“Porcelain Sheep” by Jamie Anthony Louis

Sheep are floating in the ocean, and I’m going to be sick again. Not that those two have much to do with each other, but I find it an interesting happenstance as I look out the bathroom window between breaks of hurling. Then my upper stomach reminds me again of its solemn duty to make my life miserable, and I turn back to the toilet water. 

My mother knocks on the door of this aqua colored room and asks, “Are you okay, honey?” As if she doesn’t know the answer to that question by the sound of my outbursts of hacking.

I moan in reply and the door opens just as I flush the toilet for probably the fifth time tonight. I lean up against the wall and press my slick thighs further into the cool tile for relief. I look at my mother who is a rose floating in the waters of the walls. She wears a blood-red dress with sheer sparkling sleeves and her thin lips are masked by carefully crafted red lipstick outlines. And her dyed brown hair: not a manufactured curl out of place.

She looks down on me from under caked mascara eyelashes. “Do you think it was the shrimp at lunch?” Before I can voice an opinion, she states with certainty, “I bet that’s what it is. The shrimp for sure.”

I gesture with my hand to what amounts to a tired “whatever” and then use the energy expended for that movement as a chance to wipe my mouth from unidentified food substances. I feel a chunk of Something come off on the back of my thumb, and I look down at its pinkish hue and weird lumps. Gross.

“That’s gross, Laura,” my mother says and the wrinkles around her nose and mouth deepen for a moment. I probably look similar since she used that name.

But I figure it’s not worth a fight and say, “Not my fault I’m sick.”

But of course, it actually is. “I told you not to get the shrimp at lunch today. That restaurant was dirty.”

I swallow and grimace at the taste in my mouth. “Then why did we eat there?”

“Marianne said their salads were good,” she said like I’m supposed to know this already, and she’s offended that I don’t. 

I close my eyes and tilt my head back. “Is that ‘Anne’ Marianne or just Regular Marianne?”

“Marianne Abel,” she says and sounds even more offended.

I hum to keep the nausea at bay. “That doesn’t narrow it down for me.”

“You never listen to me!” She says with a snap of her pearl teeth. I shouldn’t be afraid of the sea sharks on this beach.

I feel willing to open my eyes, so I do and find the skin on Mom’s face suddenly transformed to match her outfit. A bit too much blush in too many places is my opinion on it. But what do I know of femininity?

“Look out the window,” I say in an attempt at continued reconciliation. “There’s sheep in the ocean.”

“This was supposed to be our chance to bond, Laura. I feel like you aren’t trying as hard as me,” she says with a sniff that is probably supposed to evoke sympathy, but it utterly fails in that regard. She lost sympathy from me all the way back when she took my sister to a concert instead of coming to my piano recital when I was ten. 

“Look out the window,” I say again. “Sheep.”

She eyes me strangely. “Is this one of your weird author metaphors?”

At least she acknowledges that I’m a writer. Big step. “No, there’s really sheep out there.”

She goes over to the window and squints her eyes to see in the waning moonlight. “I don’t see anything.”

I want to get up and check but it’s finally starting to feel nice and cool and heat rises so I bet it’ll be too hot a few feet above where I’m at. I say, “Are you sure? I saw them in the waves just a minute ago.”

“There’s nothing,” she says. Then she turns to me, and her dress comes dangerously close to swishing into the toilet. I almost wish it did.

“Well, we have our rehearsal dinner tonight.” Right, sister whose boy band concert was more important than my accomplishments. She’s having big wedding number two. “What do I tell everyone?”

“Say I’m too busy counting the sheep in the ocean.” There’s a long pause and her expression reminds me of the one she gives me every time I get a haircut or decide not to wear make-up in public (which is always). Or even worse, bind my chest and wear khaki shorts and a colorful men’s t-shirt. “That’s one of my author metaphors. Just tell them the truth.”

“Which is?” Does she doubt the smell of vomit in the air or something? 

I say, “I don’t know,” and start to feel false hunger pains again. “Tell them it’s the shrimp.”

She shakes her head and steps out of the bathroom. “I knew it was the shrimp.” Then she disappears down the hall. 

Her absence is less of a lack and more of a calm satisfaction. It fills the air with warm contentment. Like fuzzy wool against my skin. Damn, my head is full of sheep.

“Baaa,” say the sheep floating in the midnight marine.

“Baaa,” I murmur back before lunging to my porcelain throne. Damn shrimp.

Jamie Anthony Louis is a non-binary chicano who has been writing stories for almost a decade, but just recently decided their words are ready and worthy of hearing. They are an emerging poet and an artist as well. Their ongoing struggles with mental health have taught them to be grateful for everyone around them and everything they manage to create.

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