The Heir | Andrew Coburn
Forced March | Robert Lietz
Dear Leader Dreamer | Gabriel Check
Antipastoral: Dairymen | Amy Groshek
Snapshots of the Epic | Gregory Lawless
Three Reliquaries | Laurence Davies
The Inexorable | Stefanie Freele
Travel Photography | Joshua Walker 
Post-Christmas Inventory | Laura Kolb
Cityscapes, Silos, Blue Nudes | Amber Krieger
Farming Silence | Lauren Ashleigh Kenny
Evan in the Tent | Walter Cummins
Three Poems | Grace Wells

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At the Foot of the Mountain, the Inexorable | Stefanie Freele

	Samantha is waiting for her babies to come. Every morning she drinks tea, fills the birdfeeders so the cats have someone to watch, adds wood to the fire, and hikes the mountain with her dog. She is thirty-eight weeks pregnant – nine and one-half months. 
	Her belly is larger than she ever imagined it could be and harder than the firmest mattress. Still, each morning, just after the horizon lightens, she hikes the hour to the top of the mountain, says good morning to the meadows from the peak, and heads on down, picking up small pieces of firewood along the way. She is clumsier and slower now, but careful.
	The babies kick and squabble when she returns to rest by the fire. The cabin is on the north side of the mountain and a fire is needed all day. She can feel the babies fighting as they do every morning. But, then, just as she smoothes her belly with oil, she feels them calm, snuggle and hug – then tussle again. Often in the evening, when she collapses in bed, early – it is hard to carry twins – they push and prod for a few moments, then sleep. But in the mornings, they always battle.
	The crib is ready. The tiny blankets folded. Samantha doesn’t believe in doctors and will have the babies at home. She is ready. The two boys don’t have a lot of room in there and she doesn’t blame them for getting edgy, but their banter makes her tired. They poke and kick and squirm and swim. The thirty-five pound weight gain makes her tired. Her dog who doesn’t understand there are two babies on the way that take up most of Samantha’s energy, makes her tired. The dog thrusts squeaky toys at Samantha and demands she throw them.
	As the days move closer to week thirty-nine – babies usually arrive between thirty-seven and forty weeks – she has read this in her home-birthing book – Samantha’s ankles swell up as large as her calves and her heart beats hard and loud after she eats. When she lifts her foot up on the table and draws back a sock, she notices a red line traveling up her ankle toward her knee.
	A red circle surrounds a white circle. Something has bit her. While the twins poke each other, move over, move over, she watches the red line creep past razor stubble – it is hard to bend and shave her legs.
	The line reaches her knee by nine o-clock and by ten is heading up her thigh. The dog has pushed the squeaker toy into Samantha’s hand sixty seven times and fetched it sixty six. Samantha puts the toy behind her back and tells the dog to lie down. Night-night.
	The tip of the red line is mid-thigh and Samantha presses on it, to see if the line will change direction, head on back to its origin.  But instead, the line proceeds slowly and silently around her finger and toward the top of her leg.
	One of the boys hiccups a steady rhythm, causing a tuft of her sweater to rise and fall. Samantha has no insurance – why have insurance when you don’t believe in medical intervention. She believes in meant-to-be’s, just like the wood-cutting man she met on the mountain who made her babies.
	Instead, Samantha prepares for the line to continue its march upward. But, what will the line do when it meets her sons?
	She thinks she could be sad - they may die - but only if it is intended to happen. She should not stop poison, because obviously it was sent to her for a reason.
	She watches the fire and the scarlet line which reaches the crease of her thigh. She covers herself with a blanket.
	The babies know it is evening and they embrace. One intertwines his ankle across his brother’s. After one finds his thumb and the other nestles closer, they fall asleep.
	Samantha feels them sleeping and says good night. The dog lays her head on the hot skin of Samantha’s lap and closes her eyes.
	Samantha nods off herself, but wakes just in time to see the silver edge of sun on the horizon. Orange embers glow in the hearth. She skips her tea for the first time ever, the babies don’t wrestle, the dog whines at the door, and Samantha pulls the blanket up tight over her heart.


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commentary | poetry | fiction | chicago | spring 2007   

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