I've been stopped in my rewriting of The Old Mermaid in a way I'd never been stopped before. I had to get (a pregnant) Sara from New Orleans to Mexico (back in the olden days). I wrote this long passage that was so gag-me boring I couldn't stand it. And then I realized I knew too much and me knowing too much was impeding the story. This was a magical tale. And so, I let the entire travelogue go and let the magic seep back in. Below is what it became. It's the last part of Chapter 14 and the beginning of Chapter 15. New stuff, so I haven't even read it a second time.
Monsieur Fontenau kicked his horse forward. The other horseback riders followed him. Juan slapped the reins and the horses jerked the wagon forward.
Sara did not look back. Those who were paying attention said later that a whole string of invisibles followed the wagon. Some recognized the good people—the faeries—and others said some of the loa followed. And they all danced. What a ruckus they made.
Those that weren’t paying attention didn’t hear or see a thing, except Irish Sara riding in the wagon with a Mexican-Indian, following two light-skinned Black people and two Frenchmen. They didn’t even see the horses or their bridles covered in faery bells.
At first, they encountered little more than dragons. Juan was good at steering them around these long-limbed creatures that curled up in trees, along shorelines, around hills. No one seemed to notice besides Sara and Juan, and they said nothing to one another, although Sara sometimes pointed one out to him in case he hadn't seen it, and then Juan would turn the wagon away from the dragons.
They often camped by streams or rivers. River maidens stared up at Sara from their watery homes. When Juan stood beside her and saw them, too, she knew he was a kindred spirit.
She said, “You can always tell a river or sea maiden from a real human woman after they come ashore. Some piece of a river maiden's clothing is always wet.”
Juan touched her sleeve. His fingers came away wet. “You mean like this?” he asked.
“Aye,” she answered.
After a time, the dragons gave way to wolves who ran beside them sometimes as men, sometimes as women. Sara ached to run with them. When Gabriel raised his gun to kill one once, Renaud shouted, “Don’t kill beauty, Gabriel. It will come back to haunt you.”
Later a bear man asked them to join them for dinner. Juan said it would be impolite to refuse. So they sat around the fire while the bear man told them stories.
The next morning, only Juan and Sara remembered the bear or the man.
Sometimes monsters came in the form of men with shotguns. Once they tried to buy Renaud and Madeleine. Madeleine would have killed them if a crow hadn’t called out. Gabriel made the men go away. Sara decided she needed to learn how to take care of monster men the way Gabriel did.
Gradually the land began to change. Or maybe it happened overnight. Sara was never certain. One day they were surrounded by green. And then they weren’t.
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