3 of 5 stars.
This enjoyable tale is a sailor’s yarn of warning. Through a heavy dialect, life-long sailor Ben Hazeltine tells the tale of Henry Lee, a fellow sailor and business partner of the narrator. When the two were stranded on an isle south of Cuba, Henry Lee saved a merman from a tiger shark under the premise that mermen always reward those that save their lives. Henry and Ben are then picked up by separate boats and do not cross paths for 7 years.
When next they meet again, in India, Henry convinces Ben to join him in business to market salt wine, a unique liquor made from a recipe given to Henry by the merman after the sailors had parted company. Salt wine is a hit and business booms. The men become decently wealthy investing in a couple boats of their own.
On a delivery trip to South America, Ben sees one of the sailors that consumed a lot of salt wine, partially turn into a merman and drown upon flinging himself into the sea. Ben cannot in good conscience take any more money from this business. Henry cannot walk away . . .
The fun of this tale comes from the folksy telling and heavy dialect. The message however sticks a knife into corporate politics. When negative results arise, how much incidental damage is ok? How much can be swept under the rug?
This story appears in the latest anthology edited by Paula Guran, Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, published by Prime Books. “Salt Wine” first appeared in Fantasy #3, June 2006.
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