Saturday, March 22, 2008


According to GLBTQ, an online encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer culture: 'The Radicalesbians was a short-lived but important group in the history of the lesbian and feminist movements. Its collectively-written "The Woman-Identified Woman" is a provocative manifesto that challenged all feminists to reconsider their conception of lesbians and lesbianism.

'The group, which formed in New York in 1970, at first used the name Lavender Menace in reaction to a remark by Betty Friedan, then president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), that lesbians constituted a "lavender menace" to the progress of the women's rights movement.

'A number of the original members of the Lavender Menace--Rita Mae Brown, Lois Hart, Barbara Love, and Ellen Shumsky among them--had previously belonged to the Gay Liberation Front, but had left because they felt that the organization placed a much higher priority on advancing the rights of gay men than those of lesbians.

'Although feminist groups had a less than stellar record on lesbian issues at that point, the members of the Lavender Menace believed that they might make better progress by working from within the women's movement rather than through the male-dominated gay rights movement. Several of the Lavender Menace women, including Brown, Cynthia Funk, and March Hoffman (later known as Artemis March), began traveling to feminist conferences, where they urged support for lesbian rights.

'The Lavender Menace chose the opening session of the Second Congress to Unite Women, held on the evening of May 1, 1970 in New York, to bring the issue to the fore.

'At the suggestion of Lavender Menace member Martha Shelley, the women had written a paper explaining the importance of lesbians to the women's liberation movement. Karla Jay, who also belonged to the Lavender Menace, identifies Hoffman as the "chief author," but the document was very much a group project, with a number of others helping to craft the statement.

'The Lavender Menace members placed copies of their manifesto on all the seats in the school auditorium where the women's congress was meeting, and then they staged a dramatic event. As the session was about to begin, they doused the lights. In the darkness seventeen women wearing lavender T-shirts with "LAVENDER MENACE" stenciled on them rushed in and formed a line in front of the stage.

'When the lights came back on, the Lavender Menace women announced their intention to discuss lesbian issues, and they invited others to join them. The Lavender Menace had planted some of its members in the audience to respond to this call in an apparently spontaneous display of support. The precaution proved unnecessary, however, because, as Lavender Menace member Jennifer Woodul recalled, "as soon as the floor was taken, women by droves began to come up on stage."

'Kate Millett, a chairwoman of the New York NOW chapter who was to preside at the opening meeting, had been informed by the Lavender Menace of the plan, and she encouraged the women of the Congress to listen to them.

(Rita Mae Brown in her Lavender Menace T-shirt)

'In the initial two-hour session the Lavender Menace members spoke of lesbianism and heterosexism. Over the next two days of the conference there were debates and workshops on lesbian issues. An all-women dance was also held.

'At the final assembly the Lavender Menace proposed a series of pro-lesbian resolutions that were adopted by the Congress. The Lavender Menace also called upon conference participants to join consciousness-raising groups, and some fifty women did so.

'The Lavender Menace subsequently changed its name to Lesbian Liberation and finally to Radicalesbians. Throughout its existence the group was committed to being non-hierarchical in structure and to making decisions by consensus. Inevitably, however, certain people took on de facto if unacknowledged leadership roles, causing resentments that prompted others to leave. In addition, the requirement of consensus on Radicalesbians decisions proved an impediment, as achieving unanimous opinions was often difficult.

'The Radicalesbians believed in absolute female separatism and refused to associate with men or with women who did not cut their ties to mainstream heterosexual society. They even denounced their recent ally Millett as a "collaborator."

'The Radicalesbians intolerance for gay and heterosexual men, bisexuals, and heterosexual women came to disturb certain members. Some, like Love, drifted back to the Gay Liberation Front or on to other organizations.

'Brown and Funk, two of the Radicalesbians' key members, moved from New York to Washington, D. C., where Brown would be among the founders of The Furies collective.

'By the end of 1971 attrition had taken a heavy toll, and the Radicalesbians soon disbanded.

'Despite the Radicalesbians' short existence as an organization, they have, in Jay's words, a "mythical stature" because of their bold action at the Second Congress to Unite Women, which was instrumental in bringing greater visibility to lesbians in the feminist movement. In addition, their "Woman-Identified Woman" is a classic document in lesbian-feminist history.' -- entry written by Linda Rapp

I have a copy of one of the original reproductions of this manifesto, printed on both sides of a parchment-colored sheet. I also have a beloved button, a limited run, which reads "A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explostion." It was almost indescribably liberating to see a meaning for woman that was outside the dominant group's view of us (whatever its mouthpiece). See what it means for us to define ourselves?

(This poster hung over my bed for years.)



What is a lesbian? A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion. She is the woman who, often beginning at an extremely early age, acts in accordance with her inner compulsion to be a more complete and freer human being than her society - perhaps then, but certainly later - cares to allow her. These needs and actions, over a period of years, bring her into painful conflict with people, situations, the accepted ways of thinking, feeling and behaving, until she is in a state of continual war with everything around her, and usually with her self. She may not be fully conscious of the political implications of what for her began as personal necessity, but on some level she has not been able to accept the limitations and oppression laid on her by the most basic role of her society--the female role. The turmoil she experiences tends to induce guilt proportional to the degree to which she feels she is not meeting social expectations, and/or eventually drives her to question and analyze what the rest of her society more or less accepts. She is forced to evolve her own life pattern, often living much of her life alone, learning usually much earlier than her "straight" (heterosexual) sisters about the essential aloneness of life (which the myth of marriage obscures) and about the reality of illusions. To the extent that she cannot expel the heavy socialization that goes with being female, she can never truly find peace with herself. For she is caught somewhere between accepting society's view of her - in which case she cannot accept herself - and coming to understand what this sexist society has done to her and why it is functional and necessary for it to do so. Those of us who work that through find ourselves on the other side of a tortuous journey through a night that may have been decades long. The perspective gained from that journey, the liberation of self, the inner peace, the real love of self and of all women, is something to be shared with all women - because we are all women.

It should first be understood that lesbianism, like male homosexuality, is a category of behavior possible only in a sexist society characterized by rigid sex roles and dominated by male supremacy. Those sex roles dehumanize women by defining us as a supportive/serving caste in relation to the master caste of men, and emotionally cripple men by demanding that they be alienated from their own bodies and emotions in order to perform their economic/political/military functions effectively. Homosexuality is a by-product of a particular way of setting up roles ( or approved patterns of behavior) on the basis of sex; as such it is an inauthentic ( not consonant with "reality") category. In a society in which men do not oppress women, and sexual expression is allowed to follow feelings, the categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality would disappear.

But lesbianism is also different from male homosexuality, and serves a different function in the society. "Dyke" is a different kind of put-down from "faggot", although both imply you are not playing your socially assigned sex role. . . are not therefore a "real woman" or a "real man. " The grudging admiration felt for the tomboy, and the queasiness felt around a sissy boy point to the same thing: the contempt in which women-or those who play a female role-are held. And the investment in keeping women in that contemptuous role is very great. Lesbian is a word, the label, the condition that holds women in line. When a woman hears this word tossed her way, she knows she is stepping out of line. She knows that she has crossed the terrible boundary of her sex role. She recoils, she protests, she reshapes her actions to gain approval. Lesbian is a label invented by the Man to throw at any woman who dares to be his equal, who dares to challenge his prerogatives (including that of all women as part of the exchange medium among men), who dares to assert the primacy of her own needs. To have the label applied to people active in women's liberation is just the most recent instance of a long history; older women will recall that not so long ago, any woman who was successful, independent, not orienting her whole life about a man, would hear this word. For in this sexist society, for a woman to be independent means she can't be a woman -- she must be a dyke. That in itself should tell us where women are at. It says as clearly as can be said: women and person are contradictory terms. For a lesbian is not considered a "real woman. " And yet, in popular thinking, there is really only one essential difference between a lesbian and other women: that of sexual orientation -- which is to say, when you strip off all the packaging, you must finally realize that the essence of being a "woman" is to get fucked by men.

"Lesbian" is one of the sexual categories by which men have divided up humanity. While all women are dehumanized as sex objects, as the objects of men they are given certain compensations: identification with his power, his ego, his status, his protection (from other males), feeling like a "real woman, " finding social acceptance by adhering to her role, etc. Should a woman confront herself by confronting another woman, there are fewer rationalizations, fewer buffers by which to avoid the stark horror of her dehumanized condition. Herein we find the overriding fear of many women toward being used as a sexual object by a woman, which not only will bring her no male-connected compensations, but also will reveal the void which is woman's real situation. This dehumanization is expressed when a straight woman learns that a sister is a lesbian; she begins to relate to her lesbian sister as her potential sex object, laying a surrogate male role on the lesbian. This reveals her heterosexual conditioning to make herself into an object when sex is potentially involved in a relationship, and it denies the lesbian her full humanity. For women, especially those in the movement, to perceive their lesbian sisters through this male grid of role definitions is to accept this male cultural conditioning and to oppress their sisters much as they themselves have been oppressed by men. Are we going to continue the male classification system of defining all females in sexual relation to some other category of people? Affixing the label lesbian not only to a woman who aspires to be a person, but also to any situation of real love, real solidarity, real primacy among women, is a primary form of divisiveness among women: it is the condition which keeps women within the confines of the feminine role, and it is the debunking/scare term that keeps women from forming any primary attachments, groups, or associations among ourselves.

Women in the movement have in most cases gone to great lengths to avoid discussion and confrontation with the issue of lesbianism. It puts people up-tight. They are hostile, evasive, or try to incorporate it into some ''broader issue. " They would rather not talk about it. If they have to, they try to dismiss it as a 'lavender herring. " But it is no side issue. It is absolutely essential to the success and fulfillment of the women's liberation movement that this issue be dealt with. As long as the label "dyke" can be used to frighten women into a less militant stand, keep her separate from her sisters, keep her from giving primacy to anything other than men and family-then to that extent she is controlled by the male culture. Until women see in each other the possibility of a primal commitment which includes sexual love, they will be denying themselves the love and value they readily accord to men, thus affirming their second-class status. As long as male acceptability is primary-both to individual women and to the movement as a whole-the term lesbian will be used effectively against women. Insofar as women want only more privileges within the system, they do not want to antagonize male power. They instead seek acceptability for women's liberation, and the most crucial aspect of the acceptability is to deny lesbianism - i. e., to deny any fundamental challenge to the basis of the female. It should also be said that some younger, more radical women have honestly begun to discuss lesbianism, but so far it has been primarily as a sexual "alternative" to men. This, however, is still giving primacy to men, both because the idea of relating more completely to women occurs as a negative reaction to men, and because the lesbian relationship is being characterized simply by sex, which is divisive and sexist. On one level, which is both personal and political, women may withdraw emotional and sexual energies from men, and work out various alternatives for those energies in their own lives. On a different political/psychological level, it must be understood that what is crucial is that women begin disengaging from male=defined response patterns. In the privacy of our own psyches, we must cut those cords to the core. For irrespective of where our love and sexual energies flow, if we are male-identified in our heads, we cannot realize our autonomy as human beings.

But why is it that women have related to and through men? By virtue of having been brought up in a male society, we have internalized the male culture's definition of ourselves. That definition consigns us to sexual and family functions, and excludes us from defining and shaping the terms of our lives. In exchange for our psychic servicing and for performing society's non-profit-making functions, the man confers on us just one thing: the slave status which makes us legitimate in the eyes of the society in which we live. This is called "femininity" or "being a real woman" in our cultural lingo. We are authentic, legitimate, real to the extent that we are the property of some man whose name we bear. To be a woman who belongs to no man is to be invisible, pathetic, inauthentic, unreal. He confirms his image of us - of what we have to be in order to be acceptable by him - but not our real selves; he confirms our womanhood-as he defines it, in relation to him- but cannot confirm our personhood, our own selves as absolutes. As long as we are dependent on the male culture for this definition. for this approval, we cannot be free.

The consequence of internalizing this role is an enormous reservoir of self-hate. This is not to say the self-hate is recognized or accepted as such; indeed most women would deny it. It may be experienced as discomfort with her role, as feeling empty, as numbness, as restlessness, as a paralyzing anxiety at the center. Alternatively, it may be expressed in shrill defensiveness of the glory and destiny of her role. But it does exist, often beneath the edge of her consciousness, poisoning her existence, keeping her alienated from herself, her own needs, and rendering her a stranger to other women. They try to escape by identifying with the oppressor, living through him, gaining status and identity from his ego, his power, his accomplishments. And by not identifying with other "empty vessels" like themselves. Women resist relating on all levels to other women who will reflect their own oppression, their own secondary status, their own self-hate. For to confront another woman is finally to confront one's self-the self we have gone to such lengths to avoid. And in that mirror we know we cannot really respect and love that which we have been made to be.

As the source of self-hate and the lack of real self are rooted in our male-given identity, we must create a new sense of self. As long as we cling to the idea of "being a woman, '' we will sense some conflict with that incipient self, that sense of I, that sense of a whole person. It is very difficult to realize and accept that being "feminine" and being a whole person are irreconcilable. Only women can give to each other a new sense of self. That identity we have to develop with reference to ourselves, and not in relation to men. This consciousness is the revolutionary force from which all else will follow, for ours is an organic revolution. For this we must be available and supportive to one another, give our commitment and our love, give the emotional support necessary to sustain this movement. Our energies must flow toward our sisters, not backward toward our oppressors. As long as woman's liberation tries to free women without facing the basic heterosexual structure that binds us in one-to-one relationship with our oppressors, tremendous energies will continue to flow into trying to straighten up each particular relationship with a man, into finding how to get better sex, how to turn his head around-into trying to make the "new man" out of him, in the delusion that this will allow us to be the "new woman. " This obviously splits our energies and commitments, leaving us unable to be committed to the construction of the new patterns which will liberate us.

It is the primacy of women relating to women, of women creating a new consciousness of and with each other, which is at the heart of women's liberation, and the basis for the cultural revolution. Together we must find, reinforce, and validate our authentic selves. As we do this, we confirm in each other that struggling, incipient sense of pride and strength, the divisive barriers begin to melt, we feel this growing solidarity with our sisters. We see ourselves as prime, find our centers inside of ourselves. We find receding the sense of alienation, of being cut off, of being behind a locked window, of being unable to get out what we know is inside. We feel a real-ness, feel at last we are coinciding with ourselves. With that real self, with that consciousness, we begin a revolution to end the imposition of all coercive identifications, and to achieve maximum autonomy in human expression.

copyright (C) 1970 by Radicalesbians. All rights reserved.

(Photo by Ellen Shumsky [a.k.a. Ellen Bedoz], one of the authors of The Woman-Identified Woman. This photo originally appeared in Motive, 1972, the lesbian/feminist issue edited by The Furies.)


Friday, March 21, 2008


Friends, I am participating in this weekend's Blog Against Theocracy event in the blogosphere. If you click on the link, you'll find a list of all the other blogs who are likewise participating, and discover some very fine reading, I'm sure. I'll be keeping my post on this at the top of my site all weekend, despite posting other essays later.


When I was thirteen years old, I became an atheist. I was definitely not pressured into this decision. My father's parents were fundamentalist Baptists -- Bible Baptists, as they are known in that part of Oklahoma. My father was not quite as vehement as them, but definitely carried their DNA. Mama had become a convert to Hinduism and the teachings of Edgar Caycee after our return from India, which certainly made her unique in the small Texas and Louisiana towns where we lived, but she was not an atheist. I had been pursued by the local Baptist Church in one town, where I prayed, learned missionary skills, and attended revivals.

Until I changed my mind. It was an honest comfort to give up on g*d and accept I was alone with things. Alone with all of humanity and nature and history, which was plenty. I had to keep my atheism secret, of course, except from my mother who was astonished but not upset with me.

(Easter 1967, Dilley, Texas: Maggie, age 11, and her little brother Bill, age 8)

As my adolescence progressed, so did my social conscience. By the time I was 20 and an official bleeding heart revolutionary, my ethics and morality were at fever pitch. I explored and became comfortable with other spiritualities -- wicca, Judaism, Buddhism, the Society of Friends -- but as cultures, without an accompanying belief in g*d. I liked being an atheist. It gave me freedom, especially of the mind.

Things began changing, again without an outside influence I can trace, when I was in my early 40s. I began, slowly, to have creeping tendrils of what, for lack of a better word, I called faith. Faith in something immense, unknowable, which loved me (in an abstract way) and all the universe, something which was the universe and yet also distinguishable from it. At that point in my life, I had a good job, a strong community, my health and a sense of hope. I didn't need g*d, but there she appeared.

I was enormously upset by this internal change. It was akin to giving up being a lesbian, that cataclysmic an identity change. I didn't talk to anyone about it for a long time. When I did confide in friends, a few were upset with me. Some didn't see what the big deal was. One or two were going through a similar experience, which was a relief.

I found I wanted to talk over -- well, deism -- with people for whom it had always existed. The faithful, as it were. But I was terrified of being preached to again. Eventually, I found two women at work, both friends, who became trustworthy confidants. Both of them were devout Christians, one from a scarily Baptist background, the other German Catholic. But, to their everlasting credit, they each absolutely resisted any urge to proselytize. They listened, explained concepts and terms when asked, and, repeatedly, affirmed that it was fine for me to doubt. One friend held me on a beach as I wept, looking up at the stars and freaking out about the very idea of g*d. She never said one word I could construe as a push.

That was 1997 or 1998. A decade later, I'm still feeling my way. Most days, I'm a deist, though not every single day. I have intermittent faith, idiosyncratic definitions, and no conviction there is an afterlife. I do not believe I am made in g*d's image, I assign a female gender to g*d only to make a fucking point, and I don't think g*d is looking out for me (EVER) in an individual way. I resist egotism and arrogance as part of faith, to the best of my ability. And I am definitely not a Christian.

A couple of years after I had to give up being an atheist, my world crashed and has not stopped deteriorating. I lost everything I listed above as my assets, except my inner strength and self-love. I even lost my brain for a while. I'm grateful that my shift in identity occurred before this crash, so I have no doubts about why I might have changed. I didn't have to find g*d, I wasn't driven to it by desperation. That's important to me.

But the point about the timing of it all that I want to make for this essay is: I am not convinced my coworkers would now be able to resist the temptation to preach at me. Nor can I imagine myself now feeling the same degree of trust in conversation with those who are practicing Christians. We have, as a culture, been shoved toward theocracy so hard, so contemptuously, that polarization has crept into personal relationships everywhere.

Freedom of religion includes freedom FROM religion.

The idea that our governing institutions must include religious ideology is an ancient one, suited perhaps to small homogenous groups whose culture was also governed by geography. We outgrew its utility long before we finally adopted another way of doing things, just as we've outgrown economies long before they stop enslaving increasing numbers of the citizenry. It's manifestly clear that those who advocate a return to theocracy do so for either emotional (fear-based) reasons or its advantage in wielding power, or both.

It isn't enough to simply tell them No at every opportunity (which we still have not done). We have to refuse to allow them to frame the discourse. The change in atmosphere as indicated in my own personal life above reveals how successful the theocrats have been in subverting our belief system in this country. Fortunately, I don't have to explain here how this was accomplished and how we can change things: Someone else, Sara Robinson, has written it far better than I could in her series on Learning From The Cultural Conservatives at Campaign for America's Future (hat tip to Jesse Wendel at Group News Blog for promoting these essays and gathering the links together). Read them with enjoyment at --
Part I Messing With Their Minds
Part II Talking Up The Worldview
Part III Taking It To The Street

I'm going to focus, instead, on advocating the removal of existing theocracy from our current government, and that's the institution of marriage. As a lesbian-feminist, I have absolutely no interest in trying to make the definition of marriage as it exists stretch to cover me and mine. I of course comprehend the need for all the tax breaks, legal protection, and validation of our families that occurs with state-sanctioned definitions. But "marriage" carries a residue of religious meaning that taints it, in my opinion.

What I want is for the government to stop conferring legal value to ANY marriages, anywhere; to switch the definitions and support to civil unions, without discrimination as to how those unions are formed; and leave marriage to religious institutions. It's a relic, like baptism or many funeral services. We bury the dead without necessarily invoking g*d, let's do the same for those creating loving commitments that they wish to have legally recognized -- just as we grant divorces without church interference.

And, while I feel concern for all those children being raised in toxic religious environments, kept from public schools or association with those whose belief systems differ, indoctrinated with fear and judgment -- and I do worry about their eventual dysfunctionality when unleashed upon our real world out here -- still, I know the best and brightest of them will find a way to independent thought, reality-based ethics, and love amongst us heathens. After all, I did.



Another excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. The action in the story resumes immediately after my post yesterday. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

Mid December 2006

The next time they saw Nancy, as she was muscle testing Myra, she peered at her face and said "The dark rings around your eyes are wider than usual. Are you feeling all right?"

"Tired, too much. I'm not sleeping right" said Myra.

"What do you mean, specifically?" said Nancy.

"I wake up two or three times during the night. Usually just for a minute or two. But I've had some bad dreams" said Myra. "Not anything that makes sense to me. Like, twice I've dreamed there's something terribly wrong with my car. But there isn't, not in real life."

"Give me the details" said Nancy, her round face looking more serious than usual.

"Well, it's not even my current car, it's the Honda I had when I met Ginny. Which was a little red Civic I bought used after I won the lottery. Her name was Akai Kokoro, which I thought meant 'red heart' in Japanese, although I've had people tell me since that's not quite right. Anyhow, in the dream Chris and I are trying really hard to find out what's wrong with it -- it runs just fine, but somehow we know there's a major problem with the carburetor" said Myra.

Nancy spread her palm over Myra's chest, where her heart would be, her face now extremely somber. Ginny was leaning forward, watching them intently. Nancy muttered to herself, took Myra's pulses, and shook her head. She said "Are you sure it was the carburetor? And -- that's the fuel feed in a car, right?"

"Right on both. But, in the wacky way of dreams, mine wasn't in the engine compartment, it was underneath the back seat. Chris was trying to pull out the back cushions to locate it, I remember" said Myra.

Nancy's eyes registered comprehension. She moved her palm so it rested over Myra's lower abdomen, near her bladder, Myra thought. She muttered some more, this time nodding. She said "How long has it been since you had a gynecological check-up?"

Myra willed herself not to look Ginny's way. Ginny had been on her ass about this for years.

"I had a Pap at the women's clinic four years ago. I don't remember the last time I had a pelvic. Frankly, I haven't needed one. And, I'm in menopause, I think, I'm not having periods any more" said Myra.

Nancy took both her hands and said "I want you to promise me you will go see a gynecologist as soon as you can get in, and have a full work-up."

Myra felt a small chill. "All right" she said, a little reluctantly. "What is it, Nancy?"

"I can't tell precisely, but the chi is wrong. Something's blocked. If the regular work-up finds nothing, call me and I'll recommend another kind of practitioner" said Nancy. "Western medicine first, in this case."

On the way home, Ginny rested her hand on the back of Myra's seat, her fingers lightly touching Myra's shoulder. "Aren't you going to say 'I told you so'?" asked Myra.

"No" said Ginny gently.

At the house, Myra picked up the mail inside the front door and walked with it to her desk. She began sorting it and opening the more interesting items. Ginny appeared beside her, lifted the phone receiver and said "Dr. Desai. Call now."

Stifling a sigh, Myra pushed the speed dial button. She began the process of making an appointment. Ginny stayed beside her, and when Myra repeated "Three weeks? That's the soonest?" she heard Ginny make an exasperated sound. After she hung up, she faced Ginny and said "I'm new to their system, and I didn't think me explaining I had a dream about a carburetor and my energy worker said to get my plumbing checked out would actually get me processed any faster." Ginny smiled tightly and went to write the appointment on the refrigerator calendar. It was the day after Gillam's 16th birthday, January 4th.

Ginny accompanied her to the visit with Dr. Desai. When Myra explained why she had requested the work-up, Dr. Desai didn't laugh. She asked Myra how long it had been since she'd had a menstrual period.

"I'm not sure" began Myra, but Ginny interjected "Eighteen months." Dr. Desai took blood pressure, weighed her, and put her hand on Myra's face to lightly finger her chin and upper neck. She asked "If you didn't pluck, how much facial hair do you think you would have?"

Her cheeks hot, Myra said "Maybe a goatee. It's growing in white now, and not as thick as it used to be."

Myra was instructed to strip and put on a gown. Dr. Desai did a breast exam, and when Ginny spoke up again to say "We do that for each other every month", Dr. Desai grinned and replied "Good. Looks fine to me."

Myra then lay back and put her sock feet into stirrups. She'd been with Ginny for her exams, ages ago when she was pregnant, so she knew Dr. Desai had an endearing way of narrating what she was doing ahead of time, making sure there were no surprises. The speculum was a little tight, and the rectal exam was unpleasant, but Myra cracked herself up by reminding herself to "Think of Stonehenge".

When she sat back up, Dr. Desai pulled off her latex gloves and said "Don't get dressed just yet. I suspect you have a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome. It seems, in my practice at least, to be more prevalent among lesbians than non. I can run blood tests, but I'd also like to do an endometrial biopsy, to assess the condition of your endometrium. That's the lining of your uterus. It's a brief procedure, and I can do it right now."

"What -- what's involved?" asked Myra, trying to memorize terms.

"I'll pass a small instrument into your uterus through your cervix and extract a tiny bit of tissue. We don't anesthetize women for this, it's not invasive enough" said Dr. Desai.

Myra thought it sounded extremely invasive. Dr. Desai went on, "You will feel perhaps thirty seconds, at most, of intense pain and your uterus may spasm. But then I'll be done, and the contraction will end, with no residual discomfort."

Myra never trusted how doctors talked about discomfort, a word they took far too lightly, in her opinion. She thought of the line in the Princess Bride, "I do not think that word means what you think it means." If Ginny had not been there, she might have tried to make a run for it. She shivered once and said "All right, let's do it."

She was glad for Dr. Desai's warning. It hurt like a fucker -- it hurt exactly as you'd imagine from someone chomping out a bit of an internal organ. The tenaculum opening her cervix was no fucking walk in the park, either. When she sat back up, she was a little woozy. Ginny made Myra lean on her and Dr. Desai's nurse bustled to get some juice for Myra.

After she was dressed and breathing normally again, Dr. Desai explained polycystic ovary syndrome, saying the estrogen her body produced was going "unopposed", so she had excess amounts which led to persistent weight gain and an altered metabolism that, in most instances, could not be affected. To compensate, her body tried to produce androgen, creating facial hair growth and inhibiting her periods. She said there was a grave risk in the latter, because her uterus was still laying down a layer of rich tissue for possible egg fertilization each month. When no egg was successfully extruded by her ovaries, two negative consequences were the creation of a cyst on her ovaries and retention of the endometrial lining. This increasingly dense and aging matter was a sitting duck for any malignant cell that might happen upon it.

"I'm going to put you on progestin, which is one ingredient in the birth control pill cycle, but just for ten days a month. It should induce a period" said Dr. Desai. She handed Myra a sample pack. "Start today, stop after ten days, and call me if you don't have a period within two weeks of that. I'll let you know the results of your biopsy, and the laboratory studies I want you to get on your way out. We'll decide what to do from there."

Ginny thanked her fervently. Myra got woozy again from the blood draw, and once they were in the car, she said to Ginny "I want to go to a diner. I want a Coke and a cheeseburger."

Ginny didn't argue. She ordered a tuna melt, and while they were waiting on their food, she said "Did you look at those instruments she used?"

"No" said Myra emphatically, "And I don't want to hear about them. Listen, could we just get a newspaper, split it and read like morose married people you always see in restaurants?"

Ginny grinned and slid out of the booth to go buy the paper. By the end of the meal, Myra felt okay again. She took the first of the little white pills from the punchcard with her Coke.

Four days later, Myra woke up in the morning from an intensely erotic dream. She peed, then went looking for Ginny, who was laying out materials for grinding pigment.

"Ahh, can you wait on starting that?" said Myra coaxingly. "Come back to bed, I had this dream about you." Ginny raised her eyebrows, but after a little kissing, she followed Myra to their bedroom. They made love again that night, and the following day, after breakfast, Myra sat down at her desk but could not stop thinking about the night before. Finally, as Ginny was clearing their plates from lunch, she said "I want to go back to bed with you."

Ginny laughed incredulously. "Is this those pills you're taking, or something else?" she asked.

"I don't know. I feel like I'm in heat" said Myra. "If it's too much to ask you, I can look for that vibrator in the closet."

"Fat chance" said Ginny, drying her hands. Some time later, when they had both come and were lying together, slightly sticky, Myra whispered "If this is going to happen every month, we may have to plan around it."

"I remember when I was trying to get pregnant, having ovulatory cycles where I couldn't seem to get enough of you" said Ginny. "We were younger and freer then, though."

"I feel like I want you to get me pregnant" said Myra in a husky voice. Ginny looked at her, and rolled over on top of her.

The next day, Dr. Desai called to say the blood results were in and Myra was slightly anemic. "If you eat red meat, you might want to up the quantity a little" she said.

"No shit?" said Myra unguardedly. She covered her profanity by saying "I mean, zounds! I may need a doctor's note from you to convince Ginny."

"Spinach is also a good choice" laughed Dr. Desai.

But steaks were something Myra had been craving, and to Gillam's delight, beef began appearing on the dinner menu three times a week. The ninth day of her progestin, she woke up to find she was spotting. By that evening, she was bleeding more heavily than she ever had in her life. For the next two days, she couldn't leave the house. Even wearing a tampon and a maxi-pad, she had to carry an old towel around with her to sit on because she bled through anything she wore in less than an hour. She was definitely no longer interested in sex, and she became weepy at the drop of a hat.

She also began singing the Berkeley Women's Music Collective under her breath several times a day:

You might think it's ludicrous
But when the moon is full I feel my uterus
And I know the time's a-comin', comin' soon
Some sisters get down on menstruation
But there's no need for sad desperation
There's a new day comin' when you get the bloods again

Because you know you're body is a-workin' all right
If you had self-help you could watch all night
Get yer speculum at the neighborhood clinic
Learn about yer cervix and what's in it
There's a new day comin' when you get the bloods again

That weekend, when Carly was there, he finally asked "What is that you keep singing?" Myra took him to her study and put on the album. Gillam tagged along, covering his embarrassment by flipping through Myra's collection of women's music. Carly kept laughing until the song was over. "My moms don't listen to any of this" he said.

Gillam had stopped at the Izquierda album and said "I don't remember ever hearing any of these". Myra looked to see if Ginny was in the back yard before answering "Yeah, I love it but Ginny gets twitchy when I play it. Her ex was in that group."

"Who?" demanded Gillam, shocked. Myra pointed her out on the album cover. Gillam peppered her with questions about Ginny's relationship with this woman, staring at her if they was long-lost kin.

"Wanna hear her voice? Here, this song has her coming clearly through" said Myra, switching out vinyl on her record player. It was only halfway done when Ginny came in the sliding door and stopped in her tracks. Gillam tried to hide the cardboard sleeve behind his back, which brought Ginny immediately over. She lifted the needle and turned off the stereo, saying "If you have questions about my past, ask me". But she didn't wait for a reply, walking the flat-footed way she did when she was angry toward the front of the house.

Gillam looked at the album picture again and whispered "She looks goofy."

"She wasn't" said Myra. "She was a good first lover, and, the thing is, Ginny was always a catch." She didn't whisper, hoping Ginny might hear it. It was the truth. Gillam grinned and handed her back the album as he and Carly left.

Dr. Desai called back on Monday to say the biopsy had revealed "dysplastic tissue". "What does that mean?" said Myra, feeling another chill.

"It means overgrowth and some anomalies, but not frankly carcinogenic. However, I'm concerned that your period is not purge enough. I want to do a D and C" said Dr. Desai.

"You mean, like an abortion?" asked Myra.

"It's used for some terminations and miscarriages, yes, but technically it's scraping the inside of your uterus down to clean lining" said Dr. Desai.

"Please tell me I get anesthetic for this" said Myra.

"Oh, yes, we'll give you general. It's a day surgery, you'll go home afterward. I'm going to transfer you to my scheduler, I like to do these first thing in the morning so you'll have the afternoon and evening to recover, although mostly it's just the after-effects of the anesthesia you'll have to contend with. We'll send the findings to pathology and that way we won't have to worry about what's going on with you" said Dr. Desai.

Ginny came in from her studio as Myra scheduled the surgery for January 24th, rubbing the back of Myra's head reassuringly. When Myra got off the phone, she breathed in raggedly and said "Gin...I've never had anesthesia like this. I've never had real surgery."

"It's way better than it used to be" said Ginny. "Very safe. And when you get home, I'll give you all the ice cream you want." Myra giggled, and said "A Coke float?"

"If that's how you want it" grinned Ginny. Myra didn't know why that helped, but it did.

Until she began going online to research the procedure. She began at WebMD, then quickly got sucked into chat rooms and bulletin boards. A couple of hours later, Ginny came to ask her a question and discovered Myra pale and wide-eyed.

"Sometimes the curet slips and tears a hole through the uterus!" she said anxiously. "If the bladder gets punctured, that's it, you're on a catheter for the rest of your life. And you'd be amazed at how many people wake up during surgery, they can feel everything that's happening but they're paralyzed and can't move or tell anyone they're awake -- "

Ginny interrupted this stream of horror with "What the fuck are you reading? Myra, these are anecdotal, people telling their stories for dramatic effect. Get out of there, you don't need to hear this shit." She clicked off the connection and titled Myra's face up to her, saying "You're my lucky dyke, remember?"

Myra pressed her face against Ginny's belly, the source of their children, and let the warmth seep into her. "Call Nancy" said Ginny. "Let's get some extra sessions with her, before the surgery."

"Okay" said Myra, her voice muffled by Ginny's shirt.

Late January 2007

Myra went in for her D&C on Wednesday morning. Gillam begged to be allowed to stay home from school so he could go to the hospital with her and Ginny, but Myra said no. She insisted it was a minor surgery, not enough to miss school for, and her refusal actually helped reassure him. Allie came over at 6:15 a.m. and stayed at the house to eat breakfast with the kids and get them to school while Ginny drove Myra to the hospital. The surgery was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. and should be over by 9:00; Allie, Chris and Sima all planned to be there when Myra got out. Edwina could not take the morning off work.

In the preop room of Day Surgery, Myra was put into an inadequate hospital gown, booties that were slickly dangerous to walk in, and given a few pills to take. She was grateful for the sips of water that accompanied these pills; her mouth was already dry. She sat next to Ginny, holding her hand, in a roomful of people about to have hernias repaired and tubes tied. She was keyed up to the point where she could not converse with Ginny. Her other friends had not been allowed in this far. She felt very cold and fragile.

Finally a tech came to get her. Apparently, she was supposed to walk to the operating room on her own, which was not how it happened on TV. She gave Ginny a final kiss, said "I love you" in a pathetic voice, and shuffled carefully down the long hallway to a pair of gleaming double doors. The room beyond was shockingly chilly and bright, and looked to her much like a torture chamber. The operating table had a little footstool in front of it. The nurse told her to get up on the table and position her groin over a large hole in the table. She found this callous in the extreme.

Once she was lying down, people began doing things all around her, some doing things to her. A clip was pressed onto her fingertip. Her booties were removed and her gown was pushed up, with blue cloths laid over her. An IV was pushed into the arm opposite the clip on her finger, and the anesthesiologist told her she should start relaxing soon. She felt, instead, panic flood her chest and she was just about to sit up and yell that she had changed her mind when Dr. Desai walked in, fast and confident. She came straight to Myra, pushed the footstool up next to the table and climbed high enough so she could lean over the table partly onto Myra's chest. Her weight and warmth were intensely comforting. She looked down into Myra's face and said "It's okay, it's going to be fine." Then she asked "What's Gillam's favorite sport?"

Myra thought of Gillam, his beautiful face, and answered "Swimming. He loves to swim."

Dr. Desai grinned and said "What's his best stroke?"

Myra was about to answer "Butterfly" but the lights went out.

The next thing that happened was a nurse she didn't know leaning into her face -- where was Dr. Desai? -- saying "Wake up, Ms. Josong. You're surgery's over, you're in recovery. Everything went fine. Wake up, now." Myra croaked "Really" and the nurse nodded. There was a big black and white clock on the far wall, and Myra saw that 45 minutes had passed. Wow. Time travel.

The nurse gave Myra a piece of ice to suck on and took all her vitals. Nothing hurt; she couldn't tell they had done anything at all to her. Then a big young man in scrubs came to the head of her bed and said he was going to take her to aftercare. He pushed her bed away from the wall and began rolling it toward another set of swinging doors. He whacked the doors with the bed and they were out in a wide hall, with sunlight coming through windows at the end. Halfway down the hall was a bench, and sitting on the bench, looking away from her, were Ginny, Sima, Chris and Allie all in a row. Their faces were serious.

Myra raised an arm and yelled toward them. "Hey!" They all turned their heads at the same instant, as if on a connected pivot, and looked at her anxiously. She called out "It's a girl!"

They all cracked up in unholy relief, but so did the guy pushing her bed and he ran the bed into the wall. Saying "Oh, fuck" he straightened it back out. Myra was laughing her ass off. Ginny got to her first and stopped the forward motion again by hopping partly onto the bed and kissing Myra vigorously.

She was taken to a small room. She asked to go to the bathroom, and the nurse handed her a pad to put in her panties. It was hard to do with an IV in her arm, and she opened the door and asked for help. Ginny got there first. "Are you bleeding?" she asked, trying to bend down far enough to see Myra's genitals.

"I don't think so. Maybe a few drops."

"Is there any pain?"

"No, not a twinge."

Myra was kept in this room, sitting up on the bed with her friends lounging around her, for the next couple of hours. A nurse showed up periodically to check her vitals. Ginny called Gillam on her cell phone and Myra talked to him for a few minutes, telling him about how Dr. Desai had calmed her down. His voice was high with relief. They called Margie too and left her a message. Finally her IV was pulled out and she was released home. They gave her a big sheet of instructions, including a frightening list of complications to watch out for, and a bottle of Vicodin. She tried to refuse the Vicodin but the nurse insisted she could not take it back.

At home, Ginny pulled out a deep red veggie stew she had made according to instructions from Nancy, containing vegetables and herbs that were uterotonic. Myra said she really wasn't hungry yet; maybe a glass of milk. She felt drifty, and time was passing in jerks, not smoothly. Ginny said it was the effects of anesthesia, and she let Myra have half a glass of milk but insisted she drink another glass each of water and then cranberry juice, to flush the anesthesia out of her system faster. Myra sat down on the couch and Ginny got behind her to hold her, which felt extremely good. Chris and Allie went into the kitchen to make lunch for the rest of them; the veggie stew was only for Myra. Sima sat and talked with Ginny. Myra wasn't up for conversation, really.

They all ate in the living room so Myra didn't have to move, munching on toasted sandwiches of leftover roast chicken and avocado and swigging vanilla cream soda from bottles. Chris tried to tempt Myra with a mayonnaisy piece of avocado, but she still wasn't hungry. Allie asked Ginny three times when the biopsy results would be in.

After lunch, Chris and Sima left, kissing Myra goodbye sweetly. She felt really attached to everybody and wished they weren't going. Allie said she would stay, and asked if Myra needed to sleep. Myra lay down on the couch, and Allie covered her with a quilt, but she couldn't keep her eyes closed. Finally she sat back up and asked if they could watch a movie.

"Nothing scary" said Ginny. "Nothing intense in any way. I don't know how suggestible you are with whatever they gave you still in your system."

"But please, no Doris Day" whispered Allie to Ginny. They looked through the movies and finally settled on Singing In The Rain. As the movie began, Myra said "Gene Kelly was a Leo, you know." After a few seconds, she said "So was James Baldwin."

Allie put the movie on pause. "How did you go from Gene Kelly to James Baldwin?"

"Gene is so hunky, even I'm attracted to him. He's got thighs like Ginny. And all the gay guys I knew in college were sure he was a closet case, they wanted him bad. And James Baldwin is a gay boy."

"But I don't see the transition" said Allie.

Myra looked at her blankly.

"Never mind" said Allie, starting the movie again.

Myra kept having to pee. Her bladder was not holding as much as usual, it seemed, and Ginny was pushing fluids. There was no blood coming out of her, which was good.

When Gillam got home, he dropped his pack on the floor and got on the couch at Myra's feet, holding them in his lap. Allie said she would run on home now, and Myra motioned her down for a kiss, saying "I love you ever so, ever so, you are my dream come true". Allie blushed and said "I love you too, My." Gillam giggled.

Half an hour later, Margie got home and Myra told her stories all over again. Margie went into the kitchen and Myra heard her ask Ginny in a low voice "Is she really okay?" Ginny told her yes, and when Margie returned, her shoulders had loosened up noticeably.

Myra decided she could eat something now, and Ginny heated up the stew. She made fish tacos for herself and the kids, and let them have the last of the pie. Myra wanted to watch another movie. She asked if they could watch maybe Alien Resurrection, it was not as scary as the rest, and Ginny said "No" emphatically. She put in Some Like It Hot. Myra ate all her stew, even though it seemed odd-tasting, and drank all the water and cranberry juice Ginny brought her. Ginny sat on the floor in front of her, and Myra kept leaning over and kissing Ginny's cheek or neck, saying "I am so crazy about you." Then she'd nudge Gillam with her feet and say "I'm so crazy about you, too. You were the sweetest baby in the whole world. I never wanted to put you down, you were such a cuddler." Gillam was embarrassed but didn't really mind it.

When Margie came back downstairs, Myra began rambling about all the ways Margie changed their lives for the better by being born. Margie fled after twenty minutes.

After the movie, Ginny said Gillam should do his homework. He sat at the dining table instead of going to his room, and Myra lay on the couch, staring up at the ceiling. Ginny did a few chores, made a couple of calls, fed the animals, and packed Gillam a lunch for the next day, checking in on Myra every so often. Myra was placid. At 9:30, Ginny sent Gillam up to bed. He gave Myra a smacky kiss and thundered up the stairs. Ginny pulled Myra to her feet and they went into the bedroom. Myra was walking more steadily now. She pulled off her clothes, including the panties with the pad which she didn't need, and got into bed. Ginny locked up and joined her.

"Are you going to be able to sleep?" asked Ginny, pulling Myra's head onto her shoulder.

"I don't know. But I don't care. I'm just happy to be with you. You go on to sleep, I'm fine."

"I'm crazy about you, too, Myra."

"I know it."

Myra lay in the dark, listening to Ginny's heartbeat under her ear. After a while, she shifted onto the pillow and pulled Ginny over on her chest. Ginny was already sacked out, but even unconscious she cupped Myra's breast in her hand and pressed her forehead against Myra's neck. Myra was so full of love for Ginny, it seemed to pulsate inside her. She could hear the house creak and settle, mixed with Ginny's breathing and occasional rustles as she shifted but always stayed pressed up against Myra.

It was long past midnight when Myra finally drifted off. She woke up an hour later, disoriented and needing to pee. When she went to the bathroom, she decided she had been trying to dream but somehow it didn't work right and instead woke her up. She crawled back in with Ginny and slept in pieces until the next morning when Ginny awoke to get the kids ready for school. She was dozing when Ginny kissed her and said "Myra, baby -- I'm going to drop off Gillam, Margie's already left, and I need to run by the store quickly. Will you be okay for an hour?"

Myra opened her eyes and said "Yeah. I'm feeling a little bit more here. Wake me when you get back, okay?"

After Ginny and Gillam left, Myra got up and went to the bathroom. She peed a lot, then decided she needed to move her bowels. When she stood up to flush, she looked into the toilet and was frozen in horror to see large clots of blood among her stool. She wiped herself with a piece of toilet paper -- it wasn't in her urine or coming from her vagina, it must have come from her rectum. She dropped the toilet paper on the floor because she had to lean against the sink, suddenly dizzy.

She ran clumsily to the breakfast bar where Ginny had put all the papers from the hospital. On the list of complications, there it was -- bowel perforation. Somehow the curet had punctured her uterus into her bowel. Holy fuck.

She picked up the phone to call Ginny, but then noticed Ginny's cell was lying there on the counter. She rushed back into the bedroom to get dressed, and as she was pulling on shoes and socks, she dialed Allie. Her voice mail picked up. Fucking hell. She hung up and called Chris's work number. Thank god, Chris answered.

"Chris? I just went to the toilet and I'm passing chunks of blood from my bowels, I must have a perforation. Ginny's gone and won't be back for an hour, I need to get to the emergency room."

"Oh god, Myra. Are you in pain?"

"No, none at all. I guess I haven't had time yet to get peritonitis. Oh, god, Chris, this is going to mean abdominal surgery, emergency surgery."

"Listen, Myra, I got dropped off by Sima today but I'll go catch a cab. Don't try to drive, wait for me. I want you to call Sima and stay on the phone with her until I get there, I'm scared you're going to pass out."

At that moment, Myra heard the front door open. "Who's there?" she yelled.

"It's me, honey. I left my phone and my wallet." Ginny appeared in the bedroom door and said "What's wrong?"

"Ginny, I'm bleeding out my ass, we have to get to the emergency room right away." Myra forgot about Chris on the line.

"Oh god, Myra, let me see, is it soaking through your pants? Do we need to put a pack on it?"

"No, it's not coming out there, but it was in my bowel movement just now."

Ginny headed into the bathroom, saying "Did you flush?"

"Don't look in there, Ginny, I don't want you looking at my poop." The minute it was out of her mouth, Myra realized how stupid that was coming from someone who was about to have bowel surgery.

But Ginny was back in the doorway from the bathroom, laughing. Laughing so hard she had to lean on the door facing.

"What?" said Myra, horrified at Ginny's apparent break from reality.

"It's beets" Ginny gasped. "The stew I gave you was full of beets, that's what's in your poop. Not blood -- beets."

Myra became aware of a high thin shriek coming from the phone receiver. She put it back up to her ear and heard Chris in wild hysterics. "Chris -- Chris, can you stop laughing long enough to talk -- Chris, I'm hanging up now. I'll call you later."

Myra's adrenaline plummeted. She lay back on the bed and put her arm over her eyes. Ginny jumped onto the bed beside her, still lost to laughter, and hugged her.

"Oh, my darling dimwit!" said Ginny. "Can you imagine the face of the emergency room doctor when they figured out what was really going with you?"

Myra finally began laughing, too. "I don't suppose there's any way to keep this from getting around" she said.

"No, this is priceless!" said Ginny. "Thank god I came back when I did. Oh, Myra. You know, if you ate beets more often this might not have caught you by surprise."

"I eat beets plenty. It was just the aftereffects of the anesthesia" said Myra.

"Okay, we'll go with that explanation. Oh, Myra, angel. Life with you is never dull." Ginny kissed her and got up to flush the toilet.

Myra found herself still unable to fully concentrate that day, so she made bread early, created casseroles, and eventually joined Ginny in the garden to weed. Ginny seemed to be keeping herself from starting a canvas, and she was a little short-tempered without noticing it. The following day, when Myra got up Friday morning, she felt right again. She went into the kitchen where Ginny was washing lettuce and said "Go. Paint. I know you're overdue."

Ginny fixed a slightly turbid gaze on her and said "Honestly?"

"Yep. I'll spin this dry and put it away, go now." Ginny kissed her and walked eagerly back to her studio. When Myra was through with her breakfast, she sat down and found she could write. Hallelujah. A few hours later, she was interrupted by the phone ringing. She glanced at the clock -- fuck, it was 3:00, she'd worked through lunch. She could smell linseed oil from Ginny's studio.

It was Dr. Desai. "Calling to check up on me?" asked Myra.

"No, I've got your path results. The pathology from the tissue I extracted with the curettage" said Dr. Desai. "Listen, is Ginny there with you?"

Myra stopped breathing. And, suddenly, Ginny was right beside her. How does she do that? Myra thought.

"Yes" she croaked.

"Myra, you have a polyp that's malignant. It's cancer. Uterine cancer. You're going to need a hysterectomy."



Self-portrait of Alison Bechdel, from the interview with her by Anne Crémieux at TransAtlantica. © Alison Bechdel.

This was posted by me in the comments at Dykes To Watch Out For as fun for my colleagues there. I'm posting here with the answers. If you're a DTWOF fan, the answers form a familiar pattern. Go to the link above to see the original quiz, jump to after the fold for the solution.

DykoGeek, the game that combines geography, literary references, language and history for the ultimate puzzle with a Dykes To Watch Out For theme. See if you can decipher the following eleven clues (and if you can, then create another puzzle for us!):

[1] In the Stephen King Novel The Dark Half, these creatures are called “psychopomps,” creatures that carry spirits from the land of the dead to the land of the living. [Sparrows]

[2] A fictional FBI officer who was raised in a small town in West Virginia, with her father (a police officer). When she was about ten years old, her father was shot by robbers. He died a month after the incident. She was was then sent to live on a sheep farm with her uncle, where a significant incident occurred. [Clarice Starling]

[3] The edible rhizome section of a perennial plant commonly used as a spice, originating in China which continues to lead the world in its production with a global share of almost 25% followed by India, Nepal and Indonesia. [Ginger]

[4] Grandmother of Saint Timothy, this woman is noted for her piety and faith, and probably lived in Lystra, a city in what is now modern Turkey. Lystra is located south of Konya, a city previously known as Iconium. [Lois]

[5] This fortress was a military barracks built by Herod the Great in Jerusalem on the site of an earlier Hasmonean stronghold, named after Herod’s patron. It is thought that the area where the fortress was located possibly later became the site of the Praetorium. The Praetorium, or Pretorium, is thought to be the place where Jesus was taken to stand before Pilate. [Antonia Fortress, i.e., Toni]

[6] Another name for the Chinese constellation known as the Horn mansion, one of the eastern mansions of the Azure Dragon. [Jiăo constellation]

[7] Small towns of the same name, with a few hundred to approximately 14,000 people, occurring in Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Virginia. [Stuart]

[8] The most populous city in Australia, with a metropolitan area population of approximately 4.28 million, the state capital of New South Wales, and the site of the first European colony in Australia. [Sydney]

[9] The “Show Me” state. [Missouri, i.e., Mo]

[10] A Galápagos tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus porteri) who had an estimated age of 175 years at the time of her death in Australia. She was reportedly collected by Charles Darwin during his 1835 visit to the Galápagos Islands as part of his round-the-world survey expedition, transported to England, and then brought to her final home, Australia, by a retiring captain of the Beagle. [Harriet]

[11] An Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, usually known by his first name, celebrated for the perfection and grace of his paintings and drawings. His career falls naturally into three phases and three styles: his early years in Umbria, then a period of about four years absorbing the artistic traditions of Florence, followed by his last hectic and triumphant twelve years in Rome, working for two Popes and their close associates. [Raphael, i.e., Raffi]


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ginny Bates: The Shopping Spree at PSAW

(PSAW, 404 Pine Street, Burlington, Vermont)

This is a follow-up to the previous chapter of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates, where Myra and Gina go to the Alison Bechdel/Phranc art show at Pine Street Art Works, the gallery of Liza Cowan, and buy a great deal of woman-produced or woman-managed art. The final tally is after the fold.

If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.


For Allie:
(Chickens in White Frame, painting by Liza Cowan -- for Allie, who reminisces often about her Nana's chickens)

For Edwina:
(Mad Beads, a bracelet for Edwina)

For Chris:
(Blue Rider, painting by Liza Cowan -- for Chris, of course)

For Sima:
(Mikie the Yeshiva Girl, photo by Liza Cowan -- for Sima, who thinks its a hoot)

For Gillam:
(A camera lamp by Christy Mitchell, photo by Liza Cowan -- for Gillam)

(Found Reference, by Cara Barer -- for Gillam, who says it pains him to look at a book treated this way, but still it is compelling)

For Margie:
(Paper Sculpture Flip Flops, by Phranc -- for Margie, who got the joke. Liza strongly urged them to have a lucite box made to store these in.)

(A FAKE! Leger Flashbag, by Liza and Flashbags -- for Margie)

For Carly:
(Tractor Seat chair by John B. Marius, for Carly -- he says it's more comfortable than it looks)

For themselves:
(Photo by Liza Cowan, to go in Myra's I mean their kitchen)

(Photo by Liza Cowan -- Myra says the L stands for Lesbian; she put this in their bedroom where it's the first thing she sees when she wakes up everyday)

(Tara with Cherries, by Liza Cowan -- again, Myra had to have this, and she wound up putting it in their bedroom as well)

Plus, for everyone they knew, a copy of Alison Bechdel's tour-de-force book, Fun Home.



Another excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. The action in the story resumes immediately after my post yesterday. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

14 December 2006

Myra called Margie at noon and left a message on her cell asking her to be sure Gillam came home with her -- another big storm was blowing in. Then she went out to lay in groceries and supplies, and it took so long, the kids were home by the time she got back. She backed into the carport and they unloaded the car together. Margie had already clamped down the cover on the hottub and stashed fly-away items in the shed out back. Gillam did their weeks' laundry a day early as Myra made dinner.

Once the wind picked up, Beebo was reluctant to go outside and kept walking back and forth near the pet door, meowing. Finally Margie put on a slicker and took Narnia into the yard, and reassured by their company, Beebo darted out, had a quick pee, and raced back in.

In the middle of the night, Gillam woke up Myra and Ginny, saying "I heard a huge crash. Too close." As they got up and put on clothes, Margie joined them with an agitated Narnia. Gillam had already checked the upstairs deck -- Ginny had brought in most of the plants -- so they trooped into the living room, peered out the front window, trying to figure out what was wrong. Finally Ginny said "There's no street lights. It's completely dark out there."

Myra went to the control panel in their storage room and called back "The generator's kicked in. We must have lost power." She came back into the living room and began putting on her raincoat and boots. "I need to go turn off the hot tub and the pool heater. We have to not overload the generator, so if you have computers, any kind of appliance, or unnecessary lights on, go turn 'em off now."

"What about the main appliances?" said Gillam.

"The kitchen, the freezer in the storage room, heat, hot water, and basic lights are all covered."

"What about Rix and Marisol's habitat?" asked Ginny.

"Geckos are covered, too" said Myra. Ginny was walking with her to the sliding door, but in as Myra flicked on the outside lights, they said in the same instant "Oh my god!" Margie and Gillam joined them, staring into the back yard. The Douglas fir in the back left corner had fallen, and lay sprawled across the length of the yard. It leaned on the opposite fence, fortunately just small branches at what had been the top of the tree, so the fence was not knocked down. The maple had been spared, and although the fir's upper branches were overlying some of Margie's ornamental cherry, her tree also was intact. The root system of the fir, however, had tilted underneath the back corner, destroying the fence in that area.

"Holy moly" said Gillam. They stood in silent shock for a minute. Then Ginny said "It could've been worse, could've landed on our house, or the Limons."

"Or on your garden beds" said Myra. "Well, we'll get someone to take it out for us when we can. Downed trees like this won't get attended to quickly, not this week. I'm going to go out there and do my chore. Gillam, you need to set up an emergency litter box for the cats, we'll have to shut the pet door because the back yard is no longer secure."

"Do you think there'll be school tomorrow?" said Margie.

"We won't know till the morning" said Ginny. "I'll make us all steamed milk, then let's try to get some more sleep."

The next morning, Myra got up with Ginny and they turned on TV right away. Both schools had power and was planning to hold classes, so they got the kids up and fed them. Myra called her friends and left messages inviting them over if they didn't have power. Then she went back to sleep for a couple of hours.

When she got up, Ginny said "Allie and Edwina are fine, but Chris and Sima are in the dark and are packing to spend the night here. The latest news doesn't have any indication of when power will come back on -- half a million people are affected, they say, and there's bad flooding in some places."

"Oh god -- Ms. Schevitz" said Myra suddenly. She set down her toast and went to put on shoes. Ginny began pulling on pants, saying "I feel so bad for forgetting her this long."

"Me, too" said Myra. "She can't make it up the stairs, we'll have to put her in the spare bedroom down here."

"What about Chris and Sima?"

"We'll ask Margie to give them her bed, and she can take the couch or one of the daybeds" said Myra.

It took a while for Ms. Schevitz to answer her door, long enough for Myra to start getting scared. But it was just the trials of getting around by walker. She had mittens and a wool hat on, and had been trying to boil water over a can of sterno. Ginny packed her a bag, following Ms. Schevitz's directions, while Myra gathered up her crocheting, her crosswords, and all the medications on her kitchen counter. They walked on either side of her as she laboriously crossed the street. Once back home, she had to rest a while on the first chair inside the door. Myra made her a pot of tea and an omelet while Ginny unpacked her things in the back bedroom.

"Oh, it's so blissfully warm in here" said Ms. Schevitz "When I was a girl in Somerville, it used to get bitter cold in the house because we couldn't afford much coal, and I was reminded of that this morning."

"After you eat, if you want to take a hot soak, the tub in the guest bathroom has grab bars and is easy to get into" said Myra.

"You girls are wonderful" said Ms. Schevitz. "Now, I want to help as much as I can."

"Okay. Ginny'll be making challah in a bit, you can help her with kneading and braiding, we'll set you up here at the table. And -- as we finish breakfast, tell me, is there anyone else on the block we should help out?"

"The Nguyens down the street, almost to the corner, they have a brand new baby" said Ms. Schevitz, chewing thoughtfully.

"They're the ones with the two-year-old, too?" said Myra. Ginny rejoined them and said "Yes, a very sweet little boy."

"And across the street from them, the Hoff-Munozes, they have a toddler, too, and she's pregnant again" said Ms. Schevitz.

At that moment, the front opened, and Margie and Gillam came in.

"They decided to cancel school" Margie explained. "Not enough students there. Hi, Ms. Schevitz."

Myra explained their need to check on neighbors. She pulled out her pad and began trying to make a plan.

"Okay -- if we need to take these folks in for a while, let's see how much room we have. The Nguyens, we could give them our bed, Ginny, and the whole family would fit in there." Ginny nodded her okay. "So, we have another family with a toddler, and the woman is pregnant -- Margie or Gillam's room for them?"

Ginny said "Either. But they might like the kitchenette. That means your bed, Margie, sorry, honey. We can put the old rollaway in there, too, for the little one, there's room."

"That means Sima and Chris are in Gillam's room" said Myra.

"What about us?" said Gillam.

"Margie can take one of the daybeds, Ginny and I will take the other one, and Gillam, you get the couch."

"Margie, if you want to share my queen bed, I'd be honored" said Ms. Schevitz. Margie hesitated, then said "Actually, yeah. I'm a little too tall for the daybeds any more."

"And I'd rather use an air mattress and sleeping bag on the floor" said Gillam. "Maybe at the end of the upstairs hall."

"Okay, whatever you prefer" said Myra. "I know I just gave away your beds, but I gave ours away first."

"S'okay" said Gillam. "You two can have the daybeds."

"All right. Which one of you wants to be the messenger to invite these families to join us?" asked Myra.

"I will" said Margie. "I can give Narnia a walk at the same time."

"If you see anybody else out and about, tell them we'll be serving hearty soup and fresh bread every day at noon and at six, they can just drop in. Or if they need to warm up or recharge something, come on by" added Myra.

"Gillam, let's haul that daybed up" said Ginny. "I just changed the sheets yesterday, but I need to check on towels, too."

"Good thing we have four bathrooms in this place" said Myra.

"The big plus is the generator, and that was your idea way back when" said Ginny, grinning at her.

"Oh, and the Limons" said Myra, looking out the rear window the house in back of them. "Well -- that's quirky. There are lights on upstairs at their place."

"Yeah, Mom" said Margie, pulling on her jacket. "Coming home, around the corner on down, they have power. It's just hit or miss, seems like."

"Okay, that's good, then. We're actually full up" said Myra.

When Chris and Sima arrived an hour later, the house was full of activity. Sima joined Ms. Schevitz making challah, while Myra had started brisket and roast chickens. Chris began grating potatoes in the food processor for latkes. Myra moved on to making doughnuts. Margie and Gillam were down the street, returning to help their neighbors carrying their bags and children along the icy sidewalk.

Once everybody was settled in, Myra explained the electricity rules and Ginny led the two toddlers into her studio to begin them on an art project. Tony Nguyen looked at the tree in their backyard and said "I have a chainsaw. I could start breaking that down for you."

"Do you really know how?" asked Myra.

"Sure." Mr. Munoz jumped in to help, and they went off to retrieve the chainsaw. Gillam said suddenly "Carly!"

"What about him?" asked Myra.

"He was going to try to catch a train up here tonight" said Gillam, reaching for the phone. He managed to get through to Carly on his cell -- Carly was already on the train headed their way.

"Well, it'll be good to see him, and the more the merrier" grinned Myra. "You can bunk him down with you in the hall. Chris, will you use your four-wheel drive to go pick him up at the train station?"

"Yep" said Chris, washing her hands "Take those out when the timer goes off."

Gillam headed out the door with Chris, and right after they left, Allie and Edwina arrived. As Sima made room in the oven for their four loaves of challah, Myra explained what was going on. Allie said to Sima "We can put you two up in our spare room, if you'd rather."

Sima said "We're here for tonight, and it's kinda fun. But we'll check in with you tomorrow."

Myra made introductions, and Allie went out back to watch the tree operation. She came back in right away to ask Myra if she had heavy gloves and goggles -- the men were planning to use the chainsaw without protective equipment. She and Myra rooted through the tool shelves in the storage room and came up with gear, Allie muttering about the stupidity of the male ego. Sima and Edwina went into Myra's study to chat, while Ms. Schevitz held the new baby and talked with the other neighbors.

After Chris and the boys returned, Myra called in Allie. The men accompanied her, thinking it was dinner time. Everybody washed their hands, and Ginny set out candles and grape juice. Sima put challah on the table and clipped a kippah on her head. As Carly and Gillam began putting on tallit, and Margie and Ginny put on kippot, the dining/living room went very silent. Ms. Schevitz spoke up: "It's shabbos, the beginning of Jewish sabbath. We pray to set aside the holy day. In addition, tonight is the beginning of Hannukah."

Myra took Ginny's hand, then Gillam's on her other side. He took Carly's hand, and Carly reached out to Ms. Schevitz. All their neighbors stepped in closer and awkwardly joined hands. Sima and Margie led the prayers. After they were done, Myra handed out pieces of bread and Ginny passed around glasses of juice. Then Carly and Gillam, standing on either side of Ms. Schevitz, lit the candle for the first night of Hanukkah and led the prayers for that. Edwina began singing "Hanukkah O Hanukkah" and soon everyone knew the words enough to join in. Myra gave out small bags of chocolate coins and promised the children they could eat them after dinner.

All 16 places at the table were occupied for dinner. There were no leftovers, and Myra realized she'd have to up her quantities. Allie took coffee requests while clean-up happened astonishingly fast. Ginny, Carly and Gillam began playing dreidel with the children. Mr. Munoz asked if they could turn on TV. Myra checked the circuit panel in the storage room and gave a thumbs up. To get away from the intrusion of the television, Myra settled down her daybed to talk with Chris for a while.

All their guests began going to bed at 10. Allie and Edwina stayed until 11, and they, plus Margie, Ginny, and Sima joined Myra and Chris in her study, settling in chairs or on the floor and talking in low voices.

Myra asked Margie to go upstairs and ask the boys to come down for a minute. When they had returned, she and Ginny gave everybody matching boxes wrapped in blue and silver paper. "Happy Hanukkah!" cried Ginny.

The gifts were BlackBerrys, complete with wireless phone accounts and Bluetooth headsets. "This was actually Myra's idea, if you can believe it" said Ginny. "She's moved into this century."

Myra said to the young people "I'm sorry you're getting these on a night when you can't charge them and begin using them."

"This is amazing" breathed Margie, lunging to hug Myra, then Ginny. After hugs all around, Ginny pulled out an envelope and handed it to Carly. "This is an extra present, from us to you, honey." Inside was a pass for 25 round-trip train tickets from Olympia to Seattle. "So you never have to worry about getting here" said Myra.

Carly's eyes filled with tears. He melted into Ginny's arms, and Ginny murmured "Easiest son I ever had." Gillam was speechless with emotion. Allie hooked her arm around his neck and said "You two hold down the outpost of maleness in this sea of estrogen, and you do it proud." Gillam scooted in next to her on the floor, then pulled Carly down to lean back against him, his face flushed.

Myra said "Margie, honey, you really don't have to sleep with Ms. Schevitz just to keep from hurting her feelings. The couch is free, or one of these daybeds -- me and Ginny often sleep on them, we'll be glommed in together."

"I like her" said Margie. "She's like a gramma I never had. She smells good, like eucalyptus."

Ginny laughed. "Instead of L'Air du Temps, I guess."

"Was that Helen's perfume of choice?" asked Myra. Ginny nodded.

Allie said "They did a good job with that tree. Looks to me like they'll have it done by tomorrow -- if Hector don't cut off his hand first, I could tell he was making Tony pretty nervous with his lack of chainsaw smarts."

Ginny looked at Myra. "Do not let Gillam or Carly go out there and have a try at it."

"I agree" said Myra. "But wood hauling, you bet. If we stack it and let it dry out, we'll have wood for the fireplace next year."

"We'll have to pick a new tree to go in that spot" said Ginny, a look of concentration on her face.

"You haven't reached menopause yet -- you could have one more baby and then we could plant a tree for that child" said Myra, trying to keep a straight face.

"I saw you mooning over that baby" grinned Ginny. "You want another one, you're on your own -- I'll start sleeping in the spare bedroom so you can have night feedings all to yourself."

They laughed, and began reminiscing about the children's babyhoods.

Myra woke up the next morning to a crying baby and the loud chatter of toddlers. Ginny was already up and in the kitchen. Myra peed and joined her, a little grumpy. She whispered "I shouldn't joke about more babies in the house, it's suddenly not funny any more." Ginny giggled.

Chris had made oatmeal for the masses, boiled eggs and bran muffins. As she sat down next to Myra, she said "We're gonna need more milk and eggs. Plus a few other things."

"Let's go shopping after I eat. See what it's like out there."

"I want to go, too" said Sima.

"We're going to try walking to the park with the kids" said Rhoda Hoff. "Ms. Schevitz said she'd sit with the baby for an hour."

Myra heard the chainsaw rev into life in the backyard. "Where's Gillam?" she asked suddenly.

"He and Carly aren't up yet" said Ginny. "I'll stay here with Ms. Schevitz and the baby. Margie went to the library -- she's got a paper to write and needs to use their computers for research."

After lunch, Mr. Munoz turned on the TV again and found a football game. To Myra's irritation, Carly and Gillam planted themselves in the living room with the men, glued to the screen. When Chris and Sima joined them, she went to her desk, put up the screen, and began editing her latest manuscript by hand. The TV noise was loud enough that she could not hear the crickets in Ginny's studio. She got up and went to the gecko habitat to make sure they were okay and had food. Ginny was at her worktable, sketching.

"Are they out of crickets?" asked Myra.

"Just ran out. But I put some fruit in there, and they'll be fine for a couple of days" said Ginny. She stood up and pulled Myra into a kiss. "I'm feeling crowded already, how about you?" she whispered.

"It's not like living in the collective" Myra whispered back. "I mean, these people have degrees and make Yuppie incomes, they must to own houses on this street, but apparently none of them recycle or read books. No wonder Bush got re-elected."

"Wanna bring your editing in here and snuggle up with me on the daybed? I can sit there to sketch just as well."


Two hours later, they heard loud yells and discussion which indicated the game must be over. Toilets began flushing. Ginny went into the living room, where the TV was still on. She said to Gillam and Carly "You don't get to sit here watching the boob tube all day. Go outside and get your blood flowing, it's the weekend."

Chris grinned and stood up. "You got a football, Gillam? Let's go out in the street and throw it around."

Tony stood up as well and said "We got a big lawn in back of our place, we could go there -- won't hurt as much when we fall down." He looked at Hector, who said with obvious reluctance, "Okay, for a little while." Ginny stepped over and turned off the TV.

Sima declined to join the football crew, which left them with uneven numbers but Tony said they could round up somebody else on the block. Ginny invited Sima back to the studio. Rhoda Hoff and Linda Nguyen offered to start dinner, and Myra, after a brief hesitation, said that would be great.

An hour later, Myra at her desk heard the front door open and Chris yelling her name urgently. She and Ginny reached the living room at the same time: Gillam stood stiff and wincing in obvious pain, held up by Carly and Chris. Tony and Hector were behind them, a little sheepish, Hector still holding a muddy football. Gillam and Carly were streaked with mud as well. Chris said "He's broken his collarbone, I think."

"Hell and damn" said Myra, turning to grab her keys and wallet. Ginny kissed Gillam on his cheek and said "Hang in there, honey boy", then asked Sima if she would hold down the fort while they went to the emergency room. Sima nodded, squeezing Chris's free hand before she and Carly walked Gillam out to Myra's car. Chris decided to stay home so Carly could go along.

The emergency room was swamped. When Myra found out the estimated wait would be at least two hours, which probably meant four hours, Ginny got very aggressive in persuading someone to give Gillam a pain medication. No one would oblige her, however. She took the keys from Myra and said she'd be back soon. When she returned, she had ibuprofen and a carton of milk for Gillam. He had trouble finding a comfortable position in any chair. Myra kept him and Carly distracted with word games, then quizzing them about lyrics to their favorite songs.

After two hours, Ginny called home to check in again and talked with Sima for a while. Sima said Tony was worried that they would sue him for the accident, demanding payment from his homeowner's policy. Gillam had described the accident to them -- he had fallen on his outstretched arm, and Carly had fallen on top of him -- so there was no blame to be attached anywhere. Ginny asked Sima to reassure Tony, they had good health coverage and he was not to worry about the cost. Sima also said she and Chris were going to pack up and go to Allie's for the night so Gillam would have his own bed to sleep in. They offered to stay until everybody got home, but Ginny said there was no guessing when that would be, they should go ahead and leave. Then she talked with Margie, who was now head of the household.

Gillam decided to try sitting on the floor at the edge of the waiting room, his back against the wall. When Carly sat next to him and Gillam could lean his good side on Carly, the stress was relieved enough that he began dropping off. Carly stayed awake and held him up -- he was shorter than Gillam, but very muscular.

After five hours, Gillam was finally seen and given an x-ray. A clavicle fracture was diagnosed, and he was placed in an arm sling, given a prescription for Percocet, and discharged. Myra got the name of an all-night pharmacy and drove there to have the prescription filled. At home, Margie was waiting up for them in the living room.

"How's it been here?" asked Ginny.

"Dinner was -- interesting. Not bad, actually. Then it was TV until bedtime" said Margie.

Carly and Myra went with Gillam upstairs to get him ready for bed. He needed a bath but said it had to wait until the morning. Ginny got two plates of food ready, along with the first Percocet, and carried it upstairs, where Myra fed Gillam while Carly wolfed his dinner. They left a bottle of juice and the rest of the Percocet on Gillam's nightstand and Myra impressed upon him that if he woke up with any pain, to take a pill at the recommended intervals -- being a hero was not a good idea. They kissed the boys goodnight and went back downstairs, exhausted beyond words.

Margie had heated up dinner for them as well. They all sat at the table together, talking in low voices. Margie said she was going to take the boys' air mattress for the night, because she needed a little buffer from people. Myra kept squeezing her hand and thanking her for all the help. Then she and Ginny washed up and brushed their teeth in the study bathroom. Ginny said "Do you want to take separate daybeds tonight, or crowd in together again? I can't decide which way will offer better sleep."

"Yeah, me neither. How about if we cuddle, 'cause I sure could use some comfort, but if one of us can't sleep, we'll go to the other daybed?"


In the end, they fell asleep rapidly and spooned motionlessly for the six hours that remained to them before noise woke them up. Not long after Myra was jolted into consciousness by a screaming child, the phone rang and Ginny got up to answer it in Myra's study. She leaned back around the corner and said "Allie and Edwina, plus Chris and Sima, are offering to come over and make us breakfast. They want to see how Gillam is."

"I'd love it" said Myra. She scooted herself under the comforter again. She hated sleeping with a shirt and pants on, not just because of the loss of skin-on-skin with Ginny but it also felt colder than sleeping naked with Ginny did. She was in a terrible mood, and decided not to get up until her friends arrived.

Ginny went in the kitchen and told Rhoda they were going to eat later, to not make breakfast for them. Rhoda said they were all going out to church -- Catholic and Methodist, respectively. Just as they were finishing eating, Allie walked in through the front door, followed by the rest of their friends. When she heard Myra wasn't up yet, she walked back to the studio and dangled a box from Macrina's tied up in string in front of Myra's nose. Myra's scowl turned into a grin, and she sat up blearily. She said "Go show that to Gillam, you'll make his day like you just made mine."

Allie helped Gillam downstairs, commenting "You got a funk on, boyfriend". Margie got up fifteen minutes later, looking as crabby as Myra felt. When the two guest families finally went noisily out the front door, Ginny locked her gaze on Myra's and said "Whew."

"You said it" agreed Myra fervently. Then she put her hand on Ms. Schevitz's shoulder and said "You, on the other hand, are a welcome addition to our family."

Myra reclaimed her ability to laugh over breakfast. After the meal, Ginny drew a hot bath for Gillam in the spare bathroom, the most accessible, but he refused to let anyone besides Carly help him undress and get in the tub.

Half an hour later, the lights flickered briefly. Myra, worried about the generator, walked through the carport to the side of the house to check on it. It was completely silent. She looked across the street and saw a light on in Ms. Schevitz's living room. When she came back in, she said "It's a Hanukkah miracle -- the power is back!" Everyone cheered lengthily. Myra went to the hot tub controls and turned it back on, thinking it might really help Gillam to soak later.

Margie walked over to Ms. Schevitz's house to make sure everything was in good shape and that her heat was back on. Myra insisted Ms. Schevitz stay with them through lunch before heading home, so her house would have time to warm up again. Their friends left -- Chris and Sima were eager to get back to their place. Myra made huge pots of vegetarian chili and chicken stew for a late lunch -- if their guests didn't want to eat with them, it could be frozen for later.

In the end, they did stay for lunch. The wives did all the packing, Myra noticed, while Ginny held the baby. Carly and Margie helped haul suitcases back down the block. Everybody was very glad to say goodbye, in as nice a way as possible. When Margie and Carly returned, they walked Ms. Schevitz home, leaving her soup and bread to heat up for dinner.

Myra and Ginny began stripping off sheets and cleaning bathrooms. When Myra saw the condition of their bathroom, she began cursing steadily. "I don't fucking believe it, they are fucking pigs, they make no fucking effort to aim in the toilet. It's all over the fucking tile -- if we splashed our menstrual blood around like this, their fucking heads would explode. It's all about territory, about spreading their piss and cum and spit and anything else they can think of over as large a territory as they can. And it's left to women to clean it up." She was in a white-hot rage as she pulled on rubber gloves and filled a bucket with ammonia and hot water.

The upstairs bathroom was in similar shape. But not the spare bathroom used by Ms. Schevitz, she pointed out loudly. Ginny found rings on the bedside stand where someone had set a glass without using the coaster which was right there. The capper came when Myra emptied the trash in Margie's room and found six empty beer cans.

She stripped off her gloves, put down the trash bag, and walked out on the upper deck. Ginny found her there ten minutes later, starting to shiver as she sat on a ice-cold metal chair.

"You wanna talk about it?" said Ginny.

"It'd just be preaching to the choir" said Myra, cooled down in every respect. "It's been almost four decades since feminism put forth some really basic ideas. I've devoted my life to challenging the cesspool of lies. And right at the moment, it feels like absolutely nothing has changed. They simply won't budge. Four hours of taking turns with a chainsaw equals the right to piss on my floor, never do a single dish or feed even themselves, and sneak beer into my daughter's bedroom. Maybe it is genetic. Maybe they are hopelessly retarded."

"Well, we have proof that's not true, sitting downstairs. He could use getting to watch TV or movies all evening, I think -- some kind of distraction while he's lying on the couch in pain. You calm enough for that?" said Ginny.

Myra smiled at her. "Anything at all for Gillam. Just tell me he won't behave like those guys once he gets married."

"He won't" said Ginny firmly. "Come on, let's go do art in peace."

A few days later, when Myra went to put Ginny's share of the mail on her work table, she saw that in addition to the miniature menorah Ginny set up each year next to the gecko habitat, a new addition was on their glass wall. It was a newspaper clipping which had been reduced down by photocopier until it was in a print so tiny Myra could barely read it. Bent over and peering at it, she read the article about Flora the Komodo Dragon who was about to give birth to parthenogenic young. Inked into the margin was the familiar women's liberation fist-within-a-woman's-symbol icon Myra remembered from the 70s, but the fingers of the fist were four, not five, and each finger was gecko-shaped. She stood upright, laughing, and went back to her study.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.