The first time I ever visited Niagara Falls was when I was 10, and it was one of the most frightening and magical experiences of my life. The sheer power of the water as it blasted past you and down to the rocks below is something I will never forget.
Mermaid author Carlene Love Flores was just as awed by the Falls as I had been as a child, and today, she’s bringing us a story she wrote inspired by her own trip.
Breakfast with Leo
Carlene Love Flores
He looked like innocent, sweet Leonardo, fresh from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Until he lowered his eyes, shifted uncomfortably in his booth and twisted his neck in the direction of the cashier. “Grace” was inked in quality style script, halfway around his neck, like a partial collar. He was quiet and solemn until a waitress came by to take his order, then he smiled. When she left, he turned back down into his old self. The one I’d become intrigued by in the three minutes I’d been watching him. I should say I don’t make it a habit to become fixated on Denny’s patrons while out for family breakfast, but there was just something, something about this kid. He was missing a front bottom tooth. I’d only seen it when he slipped up and smiled largely again as he was brought a Coke. A delicious Coke he downed before I’d taken another sip of my milk.
Glancing down and hoping my curiosity wasn’t making him uncomfortable, I tried to look away whenever his attention turned to my family’s breakfast table, but that didn’t happen very often. In the same way I was fascinated on him, he didn’t seem to be able to take his eyes off the cashier station, so I was mostly free to observe. Things I noticed as the hub-bub of breakfast time at the diner dinned on, he wore a patriotic “Liberty” tee shirt and fidgeted once or twice with a folded piece of cardboard. I’d say it was a sign of some sort and yes, I immediately wondered what it said on the inside. Yes, I immediately wondered if he was homeless, or looking for work. At one point, the family seated in the booth between us started up a conversation with him and while I couldn’t hear every word, I gathered they’d given him tips about distances to nearby cities. I wondered if his sign said he needed a ride. I wondered if he’d be safe.
That kind family left, and while their table was being bussed, “Leo” asked if he could have the leftovers boxed for later. I didn’t blame the busboy because I’m sure it was against policy, but his reply was short, “No way.” Leo just smiled and looked out the window for the first time until the table separating my family and him had been cleared and cleaned for the next group.
When his burger came, I’m sure I heard him say thank you at least ten times. It was then that I gave the kid some privacy. I didn’t have to stare to know he was savoring every bite.
I didn’t want him to finish, I guess because by this point I’d figured out he was safe inside Denny’s but who knew where life would take him the second he stepped out the diner’s door. He asked quietly so speak to the manager. He showed him what I assume was all the money he’d had crinkled in his pockets. Maybe a few dollars. The manager smiled, said something I couldn’t hear and then Leo put his money away.
He finished off the Coke refill his waitress had brought him. And then he gathered up his folded cardboard sign and left.
After breakfast, my family and I descended a couple hundred feet to the base of Prospect Point, climbed on a boat once we’d donned our ponchos, and began a roundtrip voyage to the thundering edge of the Niagara Falls. I wanted to smile because what mermaid wouldn’t feel joy at being on the Maid of the Mist tour? I held in my squeals of awe as the power of the water soaked us. No one would have heard me over the screams, I hope of elation, that the rest of the tourists were letting out.
I wondered if Leo had seen the falls that day. Or if it was just a stop on his map. I wondered when his burger would wear off.
I had looked around as my family walked the streets from observation points to hotel.
No sight of him.
At the end of the day and as I sit here at the keyboard, I’ll hope Leo is on a grand adventure. I’ll hope he didn’t leave Niagara Falls until he’d at least felt the spray on his face, shooting over those cliffs. Until he’d stood at one of those observation points and imagined himself a small piece of something magnificent. The thought occurred to me, he’d make a great merman. Young, vibrant, adventurous, vigilant.
Writing that for him is the least I could do. Leo, if you’re out there, I think I’ll get started. Thank you for the inspiration my friend.
Carlene Love Flores is a big fan of the stars (especially Orion), honest music (especially Depeche Mode), and her traveling family (no favorites there-she loves them all). These things inspired her contemporary romance series, the Sin Pointe Novels. She feels honored to be a member of Washington DC Romance Writers (WRWDC) and The Waterworld Mermaids. Carlene currently lives in the D.C. area where she can often be found listening to live music and looking up at the sky on clear nights. If she could touch someone’s heart with her writing the way others have done for her, she’d say truly there never lived a luckier girl. 😉
Categories: Splash into Summer