Maggie Kirn,

       I drove the pickup into town last night for girl’s night, a regular get-together at my friend Alex’s devoted to gossip and orgies of advice-giving on everything from gardening to marital disputes. The baby kicked into my cervix the whole time, so I could hardly enjoy the evening out. The deep twinges in my pelvis felt like a sadistically rough Pap test, as the other girls ran down a local dentist for carelessness (she’d dropped a gold crown into somebody’s lung), recommended an electrician to me (he’s cheap and trustworthy), and complained about the low-quality men who populate our small town (they’re cheap and untrustworthy). I didn’t care about any of it. I just wanted to go home.
       On the way back, at midnight, Montana seemed deserted. I didn’t pass another car on the 20 minute ride to the ranch. The interstate was abandoned. Labor Day was over. The tourists had returned to the suburbs of Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. The movie stars had gone back to New York and L.A., full of stories about the simple life to tell on late-night talk shows. The Winnebago-driving snowbirds had begun their slow southern descent to Arizona retirement communities. I was glad to see them go. I’d give them all rides to the airport if I could.
       My husband was up writing when I pulled in. Walt and I met when I was 16, married three years later. Now, at 22, I’m seven months pregnant with our first child. We are living in a half-demolished house with our pets–three dogs and five cats–trying to revive a ranch unkept for 10 years. The fields are full of noxious weeds. There are hundreds of bats in the house’s abandoned upstairs.
       I took my prenatal vitamin, said good night to the dogs–including Drudge, our current foster dog, a giant hound named after my favorite news source–and got into bed. The wind through my bedroom window was cooler than usual and smelled of just-cut alfalfa, a sure sign of fall. Autumn always reminds me of college, which I only attended for a year–a year full of more chemical substances than a can of oven cleaner. I have a chip on my shoulder about my lack of education. Had I stayed in school, I’d be a graduate by now. A very pickled graduate.
       Before I fell asleep I thought about the week ahead. I’m in the middle of writing an article for Harper’s Bazaar about my addiction to catalogs, renovating our house, and overseeing the construction of an animal shelter for our local Humane Society. My more immediate worry, though, was how many times I’d have to go pee before dawn.