Wednesday, April 23, 2008


All right, fans, here's another segment of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. This occurs after my last post yesterday. 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 2010

At nearly 5:00, Myra was sitting in her hotel room, chatting with Margie and Frances, when they heard Gillam's voice clearly in the hall outside going "Shhhhh!" in an exaggerated way. Margie got up and opened Myra's door just as Gillam got his key into his door. He and Ginny swung around guiltily, then burst into giggles and dashed into his room. Margie managed to get her foot in the door right before they slammed it shut. She pushed her way in. Frances and Myra were not far behind.

"What are you to up to?" said Margie, smiling. "Are you trying to play a trick on us?"

Gillam fell back on his bed, laughing crazily. Ginny sat down on the other bed, facing Gillam, saying "Now, straighten up!" and then also starting to laugh crazily.

"What is so damned funny?" said Myra. Gillam sat up partway, leaning on his elbow, and said in a stage whisper to Ginny, "Hey, should we tell her our poem?"

"Yes. Poetry for the poet" giggled Ginny.

"We wrote a poem" said Gillam, sitting all the way up. "Here it is:

They all ride bikes
In the land of dikes
But never in tandem ---"

By the time he got to bikes, he was giggling. On the word "dikes" Ginny had screamed and collapsed in laughter on her bed. The third line was only minimally intelligible, and the last line was completely erased by guffaws from Gillam. After a minute, he tried again, and Ginny began reciting it with him. But despite several tries, they could never get past the third line without going into hysterics.

Frances had a look of recognition on her face. She asked, "Are you two high?"

Ginny and Gillam looked at each other conspiratorially and clapped their hands over their mouths, trying to hold back the laughter.

"You're drunk?" said Myra in horror.

"No, no, no!" said Ginny gaily. "We went to a coffeeshop!"

Now Margie understood too. Myra was still confused.

"You two smoked a joint, huh" Margie said. She turned to Myra "Remember, it's legal here. You can do it in places called coffeeshops." Myra was frozen.

Gillam was miming taking puffs on a little doobie. He passed it to Ginny, who took a hit and rolled her head around crazily. Then she caught a glimpse of Myra's face. Grinning defiantly, she said "It does not automatically lead to hard drugs, despite what they told you in Bible Camp. And we took a tram home."

"That's when we wrote the poem!" yelled Gillam, and he tried to recite it again, but lost control by the second line.

Myra turned to Margie. Her face was absolutely expressionless, and her voice was low. "Please keep them in this room, no matter what, until this wears off. Don't let them go on the balcony. Don't let them order from room service without supervision. I'm counting on you." She turned around and left swiftly.

Ginny stuck out her tongue at Myra's back.

"I guess she doesn't like our poem" said Gillam, falling back on his bed laughing again.

"Where's she going?" said Frances.

"I have no idea" said Margie.

The fun wore off very quickly, even for Gillam. Margie pulled a chair up to the door and sat there like a matron. Frances got a bucket of ice and made a pitcher of ice water, urging Gillam and Ginny to drink. Ginny got mad at Myra's departure and kept bringing it up. Finally she lay down on her stomach, her face buried in the pillow, and within a minute they heard snores coming from her.

Gillam said "I'm hungry."

"Oh, hell" said Margie. Frances grabbed the room service menu and said "What are you most in the mood for, Gillam? One thing."

He said "Pizza." She looked at the menu. "Close enough" she said and reached for the phone.

"And strawberry ice cream" he added.

She looked at Margie, who shrugged. "I'd like something, too, since it's unlikely we'll go out tonight" she said. She and Frances conferred over the menu while Gillam turned on TV, clicking through the selections relentlessly. "There's this great porn channel, you gotta see it" he said cheerfully.

Frances placed the order and sat down to wait with Margie. Gillam settled on an Italian-looking Western dubbed into Dutch, still sitting at the edge of his bed zeroed in on the TV. When the food arrived, Frances put one slice of pizza on a plate and handed it to Gillam. He wolfed it down, barely chewing, and got up to get another.

"Just one" said Margie. He grabbed one in his hands, abandoning his plate on the table, and sat back down on the edge of his bed, again virtually inhaling his food. After a few seconds, he began making a gagging sound.

"Oh, fuck, he's choking" said Margie, leaping toward him. But Frances had grabbed the trashcan and her interpretation turned out to be more accurate. She just got it in front of him before he threw up violently, big chunks of intact-looking pizza plus the remains of lunch. Some of the vomit landed on the floor; one thread went down his chin.

The smell was awful. Frances walked over to the balcony door and slid it open, then stood there inhaling the wet night air. Gillam looked around for something to wipe his chin on, finally picking up his pillow and using that.

Margie gave up all hope of returning to her dinner. Gillam walked over to the table and grabbed the strawberry ice cream. He walked back to his bed, watching TV again and eating ice cream. Margie put the puke-filled trashcan against the wall next to the balcony; it was too wet to put it outside, it would overflow onto the balcony below. She wanted to stand with Frances at the source of fresh air, but went back to her guard post at the door.

After an hour, Gillam blessedly went to sleep. Margie turned off the TV and pulled her chair over to the balcony door with Frances. They talked sporadically, increasingly feeling more like prisoners than guards. After another half hour, Ginny woke up with a snort. She sat up, looked around blearily, and said "What is that smell?"

"Gillam threw up" said Margie. Then, a bit maliciously, she added "There's pizza if you want it."

"Is he okay?" said Ginny.

"Yeah, just stoned out of his fucking mind" said Margie.

"I haven't had any since college" said Ginny, rubbing her head. "I didn't remember it being that strong."

"Drink some water" said Frances.

Ginny started to get off the bed, then looked around again and said "Where's Myra?"

"Haven't seen her since she left" said Margie.

"Has she called?"


"It's dark out there." Ginny was starting to look concerned. "Is she in our room?"

"Haven't checked."

Ginny stood up and had to reach out a hand to correct her balance. Margie got up to walk with her. Ginny opened the door and walked across the hall to her door. She knocked on the door. "Myra? It's me, will you open up?"

When there was no reply, she went back into Gillam's room and got her bag, and after a fuzzy search, located her room key. When she tried to open the door to her room, however, the key would not respond.

"It's got the security lock on from the inside" Margie finally told her. By this time Frances had joined them.

"She's locked herself in?" said Ginny. She began banging on the door, yelling loudly "Myra! This is an emergency! Open this door right now!"

The racket woke up Gillam, who stumbled into the hall with them. Ginny looked at Margie in a full panic now. "Let's trying the connecting door through your room" she said.

Margie pulled out her key and unlocked the door to her room. Ginny pushed past her and ran to the connecting door. When it opened into her and Myra's room, she said "Thank god!" The young people followed Ginny into a dark room where they could hear her saying "Myra! Myra! Wake up, my god, Myra, it's Ginny!" Frances found the light switch and they saw Myra lying, fully clothed, on top of her bed with a ghostly pale face and completely unresponsive expression. Margie rushed over to take her pulse as Ginny kept shaking Myra and trying to make her see something. The pulse was thready and Myra's skin was icy cold.

"Is -- is she dead?" said Gillam. He was leaning against the wall.

"No, but it's like she's unconscious, but her eyes are open" said Margie. "Is it a seizure? Why is she so cold, it is heart failure?"

"She didn't take anything, did she?" asked Frances.

"No!" said Gillam and Margie in one breath.

"Oh, god, I know what this is" said Ginny suddenly. "She's left her body; she's here in the room but she's not in her body."

It was as if she had begun speaking gibberiish. Margie reached for the phone.

"NO!" said Ginny. "No police. I know what to do about this, she told me." She began tearing off her clothes. "Margie, take off her shirt. I'm not crazy, do what I'm telling you. Gillam, get me that blanket from the other bed."

Margie helped Ginny get Myra's pants off her as well. Then Ginny lay down on top of Myra and pulled the blanket over them both. "Myra, Myra -- come back, come out of it. I'm here, it's Ginny. Come back." She kept rubbing Myra's cheeks and neck.

All of a sudden, Myra's body convulsed. She took in a huge gasp of air and gave a horrible cry. She looked at Ginny, then. Her eyes managed to focus. She began saying "Oh god, it hurts. My hands and feet hurt so bad."

"Rub them" commanded Ginny. "Somebody rub her feet, get the circulation back in them."

"I'm so cold, Ginny, I'm freezing" moaned Myra. Then she said "Move, move, I have to go" and she pushed Ginny off her. She stood up and urine poured out of her, onto the floor beside the bed. At that point, she began crying thinly.

Ginny stood up and grabbed her, saying "It's okay, it's all right, you couldn't help it. Come on, we're going to get you into a hot bath, get you warm all over and clean. It's okay." She led Myra to the bathroom, saying over her shoulder "Margie, I hate to do this to you, but could you get some towels and mop that up?"

They heard water running in the tub. Ginny said "Gillam?" He went to the door of the bathroom. "We're going to need warm jammy-like clothes to put on after the bath, can you go through the drawers and get some for both of us?" Myra was already sitting in the tub, leaned back and looking less pale.

"I don't understand" said Gillam. "How could she leave her body? Is this a supernatural thing?"

"No" said Ginny. "It's psychological, mostly. I'll explain it after the bath, okay? She's fine now, she's going to be fine."

He got the clothes and took them back into the bathroom. Ginny had crawled into the tub behind Myra and was pouring water over her from a washcloth. "Thanks, honey" she said. "We'll be out as soon as she gets warm again. Will you or the girls call down and order some hot tea, with honey, and some kind of toast or pastry?"

Margie had gotten towels from her bathroom and cleaned up the carpet beside the bed. Frances called room service. Soon after it arrived, Myra and Ginny came out of the bathroom, wearing sweatpants and long-sleeved shirts. Ginny pulled back the covers and invited Myra to sit in bed. She began coaxing tea into her, along with bites of toast, cheese, and apple that Frances had added to the order. Frances knew a little bit about shock.

Myra was hungry and trying to eat, but she was so exhausted she was having trouble chewing. Finally she said "I have to sleep, Ginny. Will you keep me warm?"

"I won't leave your side. Not until you wake up on your own again. One more sip, and you can lie down. You're fine, everything is okay."

Myra lay down on her side, facing Ginny. Ginny pulled Myra onto her shoulder and kissed her on the lips lightly. Myra closed her eyes and was asleep instantly. Ginny pulled the covers up over them both and continued kissing Myra's cheeks and forehead.

Margie was standing at the foot of the bed, her face urgent. "Mama -- I'm freaked. I need to know what just happened here."

Ginny kept running one hand through Myra's hair, kissing her forehead. Myra's weight was full on her shoulder, one hand clutching Ginny's shirt hem by her hip. Ginny said to Myra quietly "Sweetheart? I know you're sound asleep, but I also know you can hear me. The children need to know about your growing up years, honey. They need the whole story, and it's time to tell them. It's okay, they're old enough. So I'm going to do that. You just sleep and let me do it all. I'll be with you, I'm not going away."

After another forehead kiss, Ginny shifted slightly so she could face the rest of the room more. Myra moved fractionally to stay with her, but never showed a sign of waking.

"Are you sure she's okay? Maybe she's unconscious again" said Gillam. His voice was a bordering on panic.

"Feel her hands, they're completely warm. Listen to her breathe -- deep and full. She's just worn out, Gillam. I can tell when she's asleep. I've slept with this woman almost every night for 25 years, I know when she's there and when she can hear me."

Gillam looked marginally reassured.

"Sit down, all of you. Sit on the bed with us if you want." Ginny took a couple of deep breaths and kissed Myra again.

"You know she grew up poor. I don't think you know, really, what it looked like. One of the ways Myra got hurt as a child was by witnessing her mother's despair and hearing unfiltered stories of how she, Jo, grew up poor. It was too much for Myra to have to hear, no matter how much she wanted to share her mother's heart -- children are not able to handle all of adult reality. So Myra worked hard at not burdening you with it. She slipped every now and then, but mostly -- well, you're about to find out how well she did.

"Her father stayed in a job not meant to support a family on, because he had found a niche and, I think, because he secretly resented having a family. Like most men of his generation, he got married and had kids because that was what you were supposed to do. He had only a high school education, he got washed out of the Air Force, he had little to no skills, and the myth of upward mobility really doesn't come true for most men like that. So, as the family got older, the money got scarcer. Her father was gone most of the time, only home maybe a couple of weekends a month, and when he was home, everything had to be happy and harmonious so he'd want to come back. Which mean Jo did all the parenting, all the work of keeping the family going.

"She was never completely well, but when Myra was eight Jo was diagnosed with a heart condition. From then on, it was a race against time. Myra had terrible asthma, the kind that often kills children. What little money there was would go toward her medical bills -- there was no subsidized health care, not in American rural areas at that time. Myra didn't always get taken to the doctor when she needed to, but if anybody went, it was Myra. Which mean Jo tended to not get her own medications refilled. Heart medications which would have extended her life, maybe saved her. The truth is, if you're poor, money can buy happiness. It can buy survival, and family, and peace.

"They had no community to lean on because Myra's father moved them every few months with the promise that if they just lived in this next new place, he'd be able to make it home at night. All Myra had was Jo; all Jo had was Myra."

"What about Gil?" asked Gillam.

"Myra had Gil to love, but he was also her responsibility. He was too little to help her, though god knows he must have tried...I don't know how to tell this in any kind of order. I'll just say it as it comes to me.

"Myra missed one day out of five from school. She was so unbelievably smart, it never affected her grades, even being jerked from school to school. When a school had the chance to test her, they'd always call Jo in for a consultation, wanting to move Myra up at least one grade, often more. Jo said no, thank god -- she'd been moved ahead in school herself two grades, knew the social consequences. If Myra had been in classes with kids two years older, it would have been even worse for her. But as it was, she had no friends. She was the freakishly smart kid, she was ghastly skinny and wheezed all the time, her clothes were old and shabby, and she was the newcomer. Think back on your own time in elementary school ---you can imagine how the other kids treated her.

"Still, school was better than home. Her teachers adored her and worried about her -- clearly something was wrong -- but this was before special ed or school counselors. No chance for intervention. Myra also went to church, hoping that Jesus would help her. But those proper Baptist ladies who looked on Myra and her family as charity cases used every chance they got to tell Myra she was a sinner, she had born into original sin, and if Jesus wasn't helping her, it was because she hadn't accepted him the right way yet."

Margie sucked her breath in between her teeth.

"At home, Myra was being hunted. By her older brother, who is by all definitions a monster."

"Mom -- what's his name? How come she's never told us his name?" asked Gillam.

Ginny paused for a long time. "I do know his name, but we don't use it when we talk. Myra believes that naming is an act of power, and she wants all of his power removed because he will only abuse with it. I can't go against that without talking to her first about it. I'll bring it up and we can all discuss it later, okay?"

Margie and Gillam nodded. Frances was very somber, sitting a little protectively behind Margie.

"So...her brother tortured her. Spent his time watching her so he could see her frailties and tender spots. If she showed interest in something, he ridiculed it relentlessly. If she cared about something, he would try to destroy it. He mocked the way she looked and walked; he imitated her every time she opened her mouth; he demanded she wait on him hand and foot. And he always laughed about it, saying she was thin-skinned and couldn't take a joke, didn't know the difference between affectionate teasing and -- well, what it really was. Her mother was too overwhelmed to take it in. At least, that's what Myra believes."

There was another long pause. Ginny decided not to say more about that.

"He would hock up a lugie and wipe it on her cheek as he walked by her. He pinched her savagely under her arms because the bruises didn't show there. If she was taking a bath, he'd insist he had to use the bathroom, couldn't wait, and then would take a huge dump in the toilet so the room reeked. He would hold her -- and Gil -- down and dangle threads of spit out of his mouth until it would almost touch their faces, gleeful at their screams, until he got them to throw up. And he'd threaten to do much worse if they told on him."

"Was the worse -- was it sexual?" whispered Gillam. His face looked awful.

"Eventually. But this was a slow build. The way Myra put it, at first he just threatened to kill her. When that stopped being a useful threat -- when she didn't care if she lived or died any more -- he threatened to kill Gil. When she numbed out about even that -- and by this time, he was molesting her -- he told her that everybody already knew and they hated her, they knew it was her fault. You remember her talking about her first cat, the one she loved so much?"

"Midnight" said Margie and Gillam together.

"Her brother shot Midnight, that's how she died. That was earlier, before the molestation began. So, his threats were convincing." Another long pause. Ginny kissed Myra again, pulled her a little closer. "I am so sorry, angel. I am so sorry I wasn't there yet" she whispered.

She looked back at her children. "Once he began using sex as a weapon, he would have to wait until her mother was out of the house. He did it when Jo went grocery shopping or some other errand. They lived in trailer parks outside of town or isolated rent houses that nobody else wanted, places without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. One summer they lived in a place that had no running water, just a windmill. Lots of times they went without electricity for days or weeks because the bill hadn't been paid. And there was never enough food. Jo would cook what she could grow or beg or afford and get a meal on the table for the children; then she'd stay in the kitchen, so she could call it a family meal, but stand at the stove and pick at the remnants in the pot. Myra was so sick she never wanted to eat -- at least, that's her explanation for her anorexia -- but she'd hide what she could in her lap because her brother stole food from Gil's plate. Myra would give Gil her share later.

"Sometimes there wasn't even enough for a partial meal. Then her brother would leave for a few days to stay at a friend's, and her mother would hole up in her bedroom, too depressed to talk to the children. So Myra would keep Gil from crying all the time about how hungry he was by inventing games. One time they went to a nearby orchard, in South Texas, and hooked -- that's the word Myra used for stealing, somehow hooking is not theft -- came home with a box of oranges, and that's all they had to eat for three days. Myra would peel them or cut them into slices and make up stories about what the segments were -- fairy bread, or pieces of sun dropped to the earth from god -- to keep Gil eating them when he was sick of orange. They only did that once, because they both got terrible diarrhea. Most of the time, though --"

Ginny looked at her children. She was about to hurt them in a new way, she thought.

"You remember Jake the Gunslinger?"

"From the Long Branch!" said Margie, smiling for the first time.

"Well, he was from that period. Myra would scrub out a couple of milk bottles and fill them with water, then set up the saloon. She'd use the game to get Gil so full of water, his belly wouldn't hurt."

Gillam buried his face in his hands.

"I didn't know that, the first time she played that game with us all. She made it such a blast, I had no idea." She looked at Margie, then pointed her head at Gillam. Margie moved over and put her arm around Gillam's heaving shoulders. She began crying with him.

"If you would rather not hear the rest, that's all right, you know. Really all right" said Ginny.

"No!" choked out Gillam. "I want to know -- if it happened to her, I want to know. I just can't stand it that this is true, but I have to know it if it's true."

"That's the way I feel" said Ginny. She let them cry a while, until they stopped to blow noses.

"So...she's trapped, doing her best to keep herself alive but also having to keep Gil intact. And then the molestation starts. And -- the violation is complete. She has no release from it, not even death, and yet the one thing that's worse is if she has to know he's doing it to Gil. So she keeps him from going after Gil by putting herself in Gil's place. Which is part of how he convinces her that she wants what he is doing, that she is asking for it. She was only 10 and 11 years old."

"It's too much. She can't humanly bear it. So when Jo leaves the house and he tells Myra to follow him -- he liked to take her into Jo's bed, he didn't miss a single chance to make it worse -- she lies down and she leaves her body. She detaches and becomes something floating up in the far corner, near the ceiling. She's afraid to float outside, because she has to keep an eye on Gil, so she stays in the room, but she doesn't watch what he's doing to her -- not after the first time -- and she can't hear anything. And after a while, he's done and he leaves, and little Gil creeps in and pats her face, curls up with her crying, and brings her back into her body."

"I am sure that's what happened today. It's never occurred since I've been with her, but she told me about it happening with other -- women, other circumstances. At least one of those fuckers never even noticed she had departed her body." Ginny's voice was livid. "I swore I'd never let her reach that point with me -- it's about having to face something she doesn't know how to bear, and feeling like there is no help anywhere for her. She must have hit that point today. She must have thought I'd left her. She came in here to think, lay down, and it hit her. She doesn't go voluntarily into this dissociation, it just overtakes her. It wasn't a seizure, it wasn't a suicide attempt. It was a self-defensive collapse." She turned and kissed Myra again. "I am so sorry, angel. I am so sorry. I won't leave you again."

Returning to her children, she said "If I had thought for a even moment, I would have guessed that this might be a major trigger. Gil -- you know his death was related to drugs, right? Well, he was so high that he was in a stupor, lying on his couch, and he vomited and couldn't move, so it went down his windpipe. And he was choking, probably would have choked to death anyhow, but in his violent struggle to breathe, his heart, whose condition was weakened by drug use or years of abuse, take your pick -- the pericardial lining around his heart burst open and he bled out into his chest. It's called tamponade, and it's just as painful as it sounds. So he died alone, in agony, and she's never stopped blaming herself, not really. And seeing me do something that appeared to put you at risk, Gillam, here in a country where she's a stranger, and I'm abandoning my role as a responsible adult -- she lost her footing."

"Oh, god, I feel so bad" said Gillam.

"Now, see, that's just not right. You have to not take this on. You are not Gil, you were with me and I knew it was going to be okay, and it's not your fault. I am to blame for not having discussed it with her first -- if I had, this would have all been avoided because one look at her face would have told me maybe I shouldn't go there -- but I'm not sorry we had our adventure. The reason why she lost it is because she was savagely abused as a child and she's still got a trigger we didn't know about, haven't had a chance to clean up. That's not your responsibility -- you're the child, not the parent. Got it?" Ginny was adamant. Gillam was not completely convinced, but she thought maybe he'd be able to talk himself into her point of view in time. And when Myra heard about it, she'd tell him the same thing.

Ginny turned against to face Myra, putting one knee up over Myra's. "Love you, Myra my own. Everything is okay. I'll be here with you until you wake up, and ever after." There was absolutely no sign that Myra was anything except deeply asleep, and yet Margie was suddenly as convinced as Ginny that Myra was hearing each word.

"I love you too, Mama" she said, reaching out a hand and putting it on Myra's foot under the blanket. Gillam joined her. He said to Ginny "I can't believe this really happened to her. I mean, of course I do believe it, but -- it doesn't show, Mama. She's never been anything but kind and funny with us -- well, I mean, she's been strict and all that when we needed it, but not mean." Margie gave him a glance, then, which he didn't notice as he went on. "I don't get how she could grow up that way and not be -- seriously fucked up."

"Therapy" said Ginny. "The money to buy help; 12-step programs which she found a way to use; lesbian-feminism, with its class analysis and the hope of 'biology is not destiny'; and the fact, mostly this, that she's stronger than anybody I've ever met. She kept on finding a way to love herself. The year before we got together, she said, she spent that year learning how it was that she survived the unsurvivable. She had to know that before she could find somebody like me, have a family like you."

"I always thought it was you who made the difference in her life" said Margie. "She says that, I know I've heard her say that."

"I'm her reward for herself getting out from under" said Ginny. "She can be romantic sometimes, but if you ask her direct, she'll admit, the woman in her life is her."

Ginny checked out her children's faces. They were drawn and fatigued, but not in shock. Frances looked passable, too. Welcome to the family thought Ginny.

"We need a good night's sleep" said Ginny. "Everything will be much, much better in the morning. Gillam, I don't like the idea of you sleeping alone in your room tonight. Will you please come in here with us and take the second bed? You can do anything you need, read, watch TV, pace -- you definitely won't wake her up and I'll put in earplugs so you won't bother me."

He looked resistant. At that moment, a long sonorous fart escaped from Myra. They could actually hear the flutter of her buttocks. She made a tiny sigh of relief but slept on.

The younger people in the room collapsed in laughter. Ginny grinned and said "She does that every night, once she's completely asleep."

"Oh, my god" said Margie. "I never knew that!"

"I haven't told anybody" said Ginny. "Not even her."

"But she's teased you, often, about how gassy you were when you were pregnant with us" said Gillam.

"Well, that's funny, it really is. And this is not funny to me, it's just her letting go. Besides which, it doesn't smell bad."

Gillam was waving his hand in front of his face. "You must be upwind of it, is all I can say."

"No, I smell it" argued Ginny. "But it's kinda earthy, like the garden. Not bad at all."

Gillam and Margie grinned at each other and shook their heads. Then Margie looked at Frances, a little embarrassed. Frances said "Just wait 'til you meet my Uncle Pietro."

Ginny said "So, Gillam -- her fart is now over and done with, and in any event it doesn't smell like I'm sure your room does. And it would help me if I had you here close at hand, in case we need you."

She played this card deliberately. She was determined to not leave him alone with some of the thoughts that might come up tonight.

He said instantly "Of course. Of course I'll bunk up with you. I'll go over and get some things."

He left the door open, and they heard his cry of disgust as he went into his own room. When he returned, he said "I need a shower. I must have residue from that."

Margie stood up "We're going to bed, then. Call us -- " she pointed to Ginny -- "for anything. Okay?"

"You got it. Come back over when you get up and we'll order in breakfast, see how everybody is feeling and make plans accordingly."

"Yeah, we were supposed to go the Anne Frank museum tomorrow" said Frances. They all laughed again.

"We'll figure it out in the blessed light of day" said Ginny. "I apologize to each and every one of you for my part in the drama of today. I may be old but I can still be really, really stupid."

"You're also really fun to get high with" said Gillam.

Ginny grinned at him. "That's my boy" she said.

By the time he got out of the shower, she was sleeping, curled in front of Myra. He read for a while, drank two more glasses of water, and, surprising himself, went to sleep easily.

In their room, Margie pulled Frances into her arms and they kissed for a long time. Then they both started to speak at the same instant. After saying "Go ahead" -- "No, you go" -- finally Frances said "I am so lucky to have this trip with you and your family. Being around your mothers is indescribable. Like a movie."

Margie was laughing. "I was going to thank you for being here, with all this mishigas. I know it can be maddening."

"Not maddening. But certainly exciting."

"Did you see how they sleep together, all fit together like a puzzle? After 25 years, still sleeping like that? They wake up together like that."

"That's my plan for us, Margie Rose." They kissed some more.

"Do you think she took Gillam to smoke dope to bond with him, reward him, because he's the one who's going to breed? Is this a sign of things to come?" Margie sounded resigned.

"I don't know. My impression is that she was really upset after dinner last night, still upset this morning at breakfast."

Margie looked quizzical.

"What about?"

"Damned if I know. And it wasn't upset in a way that was overt. I don't think Myra picked up on it. But I think she needed to blow off some kind of steam, and she knew Gillam would go for it."

"That's interesting" said Margie. "Something to think about."

"Your mom -- Myra, I mean -- is amazing. I will never look at her the same way. And I can see so much of her in you."

Margie kissed her passionately for a bit. "Myra thinks I'm just like Mom. Ginny, I mean."

"Well, you got the best of both, is what's really true."

"No, the best thing I ever got is you, Francesca." She slid her hand under Frances' nightgown.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.