Saturday, September 29, 2007


(The Fall of Icarus, by Marc Chagall)
Okay, by popular demand, here's another small excerpt from Ginny Bates, the Lesbian novel I'm writing. This takes place in 1998 when Myra and Ginny's two children are 10 (Margie) and 7 (Gillam). I chose this one because Matthew Shephard is in the news again today. The Quaker Meeting incident in this excerpt actually happened.

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.

Myra and Ginny don't let the children watch regular TV or any kind of violence. They have shabbos dinner every Friday night and sometimes go to chavurah with Congregation Tikvah Chadashah (Seattle's Lesbian and Gay congregation). The children are in Hebrew School, celebrate various other non-Christian religious observances, but once a month Myra takes them to Quaker Meeting as well.

Pat and Patty took Gillam and Margie for an overnight Saturday at their house. Hannah was out of town as well. With the house to themselves, Myra and Ginny made love on the living room floor (with Juju hiding on the stairs, waiting for it to be over). Afterward, they decided to take themselves out to a long romantic dinner at Ginny's favorite seafood place. Just as they were ready to leave the house, the phone rang. Myra answered; it was Patty.

"What's wrong?" said Myra. "Who's hurt?" Ginny appeared beside her instantly.

Patty said "Nobody's hurt, everything's fine." Myra made the okay signal to Ginny, who still stood there waiting.

"Pat was giving the boys haircuts, redoing Carly's crewcut, and Margie insists she wants a crewcut too. I told her we had to check with you."

Myra sighed. "Let me talk with her a minute."

When Margie got on the phone, her voice was loud and defiant. "Why can't I have a crewcut, it's not just boys can have them!"

"You're right, Margie, I know girls who have crewcuts. And they look really good on whoever is wearing them. The thing is -- you're gonna encounter public stupidity from people who think you must be a boy with your hair that way. They're wrong, and you may have to tell them they're wrong. We'll help you when we can. Are you up for that?"

"Of course" said Margie. "I already have too short hair for a girl, and I have to tell people about having two mothers."

"Do we need to have a talk about that, about what it's like for you to deal with all that kind of stuff from other people who don't know us?"

"Not right now, Mama, please, Pat's gonna put the buzzers away!"

"Okay, hang on just a sec, let me check with Ginny."

But Ginny had heard most of it, and with a resigned grin she said "Okay by me."

"Ginny says okay, too. Put Patty back on."

Margie shrieked with joy and dropped the phone. After a few seconds, Patty was there, giggling.

"We gave her the go-ahead. What about Gillam, does he want one too?"

"No, he says he's going to grow his hair out long" said Patty.

"Well, that's not gonna happen. Thanks for calling, Patty. We're going out to eat, we'll be back later."

"Have a good time."

After dinner, Myra and Ginny drove to the waterfront and made out for a while. When they got back home, there was no message on the machine, so they got in the hottub naked and became so relaxed they were both ready for sleep.

Myra murmured "I was going to have an Alien marathon tonight. Or maybe write until dawn. Now I just want to drop off."

"Me, too" said Ginny drowsily. They dried each other off and curled up in bed.

The next day, after breakfast, the front door burst open and Gillam raced in, followed by Carly, then Pat. Margie and Truitt brought up the rear. When Myra saw Margie, she goggled.

"You look amazing, Margie. You remind me of Phranc!"

"Who's Frank?" asked Margie.

Ginny came in from the studio and ran her fingers through Margie's hair. Her eyes were gleaming. She bent and kissed Margie with a big smack, and said "You have the most beautiful face in the world, girlfriend."

Myra saw Gillam's expression change a little at that. She picked him up -- he was really getting almost too big to hold -- and whispered "She means both of you -- you both have those stunning Bates good looks, but she doesn't want to make Carly and Truitt feel bad by saying so." Gillam whispered back "Carly is beautiful, too."

"Yes, he is" lied Myra.

Pat rounded up her boys and left. Myra called Margie into her study and gave her the Phranc tape, I Enjoy Being A Girl. "You can play this in your room, I think maybe you'll really like it. Some of it is kinda punk."

Margie was glowing. She ran upstairs to put the tape in her boombox.

"Poor Hannah when she gets home" said Ginny. She swung Gillam's arms back and forth, asking "What did you all do last night?"

"We played freeze tag, and we had sloppy joes for dinner. And then we watched Jurassic Park."

"You what?" said Ginny.

"There wasn't any pork in the sloppy joes, I promise" said Gillam, unsure of what had set Ginny off.

"Did the dinosaur movie scare you?" asked Ginny, her jaw set.

"Nah, it's an old movie and Truitt kept making jokes about it. He and Carly have seen it lots. He made up voices for all the mean dinosaurs."

"Where were Pat and Patty?"

"Patty had to go out for a while, and Pat was at her computer. Then we got to have ice cream sandwiches, and then it was lights out." This was clearly a new phrase for Gillam, and he repeated it with relish: "Lights out".

Myra suggested she and Gillam go for a swim, and he raced her out to the pool. As she was pulling off her shirt, she saw Ginny picking up the phone at her desk.

(a few months later)

Margie approached Myra at her desk. "Mama, is there a way to look up on the computer about sled dog food?"

"Sled dog food? You mean the kind of food that sled dogs eat? Like huskies?"

"Yeah, dogs that pull sleds in the snow" said Margie. "I looked in all our pet books and also the encyclopedia, and I didn't find anything."

Myra scooted her chair over and booted up the internet. "Is this is a class assignment?"

"No, I just want to know more" said Margie. "I don't understand if dogs can get scurvy or not."

Myra stared at her for a minute. "What have you been reading?" she said finally.

"The Last Place On Earth" said Margie. "About Captain Scott, and Rolled Almondson."

"It's pronounced Ro-ald Amund-sen" said Myra. "I'm not sure you're old enough for that book."

"There aren't any bad words in it, at least not so far" protested Margie. "And there's no war stuff. It's about explorers."

"I know what it's about. Well, okay. You know how to do web searches, yes? I'll leave you to it, but don't download anything, not a thing, and if you get into something weird, tell me instantly, I'll be right here at my desk."

"Okay. If I find stuff to print, can I use your printer?"

"Sure, but if it's photographs, ask me and I'll show you to get a good image without draining my toner dry."

After an hour of research, Margie had a stack of paper. Myra gave her a folder to put it in. "I'm going to make a better map than what's in the book" said Margie as she went back to her room.

"I have no doubt of that" said Myra.

Two nights later, Myra and Ginny were sound sleep just past midnight when Myra felt someone crawling over her, crying. She jerked in alarm, then realized it was Margie throwing herself onto Ginny.

Ginny woke up in a panic. "What is it, honey? What's wrong?"

"They all died, all of them" sobbed Margie.

"Who's died?" Ginny sat bolt upright, and Myra finally found the lamp and turned it on.

"Captain Scott, and Captain Oates, and Dr. Wilson, and Birdie B-b-b--bowers!" blubbered Margie.

"Have you been reading in bed all this time?" said Myra, lying back down.

"I had a flashlight, I didn't bother Gillam. I couldn't stop. And I'm so cold, I'm f-f-freezing" cried Margie.

"Oh for shit's sake, is this that book you've been buried in?" said Ginny. Her face was creased with pillow marks.

"Lie down here, Margie, under the covers. We'll get you warm" said Myra. Ginny threw herself down grumpily too. She was good with early morning wake-ups, but if she hadn't got in at least one REM cycle yet, she was unbearable. Still, she pulled Margie into her, wrapping an arm around her and closing her eyes.

"Cherry found them. He knew something was wrong, didn't he?" continued Margie.

"Yes, I think so. I have his book, you know, in my rare books section. The Worst Journey on Earth. Most people think he and Birdie were lovers."

"Myra" said Ginny in an aggrieved tone, "How about if we try to get her to sleep?"

"I don't think I can sleep, it's so sad!" said Margie.

"Well, here's something to think about that will help you sleep. What's the date they died?" Ginny opened one eye and gave a scorching glare at Myra.

"March 29, 1912" said Margie.

"Well, the one-hundred year anniversary of their death is only 14 years off. You'll be a young woman then. We can have a special ceremony in their memory. We'll have some hot cocoa, and make a fire in the fireplace, and dress the cats up to look like huskies..."

Margie began giggling.

"And we'll wave the Union Jack, and sing God Save The Queen, and take a vitamin C pill. And for now, they are at peace, and it's okay if we save the mourning for them until the hundred-year anniversary. Okay?"

"Okay....Can I read Cherry's book next?"

Ginny opened her eye again.

Myra said "I think you need to wait until you're a few years older. We can see if there's any map information in it for you, but otherwise let's save that one for a treat later on."

Margie snuggled back into Ginny and closed her eyes. Myra turned off the light and listened to the two of them breathing for maybe a minute before she, too, was asleep again.

In the morning, she was lurched into consciousness by Margie's voice saying in a loud tone "Your bed is so big, me and Gillam could sleep with you both every night and there'd be plenty of room."

Ginny said foggily "Shhh, Myra's not up." Myra refused to open her eyes. It sounded like they were headed for the bathroom. Yep, she heard the sound of a small stream of liquid in the toilet.

Margie continued in a piercing whisper "Could I have English marmalade on my toast instead of apple butter?"

Ginny grunted something. At that moment, the bedroom door slammed open and Gillam said urgently "I can't find Margie anywhere!"

With her eyes still closed, Myra mumbled "In the bathroom." There was the sound of his feet running, then he said loudly "What you are all doing in here?"

Margie said swiftly "I got to sleep with both of them last night, in their bed."

"Mo-om!" he complained. "How come you didn't let me?"

Ginny hissed "Both of you, GET OUT. I'm trying to take a dump. Go into the kitchen and eat breakfast with Hannah."

As they went into the hall, Margie said "I was in the middle, between them."

"SHUT THE DOOR!" yelled Myra. Somebody crept back and shut it gently.

After a few minutes, Ginny flushed and washed her hands. Myra rolled over onto her stomach, burying her face in the pillow. She heard the bedroom door open and Ginny say softly "Hannah? I'm leaving it to you this morning. Thanks."

Then Ginny was crawling back not just into bed, but on top of Myra. Her weight always felt really good on Myra's spine. Ginny whispered "You're my favorite mattress in the whole world." She lay her face next to Myra's. Myra said "Some people think Scott and Dr. Wilson were jerking each other off, too." "Mmmm" said Ginny. Within a minute, they were both sleeping again.

11 October 1998

The Sunday after Matthew Shephard was murdered, Myra announced she wanted to go to Quaker meeting, an extra attending as usually they only went once a month. When Ginny looked at her and asked why, Myra said "I need some -- perspective." She didn't want to talk about the murder with the children in the room. But Ginny asked "Is this about Matthew Shephard?", and when Myra nodded, Margie asked "Who's that?"

Ginny explained it to her and Gillam. She glossed over all the harshest details, but even bare bones was, in Myra's opinion, too much for the children to hear. It plainly frightened Gillam. He looked from one mother to the other, and his fear for them was naked on his sweet, intelligent face.

Margie said "I want to go with you". When Gillam said "Me, too", Margie added "I mean sit with the grownups during silent worship instead of going to First Day School." Gillam again said "Me, too."

Myra said "I'd love to have you, but it's a whole hour of sitting without fidgeting and being quiet like a mouse. Are you sure you're ready for that?" She looked directly at Gillam.

"I am" declared Margie, and there was no keeping Gillam back after that. Ginny decided not to go. As Myra was getting ready, Ginny came in the bedroom and said "If that Jesus guy gets up and starts talking about how Matthew is in Christ's arms now, I want you to do something, I don't want these kids having to listen to that shit."

"I can't interrupt Quaker meeting, Ginny. If something is said, you and I can do clean-up afterward."

"If they need to leave, you'll leave with them, right?"

Myra just gave Ginny an impatient look and finished tying her shoes.

This was the first time either child had stayed in the main meeting room past the first 15 minutes of worship since they were slumbering babies. As the other children rose at the quarter hour and were led out of the room, Gillam got antsy while Margie put a triumphant look on her face. Myra took Gillam's hand. Once the door closed and the room subsided into a profound, grateful quiet, Gillam's fidgeting stopped. This moment of transition, an almost physical plunge into communal silent worship, awed Myra every time, and she could feel it doing the same to her children.

Over the next half hour, a couple of people spoke about small revelations, moments from their past week. Then, at the three-quarters-hour mark, after several minutes of silence, Ric Bruner-Castillo stood up. When he did, a rustle of expectation traveled around the room.

Ric was a gay man around Myra's age who was partnered with a Latino. They had been married in the Meeting, and Myra had attended the wedding. She had never seen Ric stand and speak in Meeting before; in fact, she had hardly heard him speak at all. He was a stocky man with a black goatee, and he didn't seem to know what to do with his hands now as he stood, staring at the blank wall.

"When I heard the news that night" he began "I didn't know where to turn. Tomas wasn't home. Anger...anger threatened to unhinge me......Finally I picked up the Midrash, which I study weekly and which often sustains me."

At the mention of Midrash, Margie and Gillam both leaned forward a little. Their two religious communities had just melded.

"I began reading the account of how God and his angels watched while Moses and the Israelites fled Egypt. When Moses parted the sea and his people began passing between the waves, the angels cheered. When they reached the other side, the angels began watching closely, to see if Pharaoh's army would stop. But they did not, they came roaring into the gap, whipping their horses even faster. Then, before the first soldier could reach the Israelites, suddenly the waters closed over them in a mighty tumult. The angels began dancing in glee. But one angel saw that God was not dancing, or even cheering. He sat there weeping. The angel said, 'God, why are you not jubilant? Your people are safe.' And God replied 'How can I dance when my people are drowning?'"

As Ric sat down, Myra burst into tears. She was not the only person in the room to do so, but all of them tried hard to muffle their sounds and not draw attention to themselves. Margie gripped Myra's hand with strong fingers, and Gillam stood up and pressed himself against her side. Myra put one arm around his waist and kept her eyes closed, willing herself to go back into worship.

After Meeting, they left before announcements. Myra wanted to check in with her children. Once in the car, she turned to face them and said "What are you thinking or feeling? Let's share."

Margie said "Can we just go home? I want to be with Mama, too." Gillam's face was drawn but not in dire distress. He nodded, so Myra started the car and got them home.

As they came in, Ginny was in the kitchen making lunch. The children ran to her and hugged her from either side. Myra joined them, picking up Gillam while Ginny picked up Margie and set her on the counter, saying "What happened? Are you okay?"

Gillam began crying, laying his head on Myra's shoulder and clinging to her as he had when he was a baby. Ginny demanded comment from Myra with her eyes, but Margie began talking first.

"This man, Mama, he's one of the gay men there -- he talked about the Midrash. And he told the story about God and the angels, how they watched Moses running from Pharaoh. And he said that the army who drowned, they were God's people too. He meant the boys who killed Matthew Shephard, didn't he? He meant they are loved by God too, didn't he?"

Myra began crying again, leaning against Ginny and Margie, her son's sobs joining her own. Ginny kissed them all over and over, said "I'm sorry I wasn't there" and "That's right, that man was exactly right, my darlings".

Copyright 2007 by Maggie Jochild


Friday, September 28, 2007


When I was growing up, I dreaded every December 7th. That was the day my Mama, reliably open-minded and non-racist the rest of the year, turned into a raving hater. As we stumbled into the kitchen for breakfast, she'd turn and say "You know what today is? A date that will live in infamy!"

Which meant as we sipped our Tang or Bosco, she would be telling us the story of listening to the radio with her parents and friends, hearing FDR announcing we were at war with Japan. While we spread margarine on Sunbeam toast, she'd fill our ears with how the various sections of the U.S.S. Arizona blew up, disassembling or crisping sailors. As she packed our lunchboxes (never any Little Debbie snack cakes for us, too expensive -- usually a bologna sandwich and a thermos of milk, and twice a week, a piece of fruit), she explained how sadistic the Japanese mind was, how treacherous, how they lacked the capacity to honestly care for other human beings. She'd comb my long hair into braids, muttering the names of the boys in her high school who died in the Pacific. Whatever the weather was that day, it was a relief to leave the house, finally, to suck in deep gulps of air and head for a segregated school, where the malevolence was more muted.

This from a woman who fought the rest of her family to never allow any other racist epithet under her roof, who had embraced Indian culture and given up Christianity in favor of believing in reincarnation, who went to the "Mexican" grocery stores instead of the "white" ones, who was ecstatic when we re-established diplomatic relations with China because she said it was the oldest and greatest civilization on earth.

But I never once heard her say a good thing about Japan or its people.

As a child, this contradiction in Mama's thinking, this obvious character flaw, was tremendously upsetting. As a young teenager, I threw it back in her face during our fights about Vietnam, and likely I scored with this tactic: Deep down, she knew she was irrational about Japan, and when I compared that to our country's racist views toward Asia in general, she was too conscientious not to listen. Once I reached adulthood and moved away from home, her example was useful to me as an activist: Good, smart people could be that deluded. I wanted to help them get past their delusion, no longer interested (most of the time) in using it as a weapon against them, to prove my own moral superiority.

During the 1980s, I studied what I could about World War II pop culture. I went to a documentary at the Jewish Film Festival which unearthed FDR's core anti-Semitism as part of the reason why the rail lines to Auschwitz were never bombed, despite hysterical pleas from the most prominent Jews in America. I visited one of the sites of a Japanese-American internment camp near Tule Lake in California, and I wrote that despicable history into some of the chants and flyers I helped create for political actions linking violences from the state. One of my exes and one of my most intimate living partners were Japanophiles, and I absorbed all I could from them.

And, when a retrospective of the banned cartoons produced by Looney Toons opened at the Castro Theater, including a series of propaganda cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny and crew, I went to see it. Twice. Taking in the unthinkably vile characterization of Japanese culture portrayed supposedly for laughs, although it's hard for me to understand how this was ever funny. The anti-Hitler stuff was focused on Hitler; the anti-Japanese stuff was across the board, comparable only in intensity to the Steppin Fetchit portrayals of rural blacks also in the series. These cartoons were shown before every movie in those days, followed by Movietone newsreels of the war -- a perfect propaganda one-two punch.

This week, watching The War documentary series by Ken Burns, I found myself focusing much more on what World War II did to our psyche as a nation than the military details. There's a lot of grist for my mill. More than one of the soldiers explains his progression from believing that killing is morally wrong to someone who takes pride and pleasure in his kills, and more than one of them are articulate about their hatred of "Japs" (though none evince a similar animosity toward "Germans" or "Italians"). Some of them rationalize this hatred of Japs as a return of Japanese viciousness aimed at Americans, and I'm not going to argue with their accounts: It's well-documented and inexcusable.

But pales in comparison to German-constructed death camps. And the torture the Japanese dealed out is far, far less than what we are doing at Guantanamo.

One woman, the sister of a soldier from Mobile, Alabama, Katherine Phillips, is especially eloquent and acknowledges her focused hatred on Japs with an embarrassed laugh. I appreciated her honesty. She also points out that the first images the U.S. government allowed to be released of the war to show American dead was of floating corpses in the surf at Tarawa, and the impact this had on her and her friends. When the only death and dismemberment you are allowed to see is from Japanese hands, isn't that going to skew your viewpoint?

I had a chance to talk with Mama often about the impact of the war on her worldview, since it was the overriding influence of her adolescence (began when she was 13, ended when she was 19). We discussed how she had no idea what the Nazis were doing to Jews and other minority groups in Germany; how the first information about concentration camps didn't reach her ears until after the war was over. This was confirmed by my Aunt Sarah, Mama's older sister, who lived and worked in Lawton, Oklahoma (a military base town) during the war, married a Jewish airman for her first marriage, and remained closely tied to Jewish culture her entire life despite a quick divorce and a later marriage to my Uncle Stuart, a Gentile. Aunt Sarah, too, said there was "not a whisper" of what was happening to Jews in occupied Europe. I know from Jewish friends this silence was not the case in their parents' communities, not across the board. Still, it reflects some kind of lid being held down that was not observed regarding Japanese atrocities.

I haven't yet seen the final episodes of The War, so I don't know how they are going to handle the discovery of concentration camps or the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I can hear a beginning drumbeat, however, in the repeated comments from both soldier interviewees as well as narration quoting military leaders about how "those Japanese would never surrender, they fought to the last man". One former GI talks about how after the capture of an island in which 30,000 Japanese soldiers were killed, a few survivors began swimming into the ocean, preferring to drown than to surrender. He and his friends sat on the cliffs and had a sharpshooting contest, to see how many Japanese heads they could hit with a bullet. He gave a chuckle as he told this. It's going to be an easy segue from this to justifying the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians as an alternative to the invasion of mainland Japan.

In recent years, we've learned about how Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) was enlisted to create political cartoons for the New York newspaper PM. A search through the University of California, San Diego archive of his cartoons by subject shows he drew 60 that are anti-Japanese propaganda, but only 6 that are anti-German. This is despite his far greater emotional reaction to the war in Europe.

Austin Kleon at his website has produced a cartoon about watching one of these interviews. I'm indebted to him as well for the link to a critical review of the documentary by Nancy Franklin in The New Yorker. Another great resource for my unraveling our wartime prejudice about Japan was reading Sarah Bird's book The Yokota Officers Club.

But rationalizations after the fact of oppression are never the cause for the oppression. And who on earth can argue that racism didn't play a serious role in the difference between how Japanese-Americans and German-Americans were perceived and treated during the war? I know, very well, there was anti-German persecution. One of my exes had two German grandparents who lived here during the war, I've heard. But the propaganda was different. Racism is easy to build on. It's a default foundation, waiting for lies to be added. And even self-identified liberals are swallowed by the confusion, as can be found in a recent thread at the Dykes To Watch Out For blog.

As a child, I was home sick a great deal, unable to leave the house. I survived by reading. I was always cruising Mama's books, which she got in stacks at the used book store. I can't remember her ever stopping me from picking up a particular volume, although she did check out what I was reading and sometimes grilled me afterward about what I'd gotten from it. Thus, by the time I was 11 I'd gone through Fanny Hill, Look Homeward Angel, Lolita, and On the Beach -- none of which I would now allow a pre-teen to read.

One day I picked up Hiroshima, by John Hersey, and on the first page it focused on August 6, which was the day after my birthday. That was enough to keep me going. It's a journalistic style of writing, a slender volume, and I read it through in one sitting. When Mama discovered me on the front porch, hunched into a metal lawn chair halfway through it, she almost took it away from me -- that was the only time I can remember her openly considering censorship. I did have nightmares afterward, and I thought that was why she had hesitation about me being exposed to that particular book. But perhaps it was because the first-hand accounts of what dropping the bomb did were moral proof we had no right to use it. No matter what. Perhaps on some level she understood that.

In a recent article by Sally Lehrman of the Institute for Justice and Journalism at USC Annenberg on the work of social psychologist Brian Nosek, she reports:

"Despite our best intentions, our minds construct expectations about the world and then perceive it accordingly, says Nosek. We notice different motives, actions or performances based on the biases we've accrued, unaware, over time. Nosek, who is a professor at the University of Virginia, studies these perceptual mistakes with colleagues Mahzarin Banaji at Harvard University and Tony Greenwald at the University of Washington. They are trying to understand our underlying assumptions and how they influence behavior.

"To measure them, they have developed a tool called the Implicit Association Test. It times users' reactions to prompts on a computer screen associated with race, gender, skin tone, religion, sexuality, disability and other characteristics.

"The team has studied automatic reactions through more than 5 million Web-based tests so far. About 80 percent of users have shown a preference for young over old. Nearly the same proportion of self-identified white people and Asians have a more favorable impression of white faces relative to black ones. Users also prefer able-bodied people over those with limited physical abilities, straight people over gay and thin people over heavy ones.

"Worse yet, according to the team's research, test results sometimes trumped respondents' expressed attitudes when the team analyzed judgments, behavior and physiological reactions. Unconscious assumptions especially influenced people's reactions and decisions in ambiguous situations. Such assumptions took front stage when users weren't sure what was most important or when they were pressed for time. Sound familiar?

"Our automatic reactions often don't match the conscious attitudes we hold, the researchers have found, and yet we act on them every day. Even though a majority of people explicitly expressed the opposite view, for instance, most test takers implicitly considered Native Americans less "American" than white citizens. Native Americans themselves, however, strongly disagreed. Asian Americans also fell short of belonging, according to users -- even those who were Asian American themselves. The team discovered it was easiest for test-takers to associate harmless objects with white people. And what about black people? With them, users of all races found it easier to associate weapons.

"What does all this mean for a journalist? How about, 'Question everything you think you see'"?

"Not just for journalists, of course, but anybody concerned with justice and fairness" add commenter Meteor Blades at Daily Kos.

Another confounding psychological entity, "inattentional blindness", obliquely referred to in this article is a video experiment I first learned about several years ago. Called the Opaque Gorilla Video, two groups of three people each -- one team wearing white, one wearing black -- are depicted passing a basketball back and forth. The viewer is told beforehead that at the end of the video, they will be asked to state how many times the ball was passed from a team member wearing one color to a team member wearing the opposite color. In the middle of the action, a woman wearing a gorilla suit clearly walks into view, beats her chest and then walks off. In the study, after seeing the video, the viewers were asked for their ball pass count. They were then casually asked "What did you think about the gorilla?" Almost half of the viewers replied "What gorilla?" They hadn't seen it -- because they didn't expect to see it. It's hard to believe, but it's true and has profound implications for our so-called powers of observation and objectivity.

I don't believe we can pretend any aspect of our thinking is free from millenia of distortion and propaganda. I don't believe we can rely on thinking as separable from emotion -- indeed, the best of human endeavor unabashedly combines the two. I believe, as activists and artists, we are morally bound to examine our own conditioning and ruthlessly, relentlessly clean house: It's not something you do briefly in your 20s and presto, cross that chore off your list.

And that's just the individual work, the clinical aspect, as it were. On an activist level, I think we have to examine resources like The War for clues to what we are facing when 130,000 military personnel return home from Iraq. Not that the two wars are cleanly comparable: Iraq never attacked us, it's a war based purely on economic control, and the training our soldiers are receiving is how to distrust and kill apparent civilians in an urban setting. Far more dangerous to our culture upon their re-entry, and you can rest assured our government will assume no responsibility for helping these women and men process their wartime training and experiences. Once they return, the real work of "supporting our troops" will kick into overdrive, and the racist overlay that's found a home in "the war on terra" will have to be cleansed from our cultural myth in order for sanity to be restored.


Thursday, September 27, 2007


I've been watching "The War", Ken Burns' latest documentary on PBS. I'll have more to say about it soon. For the time being, however, I want to share a pertinent excerpt from the novel, Ginny Bates, that I've been writing for a year, which is up to 1000 pages and not yet finished with my first draft. (Okay, it's a trilogy, not a single novel.)

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.

This excerpt is from June 1995. Margie, now almost 8 years old, ran out in front of a car on the two-lane blacktop beside the beach and very nearly got run over. Her mothers are beginning to despair of her carelessness, not sure how to alter it without crushing her spirit. After dinner, she is sent to bed early, to the screened-in porch sleeping area, to think about her behavior. The rest of the family gathers on the front porch to talk and sing, as they do every evening at the beach. Gillam is now 4 years old.

The stories the women share in this excerpt are all drawn from my real life, either happening to me or someone I knew. David's story is true as well, based on the D-Day experiences of my beloved Uncle Stuart -- Stuart Ashley Grant, b. 27 May 1913, d. 23 Feb 1980. He married my mother's sister, Sarah Margaret Atkins (I'm named for her). I post this here in his honor.

[Excerpt from Ginny Bates]

When Ginny joined everyone else on the front porch, Gillam was glued to Myra's lap and he was the only one there who wasn't tortured by Margie's absence. Ginny said "You know, I have done things in my day that were just as boneheaded as her playing chicken with cars on the highway today, and I was a lot older than her, too."

"Like what?" said Myra.

"Well, I nearly blew up a mansion in the most expensive neighborhood in Denver" said Ginny ruminatively. David, who had just taken a sip of lemonade, choked briefly, and after coughing for a minute, he said "You what?"

Ginny grinned at him. "Remember that girl Robin Hansen? Her dad was a city council member."

"Of course I do" said David. "He was a very influential man. You were friends with her for a while, I remember."

"Yeah" said Ginny, an odd expression on her face. "Well, that Christmas break, I went over to her house one night to stay with her. It was right after that terrible freeze, and I'd been stuck at home for two days because the roads were so icy. We were playing cards in her family room -- I think her parents were already in bed, it was like after 10:00 -- and she wanted to go outside to smoke, so we went out front of her house."

Gillam interrupted. "You smoked?" His voice was shocked.

"Well, she smoked, and I took a few drags" said Ginny, again with a look on her face that Myra was beginning to decipher. "They had a gated yard -- everybody on that street did, and the houses were like estates, not a regular street. We walked down the drive a bit, so her parents wouldn't hear us and catch her smoking -- "

"Was it just a regular cigarette?" asked Allie, grinning.

Ginny made a motion of her head toward Gillam and didn't answer, but she mouthed "No."

"How old were you?" asked David in disbelief.

"Fifteen" said Ginny.

"Ah, that fateful year" said Myra.

Ginny smiled at her and continued. "Anyhow, we could see through her gate the drive of the mansion opposite, and when we heard the sound of running water, we went looking for where it was coming from. What we found was a virtual waterful cascading down the other house's driveway. We crossed the road and looked through their gate, and the house was completely dark, but all the water was gushing out from under their garage door. Robin said they were gone to the Caribbean for Christmas, no one was home, so we found a place to climb over their wall and went to check it out."

David made a small sound.

Ginny ignored him and went on. "When we looked through the little window into the garage, we saw a jet of water shooting up from behind the washing machine in the corner. We figured out that the pipes must have frozen and burst, then when the freeze let up, the water began gushing. We went to the front door and rang the doorbell, but nobody was there. So I told Robin I knew how to find the water main and if we had a wrench, I could turn it off."

Myra laughed. "Went all butch on her, did you? Tell me something, Ginny -- what did this Robin look like?"

Ginny's face lit up. "She had short, jet black hair, very sleek. Her ears were pierced, and not in the fashionable way. I'd seen her once in a leather jacket. Must've driven her parents bonkers."

Myra nodded to herself.

Ginny said "So we scaled the wall again, got a wrench and a flashlight from Robin's house, and when we got back, I searched around in the edge of the yard until I found the water meter and the shut-off valve. She was very impressed with me -- for about a minute. Until we realized that my turning the valve off had no effect whatsoever on the water."

"Oh, my god, no" said David. He was ahead of everyone else.

"Robin told me I had to put the valve back like it was and we just needed to get out of there. She was suddenly not as -- warm -- to me as she had been. So I twisted the valve back and we went to her house, went to bed."

David put his head in his hands. Ginny grinned at him, and said "We slept late the next morning, and after breakfast, we sneaked back outside and noticed a hullaballoo across the street. The gate was open and there were cops and emergency vehicles all over the driveway. One cop saw us coming and told us to get back inside Robin's house, immediately. We were scared shitless, and told Robin's mother about it. She checked it out, and turns out -- well, the valve I turned off was for the gas main, not the water. I turned it off just long enough for all the pilot lights in the house to be extinguished -- "

At this point, Myra and Allie said "Oh, no" simultaneously.

" -- So when I turned it back on, several small but steady streams of gas leaked into the house, filling it up in the ten hours that elapsed before a housecleaner showed up and opened the front door to a toxic cloud. She called 911, and the bomb squad had to come out and clear the house. Robin's mother said a single spark would have sent it sky high, and probably done severe damage to their house as well. The cops were treating it as attempted murder, because the owner was this rich corporate guy. Well, me and Robin just freaked. She dropped me as a friend after that, once it all blew over. We never told anybody. The worst part was, we killed a tank of tropical fish and a cage of birds."

David couldn't seem to find words. Ginny's tone was not actually remorseful. Allie laughed and said "Bonehead. Complete bonehead."

Myra asked gently "Where is Robin now, do you know?"

"She went to Oberlin" said Ginny, and she laughed with Myra. "So, who can say?"

"I'm glad you had a go at it" said Myra. David was trying to sort out this turn in the conversation.

"Well, you weren't going to come climb my fir tree for another fifteen years, I had to do something" said Ginny.

"The fir tree beside our house?" asked David, mystified.

"Let it go, David" advised Allie kindly. "They doing that Myra and Ginny thing now."

But the part David did understand galvanized him finally into coherence. "Virginia Bates, if they'd found evidence of what you did -- even I couldn't have gotten you off, I hope you realize that. Of all the stupid stunts -- "

Ginny giggled, and suddenly from the screen window looking out onto the porch, they all heard a muffled giggle from just inside, followed by a minute thud. Margie was clearly out of bed. Allie grinned and put her finger up to her lips. Rising soundlessly, she tiptoed off the porch and round the corner of the house. Myra began talking to Ginny to cover Allie's retreat.

A minute later, they heard Allie's voice just inside the screen go "Boo!" and then Margie's bloodcurdling scream. Gillam jumped violently in Myra's lap, and all the adults burst into laughter. Allie came out the front door carrying Margie, who clung to her triumphantly. Myra and Ginny hid their smiles as Allie sat down with Margie in her lap.

Gillam drew in a breath, but Myra interrupted him by saying "I got my own bonehead story. One time when I was working as a baker, I was doing the night shift alone at Superior. I had to make the cake and raised doughnuts, and six dozen of three different kinds of muffins each night."

Allie said "Oh, I remember this story."

"Did you get to eat them?" asked Gillam.

"The doughnuts and the muffins? I could have as many as I wanted, sugar boy, but after a while I was sick of 'em, didn't eat doughnuts for a long time after that job" said Myra. Gillam looked at her like she was crazy. Myra went on "Well, one night I went in with an injured hand, I'd cut it on my pocket knife and of course I couldn't afford to go to the doctor, so I'd bandaged it up as best I could. This was a couple of days later, and the bandage was loose and funky, needed changing, but I knew it would only get dirty again at work, so I didn't change it before I went in. I made the cake doughnuts, ate a sandwich, then started on the blueberry muffins, which I made with 50 pounds of mix poured into this giant Hobart mixer. After I'd poured all the batter into muffin tins and started them baking is when I noticed that the bandage had come off my hand."

"Oh, gross" said Ginny.

"Yep. I searched everywhere I'd been, and it was not on the floor anywhere. And it was too big to be hidden in a cake doughnut. So it must have fallen into the muffin mix, and was inside one of the six dozen muffins in the oven."

"What did you do?" asked Ginny.

"I called Allie, got her up. She said I had to inform my bosses, if I couldn't tell which muffin it was in -- the baking would take care of the germs, but I couldn't let someone bite into that horror. But if I did, I'd lose my job for sure. After the muffins were done, I looked them all over carefully, and couldn't find a single one that looked abnormal. So -- I just shined it on."

"Double gross" said Ginny. "Did someone eat that muffin?"

"Well, if they did, I never heard about it. I quit the next month, to go to Michigan. I would never lie like that now" added Myra. "It was very, very wrong of me." But Margie's faced showed only ghoulish delight. She could feel Gillam giggling in her lap.

"Live and learn" said Allie. "Remember when I let that blind woman drive my delivery van?"

Ginny gaped at her. "You did what?"

"Well, in my defense -- she was my boss and it was only to back up a couple of spaces, to a legal parking spot" said Allie.

"What happened?" asked Ginny.

"Oh, she had a wreck" said Allie matter of factly. "There was a cop on the block, and when he came to write her a ticket, you shoulda seen the look on his face when he realized she was completely blind."

Ginny and David were laughing. "What was she thinking?" said David wonderingly.

"I was supposed to guide her, but she'd never driven before, of course, so -- it didn't work out. And then she fired me."

Margie twisted around to look at Allie's face. "That's not fair!" she protested.

"I agree, hotshot. But it was dumb of me to agree to let her try" said Allie equably.

Gillam asked "Have I ever been a bonehead?" Myra squeezed him and said "Not once. You've been practically perfect in every way." He chortled, and Margie glared at him.

Allie spoke up: "Not unless you count that time he was a baby and you was lifting him over to Ginny, and he threw up into your open mouth."

Myra instantly clamped her hand over her lips and looked violently nauseated. As Gillam began asking "I vomited in her mouth?", Myra closed her eyes and started humming to herself, to drown out whatever Allie might say. Allie leaned over to David and explained "She's a sympathy hurler. Tosses her cookies if she even thinks about it. So Ginny or me handles all the stomach flu with the kids. You can just imagine what happened when Gillam gifted her that way."

Everybody except Myra was guffawing. Gillam looked very proud of himself. Myra kept humming until Ginny poked her and said "It's safe now, you can listen again."

After a long, happy silence, Margie twisted to look at David and said "What about you, Zayde? Do you have a bonehead story?"

David let the silence build another minute. Then he said quietly, "I paid a whore in London's East End to sit and talk with me for half an hour."

All the other adults gave him their sudden attention.

He grinned slightly. "I had just turned eighteen, two weeks before, and I -- we -- were about to be sent into action. I had lied to enlist, I wasn't old enough, but Sam was in the Pacific and I had graduated early. And in the end, Mama didn't stop me. So I got into the paratroopers, I still don't know how -- I was a bright kid. Went through training at Fort Benning and managed not to die -- training was brutal -- and they sent us to England. It was an open secret that the invasion of Europe was about to begin. Everybody was expecting the worst, but covering up. I'd managed to keep my birthday a secret, but that night the guys in my unit decided we were all going to get laid, especially me, the baby. They found some dive, with little cubicles upstairs, not even doors, just curtains across the doorway. We paid in advance, and the door they shoved me in, there was a woman sitting on the bed who was older than my mother. I had no idea what to do, and no will to try. So I just sat down on the end of the bed. She was smoking a cigarette, I remember, and offered me a drag, so I took one."

Margie and Gillam gasped. "You smoked a cigarette?"

David looked at them, amused. "Just one puff, and I knew it was wrong" he lied.

Gillam looked at Margie. These stories about making funny mistakes were one thing, but all this past history of smoking -- he was not happy about the judgment of his family members.

"She asked me some question, maybe just my name, and I started talking. And it was so good to talk to someone who wasn't in uniform, who wasn't a man, who wasn't scared sh -- silly. I just talked her ears off. She didn't care. At the end of my time, she walked me to the door and slapped me on my rump, and said I was a tiger, for the benefit of my friends who were waiting, having finished up long before. I don't think I even got her name."

There was a long silence. Somehow Myra knew he wasn't done. He glanced at Ginny and said "Three days later was June 6th."

Myra put her hand in Ginny's. Gillam felt a shift in Myra's energy, and pressed against her, looking at David.

"We flew out about 10 p.m. on June 5th. Over the Channel, we could see, sometimes, lights in the water below. We knew we were back over land when the anti-aircraft fire started. It was beautiful, like a peacock's tail of lights in the sky, if you could turn your mind off what it really was. We were with the 501st Parachute Infantry and the 82nd Airborne that was dropping in to secure Ste. Mere Eglise and the region around it, but our little unit had a different objective -- we were a radio squad. We were supposed to follow the 501st to Vierville after they'd taken it and direct artillery fire toward the German stronghold between Le Port and Carenton. We weren't infantry trained like the other guys in the 501st."

"But we hit an unexpected fog bank, and the pilot got off course. The 501st dropped, and our C-47 banked around, supposedly coming up behind the 501st, and we were told to haul out. There were ten in my group. We had two radios."

"Turns out, we got dropped a little ahead of the 501st, between them and Vierville. Vierville was still occupied by the Germans. As we came out of the fog, they opened up on us. Eight of us made it to the ground alive. One of the radios was with a guy who got shot down. We scrambled for cover; the sun was up by this time. The nearest thing was an old church with a belltower, and we headed for that. One guy got hit on the way, but we dragged him in the door and shut it behind us. But they immediately hit the doors with machine gun fire, so we put him in a pew and ran to the back of the church. The door to the belltower was thicker, and we went up the stairs, leaving three guys at the door, barring it from the inside. But parts of the tower had been blown away, so there were big holes in bad places. And at the top, part of the roof and one wall was gone. You could feel the whole thing shake as we pounded up the stairs. One guy took a position beside each hole, and then two of us went to the top. I was at the top because I had the radio. I immediately called in and told 'em we were surrounded. They were in the church by that time, trying to get in the belltower. It was going to take them a little while to get past that big wooden bar across the door to where we were."

David's voice was getting slower. He was looking at his hands, talking to his palms.

"But there was a sharpshooter in the upper story of some building, maybe a schoolhouse, nearby. And he took his time. He got each of the guys in the middle of the tower first, the ones trying to shoot out the wall gaps at Germans on the ground. They didn't...go...immediately. But we couldn't do anything to help them.

"The guy at the top with me was the one I knew best, Danny. Daniel Calehan, from Lafayette, Louisiana. His last name sounded Irish but he was pure Cajun. We shared the Gulf Coast, we had that in common.

"They brought a machine gun into the church and got it close enough to the door that it penetrated the wood. After only ten minutes, there was one guy left down at the bottom of the stairs. And he'd been hit bad.

"When I had the nerve to look out the open part at the top, I could see shells from our faraway line landing in fields way beyond the edge of town. I kept taking readings and making adjustments, radioing it in to the guy on the other end. His name was Stanley. He'd pass it on, and after a delay, there'd be more shells, and it would still be nowhere near, only a few feet closer."

There was another long pause.

"I don't know why they didn't bring in a bazooka for the door down below. Or ram the tower with a tank, that would have brought the whole thing down easy. I've thought about that over and over. I didn't see any tanks, so maybe they didn't have any right at hand. Maybe they were mostly dealing with the 501st, and we just dropped into their laps. But every minute was like seeing a dial move slowly in one direction -- away from life, and toward them finding a way to get at us directly.

"I didn't say that to Stanley. It was a comfort, to have math to do and a radio to operate. I could just focus there, and not listen to anything else.

"You wouldn't hear the sniper's shot directly. You'd hear a kind of snick, and see a bit of dust and plaster drop from the wall, and a hole appear that the plaster dropped out of. Then you'd hear the whine, and then you'd finally hear the crack of the shot. Danny and I kept talking about ways to distract him, fool him, so we could get another look out at the artillery directly. You could only use any trick once. He was good, that guy.

"Around noon, the guy at the bottom of the stairs stopped talking to us. We didn't hear anybody at the door trying to get in. I don't know why. I always wonder why they went somewhere else. I wish I knew. But the sniper, he stuck with us. It was getting hot, and I took a drink from my canteen. And I was passing it over to Danny, and I guess he stuck his head into some gap, some angle we didn't see. The bullet went through his helmet, one side. Didn't come out the other side.

"So then it was just me. I told that to Stanley, and I told him...something to say to Mama. Then I went on, checking positions and radioing back. The line of shells crept incrementally closer. I ran out of water, but I didn't care because I needed to pee so bad, it was painful. I was afraid to move even enough to open my fly and lean away from where I sat, so I just focused on holding it and doing the radio work. If I went for a while without saying anything, Stanley would say 'You there, buddy?' And I'd say 'Roger'."

David looked up at the children, then -- he remembered they were there -- and said "Roger is like saying 'I'm done, you can talk now' when you're using a radio for communication. Nobody was named roger, it was just the term we used."

Margie filed it away. Gillam was picking at his lip, thinking about sucking his thumb, Myra guessed. Ginny's hand was gripping hers very tight. Ginny was watching David in the darkness, her head turned sideways, her profile one of grief.

"I stopped trying to shoot anybody outside the tower. I didn't want to move, and I only had the shells in my handgun left -- I'd used up everything from Danny. Before I left, I promised Mama -- she'd heard stories, coming out of Poland, all the Jews in Galveston had -- "

Myra spoke up. "David -- there are certain historical events we haven't shared with the little ones yet. This year, we're planning to."

He nodded. "Okay....I had promised Mama I wouldn't let the Germans take me...prisoner. So I put my pistol beside me. It was just me and that other guy, waiting for me to make a mistake. And Stanley, a voice in the air. About 3:00, I finally hear a shell hit a building in town, at the edge of town. I exclaimed something in Hebrew, and Stanley replied in Hebrew. That was...a good moment. I told him they were on it, just a little bit more. And then the shells started landing all around me. I didn't care a bit, I didn't even think about what if the tower gets hit. Buildings were collapsing, fires were starting, but I knew if I took a good look, that guy waiting on me would still be out there somehow. The church itself did take a hit, I felt it travel up through my ass, the percussion. But it didn't catch fire; maybe because it was stone.

"The shelling went on for almost an hour. I just leaned back and closed my eyes. It was like listening to a symphony you've never heard before. Every now and then Stanley would check in, and I'd answer.

"Then it got quiet. They directed fire elsewhere, and I got alert again. Finally I couldn't hold it any longer, so I lifted the radio to the side of me and pulled out my tallywhacker and let go, lying on my side. It was more than I'd thought it be. It poured down the floor away from me, but it soaked one leg of Danny's pants. I felt so bad about that. I didn't want people to think he'd pissed himself. It was my piss, not his.

"I didn't want to spend the night in that tower. I didn't want the sun to go down; I didn't think I'd get to see it again. At twilight, just before, I felt a funny vibration. I thought at first the tower was starting to fall. But the vibration was steady, like a motor. I looked up in the sky, thinking maybe there were planes overhead. But no. Finally I realized it was on the road, something coming into town. If I got up for a look, to see if it was us or the Germans, that guy would get me. So I stayed where I was. My legs had gone into bad cramps hours earlier, and I couldn't find a position where I could stretch them out enough. But after a while, they stopped hurting.

"So I waited for the trucks or tanks or whatever it was to reach me, and I'd find out if I was going to make it. Then I heard footsteps on the wooden floor of the church, and somebody pushing at the belltower door. Then a voice came through the door. The guy had a deep South accent, like from Mississippi or Alabama. He said 'Anybody in there?'

"I never heard anything..." David had to stop. He put his face in his hands for a minute. Myra could see tears sheeting down Ginny's cheeks. David cleared his throat and said "I yelled back my name and rank. He asked who else was with me, and I said...nobody. Then he said for me to come open the door.

"Stanley said 'What's happening, David?' I told him they were here, the Americans were here. He blessed me and said he had to go, then. I thanked him.

"The guy at the door yelled for me to help again. I told him about the sniper. He said there wasn't anything but rubble all around me, take a look, it was okay. But I was still too scared to look. Instead, I tried to move down the stairs, and I found out my legs had gone to sleep, had been asleep for a long time. I was just meat from the thighs down. I had to crawl down the stairs. Crawl over the guys in my unit. When I reached the bottom, I got the bar moved and they pushed in, three of them. I still had on the radio headset and had the radio with me, didn't even think, just brought it with me. They tried to get me to my feet, but I couldn't stand, just buckled. They put me on a bench and when the blood finally started flowing again, it hurt like a mother-- like the mother of all pain. One of the guys, not the Southern guy, said 'You the one who called in the artillery headings?' I said yeah. He asked to shake my hand, so I did, grunting with pain from my legs.

"They moved me to another unit. I saw more action, but nothing like that. I was home in time to celebrate my nineteenth birthday. Just me and Rosa. Sammy was killed two months after my birthday, in the battle off Samar.....I wrote Danny's family in Louisiana. I never found out Stanley's last name; I wish I had."

David seemed to be done. Myra felt like her chest might burst. She had Gillam pulled as tight against her as she could, and Ginny squeezing her other hand like a clamp. Allie turned to David and said "Mr. Bates? I appreciate what you did. I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

He looked up at that, a little surprised but also letting it in. He looked at Margie, then, and over at Gillam, and finally at Ginny. She was still in profile, her head on one hand, elbow on one knee. She said raggedly "So that's how you won the Silver Star?"

"Yep" he said.

"Mother said you never talked about it. Not once. And we were not to ask you."

He reached out with one hand and wiped her cheek. "Well, then, I guess it's time I told you."

"What's a Silver Star?" asked Margie.

Allie said "It's a great big medal, one of the biggest there is. They only give them to heroes."

"Zayde's a hero?"

"He sure is."

"What happened to the Germans?" said Gillam.

"They went back home after we won the war and they've never started another war since" said Myra. She was concerned about Gillam's state of mind.

David stood up and said he needed to take a walk by the ocean. Ginny immediately stood and asked to go with him. He gave her a sideways hug and said "No. I need to be alone. I'm okay, I promise. I just to need to think." He walked off slowly toward the beach.

Ginny was stricken. Allie stood up with Margie and said "I want to take a look under her bandages before she goes to sleep, make sure her scrapes from falling down are clean in there." Ginny switched her focus to Margie. "I'll help you" she said to Allie and held the door open for them to go into the house.

Myra jiggled Gillam lightly in her lap and said "Hey, honey. How you doing?"

Gillam didn't turn to face her. After a minute he said "I don't want to be a soldier."

"You don't have to be."

"But they make boys be the soldiers. They make them go to war."

"They did in Zayde's time, but we've figured out how unfair that is since then, and we changed it so there is no draft. Nobody has to fight if they don't want to."

He finally turned to look at her. "I don't want to hurt people. And I don't want them to hurt me or you."

"Good for you, that's the way I feel, too. That's why I'm a pacifist. No war, never being part of any war." She kissed his forehead, and he leaned against her chest.

"Are you sure I won't have to be a soldier?"

"I promise you, Gillam." She pulled him back so he could see her face. She said emphatically "I swear it to you on my mother's honor, I will not let them make you go to war. Neither will Mama. We are two powerful women, and we will stop them, no matter what."

She saw his shoulders relax, then. He didn't smile, but he leaned back against her chest and she held him with her heart in her throat. Please, please god, let this be a promise I can keep.

When Ginny and Allie came back with Margie, reporting all clear, they sang some silly songs and told a few riddles. The children got drowsy. Myra and Ginny carried them in to bed. David had returned by that time, gotten a cold drink and kissed the children goodnight after they were tucked in.

"Can I see your medal sometime?" said Margie. Ginny looked at him -- she had never seen it.

"Yes, next time you come to visit, ask me" he said easily. He gave Ginny a long hug and started getting ready for bed.

by Maggie Jochild, copyright 2007


Sunday, September 23, 2007


Where're ya'll from?

I've had a Cluster Map attached to this site about a week now, and I'm fascinated with the indication of visitors dropping in from all around the world in just these few days. The Cluster Map is rather vague, so I've had to guess at a lot of your locales, but here's a list of where you might hang yer hat. If you're in the mood, drop me a comment telling me if I got it right, and how it is you discovered this site in the first place. Plus anything else you'd care to shout down the wire.

Mauritius (near Madagascar)
Israel (Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?)
Finland (southern)
South Korea (Seoul?)
New Zealand
Great Britain (Exeter? London? York? Glasgow?)
Germany (Frankfurt?)
France (Paris?)
Canada (Toronto; New Brunswick or Nova Scotia? Manitoba? British Columbia -- Vancouver and ? Alberta or Saskatchewan?)
Inside the United States:
Washington (Seattle and Spokane?)
Oregon (Portland? and Eugene?)
California (Berkeley and other locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, and somewhere in the Central Valley?)
Texas (Austin, Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth)
Kansas (Kansas City)
Missouri (St. Louis?)
Minnesota (Minneapolis?)
Wisconsin (Madison)
Louisiana (New Orleans)
Florida (Tampa? Miami? Northern FL?)
New Jersey
Central Connecticut
Eastern United States (east of Mississippi) -- too many cities and populated areas to differentiate on the fuzzy map, help!