Part of the Ball

The little mermaid gazed sadly at the invitation to the ball. She had saved the prince from drowning a month ago, and just yesterday she’d saved his stepmother after she’d fallen overboard. Their yacht needed taller railings on the sides or something.

In any case, during the panic yesterday, an entire box of invitations had fallen overboard. The mermaids had gathered them up for compost in their kelp gardens, but the little mermaid had saved this one. She’d always been fascinated by humans. What was a ball? She wanted to be there, and see what the people did for fun. She wanted to be a part of their ball.

But, her father said no. “You’re a mermaid,” he said. “You can’t walk on land like people do. How would you even get to this ball?”

“Couldn’t you magic me some legs?” the little mermaid asked.

“I’m a merman, not a wizard,” her father said.

She traveled to the very edge of the merpeople village to ask the seawitch for help.

“I could help you. It wouldn’t cost you much,” the seawitch said.

“What would it cost?”

The seawitch smiled widely. Every single scary shark tooth was showing. “I’ll tell you later.”

The mermaid shivered. “Somehow I think that’s a bad idea.”

So, she went home to pout and eat kelp chips.   Just as she was wiping away a tear or three, a fairy fish appeared in a burst of light. “Don’t worry, my dear,” the fairy fish said. “I’ll help you get to the ball.”

“Can you do magic?” the mermaid asked.

“No, but I know an inventor,” the fairy fish said.

“But what about appearing out of nowhere in a burst of light?” the mermaid asked. “That looked like magic.”

“Like I said, I know an inventor,” the fairy fish said. “Would you like to meet him?”

“I might as well,” the little mermaid said.

So, they swam to the center of town. At the top of the tallest building, they swam in through the door of the inventor. His office was a jumbled mess of strange mechanical contraptions.

“How can I help you?” the inventor asked.

“I want to go to the ball,” the little mermaid said.   She handed him the invitation.

“Ah, yes,” the inventor said.   “I think I can help you.”

“So, what’s a ball?” the little mermaid asked.

“It’s a dance. The humans dress up in fancy clothes and dance all evening,” the inventor said. “If you can find a dress, I’ll find a way to get you there and help you dance.”

So, the little mermaid found a dress and styled her hair in the best mermaid fashion, and the inventor designed a small glass motorized pool that fit under her ball gown. He also invented an overwater breathing apparatus that fit nicely over her gills and under the collar of her dress. He handed her a remote for the pool and called a taxi.

The little mermaid paid the driver with pirate gold and asked him to return at midnight. Clutching her soggy invitation, she wheeled herself into the ballroom. It was too bright and too loud and too crowded.

She had to stand in a long line for a turn to dance with the prince. Standing in a line watching other people dance was interesting at first. But, the newness eventually wore off and she was a little bored.

When it was finally her turn to dance with the prince, she enjoyed sweeping around the floor. However, using the remote to switch directions at a moment’s notice took a lot of attention, and the prince kept talking.

“Are those live crabs in your hair?” the prince asked.

“Of course they are,” the mermaid said. “How else would I keep my braids in place?”

“Is your dress made out of seaweed?” the prince asked.

“Yes, it’s woven out of the finest kelp,” the mermaid said.

“Have I met you before?” the prince asked.

“I saved your life a month ago,” the mermaid said.

“Yes, I thought you looked familiar,” the prince said.

The mermaid sighed.

“Are those live clams on your ears?” the prince asked.

Once the dance was finally over, the mermaid went to explore the refreshments. They were mostly dry and inedible. The watermelon was interesting. She saved some seeds to take home.

She glanced at the clock. Time to go. As she wheeled towards the door, the prince ran after her. “Wait!” he said. “I have more questions to ask you.”

The little mermaid rolled her eyes and sped up, bouncing down the front steps and leaving a trail of crabs and clams behind her.   She got in her taxi and rolled away.

The prince was left alone on the steps of the palace. He picked up a crab and it pinched his thumb. “Ouch!” he said. “Who was that strange girl? Will I ever see her again?”

He did, but he’d forgotten her again by then. The little mermaid and the inventor started a merpeople travel agency. Together they sent merpeople to visit humans around the world. Eventually they learned to blend in so well, that no one ever chased them around to ask questions again.

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