(Ginny and Myra's house on Roy Street, first floor -- Click on image for larger version)
(Ginny and Myra's house on Roy Street, second floor -- Click on image for larger version)
This is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, skip down to Read More. If not, here's links to background information in the sidebar to the right, third item from top.
12 June 1986
The next evening, after they were finally able to get out of bed for more than bathroom breaks and gulping down orange juice, Ginny took Myra on the naked guided tour of her house. "It's funky and will need a new roof in a few years, which is why I could afford it, but the bones are lovely and without rot. The studio here, which they had as a family room, I really bought this place for the light in this one room."
"Absolutely. But it's huge, and we could put in a wall down the middle, with a sliding door, and that half over there --"
"The half with less light?"
"Yes, that could be your study. On the other side of the dining room are two tiny rooms, one of which I use for storage, but we could do anything we want with that space."
"You know, I'm not sure my cat is going to tolerate your dog."
"Juju is a complete bottom."
"Doesn't take on any role like her mom?"
"And we could make the back yard fence catproof, so Alice would have all that territory to claim as her feline domain She would let Juju have a few scraps of house, I think."
"As long as we're facing remodeling, let's think big, Ginny. I mean, I've got the money. Let's talk future."
"I thought we were." Ginny had stopped in the kitchen and was leaning across the counter, her elbow next to a cutting board holding dried beet pieces. Her hands still had pink stains in places from the beets. Her full breasts tucked up under her in Hollywood cleavage as she faced Myra on the other side of the breakfast bar.
Myra said, "Well, here goes nothing:....... Do you want kids?"
Again one of those long Ginny pauses, long enough to shut down one or two circuits in Myra's brain before flooding back into life again.
"Yes. I want children. And I want to be pregnant."
"Let's go try, then."
Later, Ginny pointed to the ceiling over her bed. "You know, there's room up there."
"What do you mean? An attic?"
"No, I mean this Bauhaus roof is unobstructed up to sky. We could add a second story onto the front of the house here. Two bedrooms, a bath, stairwell."
"Or elevator. For when we are too old to use the stairs."
Ginny rolled over on top of her and they went on.
The next morning, after first light, Myra woke up with Ginny spooned behind her, an arm holding her tight. She could feel Ginny's breath in the hair on the back of her head. She gently placed the soles of her feet onto the top of Ginny's feet and relished the sensation of them being a completed circuit. After a few minutes, Ginny shifted a little and Myra heard her breathing change.
"Mm-hm. I want to wake up feeling like this for the rest of my life."
"We can give it a shot. Here, Ginny, I want to roll over and see you."
"Mmmm. Your face smells like me."
"I know. I don't want to wash it off."
"Myra, you'll find this funny -- but I've always thought of myself as having a low sex drive. Just not as interested in it as other folks, especially once I came out. See, I knew you'd laugh."
"Gin -- there's sex, which I've had a lot of and you not so much, and then there's making love. In particular, there's two women making love."
"'The best they know how, and for the best reasons.'"
"Exactly. And not only am I thrilled to discover we're a match for each other in desire, I think we're a match in experience, too. Appearances to the contrary."
"The dialectics of Ginny and Myra?"
"That's a position paper I'm ready to work on." Myra kissed Ginny's forehead, each eye, each cheek, then her chin.
"I think it's time we put something in our bodies besides -- well, yes, that, but I was going to say orange juice. It's all gone, anyhow."
"What day is it, Ginny?" They both had to stop and think.
"Friday! My god, the last meal I had was those hash browns two days ago!"
"C'mon, angel. I have sustenance in the next room."
Myra put bread in the toaster while Ginny began beating eggs. She added grated edam and chopped tomatoes before pouring it into a skillet. Myra sliced up a couple of fujis, a banana, and the remainder of a basket of blackberries.
"You have yogurt?"
"No, but there's ricotta."
They wolfed their breakfast. Myra said "I need more."
"Me, too. But all that's left is bread. And beets."
"Let's take our first shower together and go to the market."
The shower led them back to bed for a while. Later, near noon, Myra lay on her back and said "I'm just now really taking in your room. Not a thing up on the walls, what's with you, artist-girl?"
"I wanted to repaint these awful walls. One of my plans for the summer."
"What color, if not white?"
"This isn't white, it's oyster with pearl overtones and grimy fingerprints. And -- I can't decide which color. I know about some of the other rooms, just not this one. I guess I must have been waiting for you to come along."
"I haven't lived with a lover, at least not full-time, since Astrid. But I'm ready for that, too. I think."
"You better be sure. So -- what color would you pick for our bedroom walls?"
"That shirt you wore to the Dance Brigade? That color."
"Are you kidding me? That's vermilion." Ginny sat up on her elbow, laughing.
"Well, I'm a fire sign, what can I say. But I'd want more light in here. Maybe turn this wall the bed is up against into a glass wall like in your dining room."
"Our dining room. And that's brilliant, Myra. Glass brick -- it would totally go in this house. All the sunlight would make balance the red. A blazing womb of a room."
"I need for the carpets to go, though. Too much allergies and mold in carpeting."
"Yeah, these are not worth saving, anyhow. Clean wood or stone floors, bright walls, glass everywhere -- I think we're compatible, girlfriend."
"Let's go get more food, Ginny."
"Maybe we'll make it out the front door this time."
That night they went to Myra's flat to sleep. Alice was cheesed at having been left alone so long -- she had a self-feeding cat bowl, but it was the principle of the thing. As Myra held her and checked her phone machine messages, Ginny wandered around looking at the apartment.
"How many books do you have, anyhow?" she asked Myra when Myra was done listening.
"Several thousand, I haven't done an official count."
"Why are you still using milk crates and boards for your shelving? You can afford better."
Myra looked a little shocked. "Because it works just fine. Mama always said 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.'"
Ginny laughed. "Well, I dare not come between a dyke and her mama, I guess." Then she said "Ever since that first potluck, I've looked for your car wherever I've gone, every event you might be at, and I could always tell it was your Honda by that bumpersticker you have -- 'My mother made me a lesbian / If you give her the yarn, she'll make you one too.'"
Myra hugged her with Alice in between them. "And see, my mama did make you your very own lesbian." Alice protested and Myra stepped back.
"Seriously, though, Myra -- when we live together? Real bookshelves. These crates are probably crawling with germs. And your books deserve better c -- holy shit, you've got a complete run of Dyke!"
"Yeah, and look inside the first issue -- there's a postcard in there I got from Liza Cowan, answering a letter I wrote her asking how come she and Penny named their publishing company 'Tomato Publications'. She said it was because of a national survey asking people to identify their favorite vegetable -- men chose cucumbers, and women chose tomatoes."
(Sherwin Williams Goddess postcard by Liza Cowan, copyright hers)
Ginny was laughing but still reading titles. "Complete run of Quest, looks like. A bazillion Majority Reports; Lesbian Tide; Chrysalis; zowie, is this an original copy of The Redstockings Manifesto?"
"Yeah, and next to it are the CLIT papers."
Ginny touched them reverently. "You got an archive here, babe."
"Look at these five rows -- all poetry. And that one cabinet with doors on it over there, next to the turntable -- women's music albums."
"Myra, how could you afford this when you were living hand to mouth?"
"I lived collectively a lot, and every time someone moved out and didn't want stuff, I'd take it. When the household subscribed to something, after everyone was done reading it, I'd store it away safely. And, well, sometimes I did without in order to buy a book. Like that volume of Elsa Gidlow's poetry, signed by her -- it was only three bucks, but that was two day's meals at the time I got it. Still, it was worth it."
"Someday we'll have a shelf full of your books, Myra." She moved back in for a kiss, and Alice finally wriggled to the floor, stopping to wash herself clean of Ginnyness.
"And walls covered with your paintings" murmured Myra.
"And our children running everywhere" said Ginny, licking the hollow of Myra's throat.
Myra said "Uh, how many kids do you want to have? I was thinking about maybe two."
"Two's good. You have one, I have one?"
Myra looked worried. "Actually...no, I don't want to be pregnant. Just never had the desire for it. Is that a problem?"
"Nope, I was being generous. I'm totally into it, I'll do 'em both."
"Why, Ginny? Why do you want to -- have all that discomfort, and vulnerability, and then having to give birth?"
"It's like gardening for me. Making new life. Or painting. I like the idea of creating with my flesh and nutrients."
"Okay. I'm glad you do. But -- I want a good long time before we add on a permanent roomie, while it's just me and you, Ginny Bates."
"We got a ways to go before I plant any seeds, honey. We have to have the boy talk, and define family, and figure out if we have compatible child-rearing beliefs. And I have to get enough fucking with you out of my system before I can stand to share my body with anything else. Speaking of which..."
"I was just gonna say. Let's go break in my bed" said Myra. She turned off lights as they went down the hall.
The next day, Ginny asked Myra "Why haven't you bought yourself a house, now that you have the money? Why are you staying in an apartment?"
Myra looked uncomfortable. "I don't know anything about buying houses, for one thing. My family never owned one, unless you count trailers. And -- I had other work to do. Still do, but the biggest job is out of the way."
"Am I that job?" asked Ginny, a little startled.
"No, of course not. Letting myself have a real relationship, that was number one."
Ginny grinned. "So I just happened to come along right at the point you were ready to start looking?"
"No. Somewhere in the back of my mind, you were always there. An idea, a possibility. I know that's not especially romantic..."
"Myra, it's better than romantic. Anyhow, back to the house -- If you move in with me, are we clear my house will become our house? You'll be a houseowner, then. Is that what you want?"
"Yeah, I want the house, too. That house, in particular. It's got a feel, you know? But I have tons to learn, and -- I feel defensive about how much I don't know." Myra's cheeks were a little red.
"Okay. Ask me questions, if you want, or -- however you learn -- books I'm guessing."
"I'll hoover up from any source I can, Ginny. Do I -- should I pay you half of what you've put into the house so far?"
"That's a good question. The thing is, we've mentioned renovation, and there's a lot of expense in that. How about if we make a renovation plan, figure out the cost of that, figure out much value it will add to the house, and then talk about how to share it?"
"That makes sense, Ginny." Myra sounded relieved. She pulled out her notebook. "Shall we brainstorm?"
Ginny sat down next to Myra on her couch. "Okay. It's going to need a new roof sooner or later, and if we really do add on a story, it might as well be sooner."
"Roof" wrote Myra. "In that case, let's put solar panels on."
"Good. And -- really, with the storage room in use, there's only two bedrooms downstairs. I'm thinking two more bedrooms upstairs, with a bath in between."
Myra looked at Ginny, emotion flooding her. "For kids. For real."
"For real, Myra." They kissed.
"Then, Ginny, we need a play area, too. Maybe a big hallish kind of playroom."
"And a deck upstairs as well as downstairs. The upper deck could be covered, for rainy days."
"With a wall of glass, yes. I know it's an energy issue, but I want as much glass and windows as possible, Ginny. I am constantly sun-starved here."
"There's lighting that helps with that, Myra -- do you know about it? It's called full-spectrum, and it's like daylight inside."
"Really? Fuck, yeah, Ginny. Let's put it everywhere in the house, I mean it."
"You got it. I love light, too."
"And serious heating, so our house is never damp and cold."
"There's heating that goes in the floor, warm travels up, you know. Since we're redoing the floors, anyhow, to get rid of the carpets -- "
"Excellent. You hear that, Alice? Heat coming from the floor itself. No more chilly kitty tootsies."
"What else, Myra? Oh, I know, the plumbing in the kitchen needs some kind of attention. And the fridge is old."
"Isn't that an electric stove?"
"Well, Ginny, I insist on cooking with gas. But what I'd really like is one of those huge old-fashioned stoves with a griddle in the middle."
"Bet we could find that. We're going to have to hire a designer, Myra, as well as a contractor."
"You mean like an architect?"
"An architect, and maybe a designer as well."
"I don't know the difference." Myra's voice had a tinge of shame again.
"I'll explain it as we go along." Ginny squeezed her arm. "We need a cat-proof fence in the back, and a permanent pet door into the back yard instead of that insert into the sliding door would be better."
"I just realized -- where are we going to put stairs to the second story?"
"I don't know, that's for the architect. I imagine where the pantry is now, and behind that is a closet off the family room -- that's a chunk of space."
"And the family room, your studio, Ginny, you really want to split that with a wall and give me a study in there?"
"Of course. I adore the idea of us working side by side."
"What if we need quiet to work?"
"We'll have a door in the wall. We can get it soundproofed. Although I'm not a noisy painter, Myra, I don't know what you're imagining."
"Oh, listening to music or the like."
"I don't hear anything when I work."
"Okay, Gin. But sometimes I listen to music. Which reminds me -- our bedroom? I want it completely soundproofed, so nothing from the outside will ever wake me up again."
"Yeah, I noticed the trash pick-up this morning outside your bedroom" grinned Ginny. "Okay, here's one from me: I want a jacuzzi in our bathroom, a tub big enough for both of us -- "
"That'll be one big tub" remarked Myra.
"And a bidet."
"Ooh-la-la" said Myra, writing. "Actually, if the architect can pull it off, I'd like a little bathroom off my study, like a pissoir. So my concentration is not interrupted much if I have to go."
"Now you're getting into the spirit of things" said Ginny. "Okay, well, here's my dream: I want a swimming pool. The backyard is huge, there's room for it. A heated pool, so I can swim all year. And a hottub."
"In addition to a jacuzzi?" said Myra, a little shocked.
"Yes. One for looking up at the stars, one for inside."
"A pool is -- extravagant" said Myra.
"It's exercise, honey. And our friends will love it." When Myra still looked doubtful, Ginny added "And our kids -- think about how much fun it will give them over the years."
"Are you playing me, Ginny Bates?" grinned Myra.
Ginny batted her eyeslashes.
"Well, let's talk to the -- architect for that?"
"Yes. And I want raised beds in the backyard to grow veggies in, so I can do concentrated and companion planting."
"Now that I love, Ginny. Okay, well, I'd like to have a generator, in case of emergency. Plus a serious security system, and fire sprinklers, and emergency exits from windows, like in the kids' room, for sure."
Ginny looked at her. "What are you worried about, honey?"
"The patriarchy. Full of danger" replied Myra soberly. "And air filters, HEPA filters, to keep the air clean as well as light and dry, man, that would be so good for my lungs" she said, writing quickly.
"Okay. On the non-essential end -- I don't like the kitchen cabinets, I want glass-fronted ones of real wood, and I want stone counters, not formica." Before Myra could reply, Ginny said "And a stainless steel sink without chips in it. And a new washer and dryer for the storage room, and a sink in there for rinsing stuff out." She paused, to let Myra get all that down on a new page.
"Whew" said Myra. "We've gone a little nuts, here."
"No, Myra, nuts would be insisting on having a two-car garage instead of the carport out front and expanding our small living room into a palatial salon of some sort" laughed Ginny. "I mean, yes, this will cost a shitload, but so much of it is health or safety related. Or will permanently add to the value of our home."
Myra looked at Ginny, letting the sound of "our home" settle into her brain.
"One thing you haven't mentioned, Ginny, is the walls."
"Oh, for sure repainting every square inch. But -- " Ginny looked suddenly hesitant.
"How about if you pick the colors?" said Myra diplomatically.
"Really, Myra? Are you just being generous?"
"Yes, and it's fine with me. I mean, talk to me, of course, but I want your color sense to reign, it hasn't failed me yet."
Ginny kissed her sweetly. "In that case, you get to pick out all the security and safety features, go for it. As long as I don't have to wear a transponder."
After a minute, Myra said "But Ginny, I just remembered -- no pink. Not under any kinda name."
Ginny laughed. "Did you have that crammed down your throat, too, as a little girl?"
"I'm with ya, angel. No pink."
The next morning, as they were eating breakfast, Ginny said "This table is too small for us, honey."
Myra looked down at it. "Everything's fitting on it just fine, whaddya mean?"
"I mean for the dinners we'll be having at our house. Big group dinners. We need a new one."
"Oh, Gin -- I'm not much on furniture shopping..."
"I know, and I'm not talking about a binge. We have the built-in shelves and workspaces going in, and we can cobble together what we've got for a living room. And we have that new king-size bed picked out. But we need a dining table. And something to store dishes in, come to think of it."
"See, the list is already growing." Myra had a pained expression on her face.
"I'm thinking used furniture stores, garage sales, where maybe we can pick up something good and redo it ourselves."
Myra brightened up. "Oh, recycled furniture. Okay, I can get into that."
"We can check out estate sales this weekend. In the meantime, there's a part of town with a bunch of thrift and antique stores. Let's go cruise that street."
After three stores, Myra was beginning to get antsy. Ginny was drawn to every possible objet d'art within view, but her own interest was waning. The next place, however, had a back wall of books, and Myra was on it like a duck on a junebug. Ginny started at the front of the voluminous room and began working around the periphery.
Myra had an original Tom Swift, a copy of Girl of the Limberlost, and a 1970's anthology of Plath already set aside when Ginny called her: "Myra, come over here, look at this."
Myra carried her books with her possessively as she joined Ginny behind a row of metal filing cabinets lined with awful contact paper. Ginny swept her hand over a massive roll-top desk covered in bric-a-brac. "Gorgeous, isn't it?" she asked.
"Which, exactly?" asked Myra.
"The desk. All the drawers are intact, I think it's cherry or maybe walnut, and that's an original finish."
"I already have a desk, Ginny."
"That's a work table, not a desk. You're a writer, you need a desk."
"But this is huge. And I think it's theirs, not for sale."
"It is indeed huge. We have lots of room, however, at the new place. And it is for sale, I already asked."
"Myra, that's not the first question. The first question is, do you like it? Can you see yourself writing at it?"
Myra handed her books to Ginny and began pulling open drawers, looking at the pigeonholes and then squatting at the keyhole, trying to imagine sitting at the desk. Finally she turned and said "Yeah. I admit, it's my kind of desk. So now, how much?"
"We can afford it. I make this call as our financial advisor. Let's tell 'em we need it cleared off to make a final decision, I want to see it as it will look in your study."
They helped the gay man who owned the place stack the debris on top of it into boxes. He handed Ginny a rag and she dusted it thoroughly, almost sensuously. Then she and Myra stepped back and looked at it again. Ginny put her mouth to Myra's ear and whispered "It's saying 'Myra, Myra, take me, baby!'"
Myra laughed. "A little creepy, Gin. But -- " She turned to the man. "We're buying it."
She turned back to Ginny. "Where do we put it, though, until the house is ready?"
"We rent a storage space. This afternoon, when we we're finished shopping."
"Okay, but I'm not done with the books here."
"Fine, I'm not done, either." They split up again, Ginny saying to the man "We also need a dining table, do you have anything in that line?"
As he led Ginny to a room on the side, Myra returned to the bookshelves. After ten minutes and several more finds, Ginny called her again. Myra went into the side room, crammed with tables and wooden chairs.
Ginny's eyes were dancing. She pointed to a long, wide table painted an institutional shade of green. "It's got two leaves -- it can expand to 14 feet long!" she said.
"Oh, my god, that color is hideous" cried Myra.
"Yeah, it'll have to be stripped. But come here, look at the leaves, which didn't ever get painted". Ginny pointed to slabs of wood leaned against one edge.
"It's tiger maple, Myra. I can't believe someone was stupid enough to over that. So we'll never have the original finish back. But that makes it affordable. And once I strip and refinish it -- you won't believe how beautiful this will be."
"I'm sold. What style do you call this?"
"Arts and Crafts. This is probably from the 1940s, Myra."
"I really, really like the lines of it."
"So now we know what kind of furniture you like" Ginny was buoyant. "If you like this, you'll like Shaker too, I bet. You have excellent taste, my love."
Myra murmured "You should know." Then, aloud, she asked "Does it have chairs?"
"Not matching, no. But I can find enough in this room to go with it -- no two will be alike, that okay with you?"
"Preferable, actually. Big-assed chairs, Ginny. No arms and no Colonial, is all I ask."
"Leave it to me. Go back to your books."
As Myra was leaving, she stopped and said "How many?"
"Chairs? Well, let's count -- five friends, plus a date for Allie -- "
" -- Alveisa and Petra -- " Ginny went on. "Future children -- "
The shop owner interrupted and said "The table, fully extended, will seat 16."
Myra laughed. "Fella knows how to make a sale. Sixteen it is. We can scatter the extra around the house when the table is in everyday use."
When they paid the bill, Myra went pale at the total.
Ginny squeezed her arm and said "I'm putting it on the Visa, in case we decide to pay it off in installments." She told the owner she would call him before closing to give him instructions about delivery. Then she helped Myra carry out two armloads of books.
At the car, Myra said "There's storage units south of here, shall we go find a place?"
"Not yet" said Ginny. "Jeffrey said his friend Lawrence gets furniture and things from the same sorts of sales, and his inventory is just as interesting."
"Who is Jeffrey?"
"The guy we just bought our table from, Myra, weren't you listening? Anyhow, Lawrence's store is three blocks away. I want to go there next."
"But we don't need anything else" said Myra.
"He has books" offered Ginny.
Myra put the car in gear and drove where Ginny pointed.
Lawrence's store did indeed have books. But before Myra could get to that section, she was stopped by a floor to ceiling cabinet full of Fiesta Ware. Ginny came back to stand beside her. Myra said, in a reverent tone "My grandmother had these kinds of dishes. I loved them, utterly loved them."
Ginny began picking up plates and bowls, looking at the colors. "Oh, My, I love them too. And, my god, that shelf is Shawnee. And that's a Blenko pitcher -- Myra, let's get dishes for our big new table!"
Lawrence wandered over and introduced himself. Ginny said they had been referred by Jeffrey, and Lawrence shook their hands. Then Ginny asked for a box or basket to begin putting their purchases in. Lawrence returned swiftly with cardboard boxes, and Ginny began picking out everything but the Fiesta Ware, leaving that to Myra. "Sixteen of each" said Ginny. "No, make that seventeen -- in case of breakage. As many different colors as you can."
"Okay" said Myra happily.
"It's fun to be rich today, isn't it, honey?"
"Yes, this I can understand. Look, a butter dish!"
Lawrence, standing nearby, cleared his throat after the word "rich" and said "Is there anything else you're interested in?"
Ginny grinned at him. "Yeah, we'd like a bedframe, headboard maybe, for a king-size bed. Shaker or Arts and Crafts, and modern is fine, I don't think there'll be king-size otherwise. And a sideboard or china cabinet for these dishes."
"What about lamps? Or paintings?" said Lawrence.
Myra laughed. "We've got the paintings covered, thanks. But if you have old frames..."
"And I'll look at lamps" added Ginny. "Here's one box filled, you can carry that to the counter, if you will."
Lawrence was happy to oblige. Once the dishes were selected, he led Ginny off on a furniture and accessories search, while Myra started for the books. She turned after a couple of steps and said "Gin? You don't need to consult me about the china cabinet or the bed, I'm going to like whatever you like."
Ginny blew her a kiss. Myra dove into old book world.
After an hour, Ginny found her and put her arms around Myra from behind. "An entire set of encyclopedias? From what, the sixties?"
"1958. It's called the Children's Book of Knowledge, and we had these when I was a kid. They're full of poetry and stories." Myra was flushed with excitement.
"Well, I know you left decisions up to me, but I have a couple of things I'd like you to look at" said Ginny. She helped Myra haul everything except the encyclopedias to the counter -- they'd let Lawrence box up those.
"First -- this is an old banker's lamp, with an original green shade. The brass patina has been messed with already, so we can polish it up bright. For your desk -- do you like?" said Ginny.
"I've always wanted one. Yes" said Myra.
"I got a couple of floor lamps, too. And the headboard and sideboard, but I'm sure you'll like those. Now, this is the other idea I had..." Ginny gestured to a stack in the corner of what looked to Myra like the old-fashioned psychiatrist's couches you saw in Tony Randall movies, except almost as wide as a full-size bed. There was a least a dozen of them, in filthy, split leather with stuffing pouring out.
"What, one of those? Why -- where would we put it?" Myra looked at them distastefully.
"Daybeds for our work spaces. To take breaks on, read on, cuddle up together on. The wood is mahogany, and we'd of course re-upholster them" said Ginny.
"I should think so" said Myra. "Them -- you mean more than one of these?"
"One for each of us. And get this -- Lawrence said these come from an old brothel that used to be near the waterfront."
"Hell, Ginny, that means -- does that mean -- ?"
"Yeah. Lots of women earned their livings on those. But, as I say, no original fabric will remain. These are cheap, Myra, but a lovely design in rosewood, I think."
"Are you going to redo the upholstery yourself?"
"Not one of my talents, I'm afraid. But I will pick out the leather to be used."
"Leather, huh?" said Myra, gazing at the relics. She couldn't quite see it. Still, Ginny's eye was much better than hers in this regard. "Sure, why not?"
"All right, then. I'm done here. And I'm starving."
Suddenly Myra was, too. "Okay, let's pay the piper and get lunch. We can bring the books -- except the encyclopedias, we can have those taken to storage."
"Storage unit after lunch. Then home to make calls to upholsterers."
"And read" said Myra.
Ginny let the remodelers do all the taping and prep work on the interior walls of the renovated house, but insisted on leaving the actual painting for her and Myra. Myra was not so keen on the idea. Ginny said fine, it would take her twice as long but she could do it herself. Myra raised an eyebrow and said "Little Red Hen?"
Ginny laughed. "Caught me. But, honestly, I just want to do it."
"Is part of the reason because you are going to be switching out colors midway through?" asked Myra.
"Es possible" said Ginny. "But you are not gonna want to live with me if I'm not happy with a wall color."
"I very much doubt that" said Myra. They settled in to looking over the hundreds of hue cards Ginny had gathered from paint stores around town.
"Let's be clear" said Myra. "I'm here to do three things: One is to say 'Okay, whatever you think is best', because I am ignorant and also love your style; two is to learn from you, if you will be so kind as to explain why one thing is better than another; and three is to marvel at and takes notes on the imaginative names they are giving these colors."
"It's nice to have a job description, isn't it?" said Ginny cheerfully.
Every single paint choice had to be especially mixed, which was no surprise to Myra, really. The day the paint store delivered their cans was a red letter day. The dropcloths had been left behind by the crew, so all Ginny had to do was pry open a bucket, stir it with a critical look on her face, dip a brush into it and lay it gracefully onto the selected wall. She would look at it for ten minutes or so, from different angles, sometimes shining a flashlight onto it, then sigh, close the bucket back up, and go on to the next one. Myra sat against the door and ate piroshkis from a bag she'd picked up earlier, unable to take her eyes off Ginny's face. Every now and then Ginny would walk over and lean down for a bite of Myra's piroshki.
Finally every bucket had been sampled, with silent opinions appearing to weigh heavily on Ginny's shoulders. She put the brush into a can of water and settled down next to Myra, opening a bottle of Odwalla. She took a long drag, then rifled the bag for a fresh piroshki.
"Anything to report?" asked Myra.
"I have to think about it. I need to wait until it's nighttime and see how things look with just moonlight in the rooms and also with the new overhead lights on."
"Okay. What do we do until then?"
"I've got seed catalogues, we could talk vegetable garden. After I'm done eating."
"Now that I know something about" said Myra. "My mama grew much of what we ate; wed've gone hungry a lot more often if she hadn't."
Ginny pushed her shoulder against Myra's tenderly. "What's number one on your veggie list?"
"Tomatoes" said Myra promptly. "I used to sneak out when she wasn't looking, ducking down behind the row, and hook a ripe one, warmed through by the sun, with a thin coating of dust on it. Nothing ever tested better. I'd have to lean over to eat it so the dribbling juice didn't land on my shirt and give me away later."
("Tomatoes on the Vine" by Kelly Cameron)
"Tomatoes are very, very primal female" agreed Ginny.
Myra looked speculative. "What?" said Ginny.
"I was just remembering...Mama always tried to grow watermelons and canteloupes, it being the perfect climate for it and all. But sometimes yard space was hard to come by. She devised this trick of building a trellis that went 5 feet up into the air, and she'd train the canteloupe vine up the trellis. When it flowered and produced a little green beginning 'loupe, she took rags torn into strips and tied them to the trellis like little hammocks, and she'd lay a baby loupe into each hammock. That way the vine didn't spread out and take up precious garden space, and the canteloupes were supported in mid-air. I used to sneak out there, too, behind the trellis when the canteloupes got to medium-sized. I'd reach my hand under the hammock and helf that globe slowly up and down; I couldn't get enough of the feel of it in my palm."
Ginny was laughing. "A lesbian in training!"
"And I knew enough to keep it secret" said Myra. She took a drink of Ginny's Odwalla.
The next morning, when Ginny was getting dressed, she went through her T-shirt drawer in growing exasperation, then shut it irritably and opened Myra's drawers. She pulled out one of Myra's large white Fruit of the Loom shirts and began pulling it on.
Myra, almost awake, said "Hey. You keep stealing my shirts."
"They're comfy." Ginny wiggled adorably, running her hands over the shirt.
"Yeah, but you use 'em to paint in. Which means I can't wear 'em again. You need to buy your own set."
"Or you could just buy extra" grinned Ginny.
Myra sighed. "Okay."
Ginny sat down on the bed next to her. "Even wearing a shirt at all is something I do only if other people are going to be around."
"I know, Ginny. Believe me, I like how you dress. Or don't."
"Why don't you go naked more often?"
Myra pushed her brain to wake all the way up. "I don't know. I get cold, for one thing. It's chilly here all the fucking time. And -- around you, my snatch is always a little wet, I need to wear pants or I'd leave spots every time I sat down."
Ginny giggled. "I know, that's why I keep my cunt aired out. This baby's gotta breathe."
Myra began giggling with her. "I read that in nudist colonies, everybody's expected to carry a towel with them wherever they go. For sitting on."
Ginny got up again and opened the closet door, looking at her side. "The truth is, My, I'm not happy with my wardrobe these days."
"What's wrong with it?"
"Most of my dress-up clothes were bought with work in mind. But since I'm not going back to my job -- or rather, my job has changed -- I could have any kind of fancy clothes I want. Plus the everyday stuff for around the house."
"So, go get what you want" said Myra, sitting up. "I've noticed you only have two pairs of jeans."
"I'm not wild about jeans. I like pants that flow, like drawstring pants. I like velvet, and silk, and jersey or wool knits. And color."
"Like that red shirt?" said Myra, reminiscently.
"Vermilion" corrected Ginny. "And yes."
"So get things like that."
"I don't see them very often. Not in the color and fabric I want. You know, when I went to the fabric store to pick out the leather for recovering our daybeds, I walked past racks and tables full of the most fabulous materials. It was like being in a paint store."
Myra slid her feet over the side of the best. "So make your own, then."
"I don't know how to sew. But you do, don't you, honey?" Ginny's voice was suggestive.
"No way. It's very time consuming, and I don't have the skills to design stuff, anyhow." Myra headed for the bathroom. Ginny trailed after her. As Myra sat down on the toilet, Ginny stood in front of her and pulled Myra's face into her belly.
"Maybe I could find someone to make clothes for me -- based on my design. I've always dreamed of a certain kind of tunic...And I could pick out all the fabric." Ginny's voice was getting excited.
"Mmm...Sounds good. Call Jen, I remember her talking about a friend of hers who made clothes, I think. Have you had breakfast?"
"No, I was waiting on you. I could make Ginny eggs."
"Yum. And toast me an onion bagel, will you? I'm going to shower first."
"And wash off my smell all over you?"
"Just for now. You can repaint my canvas later."
Ginny bent down and kissed Myra, then went to the kitchen.
A couple of days later, Ginny got off the phone and said "Jen's friend is named Belva. I'm going over there now, to get measured and talk ideas with her. Then I'm going to shop for material! You want to go with?"
"Not really. I told Chris I'd meet her for lunch downtown."
When Myra got home, she put on a pot of black beans to soak and carried Alice to her desk, where they began work on reshaping a trio of poems Myra hoped to submit to a special issue of Calyx. After an hour, she shuffled back into the kitchen and chopped onions and garlic, adding these to the beans along with cracked black pepper and a sprig of thyme. She brought the beans to a boil, turned it down to a simmer, and started a pot of brown rice. She handed a treat to Juju, then set a lovely piece of halibut to marinate in teriyaki sauce. As she headed back to her study, the front door opened and Ginny came in, her cheeks rosy, her arms full of bags.
"Come to the bedroom, show me what you got" called Myra.
Ginny was exuberant, dumping all the fabrics onto Myra's bed in a huge heap. The hues and patterns were dazzling, the textures sumptuous. Alice found the materials as irresistible as Myra did, and had to be redirected several times. Ginny rattled on about what each length was going to become, showing Myra sketches, until she reached the bottom of the pile.
She held up a fold of soft wool in a rich, warm brown spangled with golden shooting stars. "What do you think of this?" said Ginny.
"Oh, god, that's the most beautiful yet" marveled Myra, taking it from her. "It feels like cream to the touch, and this pattern -- I've never seen anything like it."
"It's your colors, Myra. The colors in your eyes. I got it for you."
"For me? But -- "
Ginny pulled a tape measure from her pocket. "Stand up, angel. I know how to measure now. I'm going to get her to make you an outfit from this."
They had a lot of fun taking Myra's dimensions. When they were done with that and with the subsequent necking, Ginny said "The red and white horizontal stripe you liked, too? I'm going to get her to make us matching Mo shirts from that. Just for fun."
"We can never wear those out in public together, not as a couple. You understand that" said Myra severely.
"I know, Allie would disown us. Listen, I'm going to run all this over to Belva's, I'll be back soon."
"I'll wait on broiling the fish until you're here."
"I'll do a salad. I'm taking Juju with me." With a last kiss and a rustle of bags, Ginny was off, Juju dancing along beside her.
At dinner, Myra said "We need to get the housepainting done. I'm itching to move."
"Okay, let's talk schedule. I also need to refinish the table. And then I think we should hire movers for hauling the big stuff."
They made notes on a legal pad. Myra said "The kitchen counters are finished, and the flagstone floor went down today. Wanna go over after dinner and look at our new kitchen?"
On the drive over, Myra's Honda registered in the hot zone. When they got there, Myra popped the hood and looked at the radiator. She explained some rudiments of the internal combustion engine to Ginny. After a while, she said "It's the water pump, dammit."
"We'll call Sadie in the morning, have it towed."
"Maybe" said Myra. "This might be something I could do."
"But why, Myra? We can afford the repair."
"Well, we can afford to have someone else refinish the table, or paint the house. How about if tomorrow, you start on the table and I replace the water pump? Just for the ethic of doing things ourselves when we can."
"Okay" grinned Ginny.
"Wow, this front yard has been completely destroyed, with all the construction, huh. Good thing you potted up your roses and gave 'em to Ms. Schevitz to watch."
"Yeah. That glass brick wall on the front bedroom is so gorgeous, Myra."
"But look how, with the light on inside, you can still see into the bedroom. At least shadows. That's gonna be a problem for privacy."
"I'm planning to plant bamboo all along the front of the window."
"Doesn't bamboo take over?" asked Myra.
"Not the clumping kind. And then maybe daylilies, and then all my roses and garlic."
"Garlic?" Myra looked like she hadn't heard right.
"Yeah, roses like garlic. And we'll always have fresh garlic for cooking."
They walked into the house. The dining table, along with 16 chairs, had been delivered and put into the studio.
"The linoleum back here really looks like stone" marveled Myra.
"But oh so easy to clean up. This cherry parquet in your study is going to be fabulous against the dark wood of your desk. And I'm thinking you should go with the moss green for your walls, instead of the lighter green."
"Wasabi green, is what I've been calling it. Yeah, I agree. Serious green for a serious writer. I can't believe you're doing just plain white for your studio, though."
"To avoid color reflection. But I'm going with a saffron leather for my daybed."
Myra asked "And dark green leather for my daybed?"
"A cross between olive and jade."
They had wandered back into the kitchen. "I'm glad we went with this granite for the counters -- what was its name, black impala? Remind me to buy a huge butcher block, though, for cutting veggies" said Myra.
Ginny hopped up on the counter and pulled Myra to her. "Remember kissing me here, that first night we came to my house?"
"I'll never forget that kiss, Ginny. Mmmm....shall we break in our new kitchen?"
"Let me lean forward on you a sec so I can slide down these pants..."
It was almost 10:00 by the time they left. Myra said "I don't feel good about driving my car as it is. Let's walk down to 15th and catch a bus."
"Or a cab. Tomorrow before we come back, I need to stop by the hardware store" said Ginny, linking her arm through Myra's as they walked down the hill.
"And I need to buy a water pump, maybe a tool or two."
"If the weather holds, we could start on actual painting the day after."
"When do we call in the crew to install our pool?" asked Myra.
"And hottub" reminded Ginny. "Whenever we want. Once that's in, we can deal with the backyard wreckage, have the downstairs deck built."
"Plus raised beds for vegetables!" said Myra.
"Uh-huh, and a new tree for the back corner. I need to talk with the Limons behind us, make sure they're okay with a Japanese maple that will eventually shade a portion of their yard."
"Planting trees. That's a permanent step to take, Ginny Bates."
"My point exactly" grinned Ginny.
The next morning, after an early breakfast, they ran their errands in Ginny's car and got to the house by 10:00. Myra helped Ginny carry the table out to a spread tarp in the churned-up back yard. They changed into work clothes, and Myra went to her Honda, idiot book in hand.
Two hours later, she had finally managed to get the old water pump off. The space available for hands to maneuver in a Honda engine was brutally tight, and one bolt was recalcitrant. She finaly hopped in Ginny's car and went back to the auto parts store for some penetrating oil, and that enabled her to muscle the fucker loose.
As she was examining the water pump, trying to verify that it was in fact malfunctioning, Ginny came to the carport, covered in wood dust and sweat, her mouth mask propped on her forehead.
"I'm hungry. Let's get takeout from Aux Delice."
They walked over, placed an order, then sat on the bench out front so as to not disturb the other customers with their mismatching grime. They washed their hands back at the house, and sat on their new stairs, the light from the clerestory windows in the stairwell restoring Myra's mood. They refilled their take-out cups with ice water from the new refrigerator's door, and kissed before parting.
When Myra went back to her car, Ms. Schevitz was out front, working in her garden. She straightened up and walked across the street to chat with Myra. A small woman with keen black eyes and iron-grey hair, she had an East Coast accent Myra could never quite nail down.
"How're our roses doing?" Myra asked.
"As well as they can in pots" said Ms. Schevitz.
"Well, we sure appreciate you babysitting 'em. Sometime in the next week, we should be able to return them home. I bet all this construction has made us pretty unpopular on this street."
"Feh, don't worry about it. That crew you hired, they were faster than most. And almost all women, I noticed. Means I never had to worry about pishers relieving themselves against my garage door."
"And you, what are you doing here with your car?"
"Replacing the water pump. I hope."
"I never saw women do all the things you and Ginny and your friends do. Just goes to show, doesn't it?"
"Indeed. Listen, Ginny's in the back stripping our future dining table, go on through the house and say hello if you want."
"All right. If you want lemonade or some tea later, come knock on my door."
"Thanks, Ms. Schevitz." Myra leaned over and gave her a peck on her cheek. Ms. Schevitz dimpled and went into the house.
By the time Ms. Schevitz passed back by, Myra was bent over in the bowels of the engine. Getting the water pump back in, aligned with the parts around it, was even harder. She struggled for three hours. Her hands got slick, from sweat as well as oil, and as she was trying a new technique involving using a big screwdriver as a lever against a flange where her hand was holding it steady, the screwdriver slipped around the metal and struck her left forefinger.
She didn't even feel the pain at first. With a jerk, she managed to get the flange seated properly, and stood up in relief. Then she noticed a drop of blood on the side of her car, and looked at her hands. A very deep, screwdriver-wide gash was pooling dark red blood on the last digit of her left finger. As she watched it, the throb hit. She looked around for something to wipe it with, but all her rags were filthy. Loosely wrapped the cleanest of these around her hand, just to catch drips, she walked into the house and went to the bathroom.
Running water of any temperature over the gash was agonizing. Still, she persisted, washing it out as best she could. The bleeding didn't want to stop. She wrapped toilet paper around her finger until it was a bulbous thick wad of paper and no blood showed through. She applied pressure, crying out loud at the pain, and sat down on the toilet. She felt a little shocky.
She was not aware of how much time passed. She was afraid to look at her wound, afraid it was really bad. She sat leaned forward on the toilet lid, trying not to pass out, waiting until she felt able to stand up again and go finish her job.
Suddenly she heard Ginny say "Myra?" She looked up at Ginny in the doorway. Ginny looked at the bloody sink, then Myra's hand, and said "Oh my god, darling, what happened to you?"
Myra burst into tears. "I cut my hand. I can't get it on, Ginny, it's too hard!"
Ginny sat down on the edge of the tub next to Myra and pulled Myra into her arms. Myra kept sobbing "I need to call Gil and ask him how to do this, what am I doing wrong, but I can't, I can't ever call him again!"
"Oh, angel, I know. It's okay, I'm here. You don't have to do this alone, we'll figure it out." Ginny kissed Myra's face and held her until Myra could think again.
"Myra, let me look at your hand."
"No, Ginny, I'm scared to look at it."
"Then don't you look, but I have to." Ginny gently unwrapped the toilet paper. The last layers were completely soaked with blood, and had to be teased away from Myra's skin. Ginny sucked in her breath, and Myra had to peek.
"Honey, this has to have stitches. It's not bleeding, but we can't leave it like this."
Myra nodded miserably.
"I'm going to wash up and change clothes. The table is stripped and cleaned off, I covered with a drop cloth and can begin finishing it tomorrow. Once I'm ready, we're going to the emergency room, okay?"
"What about my car?"
"I'll put your tools away and call Sadie to have it towed to her shop. I'll do that from Ms. Schevitz's and leave her the key, okay? Here, lean over and drink as much water as you can from the sink while I wash up. Is your hand hurting?"
"Like a motherfucker."
"I don't have any aspirin or anything with me, dammit."
"That's okay, Ginny. I should wait for the ER, see what they want to give me."
Ginny had stripped and was rinsing sawdust from her hair. She soaped down her body, squatting in the tub, and used the new showerhose to rinse off.
"No towels. Well, I'll use the second T-shirt I brought to dry off as much as I can...Okay, Myra, let's try standing you up. Are you dizzy?"
"Lean on me, I'll walk you to my car, you can sit there while I deal with your car."
At the emergency room, they had to wait two hours to be seen by a doctor. After Ginny raised a ruckus, they did give Myra some pain medication. Ginny got her a Coke and some peanut butter crackers from vending machines, which with the pain pill helped Myra settle back and close her eyes.
Once they were back at Myra's flat, Ginny washed Myra in her tub, Myra holding her bandaged hand in the air to keep it dry. Ginny dried her off, too, but Myra was able to dress herself in sweats and T-shirt. As Ginny began making soup and toast, she handed Myra the phone and said "Call Allie. Talk to her and stay awake until you can eat, okay?"
Allie wasn't home, so Myra called Chris and told her story there. Chris didn't laugh at all, and offered to come over.
"No, Ginny's got it covered. As soon as I eat, I'm going to crash. This pain medication is making me goofy."
"Then call me tomorrow. Dammit, Myra -- no, you just rest, I'll talk with you tomorrow. Take care of yourself, Myra. I love you."
Chris seldom said things like I love you. Myra was touched as she hung up the phone.
She had to sleep on the opposite side of the bed from usual to keep her hand elevated on a pillow. Ginny spooned her from behind all night. In the morning, her throbbing hand woke her up. Ginny got her a glass of milk and a banana to eat right away, so she could take another pain pill. Then she made breakfast, complete with hash browns, and brought it to Myra in bed.
As they ate, Ginny said "Okay, change of plans. We're going to get more help, Myra. We're only going to do the jobs we really, really want to do. I think maybe you can't let yourself off the hook, responsibility wise, so I will be questioning you as we go along. Is that okay with you?"
Myra nodded, then handed the catsup bottle to Ginny so she could get the lid off.
"I do really want to be the one to paint our bedroom" said Ginny. "And I have to do the stairwell, because of how I've planned the color progression. And the children's bedroom. But the rest of the house? I'm calling the same folks who are doing the outside tomorrow and asking them to do the inside as well. I'm letting go of as much as I can, saving myself for the best, and I want you to follow my lead, Myra."'
"Okay. These hashed browns are as good as I've ever had, Ginny."
Ginny grinned in pride. "I put butter in the pan instead of oil."
"How are you feeling? Are you able to get out of bed today?"
"Oh, yeah. As long as the pills hold out, I can do anything." Myra meant it, too.
"Then after I make some calls, let's use the blessing of another sunny day. Let's go back to the house, complete with first aid kit and books, foods, comforts for you. You can sit on one of the new chairs in the backyard -- I only had to clean those off, not refinish them. I'll do the table while you rest. Then we'll come back here and curl up together, watch movies."
"Sounds good. I need to call Chris back."
"Oh, yeah, I forgot, Allie called after you went to sleep. She gives you her love."
"Could we have them all over for dinner tonight? I mean, you'll have to cook."
"I'd cry if I weren't so high. I've never in my life had somebody pick up the slack for me like this."
"About time, Myra."
The following Monday, with painters inside and outside the house, Ginny declared it to be "vermilion day" and drove Myra over to the house so she could paint their bedroom.
"I can't handle a roller yet" said Myra, "but I could use a brush on the parts next to the trim."
"Are you sure you want to?" asked Ginny, looking at her critically.
"Uh-huh. This color is so luscious, it makes my heart race to look at it."
"Yeah, same here."
As they transformed their bedroom, they talked.
"Ms. Schevitz's accent, Ginny -- what is that?"
"Boston Jew, honey. Her parents came from Galicia."
"And she's widowed, right?"
"Yeah, a while ago. She has a niece and nephew here. They never had kids. From what I can tell, Myra, she and her husband were Wobblies."
"Wow. No wonder she's cool. I'm glad she's our neighbor."
"She was so sweet to me as I was moving in. She's the one who told me about the people down the street with puppies, said I should have a dog to share this big house with. Not a husband, a dog."
"So that's how you got Juju? From someone down the street?"
"Yep. Runt of the litter."
After another few minutes of silent working, Ginny said "So -- how are you going to feel about us having a son? Or sons?"
Myra lowered her brush and thought for a minute.
"To be completely honest, Ginny, I'd rather have girls. It's not that I prefer girls, per se -- "
"Coulda fooled me" laughed Ginny.
"No, I mean as children. I absolutely believe gender differences are the result of conditioning, Ginny. Anything that matters, anything to do with personality. And boys can't help what's coming at them any more than girls can. But at some point, we do become responsible for sorting out the lies. So my slack for men, especially piggy men, is way shorter."
"I agree with you about the conditioning thing, Myra. That's why I'm fine about having a son."
"I trust us, Ginny. But boys have to grow up in this world, too. I've seen so many wonderful, brilliant, loving women raise sons as best they can, and those boys turn out to be awful men. It's not up to the mothers alone."
Ginny was silent a moment, then ventured. "Like your mom."
"Well, yeah. So, if we have a boy -- I'm scared about it. Scared about how he might turn against us."
"That's hard to hear, Myra. What if a daughter turns against us?"
"I know that's possible, too. But all parenting is a grand experiment, Ginny. You learn as you go along, unfortunately. I'm willing to do my best with a boy. I mean, you don't have men in your life, either. What is that about, are you like that 50% of lesbians who don't like men enough to have more than the token friend and of course the family they were raised with, but god forbid somebody should call them a separatist?"
Ginny laughed. "Like Jewelle Gomez says, 'I don't hate men, I hate the patriarchy'? Yeah, maybe. I know I'm a cultural separatist, except for my family and of course little boys. But I do prefer female-only space, and I'm not afraid to admit it."
"Well, and for me the caveat extends to men of color. In fact, I'd rather be in a mixed race, mixed gender situation than with just white women. I had to get over my discomfort about race, about not knowing what to do or say when I was one of only a couple of white folks in a room."
"Boot camp with Allie and Chris, huh?" asked Ginny.
"Some. But I did it without them, too. And you'll need to, also. For one thing, with me, you and Sima there, it's already three strong white presences."
"Makes me think, any son we have is going to grow up surrounded by powerful women. Aside from my dad, I can't think of a male we'll be giving him access to." Ginny looked dismayed.
"I know. But I don't think I'm willing to manufacture a relationship with a man just to achieve a balance. Not when they run the fucking world the way they do. He's going to be exposed to male domination soon enough."
"And if the point is, Myra, what are the human values we want to impart -- which I believe feminist values are, at baseline, what human beings would choose if they weren't clobbered by sexism -- "
"Exactly, Ginny. Plus, aren't Pat and Patty planning to have kids?"
"Yeah. At least two, like us."
"Well, the average in lesbian births is running 75% male. We'll likely be awash in boys eventually" said Myra.
"Or we could just stick to puppies" laughed Ginny.
"And kittens" added Myra. "Holy moly, look at this wall, Ginny. It's a thing to behold."
When the painters finished, the living and dining room were cobalt, the spare bedroom was a light pumpkin with mocha accents, the guest bathroom was butter yellow with cornflower blue tile, Ginny and Myra's bathroom was aquamarine with bright white tile, Myra's study was an olive-jade green, Ginny's studio was cream, the second bedroom upstairs was robin's egg blue with ivory trim, the children's bathroom was cyan with pale peach tile, and the upstairs hall was mango. The only areas left undone were the children's bedroom and the stairwell.
When Allie came over to see the transformation, she walked from room to room and finally said "I feel like Frida Kahlo blew through here." Ginny's face lit up, and Myra said "You just paid her the biggest compliment ever."
"So, what's the plan, Stan, for the stairwell?" asked Allie.
"My concept is that you rise from the ocean, all this blue down here, to the light of the sun in the upper hall. As you go, you pass through the visible spectrum -- green to yellow to mauve to the hall. With occasional sundogs of violet and red. It'll mean fading and feathering." Ginny gave a surreptitious nod of her head in Myra's direction, but Myra saw it.
"And I can't manage the technique, is that what you're implying, Ginny?" asked Myra.
"Well, you're not completely healed yet from your injury -- " Ginny temporized. Allie was grinning.
"Oh, hell, Ginny, it's okay, I'm not a painter, I can admit that. I'm going to unpack books and arrange my desk while I blast some music" said Myra.
Ginny kissed her cheek and said "You'll be part of the mural process in the children's room, I promise."
Myra put Sweet Honey on the turntable and sat down in her fancy new desk chair to make a plan for her books. Not everything would fit in her study -- children's books could be put in their room upstairs, and reference books she didn't need instantly at hand could be stashed in the shelves that would line the stair landing once the painting was done. After a couple of minutes, Allie poked her head around the door from the kitchen and said "Would it be okay if you turned that up? I'd like to hear it."
"Shu-wah" said Myra, spinning around to adjust the volume. As the next song began and her speakers were belting out lyrics, she realized she didn't want to work, she wanted to watch Allie and Ginny. She walked through the kitchen to join them, singing
"By the rivers of Babylon
Where we sat down
And there we wept
When we remembered Zion
The wicked carry us away
Captivity required from us a song
How can we sing King Alpha's song in a strange land?
So let the words of our mouth
And the meditations of our hearts
Be acceptable in thy sight
Myra sat on the landing as Allie and Ginny mixed a couple of small buckets and sat down on the bottom step, one on either side, to begin their rise from the deep.
"What is the ceiling going to be?" asked Myra.
"And what are you going to do about these walls up here at the top?" asked Myra.
"Rollers" said Ginny.
"Can you feather with rollers?" asked Myra.
Ginny grinned at her. "I can."
Allie said "Switch sides with me -- I'm left-handed, I should be where you are."
They exchanged sides of the stair, and after a few minutes of focus on the painting, Allie asked "Now, tell me about this mural idea you got."
"Hmmmm" said Ginny, distracted for a moment. Her side was already done as high as she could reach. She poured the paint from her bucket into a roller pan and screwed an extender onto a roller brush, standing up to reach the high corner of the wall. Finally she answered "The bottom section of the bedroom walls all the way around, we're going to cover with this new stuff they've got, it's a two-coat process, that dries into something like a blackboard. So the kids can draw on the walls all they want."
"Art indoctrination" said Myra.
"Yes, but also pragmatism" grinned Ginny.
"What about the doors and the closet?" asked Allie.
"Glossy washable enamel on the doors, except the outside of the closet is all mirror" answered Myra.
"So the upper walls -- all the way around the room will be a thread of rivers, lakes and oceans, with scenes from children's books on the banks. All different kinds of landscapes and characters. And the ceiling will be a starry sky, with a moon and then the sun coming up in one corner, and it too will be filled with children's book characters who fly" said Ginny.
"Not just books, but also some movies and cartoons" said Myra.
Ginny frowned slighty. "Mostly books, though, Myra. I don't want to get too pop-culture."
Myra snorted. "All literature was once pop culture, in its day."
"You know what I mean. Mary Poppins from the P.L Travers' books instead of Disney."
"Gimme an idea of what I'll be needing to draw" said Allie. "I may need to bone up."
Ginny laughed. "Myra has an outrageous stack of children's books she's bought, in addition to what she already had, you'll have anything you need to look at."
"Research" insisted Myra. "Plus, for the kids to read."
"I'm not complaining" said Ginny.
"I got a list" said Myra, pulling out her notebook and flipping through the pages. "Here we go: Madeleine L'Engle's series, The Secret Garden, Joan of Arc, Pocahontas, Eloise, anything by Edith Nesbit, Alice in Wonderland, Trixie Belden, Heidi, Winnie the Pooh, The Wizard of Oz -- "
"No Flying Monkeys" interjected Ginny.
"Why not? They're fantastic creatures" argued Myra.
"Too scary" said Ginny.
"Well, scary is often part of children's literature. I mean, the Billy Goats Gruff, Little Red Riding Hood -- "
"Not those either" said Ginny. "Normal drama is okay, but no monsters or horror stories."
Myra looked obdurate, and sat silently for a minute. Ginny stayed focused on her painting. Myra finally began reading again: "Mary Poppins we already said, Heather and her Two Mommies, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Little Women, Beatrix Potter, Ginger Pye, Narnia, the Bobbsey Twins, Water Babies, the Marguerite Henry horse books, Really Rosie -- "
"What's that one?" asked Allie.
"Oh, yeah. What about Pippi?"
"Got her" said Myra. Then she said, looking at Ginny, "How about Maurice Sendak? Lots of his books have monsters or goblins in them."
"He's okay" said Ginny.
"But what makes those okay?"
"They're just not as scary" said Ginny, finally stopping to look at Myra.
"Did you have a bad experience with the Flying Monkeys, is that what this is?" asked Myra.
"I was terrified of them, yes, but that's not all I'm talking about" said Ginny. Allie was grinning to herself.
Myra sucked her teeth for a minute, then resumed reading. "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, Pollyanna, Limberlost and Freckles, Five Little Peppers, the Boxcar Children, The Adventures of Perrine, Island of the Blue Dolphins -- "
Allie interrupted again, staring at Myra. "Every one of those you just read was about orphans."
"Well...I guess my mama pushed that theme on me, her being adopted and all."
"Yeah, but I read 'em too, Myra."
"Well, Allie..." Myra looked at her gently.
"Okay, go on."
"Harriet the Spy, Robin Hood, Madeline, Babar, Danitra Brown, Ramona and Katie John, Swallows and Amazons, All of a Kind Family, Charlotte's Web, Wind in the Willows -- "
"Now those critters were so faggy" said Allie.
"I know" agreed Myra. "Badger, he was like a Daddy Bear. And Mr. Toad -- "
"Drama queen" said Allie.
Myra resumed: "Stuart Little, Podkayne of Mars, To Kill a Mockingbird, Peter Pan of course, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Judy Blume's books, and those of Joan Aiken, Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Pecos Bill, Dr. Seuss, Little House on the Prairie, all the Green Knowe books, Julie of the Wolves, Linnea in Monet's Garden -- "
"I never heard of that one" said Allie.
"It's new" said Ginny. "Fabulous book about Impressionism."
"Strawberry Girl, Baba Yaga, A Hundred Dresses..." Myra's voice trailed off. "That one just about killed me when I was a kid and read it."
"I don't know it" said Ginny. "Is it too sad to be on the list?"
Myra looked at her. Allie spoke up. "It's about a girl who wears the same dress every day, because she's so poor, but brags she has a hundred dresses in her closet. The other girls trash her constantly for it."
Ginny stopped painting and looked at Myra. "Why does she lie about it?"
"She's not lying. She's this amazing artist, and she draws dress designs, over a hundred of them. But they don't find out until after she's moved away" said Myra. She swallowed to keep from crying.
Ginny blew her a kiss and said "Definitely on the list, then."
Myra took a breath and looked at her list. "Goodnight Moon -- the author of that, she slept with women."
"No shit?" said Allie.
"And also You Are The Rain, which is by May Swenson's lesbian lover."
(May Swenson, poet, and partner Zan Knudsen, author of "You Are The Rain")
"I didn't know that, either" said Ginny.
"That's what we got so far" said Myra. "But it's still way too white, European, even."
"Sacagawea" said Allie. "Harriet Tubman. Ishi."
"The Five Chinese Brothers" remembered Ginny. "La Llorona."
"Oh, and Lawrence Yep's books" said Myra, writing these down.
"Sounder" said Allie. "The People Could Fly, Cornrows, Ashanti to Zulu, Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World -- "
"Damn, girl, slow down" said Myra. "What's that last one?"
"It's new, about black cowboys."
"Far out" said Myra. "Oh, and Anne Cameron has at least one kid's book out."
"Buffalo Woman, and The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses" said Allie.
"Sounder. Call It Courage. And Now Miguel" added Ginny.
"I, Juan de Pareja" said Allie. "Anpao."
They all fell silent at the same time.
"Hell of a list" said Ginny, eventually.
"Hell of a mural" agreed Allie.
"And now I got a lot more books to buy" said Myra happily. "In fact -- " She got to her feet.
Ginny laughed. "You haven't put away what you've got already. But go, anything at all for our future children, who better count on reading to the exclusion of all other activity, from the looks of it."
Myra kissed her on her way past.
"Hey, My?" asked Allie. "While you're out, if you're near a Top Pot, will you grab some doughnuts? And a big cup of their coffee for me."
"Chocolate cake and maple raised, right?"
"Yeah" said Allie.
"In fact, Myra, we'll be hungry by the time you get back. How about getting some takeout for us?" added Ginny.
"Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai?" asked Myra.
"Japanese" said Ginny. "Go to Aoki's and get sushi. Yellowtail and eel, for sure."
"Plus ton katsu for me" said Allie.
Myra went to Red and Black and ordered all the books from Annie. Then she stopped at a local coffee retail outlet -- not Starbuck's, she refused to support them -- and bought the best espresso machine they had, plus several kinds of international coffee beans and a grinder. She got a dozen doughnuts and then stopped for Japanese food last. When she got home, she carried in the coffee machine and set it on the counter, calling out a hello. Ginny and Allie were out of sight, on the upper flight of stairs. Returning with a second armload of food and coffee, she found Ginny and Allie in the kitchen, marveling at the new machine. Allie hugged Myra around all the bags in her arms.
"You'll have to teach me how to make a decent cuppa" said Myra happily. Ginny dug into the sushi and began mixing wasabi with soy sauce as Allie set up the machine and chose beans for this initial brew. Myra crunched sweet potato tempura and fed Allie alternating bites until the coffee was made. Ginny had finished her share of the sushi and looked longingly at Myra's teriyaki. Myra spooned some onto Ginny's plate and added the tempura mushrooms, Ginny's favorite. They finally sat down at the table, instead of standing in the kitchen, to finish their meal. The smell of coffee and fresh paint was so thick in the air it was almost visible.
"Where are the books?" asked Ginny suddenly.
"I thought of another to add to the list, Tuck Everlasting."
Myra scowled and said "Absolutely not."
Ginny was astonished. "What's wrong with that book?"
"It's a nuke fam family that becomes immortal and can't separate from each other for all time. The kids can't ever go out on their own, nobody ever develops independence. What a horrible fucking idea" said Myra vehemently.
"Well, when you look at it that way..." conceded Ginny.
"But I realized I left off some important stuff, too. Wonder Woman -- "
Allie exclaimed around her seaweed salad "How on earth did we forget about her? And Storm, for godsakes?"
"Yep, and an even more reprehensible oversight: Ripley. With Newt, of course."
Ginny stopped chewing and said "Uh..."
Myra's face went stony. "What?"
"My -- no aliens, okay? Ripley and Newt, yeah, but no monsters, especially not the worst monsters of all time. And no guns."
Myra blew. "You can't fucking have Ripley without her flamethrower, that's just ridiculous. And the name of the whole damned series is Aliens, you've got to have some indication of what she's fighting against!"
Ginny dug in her heels. "No weapons on the walls of our children's bedroom. And no monsters. I mean, Myra, it's not even a book, it's a movie."
"But it's not just a movie, Ginny, not to me, and you fucking well know that!"
"I do, and it's extremely important to me, too, now. Myra, I'm not trying to censor you, it's just a question of protecting our children from ideas and images before they're developmentally ready to handle it."
Myra resumed eating, chewing angrily. Ginny put her hand on Myra's and said "I don't want us to fight about this."
"Yeah, which means I have to fucking give in" said Myra.
Ginny was silent for half a minute, then said "Yeah. You do."
Which made Myra giggle. "Well at least you have the eggs to admit it. You know, everybody talks about how bossy Leos are, but they can't hold a candle to Aquarius!"
Ginny and Allie grinned at each other. Allie said to Myra "Listen, when your kids are twelve, I'll personally come over and paint Ripley flaming a nest of embryos on any wall you want."
Myra gave her a high five and said "You're on."
Ginny raised her eyebrows, but kept quiet, instead reaching for another piece of Myra's tempura.
The window-wall at the front of their house, fronting the living room, was the same glass as on the back walls of the house, very thick and faintly blue-green, reminding Myra of the 1960s. The light it allowed into the living room, filtered through the mass of hydrangeas out front, was also faintly blue, or perhaps that was backwash from the cobalt walls of the room. But Myra and Ginny had installed a horseshoe of track lights facing the fireplace, and in these sockets were full-spectrum lights that mimicked the sun, so on a sunny day there might be two different kinds of light splashing around the room, bouncing back and forth from the white ceiling to the blonde pine floors.
Well -- Myra referred to the ceiling as white, but Ginny jumped on her, saying it was actually "snow". Myra replied that snow was white, with a 'duh' tone in her voice. Ginny strode back to her studio and returned with a tube of Titanium White, squeezed a messy dollop onto Myra's forearm and said "Hold that up to the ceiling, now that's white". Myra conceded the point irritably as she tried to get the paint off with paper towels.
And the floors were technically longleaf yellow southern pine, a name that Myra loved to roll around in her mouth -- she wanted to find a way to use it in a poem. The wood had been salvaged from another old building, stripped and laid down over their new radiant heating system, then varnished and the edges hidden with a matching trim of yellow pine. The fireplace surround and mantle was also resurrected old pine. Ginny declared warm and cool to be in balance here at the front of the house. It certainly was a lovely place to sit and read, or take a nap, or play with small children on the floor.
Cobalt extended down the hall toward the back on the right as you came in the front door, although the left side of that hall was all glass, framing off the dining room. And it was cobalt in the short hall toward Myra and Ginny's bedroom, but swam through the rainbow up to mango at the very top of the stairs. The kitchen was mostly white cabinets with glass insets or white tile, except for the glossy black granite counters and the stainless steel appliances. The kitchen was Myra's laboratory, and its color came from the food she assembled there. The flagstone floor was just stone-looking -- Ginny had a name for its color, but Myra could never remember it.
The pine floors stretched into Myra and Ginny's bedroom, which was definitely the hottest room in the house, in every sense of the word. It wasn't just the vermilion walls, or the wall of frosted glass brick whose light was much warmer than the other glass in the house. Twice a week Ginny cut yellow and orange floribundas and arranged them in a brass vase on their dresser, bits of flame that drew the eye. The ceiling here, too, was white except not-white, something Ginny called nacre, a word Myra kept meaning to look up. And the Roman blinds giving them privacy at night -- for their glass wall faced the street, and all of Ginny's profusion of roses and screen of bamboo in front was not enough to keep anyone on the sidewalk from observing the silhouette of what they got up to in their king-size bed -- the shades they had custom-made were also supposed to be nacre.
Except Ginny found them to be off, not quite right, a subtle difference Myra simply could not see. At least once a week Ginny commented on the "shades that are the wrong shade" with an aggrieved tone. She said it was too expensive to have them redone. But several years later, Myra wished she had insisted they replace them. Ginny almost never repeated herself, and this weekly complaint irritated Myra all the more for its rarity in Ginny's behavior. Myra mostly counted on the fact that despite how extraordinarily well she knew Ginny, and how four times out of five she could predict the general sense of what Ginny would think about a given topic, still, the particular of how Ginny would express herself never failed to interest Myra. I mean, interest her all the way down to her bones. And that one time out of five, when she had Ginny pegged completely wrong, well, that kept things exciting.
Myra left lights on during the day in the house. The solar collecting panels on their new roof provided 40% of their electricity, and Myra said this was one area she needed extravagance: light. Real light, enough to remind her of Texas. She didn't want to come to resent living here in Greyopolis after years of light deprivation. Ginny the painter had no problem with how bright their indoor world was.
The color of the outside of the house was also left to Ginny, and it took her literally two weeks to settle on a deep, dark tone she called kale green. She wanted something that would absorb what warmth could be squeezed from cloudy skies, that would hide damp and mold, that would not clash with the glass walls, and would set off her mobs of flowers. Ginny chose a sapphire blue for the front door, glossy and thick. She had a small crescent window cut into the door and set with amber glass, so a floating golden moon often spilled onto the entryway floor when light poured through the peep.
Right after their first child was born, Ginny found an old beaten copper cornice or molding in a second hand shop, something that had one been part of a larger frieze, perhaps, depicting a tumult of salmon fighting their way up a cataract. Some idiot had painted it, so she was able to buy it on the cheap. She stripped it down to gleaming glory, and found a way to attach it to the front door outside where it would not drip green tarnish onto the wood. After that, when directing people to their house it was easy to say "Look for the green house with the blue door, with the fish swimming under the moon." By the time their first-born was in high school, the patina on the salmon was so beautiful, every time Ginny came home she stopped a moment to admire it.
Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
(Ginny and Myra's house on Roy Street, first floor -- Click on image for larger version)