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Mermaid's Funeral

Mermaid's Funeral
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She lies on the shore outside Nagore, impossibly tangled in fishing nets. A small crowd is gathered around, a large earthmover arrives to do the miserable job that has to be done. Quickly, brutally, it digs a hole, its maw rising and falling in clinical slashes. But then the maw switches character. I know there's a man operating a lever, but the effect he has on that metal appendage is nearly magical. It becomes thoughtful, contemplative, gentle. It hovers above her, trying to decide how to pick her up. Then it descends and almost does it. But no, what about this other way? Turn slightly, descend again. No, that's no good, after all, better go back to the first angle. This way, the thing finally cradles her—dare I say it?—lovingly. Like a baby. Moves over the hole and...she slides off. The nets the poor girl is tangled in are themselves firmly attached to a great bulging mess of nets and bushes and pans and timber. The strands pull her back. Not yet, they might be saying; you died, but you don't get buried that easily.

By now, we are sick and sad. Such are the details a tsunami leaves the living to work out. Someone calls for a knife. Two men hack through the offending strands, right next to the girl's head. Both have their noses covered, are still almost gagging. Will the earth mover do what it must, this time?

Not yet. Someone shouts, first the photo! First the photo! I protest, but he explains, the police need every body photographed for enumeration and for claims. But who will know who this faceless tragedy is? Someone actually leans over and lifts a scrap of cloth away from her face. Even if her hair wasn't sprayed all over, it would be impossible to know who she was. But the police do what they must.

The maw gets back to work. Lovingly again, it picks up the girl, lowers her into her grave. That puts an end to the final indignity the girl has suffered, this tug of war between machine and net in front of a few dozen men.

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