Saturday, August 2, 2008


(Photo by Stephen Feinstein)

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.

December 2012

Over the next few days, Nika opted to again house-sit while they were gone but accepted the panic button to wear around her neck. Once in DC, Myra and Allie had a wonderful time eating breakfast and dinner together as Ginny plunged into yet another painting. During "work hours", Myra haunted some sections of various archives while Allie scoured others. Allie followed Myra's lead by siphoning countless images into an online vault where she could retrieve them later.

Their third night, they met up at a deli near their hotel and got take-out, bringing it back to the hotel room to eat. Ginny was about to take a nap, having no idea what time of day it was once the sun went down,. She decided to eat with them, heaping her plate with dolmas and Greek salad in addition to lamb and eggplant kebab. Allie had chicken schwarma, and Myra was rhapsodic over the hummus and sprouts in her beef gyro.

Allie said to Ginny "That's a bigass canvas you're working on there, how d'ya plan to get it home safely?"

Ginny swallowed a bite and said "I've got this idea. I just didn't want to compromise what was in my head, you know?" She stole one of Myra's fries, gobbled it, and continued. "The owner of the gallery who's doing my show next May here is coming to meet with me tomorrow. I'm going to offer to let him have the wet canvas for the next several months as it dries. I'm sure he'll find a way to display it without exposure to harm, giving him a freebie and good publicity for the show. I'll get it varnished here, and if it sells, great, if it doesn't, by May it'll be okay to ship home."

"It'll sell" predicted Allie. "You charging more for these bigger pieces?"

"I am, at my agent's insistence, although it's the same amount of work going into them. I've altered my technique, is all."

"Shift in technique by you is worth more money" said Myra.

"My agent is gonna have a mild stroke when she sees the changes I want to make to the manuscript she's already got in first galleys" said Allie. "But the stuff I'm finding here I can't leave out. Plus..." She trailed off, until Myra looked at her expectantly. "Well, I got an idea for another book."

"Hot damn" said Myra. "Tell us."

"Can't yet. Not till I got some drawings done. It ain't real until it's a drawing, you know" grinned Allie. Ginny nodded in understanding.

"How bout you, skeezix? You still mushing onward?" Allie asked Myra.

"I'm accumulating pages faster than Gunner Dick could have shredded 'em" said Myra. "I've turned Nika completely loose on creating labels for each article as it comes in and she reads it. When I do my own read-through, I can edit what she's come up with, but it means two minds are categorizing writings on the first pass, which has picked up the pace." She wiped meat juice from her palm and added "I talked to Gillam at lunch. It was sunny, you know, so I left the stacks for a while, got one of those Polish hot dogs with brown mustard and tried him on his cell."

"How is he?" asked Ginny.

"Mostly all he could talk about was Jane, what she thinks, believes, finds funny, has ever done, her favorite color -- you know how it is" grinned Myra. "Remind me to call Carly before he goes to sleep, see how he's doing. Gillam went blank when I asked about Carly."

"Is he getting out at all?" asked Allie.

Ginny spoke up. "Margie says yes, he's started going out three or four times a week, anything that catches his eye. Which I hope is true. He's a darling, he could use a big circle of worshipful friends, at the very least."

"You talked with Chris since we got here?" Allie asked Myra, not quite casual in her tone.

"No. Have you?"

When Allie shook her head, Myra said "We were fine before I left, got everything talked out. I mean, as much as she wanted to."

"I told you to ask Allie that question instead of Chris" said Ginny self-righteously. Myra pulled her fries away from Ginny's reach and said "I'm not sorry I did what I did."

Allie stole a fry from Myra and said "I'd have said yes."

"Yes to what? About Chris and -- me?" asked Myra, startled.

"Yup. But -- here's the deal. You know how she had to hang up on you, go get calmed down before she could finish the conversation? It ain't her fault that's the best she can manage. She does everything she can, rests up, and comes back for more. You can't ask for more than that out of somebody. But it won't work with you, not as a partner. They's two parts of her, a part that was smart enough to know she couldn't begin to meet your particular needs and the other part that's her mother's voice calling her dirty, sick, and not good enough for anybody to love. Some days, it's the second part which explains how come you and her weren't a good idea" said Allie, a long speech for her, succinct as it was.

Myra took Allie's hand reaching out for another fry, kissed the back of it, and returned it to her platter of fries. Allie picked the longest one, dredged it through ketchup, and ate it with pleasure. Ginny's eyes were smudgy as she watched them both.

Five days later, Chris answered on the first ring.

"Hey" said Myra. "I wasn't sure if you'd be in town or not."

"I'm leaving in the morning for Idaho" said Chris. "How are you all doing?"

"Okay to great. Allie is perky now that Edwina's here. They've gone someplace for dinner. I said I needed some alone time and am here in the hotel room" said Myra.

"You feeling sick?" asked Chris.

Myra hesitated. "Not health-wise, no. Okay if I tell you something?"

She heard Chris walk somewhere and shut a door. "Shoot."

"We went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum today. I spent the first hour worrying about how it was hitting Ginny, but then I pulled inside and noticed only how it was hitting me. Except every now and then, a photo would remind me of David or Margie, and I'd go completely numb. Ginny cried her guts out as soon as we got to the foyer at the end, and so did Edwina. They seem fine now."

Chris waited half a minute to say "What happened?"

"Nobody was with me...There was a room reconstructed to look like a barracks at Auschwitz. You went in through a wooden door, and you could go around the kind of circle. They went on, but near where we entered were some bunks that it turns out came from the real Auschwitz. I don't know how they got them -- " She paused.

Chris said "The things that white people choose to preserve versus what they think it's okay to destroy. I'll never understand it."

"No kidding. Remember how Reagan thought saving one redwood grove would be enough? Anyhow...There were these signs all over the place with dire warnings to not touch anything, but they'd gone on and there was no one in my light of sight -- "

"Shit, Myra."

"So I put out my palm and pressed it flat against the end of the bunk." Myra took a few deep breaths. "I came extremely close to passing out, Kash-Kash. Every cell in my body went into keep chill, like I was in hypothermia, and my teeth began chattering. And I was as weak as -- remember that time I had pneumonia but couldn't afford to go into the hospital, just holed up at home and rode it out? And you came over and found me unable to walk to the bathroom? I was that weak."

"I had to help you onto a bedpan" remembered Chris.

"It wasn't a bedpan, you moron, it was my best lasagna pan" said Myra.

"Worked, didn't it?"

"Yeah, but I never felt the same about lasagna in that dish again" said Myra.

"Seasoning" laughed Chris. Myra joined her, then went silent before resuming her story.

"I pulled my hand back, and that helped. Blood began to flow again, and the light -- which had become filtered and a little smoky, like winter in a place that burns wood, except -- oh, shit, I just realized what that smell in the air was. Oh, god, Chris. How does this keep happening to me?"

"I don't know, Myra. Are you calling me for my mystical native ability to explain the spirit world?" Chris's voice was still light.

"Fuck, no. I'm calling you because you won't laugh at me OR try to explain it. It's not a real question. I mean, unless you somehow do have an answer" said Myra.

"Maybe you have DNA that helps you fuck with the time-space barrier. Or maybe you have an overcharged imagination. It's the same thing, really, if you think about it" said Chris.

"You ever had something like that happen to you?" asked Myra.

"You mean, aside from trips on heroin or acid?" asked Chris. "Once, in a sweat, I had some kind of hallucination. It was about half a minute, not at all profound: I was lashing strips of leather to a wooden frame which later I decided was either some kind of travois or a rack for drying jerky. I was focused on my hands and the task, but it was bright daylight and behind me, all around me, was a bustle of activity. People talking, children playing, and one woman singing. And none of it was in English. It also wasn't in Nimipu."


"Yeah. Wonder what Nancy would have made of it" said Chris.

"A message like 'Pay attention to the knots' or something suitably symbolic" giggled Myra.

"Well, then, yours today would be 'Get out of town as soon as the brownshirts win their first election'" responded Chris. They laughed together a while.

"Thanks for letting me get it off my chest, pal" said Myra. "I feel a little funky taking it to Ginny. I mean, it's her people, not mine, you know?"

"You are dense as a plank if you believe that" said Chris.

"What are you doing in Idaho?" asked Myra.

"Some Pentecostal church has a manuscript from the late 1800s that's supposedly a copy of the Lord's Prayer written in Nimipu transliteration by an early convert" said Chris. "I don't know if it's authentic, and if it is, how they got their hands on it, but they won't make a copy of it so I have to go see for myself."

"When did Pentecostals get organized as a religion?" wondered Myra.

"I don't know. I'll Google that before I leave. Anyhow, I talked with Garnet last night, and she's been having chest pains" said Chris, with an abrupt change of subject. Garnet was her younger sister.

"Goddamn, Chris, what kind of chest pain?"

"She thinks it's because she strained picking up her grandbaby, but I don't believe it. I'm going to swing through there on my way back and force her to the doctor" said Chris.

"When will that be? I can come with you, if that will help" said Myra. "We're due back in three days."

"No, you won't help the equation. Though she does like you" said Chris. "I don't know if she has insurance, so I'm planning to pay for any costs, using your card if it's a lot."

Myra noticed Chris was telling her, not asking. She felt giddy with relief at this shift. "Good for you, big sis. Will you let me know what's up with her, even if you can only send a text message?"

"Sure. Listen, I promised to hang out with Sima before bed, are you done with the ghost post for now?"

"Yeah. And be sure mark this one down as me begging for your help" joked Myra. Chris burst into laughter and said "I will."

On their way home a three days later with Edwina beside Allie, Ginny said to Myra "I'm having a really hard time leaving that painting behind. I guess I need those weeks of it hanging on my drying wall to get used to the idea that it won't stay in my life."

Myra squeezed her hand. "I can't really imagine giving up my creative babies like you do, Gin. I know your agent has talked to you about a volume of your work, and I know you're afraid it will jinx you, make it seem like your career has peaked, but I really think you should consider it. We have your slides, I know, but a big glossy beautifully printed book of all your paintings would be a tangible symbol of your output and growth."

Ginny squeezed back. "I'll think about it." Then "That's something I would have talked over with Daddy."

"Maybe you still can. Pray, or put it in your mind right before going to sleep and ask him to visit your unconscious" said Myra.

Ginny looked at her quizzically. "To put it in your terms, that's a rather oogie-boogie thing for you to say."

"I'm mellowing. Plus, I really don't believe David has left you and the kids behind, he worked too long and hard to become a member of our household."

Ginny laughed. "You believe in David's afterlife, but not your mother's?"

Myra thought for a minute. "I want her to be happy. Maybe oblivion is the only certain peace."

"Oh, angel" said Ginny, putting her arm over Myra's shoulders.

When they got home, Ginny had an e-mail confirming their reservations at Lake Quinault lodge from December 24 through the 29th. "There's one king size bed, one queen, and one room with two double beds. Since it's likely I'll be painting and sleeping intermittently, how about if we let our friends toss for the king and queen, and we take the double? When I do crawl in with you, I like being fused to you" suggested Ginny.

"What about the difference in light, isn't that what determines room choice for you?" asked Myra.

"They all face north, away from the lake. I'm going to take some clip lights to make sure I can keep it stable during the day, given how little sun we'll be getting anyhow" said Ginny. "You should go to the Lodge website and check out their menu, we can have salmon three times a day."

"No doubt you will" said Myra. "Listen, there's a message here from Margie -- she says since they're flying out of Portland and we're not available to Narnia-sit, she's faced with either putting her in a kennel or letting Imani keep her while they're in L.A. She wants to know what we think about it. Why the fuck is she asking us?"

Ginny sighed. "Probably it's an indirect way of asking for a listening ear while she has feelings about it. I'll call her later. But, that reminds me, what about Beebo? Both boys will be out of town."

"Carly's flying out of SeaTac, so we can add Beebo on to our house-sitter's list of responsibilities. He'll be happier here with a stranger than in a kennel, and both boys will be back here for New Year's" said Myra.

"So what's your plan for this ten days before Hanukkah?" said Ginny.

"Baking and more baking, getting tins ready for mailing. It'll be sad to do it without kids, even grown kids. Uh...finalizing gifts. And I'm giving Nika as much work as she can schedule, once her classes are done in a couple of days, so she'll be practically living her. I figure she can use the money this time of year, and I'm to the point where I need to stop categorizing and start synthesizing, but she's backlogged. Especially after the haul I made in DC." Myra rumpled her hair over and over, until it was standing straight up in spots.

Ginny sat down on the daybed. "You got a way into the synthesizing?"

"Not yet. I'm hoping that stopping compilation and focusing on reading will do the trick."

"Maybe you should leave your laptop here when we go to the Lodge, and spend your time reading fiction or watching the lake" suggested Ginny. Myra reacted in horror. Ginny said "Okay, never mind."

"The day you leave your sketchpad and paints behind, I'll leave my laptop" said Myra.

"I remember when you refused to even talk about getting a laptop" teased Ginny.

"I remember an entire summer when you left town and I had no way of calling you" retorted Myra. They grinned at each other, trying to recall who they had actually been before their lives melded.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild

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