“The Calling” Scene 23: “The Friend”

It was around Christmas time and Penny was feeling slightly depressed. Aware that it was her decision to come to the pod and live with her mother’s people, it didn’t lessen the slight pain she felt knowing this would be the first Christmas she spent away from her mother, and her mother away from her. It wasn’t as if they did much for Christmas, but they always seem to find time to dress in their warmest pajamas and get under a fleece comforter and drink hot chocolate while watching a movie together—

Whereas today, she did more of the same thing she’d now been doing for six months.

There was time after school before she had to go to the communal area and eat second meal, so she swam off a few hundred feet so that she could be with her thoughts for a while, by now Singing Nymph was getting used to her being able to make her way around the pod dwellings without supervision, so there was no possibility that Saying Nymph would come looking for her in the next few minutes.

Penny found a nice secluded place to rest. She floated down on to the rock and curled her tail around her, adopting what she called the Ariel Pose. Although she couldn’t recall if Ariel had ever sat like this; it wasn’t hard to remember, however, that she had a green tail, red hair, and a clam shell bra…

Penny wasn’t seated for more than two minutes when her mermaid senses told her that someone was approaching, she’d gotten quite adapt to being able to pick up on the small magnetic field that each mermaid generated, but that allowed a patrolling mermaid to detect another one at distances up to five hundred feet. She knew some of the mermaids had to realize that she was here, and as had been drilled into her from day one, mermaids were rarely alone—

The mermaid glided into view from her left and Penny instantly recognized her as one of the girls from school, and the Crimson tail with the regular dots a bright orange further identified her as Curious Squid of the Magical Cove, who was almost exactly a year younger than Penny she sat quietly and waited for Curious Squid to approach her, because she knew it would be bad form to get up and swim off now.

The young mermaid with bright aqua hair and hazel eyes floated to a stop about six feet in front of Penny. “Are you okay?”

Penny nodded. “I’m okay. Just a little down.”

“Down?”

“A bit depressed.” Even after six months Penny often forgot that mermaids were slow to pick up on idiom.

Curious Squid nodded then looked at the wide rock upon which Penny was sitting. “May I join you?”

Penny tapped the space to her left. “Sure.”

The two mermaid sat in silence for nearly three minutes as Penny waited to see if her new companion was going to start the conversation. When it seemed almost as if Curious Squid was waiting for Penny to say something, the mermaid spoke. “Are you missing your binding mother?”

“Yeah.” Penny stared off into the luminescent depths. “Today should be December 23; tomorrow will be Christmas Eve.”

Curious Squid glanced over at her classmate. “I take it that’s a day of celebration.”

“It is. Mama and I would exchange presence at night after dinner.” She chuckled. “She always gave me enough of and allowance that I had money at the end of the year to buy her present. Since we didn’t have any other family, we were the family.”

“Sounds interesting. Wasn’t there any one else in your celebrations? Ever?”

A wistful look came over Penny’s face. “Last year Kemena came over at night on Christmas Eve. Set around in our pajamas and watched Ghostbusters.”

“What’s Ghostbusters?” Curious Squid’s brow wrinkled. “I’ve never heard of that.”

“It’s an old movie my Mama likes. It’s kinda funny.”

“I see. And who is Kemena?”

Penny immediately imagine Kemena’s face, digging it out of her memory. “She’s my friend back in Albuquerque. If I had to, I’d say she’s my best friend.”

Curious Squid leaned forward so she could see Penny’s face. “You miss her as much as you do your binding mother, don’t you?”

Penny slowly rubbed her hands together. “I guess I do. She knows what I am: she is the only other person knows him down here.” Penny glanced down her tail fin, watching as it curled and unfurled. “I hope she’s missing me, too.”

“I’m sure she is.” Curious Squid reached over and took Penny’s hand, much to the surprise of the young mermaid. “Can I tell you something?”

“Sure.” Even after six months Penny still found the touchy-feeley attitude of many the mermaids to be a little disconcerting. She was pleased, however, that she hadn’t jerked her hand away immediately.

“While you’ve become sociable since arriving, you don’t have any friends other than your cousin. And a mermaid without friends will die young from an empty heart.” Curious Squid shifted around and gave Penny’s hand a squeeze. “I would like to be your friend. I love listening to your stories of when you lived on land, but I also think you’re an interesting person. I’d like to get to know you better.”

Penny didn’t think any of what Curious Squid said was unusual–if anything, there was a great deal of truth in her words. Because since arriving, while she did feel as if she was now an accepted member of the pod, she felt that there was very little of a connection between her and the majority of the other mermaids with whom she came in contact every day. It was true that she was close to Singing Nymph, and considered her a friend, but she was also family.

It came to Penny that if she’d had a friend in the days leading up to this moment, it would’ve made hurt of missing Christmas Eve and Christmas a bit more dull.  She needed to be more than another communal member: she needed to be open.

She needed to show her heart.

Penny returned the hand squeeze as she flashed a grin in Curious Squide’s direction. “You know, making a new friend is a great Christmas present.” Her grin turned into a full smile. “Thank you for doing this.”

Curious Squid blushed. “It’s not a problem. After all, what are friends for?”

“The Calling” Scene 22: “The Routine”

After a couple of days Penny had fallen in to the same routine that a lot of mermaids in her position were following—or, as she liked to joke, she had gotten into the swim of things.

The first day in the pod was spent being shown around and introduced the people. With only about a hundred mermaids in the pod, she managed to meet everyone by the second meal. She loved hearing everyone’s extensive names and was told by Singing Nymph that each name had to do with circumstances relating to the mermaid’s conception. In the case of her own name, Singing Nymph said her binding mother’s had gone on to land to retrieve things needed by the pod—something that mermaids did every so often. On the way back to the ocean they were accosted by two men. One of Singing Nymph’s binding mother’s was knocked out, so the other used a particular ability known as Siren’s Song to force the two men to follow her out into the ocean. Once they were in water over their heads, Singing Nymph’s other binding mother drowned both men and retrieved her partner.

Not long after that she was quickened and at birth was given the name Singing Nymph the Bringer of Death. She said that it made her feel proud that, in a way, one of her mother’s was willing to kill so that she could be born. There were few mermaids who could claim the same.

The days seem to become the same. Penny would wake up at a particular time, usually the same time as her cousin. There wasn’t any actual meal like breakfast: instead, mermaids eight during a time that would normally be considered brunch for humans. The second meal always came late in the afternoon, but would still be considered early for humans.

All meals consisted of variations of the same thing: fish, shellfish, and vegetation like seaweed. It was all consumed raw, as there was no way to cook here five hundred feet below the surface of the ocean.

The first time Penny was given a raw fish to eat, she thought she was never going to get it down, but she found the first bite delectable and had no problem stripping her fish clean in no time. The only thing she could figure out was that by now being a full mermaid, her taste buds had adjusted to enjoy the normal diet.

The pod maintained fishery areas nearby, where schools of fish fed off the nutrients that filtered down from the surface. Sometimes groups of mermaids would go out on fishing expeditions and not return for more than a week. These groups would often come back with larger types of fish found in the deeper parts of the ocean, but every so often they’d return with a giant squid. Squid hunting parties were easy to figure out as about a dozen mermaids would go out; at least that many were needed to combat the creature and drag its carcass back to the pod.

Life in the pod was nothing like that found in a Disney movie. Mermaids tended to groom one another cleaning their bodies with mud and washing clean and one of the many undersea currents nearby. Scavenging and cleanup parties would spend a few hours every day cleaning up trash that floated down from the surface and would keep those items that would serve the most used to the pod.

Mermaids spent hours working with the fisheries, while others would go out on short patrols around the pod location. Penny asked why these were necessary and Singing Nymph told her that while there weren’t any pods nearby, they needed to be on the lookout for various sea creatures that could do them harm. But, she added, they were also ready to greet any new mermaids who happen to come their way, and Singing Nymph said that in time Penny would learn how to detect a mermaid coming in from a distance—the same way she detected Penny approaching the pod when she first arrived.

Three days pass before Penny discovered the one thing that Kemena had wanted to know the most: how mermaids went to the bathroom. Singing Them showed her location of a current about five hundred feet from the southwest corner of the pod as singing them said, make sure you’re a little upstream from the pod, relax, and let nature do its work. Penny did as told and found the experience rather relaxing. She asked how often it was necessary to use this current and Singing Nymph said their diet, being high in protein and fats, kept them from producing much waste, so a mermaid normally needed to relieve herself once every three or four days. Penny was also told that any waste liquids would go out at the same time, though there were few. Penny figured that out already: their bodies were under constant hydration and since coming to the pod she had get to feel thirsty.

The last thing she discovered was school. All young mermaids attended school until what was known as the Age of Attainment, which usually occurred around the time of a mermaid’s twelfth or thirteenth birthday. As Penny was already eleven she was told it might be a couple of years before she could reach the same level of experience, which meant she went to school with mermaids younger than her.

It was unlike school that she had known in Albuquerque. Everything was told verbally and they were expected to remember. Surprisingly, Penny remembered most of what she was told and she remembered her mother telling her that mermaids have remarkable memories. She was also surprised to hear teachings given on mast and even some science that had been picked up from those who would spend time on land. As her weeks in school continued, her instructor would often ask questions of her about what it was like living in Albuquerque, and what she knew of certain things that happened with humans.

There was always a relaxation time in the evening after the second meal. Though there were no clocks, Penny figured that relaxation time went from 5 PM to almost 10 PM, with most mermaids turning in sometime between nine and ten. She would often sit with Singing Nymph and some of her friends while some of the students would join them. It was very rare that Penny was allowed out of Singing Nymph’s eyesight, but on a few occasions she was allowed to go to their dwelling with some of the mermaids from school, and he would sit in there and talk until it was time for bed.

As Singing Nymph had told her, Penny quickly grew use to sleeping with another person. It was always the same: they would remove their jewelry, then Singing Nymph would ease herself into their sleeping hammock and Penny would follow. Sometimes they would talk for a bit before drifting off to sleep, but often they would immediately begin relaxing with Singing Nymph draping an arm over Penny as if to comfort and protect her.

Though Penny took the pod life immediately, she wondered how long would be before she began to miss her home in Albuquerque—

As she discovered, it took about six months.

Two and a Half Times a Thousand

This wasn’t supposed to happen for a few weeks, but given that I’ve been putting out as many as four posts a day in the last couple of weeks, it was inevitable that the date was gonna get pushed up.

What am I talking about?  This right here.  Post number two thousand, five hundred, or 2,500 if you prefer.  All in the raw.

Normally I do something special for these posts and I’d actually promised that for this post, but it’s not like I planned anything.  Not like when post 1,000 came up almost three and a half years ago at the end of January, 2014.  There’s a lot that’s happened since that post came out–some of which I’m about to go over.

For one, I didn’t exist.  At least not this way:

Well, hello there!

As much as I spoke of transitioning–or how little I did at that time, which was more the case–I hadn’t actually, really, truly begun the process to actually become Cassidy.  I was working in Harrisburg and was considering walking the walk, but it wasn’t until two months later, 30 March, 2014, that I actually started going out in public.  And it wasn’t until almost another two months later, on my birthday, 2014, by that I actually showed what I looked like:

Remember this crazy bitch?

When people say, “You’re changed,” in this case, I have.  I’m still somewhat surprised when I see pictures of myself back then and realize just how far I’ve really come.

Also, when I took that last picture, I’d learned only a week or so before that my contract with the state–sorry, Commonwealth–of Pennsylvania had been extended another years, so I’d continue living in Harrisburg at least until the middle of 2015.  That was two years ago, and it looks as if I’m here to stay until the “Commonwealth” decides to get ride of me.  Which I hope isn’t for a while ’cause I love living in Harrisburg.  It took 55 years to get here, but I’m finally sorta living the life I was meant to live.

And then there’s the writing.  Anyone remember what I was doing right before post 1,000?  That’s easy to check:

 

(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

 

The dining tables and chair were gone, replaced by large, comfortable reading chairs, love seats, sofas, and even—yes, there were even a few huge beds capable of holding a half dozen students easily, as a couple already were. Scattered around the hall were a few large carpets covered in throw pillows that reminded Kerry of the classroom in Memory’s End where they met with Professor Arrakis. The light was down in the hall, but there were small, brighter spots here and there coming from floor lamps set alongside a few of the large chairs and love seats.

As they entered the hall Kerry took in the relaxed but excited environment.  With each chair, sofa, or bed there was at least one table where one could set snacks, drinks, and various forms of entertainment.  Three girls to his right, sitting on a sofa and an easy chair, were playing cards on a coffee table made of a dark wood.  Another boy was sitting in one of the large chairs reading, a drink sitting upon the end table to his right.  The bed with the six girls had high, narrow tables at what he guessed was the head and the foot of the bed, and while they talked they were also munching on snacks kept in bowls on both tables.

Something caught Kerry’s eye: a group of five kids, three boys and two girls, sitting on the floor around a low, circular table. One of the boys had his tablet at his right and a cardboard screen in front of them, while the students had sheets of paper and dice laid out before them. “Hey, those guys over there are—”

“Oh, look.” Annie tugged on Kerry’s arm and pulled him along.  “There’s the perfect spot.”  She dragged towards a sofa located near the center of the hall, one facing the east wall. It wasn’t alone: there was also a table at each end of the sofa, an easy chair facing north and south, and a low coffee table in the middle of it all. Kerry was surprised no one was already sitting there—then again, there were maybe seventy people in the room and it looked as if there were plenty of empty places remaining.

 

That was the last excerpt I published before I hit post 1,000–it was actually post 998 if you need to know, and you can read it all here.  Yeah, it was the end of the first week of school at the Salem Institute of Greater Learning and Education, better known to all students and readers alike as the School of Salem, and a couple of little witches were off to enjoy the school-wide pajama party known as the Midnight Madness.  Back then I was about 125,000 words into the first novel and it would be another year before that experience came to an end.

And since then?  Well, my kids also made it out of their B Levels and are now about 170,000 words into their C Levels after a little more than ten months of writing.  Yes, it’s true:  I’m writing a bit slower than I did on the last two novels.  At the same time I’ve been busy–

First working on a political campaign:

Back when I believed in better days.

Then I got into protest:

First with all the ladies–

 

Then in support of immigrants and Muslims.

 

And once more with the Science Types.

 

All that political stuff, meeting and marching, takes up time, and I only have so much of that to spread around in a day.  It’s a trend that’s going to continue for a while, no matter what.

As for writing…  In the last couple of years I’ve branched out into writing TV recaps as well, because why not?  It’s not like I have anything else going on, right?  In the last two years I’ve started down that road and it does keep me busy, so much so that sometimes I’m writing more recaps than novel.  Sure, it seems like something that is kind of a pain in the butt for people who are following my writing, but it’s something that I enjoy doing and will likely continue doing for a while more.  Also, exposure–something that could kill me just like on the south flank of Everest, but what the hey?  Gotta take that chance.

Am I ever gonna publish?  Who the hell knows?  Sometimes I even wonder if I’ll get anywhere, but I keep trying.  It never hurts to try and the payoff can be rewarding.

Am I gonna keep blogging?  You know, it seems like every few months I feel like I’m about to kick this sucker away and give it up.  Biggest reason for that is this feeling that I don’t have much to say anymore.  Call it burn out, call it depression, call it for dinner if you like, but that feeling is there.  And yet…  every time I want to walk away I get pulled right back in, just like a certain mafia Don who wanted to quit the biz.  I’m told that I’m doing things that people notice, and while I’m sometimes damned to see what those things are, I’ll trust others to keep me honest.  ‘Cause when you’re too close to the action, you often can’t see the whole picture.

Future then?  Keep on swimming and keep on writing.  Because at this point I don’t know what else to do.  If I didn’t put words to computer paper I’d likely become more feeble and ignorant than I am now, and I don’t need that.  Most of all I can’t quit because that’s killing a dream, and I’ve already had so many dreams die that I can do that to one more.

That leads here, which is where I usually have a quote from Doctor Who, because I’ve done that the last few “special posts” I’ve put up, and it seems like a good thing to do now.  And both quotes go back to what I just said about killing dreams.  We need our dreams, even if we know they will never come to fruition, because when you least expect it, they do come true.  That happened with my move to Harrisburg and my transition:  I never expected the outcome that I live through today, because, as my best friend once told me, how do you know what’s coming tomorrow.  So:

 

“I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and dreamer of improbable dreams. The wheels are in motion. Done.”  Doctor Who, The Almost People.

 

Keep it real, but at the same time never give up that your hopes and dreams are going to fade before you.  Always hold close to your heart and mind that tomorrow is the day when it all changes for the better and you finally see that dream come true.

At the same time:

 

“Be strong. Even if it breaks your heart.”  Doctor Who, Dark Water.

 

Shit is always gonna keep piling up and there are times when it feels like you’re gonna take that leap over the balcony because you can’t take it anymore.  By now, I know heartbreak, so this is a no-brainer.  It’s not always easy to be strong, but no one else is going to be strong for you, so it falls to each of up to say to hell with it and continue moving on.

Maybe for another thousand blogs posts.

You can never tell.