Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Here's the next segment of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. This will follow my post of two days ago.

If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

Late May 2012

They left for Olympia on Friday around noon, after Myra's second visit with Nancy. Ginny was driving, and Myra could tell she wanted to ask about her session. Myra said "Chris told me she thinks I'm forgetting pieces of working class reality."

Ginny turned sharply to look at her before refocusing on the road.

"What are you forgetting?"

"I forgot to ask". They laughed, briefly. Myra said "It occurred to me that maybe I could ask you. Maybe you've seen some changes."

Treating Ginny like an ally instead of the opposition was always a good idea. Myra saw Ginny's brain engage. "Was she referring to you finding about her and Allie, or about me, or something else?"

Myra said "Well, she had just commented on my pulling out cash to make my break, and asked what I would've done if I hadn't had the money handy."

"What would you have done?"

"It never occurred to me. I still don't know. So yeah, I guess the fact that I knew I could buy relocation is definitely not working class. The impulse to bolt might be, but the means of accomplishing it vary according to resource."

"Myra -- you were that sure I couldn't be someone you talked to?" Ginny wasn't blaming.

"Not at that moment. But, that wasn't the main thing." Myra told Ginny about her mother's defections, how she had worked on her childhood abandonment with Nancy. She added "Plus...In the beginning was me and Allie, you know. We were the original rock that got built on. Then came Chris, and it was me who found her, who saw someone worth spending a lifetime with. Allie agreed pretty much right away. But now I wonder if sex played a role in her decision to add Chris on to us. And if it was partly sex...well, with my background, it makes me jumpy."

Ginny said slowly, "Because why Chris and not you?"

"No. Turns out, it's because I think Chris deserves better than that. She deserved to be chosen for reasons other than fucking. I don't want to ever see her whored out again, even by herself." Myra's tone was fierce.

"Myra, angel, do you really think Allie would be capable of that?"

"She was still drinking, Ginny. You -- didn't know her then" said Myra.

"Then I think you have to ask her" said Ginny gently. “You’ll believe what she tells you point-blank.”

"Yeah, I figured that out this morning” said Myra.

“I have an appointment with Nancy on Monday afternoon, but I wonder if you’re ready to go with me, have a session together.” Ginny’s eyes were on the road, and her tone didn’t sound evasive. Myra said “All right.”

“I’ll think about your class question, Myra. I’m glad to be included. When I notice something, I’ll tell you. And maybe we can take that to Nancy, too.”

Myra reached over and squeezed Ginny’s knee.

Ginny said “I talked with Margie while you were out. She and Frances have arranged a graduation party at Simpatico, catered by them and in their dining hall, the afternoon after her commencement. There’s simply not room at their place, and their landlady is pretty uptight about their using the backyard.”

“Oh, that’s a good idea.” Myra pulled out her cell, searched the number for Simpatico, and asked to speak with the manager. She arranged to pay for the graduation party, insisting it was their gift to Margie. She added “Tell all the staff we’re paying double wages for that day.”

When she hung up, Ginny said “What else are we giving her? She’s very attached to The Cerebellum, but we could make them a two-car family.”

Myra did not want to give Frances additional means of leaving Margie. She covered with “Gas is so prohibitive, they’re doing fine with public transit, and besides, our extra gift should be for Margie alone, don’t you think?”

“Well, the other idea I had is somewhat shared, too: Have you noticed they’ve not bought any new furniture? Everything they have is old, almost as old as the stuff you had when we got together, though no milk crates, thank god.” They laughed together. “The kitchen is up to date, but that’s it.”

Myra said “Are they struggling financially, you think?”

Ginny hesitated, then said “I still have access to Margie’s trust fund statements online. I went and looked. The fact is, they are saving, Myra. As much as they can.”

Myra decided to ignore Ginny’s invasion of privacy, because she might have done the same thing. “Wow. Our Margie is saving? I’m bowled over.”

“For the restaurant, no doubt” said Ginny with mixed satisfaction. “I got to thinking -- that place of theirs is tiny, and their landlady has turned out to be a pill, which is probably why she charges such cheap rent for that location, she can’t keep people in there because of her complaints and intrusions. But they make no mention of moving. I’ve seen no new clothes on Margie, either, aside from shoes and an occasional T-shirt or jeans. So I was thinking about getting her a hefty gift certificate to Ikea, maybe, or Homo Depot. To buy stuff for their house.”

“Add another one for clothes, and let her have a real spree” agreed Myra. “Old Navy, or the Gap?”

Ginny laughed. “They can afford those places, honey. Leave it to me.”

After a few seconds, Myra said “Is this one of those instances Chris meant? Buying a gift certificate instead of, I don’t know, making something for her? And leaving it to you?”

“I doubt it. What Chris notices runs deeper than that” said Ginny.

In Olympia, they found books and papers all over the boys’ dinette table and couch.

“Finals” said Carly grimly.

“Okay, you two keep studying. We’ll cook and clean, and visit when you need a break.” Gillam hugged them both and returned to the desk in his room.

Beebo sat on the kitchen counter while Myra began making casseroles and soups to be heated quickly over the coming week. It was apparently his accustomed right to watch from this spot, and she stopped trying to shoo him down. Ginny gathered laundry and vacuumed, although the place was generally kept clean by the two young men. After dinner, Carly and Gillam insisted they had to take a breather, opting to watch DVD’s of the new Aaron Sorkin series. Both of them fell asleep half an hour into it. Myra and Ginny watched, absorbed, to the end. They woke the boys long enough to say goodnight before heading for their motel.

Myra stopped to buy almond and chocolate croissants for breakfast the next morning. The pool was empty, and when the boys returned to their grind, Ginny and Myra went for a public swim, frolicking in an unseemly manner for the mothers of serious swots. Over lunch, Gillam confirmed they were both hoping to live in Seattle for the summer -- he had been accepted at Read Write, and Carly’s PT program transfer had been cleared. Myra sneaked Beebo a crumb of bacon and leaned under the table to whisper “See? I told you.”

“But we have exactly one day before the end of finals and when we’re supposed to leave for Margie’s graduation” said Carly. “We have to move out of here, which means renting a truck for all our stuff, but we have two cars, too. And you said we’re flying out of Portland for the Gulf Coast trip, right? Only five days this year, because of our schedules.”

“Frances can’t come at all” said Myra.

“You can rent a truck with a tow-bar on the back, pull your Miata behind it” suggested Ginny. “It’s only 70 miles, the increased gas usage will be less than if you drive back and forth twice.”

Carly got up and made a note on the refrigerator message board.

A week later, when Carly and Gillam arrived out front, already sweaty and crabby, Beebo burst from his carrier as soon as Myra undid the grill and shot upstairs, where they could hear his gallop down the hall, around the circuit of the two bedrooms and the connecting bath, and down toward them again. He zoomed toward the back and thumped through the pet door exuberantly, but came to a screeching hall ten feet away from a new Annie Gagliardi sculpture by the pet cemetery.

It was a life-sized gila monster in already-rusting iron and black steel. Beebo’s back arched skyward, and his fur puffed out comically. Myra left hauling of boxes and furniture to young bodies and went out to sit on the deck for Beebo’s performance. She could hear his almost subvocal growling. Subsiding to a belly crouch, he circled the intruder with slow-motion stealth. Once behind it, he made his way forward and finally slapped it violently on the head. With a shriek, he retreated to wash his paw and glower. Ginny came to join Myra, who explained “He says it’s a dinosaur and we’ve been unbelievably thoughtless in allowing it to take up residence in his territory.”

“I wish it was articulated and could move in the breeze. It’d give him a coronary” laughed Ginny.

“I’m looking forward to what Narnia makes of it.”

“Poor little Juju, it would have ruined the sanctuary of the back yard for her permanently” mused Ginny.

“I still miss her at least once a day” said Myra.

“And Alice” returned Ginny. They smiled together.

Once again, it was eight of them the following day on the train to Portland. Beebo sat in the living room window, dismayed, as they climbed into a cab for the station. The housesitter who came every day was not nearly adequate, in his opinion.

Margie met them at the station in Portland, buoyant and with a new hairstyle. They filled a cab plus the Cerebellum for the hop to their motel. Frances was already at work, doing prep for that evening’s meal. Margie had made them reservations, however, at a downtown seafood place with an art deco dining room and, she swore, creme brulee that would bring on the Rapture. It was a long, flavorful, raucous meal whose final bill, intercepted and paid by Ginny, later made Myra say “I definitely don’t have to worry about Margie having class conflict inside her, do I?”

The next morning, Margie and Frances came to the motel coffee shop for breakfast. Myra wondered if she would have a negative reaction seeing Frances, but was relieved to find she did not: She liked Frances, who was especially attentive to Margie right now, radiating pride and shared accomplishment. Margie announced to the table that she had written “Kiss my grits” across her bare ass in marker and intended to moon the audience after her diploma was safely in hand. She managed to horrify everyone over 40, who believed it without hesitation. Carly howled at their gullability so much he had to drink water to stop choking.

They returned to the motel to dress. Margie and Frances had brought their finery and borrow a bathroom to change. Patty and Thea arrived in their car, but they still needed to call a taxi to transport all of them to Kaul Auditorium at Reed. Margie gave last kisses and rushed to join her classmates. Frances stood at the entrance with Myra and Ginny to welcome Margie’s guests, while the rest of the family went to save seats. Gillam had his Leica and Allie was running the video camera.

Several of Margie’s old friends from Olympia arrived, including Truitt and his fiancee. Truitt was thickening through the chest and waist, and had a mustache that Myra forced herself not to giggle about. He said Pat was planning to attend, as well, and Myra saw Ginny stiffen. She leaned near her to whisper “Do you want to go warn Patty?”

“She’s got Thea and she’s a strong woman” said Ginny. “But I don’t want her sitting with us. Pat, I mean.”

“Me neither” said Myra.

Rimbaud also showed up, looking elegant and relaxed. After he went to join their group in the auditorium, Frances said “He and Margie have stayed in touch. He comes down here to see her about once a month.”

“Well, I find that commendable” said Ginny. “He graduated yesterday, didn’t he?”

“Yeah. I think he’s planning to return to New Zealand” said Frances expressionlessly. Myra thought Good.

They met and re-met several of Margie’s friends from Portland. Myra was tensely waiting for someone to be introduced as Imani, but apparently she was not coming to this event. When they went to rejoin the others, Myra noticed Carly, ever the sacrificial lamb, was sitting next to Patty. On his other side were Truitt and his date, and Pat was at the very end of the row, next to the chatty airhead Truitt was planning to marry. Myra waved at Carly and blew him a kiss. He grabbed his crotch and shook it with a swagger, sending her into silent hysterics.

Myra had kept secret from everyone except Frances the fact that, despite her transfer and extra load, she was graduating summa cum laude. Ginny rose to her feet and screamed when this was announced, and the rest belatedly joined her. Myra was thrilled at the size of Margie’s cheering section.

They hung around afterward for a while, Myra feeling glad to be on her feet: The folding chairs had been too close to the ground and not wide enough for her ass. They carpooled to Simpatico, and Myra whispered to Ginny “We need to direct seating, follow my lead”. She gave Frances and Margie places beside another in the middle of the long table, with Ginny on Margie’s left, then Patty and Thea next to Ginny. Across from them were Allie, Edwina, Sima and Chris. Next to Myra, she placed Gillam, and she motioned to Carly. She pointed to an empty table behind them and said loudly “Let’s stack gifts over there, shall we? Will you be in charge of gathering them from people?” He nodded as she whispered “Take the chair next to Gillam at the end, let Pat fend for herself, we’ve got her sequestered from your mom.” He gave her a look of appreciation.

Rimbaud wound up next to Chris, as close as he could get to Margie. Myra wished him luck with trying to converse with Chris.

Once they were all at the table, Frances stood and tapped her glass for attention. She made a lovely speech praising Margie, gazing down at her the whole time. She then announced she had created a new dish in Margie’s honor, lobster gnocchi in walnut butter with fresh peas and baby carrots. It was not only today’s main course, it was being added to Simpatico’s menu under the name “Meglio del Mare Marjorita”.

It was a superb present. Margie kissed Frances fervently, tears standing in her eyes. Myra had no doubt it would be the first item appearing on the menu of Frances’s eventual restaurant. Ginny found Myra’s hand under the table and gripped it tightly.

When Frances sat down, the wait staff began serving, carrying platters in from the kitchen. Still no sign of Imani, though the head chef had come out to say hello to Ginny and Myra. Much to-do was offered about Margie’s dish, and Margie beamed as if she had made it herself. Myra noticed wine refills seemed to be frequent at Pat’s end of the table. She murmured to Gillam “If she gets drunk and causes any kind of tsurris, you and I will quietly walk her to the door, all right?” He nodded.

But their end of the table was having a blast, the aunties lavishing attention on Margie who soaked it all in effortlessly. When the main meal was over and plates were being removed, Frances stood again. “The dessert Margie selected is dried cherry cobbler with pistachio gelato” she announced. “Before that is served, however, I’d like to introduce to you all my esteemed coworkers, the world-class cooks of Simpatico.”

People in white coats streamed from the kitchen, most of them with faces shiny from effort and perspiration. Frances walked around the table to join them and introduce each. She did it according to strict kitchen hierarchy, and the newest addition was thus the last: Imani. Frances held Imani’s hand in the air as she said her name, but kept hold once it was lowered.

She was young, at least two years younger than Margie -- she must be very good to have landed even a scut job here so early. She was taller than diminutive Frances, slender, wide-shouldered, and creamy black. Her hair was cut in a Grace Jones crewcut, her hands were square and powerful, and everything about her screamed dyke. Myra saw Allie and Edwina warm to her instantly, which Chris and Sima turned back toward Margie.

If Myra had had antennae, they’d have been quivering. The wait staff began serving dessert, and the head chef returned to stand beside Myra, saying “I’ve been reading your blog, love it. Where on earth do you get all your ideas?”

She wanted to snipe at him “I steal them, don’t you know what Google is for?” Imani was crossing to Allie and Edwina, still linked to Frances, and gushing “I grew up on the Podinqo books, I can’t tell you what an honor it is to meet you!” Allie and Edwina made room for Imani to stand between them, and Ginny leaned across the table to join in their conversation -- lured by the hint of young striking lesbian, no doubt. Myra’s chef barnacle was rattling on about how he’d thought about putting some of his stories down on paper, he believed they might do very well, only he was so busy, you see. Everybody seems to think writing is a skill like riding a bike, just do it a couple of time and bobs-yer-uncle, you’re Stephen King she thought. She wasn’t paying close attention, so when he said “Maybe I could send you some scribblings some time, you could tell me what you think?”, she broke all protocol by answering “Sure, that’d be fine” before standing and excusing herself to scoot down and sit in the chair next to Margie.

She pressed her side against Margie, who looked perfectly normal unless you knew her very well, and said “Have I ever told you my Mama’s favorite joke?”

Margie looked at her with relief and said “The pig one, you mean?”

“No, that’s my favorite. My mother’s was interactive. She’d come in from going to town, shopping, and remark ‘I ran into Mrs. So-and-So at the Piggly Wiggly, and you know what she said to me?’ One of us would obligingly answer, ‘No, what?’ Mama would say, with extreme indignation, ‘She called me a two-bit homewrecker!’ We knew our part, so one of us would then say ‘Oh, no! What did you do?’ Mama would drawl, ‘I hit her with my bag of quarters.’”

Margie simply exploded into laughter, as did Chris and Sima who had been listening with increasing interest. It brought every other conversation in the room to a halt. Myra was consumed with glee. Ginny said “What? What did you just say?” Since neither Myra nor Margie could answer, Gillam leaned behind Myra to say “She told her mother’s favorite joke.”

Ginny faced the rest of the table and said “Oh, this is a good one. Okay if I share it with them, My?”

Myra nodded, going into further paroxysms as Margie leaned against her, pounding the table with anticipation. Ginny told it well, and got a big laugh. Except for Imani, who suddenly let go of Frances’ hand and whose smile was paper-thin. After a moment, Frances made her way back around the table, and Myra gave her the chair beside Margie as they all tucked into dessert, still chuckling.

A few minutes later, Frances turned and looked steadily at Myra, her face solemn and considering. Myra winked at her, which confused Frances. Carly and Gillam began carrying gifts to Margie, and Frances focused back on her partner. It’s her day, thought Myra. She earned this.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

Jesse Wendel said...


Parents don't know everything about their kids (mine didn't or my Dad would have sent me to a military academy; I made certain he never found out what I was really up to), but we damn well know a lot more than our kids think we do. Including about our kids.

After all, your typical 20 year old has only roughly 5 years -- and that's being generous -- since they started to break away from their parent and come into their own.

In contrast, their 50 year old parent (or 40 year old parent) has 35 (or 25) years of being on their own as a person.

That's a 7:1 or 5:1 ratio over the kid.

But wait... it's worse than that. For at least two reasons.

1. Kids' brains don't fully develop till they reach their mid 20s. Therefore at 20, no matter how sharp these kids are, their brains still are forming connections, building out the fundamental infrastructure of the body. Till that's fully in place, the teenager/young adult acts more impulsively than the older young adult. In girls, granted, this building out comes earlier than in boys, in whom it may not finish till their mid-20s. Still, the urge to act impulsively has a biological component in addition to whatever cultural patterning may be present by gender and social roles in different age, communities, and countries.

2. The mature brain of the adult doesn't hold on to all of the stuff that the younger brain does. Precisely because the older brain refuses to clog itself with trivia, it is better able to make deep connections more easily.

These deep connections are often assessed as "wisdom."


A ratio of experience of at least 5:1, perhaps as much as 7:1.

The younger brain is still developmentally prone to impulsiveness, especially in the male.

And finally, the older brain makes deeper connections more easily, which we assess as wisdom.

Shorter me: Parents don't know everything about their kids, but we damn well know a lot more than our kids think we do. Including about our kids.

Francis hasn't figured out yet what having all these Mother's means. Sucker...

Children. They crack me up.