Short Stories

Mermaid Tastes Nicer Than Tuna

7 minute read
First draft of introduction for kids vs monster hunters novella. I get hungry reading it.

“Mermaid tastes nicer than tuna”

The screaming stopped. The children turned and looked across at the old man. They’d immediately forgotten the first course they had on every family visit to a restaurant. Today’s heat had only brought a simmering stew to the boil. So with the basic ingredients of birth order, seating arrangements, and food preference was added a touch of Greek sun burn, a whiff of Greek toilets and who’s turn it was to be in the top bunk that night in the holiday apartment. Now they sensed the opportunity to feed on something different.

Mummy and Daddy had as per usual zoned out. They primed themselves with cheap Greek wine and German Lager which in most cases blurred the memory enough for them to look back in years to come on what would be a “Great” family holiday. One that was so hectic and enjoyable no one had time to smile in the photographs. One that was so hectic and enjoyable that no one had time to take any bloody photographs. But we’re drifting. Back to the nestlings.

They looked at the old man, he smiled back at them. Black teeth, could be octopus ink, though probably not. He didn’t look Greek. He seemed sun-burnt like them. The voice wasn’t American like theirs, it wasn’t British. He wore a tweed suit, three piece, herringbone design, underneath he wore a white shirt with cuff-links.

He spoke once more. Looking past the kids out towards the sea.

Yes, mermaid tastes nicer than tuna, saying that enjoy any tuna you get your hands on because soon it will go the way of the mermaid. I know you’d all rather be in McDonalds eating the generic pulp they serve up worldwide, but you miss so much. Try the local foods, try the secret foods. Have a bit of mermaid.

The children looked at each other. The gaze said it all. How are we going to deal with this fuckwit. He was probably a paedo. Mummy and Daddy where in their happy place so they would be off no use. They grinned back at the old man. That American smile they had practised from an early age. The on that hid all anger, rage and bitterness.

The old man was sucking the last morsels of the bones that lay on his plate.

The first time I had that secret food I was about your age, eight or nine. My older brother Billy had taken me along for a ride with his friend Seamus, when Seamus had learned to drive. They’d been ripping down the road near Gyles Quay when we hit it. I thought it was a small dog, and I cried so much that I convinced them to go back and check.

It was a Leprechaun. I hadn’t believed they existed, though my nana had always said they did. The little fella was still alive, but he was badly hurt. The boys reckoned he wasn’t going to live much longer. In fact, when I came back from the car with a blanket for him the poor little man was dead.
I wanted to bury him. Seamus then said that his father had told him that years ago people had hunted the Leprechaun and that there was no nicer meat in Ireland. We looked at each other, we looked at the little guy. Then we placed him in the boot of the car, drove to the beach, stripped him and cooked him over a camp fire. It took a while to burn all the hairs off, especially the beard, but it was worth it.

I suppose you could say that was the start of it. I began to wonder what else was out there. What it would taste like. So it became my life’s mission.
I was in my early twenties before I managed to catch my next creature, a Puca. These were strange ones. They could take different shapes. Some tasted of goat meat, some of hare, some of horse. All tasted better than the bloody Banshee (it tasted of old Granny), it still worries me that it might have been an old granny but she did shriek a lot.

After a while I left Ireland and travelled a bit. Oh you would have loved the foods. A bit of Kelpie up at Loch Loman, some Selkie in the Western Isles.
It’s taken a lot of time, near forty years, I’ve had werewolf, vampire, unicorn, dragon and at least one hundred others on every continent. But I never had mermaid.

I finally heard about this island last year. Thought I would give it a try.
Was it worth it?

He looked over, the children had fled. The parents seemed to be enjoying the peace and quiet. They had that let’s try for one more, it might turn out better than the rest of them look, that excess alcohol seems to release in people.

He sucked the final bit of gristle off the finger bone and sat it back down on the plate.

Mermaid tastes nicer than tuna.
For flavour it’s quite hard to beat.
But I still prefer Leprechaun dumplings.
But the pubes do get caught in my teeth

He chuckled to himself, paid the bill and set off in search of the children. Time for dessert.

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My name is Liam Robertson. I live with my four children in the village of Rostrevor. I had a wife, Niamh, but she died not that long ago. Most days you will find me writing code to feed my family. Most nights I write prose and poetry to prick and prod that ragged tear loss leaves behind.
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