Thursday, August 21, 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 March 2013

Cathy returned to Denver but continued her morning calls with Ginny, who reported she was getting out more than she had been. She'd also started seeing a grief counselor recommended through someone at her Temple. Chris visited Nancy once and resumed her own research schedule. Allie was traveling all over the U.S., with positive reviews and interviews pouring in daily. Edwina ate dinner with Myra and Ginny at least four times a week, even when Ginny was painting, which was often.

One morning after breakfast, Myra was headed outside to help Ginny turn the compost pile and rake the yard when the house phone rang.

"It's Mai" she said, picking up her desk receiver. "I'll be out in a bit."

"But an hour later, when Ginny came back in red-cheeked and done with chores, Myra was still on the phone with her agent. A yellow legal pad sheet was covered front and back with words and figures. Ginny got a drink and came to sit on the daybed as Myra finished her call.

Myra leaned back in her chair and said "Someone else wants to buy the rights to Skene."

"You have those offers periodically, and we make a little money on it" observed Ginny. "Option for a movie, right?"

"TV series this time" said Myra. "And they're as far as wanting actual rights, not just an option. Mai says I should get a second agent, someone who's adept in that industry, not books. She's got a few recommendations."

"Television?" said Ginny disapprovingly. "Won't they butcher it worse than a movie studio?"

"I can't imagine otherwise" said Myra. "I'll be listed as original author, and Mai says I should push to get a salary as consultant, but I won't have any actual creative control. Only people like Stephen King get to work on screenplays of their own books and say no to hijacking of the plot, and even he didn't have enough clout to save a lot of his stuff."

"Why are you considering it, then?" said Ginny, pointing to the sheet of notes.

"$327,500, with a tiny percentage if it's actually a success" said Myra.

Ginny's eyes went huge. "Holy shit" she said.

"Mai thinks that's about average" said Myra. "As far as she knows, that is."

"We're doing okay, Myra. We're still adding to our retirement, we own the farm in Canada which only breaks even but it could be sold for a lot, and all three kids are about to graduate, theoretically meaning they'll produce their own incomes from here on out" said Ginny. "Plus, if your current book does go out partly on CD-ROM, it'll sell a lot more that way, I'm convinced. You don't have to worry about earning as much as much, we've got years to go before I even up how you supported me for 25 years."

Myra smiled at her. "Thanks for that last part. And, I know. But I want to see Chris's book get printed, even if it means a loss. And yeah, the art marked is so far still ludicrously high because all the tax breaks for the superrich under Reagan and Bush have not yet been reversed -- maybe they never will, I don't see another FDR in the offing. But it could happen. Mainly, though, yes our kids will hit the market and make their own way. But I'd like to be able to offer Margie and Frances help with their restaurant, wherever the fuck they settle. If Gillam starts a family, I want to help pay doctor bills and begin education funds. And Carly -- well, hopefully he'll at least dutifully live here with us but if he wants his own PT practice..."

Ginny was laughing. "Okay, it's your book to sell. Get a good agent. And if we're due to receive a massive check, try to have it come in before January 1st -- my income is spiking this year, and the higher our bracket, the less taxes we'll pay. May Dubya rot in hell."

"With Cheney there to lick out his asscrack" concurred Myra.

Ginny and Myra flew to Washington, DC on March 20th, and Ginny spent the entire next day helping hang her show. That evening, Allie arrived and they caught up with each other. On the morning of the 22nd, Edwina, Sima and Chris flew in from Seattle, Margie from Portland, with Gillam, Carly and Jane arriving from Olympia. They congregated at the airport until everyone was in and shared a shuttle to the hotel where Myra had rooms waiting. Edwina and Allie immediately peeled off for some alone time. The rest of the family went out for a very early dinner/late lunch.

At the hotel, Gillam changed into his new suit. He had settled on a silk/wool blend fabric which was so dark brown, it looked black in some light. The lining was a light gold brocade, and the fit was impeccable. He had an array of shirts to go with it, ranging from a white-on-white Egyptian cotton to champagne silk, all of them with French cuffs requiring either Sima's cuff links or a pair which had belonged to David. For the opening, he wore a starched ivory shirt and one of David's ties with a maroon and gold stripe. Jane couldn't keep her hands off him. She, herself, was resplendent in a pale blue cashmere suit that matched her eyes exactly.

Not to be outdone, Margie arrived in the lobby wearing the grey suit which had once belonged to David, taken in to look as it if had been made for her as well. Underneath it she wore a low-cut scarlet jersey and red fashion boots which looked extremely expensive to Myra's eye. She thought all the rich lesbians coming to the show would gravitate in Margie's direction, and she had decidedly mixed feelings about it.

The turn-out was far more than even Ginny's agent had expected. A documentary crew from the BBC was there, which Ginny had been told about but forgot to mention to her family, so everyone was put on the spot for candid remarks and intrusive questions. Allie was particularly hounded by the Brits, until Edwina sicced them onto Chris with the statement that her pending dictionary might reconfigure the face of Native American linguistics. Chris kept saying things to them which they apparently found fascinating; Myra decided not to eavesdrop because it might give her heartburn.

At the celebratory dinner afterward, Ginny shucked off everyone but family, even insisting her agent "go get some rest, I'll see you tomorrow" in a diplomatic manner. They went to a small Italian place with a back room, and after ordering pasta according to Margie's recommendations (since Frances wasn't there), Myra said "The prices on those canvases were noticeably higher than in the past. Even with the bigger size -- what gives?"

"The gallery owner and my agent persuaded me to listen to their advice. It seems there's a deep rumor floating around art cycles that I plan to retire at age 60. Consequently, my work will skyrocket, they think, once it's a finite supply." Ginny was amused.

"Where did anyone get that idea?" said Myra. "You're still just beginning your prime."

"I don't know. Grown kids, the fact that my style keeps changing, and/or not having had a show for over a year" guessed Ginny. "At any rate, it's a white-hot Ginny market at the moment."

Myra was distracted for a minute thinking about other possible meanings of "white-hot Ginny". Sima said slowly, "You should exploit it, then. I mean, more than you are. Wait at least another year before you show again. Maybe float another rumor, something about changing your focus to family, or illustrating Myra's work."

Margie grinned at Sima. "I could start a sentence here and there in front of groupies in my art department, then cut myself off and refuse to say more. It'll travel like typhoid, supposedly coming from 'the daughter', you know." She and Sima began discussing wording of innuendo.

Ginny had more interviews and gallery commitments over the next few days. Allie, Edwina, Chris, and Myra turned themselves over to research, while the younger folks and Sima became tourists. Gillam had agree to meet Mr. Jamba Juice, as Margie kept calling him, at 2:00 on Tuesday the 26th.

"But that's the beginning of Passover!" protested Myra. "We've arranged a private seder in the hotel dining room."

"I know, Mom. Beginning at 5:00, right? It'll be a good excuse for me to leave him when I need to." Gillam turned to Margie. "You in or out?"

Ginny nudged Margie and said "She's in, she has to be. She'll resent you both if you meet without her."

"For what it's worth, I agree" said Myra. Gillam's apologetic expression was beginning to irritate her.

"I'll decide the day of" said Margie stubbornly.

The day of, they all met for an early lunch at the hotel. Gillam was wearing his new suit again. Margie said with scorn, "Dressing up for the patriarch?"

"No, we have a seder immediately after, remember?" said Gillam, stung. "Although, yes, I would also choose to look my best -- I feel like I'm representing all of us in some way."

"Not all of us" retorted Margie.

Gillam leveled his gaze on her. "You're going, then."

"I suppose I am" said Margie. She left at the end of lunch, saying she had to change. When she met them again in the lobby, she had re-donned David's suit and applied dark red lipstick. Ginny guffawed, but Margie's expression was smoldering.

"This is the man who taught me what men are" she said fiercely, fingering her lapel. "His lineage is what matters to me."

Gillam erupted for once. "Yeah, well, at least I can remember I'm a Josong as much as a Bates!"

Myra said "You haven't even met him yet and you're fighting about daddy. You can get over it right now -- go find out the reality, not the superheated positions you've both assumed. Here's our video camera, Gillam, do not come back without footage, that's my only instructions."

"Behave" added Ginny. She giggled. "If he wants custody, tell him we won't fight it."

Everyone laughed except Gillam and Margie. Gillam passed the video camera to Margie and slung his Leica over his shoulder. He kissed Jane goodbye, but not his mothers. He and Margie walked out front to a waiting cab.

"What now?" Myra said to Ginny.

"Well, don't faint, but how about a matinee?" said Ginny.

"Count me in" said Carly.

They got a paper, agreed on a theater with movies to suit all of them, and headed out.

They were late getting back to the hotel. Ginny dashed upstairs for the seder plate, afikomen cover and Miriam's cup she had transported from home in her luggage, while the rest located the private dining room reserved for them. Margie was sitting at a long table peeling an orange. Gillam was pacing up and down, his cell to his ear, cheeks flushed. When he saw Myra, he said "Why the hell aren't you answering?" as he clicked shut his phone.

"Oh. I turned it off for the movie, I guess I forgot."

"Movie?!!" he exclaimed.

"What'd you see?" asked Margie curiously.

"I think we're all more interested in your main attraction" said Edwina dryly. Jane had gone to Gillam and was hugging him. Just as Margie asked "Hey, where's Mama?", Ginny bustled in, wrapped bundles in both hands.

Myra helped Ginny prepare the seder plate while Allie polished the cup, Chris hid the afikomen, and Sima discussed final details with the wait staff. Their table had been set with an orange on each plate, and no salt water was prepared. As this got sorted out, Margie began a loud, amused account of their meeting with "Mark the Spark", as she was now calling him.

"He's tall, taller than either of us, like 6'2" or 3", wouldn't you say? But he's definitely running to fat. And bald everywhere except for a silver fringe. Something for you to look forward to, brother-o" she said.

Myra responded "Baldness is inherited through the mother's genes -- David is your indicator of how Gillam's hair will look. Lucky boy." She grinned at him. He was looking less agitated. "On the other hand, Margie, it does mean your sons would risk hair loss."

"I'm not breeding" said Margie with more than her usual edge of disdain. "Anyhow, he would've looked like a used car salesman except for his Fabiano Ricci loafers and Hermès suit. He talked fast, interrupted a lot, and was not at all impressed with my attire. He did recognize Gillam's suit as tailor-made, however, and I think he peed himself a little when he realized it."

Myra sat down at one end of the table and waved Gillam to come sit beside her. After a moment of hesitation, he did, pulling Jane with him. As everyone else found chairs, Sima said "Do we begin the seder and save the rest of this story for when we eat? I told them to serve at 7:00."

"Oh, please don't make us wait" said Gillam anxiously.

Ginny, at the other end of the table, said "All right. Let's hear from you both, and maybe we can save questions and rehashing for later." She looked expectantly at Gillam, who said "He was a putz."

Margie laughed merrily. "Indeed he was."

"He treated Margie like she'd been corrupted, he snickered when I mentioned the seder, he snickered again when he found out Jane isn't Jewish, he said it was a shame we weren't at least artists if we weren't going to become professionals, he was shallow and glib and narcissistic, and the whole time, he looked so much like me and Margie, I had the feeling I was in some Twilight Zone episode" Gillam poured out.

Margie lifted the video camera from where it was hanging over the back of her chair and said "Ready for the signpost ahead? It's already rewound, for your viewing pleasure."

Ginny took the camera from her hands and walked to Myra's chair, pushing in beside her so each had one haunch on the seat, one supported by a bent leg underneath. They looked at the little screen together, Margie coming to lean on Ginny's shoulder and Gillam on Myra's right.

From the first image, Myra felt a shock reverberate through her body. She had always believed their children looked utterly like Ginny -- but here was a stranger with their wide brow, their powerful shoulders, their jawline. Worse, his large brown eyes were what Gillam's matched, not hers. She felt like someone had sliced the cord that ran from her to them. She closed her eyes after the two minutes of footage was done.

Ginny passed on the camera to Allie, and Margie went with it, repeating her narrative. Gillam said "I took a lot of photos, you'll see when I develop them. Partly I wanted something between my face and his."

Myra looked at him, seeing his anguish. She folded her hand into his, and he gripped tightly. He said "Thank god I'm yours, both of yours, and not anyone else's. I feel like I just lived through a near miss."

Myra suddenly felt an actual current coming from him, through her to Ginny pressed full against her left side. She wished he were still small enough to pull into her lap. Ginny said "Was there nothing good about the meeting?"

"Oh, he'll probably think it was a success" said Margie, now beside Chris. "He'll occasionally show photos of us and brag, if he's with people who'll find it cool that he loaned his seed to a desperate dyke."

Gillam said "I'm glad I did it. I won't do it again. And yes, I got medical information." He turned to Jane. "Glaucoma, ulcers, and asthma, all of it well-treated in current generations." He turned back to Myra with his first grin. "Funny about the asthma, huh? Plus, I got the names of all his grandparents and where they lived, is that enough for you to do a genealogy?"

"Perfect" said Myra. Their hands were still glued together.

"I'm so hungry, would anyone object if I ate a matzoh or two right now?" asked Gillam. Carly passed him the stack on a plate, and Sima handed over a bowl of charoset.

Ginny kissed Myra tenderly, stood to kiss Gillam around his matzoh flecks, and took the camera away from Margie again with a third kiss. As she returned to the head of the table, she said "Now let us tell the story of how our people were delivered from slavery."

Once they were back in Seattle and Gillam had developed his photographs, Myra took one from him, a horizontal head-and-torso view of Mark the Spark between her son and daughter. It was a spectacular photo, typical of Gillam, and the resemblance between them three of them was overt. She asked Gillam to not send a copy of this to Mark, and Gillam said "Yours alone." She hung it over her desk, next to the picture of the four of them at the Dyke March when Gillam was a baby. When Ginny asked why, Myra said "To remind myself that luck is sometimes the result of brilliant choices."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild


letsdance said...

Brilliant, Maggie!

Liza Cowan said...

Dear friends of Meta Watershed. I got a phone message from Maggie today saying that her DSL is down and she can't post. I haven't had a chance to speak to Maggie yet (my cell phone wasn't working where I was - only taking messages) but I will post with an update, if there is one, tomorrow.