The preacher burns too bright to look at, bright as summer sun spearing the tin-framed mirror in Tía’s parlor, and Carmen cowers before his gaze, as she does before all mirrors, feeling the shadows shrink around her, every supplicant incited. And though she came here seduced by the same promises, Carmen panics, resists the tide, fights not to join the spittle-flecked front of the crowd. Too like teetering on a cliff’s edge, too great the specter of wish fulfilled or failed.
Would I give three mermaids one coin apiece, or would one mermaid take all three? I shucked my gloves, holding the silver against bare skin. The edge of the first coin bit into the side of my thumb, and I tried to picture the creature that would take it in exchange for the burden of whatever gangrenous rot of which I wished to be relieved. A girl like myself, I decided, but with no heart of her own and a fishtail instead of legs. A girl who could do as she pleased.