Study Guide

Bob Presto and His Mermaids in Middlesex

By Jeffrey Eugenides

Bob Presto and His Mermaids

Down Where It's Wetter

Bob Presto picks up Cal while Cal is hitchhiking from New York to California. Cal believes that Dr. Luce views him as his "star attraction" (4.1.168), but Luce is subtle about his feelings toward his patient. Bob Presto is not subtle. A man named Presto must think he's pretty magical. He makes Cal the star attraction in an underwater sex show called Octopussy's Garden. (We have no idea if the Bond girl by the same name ever makes an appearance). It sounds demeaning, but it actually gives Cal a lot of confidence when it comes to accepting his unique body, and he forms meaningful friendships with his coworkers.

In the tank at Octopussy's Garden, Cal gets stoned and swims with Carmen and Zora, whom he becomes close to. Carmen "was a pre-op, male-to-female transsexual" (4.5.46) and Zora's body is immune to male hormones. When she's not swimming, Zora is a writer. Maybe that's where Cal finds his passion for storytelling?

Cal never sees any of these people again after the police raid the place and shut the show down. We have to wonder if they were committing any real crime here. Aren't they just giving people what they want, both the patrons and the performers?