I’m thinking of adding an appendix to The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures. I enjoy the idea of supplementary material: glosses, annotations, illustrations, maps, footnotes. This appendix would list the mythical creatures that appear throughout the book.
The title of the collection comes from a story I told myself when I was eight, about a neighbor who drowned—a girl my age. The myth and accompanying undersea world I constructed for her gave me a way to escape the family in which I was submerged:
Leaning over the ferry railing, I imagined Abby’s smooth head emerging from our foamy wake. A wake. When we learned about homonyms in third grade I was fascinated. Every afternoon after school I scoured the dictionary for more pairs to bring in for my teacher. Two words that looked and sounded the same but meant different things. Doorways into different worlds. Wake: to rouse or become roused from sleep, a watch kept over a body before burial, the track of waves left by a ship or other object moving through water. The roiling water behind us that marked the place where we’d been. A wake: where Abby’s family had sat with her and said goodbye; where men wore suits and cried and ladies set casseroles and cakes on kitchen counters. A wake, awake: to be conscious, to have your wits about you. I hated waking up. In the morning, dreams still clutched like dark weeds; I wanted to sink back into sleep and stay. A wake, awake. A word could mean one thing and another. A thing could be one thing and another. In the ocean, my mother grew light enough for me to carry. I could pick her up like a baby or a bride, a magical thing the water did. I endowed the Saltwater Twin with that magic. She was all-powerful, more powerful, anyway, than I or any of the adults I knew. And she was gone from the world, for good, while I was stuck where I was.
We each have our own mythology. We tell stories that make sense of who we are and the time we’ve spent on earth, stories we populate with beings that wax mythic in our minds. They are four-legged and two (also eight-legged, no-legged and winged), fictional and real, benevolent, sinister and mercurial. These entities are “mythical” because they’re larger-than-life characters that inhabit the stories we tell and retell about ourselves, and “creatures” because in the telling they become either more-than or not-quite human. They become symbols, vessels, archetypes. Some mythical creatures continue to exist as actual flesh and blood beings in our lives, but I think the minute we ensconce them in story, they become mythic, they are twinned.
Anyway, I haven’t completed the appendix, but it’s been an interesting project so far. I think each entry will need a description, maybe cross-references, an illustration. Yes. Stay tuned for developments.
Appendix: A Glossary of Mythical Creatures
Alice in Wonderland
Bhaer, Professor, from Little Women
Bonnie, my pen pal from third grade
Cheerleaders, especially Denise McManus from seventh grade; also Kirsten Dunst in Bring it On
Diana, Princess of Wales
Goretti, Saint Maria
Green Man, the
Invalid, 19th century
How about you? What are your mythical creatures?