Sunday, March 2, 2008


Sometimes I prime the pump for working on a chapter in Ginny Bates, my novel-in-progress, by writing scraps or vignettes that I pile up at the end of the manuscript, not sure where to insert them yet (if at all). Today I'll share with you a few of these crunchy little morsels. Great with cream gravy.

Sometime during the 1990s

When Ginny got home from her dentist appointment, she heard Allie's raised voice from the study saying "Doris Day is NOT a dyke, Myra! I'll give you Kim Novak, okay, and Joan Baez sleeping with Janis Ian, but Doris Day has been married to four different men, some of them for a long time!"

Myra said "Cover."

"She had a son! People do not have children for cover!"

"Joan Crawford did."

"Joan Crawford adopted her kids. And she didn't do it to prove she was straight, she did it to try and prove she was human."

When Gillam and Carly are around 12, circa 2003

Allie was at the espresso machine, making iced coffees for those who wanted them. Chris was tossing a salad of just-picked cherry tomatoes, bibb lettuce, steamed baby carrots, little rounds of fresh mozzarella, big garlicy croutons of day-old bread, and one of Ginny's herb vinagrettes. Myra was slicing previously-baked yams which she was then going to drizzle with spicy peanut sauce to grill outside, along with the tuna and turkey burgers. As the smell of the cutting board filled her nostrils, she remarked "Always reminds me of Ginny." Chris looked at her, and Myra said "Baked yams. Mostly -- although sometimes she tastes like raw cashews."

Chris's cheeks went red, but after a couple of moments, she said quietly "Sima's like fresh oysters."

They both turned and took at Allie, who was keeping her back toward them. Chris grinned and Myra shrugged, going back to her slicing. But then they heard Allie say, very softly, "Lemony."

Everybody burst out laughing just as Ginny came in from the deck where Edwina was poking at coals in the barbecue. Ginny said "The grill's ready", then asked "What's so funny?"

Myra set down her knife so she didn't slice off a finger and said "I'll tell you later." She dressed the yam slices and handed them to Ginny, who already had the platter of fish and meat. Sima walked by them in her swimsuit, heading for the pool. Ginny followed her, saying "They may be up to something."

"They generally are" replied Sima, opening the door for Ginny. After they were outside, Chris asked Myra "Do you tell her everything?"

Myra rinsed her knife and said "No." They all cracked up again.

As Myra began washing her hands at the sink, Carly came zooming down the stairs and said to them "You haven't seen me!", then dashed outside to the carport. In a minute, they heard a flush upstairs and Gillam clomped downstairs. He went straight to the trash can, tied the bag shut and hoisted it over one shoulder, then picked up the recycling box precariously in his other hand and walked to the carport door.

Myra turned around to look at Allie and Chris, eyebrows raised. They all stood expectantly, ears turned toward the carport. Myra heard Gillam set down the recycling with a clank, and apparently lift the lid on their big grey rolling bin. There was an almost simultaneous "Yaaahhh!" from Carly and then a high-pitched, blood-curdling scream from Gillam. Everybody in the kitchen was leaning on the counter, helpless with laughter, when Edwina poked her head into the house from the deck and said "You all hear that?"

"It's the boys" called Allie, and when Carly came back through, they all high-fived him. His face was red from excitement.

"Were you down in the can itself?" asked Chris.

"Yeah. Gotta scrub my hands, but man, you shoulda seen his face!" crowed Carly. Gillam appeared behind him.

"You will pay" he said in an ominous tone, but he was grinning from ear to ear.

"I didn't know you could still hit notes that far up the scale" said Myra. He punched her shoulder and trailed Carly out to the deck, where Carly was re-enacting his prank.

During a Feminist Fund meeting, circa 2006

"You know, I'd like to sometimes print our brochures with Spanish first, English second -- I mean, why should primarily Spanish-speakers always have to turn to the back to get something directed at them?" said Myra.

After a pause, Ginny said "Okay. Good idea."

"And I know we've gotten it translated into Mandarin and Tagalog, but I think we're missing the segment who speaks Cantonese, aren't we?" continued Myra.

"I don't know" said Sima. "Is the written language distinct from the spoken?"

Ginny made another note. "We'll find out."

Myra continued in an argumentative tone -- Ginny wondered what was bugging her now -- "Used to be, folk music didn't shy away from being in something other than English. And a few dykes did that in women's music, without dumbing it down for us. But seems like nobody dares to write in Spanish any more.

Chris suddenly burst into song:

Hay una mujer desaparecida
Hay una mujer desaparecida
And the junta
And the junta has all her clothes
She is sneezing and FREEZING..."

Myra howled with laughter. Ginny and Sima had frozen looks on their faces, even after Alveisa and Allie began chortling. Myra reached across the table and grabbed Chris's hand, as if she was holding on to keep from falling over. When she could speak again, she said "Oh god, that reminds me of Albatross. Remember how hysterical their cartoons were?"

Chris was grinning from ear to ear. "Holly Nearandfar, yeah, and Phyllis Shitfly -- "

"And Betty Frypan -- " Myra was losing it again.

"My all time favorite" said Chris, "was that one with the picture of the uptight white ladies, like from a Virginia Slims commercial -- there were two of them, identical, talking to each other, and the one on the left says 'Do you smoke after you have an orgasm?' and the one on the right says 'I don't know, I never looked'." Myra began pounding the table, and Chris leaned back in her chair, laughing wildly.

When Gillam is around 15

After dinner, the Chris and Sima sat at the table with Ginny and Myra, drinking tea and talking. The kids went upstairs. After a bit, Gillam came back down in his swim trunks, heading for the pool. As he passed through the kitchen, they could hear him singing under his breath:

My anaconda don't want none
Unless you've got buns, hon
You can do side bends or sit-ups,
But please don't lose that butt

Ginny stared at Myra in disbelief and said "Did he just sing what I think he did?"

"Don't ask me" said Myra, "I'm famous for misinterpreting lyrics."

Chris chuckled and said "The first time Myra heard 'View from Gay Head' she thought Alix was singing 'Where there's no peanuts between us friends'."

But Ginny had heard that story before. She was grinning with an expression that made Myra say "What are you thinking about?"

Ginny took Myra's hand and turned to Sima and Chris. "One time when we were all at the beach, and Gillam was around 8 or 9, we were sitting at the campfire singing and Myra began this folk song from her childhood, 'Old Joe Clark'. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the first time Gillam had heard it, but it was the first time he understood it, when she got to the stanza

I don't give a damn for old Joe Clark
And I'll tell you the reason why
He blows his nose in old cornbread
And calls it chicken pie

Gillam's face showed sick comprehension, and he just turned and puked, right there on the sand. Well, he was sitting next to Myra, so she of course turns the other direction and pukes too. And then, when she tries to dig a hole and get rid of her mess, she vomits again. Allie and David were in helpless hysterics. I got up to help her out, and she fled for the house, Gillam behind her."

Chris and Sima were laughing hard. Myra looked queasy, but said "I remember that evening, turned out well in the end. Me and Gillam read Mistress Masham's Repose together until we fell asleep."

Chris, chortling, said "That reminds me of when he was a little younger, and you'd all just gotten back from Galveston. He always came back with a strong Texas twang, remember?, soaked up whatever accent he was around, and it would last a week or so. So, he was playing with his Legos in the living room, singing to himself, and the tune was familiar -- Guantanamera -- but the words were oh so wrong. I finally realized he was singing

One ton of 'maters
Ah'm eating one ton of 'maters

All four of the women began shrieking in hilarity and turned to look through the glass wall at Gillam. He had reached the end of a lap and stood up in the shallow end to catch his breath. He saw them focus on him simultaneously, laughing like maniacs. He mouthed at them irritably "What?!!", then heaved himself backwards and began swimming to the other end.

Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild

1 comment:

letsdance said...

yummy crunchy morsels, Maggie!