After Dinner Mints
Glenise Lee



T hey circled, round and round, one way then the other, the choice of direction random, a change, without motive. There were six of them, circling, ever circling. Occasionally one would pause in the ceaseless round to stop and stare with an expressionless face through the glass that encompassed its world, gazing, uncomprehending the scene beyond. From overhead, light caught the facets of their scales as their strong fishtails moved them effortlessly through the water. A glitter of gold became a deep crimson turning to iridescent purple in a non-stop kaleidoscopic pattern. The light dusted smooth bodies with a pink warmth. Long hair flowed, jet-black streams along supple spines. They circled, ever circled.

A young one, held by its mother’s strong arm, suckled at her breast, the deep-pink teat gripped firmly between slowly moving jaws. Its face, like the adults, was without expression. Small white fingers were entwined in its mother’s hair and it peeped out at its world over the crook of her arm, black eyes twinkling with reflected light. It took its first tentative strokes with its tiny tail. Its mother swam on, her youngster’s first attempts at independence, unnoticed. A black shadow passed nearby. The circling continued. A man stood by the cashier’s desk and paid for the meal he’d just enjoyed. While he waited for his change, he dipped a hand into the bowl and brought out a wriggling mermaid.

Momentarily, scales glittered furiously, so close now to the source of light. The man popped the morsel into his mouth and sucked. A cool taste of mint ran over his tongue, overlaying the hot curry he’d eaten. He swallowed, put his change in his pocket and left the restaurant. Four of them circled, round and round, one way then the other, the choice of direction random, a change, without motive.


First published: August 2001
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