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NONFICTION Routine


Mission by Jessica Jennrich


me under the hall light. Cross-legged on our doormat that leads to the garage. Impossibly skinny and yellow from the color of the lamp. He doesn’t call out or cry, he just sniffles, louder and louder till I hear him and find and carry him back to bed in the dead of night. I sleep with him then, he on the floor in a pile of blankets and pillows, me on his hard toddler bed. The lights blaze and the TV blares “Shrek” for the millionth time. I realize he’s right, the dinosaur bone stickers, nearly lifelike in size, and procured from the museum of natural history to adorn his wall, do take on a supernatural form at night. In the shadows they become three dimensional, grow extra limbs, and look like giant arachnids descending from the ceiling. They startle me each time I awake. It’s depressing to see how far from levity we’ve fallen.


He wakes up at night and waits for I can hear them too from here. Snorting


and tossing and turning like farm animals in their stalls. The infant twins in the room next- door. Sometimes they cry and I’m stuck there contemplating what to do. Should I risk getting up, fixing their blankets, getting them more milk, gamble with really waking them? What if they are just dreaming, tossing in their milky sleep from some infant nightmare? I sweat it out, listen to my heart race and the blood pound in my ears and look down at the floor to see if their bleating and crying is waking him up. For awhile it isn’t. When it does he looks at


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me for a long time, trying to see if I hear them. He says, “The babies are crying” in a patient way, like you’d rouse a teenager who needs get up to catch the bus, “Momma, the babies are crying”. He is matter of fact and judgeless at two in the morning, then he rolls over and goes back to sleep in a frightening instant.


It’s clear that only one is crying and it’s


not going to stop, so I make my move. Out of his room, stepping over his snoring body and past his dinosaur army. Through the creaking door and into the fuzzy darkness of the twin’s room where after the brilliance of the light that he refuses to sleep without, it is so dizzyingly dark, that I try to overcompensate by opening my eyes as wide as I can. It is the boy twin, sitting up in his crib clutching the bars, crying like a forlorn sailor lost at sea. I give him his milk back after seeing he’s thrown it to the ground, restart the music of his mobile, and re- cover him with his blankets. Smooth the tears from his red cheeks and wipe the snot from his perennially dripping nose. I can tell from the way he balls up his fist and mashes it across his squinted eyes that he will sleep now. I wonder why he got up at all, why he threw his milk, wadded up his covers, began shrieking. I like to flatter myself with the notion that he wants to see me at night, as though he can’t spend a full 8 hours without a glimpse of me, but I think it’s something else. On the bad nights I wonder if he wants to punish me.


I need to make a decision now. Back to


bed in the brightly lit toddler dinosaur room? Risk going downstairs where I’ll be so far


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