Saturday, November 22, 2008


Black and white kitten
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.

Winter 2016

At Christmas, Carly and Eric spent two days with Eric's parents in Spokane, Chris and Sima visited Colville, and Lucy brought her family to stay with Jane and Gillam for the same time period. Allie and Edwina hung out with Myra and Ginny, a sort of mini-vacation with Allie at Ginny's work bench, Edwina at Myra's second computer, long days of shared meals and contented work. Each of them got to choose the music for half a day. For dinner, they carried dishes back to the house behind them or went to Carminati's, Margie joining them either way.

One morning Myra woke up to discover Ginny had made leblebbi. Allie and Edwina had not arrived yet. As she spooned herself a bowl, Ginny called down the stair well “Hey...there's a note on your desk saying you're supposed to thank me. For what?”

“I don't remember. Let me eat and maybe it'll come back to me.”

Ginny chuckled as she walked back to her easel. Myra thought Does she go through my desk on a regular basis, or what?

Before she was done eating, Edwina and Allie joined her, bringing sweet potato turnovers and a new stock of fair trade beans to store in the freezer. Allie made herself a large cuppa jane as she said to Myra “She's puking a lot more with this one.”

“Jane, you mean.”

“Yeah. And David hardly lets go of her. He's taking the weaning bad. Listen, the ones with a triangle pressed into the dough have chorizo in them.”

“Hallelujah” said Myra. “About the pork, I mean, not David. I think maybe we should simply take him away from her more often, let him get used to finding comfort other places.”

“Not without talking to Jane and Gillam about that idea first” said Ginny, joining them. She had on one of Myra's long baggy grey sweaters and blue wool socks but no pants. Her ass was covered by the tail of the sweater, however. Edwina handed her a turnover and said “There's a mention in today's paper about your show next month.”

“Anything beyond bare bones?” asked Ginny.

“Yeah, they plugged Carminati's and that place selling your hand-painted furniture. Local angle.”

Ginny said “I'm making steamed milk, anybody want some?”

“I do” said Myra.

Ginny asked Edwina “Have you heard back about that article you submitted to GEMA?”

“Not yet, but if they dawdle much longer, I'm sending it to Cambridge as well. Oh, but Allie got a check yesterday for the Cottonseed book, did you?” said Edwina.

“We haven't gone through yesterday's mail yet” said Ginny. “It's upstairs, we can look later. Maybe Friday morning we can start the education account for David?”

“I have to be done by 11:00” said Allie. She was leaning over the counter to grab hot sauce.

Myra noticed what Allie had on: Baggy jeans with a rip in one knee and her left back bottom area, with a black turtleneck under a gold and black bowling shirt. Her boxers were showing through the back of her jeans – a plaid, Ferguson tartan from the looks of it.

When Allie turned back around, she said “You looking at my ass, Josong?”

“Uh...I was just wondering how come you're dressing so different lately.” Myra refused to blush.

“I've been picking up clothes for her as they catch my eye” said Edwina with a grin. “Trying out different looks.”

“That shirt isn't even ironed” remarked Myra.

“Spray starch don't keep out baby snot, I done discovered” said Allie.

Before Myra went upstairs, she cut in half each of the mound of brussel sprouts Ginny had harvested yesterday and drizzled them with olive oil before setting them in a pan to roast. She rubbed spices and oil over a large turkey breast and inserted the meat thermometer into it that would regulate its time in the convection oven. She filled a second roasting pan with shallots and put them beside the sprouts, setting the timer on that oven as well.

Ginny had sorted the mail and Myra's share was in the center of her desk. She found the check and called to the other room “My payment's here, too.”

“And mine” said Ginny from the doorway. “Have you decided on a name for the next member of the Seed family?”

“I've narrowed it down to either Dal or Cally Basa” said Myra. She heard Allie laugh from the other room. “I'm also going to introduce a great aunt named Pomegranate.”

She noticed her legal pad lying where she'd left it, with “thank Ginny” written in a hurried scrawl next to a doodle of a pyramid. “Oh. Gin, I remembered. Come here a sec, will you?”

She took Ginny's hands and said “I want to thank you for finding us this house and encouraging me to move. I am utterly happy here. It feels as much like home as the old place did, and in some ways, heretical as it sounds, I like this house better.”

Ginny was extremely pleased. “It's funny, I have such strong memories of the old house but they don't come up when I go there – that feels like Jane and Gillam's now. And the grandkids. Our kids are ghosts that got released, I guess.”

“Your hands are cold” said Myra.

“Yeah, the only negative for this studio is how cold air gets wicked up the stairwell. I don't notice when I'm painting, but when I'm doing sketches like today, I get arthritic.”

Myra blew on Ginny's hands and rubbed them for a minute before returning to her mail.

Two weeks later, after Gillam's birthday and return to teaching, the weather was still extremely cold and drizzly. Ginny was at her easel, trying to decide if her current painting was truly finished. She turned around to stare out the window at their old house, hoping for a glimpse of one of the grandchildren -- but nobody was outdoors or near a window. A small motion in her own yard caught her attention, however. She looked down and saw the back half of a dark cat disappearing under the edge of the garden shed. She hadn't realized there was any kind of space under the shed -- it was a prefab they'd set out there. Something must have dug a hole. When the cat didn't re-emerge, Ginny started downstairs.

She began putting on boots and a poncho, calling to Myra in the kitchen "There's a cat out back, under the shed. I'm going to go check on it."

Myra poked her face around the cabinets. "Hang on, I'll go with." She, too, put on rain gear as Ginny grabbed a flashlight from the storage room.

"What kind of cat?"

"Couldn't tell. But if it's a she, I'm thinking kittens."

At the hole, Ginny had to lie down on the ground to shine the light in. She was stark naked underneath the poncho, which entertained Myra. She had to try a few angles before she finally said, in a muffled voice, "Aha! I see tapetum. And -- there's her shape, but there are tiny shapes around her. I see some white fur that isn't hers. Kittens for sure. I can't be definite, but they look really small, they seem to be mostly stationary."

"How does she look, skinny?"

"Yeah." Ginny stood up and examined her muddy palms.

"Why don't you get the umbrella from the patio table and stick it in the ground here, to make a little dry oasis. I'll go open up some tuna and bring it out" said Myra.

"I'm worried about them being warm enough too -- don't we have one of those heat lamp kind of lights in the storage room?"

"How would we get it in there?" asked Myra. "I mean, wouldn't the light be dangerous for the kittens?"

"I can plug it into the shed and set it up on the floor right above where they are, facing downward. It should radiate heat down to them that way."

"Great idea. I'll be back in a min." Myra sloshed into the house.

When she got back, Ginny had the umbrella positioned up and her garden kneeling mat underneath it. Myra put a bowl of tuna and a bowl of salmon on the mat. Ginny went into the shed and arranged the heat lamp.

"Now let's go to the far side of the yard and see if she'll let us get a good look at her" said Ginny.

They sat down on the edge of the raised bed around the tomatoes, side by side, and kept still. In a minute, they saw a face at the opening of the hole. The cat stuck out her head, looked at them for a while, then slunk out slowly, following her nose. When she found the food, she ate facing them, keeping watch but not completely terrified. She was a dark striped tabby, thin but not skeletal. When she was done, she washed herself sitting on the mat instead of retreating to cover instantly. Myra thought she must at one time have had humans in her life.

Ginny said "We're going to have to get those kittens out of there, see if they are all right. Before they get too old to be tamed."

"Yep" said Myra. "Let's go to the pet store for food and ideas."

"I have to shower" said Ginny.

"You have mud on your ass, not sure how" said Myra, as they went in.

It was Ginny who named the cat Mother Courage. After a couple of days of gorging, she began to look decidedly better and, on the third day, she came out of her hole while Myra was setting down the food. Myra moved away a few feet and sat down on the ground. Mother Courage waited a while, then, wary but not desperate, walked over and began eating. As she ate, Myra talked to her gently, assuring her of her good intentions and offering her and her kittens a permanent home. Two days after that, Mother Courage walked over to Myra and let Myra touch her back gently. A rusty purr rose out of her. "Oh, baby, you want to join our family, don't you?" gushed Myra.

That afternoon, Ginny and Myra returned to the shed carrying a box lined with old towels. Ginny had created a kitten scoop from one of Gillam's golf clubs, half a large plastic bottle lined with soft fabric, and yards of duct tape. Myra put down a big dish of wet food in front of Mother Courage while Ginny bellied up to the hole with scoop and light.

After a minute, Ginny said "This hole is not big enough. Myra, will you get me a trowel from the shed?"

Myra obliged, and Ginny dug out the hole until it was 18 inches across. Mother Courage looked agitated but was not trying to interfere. Myra kept petting her and saying "We're going to take you all inside, you get to have a cushy life in the house now. And no more pregnancies."

The first kitten Ginny retrieved was perhaps three weeks old, orange and clean enough but had a runny eye infection. The next was a solid grey, Burmese-looking, and he also had infected eyes. The third was black and white, the runt, and her eye infection was horrifying -- the entire surface of her eyes was covered in green pus. Myra was sick inside. Next came a pale orange, almost pink-colored kitten. Last, and hardest to catch, was a solid black kitten who spat at Ginny. The last two had eye infections as well, although not as bad as the black and white kitten.

"Well, Mother, it's to the vet with you and your babies" said Ginny, stand up and carrying the box low to the ground, urging the mama cat to follow her mewing kittens. Mother Courage paused at the door into the house, but the kittens' cries overcame her reluctance and she trotted in to the foyer where Ginny set the box, hopping in to check on her litter.

Myra put the bowl of food from outside next to the box. Then she got the large carrier they'd bought at the pet store, already lined with a blanket, and put the food bowl inside it. After a while, Mother Courage got out of her box to inspect the carrier and the food. She ate a bit and went back to her box. Ginny had washed up and when she returned, she began putting kittens one by one into the carrier, murmuring reassurance to Mother. When Mother pushed her way into the carrier, Ginny removed the food bowl and gently shut the door, latching it. "Time for a car trip" said Myra.

Dr. Mekonnen put Mother into a separate carrier before examining the kittens. She made a tsk sound with her teeth when she saw the black and white kitten. She took temperatures, stool samples, and then examined Mother Courage, who cooperated with laid back ears but no biting. When she was done, she said "We'll need blood work to check for FIP and feline HIV. The eye infections on four of them can be treated, but on the littlest one, her globes have been compromised. Her eyes have to come out. If you'd rather I put her down, I can do that right away. If you decide to keep her, she'll have to have a protected environment for the rest of her life."

Ginny and Myra looked at each other. Myra asked "Her eyes -- will there be just holes in her head?"

"No, I'll sew the lids shut. The fur will grow over smoothly."

Ginny said "Yes, we'll keep her. We'll keep them all." Myra nodded.

"I'll need to have them here overnight, to get labs and treat the kittens. Call me tomorrow morning and I'll give you an update" said Dr. Mekonnen.

As they drove home, Myra laughed "From zero to six cats in one fell swoop. We're now officially a lesbian stereotype."

"Crazy cat ladies" giggled Ginny. "But the grandkids are going to go wild about it."

"And the house is big enough. Let's cut a cat door into the storage room and set up an array of litter boxes in there. I mean, eventually they can return to yard access, but not right away. And not until Mother is spayed."

"What about names?" said Ginny.

"Let's get 'em home and see what they're like first" suggested Myra.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


kat said...

yummmmmmm roasted brussels sprouts......

Boyfriend's parents are in town, and they're coming over for dinner tonight. I suggested that we roast some brussels sprouts and I was informed that they hate them.

really?? heresy!

Maggie Jochild said...

I, too, hated brussel sprouts until I had them braised (as Allie cooks 'em) and then roasted. Brassicas are rawther sulphurous if simply boiled or cooked badly. But done right, they are the goddess of veggies, I think.

Jesse wrote me a private e-mail about all those litter boxes. Funny stuff.

Liza Cowan said...

Braised cabbage is deelish also.

Maggie Jochild said...

Liza, g*d, yes. Again, cabbage cooked my mother's way was inedible (boiled), but once I hit a community of vegetarians who could COOK. Wow.

I have to admit, tref as it is, cabbage braised with/in pork juices is manna to me.

kat said...

My family has never cooked cabbage, so I'm really not at all familiar with it (except for raw, shredded red cabbage in salsas or salads). I suspect that both my grandmother and mother had to eat it too often as children (when it was undoubtedly boiled beyond recognition)

I guess I'm just a freak, then. I love brussel sprouts in any and all forms.

My favorite ways are:
either halved or shredded in the food processor then sauteed with butter (you have to pre-cook them a little if they're halved), or (tref) braised with bacon.

Roasted with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar is also delish.