Chapter 1

Being chapter 1 of A Mermaid in the Bath by Milton Marmalade. Purchase the beautifully-illustrated paperback from your bookshop or from Amazon.

1. A Mermaid in the Bath


Lionel Fortescue was taken aback one day when he found a mermaid in his bath.

“How the devil did that get there?” he thundered. “And she’s borrowed my rubber ducky! The impertinence!”

The mermaid was pleasantly well-formed to the point of being Rubenesque and she had a sweet smile. She looked at him with round eyes. The water glistened on the orbs of her breasts, and her tail swished gently at the tap end near the plug-hole. However she said nothing.*

[* Footnote from Prof. Neville Twistytrouser: Close reading of later chapters suggests the possibility, indeed likelihood that, although the mermaid is of Cornish ancestry, she may have some African blood. I feel I should mention this now in case someone makes a film out of it and overlooks this at the casting stage, an oversight that would sooner or later be spotted by attentive readers.]


“Give me back my ducky at once!” Lionel said commandingly, but the mermaid merely looked at him demurely. He made a grab for the ducky, but she would not let it go, and he found her grip to be unbreakable. In pulling harder on the ducky he was necessarily drawn towards the bath and found his face closer to the breasts than decorum would allow. Lionel’s face was full of steam, whether from the moisture rising from the bath or from an exhalation from his own pores he could not tell.

“If you do not give me back my ducky I shall have to call the police!” Lionel tried to control the passion in his voice. The mermaid said nothing, the soap suds caressing her breasts as they rose and fell slightly with each breath. Lionel went into his study and lifted the handset on his telephone.

“Police please. Yes it is rather. My rubber ducky’s been taken. Yes well it has sentimental value. Yes I did see the thief, she’s still here, in my bath. Well of course the rubber ducky is still in the house, the thief is in my bath as I just told you. Long hair, well-built, totally naked and with a fishy tail. Why not? Signs of breaking and entering? Well no, not as such. Why isn’t it your department? Well whose is it then I’d like to know?”

Lionel stormed back towards the bathroom, then hesitated at the door, and knocked. There was no reply, only the gentle splashing of water in the bath. He paused, uncertain of what to do, then took a deep breath and strode in.

The mermaid was now sitting forward washing her hair. Lionel noticed one or two tiny crabs being washed out, wriggling in the stream of dilute shampoo flowing through her long wavy locks, together with a few strands of seaweed. There was a small sea anemone stuck to the side of the bath near the tap end. His bath was beginning to resemble a rock pool.

Little cascades dropped from the ends of her tresses and wound down her back in ever-changing sinusoidal courses.

Pulling himself together, Lionel exclaimed, “This won’t do at all! This is my bath you know.” The mermaid ignored this remark as if it were irrelevant to the task at hand, which was the restoration of her hair to its proper glory. Lionel noticed that with her hands occupied with her hair, her raised arm revealed an incurved armpit like a gentle harbour in some sleepy Cornish village. He thought of fishing boats and ice-cream.

At this point the rubber ducky was floating on the far side of the bath next to her silvery thigh. He noticed that her thighs were covered with thousands of tiny scales like mother of pearl. He paused, vaguely enchanted by the way each scale glistened with a point of light. Then, breaking though his sense of wonder, he made a lunge for the duck.

The mermaid was too quick for him. Lionel missed the duck, his hand plunged into the bath meeting no resistance and he fell. He found his face under water. His nose was pressed against the shallow groove where the mermaid’s big fishy tail was not quite separated into two thighs at the top. The mermaid did nothing.

Retrieving himself with as much dignity as he could manage he flicked the wet hair out of his eyes and ran out of the room.

“Coastguard? You see, there is a mermaid in my bath and she’s taken my rubber ducky. Yes, my bath is in my house, where else would it be? Well of course the house is on dry land. Yes but there is water in the bath. So would you be able to help me if I lived in a houseboat? Well really. My taxes pay your wages, you know! I demand to speak to your superior. [pause] There’s a mermaid in my bath and your junior says... Well no the ducky isn’t contraband as far as I know. I bought it in British Home Stores although it does say made in China on its bottom. I see. Try Customs and Excise. Well thanks for nothing. Goodbye.”

Lionel paused. This was not going well at all. The mermaid was firmly ensconced in his bath with his rubber ducky. How would he shower in the morning before going to work? Lionel was a chartered accountant, and under no circumstances did he want to turn up to work looking less than pristine.

Perhaps, he decided, she would eventually finish her ablutions and be content to return to the sea by whatever route she had arrived in his bathroom. This was indeed a mystery, since he could not imagine so buxom a creature coming up through the plughole as spiders are sometimes alleged to do. Likewise the idea that she had been dropped through the skylight by a passing seagull seemed moderately improbable.

Musing on these and other possibilities Lionel decided to try a different tack. He boiled a kettle and found a fish stock cube in the kitchen cupboard. This he put in the teapot with the union flag printed on it. He wondered vaguely if by this ruse he might detect from the mermaid’s reaction whether or not she was loyal to the Crown. This might come in useful as evidence if and when he took up the Coastguard’s suggestion of ringing H. M. Customs and Excise, since they might take interest in the problem if he could convince them that the mermaid was not from British Territorial Waters. This line of thought did seem a little tenuous even to Lionel, since there was no evidence that she carried any baggage that might be liable to duty, other than the comb and mirror he had seen resting on the soap rack.

Putting the teapot and a cup and saucer on a tray together with a small salt cellar and a little silver teaspoon he re-entered the bathroom, not knocking this time but pushing the door open with his foot.

The mermaid appeared to have finished washing her hair and was now combing it with the little tortoiseshell comb in one hand and holding the mirror in the other. The water ran down her forearms and trickled off the ends of her elbows. Her tail flicked back and forth gently, sending speckles of reflected light onto the walls and ceiling. Her body seemed abnormally real, living, more alive and immediate than anything Lionel remembered seeing before. He found himself trying to tally the number of drops of water on her shoulders. Wisps of steam were rising from her back and from her breasts. He wondered if mermaids were in any way tax-deductible. Perhaps if they were an endangered species he might at least claim for the shampoo.

As if in a dream he set down the tray on the bathroom stool. “Fish tea,” he said. “Tell me if it’s too strong.” The mermaid said nothing but turned to look at him with those big round eyes. She smiled briefly and then turned to look at the tea tray, her body curved and counterpoised into as near a mannerist contrapposto as it is possible for a mermaid in a bath to have. Lionel was not familiar with mannerist contrapposto and so this was a new experience for him. He found himself saying a little huskily, “Shall I pour?”

Since the mermaid said nothing he poured the fish tea into the cup. As he handed it to her the cup rattled slightly as it had not been placed squarely on the saucer. “Salt?” he offered, and she held the cup and saucer steady as he stirred. The teaspoon tinkled against the sides of the cup. Even the fish tea winked in the sunlight.

She drank the tea with an audible slurp and with evident satisfaction. Some of it dribbled down the sides of her mouth. Having drained the cup she floated it in the bath next to the rubber ducky. She then resumed her ablutions in a kind of lazy way as if time were endless, squeezing the soap between her hands until it popped up towards the ceiling and landed in the far end of the bath with a plop. With her lathered hands she then caressed her whole body slowly, starting from the back of her neck and working down and around, cupping her breasts meditatively for a while then moving on down towards her navel and beyond.

Lionel stood there not knowing what to do, his mind a blank. Part of him felt he should not be there at all and another part of him did not want to move or even think.

Without knowing how, he found himself again in his study. He had already dismissed from his mind the possibility of ringing Customs and Excise, sensing in advance another pointless defeat. It crossed his mind to try the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, but he couldn’t think of a way of presenting the facts that would goad them into action. There was no evidence at all that she had imported any Colorado beetles nor was she infested with oak processionary moths. Besides, he had now given her tea, and it was not the British way to report guests whom you have invited to tea to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Well, he hadn’t actually invited her, but tea had been served so the point was now moot. A fine legal mind might be able to untangle it, but alas, Lionel was only an accountant. Lionel sank down into his study chair and leaned back, resting his hands on the leather-topped desk. He stared out of the window to the shimmering sea beyond. Clouds passed, each momentarily obscuring the sun.

“What am I going to do?” he thought.






A note from the author

Dear Fishy Afficionados,

One of my early readers, Ann Chovy, has said: “Silly man!  He could just get into the bath with her.”

Another correspondent, one Jel E. Fish, says: “Is it possible that the previous week a charity worker came round collecting for the Marine Environmental Rescue Mission or MERM Aid? He may have ticked the box pledging support.”

As to the latter, this may well have been the case. We shall see. It is possible that the mystery of exactly how the mermaid came to be in Lionel’s bath will never be completely clarified. Not everything is revealed, not even to me, the writer.

As to why he didn’t just jump in the bath, there are any number of reasons why this did not happen, an aversion to sea anemones perhaps being the least of them. In general accountants do not normally leap into baths with mermaids, as the topic is not covered in their accounting manuals.

Respectfully yours,

Más de Merengue



A note from Myfanwy

Hello Seaweedy Sweethearts,

That’s the trouble with men isn’t it? If you don’t want them then they’re all over you, but on the other hand if you take the trouble to turn up in a fellow’s bath naked he still doesn’t always take the hint.

Men can be quite bad at interpreting a woman’s signals, even when we’re not that subtle.

I think this tale is a bit odd, although in regard to the mermaid in the bath it’s very true-to-life, isn’t it?

A kiss,

Myfanwy 


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