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46 the minnesota review Patricia Eakins Fertility Zone "Harley," I said when I'd crawled home through the dewy petunias, "Harley, you know that dead woman?" "Mmmmmm," says Harley, who stuffs the covers in his mouth. "That dead woman went and had her baby." "Is it all right?" asks Harley, sitting right up. "Born with everything where it should be! Dr. Conroy says it's the easiest birth ever, even if it was a caesarian. Says he wished they were all like her—never a groan. 'Course they had her under drugs; I don't know why, if her brain was dead." "How could the baby be all right if the mother was dead?" "Well, her chest was going up and down, and they were feeding her through that I.V., all what the baby needed. That baby got better nourishment than she would have at home. You know what people eat—tortilla chips and beer." "I don't like it," Harley says. "You don't have to," I say. But there's that motherless child, born from a braindead anonymous, they're going to shove in an orphanage, here's me and Harley sticking teddy-bear decals on a brand-new crib. Makes me spit. But no use arguing once Harley gets that tone to his voice. "I'm going to fix my breakfast and turn in," I say, and I go about getting my rice puffs and raisins—you can see I eat like an elf on a mushroom. It's my glands pump me up to two-twenty-five. Harley reads the scale because I can't see past my stomach. I look pregnant, but I been trying for seven years. First thing you wake, before you even tinkle, you take your temperature . And you better have remembered to shake that mercury down when you put out the light. You can't shake it down just before you jab the thermometer under your tongue, because shaking drives your heat up. You're trying to record it unaffected, at waking's first calm, before the hot presence of mind moves you to rub the hard sleep from the corners of your eyes. You're trying to find your true underlying temper, so you'll notice one day when your degrees drop. That's when your egg is falling through your tubes, falling and falling, like an astronaut, falling toward what he doesn't know. After, your temperature leaps, and then you conceive. So Harley and I keep track of tenths of degrees, and make a graph, connecting dots. I let Harley do that part. The night the dead woman gave birth, we were in my fertility zone, so I gulped my cereal, 'cause if I don't crawl in with Harley right off the Eakins 47 bus, nothing's going to happen. Harley ambles off to work when he's sober—an outdoor job at Robbins's Nursery—lots of shovelling. I always say we got something in common, him spreading manure and me collecting bedpans. I've got a hoister's biceps from lifting and turning the patients , washing them, changing their bedclothes—I don't mind. Because you're helping out, as I see it, helping the needy. Not like working in the five-and-dime. There you say, "Can I help you?" But what do you have that anyone needs? Anyway. Running home to Harley from work, I'm still painted up, my eyelashes curled, my lips bee-stung. I'm not trying to woo with my hair in rollers, lure with a hairnet over the lumps. "Harley," I coo, and I can pout so's you'd think of a doll. "Harley," I drawl, "How you feeling, honey, can I get you something?" "Just knead this pain in my shoulder," he says. Or his foot or his stomach. He's been home in bed all night and I've been hefting trays and cranking beds, but I don't mind. I rub him where it hurts and hope. He talks to me, and if he's been drinking he cries a flood. Sooner or later he passes out, snores like a giant lizard stalking...


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