Sunday, June 15, 2008


I've been writing away on my novel Ginny Bates, but it's future sections, not the next in sequence. However, I do have one small piece which is two installments down the line -- skipping over the latter part of August 2012 and going into September. I'll share that with you here, just to keep you from going into withdrawal. When I get the interim piece done, I'll post it as #88-A.

September 2012

Myra and Ginny rode the train down to Portland, Ginny's bags filled mostly with canvas, stretchers, a portable easel, paints and brushes. They had lunch with Margie and Frances, then drove them to the airport for their Mexico vacation and returned in the Cerebellum to babysit Narnia. Ginny was already hot to the touch. After spreading a dropcloth, which Narnia refused to walk across, Ginny went directly to work.

Myra raided the fridge to make salads and cheese sandwiches early the following morning, leaving some for Ginny and stashing the rest in her pack. The local archives would only be open that day and half of Saturday. She gave Narnia a quick walk, promised more that evening, and set the travel alarm to go off at regular intervals so Ginny noticed Narnia's needs. When she got home, she was drained and it was dusk, but she loaded Narnia in the car, drove through a fast-food Chinese place, and went to a park that felt relatively safe. Narnia snuffled around the picnic table until Myra had eaten enough to restore her blood sugar. They then made a long circuit together, startling a raccoon, and Myra jogging the last block for Narnia's benefit.

At home, she fed Ginny, packed up her notes and went to a nearby coffeehouse which Margie said allowed her to bring in Narnia to a back room. Narnia was greeted by the woman behind the counter, and when Myra introduced herself, she was thrilled to hear the woman say "Oh, we hear all about you, Margie always has stories about her moms!" They had fountain Cokes. As Myra ordered a pitcher full, she realized she had not fed Narnia. She looked over the menu, found a chicken breast and brown rice bowl, and asked for a second bowl of water for the dog, which was cheerfully provided. Margie must tip them well. Or, no, she was just a delightful human being and people had wanted to accommodate her all her life, Myra reminded herself.

She worked until they closed at 11:00. Narnia slept at her feet, apparently used to this routine. They went for another long walk before returning home. Ginny had gone to sleep. Narnia was reminded to stay in her own bed -- not her accustomed habit -- and Myra sacked out fast.

On Sunday she went to Powell's and filled several cartons to be shipped home. She scoured through three other used bookstores in neighborhoods where she thought older dykes might live and scored another two cartons of out-of-print finds. She mailed these off at a self-serve post office and went home to take Narnia on a long circuit of Reed Canyon. She got more Chinese take-out for dinner -- she didn't want to cook in Frances' kitchen, she realized.

When she got home and began making plates for them, Ginny looked up and said "I had a visitor this afternoon."

"Who was it? A friend of theirs?" Myra had a sudden fear it might have been Imani, coming to spill the beans for some reason.

"No, their landlady. I think she probably had knocked, but without Narnia barking, I just didn't notice. She must have thought no one was here -- you were gone in the car, and the dog wasn't making a sound. So the yenta just let herself in. I bet she snoops around here all the time while they're gone." Ginny was aggrieved.

Myra was laughing. "You were standing there like that? Naked with slashes of crimson and black on your sweaty torso?"

Ginny looked down at herself. "It's not a true black. And, yeah..." She began giggling, too. "No wonder she looked so horrified. I asked her if there was something I could do for her, and she didn't even answer, just backed out the way she came."

"I bet she's in that corner tree in the back yard right now, with a pair of binoculars trained on you" said Myra. "Shall we pretend to be having some kind of satanic ritual?"

"Tempting. But it's not our names on the lease" said Ginny, putting down her brush and coming to the table to eat with Myra.

"How's it going?" asked Myra.

"I don't like this light, I keep having to re-do sections depending on what time of day I started it. But, otherwise -- well, you'll see." Ginny took two of the three eggrolls. Myra handed over the third as well; she preferred pork buns. "How about you?" Ginny asked her.

"I'm starting to feel like Ethel and Lucy at the candy factory, more information coming at me than I know what to do with" said Myra.

After dinner, Myra returned to the cafe, where Narnia clearly hoped for a repeat of the chicken and rice bowl, despite having had her regular kibble that night. Myra did buy a piece of poppyseed cake and fed morsels to Narnia under the table as she tried to make sense of the masses of data she'd collected this trip. She finally resorted to drawing a sketch of "regions" on a sheet of paper, which referred to ideas or significant events rather than locations, much like one of Margie's maps. When she got home, she handed Ginny a glass of water and went to bed. If Ginny came to sleep that night, Myra never noticed it.

Myra slept in an extra hour, made eggs and toast, and walked Narnia for blocks, stopping to buy a Coke but otherwise immersed in mental organization. She decided to stay home, partly because it was raining. She ordered a big stash of Thai food to get them through lunch and dinner, and stopped only to walk Narnia in the ongoing slosh. She got on the phone that afternoon with Allie, Chris, and her friend Claire to discuss issues from "back in the day" with them. She also called Gillam and Carly on their cells, but had to leave messages with both.

She went to bed at 11:00, completely out of brain cells. Ginny had just started to hum. When Myra woke up at 8:00, Ginny's side of the bed held Narnia, on top of the spread. Myra discovered Ginny on the too-short couch, curled up in a fetal position with a quilt over her. She looked pale.

Myra made tea and fried rice, and persuaded a little into Ginny, who finally said "I can't get up yet, it was light out when I went to sleep." She was asleep again within 30 seconds of returning to the couch. Myra walked Narnia, tidied the flat, and went to the airport to pick up Margie and Frances.

They looked brown and contented, and were full of funny stories involving mishaps with Spanish. Neither of them asked about Myra and Ginny's past four days until they were climbing the steps to the flat, when Margie said "Is Mom still painting?"

"Just finished, a little after dawn, I think. She's crashed at the moment" said Myra. As they entered, Margie laughed and said "Smells like Mama, all right", which Myra hoped was the linseed oil. Narnia's frenzied barking pulled Ginny upright. She said blearily "I thought it might be your downstairs spy again." As Ginny tried to come awake, Myra told Margie and Frances about the intrusion.

"That does it" said Margie. "I'm adding a deadbolt with a key for us only, let her dare complain about it."

Ginny belatedly draped the quilt around her and said "Tell me about the trip."

"No, first I want to see the painting" said Margie. "I mean, if that's all right."

"I'd like that" said Ginny. "But could one of you bring the easel in here, the light's better and I don't want to stand yet. My feet are killing me."

Myra carried in the easel carefully, holding the wet paint away from her and not looking at the canvas until it was in position and turned to face them. Margie and Frances gasped in unison.

It was Frances, hard at work, her olive skin glistening, her cheeks rosy. Except she was not in a kitchen: She was pouring molten metal from a smelter into a crucible, sparks and blowback arcing into the air around her. She had on a lead apron and a backwards cap, but no gloves on her powerful, agile hands. Around her was vast machinery, some of it rusted and shadowy, other gears and scoops gleaming with reflected light from the blazing foundry. Her black eyes showed joyous concentration. She was the essence of competent beauty.

Margie sagged down beside Ginny, her eyes standing with tears. "Oh, Mama, Mama" she exclaimed. "You've caught her exactly!"

Frances looked thunderstruck and a little frightened. Myra stepped close to her and said softly "That's what she does."

Frances stared at her, then at Ginny. "I don't...I can't..."

Ginny put her hand in Margie's and said "I love you, Marjorie Rose. I love the life you've made for yourself."

Frances sat down in the nearest chair, her gaze drawn back to the painting. Margie was sniffling. Ginny said "It needs longer than usual to dry, it's on the large end of my canvases and there's deeper layers of color. When it's safe to transport, you can show it off at the restaurant and school. And then hang it here. It's yours to keep."

A $30,000 gift, by Myra's estimate. Frances might not be able to put that number to it, but she reacted with "Oh, no, that's -- "

Margie overrode her. "Can you imagine what that will look like on the cover of a cookbook?" she crowed to Frances. "This portrait is going to be how people think of you for the rest of your life, once you become famous for your cooking. Oh, Mama, this is the best head-start you could have given us!"

Which was of course Ginny's intention, Myra thought. She wondered, briefly, if Ginny would have done the same had she known about Imani. She set aside that thought as disrespectful and potentially dangerous.

Margie grilled Ginny for a while about technique, while Frances sat mute, listening only partially, Myra thought. More likely she was trying to take in the brutality of a Ginny portrait: Nothing escaped Ginny's eye. Eventually Margie said, "Well, I'm starving. Do you have some yummy leftovers or a welcome home feast planned?"

This was Myra's cue. She chuckled and said "Nope. We've eaten out almost exclusively, vacation mode. We could order more take-out, I guess, if you need to sleep, Ginny -- "

"I can sleep on the train home" said Ginny. "Let's go out. I have to shower and dress. Simpatico, maybe?"

Margie was deft. "No, if we go there everyone will mob us for details of the trip, I want a chance to talk to you two. Frances has to work tonight, I'll go in with her then. We'll think of another place you'll love while you get ready."

Imani would just have to wait. Myra packed their bags while Ginny dressed. Margie ran Narnia around the block before they left. They had a long, exuberant lunch, until finally it was time to go catch the train. Sure enough, as soon as they were settled into seats, Ginny pulled out a neck pillow, leaned back and drifted off. Myra had one of her new books, which vied with the scenery for her attention.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

letsdance said...

Wonderful reading, Maggie!