Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Fiesta Ware dishes from Homer Laughlin Co
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.

December 2013

The following Friday morning, Myra was on eBay after breakfast, checking out the Fiesta Ware. None of their dishes needed replacing at the moment, but she was considering buying another of the deviled egg plates, this one in evergreen -- they used these servers creatively, for stuffed mushrooms and other canapes as well. She pulled up her list of Fiesta colors, current and retired, and counted them: Right now at 41. They had at least one dinner plate, dessert plate, salad bowl, dessert bowl, and soup bowl in each color, plus a dazzling array of serving dishes gathered over the years. A dozen pitchers in different colors, in constant use. Two dozen ramekins, three butter dishes, four carafes, eight pie plates, six teapots. Their sideboard with all these on display was one of Myra's favorite places in the house to rest her gaze.

Every member of the family had their "preferred" color, and setting the table meant automatically matching hue to who was going to sit there: Myra was original red, despite Ginny's comments about the uranium content and attempts to shift Myra to the newer scarlet. Ginny had originally been peacock, but when David had moved in and picked that color for himself, Ginny silently switched to the Bloomie's exclusive sapphire and stuck with it ever since. Chris went cinnabar, Sima liked the old forest green, and Allie had chosen rose until Margie got old enough to clamor for that shade, when Allie switched to the hard-to-find lilac. Gillam had been a turquoise boy, always. Carly wanted tangerine (or apricot, in a pinch). Edwina zeroed in on plum. Frances, on arrival, settled on sea mist, Jane went for persimmon, and Eric raised Ginny's eyebrows by asking for pearl gray. Myra wondered what the new baby would turn out to want. Nobody ever chose plain black or white, but she couldn't imagine a baby looking to those, either -- more likely, sunflower or the original green, those were new-to-this-world colors, she thought.

The desk phone rang and she saw it was Allie.

"Hey. I'm shopping for Fiesta Ware."

"That sideboard is gonna collapse under the weight one of these days. Listen, your PET scan is at 2:30 this afternoon, right?"

"Yeah, there was a last minute cancellation." Myra held the phone between her neck and shoulder while she made a bid on the egg plate.

"And Ginny's painting still?"

"Yes, but she insisted I remind her in time for her to clean up and go with me" said Myra.

"Well, I'm volunteering. I want to be there, too. Will they give you results right away?"

"Officially, no, but my doc said she'd come over and sit in the control room or whatever they call it while it's done, and if anything leaps out on screen, she'll tell me without making me wait. Ginny is going to want to go, whether you do or not, Al."

"That fine. I'm not able to put it from my mind."

Myra laughed. "Me neither. You wanna come here and eat lunch beforehand?"

"Sure. I'll bring mustard greens, we got some extra."

Myra went to the kitchen to make cornbread, which was mandatory with pot likker from greens as far as she was concerned. She cooked three pans of it, started a pot of pinto beans and cut up turkey filets for making chili -- not a typical shabbos dinner, but she was in the mood for chili tonight. She had this going in her slow cooker by the time Allie arrived. Allie braised the greens while Myra broiled a couple of pork chops and sliced non-Ginny-grown tomatoes.

"What Ginny having for protein?" asked Allie as they sat down.

"Cottage cheese, she always likes that with greens" said Myra. "Listen, Nancy called last night, she'd conferred with the Chinese herb guy and they agreed, they think I'm all clear. But I've got too much heat and I'm supposed to drink this terrible tea he concocted for me."

"You gonna keep seeing him? You other acupuncturist, she left town, right?"

"Yep. Went straight and moved to Montana. How come lesbians who give up on women always feel like they have to move to Montana or Wyoming to keep on the straight and narrow path?"

Allie chuckled. "I guess austere landscapes make a one outta three chance of having an orgasm more tolerable."

Allie seldom made jokes about sex. Myra laughed for a while, feeling increasingly glad Allie was going to accompany her. They talked over the pros and cons of Edwina retiring at the end of this school year until they were done eating. Myra walked back to roust Ginny from Painterland. Ginny ate while Allie had coffee and Myra changed clothes. Ginny showered and dressed in a hurry and they headed for the imaging center. In the car, Ginny said "I'm going to insist on a personal copy of your films for us to carry home."

"You want a second opinion somewhere?" asked Myra.

"Oh. Maybe, if there's any ambiguity. But mostly I want to use it for art. PET scan images are amazing colors" said Ginny.

"Private art, not for public consumption" warned Myra.

"Of course." Ginny's willingness to treat her diagnostic materials as art relaxed the final kinks in Myra's worry: if Ginny thought Myra was really in trouble, her mind would never have made this kind of connection.

They had perhaps sixty seconds after the test to confer with Myra's doctor, but she said emphatically "Not a thing except you have no meniscus left and your thumbs are seriously calcified. We'll talk about methotrexate when I see you in the office next week." Myra memorized the drug name to look up on the internet.

At home, Myra sent out text messages to everyone with the news. Ginny taped the PET scans to the glass wall in her studio and they all pored over them for several minutes before Ginny pulled off her pants and returned to her canvas. Allie decided to sit at Ginny's work table, borrowing Bristol board to work on a Seminole village sketch she couldn't get right. Myra made a chess pie and checked on her bid. Somebody in Brighton, Michigan had bumped up the price to more than the market rate. With a sigh, she said goodbye to the egg plate.

She turned to editing. Nika was coming for much of Sunday to help, and she wanted to have everything but the last two chapters ready for her publisher by the middle of next week. Half an hour later, Edwina arrived and Margie called almost simultaneously. Myra closed her folder and settled in on her daybed to talk with Margie for 20 minutes.

Prayers that night were especially fervent. As they set the table afterward, Gillam asked her quietly "Is chili the only main dish?"

"Yes, but it's turkey -- "

"I know. It's just that really spicy stuff is giving Jane heartburn right now. Okay if I make her something else? Could I use this avocado for an omelet?"

"Oh, Gillam, I'm sorry, of course. I can do -- "

"No, I want to cook it for her." The smile on his face was so proud, it caught at her throat. He served the three-egg omelet on Jane's persimmon plate with a flourish, flanked by salad and buttery cornbread. Jane pulled him down for a kiss and they exchanged brief whispers.

As Carly and Eric cleared and Edwina cut pie, giving Allie only a sliver but piling figs and dates beside it as solace, Myra lugged in two of Ginny's extra easels and set them up beside Ginny's chair.

"What's this, paintings we haven't seen?" asked Sima. Ginny grinned at her, a daub of magenta making one corner of her mouth look rakishly extended.

"No. It's a proposition we've been saving until we felt confident of Myra's health" she replied. Her foamboard and sketches were covered with towels as she placed them on the easels. "You want to do the presentation?" she asked Myra.

Myra sat down in her own chair at the other end of the table. "Nope. I'll jump in later, you do the initial honors" she said with a smile.

The instant Ginny mentioned that the Limons' house was coming on the market, Chris turned to look at Gillam. Gillam's face had a gathering scowl. Allie looked at Myra with raised eyebrows. Ginny was showing less exuberance than she had previously. She uncovered the floor plans for the house as it looked now, leaving her other sketches covered as she came to a halt without mentioning the possibility of Jane and Gillam taking this house instead of the Limons'.

Myra said to Gillam "So, yes, we're being presumptive and putting you on the spot, when you had specifically told us we cannot buy you a house. However, with a child on the way, if I were in your shoes I'd be at least mildly interested. Here's the pike lurking at the bottom of the pond: If you'd rather us give you and Jane this house, instead of the other larger, never-lived-in-by-any-of-us dwelling, we're open to that possibility."

Edwina gasped and Chris gave a hoot of laughter. Carly, interestingly, had a small grin -- he wasn't feeling left out, then, which relieved Myra. Jane startled everyone by standing up suddenly.

"Dammit, I have to pee. Don't say a word until I get back, please" she said, bustling to the nearest bathroom. Gillam reached his hand out for the sketches, pushed aside his unfinished pie, and Ginny passed them to him. When Jane returned, she leaned over his shoulder, studying the house plans. His scowl never lessened. After a couple of minutes, he pointed to covered foamboard on the easel. "What's that, then? Joint cemetery plots?"

Everybody but Ginny, Myra and Gillam laughed now. Ginny pulled back the towel and said "If we take that house, it's a design of what we'd do with it."

Gillam's expression now did shift, to disbelief. Jane, however, said with interest "Oh, hand them over, I want to see." She began asking questions and Ginny could not resist diving into discussion of increased solar panels, moving walls and the need for an elevator. Gillam looked at Myra, finally, his brown eyes almost black, as he said "I can't believe you'd move out of this house."

"I didn't want to at first. But for you to live here..." She kept her tone neutral.

"And what about Margie?" His scowl was returning.

"We talked to her. She said she'd fight you for it if she lived here, but otherwise, she thinks you and Jane deserve it" said Myra. Gillam's face slid back into disbelief. Allie seemed to be unable to speak.

Chris said "What about your garden?"

"You mean if we move into the Limons'? We'll start a new garden there, but not dump this one on Jane and Gillam without help" said Ginny. Her probable definition of "help" deepened Carly's grin.

Gillam didn't look Ginny's way, his gaze was locked on Myra. "What's the market value of this house, right now?" he asked bluntly.

"We expect it to decrease a little this year, again, as things slowly return to sanity, but -- 1 point 2 million." Myra didn't flinch.

"And the Limons?"

"More than that. They have more square footage."

"What did you pay here last year in taxes?" Everyone else at the table was watching her and Gillam now.

"Almost twenty grand."

"My god!" exclaimed Jane. "That's more than our rent!"

"We'd have to help you" began Ginny. "And of course we'd pay for any renovation you wanted done here, or the other place..."

"How can you transfer that much property without paying gift taxes on it? Or us getting slammed with a gift tax?" cut in Gillam.

Myra said levelly "I don't know yet. Rich people have loopholes that let us get away with chicanery. We're not interested in saddling you with debt, if that's what you're implying."

Gillam pointed to the fence between the two yards. "And this is a gate, I gather."

"Up to you" said Myra. "We will have one string attached, which is that if you decide to sell either place, we want the right of first refusal."

Jane said to Ginny, "What if our renovations are extensive?" Ginny's eager expression slipped a notch but she said gamely "Whatever you decide is right for you."

Gillam pushed all the drawings in Jane's direction and took another bite of pie. "We'll have to talk. Me and Jane. What if you do turn out to have cancer, after all?"

The coldness of his voice shocked everyone but Myra. She knew her son, knew what he was being slammed with right now.

"If I'm fighting death, that will take precedence over real estate transactions" she said calmly. His eyes rested on her again as he chewed. After a minute, he said "Can I have that Empire stove?"

"Absolutely not" she said instantly. A smile flickered at the corners of his mouth. He said again "We'll talk. We'll get back to you when we're ready."

"Fair enough" said Myra. "There's a new Fiesta Ware shade out, by the way, that they're calling deep turquoise, but it looks more teal to my untrained eye."

He tapped his fork on his plate and said "This old color is right for me."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.
Current Fiesta Ware colors

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