Sunday, March 30, 2008


Another 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 a day ago. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

Early March 2007

A little while later, Myra's cell rang. She did not turn and look at it on her bedside table, so Ginny reached across and answered it. It was Chris, asking to talk with Myra first. Myra got on and said "Chris -- how is Sima?" Ginny looked at Allie and they both breathed out: Myra remembered something which she'd heard yesterday. After Myra was done, Allie took the phone and walked out in the hall to talk with Chris a while. When she came back, she said to Ginny "She was crying."

"Wow" said Ginny. "That's rare."

"They're coming back tomorrow night. I'll pick them up about 9:00, and Chris says she won't be okay until she sees Myra herself, so expect us to stop by" said Allie.

Myra said "Thank god", and Ginny said "I agree".

Gillam said "Mom, we need some stuff from the store. I was thinking, maybe Margie and me could go to Pike before we come here tomorrow, when are they going to discharge her?"

"Not before 10:00" said Ginny. "Here, get a pad and let's make a list, I really appreciate your offer."

Velda chased them all out half an hour later. Gillam left his books, and after Ginny got ready for bed, Myra said "How about another poem?"

"All right, which book?"

"The green one with mildew spots" said Myra. It was the first real description Ginny had heard from her in days. Ginny felt a little trembly as she opened it and Myra scooted to lay her head on Ginny's shoulder. Ginny kissed her forehead, and Myra said "Ginny kissed me."

"What -- why are you narrating?" asked Ginny, feeling a sudden fear.

"No, that's the poem I want" said Myra, with a grin.

It took Ginny a while to find, because it was spelled Jenny. But she read it with utter delight:

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief! who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me;
Say I'm growing old, but add-
Jenny kissed me!

"I can't believe I never heard this poem" marveled Ginny.

"I think about it often" said Myra, closing her eyes. "Not quite our story, but good enough."

They slept in solid chunks, despite interruptions and being crowded. At 6:00, Velda woke them up with a tray, saying "I asked for a kosher meal, I thought it might help with the taste."

"You are the best" said Myra, in an almost normal tone. It was a bagel with cream cheese and lox, a decent-looking fruit bowl, tea and milk. Myra ate half of everything, and Ginny polished off the rest. She helped Myra to the bathroom, where they both washed up and brushed their teeth. When Myra got back to her bed, Velda came in with a basin and some towels, saying "It's time to take out your catheter."

"Is this going to hurt her?" asked Ginny.

"Not the way I do it" said Velda. First she undid the IV in Myra's right arm. Then she lowered the head of Myra's bed and exposed her groin. Ginny was disturbed when she saw the length of the tube that had been inside Myra. Myra dribbled a little onto the towel Velda had placed under her. "You are going to have to pay attention to your bladder again" Velda cautioned. "I'll put a pad on you right now -- "

"Wahoo, underwear again!" said Ginny.

Velda went on, "They're going to send you home with a bedside toilet. Don't be shy about using it until you get your bladder trained again. Get up and go the minute you feel any kind of urge."

"Okay" said Myra. Ginny added "If you keep dry, we'll buy you some Wonder Woman panties" which made Myra actually chuckle.

A few minutes later, Ginny's cell rang. It was Nancy, saying "Oh my god, my cell has been out of range until this morning when I left the complex and was heading for a beach before going to the airport. How is she?"

Ginny gave her a rundown. Nancy kept apologizing, saying she'd been completely occupied and since her own kids had her hotel number, she didn't worry about not having access to her cell service. "I'm flying home soon and should be in Seattle by mid afternoon" she said. "My oldest boy is picking me up but we'll come straight to your house."

Ginny felt such relief, she got dizzy. "Thank you. We'll be waiting." When she told Myra about the news, Myra's eyes got that look of hope again. She squeezed her hand around the Ripley figure that she held most of the time now.

Margie and Gillam arrived a few minutes before Edwina and Allie. "We brought the Volvo so we can all ride home together!" said Gillam joyfully. Margie said wearily "We've been up since 6:30." Ginny waited until Edwina and Allie were there as well to tell everyone about Nancy's call, and a loud cheer went up. Velda came into the room, and Ginny began to apologize for the ruckus. Velda said "No, I just came to say goodbye, I'm going off shift. It's been an honor to get to know you all." She shook hands and accepted hugs from Margie and Gillam.

"Did you get her last name?" asked Allie after she left the room, looking at Ginny meaningfully.

"I did" said Ginny. "We'll talk later."

By 10:00, Myra was washed and dressed, and Ginny had everything in the room packed except for Ripley in Myra's hand. A nurse brought in a wheelchair, which Myra promptly occupied, but he left and they sat waiting for almost half an hour. Myra finally got up and went to the bathroom, saying "I'm barely making it to the pot in time, folks" on her return.

Ginny's cell rang again, and when she looked at the caller ID, she said "It's Dr. Desai".

Dr. Desai was still on vacation but had gotten an update from Dr. Maxwell. She sounded very apologetic and distraught. She said she was glad Myra was well enough to be discharged and asked if there was anything further she could do.

"Never use Maxwell again as your backup" said Ginny promptly.

Dr. Desai was shocked into silence. Ginny went on "If I had not been the meshugina dyke that I am and called in another doctor to start help on its way -- well, it doesn't bear thinking about. He's incompetent and disrespectful, an unforgiveable combination."

"All right" said Dr. Desai finally. "I'll -- review his notes and talk to my practice partner. In the meantime, I'm telling my service to put you through directly on an emergency basis if you call. I'll be back on Monday and if Myra continues to do well, I'll see her Wednesday for her post-op checkup and to remove the staples. But if there are any problems at all in the meantime, call me AND take her back to the emergency room." She paused. "I'm very sorry, Ginny."

"I know you are" said Ginny. "I'm glad you called and I appreciate you listening to me."

"I...also have to talk with the anesthesiologist about why weren't informed of the saturation drop. I don't remember any comment during the surgery. I hope you know, if I had, I'd have followed up, talked with you about it then -- "

"I do know that. But yes, we'll have to talk about what it means. Later. After we find out from Dr. Reading -- have you heard from her?"

"No. But it's Sunday" said Dr. Desai. As if Myra's brain was taking a day off thought Ginny, followed by Oh god, that's exactly what it's doing, only not just a day. She was so tired she almost giggled at the sick humor of it.

Finally someone else in scrubs arrived to escort Myra to the front door. There was a round of farewells at the nurse's station, and Ginny was sidetracked to sign more forms. Margie went on ahead to bring the car around. Dr. Maxwell did not made an appearance, though he'd left instructions and prescriptions at the desk.

Myra became increasingly quiet and anxious-looking as they made their way through corridors and past unfamiliar rooms of people. The automatic doors to the outside, bright and loud, made her gasp. Ginny stepped over and took the hand that wasn't clutching Ripley. Myra closed her eyes and said "It feels like I've been in there forever."

When Margie pulled up, Allie and Edwina said they'd see them at the house and walked off. Gillam helped Myra into the front passenger seat, and Ginny walked around to take the wheel from Margie. As she pulled out of the drive, Ginny said "Praise Isis" softly.

Fifty feet later, Myra shouted "No! Stop!" She had her hands pushed against the dash, and her entire body was rigid.

Ginny pulled over instantly, saying "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

Myra shook her head. "I can't...I can't focus...It's too much. Too fast." She closed her eyes, but opened them again because she thought she might pass out.

"Are you overstimulated, Myra? Is it the visual -- is it what you're seeing, or is it the motion of the car?"

"I don't know" said Myra. "Things are going past so fast."

Ginny unbuckled her seatbelt. "Let's change seats. Margie, you can drive after all, but for pete's sake, focus on nothing else but the road. Gillam, you sit up here, and Myra and I will sit in the backseat. That's less of a view out the window. Margie, go as slowly as is safe. Myra, if you need us to stop again, just ask. Are you feeling like throwing up?"

Myra shook her head as she buckled herself into the back seat. Ginny said "Margie, we have to stop at a medical supply place two blocks from here, next to the French bakery, you know that place? We have to pick up the toilet chair and a shower stool."

"I don't need that" said Myra.

"Well, the insurance has paid for it, so we might as well take it home. They're the only equipment place open today and I called them to say we were coming by."

Margie nervously put the car into gear and pulled out. Gillam stuck his head between the seats and did his Dick Cheney impression, curling his lips into a snarl and saying "Make sure the goddamned TVs are all set on Fox News!" Myra laughed briefly. Her face got very pale over the next two blocks, and her grip on Ginny was intense, but she took deep breaths and endured it.

At the medical supply store, Gillam and Margie went in with the prescriptions and paperwork. Myra remarked "That bakery has really good creme brulee. And almond croissants."

Ginny sighed "Make the most of it, Tiny Tim. When the kids get back, I'll send them in for a bagful of whatever you'll agree to choke down." Myra kissed her lightly, and they sat looking into each other eyes. When Gillam came out of the store, he was carrying a large commode chair in front of him. "Please, please, don't let anybody from my school be passing by right now" he said to Margie. They stashed the equipment in the back of the station wagon, then practically skipped into the bakery with Myra's list.

The rest of the drive home was equally hard on Myra. Once they got there, she leaned on Gillam from the carport into the front door, mostly because she was so light-headed. Narnia almost knocked her down when the door was opened, woofing and dancing with abandon. Myra went as far as the couch and sat down heavily. Ginny pushed in next to her. Myra looked around the room, into the dining room, took a deep sniff, and burst into tears.

Her crying was horrible, like nothing Ginny had ever heard her do. It was like the wail of an infant in extreme pain. Every so often, she would choke out "I'm so scared, I'm so fucking scared". Ginny held her very tight and repeated over and over, "We're home safe. It's okay now." Gillam and Margie sat down and watched, miserable. Narnia planted herself between Myra's legs on the floor and pressed herself as hard as she could against Myra's calf. Allie and Edwina joined them, Allie sitting forward in her chair with her elbows on her knees.

Eventually, the crying lessened, then trickled off. Ginny felt Myra's breathing alter and her weight slacken against her shoulder. "Is she asleep?" she whispered to Allie, who could see Myra's face.

"I think so."

Ginny shifted enough to pull Myra onto her chest and wrapped her arms around her. "She has no extra at all," she murmured.

"I was going to make chicken salad for lunch, should I still do that?" whispered Gillam.

"Yeah, go ahead. But we're going to let her sleep for now" said Ginny. "Will one of you get us the pillows from our bed and a blanket?"

Margie removed Myra's shoes gently and they got her prone on the couch, her head on a pillow in Ginny's lap. Once she was tucked in, Ginny fell asleep too, her palm cupping Myra's cheek.

Allie and Edwina joined Gillam in the kitchen. Margie claimed the easy chair, lifted the legrest, and watched her mothers for a few minutes until she, too, fell asleep.

An hour later, Allie woke them all up, saying "Let's keep food and liquid coming into your system regularly, My." Once she was awake, Myra said "Oh, god, I have to pee" and she walked as fast as she could to the bathroom. Ginny carried their bag into the bedroom and saw that the toilet chair had been placed in the corner. She moved it to Myra's side of the bed. She carried the shower stool into the bathroom and put it in the tub as Myra flushed.

"I think I liked life on a catheter" said Myra ruefully. Ginny held Ripley while Myra washed her hands.

They ate a slow, giddy lunch, Ginny raving about the salad and vegetables. Myra said "Either it's your cooking, boychik, or that crap is wearing off, because this doesn't taste like total shit. Only partial shit." Gillam laughed, his face going bright red with happiness. Myra ate only half portions, but insisted on sampling the creme brulee from the bakery as well. She gave what she could not finish to Gillam, despite Narnia's pressure against her calf offering to clear her plate.

They were still at the table when a knock came at the door. Before Margie could get to it, Nancy walked in. Her son trailed in after her. Nancy kissed Margie, then walked over to Myra and put her hand on Myra's chest over her fourth chakra. Myra breathed in suddenly.

Everyone watched in heavy silence as Nancy murmured to herself, doing range of muscle testing up and down Myra's body. After a couple of minutes, tears were sheeting down Myra's cheeks. Her eyes followed Nancy's face avidly.

Nancy's brow showed beads of sweat before she paused, over half an hour later. She kept her hand on Myra's forehead but turned to face Ginny and the rest.

"She's in here. She's completely intact." Ginny swallowed audibly, and Nancy smiled tiredly at her. "But the pathway out has been ruptured, like a break in a circuit. She can talk but she can't say exactly what she wants to say. She can hear you but she can't always access all of her brain to make sense of it. She can see but she can't always remember what she's seeing. She's terrified beyond description. She's been lost since she woke up from the surgery. She's had no ability at all to tell you what's actually going on."

Ginny stood up, as if to do something. Myra looked at her, with no blankness at all in her eyes.

"I did a lot of clearing and re-energizing. I believe the path can be restored, because her memory and her Myra-ness is undamaged. I don't know how we are going to do that yet -- I have to consult with some people. But I think we can do it. You need to talk to her as you always have, without any change. You need to reach into her as much as you can, yet not push her. She needs to not be left alone, not even for a minute -- one of you with her at all times. But in a peaceful environment. Her kidneys wanted to shut down, I think from the panic in her bloodstream, but she did what she could to hang onto them and those, at least, I think I managed to completely reset for her."

She looked down at Myra. "You've done great. You are quite the survivor. I'll be back tomorrow, with more ideas. You can relax now. You understand me?"

Myra nodded without a pause.

Nancy kissed them all, whispered to Ginny "You can let down your guard now", and left, her son still in her wake. After the door closed, Edwina said "Who was that masked woman?" and they exploded into laughter.

Ginny asked Myra what she wanted to do now. Myra straightened her shoulders and said "See my study." She walked back and looked around a little uncertainly, then sat on her daybed and leaned against the Gee's Bend quilt. Beebo, asleep in the corner cubby of her desk that she kept cleared for him, stood and stretched with an interrogative mew. He glided to her, sniffed of her belly with an open mouth, and decided that was where he wanted to continue his nap. Ginny reached for him, but Myra said "No, it feels good, he's warm and soft."

They settled into places around her, dishes left on the table in the dining room. Narnia was torn -- she was tall enough to stand and help herself -- but finally she joined them in the study, duty plain on her face.

"So, let's make a plan" said Allie. "One of Myra's lists."

Margie, who was at Myra's desk, pulled a legal pad from the drawer and handed it to Myra, at the last minute remembering with complete horror that Myra could not write. Ginny said gently "Why don't you take notes for us all, honey?" and Margie sat at attention with a pencil.

Ginny said "Okay -- doctor and Nancy visits, exercises, nutrition, rewiring your brain...anything else?"

Gillam cleared his throat and said "I'll volunteer to read to you, every day. And -- I'll make dinner for us each night. Plus do the weekly grocery shopping."

Edwina put her arm around his shoulder and said "We'll collaborate on some of the dinners, okay? Like shabbos."

Ginny was very moved. "Yes to the reading. Whatever Myra wants to hear. I'll let you share in the shopping, but I think we should include Myra in as much of her regular routine as she can handle."

Myra said "I can't drive."

"One of us will be with you" said Ginny. "And you don't have to go out until you want to. But you always love going to Pike."

"And if you can't remember your recipes" said Gillam, "I know most of them by now, and I can teach them back to you. Rewire, like Mom said."

Myra smiled at him. "All right."

Margie jumped in with "Then I'll be your exercise buddy. Swimming, and when you use the Soloflex again, and yoga. My crewing coach always says the best way to study for an exam is to do a medium-sized workout first, because activity makes the brain learn better. So -- I know, I'll make a schedule for us!"

"Okay" said Myra again.

"And what about music?" continued Margie. "Music is another language, you know -- "

Ginny interrupted "We have to be careful about overwhelm. If Myra wants to hear something, she gets to pick it out."

"Cris, Holly, Meg and Alix" said Myra with a grin. "Plus the Scots."

Margie was writing all this down.

"Nature" said Allie. "Let's get outdoors whenever you feel up to it."

"Jesus in the desert" said Myra with a giggle, and Allie guffawed.

"What about videos?" asked Gillam.

"Absolutely not" said Ginny firmly. "If we wouldn't do it with a child under the age of two, we shouldn't expose Myra to it. Not under her filters are back."

Gillam looked abashed for a bit. Then he said "What about...writing? I mean, like poetry. Maybe she could dictate it to one of us..."

Myra closed her eyes suddenly. Ginny said "This is what I mean by overwhelm. Myra, there's no rush, it will all come back in its own time." Gillam took Myra's hand, putting his large fingers around hers clenching Ripley, and said "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean -- "

Myra opened her eyes and looked into his face, saying "It's okay." She kissed him sweetly.

"What kind of help are you going to need?" Edwina asked Ginny. Ginny glanced at her children and said "I think we're covered. I'll be with her during the days, and as she gets stronger she'll pick back up the things she likes to do around here." Not all of them her head argued.

She could tell from Edwina's face they were thinking the same question: What if she doesn't recover? But Ginny had no answer for that, except I'm hers. No matter what.

Margie said "I can pick up the slack, Mom, when you start painting again, me and Gillam can take turns."

Ginny stared at her. "I won't be painting again. Not until she's completely back."

Everyone was stunned. Allie said "You don't have to do that, Ginny -- "

"Of course I do" said Ginny. "We're a team, me and Myra. That includes as artists. And if she's lost her art, then I'm not going into Painterland and leaving her behind. I know she'd do the same for me. Myra, you understand, don't you? You know what I mean?"

Myra's face was tragic. Still, she nodded. "Feed each other's appetites" she said.

"Exactly, that was our promise. So, we'll figure this out together" said Ginny. She didn't look at Edwina again.

Allie said "Do you want to have David come for a while?"

Ginny was tempted. She looked at Myra and saw the blankness return. "No. He's a comfort but...Myra would rather not share me with him. She won't ask that, but I know it's true." She managed a grin, and so did Myra.

"Okay" said Ginny. "You've all been very nice about not mentioning how ripe I smell, but I can tell I need to sluice this body of mine head to toe. Myra, let's go try out your shower stool, steam up the bathroom and get squeaky clean, shall we?"

"What about her incision?" asked Margie.

"We have some magic stick-um to put over it, keep it dry" said Ginny. She helped Myra to her feet and they headed for the bathroom. After a minute, Gillam got up to clear the table. Allie said to Edwina, "She's the only one who hasn't gotten to grieve yet."

Margie, startled, said "Who?"

Edwina said "Ginny. She's operating on fumes. Well, we've got the rest of the day. Once it dawns on her she can let go, I think she will."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild