Nickel Novelette: Mermaid Bike
Makenzie the Mermaid was not your average mermaid. It wasn’t because she had a beautiful voice, or because she could swim the fastest, or because her hair was the shiniest. No, Makenzie was not an average mermaid because she could not breathe underwater. She had to hold her breath.
Naturally, this made life for Makenzie rather challenging. Deep and meaningful conversations were interrupted by her need to surface for air. She couldn’t attend normal mermaid school because she had to keep leaving the class, deemed a “disruption” by her teachers. She couldn’t even sleep in her own home, having to float on the water and hope she didn’t drift too far away by the time she woke up. Makenzie felt very alone.
Makenzie’s parents tried providing the most normal childhood for her as possible, but it became apparent that it was more painful for her to try to fit in with her impossible situation. It was decided that they would ask the nearby fisherman and his wife if they would adopt Makenzie, letting her use a wheelchair and hiding her mermaid tail from the rest of the world with long skirts and such. The fisherman was not startled by the mermaids’ request; rather he was relieved, having believed he was hallucinating whenever he thought he spotted a mermaid at sea. His wife was equally thrilled, as she had recently become an empty nester and still had plenty of doting left in her bones.
Makenzie was naturally scared at first, but that soon gave way to sadness. She still swam in the ocean every day, but on land she just felt so useless. The fisherfolk were compassionate to her plight, and tried comforting her with a botched quote, “Judging yourself so unfairly is like judging a fish for not being able to ride a bike.” Makenzie had no idea what point they were trying to convey, and asked what a bike was. The fisherman went out to his shed and retrieved the bike he used to ride into town years ago. Something clicked in Makenzie’s brain, and she requested for them to teach her how to ride this bike. Having no idea how to begin instructing, the fisherfolk took her to the town library instead.
Makenzie checked out books on bicycles, on simple mechanics, on humans who had achieved great things with fewer limbs than average. She read quickly and learned even faster until, after days of drawing up plans and gathering the tools and parts she would need, Makenzie set to work on transforming the bicycle. First, she added another tire for stability. Then, she added a second set of pedals, adjusting one for arm and hand use, the other a single pedal for her tail. After a few mistakes and a few more cuts and scrapes, her masterpiece was complete. She showed the fisherfolk her invention, and they were delighted with her brilliance. Makenzie could now eagerly repay their kindness, riding into town to run errands for them.
But even more importantly, Makenzie had newfound confidence. She may not have been able to explore the depths of the ocean, but she could at least explore this vast land she now called home.