The Book of Mermen

Issue #135
Spring 2018

We went to see The Book of Mormon (the musical).

I was working on my own musical, The Book of Mermen

“Merman? As in Ethel Merman?” No, I said, The Book

of Mermen, those quizzical mythical beasts half

fish half man. Though I could see where Ethel Merman

would make sense as a musical—an excruciating musical

covering the later years, the Love Boat years, the

still pissed about Hello, Dolly! year and Valley of the Dolls

and the rumors over her sham marriage to Ernest Borgnine,

a man whose mouth she turned from every time they kissed.


But Ethel’s got nothing to do with mermen. Ethel doesn’t

do flops and she doesn’t drink water, and the only thing

she’s ever gone down on is a lamb chop. Mermen, I said,

conversely love to submerge in the moonlight and shimmer

beyond the dark harbors where sharp reefs team with sharks

and rays and anemones. The mermen’s tails get nipped

and stung. No one can live with a merman long. You

could not stand the song, a blast more shrill than Ethel

Merman on her disco album, the Ethel Merman Disco Album,

high (I’d love to say “C,” but “searching for a C” is more accurate)

in the middle of “I’m always doing something. Something for the boys.”


Mermen migrate like the whales as they wail their mermen song.

The merman would only leave you stranded on the rocks.

That must be how Rock Hudson felt when he had to belt

with Ethel on a tv special, both of them sincere in their

assertion that “if, baby, I’m the bottom you’re the top.”

No one wants to feel as uncertain as that man was when

he tried to hit those notes. Afloat. Best just swim away.

Thank you for the musical. Thank you for the play. Thanks

to The Book of Mormon and to Ethel Merman and to mermen,

and thank God we’re gay so we can hook up after the play

with someone else. That last one reeked of fish.