Monday, September 29, 2008


(Fire-King "Manhattan" tilted pitcher in jadite, made by Hocking Glass, one of only three known)

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.

January-February 2014

Ten days before Ginny's birthday, Myra got up at 11 a.m. Ginny met her in the kitchen, saying "I just finished constructing a green goddess salad, but I don't suppose you want that for breakfast."

"Not hardly. I feel really hungry, though, like I'm not getting some essential vitamin" said Myra, opening the fridge.

"I'll make you eggs if you want. How about some cranberry juice?" said Ginny.

"Make it a fried egg sandwich. I'll pour my juice. I'm not drinking Cokes, Ginny, you don't need to run interference. Do we have potatoes left still or did you eat them?"

"We do. You want me to fry them?"

Myra took her juice and sat down at the breakfast bar. "Just nuke 'em, I'll eat 'em plain with salt and pepper. How about avocado?"

"I used it all in the salad. You can have it later. But it sounds to me like you might need potassium, how about a banana?"

Myra took one from the fruit bowl and began eating it. "Not very good with the cranberry, but yeah, it's hitting a spot. What else do you advise?"

Ginny was pleased to be consulted. "I could steam you some squash in 15 minutes. Put some molasses on it -- yeah, I'm recommending a form of sugar. Plus, let me think -- how about some raw walnuts?"

"It all sounds extremely good, so my body is listening." Myra took the egg sandwich and began eating eagerly.

"Make some beans today, and let's stick to fish for your other protein. Except yogurt and milk, keep those going" said Ginny. "Uh...steamed spinach. You won't eat parsnips, or prunes -- but carrot juice would be good."

"Do we have carrot juice?" asked Myra.

Ginny eyed her. "I'll make some right now if you'll drink it, I could use a glass myself."

"I will" said Myra. Ginny began to look concerned.

"How late were you up last night?" she said as she handed potatoes to Myra.

"I came to bed shortly before 4:00. I'm sliding over into a vampire lifestyle. I lied, I do want something on these -- ketchup, maybe?"

Ginny stopped cutting squash into chunks long enough to get her home-made ketchup from the fridge. She pulled out carrots and milk at the same time.

"Are you having late night snacks of junk?" she asked.

"No. Occasionally I get a glass of milk, you're right, I'm craving it. But mostly I'm just too preoccupied. I'm hungry when I finally can't stay up any longer and I think about food as I drop off, but I'm too tired to cook that late."

"Let's leave a bowl of beans and rice, cooked veggies, things you can heat up in a minute, at the front of the fridge after dinner" suggested Ginny. "Plus I'll keep carrot juice handy."

"I haven't worked out in over a week, either. Once this is digested, if I'm encrusted to my desk again, will you remind me to go take a swim?" asked Myra.

"I'll take one with you, I'm spending too much time hunched over papers myself" said Ginny. "Which reminds me: Ray Limon, their lawyer kid, accepted our bid on the house. So we need to sign the loan."

Myra felt suddenly scared. "What if we don't make as much as we think we will from your show? Will our retirement fund have two million jerked from it?"

"No, we'll have the option of making payments with ungodly interest, remember?" Ginny handed Myra a glass of turbid orange liquid.

Myra asked "Did you cut this with anything? I mean, it's kinda thick."

"Add water, you can reach the sink from there" said Ginny, putting squash into the steamer. Myra drank a third of her glass with a mixture of slight repulsion at the gritty texture and gladness at the instant feeling of nourishment. After dilution, she drank down the rest of the glass, rinsed it and refilled it with milk, waiting on her final course.

"We have Nancy at 2:00, don't we?" asked Myra. "Damn, I won't get much done until after that."

"Then let's go by the bank before Nancy and get that out of the way. Did you look over the papers I gave you?"

"The contractors? Yes, I agree with your choice. And that preliminary sketch by the architect was not nearly as clear to me as yours are, but with the changes you put in the margin it has my okay. Why so many corrections?"

"Because he's not particularly good at listening" said Ginny, tight-lipped. "But he's available on short notice." She plunked down the molasses jar next to Myra's plate and said "Only a tablespoon of this."

"Walnuts" reminded Myra. "And butter for the squash, too." She felt like Margie, letting Ginny wait on her this way. She asked "Have you talked with Margie recently?"

", not since we both did last weekend." Ginny joined Myra at the breakfast bar, digging into her salad. "Edwina called me this morning. She's definitely going to resign and go on part-time status at the end of this semester. She can get a full pension and still teach one class each term, plus do research."

"Won't being tied to a class keep her from some of the traveling she and Allie have discussed?" asked Myra. "Not that Edwina is really keen on the traveling, I guess."

"She said if it's a graduate course and she sets up virtual office hours, she can cut it back to less than once every two weeks in person. And she is keen on the Southern genealogy road trips. It'll be like what you and Allie did, several days in one county at a time. Plus it's her ancestors as well as Allie's, which is powerful incentive." Ginny filched a piece of Myra's squash without molasses on it.

"That painting Allie did of the Nat Turner rebellion -- Ginny, it's a work of art all by itself. I mean, it should be hanging in a museum, don't you think?"

"I do. I'll suggest a couple of places to her. Myra, we need to talk a couple more house items."

"Okay. I'm fed, I'm awake."

"We have a schedule problem. Jane needs this house to be finished and aired out at least six weeks before she's due, which means mid March, to be safe. But our place won't begin to be ready for us by then. I think we have to find an interim place to live by mid February." Ginny put her hand on Myra's to soften the blow.

"Ah, fuck. I should be done with my book and have it at the editors by them, but...This means most of what we own will be packed up and in storage, I guess?"

"I think so. I've settled on the Corcoran and they want the canvases early, so that's taken care of. Carly suggested a plastic canopy for the garden to keep debris out of it during the roof work here. The other stuff, new carpeting, painting, appliances, etc. won't threaten the yard, which means I can come over and keep the garden in good shape. I was wondering if we should try renting a one-bedroom in Carly and Gillam's complex for a few months."

"We'll be cramped. We need a two bedroom. We can share the second as a combined work space" said Myra.

"But we may not be able to have big family dinners there" said Ginny.

"Sure we can. I'll pack my kitchen and set it up there. We'll take the table and put it in the living room in lieu of a sofa, if need be. We mostly hang out around the table anyhow. I mean, yes, Chris or Allie can have more of our gatherings at their places if they want, but I'm not willing to give up feeding folks if they still care to eat with us" said Myra. "I don't want a second floor apartment, though."

"They have an elevator" reminded Ginny.

"Off to one side" argued Myra. "The ground floor units have patios, you can still put plant starts out there."

"All right. I'll call today" said Ginny. "Hold on, one more thing. If we're going to get new appliances or furniture, too, we should do that before moving stuff back and forth to storage."

Myra sighed. "Whatever is most energy efficient. I feel guilty not doing the research for us -- "

"It's okay, I'm going to Consumer Reports mostly" said Ginny. Myra decided not to argue about that. Ginny continued "And we need a new bed. Me and you, I mean. If we can squeeze in going to the store to lie on mattresses today, we should."

Myra couldn't say no, not with Ginny doing all the other leg work. "Fine. I'm going to shower and dress. I guess we'll leave when I'm ready?"

Ginny nodded, gathering dishes for the sink. When they got home, it was almost 6:00. Traffic, delays at every stop they made, and an extra-long, surprisingly contentious Nancy session had, in Myra's opinion, eaten up most of her daylight hours. As they turned onto their block, she said to Ginny "Can we order out? I want to swim before that downpour hits."

"We have the green goddess salad -- " Ginny began, but Myra said, "Oh, hell, Gillam's car is here." Ginny raised her eyebrows. Myra was definitely on a short fuse if Gillam's presence felt onerous, especially after all the release work Nancy had just done.

They walked in to a house smelling of grilled chicken. Gillam poked his head out of the kitchen and said "I saw your beans, and that astounding salad. So I made flautas and a calabasa soup."

"Perfect" said Ginny. "Myra, go swim, we'll wait." As Myra walked past the breakfast bar, she heard Ginny said in a low voice to Gillam "She needs the exercise." Myra stripped at poolside, not caring about Jane seeing her, and dove in. After twenty minutes, she was winded but loose in her bones and muscles. Ginny met her at poolside with a towel before going to cut a few garlic chives for garnish.

Jane had made limeade, but Myra instead went for the carrot juice carafe. She felt ravenous again, and remembered, belatedly, that intense spells of writing played hopscotch with her vitamin and mineral assimilation. She said to Ginny "I probably should be taking some supplements the next week, until I'm done. I should've asked Nancy for specifics."

"We had enough issues suddenly appear out of the woodwork today" said Ginny. "I could pull out what bottles we've got -- "

"Here" said Jane, reaching in her bag. "Have a prenatal vitamin. They're huge but pretty wonderful, at least for me."

Myra took it a little dubiously. Jane said "I'm having my 20 week ultrasound tomorrow."

"Yippee!" said Ginny. "More than halfway there, and this will give you better dates."

"Plus tell us if everything is all right" said Gillam, an undertone of fear in his voice.

"It is" said Myra. "I remember this ultrasound with you, your little tallywhacker in full view."

Jane laughed delightedly. Gillam cleared his throat and said "Uh...we're not going to tell anyone else the gender, if we find out."

"Why not?" asked Ginny, not quite demanding.

"Because, to quote the guru Bill Murray in Meatballs, it just doesn't matter" said Gillam. "We want Poppyseed to arrive with as little preconceived expectations as possible. I mean, Mom already made that name into a girl in her book. Not that I'm complaining, it's an amazing book. But if he's a he, I expect you to change the gender before you get it published so he doesn't feel any pressure one way or the other as a toddler."

"Lotsa luck with that" said Myra grimly. "But yes, I'll make Poppyseed a boy, if need be. Are you going to the ultrasound?"

"Taking a long lunch" said Gillam. Ginny began talking about the house exchange schedule and their idea of renting an apartment in the same complex for a few months. Myra stayed out of the discussion. She felt itchy to get to her desk and work at least six hours. If this kept up, she'd be going to bed as Ginny was rising.

After a few minutes, Gillam said "I have a favor to ask you both. Because of the imminent changes in my time, I want to have one last weekend out of the city before too much longer. Carly and Eric have expressed an interest in camping on Lake Quinault, tent camping with fishing each morning. I don't feel comfortable about leaving Jane alone for a weekend -- "

"I'll be fine, I'll have Thad spend Saturday night with me" interrupted Jane.

"I know, and that's good. But I want you to have back-up" said Gillam stubbornly. "So, will you two be on call?"

"Wait ten days and you've got it" said Myra. "Isn't it going to be bitterly cold out there, though?"

"I'm a manly man, I can take it" grinned Gillam.

"I'll give you another monster fish notice to post surreptiously" said Ginny.

"Yeah, Carly already has another dog collar decoy planned" said Gillam, shaking his head.

"Bring me some steelhead" said Ginny. She turned to Jane and said "How about Friday night when he's gone? You could stay here and we'll look through his baby clothes, see if there's anything you want."

"You still have his baby clothes?" said Jane.

"Only the most special garments" said Ginny.

"Can I see them tonight?" asked Jane.

Myra took a glass of limeade with her as she excused herself early at the end of the meal. At her desk, she heard Ginny saying "Let's put those leftover beans and chicken into a tortilla, she can heat it up as a snack later. Let's grate some carrots into it, too."

Myra finished her book the night before Ginny's birthday. Ginny was already in bed. Myra couldn't stop fingering the two reams of paper, bound with an expandable clip, lying neatly in the middle of her desk. Her pulse felt erratic. She felt completely sick of the book and simultaneously in desperate need of reassurance from someone else about its value. A swim would probably be good for her, but she didn't want to be in the yard alone when it was this dark. Finally she pushed the manuscript to one side, with the disk on top, and went into a drawer for the card she'd made Ginny. She borrowed one of Ginny's calligraphy pens to write in the love poem she'd written last month and kept hidden as a birthday surprise.

Her gift was already wrapped and hidden in her printer supply cabinet. She'd found a never-seen-before-by-her Fire-King tilted pitcher in jadite green for sale on eBay, with bids climbing through the stratosphere. It had taken frenzied finger-work at the end to make sure she wound up the winner. Ginny would probably be afraid to use it, this piece was so rare -- but maybe not, Ginny was of a mind to extract mileage from life despite risk. She put the card on the box and carried it to Ginny's work table. She'd found a miniature doll's house cake somewhere months earlier and now she taped it beside the gecko habitat with a tiny card reading "Happy Birthday to our Favorite Two-Legger!"

As she turned off the lights, she felt an immediate draining away of the last of her adrenaline. She opened the fridge and found Ginny's snack for her, leftover potatoes lyonnaise in her red bowl with grilled asparagus and a deviled egg. She ate the egg instantly and set the bowl into the microwave to heat. She opened a top cupboard and retrieved the small almond torte she'd made the day before when Ginny was at Al-Anon. She put this on Ginny's plate and left it on the breakfast bar. She poured a glass of milk and ate her snack standing up, afraid if she sat down she'd go to sleep in the chair. When she was done, she brushed her teeth and slid in beside Ginny with a moan of exhaustion. She had told Ginny to wake her up the next morning, no matter what time it was: Birthday rules. That looked to be about four hours from now, her final thought as she dropped off.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Jesse Wendel said...

Why is she so tired?

I don't remember her prior books taking so much out of her.

What else is going on that I'm missing...

letsdance said...

Every Ginny & Myra posting is so delicious.... Your writing is a priority for me, Maggie.