Sunday, April 6, 2008

GINNY BATES: THE SHOW AT PSAW

(Roumanian Blouse Version 2 by Liza Matisse; © 2007 by Liza Cowan)

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

26 January 2008

Ginny flew out of SeaTac for Burlington early Friday morning, catching the shuttle to the airport so Myra could get Gillam off to school. Myra hated it that their last weekend before David moved in, Ginny would be gone -- but art could not be denied. For Friday night dinner, she and Gillam grilled a variety of steaks and pork fillets, and dinner with their friends was a meat-fest. She hoped the smell would have left the house by the time Ginny returned.

Ginny called late that night, which was even later by East Coast time.

"What are you doing still up?" said Myra. "I mean, I'm thrilled to hear from you -- "

"Oh, we just got to talking. I am having a grand old time here. I'm staying at the same inn on Willard Street that you and did a couple of years ago, and once I got back here, I began missing you something fierce. So -- whatcha wearing?" said Ginny in a seductive tone of voice.

Myra cracked up. "Same as you, likely. C'mon, tell me everything."


Before they hung up, Ginny said she'd grab the shuttle back from the airport on Sunday for her return, since it was right before dinner time, and to save her a plate. "If Margie comes up, don't let her leave before I at least lay eyes on her" said Ginny.

"Okay -- I'm pretty sure she's arriving tomorrow because Gillam asked me to make swiss steak for Carly tomorrow night, and I think they're riding together."

"Swiss steak, huh? Have you ever made that?"

"Once, for Gillam, and it apparently was memorable" said Myra. "Which reminds me, bring back some real maple syrup."

"Remember when we dripped syrup on our nipples that time?" said Ginny.

"Stop it -- I have to go crawl into bed alone" said Myra.

"And that time we were both reading the Jane Smiley novel with a lesbian sex scene in it that may or may not have involved guacamole? -- " continued Ginny, in a teasing voice.

"Okay, I can play this game. Remember when we went to see Bound and after I got home, I put on my leather jacket and -- "

"I give, I give" said Ginny, giggling wildly. "Sweet dreams, lover. I'll call you tomorrow or Sunday before I get on the plane, not sure which."

"Tell Liza -- well, just tell her hi" said Myra.

Still giggling, they hung up.

On Sunday afternoon, Chris and Sima came over with a huge sea bass that Chris fileted for broiling as Myra made crab rangoon and Sima put together a beautiful Waldorf salad with fresh pears. Gillam and Carly had gone that afternoon to Uwajimaya's for the delicate almond cookies that were Ginny's weakness. Margie was out for a walk with Narnia, and when Myra heard the front door open, she thought at first it was them returning. She leaned around the breakfast bar, saying "Did she finally poop?", only to see Liza Cowan walking toward her with a dazzling grin.

"If you mean Ginny, I'm not privy to her bowel status" said Liza, setting down a large wooden carrying case with brass corners.

Myra was too thrilled to be embarrassed. She wiped her hands hastily and grabbed Liza in a hug. Then Ginny came in the front door, a duffel slung over each shoulder, and Myra momentarily forgot everything else. By the time they were done kissing, Liza had introduced herself to Sima and Chris, who were both acting a little like Myra had the first time she met Liza.

"It smells heavenly in here" said Ginny.

"We went all out for you" said Myra.

Gillam and Carly thundered down the stairs just as Margie and Narnia came in through the open front door. After a flurry of more introductions, Ginny said to Liza "I'm putting your bag in the guest room, which is at the end of this hall here".

"You're staying with them?" Sima said wonderingly.

"Yeah, I couldn't pass up the chance to see the artist's lair" said Liza. "Not mention the writer's habitat. And -- well, I'll let Ginny tell you."

When Ginny returned, Liza nudged the wooden carrying case with her toe and Ginny said "I have a treat for you, Myra."

Myra knew in that instant. "It's not -- the Liza Matisse with the green, the one that was on that video?"

"You guessed it!" said Ginny. "Because it's painted on glass, it can't be shipped. But Liza agreed to carry it on the plane for me, and we got it through all the security bullshit and stored safely in first class. Let's make sure it's okay."

She and Liza carefully unfastened the latches and strapping, and pulled layers of foam padding plus some kind of protective fabric from what had once been an old wooden window, four panes, now painted with Myra's favorite of all Liza's FAKE series. Ginny handed it to Myra, who held it up to the light and said "Oh, god, it's more wonderful than I remembered." Everyone clustered around, exclaiming over it.

"Where are you going to hang it?" asked Gillam.

"Not sure yet. Maybe Liza can help us find a good spot" said Ginny.

"I want it where I can see it all the time" said Myra. "Like, in my study."

Liza laughed. "Let me wash up and roam around your house, if I may, on my own. Then we'll confer."

"Sounds good" said Ginny. "How long till dinner?"

"Half an hour" said Myra.

At that moment, the front door opened to Allie and Edwina arriving. Allie stopped in the foyer, staring at Liza, then said "Holy fuck. I'm not dreaming, am I?"

"Nope, buddy. She hitched a ride back with Ginny" said Myra gleefully. After brief handshakes, Ginny showed Liza to her room and bath, while Myra put her gift away carefully in their bedroom closet. As the friends chatted, Carly and Gillam set the table, and Margie made a pitcher of lemonade, Liza began her tour of their house.

Walking into the rear of the house from the kitchen, she saw on her right a glass wall extending all the way to the back and halfway rounding the corner, interrupted by a sliding glass door, the wall showing a deck, pool, and lush yard rimmed by trees. On her left was an apparent wall that was in fact the backs of mahogany bookcases, three of them each three feet wide. Hanging on this "wall" were frames containing a "Sisterhood Feels Good" poster she remembered from the early 1970s; several dozen photographs of what must be family members, all of them dating before 1950; and an illustrated pedigree on yellowing newsprint, done by the unmistakeable hand of Ginny Bates.

The hallway emptied into Myra's study, with a facing wall which had an open doorway leading beyond into Ginny's light-filled studio. The doorway did, in fact, have a sliding door which was almost never used. Against this wall was a jade green leather settee and a massive rolltop desk with every pigeonhole and cubby stuffed by paper or writing tools. On the edge of the desk next to the daybed was a large black Bakelite phone which looked to be period until you noticed the round buttons inside the dial slots and a glowing round caller ID screen in the center. Hanging over the daybed was a huge, vibrant quilt by Annie Mae Young of Gee's Bend. Folded neatly on the daybed was a soft chenille blanket of fading vermilion.

The back wall of the study, from the desk to a bathroom door, was lined with more mahogany bookshelves and cupboards. The cupboard closest to the desk was only half-height, but it was three feet wide and four feet long. On top of it were a small copy machine, a stereo system, and a combination printer/scanner/fax. The shelf underneath was stacked with reams of paper, notebooks and office supplies. Below that was a series of twelve shallow map drawers, labeled neatly. Between this cupboard and the roll-top, a long leaf extended out from the roll-top, a typing table that was now permanently extended and reinforced with a supporting leg. On this table was a 21 inch flat computer monitor and keyboard. The CPU was tucked under the enormous keyhole of the desk, and the shallow U formed by desk, typing table and cupboard was occupied by an extra-large Aeron chair on a thin Guatemalan-print rug.

Leaning against the back wall, next to the bathroom door, was a folded tri-panel screen containing a stunning illustrated map of Skene, which irresistably drew Liza's eye. Hanging on the bathroom door was her own drawing of Tara With Cherries. The bottom half of the shelves next to the cupboard on the back wall was given over to two horizontal wooden file drawers. The shelf above it was filled with cassette tapes and CDs, and the shelf above that was vinyl LPs. The rest of the shelves, on both sides of the room from floor to six feet high, were filled with books and periodicals in meticulous order, interspersed here and there with small art objects or ephemera. In the middle of the room was a comfortable arm chair of matching jade leather and a standing floor lamp with a Tiffany shade of calla lilies. The walls not covered with shelves or pictures were wasabi green plaster. The floor was cherry parquet.

On the desk was a dark green banker's lamp with a brass base showing a lovely patina. There was also a neat stack of slender books and colored folders. In a hand-thrown plum and sea-green pot was a bristle of sharpened pencils, and in the cubby behind it could be seen the edge of an electric pencil sharpener. A wooden business-card holder painted Ginny abstract held vibrant cards for Myra where her occupation was listed as "dyke, writer, mother". The remainder of the lovely dark surface of the desk was clear and inviting. A stretch of the top shelf atop the desk was also clear, although a few tufts of black and white cat hair indicated it was a perch for somebody.

The walls above and to the side of the desk were covered in photographs and small drawings -- a witchy-looking screen print by Ginny, an underwater photograph of the four of them naked in a pool when the children were still babies, a large framed sketch of skimmers flying along the Gulf Coast, covers done by Allie or Ginny of Myra's books, a photocopied headline of a newspaper from April 1912 which read WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, a folder for a Dance Brigade performance, a hand-drawn map labeled Nimipu Ancestral Lands, ultrasound photos of each child, a color Xerox of the page showing Max's "bleu period" from Maira Kalman's Max in Love, notices for each of Ginny's gallery shows, a photo of Ginny and Myra kissing with Margie holding a pinwheel as she sat on Myra's shoulders and Gillam in a snugli wearing a DYKE t-shirt, and, everywhere there was room, photos of friends or drawings by the children. Liza laughed to herself, remembering how Myra had told her she faced her desk away from the windows because she "needed to avoid distraction" -- this wall was crammed with the details of her life, but that apparently was just background hum.

Stepping into Ginny's studio was a shock, switching from rich and introspective to light and utilitarian. In the corner where the glass walls met was Ginny's large wooden easel. Next to it was a slightly smaller easel with a stool before it, which she assumed was David's. The flagstone-looking floor, really linoleum, was covered in flecks of dried paint. On the wall next to the door, parallel to Myra's daybed on the other side of the wall, was Ginny's daybed of saffron leather, with a pale blue blanket pushed to one side. In a U around the remaining walls was a counter-top of white stone, stained with color in many areas, and three separate keyholes for chairs. Rolling chairs were tucked into two of these slots. Underneath the counters were open white pine shelves filled with bins of paint, sketch blocks, palettes, and other art supplies. One small shelf held a Hopi pot, a pair of gleaming silver palette knives, and a few other personal mementoes. Two large cupboards of white pine hung on either wall, one containing cans of varnish, turpentine, linseed oil and other volatiles, the other holding a few ready canvases plus rolls of raw canvas and stretchers.

On the counters were grinders and basins for mixing paint, trays of hundreds of colored pencils, and hand-thrown pots containing many dozens of brushes, sorted as to size and material. In the back corner was the glass gecko habitat. On a little pedestal beside the gecko cage was a miniature menorah made of fimo and fitted with birthday candles that had burned down to wick and wax drips. Beside it on the back wall were two lipped rows of what appeared to be drying shelves for freshly-painted canvases -- there were three canvases up there, now. The overhead lighting in this room was of the same type as in the rest of the house, full-spectrum simulating sunlight, but the tracks and bulbs were much more frequent and a control panel next to the door gave Ginny enormous pinpoint precision over light in each square foot of the room.

Pushed against the back glass half-wall was a low rectangular wooden coffee table, also encrusted with paint flecks. Next to it, leaned against the cupboard, were several folded easels in various sizes, of wood and metal. There was only one small shelf of books, over one of the work areas. But the most striking difference between Ginny and Myra's work area, aside from the light, was that Ginny had not a single piece of art or memorabilia up on her walls: They were bare, cream-colored plaster. The drying canvases drew the eye all the more dramatically as a result.

As Liza walked over to look at them more closely, she noticed the lack of strong paint or varnish smell in this room. She knew from her own experience it should be overwhelming, since this space was tucked into a cul-de-sac without windows. She looked around and noticed the vents in the ceilings and a separate vent over the volatiles cabinet -- a professional system, then. She also noticed the extensive array of fire sprinklers: another good idea.

At that point, Ginny walked back and said dinner was ready, so Liza took her place of honor at the head of the table as everyone settled into chairs and took each other's hands. No words were spoken, just a fervent silence was observed, followed by everybody kissing the backs of the hands they were holding and declaring "Happy eats!"

Halfway through the meal, Liza's attention was diverted from the shining conversation and faces to two paintings on the glass wall beside her. They were clearly Ginny and Myra's children, back when they were little. After a minute, she said "Is it all right with you if I look at these?", standing up. Ginny, at the other end of the table, stood with her and answered her questions. Liza said "You have to show these, whether or not they are for sale."

"All right" said Ginny. "In that case, I have some others not for sale you might want to see." She took her first to the pair of paintings over the mantle, Self Portrait with Madrone and Myra with Hands on Fire. She explained their history. Then they turned around, and Liza saw the painting that dominated the foyer: Hettie. She sucked in her breath and moved toward it as on a conveyor. It took fifteen minutes of close inspection and talking with Ginny before she was able to tear herself away and return to their unfinished dinner.

After the food was cleared, they returned to the table for tea and cookies, continuing to talk. Liza was good at charming their children, keeping them as actively in the conversation as they were it was just family. At one point, Ginny went with Liza to finish the house and painting tour. When they got back, the Scrabble board was out and everyone else was playing Sima and Chris's version of the game, Cunning Linguist.

Myra explained the rules: "The points on the tiles or the board, don't pay any attention to 'em. When it's your turn, you can use any tiles on the board plus at least one from your tray, and rearrange the board in any manner you wish. The only rule is that you have to replace every tile that was on the board back on the board in some word by the end of your turn. You can use any word, foreign, slang, whatever. And you get rewarded not with points but with the admiration of the other players -- you're competing for prestige, to impress everybody else. The bigger the 'Ah' at what you lay down, the more you win. Also, if you want to cut in line and take your turn early because you have the most extraordinary possible word or words, then you can ask to do so."

Edwina was allowed to use Gullah and Chris was allowed to use Nimipu, so Liza added Yiddish and French to the vocabulary, squabbling in a cute way with Sima about the spelling of some Yiddish terms. Gillam and Carly knew all kinds of manga and snowboard slang the others did not, and Margie scored a huge "Aaahh!" with a Maori term she'd picked up from Rimbaud. They played until 11 p.m., filling and refilling the board with congested, fascinating criss-crosses of tiles. Finally Margie said "I have to get up at 6 to drop off Carly and make my first class, I guess I better get some sleep."

"You too, Carly" said Ginny. "You boys go on to bed."

As the young people kissed everybody good night, including Liza in their round of affection, Sima asked Liza "How long are you staying?"

"I fly back out Tuesday morning, I have kids of my own and a gallery to run" said Liza.

"You're all invited back for dinner tomorrow night, then" said Myra. From the looks on their faces, she could tell they would return. She said to Liza "I'll be sleeping in tomorrow morning -- Ginny gets up with the kids. So you can get up when you feel like it."

"I noticed the espresso machine" said Liza.

"Go for it" said Ginny. "And we have real cream in the fridge."

"Actually -- do you have Cremora?" asked Liza. Ginny was surprised, but Edwina cackled and said "See, I'm not the only one. Yes, they do, in the cupboard next to the breadmaker."

After everybody left and Liza had gone to bed, Myra began brushing her teeth and said "Best surprise ever, honeybunch. You must be totally tapped out, all that traveling plus the time zone change. Are you really getting up to see the kids off?"

"I have to" said Ginny, "I can't let Margie leave without hugging her bye. But, in case you think I'm too tired now to jump your bones, you'd be very wrong."

"We can make it a quick jump" replied Myra cheerfully.

"We'll see" said Ginny.

Ginny's show at PSAW technically began on the last day of February, a Friday which was Leap Day. She flew to Burlington on Wednesday to help Liza open crates and hang canvases. Margie came to Seattle on Thursday night, and Myra allowed Gillam to take off school on Friday so they could all fly out together that morning, with David, Allie and Edwina.

Myra was amazed at how much snow there was, and the cold was intense for her. She really liked the feel of Burlington, however, a combination of small town and liberal values. She'd once had a brief relationship with a dyke who'd been a member of the infamous Red Bird Collective from here, and she wished she and Ginny could peel off and go looking for women their age to befriend.

However, Ginny was rightly consumed with preparation for the opening in a couple of hours. She told Myra "My agent did tons of publicity in New York and Boston, and she says to expect folks to travel for this. It's my first exhibit on the East Coast, it's created some buzz."

"I hope the Shapiro side of your family is kvelling" said Myra. Ginny snorted and said "The dykelleh who's chosen to patshkie around instead of having a respectable career? Not so much." Myra heard David laughing behind them.

Liza dazzled in her ability to handle all the nit-picky details with patience and humor, while simultaneouly keeping Ginny the center of attention. It was a rare ability for another artist to have. No wonder she's fostered so much creativity around her over the decades thought Myra. She liked her own literary agent; Mai knew when and how to push Myra, when to reassure her. But she was not as smart as Liza, and intelligent nurturing was as essential to bringing out the most an artist could produce as contacts and administrative acumen.

During their visit here two years ago, Myra had run across Burlington's claim to chocolate ascendency, Lake Champlaign Chocolates An hour before the opening, she sent Gillam down the street with a hundred dollar bill to spend on these confections. He was gone long enough for Myra to start worrying. When he returned, he said "The architecture was amazing, Mom, I want to take pictures of that place. I looked around as I drank the best hot cocoa I've ever had." He had come back weighed down by bags, saying happily "I bought seconds! Just as tasty and I got a lot more for the money." They arrayed them next to the already sumptious snacks for guests, but Myra held back ten boxes and whispered to Gillam to go stash them in their rental car. "If we need 'em, we'll fetch them; otherwise, they're going home with us." He grinned conspiratorially.

The early crowd was large and only continued to swell. People shucked their polar fleece and down because the gallery warmed up to a toasty level from all the bodies inside -- except Vermonters tended to keep on those goofy wool hats, Myra noticed. Once folks were down to indoor garments, Margie whispered to Myra "You can sure tell the locals from the out-of-towners." She was an accomplished resource in naming designer lines and likely points of origin for some of the attire. She would drift by Myra and murmur "See that PIB by the Kalman boy mannequin? Manhattan or I'll eat somebody's Patagonia." Or "The herringbone jacket is pure Sartorialist, but I'd guess D.C. Beltway. Or maybe Montreal."

David stuck close to Ginny and received waves of attention as the "progenitor" of Ginny's genius. Ginny was in a constant encirclement of people who wanted to talk with her and having too good a time to notice Myra's much less prominent role at this show. Allie did, however, and cracked up Myra and Edwina by saying, a little loudly, "Yeah, she jumped out of his forehead wearing boots with spikes, and the rest of us, we just roadies."

Gillam discovered that at the annual Burlington Art Hop event, the first week in September each year, PSAW was going to present a showing of Berenice Abbott photographs. "Mom!" he exclaimed, waving the show card. "Please can we come back for this, I don't know another place I'll get to see her stuff! My photography instructor says she's an American genius!"

Myra was very pleased. "She's famous among dykes, too, did you know that? Funny how those two worlds, elite photographers and lesbian images, overlap but don't always know about each other. Yeah, I think we have to not miss this one, boychik." He made a circuit of the gallery with Myra, chattering animatedly about the straight photography movement and how cool it would be to have a large-format camera. He had kept his hair shorter since the chop-off he'd done at Helen's death, and Myra saw him occasionally be recognized by a visitor here as the transcendant little boy in Ginny's Writing on Waves painting that hung in that corner next to the stairs to nowhere.

Margie, on the other hand, was mostly schmoozing with others and proving to be a hit, from the looks of it. She, too, was radiant, giving Myra a jolt every time she recognized Margie as a grown woman. She thought of the lines "When did she get to be a beauty? When did she get to be so tall?" and felt tears scald her eyes briefly. At one point she overhead Margie telling someone that she was an art history major at Evergreen. That was news to her -- last they heard, Margie was considering geography her field. And it would not please Ginny, who had nothing good to say about art historians. Which was maybe why Margie hadn't told them yet.

They still had not met the exotic-sounding Rimbaud. Perhaps it was his influence.

They stayed late to help Liza straighten up and enthuse about the wild success of the night. The next morning, they got a late start and had a midmorning sandwichy-breakfast at Al's French Fries, filling two booths and passing around baskets of different kinds of fries. When they got to the gallery, they were gratified to see large numbers of people inside again. Liza confirmed visitors were driving in from other locales, a first for Burlington. Ginny slid back into her "meeting the public" mode, and not long afterward, Myra wandered out to the Alley, hoping for a quiet-ish spot. The chill promptly drove her indoors again, to Fresh Market, where she at at a deli table, pulled out her notebook and wrote most of a poem. This time, Ginny had noticed her absence and when she returned, Ginny linked her arm through Myra's, introducing her proudly to each new fan.

By the time they left for the airport on Sunday morning, Liza declared it the biggest show her gallery had ever seen. Ginny promised to return for the closing, to help with shipping whatever was unsold back home. Liza also asked Allie to consider doing an exhibition there, which Allie modestly began to decline until Edwina pinched her and said "You will so say yes to this woman!" They agreed to talk further. Liza said someone should make a line of Podinqo ephemera -- dolls, cards, even dishes -- and Ginny's eyes lit up. "I'll help you get that off the ground" she told Allie.

Two weeks later, when Myra got up at 9, the breakfast dishes were cleared and a fresh bowl of fruit salad sat on the top shelf of the fridge. She added granola and Brown Cow, then wandered into the back. Ginny was in front of the canvas she had begun last week but gotten stuck on and given up for a couple of days. She had a fascinating smear of phthalo green over most of her left buttock -- Myra wondered if her bottom was itchy and she'd been scratching it.

Avoiding contact with the green, Myra kissed her shoulder and said, "Found another way into it, eh?"

"Yes."

"Where's David?"

"Temple until noon, some meeting or other."

"Okay. Thanks for the fruit. I'll get dinner and hang with Gillam when he comes home."

"Mm-hm." Then Ginny came to for a moment. "You're an angel. I might actually finish this one tonight. Are you going to write today, or research?"

"Write, come hell or high water."

"......Love you."

"Don't sit down on anything upholstered until you wash your ass."

Ginny craned her neck to look behind her. "Huh. Okay."

When Gillam got home from swim practice, he said he had a paper due, so Myra sent him into her study to start on it and threw together a chicken-vegetable stew. David was watching TV, the volume low. After the stew was simmering, she joined Gillam at her desk.

"Okay, what's the haps on this one?"

"It's modern lit. She gave us three poems, and we are supposed to add a fourth, then compare and contrast. Not so bad, actually." Gillam the reader.

"What three did she give you?" Myra was trying not to be overexcited.

"Uh -- 'Funeral Blues" by Auden, something by Langston Hughes -- here it is, called 'Juke Box Love Song', and then something I've never heard of by Robert Burns. 'John Anderson My Jo' -- I'm not sure who is John and who is Jo."

"Jo means darling or sweetheart in Scots. You ought to know that, with our name."

"Oh. Cool."

"And Robert Burns was a Leo, did you know that?"

Gillam gave her a flat look.

Myra went on. "So, she assigned three male poets. At least two of them are queer and one is black, but still...Have you thought of who you might use as the fourth?"

"These are all love poems, so I thought of Emily Dickinson, who would be a woman and a queer. But she's just so, like, unrequited. Do you think there's something by June Jordan that would work?"

Myra was eternally proud of this boy. "I'm sure there is. We'll grab her books in a minute. First, let's begin with you reading each of them aloud. Meaning comes through differently in spoken word."

Gillam did justice to the first two, but when he got to the Robert Burns poem, he balked.

"I don't know what half these words mean, and I'm not sure how to pronounce 'em."

Myra took the book. "I know Robbie well. Here -- I think you can deduce that first one -- brent means smooth, beld is what it sounds like, bald. Pow is this part of the head, up top. Canty means happy, maun is must -- and that's it. You can get it from that."

"How do you know all that?"

"I memorized this poem when I was eight years old. My mother read it to me when I was a baby, and I used to say it out loud to myself."

Gillam looked at her. "I wish I'd known her."

"Oh, Gillam, you two would have adored each other."

"So...Will you read it for me? Like she would have?"

Myra swallowed and closed her eyes.

John Anderson my jo, John
When we were first acquent
Your locks were like the raven
Your bonnie brow was brent
But now your brow is beld, John
Your locks are like the snow
But blessings on your frosty pow
John Anderson, my jo

John Anderson my jo, John
We clamb the hill thegither
And monie a canty day, John
We've had wi' ane anither
Now we maun totter down, John
But hand in hand we'll go
And sleep thegither at the foot
John Anderson, my jo


In the silence that followed, Myra heard a strange sound coming from the studio. She got up and went to peek around the door. Ginny was sitting on the floor against the wall of glass, hugging her pulled-up knees and weeping onto them.

"Oh, baby, what is it?" Myra dropped down beside her.

Ginny was crying too hard to talk.

Gillam looked in on them briefly, then went to get a bowl of stew.

Finally Ginny said "I didn't know I was listening until that line, 'Hand in hand we'll go'." She was sobbing again.

Gillam returned to the study, but Myra was sure he was eavesdropping, too.

Myra slid her hand into Ginny's. "We will sleep thegither at the foot, Ginny Bates."

"But will we go thagether, or however you say it?" she wailed. "I don't want you to die first. I know that's unspeakably selfish, but it's true."

"Yeah, well same back atcha" said Myra, starting to choke up herself.

"I mean, I know I told you when the kids were little that if something happened to you, I'd find a way to go on. I have to, for their sake. But I didn't mean that as permission!" Ginny was almost shrieking.

"I've not died on you, have I?"

"You came close."

"But I didn't. I had my hand tight in yours, and I hung on. My body responded. I do believe that."

They leaned against each other. Myra took in the smell of the chicken, the twilight pooling into the room from the windows behind them, the richness of the colors crusted on Ginny's hands. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Gillam suddenly stood in front of them.

"Me, too." he said. "I was scared shitless."

"Language" said Ginny with a laugh.

"Point taken and appreciated" he grinned back. "But tell me a better way to say it."

"Fuck if I know" said Ginny.

"Your nose is running a little" Myra advised Ginny.

Ginny looked at each of her bare arms, as if there would suddenly be something to wipe it on. Gillam leaned down and gallantly offered her his T-shirt shoulder. Instead of daubing her nose it politely, she pulled his sleeve so hard the other side of his shirt crept up his neck. She buried her face in the fabric she clutched and blew her nose with a vigorous honk.

"Oh GAG me" yelled Gillam. He jerked the T-shirt off over his head. Myra fell over laughing.

"This is my team shirt, Mom!" he ranted on. "And what is that, blood flecks in your snot?"

Ginny examined it carefully. "No, Cadmium red."

"Gross, gross, gross" muttered Gillam.

Myra sat up, kissed Ginny, whispered "Looks like I dare not die first, you terrible mother" and stood up to walk with Gillam back into the study, her arm across his shoulders.


© 2008 Maggie Jochild

4 comments:

letsdance said...

Yum, yum, yum! Thank you, Maggie!
Jan

liza said...

It's just so wierd being a fictional character. Good. But weird. I mean, fabulous, but weird. i love it. It's me but it's not really me.


In real life, two days ago, I actually sold the painting that in fiction i gave to ginny and myra. I had no idea i was supposed to be giving it to them. oops.

Maggie Jochild said...

Oh, Liza, it was THEM you sold it to, remember? Time frame is right. And they would have insisted on buying it, of course, because they believe in supporting art with money as well as all other means.

They must have used some other account with a different name on it, is all.

We can all rest easy, knowing it's hanging in Myra's study in line of sight from her desk, where she can turn her head and look at it several times a day. Backlit by sporadic Seattle sunshine.

I think Ginny is going to get the idea of having Belva find or create fabric which matches that of the blouse and fashion an identical blouse for her to wear -- maybe for their next anniversary, or Myra's birthday. She'll send you a photo (by Gillam, of course) if she does.

I'm sitting here eating dried mangos, repeatedly offering the bag for Dinah to sniff because she can't believe I'm consuming fruit instead of Whisker Lickn's, and trying to write a post about two things which won't go together. Sigh. I need to separate them.

The one which will have to go up later is about how the frenzy over the Clintons' tax returns is finding nothing "wrong" except that they got rich from politics, specifically from writing and speaking (mostly Bill). Which most politicians eventually do, including Obama in the last couple of years.

But (a) the Clintons' have given at least 10% of their income to charity over the last six years, one year 14%, while the Obamas averaged 1% until the year their income spiked and since then it's been less than 5% (which I always check on, to see how much folks who are rich give away if they talk about poverty as an issue); (b) Bill Clinton spoke out more than once AGAINST Bush's tax cuts for the rich by identifying himself as rich and one of the people who would benefit from it unfairly, saying "he didn't need the cut"; and (c) rich-bashing is NOT the same as working against classism. Classism arises from institutions and policy decisions, not from having money -- Edwards, FDR, Baron de Hirsch, the Kennedys, etc. all prove you can have an anti-classism ethic and still be rich.

But asking people to THINK and look at issues in depth, in substance, instead of the reality TV sound bite mode -- it's exhausting. Maybe I should be eating Whisker Lickn's, livah flavah, instead of mango?

kat said...

okay several things:
1) About eating cat treats: There is such a thing as taking the term cat-lady too far. Stick to fruit. (plus, imagine trying to digest that stuff???)

2)I might have to stop reading GB posts if they continue to give me such incredible house lust. I'm already prone to such pinings (the thought or sight of built-ins nearly makes me swoon), and your amazing writing simply isn't helping!

3)oh shit, what was number three?

hmph. can't remember what the other one was....