Hironori sat quietly in one corner, Miyoko resting her head on his shoulder. She held his hand, hidden under his long sleeve. Tenshio stood above them, leaning his shoulder against the doorway, his arms crossed.
In the brief silence after Kaito had finished, Pidguyok cleared his throat and sat up.
“I’ll tell a story,” he offered, his ears going up in hope.
He appeared almost surprised when no one raised any objections to this.
“Well,” he began, his eyes bright. “Once upon a time there was a little mermaid. She lived in the watery deeps, twenty thousand leagues below the bellwether where Pandora’s box was kept sealed, for freshness, and where the great whales rove.
“One day, a golden eagle was thrown into the ocean by the fury of Hurricane Debbie. Using the powerful currents of the Gulf stream, he flew against the waters, soaring through the vertical water column.
"The mermaid saw him gliding past her. She loved him at first sight. She reached out and caught him like a tiger by the toe.
"They swam past all the glowing herring to the shores of Madagascar. But she was a fish out of water and could not fly.
"'When the clock strikes twelve, the spell will be broken," the eagle said. “You must go back. Your coach is a pumpkin.”
"But the mermaid was caught by the one golden feather, hook, line and sinker.
"The eagle said, "You must see the Conductor for a ticket to the end of the line. We must climb every mountain.’
"They traveled night and day through waist deep snow, uphill all the way, like when I was a boy. They traveled from sea to shining sea. Every step was like walking on broken glass. But the eagle loved her and he would walk ten thousand miles just to fall down at her door.
“The conductor was in the counting house, counting all the stars that are beyond number, like diamonds in the sky. The conductor said the ticket is forever- signed, sealed, and delivered, baby! They held their future in their hands.
"But unbeknownst to them, Moby Dick went down locked in with the great white whale and Pandora's box was opened! All the wicked blackbirds flew out. Hark now, hear the sailor's cry! It's a mournful sound, in the fog of war.
"The little mermaid said, 'The last thing out is hope. Wait for it.'
"She threw herself into the ocean. She was in the belly of the beast for three days and three nights, weaving shirts out of thorns. She threw the thorn shirts over the blackbirds and they all began to sing. Oh wasn't that a pleasant dish to set before the king!
"And the mermaid said, 'I don't have to fear it, oh my gypsy soul! Let your spirit fly into the pearl-spangled shoal of mystics! Let the fog horns blow!'
"The ocean spat her out like the foam upon the shore.
“‘You’re the sweetest thing I ever knew,’ the eagle told her, ‘and all my love belongs to you.’
“He made her wings of wax and eagle feathers, tied up with copper transistor wires, to lift her off the floor. They climbed cathedral mountains; they saw silver clouds below, until the shadow of the starlight became softer than a rock bye baby, don’t cry.
“Because, if a fish and a bird fall in love, that is where they will live- between the ocean and the sky, where the lights shine bright, world without end, amen.”
The sound of the fire was very loud in the otherwise silent room. Pidguyok’s tail began to sag.
Captain Kaito put his fingers in his mouth and let out a long, piercing whistle. The room burst into applause. Miyoko waved her handkerchief in the air. Suzuki beat the veranda with his hands. Aiko pulled a snow drop out from behind her ear and tossed it to Pidguyok’s paws
“What’s a mermaid?” Yuudai asked his wife, puzzled.
"That is by far your best story yet, PIdguyok," Tenshio said, his eyes dancing.
“That’s my friend Pidguyok, the loquacious one!” cried Gilly, tears shining on her cheeks.
“Again,” cried Amako, as she clapped. “Do it again!”