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The History of the Mermaid Socialist Revolution

Rebecca DeVendra is a mother of three, an artist, and a writer in Boston. Check out her art and other projects: rebeccadevendra.com. Story thoughts: Lately, I've been thinking about my relationship with material consumption. I can opt out, but can the people behind the scenes making the products say no to bad working conditions? I know that advertising manipulates me, but how are the working people behind the products I consume manipulated by market pressure? After watching some Betta fish in a pet shop, floating in hopeless dolor, I scribbled down this story. It took a year for me to finish, as I wanted it to be just right.
The mermaids needed a large tank, but in groups they formed conspiracies. The pet shop owner relegated them to tall, individual cups that were stacked on the far shelf next to the ghost shrimp tank.
There they grew lachrymose and languid, arms hanging in front of them and tails trailing behind, subject to the concerned squints of onlookers.
"Is this one dead?" A young boy asked.
"Nah, just wake her up and she'll dance," the shop owner reassured him.
The boy tapped the cup hopefully, and the mermaid flashed him a rude gesture without looking up from the curtain of her floating hair.
"Now, now, Margaret!" the shop owner said, voice teetering on the edge of hysteria. "Give us a show, won't you?"
Margaret's head snapped up and she grinned wickedly. She cupped her breasts and made thrusting gestures: "How about these rockets?"
The pale boy's cheeks reddened like a cherry on coconut as he hastened away.
"Margaret," the shop owner said, pinching his nose where his glasses left their mark, "we've been over this."
"I won't do it." She said.
"Don't you want a home?" He snapped. His bulbous and greasy head darkened her cup.
"You took me from my home!"
"You were born in captivity," he said with a slump of his shoulders.
"Into slavery, you mean." She protested. "This whole system is immoral!"
She and her sisters had been transported to the shop in the darkness of a cooler, nothing but the whimpering and sobbing running time together into one indiscernible stream. She didn't know how long she'd swam in her own... well.
Ammonia didn't taste very good.
"We've been over this. You wouldn't survive out in the wild anymore. Would you starve to death for your principles?"
"But I'm not some stupid fish," she said, crossing her arms. She puffed her cheeks and blew bubbles.
"That's true," He acquiesced. "But if I keep getting complaints I'll have to remove you." Here, his voice lowered. "To the spare cooler in the back."
The cords in Margaret's neck tightened with rage.
The cooler wasn't an option.
Her tailfins drooped.
A girl with braces walked over to Margaret's cup, and the shop owner lifted his chin. "What do you say, Margaret?"
Margaret did a flip, and beamed in what she hoped was a genuine way.
"Mermaid for sale!" She cried.
The shop owner's shadow retreated.
But inside, it was dark again.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 11th, 2018


Lately, I've been thinking about my relationship with material consumption. I can opt out, but can the people behind the scenes making the products say no to bad working conditions? I know that advertising manipulates me, but how are the working people behind the products I consume manipulated by market pressure? After watching some Betta fish in a pet shop, floating in hopeless dolor, I scribbled down this story. It took a year for me to finish, as I wanted it to be just right.

- Rebecca DeVendra

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