Story One

"Wheel Barrel Mermaid"

It was a hot summer day, just before Jan's fifth birthday. Her mother let her put on her swimsuit and play with the hose in the backyard. Jan squealed with delight as she waved the hose from side to side, making the water go zigzag. Then she started flinging the hose up and down. Splash! Cold water fell on her.

Jan screamed. "Cold! Brrr!" She dropped the hose. Then she skipped over to the bushes near the back of her yard.

What was that? It sounded like somebody crying, way far away. Jan looked around the bush. She couldn't see anybody. But somebody was crying. She walked all the way around the bush. Nobody. Jan couldn't figure it out.

"They must be inside the bush!" Jan decided at last. So she got down on her hands and knees and peered inside. She couldn't see anything but the inside of the bush. Then she heard another sound. It was water, but not like from her hose. It sounded like the waves at the beach.

Jan was too curious to be afraid. She crawled into the bush. It was cool and dark under there. She walked and walked and walked. She should have come to the end of the bush by now. Then she saw light ahead.

Jan came out of the bush, and couldn't believe her eyes. She was on the beach! There were big rocks nearby, and, far off over the water, she could see an island.

Jan looked back at the bush. It was still there. "It must be a magic bush!" she realized.

Then Jan heard the crying again. It was much closer now. Jan walked around, and soon came to an even more amazing sight that the beach.

Sitting in the mud near the water was a real live mermaid!

Jan stared at the mermaid. She looked just about Jan's age. But she had very, very pale bluish skin, and hair like green seaweed. Instead of legs, she had a bluish-green tail.

"Hi!" Jan said, walking up to the mermaid. "Are you a weal mermaid?"

"I'm Marinanna," the little mermaid sobbed.

"How come you're cwying, wittle mermaid?" Jan asked. She had a speech problem. All of her l's and r's sounded like w's.

"I got too close to land," Marinanna said, "and now I can't get back to the water! And it's so hot!"

Jan realized mermaids couldn't walk. Poor thing! They looked so pretty in the water, she'd never even thought about that before. "Here," she said, "I'll help you!"

Jan tried to pick up Marinanna, but she was just too heavy for her. Now what should she do? She was afraid that if she went to get her mother, the magic bush wouldn't bring her back again. Besides, Jan's mother didn't believe in mermaids or fairies or any of that fun stuff.

"I know!" Jan cried. At a picnic, Jan and another girl, Lucy, had been in a wheel barrel race. Jan had held Lucy's feet up, and Lucy had ran on her hands. They had been told they were too young for the race but had insisted on trying anyway. They'd finished last.

Marinanna didn't have feet, but she did have a tail. Jan picked up the end of her tail. The little mermaid didn't feel fishy like Jan had thought she would. She felt like the dolphin Jan had got to pet one time at a park.

"Now walk on your hands!" Jan said. Jan started running, Marinanna walked on her hands, and they were soon in the water. But Jan was so excited, she forgot to stop running. Before she knew it, the water was up to her chin. Splash! A wave knocked her under. Jan opened her mouth. Water rushed in. She couldn't breath.

"I'm gonna die!" Jan thought. She'd never see her mommy or daddy or her Auntie Sue again.

Then she felt two hands grab her. She was lifted out of the water. Jan coughed. Her hair was in her eyes.

"Are you hurt?" That was Marinanna's voice. Jan shook her head. She couldn't talk yet.

When she could see, Jan realized Marinanna had carried her to a big rock. She helped Jan climb onto it.

"I'm sorry," Marinanna said. "You can't breathe water?"

"N-no!" Jan gasped. When she caught her breath, Marinanna took her to the edge of the water. Jan was now waist deep.

"Thank you," Marinanna said. "You should be safe now. I have to go home. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," Jan said, running to shore. She stopped, and looked back. She could just see Marinanna's tail break the water and sort of wave to her. Then she was gone.

Jan ran back to the bush. She got down on her hands and knees, and crawled through again. "Pwease take me back home!" she sobbed. Jan had had enough adventure for one day.

Jan crawled out of the bush to find herself in her own back yard. She ran in the house.

"Mommy! Mommy!" she cried. "I went in a bush, and came out on the beach! And I saw a mermaid, and I saved her, but I almost dwowned, and…"

"Jan! Really!" her mother yelled. "You're running through the kitchen soaking wet, and covered with leaves and sticks! And I'll bet you left the hose on too, didn't you?"

"I guess so, Mommy," Jan said, "but the mermaid…"

"You and your mermaids and fairies!" her mother said, taking Jan by the arm. "Let's get you cleaned up a little." She took Jan outside. As she picked up the hose, Jan ran to the bush.

"This bush, Mommy!" Jan cried. "It's magic!"

"Jan! Get over here, young lady!" her mother cried. "I'm tired of your nonsense!"

But Jan said, "I'll show you!" She got down on her hands and knees, and crawled into the bush before her mother could stop her.

"Jan!" she heard her mother yell. "Get out of there this minute, young lady! I'm not kidding!"

Jan's head bumped into the end of the bush. Where was the beach? She searched and searched. But she couldn't find any way out except the one that her mother was angrily standing in front of.

Jan finally crawled out. Her mother pulled her to her feet. "You need a time out, young lady!" She hosed Jan down, and then carried her inside. Jan had to sit in her room and not touch any of her toys for a long, long time.

When Jan's father came home, Jan tried to tell him what happened. But her daddy wouldn't believe her either.

"You and Sue are always filling her head with nonsense!" Jan's mother said to Jan's father.

"She's a lonely little girl," Jan's father said. "She'll outgrow it when she starts kindergarten in the fall and starts making some real friends."

Even Jan's favorite aunt, Auntie Sue didn't believe her. "That's a great story, Jan-Jan!" Auntie Sue said. "Maybe you'll grow up to be a writer!"

Jan finally started thinking that maybe she'd dreamt the whole thing. One thing that was for sure was that Jan was now afraid of the water. When her Aunt Sue tried to get her swimming lessons for her birthday, Jan cried and ran out of the pool. When her parents went to the beach, she stayed on the sand as much as she could. Jan's fear of water would continue for a number of years, until finally…

Ah, but that's another story!