Saturday, August 2, 2008


(Photo by Stephen Feinstein)

Another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

December 2012

Over the next few days, Nika opted to again house-sit while they were gone but accepted the panic button to wear around her neck. Once in DC, Myra and Allie had a wonderful time eating breakfast and dinner together as Ginny plunged into yet another painting. During "work hours", Myra haunted some sections of various archives while Allie scoured others. Allie followed Myra's lead by siphoning countless images into an online vault where she could retrieve them later.

Their third night, they met up at a deli near their hotel and got take-out, bringing it back to the hotel room to eat. Ginny was about to take a nap, having no idea what time of day it was once the sun went down,. She decided to eat with them, heaping her plate with dolmas and Greek salad in addition to lamb and eggplant kebab. Allie had chicken schwarma, and Myra was rhapsodic over the hummus and sprouts in her beef gyro.

Allie said to Ginny "That's a bigass canvas you're working on there, how d'ya plan to get it home safely?"

Ginny swallowed a bite and said "I've got this idea. I just didn't want to compromise what was in my head, you know?" She stole one of Myra's fries, gobbled it, and continued. "The owner of the gallery who's doing my show next May here is coming to meet with me tomorrow. I'm going to offer to let him have the wet canvas for the next several months as it dries. I'm sure he'll find a way to display it without exposure to harm, giving him a freebie and good publicity for the show. I'll get it varnished here, and if it sells, great, if it doesn't, by May it'll be okay to ship home."

"It'll sell" predicted Allie. "You charging more for these bigger pieces?"

"I am, at my agent's insistence, although it's the same amount of work going into them. I've altered my technique, is all."

"Shift in technique by you is worth more money" said Myra.

"My agent is gonna have a mild stroke when she sees the changes I want to make to the manuscript she's already got in first galleys" said Allie. "But the stuff I'm finding here I can't leave out. Plus..." She trailed off, until Myra looked at her expectantly. "Well, I got an idea for another book."

"Hot damn" said Myra. "Tell us."

"Can't yet. Not till I got some drawings done. It ain't real until it's a drawing, you know" grinned Allie. Ginny nodded in understanding.

"How bout you, skeezix? You still mushing onward?" Allie asked Myra.

"I'm accumulating pages faster than Gunner Dick could have shredded 'em" said Myra. "I've turned Nika completely loose on creating labels for each article as it comes in and she reads it. When I do my own read-through, I can edit what she's come up with, but it means two minds are categorizing writings on the first pass, which has picked up the pace." She wiped meat juice from her palm and added "I talked to Gillam at lunch. It was sunny, you know, so I left the stacks for a while, got one of those Polish hot dogs with brown mustard and tried him on his cell."

"How is he?" asked Ginny.

"Mostly all he could talk about was Jane, what she thinks, believes, finds funny, has ever done, her favorite color -- you know how it is" grinned Myra. "Remind me to call Carly before he goes to sleep, see how he's doing. Gillam went blank when I asked about Carly."

"Is he getting out at all?" asked Allie.

Ginny spoke up. "Margie says yes, he's started going out three or four times a week, anything that catches his eye. Which I hope is true. He's a darling, he could use a big circle of worshipful friends, at the very least."

"You talked with Chris since we got here?" Allie asked Myra, not quite casual in her tone.

"No. Have you?"

When Allie shook her head, Myra said "We were fine before I left, got everything talked out. I mean, as much as she wanted to."

"I told you to ask Allie that question instead of Chris" said Ginny self-righteously. Myra pulled her fries away from Ginny's reach and said "I'm not sorry I did what I did."

Allie stole a fry from Myra and said "I'd have said yes."

"Yes to what? About Chris and -- me?" asked Myra, startled.

"Yup. But -- here's the deal. You know how she had to hang up on you, go get calmed down before she could finish the conversation? It ain't her fault that's the best she can manage. She does everything she can, rests up, and comes back for more. You can't ask for more than that out of somebody. But it won't work with you, not as a partner. They's two parts of her, a part that was smart enough to know she couldn't begin to meet your particular needs and the other part that's her mother's voice calling her dirty, sick, and not good enough for anybody to love. Some days, it's the second part which explains how come you and her weren't a good idea" said Allie, a long speech for her, succinct as it was.

Myra took Allie's hand reaching out for another fry, kissed the back of it, and returned it to her platter of fries. Allie picked the longest one, dredged it through ketchup, and ate it with pleasure. Ginny's eyes were smudgy as she watched them both.

Five days later, Chris answered on the first ring.

"Hey" said Myra. "I wasn't sure if you'd be in town or not."

"I'm leaving in the morning for Idaho" said Chris. "How are you all doing?"

"Okay to great. Allie is perky now that Edwina's here. They've gone someplace for dinner. I said I needed some alone time and am here in the hotel room" said Myra.

"You feeling sick?" asked Chris.

Myra hesitated. "Not health-wise, no. Okay if I tell you something?"

She heard Chris walk somewhere and shut a door. "Shoot."

"We went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum today. I spent the first hour worrying about how it was hitting Ginny, but then I pulled inside and noticed only how it was hitting me. Except every now and then, a photo would remind me of David or Margie, and I'd go completely numb. Ginny cried her guts out as soon as we got to the foyer at the end, and so did Edwina. They seem fine now."

Chris waited half a minute to say "What happened?"

"Nobody was with me...There was a room reconstructed to look like a barracks at Auschwitz. You went in through a wooden door, and you could go around the kind of circle. They went on, but near where we entered were some bunks that it turns out came from the real Auschwitz. I don't know how they got them -- " She paused.

Chris said "The things that white people choose to preserve versus what they think it's okay to destroy. I'll never understand it."

"No kidding. Remember how Reagan thought saving one redwood grove would be enough? Anyhow...There were these signs all over the place with dire warnings to not touch anything, but they'd gone on and there was no one in my light of sight -- "

"Shit, Myra."

"So I put out my palm and pressed it flat against the end of the bunk." Myra took a few deep breaths. "I came extremely close to passing out, Kash-Kash. Every cell in my body went into keep chill, like I was in hypothermia, and my teeth began chattering. And I was as weak as -- remember that time I had pneumonia but couldn't afford to go into the hospital, just holed up at home and rode it out? And you came over and found me unable to walk to the bathroom? I was that weak."

"I had to help you onto a bedpan" remembered Chris.

"It wasn't a bedpan, you moron, it was my best lasagna pan" said Myra.

"Worked, didn't it?"

"Yeah, but I never felt the same about lasagna in that dish again" said Myra.

"Seasoning" laughed Chris. Myra joined her, then went silent before resuming her story.

"I pulled my hand back, and that helped. Blood began to flow again, and the light -- which had become filtered and a little smoky, like winter in a place that burns wood, except -- oh, shit, I just realized what that smell in the air was. Oh, god, Chris. How does this keep happening to me?"

"I don't know, Myra. Are you calling me for my mystical native ability to explain the spirit world?" Chris's voice was still light.

"Fuck, no. I'm calling you because you won't laugh at me OR try to explain it. It's not a real question. I mean, unless you somehow do have an answer" said Myra.

"Maybe you have DNA that helps you fuck with the time-space barrier. Or maybe you have an overcharged imagination. It's the same thing, really, if you think about it" said Chris.

"You ever had something like that happen to you?" asked Myra.

"You mean, aside from trips on heroin or acid?" asked Chris. "Once, in a sweat, I had some kind of hallucination. It was about half a minute, not at all profound: I was lashing strips of leather to a wooden frame which later I decided was either some kind of travois or a rack for drying jerky. I was focused on my hands and the task, but it was bright daylight and behind me, all around me, was a bustle of activity. People talking, children playing, and one woman singing. And none of it was in English. It also wasn't in Nimipu."


"Yeah. Wonder what Nancy would have made of it" said Chris.

"A message like 'Pay attention to the knots' or something suitably symbolic" giggled Myra.

"Well, then, yours today would be 'Get out of town as soon as the brownshirts win their first election'" responded Chris. They laughed together a while.

"Thanks for letting me get it off my chest, pal" said Myra. "I feel a little funky taking it to Ginny. I mean, it's her people, not mine, you know?"

"You are dense as a plank if you believe that" said Chris.

"What are you doing in Idaho?" asked Myra.

"Some Pentecostal church has a manuscript from the late 1800s that's supposedly a copy of the Lord's Prayer written in Nimipu transliteration by an early convert" said Chris. "I don't know if it's authentic, and if it is, how they got their hands on it, but they won't make a copy of it so I have to go see for myself."

"When did Pentecostals get organized as a religion?" wondered Myra.

"I don't know. I'll Google that before I leave. Anyhow, I talked with Garnet last night, and she's been having chest pains" said Chris, with an abrupt change of subject. Garnet was her younger sister.

"Goddamn, Chris, what kind of chest pain?"

"She thinks it's because she strained picking up her grandbaby, but I don't believe it. I'm going to swing through there on my way back and force her to the doctor" said Chris.

"When will that be? I can come with you, if that will help" said Myra. "We're due back in three days."

"No, you won't help the equation. Though she does like you" said Chris. "I don't know if she has insurance, so I'm planning to pay for any costs, using your card if it's a lot."

Myra noticed Chris was telling her, not asking. She felt giddy with relief at this shift. "Good for you, big sis. Will you let me know what's up with her, even if you can only send a text message?"

"Sure. Listen, I promised to hang out with Sima before bed, are you done with the ghost post for now?"

"Yeah. And be sure mark this one down as me begging for your help" joked Myra. Chris burst into laughter and said "I will."

On their way home a three days later with Edwina beside Allie, Ginny said to Myra "I'm having a really hard time leaving that painting behind. I guess I need those weeks of it hanging on my drying wall to get used to the idea that it won't stay in my life."

Myra squeezed her hand. "I can't really imagine giving up my creative babies like you do, Gin. I know your agent has talked to you about a volume of your work, and I know you're afraid it will jinx you, make it seem like your career has peaked, but I really think you should consider it. We have your slides, I know, but a big glossy beautifully printed book of all your paintings would be a tangible symbol of your output and growth."

Ginny squeezed back. "I'll think about it." Then "That's something I would have talked over with Daddy."

"Maybe you still can. Pray, or put it in your mind right before going to sleep and ask him to visit your unconscious" said Myra.

Ginny looked at her quizzically. "To put it in your terms, that's a rather oogie-boogie thing for you to say."

"I'm mellowing. Plus, I really don't believe David has left you and the kids behind, he worked too long and hard to become a member of our household."

Ginny laughed. "You believe in David's afterlife, but not your mother's?"

Myra thought for a minute. "I want her to be happy. Maybe oblivion is the only certain peace."

"Oh, angel" said Ginny, putting her arm over Myra's shoulders.

When they got home, Ginny had an e-mail confirming their reservations at Lake Quinault lodge from December 24 through the 29th. "There's one king size bed, one queen, and one room with two double beds. Since it's likely I'll be painting and sleeping intermittently, how about if we let our friends toss for the king and queen, and we take the double? When I do crawl in with you, I like being fused to you" suggested Ginny.

"What about the difference in light, isn't that what determines room choice for you?" asked Myra.

"They all face north, away from the lake. I'm going to take some clip lights to make sure I can keep it stable during the day, given how little sun we'll be getting anyhow" said Ginny. "You should go to the Lodge website and check out their menu, we can have salmon three times a day."

"No doubt you will" said Myra. "Listen, there's a message here from Margie -- she says since they're flying out of Portland and we're not available to Narnia-sit, she's faced with either putting her in a kennel or letting Imani keep her while they're in L.A. She wants to know what we think about it. Why the fuck is she asking us?"

Ginny sighed. "Probably it's an indirect way of asking for a listening ear while she has feelings about it. I'll call her later. But, that reminds me, what about Beebo? Both boys will be out of town."

"Carly's flying out of SeaTac, so we can add Beebo on to our house-sitter's list of responsibilities. He'll be happier here with a stranger than in a kennel, and both boys will be back here for New Year's" said Myra.

"So what's your plan for this ten days before Hanukkah?" said Ginny.

"Baking and more baking, getting tins ready for mailing. It'll be sad to do it without kids, even grown kids. Uh...finalizing gifts. And I'm giving Nika as much work as she can schedule, once her classes are done in a couple of days, so she'll be practically living her. I figure she can use the money this time of year, and I'm to the point where I need to stop categorizing and start synthesizing, but she's backlogged. Especially after the haul I made in DC." Myra rumpled her hair over and over, until it was standing straight up in spots.

Ginny sat down on the daybed. "You got a way into the synthesizing?"

"Not yet. I'm hoping that stopping compilation and focusing on reading will do the trick."

"Maybe you should leave your laptop here when we go to the Lodge, and spend your time reading fiction or watching the lake" suggested Ginny. Myra reacted in horror. Ginny said "Okay, never mind."

"The day you leave your sketchpad and paints behind, I'll leave my laptop" said Myra.

"I remember when you refused to even talk about getting a laptop" teased Ginny.

"I remember an entire summer when you left town and I had no way of calling you" retorted Myra. They grinned at each other, trying to recall who they had actually been before their lives melded.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild


Friday, August 1, 2008


Another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

Into December 2012

On Saturday night, all five of the under-30 set, including Nika, went out clubbing with Davonn and his circle of friends. Myra noticed that Margie loaned Nika her Armani jacket, now eight years old but still gorgeous. Gillam was voluble about how much fun Jane was going to have, and Carly smelled strongly of Axe when she hugged him goodbye.

Once they eddied out the front door, the house became abruptly silent except for the jangle of Narnia's collar as she stood in the foyer, looking at the space where Margie had just been. Ginny said to Myra "What shall be do with ourselves?"

"Well, I don't think Narnia got her evening constitutional, so I want to get that out of the way. Afterward, how about if we sit in the peace of the hot tub?" said Myra.

"I'll walk with you" said Ginny. Narnia's ears lifted.

They spent an hour in the hot tub, crawling onto the lip occasionally to cool off before sliding back down into the delicious hot froth. At one point, Ginny said "Do you think Nika will spend the night again?"

"I wouldn't be surprised. She and Margie are talking each other's heads off, with that chewy charge of attraction which will eventually dissipate into what might become an extraordinary friendship."

Ginny grinned at Myra. "You certainly gave Margie a role model for that."

"With Allie, at least. I don't remember being that attracted to Chris, not in that hot and bothered kind of way."

After a pause, Ginny said "I think Sima could use hearing you say that."

"What, she thinks I'm carrying a torch for Chris? Or that I did?"

"Yes. She asked me flat out this summer if I thought you two had the secret hots for each other" said Ginny.

Myra goggled. "She did? What did you tell her?"

"I told her you did not. Absolutely." After another pause, Ginny asked "I was right about that, yes?"

"You were. Wow, I bet that sort of suspicion has really accumulated after all these years. Should I talk to her?"

"I don't know, Myra. Partly it sounds to me like she and Chris need to do more talking, but Chris is -- well, you know how very Scorpio she can be. Information is power kinda thing. I think -- she said they don't have regular sex." Ginny, of all people, was looking embarrassed.

"Yeah, I got the same impression from Chris. But sounds like Sima thinks maybe it's because Chris is focused on me?"

"She was afraid of that. I'm glad she asked me, flat out."

Myra thought for a minute, then said "I notice you spoke for me, but not for Chris."

"I can't tell what Chris is thinking or feeling reliably" said Ginny. "I'll be honest, though, I have the same -- suspicion. About her feelings for you."

"Oh, Ginny, I earnestly hope not. Fuck. I can't think of a way for me to bring that up with her, not without having teethmarks left in my flesh" said Myra.

"Ask Allie. It'll mortify her but she'll know, and she'll tell you" suggested Ginny. She reached her foot out across the tub and cupped her sole over Myra's knee.

"Let me say here and now, Ginny Bates, that I am eternally grateful to you for being my sexual match all these years. I got no problem with lesbian bed death if both partners like it that way -- sex is not as important as the tadpoles think it is. But when there's unrequited longing, or unequal meaning attached to sex, it's so painful and messy. I credit you for our having escaped it" said Myra.

"You shouldn't" said Ginny. "It's luck, pure and simple. Probably we're just both screwed up in exactly the same way, so we agree on what's normal."

"Sisters in pathology" grinned Myra.

When they got out and dried off, Myra pulled on one of her oversized flannel gowns that she wore up to the moment of bed during the colder months. Ginny pulled a second from her drawer and donned it as well, having to roll up her sleeves. Myra found her adorable in it. They headed back to the common rooms. Myra opened the fridge and stood looking into it.

"Going to make another snack for the dancers coming home?" asked Ginny, joining her.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess I will." Myra pulled out bread, cream cheese, and cucumbers. "Besides little toasted sandwiches, how about those tamari-roasted walnuts and a bowl of Fujis on the dining table?"

"I'll brew a pitcher of iced tea, with lots of chamomile to help them sleep" said Ginny, filling the kettle.

"I was trying to see what we have in the way of veggies left. Aside from these cukes, the crisper is bare. I guess that means a run to Pike in the morning, if we're to have our traditional Sunday dinner before they all head back south tomorrow afternoon" said Myra resignedly.

"Well, let's brainstorm, see if we can get by until Monday. There's several teenaged cabbages of the new heirlooms that I could harvest and we could braise those. Plus a lot of baby lettuces, not enough for an entire salad -- "

Myra interrupted with "Oh, Ginny, we'll eat up everything that's in the new plantings!"

"It's made to be eaten, honey, and who better than our kiddos? More will grow. As I was saying, we could use the lettuces as a thick bed for a heap of your corn salsa, we've got pounds of that corn frozen from the summer. So that's two fresh veggies, of different colors. For the third, how's about I simmer a couple of quarts of my marinara, also from last summer? We can cut thick slices of your 12-grain bread and toast it for dipping in the sauce, or spread the marinara on main dishes" said Ginny.

"I'm getting a little hungry thinking about it" said Myra. "Brill. So, then, main dishes to go with -- sounds like I should broil chicken breasts, plain and marries well with marinara."

"And let's pull out that massive sea bass. I want to roast it until it has crispy skin" said Ginny.

"Even more brill. The boys will want dessert, it's the weekend" said Myra.

"The boys can make dessert."

Myra picked up the dry erase pen and left a note on the fridge: Dessert for Sunday midday is yours to execute, go wild.

They did, Jane leading the baking of a seven-layer butter pecan cake the following morning before she and Gillam left for Quaker meeting. Carly busied himself cleaning up the kitchen as the couple went out the door, dressed in the finery they had arrived wearing on Wednesday. Nika was being instructed in Myra's corn salad recipe by Margie, with frequent corrections by Myra. When Allie came in and saw the tall cake on the breakfast bar, she whistled and said "Holy moly, looks like an extra insulin injection today!"

"Every Sunday is an extra injection day for you" said Edwina drily.

They waited on eating until Gillam and Jane returned from Meeting. As they served themselves, Myra asked "What did you think?"

"It was exciting. So many people" commented Jane.

"Maybe next time you can go to Temple with Gillam" said Ginny noncommittally.

"I really want to. Fresno has a reform Temple but for some reason a lot of Jews came to our Quaker meeting, so I learned a little bit from them" said Jane. Carly exchanged an unreadable glance with Chris.

"When we go see Frances' family at Christmas, she says she wants us to go to Mass with them. Just so I can see it once" said Margie.

"So...your Christmas plans are definite, then?" said Ginny.

"Yes, she's nailed it down. She has to work the 24th, but we're going to fly out Christmas Eve and have three days in L.A." said Margie. "I plan to drive up here for Hanukkah, though. Which begins on the 21st this year" said Margie.

"Well, then we can have a combined latke-making and burning the male consort in effigy party on solstice" said Myra. Jane, for once, looked startled. Carly giggled.

Gillam cleared his throat. "Uh...we've committed ourselves to going to Fresno for Christmas. So I can meet Jane's family."

Jane turned to look at him keenly. "Committed ourselves? Gillam David, if you'd rather be here, you need to say so. We can meet my tribe another time."

"Uh, no, that's not how I meant it. I really want to go with you" said Gillam.

"Because if this is one of your 'better to please others than rock the boat' kind of decisions, well, don't do that with me. Not ever" said Jane.

Myra heard Chris drawing in breath to laugh, but her eyes were on Ginny's, which were twinkling. Gillam's tone changed as he said, calmly, "I made the decision that I wanted to make."

"While we're at it" interjected Carly, "I'll be here for Hanukkah but Mom wants to go back to Chicago for Christmas, with Thea, and she's asked me to go with them. Truitt says he can't because his wife is so pregnant."

Myra looked at Nika, who blushed at the implication as she said "Oh, I'm headed for Lawton. Mandatory."

Edwina said to Ginny "So it's just us chickens for Jesus's birthday."

"First time since 1988" remarked Sima. Margie looked at her with raised eyebrows.

"Let's go somewhere" said Chris.

"Mexico?" asked Allie hopefully.

"No, closer. But outdoors, yes. How about the Olympic Peninsula, we've never done that as a group? Trek the rain forest, get in some fishing, it's only a few hours' drive" said Chris.

"I'd love that" said Sima.

"I would too, but not camping in December" said Myra.

"They have a lodge" said Edwina. "On Lake Quinault, a big lush place with fancy food and fireplaces, but you can fish right outside the door and it's surrounded by woods."

"Can we get reservations this late?" wondered Ginny. "I'll go check after dinner."

"Used to be the homeland of the Quinaults" said Chris softly. Myra looked at her and said "Still okay?"

"Yep" said Chris.

Gillam and Margie were both looking a little envious. Gillam said "I do plan to come back for New Year's and stay through my birthday."

"Then we'll make sure we're back by the 30th" said Myra. "Still, that's at least a week's vacation, wahoo!"

When the kids left, weighted down with the last of Myra's fresh bread, jars of preserves, and reluctant pets, Nika went home as well. Myra and Ginny ordered a pizza for dinner and otherwise worked until late. The next day, they made their run to Pike, buying only enough for four days as they were leaving for DC on Friday. That night, Ginny began a painting.

On Tuesday shortly after noon, the doorbell rang. Myra pushed back from her desk and said "Ginny? Gin! We have some kind of visitor, put on your caftan there."

When she answered the door, it was the rep from their security firm, Aaron. He asked "Can I have a consult with you two? I understand you're leaving town again for a week in a couple of days."

"Sure, come on in" said Myra. She offered him tea or coffee and made him a cup of plain joe as Ginny joined them, distracted and bedaubed.

"I've had a chance to completely review the police report and notes from your break-in" Aaron began after taking a sip of his black brew. Myra hoped she'd made it right. "I'm far enough along in the investigation that I thought I should let you know what I've found out so far."

"You're investigating it?" asked Myra in surprise.

"Of course" he said. "Since it's an open case, the risk still exists. To begin with, we agree with your assessment that this attempt was likely the result of surveillance and its intention could have been potential bodily harm. We tracked down the teenaged neighbor you mentioned, Ms. Bates, and his record is clear, both the public one and at his school. Which may not mean anything." He had a small notebook in his hand that he was consulting. He took another sip of coffee, reassuring Myra it was at least drinkable. Ginny had now focused in.

"We ran a background check on your new employee and housesitter as well, since her appearance in your lives coincides more less with the break-in" he said neutrally. "She, too, has no past incidents of note, her credit rating is all right and the opinion of her by her academic instructors and peers is highly favorable."

"You suspected Nika?" said Myra, outrage dumping into her bloodstream. "Why the fuck would you suspect her, because she's not white?"

"As I've said, because of the temporal association of her presence with the event" replied Aaron, unperturbed. "Ms. Josong, this kind of planned theft slash attack, with the difficulty in fencing art work indicating a criminal of above-average intelligence and connections, is usually the result of an inside job. Didn't the police mention that to you?"

"No, they didn't, but if they had I'd have told them the same thing: Hands off Nika!" She was furious. Aaron stirred his coffee and said "I can't rule anyone out simply on your say-so, ma'am. Not if I'm to be competent in my service."

He took two more sips and continued "The other likely contenders are any young people in the family who may have fallen afoul of trouble they can't tell you about. Again, your children and their friends have all been cleared."

Ginny turned to stare at Myra, growing anger on her face as well. Before she could speak, Aaron said "Therefore, we have no good leads and a persistent threat. I want to ask you, have you ever encountered any negativity from people in your neighborhood? Any off remarks or hostile stares? Perhaps when you walk your dog? Or, disturbing fan mail?"

Myra's mood instantly shifted to apprehension. "Let me think...No, I can't remember anything. Not since I was -- before I got together with Ginny."

Ginny slowly shook her head as well. "I mean, there are art critics who attack everything I do, but they're nattering nabobs of no consequence."

"We're going to have someone observing your cameras and monitors stringently while you're gone. The increased traffic of the holiday season creates good cover for burglaries. I know you've got a panic button on the keypads at every entrance to the house, but I think it would be a good idea for your housesitter -- it will be Nika again for this coming trip, right? -- for her to wear a button around her neck, so she can call for instant response wherever she is. If that's all right with you, one of us will drop it off tomorrow." He finished his coffee.

"Sheesh, Ginny -- should we let her do this? Or hire a bonded service?" said Myra.

"Let's give her the information and let her make the decision" said Ginny.

"If you decide to opt for a service, please talk it over with me before contracting with anyone. I can give you recommendations if you want" said Aaron.

He clarified dates of departure and arrival with them, then took his leave. Ginny said "I'd kinda like to see the reports he collected on our kids. Would it be an invasion of their privacy to request a copy?"

"Yes" said Myra firmly. "I don't want them to know about it. Nika neither. Suspicion is ugly."

Ginny drank a bottle of orange juice and returned to her painting. Myra tried calling Nika but got her voice mail and left a message. She dialed Chris next. When Chris answered, Myra told her about Aaron's visit.

"Well, Myra, I don't blame him for checking into it. I mean, it crossed my mind -- the timing was a little too close, and what Edwina knows about a student is not necessarily much" said Chris.

"Oh for fuck's sake, Chris, I can't believe you of all people don't see the bias in this" countered Myra.

"Because she's Indian? I grew up with Indians who raped me and got me hooked on drugs. We're not all Standing Elk. For that matter, even Standing Elk isn't Standing Elk." Chris chuckled to herself.

"Why are you so ready to believe that you're the only person who can really look after me?" said Myra.

"I look after you only when you fucking beg me for it, princess" said Chris, her voice suddenly thick.

"I don't beg you for anything, Chris" said Myra, her voice high. She saw Ginny step into the doorway, brush in hand. "I thought we had a functional give and take."

She could hear Chris's breathing on the line. Her own pulse was also loud in her ears. She refused to look at Ginny. After a long minute, Chris said "Is this about the money?"

"What money?"

"The money you're giving me. Is that part of the give and take you mean?"

"Oh, hell, Chris. N-O. I mean going back 30 years, how we've stepped up for each other. Do you really think I beg for your help, or that I'm somehow taking care of myself?" Myra was determined not to cry.

There was another minute of no speech. Finally Chris said "I don't think that. I was just mad. I need you to not criticize how I'm your friend, not in that pissant way. If you got something to ask me, then ask."

Myra swallowed before saying "All right, then here's a question: Do you have buried sexual feelings for me?"

"What in the blue fucking hell -- Is this your question, or Ginny's?" shouted Chris.

"Mine" said Myra.

"But Ginny's in the goddamned woodpile, I can tell!" said Chris. "No, Myra, I do not long to get into your J.C. Penney's panties. You know what, I can't talk any more right now. I'll call you later." She hung up abruptly.

Myra turned to face Ginny, whose eyes were wide. "That went about how I expected" she said.

"Did she hang up on you?"

"Yep. After correctly implicating you and saying a few other things about me. She says no, by the way." Myra rubbed her temples.

Ginny went back to her painting. Myra thought about playing Doom, in god mode with only a chainsaw and the walls permeable. Instead, she filled a glass with Coke and ice, gulping it down as she began making a quick veggie pasta for her and Ginny. She'd make meatloaf for dinner; her guess was that Chris would drop by to eat with her, having cooled off by then.

[Thx to Jesse for the conversation that cut through my, and Myra's, obliviousness.]
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, July 31, 2008


In 1978-79, I often visited a lesbian household in Castro Street which included Hillary Carlip. She was mostly unknown at that time, though I did see her perform several times in a local theater troupe of four Jewish lesbians who were all around 5 feet tall -- I can't remember the name of the troupe, just that it had "short" in the title. I do remember vividly, however, that intermittently Hillary would appear on a bare stage with a shopping cart, dressed as a variety of characters, reading aloud from a shopping list as she mimed buying the items.

Turns out, the shopping lists were real, ones she picked up at check-out stands, in grocery store parking lots, left behind in carts -- something she'd been doing for years. She created the "characters" based on the list, what it contained, how it was written, on what kind of paper, etc. These were absolutely brilliant snapshots of personality, and her vignettes were by far the most popular part of the troupe's bill of fare.

Hillary and her anthropological talent have stayed strong in my memory. I've written about her twice, once fleetingly in Ginny Bates (where Myra meets Kat Whitaker while living in San Fran the summer of 1979) and once in my short story "The Red Queen". She's gone on to do a wide range of creative endeavors, such as teaching Ellen Degeneres how to be a fire-eater, winning a prize on the Gong Show, writing books like Girl Power: Young Women Speak Out and Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan, and a bit part in Xanadu.

But she's continued her shopping list characterizations, and I was thrilled to find out yesterday, via an NPR story, that she has now written a book about her lists and their creators. It's called A La Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers, and you can go here to watch a funny promotional video about it (with a bonus cameo by Amy Sedaris). You can also check out her website at Hillary Carlip.

It's funny that in our wet-behind-the-ear twenties we knew each other and have each gone on to become memoirists in very different ways. I'm glad to share her with you. You go, girl.



(Etta Candy, sidekick to Wonder Woman)

Hey, ya'll, just want to remind you, I'm posting regularly over at Group News Blog, as in this new post Accountability Versus Blame.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008


From YouTube: Cab Calloway with Fayard and Harold Nicholas in Stormy Weather, 1943. Fred Astaire said this sequence was the finest piece of tap dancing ever filmed. Damn right.

Another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

Thanksgiving 2012

They made pies for 250 people that night, 14 different varieties. With Myra and Ginny picking up the bill, no canned filling or pre-made crusts were used. Myra rolled dough until her forearms ached while the rest of the crew chopped fresh fruit or pumpkin and got the innards ready to fill crust after crust. As the pies baked in stages -- there weren't enough ovens to do all of them at once -- Myra went over the next day's plan with her crew.

After years of planning the menu and buying ingredients, the shelter's head cook had decreed Myra competent to run the holiday shifts on her own. A single shelter staff member showed up to deal with emergencies; otherwise, it was up to Myra and family to pull things off. Myra had created laminated task sheets and timelines which were now taped to the refrigerator door. She asked Nika and Jane to decide which area of responsibility they thought they would enjoy the most, and attach themselves to someone already doing that work.

"We all serve, in a line" she told them. "We cheerfully give extra or accommodate special requests, and we make enough for lots of seconds. Once they are all at tables, the rest of us can eat, except one person who has to stay behind the counter. We draw straws each year to see who that will be. A lot of these people are like friends, and they'll save places for us, so we don't all eat together, we spread out and eat with the folks we're feeding. Gillam and Carly, you be in charge of steering our greenhorns away from the one or two troublemakers -- some folks don't take their meds, or have sold them or can't afford them, and holidays exacerbate feelings of betrayal, so we never confront or condemn, we just get out of their way. If it gets hairy, the staff person will deal with it. Mostly, thought, it's a blast."

When they drew straws to see who had to stay behind the counter, it was Margie. Ginny immediately said "Oh, no you don't, not alone. I'll sit with you and we'll eat together back there." Margie's look of gratitude clutched at Myra's heart.

They got a head start by chopping and mixing what they could in advance for the next day's meal. At 10:30, the last of the pies were arrayed in the walk-in refrigerator and the kitchen was clean. They turned out the lights and split up to go home. They had to be back by 6 a.m.

At the house, Myra pulled out leftovers from lunch and her kids plus Jane and Nika nibbled tiredly. Margie said "I know I should just go to bed, but I really think a quarter hour in the hot tub would be divine. Why don't you stay here, Nika? Come soak with me and I'll loan you pajamas, plus clean clothes in the morning."

Nika wiped her shiny forehead and said "You know, I will."

Ginny said "Well, I'm grabbing a shower and hitting the sack. It's up to you kids to clear the table and set the alarm." She and Myra headed for their room, Myra saying "Can I shower with you?"

When the alarm went off at 5:15 and Ginny said "You have to listen this time, Myra, it's for you, too", she sat up in the dark and decided the only thing that would get her through the next two hours was a Coke. She pulled on the clothes she had laid out the night before and stumbled into the kitchen, where Ginny already had the kettle started. Myra began putting bread in the toaster as Ginny set out yogurt and cottage cheese. Carly came downstairs a few minutes later, his hair completely flat on one side.

"Did you knock on their door?" asked Myra, taking another gulp of Coke as she buttered toast and handed him a slice.

"Yeah" he mumbled. Myra went to the doorway to her study and turned on the light. She was surprised to find no Nika on either daybed. She walked around to the side hall and knocked on Margie's door, saying "You up in there?"

"We are" said Margie. "Nika's in the bathroom getting dressed." Myra decided not to look at Margie's face right now. Gillam and Jane came downstairs two minutes later, with grins and no visible fatigue.

When Margie and Nika emerged from the guest room room, Carly registered surprise and glanced at Myra. Myra said "Narnia's overdue for a W-A-L-K, I think."

Margie groaned. "Save me some breakfast, put it in a plastic container, okay?" She grabbed the leash and headed out the door. They were back in ten minutes, having run the entire time. Ginny had made Margie a thermal travel cup of tea as well. They divided into cars and headed for the shelter.

By 10:00, everything was under control and a small break was possible. Myra said "I have to drink another Coke, I'm heading for whatever I can find open. Anyone need anything?"

"Gel inserts for my shoes" said Margie.

"Come go with me" said Myra.

"I was just joking -- " began Margie, but Myra said "I know, but still, come with." Despite the cold, there were already a few people outside on the sidewalk, waiting for the doors to open at 11:00. Myra shook hands and promised an extra good meal this year. Once in the car, she drove off without waiting for the heater to get warm.

"Are you missing Frances? Have you called her?" she asked Margie.

"I have missed her here and there. It sucks that she's so into cooking and she doesn't share this tradition with us" said Margie. "I'll call her at 5:00, that's when I can be sure they're past the worst of it."

Myra pulled into the parking lot of a convenience store. She turned to Margie and said "I need Nika. I like her, but more than that, I need her. She's already made herself indispensable to the production of this book. Plus, I don't want Frances to think me or my household played any kind of a role in you sleeping with someone else."

Margie toyed with the idea of being outraged. In the end, she said "We only slept together. As in sleep."

"But you thought about the other, didn't you?"

Margie said "How did you get delegated to be the one to approach me about this?"

"I haven't discussed anything with anyone. This is me alone. Although, yes, I will talk to them later."

"The Fates" said Margie sarcastically. "Okay, yes, I thought about it and so did she. We talked it over. We both decided it would be a bad idea, and for the record, a big part of her reason for saying no was because your project means so much to her. She's definitely under your spell."

"I deserve her respect, Margie, and I return it to her. I don't much care for your tone at the moment."

Margie seemed to be too tired to fight. She stared out the front windshield, her hands shoved into her coat pockets, for a long minute. Finally she said "You know, she got right away that I'm not really available. She's known me what, two days, and that was obvious. And she said she thought she wouldn't be happy with that, with anybody -- she'd rather have the friendship. How come she can figure that out but Imani can't? Is it because Frances is not being as blunt as I am?"

"Nobody on earth is as blunt as you are except you mother" said Myra. "But -- I think it's possible Frances is erring on the side of what she thinks is kindness, and more importantly, Imani is hearing what she wants to hear. Plus she's two or three years younger than Nika. You think you're all equals in your early 20s but you're actually not. Well, for what it's worth, you were smart and it will pay off in the long run."

"Happy Thanksgiving" muttered Margie." After another long pause, she said "Stay here, I'll go get your Coke for you."

"They really might have gel-filled insoles in there. If they do, get me a pair, too" said Myra. As Margie opened the door, Myra asked "Are you going to tell Frances about Nika?"

Margie leaned back to grin at her "At 5:00. Let her have another night alone to think about it."

"Atta girl" said Myra.

Back at the shelter, Allie caught Myra's gaze and raised her eyebrows in question, slightly nodding her head at Margie. Myra tapped the middle of her chest once -- their signal for "I've got it covered" -- and pointed to her watch, which meant "Later". Ginny was watching and took this in. When Myra turned around, Gillam was looking at her as well. She winked at him, which was no information, really, but he grinned all the same.

With part of her attention freed up, Myra was able to notice more about how Jane and Gillam interacted. Despite their addictive need of new lovers to find a reason to be in physical contact, and a tremendous ease in conversation, it was clear there was still a great deal they did not yet know about each other. However, when they hit a gap, they both reacted with thrilled curiosity and tender listening. In particular, Myra could see no fear in Gillam at all, despite Jane's aura of power: He clearly felt they were equal, a match yet to be discovered.

My god, he's done it she thought to herself.

When the eleven of them finally got home, twelve hours after they'd walked out the front door, they were exhausted but with a sense of utter accomplishment. "Best year yet" said Allie, which she said every year. They claimed bathrooms and bedrooms to strip out of stained, sweaty attire and put on swimsuits, then headed for the heated pool and hot tub to let their bodies be held up by water for a while. Narnia stood at the lip, trying to find the nerve to join them, until Gillam and Margie started a water fight that sent her scuttling indoors.

Myra sat on the bottom step of the pool, water up to her chin, and Ginny settled in her lap, whispering "Is the Margie thing for me or all us crones to discuss later?"

"I'll start with you, e-mail the rest. Not a big deal" answered Myra. After half an hour, Ginny got out to order their habitual Thanksgiving eve dinner of Chinese food from the one place nearby that stayed open. She put ten big towels in the dryer and had them heated by the time the rest climbed out of the water and bolted through the frigid air for the house. When the food arrived, Ginny spread it buffet style on the breakfast bar and everybody served themselves, then found a place to sit in the living room. Margie shared every third bite with Narnia, making up for the family abandonment two days in a row.

As they were reading aloud fortune cookies to each other, Margie suddenly said "Oh hell and damn, Franny" and leaped to her feet, heading for the back bedroom where she had left her cell. Carly was lying flat on the floor, a couch cushion under his head. Nika scooted over and used his belly as her own pillow. Beebo was still shadowing Gillam.

They were mostly silent. At one point, Jane said "Why were there two cornbread dressings, in addition to the oyster and chestnut kind?"

"One had sausage, one didn't" said Gillam.

After half an hour, Nika sat up abruptly, saying "I dozed off."

"Go grab a daybed if you want" said Myra. "There's blankets and a pillow in the trundle underneath. Unless you're sick of us and want to be in your own space."

Nika grinned at her and shambled back to the study, turning off the light as she went in. Once she was out of earshot, Gillam said "You've managed to find a replacement kid, huh?"

"Not really. She's more mature than the three of you put together" said Myra teasingly. "She's my Etta Candy."

Gillam snorted. "I told Jane about how we play poker and Scrabble, but I think I'm too tired to manage it tonight."

"We got the rest of the weekend for me to win your money, college boy" said Chris.

"Except Margie" said Ginny. "She's going home either tomorrow night or the next morning, I think."

Carly sat up, his eyes red from where he had been rubbing them, and said "Okay, I can't hack it any more. I'm going to lie down and I probably won't get back up until it's daylight again." He made the "I love you" sign at them all and walked slowly upstairs. Beebo looked after him with indecision.

After a couple of minutes and signals passed between them that they thought were unobtrusive, Gillam and Jane also stood and said "We're going to nap, too."

"Catch you on the flip side" said Allie. Jane thanked them for the third time for including her, and accompanied Gillam upstairs, Beebo racing ahead of them. Myra called after Gillam "Let him in the room with you, I don't care what kind of a pest he is."

Allie, on the couch between Edwina and Myra, immediately turned to Myra and whispered "What's up with Margie? Are she and Frances in some new kind of trouble?"

Myra leaned forward and told them her conversation with Margie in barely audible sentences. Ginny said, a little too loudly, "Well for shit's sake, it never even crossed my mind."

"Sometimes, I'm not proud to say, our daughter is more like me than you" answered Myra. "Like me at her age, I mean."

"But check out the big brain on Nika" said Edwina.

"And Margie" said Myra loyally.

Chris giggled. "No wonder she's still on the phone. I'll bet you even money that Frances finds a way to come up here with her the next time she visits home."

No one took her bet. A little while later, Sima said "I simply don't want to stand up again. Could we watch something? Not regular TV, it'll all be dreadful."

"I could put on The Wizard of Oz and sync up the Dark Side of the Moon" said Myra, pulling it off enough that Ginny wheeled on her in disbelief until she saw Myra's face.

"A musical would be okay -- but no Doris Day" said Allie.

" about Stormy Weather?" said Myra, trying to remember what she had.

"The Nicholas Brothers" said Edwina with approval. Myra went to put in the DVD.

Margie didn't rejoin them until Fats Waller was making googoo eyes at the camera during "Ain't Misbehavin'". She sat down on a cushion in front of Ginny in the easy chair and said "Is this how you drove away all the folks my age?"

Myra put the movie on pause and said "They all pooped out. Got no stamina like us Amazons." When Margie didn't even smile, Myra said "Seriously, do we need to talk?"

"Talking is the last thing on earth I want to do at this moment" said Margie. "Is there any of that hot and sour soup left?"

"We haven't put anything away, help yourself" said Ginny. Myra added "Will you heat up that platter of pork buns and spring rolls, and bring that back with you?"

"I want more cashew chicken" said Sima, stirring herself. Slowly, they all got up and went to make small plates for themselves. Ginny put her arms around Margie from behind and whispered "If you want to sleep with your mom and me, you can."

Margie laughed, finally. "I don't know why that makes me feel better, but it does. I'm okay, honestly. Watching a movie sounds just right. Is this the one were those two guys make your groin muscles hurt just watching them?"

"Yep" said Myra. "We haven't gotten to that part yet. Are you dumping that Buddha's delight into your soup?"

"Instant veggie soup" said Margie. "I'm not going home until early Sunday, by the way."

"Lovely" said Ginny. "Do you need any furniture at your place? We could hit the thrift stores early in the morning and get it refinished by the time you leave, I bet."

Myra groaned and took her plate back to the living room, Narnia riding shotgun.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there. As usual, those from little gator lead the pack.


Monday, July 28, 2008


Another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

October to November 2012

Carly left early Monday morning with a platter of salmon croquettes he had personally cooked. Myra and Ginny met with Nancy and Alveisa, but the last hour of the paperwork with Alveisa showed Ginny was distracted and needed second explanations of items, quite unlike her. On the way home, Myra said "Painting?"

"I'm sorry, yes. Another big canvas. I don't know why I've switched over to large format."

"It's fine, Gin. I'll check in with you as seeds arrive in the mail and get things planted. Otherwise, I'll be working my ass off this week as well."

On Sunday evening they caught a flight to Atlanta, leaving Nika as housesitter again. After three days of research, Myra slept 12 hours and had a long conference call with Allie and Chris, talking about what she had learned or was beginning to wonder about. The conversation eventually shifted to Chris's dictionary and Allie's final draft of her latest graphic history, and when Myra got off the phone, she said to Ginny, "I can't believe what all we are doing. Who'da thunk it?"

They visited two days with Claire and her new partner Leila. Claire made Myra laugh almost nonstop, and she had no asthma at all. On the third day, they rented a car and drove to Lexington, Kentucky, where Myra had several interviews lined up and a day-long visit to a private lesbian collection of material from the 1970s. They reassessed how things were going. Ginny felt a painting coming on, so their choice was to either immediately leave for home or try driving to Columbus for four days of research there. Myra opted for the latter, but asked they take the scenic route and stop at diners as if they were tourists instead of goal-oriented. Ginny swallowed her urgency and they initiated a search for the best Midwestern pie.

At the Columbus hotel, Ginny immediately went to work. Myra called Margie, Gillam, and Carly in turn, talking to each of them as long as they would stay on the line. She went to used bookstores on her usual hoovering expedition, but in addition to research-related acquisitions, she bought an omnibus of James Thurber and took herself on a guided tour of his life around town, stopping to read her favorites of his stories in small cafes where she laughed out loud. "The Nine Needles", as usual, made her almost hysterical. She returned to the hotel, had a long talk with Allie, and slept again before heading for the archives. This approach kept her relaxed and feeling well.

On the 11th day, they returned to Seattle, where two flats of new heirlooms needed transplanting and Ginny had a letter from a gallery in Washington, DC offering a major show at the end of February. Myra rested her mandatory two days, making bread and feeding her friends. Carly drove up from Olympia with Beebo that weekend, and this time Chris went shopping with him and Ginny on Saturday morning. They returned with a dresser whose drawers were all but painted shut with layers of hideous overcoats. On S-shaped swivels atop the dresser was an oval mirror whose reflection was blighted with clouds and distortions. Myra listened to two hours of a heated discussion about whether resilvering the mirror would destroy an antique and, if resilvering was to be done, what method should be used. Chris and Ginny seemed to be staking their entire furniture reputations on processes neither of them had ever seen but they declared was "the only way". Carly, meanwhile, began applying paint remover to the dresser itself, arrayed on a dropcloth in the carport.

At dinner that night, when Sima began weighing in on the merits of buying a silvering tank vs. having it professionally done, Edwina banned furniture talk. Into the resentful silence that followed, Myra said "My agent thinks I shouldn't plan on publishing the annotated index of women's publications as a book."

"Why the fuck not?" said Ginny, transferring her belligerence to this new conflict.

"She wants me to produce it as an interactive CD-ROM disk, one that can't be pirated or posted online without my consent and a licensing fee. She says it'll sell a lot more and enormously facilitate actual use as a reference" said Myra.

Nika, sitting next to Carly, said "I agree with her. It'll be searchable in a way even the best indexed volume won't. I think you need to do that for the timeline as well."

"Huh" said Allie, looking at Edwina, who nodded. "The only problem is that drive storage formats become obsolete so fast" said Edwina.

"Yeah, I thought about that" said Myra. "I'd want at least some in book form, because frankly, the written page has endured thousands of years, it's what will survive everything else."

Carly and Nika went out dancing with Davonn again. The next day, he declared the mirror was to be left as is, he liked its reflection. He also insisted the refinishing not be completed by Ginny and Chris after he returned to college, but saved for his next visit. Chris said she had to go to Pendleton, Oregon anyhow that week, for work on her dictionary. On Monday, Ginny had Myra help her carry Margie's old loveseat out to the deck, where she began reupholstering it herself. This was interrupted mid-week by a painting. Myra put a tarp over the eyesore and began preparation for their two-stage trip to Bloomington and Ann Arbor the following week.

By the time they had returned from another week's travels, it had been two months since they'd seen Gillam, longer than that for Margie. "I need to finish the loveseat, but I'm really missing them both, maybe we should take the train down for a quick visit, a day with each of them" said Ginny.

"Gillam is definitely coming for Thanksgiving in less than two weeks" pointed out Myra. "And the latter part of December will be eaten up by holidays, so the only research I can get in before the end of the year is the next ten days and the first two weeks in December. Let's call Margie and see what her plans are for the holidays, at least."

Margie said she and Frances had been talking about going to see Frances' parents in L.A. for Christmas, and, as usual, it looked like Frances would have to work Thanksgiving day plus the day after. "So why don't you come here for that holiday?" said Ginny.

There was a long silence. Margie said with a sigh "You know, I would if it meant she'd be alone for those two days. Isn't that awful? I resent not having her for major holidays, and if I can't share them with her, I don't want her being with anyone else, either."

Kudos for honesty, thought Myra. "When you say alone, do you mean her working with Imani or -- something besides that?"

"For sure the working together, that intense kind of kitchen camaraderie. And, well, can I really ask them not to hang out together after their shift if Frances doesn't have anyone to go home to?" said Margie.

Ginny scowled, but her voice was even as she said "I don't know, honey. Can you? If you want to, shouldn't you at least convey that to her?"

"Shit" said Margie. "This just isn't getting any smoother. But this is my chance to meet the famous Jane, right?"

"Not your last, I hope" said Myra. "But it's what will the main bill of fare, so to speak."

"Poor Gillam" giggled Margie without any real compassion. "Listen, I'll talk to Franny and call you back in a day or two."

Chris and Sima came for dinner, and after eating, despite it being a very cold night, Chris and Ginny set up spotlights on the deck and finished recovering the loveseat by 1 a.m. Sima went home at 10:00, and Chris was given the guest room for the night. In the morning, Myra got up and drove her to work. Chris was grumpy from lack of sleep.

"Ginny says she doesn't actually have a place to put the loveseat now" she said. "I wish she'd mentioned that before she picked out the fabric for it. Me and Sima are going to take it, but we'd have chosen a lighter color for ourselves."

"For Ginny, it's an art project. Other people's opinions don't arise for her in that context" said Myra. "You can put a good slipcover on it or reupholster it, you know."

"Are you defending her?" said Chris.

"Are you attacking her?" replied Myra. "I don't actually give a fuck about the loveseat. I was just passing on information about Ginny, basically agreeing with you, if you'll think about it."

"I need some coffee" said Chris.

Myra didn't point out she'd offered to make her some at the house. Instead, she pulled to the curb beside a doughnut shop and said "Get me two maple raised and a glass of milk, while you're in there."

That night Margie sent her an e-mail saying she was coming for Thanksgiving, that Frances was not going to sleep with Imani while she was gone, and they were fighting hammer and tong, as she put it. Myra shared the information with her friends. She and Ginny decided to go ahead with their trip to Chicago before blizzards set in. They left two days later and were gone for almost a week.

When they returned, Myra had bronchitis and was on antibiotics. "But it was the goddamned weather, not stress or anything else" she said, coughing. "Cornell will have to wait until spring is well under way. For the next few months, it's southern climes or no research at all."

"What about DC? We have reservations for the first week in December?" said Allie.

"I think of DC as part of the south" said Myra. "And yes, we're still on for that. Ginny's going to meet with the gallery there, hopefully before she gets sucked into a painting. We'll have five days of work -- well, I'll be working, you can hare off as you want to. Then Edwina comes for the weekend and we be tourists."

"I wouldn't call going to the Holocaust Memorial Museum being a tourist" said Allie with a faint smile.

Carly arrived the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and bundled up in thermal gear to work on his dresser in the carport. Once it reached the point of needing finish applied, Chris helped him carry it to the upstairs wall, where a fan was set up to blow the fumes upward into a vent -- Chris said otherwise the cold outside would screw up the polishes. Ginny of course was up there with them, and Myra was exasperated to note that when Nika took her breaks, she grabbed a drink and headed upstairs to the furniture zone.

Myra did like, however, that Carly persuaded Nika to join them for their Thanksgiving ritual of making pies the evening before and cooking/serving the holiday itself. She suspected that Nika had no place else to be. She offered Nika one of the daybeds to crash on -- the rest of the rooms would be occupied, she said apologetically. Nika said thanks but she'd rather make the drive home.

Gillam had told them he'd be there some time on Wednesday morning, but Margie beat him home, arriving with barking dog and exuberant yells of greeting. The furniture crew actually tore themselves away to come down and hug her. She put her bag in the guest room and, after a polite visit to the refinishing parlor, came back down to Myra's study, curling up on the daybed with Narnia and talking to Myra while Nika worked at the second table. Within a few minutes, Margie began interrupting Nika's work to ask her what she was doing. Nika showed her, and Margie eventually pulled in Ginny's rolling chair to sit beside Nika and keep the written log of what she was transferring -- an interest she had never shown in Myra's work when Myra was doing it.

Myra had started a pot roast that morning, along with Ginny's stuffed peppers, two roast ducks and a massive salmon cooked Chris-style. Sima, Allie and Edwina arrived at noon with more dishes and an immediate question from Allie of "He's not here yet? What the fuck are they doing?"

Myra said "I think one word of your sentence might answer you", and Allie looked away, embarrassed. Ginny came downstairs when she heard the voices, saying "Is that you, honey boy?" She scrubbed her hands and fidgeted around the kitchen, getting in Myra's way at times but still a welcome presence. Sima sat on the couch, looking out the window. Finally she yelled out "They're here!" and Myra suddenly was overcome with shyness, wanting to go hide in her study. A few moments later, Sima said "Mother of god, valkyrie was exactly the right description."

Jane's long flaxen hair was swept up into a gleaming French knot, and she had on a sea green cashmere top which showed deep cleavage. Her flared black slacks were also cashmere, and her patent leather boots added an inch to her height, making her virtually level with Gillam. He had rushed around to her side of the car, too late because she was already out. She grabbed her own bag, too, so Gillam got his own, catching up with her at the front walk.

Allie had come to stand near Myra and said "She reminds me of a KLM magazine ad, remember those?"

"Exactly" said Myra. "And look, he's got on an ironed shirt with a bowtie. Cute as the dickens."

Margie joined them, Nika standing uncertainly in the hall to the study. Margie said "Well, hell, why are we all huddling in the kitchen?" and strode to the front door as Jane opened it slowly. Narnia started woofing when she smelled Gillam, and Margie grabbed Jane's bag, using her other hand to shake Jane's and say "Hi, I'm his sister Margie, come on in to the Estrogen Palace."

Gillam didn't have a chance to do any introductions because everyone moved in on Jane themselves. She appeared to recognize everybody in advance, except for Nika, and handled all the hubbub with ease. Gillam had a goofy grin on his face that wouldn't quit, and he stood close to Jane in a reflexive way. Beebo had to stand up against his leg before Gillam noticed him and picked him up. Carly and Chris came downstairs, reeking of turpentine and dressed in old shirts. Finally Ginny said "Okay, clean up, those of you who need to. We need the table set for, how many? -- eleven. Somebody handle setting out drinks and glasses of ice, somebody else do the bread and salad, and Myra and I will arrange the dishes on the breakfast bar. We'll eat when everyone's ready to sit down."

Jane joined in the activity, though she did stop in front of the painting of Gillam as a boy to stare at it again. She turned and put her hand on Ginny's arm, looking at her and then Myra to say "Bless you for giving this man to the world." She added to Ginny, "After we eat, I want to see all your work on the walls and hear the stories behind it, if that's all right with you."

Ginny was radiant. Margie saved the chair between her and Edwina for Nika, leaving the chair between her and Ginny empty. Carly slid in between Sima and Chris on the other side, and Jane was fortunate to have Sima on one side, Gillam on the other. Jane scored more points by taking a giant helping of pot roast -- "Gillam's told me about this" she smiled at Myra -- and raving about Ginny's peppers with the first bite.

Her face was wide, like Gillam's, but with a thin nose. Her eyes were an extremely pale blue. She was solid, with strength and ease but definitely not the underweight standard of most college women. Her thigh was clearly against Gillam's under the table, and she knew how to eat while still answering the onslaught of questions coming her way. Beebo sat on the sideboard behind Gillam, offering to take his pulse repeatedly but Gillam never noticed. Finally Myra handed Gillam a sliver of duck and said "Your kitten is desperate for a manifestation of love". Gillam and Jane both swiveled to pass on the morsel to Beebo, Jane scratching him behind the ears as he gulped gratefully.

"So you're going to teach special ed like Gillam?" asked Edwina.

"I'm certified in special ed, but my major is a double in education and music. I hope to teach both, if there are any music programs left."

"What grade?" asked Sima.

"First and second is my preference" said Jane. "My mother taught first grade, and never got tired of it."

"Second generation teacher, like me" said Gillam with a sappy grin at Ginny. Margie rolled her eyes at Carly.

"Do any of your family live in Seattle?" asked Ginny. Allie grinned to herself.

"My older brother Thad lives in Queen Anne -- he's gay. And my next oldest sister, the one I'm closest to, lives in Tacoma with her husband" replied Jane. Myra and Ginny looked at each other with hope.

"And you're the youngest of eight?" said Edwina.

"Yes. The oldest is Bettie, though she'd kill me to hear me put it that way, she's 17 years older than me. Next is Paul, then Sophie, Dan, Thad, Willie, Lucy and me. Bettie lives in South Carolina, the rest besides who I've mentioned are still in California. I have eight nieces and nephews already" said Jane. "These sweet potatoes are the best I've ever had, who made them and how?"

Allie gave her recipe proudly. Jane said "I can do basics, but nothing like what's on this table. Gillam, though, everything he makes is delicious."

"He used to eat his buggers every chance he got and at night after we went to bed, he'd talk about how some were salty, some were -- " began Margie.

"Not at the table!" commanded Ginny, trying to kick her but hitting the table leg instead. Carly and Chris both howled, and Jane laughed too, with Gillam who, it looked like, would have to be swallowed by magma to be perturbed at the moment.

Talk eventually shifted to funny stories from past Thanksgiving cooking adventures. Once the spotlight was off her, Jane slid her hand into Gillam's and they each ate one-handed, Gillam fumbling with his left. They skipped dessert, since they would spend five hours that evening making pies and part of the tradition was taste-testing.

After clearing the table, Allie said "I want to talk with ya'll more, but we'll have more chances. We generally take a long nap now, because we'll be way short on sleep tonight. We'll meet you at the kitchen at 6:00, like usual?"

"Sounds good" said Myra. Sima pulled Chris away as well. Margie said "I'd rather have a swim. Nika, you want to join me?"

"I don't have a suit" said Nika uncertainly.

"I bet I have one that'll fit you in storage" said Margie. "If we didn't have boys here, we could just go au naturel." She led Nika to the guest room, whose wardrobe was used for extra clothes.

"I know I should sleep, but I really want to put on one more coat" said Carly, heading upstairs. Gillam said to Jane, "Nap, swim, or what?"

She dimpled at him, and he went bright red. She tried to cover by saying "Swim later, and, well, what are your moms doing?" as she turned to Myra and Ginny.

Myra said "I'm definitely going to sleep, I'm too old to rob the Sanddyke any more." Ginny looked torn, but finally said "Yeah, I'm going to lie down a while, too."

"Help yourselves to whatever you want, as usual" Myra said to Gillam, "and if we're not up by 5:00, wake us, okay?"

He kissed her cheek and whispered "Isn't she perfect?"

"Yep" said Myra. She looked forward to the chance to gossip with Ginny about the lunch, but they both fell asleep right away, under a warm comforter with pale winter light coming through the glass wall.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild


Sunday, July 27, 2008


Just a few. More after the fold.



Hey, lovelies. I'm doing better -- the breathing is nearly back to normal -- but still extremely low energy. So, I'm not writing like I wish I was. Still, I wanted to share some great news that was waiting for me in my inbox just now. Three of the poems I've previously had published in the Texas Poetry Calendar -- in 2007, 2006 and 2000 respectively -- have been requested to be republished in the forthcoming "best-of-the-first-decade" anthology of the Texas Poetry Calendar, Big Land, Big Sky, Big Hair: Best of the Texas Poetry Calendar's First Decade. I'm enormously pleased, and of course will accept the offer from Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen, the vibrant new-ish editors of the TPC and founders of Dos Gatos Press.

So you don't have to wait for the calendar to come out to read my three selected poems (although I do earnestly hope you buy copies of the calendar, they are great publications), I'll copy in the poems after the fold.


One autumn after days of rain, a norther blew in just past dawn
as if two pewter palms had clamped down on our patch of earth
stoppering wind, rain and light. Our sopping world plunged into chill
and froze entire: each branch and twig, each strand of grass
The clumps of clods beside our road, the arc of wires strung pole to pole
Every thing beneath that sky shimmered with a gloss of ice

We walked out into nearby woods of papershell and blackjack trees
Each step crunched underneath our feet like walking over broken bulbs
The clank of frosted tubes threw tinkling notes into the gaps
between each tree, and when we brushed against a branch, some sleeves
would slip onto the ground in piles like beakers thrown away
I heard no birds and wondered where they hid today. I was afraid
if I looked too close at upper limbs, perhaps I'd see
their rigid bodies clustered like a gelid fruit with open eyes

I was too young to have a guess that this might be the only time
I'd ever see this kind of freeze, given where I map my years
My coat was corduroy, unlined, and I had not brought gloves or hat
My breath blew out in cheerful clouds, and I cannot recall a thing
we said to one another. We did not touch, we had not yet begun
to touch. You stopped once and I came back to see what might
have drawn your gaze. You turned to face me and I had the thought
that maybe we would kiss. But I was young in that way, too
So I turned and went on in the woods.

© Maggie Jochild, written in late 2005


There's enough to go around
but only just.
Our long-ago primate promise
to store grain in jars
to raise the girl babies
to walk so's everybody could keep up
means some of us live
right next to the cracks
jostled, hanging on
like only white trash can.
And when you settle, take a break,
when you just throw out that mess, it's
been sitting too long,
impossible to clean,
when you say
"She knows the score, I'm not
really hurting anyone"
I'm telling you, no lie,
everybody has to scoot over
and one of us
one of us
loses the room to stand
slides from desperate, cramping arms
and vanishes.

© Maggie Jochild, written 6 November 1994


I know what a sleeping bear dreams
when her breath goes down to twice a minute
and the world itself abandons her

No use to shamble to her view and
wish that winter skip this year
She's in for it Covers her face

and lies back down. The only sun
is in her ribs, a buried star
She dreams not of a thaw to come

Instead she glides on berried slopes
where last October all the sweet
and tang of summer came to point

and dropletted each huckled branch
or August's shallows full of sockeye
She eats the brains and roe, then wades

to swipe another to the shore
Sitka clearing strewn with deadfall
and under brittle logs a teem of grubs

The crunchy tubers of last May
She dreams of every bite that fed her
to this point and sleeked her flanks

While ice and hunger pin her down
she fills her mouth with memory
Hope will sometimes gutter out

But memory is a magic jar
that never empties to bare glass
until it is her turn again to wake

© Maggie Jochild, 18 June 2005, 5:08 a.m., published 2006 in Natural Bridge