Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Mermaid Chair (copy)

What do you do when your mother does something exceptionally weird? So weird in fact you are thinking of having her committed. I mean, even at her best, she always seems to stand on shifting sand.

My mother, Nelle Dubois, wasn’t always this way. Before she lost her husband, she never missed a picnic or clambake. She would be the first in the water when tide was out and the last to leave the annual Mermaid Festival parade. Now she spends her time in religious ceremonies, constant rosary chants and cooking meals for the island’s Benedictine monastery.

It hasn’t always been easy, being the daughter of one so morose. Before Dad’s tragic accident, I could tell she loved me, although a little removed. It was my father that doted on me. He would sing my name Jessie Jessie Jessie as he barreled through the front door after work. I was so special to him; he even named his boat after me, Jes-Sea.

Maybe this island has driven her to do such a horrible thing. Some crazed island fever, like cabin fever, the same fever which drove her to bury an old tub in the front yard. Just halfway that is, so she could place Mother Mary inside and plant flowers all around—an icky grouted grotto, for all to admire.

Possibly the people themselves have led to Mother’s derangement. Can you believe our little island has a mermaid saint? Something the tourists just eat up. I mean, slap a mermaid on it and its gold. The island is literally littered with hundreds of yellow signs stating, “Mermaid Xing.”

We call her Saint Senara, and every April 30, we carry her throne through the sandy lanes of Egret Island. On the backs of celibate monks, aloft for all to see, breast of mermaids swaying in the island heat. Maybe the whole island nation could use a little time in a padded cell. Might be something the monks could rent out for income.

I mean to say, this is how I left the island 23 years ago. I left golf cart commuters, slave cemetery viewers, and mermaid lovers behind—far behind, until the implausible late night call. My mother, saints preserve us or should I say mermaids preserve us, is less one finger. It seems she voluntarily, without accident, donated a digit to the Lord during her nightly monastery cooking.

Southern author Sue Monk Kidd of The Secret Life of Bees improves upon her craft with second book The Mermaid Chair, packed with love, mystery, and candid meaning.

Maggie's Note: I'm taking on the persona of main character Jessie Sullivan. These words are my choice and not cited from the book.

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