I grew up in a small but comfortable house in northeastern Maine. The backyard overlooked the ocean from a short, rocky outcrop. The front faced onto the gravel road that Father drove to and from work. A poorly defined gravel driveway ended behind the house at a small ramshackle shed that I dared not enter under Father’s strict orders.
Mother never strayed far from the house despite her apparent contempt for the simplicity of her everyday existence. She cooked. She cleaned. She laundered the clothes and washed the dishes and did all of those things that a good housewife should. But every afternoon, she plopped my brother Shane and I in front of the TV to watch cartoons while she gazed longingly at the sea.
Shane and I shared a room. Our window faced a small broken-paned hole in the ramshackle shed. Late at night, long after the world was asleep, a faint glow emanated from that shed. Always careful not to wake my brother, I pulled myself up to the window and peered out.
Every night, Father stole away into the shed and flicked on a small lamp. He opened a door in the floor, from whence he pulled a large wooden box. Out of this box he drew the most beautiful fur coat. The brownish-gray fur glowed in the lamplight as if it were alive. He gently massaged oils into the coat to keep it supple and carefully replaced it under the floorboards. And when he had finished, he withdrew from this haven and locked his secret firmly behind a deadbolt. Until one winter day…
It was biting cold that day, the kind of cold that gnaws away at your bones from the inside out. Shane and I ran home quicker than usual, hoping for two mugs of hot chocolate to thaw us out. Preferably heaping with marshmallows. But Mother was nowhere to be found.
“Mother,” I called to the cupboards in the empty kitchen.
“Mother,” Shane called to the silent TV in the empty living room.
“Mother!” I screamed to the howling wind out the front door.
The wind beat the porch door into the front of the house with a rhythmic “Ker-chunk!” A terrified Shane dashed about the house crying. He frantically searched for any scrap of evidence while I braved the outdoors.
I rounded the house, past the frozen flowerbed and along the wind-tattered backyard fence. Another loud “Ker-chunk!” resounded through the air, but not from the front porch door. A chill wormed its way up my spine as I spied the driveway.
“Ker-chunk!” The door to the ramshackle shed lay in ruins, leaving a splintered gaping hole. In that hole, Mother swayed back and forth. Her clenched fist tightened around a hammer as she swung into the floorboards with a wild, untamed lunacy. I melded into the fence, unable to move and scarcely able to breathe. I stared at her.
A final “Ker-chunk!” and the floorboards loosed their secret. Mother madly grabbed the wooden box out from under the floor of the shed. She pried it open, her black eyes brimming over with tears. She pulled out the fur coat and barked a shrill cry to the wind.
Mother ran from the tattered shed clutching the fur to her chest and darted around the back of the house. Her gaze slipped right through me as she tore past, unaware of my presence. Meanwhile, the gravel road growled and spat under Father’s tires as he crested the hill towards the house.
Father sped into the driveway upon seeing the shed. His truck jolted to a harsh stop. He erupted from his poorly parked truck and raced around the back of the house just as Mother hurled herself over the rocky outcrop and into the sea. My heart sank into my stomach and my legs became jelly, free from their rigid, frozen stance. “No!” I screamed as I dashed to his side. He clenched my hand tightly, fighting back tears, while I buried my face in the warm cuff of his coat.
“Such a pity. Such an exotic beauty,” the townsfolk murmured. But Father and I knew. She had been our selkie. She had merely returned home.