Thursday, May 7, 2009

Friday Fiction for May 8, 2009

Friday Fiction this week is hosted by Julie, The Surrendered Scribe. If you haven’t already been there to find Mr. Linky, be sure to click over there.

This week’s submission is a bit longer than I prefer to post for Friday Fiction, but I wanted something to go with a Mother’s Day theme, something that hasn’t been posted or read before, and something that will have a good, positive message to it. This story contains some spoilers to what happens in “Marta’s Pod”, the second book of the Pod series, but I wanted to share it anyway. This story is mentioned in the fourth Pod book, “Merrowsong”, and ever since writing that scene, I’ve wanted to flesh out this scenario into its own narrative.

This story takes place between one and two years after the closing scene of Marta’s Pod, and will be shared in probably three parts. Not only am I looking forward to sharing this incident in Marta’s life, this will also give me extra incentive to finish up the story.

Part I
By Rick Higginson

Marta Cardan dried her hands before wrapping the towel around her dripping hair. “Diego gave this to you?” she asked, taking the letter from her husband. “Where did he get it?”

“It was sent to him by another pastor that he knew from his seminary days. The family attends the other pastor’s church,” Joshua Cardan replied.

She sighed as she read the letter. “I don’t know anything about the condition this woman’s daughter has. Is it serious?”

He settled to a seated position on the floor, and gave her a single nod. “I checked online, and asked Dr. Jenkins about it as well. It’s a form of cancer that has a very low survival rate, and Dr. Jenkins says that, from the way the mother describes things, the girl isn’t responding well to the treatments.”

“She wants to come and swim with the Pod; in her condition, is that safe for her? Is there anything we can do for her?”

“From a medical standpoint, no; there is nothing we can do for her. There are a lot of doctors, including Melanie, that point to patient morale and attitude as having a dramatic effect of how well they respond to treatment, though. She said if the girl finds the idea of meeting the Pod that fascinating, it could make a big difference in her prognosis.”

She looked back towards the pool. “Leanna,” she called to her sister. “Pass the word to the Pod that we need to discuss something just as soon as everyone gathers.”


Erin Quantz closed the lid on the washing machine, and rushed to grab the phone before it switched to the answering system. If I hurried just to hear another sales pitch, I may scream, she thought as she spoke the neutral “Hello,” into the handset.

“Hello,” a pleasant, but unfamiliar feminine voice said. “Is Allison Quantz there?”

“May I ask who’s calling?”

“This is Marta Cardan.”

She leaned against the counter. “This isn’t some kind of joke, is it?”

“I would hope not; I’d hate to think someone was joking when they wrote this letter.”

“You got my letter? Pastor Black was able to get it through?”

“If you’re Allison’s mother, then yes, we got your letter. How is she? May I speak with her?”

She ran through the house towards her daughter’s room. “Of course,” she said, and then covered the mouthpiece with her hand. “Allison! Allison, honey; pick up the phone!”

There was a click, and her daughter’s quiet voice on the extension. “Hello?”

“Allison? This is Marta Cardan.”

“Marta Cardan; you mean the Marta Cardan of the Pod?”

“I don’t know of any other Marta Cardan, and if this wasn’t just ordinary telephone service, you could see the Pod behind me.”

“Oh, wow; I can’t believe it’s really you. I’ve read the book about you and Mr. Cardan and the Pod like five times, and I have all the television specials about the Pod recorded so I can watch them when I can’t do anything else.”

“So your mother said in her letter to us. She also said that you would really like to visit us on the island and meet the Pod. Is that true? Would you like to come and meet us?”

“I’ve dreamed of doing so ever since the first time I saw all of you on television. Could I really come to the island and swim with the Pod, Mrs. Cardan?”

Erin brought her free hand to her mouth, and met the enthusiastic look in her daughter’s eyes. She nodded even as the voice came through the phone.

“The whole Pod would love to meet you, Allison,” Marta said.


Marta rested on the bunk aboard the Bitter Pill, reading a book while waiting for their guest to arrive. So close, she thought, glancing out through the porthole at the town just beyond the marina. I’m closer to the human world than I ever thought I would be, and it’s still out of reach. She returned to her book, and tried to put the thought from her mind. It wasn’t like it was the first time she’d ridden along with Josh to the mainland; still, it would be nice if just once, they could leave the boat and go into town like normal people.

She heard Josh talking to someone outside, and a moment later he dropped into the cabin.

“Watch your step,” he said, turning back to offer his hand to the teen-aged girl that followed him.

So very thin, Marta thought, looking at the girl. She wore a baseball cap on her head, from under which no hair showed. For that matter, she had no eyebrows, either, though the eyes shined with a brightness that matched the colorful shorts and tank-top she wore.

The eyes grew wide when they spotted her. “Oh, wow,” she whispered. “I didn’t think I’d get to meet you until we got to the island. Are you Mrs. Cardan?”

“The only person who ever calls me Mrs. Cardan is my husband. To everyone else, I’ve always just been Marta. You must be Allison,” Marta said, extending her hands towards the girl. “You’ll find the only person on the island that accepts such formality is our teacher, Mrs. Angela Williams.”

“Thank you so much for inviting me to stay with the Pod, Mrs. Cardan.” She took the offered hands.

Her hands are almost skeletal. “Before we go to the island, do you know the two rules of the Pod?”

“Yes, Mrs. Cardan; never argue with Eva, and what you say goes.”

“Now, I’ve told you already, the only person who ever calls me Mrs. Cardan is my husband. He does so only in private, and as a term of affection. Everyone else calls me Marta, okay?”

An older woman came in to the cabin with a large shoulder bag, and stopped short on seeing the two.

“Okay, Marta,” Allison said.

“Allison,” the woman said. “Remember your manners.”

“But, Mom,” she started to object.

Marta met the woman’s eyes. “You must be Erin Quantz,” she said. “I’m Marta Cardan, and as much as I hate to contradict a mother’s instructions to her child, the Pod has always gone by first names. You can return to the formal courtesies when you return to your world, but here in our world, the surnames are just part of a culture we’ve only recently been allowed to pretend to belong in. For the Pod, they just remind us that we are still on the outside.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” Erin said.

“It’s all right; I understand. If you wish, the Pod will address you as Mrs. Quantz, though they will take that as an indication that you wish to maintain your distance from them. You may want that, and we will respect it if you do.” She released one of Allison’s hands and extended her free hand to the other woman. “Now, how shall I introduce you when we arrive at the island?”

“I’m Erin,” she said, accepting the hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Marta.”

Her grip was every bit as strong as her daughter’s was weak, and there was a weariness in the woman’s face that seemed to lift a bit as she gave the woman a welcoming smile. “You’re free to stay down here with me for the trip, but the view is much better from the deck.”

“Can I get either of you anything before we cast off?” Josh asked. “We have water, coffee, a few cans of assorted sodas, and I think I have some cranberry juice in the cooler. If you have any problems with seasickness, there are ginger chews in the bag by the table. I’ve always found they work about as well as any drugs to settle the stomach, and don’t leave me feeling like my head’s in a fog.”

“Nothing for me, thank you,” Erin said.


She had thought her daughter was excited that morning on the plane; that had been nothing compared to the enthusiasm Allison exhibited talking with the mermaid.

My daughter is talking to a mermaid, Erin thought, listening to the exuberant exchange. It wasn’t that long ago you were talking to your mermaid doll, slipping the satin fish tail on and off the plastic legs, and telling me how you would love to meet a real mermaid. I told you mermaids were make-believe, didn’t I?

She watched Marta, patiently entertaining every question posed to her by the teenager. Marta was lying on her side, her back against the hull of the boat and her tail curved forward. She seemed oblivious to the way the sailboat leaned with the wind, or the constant rise and fall as it rode over the waves. If the mermaid lacked any confidence in either the boat or her husband’s seamanship, she didn’t let it divert any attention from Allison.

It was worse than this when You slept in the boat, wasn’t it, Lord? This is just a steady breeze on a beautiful day, unlike the stormy sea that You called Peter to walk on, isn’t it? I’m trying to keep my eyes on you, Lord, but I’m still sinking. Did you send Marta to lift Joshua Cardan when he was sinking? Did you send her to life me up as well? She sighed quietly and looked through the window closest to her. Waves regularly splashed the glass as if to remind her that the ocean was ready to burst in at any time.

A brass plaque on the wall by the cabin door quoted Psalm 107. “Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.”

Closing her eyes, she recited instead the words from Isaiah that she’d repeated more times than she cared to remember now. Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…

“Mom?” Allison’s repeated question broke her train of thought. “When we get to the island, is it okay if Marta takes me into the Family Room through the water?”

Marta met her eyes, and there was both strength and understanding in them. The mermaid’s hand moved slightly across the pink scar on her belly, and the unspoken message was clear – I have a daughter, too. I won’t let anything happen to yours.

Doing her best to smile encouragingly, she nodded her permission.

To be continued.


Julie Arduini said...

I loved this, except for the ending when I wanted to see what's next. This didn't seem like a long read to me, I was totally caught up in the story. You are so good at showing more than telling.

Unknown said...

I can't wait till the next part of this. Wonderful story thus far!

Shelley Ledfors said...

Great story! The only thing I didn't like was to see that "to be continued" note! :-) I look forward to reading the next installment(s).

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

So creative and intriguing. I would love to talk to a mermaid! I enjoyed the relationships you developed between the characters.

Sara Harricharan said...

Ooooh! A part 2? there's going to be a party 2? Please say yes! I want a part 2-pretty please? This was lovely! I enjoyed this, especially Allison, it was a fun read!

Hoomi said...

Right now, I'm looking at having at least three parts, and possibly four. I have Part II written, and the story isn't nearly finished.

Sparrow said...

I enjoyed getting to spend a little time with Marta again. Is Marta's Pod out in print yet?

Joanne Sher said...

Oooooh - good stuff. glad I can read parts 2 and 3 right now! I found a typo - lemme know if you haven't caught it and I'll go back and try to remember where it was LOL :)