She was a mermaid!
"Oh, that," she said, "Yes, when I was still young, I lived out at sea. I fell for my Arnold, Lord rest his soul, and so I traded my fins for feet. He was a Navy officer back then, in the First Loud War -- you called it World War Two -- and he had the handsomest face I ever saw. I told my sister, 'I'm going to marry him,' and I did."
"You traded your voice to a witch in exchange for feet?"
She started making tea.
"Oh, no. This was the forties, and the witch had a corporation by then. My father paid by Western Union. Oh, I had to bother him for months to do it, too."
"Was it hard to change?" I asked.
"No, not really. For a little while, it was hard, but the human brain -- or the mermaid brain, really, because they're the same thing -- adapt to body changes after a few months."
"Right. The brain is very plastic, especially when it comes to proprioception," I said, "If I turned into a merman today I'm sure I'd get used to it in a few months."
She didn't reply - either she didn't follow the jargon, or I'd just said something rude and she was gracefully ignoring it.
"I think it's much nicer up here," she said, "but my sister likes the ocean better, so there you go. I do miss my Arnold, though."
She showed me pictures of Arnold as a young sailor, handsome indeed. Then she served tea (genmaicha, my favorite) and we looked at pictures of the two taking a SCUBA trip to Hawaii to visit her family.