On the monstrous black rock that jutted into the sea, Jay lay sprawled on his tummy. He watched in fascination as the greenish blue waters piled up into giant breakers and took a roll and tumble, before frothing into nothingness on the yellow sand.
“How I wish I could swim way out, and come riding in on the crest of the waves! How thrilling that would be! But I know Mother is watching from her window at the Beach House. She has an excellent view from there. If I move towards the water, she’ll charge down and grab me by the scruff of my neck. Oh Mum! Doesn’t she know how little boys long for fun and adventure? If only my Dad were here!”
Weighed down by his own dismal thoughts, he almost didn’t hear the soft voice calling.
“Little boy, don’t be so downcast. Would you like to ride with me to the depths of the sea?”
Jay could see no one around. Then he looked down to the water, and saw a tail waving in the air. Slowly a head emerged, and then a long shiny body about five feet long, with a dorsal fin.
“A fish! Such a large one at that! How did you get so close to the shore?”
“Saw you moping around and looking wistfully at the sea. Come with me. I can show you the wonders of the deep. There’s a beautiful world down there.”
“But I can’t swim so well. Besides, my mother has forbidden me to enter the water.”
“Come on lad, you don’t have to swim. Just hop on my back and hang on to my fin.”
“That’s too dangerous, and the ocean depths can be very cold.”
“Then the safest place would be inside my stomach.”
Jay took in the long slender body of the fish.
“How would I ever fit in? Besides, there is no light or air inside.”
The fish was persuasive.
“My stomach will swell to accommodate you comfortably. As for air, I’ll be pumping in oxygen through my gills. Of course it’ll be dark, but I won’t take too long to reach the depths.”
As the fish swam under water, it kept up a running commentary. It told Jay about the creatures of the deep, and their habits. It talked of the legions of fish with their myriad colours, and their dependence on each other. In no time at all, they had reached the palace of King Merman . The fish vomited Jay out of its stomach, and the boy stretched his cramped limbs. The ride hadn’t been that bad at all.
Jay gasped at the splendour and opulence of the palace. It was built from rare seashells of different shapes and colours, and intricately fitted into each other to form winding tunnel-like rooms. King Merman himself came out to greet Jay.
“And who may you be, young man?”
“This little boy looked very sad and lonely on the beach. I thought I’d cheer him up with a trip to your palace,” said the fish.
“Come then,” King Merman beckoned, and led Jay through the various rooms.
“These are all my children,” he said, pointing to many young mermaids with long tresses, and soft cooing voices. They flapped their tails in greeting.
“They are working very hard to save Planet Earth from destruction.”
Jay saw a magnificent patchwork quilt. The patches were made from fauna and flora of the sea, and studded with tiny pearls.
“How gorgeous! How incredibly beautiful!”
It was as soft as a rose petal and light as a feather. Jay buried his face in it.
“It has taken many thousand years to make this length, and it will take many more millennia to complete. Almost every species of plant or animal under the sea has contributed material for its production. Here look….”
Mermaids were at the spinning wheel, making yarn from seaweed and algae, and rolling it on to large spindles. The looms in the next room went clickety-clack, as mermaids wove large square patches from this thread, interwoven with lengths of their own hair. The squares were sewn together in another room, and decorated with tiny pearls and seashells.
“What are you going to do with this quilt?” asked Jay.
“This is a Quilt of Peace. When it is long enough, we will spread it across the oceans, to encompass our planet. On that day, all war and pestilence will cease, and men will live in universal brotherhood.”
“Do the people on land know?”
“For the present, this is our secret. Or else Man will torpedo the bottom of the ocean and tear our quilt to smithereens.”
“What a thoughtful king you are!”
“Come little boy,” said the fish. “We must hurry back before your mother misses you.”
Jay bid King Merman and his maids “Good Bye” and reluctantly entered the stomach of the fish.
As they journeyed home, the fish asked,
“Do you know why the waves heave and dash themselves against the shore in a splash of foam? When the mermaids have worked themselves to the bone, and have given up all their hair for weaving, they prefer to die, and are washed up on the beach as foam.”
“How sad! What a sacrifice of life! What will happen when the quilt is completed?”
“When their work is done, the mermaids will cease to exist. Then perhaps the seas will be calmer, and there will be no more froth upon the sand. Now I must leave you. Goodbye little boy. I hope you enjoyed the trip.”
Even before he could say “Thank you,” he felt two powerful hands shaking him by the shoulders.
“Get up you lazy boy. It is well past lunch time. Couldn’t you have found a shady spot for your siesta?”
Jay smiled to himself. If only his mother knew where he had been!