(~6 minutes to read)
(This piece was inspired by my discovery that there is such a thing as a Miss Mermaid competition (national and international), and by the statement in this article that most girls growing up want to be a mermaid.)
“Can I get a hand in here?”
Stella’s voice reverberated around the performers’ washroom in the theatre.
She listened. Other than the hiss of the air conditioning, she heard nothing.
Stella had a problem. Her starfish costume had come into contact with the stall wall, and three arms-worth and more of suckers were currently working as designed, flawlessly.
“Damn this costume!” muttered Stella. She tried again to free one of her real arms from the wall.
No luck. Those suckers had her stuck to the wall like poop to a blanket.
She began to wonder why she’d entered the “Miss Sea Star Canada” pageant in the first place.
Oh yes; the fifty-thousand-dollar first prize.
It’d seemed like a fun thing to do, and different enough from the run-of-the-mill “Miss Mermaid” competitions to set her apart from all her friends.
So she’d commissioned the construction of the most realistic-looking starfish costume she could imagine.
One with five arms.
One with a rough skin on her front.
One with sixty-five fully-functioning suckers on each of the arms.
And fifty-seven suckers on the central disc of the costume.
Approximately sixty-five percent of those suckers were currently holding her on the side partition wall of a washroom stall.
She hadn’t even managed to pee prior to becoming stuck in her predicament. She was therefore doubly inconvenienced in the convenience.
Her visit had started safely enough. She’d manoeuvred herself into the stall carefully, and locked the door. But as she took her phone out of her costume to place on top of the toilet roll caddy, she dropped it.
Over the toilet.
In her panic to stop it reaching the water, she’d bent down quickly. As she did so, approximately forty suckers on her derriere had hit the partition wall and stuck her there. Meanwhile, her phone had bounced off the rim of the toilet bowl and skittered along the floor into the next stall.
When she realized she couldn’t move away from the wall, she reached behind herself to pry the suckers off.
The suckers on her arms had dutifully done their job and immobilized her.
“HELLOOOOOOOOO!” she yelled.
She uttered an oath that would probably have got her disqualified from the pageant.
She tried sliding herself along the wall.
Too much suction.
In frustration, she threw her head back against the wall.
And twenty-three suckers from the starfish arm on her head joined their siblings on the partition wall.
Her screams of frustrated rage echoed down the hallway outside the washroom, and were heard by a young security officer on duty outside the contestants’ changing rooms. He radioed in, and then set out to locate the source of the scream.
Meanwhile, Stella was trying to use the toilet as a base against which to push herself along the wall. She pressed her left foot against the further side of the toilet bowl rim and pushed hard.
Ten suckers along the back of her calf grabbed the nearer side of the rim.
She repeated her disqualifying oath.
Four seconds later, she heard a knock on the washroom entrance door and a male voice shout,
“Everything okay in there?”
“Help! I need help!” shouted Stella.
“Hang on, I’m coming in,” shouted Guy, the security guy.
“I’m hanging on, trust me!” replied Stella.
He opened the door and looked around.
“Where are you?” he called.
“Third stall from the left,” returned Stella.
“Right. I see you now. Wait—I only see one leg.”
“The other one’s stuck to the toilet. Get me outta here!”
Stella lifted her one free foot off the floor carefully, and was not surprised to observe that she hadn’t slid down the wall. She manoeuvred the foot to the lock to open the door and let Guy in.
Two suckers on her heel stuck on the door.
“You’re gonna have to slide under the door,” said Stella. “I can’t unlock it.”
“Where’s your leg gone?” asked Guy.
“I’ve eaten it!” said Stella. “Really, do you have to ask? I’m a contestant and I’m wearing a starfish costume with two hundred and fifty-two suckers on it. My arms are stuck to the wall, one foot’s stuck to the toilet, and the other’s just got stuck to the door: and every time I move, I hit something and more suckers get stuck.”
“Suckers gonna suck, suck, suck, suck, suck, you are so completely f..”
“Wow… Taylor Swift’s got competition, hey? Asshole! Get me outta here, for crying out loud.”
Guy removed his utility belt, lay down on the floor, and slid his head under the door.
“Heh—how many suckers?”
“Two hundred and fifty-two,” said Stella.
“Does that include the one wearing the costume?” chuckled Guy. “Okay… not funny.
“Let’s see… I could try to pry you off. Thing is, with two of us in that stall, I can’t help thinking that every time we get a limb free, it’ll get stuck somewhere else.”
“Any other ideas?”
“Yeah, but you ain’t gonna like it…”
“Well, I unzip your costume, you wriggle out of it, and then peel the costume off the wall.”
“Are you wearing anything underneath that thing?”
“Enough,” said Stella. “So do it. Just F*****G DO IT!”
Guy slid under the door and with great difficulty, stood up. He took hold of a zipper’s slider tag and pulled. The starfish skin peeled away, revealing Stella skin underneath. He paused and stared, admiring the perfection of her right kneecap.
He ran the zipper all the way to her foot. Stella removed her leg from the door.
Guy repeated the operation on Stella’s left leg. She was now visibly naked from mid-thigh down, but both feet were back on terra firma.
He turned his attention to her arms. A minute later, Stella was able to liberate her head from the last starfish arm herself.
“How do you get all the way out?” asked Guy.
“There’s Velcro down my left side, but I can deal with that, thank you. Now if you would kindly leave me alone for a moment…”
Guy slid out under the door, leaving Stella to complete her extrication.
“Do starfish have exoskeletons?” he asked from the other side of the door, as he picked up his utility belt and buckled it on. “Is that how they shed them?”
“No, and no.” said Stella.
“Do they have zippers or velcro?” asked Guy, grinning.
“Once again, no and no,” replied Stella.
She unlocked the door and exited the stall wearing her workout clothing.
“Man, that costume’s hot!” she said.
“Even hotter with you in it!” he replied. “Unless you’re stuck to the toilet wall…”
They both laughed.
“How can I thank you?” she said to Guy.
“Uhm… maybe have dinner with me after the competition?”
“That would be great,” replied Stella.
“I know this restaurant that does the best seafood in the universe.”
“Perfect,” said Stella calmly. “After this experience, I need to wreak my revenge!”
“Hate to tell you, but starfish aren’t really edible.”
“I know. So the lobsters will have to take one for the team. I’ll catch you backstage after the competition. Now, you must excuse me—I need to pee real bad, and then I have to peel my costume off the wall and get back into it.”
Will Stella get ready in time to compete? Will she fall over on stage and not be able to get up again? Will she win?
Will she and Guy actually go out for dinner together? Will Guy wear his utility belt? Will the evening end when they pay the bill?
All will be revealed next week! (Story-wise, that is.)