Echoed Back by Keely O’Shaughnessy

“They met on the toilet bowl when he was locked up.”

My sister’s high and giggling as she tells me this.

“Heads down their echoey, metal toilets they yelled to each other.”

“How’d you know?”

“Hammer told me. It’s a thing they do in prison.”

We’d both known Hammer since we were kids. His parents lived on our block. I always saw through his over-shined Subaru with the spoiler and tinted windows. His grin so wide you could easily slip inside. I always caught the sharp edges of his sleazeball routine, but Cassie kept a soft spot for him. He’d show up, croon Mi Chica and she’d crack open.

“She ain’t on the scene no more?”

Cassie swigs at the whiskey and then passes it to me. She has that same look as her sixteen-year-old self, eyes wide and moony waiting out on our front porch with the fireflies and the promise of something more.

“She’s still inside. Her head down the toilet chatting to some new guy,” she tells me.

“That’s some real shit,” I say.

We laugh whiskey out our noses then. And I wonder if she’ll tell me it’ll be different this time, that he’s changed, that after all these years they’ve grown as people, you know. She doesn’t. She leaves with him. Stumbles after him, ready to take his pills and the punches he offers up, the ones that when he gets a little heavy leave her with purple-stippled bruises and five cracked ribs.

***

In the morning, forehead pressed to the porcelain rim of the toilet bowel, I imagine her honeyed voice drifting up through the sick and piss. I imagine her coming down in another city or even another state by now. I imagine Hammer’s throaty Subaru speeding down an empty highway, it’s paintwork slick in the hazy early morning sun. I squint through the dark glass to see her eye socket etched with shadow, him pounding his fist against steering wheel, her pleading with him to slow down before they lose control completely.

I imagine how things could’ve gone if I’d done something more than laugh and echoed up through the pipes all I hear is, Chica, Chica, Chica.

Keely O’Shaughnessy (she/her) is a fiction writer with Cerebral Palsy, who lives in Gloucestershire, U.K. She has writing forthcoming with Bath Flash Fiction and Five on the Fifth. She has been published by Ellipsis Zine, NFFD, Complete Sentence, Reflex Fiction and Emerge Literary Journal, among others. Find her at keelyoshaughnessy.com or on Twitter @KeelyO_writer.