“Where the hell is that bus?” Ivan wondered. The bus was five minutes late, and had to meet his friend at the city aquarium at one o’clock – a neurotic friend who would freak like a fish out of water if he wasn’t at the shark tank on time.
At least the spring weather was decent – 60s and sunny, a bit windy – and he had the bus stop all to himself. When the bus finally arrived, he’d be able to clamber aboard quickly without waiting behind a nanny with five kids or a crone with a cane.
He began to pace from one end of the bus stop to the other. Looking down the sidewalk, he still didn’t see the bus, but something else was coming: a kid on a bicycle. It was a teenager, pedaling fast, one hand on the handlebars and the other swinging a plastic bag full of groceries.
The wind began to pick up as the bike got closer, and the biker began to fishtail back and forth from one side of the sidewalk to the other. Ivan stepped aside. The bike suddenly swerved.
There was a sharp impact, and for a moment, Ivan’s mind went blank.
He found himself resting on the sandy bottom of a deep pool. All around him were fluorescent fish and waving plants, and a semi-transparent mermaid sitting on a coral throne. She was topless, and her breasts bobbed up and down like multi-colored jellyfish. She was laughing at him.
“Are you okay? What’s your name?” She snickered in a sing-song voice.
Ivan opened his mouth to answer, but only bubbles came out and a strangled, gurgling sound.
The mermaid giggled again.
“You’re okay. That’s quite a fishing rod you’ve got there,” she said.
Ivan suddenly realized that he was naked. He covered his privates with his hands as the mermaid continued to chuckle.
Just as he did so, an enormous shark swam up and gobbled the mermaid.
The shark turned and began to swim toward Ivan. But he couldn’t move; he was glued to the bottom of the ocean. The shark opened its jaws, and a long tentacle shot out. It grabbed Ivan around the ankle and yanked him into the gaping mouth.
He was sucked through a long, dark tunnel, at the end of which was the laughing blue mermaid, glowing in the dark. She opened her mouth wide, like a jawless snake, revealing rows of pointed teeth.
Just as she was about to bite Ivan’s head off, a brilliant flash of light nearly blinded him. He was lying on the sidewalk, looking up at the cloudless blue sky, and was covered with groceries.
“Are you okay?” someone asked.
There was something on his chest: a can of tuna fish with a fish-woman on the label.
“Ask any mermaid you happen to see,” Ivan mumbled and rose to his feet. Already he could tell it was going to be another one of those days. – Michael Gates Michael Gates is a frequent contributor. Comments on this piece can be sent to email@example.com.