Monday, March 28, 2011

Jacob, Merjon, and the Great Fish (or, and the Sea Witch)

This is the first draft (well, draft 1.5 or 2) of new story for a children's picture book and novel. It is for my grandson, Frankie, who shortly will be 5 months old.

Jacob Merjon and the Great Dream Fish
by Mary Stebbins Taitt, second draft (1.5, really!)

Back in the times when there was still magic in the world, yesterday, or the day before, Jacob, who gathered crabs and clams, lived with his fisher-folk parents. The times were changing and magic came less and less often, and many people said it was gone from the world, but Jacob knew better.

When Jacob was out clamming in the fog, he had seen merwomen and mermen rise out of the water, riding on the backs of dolphins, and had often wished he could do that, too. He knew that the word mer simply meant sea. These were the sea folk, who were blessed, in these days of fading magic, with more magic than the landfolk.
One day, when Jacob had bagged his clams in nets and set them in a shallow tide pool to stay alive until later, he went exploring, as he liked to do. He swam out to a little island with a rocky cliff around it. He saw no way up the cliffs, so he swam to the other side. The waves there crashed hard on the rocks, and Jacob almost turned back, but he saw a crack in the rocks, and swimming hard against the power of the crashing waves and the suck of the undertow, he slipped through the crack to a small beach.
A boy his own age was sitting on a rock in the water staring at the sky, and he turned to look at Jacob, and smiled. "I've been waiting for you," he said. I was hoping you would come."
When Jacob swam close, and sat beside the boy, he saw that the boy was a mer child. Under the water, which was clear and still in the tiny bay, Jacob could see that the boy had a tail instead of legs. He sat in the water beside him.
"You,” said the boy, “are not the 7th son of the 7th son, but you have the seed somehow, in spite of this discrepancy. You have the sight, the ability to learn magic. That happens only extremely rarely, so you are truly blessed."
"I thought magic was leaving the world," said Jacob.
"No. It's going into a hiding. That's almost the same thing. But the sea witch has seen you seeing us, and she knows. She will visit you soon, if you give the word."
"What is the word? And what will happen?" asked Jacob.
"Have you heard of the great fish?
"You mean the whale that swallowed Jonah?"
Not exactly, explained the boy. "My name is Merjon Marlin. (In expended story, he becomes Merjon Merlin) You can call me Jon. I am the seventh son of a seventh son, something that doesn't happen often, even among our people. We have fewer children now that we are withdrawing from the world. So seven happens very rarely."
"According to our people, there is a great fish dreaming the world. It is he who dreamed your sight. He swallows people, humans and mer people, and they ride in his belly and learn to see the world in a new way. Then he either digests them, or spits them out. It depends on what you see from inside him.
“Did you ride inside him? Yes. What did you see? I am forbidden to say. Everyone sees something different, according to his or her nature. But how will I know if it is safe?" You won't. But if you do it and succeed, we will be friends, and you can swim under the sea and play with me, and I can walk on land and play with you."
"I can't promise anything, said Merjon, the merboy, but I can tell you this: the point of being swallowed by the fish is to test you for magic, and even though you are not the seventh son of a seventh son, I know you're magic, because you're sitting here talking to me, and because you can see the merfolk, and always have been able to, since you were tiny. Do you see anything flying overhead?"
"Yes, said Jacob, “there are eight miniature winged dragons, about the size of seagulls. Only they are all the colors of the rainbow and flying in rainbow formation, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet." "We call them dragonets," said Jon. "Okay, said Jacob, I will risk the test. I am not eager to die and I am not without fear, but I will do it."
The next day, Jacob went crabbing and clamming as usual. When he returned to the fishing shanty for lunch, he senses a presence outside the door. He knew right away that t was the sea witch. He could ser, right through the door of the shanty, in her flowing blue and green gown. He knew she had come for him, but he was frightened, and left by another door.
He continued his clamming and crabbing, always aware that sea witch was waiting for him at the shanty. She floated, unmoving, a few inches above the stoop, waiting, patient. At dinnertime, he returned to the shanty through the back door. When his parents returned with their catch of the day, he suddenly remembers the sea witch who was waiting for him. He had been working all afternoon to not think about her, and it was hard.
He opened the back door, not the one where the witch had been waiting earlier, but the one he and his parents had used. A woman dressed in the rags of a peddler stood there. Her face was wrinkled and old, her eyes hidden in many layers of skin. But they were bright and piercing.
"Who's there, asked Jacob's father."
"A peddler woman," Jacob said, turning to his father, and holding the door wide so that the woman could be seen. But his father was busy cleaning fish and did not look. "Ask her what she is selling," suggested the father, without looking up from his work. Jacob's mother, too, was busy. She was peeling potatoes.
Jacob looked the peddler woman in the eyes and said, loudly so his father could hear over the sounds of his work, "What are you selling?" The woman wasn't there. One moment, he'd been looking in the eye, and the next moment, she was gone (don't forget the merman consort). She's gone, Jacob said. She disappeared." He felt a simultaneous rush of both relief and disappointment. Now, he night never be magic. But he would not have to face the fish that would swallow him.
"Nonsense," his father said. "She just gave up because you took so long to speak to her. Step outside and catch her." Jacob stepped outside and looked down the cobbled path for the peddler woman or the sea witch, but saw no one. Instead, he saw a whirling waterspout, a combination whirlpool or tornado, and before he could move or speak, it lifted its tail toward him, opened its mouth, and swallowed him.
The waterspout dove into the bay carrying Jacob in its belly, swimming like a fish. It swam deep into the ocean, moving faster than a bolt of sea lightning. In almost a single instant, coral reefs hey appeared around them. Jacob had never been that far south. But somehow, he knew what they were. The fish talked to him, not out loud, and not in words, simply in knowing.
The fish that Jacob rode in was as transparent as if it were made of glass. The glass was colored, like the stained glass of a church window, and the colors changed, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. ((Red-winged blackbird. It's eating crabapples. I took a shot of it, but it won't be good, too many branches in the way. Here's another, and another, tried another shot, also not good. The third one flew.)) The colors seemed most often to be yellow and a pale but bright orange. Red, blue, green, purple and other colors shimmered through. The more Jacob watched the shifting colors, the happier he felt.
Suddenly, Jacob was flying. He soared like an eagle. He remembered flying in his dreams. Maybe this was just a dream. He wondered if he could find Merjon Marlin. He pictured Merjon, as he has last seen him, sitting on a rock the shallow bay. Whoosh, there he was. But Merjon was standing on the rock with two human legs. Jacob landed beside him.
"You passed the test," Jon said. And he dove into the water. Jacob dove in after him. As they swam deeper into the water, their legs joined into a strong tails. Jacob whipped his back and forth to catch up with Jon, who already knew how to use his tail. As Jon swam deeper and deeper, and Jacob followed, it occurred to Jacob that he should have to breathe, to go up for air. But he didn't feel out of breath. It was the magic. He smiled. A great fish swam up and swam along beside him. Jacob felt peaceful and happy.
Jon took him to meet the merfolk and they welcomed him as a friend and emissary from human land. "We will teach you the great secrets of magic," they told him. They gave him crabs and clams and a huge tuna to take home to his family, since he'd been to busy for his afternoon crabbing. “I’ll take you dolphin riding tomorrow,” Jon promised.
When Jacob returned home, his parents were waiting. "Did you enjoy the sea witch?" his mother asked. His parents smiled. They knew his secret, and they didn't seem to mind. He was glad, and wondered if they too had met the Sea Witch.
The end. (--of the short, little-kid, picture-boo version. The novel version is much longer and involves evil and secrets.) No writing of it until other books are complete!!! (But I can make NOTES!!)) Mary Stebbins Taitt, 110323 1st draft

110328-1511 NOTE: There is another version of this somewhere—R’dale? The two need to be compared and justified! IMPORTANT!

here are two of the tentative illos for the book, or studies for them. They were done by me in Ballookey's Mole.


bluerose said...

Loved this! What an imagination! I especially liked the part where he travels in a transparent fish that changes colors.

merrytait said...

Oh thank you, Blue ROse! I missed this comment, sorry!