("Golden light shines above" "Jin deng gao zhao" Chinese poster from 1978)
This week at the Jochild Corral, the story has been focused on trying to get my phone fixed. My line went dead last weekend, though I didn't discover it until Sunday night because my DSL and online connection was fine. When I did find out, I had a dilemma.
In order to request service online with AT&T, I had to have a registered account with them. In order to register, I had to request an account number which could only be delivered to me via snail mail or a phone call. (Whoops.) No use in an emergency.
I'm not able to leave my house, and I had no other phone available. So, I contacted some friends online. Two were able to help right away, and one of them, Liza, waded through the labyrinth of voice mail options to finally get hold of a live person and explain I was stranded, unable to leave my house, disabled and extremely dependent on the phone for emergencies. She explained that I worked nights and slept days. She also explained that my DSL was fine, so it must be the connection outside my apartment where the problem lay. They said they'd get right on it.
What AT&T did was to make an appointment for between 8 and 5 the following day (during my sleep hours) and inform me of that fact by calling my voice mail. Which I had no access to. When the technician came at noon the next day, I was sound asleep, with earplugs in which are necessary if you try to sleep during the day. He left a card saying the problem was inside my apartment, I'd have to make another appointment to let him in.
However, by the time I got the card, my phone was working again. This lasted for about a day, during which time I tried to catch up on the sleep and work I'd been missing by the stress. At 4:00 the next morning, however, my dial tone disappeared again.
This time, Jesse stepped up to the plate, making calls for me. (Though Liza offered again, I want to point out -- I was trying to share the burden around.) When he talked with AT&T, they insisted the problem was an interior line and again said they'd be there the next day. Jesse passed this on to me and gave me a suggested set of diagnostics, some of which I had already performed.
I didn't sleep at all that night. I did pull and replace every line, switch, modem and phone in my place (I had extras, some of which were brand new) and nothing restored the dial tone. But, again, my DSL was just fine.
The thing is, I know from 'lectricity. If a line coming into a place has a circuit that is live (and the DSL function plus the read-out on my caller ID proved the circuit was live), then the problem is NOT that circuit. I also deduced that since the DSL was only added a couple of years ago, outside my apartment would be a separate connection for that -- when the DSL was added, the technician did not come into my apartment and install a new or additional jack. Once again, this was proof it was the configuration outside my place.
At 10:30 the next morning, a second AT&T repair person showed up. This was an older white man, a little bit older than me from the looks of him which could well mean he's close to retirement. He shook my hand and said "I already looked at your hook-up outside and the problem is obvious. I can't imagine what the first technician was thinking." He went to fix it. Twenty minutes later, he returned and ran tests on all my phones, lines, and switches, declared them all good and the problem solved. He gave me a card with his supervisor's name on it, all but suggesting I call to complain about the first tech being a moron. We shook hands again and he left.
It was Friday, and I was too tired to sleep, if you know what I mean. I registered for online repair reporting with AT&T, got my magic phone call, then sat up and wrote for a while. When I finally did crash, it was for 12 hours.
So, I could go a few directions with this story. I could do some sort of Boomer rant about how competence is something we seem to have given up on in our service industry. I could make veiled references to experience and somehow, ham-handedly, tie this event in to the Democrat candidacy race, except I'd rather shoot myself than add to that insanity right now. (Just a tip: If you want to get a huge break as a political blogger, write an essay about how fucked up Hillary is about something, anything at all, make sure to use acceptable liberal white-boy language, and it WILL be posted at Daily Kos, where 50% of what goes up is about what Hillary did wrong TODAY -- even in their fucking science posts, for fuck's sakes. Guaranteed acceptance over there if you're infected with CDS.)
Or, I could talk about how Lily Tomlin's lesbian subversive sensibility helped bring down AT&T as a monopoly the first time and what will it take to stop them now, since they are aiding the Bush regimen in impeachable offenses.
But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today, I want to talk about how it is that I know from 'lectricity.
When I was growing up, if something around the house broke (car, washer, TV, toaster), never once did we call a repair person. Not until I was in high school and my mother had a chance to take our car to the guy she'd gone through high school with, Glenn Funk, whom she trusted. But that was only the car. Everything else mechanical, electrical, engineering of any kind was left to my father to fix when he got home. Mostly, this was economics. If he could not fix it (as turned out to be the case one year with the TV, or another year with the washer), we did without for months until somehow the money could be scraped together to buy a used replacement somewhere.
However, my father also loved to tinker, and he was good at it. He claimed it as a chore, yet repairs were clearly endeavors he approached with relish and curiosity. When he was able to troubleshoot and restore working order to an appliance or a motor, he would be in a zippy mood for the rest of the day. His reason for existence verified.
As an aside, when he was in his 60s I began compiling the notes I intended to use for a biography of my family. My mother, the conduit through which we all flowed, was dead and my little brother had often been too little to recall certain events, so I was forced to consult my father about some things. It was disturbing how faulty his memory seemed to be. I'd prompt with what grades we were all in, where we lived, what childhood illnesses we had that year, birthdays -- no help. By accident, I discovered that if I could name which car we had, which washer (front loader or top loader), if the fusebox had blown during the storm season, or any other mechanical detail which had no personal attachment to our emotional life as a family, his memory would flood in and he could verify a few basics. Pathetic, but true.
And during all those repair episodes, my father felt it necessary to have what he called a helper, what we (behind his back) called a slave. An underling to fetch, hold something steady, shine a light, or, most likely, vent his frustration on. Mama was always busy and not interested in listening to his crap, anyhow, so Daddy would demand one of us dance attendance as he grabbed his toolbox. Well, let's be clear here: He'd demand it of one of my brothers. Because, you know, only a penis enables you to solder or hold open a butterfly valve.
But my brothers learned, very early, to absent the premises when a repair was in the offing. They could escape the house, and did, if only (in the case of my little brother) to hide in the bushes until the calling stopped. I, on the other hand, the asthmatic kept indoors most of the time, had no escape. And, to be honest, I was interested in repair, so I let him sigh, look at me twice with resignation, then say "All right, Margaret, I guess you'll do. Come over here and hold these electrical tape strips on your fingers without letting them stick to each other, can you manage that much?"
In the way of all Boomer girls, I learned to not react to the misogyny, the put-downs. It was just a fact of life. Instead, I craned my head to see what he was doing, and I asked questions. When he blew up at me for "bothering him", I went silent -- not sulking, because that would lead to further abuse. Just silent. A few minutes later, he'd apologize and answer my question. In this way, I picked up knowledge and skills. One skill Daddy had down pat was electricity, how it functioned, resistance, conductors, the difference between AC and DC, transformers, you name it. And I absorbed it from him.
When I graduated from high school in 1973, my parents' gift to me (completely my father's idea) was a piece of shit 1965 Pontiac LeMans with 100,000 miles already on it. He borrowed the money for it from people I cared about who could not say no because it was intended for me. He borrowed twice as much as he paid for the car and pocketed the difference. It required constant repairs to keep running, and I began doing them myself, with the aid of older dykes and idiot books. That same year, my little brother Bill began running around with a bunch of freshman hoodlums whose passions were drugs and car repair (rural Texas, what can I say). A couple of years later, when high school began to look like something he might not finish without a stint in juvie, he switched over to vo-tech and found a way to stay mostly sober, mostly focused, his hands and head buried in an engine. He became the head mechanic in the family.
I learned to lean on Bill with regard to car maintenance (he was brilliant and never once put me down), but continued to do other sorts of repair myself. Occasionally I hit a learning curve that was tough, like televisions where, when you took off the back casing, had dire warnings about messing around in the innards. Or the time I didn't realize the 220 circuit breaker in the trailer where I lived with my lover and our daughter was outside, not in the back closet with the 110 breaker. That day, I touched a live wire with my screwdriver. I woke up half a minute later on the floor across the room, my back still tingling from where I had slammed against the wall and my lover, who had witnessed the spark and catapult, screaming her head off. I drank a glass of water, went outside and pulled the breaker, and finished my repair, with her bitching at me the whole time to call in a "real" professional.
("Electricity", fractal art by Vicky Brago-Mitchell)
Three years ago, I had a breakthrough in genealogical research. I had managed to definitely trace one branch of my father's line back to Isaac Stafford, born 1823 in Moore County, North Carolina, my great-great-great-grandfather. I discovered research done by distant cousins on the Staffords, and found that in every generation from Isaac on down, the boys had invariably become mechanics, engineers, worked at hand-on jobs in the oil field, and/or been inventors. George Austin Stafford, my great-great-grandfather, listed his occupation on at least one census as "inventor", though his income was derived from farming cotton. He was co-owner of the Stafford and Robinson Straw Binder Harvester Manufacturing Company which sold shares in 1891 in Montague Co., TX. Some reports state this binder was in operation before McCormick started manufacturing their binder that mechanized agriculture, but McCormick got the patent first and my ancestor was SOL.
George's older brother Thomas W. (Tom) Stafford was a wheelwright who was also an inventor. Tom, a third brother, Parker, and a brother-in-law Bryant Williams spent much of their adult lives trying to perfect a perpetual motion machine.
A family record notes that George Stafford lost his left arm at "65 years of age, July 10, 1935, at 5:00" to a strawbinder machine. He refused to see a doctor right away from some mechanical injury, blood poisoning set in and he wound up having his arm amputated. I have a photo of a "knife/fork" he devised, forged into a blade on one side, tines on the other, that he used for eating one-handed.
When I called Daddy with the revelation about this family heritage, he immediately responded "You see? It's genetic. And you know who else was born with that ability?" I modestly said no, and he crowed "Your brother Bill!"
Well, here's the thing. It was George Stafford's daughter Estelle who is our link to that heritage. She married Sam Barnett, a cowboy, and neither Estelle nor any of their kids showed this mechanical aptitude. Their son Lorenza (my grandfather) married Villa Mae Basinger and farmed the 40 acres next door to her parents. And it was Tom Basinger, another man with a genius for contraptions and mechanical devices, who taught my father (his grandson) all he knew about how things worked. Daddy often told us stories about clever work-arounds created by Tom Basinger, stories filled with admiration for the man he trailed around after as a small boy.
So, I think it's just as likely that the reason all those Stafford boys, generation after generation, demonstrated a proclivity for tinkering is because they were raised in that environment, with that expectation. Until me, not a single female in the line has been found with a bent for mechanics. And unless you want to argue that genes only travel to those with testicles (those who do argue such idiocy are not readers of this blog), then it's nurture at play here.
A nurture I only received grudgingly, and without recognition from the parent who bestowed it still 40 years later. Or, to paraphrase Alix, "I didn't get it easy, but I got it." (guitar riff, and fade....)
Saturday, April 5, 2008
("Golden light shines above" "Jin deng gao zhao" Chinese poster from 1978)
(Peppers at Pike Place Market)
A question for Ginny Bates readers:
I'm reaching a point (in the next two weeks or so) when I will reach the limit of continuous exposition in the novel for a period of a few years. I simply haven't written this section yet. I know what's going to happen, and have notes. But beginning in 2009, the novel starts having gaps, sometimes for entire years, with intermittent skips until around 2018, where the written draft kicks back in and goes on, with a few small gaps, until the end of this part of the saga in June 2020. (There is yet another book planned, featuring the grandchildren, but I haven't allowed myself to start on that yet.)
My question to you is: Would you rather I leave the gap and go on posting what I've got, or do you want me to refrain from posting the novel until the interim section is written and it will be a narrative whole?
If your answer is go on posting, do you want small notes about what has occurred in the interim that will give away plot development but also keep you from possibly being confused? I'd keep these summaries as succinct as possible -- for example:
February 2009 -- Once the new Democratic President is safely in office, Ruth Bader-Ginsberg conceals an Uzi beneath her robes and opens fire on SCOTUS, taking out everybody but Souter and Breyer. As she is led away in cuffs, she yells "For the soul of America!" Ginny and her father have a big fight about the morality of this.
Let me know in comments. Thanks.
From The Story by American Public Radio:
"In August 1970, a woman named Judy Syfers stood before a crowd gathered in San Francisco and read an essay she wrote entitled Why I Want A Wife. The crowd was gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which had given women the right to vote.
"Judy was heckled by men in the audience, but the essay had an immediate impact within the strengthening feminist movement. It was published in the first issue of Ms. Magazine in 1971. Today, the essay is read by student arounds the world as a classic example of feminist humor and satirical prose.
"In this American Public Media interview, Judy Syfers, now Judy Brady, talks with Dick Gordon about how writing the essay changed her life. She got involved with other political movements in the late 70s and 80s, but she credits the women's movement with opening her mind and giving her a foundation as an activist for social justice." If you click on the link and listen to her, you're in for an uplifting and thought-provoking treat: She's still got that gift for incisive analysis and wit, only it's much richer from decades of experience.
WHY I WANT A WIFE
by Judy Syfers, published in in The First Ms. Reader
I belong to that classification of people known as wives. I am A Wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother.
Not too long ago a male friend of mine appeared on the scene fresh from a recent divorce. He had one child, who is, of course, with his ex-wife. He is obviously looking for another wife. As I thought about him while I was ironing one evening, it suddenly occurred to me that I, too, would like to have a wife. Why do I want a wife?
I would like to go back to school so that I can become economically independent, support myself, and, if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school. And while I am going to school I want a wife to keep track of the children's doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eat properly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children's clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturant attendant to my children, who arranges for their schooling, makes sure that they have an adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo, etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, a wife who arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. It may mean a small cut in my wife's income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working.
I want a wife who will take care of *my* physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a *good* cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying. I want a wife who will care for me when I am sick and sympathize with my pain and loss of time from school. I want a wife to go along when our family takes a vacation so that someone can continue to care for me and my children when I need a rest and change of scene.
I want a wife who will not bother me with rambling complaints about a wife's duties. But I want a wife who will listen to me when I feel the need to explain a rather difficult point I have come across in my course of studies. And I want a wife who will type my papers for me when I have written them.
I want a wife who will take care of the details of my social life. When my wife and I are invited out by my friends, I want a wife who will take care of the babysitting arrangements. When I meet people at school that I like and want to entertain, I want a wife who will have the house clean, will prepare a special meal, serve it to me and my friends, and not interrupt when I talk about the things that interest me and my friends. I want a wife who will have arranged that the children are fed and ready for bed before my guests arrive so that the children do not bother us. I want a wife who takes care of the needs of my guests so that they feel comfortable, who makes sure that they have an ashtray, that they are passed the hors d'oeurves, that they are offered a second helping of the food, that their wine glasses are replenished when necessary, that their coffee is served to them as they like it.
And I want a wife who knows that sometimes I need a night out by myself.
I want a wife who is sensitive to my sexual needs, a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who makes sure that I am satisfied. And, of course, I want a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it. I want a wife who assumes the complete responsibility for birth control, because I do not want more children. I want a wife who will remain sexually faithful to me so that I do not have to clutter up my intellectual life with jealousies. And I want a wife who understands that *my* sexual needs may entail more than strict adherence to monogamy. I must, after all, be able to relate to people as fully as possible.
If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free.
When I am through with school and have a job, I want my wife to quit working and remain at home so that my wife can more fully and completely take care of a wife's duties.
My God, who *wouldn't* want a wife?
Friday, April 4, 2008
(Diary of Meg Barnett for years 1965, 1967 and 1968, kept in Dilley, Texas)
Another judiciously worded set of diary entries.
For some reason I cannot comprehend, I entered my comment on the killing of Reverend King on April 12 instead of April 4. I just looked at the original diary, and the space for April 4 that year is empty. Perhaps I turned ahead a week accidentally. I was definitely not in the habit of going back and writing entries after the fact -- if I wrote at all, it was concurrent with the event. (Mostly I didn't write.) So, while the date is completely wrong, I trust the entry itself.
I was twelve in April 1968, and if it were not for this notation, I would not know what I thought at the time. My parents did not see eye to eye about Reverend King, which is an understatement. My father hated him. My mother, who had absorbed nonviolence as a strategy during our years in India, thought he was a successor to Gandhi.
I'm not sure why I pointed out that James Earl Ray was from Missouri -- perhaps it was being emphasized in the news for some reason, perhaps it was a way of deflecting attention from Texas because we were complicit in that other assassination, the one of President Kennedy. "Leader of the Negroes" is a telling phrase: As if they are not Americans. I'm sure I'm repeating what I had heard, there. And the "of course are rioting" could either be me parroting what I'd heard in a cynical way or, more likely, given the fact that I had no guarantee of privacy in this writing and the person most likely to read it was the most racist member of our family, an ambiguous way of stating my sympathy.
One huge clue is the fact that I mispelled assassinated. I didn't mispell words. Ever. I'm much more lax about it now than I was then. So I take this as a sign of stress. The handwriting is bold, too, indicating I was bearing down hard. I was about to become a teenager, and the larger world was melting down around me, not just my swamped family.
The entries for 1967, for April 11 and 12, are a litany which can be found over and over in this diary: I wrote down when I missed school. I didn't indicate what I did those days except stay home -- it was always the same, read whatever books I could find and listen to my mother's stream of consciousness. I hated missing school. I wasn't popular then; class and race issues made that elementary school a cauldron of horizontal oppression. But I was beloved by my teachers, kept in from recess, given special assignments, allowed to go to the library whenever I finished my work, and while these circumstances made some kids hate me all the more, I made the most of it. I liked being there more than home, most of the time. Unless I was well enough to get outside, with my little brother, and play in nature while keeping him safe.
(Maggie and Bill in front yard at 401 Hugo Street, Dilley, Texas, 11 April 1965)
The Easter entry for 1965 gives us a date for the photo above that I've copied here more than once, me and Bill in our finery about to head off to the Baptist Church. We went in alone -- my mother wouldn't join us, partly because she didn't like Baptists any more, partly because there wasn't enough money for her to have a new dress. Not for several years in a row. Also, my father was in the hospital recovering from surgery on a pilonidal cyst, so Mama probably went to see him while we were being preached at. She picked us up afterward and we went to the hospital, as I stated, to show Daddy our clothes.
What's omitted from my entry is that since Bill was not allowed into the hospital (visiting age started at 12), Mama left us in the courtyard where there was a small fountain and pond, plus a bench. She was going to get Daddy to the window that looked out on the courtyard, so we could wave at each other. I sat obediently on the bench, but Bill got up and began walking the ledge of the fishpond, despite me yelling at him not to. Inevitably, he fell in, just as my parents reached the window. His new suit was ruined. It became a family story we laughed about, eventually. But at that time, my father's screams of rage could be heard through the hospital window. Bill sobbed and sobbed. Mama had to leave and drive us home in shame. None of that's in the diary. I stored it where it was safe, in my memory.
In June of 2003, I went back to Dilley and explored the scenes of my childhood. The tiny hospital and courtyard were still there, though the fountain had disappeared and the pond was filled in with plants.
(Hospital courtyard with filled-in pond, Dilley, Texas, June 2003)
The Baptist Church was also still there and looked exactly the same.
(First Baptist Church of Dilley, June 2003)
The house we had lived in was standing, but barely. (I think it is gone now, blown down by the stray winds of Rita or perhaps another hurricane.) It was filled with junk. I sat on the porch where my mother stood in 1965 to take the photo of us in the yard.
(Maggie on porch of house at 401 Hugo, Dilley, Texas, June 2003, in rainbow light)
We left right after this photo, and when my energy worker saw it, she exclaimed "Oh, you cleared those memories! The house remembered you, and through you all the evil that occurred there was released -- look at the rainbow light!" Certainly I stopped feeling haunted by the place as I had to that point.
(The "middle room" at the Dilley house, with Bill, Mama and me at a typewriter; my bed is on the left; circa 1965)
After I got home from that trek, I was able to rewrite and finish a poem I'd written about the years I spent in that house, sleeping in what was the dining room but we called "the middle room".
THE MIDDLE ROOM
In that square house the middle room was square
with four doors at the compass points. All its light
came through the doors from other rooms and from
a fixture overhead that once was gas
but now held bulbs. They don't make houses
any more with middle rooms instead of
halls, whose entryways were never meant to
lock or even hold a door. The only
door that locked was to my mother's bedroom.
In the middle of the middle room was
a round and massive oaken table. The
matching bureau held Mama's radio
with two long dials that picked up every wave
on earth, I did believe. One corner of
the middle room was filled with ironing board
beside an overflowing hamper of
clean clothes. Another corner, behind the
swinging door to the kitchen, was claimed by
Daddy's little desk where he would demand
no interruptions as he wrote out his
field manager reports on the every
other weekend he was home. Next to that
stood the three-shelf bookcase with my
Bobbsey Twins and Tom Swift rows
my Trixie Beldens and Donna Parkers
Every horse book by Marguerite Henry
No boring Nancy Drews for me -- I would
sneak mysteries from the stack by Mama's
bed. Beside the shelf was the tin trunk that
held my clothes, then a TV tray which served
as bedside table to my sagging iron
cot with mended sheets and several quilts.
This was my room. I went to sleep with lights
still blaring overhead, the gasps of steam
from Mama's iron, the smell of just-pressed shirts
for next morning and always, until
Mama went to her own bed, the radio.
The radio was left on all but the hours
she and I both slept. It stayed on when she
had to go out to the store, the hour or
two we would be left in the care of my
eldest, almost-grown brother.
I woke at six when Mama got her fresh cup
of Maxwell House and sat down sighing at
the table. She'd strike a match to start the
first of her three packs of Winstons a day.
As soon as she could tell I was awake
she'd turn and flick the switch to warm up the
radio. Then she would fix my Bosco
Heated in a Revereware pan, poured
into a jelly glass, and stand there till
I drank half down. She'd give me all my
morning meds, the yellow Tedral syrup
full of phenobarbital, the orange
stuff to drain my nose, the cortisone, the
Isuprel, placing each dose in my mouth
while holding in the corner of hers a
Winston, squinting at the smoke that drifted
up to stain the ceiling and the sheetrock
walls a darker yellow. She'd hand me my
book and start her chores, doing as much as
she could in the middle room, where the world
came in invisible and free, and she
would hear the voice of another adult.
The only door that locked was to Mama's
room -- my father slept there also when he
was home. It locked with a skeleton key
and had a keyhole just the height for a
toddler to look through. One friend asked me why
I have a photo of my parents' bed --
When film was such a luxury and all
the pictures of those years are scattershot
Dressed up for Easter, Thanksgiving dinners --
Why did I sneak my mother's camera
Stand in that locking doorway and take a
photo of that bed?
My little brother is dead now before
his time, before I found the way to ask
what he felt when I was pulled into that
room begging no, no and then he heard that
key click round. What did he see that made
him pound upon the wood and scream in rage?
I want to ask, what did he think when I
heard in my ear the laughed and whispered
Make him shut up or I'll bring him in here
too -- what did he think when I yelled at him
on the other side to go away, yelled
it with cruelty enough to slice through
all his love for me?
There was this guy they sometimes brought on the
radio, he was our favorite of all
When he was there, they'd open up the lines
so people could call in. He would answer
one by one, getting folks to talk to him
for just a minute, never more, and then
he could tell them where they lived, what Texas
county they were raised in, and often
he could name the places where their people
came from. In those days, most everybody
lived in pretty much one place for years, TV
had not yet wiped away how the terrain
we walked upon arranged the contours of
our vowels. Mama used to wish we could
call in, to see if he would be able
to decode the Crosstimbers in her speech.
I never joined her in this fantasy.
We count on the people who love us most
to not see our secrets. Strangers were a
risk our family did not take. But that
station was in San Antonio, which
meant the call would be long distance. After
the first year in the house with the middle room
we didn't even have a phone at all.
(Maggie beside windows of "middle room", 401 Hugo Street at Leona, Dilley, Texas, June 2003)
© 2003 Maggie Jochild
Rewritten 8 June 2003
ADDENDUM: Shadocat has written her own first person narrative about the day Reverend King was killed at her blog, linked to this post, and I highly recommend reading her memories as well at Forty Years Ago.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
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 two days ago. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.
First week in December 2007
David had been scheduled to arrive two days later, to celebrate the last days of Chanukah with them and bring the canvases he was considering for display at the local gallery "Bates in Three Generations" exhibit. However, he called to ask Ginny if she would do the work of selection for him. Nate and Elyse had just informed the rest of the family that they, with their two small daughters, were moving to New York at the New Year -- Nate had a major job advancement available there, and Elyse longed to live in New York. David was "crushed", according to Ginny. His relationship with the girls would be truncated severely; children that age need regular contact to keep a connection going.
Ginny spent an hour on the phone with him, going over his options for the show. He shipped out half a dozen canvases the following day, and the next few days it was "all art, all the time" in their household. Myra was finally called into active service again as a driver. She'd taken her first turns behind the wheel post-surgery in June at the beach, putting their rental car into gear and letting it cruise barely above idle down the deserted sandy strand, returning to the house drenched in sweat. From there she had progressed to neighborhood jaunts, and now was ready for the demands of Seattle traffic again. She was sent back and forth from the matting and framing place Ginny preferred -- not nearby -- multiple times as Margie, Gillam, and Ginny finalized their decisions.
The day before the opening on the 15th, that Friday morning David flew in and spent the rest of the day at the gallery with Ginny, helping hang and keep her calm. Myra and the kids met them there after school, where Gillam couldn't stop reading and re-reading his mention in the program and Margie asked twice why she didn't have as much wall space as Ginny.
It was a grand success. Myra half-hoped Jules Lefkowitz would show up for this opening as well, but apparently she'd had enough of Ginny. The drawing by David of the black skimmers plus the painting of Gillam and Margie in the surf as children both rated a mention in the newspaper review, although they of course were not for sale. Another of David's paintings did sell, as well as two each of Margie and Gillam's works for a few hundred dollars apiece. It was David's first sale, and he cried when he got home.
Ginny's newest work was not all on display, because it wasn't dried or varnished yet, but all three of those she did hang sold for crazy sums of money, as well as several older pieces. She was giddy with the implications of it: "It will be almost all new stuff at Liza's gallery, except for the classics she wants me to show but I'd never sell."
"They like you, they really like you" grinned Myra.
David returned to Denver on Monday afternoon to spend his last two weeks in the same town with his great-granddaughters. Margie was now on winter break, and after a day at home, where she mostly slept and played music, Ginny said "If you want Gary to come for a visit, we can put him up in the spare room."
Myra waited for the argument about whether or not Gary could sleep in Margie's bed, as she presumed they did in Olympia, but Margie looked away and said "Ahh...we're not really seeing each other any more."
"Since when?" said Ginny. "You were together at Thanksgiving." Her voice sounded accusatory to Myra's ears.
"Yeah, right after that. I broke up with him" said Margie casually, thought not convincingly.
Ginny opened her mouth but closed it again. Myra said "Would you like to talk about it?"
"Not really" said Margie.
"Okay. Well, if you change your mind...in the meantime, what are your plans for your break?" asked Myra.
Margie looked at them, a little surprised. "Hang out here. I mean, help you all out, of course. See Amy and other friends. Nothing major."
Ginny regained her composure. "That will be wonderful. We can have lots of family time this holiday."
Which wasn't precisely what Margie had said, but it went unchallenged.
That night at dinner, Myra paused while eating and looked across at Margie to ask "Are you still glad you had that boy charged and sent away?" She couldn't remember his name right at the moment, but Margie knew instantly who she meant. She looked a little wary as she replied "Yeah. No regrets. Why, have you heard something?"
"You mean, about what he's doing? No" said Myra. "I'm asking because I need to figure out whether to file a suit against the anesthesiologist, for six months of lost income at the least."
"I think you should" injected Gillam vehemently.
Margie was also nodding. Myra continued "Well, it's more complicated than that. Ain't it always. We talked with our lawyer, and she says we'd have to file suit against not only him, but also Dr. Desai and the other surgeon plus the hospital. Partly for discovery, partly because the courts is where assignation of blame gets sorted out, so everybody has to be accused. And I don't want to do that to Dr. Desai. It will raise her insurance premiums for no damned reason, to cover the legal costs, and they'll never go back down. It'll raise everybody's costs, and most of that will get passed on to other patients in the long run."
Ginny said "Still, we'd like some answers. And if he was negligent, we want him to be confronted with the need to change his behavior."
"I want him to suffer like you did" said Gillam.
Myra smiled at him and said quietly "No, you don't. You don't wish that on anybody." After a long pause, she said "And, it turns out, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Sorry, Beebo. I've been making notes about my experience. It's what I do as a diversion from working on the novel. Which, by the way, is going better than I expected. I'm way slower in my writing speed than I used to be, but that's not altogether a bad change. Anyhow, I got a call this afternoon from a free-lance writer who does a lot of articles for places like Harper's and Atlantic Monthly, especially about medical issues. She's interested in doing a long piece about what happened to me -- she's read my poem which got printed, and she wants to compare my experience to Stephen King and Maxine Kumin. Sort of like, writers who get clobbered and how they process it."
Ginny said "I still think you ought to be the one to wrote your own story."
"Well, I will, Ginny. Though it may not be a first person narrative like that, it may be a series of poems full of symbolism, you know? The advantage to letting her do it is the publicity to me and, more significantly, the fact that if she's being a reporter, she can name names without getting her ass sued off. If she does it right. So that doctor's error will become way more public than from a court case. Plus, if I sign a waiver stating I'll never sue her or anybody connected with it, Dr. Desai could be interviewed as well and give her slant on what happened." The more Myra talked about it, the more she liked this idea. Letting someone else advocate for her was something she was learning to enjoy.
She watched her children digesting these options. As if out of nowhere, Margie said "Jaime is in town, too, for the holidays. I'm going to have lunch with him tomorrow."
Myra made the connection and grinned at her. "Give him our love, and if you want to invite him to dinner, either alone or with others, feel free." Margie focused on her plate after a brief nod.
The holidays were sweeter than Myra felt she'd ever known. She switched back and forth from baking to writing, while Ginny had long conversations with Allie or Liza about her entire body of work. Gillam had his 17th birthday with a dance party upstairs, Carly in town and a dozen kids from Gillam's school attending, half of them girls. Myra used her new recording phone to make mini-disk copies for herself of the interviews conducted by the journalist writing about her brain fart, as she thought of it. At least once a day, she considered what her life would be like if she had not been able to bounce back. She needed to talk with Ginny about it, but she kept putting it off.
The week after New Year's, when Myra had gotten up and was eating breakfast, Ginny joined her and waited until Myra had a few bites in her stomach before beginning with "I'd like to talk about my birthday next month."
"Okay. Got something to request?" said Myra, peeling an orange.
"Yes. A present. A huge present" said Ginny. She was picking at her cuticles and not looking directly at Myra.
"Out with it" said Myra.
Ginny did look up at her then. "I want Daddy to come live with us."
Myra set down her orange. "You're right -- that's big." She swallowed what was in her mouth, then said "Have you -- does he want to live with us?"
"I haven't asked him, no, of course not until I talked with you. But he's lonely in his apartment, Cathy is busy with her friends and, well, they were never as close as he and I are. And I think having him in the house would be great for Gillam."
"Gillam's only here for another year and a half, then he's going to college" said Myra. Her tone was not argumentative -- she didn't completely hate the idea right off the bat, which was interesting. "I guess we'd give David the spare bedroom down here? So he won't have to deal with stairs?"
"Yeah. We can arrange for time alone, me and you, more than we have now if you want, but he'd still have the solace of family meals. He genuinely loves our friends, loves Carly, and I think Seattle would be easier on his joints than Denver winters. And I'd set up a second easel for him in my studio..." Ginny was trying to sell this.
"But I share that creative space with you, Ginny, it's not just your studio. So -- no more nookie on the daybeds when Gillam is at school. No more naked swimming for me. And yes, our friends love him, too, but he's an old white guy sometimes, you know?"
"I know" Ginny said, looking at Myra keenly.
"And if he becomes disabled, which we all face if we live long enough, god willing, then we'll need to hire help, another person full-time in the house" said Myra.
"You're right on all counts" said Ginny. She put one hand over Myra's.
"I guess you can tell, I won't be able to say no to this. Not just for your sake, but for his and for us, our family. It's our values, our dyke values -- family matters. At least the ones you choose and who choose you, and he's hung in there with us. So -- yeah, ask him. I'll talk to him after you do, make sure he knows it's not charity, it's expanding our household with intent and love" said Myra.
Ginny put Myra's palm against her own cheek and began crying quietly.
"I did know you'd say yes" she whispered. "But I had such a hard time asking, because it will mean a huge change for us. And I want you more than ever, each year I want you more."
"Back atcha" said Myra.
After breakfast, Ginny went to the phone at Myra's desk to make the call. Instead of joining her, Myra took a long bath, turning things over in her mind. Just as she was drying off, Ginny came into the bathroom.
"Shut the door, you're letting out all the warm steamy air" said Myra.
"Here, let me dry your back" said Ginny.
"So -- what did he say?"
"He wants to talk with you. And with Gillam. But, angel, I could tell he's deeply moved and I think he's gonna jump at it, if he's convinced you really mean it." Ginny pulled Myra into a hug from behind.
"I need to talk with Allie and Chris" said Myra, sliding around in Ginny's arms to face her.
"Maybe after dinner on Friday, the three of you can go off alone" said Ginny.
"That'll work. You already dried that spot, Ginny" said Myra.
"Let me drop the towel, then, and just use my hand" said Ginny, grinning.
"I'm making a dash for the bed, come keep me from getting chilled" said Myra.
That night when they told Gillam, his whole body radiated joy. And something else, Myra thought -- maybe relief. Which made her heart ache. After dinner, he went off to call Carly and Myra settled in at her desk to call her friends.
She got Allie first. Allie's reaction was "Huh." Myra waited. Then "I bet Gillam's happy."
"He is, Al. So much that I feel bad for not having brought David here sooner."
"Well, I can't complain. Not after how you all took in my mama, and supported me" said Allie.
"Sure you can. I plan to complain when I need to. He better not pee on the toilet seat, I'll say that up front" Myra laughed. "Besides which, Allie, your mama was -- well, she was a she, and helped even up the ranks race-wise."
"And this goes the other direction. Glad to hear you thinking 'bout that" said Allie. "Tell me again why you married a white girl?"
"'Cause neither you or Chris would have me" Myra joked back. She heard some kind of sound from Ginny's studio.
"I'll talk with Edwina, but you need to do that yourself" said Allie. "You and Ginny -- make it clear we all gonna deal with stuff up front if it come time to do so."
"Absolutely" said Myra.
"And you know what? Let's me and you make a standing date for lunch, one day a week. Just us chickens" said Allie.
"Hell yeah" said Myra. "That's such a good idea, I'm going to suggest it for me and Chris, too."
"Long as you pay me the copyright fee" said Allie. "Okay, see you all on Friday."
After she hung up, Myra sat looking at the phone for a while. Ginny appeared in the doorway, saying "Allie okay?"
Myra repeated the conversation, then said "I'm not up for talking with Chris tonight. Or David. I'll do it tomorrow. Instead, I'm going to chat with Margie, who will not ask me to process anything about this."
"Can I get on the extension with you?"
"You bet." Myra began dialing Margie's cell phone. When Margie answered, Myra said "Can you spare a few minutes for conversation with your mothers?"
"Okay, let me just turn off the stereo" said Margie. "I'm studying for a sociology test."
"Have you had a chance to hear Zhang Er read her poetry recently?" asked Myra.
"No, but I saw her on campus and thought of you" said Margie.
"Hi, honey" said Ginny. "We've got some news."
Margie sounded wary. "What, exactly?"
"We're asking Zayde to come live with us. Permanently" said Ginny.
Margie let out her breath. "Wonderful! Is he going to do it?"
"I think he will" said Ginny. "We just have to work out all the kinks."
"You told Chris yet?" asked Margie, wary again.
Myra laughed. "No, I'm scared. Allie's on board as long as she gets to back everybody up a step if she feels the need."
"Nothing new there" said Margie. "Chris'll be the same, plus more uncomfortable jokes along the way."
"I'm hoping" said Myra.
"You're not giving him my room, are you?" asked Margie suddenly.
Ginny laughed and said "No way. When you're done with college, we plan for you to move back home and live with us forever. We made a deal when you were five, remember?"
Margie laughed, not completely at ease. "Yeah, well..."
"How's your car doing?" asked Myra.
"Fine. Listen -- I need to tell you guys something."
Myra and Ginny looked at each other, suddenly sober at the shift in Margie's tone.
"Okay" said Ginny.
"I'm dating somebody new. I kinda got interested in him while I was with Gary and, well, I think hoping he'd be interested back in me was part of the reason I broke up with Gary. We've just starting seeing each other, but we're clicking pretty big and ... I guess you'd call him a boyfriend. So-- the next time you're down here, I guess it's time for you to meet him" said Margie.
"Okay" said Ginny again. "What's his name?"
Myra couldn't help herself. "Your boyfriend's name is Rambo? Oh, god, tell me he's not in the military or something like that."
Margie's voice went cold. "No, Mom, not Rambo -- Rimbaud. Like the fucking poet."
After a long moment, Myra said "Oh. My bad."
"No kidding" said Margie.
Ginny stepped in. "Did he choose that name for himself, is he a poet?"
"No, his mother named him, she's French. His father is Maori. Rimbaud was raised in New Zealand" said Margie.
"Do I get to ask any more questions or is my credibility completely shot?" asked Myra.
Margie giggled. "You can try."
"Well, the usual -- how old is he, what's he studying, what's great about him, you know what we want to hear" said Myra.
They talked for another 20 minutes, and hung up with everybody relaxed.
Gillam was back downstairs, his head in the refrigerator.
"If you're after cake, it's all gone" called out Myra.
"I'll nuke an apple, then" said Gillam.
"Make me one, too" said Myra. "Brown sugar and butter, no cinnamon. And -- you wanna watch something with me?"
He stuck his head in. "You're not writing?"
"Not tonight. We could watch Firefly again" she suggested.
"Only if you promise not to sing the opening theme" he countered. She stood up and stretched, saying "All right. But I get to pause it after Chinese profanity and practice my pronunciation."
"Deal" he said. He looked at Ginny: "You want a baked apple?"
"I do" she said, surprising him. "Butter and half a teaspoon of honey, plus cinnamon and nutmeg. I'll join you two for the movie, if I may."
Myra beamed. "Sit next to me?"
"Cue it up, save me a spot, I need to clear my workspace and then I'll be there" said Ginny.
A week later, it was all settled. David gave a month's notice at his apartment and flew to Seattle for a weekend visit. Margie came up from Olympia, bringing Carly along with her. Friday night dinner had the whole family plus Ms. Schevitz, whom Gillam picked up from her new assisted living center before sundown. David, who arrived at noon, spent the afternoon conferring with Ginny and Myra about his accommodations. She offered to repaint it for him -- "Really, the whole house needs repainting, but we can start with your room, pick any color you want."
His face showed a hopeful expression. "Any color?"
She snorted. "Look around you, clearly there are no limits."
"Lavender, then. I've always wanted lavender walls."
Myra and Ginny both cracked up. "Good god, David, I would never have guessed that about you" said Myra.
"And I'd like a hooked rug carpet, like Rosa used to make" said David.
"We can go shopping this weekend" said Ginny, grinning. "I know an amazing furniture and accessories thrift store."
"Speaking of furniture, what things of yours are you planning to bring?" asked Myra.
"Ahhh -- not much. I gave my desk to Noah, and the things that are in the apartment I'd rather give to Cathy than move here. What I want most are my sketchbooks and paintings, my mementoes, photos. A few clothes." David looked momentarily sad. "I was never the accumulator; Helen did all the piling up of belongings."
"Can you fit everything in your car, then?" asked Ginny. "Drive out here, do you feel up to that?"
David thought for a moment. "I don't want the Lincoln any more, either. So I'd rather sell it and get a small car once I'm there. I'll ship everything, and fly out -- road trips don't appeal to me any more. My plan is to be here by your birthday, Virginia."
Ginny chewed her lip, thinking. "I have to go to Burlington the last weekend in January to plan my show at Liza's gallery. I'll be back before February 1st -- You want to plan on moving in that first week in February?" They looked at a calendar together, and decided yes. Ginny said she'd have the painters come in the next few days to repaint David's room. Myra got up from the table, then, to start dinner, feeling like her time with Ginny had just been squeezed almost dry.
After dinner, while everyone else was cleaning up and starting a poker game, she went to the upstairs deck with Allie and Chris. They turned on the heaters, but it was still wretchedly cold outside. Chris said "We need to keep this short. I'm already shivering, and I want to win money off your old man. Old man in law, I should say."
"Well, then, to get to the point -- I really fucking don't want to live with a man" said Myra. "In my heart of hearts, I don't."
Allie looked at her. "And what is Gillam?"
"Different" said Myra. "And yes, I know that's fucked of me. I'm not claiming to be right or just, here. I'm only saying what I feel. I do plan to get over my cheap self."
"In that case -- I fucking don't want you to live with a man, either" said Allie, and they roared.
"He's a nice guy" said Chris. "In some ways, he's easier to be around than Ginny. At least he don't hog you, or talk all the time."
Myra grinned and said "Please don't hold back on my account, Kash-Kash."
"But men don't age well, even the nice guys can get assholey. And I don't want to have to explain stuff to him."
"You won't, Chris. If he needs to be kept in the loop, that'll be our job, me and Ginny. Or, if I'm cranky, just Ginny."
"What about his friends in Denver?" asked Allie.
"He didn't have many. Helen kept him locked down" said Myra. She looked at Chris and said "Don't you dare infer Ginny does that with me."
Chris held up her hands as if to disavow any such intention.
"So, unfortunately, we're his community here. But I've told Ginny she's to push him to get out, meet other people, get involved with the Temple -- she can make it be something he does for Gillam, getting involved in the Jewish community here. David's specialty is silent martyrdom." Myra was surprising herself with the anger in her voice.
Allie picked up on it. "Sucks to share Ginny with Daddy, huh."
"Always has, but this will be in my face" admitted Myra.
"Well, when it gets to be too much, you just give me the high sign and I'll start talking about one of your ex girlfriends, we can reminisce, like -- that always gets her focused back on you" said Chris.
Myra busted out laughing. "Just about the worst idea you could come up with, Chris" she said. Chris linked her elbow around Myra's neck and hugged her sideways.
Allie said "I don't want him joining our Feminist Fund meetings, or being on the board."
Myra was shocked. "God, no."
Chris said "Is Ginny going to ask for that?"
Myra said "I can't totally speak for her, but -- no."
Allie said "Gillam, yes, when the time comes, and Margie of course. But no other nepotism."
Myra felt a second shock at the notion of Gillam being on the board. Allie saw it on her face.
But Chris interrupted, asking "Can we go back downstairs now?"
"Yeah. Thanks, you two. We'll keep clearing a way through this thicket -- you tell me anything at all that comes up for you, promise?"
Allie grinned. "Yes indeedy."
Ginny gave her a questioning look when Myra got back downstairs, but Myra avoided her gaze and instead sat down at the dining table, saying "Deal us in. We're about to teach you the Muffdiver Hold-Em."
The next day, Ginny got up early to eat with the children and David. Myra missed rolling over and finding her in bed, and woke up in a sour mood. The house was empty. There was a note from Ginny, along with fresh bagels and lox, saying she and David were at the paint store, Gillam and Carly were running around with friends, and Margie was with Sima. Myra made herself tea and called Chris.
"You wanna date with me today?" she asked.
"What about Daddy?" Chris asked.
"He and Ginny are redecorating" Myra said shortly.
"I need to run errands -- hardware store, shoe repair place, like that. Wanna tag along?" offered Chris.
"Yes. Then, maybe a matinee?"
"Sure. I'll pick you up in, what, 45 minutes?"
While finishing her solo breakfast, Myra called Sadie and got the run-down on used cars she or customers of hers had for sale that Sadie could vouch for mechanically. She made a list, along with Sadie's number, and left it for David on the dining table. She left a second note for Ginny, saying she was out with Chris for the day and would be back by dinner, but Ginny should defrost a couple of the lasagnas. She met Chris out front, anxious to be out of the echoing house.
They had a blast. Errands became one long series of jokes. They ate lunch at a diner, and when Chris called in to check with Sima, she said Margie and Sima were interested in a movie, too. So they all went out together, Myra relishing her only-mother time with her endlessly fascinating daughter. At one point, she had a fleeting thought that this must be what David felt being around Ginny, but she shoved that notion aside quickly.
After the movie, Margie went home but Myra followed Chris and Sima to their house, where she helped Chris replace the faucet in the bathroom and made bread with Sima. It reminded her of long ago, when she was single and their domesticity had been a sacred refuge. At 6:00, Ginny called and said "Are you done avoiding me?"
"I'm not avoiding you. I'm just enjoying other people" said Myra, not quite honestly.
"We're going to have a full house for brunch tomorrow" said Ginny, "And likely a late night tonight, with the kids here, but if you'll let me get you up at 7 tomorrow morning, I'll fuck with you a couple of hours before we have to go cook."
Myra laughed, suddenly looser in her bones. "Are you at the kitchen phone, or what?"
"I'm at your desk, and I'm not going to change how I talk with you, Myra, no matter who's here" replied Ginny.
"Okay, I'm heading home. Are you heating up the lasagna?"
"Yes, but stop at the Co-op and get some green beans. And Gillam says what's for dessert? Should I pull out a pie and bake it?"
"No, I'll get a carrot cake, you love those" said Myra.
After she hung up, she invited Sima and Chris for dinner. They declined, but agreed to come for brunch on Sunday. As she was leaving, Myra said to Chris "So, next Thursday for lunch, I'll meet you at your job with a picnic basket, okay?"
Chris grinned. "Fried chicken?"
"You got it. And if you want to redo that grout, any night this week I can come over and help" said Myra.
When she got home, Carly and Gillam were moving the furniture in David's future room so he could lay down a vibrant new rug. "I know the painters will just cover it up again, but for one day, I had to see what it will look like" he said happily. "Listen, Myra, thank you so much for the car leads. Ginny and I drove over there and I bought a little Toyota sedan -- I always wanted a Toyota, and it was never an option." They walked out front with Margie to look it over, while Ginny finished making dinner.
After they ate, David said "Let's talk house rules. Pretend like I'm a new gay woman moving into the collective."
Gillam burst out laughing. "Well, first, Zayde, it's never gay woman, it's lesbian or preferably dyke."
"David the dyke" said Carly, cackling.
Margie said "If you're about to discuss identity politics, I'm going upstairs."
David looked briefly confused. "No, I meant like -- housework, eating times, privacy, things like that."
Margie stayed put. Myra got a legal pad and Ginny put on water for tea.
"Let me begin by saying, I can't do all kinds of housework, not because I'm a guy and stupid about it -- although that's the case, for some things -- but because my stamina isn't what it once was. I like doing dishes, though."
"We have a dishwasher" Myra pointed out.
"Yes, but someone needs to load and unload it, more than once a day. I'm volunteering for that. I'm no cook, and I don't think shopping for groceries is my forte either -- "
Myra interrupted "I wouldn't want to pass that off to anyone else, anyhow."
"I can vacuum, though, at a leisurely pace. I can do any kind of yard work" David continued. He looked at Ginny: "I know the garden is your baby, but I can rake, do the boring kind of trimming, whatever you want."
Her face was soft and happy. "I'd love to have you out there with me. Maybe we could get chickens." Margie laughed as hard as David did.
"I'll keep the pool clean and the pH however you want it. I can't haul laundry up and down those stairs, I don't think. But I can pull it out of the dryer and fold it. I can dust, and will keep on top of that without being reminded" said David.
"Gillam does most of the laundry, that's one of his chores" said Ginny. Gillam added "But I'll be glad to let you fold."
"I pick up after myself" said David. "I'll have my own phone, and a laptop in my room. I also want my own TV and DVD player in there." He had clearly prepared a list in his head.
"All good, David" said Myra. "When you make friends here, you can ask them to family dinners or have us clear out to give you privacy, whatever works for you. If you have favorite dishes that I don't know about, write 'em down, I like adding to my menu."
"We'll need to get your prescriptions transferred, find you doctors and dentists you like" said Ginny.
"I'll be going to sacharit with Gillam" said David, "and joining the Temple, I can get recommendations from the other old farts there. Now, as to schedule -- "
Myra suddenly felt tense.
David looked at her and Ginny. "I know you two have a world alone together during the day. I know what that's like. After I retired, things changed...for the better...with me and Helen, after an initial adjustment to me being around all day. So, I -- I will respect your needs as a couple."
Inside her head, Myra begged Ginny not to reassure this away. To her relief, Ginny said only "Thank you, Daddy."'
"I have a few proposals to make, based on what I've seen you do, but please, tell me what you'd prefer" said David. After a pause to look at them both, he went on "I like getting up early, and could have breakfast with Gillam, see him to school. And eat with you, too, Ginny, if you're up. Then I could paint or draw until lunch. After lunch -- I've gotten into the habit of a nap. Then I could do my chores or errands until dinner. I go to bed by 9:30 most nights. I'd like to ask for one schoolnight a week to have a boys' night out with Gillam, and Carly if you're here, son. I plan to be out of the house most Saturdays, also, after going to services with Gillam -- maybe you and I can have some time together those days, too" he said, his face questioning Gillam. Gillam nodded back at him, smiling from ear to ear.
"Margie, whenever you're in town, I'd like big chunks of just me and you time, also" David said, his face growing even more tender. "And at least one weekend a month, if it would be okay with you, I'd like to drive down to your school and spend Sunday with you and whoever you want to introduce me to." Now Margie's face lit up as well.
"Absolutely any time, any time at all, that you want the house to yourselves or an evening out, just tell me" David said earnestly to Ginny, then Myra. "I mean it. This change in my life will be so, so much more than what I've had, don't be afraid of making me feel slighted, because the opposite is what is true..." His voice broke then. Ginny's eyes had tears in them, and she put both her hands over his.
"Okay, David" said Myra. "We'll proceed as the way opens."
"Tell 'em your favorite food is ribeyes" said Gillam sotto voce. "And devil's food cake."
Everyone laughed. Then Myra said "I have a question." Ginny looked at her nervously.
"Ginny paints naked. I mean, buck naked. We adjust the thermostat and even so she sweats and is oblivious to chill. I -- I like that part of how she works. What I'm wondering is..." Myra didn't know how to go on. It felt too weird to ask Ginny's father to get over her nudity.
But Ginny stepped in and said "Yeah, Daddy -- I'd like to not change that. You'll be there in the studio, is that going to be hard on you?"
David's face had gone a deep red. "At first, yes, it will be bizarre. I mean, I used to change your diapers, but that was a long time ago. But I'll adjust, Ginny. I will. I want you to paint however you paint, I couldn't bear being responsible for an alteration in your art."
Margie said "You get used to it. It's like, lamp, telephone, Mama's ass, refrigerator, Mama's boobs."
Everybody roared. Then David said "I have a question -- about alcohol. Do you allow it in the house at all?"
Myra began "Sure, you can keep beer in the fridge" but Ginny said "What kind of alcohol, and how much?" There was, for the first time, an edge to her voice.
David looked at her with an expression Myra couldn't read. "Beer. One or two maybe once a week. And wine for celebrations -- although I'm good with the nonalcoholic kind you get, it's the vintage, not the buzz, that matters to me."
"That's fine, then" said Ginny. The tension sat in the room for a minute. Then Gillam said "If we're done, you wanna go for a swim? It's brutal getting out of the pool wet, but great while you're in the water."
"I'll give it a try" smiled David. Margie said she would join them. As they stood up to change into suits, Ginny said "Myra and I are going to bed early. Do whatever you want, the noise won't disturb us. And brunch is officially at 10 tomorrow morning."
"Will you make muffins? Not bran" asked Gillam. Myra nodded, sliding her hand quietly into Ginny's, already feeling a warmth in her groin.
© 2008 Maggie Jochild
Ever since I read Aurora Levins Morales' recent essay (linked to at my post Thinking Outside the Ballot Box), I've been using her phrase "empire in steep decline" in conversation and as a reminder to myself of our current reality. One friend and I laugh merrily whenever one of us says it -- a means of acceptance without utter panic. Recognizing we are in the midst of this shift really does explain a lot of scary things, and in the big picture, I'm not sorry to see empires decline. They are always built on the equivalent of slave labor and increasing disenfranchisement of all but a small elite. Not what I hope for with the technology, information, and human consciousness that is available on this planet.
Interestingly, the idea and the phrase itself, "empire in decline", seems to now be cropping up in diverse places. Perhaps Aurora was a bellwether (wouldn't be the first time), perhaps she read the same sources, or, most likely, smart people all over the place are coming to the same realization. Anyhow, here's a couple of other good, and somewhat contrasting, reads on the idea.
The first is Alternet's coverage of this week's publication of Howard Zinn's latest book, A People's History of American Empire. Their article, subheaded "The End of Empire", begins:
'In Iraq, in Afghanistan, and at home, the position of the globe's "sole superpower" is visibly fraying. The country that was once proclaimed an "empire lite" has proven increasingly light-headed. The country once hailed as a power greater than that of imperial Rome or imperial Britain, a dominating force beyond anything ever seen on the planet, now can't seem to make a move in its own interest that isn't a disaster.'
What follows is a capsule history of the U.S. as only Howard Zinn can do it. I'll skip ahead (trusting you'll read the whole thing) to this section:
'Various interventions following the U.S. defeat in Vietnam seemed to reflect the desperate need of the still-reigning superpower -- even after the fall of its powerful rival, the Soviet Union -- to establish its dominance everywhere. Hence the invasion of Grenada in 1982, the bombing assault on Panama in 1989, the first Gulf war of 1991. Was George Bush Sr. heartsick over Saddam Hussein's seizure of Kuwait, or was he using that event as an opportunity to move U.S. power firmly into the coveted oil region of the Middle East? Given the history of the United States, given its obsession with Middle Eastern oil dating from Franklin Roosevelt's 1945 deal with King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, and the CIA's overthrow of the democratic Mossadeq government in Iran in 1953, it is not hard to decide that question.'
In the following section, "Justifying Empire", he states:
'The ruthless attacks of September 11th (as the official 9/11 Commission acknowledged) derived from fierce hatred of U.S. expansion in the Middle East and elsewhere. Even before that event, the Defense Department acknowledged, according to Chalmers Johnson's book The Sorrows of Empire, the existence of more than 700 American military bases outside of the United States.
'In wars, there is always a difference between the motives of the soldiers and the motives of the political leaders who send them into battle. My motive (as a bomber in World War II), like that of so many, was innocent of imperial ambition. It was to help defeat fascism and create a more decent world, free of aggression, militarism, and racism.
'The motive of the U.S. establishment, understood by the aerial gunner I knew, was of a different nature. It was described early in 1941 by Henry Luce, multi-millionaire owner of Time, Life, and Fortune magazines, as the coming of "The American Century." The time had arrived, he said, for the United States "to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit, and by such means as we see fit."'
His article concludes with the paragraph:
'Have not the justifications for empire, embedded in our culture, assaulting our good sense -- that war is necessary for security, that expansion is fundamental to civilization -- begun to lose their hold on our minds? Have we reached a point in history where we are ready to embrace a new way of living in the world, expanding not our military power, but our humanity?'
It was Helen Keller who first said "When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us." We in this country are emotionally attached to our Empire, even those of us being ground down by it, because we fear the alternative, a murky not-quite-imagined construct where our addiction to individualism and noble self-image might get tossed on the ash-heap.
I believe it is this fear, as much as fear of equally imaginary "Islamofascists", which keeps us complacent while latter-day imperialists openly unlace our governmental balance and our civil rights for their own gain, monetary and power. We think they will not go so far as to destroy the identity of America itself in their quest for control -- like the German elite, we think letting the Nazis go after the commies and Jews will "clean house" but be self-limiting. But one empire is virtually identical to other for those at the top. They care not a flip what the rest of us do, they have their compounds and their Saudi connections. They may get booed off the baseball diamond by their former constituency while throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, but they can buy their way into being the commissioner of baseball nevertheless.
As if to reassure us, this week the U.K. Prospect has an article by Michael Lind titled America Still Works, begins with:
'Anyone who reads the serious press about the condition of the US might be excused for believing that the country is headed towards a series of deep crises. This impression is exacerbated by economic slowdown and by the presidential primaries, in which candidates announce bold plans to rescue the country from disaster. But even in more normal times there are three ubiquitous myths about America that make the country seem weaker and more chaotic than it really is. The first myth, which is mainly a conservative one, is that racial and ethnic rivalries are tearing America apart. The second myth, which is mainly a liberal one, is that America will soon be overwhelmed by religious fundamentalists. The third myth, an economic one beloved of centrists, is that the retirement of the baby boomers will bankrupt the country because of runaway social security entitlement costs.'
Lind goes on to address and debunk each of these myths. My favorite part is where he explains that social security privatization is talked up by those who intend to profit from it, not because the fund is in serious trouble -- but the real problem, health care costs, are ignored by the same folks.
Less blunt than Howard Zinn, but with some still useful insights, he concludes:
'The US is facing major challenges—but they are not the ones usually identified. Long-term racial and linguistic balkanisation may not be a problem, but class lines in the US are hardening; there is now less social mobility in the US than in Europe. The US is not in danger of becoming a theocracy, but it is in danger of becoming a plutocracy. Social security does not threaten to bankrupt America, but healthcare cost inflation does. The US is not going to be eclipsed any time soon by another superpower, but it may exhaust itself by allowing its commitments to exceed the resources that the public is willing to allot to foreign policy. The sooner the mythical problems can be dismissed, the sooner the genuine challenges to America's future can be identified and addressed.'
The glaring euphemism in the above is, of course, is "it may exhaust itself by allowing its commitments to exceed the resources that the public is willing to allot to foreign policy". By foreign policy, he means the military-backed domination of the rest of the entire world for the profit of a small elite. In other words, empire in steep decline.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
(1982, Brosnan Street; photo by sharon franklet)
I tell my story. I tell yours, too, where it touches mine. There are an infinite number of answers to the question why, but here is one of them.
From Twenty-One Love Poems, by Adrienne Rich
THE DREAM OF A COMMON LANGUAGE
No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone.
The accidents happen, we’re not heroines,
they happen in our lives like car crashes,
books that change us, neighborhoods
we move into and come to love.
Tristan und Isolde is scarcely the story,
women at least should know the difference
between love and death. No poison cup,
no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder
should have caught some ghost of us: that tape-recorder
not merely played but should have listened to us,
and could instruct those after us:
this we were, this is how we tried to love,
and these are the forces they had ranged against us,
and these are the forces we had ranged within us,
within us and against us, against us and within us.
Copyright 1978, Adrienne Rich.
(Hat tip to Heart over at Women's Space for also posting a wave-inducing poem by Adrienne Rich this week, "A wild patience has taken me this far" -- here's to our herstory, word by word.)
(Sea Star and Mollusk, Satonda Island, 2005, photo by Tim Laman)
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 two days ago. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.
They went on, Myra re-learning cooking from an increasingly confident Gillam, her physical condition becoming the best in her adult life under the bossy coaching of Margie. When Carly came for the weekend, he became the person who helped Myra re-learn the streets and neighborhoods of Seattle. Once Myra had revisited a place or route, it was solidly back in her memory.
They would begin by sitting at the table after breakfast on Saturday, Carly holding the Mapsco, while someone in the family made a suggestion like "How about driving to that putt-putt place where we went for my birthday that time, and the ice cream place afterward?" Ginny would give the address, Carly would locate it on the map, and off they'd go.
Gillam chafed at being left out of these excursions, but aside from Myra's need, it was also a chance for Carly to rack up driving time on his learner's permit. Additional conversation would have been distracting. For some reason, Myra found it much easier to stay calm with Carly at the wheel. They both quickly grew attached to their one-on-one time together.
Once a day, Myra sat down at her keyboard and wrote whatever came up onto a blank page. After her first time, she saved these efforts in a journal called Return from Ultima Thule, sorted by date. Most evenings, she read for an hour with Gillam on her daybed. After the first month, she did half the reading aloud. She also began answering her own e-mails and correspondence, with Ginny's frequent help. Ginny drove her to acupunture twice a week, Nancy once a week (where they both took treatment), and managed the household finances again mostly on her own.
Once a month, Chris took Myra to a sweat, often just the two of them among friends of Chris's from her new job on the tribal council. Allie and Ginny continued to meet once a week to support each other as artists, but Ginny's focus was now on her print and card line, plus magazine covers and illustrations. The canvas she had just begun when they got the news about Myra's cancer sat on the drying shelf above her work area, unscraped and unfinished. She sublimated her creativity into other areas, like making pieced-together covers for throw pillows or buying beads of plain wood and painting them into stunning creations. She refused to begin any art project that would take her more than two hours at a stretch, the most she'd allow herself to be absorbed away from Myra.
Two months after the surgery, during that week's visit with Nancy, Nancy turned to Myra and said "You've been medically released to have sex again, right?"
Myra and Ginny both became very still. Myra said "Yes. But we haven't."
Nancy waited silently. Myra looked at Ginny and said "I noticed the -- absence. I don't know what to tell you. I love you and want you in every other way, but the idea of lovemaking seems...strange."
"No desire at any time?" asked Nancy gently.
"Not erotic desire" said Myra. "Our physical intimacy is intact, except for that. And I can tell Ginny's feeling more, you've been a mensch about not sitting on my fence, honey -- I'm not NOT attracted, it's just -- vacant there."
Ginny tried to not show what a blow this was, that word "vacant". Nancy wasn't fooled and slid over to work with her. While Ginny was sobbing in both grief and humiliation, Nancy reminded Myra "It's all right, you're not hurting her."
A little later, Myra said "I can't tell if this is because of losing my ovaries or -- the brain stuff, or both, or something else."
"Would you like to know?" asked Nancy.
"Hell yes" said Myra. "I don't want to stay this way, if there's something I can do about it."
Nancy did her testing and muttering routine. Finally she said "It's not hormonal. It's the path you're on at the moment. You're re-collecting your identity, putting an unusual amount of trust in others at the moment, and for some reason sex is a risk. Does that seem right?"
Ginny and Myra looked at each other. Ginny said softly "I know it's always a choice with you, to meet me there."
"I'm so sorry, my darling Gin" said Myra.
"Stop that" said Ginny. "You didn't ask for this, and you haven't left me."
"And she won't stay in this spot" added Nancy. Myra grinned "One thing you can count on with me."
On the drive home, Myra giggled and said "When I was in college, I took a speech class where we had to memorize a monologue. I wound up doing a sequence as Blanche Dubois in 'A Streetcar Named Desire', if you can imagine."
"Barely" chuckled Ginny.
"I thought of it when Nancy was talking. You know -- 'Ah have always relied on the kindness of strangers'." Myra fluttered her eyelashes as she drawled this out. Ginny hooted.
A week after returning home from the hospital, Ginny and Myra had sent a collection of Myra's Skene books, signed by her, as well as Allie's best, also signed, to Velda care of the nurse's station. Myra printed out her favorite photo of the six of them, taken the year before at Thanksgiving, and slipped it into the front of the top book. They also gathered a basket of treats from Pike, smoked salmon, good cheeses, breads, pastries, fruit, and a jar of Ginny's apple butter, and had that delivered to the nurse's station for all to share.
During this process, Myra said she wanted to write individual thank-yous to Velda, "that other nurse" -- "Francine" Ginny had supplied -- Dr. Desai, Dr. Reading, and "the doctor who first figured it out".
Ginny took a breath and said "That would be Jules Lefkowitz."
"What?" said Myra, confused.
Ginny told her what she had done. She searched Myra's face for an expression of betrayal. Instead, Myra said slowly "You must have been at desperation's door, to ask her for help. My poor Ginny." Ginny wept in Myra's arms. Myra said, "Well, I can't believe I'm saying this, but let's ask her to dinner. Her and her partner. We'll cook for them, she can see me when I'm not a big turnip in a mechanical bed, and I can thank her personally."
Ginny wrote Jules a note on one of her hand-made cards with the invitation, and Myra signed it with her. When Myra told Allie about it, Allie said "I know there's this expectation that dykes stay friends with their exes, but I think it's fine to be picky about it. I mean, she's a good doctor but I don't know what you all will find to talk about."
"You never know" said Myra.
"Does this mean you gonna ask that wackjob Fern to come have Sunday dinner with us?" teased Allie. Myra punched her playfully. What was not play was how much she kept the little Ripley action figure close to her, wherever she was in the house. At one point, Chris had whispered to Allie "What's with the doll?"
Allie said "Ripley rescued her. I mean, of course it was Myra doing the rescuing, as usual, but you know how she thinks she's Ripley."
"Oh" said Chris. "You know, they made that forklift loader from the second movie as a toy, I think that figure would fit inside it. I bet it's on eBay."
"We'll buy it for her together for her birthday, how's that sound?"
A couple of weeks later, Ginny walked in looking through the mail. She sat down by Myra's desk, waving one envelope and saying "This is from Jules' office."
"An answer to our dinner invitation?" asked Myra as Ginny opened it.
Ginny snorted incredulously, then said "Well, I guess you could call it that." She tossed the paper over to Myra, who read it very slowly, then looked up at her and said "I don't mind her billing us for the consultation, but is this amount for real? What did she do, dip me by my heel in the River Styxby?"
"That's more than what we paid for the car Margie is driving" said Ginny, laughing in disbelief.
Myra pulled open a drawer and got her checkbook. "Let's pay it now. Get it out of my sight."
"Wait" said Ginny. "Use the joint account."
Myra opened the drawer again, got the big checkbook, grinning. "Just think, you could be Mrs. Asshole Doctor."
"Glad you're back, darlin'" said Ginny, and picked up the rest of the mail to read it.
At Friday night dinner that evening, Myra told her friends about the bill she'd gotten. Chris was especially incensed, and said "Why is that name so familiar? I mean, from way back when?"
Allie looked at Myra, who was struggling with her memory, and jumped in. "When the Lesbian Resource Center was having all that hoo-ha about racism, and we went to that community meeting there? She was one of their mouthpieces."
Chris's face registered recognition. "The bitch? Excuse me, kids."
Ginny cleared her throat and said "She wasn't one of their official mouthpieces. She wasn't on the board, didn't work there. She just inserted herself into all that controversy."
"On the wrong side" said Chris emphatically. Then, after a moment, she eyed Ginny and said "How do you know that?"
For once, Margie knew the answer to a question about her mothers' exes, and for once, she resisted the urge to rip off a scab. But Ginny said without defensiveness "We were lovers then."
The silence was extremely awkward. Finally Myra asked "And -- what was it like for you, during all that?"
Ginny served herself more gumbo as she answered. "Confusing. I mean, she and I were already -- fighting. And I knew Allie already, and liked her, was listening to what she had to say with a growing sense of...hunger, attraction, need -- I was ravenous for a community I had only just started to meet."
Myra's brain finally yielded a question. "Wait a minute -- were you there, at that meeting that night?"
"I sure was" said Ginny with a tight smile.
"Up at that table in the front, with all those white women in fancy clothes?" demanded Chris. Myra saw Sima nudge her.
"No, I did not sit with Jules, which I guarantee you she threw a fit about later. I was at the very back, with some of the women who were about to form Jews Against Zionism."
Myra was staring at Ginny. "Once again, there we were in the same place, and I never noticed you. It's so hard for me to believe."
"I remember you, Myra" said Ginny poignantly. "I remember all three of you, vividly. The meeting had already begun, and was already tense, but then the three of you trailed in late and found chairs at the side, near the front. And as you scooted past the women in that row, the whole room went quiet. The woman next to me said 'Holy shit, the big guns just arrived.'"
Chris suddenly giggled. "She called us the big guns?"
"Mm-huh. I knew Allie, and I'd already heard Myra's poetry and -- noticed her" said Ginny with a grin. "But you were new to me, Chris. So I asked her what she meant. And she whispered that if you three showed up at an event, well, then, it was the political event to be at. She said you scared the fucking hell out of the mainstream lesbian community, because you all had zero tolerance for classism or racism. She said to watch and see who spoke up first -- if it was Myra, then we'd hear a beautiful speech that would change women's hearts. If it was Allie, then it would be short and all the power would flow in one direction suddenly. And if it was Chris -- well, she said you almost never spoke up, but if you did, it would sound like a joke and yet somebody would start bleeding."
"You have got to be kidding me!" said Myra. "She really said all that?"
"Yeah, and the women around me agreed with her. You had quite the rep" said Ginny. Gillam, Carly and Margie were leaned forward in fascination, looking around at the women they were eating with. Edwina put her hand on the back of Allie's neck and left it there.
Sima said "This must have been right before I met you" and Chris said, "Yes, it was."
Myra kept looking at Ginny. "So what did you think when you heard all that?"
"Well, to be honest -- it made me wish I was sitting in your row, instead of at the back. And yes, Myra, you in particular -- I kept watching the back of your head, waiting for you to turn around."
"As I recall" said Allie, "Myra and I did both speak, but not Chris." She looked at Chris.
"Nope. Kept my mouth shut. Until we were outside."
Myra laughed. "Oho, that's right. Afterward, you went up to somebody and told her if she had trouble sleeping at night, you could help her find sweet oblivion -- I wasn't there, but you said she almost fainted from the threat in it."
Ginny gaped at Chris. "That was you?!!"
Chris grinned. "Yeah, I threatened your girlfriend."
Ginny cackled. "She came unglued over that, Chris. She kept bringing it up for weeks. But she couldn't charge you with anything because what you said could have meant more than one thing, and she said your voice was perfectly calm, with what she called a shit-eating grin on your face."
Myra leaned over and gave Chris a high five.
Allie asked Ginny "Why didn't you ever ask me about that meeting then, Ginny? Like the next time I saw you."
Ginny lost a little of her grin. "Well...I'm sorry, Myra, but the woman I was talking to had some other things to say. About you. And I didn't want to -- gossip about it, with anybody, especially not you, Allie."
Myra's face fell. "What did she -- I bet it wasn't about my politics, was it?"
"No" said Ginny gently.
After a pause, Myra asked "Who was this woman?"
Myra said "Oh." Chris giggled. Ginny saw Margie file this new name away.
Then Myra sighed and said "Still, that's one hell of a story, Ginny. Can't believe you never told me, or us, about it before."
Ginny kept looking at Myra steadily. Finally she said "You were the kind of dyke that epitomized the word, Myra. You were brilliant, fearless, ready to sweep the landscape clean and start over, and all in the name of loving women. You were one year older than me and one inch taller, and in my wildest dreams that night, I would never have imagined becoming the woman who got to go home with you. When I did finally become able to imagine it -- well, it's been the making of me. Look at where I am tonight, the table I'm sitting at, the people I'm among." Her voice cracked.
"Two of these people you're among, you created from your own body" said Myra with emotion.
"We all did that" said Ginny, looking at her friends.
Chris leaned over and kissed Sima exuberantly.
"We few, we happy few" said Carly, almost under his breath. Gillam and Myra caught the reference, and smiled at him.
In April, during her art meeting with Allie, Ginny had the idea of suggesting a gallery host a show exhibiting three generations of Bates artists: Canvases from her and her father, plus a few of Margie's maps and some of Gillam's photographs. Everyone was exuberant about the idea, and her favorite local gallery put it on the schedule for the following winter. A week later, Edwina talked with Myra and Ginny privately one evening.
"I have a colleague at the university who does rare book restoration. Some ephemera as well. She's looking for a summer intern to work at minimum wage on some less fragile projects, and I thought about recommending Margie. I know she's planning to work this summer, to earn extra cash before heading to college next fall. What do you think?"
Myra looked dubious. "Margie's -- she means well, but she can be so reckless."
Ginny demurred. "Not about everything. Have you seen the apple pie order she keeps her CD's in? And her map work, the detail, how she taught herself to apply gold leaf and make embossing -- she can be a perfectionist that way."
"That's what made me think of her, seeing all her maps out on the table last night as you two were talking over what she might want to exhibit. This could be something she'd love. And it would be a definite plus on her resume. It's a full-time job, though" said Edwina.
"I think you should ask her" said Ginny, and Myra agreed. Margie's face lit up when Edwina told her, and she said yes instantly. Edwina took her to meet her prospective employer -- Margie wore her designer outfit -- and the deal was sealed, due in some part to Edwina's influence.
When Margie found out she was expected to start work the day after school ended, however, she came to her mothers in dismay. "This means I can't spend a week with you on the Gulf Coast!" she cried. "And this may be -- " She didn't finish her sentence, but Ginny caught the meaning with a whiff of heartache. Next year, Margie might not want to go with them. Once she'd left home. The fact that Margie considered that a possibility was like a knife to Ginny's heart.
Myra said "Explain it to your boss as soon as you can. Ask for a long weekend, a Friday and a Monday. We'll fly you in and out separately."
Margie's powers of persuasion got her an exemption, and Ginny finally found a week in mid June that would work for eight busy people. Once again, she asked Patty to accompany them, and once again Patty refused. Myra asked Carly privately if his mother was dating yet, or thinking about it. He looked a little horrified at the idea and said no, she was having enough trouble making friends. "Like, normal friends" he said guilelessly.
The week before her 21st anniversary with Myra, Ginny approached Chris and Sima for their help with a special gift she wanted to make for Myra. A great deal of skulduggery ensued, with Allie covering for them. Chris rented the jackhammer and orange hazard cones, Sima found work overalls and hard hats to fit them at Goodwill, and Ginny made a realistic-looking city utilties sign to stick on Chris's truck.
On the night of their anniversary, Wednesday, everyone came over for dinner which was of course Myra's fried chicken, supplemented by Allie's catfish, Gillam's enchiladas, and Sima's kugel. Ginny had arranged for shipment of a particular chocolate cake from Just Desserts in San Francisco that was Myra's favorite. After stuffing themselves, Ginny announced "Now, we all have a viewing to attend. Please put on shoes, grab one of these flashlights, and follow me."
Everyone but the ringleaders were mystified. Narnia was beside herself with the thrill of her entire pack taking a walk together. She tugged at Margie's grip on her leash, plainly hoping they came across an elk -- there were enough of them to bring it down.
Instead, they ventured only around the corner before stopping on the sidewalk half a block north from Aux Delice. A piece of brightly-colored oilcloth lay over an entire square of sidewalk there. Ginny removed it with a flourish and "Voila!", shining her flash downward.
On the spot where she had first kissed Myra, the concrete had been removed and filled with a clear lucite material, into which had been embedded a collage of mementoes and symbols from their 21 years together: gecko artifacts, plastic animals who looked like Juju and Alice, one of the children's beloved Hot Wheels, a moon snail shell from Galveston, a miniature metal typewriter and artist's palette, a Star of David and a Texas Lone Star cast in fimo, dried roses, a photo of Doris Day, and much more. An eight-pointed compass rose was lightly etched into the clear overlay, and at each of the points were the letters G, A, M, S, C, G, E, and M.
"We're immortalized!" marveled Myra, her arms already around Ginny. They recreated their kiss, which embarrassed everyone else but especially the children. Ginny, Sima and Chris told the story of how they had destroyed public property and miffed the neighbor on the corner with after-dinner jackhammering, but managed to pull it off before someone called the cops.
Ginny danced from foot to foot in her exultation. Myra said "Gillam, you come photograph this tomorrow in case some mindless yahoo decides it's vandalism instead of art." But the installation, as Ginny called it, was left undisturbed. A year later, a local paper featured it as one of Seattle's unexplained oddities, calling it the "GAMGEM" altar, and the name stuck. People sometimes came by to kneel and peer at the contents, trying to make a story of them. Children were especially fond of it.
Back at the house, Myra handed a long, thin tissue-wrapped object to Ginny and said "This is my gift". When Ginny opened it, there was a new brush exactly the same type as the one Narnia had chewed up. As Ginny looked at Myra, her face still, Myra said "I need for you to start painting again. We've gone long enough without it in this house. I'll catch up with you, I promise."
Everyone else screamed for Ginny. She melted into Myra's arms and they shivered together, still amazed at what they had.
Carly was allowed to come spend most of the summer with them when Myra indicated in addition to needing his help for Gillam, she wanted to put them to paid work patching the roof with tar and repainting the exterior of the house. It was hard labor, occupying almost as much of their time as school. They dove into the pool, grimy and sweat-encrusted, at the end of each afternoon and frolicked loudly until clambering out to make dinner. Myra and Ginny paid them double minimum wage, and supplemented Margie's salary at her job to the same amount, to be fair.
A month later at breakfast Ginny said "Myra, honey, it's July in Seattle" as she lowered her newspaper.
"I'm able to keep track of the calendar, you know" said Myra mildly.
"I know that. I mean, this is the month when the local Gilbert and Sullivan Society does their annual big production" said Ginny.
"Oh. You're right, I had forgotten that. What it is this year?" Myra adored Gilbert and Sullivan, mostly for the patter and meter of the lyrics.
"Princess Ida. The P-I gave it a rave review. About a group of women who, well, become separatists. Of a sort" grinned Ginny. "Are you up to the demands of watching a frenzied performance?"
"I am. Let's see if anyone else wants to go and get us all tickets" said Myra.
The following Saturday, after an early dinner, a group including Carly and Gillam trooped off to Princess Ida and had a riotous time. Over late-night dessert, they recited scraps of lyrics and argued over what kinds of modern-day feminists matched the prototypes in the play. The next day, Myra noticed something on the glass of the gecko world. A realistic clay reproduction of a fortress wall complete with crenellation, merlons and embrasures was draped with a small banner which read "Castle Adamant". Along the bottom edge, in tiny script, was written "Man is Nature's sole mistake!"
Ginny spent the summer painting one canvas after another, a backlog pouring out of her. Myra's novel sat unfinished, but the week before her birthday she wrote a real poem, one worthy of sending out. She and Ginny had shelved the question of a lawsuit against the anesthesiologist until the impact of her work loss was quantifiable. Ginny did obtain a certified copy of Myra's medical record, however, which she filed with their attorney.
In August, Myra turned 52. They had the party out on the deck, with the faint smell of tar from roof patches still evident. The back of the house was primed but not yet painted. Carly and Gillam were thrilled to have the whole day off from labor.
Patty and Truitt came up from Olympia. Nancy brought her two teenagers. Allie and Edwina, Chris and Sima, Alveisa and Petra were there. Jen and Poe came with their 10-year-old daughter Ava. Kate Bean drove up from Portland with her 7-year-old Rafe. David had flown in from Denver and planned to stay until Margie left for college.
Gillam was in charge of the the grill, and it seemed like every dish had some of Ginny's homegrown tomatoes in it. Chris brought biscuit roots which she roasted in the ashes at the edge of the fire. Before eating, the younger folk were in and out of the pool. Myra sat on the chaise longue with Ginny lounged back against her and Narnia sitting where Myra's hand could reach her head. Life was unspeakably good.
The cake was a lemon Italian cream seven-layer miracle from Macrina's. A few bites into it, Allie leaned forward and said, "So. Are you back? Is the brain firing on all cylinders again?" Small conversation elsewhere died down.
"Mostly. I can still tell a difference. Once or twice a day, there's a misfire." Myra's tone was fighting to not be tragic.
"This means that instead of being ultra-freakazoid smart all the time, you sometimes are only freakazoid smart?" said Allie.
"Okay, yes." Myra gave up being pitiful. "Reminds me of that joke, the guy who asked his doctor, 'So, after my surgery will I be able to play the piano?'"
Everyone who knew the punchline laughed, with visible relief. Margie asked, "Is that the Marx brothers?"
Myra reached into her memory cupboard, but couldn't get it open. ".....I don't know." And promptly burst into tears. She was still crying very easily, at least by her standards.
Gillam hooked an arm around her neck affectionately and said in a stoner accent "Chill, dude, you're ruining the buzz for everybody." Then he said: "Got a Republican joke for you: What's the difference between Terry Schiavo and Italian eggplant? The egglant is a vegetable." Which made Myra laugh again. Roller-coaster Myra these days.
She opened presents, remembering and missing the days when the kids were little and couldn't bear to not help rip at the paper. She promptly put her Ripley into the forklift loader she got from Allie and Chris and played with it in enchantment, making the clamps flex and unflex.
The last gift, held back by Margie till the end, was clearly a small book. Ginny said, "It's from the three of us" and handed her the card to read first.
A Ginny original, it was an ink and wash drawing of their deck except on one side was a massive, ominous-looking apparatus with dials and oscillators, and on the other side was a platform facing a sky veined with lightning. Reaching to pull a giant lever on the machine was Ginny, laughing maniacally and clad in only a white lab coat, unbuttoned. Flanking her were two hunchback assistants with Gillam's and Margie's faces. One of them had a hump on the left, the other on the right. Gillam pointed and said "That's Igor and Eegor." On the platform, under a sheet except for her head, was Myra with bolts coming out of her temples and one lightning bolt just striking her between her eyes. There was a small plume of smoke coming from her third eye. The caption read "It's ALIVE!"
Myra laughed until someone had to get her a drink of water. She started laughing again listening to Patty try to explain what was so funny about it to Truitt.
She opened her present carefully, preserving the Ginny-decorated paper. It was a first-edition volume of the Collected Poems of Alfred Noyes, signed in spidery gall ink by the author. Ginny said, "It was Gillam's idea." Gillam jumped in "But Margie found it for us."
She opened it to "The Highwayman" and Ginny said, "Go, on read it." Myra began, thrilled to discover she barely had to look at the words -- they were back in her head. Even better, her family and friends began acting out the roles. Ginny claimed Bess the landlord's daughter, of course. Gillam and Margie squabbled over the highwayman, and when Margie won -- she was clearly the better swashbuckler -- Gillam took on Tim the ostler, doing him to deranged perfection. Allie led a company of Redcoats, composed of the rest of her friends. Margie persuaded Narnia to play dead on the path and be the hero, shot down like a dog on the highway. The sugary cake gave everyone except Narnia a heightened flair for drama.
Two weeks later, the house painting was completed and all the work materials had been cleared away. After breakfast, Myra and Ginny asked Carly and Gillam if they would take a ride with them, destination undeclared. David was in Ginny's studio, painting, and had previously said he wanted Myra and Ginny to have this fun without him. The boys climbed into the back of the old Volvo, wondering at the mystery. Ginny drove to a massive used car lot and pulled in near the office. Myra turned to the boys and said "I have your wages from the summer, but it's not nearly enough to buy a reliable used car. It is, however, enough to pay for insurance and operating expenses for a year. You two have been unbelievably helpful and sweet this summer, a joy to have around. So I don't want to get rid of you, but -- it's time you had your own wheels."
Unbridled joy was dawning on Gillam's face. Carly was not quite ready to believe it yet. Myra went on "Carly, we've talked with Patty and she's given her blessing. Truitt got a car from Pat, so we want to be the ones to give you your car. Now, both of you, get out and find two or three vehicles that make your hearts sing. Don't be extravagant or ridiculous in your choices, but do go for quality and what you really want. When you've got your selections, we'll get them vetted by Sadie Harvey or one of her mechanics. We'll go in and talk with the sales staff. You should definitely do test drives of all of your choices, and we'll clear that for you as well."
Gillam lunged forward and kissed both his mothers exuberantly. After a moment, Carly followed suit. Then they scrambled out of the car and, high-fiving each other, split up to trot through the rows of cars.
Ginny and Myra maneuvered, smiling, through the initial cluster of young white salesmen in bright shirts and scanned the big showroom for a woman. Finally spotting one at a desk on the phone, they approached her and waited until she finished her call.
"Are you a member of the sales staff?" asked Ginny. The woman said yes and stood up with alacrity, introducing herself.
"We're here to buy two cars for teenaged boys" Ginny said. "They're out looking over her stock right now. Here's our plan." She launched into discussion with the woman.
Myra's gaze was distracted by a silverish Honda in the showroom. It didn't look like the Hondas she was familiar with. Excusing herself, she wandered over and read its window sticker. It turned out to be an Accord Hybrid. She returned to the desk, where Ginny paused and looked at her questioningly.
"You've got a used hybrid for sale? I thought those were impossible to come by" remarked Myra.
"Just got turned in. That's a 2005" the clerk said smoothly.
Myra and Ginny communicated silently. "We'd like to test drive it" said Ginny.
As they drove out of the lot, Myra said "The Volvo got's another ten years on her, if we do whatever Sadie tells us to do. But the Honda is older than Margie and even with a third new engine, I don't think she's going to live much longer."
"A hybrid. I really like the idea of that for around town, and that's almost all of our driving most weeks" said Ginny. "I hate this color, though."
"That can be remedied, right?" said Myra.
"I could see if Sadie's body shop folks would let me apprentice with them..." mused Ginny. Myra knew in that instant the car was going to be theirs.
When they got back, Myra placed a call to Sadie and confirmed her earlier request for a visiting mechanic. Sadie said she'd come personally that afternoon and check out whatever three cars they indicated. Ginny initiated the first sales negotiation, for the Accord. Myra wandered off to the bathroom, then found a break room and bought herself a Coke -- she had not had one in weeks. She sat down at a table and picked up the newspaper lying there, turning to the crossword and bravely having a go at it. After an hour, Gillam found her, breathless with excitement. He and Carly had made their selections.
"You two need to get on line when we go home, or call my insurance broker, and find yourselves insurance. I think we can plan on picking up the cars tomorrow, and I want that in place before you drive anywhere" said Myra, walking with them back to the sales clerk who was now the focus of envious looks from her coworkers.
Myra spotted Sadie coming in the door, and went to greet her. They gave her the list of cars, two from Carly, three from Gillam, plus the Accord. As Sadie got keys from the sales clerk, Ginny talked with Myra about the price of the Accord.
They made their goodbyes and drove home, stopping for Chinese take-out along the way. Lunch was consumed with teenaged car talk. As soon as they were full, the boys sat at Myra's computer in the study and began researching insurance. Myra lay down on Ginny's daybed, listening with enjoyment to the conversation around the wall as Ginny sketched ideas for car murals and David painted intently.
An hour later, Gillam brought a pad of figures to Myra. She sat up so he could sit down next to her. Ginny scooted over in her chair and they called for Carly to come join them. He was still showing some embarrasment about the size of their gift.
Once insurance was squared away, Myra said to the boys "If we're going to trade in the Honda, it needs to be cleaned out and detailed. I'll pay you what we'd pay the service station if you two want to do it."
It was a welcome outlet for their excited energy. Carly and Gillam gathered up cleaning supplies and bustled out to the carport. Myra decided to swim laps in the pool. The artists continued their Bates imperative.
A couple of hours later, Sadie called with her assessment. "The hybrid is good to go, I can't find a thing wrong with it. On Gillam's list, the Toyota pick-up has a serious fuel pump issue. The Firebird has been used hard and frankly I just don't care for their engines, nothing majorly wrong but that's my opinion; but the little green Mini is okay except it needs new tires. For Carly, the Jetta has been in a wreck and the back chassis is bent; but the baby blue Miata is fine. Seven years old but it's been kept up."
Myra asked if Sadie could order the tires for the Mini and then gave her the okay. She told Ginny the results, and Ginny called the sales clerk to begin dickering for the other two cars. Myra kissed the back of Ginny's neck and went in to start dinner before the boys could chase her out.
Margie saved half of her summer earnings to pay for her own car and insurance costs. The other half was spent on a clothes-buying spree in the college kid stores around the university. Edwina and Sima went with her, and later Sima told Ginny "She was pinching those nickels hard. Makes a difference when you earn 'em yourself." After the inevitable fashion show to display all her new outfits, Allie commented "You not just stylin', you be a setter of trends, huh."
"Of course" grinned Margie.
When Margie moved to Olympia to begin classes at Evergreen, Myra, Ginny, Gillam and David all drove to Olympia, following Margie in the Cerebellum. They carried in boxes and let her order them around, unpacking and setting up her bedroom with its own mini-fridge and microwave, its drafting table, her laptop and a closet crammed with clothes. The room was stuffed by the time they were done. She had a few personal items to go into the common rooms, and one of her roommates, another girl, was moving in at the same time so they all met her. Finally they went out to dinner.
Afterward, back at Margie's flat, Myra wasn't sure she could actually bear to say goodbye. Margie kept bending over to hug Narnia and whisper into her fur -- she wasn't going to keep Narnia for a few weeks, until she "got a routine down", as she put it, so Narnia would be riding back home with them. Ginny looked like a ghost. Even Gillam was somber.
Finally Margie stood up and said "Who gets hugged bye first?" She began with David and ended with Ginny, and by that time, Ginny was sobbing. Margie's eyes were moist but she did not cry. Myra slipped five 20's into her pocket and helped Ginny out to the car. The first few minutes of driving, she kept reminding herself to focus on the road. Ginny stopped crying, leaned against her window staring ahead. Narnia whined intermittently in the back. Gillam had on his earbuds.
As they began entering the outskirts of Seattle, Ginny turned around and said to David "I am so sorry for what I put you through when I left home. I'll never make it up to you, I know now."
He smiled sadly. "You already have. You gave me these grandchildren."
The house was dark and felt empty. There was a message from Allie, saying to call when they got in and tell her how it went. Myra didn't feel like trying to express her desolation, however, and she left it to Ginny to call. She went to her desk and looked at the photos of her family, of Margie at every age. My god, how was she going to make sure Margie was ever safe again?
Gillam seemed to slide easily into being an only child. He took on Margie's vacuuming chore, and kept learning new dishes to cook with Myra. He talked more at meals than he ever had. When Carly came for weekends, Ginny would pump him for word of Margie, was she looking well, did she ever come to their house for dinner? Apparently not often, to the latter question. She seemed to be extremely busy.
Margie came home after four weeks, full of energy and new names and complaints about the work load. Narnia pissed on the living room floor when Margie appeared; she had clearly given her up for dead. When Margie left on Sunday, her back seat was piled with boxes of garden produce, loaves of bread, pastries, preserves, and all of Narnia's accoutrements. Narnia sat triumphantly in the front seat beside her. Seeing them drive off was a double blow.
Margie came home only once in October as well. Twice during the weekend she used the phrase "Me and Gary", covering it over each time with the addition of another name. As soon as they were alone, Ginny hissed to Myra "Who is this Gary?"
"Like I know. Let's just hope he's not way older than her, a drunk or a slimeball." But Myra wanted to hate him, too, for his access to her daughter when they were starving for the sight of her.
Margie did answer e-mails. Her replies were often one line, yet her personality came through. Whenever Myra opened her browser, she searched first for anything from MRJBYOWZA, the handle Margie had chosen at 14. If there was something, all she had to say was "Gin" and Ginny was there instantly, reading over her shoulder.
When November got off to a running start and they still had not been invited to come visit Margie, Ginny decided to push. Margie mentioned she was going to be crewing one Saturday afternoon in a small meet, and Ginny said "We'd love to come see you. What time is it?" She pried the information from Margie and, after they hung up, announced elatedly to Myra "Call Allie and Edwina, we're going to Olympia next weekend."
They got there right before the meet began and had to content themselves with looking at Margie through binoculars for a while. After it was over, everyone gathered in an open-air pavilion nearby. When they had spotted Margie and walked toward her, she had been standing close to a boy taller than her, around her age, muscled, black, with luxurious dreads and a beautiful smile. Margie left him abruptly and came toward them, greeting them happily enough, with wide-armed hugs and smacky cheek-kisses. She did not move to introduce them to anyone else, however, content to stand apart from the crowd of young people and chat with them for several minutes.
Myra stood with an ear cocked in the direction of the boy Margie had been with. He kept glancing their way, and eventually she heard one of the other kids call him Gary. She met Ginny's eyes and saw that Ginny had heard it, too. She thought about siccing Allie on him, then changed her mind.
When the event began breaking up, people leaving in small groups, Margie said "I need to go grab my gear, I'll meet you back here in a minute." She surreptitiously caught Gary's eye and as she moved toward the boathouse, he began ambling that direction as well. Ginny intercepted him neatly, however, sticking out her hand to shake and saying in a carrying voice, "Hola, mi nombre es Juanita Jose-Batiz. Quisiera investigar en cuanto a sus intenciones exactas con respecto a mi heredero y solamente hija."
Margie turned on a dime and began speeding toward Ginny and Gary. Myra said to Allie "We might as well join them, it'll be our only chance -- Margie won't let us come back for who knows how long."
It was Edwina who asked Gary to go eat with them. He did fairly well. He'd read the Podinqo books as a child and was more awed by Allie than anyone else. He was from Cincinnati, had a geography scholarship and was a year ahead of Margie. They weren't absolutely fixated on each other, which Myra was relieved to see. He came with them back to Margie's flat and sprawled comfortably on the couch while Narnia had hysterics about the arrival of the rest of her family.
Margie's room was littered with clothing and books. The communal kitchen was just plain nasty, and the bath Margie shared with another girl was not much better. But there were no take-out containers in Margie's room, no visible alcohol in the fridge or trash, and Narnia looked in good shape: As much as we could hope for, thought Myra.
It turned out that Margie thought they'd be leaving that evening after dinner. When Ginny indicated they had a motel for the night, Margie nervously explained she had a date with Gary, a dance that was just for college kids. Ginny said all right, they'd meet her the next morning for breakfast and a long visit then. Margie asked if it could be brunch instead, and Myra stepped in to say that would be fine.
Back at the motel, it was Allie, of all people, who needed to rant about Gary, how too-smooth he was, that he was willing to sneak around with Margie and not insist on meeting them, and what could Margie possibly know about him this early, anyhow. Her outburst let Myra and Ginny off the hook. After a minute of it, Gillam and Carly fled to the pool.
Margie brought Gary to brunch, which earned him reluctant points from Allie. Myra discovered he had taken a course with Zhang Er at Evergreen the year before, one of her favorite poets, and she picked his brains about her style and instruction. He did not excuse himself after brunch, either, choosing to go with them as Margie gave them a tour of the buildings where she had classes. This meant he and Margie were more than just occasional dates, then. They discussed it without satisfaction on the drive home until Gillam pulled down his ear buds and said "Can you just let her have a boyfriend?"
The day after Thanksgiving, after Myra got up and had cranberry pancakes, she sat at her desk and opened the drawer with her novel in it. Her hands trembled as she began reading her draft and notes. An hour later, Ginny came to check on her, saw what she was doing, and left again silently. She told the news to the kids as they came down for lunch. Gillam did a happy dance, and Margie used that moment to tell Ginny she was leaving the next morning, a day early, to go back to Olympia. Gary, no doubt. Ginny let it slide; at least Margie had come home for the holiday.
After making soup, Gillam poked his head around the corner and said "Mama, you want to eat?" Myra looked up at him in an unfocused way. "Or I could bring you a bowl in there" he offered, trying to not sound too eager.
She grinned and said "A bowl would be great. With bread, and -- get me one of the Cokes from the store room, will you?"
"It's happening, for real!" he whispered to Ginny and Margie at the dining table after taking a tray to Myra. She did stop for dinner, looked drained. She spent that evening socializing, letting Margie bully her through a work-out, and taking Narnia for a long walk. She really missed Narnia.
The first day of Chanukah, after breakfast Myra went to her desk and discovered a glossy black old-fashioned phone on a wooden base sitting there, with a silver bow attacked to the receiver. She picked it up and dialed Ginny's cell, which rang in the studio next door. When Ginny answered, Myra said "Watson, come here, I want you" and hung up.
Ginny came around the corner laughing. "The first phone call in history was a homoerotic declaration" she said.
"Is this from you?" asked Myra, noticing that despite looking vintage, the phone had a caller ID screen and the holes on the dial were really push buttons for numbers.
"Margie found it, and we all got it for you. Have you discovered the drawer in the base yet?" asked Ginny, very pleased with herself.
Myra looked on the side and found a disk drive sort of button. She pushed it and a mini-disk popped out. On the other side was a fold-down panel with control buttons.
"You can record any conversation" said Ginny. "For when you're interviewing folks about herstory or asking experts questions for your books."
"Holy moly" said Myra. "This is incredible. And what is this made of? It's really heavy, not like plastic."
"Bakelite. Like the dance floors that Fred and Ginger traipsed across" said Ginny.
"Oh, honey, it's fucking gorgeous -- and just perfect for me!" said Myra. "And look, there's a shoulder rest on the headset."
"Plus, you can plug in a handset on the back if you'd rather, for completely hands-free talking" said Ginny.
"Amazing" said Myra. "Okay, then, I'm giving you your gift now." She reached into one of her map drawers and pulled out a blueprint.
"What is it?" said Ginny, sitting down on the daybed and spreading the sheet of paper out beside her excitedly.
"You know that extra closet at the end of Margie's room, the one we use for storage? Well, I had our architect in here last week, while you were out, and she's drawn up a schematic to turn it into a climate- controlled, fire-proof, theft-proof vault for your canvases. Accessible from the hall upstairs -- the door into Margie's room will be sealed up."
Ginny looked up at Myra, her mouth a round O of astonishment. "Really? Really?"
"Yep. Work begins next week, and the contractor swore it would be done by Christmas. And the kids are in on this one, too."
Ginny scooted over to sit on the desk in front of Myra and kiss her passionately. Myra's libido had returned with her writing, and Ginny was making up for lost time. They were still kissing when the phone rang, a lovely old-fashioned ring that made them both laugh. Myra answered, and after a few seconds, her face went pink and she said "It's delightful to hear your voice, too." Ginny could not figure out who it was -- but Myra's pulse was clearly racing. After a few minutes, Myra handed her the phone, saying "It's Liza Cowan." Then she mouthed silently "Can I stay here and listen?"
Ginny nodded as she said "Hiya, Liza, Happy Chanukah!" She told Liza about Myra's gift to her, and held the receiver away from her mouth for a second to tell Myra "She says you're a mensch." Then, as she listened some more, she said "Absolutely, I can be ready by then. And when should I fly out there to go over the plans with you? Okay, can do." They talked a while more, then Ginny hung up and said "A show. At Pine Street Art Works. March through April." When Myra began screaming, Ginny joined her.
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.