and thundering bombshells now fading in his tired ears, the soldier soon discovered a legendary cove of seven colors, with a waterfall and a shimmering pool that was sometimes visited by a charming ladylike aquatic creature whose satiny kiss imparted life-long health. The soldier slowly took off his outer jacket, which was arrayed with medals that shone like clusters of white chiming moon-soaked mirrors in the cool quiet isolation of the night. He was careful not to bend or strain his broken, war-injured left hand. So, using his right hand, he folded his decorated jacket and used it as a pillow to rest his weary head upon.

When he awoke in the morning, the soldier turned toward the rippling waters of the pool beside him, and he gazed at himself in the sparkling pool. He noticed that he was still wearing his torn, frayed, and blood-stained shirt, which looked the same as it had the night before. He started to un-button the shirt, when it dawned on him that he was handling his shirt effortlessly with his left hand, which now was whole, healthy, and nimble again. Looking back to his reflection in the water, he studied his face more closely, and saw that his face had been kissed in four places, where glistening blue lip-gloss was shining in the pattern of enchanted lips on his cheeks and eye-lids. Awe-struck, the soldier touched one of the blue lip-prints on his cheek, smudging the mouth-shaped magical trace of blue. In his bewildered stupor, he could not see that, when he reached his hand back to rest against a tree while he pondered this strange moment, he smeared a bit of the blue onto some dried-out desiccated gray-brown roots, which, upon receiving the blue lip-stick from his hand, regenerated to a vibrant reddish-brown while sprouting green leaves with rapidly-blooming white flowers.

Then, the soldier was also too busy repairing his compass to notice that — a little farther downstream, rising up from the water — there was a white plume of foam surrounding the graceful silhouette of a twirling sweet woman with golden hair who, instead of legs, had the tail of a fish.

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