At the beginning of March, the children splashed to school. They wore galoshes and raincoats. The parents of younger children walked them to bus stops under big umbrellas that brightened the gray sky with patches of blue and yellow and pink flamingos.
It rained without pause all month. The city government held an emergency election, and a special bond and new tax passed by a wide margin. Consultants and contractors came in and advised. Construction teams racked up the overtime hours building new adjustable height bridges, boats of a variety of sizes and capacities, and an ark-like structure to house the new consolidated school for kindergarteners to high school seniors. Nautical knots became part of the required curriculum.
May brought no flowers, just more rain. Every so often it dwindled to a drizzle or petered out entirely. Occasionally, the sun poked through for a few dazzling minutes before the deluge began again.
Over the summer most of the kids swam and swam. They rowed some boats. They pedaled others. A few steered their way to friend’s houses. By September most had powerful shoulders, strong legs, deep lung capacities. Elisa got a new contraption that could turn the wheels of her wheelchair into water skis of sorts and back.
Eventually, all this felt pretty normal – although sometimes the good citizens of the town complained about how their skin felt perpetually pruned. Kids sometimes whined about having to eat fish or algae salad for dinner again. Some less-well-endowed guys liked to gun their boat engines for the thrill of it as they navigated through town. Pet owners took their dogs to a little raised island of earth. Engineers had designed it to lift an inch or so each day. The dogs ran around the soggy fake turf and did their business. The poor puppers who hated water cringed and whimpered until they got home.
When the new school year started, to some extent the kids did pair off. Taylor with Jayden. Camilla with John. Andy with María. Mike with Tom. Elisa with Sean. At recess, the younger kids swam or practiced rowing. The high schoolers planned an under-the-sea homecoming dance. The seniors and a few juniors who were in the know did it ironically, of course. The football team had disbanded, but the swim teams were crushing it.
All was well.
One day, merpeople would visit the local history museum. They would see the artifacts – the photos, the memes, the pants from back when their ancestors had legs.
Ray Ball, PhD, is the author of two history books, and her creative work has recently appeared in Cirque, L’Éphémère Review, and Okay Donkey. You can find her in the classroom, the archives, or on Twitter @ProfessorBall