Thursday, January 31, 2008


Literally hot off the presses, this section. Another continuing excerpt 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 post of yesterday. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

June 2004.

When Myra later remembered the next 36 hours, it was as a series of Things To Get Done interspersed with naps. All she really wanted to do was sleep. Instead, she drove back and forth to the hospital, got folks fed, and watched each of the three kids for signs of difficulty.

She managed to get Carly alone and talking for a bit; he didn't cry but he did express worry that maybe he was to blame for what had happened to Gillam. She helped him reason his way out of that, and once he did, the fear of almost losing Gillam set him into severe shakes. She put her arm around his shoulders and let it roll on through him. He stopped being pale and polite after that, which was a good sign.

The day after his marathon swim, Gillam claimed every muscle in his body was in agony. Ginny forced fluids through him and, after lunch, coaxed him down to the motel pool with Carly and David. Roughhousing led to swimming, and eventually his groans dissipated.

Margie went to the bookstore next to the hospital and returned with a stack of volumes on how to deal with diabetes, including cookbooks that Myra wearily read through before going late that afternoon to the "living with diabetes" training session with Allie and Edwina in the hospital's endocrinology department. She wrote detailed notes because she didn't trust her brain to take it all in at the moment.

When she got home, after visiting hours, David, Margie and Carly were all piled onto David's bed watching something with a canned laugh track that set her teeth on edge. Gillam was curled away from them on his bed, sleeping soundly. She felt his forehead, then lay down behind him impulsively, pulling him back into her as if he weren't approaching her height. He sighed but did not wake up. Within a minute she, too, was asleep, despite the racket; he smelled of chlorine and pepperoni pizza but underneath it was his trademark vanilla. In the middle of the night, she woke up, still with her shoes on. The room was dark and quiet, and if it hadn't been for Gillam, still in her arms, she would have been confused about her whereabouts. Carly and David were both asleep in David's bed.

She got up and went into the adjoining room. Margie was in bed with Ginny, her legs sprawled and covers tangled, Ginny trying in her sleep to hang onto some share of the bedspread. She bet Margie had talked Ginny into unconsciousness, just like she used to when she was six. Myra took a piss, brushed her teeth, got the spare blanket from the closet and draped it over Ginny, then went to the other bed and stretched into it gratefully.

It was an early start the next morning. Myra bought ropes and a small tarp on the way to the hospital because they'd have to tie their luggage and cooler on top of the SUV once Allie and Edwina joined them. When Allie was wheeled out to the curb, she stood up easily and wrapped herself around Gillam, who gripped her tight. They stopped at the produce stand on the way home. Once at the beachhouse, Myra dumped all the salads she'd made for lunch two days earlier in a bucket and sent Carly to spread it in the dunes near a crab colony.

While the trailer AC was making it livable again, Allie sat on the porch with ice water and everybody had a turn at telling their story, what they'd seen and felt. Edwina was on the arm of Allie's chair, and when she finally let go of her grief, Allie handed her glass to Ginny and pulled Edwina into her lap. Everyone felt better after that.

Ginny wanted Gillam to stay cool and hydrated, which meant no roaming the beach today. Allie and Edwina retired to the trailer, and Margie seemed to be at loose ends, so she and boys pulled an old Risk game from the shelves and started a game of world domination that would last for hours. Myra made tuna and salad for lunch, trying to memorize carb values from a chart in the cookbook. When it was stashed, she walked out onto the porch where Ginny and David were back at painting and announced "I'm going to bed. Until I feel like getting up again."

Ginny looked at her keenly and said "Do you need company? Are you okay?"

"I don't know what I am, except tired. I'll come to you when I need something, I promise."

"Okay, angel, I've got it covered. Thanks for the meal." Ginny kissed her and, a little awkwardly, so did David, murmuring something in Yiddish that Myra knew meant the equivalent of sweet dreams.

When she woke up, it was twilight. She vaguely remembered rousing from consciousness briefly to a shout from the kitchen of -- Yakutsk, was it? She was sweaty and her bladder was about to burst, but after hitting the bathroom, she felt immensely better. She opened the bedroom door to a cheer and Margie scraping out a chair for her from the table where everyone was already eating.

"Ceviche, chicken tacos a la Gillam, tomato basil mozzarella salad a la Margie, and toast made from that sourdough you found" announced Ginny.

"Hot damn!" said Myra, handing her plate to Carly to start around the table, asked for some of everything. Once Myra had a few bites in her, Allie waggled her eyebrows at Edwina, who nodded with a huge grin. Allie leaned back in her chair and said "We have an announcement to make. Me and Edwina, here."

Myra and Ginny stopped chewing, their faces bright with joy.

"We gonna get married. In San Francisco. Next Sunday, and you all invited" said Allie, staying smooth until the last word which came out as a shriek. Eating did not resume for half an hour after that. Dessert was watermelon on the porch, but Edwina and Ginny were at her laptop searching for hotel rooms while Allie called Chris and Sima, and Carly borrowed Myra's cell to call his mothers. Margie already had a promise from Ginny that they could shop for "wedding clothes" in San Francisco. Gillam turned to look at Myra, who said "Absolutely, you and Carly both", and Gillam said "Could we go to Castro Street? I mean, they have the absolute latest styles for guys, Zayde, we'll find you something fresh."

Myra held back her laugh and said "Of course." David, however, said gently "I am truly torn, but I think I can't share this glorious event with you. I have things with, in Denver."

Ginny and Myra looked at him, then each other, and Allie noticed it. She said "We'll miss you, and I know you'd be there if you could."

"Make me a video? Of everything" he pleaded, and Gillam said he'd film a whole movie of it.

Wedding talk dominated the rest of the night, except for a recurring joke between Gillam and Carly that involved saying "Peru, Siam, Ural and Madagascar" to howls of laughter. Myra asked why it was so funny, and Gillam tried to explain -- "See, he'd only fortify places with four letters in them, we thought, and then, kapow!" She laughed with them, not comprehending but thrilled to see all three kids back to normal.

Before going to bed, Myra opened the laptop and went to her favorite fat girls' clothing site. "I can have it express shipped to the hotel" she told Ginny, who was draped over her shoulder, pushing Myra to order the very best. Despite Ginny's prodding, Myra finally chose what caught her eye the most, a deep teal rayon tunic with Mandarin collar and double-button frog closures in glossy magenta, over wide-leg pants in a coordinating teal batik.

"What about you, wanna order from here?" asked Myra.

"No, I'll take my chances there" said Ginny. "The only hotel that had rooms available to match Edwina's specs was the Hyatt on Union Square, and I remember there's a AgnesB store somewhere in the area, I love their tops."

"You put the rooms on our card, right?" asked Myra urgently.

"Yes, and the rental van, when she wasn't looking. I know, I know, we'll use public transpo in the city. but the van is still cheaper than the airport shuttle for all of us twice."

On the way out of Texas, Allie and Edwina bypassed dessert at Gaido's, saying they needed to go look at something. Myra thought it was just a ruse to remove Allie from temptation until later, when Allie showed her the matching bands of abalone they'd bought at a touristy stand. "Until a friend of Edwina's can make us real rings" said Allie.

At the cemetery, everybody pulled beach stones from their pockets to put on the Bates family markers, including Carly who must have been coached by Gillam. Carly lingered in front of the grave for Sam, David's brother, so long that Myra realized he was crying quietly. She could only guess about his emotions. On the walk back to the car, she maneuvered herself beside him and said quietly "Having you with us this year makes it a complete family gathering. I hope we'll never have to come without you again."

Margie claimed the plane seat next to David, and they all had enough time on their layover at DFW to walk him to his gate. He was trembly at the goodbye, and Myra whispered "Now that we're in the know, you call us, call Ginny, and talk about what's happening, okay?" He nodded.

Margie moved in next to Allie and Edwina for the flight west, chattering on about the reception they'd need to have once she got back from Outward Bound. She turned out to have a great deal of information about modern wedding planning, what was trendy and "green". Ginny remarked sotto voce to Myra "Looks like we've deprived her yet again, marriage-wise". Myra giggled and said "Let's just hope she shoots her wad on this one, Allie can handle it."

Because of time zones, it was not quite dinnertime when they reached San Fran. They checked in, Myra and Ginny in a room between Margie on one side, Gillam and Carly on the other. Margie was thrilled to have her own room and a declared it "opulent, just opulent!" Allie and Edwina were on the same floor but at the end, in the Hyatt's version of a honeymoon suite. The room on the other side of Margie was reserved for Chris and Sima, would arrive Friday after dinner, the next day.

"Can we eat someplace besides Fisherman's Wharf, for once?" grumbled Gillam. "Like, North Beach, some real pasta?"

"It's up to Allie and Edwina" said Myra. "This is their show. And Allie's diet -- "

Gillam looked instantly stricken. Allie said "There are places with both pasta and seafood, plus bisteca, let's look in the phone book", motioning him to the desk with her and Edwina.

"Tomorrow we go shopping!" said Margie, almost hugging herself in glee.

"You go with her, I'll take the boys?" Myra said to Ginny.

"Mm. Yeah, except I have to get something for me, too" began Ginny.

"Oh, Mom, I'd love to do that with you!" interrupted Margie.

Ginny grinned at her, a trifle skeptical. "Okay, but I'm not buying a bra. And, Margie, you'll be heading to Outward Bound only a day after we get back, if there's things you need for that, we should get them here as well. REI, I guess."

Margie's eyes were practically twirling at the extended shopping ahead. Allie, returning to their cluster, said "We've got reservations in an hour. Listen, Edwina and I will be gone tomorrow to the Oakland, the store we want is over there. We're also getting our hair done. I think we'll take the van, is that all right?"

"Good idea. I know this is the best fun in the world, but I want you to stay rested, and tell us what you need, okay?" said Myra. "And speaking of hair -- I'll see if I can get Gillam into a place on Castro Street, with the allure of 'guy' styles and all."

Gillam said "No length taken off. But they could shape it, I bet. I could look like Johnny Depp."

Myra rolled her eyes at Allie.

The next morning after breakfast, Margie postponed her foray with Ginny long enough to horn in on Myra's attempt to find dress shoes in a store on Union Square. After several cracks from Margie about dykes and sensible shoes, Myra finally made a purchase she could live with and the expeditions split up, Ginny whispering "You keep an eagle eye on those two."

Myra whispered back, "Remember that old joke about 'How do you separate the men from the boys on Castro Street?'" When Ginny looked blank, Myra said "With a crowbar." Which didn't crack up Ginny like it did Myra.

Myra had a blast. They ate lunch at Orphan Andy's, their booth drawing all eyes in the place but the boys focused on their double-cheeseburgers and hand-made chocolate shakes. The attention continued in the small clothing stores, and Myra was glad to see Gillam and Carly both enjoying the regard of men who never crossed a line with them. They had enough time to cruise through Cliff Hardware, where Myra outspent the boys. She splurged for a cab back to Union Square because rush hour had begun and they had so many packages.

Everyone else was already gathered in Myra and Ginny's room. Allie and Edwina were still being exclaimed over by Ginny and Margie, and the new arrivals joined in, Myra asking permission to touch the elegant dangling extensions of Allie's hair bejeweled with beads of aquamarine and tiny bells of real silver.

"You jingle!" Gillam explained.

Edwina had a stunning Senegalese twist. Myra breathed "The two of you are so beautiful, I can't look away!"

Allie kept giggling deep in her belly. "Where's your new clothes?" asked Myra.

"Surprise for Sunday" said Allie. "But Miss Thang here been chompin' at the bit for you all to get back so's she can show off what she and her Mama hauled in."

Myra looked at Margie's excited face. Margie swept her hands at the boys, however, with a Vanna-like maneuver and said "Oh, no, ladies first."

Gillam stuck his tongue out at her and Ginny sighed. Carly didn't hesitate, grabbing his bags and saying "I'll be back in a sec" as he headed into their room. Gillam followed him.

Ginny pulled garments from a bag, saying "Margie, I'm not putting these on again today, I'm just going to show them on the hanger". She'd found an AgnesB cotton short-sleeved jersey with form-hugging ribs in pale celadon, and balloon-legged silk pants which darkly reflected the late afternoon light. As Myra exclaimed over the pants, Ginny opened one of the Cliff bags and said "What are all these tchotkes?"

"Pretending like I'm 20 again" Myra laughed.

The adjoining door opened and Gillam glided into the room. After a long dramatic pause, Carly made a second entrance.

Gillam was wearing a silk turtleneck in rust and peach paisley, tucked into bisque-colored linen slacks and topped with a caramel suede jacket. His shoes and belt were of a matching suede.

"Oh, my god" said Edwina, "You look absolutely edible!"

Myra murmured to Ginny "I'm pretty sure that's what the guy who waited on us thought", but Ginny didn't smile.

Carly pushed himself in front of Gillam, giving a runway type of whirl. He'd chosen a crisp white tuxedo shirt with French cuffs, triple-pleated black gabardine slacks with a cuff, a single-button black velvet jacket, gleaming black patent leather shoes, and, to the delight of all the artists, a brocade tie decorated with pink poodles and purple hotrods.

"Too cool" cried Myra, sending Carly's grin even wider. As everyone oohed and aahed, Myra said to Ginny quietly "It wasn't a pricey place, and the boys were very budget conscious, Carly especially was worried about us paying for things, but even so, it added up. Gillam's jacket was $125 all by itself. The total is over $600, is that all right? I figure this will last him all year."

Ginny gave her an unreadable look. "Don't worry about it for a second, Myra. They are both gorgeous, and loving it. I notice Gillam's hair is the same, though."

"Yeah, he didn't like the looks of the one place that could take walk-ins, said it was too 'military'." Myra's voice had returned to normal level. "So I told him he has to wash it before Sunday, and we'll get by with that."

"I'll wash it tonight, maybe it won't be all poofy by Sunday" said Gillam. His chronic complaint about having to wash his hair was that it made it "poofy", although Myra had never been able to get a coherent description from him of what that meant.

"All right, girlfriend, you're on" Ginny said to Margie, who dashed into her room and shut the door firmly behind her.

"Where did you go with her?" asked Myra, sitting down on the bed and leaning against the wall.

"A list too long to recite. But, eventually, she found what she wanted at Saks and Neiman Marcus" said Ginny tiredly. Gillam and Carly were busy swapping jackets and shoes. Gillam put Carly's tie on over his turteneck, which Edwina declared a "hideous clash".

When Margie finally emerged from her room, Myra sat bolt upright. Her daughter looked years older, and casually rich. For once, her black hair didn't seem inappropriate, tucked sleekly behind her ears.

Ginny stood up and said "Allow me to announce. I've learned enough fashion terminology today to give me a cameo role in 'Pret a Porter'." As Margie began an elegant stroll, Ginny declaimed "Madame's geometric matelassé wool and silk jacket with doublestand collar accents the ruched bodice tank underneath with sequin accents. Her full-pleated skirt in gold velvet has a dropped waistline and is lined in silk. Rising almost to the hemline are black patent and suede boots with platform heels and a perky gloss bow on the instep. Her unmentionables shall remain unmentionable, but rest assured, they are equal to the rest of her ensemble."

"Mother of god" said Myra, gaping. "I don't even know half those words you just said."

Gillam and Carly clearly felt upstaged. Edwina reached out to touch Margie's jacket longingly, then opened the front to look at its lining. She did a double-take and said "Is that an Armani label?"

"Yes" burbled Margie, "the shoes are Marc Jacobs, the skirt is Ralph Lauren and, glories, the shirt is a real Versace!"

Allie stiffened, her grin fading noticeably. Edwina exchanged a glance with her, then looked noncommitally at Ginny. Myra, however, was focused on Margie alone, saying "You look like a movie star, honey. I can't believe you know how to dress like this. It sure isn't something we passed on to you!"

"Oh, Mama, I'm so glad it's okay with you!" gushed Margie.

"Okay, why wouldn't it be okay? It's simply the most spectacular outfit ever" said Myra, turning for affirmation from Ginny.

But Ginny's face was now looking -- what was that expression, worried? Allie cleared her throat and said, "Okay, let's protect our finery and go change before dinner. I say we walk down the street to that Thai place. Come directly to our room when you're ready, okay, kids?"

As the younger folk left, Allie said to Ginny, "How's about we stay gone for a while and give you two some room to talk? We'll bring you back takeout in time for us to drive out to the airport and meet Chris and Sima's plane."

Ginny said in a low voice, "Yeah. I guess that would be a good idea."

Myra looked confused. Allie kissed her cheek as she and Edwina left.

"What's going on, Ginny? What did I miss?" said Myra, reaching for Ginny's hand. Ginny stayed out of reach, looking her in the eyes finally.

"Allie's savvier than I knew" she said flatly. "Margie's clothes -- the total was over $6500, Myra. That Versace alone was thirty-six hundred."

Myra thought she must be mishearing. "Thirty-six hundred. Dollars? You can't mean dollars, not for a shirt!"

Ginny sat down in the chair, clasping her hands and nodding dully.

"Six thousand five hundred dollars?" Myra voice had gone very high. "That's more than we spend on her in a year, that's most TWO years' worth of clothes. You spent -- I don't believe it, Ginny. Did she guilt trip you in some unimaginable way?"

"It wasn't Margie. I mean, yes, she wanted it, but I'm the one who made the decisions. Just this once, I said yes to designer labels." Ginny was too scared to be defiant.

"But -- why would you DO that, Ginny? Without calling me, at the very least, we both had our cells with us? We don't make that kind of purchase without discussion, not ever. Are you trying to buy her love, are you playing her against me?" Everything seemed equally possible and impossible to Myra at this moment.

"No. I -- I don't know why I didn't call, Myra. It wasn't until we were on the way back that I realized I should have. I just -- I don't know why." Ginny looked away, out the window.

Myra's disbelief was slowly sliding into anger. "Is this because I want to buy gold, are you trying give me tit for tat? Or -- are you somehow trying to say now that you're earning four times what I do each year, you should have more control over our money?"

"NO, Myra, for god's sake, no. I mean, I don't think so. I told you, I don't know what happened!"

"Well, that's not fucking good enough! If you're going to become Helen Shapiro Bates at the drop of a hat, revert to the worst side of your class background once you get away from me and in the right store, I need something more than your goddamned 'I don't know!'" Myra stood up and strode toward the door to Margie's room.

"Don't you dare walk out on this!" hissed Ginny. "And leave Margie out of it."

"Fine boundary for you to draw NOW!" said Myra. She opened Margie's door and looked in. "She's gone, I wanted to make sure. Allie had the brains to get them out of range."

"Before you went off on me, you mean" sniped Ginny.

"What the FUCK did you think was going to happen? When were you going to tell me, were you going to try to hide the Visa bill and pay for it with a sales check you never told me about? What other lies do I have to wonder about?" Myra was now frankly screaming.

Ginny's face transformed from anger to fear. "This isn't about secrets, Myra. I didn't mean to deceive you, I was going to tell you as soon as Margie was out of earshot, I swear."

In spite of herself, Myra reacted inside to the terror now in Ginny's expression. She had almost never seen that look, and never aimed at her reaction. She began drawing deep breaths, and went to the window to lean on the sill a minute.

Her voice back under control, she said to the glass "I'm completely freaked by this, Ginny."

"I can tell." But neither of them laughed.

"I wish we were at home. It's been ten days since we saw Nancy, we don't have meetings here, I don't have my study...Plus we've been through one too many near misses, I'm not coping, really...Is that what it is, Ginny, is this your way of losing it?" Myra turned and looked at Ginny.

Ginny leaned forward and put her head in her hands, her shoulders beginning to heave. "I don't know, Myra. I'm so ashamed, I've let you down again, I'm afraid you're going to change your mind about trusting me!"

Myra didn't cross to her immediately. She said "I guess, at the moment, I'm afraid of that too."

Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.


kat said...

what? No Bagdad Cafe? Their turkey burgers are the best.

So, just how skinny is Margie supposed to be? Cuz I happen to know (from a friend, not from personal experience) that the biggest size in the SF Armani store is a European 40, which is approximately a very small size 4 here......

Great chapter. Is there more where it came from?

of course there is, how dare I think otherwise.....

Maggie Jochild said...

Right at the moment, Margie is slender and buff, from all that obsessive Soloflex work (part of her therapy, actually). She of course has that generous Ginny ass, which is why she chose the full-pleated skirt. As she grows into womanhood, she retains her muscles and gets deliciously curvy, not to worry.

For that matter, Gillam's ass is more rounded than most boys. I bet you'd find that just as yummy, Kat.

They have Saturday to knock around SF in with Chris and Sima, they'll go to the Bagdad Cafe then. What part of town is it in? I don't remember it, maybe it's after my time.

Here's a bit of trivia: I worked for a year on Sutter Street across from the Hilton on Union Square. My coworker and eventual business partner, Cynthia, would sometimes do special transcription jobs through the concierge at the Hilton. She was a tall, gorgeous black woman who dressed to the nines. The incident early on in Ginny Bates where Allie is flipped a dollar by a gay man and instructed to "go get him a cab" actually happened to Cynthia in the lobby of the Hilton, a rich gay business man treating her like cheap help.

When she got back to our office, she lay down on the floor and cried in humiliation. I did steam over there, homicide on my mind, but he was long gone. The fantasy of chasing him and tormenting him afterward I put into the book.

kat said...

Bagdad Cafe is in the Castro, at Market and 16th. It's named after that line about SF being Bagdad by the Bay or whatever. Was that Herb Caen? I think so....
Anyway, it's kind of diner-ish stuff, but well done, not greasy. The big windows make it really great for people watching.

Let's see....this chapter is in '04? My friends and I were in there a lot in '03 and '04. I had a couple of friends who lived on the tip of Twin Peaks those years, and we would wind all the way down Market street for food or whatever. Their apartment was beautiful, but every time the wind blew too hard the cable and lights would go out!!

Yeah, the incident with Cynthia sounds incredibly shitty. It's frustrating that despite being part of a civil rights struggle, some folks in the GLBT community still hang on to crap about other minority groups. I don't know about when you were here, but the SF scene is really white and mostly affluent. The Castro is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in SF.
The whole Halloween thing has been described as "oh, those latino kids from the Mission come in and screw everything up for us" which is appalling.