Tuesday, April 29, 2008


(Coastal Burger with chickpea fries and coriander aioli, Coastal Kitchen, Capitol Hill, Seattle)

All right, fans, here's another segment of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. This occurs after my last post two days ago. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

July and August 2010

Gillam stuck around in the Netherlands for a few days after Margie and Frances left. He and Myra took a train to Delft and toured the factory. Myra let Gillam pick out dishes as gifts for everyone they knew, plus a set for their own home, to be shipped back. They made a second trip to the FOAM photography museum in Amsterdam, and imitated Margie and Frances' trek by bike to a tulip farm, where again boxes of bulbs were addressed for home.

They kept the bikes and made their way through the redeveloped Docklands so Gillam could photograph all the new architecture. Myra wrote three poems that day, and they talked of creating a book with his photos, her poetry, perhaps a limited edition for friends.

The night Ginny finished her first canvas, Myra wanted to stay in and order room service. Gillam opted to go out, a little evasive in his answers about what he might do. After he left, Myra realized he probably wanted to have a look at the Red Light District. It didn't bother her at all. She was closer to him than she had felt since he was a toddler. She kept the connecting door to his room open until he got back, which was only an hour and a half later: Long enough to grab a bite from a foodstall and stroll down a block or two, but nothing else. Which is what she expected of him.

Ginny slept 14 hours, ate a huge breakfast, and pulled out stretchers for a second canvas. Myra and Gillam looked at each other and consulted the the Moleskine guide. That day, they rode their bikes to a stretch of windmills, with another extended outdoor and indoor photography session. They tried to figure out a way to take a canalboat tour between towns that wouldn't leave Ginny alone too long, but had to give up. Instead, they went out to eat at a traditional Dutch restaurant and Gillam talked for hours about his short practicums as a teacher, how much he loved the classroom and children, his theories of brain development. Watching his passionate face made Myra ache for not having known Ginny at that time of her life.

The next morning, they got up at dawn and put their bikes on trams to reach Zuid-Kennemerland National Park. The day that followed became one of Myra's best memories of her life. The limey dunes smelled extraordinarily good to her. Gillam's photos of sea holly, viper's buglos, grass-of-parnassus, hollowroot and a variety of orchids were exquisite and required they buy a Netherlands plant guide to identify them later. Myra saw bats and a natterjack toad. They found a roadside stand which sold ripe tomatoes, farm cheeses and butter, and dark breads, and they ate at will all day.

On the tram back, they concluded they would simply have to move to Holland, buy a houseboat, and live here for the rest of their lives. Gillam said "I suppose we should see it when winter sets in, first."

"Pish-tosh" said Myra. "It'll be even better then, with skaters on the canals and all those fucking tourists cleared out." They laughed uproariously.

Gillam's flight back was the next day at noon. He insisted that Myra not ride with him in his cab to the airport. "It's hard enough to say goodbye" he said, "Let me do it to both of you at once." He promised to come to Seattle as soon as they got back, and bring Carly with him. Myra cried inconsolably once he was gone. "He's so grown up" she said, "and he may not ever spend the summer with us again! God knows Margie won't."

That afternoon and evening were rough. Ginny vortexed back into Painterland and Myra felt adrift. She went to the restaurant across the street but found she could not bear to sit there alone, even with her notebook. She changed her order to take-out and return to the hotel room to eat, feeding every other bite to Ginny.

She watched television for a while, but it couldn't hold her interest. Finally she pulled out the novel segments she had created in Paris and read through them, making corrections and notes. An hour later, she was hooked. She worked until near dawn, when her aching back brought her back to the present. She pulled Ginny into bed and they slept until the maid woke them up.

When Ginny finished her second canvas a day later, Myra said "Don't start a third. I'm sorry to interrupt your flow, but it's in there, it'll hold. Let's get back home to resume." While Ginny slept, Myra bought a wet carrier, packed their bags, and updated their reservations. She sent e-mails to everyone they knew, and within minutes got a reply from Chris saying she'd pick them up.

They landed in Seattle on the first of August. Their friends came over for Sunday dinner, and after the meal, the stack of crates and packages in Myra's study were slowly opened by them all, distributing items and telling stories. Allie's book tour was over, Chris was not traveling for the council any time soon, and Myra planned to simply see her friends, cook from their garden, and let Ginny paint until her birthday.

Gillam, Carly and Beebo arrived two days later. Gillam said "You sure hotfooted it back to the States, what happened?"

Myra said "Amsterdam without you was Amster-DAMN." He laughed at the feeble joke, mostly because of the sentiment behind it. Ginny was deep into another painting, and that afternoon Myra sat on the deck with the two boys, talking or listening to them in utter peace.

After one pause, Carly said "Those two she did in Holland -- they're way different from the Brazil ones."

"I know" said Gillam. "She's channeling Van Gogh, except of course it looks like her hand on the brush, really, not his."

"Another big show this winter or spring" speculated Carly. "She should try for New York, or Boston."

"Or Toronto. That would give her an international resume" said Gillam. He turned to Myra, "So, your birthday tomorrow, what do you want for your dinner? Let us make it, or go out?"

"You make it, for sure, after the success of last year" said Myra. She was suddenly blindsided with missing David, and she could see it on Gillam's face, too. She needed to not let it go unspoken. She said "For someone who had actually been in France, his accent was unbelievably bad, wasn't it?"

Gillam laughed, with tears standing in his eyes. "About like yours, Mom."

They decided to make huge salads for dinner that evening, because the produce was growing faster than they could eat it. As they were about to sit down, the front door opened and Narnia skidded in, yodeling a hello. Margie and Frances were in her wake.

"You're early!" said Myra happily. "Come join us, there's plenty."

Margie's voice drew Ginny away from her easel. She washed, put on a shirt, and joined them.

There was a plate of cheeses from France and Holland, plus the last of Myra's bread. Ginny's Paul Robeson black tomatoes drew raves, especially from Frances. Myra had sliced zucchinis lengthwise with the mandolin into paper-thin slices, dressed these lightly with cracked pepper and Ginny's mustard vinaigrette, and curled them into spirals, which everybody popped into their mouths with gusto. For afters, Myra had chilled honeydews and Frances pulled out a carton of pecan bars.

As they began dessert, Margie scooted her chair even closer to Frances' and said "Well...we have news. Frances got a job!"

After a chorus of congratulations and questions, Frances said "It's the one I wanted most, at a place that will be very prestigious on my resume, especially right out of school. I'm assistant to the saucier, and if I can deliver, one night a week when he's off I'll fill in."

"What kind of cuisine, Italian like you wanted?" asked Myra.

"Yes, though not regional and not heavy on seafood" said Frances. "I figure I can work there a year, leverage either a promotion to sous chef there or go elsewhere with a more challenging menu, keep taking business courses when I can, and in four years or less, I'll be ready to start my own place."

"What's the name of this restaurant?" asked Gillam.

"Simpatico" said Frances, not meeting Gillam's eyes. Margie looked evasive as well, and it was Ginny who asked "Where is it?"

Margie looked up then, defiant. "Portland."

"Oregon?" said Myra, dismayed. They were too young to be juggling a long-distance relationship. But Ginny's face was severe, distracting her. Margie was meeting Ginny's eyes as she said "The other piece of amazing news is that I applied to Reed College and I got accepted. Not just accepted, but with a full scholarship."

"Reed?" echoed Myra stupidly. "Isn't that where Edwina taught?"

"You're moving to Portland?" said Ginny in a flat tone.

"Yes. We gave notice at our apartment, we have to be out of there by the 15th" said Margie. "We have the next week or so to find a place in Portland and pack our stuff, but after that's done, we could visit here again a few days before school starts."

Myra wanted to spit out the bite of melon in her mouth, she didn't think she could finish chewing it. Into the ghastly silence, Ginny said "Why would they give you a scholarship? What happened to your education fund?"

"An academic scholarship" answered Margie acerbically. "And I'm changing my major, to art restoration -- there's a joint program Reed has with another arts campus there, it's extremely cutting edge -- so I'll have to make up some hours. Plus if I want a Master's, which I'll need to get work in that field, I'll be going two more years after that. I want to save as much as I can toward opening Frances' restaurant, when we're ready for that step. If we wind up launching it in New York or L.A., it'll be extremely capital-intensive. Worse if we go abroad, depends on where I land work."

Suddenly the jaunt to Rome looked like betrayal to Myra. "How long have you known about this?"

"Well, obviously, we had to apply all over the place this spring. But we only got the acceptance letters two days ago. I wanted to tell you in person, and we decided to do it before your birthday" said Margie, bluster now showing through. Carly was watching Margie in disbelief. Gillam had his cheeks resting in his palms, staring down at the table. Myra didn't look at Ginny, not right now.

Happy birthday to me. She only just managed to not say it out loud. Ginny stood up and carried her plate into the kitchen. She walked wordlessly back to her studio.

"Here we go" muttered Margie.

"Don't" said Gillam, looking up. "Just don't."

Myra found something to say. "Congrats on the scholarship..." Her voice sounded weak to her own ears, and she couldn't think of what to add.

"Listen, we're going to drop in on Allie and Edwina, give them a chance to meet Frances and also get some advice from Edwina about Portland neighborhoods" said Margie, standing. "That'll help clear the air here, I imagine. Okay if Narnia stays with you?"

"Of course" said Myra, looking around at Narnia who was also standing expectantly, trying to translate the crosscurrents of human tension. "C'mere, puppy, you can visit with me for a while."

They wasted no time getting out the front door after Frances put their plates in the kitchen and Margie glanced back to the studio but did not call out goodbye to Ginny.

Once they heard the Cerebellum's engine start, Gillam burst out "This fucking sucks. Not a goddamned word to any of us until it's all finalized. You know, I live in the same town as she does, Carly and I both do, maybe we deserve some kind of heads up? Ya think?"

"I wish I could be there to see what Allie says to her" remarked Carly with satisfaction. "She'll make it clear what a jerk she's being."

Myra said "I'm not sure if she's being a jerk. Thoughtless, yes. Ambitious. Cocooned in new love. But she's found a career, they both have..." She ran out of words again, and focused on petting Narnia, who was still bewildered.

Gillam stood and began clearing the rest of the table. "No, Mom, let us get this. You just -- I don't know, do you need to talk with Mama?"

"She's gone back to painting. Which is as good as anything, right now" said Myra.

"Can you write, then?" he asked, running water in the sink.

She laughed bitterly. "Not likely. Maybe I'll...read my e-mail, I bet birthday messages are coming in."

"I need a hard swim after this, you could join me" Gillam said.

"Maybe I will. Thanks, honey." She stood and went to her desk, where Beebo was asleep on his shelf. Narnia curled on the rug beside Myra's chair. Myra thought Me and the pets, we're the only ones who crave stability, I guess.

As if reading her mind, Ginny appeared around the corner, brush in hand, and came to give Myra a long, linseedy-kiss. She looked down into Myra's eyes and said "We've reached one jeep goal. She's 21, she's all right, we have to find another set of instructions. And from the looks of it, Gillam will do even better."

"I'm not counting on anything any more" said Myra.

"Except me. You can count on me. Listen, I'm going to finish this one tonight, no matter what. So I can be with you completely on your birthday. You getting born was the best day in the history of the universe, as far as I'm concerned" said Ginny.

Myra leaned against her. "So, is she being an asshole, or just Margie?"

"The two are not mutually exclusive" said Ginny. "But I'm in no position to tell. I wanted to slap her and Frances both. Mostly for the timing of it all."

Myra could imagine Ginny standing and swinging her arm, smack, smack, across the two oblivious faces at the table. She began giggling. "Listen, Gin, I know it's my B-day tomorrow but we're out of bread and I think I'll bake in the morning, get the boys to do it with me which will make it way fun. You got any requests?"

"Pumpernickel would be lovely. I know you don't like it, but I never get enough" said Ginny.

"Margie likes it, too, I could make extra for her to take with" said Myra.

"Why? She's got Frances to feed her now" said Ginny, her face stony. "When you get sleepy, come lie down on my daybed. I'll get you up when I'm done and we'll go to our bed together, all right?"

"Deal" said Myra. As Ginny returned to her easel, Myra noticed the complete silence from the kitchen. Another earful for Gillam. Sure enough, two minutes later he and Carly appeared, heading for the pool, bland expressions on their faces. Myra said "I'll take it that you're on for the baking."

Gillam turned a little pink, but grinned and said "As long as you leave while it's rising so we can make your cake on our own." They went into the beautiful summer night, stripped to boxers, and dove in.

Myra rummaged around the storage room until she found Narnia's old bed. She pushed it into the cave of her desk keyhole and Narnia circled, then settled down with a triumphant sigh. As Myra pulled out her stack of pages from the summer, she wriggled her toes into the fur of Narnia's belly. She discovered she had enough peace to write, after all.

She registered Margie and Frances coming home, but ignored Margie's appearance at the doorway and Margie left for upstairs without comment. Narnia opted to stay with Myra. Gillam and Carly interrupted her later to say goodnight, and she kissed them distractedly. At midnight her bladder interrupted again, and she put the folder away, turned off all the lights except for Ginny's easel spots, and padded to the daybed.

"Come on, Narnia, I'll let you get up beside me." As they dropped off together, Myra considered the irony that Ginny believed Margie had chosen a Myra-like person as a partner, someone who would nurture her so Margie didn't have to actually learn how to cook more than salads, after all. Myra saw Frances, instead, as a Ginny-like figure, someone whose career would keep her distracted and busy for long stretches of time, with a schedule Margie would have to fit herself into if she wanted to connect with Frances.

Ginny was already humming tunelessly. A couple of hours later, she coaxed Myra to bed, unthinkingly shutting the door in Narnia's face. Margie's bedroom door was closed as well, so Narnia returned to her desk bed. After a while, Beebo joined her.

Ginny woke Myra up at 8:00, singing "Happy birthday" softly and apologizing for not enough sleep. "But those boys are already in the kitchen, and I wanted you to have the option of talking or making out before we have to get up" said Ginny.

Myra grinned. "We can talk later -- maybe with our friends. I choose making out."

At breakfast, Ginny made Myra open her present from her before eating. It was a case of Guarana, obtained from some importer in Seattle. One bottle had been pulled out and was chilled in the back of the fridge. Myra handed two more to Gillam and Carly, saying "Let's share this vice." Margie and Frances turned down the offer. They both looked chastened beneath their earnest attempts at birthday good cheer.

After breakfast, Margie began vacuuming and mopping without being asked. Ginny was saving her canvas for a viewing when everyone else arrived before dinner. Myra and the boys started sponges. Gillam left the house with a shopping list while Carly shooed Myra from the kitchen and started on her cake. She settled on her daybed with her folder of writing and Ginny sat next to her.

"I'm going to let you read this, if you want" said Myra.

Ginny was thrilled. "You're to that stage already?" she marveled.

"Yes and no. It's definitely only a first draft, practically speaking. But this one came out different. It's lean and vivid from the outset, something I've not done. I'm thinking about turning it over to my editor as is. You get to give me your opinion."

They sat in the sunshine, getting warmer from body heat, as Ginny entered new lands. Beebo knocked over Myra's pot of pens and chased them around the desktop for a while, without Myra fussing at him. Eventually, despite the Guarana in her system and the excitement of her book being read, Myra nodded off. Ginny pulled her onto her shoulder and continued.

After 20 minutes, Myra was awakened by raucous laughter from the kitchen. She sat upright and said "Can I come in there?"

"No!" answered a chorus of voices. Frances appeared in the doorway, smiling, and said "I have to ask you both a question, though. I picked up a wonderful recipe for fettucini with chicken livers in Rome, would you like that as part of tonight's menu?"

Ginny's face lit up. Myra pointed to her and said "She would. Gillam and Carly know my carnivorous preferences. Not to put your cooking down, Frances, jeez, I didn't mean that -- I'm hankering to taste your recipes."

"Hang on a minute, then" said Frances. She disappeared and Myra could hear whispering from the kitchen, along with cupboard doors opening and closing. After a minute, Frances and Margie returned, and Frances said "You can come in here, after all, because we need to give you our present early."

Ginny said "I know about this one, can I keep reading?"

"Of course" said Myra, sliding from the daybed. On the kitchen counter was a large box wrapped in Margie-decorated paper. Inside was a gleaming pasta maker from Italy.

"I've always wanted one of these!" exclaimed Myra.

"And along with it, I'm going to teach you how to make dough. Fettucine for tonight, but all the other styles you like as well" said Frances proudly.

"I'm to be sous chef" added Margie. She handed Myra an apron and said "You don't get to open the reefer or prowl through cabinets; you need anything, tell me and I'll get it."

For the next two hours, Frances indoctrinated Myra into the secrets of a new approach to dough. They argued gently over flours, and Myra had to give in because she didn't actually know how to use whole wheat with durum. Eventually racks of drying fettucine (spinach, garlic and plain), plus angel hair and some very lopsided farfelli occupied all the spare counter space. The bread begun earlier had to cool on racks atop the sideboard. Myra's face and hair were daubed with flour, Narnia was underfoot licking up whatever she could from the floor, and everybody was laughed out.

Ginny walked in, carrying Myra's folder under her arm. "You finished?" said Myra.

"Oh, my brilliant brilliant girl, you've outdone yourself!" cried Ginny.

"Hang on" said Gillam. "I want to hear every word of this, but we need to figure out what to do for lunch."

Looking around the kitchen, Myra said "Take-out. From the Coastal Kitchen. Except if I'm about to order something that resembles tonight's menu, steer me in another direction, okay?"

"You are such a sneaky cheater" said Ginny, pulling a menu from the drawer.

"For sure the chickpea fries with coriander aioli" began Myra. "Also the rasta roll-ups with Jamaican aioli."

"Never met a mayonnaise she didn't like" muttered Margie.

"The steamed clams and the scallop crepes" said Ginny.

"Uh -- how about the coconut rockfish with yam mashers instead of the scallops?" said Margie. Myra began giggling, and Gillam goosed her.

"Should I go for my favorite burger?" asked Myra. "Sure" said Carly, "I'll join you. With bacon for me."

"Get a variety of salads, we can share" said Margie. Once the order was phoned in, they sat down at the table with iced tea, Myra still flour-festooned, and Ginny began reviewing Myra's book, Myra close beside her so Ginny could point to passages on particular pages. After twenty minutes, Frances and Margie left, with Narnia, to go pick up their meal.

Ginny concluded with "So, yes, you are quite right, this can go to your editor pronto. Do you have any idea why this one was produced without as much need for rewrite?"

"Maybe the lack of responsibility because we were on vacation?" ventured Myra. "Or maybe it's the subject matter, not completely new to me. Or -- I've simply matured as a writer."

"Then can I read it, too?" asked Gillam. Carly's face was eager as well.

"Yeah. Bedtime reading" said Myra, touched.

"What will you do with your writing time now?" asked Ginny.

"Well, the proceeds for this go to setting up the favela arts school in Rio, and I want to begin planning that, with all of us in on it who want to be" said Myra. "But, I also have had ideas for a couple of Skene stories -- not another book, only stories to flesh out some incidents and personalities in past volumes."

"Those will get snapped up by periodicals instantly, and give your hard-core fans the vapors" said Ginny.

"Believe it or not, while we were on that long train jag, I also had an inkling for another Mirage and Djinni story" said Myra. "Since Allie's got clout now, and they're talking about reissuing some of her kids books anyhow, I bet she could insist the new editions have Mirage and Djinni both be women, instead of having to cave for heterosexual-ish characters like we did to get them published the first time."

"I still say we should never have agreed to that" said Ginny, old anger surfacing.

"They needed to get out there. Girls like I was would read between the lines, and it was critical to Allie's career" said Myra, repeating her familiar side of the argument. They were prevented from continuing by Margie and Frances's return with bags whose aroma was making Narnia trip the light fantastic.

After lunch, everyone got in the pool to play water volleyball. This was where Allie and Edwina found them. Myra and Ginny got out to sit on the deck with their friends. Myra had another Guarana: It was her birthday.

When Chris and Sima arrived half an hour later, Margie and Frances got out of the pool so Margie could introduce Frances to the last of her aunties. Frances began to look overwhelmed. After some catch-up conversation, Chris turned to Frances and said "So, is separating Margie from her family your idea or hers?" Chris was grinning but Frances instinctively knew not to mistake that grin for humor.

Margie gave an evil glance at Allie -- gossiping was going on -- and jumped in to say "It was both of us making the decision."

"But you do the talking for her?" said Chris, turning on Margie. Myra was having trouble not laughing; she had not expected her friends to gang up on Margie, this was a novelty.

"I can talk for myself" said Frances bravely. Chris leaned back and folded her arms. Sima, looking friendlier, asked Frances what made Simpatico such a prestige job and what a chef's career needed to include.

Gillam had been churning out laps, but when Carly caught wind of the conversation on the deck and got out to listen, Gillam did too. Margie was still jumping in whenever Frances paused to think, which was beginning to irritate Frances, Myra could tell.

Sima finally revealed her own bias when she said "So, what you're basically saying is, you'll have to go where the work is best available, you'll have little to no time off and certainly not weekends, and Margie's life, including her family life, will have to accommodate your schedule."

"That's the way it works" said Frances. "I mean, it affects my family life just as much -- "

Edwina stepped in. "But your family life was already curtailed by you living two states away from them. And you being a lesbian, which often separates us from our families. And you are a year ahead of Margie. You're not coming at this from absolutely level terrain."

Margie blew. "What the fuck are you insinuating, that I've been seduced by some bulldyke who just wants to make me her wifey? Why don't you take a look at my mothers, if you want to see people being led around by the nose?"

Myra got her foot onto Ginny's before Ginny could say a word. Let the aunties handle this, her face begged.

"You think Myra didn't get grilled by us when she took up with Ginny?" said Chris. "You think Ginny's family didn't wonder if Myra was a dirty-nailed goyishe golddigger before they found out about the lottery, and even after that?"

"And the thing is, Myra didn't hide her involvement from us, she came to us right away and said 'I'm in love, I want you to include this woman in our lives'" said Sima. "She treated us like we are all in this together, not jerks who had to be handled. Of course, she was a lot older and more mature."

Myra thought Margie's head might explode. Gillam's face was expressionless but Myra could guess at the alleluias rocketing around inside his chest. He'd probably dreamed of this moment all his second-child life.

Allie leaned forward, and Margie's outburst stopped in her throat. Allie's voice was gentle as she said "As soon as you mammas found out about Frances, they invited her to come be with you all, as family. It isn't just that they paid for everything: They opened they heart. And for a month, you didn't tell them you was planning to move away, to change schools, to change the entire direction of you life. Why would you treat them like they didn't deserve to know you future?" She looked right at Frances and said "We don't operate that way. If you was misled, I'll understand it once. But we showing you now, this how we do things."

Holy fuck, it was a staged intervention. Myra thought it was the best birthday present ever.

Ginny had held back as long as she could. She managed to keep her voice soft as she quoted "'The liar may say, I didn't want to cause pain. What she really did not want is to have to deal with the other's pain. The lie is a short-cut through another's personality.'"

Margie burst into tears. Myra could tell instantly it was the weeping of catharsis, not temper. She reached her hand out and put it on Margie's knee. Frances's arms went around Margie's shoulders, and Edwina patted Frances' other shoulder.

"Oh god" Margie blubbered, "I didn't mean it that way. I just -- we need to find our own space, and she's not pushing me to do anything I don't want with all my heart, she's not, how could you think I'd let myself get taken over like that? I'm the one who said we had to keep it under wraps until we knew for sure, Frances didn't want to but I made her promise. So don't blame her, it was my doing."

Nobody looked surprised. Ginny said "I understand you needing to force a break, Margie, I absolutely do. I had to do it myself, we all did. And you two have a right to create your own ethics, your own community and culture. But I don't believe you really feel the need to distance us emotionally, not completely. You'll need support to launch all these changes, anyone would, and you of all people can find a way to ask us for that without letting us get our sticky fingers where you don't want them. Why did you choose this method?"

Chris was still staring at Frances as if she thought she had the problem identified.

Margie wailed "I've never been in love like this! It's -- I don't always know where the ground is under my feet. It's terrifying, Mama. please tell me you know what I mean."

"Oh, sweetheart, I do, I absolutely do. You just have to trust your heart, trust your choices, and trust your family. Oh, my baby" said Ginny. Margie plopped herself into Ginny's lap and wrapped her other arm around Myra, saying "And I totally fucked up your birthday, but I thought waiting until the day after would be even worse!"

"It's not fucked up any more" said Myra. Allie scooted into the spot Margie had left and put her arm around Frances, who looked like she didn't know what to do with herself. Myra heard Ginny whisper into Margie's ear "She's not Jaime, she's a grown-up choosing another grown-up, you really do get to have each other."

Gillam, to his credit, did not look disappointed by this turn of events. Margie cried herself clear, Frances offered another apology, and the four young people went inside to dress and start dinner. Myra and Ginny were told to remain on the deck or in the back part of the house. Gillam brought out a pitcher of lemonade, and Chris pulled him aside to ask, not quite privately, "Tell me once and I'll believe you: Is she after Margie's money to start up her restaurant?"

"No" said Gillam firmly. "She'd find a way to do it without Margie."

Myra saw Chris's shoulders relax. "All right, then." Myra realized in that instant that Chris had probably been worried that Ginny, too, had been a treasure-seeker two decades ago. She probably sought reassurance from Sima and Allie. What a silly idea.

Dinner was giddy and delectable. Afterward, Ginny showed her new canvas. It was mostly a close-up of the Western Wall, a dazzling blend of warm colors with shades of white to grey in the drying, almost fluttering scraps of paper stuffed into every crevice. But on the far right was Margie's profile and torso, part of it, with the ultramarine stripes in her tallit contrasting the melting Alice blue of her headscarf and the near indigo of Margie's tear-filled eyes.

Myra was struck dumb. Allie said "It's how Van Gogh might've painted you, Margie Rose" and that was a good approximation. Except it was much more precise than Van Gogh, and held the light of another continent.

They went back to the deck for a chocolate cake made with baking squares from Puccini's and to look through the album of Gillam's enlarged photos from the trip, sharing stories as they turned each page. When the phone on Myra's desk rang, she walked to answer it and accepted birthday greetings from Patty. Patty then asked to talk with Carly, and Myra waved him in, taking the chance to use the bathroom. Returning to the study, Carly was hanging up and Gillam was with him.

"She okay?" asked Myra.

"Yeah. She's -- got an offer on the house. She thinks the sale will go through" said Carly.

"I didn't know she was selling your house" said Myra. "Where will she live?"

"An apartment near Evergreen" said Carly. "She's been dating someone, another professor, and I think she'd like to live in the same complex."

"That's wonderful news, Carly" said Myra. "Is there some secret to all this?"

"Not really. She doesn't want to jinx things, and..." Carly looked a little troubled.

"Does Pat know?"

"Yeah, Truitt the blabbermouth told her. It doesn't matter, though, Mom doesn't care what Pat thinks any more." Carly's face still looked preoccupied.

"Mom" said Gillam, "She needs some help with the house. Clearing it out, fixing up some stuff. Carly needs to go back soon, and I want to help, too."

"Of course" said Myra. "You have what, two weeks before school starts? You both are a blessing to have around, I'm glad she's got you."

"I don't want to leave tomorrow" said Carly stubbornly. "I'd like at least another day here."

"How's about tomorrow, me and you have some alone time?" said Myra, and he grinned, answering "Another driving lesson, maybe?"

Myra went on, "Now, you don't have to answer this, but -- is she having to sell the house? For financial reasons?"

Carly nodded, his cheeks going a little pink.

"It fucking sucks to be a single mother in this world" said Myra. She crossed to her desk and opened the drawer with her checkbook. As soon as he saw it, Carly said "She'll never take money from you, not ever."

"I know that. But you, my boy, can and will. How much is school costing you this semester?"

"My tuition is already paid" argued Carly.

"Good. Then this should be enough for six months of living expenses" said Myra, writing the check. "You come back to me when you need more. I don't care what story you tell her -- say that you won a lottery, or that David left you something, or that the paramedics course paid you a stipend. Just make sure she knows you don't need a penny from her. It will ease her mind like you cannot imagine, trust me." She handed him the check. His eyes were wet as he took it, saying "For her sake."

"For mine, too. We didn't get to splash out on you all summer like we did for Gillam" said Myra. Carly gave her a long hug and whispered "I'm so glad you got born."

"Same here" said Myra. "I remember when they put you in your mama's arms the first time, the look of crazy joy she had. You were and remain the light of her life."

Margie and Frances left the next day. Myra persuaded them to leave Narnia behind while they trekked around Portland, and likewise when Gillam and Carly left the following day, Beebo remained at the house. "It's not kids, but I can still dote on them" she said to Ginny.

Ginny slid her arms around Myra and said "Who'da thought two dyke feminists would get felled by empty nest syndrome?"

"I know how lucky we are. I have six planets in Leo, is all, sometimes adjustment takes me a while."

"After you meet with your editor tomorrow, we're setting aside several days where you get to write those other stories you mentioned" said Ginny. "Start them, at least."

"Once I get a draft of the Skene story, would you be interested in doing a couple of sketches for it?" said Myra.

"Try and stop me" said Ginny. "Van Gogh does sci-fi."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild


Jesse Wendel said...


Beebo and Narnia are so CUTE.

(And about time there was a fracking intervention. I love these girls, but they were starting to get on my nerves.

GOOD Aunties. We loves them.)

Anyway, the girls forgot rule #1. I'll say it the way it lives in my home. Other parents may adjust as appropriate.

Rule #1. If Daddy's not happy, nobody's happy.


Being a parent is about raising children from children into teenagers, and then from teenagers into young adults. It isn't about being their friend. That doesn't mean we don't get along most of the time, or that I need to be tough on them. We do, and I'm not, usually. It does mean however, that my kids need to break outside the confines of the classic joke about teenagers:

How many teenagers does it take to change a light bulb?
One. They just stand there, holding up the bulb, while the rest of the world revolves around them.

Not in my house. No fracking way.

Rule #1. If Daddy's not happy, nobody's happy.

And in order for that to be true, my children at least learn to see that Dad's world matters. And my world isn't just me... it's an entire larger world which matters to me, all of which, at any given moment, I may hold them accountable for. *smiles sweetly*

Thus they learn, early enough that it seems just to be the way that it is, not to be some thing that they're doing, to look at the world around them, and see what is happening out there, where life happens, instead of just focusing on themselves.

Of course, they are teenagers, so of course, from time to time they get self-centered. The good news is, it doesn't take much to bring them back to focusing on the world outside them.

I don't have Aunties. But I have my Mom, their Grand-Ma Patricia. And Grand-Ma Judith (my ex's mother) takes no crap from them either.

They're all coming along.

Rule #1. If Daddy's not happy, nobody's happy.

Jesse Wendel said...


That obviously should have been spelled "Grandma."

It's late, and I'm typing with the lights off. Which, now that I think of it, doesn't excuse poor spelling. It makes it harder to type, but once the words are up on the screen, I can see them just fine.

Damn. And here I finally thought I had a good excuse too. After all these years of just sucking at spelling.