Honey

For the how/why of the writing challenge, see here.

There’s no picture with this one, because I had the plot (nearly) all worked out in my head as soon as I saw the word, so I typed it rather than writing it by hand. It’s taken me a while, because it’s a bit longer than normal!


Once upon a time there was a little mermaid called Cara, and she lived with her mammy and her daddy and her sister Mona in the clear Manx waters off the shore at Port St Mary. Well named was Cara, for the word means someone who loves to sing, and from the moment she was born Cara was always humming one tune or another.

As she grew older, her happy songs of the sea spray and the beautiful pebbles on the seabed changed to wistful airs of love, for Cara was mightily taken with Patrick, a merman who lived amongst the rocks down below Bradda Head. But Patrick was a handsome young chap with flashing dark eyes and gleaming dark hair, and he had many mermaid admirers leaving him pretty seashells and longing glances wherever he swam.

So Cara would sit on her favourite rock, off the shore at Gansey, and sigh and sing and sing and sigh, and all the while she would think of Patrick. Or envy the luck of her sister Mona, who’d been so fortunate as to find a human man to love and who loved her back. Often such matches failed, because the ways of them beneath the sea were strange to humans, and the ways of humans very stiff and unfriendly to them beneath the sea. But it warmed the heart to see Juan and Mona together in their cosy little undersea grotto, his tender glances and her making his tea over the fire that burned so brightly with mermagic. Cara often wondered if she wouldn’t do better to find a human man herself. But the heart can’t be driven with reins and whip, as me old granny used to say, and she’d begun to think she’d never find a way to capture Patrick’s affections when one day she did meet a human man.

For the little cottage near the sea that had once belonged to Juan and his human wife was empty no longer. A man had come to live there – a solitary man, with no wife at him, and his back quite bent with age, but he seemed no less happy for that. Indeed, he sang almost as much as Cara, but always bright and happy tunes, as he toiled at a row of boxes set amongst the potato patch.

His voice was so fine, and his joy so evident, that eventually it roused the sad young mermaid from her sorrows and she joined her voice to his in harmony. The man looked around, startled, for a moment before his eyes alighted on Cara and he returned her smile even as he kept singing.

When they reached the end of the song, he walked carefully to the edge of his garden where it became more water than land, and bowed politely.

“A fine morning to you, Mistress”, he said, “and made even finer by the pleasure of hearing you sing. My name is Eamon. And your voice is as sweet as the honey my bees produce, though I’m sure many have told you this before.”

Cara smiled, then sighed. “Thank you, sir”, she replied, bowing in turn as much as her seated position allowed. “Cara is my name. Though I know not what honey might be, and the one I wish to admire my voice the most seems unmoved by it. But it gave me pleasure to sing with yourself too.”

“Is there no honey beneath the sea, then, Cara?” And when she agreed there was not, he bustled off to his little cottage, which had a fresh coat of limewash and was as spick and span as any home could be, with the bees all buzzing peaceably around the gorse flowers.

Eamon returned with a large jar, and removing the lid he dipped a small spoon inside, bringing out a golden substance that was not quite liquid like water nor yet solid like stone. He stepped cautiously on each of the large boulders that led to Cara’s rock on the edge of the deeper water, and passed her the spoon, twisting it deftly so the honey would not fall onto her iridescent scaled tail.

Even before she brought it to her lips, the scent of the gorse blossom surrounded her and she smiled in delight. And then the taste! For wondrous though it is to be able to live at the bottom of the sea, there’s no sweetness there as we have in our apples and nectar…or our honey.

Cara was charmed by the flavour, and that night when she returned home she could speak of nothing else to her parents. She visited Eamon several times in the next few weeks, and each time they sang while she sat on her rock and he worked on his hives or tending the potatoes. And Eamon said the bees were producing even more and even finer honey than they normally did, and that it was all due to Cara’s sweet voice.

When she next saw Mona, she told her all about her new friend and his beehives and the wonderful stuff they produced. And Juan overheard and looked melancholy for once as he never usually did. “Oh, honey”, he sighed mournfully. “Indeed an’ I do miss honey.”

And Cara was very fond of her brother-in-law and wanted him to be happy, so the very next day she swam back to the rock near Eamon’s garden and waited for him there, singing a song that was a little more cheerful than was her wont.

At last he came around the curve of the track, carrying a chair roped on his back, and looking a little warm, but when he saw Cara waiting for him, he smiled broadly and strode towards her as if unbothered by his burden.

“A fine day to you, Mistress Cara”, he said. “I’ve brought meself a new chair, but ‘tis an outdoor chair so we can sing together, if that would be pleasing to you. For my legs aren’t what they used to be.” And he proceeded to untie the chair from his back and place it down near the water’s edge.

“Oh, how lovely!” exclaimed Cara, clapping her hands together as she admired the fine sturdy woodwork. “An’ I’m wondering if you could give me a little honey to take home to mammy and daddy and to Juan and Mona, for they’ve heard tell of it and they’re awful keen to try it themselves.”

“Indeed and I can”, said Eamon, “I thought of exactly that meself while I was at the market today fetching me chair, and I got a little pot with a lid on it that I’m thinking won’t let the honey out under the sea.”

So Cara swam back that night with some golden honey in the little pot, and Juan’s face was a wonder to behold. And Mona found it just as good – and even better the next day when Cara made honey cakes using a kind of flour cunningly ground from sea anemones.

Cara shared the cakes with her parents and all her friends, and instead of her having to swim after Patrick, he was now often to be found near to where she was, so pleasing did he find the sweet flavour.

But as to whether he learned to appreciate Cara’s sweet voice and temperament as much as Eamon did – well, that’s a story for another day.

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