Wednesday, August 13, 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.

January 2013

Myra worked out for an hour, cajoled on by Carly. Finally she begged off and went to her bedroom to change into a swimsuit. Ginny, Margie and Frances were at the dining table, cleaning shrimp and picked chicken meat from the already-roasted hens they'd bought. These would be seasoned and used as stuffing for the tamales. Myra stopped briefly in the kitchen to put a huge pot of pinto beans on to boil, asking Ginny to check on it periodically, before heading to the hot tub.

Gillam and Jane had finished laps and were horsing around in the shallow end. Gillam leaped into Jane's arms and she carried him around in the water while he laughed hysterically. They were both still breathing hard -- they must have swum for nearly an hour. When Myra slipped into the hot tub, Jane looked at her and said "If I had this in my back yard, I'd live out here."

"Did Gillam tell you how he learned to swim when he was just a few days old?" asked Myra. Jane paddled over to hear it, Gillam leaning on the rim beside her. When Myra was done, Gillam said "I don't have a memory of that, of course, but I don't remember ever being afraid of water."

Jane stood up and said "I need to change. I think I'll start making cookies for tonight."

"What kind?" asked Myra as Jane climbed the steps.

"Tollhouse, coconut clusters, and some kind of mango/pineapple bars without sugar, for Allie" said Jane. Gillam said "I'll be in later." He slid over the lip to the hot tub, letting his legs dangle, but he was still too warm to get in the tub itself. Once Jane was inside, Gillam said "You feel like talking?"

Myra grinned. "I feel like listening. I want to know how your Christmas trip was, meeting Jane's folks."

Gillam grinned in return. "Well, it was...different. Her folks, per se, are great so far. Her dad Anton is small and quiet; I think he'd be short even if he wasn't in a chair, though he's got phenomenal arm muscles. Jemima is where Jane gets her build, and she's fairly traditional in that she runs the household. But Anton is really hands-on with his kids. And they haven't lost their radical edge. I think you're gonna like 'em. Her siblings, though...Ranged from dull to pain in the ass."

"Really?" said Myra. "She talked so positively about her sister closest to her, and her gay brother."

"Yeah, but Thad and Lucy didn't go home for Christmas" said Gillam. "Which in the future I'll pay attention to. Lucy's in Tacoma with her newish husband, and Thad went there to be with them. The oldest girl, Bets, didn't come in from Georgia. So there was just one older sister, Sophie, plus three older brothers. Willie, who's between Lucy and Thad, was the pain in the ass. More accurately, he's a bully. I can't imagine why his wife stays with him. Jane plain avoided him. The day we went out to Anton's family farm, now run by his brother, that was fun because we could get outside. Otherwise, there was a lot of TV and sex segregation. Willie eventually made a crack about me hanging out in the kitchen with the quote girls, but before I could even laugh, Jane came out with 'Guys with a full set of balls aren't afraid to help feed the people they care about.' Everybody fell out, except Willie who actually stood up, but so did I -- I'm about eight inches taller than him, he takes after Anton -- so he went to the bathroom instead of coming in Jane's direction."

"Holy shit -- is Willie, well, how do I put it -- "

"Yeah, later Jane told me one of his testicles never descended. I thought it was a low blow, but she said it's the only thing that works with him." Gillam looked a little troubled, even as he grinned.

"And Anton never interrupted him?"

"He did, he'd turn it around into a joke or whatever, but Willie never stopped. Jane said the family dynamic was completely different if Willie isn't around."

"Still..." said Myra.

"I know, Mom. How did he get to be that way? I dunno. Anyhow, I was a big hit with everyone else, even the brothers I never talked to, apparently. And Jane said she's off the going-home hook for another year. She prefers if her parents come to visit her."

Myra was memorizing every word to pass on to Ginny and the others: Hope, hope.

"Anyhow..." Gillam cleared his throat. "I've got something I need to tell you, and Mom, but I'll start with you. I hope you won't be upset."

"I hope so, too." Myra smiled to ease her reply.

"Jane and I want to move in together. I mean officially, not just how we've been doing it, which is pretty much the same thing. I need to tell Carly, and I'll still see him as much as I have been the past couple of months, but -- that's not been nearly as much as it was before Jane and, well, this is a permanent change. As far as I can see." Gillam splashed a little hot tub water on his chest and abdomen.

Myra said "I think it's going to break his heart. He waited all through high school for you two to be reunited, and he's only had three years with you. But -- I support your choice, Gillam. If it's what you want, it's the right thing to do."

Gillam breathed out in relief. "What will Mom say? And Allie, and the rest?"

"The same thing, I'm pretty sure. We'll all pitch in and help Carly weather the transition. What are you doing about your apartment?"

"I don't want him saddled with rent suddenly, not this semester when he's going to be working his ass off to get his PT accreditation. I'm going to keep paying my share, plus half of Jane's -- her roommate is moving out suddenly, that's why we decided to go ahead" said Gillam.

"Can you afford that? How's your trust fund doing?" asked Myra.

"I've been responsible the last couple of years" said Gillam, making her wonder what kind of excesses he had indulged in his freshman year. "I can swing it, plus graduate school if I get a job that lets me work while I get my Master's. You pretty much have to have a Master's or be working on one to get a decent teaching job anywhere" said Gillam.

Myra was thinking. "He may have a hard time taking what feels like charity from you. Or -- you paying him to get out of an obligation. I know, I know, that's not what you mean. Still, I think it would be better if you tell him that we're picking up all of his rent for the semester, to keep his decks cleared for schoolwork. If he runs across a good roommate and wants to move someone in, that's up to him. Otherwise, as our kid, too, we want to meet his rent. That's all you need to say, me and Ginny will do the rest of talking with him."

Gillam slid into the tub. "Cools off fast out here. Thanks, Mom. I mean, a million. For not being weird about -- I know we're going fast, but I swear we're ready, me and Jane."

"I trust you, Gillam. That means if it does turn out you need to do something different, I trust you to be brave enough to make the change."

"Like you are now, with Mama?" he said smoothly.

Myra laughed. "I'm still going to keep the focus on you for a bit, I never get you alone any more. Tell me what all I'm missing."

They talked for another half hour, until Ginny came to the door and said "I don't mean to interrupt, but neither Carly nor I trust the masa recipe that's on the side of the bag, do you have one that's different?"

"I'm getting sleepy, time to come in anyhow" said Myra. She and Gillam took the towels Ginny handed them and dried off roughly before going in.

A couple of hours later, after the aunties had arrived and the second batch of tamales were being wrapped, Margie said "I've drawn the short straw, so it's up to me to tell you white-hairs that we're all going out tonight at around 11:00 -- parties and dancing at more lively New Year's parties."

"My hair is grey, not white" argued Edwina.

Chris winked at Allie and said "With them gone, we can revert to the orgies and sacrifices we used to have before they were born."

Myra said "All I ask is that you consider the streets out there to be some version of Grand Theft Auto, and drive defensively as hell."

"Speaking of which" said Carly, looking at the clock, "I told Nika I'd pick her up at the airport. I probably need to allow for traffic and leave now."

"Invite her back here" said Myra. "She can eat with us, too."

Carly nodded, saying to Gillam "The pork'll be done in an hour, will you turn off the burner then?"

"I will" said Frances, who was loading the new tamales into a second steamer.

Margie stood up and said "You know what, I'll ride to the airport with you. That way, you can pull up out front without parking, I'll run in and get her."

Allie swallowed a laugh as Ginny turned to look at Frances' face. "Okay" said Carly, "come on."

Myra grabbed Narnia's collar and told her "Not leaving you, she'll be back." Allie tried not to laugh a second time. Once Margie and Carly were gone, Allie turned around to Frances and said "Is there a reason she keeps trying to jerk you chain about Nika? You two fighting about it, or not talking about it when you should, or they something funky going on with you and Imani?"

A deep silence fell over the room. Frances faced Allie squarely and said "Not that I know of. Just typical Margie, hammering away at a nail that's already in the wood."

"Well, if you want a suggestion from me, don't let her take Nika with ya'll out dancing tonight. Make sure you alone with her at midnight, even if you have to be direct about it. Until then, if you begin flirting with Nika, it won't get Nika's goat, she'll know it a joke, but Margie will stop her shit. And you can tell her I say so." Everyone laughed, and Edwina gave Allie a masa harina-ish high-five. Frances blew Allie a kiss, her shoulders relaxing completely.

The six "white-hairs" were still up at midnight when the hated cuckoo clock went off. Ginny leaped to her feet and made for Myra, then stopped herself. "Come on" said Myra, "lay those lips on me." Each of the friends kissed each other as well, and opened the bottle of sparkling apple cider Myra kept stashed in the back of the fridge for special occasions. But after everyone left, Myra went to sleep on her daybed again, and continued to do so.

The following day, breakfast and lunch were comprised of leftovers. Allie and Edwina came over at 2:00 to sit in the hot tub. Chris and Allie came back for dinner, which was mostly a perfect risotto made by Frances, with Ginny standing at her elbow trying to learn. During the afternoon, home movies were played for the benefit of Frances and Jane. After dinner, poker began in earnest. Ginny took a long break at one point when her cell rang. When she came back to the table, she said "Michael's gone back in the hospital. The doctor says it may be congestive heart failure, not pneumonia, after all."

Myra put down her cards. "Do we need to go there?"

"Not right away. He's already doing a little better. But yes, I think we should. Cathy sounded -- scared. Like I haven't heard her" said Ginny. "Nate's there, though."

Myra asked to switch places with Frances so she could sit next to Ginny. She held her hand for a while as the game resumed.

Margie and Frances left early the next morning. Nika indicated she was ready to return to work, so Myra went into her study each afternoon and let the boys handle making dinner. On the 2nd, Gillam and Carly went out after dinner alone so Gillam could break the news about moving out. Myra sat up with Carly that night until 2:00, ostensibly watching a scary movie but mostly talking.

On Gillam's birthday, he opened his present of a hand-tailored suit at breakfast and went that morning to get his first fitting. Ginny was disappointed when he didn't ask her to go along, taking Jane instead. When he got back, he refused to tell them what style of suit or fabric he had chosen, grinning "You'll have to wait and see it on me." Myra made his dinner that night except for the steaks, which Gillam insisted he grill outside according to his specifications.

The next day after lunch, the three from Olympia left for home. Myra had offered to keep Beebo for the semester, but Gillam looked at her in shock and said "I'd miss him way too much." Myra was relieved when Nika arrived, breaking what felt like uncomfortable solitude. Ginny was doing laundry, and came to ask if she could use Myra's computer to order more seeds.

"Sure. You want to confer, or make the choices yourself?" asked Myra, giving Ginny her chair.

"Confer. I'm selecting potatoes and onions to start in March, and tomatoes after that -- I want to be really adventurous."

Myra leaned on the back of Ginny's chair, starting to feel very hungry for the nearness of Ginny's body. After a few minutes, she said "You feel hot to me. I mean, temperature-wise. But of course the other way too, I didn't..."

Ginny laughed tensely. "I've been needing to paint since the night before Gillam's birthday. I didn't want to start a canvas while they were all here."

"They're gone now" pointed out Myra.

Ginny rotated to chair to look at her. "I'm not sure it's absolutely okay with you."

Myra sighed. "It is. And I'll be there for you. I'm not asking to change that, Ginny Bates."

"Okay." Ginny finished her order, said to Myra "Anything you want to add, do, let's go wild" before heading into her studio. Myra heard the thump of her canvas roll begin, and felt an inexplicable relief. She added Amana Orange and Moskvich to the tomatoes, Evergreen hardy bunching scallions, and paid for the order. She pulled up her research schedule next, and after a minute went to Ginny's studio.

"I'm going to see if I can get us airline tickets to Denver -- should I make them for five days from now, to be safe?"

Ginny looked at the calendar on her desk. "Make it for the Thursday after next. We can be there for shabbos, Cathy would love that, and stay the weekend." Then "Thank you, Myra."

"I love you, painter-girl."

Myra started a calendar for the new year, adding in birthdays and anniversaries. The following Monday, Chris's sister Garnet had finally agreed to have a cardiac catheterization to follow up on the abnormalities found in her EKG. She'd been insisting it was too much of a risk, but Chris had worn her down as Garnet continued to have intermittent angina. Chris had not been able to convince Garnet to come to Seattle for the procedure.

"Those doctors there are all hacks" said Chris, "but she says they're familiar and that's more important. Familiar hacks."

"Tell her Seattle Grace has an amazing cardiac surgeon, Dr. Yang" said Myra, getting a grin from Chris.

"I'm going to drive over Sunday and be with her before she goes in" said Chris.

"You want me to go with you?"

Chris hesitated. "Let me see what Sima's doing. She's saying she shouldn't take off more work, but she likes Garnet, she hasn't made up her mind yet."

"Offer stands, then."

Ginny's new canvas was the largest yet. Myra found she couldn't sleep well with the light on in Ginny's studio and the sound of her breathing out loudly every so often. The second night, she went to their bedroom for the night. When Ginny got into bed near dawn, Myra woke up and rolled over.

"I won't bother you" said Ginny.

"Come here" said Myra, pulling Ginny into a spoon in front of her. Ginny wrapped both hands around Myra's forearms and they dropped off happily. The next morning, Saturday, before leaving for Pike Myra made an appointment with Nancy to see them both the following Tuesday.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Jesse Wendel said...

Those yellow tomatoes looks SO good. With the pepper sprinkled on top.

Mmmmmm. Wants some. With vinegar and oil, and maybe a little crushed fresh garlic dressing.

Wants some NOW please.

Liza Cowan said...

Dr. Yang? I love it! Fictional worlds collide.