When I Call Ramona at the Wastewater Treatment Plant by Catherine Shukle

She says: It’s you again. She says: Stop. She says: I’m going to have to report this. She says: I can’t. I would, but I can’t. Ramona says: I have three kids of my own. I know. But, she doesn’t know, because her kids are solid pieces of arm hair and foreskin and bumpy tongue and tonsils that wobble when they cry, and mine is a piece of silver tissue and purple clot. Mine is the size of a frogfish. Mine crawled down the shower drain at five weeks, two days, and hasn’t been seen since. Ramona, I say: I need a map of the sewer system. I need to trace its path through the pipes. I say: Ramona, please. Mine is sparring with soap suds, sipping some man’s pee. When she hangs up on me, I pry off the shower grate and stare into the hole. I say: This is darkness. I say: I am coming for you. I say: You are in a tributary, scraping your way to the sky. You are riding the Pacific with the humpbacks, breaching and singing. You will burst out of a blowhole fully-formed. You’ll have toenails like water droplets, like sea foam, like stars. When I call Ramona at the wastewater treatment plant, I say please. I beg. I beg. I beg. I’m sorry, I’m sorry she says.

Catherine Shukle is an English professor at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis. She lives with her husband and two sons, Jack and Max. Her fiction has previously appeared in Slush Pile Magazine.

Photo by Tarah Dane

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