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Portrait of a Mother, Beforehand
by J.M. Patrick

In New England that year, summer yawned and tossed a lazy arm fall-ward, stretching deep into November. Halloween and Thanksgiving were warm enough to wear sweaters without jackets. The leaves fell just the same, leaving the landscape gaping and naked with nothing to fill it but the smoke from my cigarettes.

“I’m not tired.” Andrew said.

We were married seven years that fall, but it felt like one long ribbon of time, peppered with Christmases, Easters, and birthdays. A therapist friend of mine once asked us to describe our relationship in one word. I chose easy, he chose simple. We’d been trying to get pregnant for three of those years. This time, we thought, it will happen.

And so we stayed up late to make love on a torn blanket on the back porch, sucking whatever we could from the last of the warm days. I watched over his shoulder as two airplanes floated like blown bubbles, silent and graceful, through a cloudless sky. He collapsed into me, a tumble of tired bones, inhaling, exhaling, inhaling, until the sweat dried from our skin, and the chill dragged its sinewy fingers up our spines.

Afterward, he sketched me. He sketched me reaching for a juice glass, smoking a cigarette, sleeping. He sketched me waiting for the bath to fill, sitting on the edge of the tub, two fingers testing the water. He filled a whole book of me doing nothing, smiling, living. When I grew tired of being drawn, we laid back down on the blanket.

“Do you know yet?” he asked.

“We’ll know in a few weeks.”

“What’s does your gut say?”

He rested his hands on my stomach. I shivered.

Two months later, we would lose that baby. I would find a blossom of blood, rose-red in my underwear, and Andrew would come home to the smell of bleach and find me soaking them in the bathroom sink. He would stand in the doorway, his mouth a perfect “o” and say “Oh honey, oh honey” over and over until it sounded like heavy breathing.

I would say “Fuck. Fuck,” because it felt good. He would go into the kitchen to call the doctor, and I would sit on the edge of the bed to cry. There are no sketches of me then.

But this was before.

Before, when he had his hand on my stomach and it was black with ink, and I stared up at a cloudless sky, pregnant with stars, buzzing with life.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.



J. M. Patrick lives in Connecticut where she spends weekdays secretly checking her email and at a desk in a cubicle decorated with a Marilyn Monroe calendar. She spends weekends with her fiancé and his daughter, drawing beaches on the sidewalk and collecting Micah in a big red party cup. She is told she speaks French in her sleep. She writes to find out who she is speaking to. Her work has appeared in Gorlan, Edifice Wrecked, Amarillo Bay, and Long Story Short. She can be found online at www.jmpatrick.org.

Read the interview.
Issue Seventeen (June 15, 2007): Renoir Responds to Aline Charigot’s Charges of Painting Her Ugly by Daniel Bailey «» Cymothoa Exigua by Christopher Battle «» Oblivious by Gary Cadwallader «» The Wedge in Between by Debbie Ann Eis «» One Purple Finch by Kathy Fish «» Clouds by James Hanley «» Mousafa's Woman by Kyle Hemmings «» First Night by Ric Jahna «» My Great-Aunt Meets Jesus at the Mobil Station in Montana by Stephanie Johnson «» Old Leningrad by Sandra Maddux-Creech «» Selective Memory by Mary McCluskey «» The Attraction of Asphalt by Stefani Nellen «» Of Potential by Jim Nelson «» Portrait of a Mother, Beforehand J.M. Patrick «» Midnight in Albuquerque by Tiffany Poremba «» Flatlining in the Edward G. Bellacosta Memorial Park by Jake Ruiter «» Prow by Claudia Smith «» I Know This Man; He is My Father. by Tavia Stewart «» In the Last Frame by Beth Thomas «» My First Two-Headed Boy by Veronica Thorn «» Interviews: Bob Arter «» Daniel Bailey «» Christopher Battle «» Gary Cadwallader «» Debbie Ann Eis «» Kathy Fish «» James Hanley «» Kyle Hemmings «» Ric Jahna «» Stephanie Johnson «» Sandra Maddux-Creech «» Mary McCluskey «» Stefani Nellen «» Jim Nelson «» J.M. Patrick «» Tiffany Poremba «» Jake Ruiter «» Claudia Smith «» Tavia Stewart «» Beth Thomas «» Veronica Thorn «» Cover Art "Peace in a Time of Monsters" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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