Sunday, May 11, 2008


(Graffiti found on the streets of Amsterdam)

In honor of Mother's Day, here's the next extra-small segment of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. Begins right after my post of 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.

Spring Break 2011

Myra got up with Ginny the next morning at 7:30, determined to get a breakfast into Gillam before he left for Nancy's. Carly was already in the kitchen, probably with the same idea. He was frying the pancetta Myra had been saving for Sunday, yet over it was a strong smell of hot banana -- bread or muffins in the oven, she guessed. She made juice while Ginny set out yogurt, cream cheese, and two pots of tea.

By the time Gillam arrived, the tea had to be reheated. He wolfed his food as the other three collaborated on a shopping list. He said "I'm craving potatoes. And avocados, if you can find 'em." When he was done, he said "Later" and hurried out the front door.

"Potassium depletion" said Carly smugly, pointing to the banana loaf which Gillam had decimated.

"Add plantains and papayas to the list" directed Ginny.

"And dried apricots" said Carly. Myra obeyed.

When the three of them returned a few hours later, burdened by canvas carryalls of food and cans of paint, Gillam was cleaning the pool while chatting with Allie, who sat on the edge of the baby lettuce bed to weed. Edwina was on Myra's computer, her genealogical files covering the desk.

"I'm going to start a soup" said Carly. "Steam some potatoes. It'll be ready in half an hour."

"I'll put everything away around you" offered Ginny. She left avocados and papayas on the breakfast bar. Myra walked out to talk with Gillam and Allie.

"How was Nancy?" she asked. He grinned and said "I'll give you all the low-down at lunch, all right?" He was moving the vacuum hose slowly, almost meditatively, over the bottom of the deep end. He nodded his head toward the bed around his birth tree and said "Those the Holland tulips coming up?"

"Oh, my god, they are!' exclaimed Myra, going to look at them. "I can't wait to see those orange-and-white ones here in our very own yard." Allie joined her at the bed, bending down to touch the tips poking through the wet ground.

When she stood back up, Allie said "I brought my storyboards. I'll swap consultations from ya'll for some time rolling paint upstairs."

"You get the consultations no matter what" said Myra.

"I know" said Allie. "Truth is, I like painting walls."

By the end of lunch, every morsel of Ginny's avocado salad, Carly's tomato bisque, and Myra's potato salad was gone. Ginny set a large blue bowl of sliced papaya and strawberries on the table as Allie said to Gillam "You go first, I want everbody's hands washed before my part of show and tell."

He laughed and forked fruit into his mouth, talking around it. "Well, first off, she gave me a flower remedy, it's there on the counter. I'm going back on Tuesday. And my diarrhea's already cleared up. Sorry, didn't mean to mention that at the table."

"I didn't know you had the runs" said Ginny, looking at Myra accusingly. Myra said to Ginny "Neither did I."

Gillam ignored this exchange. He took a few more bites and rested his spoon on the side of his plate, folding his hands to look at them.

"I have to break up with Courtney" he said.

"Oh, no" said Edwina sympathetically, simultaneous with Ginny saying "Why?"

"The short version is, she doesn't want children. Not in any form, adopted, me being the primary parent, whatever. Not in her life plans." Grief flooded his face.

"How sure can she be? I mean, she's what, 20?" asked Ginny.

"As sure as I am that I do want children" said Gillam. He looked Ginny in the eyes. "What about you at 20, did you know yet you wanted to parent?"

Ginny met his gaze, then glanced at Myra. "Yeah. I did, no doubt about it."

"But people change" said Myra. "Sometimes dramatically. I'm living proof of that."

"You're also living proof of someone not changing until they choose it" said Gillam, the mildness of his tone suddenly very much like David. He smiled at Allie and said "You always told me to not go looking for orange juice in a hardware store."

Allie laughed ruefully.

Gillam continued. "I came back from...Amsterdam...feeling cleared out. Ready to insist on being seen and valued for who I am. And Courtney more than met that criteria. We each other." His voice cracked. Myra gave up trying to keep her distance and moved her chair closer to him. He put his hand on hers, on her knee, and squeezed it. She could tell he was trembling.

"She's ambitious. She wants to work in government, maybe even run for office. She wants to be financially comfortable, she wants to have influence enough to make things better, she wants to live in a city and have access to world culture. I don't share all of those ambitions, but I respect them. And she likes -- liked -- my own set of goals." He stopped for a minute. Nobody else spoke.

"Except for kids. I realized, this last couple of weeks, that children may be my highest ambition. I...You remember that Candid Camera episode where they went to some fancy New York prep school after all those driven teenagers had been given aptitude tests? They sent in a fake guidance counselor to give the results, and he'd sit across from some future senator-wannabe and say 'We've determined you are ideally suited to be a...shepherd.' Remember how those kids nearly passed out?"

Everyone was laughing. Gillam let them finish, then said "The thing in...for lack of a better term, I think I'm ideally suited for motherhood."

When nobody laughed at that, he said "You see my dilemma. It's not about the uterus thing -- I could adopt, or maybe find other methods if there's an ethical way to get around using a woman for procreation, which I'm not sure about...The point is, well, two points, actually. I want a partner in parenting, someone who isn't one of ya'll, no offense meant -- and almost nobody actually respects a man who wants to be what we think of as a mother. Feminism hasn't eroded the association of female with wearing dresses or mothering, and any guy who transgresses is a freak."

Myra squeezed his hand. He squeezed back before letting go.

Allie said softly "We're all freaks here, son."

"I know. But I'm...I don't want to live in a ghetto. I want to be a man, a man of the world. And Courtney -- she saw me as that, she was a good choice. Except for the question I should have asked on our second date, you know: Here's my top goals, what are yours, and if they can't mix, then it's not gonna work. And there's very few women out there who are going to expect a man like me."

It was the first time Myra had ever heard him talk like this without any doubt or defensiveness. He was not ashamed of his difference. She looked at Ginny, who had tears soaking her cheeks.

"So, back to the drawing board. I have a friend, Kyle -- " Gillam glanced at Carly, who smiled. "Kyle is a year older than me but she's probably a perfect match. Except she's deeply involved with someone else. Anyhow, she's an example I can hold in my head. Plus, last week, I was hanging out at her house and her dad showed up, and we wound up talking for a long time. That's what set all this off. He told me I had to man up."

Myra felt rage hit her. She missed the next few words as Gillam went on.

"....not that way. He was raised Mormon but has spent his entire adult life in, well, recovery. Learning everything he could, giving up the myth of masculinity in favor of reclaiming full humanity, trying to give himself permission to change in every way possible. He's a great dad, he's been in the military, been a paramedic" -- Gillam nudged Carly -- "he's a writer, a radical. And he told me it was time I made man part of my self-definition. However I meant it."

"Like we reclaimed woman" said Myra, getting it.

"Yeah, except I'm much more on my own" said Gillam.

"You're wrong about that" said Ginny.

"Oh, I know I've got alla ya'll behind me" said Gillam, but Ginny interrupted him.

"No, I mean -- when I began trying to define myself, yes, there was a movement, more than one, actually, with writing and songs and ideas to give me some ground under my feet. But in the end, I had to hack out an individual path. I didn't find anyone to walk with me along it until I was almost 30" said Ginny.

Myra looked at her, realizing she had had Allie a long time before Ginny had anybody else. Allie and Chris both.

"I'm not going to wait that long" said Gillam. "I'm going to have the world, and I'm going to find a partner who's also part of the world and wants my definition of man. One thing I've been considering is taking sex out of the picture. I mean, I can have sex any time I want."

Myra met Ginny's eyes: What did that mean?

Gillam said, in a considering tone, "I need to focus on the values and building blocks first, I think, and let the sex come after. Again, not the manly way, huh."

Allie said "If I'd met someone like you when I was 20, I might not be a dyke." Which made everyone but Myra roar.

"Anyhow, that's all I got to say for the moment" finished Gillam. "I going to call Courtney tonight, after dinner." He looked at Allie. "Your turn, I guess. Girlfriend." They all roared again, this time including Myra, as they went to clear the table and wash their hands.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


letsdance said...

Why do I never tire of your writing, Maggie?? I love GB.

Jesse Wendel said...


kat said...

God, I love Gillam. Why isn't the world populated with Gillams?