Monday, September 22, 2008


Sushi, photo by David Rehner
Here's 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 December 2013

The following Wednesday, when Allie came over for her evening with Ginny, she and Edwina discovered Ginny squatting in the rose bed when they came up the path.

"That rust back?" asked Edwina.

"No, I'm pulling garlic" said Ginny. "Plus we've both been on a roll today so no cooking got done. I've got an order for Japanese food coming and I thought I'd catch the delivery person out here. Nice to have you eating with us, 'wina."

"I'm hoping to sit in with you and Allie as well" said Edwina. "She's getting offers to pre-publish sections of her next book in one print periodical and one online magazine, and I want to be part of that discussion. Mostly curiosity on my part."

"Great" said Ginny. She stood up with a sheaf of garlic stalks and globes in her grip and handed them to Allie, saying "I need to look in the back corner before we go in."

"So Myra's glued to her desk?" said Allie.

"For the time being. But right before I came out here, she put on Linda Ronstadt. Once she hears 'Desperado', she'll come looking for me" said Ginny.

Allie laughed. "She still think that her theme song?"

"She's got several theme songs, but yeah, she acts like that one was written for her directly" said Ginny, her voice muffled as she bent over, her back toward them. She pulled several stalks, stood again and threaded her way to the sidewalk. "It makes her some weird combination of sentimental and clingy, you know, like she only came in from riding fences at the last minute and I'm her schoolmarm waiting in the cabin or some such. Predictable as clockwork. But at least it's better than when she listens to The Talking Heads -- she always gets snotty and distant after half an hour of their songs."

Allie was still laughing when they went in. Ginny set one bulb on the cutting board to clean and put in the fridge, and the rest she began typing into a bunch with string from the kitchen drawer. Allie and Edwina walked back to say hi to Myra, who was singing at the top of her lungs "Well you put me through some changes, yeah, kinda like a Waring blender". Myra followed them back to the kitchen and wrapped herself around Ginny, kissing her neck and saying "Mm, you smell like garlic and roses both. Kinda like a Renaissance vampire hunter." Her tone was gooey.

Ginny grinned at Edwina over Myra's shoulder as she said to Myra "There's the doorbell, dreamboat, will you go pay them and get our food?"

Ginny scrubbed her hands while Edwina put out drinks and Allie set the table. As they sat down and began passing cartons, Allie said "I had a lunchtime chat with Margie today. She called me from her job. I think she was trying to pump me about how you two are reacting to Gillam and Jane's pregnancy."

"Tell her to call us directly, I'm not keeping anything from her" said Ginny, taking Myra's share of the seaweed salad as well as her own.

"That brown sauce is for me" said Myra, taking a small container from Ginny. "And if you're going to bogart my tempura, start with the eggplant, that's my least favorite." She faced Allie and said "Did she sound upset?"

"Maybe sad" said Allie. "It sunk in on her, auntie from another state not like Auntie Allie dropping in at breakfast."

"Well, she can rectify that any time she wants" said Ginny unsympathetically. Myra had put all the yam tempura on her own plate, which was rude to their guests, Ginny felt. It was also on the side of the plate farthest from Ginny. Seeing where Ginny was looking, Myra lifted one of the yam slices with her chopsticks and set it on Allie's plate, grinning to herself.

"Trade you half my beef teriyaki for some of that pork cutlet?" said Allie. Myra assented. Ginny was distracted by Edwina saying "I don't really care for the ika or una rolls, could I let you have those and take more of the avocado and crab?"

"You sure?" said Ginny. "Go for it. Here, take an extra hamachi, too." Ginny loved urchin and having an entire roll to herself was a treat. Then Myra put another yam slice on Edwina's plate. Ginny began humming to herself, the part that went "Don't your feet get cold in the wintertime, the sky won't snow and the sun won't shine, it's hard to tell the night time from the day". Allie smothered a giggle. After a minute, Myra handed the next to last yam slice to Ginny and said "I adore your appetites, girlfriend" in a tender voice. Ginny said "Could I dip this in your sauce, too?"

"My pleasure" said Myra. After Ginny was done with the container, Myra said "You're not fooling me, by the way."

"Good" said Ginny. "Are you done with the wasabi, Edwina?"

"God damn, that's hot" said Edwina, with a cough. Even Allie looked startled: It was rare for Edwina to curse.

"They don't use powder, they make it from scratch at this place" said Ginny. "Eat some rice, quick."

After Edwina was recovered, Allie said "They coming for Chanukah and New Year but not Christmas. What about all the newlyweds down here?"

"Carly and Eric want to go to Lake Quinault Lodge with us after we're done cooking on Christmas Day, but not for a whole week. They'll drive their own car and go visit Patty, then Eric's folks for a couple of days each, getting back here in time for Gillam's birthday. Gillam and Jane are still talking it over, I'm not sure why, they're definitely not going to Fresno" said Myra.

"I think they might like time with no plans at all" said Ginny. "Jane asked me if they could house-sit for us, hole up here for a week with Beebo. I said that would be great. Nika will be gone, yes?"

"Yes" said Myra. "Well, I happen to think of Lake Quinault as a perfect relaxation spot, but I can see them not even wanting to make a drive."

"It's not just that" said Ginny. "It's all of us. They talk to kids all day and listen to professors in the evenings, they want utter silence, I'm willing to bet."

Myra tried not to feel cranky about her son needing silence from her. She complained "I don't think this is going to be enough to fill me up."

"It's because I joined in, isn't it?" said Edwina. "Here, you want half this futomaki?"

Myra was chagrined. "No, no, we always order extra, there's plenty for you. It's simply not what I want. Hand me that unopened container of rice there, Ginny, I'll put the last of my sauce on it and that will do it for me."

"Oh, honey, it's not rice. I thought you knew -- this is Kobe, I got it specially for you" said Ginny.

"It's been sitting there getting cold?" said Myra, reaching for it urgently. "Oh, look at it, done to perfection. If I heat it in the microwave, it'll ruin it."

"Just as good at room temperature" said Allie, "Don't get your panties in a wad. Cut me off that end of it there."

Myra gave the other end to Edwina and ate the heart of the steak herself. It was impossibly tender, and she was satisfied when she was done with it. She left clean-up to the other three, since they were going to work at the table afterward, and went to her study. Ginny called after her "No more music, it will be distracting even in here."

"I'm going to call Margie" Myra answered.

A week later, Myra was folding clothes on the couch, watching her secret DVD of the first two seasons of "Party of Five" while Ginny was out of the house. When Ginny burst in suddenly, without the sound of a car in the driveway, Myra fumbled for the remote but couldn't find it among all the socks and T-shirts. Ginny glanced at the TV and ignored it. Myra finally located the remote and turned it off as Ginny sat down on the edge of the coffee table with excitement strong in her body.

"I just walked around the block to talk with the Limons" she began.

"Oh, that's where you were. You mean about the blackberries? Are they bothered by the overgrowth or secretly harvesting what they want?" asked Myra.

"Uh -- neither. I mean, they don't care and -- that's not the news. The news is, Felipe really can't get up and down their stairs any more -- they have two flights in that house, front and back -- so they're thinking about selling. They haven't contacted a realtor yet, but they've located a retirement community they both like and it's just a matter of their kids signing off on it." Ginny finished with a hand wave as flourish.

"Well, I'll be sorry to see them -- oh, fuck, Ginny, now I get it! How much do they want?"

"They couldn't give me a figure. I persuaded them to not call a realtor yet, because their oldest is a lawyer and he might be able to advise them how to do it without incurring a realtor's fee, at least research the market and find out what they can ask. I said we absolutely want it, which I know is very bad bargaining but -- my god, Myra, we could put a gate between the two back yards and have one connected property!"

"What's it like inside? I was only there once, to drop off some soup when he first got sick."

Ginny said "You got your notebook? Never mind, I want to do this on my big sketchpad while it's still fresh in my mind." She stood and actually jogged toward her studio. Myra abandoned the laundry to follow. Once on Ginny's daybed, with -- Myra noticed -- three different widths of charcoal pencils in Ginny's left hand, the right already sketching on the pad across their laps, Ginny began talking in stream of consciousness.

"Okay, it's Bauhaus like ours, which makes me wonder if they were built at the same time -- I never see other Bauhaus style houses in this part of Seattle, they must be connected somehow. So there's glass walls here and here, along the front and back, part of the side, on both stories. No windows at all on the east wall which abutts the alley. The stairwells are both on the west, landings in the middle and a switchback...Upstairs on both ends are big open spaces, then three bedrooms upstairs, three baths, and what she called a sewing room...There's a massive living room at the back, plus dining room and a too-small, claustrophobic kitchen. Another huge bedroom at the front, two more baths downstairs, a laundry room, and this which was crammed full of junk..."

"It's humongous, Ginny, bigger than our place!"

"Yeah, because they have two full stories and not as much yard. They had five kids, remember? The yard is in sad shape. She says the roof is ten years old, the furnace which is back in this crammed area is not doing well but they've been not going upstairs for the past couple of years so they just use space heaters...She went upstairs with me, and there weren't any leaks I could find. The bathroom fixtures are old but I liked the tile color in a couple of them, very retro. All the appliances are ancient, and the walls are dark, but where it's wood it looks okay. Listen, we could walk back over and take a second tour, I don't think they'd mind. He's watching TV and she was putting together a puzzle. You want?"

"Bring a sketch pad" said Myra. "Not this one, smaller. I'll grab a tape measure. And -- go get a pie or package of brownies from the freezer, I'll take some bread."

Ginny also put two quarts of tomato sauce and green beans in her arms before they headed out the door again. As they rounded the corner, Ginny said "What were you watching?"

"Don't ask" said Myra. "Listen, if their place is that much larger, can we afford it?"

"We'll have to sell the farm, I'm pretty sure. But think, Myra, it's got room for five kids to grow up in it!"

"I'm a little scared this is too good to be true" said Myra.

An hour later, they returned home and Ginny started a fresh sketch with concrete measurements this time. It was astounding to Myra how Ginny could recreate the same space she had just seen with such clarity and detail. She said "It smelled like old people, but even so, I adored the feel of it, Gin. I guess it's enough like this house..."

"Mm-hm" said Ginny distractedly. She was in full art mode now, Myra could tell. She went to finish the laundry and put it away. She had decided on a frittata for dinner and was beginning to grate vegetables by the time Ginny finished, carrying in two enormous watercolor renderings already mounted on foamboard.

"Holy fuck, Gin -- it looks so much better without their furniture in it. And you altered the wall color, I see."

"Playing around with it" said Ginny. "But look at this piece of tracing paper, lay it over the outlines as they are now and see an idea I had..."

"What is this, a renovated kitchen?" asked Myra.

"Doubled in size, with two work triangles and tons of counter space, plus a bar between it and the dining room instead of a wall. And I took part of that junk room and carved a pantry from it, see?"

"I'd love to have a kitchen that roomy" said Myra. "Well, eventually Gillam and Jane will need it, and I could go over there to cook for the masses. What's this, with that funny door?"

"An elevator" said Ginny. "See, upstairs I took that third bedroom and used part of it for elevator space, part for a varnishing room. And I split that big family room upstairs into a study and part of a studio, the rest of the studio sitting in the light well at the top of the stairs. The light there is even better than here, Myra."

Myra looked at Ginny quizzically. "Daydreaming, are you? But we don't need that big of a house, Ginny. Elevator, yes, we have to talk about that here for our elder years, although I can't imagine where to put it. But..." She trailed off, watching Ginny's face.

"We might need that much space, Myra. What if I can talk Cathy into living with us? What about Chris and Sima's retirement? And sleepovers for grandkids? If we want to stay the place where everyone else comes to eat and visit, we could really use these large public spaces."

"Or maybe we need to relinquish that to Gillam and Jane" said Myra.

"What if they don't want to be the hub that everyone else crashes? What if that's not Jane's idea of home?"

"Well, Ginny, we can ask her. What are you suggesting, we take that house and give this one to them?"

"There's plenty of room here for five kids, too, Myra. And the pool -- "

"Which is only a short walk across the yard, if they have that place. What if Jane's idea of home is not the place where Gillam grew up, what if she wants a neutral space to claim as their own?"

"As you said, we can ask them."

Myra put down the tracing paper and said "I love this house, Ginny. It's where we began, where the kids were born, where everything good has happened."

Ginny struggled to not look disappointed. "All right, if you're really set on it. I guess I got a little carried away..."

Myra didn't want to say no, absolutely, but she wasn't willing to say yes, either. She said "We'll have to talk more. Let me digest it. In the meantime, will you go pull a couple of onions for me?"

Ginny carried her foamboard back to her studio, hiding it in a stack of blanks, before going to the garden.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

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