Curse Of The Sea Gypsy.


Well, er, the problem was, I thought I saw a real live mermaid.
Get that?
Loping on Lovina beach one day, I came across a troglodytic Indonesian man crouching over a campfire, cooking a stunted animal on a skewer. Jeez, was he eating a cat?!
”You want a womans?” he asked frankly. I was feeling a little frisky, but worried he might offer me someone unsuitable like his wife: a commonplace in a demesne ruled by unregulated third-world capitalism.
“I think I’ll just swim, but thanks,” I decided upon.
“Very nice bitch,” this local sarong hawker spat in the sand. Lo and behold! I saw a bikinied blond, like the statuesque prow of a Viking vessel, splashing out in the water. Aha! Bali Baywatch. Glint: tail!
But when the magical apparition, one usually confined to the edges of 16th-century maps, subsided, I found myself dangling alone in the deep, lapping at the shore like the tongue of a blind man licking his false teeth.
“Maybe you want to see the dolphins?” the hawker persisted when I returned, dripping wet. He handed me one of his colorful sarongs to dry off.
“The dolphins? Hey, that sounds interesting,” I said.
“Okay. I arrange.”
This time a real sea gypsy, with a soiled rag tied around his head, greeted me on the beach. His smile betrayed a ragged set of broken Chiclets. He shook my hand and winked, a cataract, an evil eclipse. He resembled the demonic emcee from “Tales from the Crypt.”
But hey, the boat looked sort of seaworthy, and an adventure is an adventure.
So I gave him a handful of crumpled rupiah and we dragged the outrigger canoe out into the water. The antique ghost ship glided through the waves like an ungodly phallic symbol, until halfway out the motor conked out and a worried look stole over the ancient mariner’s face. “What’s the matter?” I asked with trepidation.
The Cryptkeeper began unfurling the heavy sail, pointing.
I looked over and saw a fin slicing the water.
And another. And another. And another.
Hence, we were suddenly surrounded by scores of dolphins dancing in undulating curves, coiling like verboten question marks. I’d never seen this many dolphins together at once, not even on TV. The old man grinned at me, my respect for him rising inestimably. I laughed just to hear what my own voice sounded like in the ocean spray.
Did the divine dance of the dolphins go on every day here off Bali away from prying eyes? What universals governed such an event? My miraculous mermaid sighting had probably been a dolphin, too, but it's fun relying on educated guesses rather than fact or fiction. Off an island at the very edge of reason, I now wondered not how many more dolphins I would spot, but how the bejesus we would get back to shore with only a hot Bahasa curse and a tattered sail. . . .

J M Edwards

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