Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

Early October 2012

Ginny was up early to research security firms. She made an appointment with one which sounded good to her for that afternoon at 3:00. After catharsis and regeneration the next morning with Nancy, Myra and Ginny went to Pike and stocked up on fresh vegetables. They went home to eat huge salads in front of the computer monitor, making a final order for heirloom seeds. Ginny wasn't able to get many of them sent overnight delivery -- the places growing such rare plants tended to not have streamlined shipping departments.

At 2:00, a woman from service they used once a year to scrub the pool arrived to disinfect their tile and the hot tub. When the security rep arrived, a 40-something white guy with a quiet manner, Myra walked the fence perimeter with him. They returned to Myra's study, where Ginny was still making plant diagrams on Myra's computer. Myra sat on the daybed, and despite repeatedly offering the guy a chair, he insisted on standing, looking frequently out the glass wall.

"You don't currently have any cats, but you want to keep the protective fence barrier intact?" he asked, staring into the yard.

"Yes. Keeps our son's cat in, neighborhood strays out, and seems to have prevented raids on our garden by raccoons" said Ginny.

His gaze had locked on something. He reached into the jacket of his windbreaker and pulled out a small pair of folding binoculars. He trained them over the eastern fence, at a house that was up the street from the Limon's and opposite the alley. He lowered them to look at Myra, unsmiling, and say "One of your neighbors has a telescope aimed right at this room."

"Well son of a bitch!" said Myra, standing and taking his binoculars from him to verify. Ginny followed suit, saying "I think it's that teenaged boy who lives there."

"I have a proposal for you, then" said the rep. There was a new material they could angle atop the fence, in accordance with zoning, that would conceal even more view and could handle an electrified strand along the top. "It will block your peeping tom over there" he said, "unless he climbs to the steep part of the roof and dangles from a vent pipe."

"How electrified is it?" asked Ginny. "Will it hurt birds?"

"No. Could give any mammal that's grounded a nasty jolt" he said.

"We have squirrels in the sycamore" said Myra. "And I'm pretty sure they don't forage just in our yard, they come and go."

"Despite how much cracked corn you leave out for them" remarked Ginny. "But they're sharp little buggers, one buzz and they'll figure out how to get past it, they've outwitted us on every bird feeder set-up we've tried."

"How much rewiring are we talking about?" asked Myra.

"Depends on what you want. I'm going to recommend camera surveillance of the alley and the already known entry point on the opposite fence, plus one out front. The electrical strand won't just be a deterrent, it can sense the weight of whatever causes impedance and if it's human, an alert will instantly be sent to you and to our office. I think you should upgrade all your doors to keyless entries with fingerprint access, a revamping of your painting vault upstairs, and a waterless fire control system for a couple of areas." He was calm and unhurried in his speech.

"Camera surveillance? Will I have like a monitor in here?" said Myra, a hint of excitement on her face. Ginny was about to protest when the rep said "No, you can dial it up on your computer when needed, but it won't intrude on your sense of well-being otherwise."

In the end, they accepted all his recommendations. His company offered a complete refund of any fees they had ever paid should a break-in occur as a result of their error, which won over Myra. That plus the chance to spy on the alley with night vision video. He said a technician would come out the following day to take measurements and create a schematic, but they could not begin work until the following Monday.

"We've planned to be in New York all next week" said Myra. "Can we designate a proxy to be here and oversee the work?"

He nodded silently, took down their credit card information, and left. They did housework and made dinner together. Nika arrived at 6:30 and Myra began teaching her the system she'd devised for indexing JPEGs of periodicals. Ginny wandered outside to refill the sparkling pool and hot tub, plus turn the compost and estimate how much new soil they might need for redoing the beds all the way down their depth of two feet.

Before Nika left at 10:00, Myra drew up a list of work that could be done in the coming week and let Nika set a schedule for herself. "Once we've got the JPEGs we have so far catalogued" said Myra, "I'd like to have you start shooting images of all the periodicals I own personally. Next week I'm spending five days at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and I've already interviewed over the phone a woman who is an intern there, she's going to be scanning their publication holdings for me and copying it to my online file. When I know who will be housesitting for us, I'll set up access for you to my study whenever you want to work on downloading those, too."

"I keep wanting to read everything that shows up on the screen" said Nika, "It's like a visit from another world."

"Well, don't be a complete hardnose, feel free to stop and digest what catches your eye. You'll need that comprehension for the next stage of compilation" said Myra.

"Should we ask Allie and Edwina to stay here, or Chris and Sima?" said Ginny.

"I actually don't feel good about imposing on any of them. It'll be messy, from construction, and they have their own busy lives. I think we should hire a housesitter service, like we have in the past" said Myra.

"A housesitter? I could do that" said Nika.

Myra eyed her. "We've had one break-in, you might have to deal with a burglar" she said. "And the security crew will be in and out..."

"My graduate housing is crowded and loud all the time, I never get enough sleep" said Nika. "Coming to this place is like a haven."

Myra and Ginny exchanged glances. "All right" said Myra. "We'll get you set up with the security service before we leave, and have our friends check in on you at least once. You can eat anything you want from our pantry and fridge, and use the pool, of course. And we'll pay the going rate -- "

"Oh, no, I can't take money for it" said Nika.

"Sure you can" said Ginny. "We'll be asking you to sign a contract, you'll earn it. But I'll feel easier having someone I know here."

After Myra saw Nika out, she sprawled in her chair and said "What a long day. I want some kind of treat and then to bed. With you, my heirloom aeronaut."

But when they lay down together, Myra noticed Ginny was extremely warm where her skin touched Myra's. When Myra woke up in the morning, Ginny's side of the bed was long cold. From the looks of things, she had been up and painting since 3 a.m.

It was a good week. Myra grew increasingly fond of Nika, and Ginny finished her painting by Friday morning. She slept until mid afternoon, got up to make challah and plan a Gillam-and-Carly style feast for shabbos. Myra persuaded Nika to stay for dinner, wondering what the boys would make of her.

Beebo did his usual streak upstairs, racing circuit of the downstairs, and then burst out the pet door into the yard when Gillam set him loose. By the edge of the deck, however, he had stopped and went into a crouch, looking around him with suspicion. He inspected every inch of the yard with an open mouth and a glowering expression. Myra walked out and picked him up, finally, saying "Smart kitten. Yep, bad guys were here. If you ever see any more, you go hide in the house, you hear me?"

The aunties were present for dinner as well. Carly and Nika managed to send each other into gales of laughter, bringing out a side of Nika that Myra hadn't known existed. After dessert, Nika left, the table was cleared, and everyone sat down as Ginny pinned her Grand Garden Plan to an easel and explained to the boys what was planned for the weekend. They finished off the evening with pool volleyball and, of course, late night poker.

Myra slept in. Ginny had left her some leblebbi, which she drank with a Coke -- Ginny was hard at work outside. When Myra finally joined them, the soil of one long bed had been completely turned and half of another was completed. On the edge of the deck was a small cluster of faded plastic toys. She picked them up, remembering who each had belonged to: When Margie had lost that Ninja turtle, the weeping had gone on intermittently for most of a day. In fact, most of the lost items were Margie's. What had she done, shoved them down into the garden soil for some reason and forgotten about it?

It was a very cool day, but Gillam and Carly were both shirtless and already sweating. Such beautiful men they were, she thought. Gillam was at the corner of the second long bed, where decades ago Myra and Ginny had inserted thin flagstones lengthwise to wall off a 4 four square bed for mint. She remembered Ginny saying "If we don't incarcerate it, it'll run amok." "Like the Scots and Hadrian's wall" Myra had remarked.

They had never needed to replant that bristle of mint, only thin it occasionally when even Ginny's pruning of leaves for tea couldn't keep up with its vigorous growth. Gillam put the long blade of his square spade down along one of the flagstones, then stopped and said "Hey, Mom. Look at this."

Ginny stood up, brushing her hands on her khakis, and went to his side. She bent over where he was pointing and said "My god. At least one piece of root system survived, and it's sent up a new shoot."

She turned and looked at Myra, who was rocked by the expression on Ginny's face. Half a minute later, Ginny was sitting on the edge of the bed, weeping into her grimy palms. Myra crossed to sit beside her and murmur "It didn't all die, how about that."

Ginny sucked back snot and said "That's not it. You remember when we first planned these beds, arguing about where in the yard to put them, dickering over how many tomatoes vs. lettuces vs. onions? And then planting those tiny seeds at night, and transplanting a couple of weeks later? Do you remember how miraculous it felt?"

"Because we were crazy in love, and this was our life we were starting" agreed Myra.

"Gillam and Margie, and Carly, you were just wild notions we had. It would be two years before Margie arrived. And all that time since, these plots have fed us, kept us strong and sitting down to meals together. I've been feeling like I can't quite accept this kind of end, so abrupt and -- hateful. But now I see -- here's our garden all grown up, ready to help up start a brand new version. One that has them in at the roots. It's a blessing, this turnover. I can't believe I'm saying that, but I mean it" Ginny wept.

Gillam wiped his brow with his forearm and grinned at them. Carly turned on the hose and dribbled a little stream of water onto the baby mint. He said "It's like Ripley, you can't kill her." They laughed, and after that, Ginny referred to Ripley iced tea or Ripley mint cookies.

They stopped early for dinner. The beds were ready, and only a few transplants were available for moving into their new home the next day; the rest would have to be nursed from seeds currently in the mail. After eating, Carly asked for Nika's phone number. Myra gave it to him without asking why, but she eavesdropped enough to hear him ask her out dancing with Davonn and friends. Apparently she accepted, because he offered to give her a ride.

When Carly hung up, Gillam said "I'm going to stay home with the elders, I think." Myra realized that must be one of the nicknames he and Carly had for them, "the elders". It wasn't so bad. When Carly went up to change into club attire, Gillam began rummaging through Myra's collection of videotapes and DVDs. She settled on the end of the couch and put her feet onto the coffee table.

"This one" he said, holding up a copy of Witness, "It's pretty good, right?"

"I actually really liked it" said Ginny, sitting down next to Myra. "Until the shoot-em-up at the end."

"Okay, then" he said, inserting it into the DVD player and coming to sit beside Ginny. She took one of his big hands between hers and began massaging the muscles of his palm as the movie started.

They replayed the opening sequence, with wind visible through a field of wheat, three times, Ginny saying "I'm going to catch that motion in paint, you watch me". Myra had no doubt. They also replayed the barn raising sequence, and the ravenous eating midday.

Gillam said "Now I want lemonade, just like theirs."

"I'll make some" said Ginny. Gillam stood also, saying "I guess we can't throw together fried chicken in a jiff, but popcorn will do." He set up the hot air popper while she sliced lemons. He doctored the popcorn his favorite way, with unsalted butter, brewer's yeast, and cayenne. Myra drank half a tinkling glass of lemonade before digging into the popcorn. Beebo was dozing on the couch arm beside side, and roused himself enough to sniff her fingers -- Gillam's popcorn always smelled like it would taste good, but Beebo had been offended one too many times by the bite of cayenne. He declined a lick.

Gillam said "Is this movie accurate in its portrayal of Amish, d'ya think?"

"I seem to remember that the director went out of his way to not distort their culture, and to not use any shots of real Amish in the film" said Myra.

"Because that would be offensive?" asked Gillam. When Myra nodded, he said "Are the Mennonites the same way, or are they more modern, like Quakers?"

Ginny said "Depends on where they live and whether they're like the Jewish version of reform. What they most share is German origins and pacifism, I think."

"Simplicity" added Myra. "A tendency to isolationism, strong male authority, and tight family structure of the patriarchal sort."

Gillam wasn't looking at her. "Ms. Hoffmann, that really old woman at Quaker meeting?" offered Ginny. "She was raised Mennonite, you could ask her. Is this for a school project?"

"No, just curious" said Gillam, starting the movie back up. During the final gory minutes, Ginny hid her face in his shoulder while Myra and Gillam chanted "Death by silage! Death by silage!"

When it was over, Gillam carried the popcorn bowl and empty pitcher into the kitchen. Myra called to him "Care to make it a double feature? I've got a new print of Stage Door."

He grinned at her from the doorway, doing his best Katherine Hepburn imitation: "'The calla lilies are in bloom again'." He glanced at the clock, and said "Nah, I think I'll retire to my bood-wahr." He crossed to kiss them, saying to Myra "I'm making blueberry pancakes in the morning, don't sleep your ass away this time."

As he strode upstairs, Myra looked at Ginny and said "It's not even 10:00 yet."

"Either a phone call or online date, is my guess" Ginny answered. "Do you know about anyone?"

"No" Myra said. Beebo appeared to be choosing to stick with her. She stood, saying "Carly always comes home hungry from his dance sessions, I'm going to make some little sandwiches and leave them in the fridge for him."

"Then I'll make another pitcher of lemonade" said Ginny, coming to the kitchen with her. "I bet Margie is home, waiting for Frances to get off work."

"We'll call her next" agreed Myra. "Ah, look, there's a slice of that fried eggplant left, he'll enjoy that."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Jesse Wendel said...

I love, love, LOVE these people.

Jesse Wendel said...

(It's just that every so often I have to SAY so.)

Maggie Jochild said...

Say it as much as you want. I'm wif ya.