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Flesh of my Fin

Shannon Fay is a Clarion West graduate and writer living in Mi'kma'ki/Nova Scotia. By the time you read this, her first novel, Innate Magic, will probably be available for purchase (if not, there's always pre-order). She can be found online at @shannonlfay.

After my father passed away my mom sat me down in her kitchen and told me she was going to go live in the ocean. She was a mermaid, she said, but she'd stayed in her human form all these years for mine and my father's sake. Now, with dad dead and me grown, she'd be returning to the water.
"I knew it!" I blurted out. "Remember the day I came home sick?"
It had happened back in grade 1. I'd developed a bad fever during the school day, but seeing as dad was working at the factory and mom didn't know how to drive, I'd convinced the school nurse that I was well enough to walk the two blocks from my school to the trailer park where we lived (it was the 90s and people were lax when it came to letting kids look after themselves). When I'd walked into our single-wide, I saw mom, sitting in the sink, her large, shimmering tail splashing water onto the floor.
"I remember that," mom said. "That trailer was so cramped. Not even a bathtub for me to bathe in."
"You told me I imagined it, that the fever made me see things!" I said, anger growing. "You gaslighted me!"
Mom blinked. She wasn't online enough to know what I was talking about.
"You purposefully made me believe something you knew wasn't true," I explained.
"Sweetie, I didn't think you'd understand," she said. "Your father... he certainly wouldn't have."
She was right. Dad hadn't been a bad man, but it was like he had been ossifying slowly from the day he was born, becoming harder and more rigid as the years went by. Mom barely had a life of her own. I could understand why she'd want to do her own thing now that dad was dead in the ground. That's not what I was mad about.
"Do you know how alone I felt? I thought I was a freak!"
Mom blinked again.
"What do you mean?"
I held up my hand and showed her how I could form webbing between my fingers. Her eyes widened.
"I can grow fins and gills too," I said. "I thought I was alone. I had to figure it all out by myself."
Mom pressed her own webbed hand to mine.
"I'm sorry. I should have told you earlier. But you're not alone anymore," she said. "Let's go home. Together."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, January 17th, 2022

Author Comments

This mermaid tale was inspired by stories of queer people coming out to their parents, only to have their parents come out to them in turn.

- Shannon Fay
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