Her bath was spiked with water from the ocean, gathered for her in barrels by the one-legged captain. The captain was well know for both his seamanship and his romantic entanglements and she was freckled and fair and famous mostly for a profound lack of modesty, but a little too for her beauty and the straightness of her teeth.

Sometimes she would tease the captain with a naked foot, elbow or breast peaking out of her bathrobe as he delivered the goods, stacking the barrels in a corner of her spacious bathroom, then setting up a needlessly elaborate network of rubber tubing and pipes to deliver the water  from the barrels to her bath. She paid him for his services with her bingo winnings but the captain would have done it all and more for free.

Seawater kept her young, she said. It also made her much beloved by the neighborhood cats.

Now and then a starfish would get caught in her bathtub drain or she would find a wayward bullshark rearing its blunt and monstorous head from around the soap dish. She kept a spear gun in the shower caddy just for such purposes.

On months that started with a Wednesday, she would let the captain sit on a stool by the tub to soap and rinse her back while he sang her sea shanties.
She told him he had a lovely voice though it seemed to be mean something entirely different to the neighborhood cats.

He told her she was his muse. This suprised her. She had not been aware that sea captains had required muses; she had thought they gathered all their inspiration from charts and telescopes and the occasional white whale.

She told him this and he told her that it was through a telescope that he first saw her and that he had loved her ever since.

 Distance was her best side, she said. She said it was when men got within earshot that they tended to lose interest in a thing.
He sang her songs about mermaids caught in tidal pools, about the code of the sea, and the monsters the roamed beneath the roiling waves.

On months that began with a Wednesday, she had the cleanest back in the tricounty area. It sparkled like a beach at low tide.

Grant Bailie is the author of the novels Cloud 8 and Mortarville, as well as numerous stories online and in print. His latest novel, New Hope for Small Men is available in e-book form under the auspices of Necessary Fiction, where it was first serialized. His book TomorrowLand--an illustrated novel of sorts--is due out in the fall through Red Giant Books Mr. Bailie currently lives in Lakewood, Ohio, which is a stone’s throw from Cleveland. He knows this because sometimes the people in Cleveland throw stones.

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