The old and fairly wasted sailors at the Bay View Boat Club didn't seem to take us seriously when we told them we were there scouting for good mermaid habitat. Inquiries about the animals that would be active at night met, at first, with obfuscating whimsy: "There's a pod of whales out in the middle there, and at night they dance on their tails." Then with oddball mythology: "Out there somewhere there's a hole, oh, about two hundred feet deep, and it's completely full of sharks." Some of them claimed to have mermaid girlfriends. But as Tera and I sat and chatted by the iron stove in their beguilingly ramshackle garden, smelling the wood smoke, drinking wine, and watching the water, bits and pieces of useful information came out. They see a lot of skates, sting rays, and leopard sharks; seals do indeed hunt at night, especially if there's a moon. Then they wanted to know if we were mermaids ourselves.
"No," I said, "I'm just their spokesperson."
"I didn't know mermaids were into bicycles," said a scraggly and relatively young guy, swaying slightly. I didn't get the joke until he repeated it a couple of times.
A grayish-white doll, looking something like a cross between a Buddha and a melting elephant, perched on a nearby railing. A man struggled to tow a rubber dinghy out of the water; apparently it was in danger of popping when the tide went out. There were warehouses perched out on the wharves and peculiar crenelated metal walls, used for docking ships, lined up in the water. It would have seemed like pretty decent mermaid turf if it weren't for all the glitzy condo buildings just across the street. Too humany, Tera and I agreed. The mermaids were clearly living deeper in the bay.
So deeper was where we went.