Wednesday, May 7, 2008


(Reed Canyon, Reed College, Portland)

Here's the next segment of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates, a shorter than usual chunk. All I've got written for this period of time, but hey, it's better than nothing.

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.

Incidentally, the restaurant where Frances gets her first job is a real place, Simpatica Dining Hall. Click on the link to see their menu and scrumptious photos of some of the foods our gang feasts upon.

Autumn into Winter, 2010

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, Carly and Gillam were up for the weekend. At Friday night dinner, Ginny announced "I talked with Margie today, and Frances definitely has to work on Thanksgiving Day plus the day after. Margie doesn't want to leave her alone, and Frances' family isn't coming up, so we need to decide what we want to do."

"You mean, not do our usual shift on Thanksgiving?" asked Sima, a little dismayed.

"No, of course that. I meant afterward" said Ginny.

"It'll be right before Margie's birthday as well" added Myra.

Allie said "I think we should go to Portland. If we left on Friday, we could spend two days there." She looked apologetically at Edwina and said "I'll do the driving, of course."

Carly said "I'm free. Mom is planning to go away for the weekend with her new girlfriend, and if I come down here to cook at the shelter with you all, she could make a four-day trip of it."

Gillam said "Then count me in, too." As everyone nodded, Myra said "That's eight. Too many for a single car, and with gas being scarce as it is, driving two cars seems crazy."

"Let's take the train" said Allie, an old hand at it. "We can rent a car there, plus we'll have Margie's, that's enough room."

"I think we should surprise her" said Sima. "One of us make a phone date with her at the time of our arrival on Friday, so she's not gone off somewhere. I could do that -- she's calling me at least once a week for a long talk, anyhow. Longer if Chris is home."

"She's been calling us, too" said Allie. "She seems to have our schedule memorized, she always knows when to find us home and free." Sima nodded in agreement.

"I don't think she takes that trouble with us" complained Ginny. "I mean, she's calling, yes, and wanting to really talk -- "

"Well, Ginny, your availability is much more up in the air" pointed out Sima. "And you're the moms, you're supposed to be on tap."

"She even called us last week" said Gillam.

"She's lonely" said Chris. It stilled the table for a moment.

"Oh, surely not" said Ginny in distress. "They've already made friends there, and Frances does have Sunday and Monday off -- "

"Half of which she sleeps from exhaustion" pointed out Myra. "And new friends are not like old friends. Plus Margie's arranged her classes so she frequently attends them in the evening, so she has mornings with Frances. But they seldom go out that time of day, everyone else is at work." She and Ginny looked at each other sadly.

"I was afraid of this" said Ginny. "Romance is not enough, Margie was raised in community."

"Then we'll have to help out" said Myra staunchly. "The restaurant is closing for five days over Christmas, but Frances hasn't seen her family in months, they were talking about flying to Los Angeles for part of her time off..."

"Let's go there, then" said Ginny. "Spend a week in the sun, go back to the Huntington, Venice Beach, there's a million things to do in the area. And that way Margie won't have to choose. We'll buy plane tickets for everybody and book a block of rooms someplace convenient to where we all most want to see."

Slowly, everyone nodded, except Carly who said "I'll need to check with Mom."

"We'll invite her, too, and her girlfriend" said Myra.

Gillam said shyly, "Courtney's family lives in San Diego."

"Perfect, you and she can see each other, too" said Myra, patting Gillam's hand.

The next day, however, when Ginny called to discuss the Christmas option with Margie, sitting as usual on Myra's daybed, the conversation didn't go as smoothly as Myra would have wanted. When Ginny got off, Myra demanded "Is she dragging her heels at the idea of us being around her and Frances on their holiday? Because if that's the case, fuck the idea of going down there for Thanksgiving!"

"No, Myra, she just needs to talk it over with Frances first. It's not about them, it's about Frances' family meeting all of us. They need to be consulted, not have us descend on them uninvited."

"What's wrong with us?" bristled Myra.

"We're the in-laws, honey, you of all people know what that means, even good ones. And -- well, I'm not certain how much Frances's family will see us as actual in-laws, because I'm not sure how seriously they're taking her relationship with Margie. Plus, we're an odd assortment, aside from the dyke issue" said Ginny.

"You mean they may be racists?" Myra was determined to take offense.

"Like most white people in this country, yes. Plus some of us are famous, a lot of us don't work normal jobs, there's no adult males unless you count Gillam and Carly, and I know for a fact Francis is scared shitless of Chris" pointed out Ginny.

Myra giggled suddenly. "As well she should be. Chris hasn't signed off on her yet."

Ginny sighed. "Well, I have. Margie's heart is a good enough indicator for me. I have to respect her."

Myra said softly "How very David of you."

Ginny's eyes went moist. "Thank you, Myra. One of the nicest things I could hear."

"And you're right, Ginny. I'll be your passenger in this stretch of jeep-on. But...I have to say, Gillam didn't register any qualms about the possibility of us all meeting Courtney's folks."

"They're dating, Myra, not planning a future together. Besides -- Gillam's not dealing directly with lesbian oppression."

"You mean because he's not going to be called a dyke himself? Margie doesn't call herself a dyke, either" argued Myra.

"I know. But she's open to the charge, and I think, deep down, it probably bothers her. She was so sure, all these years, that she was not like us, was taking a different path. It mattered to her, being different, being like the 'regular world' as she put it. You and me, and our generation, we had an entire culture and identity to compensate for being deviant. She doesn't, she only has her love for Frances. Meeting her family and gaining their acceptance is probably a critical need for Margie" said Ginny.

Myra felt sudden empathy and concern for Margie. After a minute she said "It's good you were the one to talk to her."

"We take turns, Myra" said Ginny with a grin. "She sounded desolate about not having Thanksgiving here, though she tried to cover it."

"Well, we can at least make the train reservations to Portland" said Myra, turning to the computer.

As it turned out, Narnia almost give it all away when she heard them, or more likely, smelled them creeping up the outside wooden stairs to Margie's flat in Portland. She slammed herself against the front door, warbling and wriggling in a way that could only mean a member of her pack was nearby. Margie was already heading for the door when the knock came. Still, her expression when she opened it and saw all eight beloveds lined up down the steps like a Ziegfield production was joyous enough to make Myra cry. She hugged them in from the misting rain, making incoherent sounds much like Narnia. Gillam and Carly ferried everyone's packages of bread, preserves, herbs, and birthday presents to the kitchen table, and found a place to stack coats. Allie and Edwina carried in kitchen chairs so there were enough seats for everybody, though Gillam opted to sit on the floor against a wall with Narnia sprawled over him.

After almost an hour of conversation, Carly jumped in to say "Breakfast was eons ago, I'm starving, could we go somewhere to eat?"

"Too bad Simpatica is dinner only" said Ginny.

"Oh!" exclaimed Margie. "They're having a brunch seating today, because it's the holiday!" She accepted Myra's cell and called, talking to the manager because Frances was too busy. When she hung up, she said "If we leave right now...but I guess it means the bus -- "

"We have a rental car" said Ginny. Carly scrambled to bring them all coats. Gillam explained to a disbelieving Narnia that they were all leaving again, but promised a long romp outside with her later.

They were seated at one of the long communal tables with another group of four who turned out to be the family of the salad chef. Margie sat at the head, a little in the aisle but the waiters didn't care, she was obviously very popular. The brunch menu was either fried chicken with waffles or a savory crepe filled with fresh corn, chestnuts, creme fraiche and bacon. Ginny had to settle for the chicken and waffles because the crepes had bacon. After Myra's crepes arrived, however, Ginny quietly took a bite of one. Her eyes opened wide and she whispered "Would you go halvsies?" "Happily" said Myra, offering her plate.

When Frances found a moment to come talk with them, the head chef accompanied her. He turned out to be a huge fan of Allie's book, and when Allie shook his hand, she said with a grin, "Poor Frances, she got six mothers-in-law with Margie", including herself in the number. Margie was glowing.

After eating, they made reservations for dinner at 8:00. They picked up Narnia and went to Margie's workshop at Reed where she showed them her current restoration projects. As the artists became engrossed, Gillam, Myra, Carly and Chris went outside into the rain to throw a ball for Narnia across deserted quads. They kept walking northwest from the arts complex until they reached Reed Canyon, with its aquifer-fed lake surrounded by wildlife habitat. They took the trail around it, leashing Narnia to avoid encounters that might prove upsetting to ducks and squirrels. They fell silent, listening to the rain on their hats, the wet crunch of their boots, and the birdcalls. Narnia appeared to know the place well, which made Myra glad: Margie had this as a refuge.

The next day they picked up Margie early -- Frances was still asleep -- and headed for Portland's Saturday Market. Between the food, the artisans, and the live music performances, this kept them busy all day. They had dinner again at Simpatica, where Ginny's tipping had the waitstaff awaiting their arrival. Well, plus Margie's shining face. On Sunday, Frances was able to join them when they went to Edwina's favorite restaurant for brunch, where Margie opened half her presents early, the "ones we can't stand to not see you open in person", as Allie put it. The rest were saved for her actual birthday.

Gillam and Carly asked to go with Myra to Powell's for a short but frenzied expedition through its floors. Margie kept swapping out half-hour chunks with each of her aunties for alone time, while Ginny chatted up Frances. They met again at 3:00 at Waterfront Park. Chris reminisced about being here with baby Gillam and toddler Margie at the beginning of Myra's book tour, long ago. Narnia refused to go further at one point, and Margie said "It's the towers over there at Friendship Circle, they make this weird sound that freaks her out."

Margie and Frances went with them to return the rental car and catch the train back at 6:00. They had a picnic dinner of sandwiches from Simpatica to eat on the trip home. Margie looked completely restored, and kept whispering "Thank you, thank you so much" to her family as she hugged them goodbye.

At one point on the train back, Carly, sitting next to Myra, said "Portland's rockin'. I can see why she loves living there."

"Caught your eye, did it? Are you going to add it to your list of possible settling down spots, then?" asked Myra.

Carly looked at her keenly. "No, there's only one place I intend to live. I've missed it long enough. Soon as I graduate, I'll be coming home again." Myra felt momentarily lightheaded at this news. She reminded herself not to pin her hopes on it -- young people needed room to change their minds. Still, she passed it on to Ginny later, and Ginny's face lit up as well.

Ginny and Myra had settled into a new routine. They got up late, ate breakfast together, ran errands, then separated for lunch until dinner, having dates with friends or working at their own projects. Their productivity climbed. Myra wrote an essay that got accepted by Salon, along with an offer for her to write a regular column there. She accepted and began turning out weekly or biweekly essays. From this, she finally broke down and started her own blog, a mix of writing and commentary that set her fans on fire and gave her a crash course in internet ethics.

Edwina finally got tenure again, at University of Washington. Myra and Ginny were with Allie at their home when Edwina walked in with the news. Edwina broke down sobbing, revealing how much stress she had been under. When she could talk again, she said "Now I come out from under wraps" with a glint in her eye. Myra and Ginny offered to help with any project she named.

Two days later, Sima got promoted to manager at the after-prison nonprofit agency where she worked. They all went out for a celebratory dinner. "We respectable now" said Allie in her toast, which made them laugh uproariously.

Margie called to say yes to the Christmas plans, and tickets were purchased, no longer at a discount. To everyone's surprise, Patty also accepted their invitation, along with her new partner, Thea, who was a taciturn but agreeable American Studies professor at Evergreen. The two of them found a lot to talk about with Edwina, and Ginny remarked Patty hadn't looked this good in a decade.

Myra felt very comfortable with Frances's family, who argued a great deal and teased in ways that Ginny found baffling. Myra did not have a good time during the lunch they shared with Courtney, Gillam, and Courtney's parents, who were liberal but upper class. Ginny said they reminded her of her mother's family and handled most of the conversation.

The best fun Myra had, however, was when she, Chris, Carly and Gillam pulled away from the artists and academics to take the Universal Studios tour. Myra came close to peeing herself when the fake shark from Jaws attacked their tram tour car next to a lagoon -- her brain knew better, but she couldn't stop screaming for a long minute. Carly and Gillam took turns imitating her for the rest of the family later, trying to perfect the high pitch of her shrieks.

Margie drove home for New Year's with Narnia, leaving Frances alone to work and sleep. Ginny dug as unobtrusively as she could, trying to find out if they were having tension, but Margie gave nothing up. On New Year's Eve, Margie went out with Amy and some friends. Gillam had remained in Olympia with Courtney, but Carly was at the house in Seattle and went out with Davonn and his crowd. Margie came back not long after midnight, woke up her mothers to wish them happy 2011, and was pulling out her cell phone as she left the bedroom, so they decided not to worry about her. Carly didn't get home until 3:00, though no one knew it but him and Narnia.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


letsdance said...

Lovely, Maggie.

Liza Cowan said...

I'm a major Leonard Cohen fan, but Halleluja has been done to death.
Better off listening to Famous Blue Raincoat with Jennifer Warnes for some great Cohen.

Jeff Buckley's good, but his dad was better, in my opinion.

fun to watch KD. I like her better with longer hair and a touch of makeup, of course. I Love a butch in makeup. (oh get real, I love anybody in makeup) But her voice is untouchable.

Thanks for the fun.