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Chapter 10:
Merman to Mermen

Mermiin was anything but a dive.

It looked like a set designers idea of an undersea grotto, complete with acres of moss green velvet (the waiters and regular customers always wore green), truckloads of shells covered the walls and floors, even cocktails served in conch shells. The place had an eerie blue-green glow from the miles of neon tubing which formed swaying seaweed and carefully timed bubbles blinking up, up, up the three story high walls.

Light was filtered from above through fixtures filled with moving water, and the focal point of the room was the bar, backed with five, 30-foot tall panes of six inch thick glass, looking like a picture window on the ocean.

The only thing which didn't go with the aquatic motif was the music--all Broadway show tunes--and disco versions whenever possible. Tonight it was Ethel Merman Does Disco! complete with a non-stop booming base line.

The whole effect was somewhere between breathtaking and sick making.

While mermaids, mermen and dolphins were the regular floor show, or more specifically, the wall show, the clientele were also accustomed to witnessing performance art pieces in the tank when the merpeople (the non-sexist term) were catching their breath.

The most memorable in recent months was a pantomime version of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Bay's Journey into Night," where the characters were dressed as famous drowning victims. Not exactly tasteful, but not boring, either.

So it just seemed like part of the show when the water level in the tank dropped five feet in five seconds. Wide-eyed mermen and their gossamer tails were swept off stage left (stage left is your right) just as Merman began belting, "There's no business like show business."

Then a new cast of characters dove into view from the right. A woman in an a stunning black jumpsuit, carrying a large quilted Chanel purse. Another woman, wearing a thin cotton skirt that floated over her head, revealing underwear that said, "Friday." A bearded older man appeared and sunk almost immediately to the bottom of the tank.

"There's no people like show people," Miss Merman boomed.

An older woman in blue polyester floated by, intent on removing algae from the glass, and finally, a perfect triple somersault dive was performed by a serious looking man in a beige jumpsuit that stuck to him underwater in particularly uncomfortable but amusing way.

"Even in a turkey that you know will fold.." Merman thundered to the disco beat.

The audience howled with laughter, especially at the old man sitting on the bottom of the tank. He had an expression which seemed to say, "What the hell am I doing here?" as tiny bubbles trickled from his lips, lips that were already turning blue.

"Farce!" one of the loud French regulars cried as the serious man in beige attempted to lift the old man off the bottom to no avail. The woman in the black jumpsuit swam down to help him but he wouldn't budge. It wasn't that he didn't want to, it's that he appeared to be weighted down.

Just when this hilarity started to get wane, the woman in the cotton skirt appeared from the left, with a look of steely resolve on her face. She held a coiled rope in her hands and with another rope between her teeth, pulled a  floating object in the anatomically-correct shape of the man in the beige jumpsuit. For some reason, the Germans thought this was particularly hilarious.

The woman dropped the rope and the man in the jumpsuit tied it around the bearded man's waist. Each time they tugged the older man moved, but just a little.

They appeared to be tugging in time with the music. Tug. Boom. Tug. Boom. Tug, Boom. The audience particularly seemed to enjoy the older man's ability to turn such a rich shade of blue. "How does he do that?" they thought, hardly able to catch their breath from laughter. Tug. Titter. Tug. Ha! Tug. Shrieks of laughter.

The onlookers were truly impressed with the acting ability of the serious man and the chic woman, both of whom looked absolutely panic stricken. This was even better than underwater O'Neill! The patrons nodded to each other, signaling that this was definitely worth the high cover charge.

Just when the older man was turning a little too blue to be funny, a dolphin appeared, biting behind the old man's neck, grabbing his overcoat and pulling it off him. The old man floated to the top like a beach ball as the crowd whooped with approval.

The woman in the skirt pulled the old gentleman into the raft in the shape of the man in the jumpsuit. The woman with the algae fixation had disappeared, and now the serious man and the chic woman were using the breaststroke to swim up and to the left.

"Everything the traffic will allow," the background singers whaled.

Just as the laugher was subsiding there was a gasp from the crowd, then a scream of laugher as four Nutzi's in full uniform splashed in from the right. Three of them wore spiked helmets, the fourth's helmet fell off, and he tried to swim to the bottom to retrieve it, but ran out of air and had to shoot to the surface. If this weren't hysterically funny enough, they were followed by an albino Nutzi who was white from head to toe--his skin being the same color as his uniform.

The Germans in the audience were not particularly amused by this portion of the show. One spit up his drink, another group started to grumble, loudly.

The four Nutzi's used the Australian crawl stroke to try to catch the man and woman. The white Nutzi dog paddled while clutching a strange white weapon, causing a French woman to laugh so hard she wet herself.

"Dada!" cried a Belgian banker clapping with glee.

The disco arrangement slowed to the de facto "kickline" tempo. As always, the audience burst into applause automatically, like one of Pavlov's drooling dogs.

All that could be seen of the man and woman were they legs as they climbed out of the tank. A Nutzi grabbed the man's leg, then the woman's leg kicked the Nutzi in the face, knocking him unconscious so that he sank to the bottom. A Dutch man started a wave of applause.

"Nowhere can you get that happy feeling, than when you're stealing an extra bow..." Merman bellowed.

The helmet-less Nutzi grabbed at the man's leg and wouldn't let go. The serious man pushed the woman up and out of the pool, then was pulled back into the water. The audience was gasping for breath.

The Nutzi was strangling the man who had now taken off his shoe and was beating it against the Nutzi's head. It was looking more and more like an aquatic puppet show.

The white Nutzi lifted his white weapon and aimed it left at where the others had exited. He fired but the backlash propelled him backwards in the water and he ended shooting into the air, creating brilliant flashes of exploding neon. The dolphin bit the weapon and pulled it away from the Nutzi, then aimed it towards him. The white Nutzi scrambled to get out of the pool but the dolphin dropped the weapon, grabbed the Nutzi's pants and pulled them off, revealing white boxer shorts with hearts and swastikas in red. Audience cheered their approval, (all except for the Germans who paid their check, left no tip, and stormed out).

Blood was pouring down the head of the Nutzi who was still strangling the man. How realistic it looked! The man was turning as blue as the old man had been. What incredible special effects!

In one instant, a woman's arm (wearing black) reached down holding a small torch and aimed it at the Nutzi's head, and the dolphin grabbed at the Nutzi's legs. The Nutzi put his head under water to extinguish his hair, then the man in the jumpsuit was able to knock away the Nutzi's hands using a Tai Kow move called "Muskrat knocking snake unconscious."

The man scrambled out of the tank as Miss Merman belted out her final, ear-spitting note.

The audience was literally rolling on the floor with laughter as the waves calmed. The final tableau consisted of one Nutzi bobbing on the top of the water, seemingly unconscious, another Nutzi at the bottom of the pool, (how did he hold his breath that long?), and a dolphin toying with (or terrorizing, it was hard to tell) a small, half naked albino.

Read Chapter 11: The Scenic Route


Copyright © 2001 Daniel Will-Harris,

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[1: A plain brown bloodstained wrapper]
[Cunning Plans]
[Death takes a cruise]
[A little underwater music]
[International house of toast]
[Just loafing around]
[Just hanging around]
[Seeing things]
[Fish stories]
[Merman to Mermen]
[The scenic route]
[The value of nothing]
[Garbage out]
[All rights reserved]