Mermaiding and Abetting

Mermaiding and Abetting

6th Place – Crime Caper / A karaoke bar / A key

Synopsis: Just as my gambling debt reached an unprecedented and unpayable level and I was considering evaluating job opportunities south of the border, my employer made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: steal the Mermaid to save my skin.


I like to tell people that a mermaid saved my life.

She wasn’t pretty and she wasn’t mysterious.  She was a bitch of a piece of work, 325 pounds at least, and old.  That type of old where it might take a minute to see past the slick paint and the bling to her obvious age.  The new models, well they just build ‘em up different these days.

I’d wiped her down a thousand times. A dozen times Miles had opened her up and showed me her insides—every single time, that ol’ geezer thinking it was the first time he’d told me the story. More favorite than that of his marriage to, or divorce from, Marciano—which is saying a mighty lot about how he felt about his acquisition of that 1951 Gottlieb Mermaid pinball machine.  

I’d considered it hard, what about Miles and how he musta come up that made him love her so, with her aquamarine cabinet and bright gold ringin’ chimes. But I get it, the doorbell bong of high points, and the loud cracklin-pop of a free game, I know that lust well.

See, I’m a yes-man, and over the years I’d said yes to lots of opportunities, we’ll call them, but the one that turned me around was the opportunity of the Mermaid and its safe delivery into the hands of Miles’ second greatest love, Marciano.

And I did it cause along the way as I said yes to extra janitorial shifts at M&Ms Karaoke and Casino, and yes to my ex keeping the dog and the double-wide, well I’d also said yes to Captain Morgan and his Mexican amigo Jose Cuervo, and them two whisper awful persistent to go on their adventures with my rent money.  The jangly triple cherries variety.  Like I said, I know that lust well.

I had a tidy little gambling problem, and at the age of forty-seven I’d somehow found myself eyeball deep in it.  I owed big money to some big people, and there weren’t no chance of a bail out. 

So when Marciano said “bring me the mermaid, walk out debt free,” I didn’t ask questions.  But generally—you don’t when you’re a yes-man. I thought maybe the ugly thing was rare, what did I know?

In my hand was the tiny key Marciano had slipped to me.  The kind of key you plug into a girl’s secret diary. It slid home into the back-box of the Mermaid and with a wiggle and a twist, I opened her up and shone my flashlight into the dark tangled recess, the business end of a party machine.  

I popped the lockdown bar, slid out the playfield glass, and leaned it gently against her neighbor, a Kiss machine so obnoxiously loud even when it was completely off.  

A barstool on its side served as makeshift sawhorse for the cabinet as I removed the leg bolts and dropped them into a purple Crown Royal bag.  The varnished legs were heavy and pocked, sticky despite Miles’ fastidious nature. 

He was going to lose his absolute shit when he came in and saw her gone, an ugly dark gap in his shiny electric smile.  

I almost stopped there.  I stood clutching my socket wrench thinking about Miles and feeling like a dope.  But Miles ain’t no saint, and it isn’t right to treat a machine better than a man, and Marciano could talk my ear off all day about that very subject. 

The thing I knew cold was that to carry this out, I’d lose my place—sure it’s not a glamorous gig and it pays well enough to keep me in debt, but there’s something wonderful about the Saturday night swell of slightly off-key melodies sung by rum-brave fun-seekers in an electric neon underground, lights flashing and glasses clinking and people laughing—well it’s almost like being a pinball in a machine on a great high-scoring ride.

But tomorrow ain’t a guarantee, especially when you owe twenty G.  I mopped my forehead and strapped the cushioning blankets around the Mermaid.  I had to get her up two flights of stairs and into the van. 

I’m going to spare you the play-by-play of the one-man disaster it was to get the Mermaid up the stairs.  Suffice to say that when I stood next to it in Marciano’s warehouse, sweating bullets about the sixteen inch scrape marring the side-art and a new dent in the side-rail so deep I could stack a couple bucks worth of quarters in it, and saw Marciano strolling towards me with a sledgehammer, flanked by a matching set of goons, I was as near as dammit to burning so much shoe rubber in a lickety-split head-for-the-hills.  

“Look, Marc… it’s fixable,” I began, ready to lay out a plan about restoring the already restored Mermaid.  

His glossy mustache twitched under his nose.  “Switch her on.” he instructed.  

I reached for the switch, my eyes never leaving Marciano’s.  She blazed to life with a series of clacks and chimes and I breathed.  She’d play, and everything else could be buffed out.

Then Marciano, in the most graceful fit of anger I’d ever seen, smashed the play-field with the sledgehammer. That, my friends, cannot be buffed out.  Not even a bit.

I thought that might be the end of it, but a twinkle in his eye said otherwise, and with no fanfare whatsoever, he and his goons pushed it off the second floor of the warehouse.  It hit black asphalt with a clamor so tremendous I felt it in my teeth.

With his Polaroid camera he took a single shot of the rubble and handed it to me with an order.  “See that Miles gets this.”

Well Miles did in fact get it and of course I got the sack and some jail time for misdemeanor theft, but not much.  And wouldn’t ya know it, but Miles forgave Marciano and they’re getting remarried this August and I’m invited.  


”Mermaiding and Abetting” by IReen Weiss –

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {2115}  I love the oddball specificity of the world you’ve created here–the karaoke lounge,  the peek inside the pinball machine, the shady bosses, the queer mafiosos, the idiosyncratic act of revenge. My favorite part is the surprise reveal of the wedding at the end, but so much is working here: Marciano and Miles come across as rich, memorable characters, and even the narrator’s voice is distinctive, warm and curious. This was a very fun ride–nice work!   

{2092}  The story has a solid narration to it. The style makes it feel like a conversation with the reader, as the criminal gives the account of his life changing heist.  

{1943}  I loved the title of this story – very funny! This was a fun and entertaining crime caper. Your protagonist was vividly portrayed. You created a very strong character voice for him. Some of my favorite expressions were “I was as near as dammit to burning so much shoe rubber in a lickety-split head-for-the-hills” and “That, my friends, cannot be buffed out.  Not even a bit.” The ending of the story was hilarious. I loved the image of the machine being pushed off the second floor of the warehouse! The fact that after all this drama Miles and Marciano got remarried was just too funny. This was a fabulous ending!   


{2115}  As much as I love the narrator’s voice, be careful with consistency there–he seems to move from a paragraph about the Mermaid, waxing poetic, to dropping his “G”‘s and using malapropisms, and the vernacular language doesn’t always feel authentic. How could you smooth his voice out a bit?   

{2092}  The ending feels a bit rushed, as the story tries to fit quite a bit of external plot into a small time frame. Consider removing some of those extra plot details, and leave the narrative a little more open-ended. The only real details that the audience needs are the descriptions of the heist, and the rubble of the machine at the end, so try to focus more on those.  

{1943}  You have a great voice. I would just take care not to sometimes be tempted to over write. For example, I had to pause and reread at “them two whisper awful persistent to go on their adventures with my rent money”. I would suggest pulling back and maybe simplifying a little, so that we understand that he had gambling debts with Marciano. Maybe breaking this sentence into two parts would help with clarity, as this was a very long sentence with a lot of information.

If you use a dialogue tag (eg he said/she said) the dialogue must end with a question mark, exclamation point or a comma, but not a period., such as:

“Switch her on,” he instructed.

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