Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Late September 2012

Ginny finished braiding the challah and set it on oiled pans for a final rise. She stopped by Myra's desk and discovered her cutting small pieces of graph paper into rectangles and squares.

"What're you doing?"

"I'm making a diagram of my study, these are pieces of furniture, I took the measurements. I can what will fit where" said Myra.

Ginny looked around herself. "You don't need to do that. You can't move these big shelves, they have to stay where they are. Ditto your desk. So your worktable will have to go in front of shelves."

"Yeah, but I can't tell how far it will extend -- " Myra was interrupted by Ginny walking to the side wall of shelves and pointing.

"It will reach to here, Myra. If it matches what you ordered."

Myra had forgotten how gifted Ginny was at seeing space and dimensions. Ginny went on, "You'll need to be sure all the books on the shelves blocked by the table, these down here, are things you're not likely to need often. But your reading chair, lamp and table will have to go -- into the living room, I guess. You'll need a clip-on or desk lamp for the work table, have you ordered that?"

"No. And I don't know what to do about the wiring -- the outlets are all on this wall, and I need to have the second computer hooked up to my scanner and printer as well."

Ginny looked overhead. "We'll put hooks in the ceiling and run it along that to this wall. When is the table arriving?"

"Before 4:00, they said."

"Well, let's go on line and see if we can add a lamp and electrical pipe conduits to your order. Plus a second rolling chair." Myra began doing this as Ginny unplugged the floor lamp and carried it to the front of the house. She returned with boxes from the storage room. Myra was on hold but asked "What are those for?"

"You're going to have to move some books, yes, to put in your binders full of periodicals? Tell me what to shift elsewhere and I'll start boxing."

Myra pointed as she persuaded the stationery store to expand her order without delaying her delivery. She added more toner as well -- she was going through it like table salt. By the time she got off the phone, Ginny had cleared two shelves and carried the boxes upstairs to Margie's old room, where there was space to put the books out again -- Myra hated books remaining in boxes. Myra carried the side table to the living room, but by the time she returned she was breathless.

"No more of that for you" commanded Ginny. She had the handcart from the storage room. "I'll transport the chair and remove the rug, vacuum and dust in here. Turn on the overhead fan and go elsewhere for a while, okay?"

Myra went to the kitchen and ran the brisket through a partial defrost cycle in the microwave, then seared it in her big casserole with onions and garlic. She added her special cooking broth and decided to roast the carrots separately so Ginny would eat them. Once it was in the oven, set at the temperature the challah would need, she pulled out two quarts of Ginny's peach halves from earlier in the summer and made a cobbler with no sugar and only a teaspoon of honey as sweetener, Allie-friendly. She made room for it to bake on the rack beside the brisket.

By the time Ginny was done preparing Myra's study, the challah was ready to bake. Myra put it in for her and set a second timer as Ginny washed up. Myra said "I'm going to give Gillam a quick call before we try Margie, I don't want to leave him hanging."

But Gillam wasn't in. Carly answered their apartment phone and Myra chatted with him a minute. She said "Tell Gillam I'm -- fine about it all, interested to hear how it turns out."

Carly sounded a little odd. "Okay, I think he'll be relieved." He didn't elaborate.

"And, uh, Carly...I don't know how to tell you this, but, uh -- the thing is, your mom and I had a brief affair way back when. We never told Pat or Ginny, and, uh, well, we didn't use protection -- I'm the one who got her pregnant. I'm your Daddy, Carly. I've longed to tell you, son -- "

But Myra had to stop because Carly was in hysterics. Myra winked at Ginny, whose face was pale and drawn. Surely she hadn't been taken in by the first part of Myra's spiel?

When Carly could talk again, he said "I always wondered why my dick was so tiny. I must've gotten that from you, Pop." Which sent Myra into screams of laughter. When she got off the phone and repeated it to Ginny, Ginny was now able to smile in a still tense way. She said "Thing is, Myra, his penis is noticeably bigger than Gillam's. At least in the pool -- "

"Stop, I don't want to go there for real" said Myra.

"Okay. But it was great you brought it up with him, he can talk with us about it all now, I hope" said Ginny.

"While we're on a roll -- let's dial our daughter" said Myra.

Margie had just gotten home from classes and was heading out the door to take Narnia for a walk. They waited through the woofing and racket of getting downstairs, until Margie was on the sidewalk and could focus on the conversation.

"Before you say anything, let me assure you this is not a dykish repudiation of the male role in procreation" began Margie. "And if either one of you is having a hard time with the fear that Gillam will go man bond with his sperm donor, I don't want to hear about it."

"The weather is beautiful here too" said Myra with a grin.

"Narnia, NO. No eating crap on the street. Get over to this side of me. But the reality is likely that he jacked off for the fifty bucks, and he said yes to notification mostly for the ego of knowing his swimmers made it. Why would I want to have a conversation with someone who made that kind of choice? He's nothing to me" said Margie.

They followed Margie's shift in who she was addressing from long practice. "There's no guarantee a conversation will ever occur" said Ginny. "As I understand the process, Gillam will go to a database they keep, enter his contact info, and if there's a current means of getting in touch with Mr. J, it'll get forwarded to him. The ball will then be in his court."

Margie had giggled at the "Mr. J" reference. "What if he's like some George Costanza kind of loser, unmarried, no kids, who sees this as god's way of suddenly granting him a legacy?" said Margie.

"Then you'll set him straight in your usual take-no-prisoners manner" said Myra. "But what if he's not? What if he's -- " She struggled to come up with someone their age who Margie admired. Tom Hayden would only make her laugh. Finally she spit out "Arthur Ashe?"

Margie cackled as Ginny looked at her in disbelief. "I'd be a better tennis player than I am, doncha think, Mom?" teased Margie. "What if he's Donald Rumsfeld?"

"Donny would never have sold his precious seed, I'm sure it's all saved in gilt-lidded jars in a cupboard somewhere" retorted Myra. They kept laughing, but then Margie said "What if he has Huntington's? Honest to god, I'd rather not know." Her voice had suddenly become serious, and Myra could hear the fear in it.

"We'll deal with it together" said Ginny. "And I think a family history of Huntington's would have kept him from being accepted by the place we used."

"If he didn't lie" pointed out Margie. "I know, it's out of my hands. I kinda went off on Gillam. I talked to Frances afterward, and she seemed to think it would be cool to find out. Of course, she'd be ecstatic if it turned out Gianni wasn't really her father, so that's her bias."

The doorbell rang, and Myra said goodbye to go let in the table delivery crew. They set it up for her and left. She assembled her lamp and new chair but left the wiring for Ginny, who didn't get lightheaded on a footladder. Ginny was still on the phone when Myra went to pull out the challah and pie, then start the rest of dinner.

Gillam returned her call half an hour before sunset. Myra left the kitchen to her friends and Ginny, sitting in the living room on her formerly study chair, and said "We talked with Margie earlier. She's calmed down."

"She always does" he said. "How about you? That crack of yours to Carly was priceless, you must be okay."

"I'm fine" she said. "Tell me about what led to this. I know a little, about the class you had.

"Mom, this semester's classes are the best I've ever had, in any school" he said with enthusiasm. "I keep thinking about the discussions we're having long afterward. I feel jazzed, ready to learn absolutely everything I can."

"That's how you've always been" said Myra.

"It feels different now. And, here's something funny -- one of the girls in this class -- well, she's in three of my classes this semester, we both have the same major and our paths seem to have converged -- anyhow, she brought up you during the discussion, quoted you as a source. What a kick, huh?" Gillam was chortling.

"What on earth did she quote?" said Myra.

"She talked about Skene" said Gillam. "Apparently she read it when she was around 12, right around the point where puberty was starting to make her life a living hell. Her dad was a fan of yours, had all the books, and she said it gave her the hope she needed, a view of what the world could look like without gender shit clogging the pipes. Anyhow, she used Yoj as an example -- " Yoj was one of the main characters in Skene, most of the action was seen through her eyes -- "She said despite the planet having chosen to not study history because they were an abandoned colony and it was too painful to look at what had happened to them, so they made it almost mandatory to focus on the present or the future -- she said that was a rational choice if you couldn't handle the emotions of it, but once you matured, as Yoj had, you'd want answers to the most basic questions of who am I and where did I come from. All my life, I've had the answers to those questions. Except for this one tiny sliver. And I realized I'm, well, mature enough to want to know it all. Maybe it won't change a thing, maybe it'll be hard news, or a great grand window opening. Whatever, I'm ready, and I was pretty sure you and mom would be curious more than anything else."

His faith in her was moving, but not as much as his faith in himself. Myra let her eyes fill with tears, grinning at Allie who was watching her. "You're exactly right, boychik. And it's still almost unbelievable to me what Skene had such an impact out there."

Gillam snorted. "Once I admitted that my mother is who had written Skene, that prof looked at me with the kind of expression I always get. A mix of 'Maybe I can get her to write a blurb for my next deadly dull textbook' and 'My expectations of your writing assignments just went through the goddamned roof.'"

"Oh, wait, let me get my violin" said Myra.

"So, anyhow, here we go. I thought for my picture I'd send him the one of me at three in my tutu, with my uncut chubby hanging out below" said Gillam.

"Or the one of you as a baby in a Dyke t-shirt at the march" countered Myra. "Oh, hang on, it's time to light the candles. How about if I put you on speaker and you can do the prayers with us?"

"I'll do the same here and Carly can join in" said Gillam. They remained on the line until the sounds of masticated brisket, as Gillam put it, made them hang up to go find a meal of their own.

The next day, after an early run to Pike, Myra and Ginny picked up the new computer. Ginny did the wiring and once it was functional, Myra couldn't stop exclaiming about how fast it was. She wanted to begin copying JPEGS over to it, but Ginny said she should wait until she had the labels all sorted out for content so they could be indexed as they were named.

"Wonder what Doom would be like on a system this responsive" mused Myra.

"Don't you dare" said Ginny. "Listen, I know it's been a rough week on you, but there's something I need to ask you."

Myra had an abrupt memory of the landscape of the Channeled Scablands, how once the ice dam broke it rearranged entire states of terrain. Always a poet, reaching for metaphor first she thought. She put her hands flat on the worktable and said "Give it to me neat, partner."

"Have you...has your sexual interest in me altered recently?" Ginny's cheeks were pale.

"Good god, what makes you -- is this because I got out of breath last night, you know that wasn't about desire, don't you?" exclaimed Myra.

"It wasn't just last night. For a few months now, there's been a...difference in you. I'd rather you tell me directly, Myra, if you're just not getting as turned on as you once did. I promise not to go bonkers on you, we could take it to Nancy or -- I mean, sex doesn't even have to be part of who we are, if you really need to change that -- "

"As if, Ginny Bates. No, you moron, if anything with lesser responsibility and greater knowledge of you, I'm getting hotter as the years go by. What difference are you fucking talking about?"

"You -- you're not getting wet. Last night, hardly at all" said Ginny.

"That can't be true, or I'd have noticed it" said Myra, stunned.

"I've been compensating for you. For us both. I guess you haven't noticed that -- I've been going down on you every time" said Ginny.

"Well, that's not so different...But, okay, yes every single time, now I come to think of it...Oh, god, do you think there's something wrong with me? Oh, fuck, has the cancer returned?" Myra's voice was high with panic.

"I don't think so" said Ginny. "I looked it up, a couple of weeks ago. It said the usual causes were either menopause or -- change in libido. But you're not having any other menopause symptoms, so I thought it must be -- what I asked."

Myra gaped at her, then began laughing maniacally. "Of course it's menopause, you daft lump. Dr. Desai said I was automatically in menopause since the surgery, remember? It's just reached the point where I've leached my body of enough estrogen that other things must be affected. Like my old friends, Bartholins and Skene. What a riot, that you'd reach for the possibility of my not wanting you any more. Why the hell did you wait so long to tell me?'

"It took me a while to notice it was -- consistent. And then...well, there was Anacortes, and this summer..." Ginny began crying tears of relief. "You must be telling me the truth if you call me a daft lump, you only get British when you're honestly incredulous."

Myra pulled her to sit on the table, burying her face in Ginny's chest. "You win the braveness prize for the day, my darling girl. Listen, I'll see Dr. Desai and find out if there's something I can do about it."

"No hormones!" said Ginny.

"I agree. But maybe a dietary approach. If not, well, we have your saliva and we have lots of lube, why weren't you bring out the lube more, goofy?"

"We only use that if we know we're not going to want to go down again later, because it tastes so foul. And I love going down on you, it often feels like I want to leave that option available" said Ginny, her crying lessening.

"Back atcha" said Myra. "Well, now it's out in the open, we can talk about it as it comes up. I could keep a second squeeze bottle of lube in my desk drawer here."

Ginny began giggling. "And one in my studio. And in the coffee table drawer?"

"Can you imagine Margie's reaction if she discovered that in the living room?" said Myra. "Gin, you can't sit on this kind of stuff, you have to bring it me as fast as you can."

"I think I did" said Ginny, her eyes clear and troubled.

"Okay. Well, let's still go see Nancy again soon, before we leave for another research jaunt" said Myra.

"This time, we're packing your breathing machine in the luggage" said Ginny. "For the research jaunt, I mean."

"It'll be ironic if I'm allergic to archives" grinned Myra.

"As long as you're not allergic to paint, we'll manage" said Ginny.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

letsdance said...

What an imagination you have, Maggie! True to life, yet stretching the boundaries of possibilities!