Thursday, May 1, 2008


All right, fans, here's another segment of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. This occurs after my last post 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. P.S. If you've read Ginny Bates since the beginning, there's a fun little riddle hidden in this section.

August to October 2010

A couple of nights later at dinner with Edwina and Allie, Myra said "We just received the final payout from my lottery winnings. Which means we need to discuss your trust fund, Allie. We can keep putting the same amount in, or up it, if you need -- "

"No way Jose. I mean, I'm blessed for what you did, way back when. Set me up for life. But I've been earning good for a while now, I got that insurance settlement from Mama's death, and if they really do buy the animation rights to Ashante Alabama, it'll be a buttload more. I've got a pension paid for, so does Edwina, and even with buying the apartment building where we live and renovating the ground floor so we can be old ladies there, I still got tons in the bank. I could be giving you money." The pride on her face made Myra's eyes well.

"I wonder how many of us could do what you and I did, with a single hand up" said Myra softly. They looked at each other for a minute.

Edwina said "I know the Feminist Fund is self-sufficient now, and still expanding, but what about you two? Where is that extra money going to come from, if you don't mind me asking?"

Ginny said "Well, the children's education funds were complete before they started college. Plus Daddy's will gave them another chunk. And despite our insisting he leave money to the Fund, he also gave us a separate bequest which we've put into our own savings/investment. We spent like sailors on leave for the summer trip, but even so, I'm making more than enough from my paintings to cover everything, plus."

"You could help Frances start her restaurant" said Allie with a twinkle. They all roared, and Ginny said "If and when that time comes, and if they ask, and if a few other things, I imagine we will. But for now, let Margie worry about that."

"What I would like to do" said Myra "is set up a trust for Sima and Chris, for when they retire. I mean, they know, at least Chris does, that I intend to augment Social Security so they live in comfort as crones. But we could have it waiting on them, and maybe even tell them -- Sima would like to know, although Chris will bite my head off."

"Count me in on that" said Allie swiftly. "Let's meet with Alveisa."

"We're already seeing her for a planning session this week, you could come for the first part of it" said Ginny. They agreed, and the topic changed to book contract arcana.

At the end of August, Margie and Frances arrived one evening for a two-day visit before their final move to Portland. They sat up late talking. Margie had photos of their new flat, midway between Reed and Simpatico in the city's Southeast, next to public transportation and with a shared backyard that was small but secure for Narnia. She and Ginny became engrossed in issues of art restoration, while Frances regaled Myra with the backstabbing drama of professional cooking.

The next morning, Frances and Margie did not appear early for breakfast. Myra made a run to the market, and when she got home, the yogust and fruit salad they'd left in the fridge was gone. She could hear Ginny vacuuming upstairs and she could see Margie and Frances horsing around in the pool. As she started putting grains and beans into their own sealed canisters, Margie got out of the pool and stood on the edge, talking down to Frances. The line of her back registered as angry to Myra. After a minute, Frances got out of the pool, too, and faced Margie with a furious expression, her arms crossed across her chest. Their voices had gotten so loud that Myra could hear them - the sliding door must be open.

Frances yelled "Listen, Ms. Queen of the Known Universe, I never signed up to be one of your loyal subjects. I will damned well do what I think is best."

Margie retorted "Your holy hot-headed automony stops where it encounters our shared territory, moron. If it affects how we get to live our lives together, you fucking well have to listen to me sometimes."

"Oh, yeah?" jeered Frances, taking a step forward so she had to crane her neck a little to glare up into Margie's face. Her little body bristled. "Who's gonna make me, you?"

Myra was appalled for a few long seconds, then bewildered as Margie burst into laughter and held out her arms to Frances. Frances literally jumped into Margie's embrace, wrapping her legs around Margie's waist and hanging onto her neck, as they began kissing with abandon. When Margie's left hand slid into the back of France's bikini bottom, Myra fled the kitchen, almost running into Ginny at the bottom of the stairs with the vacuum cleaner in her arms.

"What's wrong?" said Ginny, looked at Myra's panicked face.

"Margie...she and Frances just had a huge fight" said Myra.

"Well, they're young and in love" began Ginny.

"No, but then -- it was like a switch flicked, they went from almost tackling each other to -- "

Myra's red face finished the sentence for Ginny. "Really" Ginny said.

At that moment, Myra heard their voices coming into the house. She grabbed the vacuum from Ginny and said loudly "I'll do our room, honey" and bolted for the bedroom.

Ginny said hi to Margie and Frances, walking arm in arm around her to go upstairs. Franced stopped for a second and said "Hey, I'll cook dinner tonight. I brought some calamari."

"Super" said Ginny. Margie winked at her and they went on upstairs, Narnia clattering ahead of them. After they were gone, Myra came out of the bedroom and said "You already vacuumed in there."

"I know" said Ginny. "Coward."

Myra put the vacuum away, then said "I need to go for a walk. Outside."

Ginny said "Would you like to stroll down to Broadway and see what's new in my favorite gallery?"

"That would be great" said Myra. "A long walk."

"Let me get on my shoes" said Ginny.

"Hurry" said Myra.

The following day, Myra and Ginny again ate breakfast alone. Myra made gingerbread pancakes with soy as well as regular sausage and left a plate warming in the oven. She and Ginny then sat at one end of the dining table with the box of papers containing their plans for the Rio favela arts school. They needed a final start-up budget and yearly maintenance cost before they could begin fundraising for the money to keep it going year after year. By the time Margie and Frances came downstairs, Allie, Edwina, Chris and Sima had arrived and were eating while discussing school options. Edwina moved over to sit beside Sima so Frances and Margie could have the chairs beside Allie.

At a stopping point in the discussion, Allie turned to Margie and said "You're here until tomorrow midday, right? What else you got on the burner for your time here?"

Margie said "Amy asked if we could have dinner with her and maybe some other friends. I found out Jaime is in town with his current boyfriend, actually bringing him home to meet his mama, and I thought it would be a hoot if they joined us."

Myra thought the expression on Frances's face did not share the "hoot" description of this proposal.

Margie continued "Aside from that, we'll be hanging out here. Or with you, if you have a request."

Ginny slid in smoothly. "Actually, I have a request for an hour or two of your time. There's a stack of packing boxes at the back of the carport. You need to go through your old room and box up what you want to take with you versus what you want to give away to thrift stores. Like, all those clothes you haven't worn since high school. We have room for a handful of boxes in storage, but that's it. I don't know how you're furnishing your new place, but if you want any of the big items in your bedroom, we can ship those to you via a mover."

"Like the map case we had built for you" picked up Myra. "Although if you want to stash your maps themselves here for sakekeeping, I can clear out a drawer or two of my mapcase for them." She said to Ginny "You're right, that mattress is too old to recycle. I'd rather put in a Murphy bed than a futon, but I haven't checked on prices or sizing yet."

Margie gaped at Ginny. "You're clearing out my room?"

"Well, you will hardly be here from now on, you said so yourself. Maybe two or three visits a year, and there's the guest bedroom for you then. And this is a huge house, it's nuts for me and Myra to keep half the rooms shut up without use. We're thinking about offering lodging to a graduate student" said Ginny genially.

"Or becoming Contact Dykes for traveling women to stay here" said Myra. Ginny flicked a glance at her: She didn't like that idea.

Chris was giggling. Margie was mute in disbelief. Myra thought Ginny's version of tough love leaves scabs.

Frances didn't seem to be so fazed. No doubt her old bedroom had been claimed by a younger sibling four years ago. She said "We could look stuff over, get it done this morning, right, Marg?"

Allie, her voice gentle, said "We're planning to be here until lunch, finalizing this school stuff. We could all cook together and hang out this afternoon, if you like."

Margie faced her, no fight left, at least for the moment. "Okay" she said with a tone of pathos.

When she and Frances went back upstairs, dragging cartons behind them, Chris waited until they heard the door shut before she said to Myra "You have no fucking intention of moving someone else in, admit it."

"We're waiting on you and Sima to form a commune with us" said Myra, grinning. Sima snorted.

"What about Gillam's room?" said Edwina.

"Gillam and Carly will visit spend a weekend with us at least every month, if not more often" said Ginny firmly. "Now, I know we're agreed about giving the favela students three meals a day, but what about their family members? It's rough to be the only well-fed person when your family is starving at home." Their meeting resumed.

1 October 2010

Myra and Ginny drove to Olympia in time to light shabbos candles with Carly and Gillam at their apartment. Ginny brought challah and Myra had a brisket, plus there were lots of last-harvest veggies from their garden. The four of them put together dinner. Just as they were sitting down to eat, a knock came at the front door and before one of the boys could rise to answer it, a young white woman with long red hair let herself in.

She stopped in the entry, surprised by the sight of Ginny and Myra. "Oh! I'm sorry, I thought your company was coming later tonight, I didn't mean..." Her voice trailed off.

Gillam went to her and hugged her, then turned to face his mothers and introduced her. "This is Courtney. We're -- dating." Courtney flashed him a happy smile and Ginny kicked Myra under the table. Myra and Ginny shook her hand and insisted she join them, there was plenty. She squeezed in next to Gillam and took only a tiny portion of pot roast but immediately raved about Ginny's salad dressing, scoring points with one mother.

Myra watched Carly closely to read his opinion of Courtney. From what she could see, he liked her and was relaxed around her. It was obvious Gillam's family arrangements were known to her. She was interested in them and laughed often, genuine laughter, not the girl suck-up kind. By dessert, everyone was at ease and the conversation spilled over into the kitchen as they all, including Courtney, made clean-up a swift job.

"Now, if you all have plans, just kick us out" said Myra. "Our motel room and excessive amounts of cable awaits."

Carly said "We've got five, how about some poker?"

Gillam looked at Courtney with raised eyebows, and she said "I'd love to. But for real money, you wimps." She immediately began blushing and turned to Myra, saying "I didn't mean you -- "

"It's fine, we'll see who the wimp is when we total the winnings at the end of the night" grinned Myra.

It was a lovely evening. When Beebo got ready for a nap, he claimed Myra's lap. The competition was cutthroat, and Gillam emerged ahead of the pack by almost two dollars, with sincere congratulations and a sweet kiss offered him by Courtney. She took her leave as soon as the game was over, allowing Gillam his alone time with his mothers. Myra could find nothing wrong with her.

As soon as the door was shut, Ginny said "How long have you been going out?"

"A couple of weeks, is all. But it's...good" said Gillam, suddenly nervous.

"She just lets herself in?" said Myra.

Carly giggled, then said "Everybody does. It's not any kind of sign." Gillam glanced at him gratefully.

"I'm happy for you, honey" said Ginny.

Gillam wasn't looking at Myra. He said "I was going to tell you about her right away, I promise. I asked her to eat dinner with us tomorrow night -- pending your okay, of course."

"Looking forward to it" said Myra, watching Gillam's shoulders relax. They talked a few more minutes, making plans for the next day, before she and Ginny left for the motel.

"All right, let's compare notes" said Myra as she started the engine. "She's urban, I think from California, middle to upper class, and has brothers, I got that much."

"She's Jewish" began Ginny. Myra said "How could you tell?"

"It just showed, Myra, I can't remember what. She's a poli sci major, she colors her hair to get those blonde streaks in it, she's liberal, and she diets a lot but doesn't work out."

"We're awful" said Myra, beginning to laugh. Ginny joined her, saying "Our little boy's worst nightmare."

"I liked her" Myra finally admitted.

"Me too" said Ginny. "But I liked Frances right off the bat, too, and she stole Margie." They laughed again.

They had breakfast early the next morning with Patty and Carly at Patty's new apartment. Gillam had a lab workshop that was keeping him busy until noon. Myra had arranged to pick him up at campus for a private lunch with him, while Ginny spent more time with Patty. They all reconnected at 2:00 to watch the rehearsal of a production of Chicago that Carly was in, playing the tap-dancing lawyer Billy Flynn.

When this ended, close to 6:00, Carly met them in front of the theater with still-red cheeks and wet hair from his quick shower. Myra looped her arm around his neck and said "You look scrumptious in a fedora and pinstripes, you hoofer you."

He giggled in pride and said "Yeah, but we are so stinkin' up the joint, still. The timing is hella hard to get right with those lines."

"The girl playing the prison matron is badly cast" remarked Patty.

"Not enough of a bulldyke, or not sympathetic enough?" asked Myra. "I mean, Queen Latifah's shoes are tough to fill."

"Both" said Patty. They talked about the play as they drove to the restaurant where Courtney had arranged to meet them. At one point, Ginny turned to Gillam and said "Speaking of scrumptious attire, this turtleneck is exactly the color of finest Holland cocoa. Since you're been in charge of your own clothes, your palette of taupes, charcoals, ochres, and the occasional loden does your natural features far more justice than the primary colors we always used to make you wear."

Coming from Ginny, this was extreme praise. Gillam glowed. Ginny continued "What did you two do for lunch?"

"He took me to a chili place that rivals Mike's in Ballard" said Myra, "and he interviewed me for a paper he's writing. I told him about winning the lottery."

"Sorry to have missed it" said Ginny. "The story, I mean, not the chili. Be sure to send me a copy of your paper after you write it, okay?"

They had another congenial meal. Afterward, Patty left for a date with her new enamorata, and Myra split off to ride back to the apartment with Carly. "So we can have a chance for alone time, brief as it is" she said, sliding into his Miata with a little difficulty.

He took her at her word. He immediately confided in her about the problems he was having in a class where the homework was not just onerous but frequently pointless, the instructor was abrasive, and he felt at risk of blowing his GPA. The pressure he placed on himself was intense, and Myra reminded him it was all right to drop the class, he could pick up a different professor next semester or next year. "You'll handle the work if it's fair, we all know that" she said. "And don't worry about the tuition. I'm glad to see you doing fun stuff like the play, that's just as important as cramming in the credits."

They discussed his relief at how much better Patty was doing and the fact that he also liked Courtney. As they pulled up to the complex, Myra said "I have some advice I'd like to get from you. This December will be David's yartzeit, and I'm assuming we'll all want to share it together. Should I propose a holiday trip, would that be easier on you kids and Ginny, or should we stick to home?"

"What kind of trip?" he asked.

"Skiing at Mammoth?" she said, just to make him laugh.

"I thought you were channeling Pat!" he exclaimed. They went in discussing possibilities.

This time, Myra and Ginny said their goodbyes before Courtney, leaving her behind with Gillam. "It's date night" Myra whispered, "let's not suck up all his weekend." They went to bed early because they had the drive to Portland the next morning.

They arrived around noon. Narnia screamed, then pressed against Myra's legs, making cries that sounded disturbingly like moans. "You thought we were gone forever, didn't you, puppy love?" murmured Myra, bending over and kissing Narnia's silky forehead over and over. "Never gonna give you up, no way darlin' doggie."

Lunch was waiting on them, except for two minutees needed to cook the fresh chitarra Frances had shaped, over which she poured a cream sauce thick with roasted garlic, prawns, and broccoli raab. They ate in the kitchen at a small round table that reminded Myra of the one she'd had when she and Ginny first lived together.

The kitchen itself was large and well-outfitted. The bedroom was tiny, made even smaller by Margie's worktable and desk area. A chest of drawers had been crammed into the bathroom, and the living room only had seating for four. But the yard was lush, and the stairs down to it lined with pots of herbs and flowers, which Margie said belonged to the old woman downstairs who owned the property. There was a carport space for the Cerebellum out front, a rarity. Frances didn't own a car, only a motorcycle, and in any event, they both planned to ride buses or bikes to their daily destinations most of the time.

They used the Volvo to drive around Portland on a Margie-narrated tour, her sounding as if she had lived here for years, not a month. That night they went to a music performance by a band which included some of Margie and Frances' new friends, which gave Myra a headache. The conversation afterward was boring in the extreme, consisting of inarticulate fawning on the part of those few young people who knew about Ginny or Myra's celebrity or being ignored by the rest of the crowd who were much more focused on drinking and chasing one another. Ginny used the heavy presence of cigarette smoke to peel Myra away, saying they needed to go back to the hotel and clear out Myra's lungs.

Once alone in the car, Ginny said "I may be kidding myself, but I just don't think we were that shallow at her age."

"Margie's not shallow, nor is Frances" said Myra. "And I always hated parties, which is really all this was. I do agree with you, however, that our get togethers were usually much more purpose-driven."

"Saving the world" said Ginny.

"Plus trying to get into each other's pants" admitted Myra.

On Monday, they met Margie on campus for lunch. She gave them another tour afterward, and once Ginny was spotted in the arts building, professors and students alike began flocking around her. Ginny found this much more to her liking -- the talk could be kept on art, not about her -- and Margie showed a new maturity by keeping herself inserted into the midst of it. Myra found a quiet corner and pulled out her notebook.

For dinner, they met up with Kate Bean and her 12-year-old son Rafe for dinner at a rival restaurant Frances wanted to case. Rafe became restless as soon as he had wolfed down his meatballs, and Margie took him to the sidewalk out front to play hackey-sack while her mothers talked with Kate and Frances stole bites from every dish, borrowing a page of Myra's notebook to crib lists of ingredients.

Tuesday, Myra went on another spree at Powell's while Ginny visited galleries and schmoozed. They reunited to pick up Margie after her last afternoon class and head for Simpatico. Frances gave them a quick show-through the extremely busy kitchen and left them at a table with a set of recommendations about to order. They followed her advice and ate a leisurely, spectacular meal. Frances never had a chance to rejoin them, and after dessert, they walked back to say goodbye to her. Her uniform was damp with sweat. Margie said she'd get home around 2 a.m., because clean-up took so long.

They went back to the apartment so Myra could walk Narnia around the block, a light rain kicking in and leaving droplets on Narnia's thick fur that shown amber in the streetlights. Back in the warm kitchen, Myra rubbed Narnia down with an old towel and sipped at her tea, listening to Ginny and Margie continue to discuss art. Not for the first time, she wished one of her children had turned out to be a writer. Gillam could and did talk books with her all day long, but it wasn't the same as someone actually writing themselves.

On the drive back north the next day, Myra said "We could get another pet, you know."

"You mean besides the geckos?" said Ginny.

Myra didn't really think of the geckos as pets -- certainly not family pets. "I meant like a dog or cat. Something cuddly."

Ginny looked vaguely offended at this characterization of her reptiles. "Maybe an older animal, already beyond the housebreaking and destructo phase. Except, wouldn't that bring up territory issues when Narnia and Beebo come to visit?"

Myra didn't want an older animal, she wanted a baby. She let the topic drop.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Jesse Wendel said...

My youngest daughter (Kyle) is -- tentatively -- scheduled to join her middle sister (Chelsea) at Evergreen this fall.

I'm not sure I like this story tonight.


And yes, I'm already making plans to sell the house. What the hell do I need with a 2,600 square foot home in redacted [roughly 20 miles south of Seattle] after my last daughter leaves. (David, my youngest, is already living down in Olympia. He's about to complete his freshman year in High School, his second full year down there.)

I'll likely find a mother-in-law studio out back somewhere, ideally within biking distance of GNB. I have an inflatable queen mattress, plus a couch for when the kids come up on weekends.

I'm reducing the "stuff" in my life dramatically. Just keeping my bicycle, piano, books (DVDs, records, screenplays, etc), art, computer, cooking, cleaning, and audio/video gear. And some personal items, such as my sled from when I was a kid. And my stuffed elephant. Will throw out most of my clothes, sell most of my books, probably keeping less than 1,000 (out of 10K.)

The whole thing should be able to fit into the back of a relatively small Ryder truck, which could then haul my car behind it.

I'll need to have help for the move of course. I can't lift anything over 10-15 pounds for longer than a moment. And can only do that once or twice. *shrugs* Probably ask one of the churches or local service groups to help me move as an in-service project. Before that, I'll pay the kids to help me pack everything I'm taking, and throw everything else away.

It's going to be nice to live in a world which is simple.

But wow... I'm going to miss having the children there.

Our heroes in GB... I feel for them. It's a real upheaval of one's entire life. Being a parent saved my life six years ago, this month, actually, when my life fell apart. I couldn't leave my kids, and there wasn't anyone else, so, I stuck around, somehow.

But this is the natural order of things. So you smile, and you love them, and you tell them how great they are and how proud of them you are. And do your damn best to make sure they believe you.

Maggie Jochild said...

It is the natural order of things. The more deeply you love, the more you have to lose, as well as gain. But the alternative sucks.

I didn't know you played the piano, Jesse. I have a fair singing voice, but no other musical ability. I do have one card trick -- only one, but it's so damned good it freaks people out. And I can do a passable Katherine Hepburn imitation, from her role in Stage Door.

I don't know if folks are reading the intro to this particular post of GB, so I'll repeat myself: Buried in this segment is a kind of riddle, a self-reference which you can pick up on if you've read the book from the beginning. First person to name it here will get the prize of being worked into the book somehow. (Or once again, for those of you who already have cameos.)

Jesse Wendel said...

Re: the self-referential riddle

You are obviously talking about how the lunch Gilliam has (cited below) where he interviews Myra at the diner about winning the lottery.

The interview leads off Ginny Bates Chapter One, and then we flashback twenty-five years earlier, to March, 1985.

From today's post:

Coming from Ginny, this was extreme praise. Gillam glowed. Ginny continued "What did you two do for lunch?"

"He took me to a chili place that rivals Mike's in Ballard" said Myra, "and he interviewed me for a paper he's writing. I told him about winning the lottery."

"Sorry to have missed it" said Ginny. "The story, I mean, not the chili. Be sure to send me a copy of your paper after you write it, okay?"

Here is the first part of Chapter One as posted oh so long ago:

Ginny Bates, The Beginning

Jesse Wendel said...

I can't believe I misspelled Gillam.

*hangs head in shame*