Who cares about aging Disney princesses? Yesterday’s fans might have been ready to tear each other’s throats out for the chance of getting Ariel’s autograph, but today? Well, today they were more likely to laugh at her bloated waistline and old-fashioned seashell bikini. That’s the kind of shit that happens to nice girls who are past their prime. Sigh.
No, Ariel was never envious toward her younger sisters. She truly loved them, and wished them only the best. But… she looked at her reflection in the water and reflexively readjusted the sea flower in her hair. Frankly speaking, she was not half bad, and could still play havoc with lovelorn hearts if she wanted. Well, she wanted very much, but was rarely given the chance. And she was good, but no longer all that popular, and so the wait between casting calls had only become longer and more frequent. Otherwise, Ariel would have eagerly taught all those meridas and tianas a thing or two. (Snigger.)
This thought cheered her up a little bit. Ariel even started to hum ‘San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)’ to herself. It was her Mother’s favourite song. She’d often drift into blissful slumber whenever her Mother crooned this song. And her Mother would endlessly make these pearly love beads. And twinkling freckles. These love beads and freckles, scattered all around the family grotto, were the fondest memories from Ariel’s childhood. And her Mother’s voice, of course. She would still hear it sometimes, even after so many years had passed. Another sigh.
Still humming her song, Ariel splashed at the water with her tail. Flounder, who was napping in the shallow end, flipped over but didn’t wake up. What a lazy ass! Truth be told, he was a very good friend, but not much of a receptionist. On the other hand, they didn’t get a lot of clients in ‘Athena’ either, so blaming Flounder for sleeping during work hours felt a little redundant.
“Namaste, Swami Yoko!”
A soft female voice distracted Ariel from her musings. She automatically pulled back her shoulders, widening her collarbones and lifting her sternum toward the sky, and lengthening her tailbone toward the rocks.
“Namaste, Mommy Dugong!” she said enthusiastically. “We have launched a brand new class: Alevins Yoga. A lot of fun and at a special price for mammals!”
Ariel gave Flounder’s ribs a furtive jab. Flounder sprang into the air with a wide eyed gasp, and plopped into the water again. He reappeared in moments with a wet leaflet, but Mommy Dugong had already moved on. It looked as though she’d been in a hurry.
Ariel waved, then went back to her hunched state and reached for a cigarette. She’d only just clicked the lighter when a ringing young voice sang right behind her back.
“Namaste, Swami Yoko!”
Ariel dropped her cigarette into the water. She pressed her hands together, hiding the lighter, and bowed with a suitably cosmic smile.
“Namaste, Maiden Stella! We invite you to Morning Mantra Meditations every Saturday at 5. Sunrise, subtle vibes and cut prices for students!”
This time Flounder was ready, and the leaflet almost dry. But Maiden Stella obviously wasn’t ready to get up at such an unearthly hour for some whimsical humming. She mumbled something polite, blurred and zipped off, hugging to herself a trunk with a ukulele.
Ariel took the cigarette from Flounder’s back. How had it gotten stuck there? “Yoga really isn’t all that popular along this stretch of coastline, Flounder. Don’t you find?” She looked rather exhausted, and her real age suddenly became quite apparent.
Flounder nodded sadly. Yes, he was truly an awful receptionist, but at least he was a faithful friend. He cared for Ariel a great deal. It’s why he’d agreed to accept the wearisome role of administrator for her yoga classes. But, really, the time had come for him to man up and act. He could see that he’d need to take the steering wheel and save this silly, semicentennial girl (and himself, of course) from their current, disastrous course. There had to be a Plan B.
“C’mon, babe, don’t be shy! Show these green-ass pipsqueaks some real rock-n-roll!”
The ‘Yellow Submarine’ nightclub patrons were shaking, shimmering and screaming with delight, like a living entity. They cheered on a flushed, panting, but joyful Mommy Dugong who was stomping the dance floor with Little Dugong and his friends. Flounder was polishing a glass at the counter with an unabashedly happy grin.
After a little while, Maiden Stella walked onto the tiny stage. She had ensnared a huge, awkward guy who seemed to be totally embarrassed. A hush came over the crowd.
“Dear Mommy Dugong, today, in celebration of your big birthday, Kai and me want to sing this song. Hey, who’s going to San Francisco?”
The crowd shouted with delight. There was a standing ovation before the music had even begun to play! And it did. Flounder wisely turned the lights down a notch. The patrons at the ‘Yellow Submarine’ nightclub started to rock gently in time with the music, and most of them in couples.
Ariel was sitting on the porch of the nightclub, smoking. The stars in the sky were exactly like the love beads and twinkling freckles of her childhood. “Happy birthday, Mother,” she said softly, and blinked away a tiny, grateful tear.