Monday, January 28, 2008


I'm returning to posting excerpts from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. The action in the story resumes immediately after my last post of two days ago. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

NOTE: Kat, this is one of the sections you've been waiting for.

February's end, 2004

Sunday after a late breakfast, Margie and Gillam both left the house for outings with friends. Myra and Ginny settled at Myra's desk to go over household accounts.

"How'd it go with Davonn last night, did you get anything direct from Gillam?" asked Ginny as she entered checks into their database on Myra's computer.

"Not really. He said the club was way cool, except he pronounced it kewl. And he asked if he could buy some new shoes, I forget the name -- not athletic shoes, something leather."

"That's different" commented Ginny. "They didn't seem as tense with each other as they were all week, did you notice that?"

"Now that you mention it. Holy crap, Ginny, did you see this check here? Is this for one painting, forty-seven-five?" Myra was holding a payment they'd gotten from a gallery.

"One plus that triptych of sketches. The fees have already been taken out, but not taxes yet" said Ginny.

"Is this for that gossamer abstract?"

Ginny laughed. "The way you characterize my work...Yeah. That whole series is selling fast."

"And the sketches -- the giraffe ones, right?"

Ginny sighed. "There were no giraffes in those woods, Myra. Just shadows."

Myra looked back through Ginny's art ledger. "You're producing an average of 20 paintings a year that we can stand to let go of for sale, the last three years. Plus your print line, and the cards, and the sketches. And looks like everything sells within three years -- well, not the Blue Moon, why not that one, I wonder?"

"Derivative" said Ginny shortly.

Myra didn't argue. She didn't quite have the jargon to do so, although she would ask Allie about it later. Ginny looked up from the monitor and said "Speaking of that check, I thought I'd deposit it during bank hours tomorrow so I can go in and roll money out of our account into more CD's. Or -- we could grow the Fund, we're facing a tax penalty even with Bush's policies of funneling money directly to the rich."

"Yeah, I wanted to talk with you about that." Myra looked extremely uncomfortable. Ginny focused on her, suspecting this was not a need to discuss politics.

"Gin...I want us to have an emergency fund."

"You mean, more than what we've got? We're covered, Myra, we have a pension program that'll sustain all of us -- "

"No, not that. I mean, emergency like if Cheney makes Bush dictator and it's no longer safe for us to live in this country."

"You're not serious -- You really think that's going to happen?"

"I think it's possible. I think they are certifiably over the edge, and nobody is stopping them. Nobody believes what is actually going on. The civil liberties you and I grew up with won't exist for our children as adults" said Myra.

"So we put money into activism, into changing things, then" said Ginny.

"We already are, and we can put more. But I want us to have an escape fund. I need to know we can -- survive."

Ginny wished Myra didn't look so scared. "What, exactly, did you have in mind? Filling our spare room with canned goods and batteries? We still haven't cleared out everything you bought for Y2K."

"Gold" said Myra. "I want to buy gold. And fake identities for all of us, with passports that will get us out of the country safely." Having spit it out, Myra sat back in her chair and took a deep breath. Ginny heard the faint hint of a wheeze. She struggled not to show the level of her upset to Myra.

"Please tell me you don't mean krugerrands. Plus -- fake passports are a felony, Myra." Ginny ardently wished Allie were here.

Myra addressed the easier question first. "No, not krugerrands. Our best bet are Canadian Maple Leafs in both gold and silver, China Gold Pandas, and Australian Gold Leafs. They all come in one ounce and half ounce sizes. Twelve pounds' worth would be $75,000. A starter fund, we could add to it after that."

Ginny stared at her as if she'd broken into a foreign language. "You've been researching this" she said hoarsely.

"Yes. Ever since Bush got re-elected. I -- I've been wanting to find a way to talk with you about it."

"And the fake IDs, did you research that, too? My god, not online, I hope." Ginny swiveled to look at the hard drive as if she could find an NSA line trailing out of it.

"No. I think I might know somebody who would know somebody...but I haven't mentioned it to anybody, not until I told you first. I'll do it on my own, using cash, I want you and the kids in the clear -- I'll figure out a way to make sure it's just me tied to the process" Myra said earnestly.

Ginny didn't want to face how demented this was. She kept looking for logical arguments that might get through to Myra.

"Our safety deposit box agreement specifically forbids us to stash gold there" she said.

"Well, and a bank is the last place we'll want it to be, if we need to get our hands on it fast" said Myra, her face slowly becoming animated. "There are waterproof safes we could sink into the back yard, I think under the gardening shed, I could do that in cover of darkness, with a fake floor so we can access it in minutes."

A sudden thought hit Ginny. "No guns. Not on the premises."

"Of course not" said Myra. But there was an evasion to her voice that Ginny didn't quite trust.

"What's your plan, then? Where will we run to, that's safe from our version of Hitler? Is this why you've been talking about New Zealand so much?"

"No, I just want to visit there, Ginny. I'm thinking Canada. We can get across the border fast, and hide out in one of the Western provinces. Buy a farm now, a big working farm. Rig it with state of the art security and sustainable utilities, rent it out to tenants on a month-to-month lease, all under my fake ID, of course. Funnel that income into an offshore account."

"Myra...Unless we cash in our pension and the kids' educational funds, or take out a loan, we don't have enough money to buy a farm."

"I know. I want to ask David for it. He's gonna get this, I know he will." Myra had leaned forward again, almost pleading, toward Ginny.

He knows apocalyptic terror when he sees it, yes thought Ginny. Aloud she said "Have you discussed this with Allie? Or Chris?"

"God, no" said Myra, which didn't relieve Ginny as much as she thought it would. "I can't implicate them. We need to not tell them unless push comes to shove. But I want enough to cover all of us, including Edwina."

What about Alveisa, and Petra? thought Ginny. She handles our taxes, she's going to see the disappearance of money. What about Carly and his family? Cathy and Michael? Where do you draw the line, Myra?

Ginny put her hand in Myra's. "I...I don't think this is rational, sweetheart. I think this is fear taking over your brain."

"Maybe it is, Ginny. But I've lost one family to -- circumstances. I can't survive losing another one. I need this, Gin. I need to know we're covered. If we never have to use it, then we'll have investment property and -- if things shift, I'll sell the gold, I promise. And this isn't a substitute for social change. I won't stop trying to make the world safe for everybody, you ought to know that about me."

Ginny reminded herself to breathe. "Is this like your insistence on those fire ladders for the second-story windows, and the CO2 detector?"

"I guess."

"Myra, I need you to talk this over with somebody besides me -- "

"Not Allie or Chris" Myra said adamantly.

You know they'll talk you out of it thought Ginny. "How about Nancy, then?"

"I don't know her well enough" said Myra.


Myra thought for a minute, her face scared again. "I can't imagine her giving us up, under any circumstances. Okay, Leesa, I guess."

"Sooner rather than later. And -- I need to talk to somebody, too."

"Not Nancy" repeated Myra. "I do trust her, for most stuff, it's just..."

"Well, you've mentioned going to Daddy, I'd want to talk with him first anyhow" suggested Ginny.

"Not on the phone, or e-mail. Has to be in person" said Myra.

"I may need to fly to Denver, then. For a weekend" said Ginny.

"Okay." Myra's hand was still gripping hers tightly, and beginning to sweat a little. "Thanks for hearing me out, Ginny. It's been killing me to not tell you what's going on inside me. I'm no good with secrets, I just can't handle being around them, makes me crazy."

Ginny impulsively slid over into Myra's lap. "Bring your crazy to me, Myra. We'll figure it out together." She pressed her cheek against Myra's, wanting to keep her own face hidden for a while.

Myra wrote all afternoon while Ginny worked in the garden, trying to reassure herself. Sima and Chris came over early to help make dinner. Sima brought her jewely-making kit and after dinner, she helped Gillam fashion a gold ring for his eyebrow with a small ruby bead concealing the clasp. Carly's lip ring, as predicted, had vanished immediately, but Gillam was hanging on to his defiantly. Even Myra had to admit the ruby was beautiful.

After the kids went to bed, Ginny and Myra briefed Sima and Chris on the status of Margie's case. At first the county prosecutor, Jeri, had quoted lots of statistics about the failure of rape convictions, discouraging them from the prospect of a jury trial. Over time, however, she had grown more enthusiastic. The horrific tears and bruising in Margie's mouth had argued against consensuality, as did the immediacy of her reporting and their trip to the hospital. Depositions taken of two other girls at her high school and the school counselor all pointed up Margie's grades, good conduct, and the fact that she was not yet dating.

Jeri had warned that the defense would try to claim Margie was coerced into claiming rape because she had lesbian mothers who wanted to turn her against males and heterosexuality. She had her own staff investigate Ginny and Myra's public persona, interviews, and printed remarks so as to have an idea of what the other side might turn up.

They had met with her while David was still in town, and it was at this meeting that Jeri informed them of the best news. The mother of the girl who had thrown the pool party, Stephanie, had offered to testify on Margie's behalf. On being deposed, she stressed that all of her interactions with Margie had impressed her with Margie's lack of flirtation with the boys there and her absolute sobriety.

Ginny had burst out at that point "So if she'd been hanging with the guys, or been seen to drink, she'd have asked for it?"

Myra reminded her "You know how it works. You get to be either frigid or a cunt, nothing in between." She remembered, too late, that David was in the room. Jeri tried not be shocked at her language as well. Jeri went on, "Stephanie's parents are influential, and that counts, too. She'll make one hell of a witness. Turns out, she's an officer in the local NOW chapter."

"Aha" said Ginny. "So she knows what she's bucking against."

"This is also good strategy to keep you from filing a civil suit against her homeowner's insurance" said David a little apologetically.

"Jesus, it's all about connections, money and playing the game" said Myra bitterly. Jeri didn't contradict her.

"Here's the other thing: Kevin has a juvenile record. Or had one; it's been expunged, we think by intervention of his school athletic department. But it involved a teen-aged girl" said Jeri.

Myra and Ginny both sat forward. "I knew he was too smooth, he's done this before!" said Myra, rage making her temples pound suddenly.

"Expunged means it's inadmissable in court" said David. Myra scowled at him.

"Yes, but during negotiations we can make it clear we know about it" said Jeri. "Odds are, if there was one incident, there were others that didn't make it to the point of charges being filed. We can hint that we're investigating his past, or frankly lie and say we've got other complainants -- it's a game of chicken, I'll have to see how easily his lawyer rattles. His parents have thrown money into this, it's a good firm, but I'm not sure about their back-up staff's competence" she mused.

"What do you mean?" said David with professional interest.

"Well, Myra's name on Margie's adoption record is neither Myra or Josong -- her legal name had not been changed yet, right? So they've done a search for that name, and I think turned up nothing. We found nothing. But Myra's well-known by her writing name, which is also the name you used for activism, yet there's no sign they've run across the piece of -- well, negative connotation we could find." Jeri looked wary.

"What?" asked Myra.

"You spoke at a local rally leading up to the first March on Washington, in 1979. Your comments were printed, in part, and you used a line of poetry that quoted something to the effect of 'Your daughters are not safe with me'. That makes you look predatory."

"Oh my fucking god" said Myra, her face a mask of disbelief.

"It's out of context" began Ginny, "There's no way the whole poem would lend any credence to such bullshit -- which poem of yours is that, anyhow? Can tell us here?"

"It's not mine, it's from Ellen Marie Bissert" said Myra in a hollow voice.

"Well, as I say, I think whoever is doing their research is not connecting all the dots they could" said Jeri. "And that could work for us or against us. If they are confident without reason, they'll push for a trial. But if they read things as I do, they'll realize this one will probably go against them. My boss is happy for us to push this to trial; we have a chance to score a win for rape victims, always good publicity. We'll be even happier to plea it out, of course, as you'd prefer -- we still win, and we save the expense of a trial."

Myra found this assessment objectionable. Later, however, David reassured them Jeri was right on the mark and he trusted Margie in her legal care.

Myra was gratified when Chris had the same reactions to this repeated conversation that she'd had at the time. She said with disgust "No justice anywhere in it. Not on a spiritual level."

"No" agreed Ginny, "But Margie won't know that if things go right. This will affirm the decision she's made, at every step, to stay proud and righteous."

The next afternoon, Margie and Gillam came home to an empty house and written instructions to make themselves dinner. Ginny had to literally drag Myra out of the kitchen after lunch to keep her from making something the kids could "just heat up". They drove north to a place on the Sound for their own meal, a seafood extraganza, then went out to "Seabiscuit" which made them both cry in the car afterward. They returned home by 9:00 so they could hang out with Margie, in particular, before bedtime, inviting her to talk about the plea bargain hearing the following day.

Allie was at the house when they got back, playing Clue with Margie, Gillam and Carly. They had renamed all the playing pieces after cultural references. Margie was Polly Plummer, Allie was Molly Peacock, Gillam was Scarlet Johanssen, and Carly was Pardon Me Do You Have Grey Poupon Mustard, a moniker that made them all laugh every time.

The next morning, Ginny got Myra up before breakfast with the children, bringing her tea and snuggling in beside her.

"I'm scared shitless about today" said Ginny.

"Me, too. Do we let Margie see it?"

"Like we can hide it. But -- we act confident, at least about the process."

Myra blew on her tea before saying "I think I am confident about the process. At it's heart, it's a talk, that's all. If we fail to reach agreement, none of the consequences fall on us."

Ginny said bitterly, "No, we're already shoveling our way through our consequences."

"Did you put my adoption papers in the folder with all the other stuff?"

"Yes. Listen, Myra, about the whole -- who does the talking in there..."

Myra waited.

"I don't know how much I can keep it together. I mean, if he tries to say she...that it wasn't rape, I'm afraid I'll go off on him. And -- the truth is, Myra, I wouldn't mind sending him to prison, I really wouldn't. Is it classist of me to ask you to do the job of responding? Middle class girl not able to deal with ugly reality?"

Myra finished her tea. "I could argue it either way. But it doesn't matter here, Ginny. What matters is that we do what's best for Margie, and if that's me today, well, I'm honored. I'll deal with him, and his goddamned family, and you be Margie's anger buddy afterward if she wants that."

"Plus yours" said Ginny, looking Myra in the eyes.

"Tonight" agreed Myra.

Ginny had insisted both kids go to school for half a day. Allie came for breakfast and dropped them off, then returned to go over galley proofs with Ginny for a proposed Podinqo book. Myra made avocado brulee, Margie's favorite, as well the rest of dinner except for last minute touches later.

Ginny and Myra donned sports bras and lipstick for the hearing. In the back seat, Allie let Margie put lipstick on her as well, sending them both into gales of frenzied laughter. Gillam was ghostly pale and kept cracking his knuckles. Myra pulled him aside before they entered the prosecutor's office and whispered "I don't know if I completely believe the idea of holding someone in the light. But if anybody can do it for me, for us, it's you. Once we're in there, will you try?"

He seized on it, as she knew he would. "Yeah. I'll be there."

She touched his ruby and kissed his cheek. He breathed in her ear "You are the wall at the lip of the water." She wiped away a sudden well of tears before she went in the gilt-trimmed doors.

She was ready to see the boy who had raped her daughter. Unbeknownst to anyone, she'd gone to the Seattle Public Library two weeks ago, found a yearbook for Garfield High School from the previous year, and looked him up. Studied his face, hoping for a clue to his disease. He was dark-eyed, with a squarish head and what passed for good looks among teenaged boys, just that hint of sullenness to make her wonder about the future of the world.

She and Ginny were now flanking Margie, with their lawyer Jeri taking point in front of them. She remembered seeing her older brother at her mother's funeral, after not having seen him her entire adult life, and realizing he was pitiful, a wreck of human being, not fearsome in any regard. She hoped the same would happen for Margie today.

Kevin and his parents were already seated on one side of a large, expensive-looking expanse of wood when they entered the room, and none of them stood or met the eyes of Myra and her family. Kevin's lawyer, a woman (of course, thought Myra) did stand and shake hands formally with them in turn.

Kevin's father was a manager of a shipping firm, Myra knew, which could mean he was working class and had worked his way up or was middle class with some version of a business degree. From the looks of him, it was the latter. His suit was good and not brand new. His hair was as short as Kevin's, his shoulders beefy, his wedding band plain gold.

Kevin's mother was elegantly thin -- another hint at middle class -- with frosted hair and a jacket-over-dress that held shoulderpads which had slipped a little. Kevin was between his father and his lawyer. Not a good sign, thought Myra.

There was a protocol for these sorts of gatherings, and the lawyers set it into motion. On their side of the table was Jeri, Margie, Ginny and then her. She was closest to the door, and for a brief moment she remembered a time in her life when having access to escape would have been critically important to her. Now she saw it as a chance to block the retreat of her adversaries across the table. She suppressed a grin. She realized, then, she'd gone into lioness mode. Well, that was all right for now.

Jeri explained their decision to consider an alternative to prosecution, using language that Myra saw go over the head of Kevin's father at first. MBA but not bright she thought, adding in her internal working class voice As if that isn't redundant. When the option sank in on Kevin and his parents, the mother almost sagged in relief. Kevin and father, however, grew alert and bright-eyed. Jeri had warned them that beginning with an offer other than jail would be perceived by the defense as weakness.

Myra had laughed grimly. "Let them misunderstand it. We'll educate them soon enough."

Kevin's lawyer had a counter-offer, which was for Kevin to do community service while obtaining his high school equivalency, then enter the Armed Services. Navy, preferably. In the course of putting this forward, his lawyer twice mentioned how his chances at a football scholarship were now destroyed, in a tone of tragedy. Myra did grin at that, showing her teeth unpleasantly. Which made the father look at her, and he jumped in to add "All kids make mistakes. They shouldn't spend the rest of their lives paying for them. The military will grow him up, quick."

Jeri turned to Margie. Margie, however, immediately looked at Myra. Showtime.

Myra faced both parents equally. "Your son is mentally ill. He has a life-threatening inability to perceive or give consideration to the rights of others, particularly women. He needs serious treatment if there is any hope of him getting enough better to be loose in the world. The absolute last thing we'll agree to is sending him to other countries where he can rape innocent girls with even more ease. It will remove all hope for his salvation and, frankly, won't further American interests either."

The father's hands twitched, and the mother retreated in her seat. Myra knew those signs, what Kevin had grown up with. Some part of her, a part she shoved quickly into a cupboard, was clamoring for Dad to bring it on, to dare make a move on her. The first time she'd taken self-defense, her instructor had pulled her aside afterward and suggested she take an alternative course, the aura shielding class. She'd told Myra "You're going to kill anyone who attacks you, or die trying. You've overcome your conditioning and have flipped over to the other side, you need to learn how to avoid confrontation altogether."

Myra looked at Kevin and tried to remind herself this was not her brother, this was not Gillam, but something in-between. She said "You don't have to go on this way. You didn't ask for the damage that's made you an outcast, and if you want to heal it, you can. You can make choices your parents did not make. We're offering you counseling because of your age, and because prison will mean you get raped in precisely the way you raped my gentle, trusting daughter. Except you already know what that kind of assault is like, don't you? You learned it firsthand, otherwise you'd not be acting it out on others."

The father did erupt at that, rising from his seat with a garbled yell. Myra ignored him, keeping her eyes on Kevin's face, and she saw a flicker there, a moment of -- something. Something got through. She could feel Ginny's hip pressing against hers.

Their lawyer was trying to calm down the father. Myra literally removed him from her radar. He wouldn't attack her, not now. Like all bullies, he understood she was stronger than him. She looked at the mother and saw only fear. She turned and looked at Margie. The expression on Margie's face would stay with her the rest of her life, one of her best memories: Margie in full faith and power. Margie as she had been born.

Once the father had been persuaded back in his seat, their lawyer began trying to negotiate with Jeri. Jeri shrugged gracefully and said "It's either a long-term locked-door treatment program, with the limits we've outlined, at the facility of our choosing, or we go to trial and ask for the full penalty of the law. I'm not empowered to do otherwise."

At which point, Dad said to Myra "You fucking dyke, you fucking stealer of other people's children."

Myra fought back a laugh and a Lea Delaria response. "Your parenting is over, and you've manifestly failed. The results of our lesbian parenting is on display, and she is second to none."

"You're not even the real mother -- " he tried again.

Ginny put both hands on the table and said "Realer than you are. And she's your best hope for clemency. I wanted to throw you son into the sharkpool."

Myra heard Margie giggle. Jeri and the other lawyer took over, in loud but smooth voices. Jeri said "You've heard your options, we'll give you time to confer." She stood up, and so did Margie and her mothers. Myra pulled out the card she'd slipped into her pocket before leaving the house and pushed it across the table to Kevin's mother. "That's the number for Seattle's battered women's shelter. Don't let him take this out on you, not any more."

They left while the father's shouting continued. Jeri led them to her office and said, "Well, not as bad as I expected, actually." Myra wasn't sure if Jeri was referring to the father or to Myra's behavior. It didn't matter, she'd lived up to Margie's expectations, that's what counted. Jeri said she couldn't predict how it would go, but either way, they could leave -- she would handle the rest. She motioned with her eyes toward Margie, and Ginny nodded; they'd get her out of the building fast.

As promised, Allie and Gillam were on the steps, Gillam's hair a mess from his sweaty hands running through it over and over. Margie raced toward them and grabbed them into a double-armed hug, relieving them instantly. Ginny herded everyone into the car before dramatic recreations, with Margie mimicking each of her mothers to uncanny perfection. They were all surprised when it was Allie who cried, giant tears leaking from her big eyes and sobs she could not suck back in almost choking her before she gave up and let them loose. Margie leaned against her, saying "I know, I know" in a tone that was identical to how Allie had comforted her when she was a toddler and scraped her knee.

They went out to eat a delayed lunch, a no-holds-barred feast interrupted only by Margie asking Myra and Ginny to check their cell phones for a message from Jeri. Back home, Margie checked the answering machine as well, and began to look worried at no calls there, either.

"She said it would take time" reassured Myra. "Who do you want to tell first, Sima and Chris, Amy or your grandparents?"

Shortly before 5:00, Jeri finally called, saying the short version was the plea bargain had been accepted and papers signed. When Ginny announced this to the family, Myra saw as much jubilation on Gillam's face as Margie's. But Allie's eyes showed a more sober recognition: This was no Hollywood ending. Myra wished she believed in confession and absolution, so she could ask forgiveness for the mistake she might have just made.

Allie said softly, "'The basic problem that we have had was believing somebody else's story about us.'" Ginny said "Is that Joy Harjo?"

"Luisah Teish" answered Allie.

"Not today" said Margie. "Today, every girl at my school is safer." Which is how she began her call to her zayde after dinner.

Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.


letsdance said...

wow, wow, wow! Thank you, Maggie. Powerful, gentle and loving.

kat said...

yup, I'm so glad I waited to read this, rather than having you just tell me.

wow...just wow.

oh, and by the way, "they put on bras and lipstick" is pretty much the funniest thing ever!