A Mermade’s Tale Chapter 7 – Sandy Swims in Deep Water and a Victory at the Shelling Bee


Chapter Seven


            Sandy, Shell and Pearl were mesmerized by the graceful aquadancing swim-mers gliding in time to the song “Would You like to Swim with a Star?” The flashing lights, colorful spraying fountain and beautiful costumes inspired the girls’ imaginations. They were watching a show at Ocean World in Sandy Aego with their moms Nekton and Oyster. The mermoms had taken their children there to celebrate the end of the school year and reward them for studying so hard for their class shelling bee.
            “We should totally do this the next time we’re at the Finnler’s tide pool,” whispered Shell. “Totally,” agreed Pearl. “Me too,” insisted Sandy. “Sandy, you can’t swim like that,” reminded Shell. Sandy was three years younger than Shell; she admired the many skills her older sister had acquired, but she hadn’t quite caught up yet. Shell had learned to swim at Camp Playaway, a summer day camp she’d attended in the City of Angelfish when her father was a camp director. Pearl had taken swimming lessons too, and both of the older girls could swim in deep water without fear. But little Sandy had to stay in the splash tide pool. “That’s not fair,” frowned Sandy. “Wait, you can teach me!”
            Shell and Pearl looked at each other with that secret look that friends have; which usually means, “I don’t think so.” They agreed to discuss it later.  And later came sooner than they thought.
            Swimming in the Finnler’s tide pool was the most exciting thing Pearl and Shell could do. The Finnler’s lived up the street from Pearl. They had a large and fancy sandcastle with tall columns and a built-in tide pool in their yard. Pearl was very social and had made friends with the Finnlers, who on occasion, would let her bring friends to swim in their beautiful tide pool. “But they have to be able to swim,” decreed Mrs. Finnler who was rightfully concerned with safety.
            As the aqua show ended the mermades went to see the killer whale perform. In the ocean, they avoided killer whales, but this one was trained and in his own tank. After watching the leaping, laughing dolphins, the sun began to set and the two families started for the exit. But they hadn’t visited the gift shop yet, the merchildren reminded their mothers. “All right, 10 minutes, then we need to go home and make dinner,” said Nekton. The gift shop was filled with all kinds of beautiful things. There were shiny little glass sea animals, large stuffed whales, seahorses and dolphins, books and trinkets, purses and glasses with fish painted on them. There were whistles and bubbles and games and fancy necklaces and rings that looked like real pirate treasure.  Pearl picked a new coloring book with the mermade alphabet on the back cover and dolphin crayons. Sandy asked for a soft fuzzy goldfish and Shell wanted a necklace with a clear blue stone shaped like a drop of water. Brine got a picture book with fishy jokes. And then it was time to go home. 
            Back at school, the teacher was preparing her students for the shelling bee. She had brought in a large case divide into sections. Each compartment held a seashell with a label showing its name to help the merstudents learn about their world. At the end of the year the class would hold a shelling bee. The students would show that they could identify each shell and spell its name correctly; whoever got the highest score would receive a special prize. The merstudents would be required to know 25 of the shells, but they didn’t know which would be on the test.
            Shell and Pearl got together often to study for the shelling bee. Pearl had a big book with pictures of all kinds of beautiful shells. “My grandmother collected seashells,” said Pearl. She had a rare junonia shell her husband had brought back from a trip.  Abalone’s grandfather, who had also been a teacher, had made a collection of cards with pictures of shells and their names. Shell loved to study the cards her great-grandfather had made. The letters were old and fancy, as were the drawings of the shells.  Sometimes the merchildren studied at Pearl’s, sometimes at Shell’s sandcastle. Today they were at Pearls’ going over the list and identifying the seashells, they also had some they had collected and received as gifts. The shelling bee list looked like this:

clear sundial
cockle shell
rosy harp
screw shell
sand dollar
swollen fig

 Shell showed Pearl the shells, who named and spelled them. Then Pearl quizzed Shell. They were making good progress in memorizing the shell names and spellings. They were becoming conchologists, merpeople who study shells. The shelling bee was the next day and it was the last day of school.
            Shell and Pearl were swinging on the playground when they heard the principal ring the ship’s bell, signaling the start of school. The mermades swam to their classrooms. Pearl and Shell noticed that the display cabinet filled with shells had been removed. Their teacher Mrs. Conch told the excited merstudents that after the shelling bee, they were going to the playground for games, then they would have a class party! She divided the class into two groups. Shell and Pearl were on different teams. The students lined up on both sides of their classroom. Mrs. Conch held up a shell, the first merstudent tried to name it and spell the name. Then the other team had a chance. If a student got the name wrong or misspelled it, he or she had to take their seat. If they were right, they went to the end of the line for another turn. After a while there were only two students left; can you guess who? It was Shell and Pearl who had studied hard and were both excellent shellers.
            Finally, Mrs. Conch had gone through all of the shells. There would need to be a tide-breaker. Mrs. Conch reached into a box and pulled out a beautiful shell. Shell looked at it and thought hard, she couldn’t remember seeing this one before. Why couldn’t it have been a scallop? Shell knew scallops, they were on her family wave crest. Pearl smiled as she recognized the shell. “That is a junonia, j-u-n-i-o-n-i-a!” she said triumphantly. Pearl won the shelling bee! The class cheered and Shell congratulated her friend. If she couldn’t win, Pearl would be her favorite choice. Shell was working on being a good sport.
            Mrs. Conch awarded Shell a ribbon with a shell medallion and certificate for her excellent shelling skills. Pearl received a golden trophy with a mermaid holding up a seashell, a shell medallion and a certificate stating that she was the champion sheller.
            The class swam out to play games. While the merstudents were playing outside, the room mermothers set up the party. When the merchildren returned to their desks, they found a lovely lunch of sea plums, sand-wiches, and coconut madeleines which are shell-shaped cookies. Many mermades love coconuts, which they collect when they are blown into the sea by fierce winds. After lunch, Mrs. Conch handed out grades and wished all of the children a very happy summer vacation – school was over!
            Shell swam home and told her mother all about the shelling bee. Her mother congratulated her for doing so well and her father did too when he returned home. Shell swam over to the sofa, plopped on it and took a deep breath. Summer was here! It was starting to get warm and even though they enjoyed coloring and listening to the Sea Monkees, the mergirls needed a break. “Let’s go play outside for a while,” said Pearl. Oyster suggested they ask the Finnlers if they could swim in their tide pool. Oh yes! “I need to go home and ask my mom,” said Shell. So off the little mermades swam.
            Sandy was excited to see her big sister and friend arrive. She had been playing with Brine, but he had gotten tired and was taking a nap. When she heard Shell ask their mom if she could go swimming at the Finnler’s tide pool, Sandy got even more excited. “I want to go swimming!” she exclaimed. “You don’t know how to swim in a tide pool,” said Shell. Sandy’s smile faded. Nekton was a good mom, she didn’t force Shell and Pearl to always include Sandy, but she hoped they would invite her. Pearl saw Sandy’s sad face and as she reached out to hug the little merchild, she said, “we could teach her.” Shell felt badly that she had hurt Sandy’s feelings. She had been shellfish. “Sure you can come,” she said gently. She took Sandy’s hand and off they went.
            The sun was shining through the waves when the merchildren arrived at the Finnler’s sandcastle. Mrs. Finnler led them through the octopus’s garden to the tide pool. “Have fun!” she said. Pearl dipped her tail in the water, it was just right. Shell jumped in, but Sandy stayed near the edge. “Jump in Sandy,” Pearl called to her, “I’ll catch you!” Shell watched her sister jump into the tide pool and into Pearl’s outstretched arms. She looked so happy. Shell swam a few feet away. “Swim to me Sandy,” she called. Sandy looked down. She couldn’t touch the bottom. “You can do it,” coaxed Shell. Pearl gave her a little push and Sandy started paddling. She reached Shell. “Did you see me swim?” she asked excitedly. Pearl swam a little bit farther away. “Now swim to me,” she said. Sandy pushed off and swam back to Pearl. “Look at you go!” exclaimed Shell. As much as Shell loved swimming and diving, she had to admit that helping her sister was fun too.  Sandy looked so proud of herself and so happy. They had her swim back and forth until she was confident that she could swim around in the deep end of the tide pool all by herself. She could do something that the big girls could do. Sandy could swim in deep water.  “Let’s play a game,” said Pearl. She threw a handful of coins from a sunken ship into the tide pool. She, Sandy and Shell dove to the bottom to pick up the coins. Then they played Marco Waterpolo and aquabatic mermaids.
            By the time they finished swimming they were happy and tired. And they’d found a treasure; Sandy had a new skill and confidence and they had a new friend to play with in the tide pool.
Can you make a family wave crest with your favorite shells? Here is Shell and Sandy’s.
This one is for you to design.

 Do you remember seeing the mermaid alphabet in Chapter 5? 
Try writing your family name in mermade!

Next week is the final chapter in A Mermade’s Tale – see you then!