Sunday, February 3, 2008


(JFK, TWA Terminal, photograph by Martha Rosler, 1990)

Another briefer-than-usual 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.

20 June 2004

The wedding itself, held on the upper outside steps of City Hall, Myra later remembered as shot through with slanted golden light. Their entourage drew attention, even with all the hoopla of gay weddings around them swollen by the approach of Pride the coming week. The woman who performed the ceremony, brief but joyous, was African-American as well, a small benediction from god, Myra thought. Allie's constant laughter made Myra imagine her as a little girl.

They moved to the lower landing of the steps to do their broom jumping. To Ginny's horror, immediately after Allie and Edwina leaped over their small, brightly-decorated sticks, holding hands, Margie took a run and jumped them also. But Allie pulled her into a hug and waved at the boys to go next, Gillam with his video camera clamped to his face. Everyone in the family followed suit and gathered in a group hug, Ginny picking up the broomsticks hastily to keep the growing crowd of onlookers from continuing the process.

Margie then held up her Walkdyke, volume dialed to max, and pushed play. When the unmistakeable voice of Marcia Griffiths sang "You can't see it" with a background responding "It's electric!", Allie and Edwina cried out in delight and immediately started a line. By the time they got to the first "Boogie woogie woogie", a second line of onlookers had formed behind them, and at the end of the dance, they had nearly filled that expanse of marble from side to side. Margie started the song again, and this time Gillam sat out to film it. Myra preferred the video of the first time through, however, with jubilant singing along and Gillam's jerky camera motion somehow communicating the exuberant sweeps and pivots around him.

They drove for a late lunch in Berkeley at Chez Panisse, Edwina's choice and Ginny's wet dream. The menu was easy on Allie, and Ginny got a chance to briefly tour the garden out back. It was hard to leave Allie and Edwina behind at the hotel, although Myra thought the two of them didn't look at all sad to be alone.

At the airport, Myra discovered that Chris and Sima had, despite Allie's instructions otherwise, purchased seats in coach instead of first class. She asked Gillam and Carly to trade out with them, which the boys agreed to with suspicious enthusiasm. After tedious and pointless security delays, she held their group back at the gate until Gillam and Carly were called to be seated. She gave them a list of instructions on how to behave themselves as they disappeared down the aisle.

Her remaining five seats in first class were two pairs sandwiching a third next to a stranger, already in his seat: A young man in his early 20s, headphones and sunglasses on, slouched against the window with his seat tilted back. His hair stood up in platinum spikes that contrasted with the dark stubble on his cheeks, a current fashion trend that always reminded Myra of how bums were depicted in cartoons when she was a kid.

Margie didn't hesitate. She plopped down into the space next to the stranger, and used the sound pouring through her own ear buds plus the distraction of leaning over to stash her bag under the seat to ignore Myra's question about whether Margie was sure she wanted this seat. Myra and Chris, pressed by people behind them, slid in the pair of seats behind Margie, Chris having to angle herself to maneuver under the seat leaned back into her space and muttering "lout". Sima grabbed the pair in front of Margie for her and Ginny, while Ginny instructed the flight attendant how to store her wet carrier properly.

Once everyone was settled in, Margie shrugged off her Armani jacket, revealing extremely muscular biceps and a breathtaking expanse of shoulder, including her tattoo. She pulled out her Rolling Stone and turned to an article she'd already begun reading.

The young man beside her emerged from his stupor and his slouch, slipping off his headphones and introducing himself as Dirk. Margie shook his offered hand and replied "Margo. Margo Batiz."

Ginny heard this from the seat ahead and went still. Sima raised her eyebrows and grinned, indicating she'd caught it as well.

Over the next half hour, Margo Batiz revealed herself to have turned 18 just this month, a resident of Venice Beach, California although she traveled extensively much of the time because it turns out, as Dirk guessed, that yes she was a fashion model. She mentioned several spreads in Elle and Mademoiselle he might have seen. She'd been modeling since a child -- she told an entertaining anecdote about an Ovaltine commercial shoot when she was four. Dirk volunteered that he had played bass for Forces of Evil and had also subbed for Stone Temple Pilots a few times, but was now in the process of forming his own band. This led to a discussion of the crossover between ska and punk that left Ginny open-mouthed at Margie's knowledge.

When snacks were brought around, Dirk offered to buy Margo a drink but she declined because "alcohol is terrible for the skin, really shows in close-ups". She took orange juice instead. Turns out, her father Mario Batiz was a famous writer whose novel of two years ago, The Seafarmer's Daughter, had won a National Book Award, had Dirk read it? Dirk said he had not but he'd heard really good things about it and now he'd get a copy, for sure. Margo's mother was a marine biologist, and that's why Margo was traveling to Seattle, to help her mother study the effects of sonar on orca populations. Her mother, Genoveva Jose, worked for the National Science Foundation, and thus Margo's real surname was Jose-Batiz, but she used only the last name in her work.

Yes, she was Jewish as the tattoo indicated, Sephardic actually. Her parents had been raised in Portugal, in a small estate outside Lisboa. Her father's family had survived the Inquisition without being forced into conversion because they were related to the Pinzón brothers -- you know, the navigators who had sailed with Cristobal Colon and were, in reality, the ones who had brought the ships safely to the New World and home again? Their fame had ensured the survival of the lineage.

Yes, Margo had heard Portugese was similar to Spanish, which Dirk spoke a little of, but she'd never been allowed to learn Spanish herself because her Mamí considered it a bastard language. Although, truth is, with Mamí's work, Margo had mostly been raised by her Dona Alicia. Well, that's that Margo was allowed to call her because as a small child she'd not been able to pronounce Principessa, which is what Dona Alicia really was since her marriage into Monaco minor royalty -- a title she kept even after her husband's untimely demise from a riptide off the coast of Nice.

Sima struggled to not succumb to hysterics during this long fantasia drifting toward their ears from the seats behind them. Ginny found herself torn between outrage and admiration. As the plane approached descent, however, and Dirk adroitly requested Margo's phone number, Ginny stood up swiftly, aiming a steely glare in Margie's direction. As the flight attendant rushed to persuade Ginny back under her seatbelt, Margo deftly reeled off the take-out number for Coastal Kitchen to Dirk, who wrote it on his wrist with not-quite-concealed triumph.

Myra entirely missed this confabulation because she was engaged in a whispered conversation with Chris. She began by filling Chris in on the events of the past week, which took a while. Chris's interest was absolute until Myra got to the part about Ginny's shopping expedition with Margie. When Myra began expressing her upset about Ginny's duplicity, Chris snorted and said "You just told me how uncertain you were about spending that much on Gillam's outfit, what's the difference?"

"Six thousand dollars and change" said Myra indignantly.

"But if you had doubts about what you were spending, why didn't you call Ginny?" pressed Chris.

"Because of the amount, mine wasn't enough to feed a family of four for a year!" said Myra.

"Depends on where the family lives, for starters" said Chris. Myra interrupted with "Mine wasn't a secret, I told her right away, but Ginny held back -- "

"Oh, fucking give it up, Myra, secrets are not the evil you make them out to be" said Chris.

"Spoken like a true Scorpio" whispered Myra fiercely. Chris laughed and shrugged, saying "Ginny's got secrets like any normal person, is all I'm saying. So do you, if you'd be honest about it."

Myra pushed herself back in her seat, furious. She heard Margie say "grandfather's little winery" in a lilting voice, but it didn't register. She turned on Chris again to spit out "I can't believe you're sticking up for Ginny!"

"I'm not sticking up for her, I think it's absolutely ludicrous to spend that kind of money on clothes, especially for a kid who's gonna outgrow it in less than a year. Margie is gonna have Ginny's rump, she's well on her way."

Myra was sidetracked. "That skirt's pleats will accommodate it, I think."

Chris said "But Myra, you're not tracking well, here. You're losing it all over the place, Ginny or no, and that's what concerns me."

There was concern in Chris's voice, and that registered with Myra. She looked Chris in the eyes. After a long pause, she whispered "I've missed you."

"Apparently. I've got one last thing to say to you, My: Separate bank accounts."

Myra reacted as if to a blow. Chris went on, "Boundaries are healthy, Myra. Me and Sima have a household account but we deal with our money separately. And before you get all holy on me about you and Ginny's connection, just remember, Sima and I have been together five years longer than you, working full-time jobs with much less resource than you two, and money crap is not one of our hotspots. You've got what, five or six years left on your lottery payout? I'd really like to see you deal with being rich on your own, instead of letting Ginny do the dirty work and you freaking out about how she's not perfect with regard to class."

Something in the way Chris's words were configured made Myra certain she'd talked this over with Allie. She couldn't think of a single response. After a minute, she stood up, saying "I'm going to check on the boys" and pushed through the curtain.

When she returned, she said "Thanks, Chris. I'll -- think it over. Let's hear about you now: Tell me about this possibility of you taking a full-time job with the intertribal council office, how did this come up?"

When the plane landed, Margo explained to Dirk that she had to wait on her agent who insisted on flying coach. She let him out from their row with a demure handshake. As he went out the door, he waggled an "I'll call you" sign at her. A minute later, Margie collapsed in hysterical laughter. Ginny scooted back beside her and Margie buried her face on her mother's shoulder, saying "That was the most fun ever! And what a doofus -- Mama, the guy who played with Forces of Evil was named Derek, not Dirk!"

Ginny decided to simply enjoy Margie's hilarity. This was the child who'd told Gillam at five that nostrils slowly sealed together unless you picked your nose vigorously to keep them open, and that grown-ups had hair in their noses because they didn't put vinegar on their fingers before picking.

It was good to be home. Margie gave Narnia a bath to wash the kennel smell off her, Dinah went into incensed seclusion, and Ginny showed paintings to Sima and Chris before going out to harvest her neglected garden. Myra set Gillam and Carly to doing beachy laundry while she dashed to Trader Joe's for enough to make dinner and breakfast.

The next day, Monday, Ginny helped Margie get packed for Outward Bound and Gillam ready for a week in Olympia -- they both had trains leaving in the morning -- while Myra did a bigger shopping at Pike and stopped by for a visit with Allie's mother.

On Tuesday mid-morning they returned to a blessedly quiet and empty house. Thursday evening Myra remarked "You know, it's been two days since I used the stove. We've been existing off your salads plus bread and cheese."

When Ginny wasn't canning produce, she'd been working steadily at varnishing cured canvases, making slides for gallery proposals, and assorted small art projects which had spilled over from her study to the dining room table. Myra was glad she wasn't in Painterland yet because she was able to virtually ignore Ginny, except for shared meals and slumber. She was writing steadily, tirelessly, taking breaks only to walk a disconsolate Narnia or review hospital bills as they trickled in.

That night, when Ginny curled up on her daybed to launch a telephone call with Cathy that would last two hours, Myra pulled foam earplugs from her desk drawer and closed off sound to write. She and Ginny were due to see Nancy the next day, and "boundaries" were on her list of items to discuss. After Ginny finally hung up the phone, Myra pulled out her plugs and said "Give me the short version, okay?"

"Nate and Elyse are pregnant" began Ginny.

Ginny's oldest nephew Nate had gotten married suddenly in May without informing his family in advance.

"Wow. That explains the elopement, then, huh" said Myra.

"Rather. But mother's using it as an excuse to refuse to discuss divorce with Daddy, says she doesn't want to tear apart the family with a new addition on the way" Ginny fumed.

"So David's broached divorce?"

"Yep. Turns out, the mamzer who's been boinking her also doesn't want divorce because his wife, I remember her, she's been fat forever and has tried every kind of surgery there is for it, and now she's in terrible health as a result -- of the surgeries, I mean -- so she's determined to clean him out if he leaves her for mother. Plus, their son is running for mayor of Westminster and they want no scandal to leak out. Mother would find herself suddenly without a host if Daddy leaves her."

"And you got this from Cathy? What does David say?"

"I haven't talked to Daddy yet, I keep getting mother when I call which is not very pleasant at the moment" said Ginny.

"I can imagine. Well, let me know when you talk with David" said Myra, picking up the earplugs and turning back to her computer screen.

Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.


letsdance said...

another great chapter, Maggie.

kat said...

I love Margie. That's pretty much the most hysterical act ever. I was literally falling off my desk chair!

As for the non funny stuff, as always, you reach a level of realism that is just staggering. I love that I'm the world's foremost Ginny Bates expert (yes, yes, I'm flaunting my position) but am still discovering new things about these people and their lives!

way to go.

Maggie Jochild said...

You know, Kat, you and Margie would be great friends, I think.

And this writing-as-its-being-read is influencing what gets produced in a very positive way. Shiny.

kat said...

I think Margie would be a bad influence on me!!
especially now that she's got a tatoo!