“The Little Mermaid,” written by Hans Christian Anderson and first published in 1837, is a fairy tale about a young mermaid who longs for a human soul, and the love of a handsome prince. In pursuit of her love, she gives up her home under the sea, her identity as a mermaid, and her voice. When the prince breaks her heart, the mermaid has a chance to reclaim her life, but must kill the prince in order to do so. She can not bring herself to kill him, even though he has broken her heart, and so she dies instead.
Beth uses both hands to twist the wire in front of her away and up, so that the pale blue glass hanging from it catches the sun and reflects itself subtly onto the wood below. She steps back to look at the sculpture. It’s by far the largest she’s ever begun. The driftwood she gathered for its base is huge and gracefully gnarled, stretching itself upward like petals on a wooden tulip; she has built it up with smaller pieces, drizzled it with sand, and attached bits of smoothed beach glass to it with curls of wire. She loves it already. Beth closes her eyes for a moment, and the sounds of the lake outside, quieted all morning by her preoccupation with work, rush into the room. Beth takes one deep breath, lets it out slowly, then another, listening to the softly splashing waves, the aching cries of the gulls. She does this until she feels herself dissolve, until there is no difference between her and the lake outside. It’s been a long morning, and it’s time for her to stop working. She looks out the window at the lake, quiet today, a gentle expanse of blue. Time for a swim.