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The Adventures of Lila the Mermaid

Attack of the Googly Eyes

By T. C. Weber

For Charlotte, Helena, Eloise, and Marcelo

Call me Fishmael. Not long ago, wanting to escape the unbearable heat of inland Oregon, I thought I would drive to the Pacific Coast, an hour and twenty minutes to the west. I arrived at the small seaside town of Lincoln City and parked at the beach. The temperature was a full forty degrees cooler than the place I had left, and a thick fog hid the crashing waves and stretches of sand.

As the sun rose higher, the fog began to lift. The waves were too wild and the water too cold for swimming, so I began to wander the beach. 

It was then I discovered Lila, though I did not know her name yet. She was sitting amid a jumble of stones, wearing sea-green clothes. Her hair was also green, but that was not the most astonishing thing about her. For below the skirt, in place of legs, was the scaly green tail of a fish!

“I am Lila,” the mermaid said, “from the nearby Smiley Clan.”

I introduced myself, and Lila began to tell her story. 

“It all started when I was caught in a fishing net and sold to a circus. I was confined to a tank and forced to perform for audiences. My spirits were low.

“Then I met Diego, the trapeze artist. When the circus returned to Oregon, he helped me escape. But the elders of my merfolk clan were angry that I let humans see me. They made me leave the group.”

A tear dripped from one of Lila’s blue eyes. “I don’t know what to do now! I’m all alone here on this beach.” 

I had never met a mermaid before, and had little advice to offer. “Can I give you a lift somewhere?”

She flapped her tail. “I have relatives in Florida, and the water is nice and warm. Could you drive me there?”

I thought a moment. Florida was thousands of miles away. “It would be a long journey, over several trips.”

“That’s fine,” Lila responded. “We mermaids have long lifespans.”

I helped her into the passenger seat of my rental car and began driving to Portland. From there, we would fly cross-country to Maryland. 

In Portland, I introduced Lila to various friends of mine. One of them styled her wind- and wave-tangled hair. 

Our merry band then proceeded to the Swift Lounge. There, we were greeted by a merman! He was covered with bling and wore a fishing net as a cape. Strangest of all, he had googly eyes! 

The merman ignored us humans and spoke to Lila. “They call me the Swift Merman. You can call me Swift. I am the greeter of those who enter, and the ejector of those who misbehave.”

Lila introduced herself. “Where are you from?” she asked.

“The Zoot merfolk off Huntington Beach, California—we’re rad as a roiling riptide.” As Lila had done earlier, Swift began to tell his story. Perhaps it was the custom of merfolk.

“As a young merman,” Swift said, “I ran away from home to make a name in Hollywood. It was harder than I thought—no one was making movies about merfolk, and some of the casting agents complained I smelled like fish.” He scowled. 

“One morning after a party,” he continued, “I woke up with these!” He pointed at his eyes. “Googly eyes! I can’t remember the party or how it happened. All the humans laughed at my googly eyes and I couldn’t get an acting job.”

“Because they didn’t take you seriously anymore?” I asked.

“That,” he said, “but mostly because I couldn’t read the scripts anymore, with my pupils bouncing around all the time.”

“I ended up here in Portland,” he continued, “and work at the Swift Lounge to pay the rent. I survive on leftover food and whatever I can find in the dumpster.”

“That’s a very sad story,” Lila said.

The pupils bounced around Swift’s googly eyes. “Just wait,” he said. “I’ll get the last laugh!”

I didn’t like the sound of that. “How?” I asked him.

“A human,” he said, “much like you, replaced my eyes with these googly monstrosities! And then the other humans laughed at me!” He turned to Lila. “I will take my revenge!”

“Why?” Lila asked. “Your eyes are very cute.” 

Swift blushed.  “Perhaps we could meet after the bar closes. I could use some assistance with my plan.” 

“I am just visiting,” Lila said. “But it was nice to meet you.”

Once outside the Swift Lounge, Lila confided to me, “Swift seems a little scary.”

I agreed.

From Portland, Lila and I flew to Maryland. A beagle named Cody sat next to us and asked the flight attendant for snacks every time she passed by.  

After landing, I drove Lila to my home in the waterfront town of Annapolis. As we entered the city, she asked me to stop. She pointed at a creepy picture of David Bowie (or someone who looked like him) on the back of a truck. The face had googly eyes! 

“Do you think that’s connected to the Swift Merman?” Lila asked.

“He’s on the other side of the country.” I resumed driving.

We arrived at the house. Lila settled in the guest room. She was disappointed we had no pool. 

I took Lila to the Annapolis harbor to see the boats and watch the tourists. While looking in the water, she saw a giant crab. It waved a claw at her. 

Lila waved back. “Hello, giant crab!”

The crab climbed up a wooden pole and joined us on the dock. “I’ve never seen a half woman, half fish before,” it said. 

“I’m a mermaid,” Lila replied. “My name is Lila.”

The crab held out a pincer. “They call me Crabby McCrabface. Pleased to meet you.”

Lila shook Crabby’s pincer. 

“It looks like you’re a good swimmer,” Crabby said, “but how do you move around on land?”

“It’s not easy with no legs,” Lila admitted.

“If you like,” Crabby said, “I would be happy to carry you from place to place. I have eight legs!”

A few days later, googly eyes began to appear on political leaders in nearby Washington, DC. The Democrat and Republican leaders of the Senate, normally foes, appeared together with huge googly eyes! They never left each other's side, and spoke in "beeps" and "boops." 

“I wonder if Swift is behind this,” Lila mused. “He promised vengeance against humanity for giving him googly eyes.”

“Swift is on the other side of the country,” I repeated. “And I doubt Congress created his googly eyes.” (Although, I thought, they’ve done stranger things than that.)

Lila called the Swift Lounge in Portland. “Hello. Is the Swift Merman there?” 

"He's on vacation," the man responded. 

"Do you have a number where I can reach him?" 

"He doesn't have a phone," came the reply. 

"He must be somewhere in the Capital area," Lila told me. With Crabby McCrabface’s help, she began to search.

As Lila searched, she discovered more and more people with googly eyes. 

I helped her look. The three of us went down street after street, asking people if they’d seen a big merman with googly eyes. Very few people took us seriously.

At last, we came upon the Swift Merman, waving his hands in front of a young woman and chanting. 

“What are you doing?” Lila shouted.


Swift whipped his head around to face her. The pupils bounced around inside his googly eyes. The woman in front of him screamed as googly eyes appeared in her hair. 

“You ruined my spell!” Swift shouted. “It requires concentration!”

The woman pulled a makeup mirror out of her purse and examined her hair. She screamed again.

“Did this woman harm you in any way?” Lila asked Swift. 

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “All humans are the same.”

“They certainly are not,” Lila said. “Some are kind, like Diego, who helped me escape from the circus. And some are mean, like the fishermen who caught me and sold me.”

“Why are you here anyway?” I asked Swift. “Did you follow Lila?”

Swift told Lila, “I saw your Instagram posts, that you went to the Washington DC area. Then I thought, what better place to start my revenge against humans than the U.S. capital, their biggest seat of power? MOO HA HA!”

“What good is revenge?” Lila asked him. “Does it make you happy?”

Swift’s pupils moved in circles inside his googly eyes. “YES! IT DOES!”

Lila shook her head. “Would it make you happier if you had your original eyes instead?”

Swift’s eyes stopped bouncing around. “How?”

“How did you learn to create googly eyes?” she asked.

“I went to a Dungeons & Dragons convention and found a real-life wizard. He taught me the spell, Create Googly Eyes, in exchange for the secrets of breathing underwater.”

“Why didn’t you just ask this wizard to undo the spell that turned your eyes googly?” Lila asked.

He scratched his head. “Is that possible?”

“I don’t see why not. Try reversing the spell and casting it on yourself.” 


Lila tapped her chin in thought. “Say it backwards.”

Swift practiced for a while, then waved his hands in reverse order and chanted backwards-sounding words. 

The googly eyes in the woman’s hair disappeared. Then Swift’s eyes turned from googly to normal!

“I’m normal again!” he said. “How can I thank you?”

“You can undo the spell on everyone you cast it on, and promise never to use it again.”

Swift touched his tail to Lila’s. “Deal!” 

flying over Everglades.jpg

Some days later, Lila and I flew to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, so she could join her relatives at last.  Unfortunately, the winds were strong and the sea was rough, the waves capped with white foam.

“Maybe we should come back tomorrow,” I suggested, pointing at the double-red ‘no swimming’ flags posted by the lifeguards.

Lila agreed. 

The next day was sunny and the waves were calm. 

“I guess this is it,” she said. “Thank you for everything.”

“Stay in touch,” I said. 

“I will.” Lila dove into the surf. She thrust her tail out of the water and waved it goodbye. 

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