Saturday, July 26, 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.

October 2012

Later that afternoon, Myra dialed Carly's cell. When he answered, she said "Well, we've gotten the word about Jane and we're all happy here. But it occurs to me that you're probably being left on your own a lot down there."

Carly sounded wary as he said "Yeah. You could say that."

"I remember what it was like. And I went out of my way to make sure Allie didn't feel ditched when Ginny and I did our big Incredible Adventure of Two Girls In Love thang. Of course, you'll have to ask her if I was successful at it."

Carly's voice was a little aggrieved as he replied, "Well, it's being hardest on Beebo. I mean, he's sleeping with me at night but he gets up and searches the apartment several times, looking kinda bewildered."

"I know you were just up here, but if you wanna come tomorrow for all or part of the weekend, you could get only-child attention. I'll teach you a recipe I've withheld from Gillam, and you can watch movies in your boxers" said Myra.

He giggled and said "I wear briefs."

"Whatever. You can bring Beebo, whaddya say?"

"Okay. I'll leave after my last class, be there by 4-ish. Can we have turkey for shabbos dinner?"

"You got it." When she hung up, Ginny was standing in the doorway, grinning at her.

"You are a good, good mother" said Ginny. "But he wears briefs, you know."

"I do now. He requested turkey for dinner. Is he dating at all that you know about?"

"Not that I know about. I'll ask Patty the next time I talk with her. I need to go work on the roses, they're looking neglected. You doing okay with all this?"

"I think I am, Gin. But I'm going to schedule Nancy for as early next week as we can get in, if that's good with you."

"It is. You and I also need to have a budget meeting, together and then with Alveisa, if you'll schedule that with her as well." Ginny came to kiss her and said "It may take you a long damned while for you to see you're wrong, but when you do, you admit it without any games. I don't know quite how that meshes with your Leo ego."

"Oh, even caesars are allowed to make mistakes" said Myra airily.

The next afternoon, as Carly was making wild rice and blueberry stuffing while Myra basted the already roasting bird, Ginny came into the kitchen with two quarts of baby carrots and said "I know you love her orange glazed carrots, Carly, I thought we could make those tonight."

"I know that recipe" he said meaningfully to Myra. She replied "Then which one are you after?"

"Your mother's salmon croquettes" he said instantly. Ginny looked at Myra and said "I don't recall you ever sharing that with anyone."

Carly's expression shifted to worry. Myra said "Might as well not die with it. Tomorrow night for dinner, all right?" She bumped his arm with her elbow, and he laughed.

Ginny said "I've been meaning to tell you, Carly, with that nice new paint job in your bedroom, you don't have to keep all of Margie's rejected furniture up there. In particular her loveseat is Narnia funky. Would you like to get up with me tomorrow morning and go to the used furniture stores, look for stuff you prefer that we could re-do?"

His face lit up as he said "Sure thing!" Ginny pulled out salad makings before saying to Myra "I think I want to not have the kid's art table taking up so much room in my studio any more. I'd like to put a dry sink along that glass wall, for plant starts, with storage underneath. But I'll need some sort of small table to go by my easel, for my palette and brush. I was thinking about taking one of the end tables from the living room, the one with the leg that Margie broke horsing around, especially since your study side table is in there right now and we're a bit crowded."

"That's fine with me, but -- why don't you get a rolling table for your easel? And Ginny, again, I want to you consider getting a rolling chair to work in" said Myra.

Carly added "It can only help you orthopedically, it's not making you strong to stand in one spot like that."

"Okay, okay, I'll look at them" said Ginny with a trace of irritation.

"Let's give away the broken-leg table, we have my Anacortes table in the living room most of the time anyhow" said Myra.

"That was meant for the deck, you know" said Ginny.

"Yes, but I can't bear the idea of it getting damaged by the weather. We can move it out there for chess games, if need be. And what if it had been outside when the burglar struck?" said Myra.

Ginny's eyes got wide. "I hadn't considered that."

"What are you going to do with the old art table?" asked Myra.

"It's good wood underneath all the layers of paint and clay. I'll try stripping and refinishing it. If it looks good, I'll put an oilcloth on it and add it to the array on the upper deck" said Ginny.

"I don't know why that cop said our house was not 'rich and famous' looking, I think our furniture is really beautiful" said Myra.

"She was a philistine" said Ginny. "Endive or arugula?"

"Both" said Carly and Myra in unison.

Allie and Edwina arrived for shabbos dinner, but Chris and Sima had a date with other friends and promised to come on Saturday. After pineapple buttermilk pie, Carly asked if he could use Myra's computer to write a paper -- "If I get it out of the way now, I can relax the rest of the weekend" he said.

"Nerd" said Myra, giving him a hug before shoving him toward her studio. She and the others sat in the living room, discussing the news about Gillam in a level of detail and speculation that would have given him hives to overhear.

When Myra got up the next morning, there was a warm plate for her in the oven and a note from Ginny saying she and Carly would be back by lunch. Myra got herself a Coke and ate leisurely. She'd gone to Pike the day before, they were well-supplied. She left her plate in the sink and went upstairs to the weight machine for a work-out, feeling virtuous. As she was coming back downstairs, Chris walked in the front door.

"Hey. I'm about to hit the hot tub for a few minutes, care to join me?"

"No. Have you eaten?"

"Yeah, but there's two links of that sweet sausage left, some of Carly's pecan muffins, and a bowl of fruit salad. Help yourself and come out on the deck with me. Where's Sima?"

"She had a meeting and dropped me off. She'll be back later, we're running errands together" said Chris, opening the fridge as Myra walked past her.

Chris pumped Myra about the Gillam news as she ate, and Myra covered all the ground the four of them had broken the night before. Chris trailed after Myra when she returned to the house to dry off and dress, talking to her from the bedroom chair through the bathroom door. Myra emerged missing only socks and lay down on the still unmade bed, linking her arms over her stomach to ask "So, how goes it with you and the dictionary?"

Chris said "Better and better. I've begun having dreams where people in it speak Nimipu. Even you, once."

Myra wanted to ask what Chris had dreamed about her, but didn't. After a pause, Chris added "Thanks to Edwina, it's changed shape, the project, I mean. At first I just wanted something that satisfied my needs. Now I'm starting to see it as -- well, as meeting the needs of my people."

"Hot damn, Chris. Are you thinking about publication, then?"

"Edwina sure is" grinned Chris. "The thing in, to make it right, I'm realizing I need to be doing what you're doing."

"What do you mean, research?"

"Yes, and interviewing people. Not all over the U.S. like you, but anywhere there's a local population of Nimipu, I need to go talk with the old folks and note regional variations. With Edwina's help."

"Oh, Chris, who better than you? I am totally behind you in this."

Chris crossed her legs uncomfortably. "Well...I need to ask you something."

Myra waited.

"I'm think I need to cut back on my hours at work, keep enough to stay on bennies but otherwise -- I need to travel. Which means cost. A lot of cost, anyway I figure out, and I can't say I'll ever make it back even if it does get published..."

Myra still waited. If Chris had wanted to bring this to the Fund as a project, she would have. This was personal.

"Sima says I shouldn't ask you for the money. But if there was ever anything I've done which is for the greater good, this is it. Would you like to give me the money?"

Chris direct. Myra took a breath and said "I'd be honored. And don't you fucking dare put my name on anything, except a brief thanks in your list of thank yous. This is for me as much as for you. It'll be me and Ginny, though. At this point, she makes more of our income than I do."

Chris stopped fidgeting with her shirt lapel. "Will she object?"

"Not in a million years. She'll be as happy as I am. You want to ask her, or shall I?"

"You can mention it, but I'll be ready to talk with her, of course. I don't have an estimate yet -- "

"I know how that is, with my own jaunts. Doesn't matter, we'll give you a credit card and you use it like it was your own. Because it is. We have to not lie about this to Sima, though" said Myra.

"No, I won't. She'll get over it. Especially if it's both you and Ginny" grinned Chris.

"Does this mean you'll be out of town more?"

"Yes. Lots of weekends in nearby states. I think, deep down, that's part of what's bugging Sima" said Chris.

"Take her with you" said Myra.

Chris hesitated. "I don't think -- I won't get the same kind of reception if she's along."

"Ah. Well, I'd hate that too, if I were her. But I understand it. We'll keep her company, if we're around, that is."

Myra heard the front door open and Ginny call out, "My?"

"In here" she answered. Ginny came to the bedroom door and glanced at Chris, then Myra's wet hair. "We bought a big stuffed chair and it's tied to the roof of the Volvo, but we could use some help getting it in" she said.

Chris immediately stood and headed for the door. Ginny said "I'll be there in a sec, wait for me." When Chris was out of earshot, she said to Myra "Everything okay?"

"Yeah, actually." Myra quickly filled her in on Chris's request, and Ginny's face brightened. "Wow. Okay, we'll talk more, but I don't want them lifting that alone."

She was too late, however. Chris and Carly had it to the front door by the time she got into the living room. She made them set it down while she got a dropcloth from the storage room and spread it in the clear area between the living and dining rooms. She and Myra helped them position it on the dropcloth. The fabric was filthy but the chair was massive, the wood strong-grained underneath a marred finish, and Ginny said it had great bones.

"Are you going to reupholster this? Have you done that before?" asked Chris, lifting a torn strip of backing. Beebo appeared and converged on the chair with his nose sniffing repeatedly.

"I haven't, have you?"

"Yeah" said Chris.

"We're about to head out to a fabric store to get what we need, would you come with us and be our expert?" asked Ginny.

"Sure" said Chris instantly. Then her face changed, and she turned to Myra: "Sima's due back any time now -- "

"I'll tell her where you are, keep her busy" said Myra. "Should I make lunch later?"

Carly was already heading back out to the car, his face excited. Ginny said "I don't know, honey. We'll pick something up, how about that?" She followed Chris out the door.

Beebo rooted through all the crevices on the chair, his tail a little puffy, his face intent. Myra returned to her bedroom to make the bed, put on shoes and socks, and brush her teeth. She was in her study, hard at work, when Sima returned. Myra filled her in on the chair project.

"Hell's bells, I'm not going to be able to tear her away from that" complained Sima.

"What errands were you supposed to do?" asked Myra.

"I need go to the bead store, pick out stones for a necklace commission" said Sima. "I like to have someone to run ideas past."

"I'll go with you" said Myra. "Sounds like fun. We'll leave 'em a note."

"Bead store" turned out to be something of a misnomer. It carried bins and bins of semi-precious stones as well every kind of bead, wire, tools, every sort of jewelry-making supply. Myra was enchanted and Sima had to hurry her up to keep her from rummaging through every bin they passed. Once Sima reached the items she was considering, Myra focused on her questions and immensely enjoyed hearing Sima's creative process being spoken out loud. She said as much, causing Sima's face to glow.

They took their time. When Sima was finally done, Myra said "Can I ask you a question? These stones right here, what are they called?"

"Lapis lazuli" said Sima, coming to Myra's side. "Technically, these are rocks, not minerals. If they're intense blue like this, with no white casts or a grey shade, they're purest and haven't been dyed."

"This one is exactly the color of Margie's eyes. Used to be, Ginny's eyes, too, but hers have lightened in the last ten years. You can say no, Sima, but would you consider making Margie something out of these?"

Sima grinned. "I'd love to. What did you have in mind?"

"I don't know, you guide me."

"She likes earrings, dangly ones. And three-strand necklaces. A matching set like that would look stunning on her. But I'd offset these with another stone -- hematite, I think, she loves black. And in gold, she prefers gold" mused Sima.

"If you can't get it done by her birthday, maybe Hanukkah or Christmas" said Myra. "What do you need?"

"Yikes, Myra, these are expensive. Okay, never mind, I know, it's Margie. Grab one of those plastic boxes and hold it out for me while I sort through these to pick out the best."

As Myra was watching, she said "Hold on, that one there, by your finger -- that one's paler, is that because it's been faked or whatever?"

"No, it has no cast to it, it's just not as pure. There's a lot of them in here" said Sima, continuing to sort.

"Well, that particular blue is the color of Ginny's eyes now. Could I make it a double project for you?" asked Myra.

Sima stopped to look at her. "Ginny doesn't like earrings or necklaces. And she doesn't wear rings because of her painting."

"I know, but a nice bracelet made by you, it would become one of her most prized possessions, she'd wear it all the time" said Myra.

Sima grinned again. "Set in copper, a thick band, with contrasting chrysocolla -- I could pull that off. Okay, now I have to do computations in my head. Give me that box and go away for a while. I'll come find you when I need to select the metal."

Myra wandered up and down aisles, wishing she wore jewelry every day so she could have Sima make her pieces from almost every stone she saw. She reached the section where storage and sorting boxes were sold. She found a shelf of lovely small boxes, with silver hinges, lined with soft cloth -- she wasn't sure if these were to keep precious stones safe from scratching or to use as gift containers. At any rate, they were the kinds of thing Ginny loved to paint and give away. She'd made so many of them for friends and family over the years, she'd had to begin selling her creations along with her hand-made cards. They brought in ridiculous prices. Ginny used the adornment as a breather between paintings, a means of keeping her juices flowing, she said.

Myra found a basket and put an assortment of two dozen boxes into it. She also bought a large irregular glob of malachite to put in the gecko habitat, because it reminded her of them. When Sima found her, Myra paid for everything except Sima's original project items and chortled as they walked back to the car.

Ginny's car was at the house. Myra separated out her purchases and decided to carry them in by the carport door, hoping Sima's entrance through the front would distract the furniture crew enough to allow her to slip past with her bag to her study. However, as she entered, Chris wheeled around with a jerk from her position kneeling by the chair, saying "Why the fuck are you coming in that way?"

A small, ragged laceration was vivid on Chris's cheek. Myra said "What happened to you, are you okay?" Sima was closing in from the other side.

"The biggest fucking cockroach you ever saw in your life leaped out at me when I pulled off the bottom burlap" said Chris savagely. "I jerked to the side and impaled myself on this metal flange."

"You need to have that looked at" said Sima, as Myra said "When was your last tetanus shot?"

"Last year" said Chris, "And it's fine, I'm not a fashion model."

"It has to be cleaned and covered with antibiotic cream, for starters" said Sima.

"I tried" said Ginny, "But she wouldn't listen to me."

"What have you got in your medicine chest?" demanded Sima. She and Ginny headed for the bathroom. Chris returned to helping Carly remove nasty-looking batting from the arms. Myra went to her study, hid the bag, and returned swiftly to ask "What happened to the roach?"

"Beebo" said Carly with satisfaction. "Except Ginny kept screaming, so I took it away from him and threw what was left of it in the alley."

Sima forced Chris into the light by the window and began doctoring her cheek. Ginny said "You need to stay out of here, Myra, the air is full of dust and god knows what kinds of microbes."

Myra retreated to the kitchen. "What did you get for lunch?"

"There's a variety of curries, masala and kormas from Annapurna in the fridge" said Ginny. Myra washed her hands and began assembling plates for her and Sima. She heated them in the microwave, slid another Coke from the back of the fridge, and carried the food to her study. Sima joined her shortly. They ate side by side on her daybed, talking about jewelry techniques.

Sima carried their empty plates back to the kitchen while Myra sneaked her bag into Ginny's studio. She arranged the boxes on Ginny's supply shelf and managed to get the malachite onto the central floor of the gecko cage without letting either of them loose. Immensely pleased with herself, she did a quick jig as she took the empty bag to recycling.

"Is this what you're covering it with?" asked Sima, fingering a partial bolt of blue and white striped fabric on the dining table.

"Yes, the periwinkle and ivory" said Ginny shortly. She looked up and said "Myra, really, this air is full of crap."

"All right, all right" said Myra. "Did you happen to get dessert?"

Ginny leveled her eyes on her, and Myra said "I'll eat some ice cream, then, to cool down my mouth. Care to join me, Sima?"

"No, I need to start on this necklace. Chris, I gather you're staying here. You can catch a bus home, I guess" said Sima, not really irritated. Chris stood and gave her a hug, whispering "Thanks." Sima made a small signal to Myra before she left, pointing to her eyes and then at Ginny.

In the study with her bowl of ice cream, Myra resumed work. Beebo eventually joined her, curling into his desk cubby for a nap. "No more hunting required at the moment?" said Myra to his back. She found a groove and didn't notice the time until Allie said to her from the doorway, "Hey. You're banished, I hear."

"Mm. Getting a lot done. Fuck, it's time to eat, isn't it? I promised to teach Carly how to make salmon croquettes tonight." Myra stood up swiftly.

"They got batting and cut-up pieces of cloth all over the dining room" said Allie. "Plus don't walk barefoot in there, I got a tack in my shoe. I'm gonna walk over to Aux Delice, bring back dinner for us all. You wanna go with?"

"Absolutely" said Myra. She walked quickly through the living room, where Edwina had apparently been sucked into the reupholstery vortex. The sides and back of the chair seemed to be done. Myra didn't understand why Ginny hadn't stopped to strip the wood before applying new fabric, but perhaps they were in too much of a frenzy to notice. Chris's wound was crusting over. Myra said to her in passing "You can tell everybody you got that from a switchblade" and Chris grinned at her briefly.

When she and Allie got back, Edwina had cleared the table materials to the sideboard and persuaded the crew to stop. Ginny was vacuuming, Carly was hauling out a bag of trash, and Chris was scrubbing her hands at the sink. "I put on the fan" yelled Ginny over the vacuum, "But if you start wheezing, we'll move to another room."

Myra's breathing remained normal. Eventually, Carly, Ginny and Chris stopped looking longingly at the chair and began to have normal conversation again. After clearing the table, they played poker until 10:00, when Chris said "I better get home, I guess. Are you going to finish that in the morning?" Her voice was wistful.

"Can you come back tomorrow?" asked Ginny. After a moment, Chris shook her head slowly. Ginny said "Well, I'll save some of the table stripping for you, okay? Hang on a minute, I need to talk to you privately." She led Chris back to Myra's study, while the rest looked after them wonderingly.

Carly began putting cards and chips away. Allie said "We'll give her a ride home. What they talking about, furniture secrets?"

"I don't know" said Myra. "You want to take this pho home with you?"

"Nah. Ginny'll eat it for breakfast, it got crab in it" said Allie.

Ginny had sat down at Myra's desk and opened the top left drawer. "Myra told me about your dictionary project, and I'm thrilled that you asked us to help. Here's a Visa with no limit on it, but you're going to need cash, too, a lot of places you'll be going, won't you? So I'm signing five checks, made out to you. I'll tell you what I tell Myra: Estimate what you're going to need and double that for the amount of the check. I know how working class patterns work. Don't worry about what it is, just shoot one of us a text message about the amount when you cash it. If you have extra, save it for the next round." She handed the checks and card to Chris, who silently pulled out her wallet and placed them inside.

Ginny stood and put her hand on Chris's arm. "I know what kind of trust it means for you to do this. I also know this project is as important as Myra's, and I...I'm just lucky to know you both." Her voice was thick.

Chris said "Remember about the counter-pressure when you're putting in pleats before laying down a tack."

"I will" said Ginny. Chris gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and headed for the front.

After their friends were gone, Carly wandered over to the DVD shelf and said "You got any new zombie movies?"

Ginny looked at Myra pleadingly. Myra said "I do, actually. But it's gonna be me only, Ginny's been on the go as long as she can handle."

"Okey-doke" said Carly. "If you'll put it in, I'm going to get some of that ice cream you had earlier. You want another bowl?"

"No" said Myra. "But I will take a Coke." She hugged Ginny and whispered "I haven't seen him this all-day-happy in a long time. Good job."

"You, too" said Ginny, with a kiss. "You can wake me up when you come in, if you want."

"Over ice or in the bottle?" called Carly from the kitchen.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

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