Friday, June 6, 2008


(Fresh doughnuts at the Daily Dozen Donut Company, Pike Place Market, Seattle; photo by Adriana Grant, printed in Seattle Weekly)

Here's the next segment of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. This will follow my post of May 29th.

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.

Summer 2012

The next morning at breakfast, Myra pushed over a sheet of paper to Ginny as she was finishing her tea. "It's a newish poem. I've redone it, and I think I should send it out" she said.

Ginny read the title, "Anna Cortez", and gave Myra a searching look before she read on. When she was done, she lay it down beside her teacup and said "Well. Do I get to ask questions?"

"That's why I gave it to you" said Myra.

"Who is it about?"

"Nobody. I mean, not in particular. There are parts where I was thinking about you -- most of the second stanza, and that short section near the end."

Ginny picked it back up to re-read the pertinent sections. She licked her lips and said "What about these lines where you are semaphoring across the silent void, to one who never said goodbye -- is that about Karin Barbaras?"

"Huh. Hadn't considered that. No, Gin, I was thinking about Mama there."

"Who do you know with red hair?"

"No one currently" said Myra. "That's an imaginary section."

"You have exes with red hair -- Myra the Second, and Blue Rosenthal."

"It's not about them, Ginny."

Ginny handed the paper back to Myra. "It's very good, and I'm sure it will get published. Which means a new wave of speculation about what it means. Who it means, to be specific."

"Well, we weathered the Skene rumor mill" said Myra, grinning. When Ginny did not grin back, she added "As we got through the reaction to that nude you did of a woman clearly in afterglow and clearly not me. I'm still amazed all the gossip-mongers never put together how much it looked like Bonnie."

"It did not look like Bonnie, Myra, not if you'd ever seen her naked or...." Now Ginny did smile. "All right, I get it."

Ginny stacked her cup and silverware on her empty plate and began to push back from the table.

"Gin, I'm seeing Nancy at 11:00, an extra-long session. Would you like to go with me?"

Ginny met Myra's eyes. "Yes. I think that would be good."

On the drive to Nancy's, Ginny said "I'm concerned about Margie. I think there's things she's not telling us. I can't figure out if she's unhappy or just overworked."

"Well, if there are things she's not telling us, what can we do about it?" asked Myra.

Ginny sighed. "Do you believe Frances loves her, for real?"

"I do. It's not our kind of love, maybe, but it's solid and it's the kind Margie wants" said Myra.

"I never hear about her having conversations with close friends there" said Ginny, continuing to worry out loud. "And now Amy has moved to Houston, so Margie won't even get to see her on visits home. At least Frances has Imani."

"What do you mean?" Myra kept her voice neutral.

"Another dyke to bond with at work, a chance at friendship in Frances' nutty schedule. I can't believe Margie chose to partner with someone so chronically unavailable" said Ginny.

Myra decided not to comment on this, even though they were now in front of Nancy's in case they had a blow-up. They had other issues to address.

After check-in, Myra leaned forward, her elbows on her knees, and said "I still don't know what the run to Anacortes was all about. Not entirely. I have this absorbing writing project, I have Gillam and Carly at home, I'm working on my demons, but..." She trailed off.

Ginny waited half a minute, then said "At the risk of being told I'm making it all about me, Myra -- is it something to do with me?"

"Maybe" said Myra. Ginny was very still. Nancy scooted beside her and began her hocus-pocus.

Myra continued in a weary voice, "I don't know why I'm discontented. Maybe it's a midlife crisis. The thing is, Ginny, I can't think of what I'd ask for you and me to do differently. I'm glad for our new freedom. I think, 'Well, I could cook less', but I love cooking, even if it's just for me, and I don't feel exploited around it which makes me a very lucky woman indeed. I think about getting a kitten or puppy, but I'm about to start traveling on and off for months, I can't have a baby animal waiting at home for me. When I go over the list of what I see as my purpose in being born, I've achieved most of my goals, and the few that remain, like restoring human justice and respect for women, well, I figure it's going to take more than my lifetime. Although I am depressed about that, I have to admit."

"Maybe that's it, then" said Ginny.

"What? Not achieving the Revolution?"

"No, I meant your list of reasons for existence. Maybe you need some new reasons" said Ginny.

Myra leaned back to stare out the window. "Where would I start?" she said to herself. She looked back at Ginny. "Are you feeling discontented?" she asked.

"No. Scared, often" said Ginny. "I'm doing my best not to run it at you -- "

"I know you are" said Myra. "But we read each other too well." She kept watching Ginny's face. She folded one hand into the other on her belly and began speaking slowly.

"You've shared everything you can with me, Ginny. Your body, your eggs, your art, income, nights, hell, half the food I eat comes from seeds you started. I honestly don't want to change that. I can say, unequivocally, I want you close and open."

She saw Ginny's shoulders go down. Scared to death, she thought.

"I know I fucked with our way of doing things by haring off for Anacortes, Ginny. I know it will take time to come up with clear balance again. But how can I do that if I still don't know what's wrong? And if you're right, which my gut says you are, about the life goals thing: I'll have to ask you to take even more risks with me. Most of those goals we agreed on, we shared, at the very beginning of our relationship. Even if you are in on my process of coming up with new ones, there's no guarantee you'll share them. What will we do then?"

Either Nancy had broken through in what she was doing with Ginny, or Myra's honesty had turned the tide, because Ginny's face was resuming normal color. Ginny said "Then I'll change, or we'll split up. Sometimes people do split up for healthy reasons, Myra."

Her voice was astoundingly calm. Myra said "I don't think I could bear that."

"Nor I. But if it has to be, we'll find a way."

"This is your worst nightmare, isn't it, Ginny?"

"Has been for a few weeks. It helps to have it out in the open, a little."

Nancy switched her attention to Myra. "Let's focus on how you're feeling about it, instead of you trying to empathize with Ginny" Nancy suggested.

"I have no...examples for how to do this kind of transition" said Myra. "It feels like it took me 30 years to be able to take the first leap, and I lucked out with Ginny."

"Sounds like you're as scared as she is" said Nancy. "Do you believe she can make a commitment to go through this with you?" She muscle tested, and it was a resounding "No".

Myra began crying. "In my world, if you ask people to change too much, to take on your own struggles with you, they either say no or they can't do it. Except for every now and then."

"Can't push your luck, is that what you're thinking?" asked Nancy. "Better not poke the bear?"

"It isn't only how much I love her" wept Myra. "I like her more than anybody on the planet, she's my best buddy, how can I risk losing that?"

Nancy kept clearing aura underbrush, until Myra was still again -- shaky, but still.

Ginny waited until Myra's gaze returned to her before saying "This is for my good, too, sweetheart. Not just because I want to keep you in my life. It's an -- opportunity. I know, like the joke. But I believe it. I watched my mother refuse to ever, once, leave her shit-filled little hole -- "

"You are not your mother, Ginny Bates" protested Myra.

"I know. I'm still learning from her example, though. I have to embrace this, or I'll stay scared in that sick way instead of an interesting way. You know what I mean. So, let's try reinventing our relationship. Where do we start?"

Myra blurted out, "I do want you to travel with me while I do research, I want to sleep with you and tell you what I learned that day over dinner, but I -- I want the focus to be on me. Even if you're painting in the hotel while I'm out at the archives. I want it to be my turn while we travel."

Ginny was jolted, she could tell. After a minute, she said "I didn't know...I've been...You got it, Myra. We'll step it out, like a new dance."

Myra cried again, relief mixed with ancient grief for her mother. Was there no end to it?

By the time she finished crying, the first line of a poem was in her head. She pulled out her pad instead of taking the tissue Nancy offered her and jotted it down before blowing her nose. Ginny laughed in delight. "Now that's a good sign!" she said.

On the way home, they went to Pike, ate clam chowder and shopped. Ginny remarked "Frances says we should be drinking a glass of wine every night, that it has serious health benefits", so they corralled the most experienced clerk at the wine shop and stocked up on bottles of recommended but non-alcoholic vintage. Myra went to the Daily Dozen for a box of doughnuts, Ginny found lychee nuts and a new kind of lox, and their overloaded arms got a break when they piled their bags on the floor in Metsker's Maps to buy city guides to all the places Myra needed to visit. They detoured to rub the brass pig before heading home.

After the perishables were stashed, Ginny spread out the big U.S. map they'd just purchased on the dining table while Myra retrieved her research itinerary. Ginny pretended to channel Margie as she created a color-coded guide to travel based on Myra's most far-flung wish list. They were still at it when Carly and Gillam arrived home.

Myra looked up with a grin and said "We went to Piroshky Piroshky. Two dozen of all kinds, heat me up some too, please. And if that's not enough greasy white flour for you, there's doughnuts."

"Plus all kinds of fresh produce" Ginny had to add. Gillam headed straight for the kitchen, but Carly came to lean on Myra's shoulder and say, with an appreciative whistle, "This'll take you months."

"I know" said Myra happily. "I'm waiting until September to begin, however." He squeezed her shoulder and gave in to the siren call of eclairs.

Ginny got some magic stick-um and helped Myra hang the map over her Skene screen at the end of her study. She copied the list of cities and said "I'll research my own attractions for each place, but I promise, I'll fit my schedule around yours."

"Half the time" said Myra. "I don't want to keep you completely away from Painterland."

"Are you sure?" Ginny's look was keen.

"I am right now. We'll keep talking."

Their high spirits were infectious. After dinner, they played wild water volleyball in the pool with the boys until Myra had used her inhaler twice and stopped to rest. She sat on the chaise longue and threw Beebo's webby toy into the yard over and over, while Ginny harvested zucchini complete with blossoms, and Gillam kept spiking the volleyball down on Carly's head, yelling "Resistance is futile!"

Allie stopped by for lunch the next day. Myra had made spaghetti carbonara while Ginny put together an artichoke heart and cherry tomato salad. Allie said "I see Frances is having a strong impact on ya'lls eating habits."

"This dish is so easy" marveled Myra. "I could see having it for breakfast."

"How'd the visit with Nancy go?"

They filled her in, and she caught them up on her latest creative and business dealings. After eating, Myra took Allie to her study to show her the map.

"Listen, while I got you here -- one of the things I need to cover is the women's bars, or woman-friendly bars if that's all they had, in American cities. Before clean and sober closed most of 'em down. I was trying to make a list of those in the Bay Area, can you tell me what you remember? I'll get addresses from city directories at the local libraries, but I have to have a name to start with."

Allie sat down on the daybed and said "Amelia's, Peg's Place, Scott's." All of which she had frequented.

"Got those. Plus the Bacchanal in Berserkly, and Ollie's in Oakland" said Myra.

"Ollie's was later" warned Allie. "Are you including coffeehouses, too? Like Mother G's?"

"Forgot about that one, it was closed by the time we got there but everybody was still talking about it" said Myra, making a note. "Yeah, I've got a separate list for other kinds of gathering spots."

"Maud's" said Allie. "Uh, that one at Mission and 20th -- Irish name..."

"Kelly's" said Myra. She had a memory of being hit on at the bar there.

"Kelley's Saloon!" said Allie. "With a second E. Oh, and that older dyke place, butch-femme kinda, on the way to South San Francisco -- Hart's Delight. Good pool table."

"After hours, I know everybody, men and women, went to The End Up. Anything else?"

"Wild Side West" said Allie. "Plus some club off Precita, and there was one in Marin County we went to that night after some event up there. Sorry, I can't come up with a name for it. Listen, get hold of a copy of the Women's Yellow Pages, or old issues of Plexus, they'll have listings, I bet."

"Good idea" said Myra, writing steadily.

"I know for a fact they was a dozen women's bars if you include East Bay and down south" said Allie. "One night Donnie and I decided to try to have a drink in each one. We couldn't drive after six places, though."

Myra grinned. "You must've been having more than one drink in each, if you got tanked that fast."

"She was buying me Chivas" Allie said reminiscently. Ginny, who had joined them, looked a little uncomfortable as she always did when they talked about their boozing days.

"So, listen" said Allie, changing the subject. "We all done with our renovation at our building -- what a trip, to say our building and mean it really MINE -- and we want to host the Fourth over there. If that's okay with ya'll. We can some back here for swimming in the evening, if you like."

"That sounds great!" said Myra. "Your new grill is way better than ours, and we can bring whatever dishes you want, come up with a menu and let us know."

Allie was pleased. "Margie gonna make it?"

"Don't know yet" said Ginny. "If she does, she'll have Narnia."

"We only got a deck, no grassy pooping zone" said Allie.

"We'll walk her" assured Myra. "She'll be thrilled to have a new territory where she can beg for handouts."

"If Carly's mom is coming to town, ask her and Thea too" said Allie. In a low voice, she added "Thea be worlds better than Jughead." As they were laughing, she turned to Ginny and said "I got these proofs with me, and they have some art suggestions that I'm iffy about, can I run 'em by you?"

"Come into my parlor" said Ginny, standing to go with Allie into her studio. She gave Myra a kiss and whispered "I ate organic bacon for you today, and liked it. Think about what you might want to do for me in return." She left before Myra started blushing.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


letsdance said...

Oh sure, start me off nervous with the title: "Change is the only constant"..... I was afraid to start this chapter!

kat said...

I thought my mommy and I were the only ones who used the word stick-um!

It's interesting the way that families or groups of friends have their own lexicon. I think it's one of the things that I like about Grey's Anatomy. From the 1st epidode, the group developed their own slang for stuff.

In my family there are things like:

-tennies (instead of sneakers, or in Boyfriend's family, "runners")
-stick-um (anything sticky or tape like)
-the micorwave "ners" (instead of rings or dings)

With Boyfriend we have:
-cheesy toast
-egg-y-toastie (I think it's really egg-in-a-hole)
-"Oh noes!"
and various others I can't think of...

It's important to me that fictional characters also develop these, which is one of the reasons that Ginny Bates hardly seems fictional to me anymore.

Maggie Jochild said...

Kat, years of living in communal households, plus my own linguistically-creative family, have given me a world of slang to choose from when creating the friendship network lingo of GB.

And I say "tennies" too, picked up from some friend along the way because my family called 'em sneakers.

For a few years, there was a beloved tiny cafe here in South Austin called Forrays, run by lesbians, where I ate almost every day. If you were a regular, you had a chance of getting your personal requests codified into a menu item -- for intance, the owner and chef, Lisa, knew how to make "Meg Eggs" (I was Meg instead of Maggie then), which are easy over but with a still mostly runny yolk.

At that time, another regular was a young dyke musician named Ana Egge (pronounced eggy), and to our complete delight, her girlfriend was named Amy Pancake. For real. So one menu item was, of course, "Amy Pancake Ana Egge".

And to answer your private e-mail question, Kat, yes, I've heard that egg donation is messy and can be quite painful. (Different kind of eggs, folks.)

Jan, it's hard to name these sections, sometimes, without giving things away. I can't do what sitcoms do, you know, like "The One Where Gillam Almost Drowns". And this section, in particular, was a bear to write. I knew where I wanted to go with it several days ago, but then I had this horrible nightmare where Ginny shows up and does something despicable, quite out of character. It really cooled me toward her for a couple of days. (Yes, they are REAL to me.) I had to wait until I could be fair again.

kat said...

Eye-boogers. I forgot to mention our best vocab word...

Stuart Isett said...
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