Friday, October 17, 2008


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

August-September 2014

Margie returned three weeks later for Labor Day weekend. After she called to announce her plan, Ginny remarked to Myra "We haven't seen this much of her in years. Mimi, right?"

"Yeah. The pull of genes, plus an extraordinary child who looks so much like her. But it's more than ego: She's seriously committed to that baby for Mimi's sake" said Myra.

"It's not too late for Margie to change her mind. About motherhood" said Ginny, trying to damper her own hope.

"Well, Frances is an unknown variable. I mean, she loves Mimi, but does she want parenthood?" wondered Myra.

"Does she want anything except her own restaurant" said Ginny flatly.

"And Margie. She wants Margie" countered Myra.

Ginny went into a near-frenzy of painting, producing five canvases between Myra's birthday and Labor Day. Myra was relieved for their bank account and used the time herself for prolonged periods of writing. She did, however, ask Chris away for a weekend. They drove back to near Colville, camping in a cabin along the river where Chris fished and roamed, Myra sat outside at a small table and wrote or daydreamed, mostly the latter. The first night, they fell asleep on the same bed, talking late, and when Myra woke up in the dark, she knew instantly it was Chris spooned back into her, by smell and shape. She wondered briefly what Ginny would have to say about it, but she slid her arm around Chris's waist and went contentedly back to sleep.

When Myra returned from her trip, an hour early because they'd had no traffic, Kip was in the kitchen with Ginny chopping onions. Myra greeted her cheerfully and pushed Ginny back against the counter, melting into her for a hello kiss. "You smell like woodsmoke and fish guts" said Ginny, laughing.

"You smell like -- pond, maybe?" Myra kissed her again. "Did you get the fish in, then?"

"Yes, you wanna see?" Ginny led her out to water's edge and told her about their adventures in fish acquisition.

"How big will those severum grow, in a pond this size?" asked Myra.

"Big enough to be a risk to anything small" said Ginny. "I'm hoping the dannios stake out territory and hold their own while the severum are still juvies. The loach may be a problem, too. But we determined there's definitely a frog colony established here."

"Yay, frogs!" cheered Myra. "What about turtles?"

"No visitors yet. And they'll be a threat to the fish if they do show up. Ditto herons and egrets, let's hope they don't notice our little smorgasbord on a flyover. The grotto will give smart fish a refuge, of course." Ginny was sunburned and felt extremely good under Myra's hands.

"How're things with Kip?" whispered Myra.

"Better. Oh, and Myra! Last night at dinner, Mimi said 'Allie', I swear to god. Jane disputes it, but I heard it plain as day. So did Allie."

"She must've come out of her chair!" said Myra. "This would be awfully early to be talking, though."

"Bates supremacy" smirked Ginny.

"We better go back in and make nice with Kip" said Myra. "What's the menu?"

"Garden salad with fried onions and grilled cheese sandwiches" said Ginny.

"Yum. I'm low on veggies at the moment" said Myra.

"How was your time with Chris?"

"Idyllic" answered Myra. "I'll tell you more later."

The next weekend, Margie came in time for shabbos dinner and asked to be the one to hold Mimi for candle-lighting. Myra, holding Carly's hand, felt her chest full with emotion as she watched her family. They played poker and Margie held Mimi in her lap, creating a voice for Mimi that was high but profane as she placed reckless baby bets and jeered at other's losses. They were all in stitches, and Mimi not only joined in the hilarity but accentuated it with a deep belly laugh which caused Gillam to pull out the video camera. Thad had gotten into the habit of joining them for at least holiday meals, and his presence gave Jane permission to be even more relaxed that she usually was.

Ginny and Myra experienced a jolt the day Jane and Gillam hung new blinds across all the glass walls at the back of their house. Ginny spotted it first and called Myra to come in a voice with such dread, Myra feared it was an injury. Ginny pointed furiously and said "That's clearly intended for us." Before Myra could say anything, Ginny picked up the phone and dialed Gillam. When he answered, she said "If you think we're sitting at our windows with binoculars trying to spy on you, it would be cheaper just to ask us to cease and desist. The fact is, I don't live to intrude on your lives."

"It's not about you, Mom" he said resignedly. "Not everybody is an exhibitionist." The latter phrase was exactly what Edwina said when Ginny told her about it. Myra privately agreed with Ginny that it was a boundary mostly aimed at them but, as she conceded, if they felt the need to set one, then everybody was better off for them doing so.

The morning after Margie came for her visit, she and Ginny were at her worktable collaborating on the artist's statement Ginny was placing in the catalogue for her upcoming show. As usual, Margie became peripatetic to foster her thought process, pacing up and down the hall, bringing her out-loud musings into louder and fainter range to Myra who was at her desk trying to write. In mid sentence, Margie broke off and sang "Look, look, see, see -- "

"What?" said Ginny. Myra turned in her chair. Margie was gazing out the window to the back of their yard.

"Here comes Scot, here comes Dot, here comes Chicken Jane" she sang. She started down the stairs.

"Who are you calling Chicken Jane?" said Ginny disapprovingly. She got up to check, however, and followed Margie to greet Gillam, Jane and Mimi. They had decided, since the day was clear, to walk Mimi in her stroller to Volunteer Park and feed the ducks. Margie immediately began putting on her shoes. Ginny and Myra looked at each other and Myra said "I could use the exercise." Gillam already had water packed in the stroller, along with his Leica; Myra added a bag of cracked corn from her birdfeeding stock. Ginny wrote a note where they were and left it by the phone.

As they headed west, Gillam said to Myra "Did you hear that Willie Nelson got struck by a car?"

"Oh god, no. What happened?"

"He was playing on the road again." Gillam cracked himself up as Myra thumped him on the shoulder. Hearing her daddy laugh, Mimi began chortling. Margie scooped her out of the stroller and began dancing along the sidewalk, singing the Madam Mim segment from The Sword In The Stone:

With only a touch
I have the power
Zim zabberim zim
To wither a flower
I find delight in the gruesome and grim
'Cause I'm the magnificent, marvelous, mad Madam Mim

Mimi was laughing so hard by the end she was breathless. Jane, grinning, said "It never occurred to me that her name might be linked to that character."

"Leave it to Margie" said Gillam. "She used to terrorize me at night with her version of Disney stories, making up new episodes full of horror and always involving children being eaten by monsters."

"What, when you shared a room?" said Myra, distressed.

"Yep. Soon as the light went out and it was just me and her. I'd hunker under my covers in the dark, trying not to listen. After Hannah came to be our nanny, she got wise to Margie and left the connecting door open. If she heard whispering, she'd yell at Margie to knock it off." Gillam wasn't entirely sanguine about this memory, it was clear.

"So that's why your nightmares stopped after Hannah had been there a few months" said Myra. Margie was still laughing with Mimi and ignored Myra's critical gaze. Ginny said to Gillam softly, "You're generous to share your daughter with her."

"Ah, she's changed. Besides, we're the ones who Mimi sleeps with" said Gillam complacently.

At the park, Ginny wandered away to poke through cattails and quieter sections of the main pond, assessing its ecosystem. When given corn, Mimi immediately tried to put it in her mouth, but when everyone stopped handing her any, she had a temper tantrum. Gillam walked her into the trees, comforting her. Myra and Jane gathered a large flock to their spot on the grass by the time Gillam and Mimi returned, where Mimi was allowed to sprawl on her blanket and make vain lunges at nearby waterfowl. Gillam put his head in Jane's lap and watched the clear sky.

When Ginny returned, she curled up behind Myra and said "Listen, you three, we'll buy you plane ticket to DC for mid October if you think you can make it to my show. I wouldn't travel with a baby this young but..."

"Nope, we're not going to, either" said Jane. "I'm really sorry to miss it, though. That article in the paper about you last week was pretty laudatory."

"Wait till they see the Myra PET scan abstracts. Those will throw them for a loop" giggled Ginny.

"Little do they know, the best stuff you ever do is in family hands. That one of Frances" said Margie.

"And our Mimi" added Gillam.

"I'm going to try, Mom, but I don't know for sure yet" said Margie.

"Well, I leave from there for a book tour of university towns in the east" said Myra. "Ginny's coming along for at least a week of it, maybe both weeks. Which means we won't be here to help pick up the slack for you" she said, nudging Gillam with her toe.

Gillam sighed. "I honestly don't know how I'm going to cope even with returning to full-time work next week. We've tried to figure out a way for me to work only half-time, but the job market isn't set up for parents in general, certainly not dads who want half a day with their kids." Margie was watching him, hearing the pain in his voice as if this was entirely new information.

"She won't forget you" said Myra.

"That's not the point. The point is she cannot possibly understand why I'm not around all day any more. You know how little ones interpret that, they decide it's their fault" said Gillam, sitting up and reaching out to touch Mimi's foot. She looked around at him and grinned.

"And it makes no sense for me to work half-time, because he would still lose his benefits, I wouldn't have any offered to me, and, well, I'm not done having children" said Jane.

"How soon are you going to try?" asked Ginny, shocking Myra with her bluntness.

"We'll leave it to Jane's body" said Gillam. "When it's ready go again, it will." Myra decided this meant they weren't using birth control at all now. Almost more than she wanted to know.

"I hope to breast feed for a year" said Jane. "I talked with my friend Veronica who had her baby last month, and we're going to get together two or three mornings a week for baby play and having two sets of hands available. When Seelah is old enough, we'll put them both in Gymboree."

Gillam looked even more pained at being shut out of this option. "It sucks, huh" said Margie to him softly. He looked at her gratefully.

They stopped for hot dogs on the way home. When nobody was watching, Mimi got her hands on a mustard squeeze bottle and did immediate damage to her jumper and Gillam's slacks. She was carried screaming to the restroom for clean-up.

"Remember the first time we fed Margie spaghetti?" said Myra.

"There was sauce deep inside her ears by the time that debacle was over" said Ginny. "She was a lot older than Mimi is now, so she had enough coordination to hurl stuff around the room, too."

After they returned to Myra and Ginny's house, Ginny went to the store room and returned with a shopping bag which she set on the table in front of Gillam and Jane.

"Here's my confession: I went to that recycled kid's clothing store yesterday where all the yuppies, or whatever you call 'em these days, turn in their designer duds after their darlings have worn them maybe twice. Mostly I was looking for little T-shirts and onesies to decorate and dye, but, well, it's been so long since I got to buy children's clothes. I went a little nuts. And I suspect the urge is not going to pass. So, I've got the money and I'm not really a shopping addict in other ways -- "

Unless it's old furniture or art supplies, Myra thought to herself.

"And thus I'm likely to go on finding carts full of things I'd like to get for Mimi. But you are the parents, and you get to decide what she wears. At least until she begins raising objections to your choices, which if she's like Margie will be as soon as she can speak." Margie grinned defiantly. "I know our tastes don't always overlap -- " Ginny smiled at her own understatement. "So...the deal I'm requesting is that you absolutely only accept what you actually like. I promise not to have hurt feelings or judgment. If you reject something I find too cute to pass up, I'll keep it here for when she needs a change of clothes on my premises. The rest of it I'll recycle back to them. Is that acceptable, or am I going too far?"

Jane was laughing and turning the bag upside down to empty it onto the table. Gillam, however, said only "Let's have a look". They began showing each other the tiny garments. Gillam said "These overalls are humongous, Mama."

"I know, I know. Maybe when she's three they'll fit. I'll put those aside. And here, let me take the plain white stuff that I want to dye." It still left a heap of brightly colored raiment. Myra came to sit at the table, drawn by the lure herself.

Both Jane and Gillam had strong opinions about some items, indifference to others. They negotiated with each other deftly -- anything that drew an "Oh god, no" was immediately set aside, no matter if the other loved it. By the end, there was a small pile of accepted clothes, three or four items which had drawn rave reviews, and a cap that Gillam had to instantly put on Mimi. Jane refolded the rest and pushed them back toward Ginny with a sincere thanks and a request to go along with her on the next shopping trip. "Me too" injected Gillam. He turned to Myra and said "That goes for you on your bookstore prowls, too, now that I have her books to look over."

Ginny was fingering a tiny vivid blue hoodie with whales cavorting on the back. Myra, too, could not believe it had been rejected. Ginny retrieved the pad from beside the phone and said "Well, let's discuss designs for the T-shirts I want to silkscreen for her, then."

"Oh, if it's from your hand, I'll adore it" said Jane. "Love makes it special."

Ginny looked gratified. Gillam, however, said "How about if I make a list of sayings and ideas that I find meaningful? For text on the shirts."

Ginny blinked. "Okay." She didn't look at Myra. "I should let you know, if a screen comes out really well in my opinion, I'm probably going to offer it for sale, on tees or cards. I'll have a separate account for Mimi-inspired sales, of course."

"I like that idea" said Gillam. "Only her image doesn't go out on anything. Not until she's old enough to consent."

"Of course" said Ginny, already doodling. Myra put the rejected items back into the bag -- there were several things she herself wanted to keep. They could put a trunk in the bottom of their closet; possible future grandchildren might not be so carefully monitored, she thought.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, October 16, 2008


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

Summer 2014

On Monday, all visitors left except for Cathy, who stayed an extra day. Ginny said she saw Jane and Gillam in their yard and pool with Mimi, but otherwise they stayed to themselves. Ginny and Cathy spent all their time in conversation while gardening, cooking, or sitting over tea. Myra went to her desk and wrote, leaving only for meals with the two sisters.

Tuesday Myra invited Jane and Gillam to a meal, if they were ready to be with others again. They arrived at noon, wet-haired from a swim with Mimi, who was cranky and ravenous. Jane sat at the table and nursed her while Gillam helped Myra put the makings for lettuce wraps on the table, with smoked chicken and ripe avocados. Ginny had dropped Cathy at the airport that morning and had been sad until the arrival of the baby. After eating, they all went into the living room where Jane became so drowsy that Ginny insisted she take the long couch, bringing her a light quilt and a bed pillow. Jane fell asleep astonishingly fast. Gillam changed Mimi's diaper and leaned back in the recliner with throw pillows to prop her safely between the chair arm and his chest as she, too, dropped off. Despite a valiant attempt on his part, he joined his family in slumber. Ginny got another quilt for him, and she left the room with Myra.

"He gets up for the 1 a.m. feeding, using bottles Jane expressed earlier in the day" Myra said quietly to Ginny. "This lets her sleep sort of through until 5 a.m., when she nurses Mimi again and gets up so Gillam can catch a few more hours. But I bet neither of them are really ever getting more than four hours rest at a stretch."

"And this is the easy part of babyhood" observed Ginny.

"Don't tell them that."

Myra decided to roll out pie crusts for freezing against the bounty of summer fruit headed their way. After an hour, she heard small sounds from the living room that sounded like baby awake. Sure enough, Mimi was fidgeting. Gillam had not woke up entirely. Myra lifted Mimi from his arms and whispered "I've got your daughter, honeyboy, you keep sleeping." He relaxed again without achieving complete consciousness.

Myra took Mimi upstairs to her daybed and read to her, beginning with "The Highwayman". Ginny puttered in their vicinity through several poems, then said "My turn" and slipped Mimi into her Snugli. They went outside to the garden. As Ginny weeded, she kept up a rolling narrative about plants, tastes, and the "the circle of life". She rubbed lemon grass, garlic leaves, rosemary, and tomato foliage between her fingers, then held the odors up to Mimi's nose while telling her the names. Myra came out and watched for a while, took a few photos, and said "When you want a break, I'll be at my desk."

Two hours later, Mimi had a crying jag and Myra relieved Ginny automatically, taking Mimi into their sound-proofed bedroom to let her wail it out. Jane had left a bottle of her milk in the fridge, which Ginny warmed and brought to Myra. They took turns feeding Mimi, their first chance at this most elemental of bonds. Myra kept pointing to herself or Ginny and repeating "Bubbe...Grandma."

Shortly before 5:00, Gillam woke up and came into the kitchen, looking guilty. Ginny had Mimi in her carrier on the counter, explaining how to make her honey mustard dressing as Mimi mouthed a rattle. She said "Did you have a good nap?"

"Best in my life, feels like" he said. "How's my angel?" Mimi dropped her rattle in excitement and he picked her up.

"You can crash here all you want" said Ginny, filling him in on Mimi's alimentary activity for the afternoon. Jane got up twenty minutes later, and after declining an invitation to dinner, they walked home looking brighter all round. Ginny baked butterfish in Myra's black tea and brown sugar rub, cooked a pot of rice and assembled a salad. She brought a plate to Myra at her desk and they ate companionably in the study. Myra returned to writing and Ginny spent the evening answering mail.

Wednesday afternoon Gillam and Jane took Mimi for her check-up. After they got home, Gillam called Myra and said "I need to find us a different car. I don't feel safe with a baby in either of ours."

"You can borrow the Volvo any time" said Myra. "You might check with Sadie and see if she knows vehicles for sale."

"That's why I'm calling, I can't find her number on my cell."

That evening dinner guests included Sima and Chris, Mara Smith, Annie Gagliardi, and the pond woman whose name was Kip. Myra made King Ranch chicken, grilled sole, and asparagus-leek fettuccine. After the table was cleared, it was promptly covered again in sketchpads, graph paper, and drawing materials. Chris was as engrossed in the planning as Sima, so Myra left them to it, feeling the call of her memoir which was, she had started to realize, probably going to become more than one volume.

Ginny sat up late after all their other friends left talking with Kip. Even so, Myra came to bed after Ginny was asleep. On Thursday, Jane and Gillam repeated their come for lunch, stay for a nap routine. This time, Allie had dropped by and she stole Mimi for much of the afternoon, propping her up on Myra's daybed and playing with plastic rings, puppets, and baby-safe books. Myra found herself undistracted by this. Ginny began stretching a canvas. Edwina joined them for dinner, and Jane and Gillam stayed through the meal so Edwina could have her turn at holding Mimi. After everyone left, Ginny began painting and Myra memoired, as she put it.

Friday afternoon, Gillam and Jane bought a four-year-old Toyota Sienna, with "buttloads of airbags, great mileage, and room for eight passengers", Gillam enthused. They kept Gillam's Mini and traded in Jane's Ford. The car was a color Jane called "Blizzard Pearl". Ginny was too absorbed in her painting to offer to repaint it for them, which was just as well, Myra thought.

When the candles were lit, Myra was sure she saw anticipatory memory on Mimi's face as her head was covered in a shawl and she was leaned cautiously toward the flames. After eating, instead of poker they decided to watch a new movie in the living room. Ginny had bought two enormous padded mats, blue and olive, from a gym surplus store as floor coverings for baby play. These were being kept rolled up behind the couches, but were now spread out so Carly and Eric could get on Mimi's level during the movie. Gillam joined them and promptly went to sleep. Jane also dozed off in the recliner. Ginny left after half an hour, retreating upstairs to her canvas. Myra sat on the edge of the mat, leaned against Chris's legs, and watched Mimi take utterly for granted the vast host of adults at her disposal.

A routine emerged. At least three afternoons a week, Jane and Gillam came over for lunch and naps while Mimi soaked up her grandmothers. Allie came over at least two of these visits, and if Edwina didn't have a class to teach, she was there as well. Ginny was constantly consumed with either a painting, refinishing a piece of furniture, or landscaping, often all three in a single day. Myra wrote.

When a crew arrived to dig the pond, Kip seemed to live at their house. That afternoon, Gillam went outside to watch the backhoe and laborers, eventually peeling off his shirt and working alongside them in his jeans. Jane sat on the edge of the raised beds, holding Mimi and watching Gillam's brown muscles ripple across his back. Eventually she handed Mimi to Myra and walked home to get Gillam's Leica, taking photographs until he objected with embarrassment. Ginny was out that day with Kip, looking at model ponds around Seattle.

Gillam returned the following afternoon to be a grunt for the concrete crew. Myra kept a supply of sandwiches, cold drinks and fruit on hand at the back door, and joined Jane in watching the activity, especially the bending of rebar to reinforce the pond cavity lips. The planned underwater grotto looked huge and spooky, even empty as it was. The following day, Mara arrived with her mason and a couple of other workers to lay down the brick paths. The thumper used to level the sand base under the brick upset Mimi, and Jane had to go inside away from the reverberation to keep her from crying. Gillam continued to accumulate muscle and sweat. In compensation, during Mimi's swims pre-lunch Jane was leaving the baby to Gillam while she swam hard laps back and forth.

The bricks going down were a shade between crimson and dried blood, as Ginny put it, in a pattern which incorporated blue stones in the center of interlinking grids that suggested a star of David. It was a compelling interwoven configuration which still allowed rain to penetrate to the ground below. This flowed along the walkways and surrounded the pond, becoming as well the floor of the barbecue area. A standard steel portico was erected over the barbecue area, with a metal roof that Ginny intended to fit with more solar panels. In addition, Annie Gagliardi was going to create an iron vining scrollwork to wrap the pillars of the portico. Space was left for the grill set-up Myra had selected. The walls of the cook area and the benches, however, would be elaborately sculpted by Mara, and she left after the floors were down to work on this for the coming month. In addition, she would be carving the ends of wet bricks who would be turned at a vertical slant as edging for Ginny's flower beds. The designs they had finally selected were an art-deco-ish outline of Texas, a curved gecko, and a rose that morphed into a sunburst depending on how you looked at it.

Kip arrived one morning with hip waders for Ginny. They were heading to some wild wetlands to look at possible plants for the pond. Myra had not been able to tell if Kip was straight or not, and finally had asked Ginny. Ginny replied "She's one of those lesbians from our generation who went back to men for a decade or two, until it became clear the intelligent progression of feminism was what too many guys our age found repellent, at which point they become caricatures, not someone you want to be old with. So, she's back with women, as least nominally. She was involved with someone last year, and she brings it up often, at least to complain about her ex." Kip was beefy and competent, though not in the least interested in politics or art. Myra thought that must be a cleansing change for Ginny. All they ever seemed to discuss were ecosystems.

Margie returned the weekend of Mimi's one month birthday in June, bringing a swing chair which hung from a doorway and allowed Mimi to bounce herself up and down with her own leg power. Margie called it a baby bungee, and Mimi adored it. When Jane handed Mimi to Margie that day, Mimi showed definite signs of recognition, which brought tears to Margie's eyes. She referred to her constantly as "my goddaughter", and her billfold was crammed with baby photos.

Sunday morning, Margie even got up and went to Quaker Meeting with Jane, Gillam, Myra and Mimi. They picked up barbecue on the way home, where they found Ginny and Kip in the back yard. Kip had persuaded Ginny, while she waited on Mara's brick sculpture, to try crafting the stone waterfall at pond's end on their own. A load of blue-grey rounded stones from small to hernia-making had been dumped in the yard, and Ginny had bought a set of chisels, hammers, and a rock drill. The piping for the waterfall was already in place, channeled through the edge of the concrete lip to a pump in the deep end. Ginny wanted the waterfall to be mortarless, and fitting the stones together was her and Kip's current preoccupation. They came in briefly to eat, but soon returned to the puzzle.

Carly and Eric arrived late and ate their plates as the rest of them were cutting open early cantaloupes. After lunch, all the younger folks returned to Jane and Gillam's to hang out at the pool. Myra went to her memoir and didn't notice the passage of time until Allie called up the stairs, "Yo, you home?"

Myra walked to the railing and said "Yeah. My god, it's 5:00 already."

"We brought catfish to fry. Jane and Gillam at they house?"

Myra looked to the south and saw no one in that yard. In their own yard, Margie was now with Kip and Ginny. "I guess. They like to keep evenings for just them, especially after they've gotten a nap -- Gillam says it's their special time."

"Oh. Well, we still got Margie."

Myra came downstairs and offered her assistance with meal preparation, but was waved to a stool and observation status. Edwina was making her delectable veggie fritters to go with the catfish. They had leftover polenta, and Myra knew there was mango sorbet in the freezer for dessert. Edwina told stories from her Chicago childhood while they cooked.

When it got dark, Myra went to the back door and called "I'd rather you not play with chisels and power tools unless you set up some lights to work by. Dinner'll be ready in 15 minutes, anyhow."

"Be right there" called Ginny. They trooped in after tools were put away, pulling muddy shoes off at the back step. Margie greeted Allie and Edwina gladly and offered to slice tomatoes after she washed her hands. Myra was making drinks and asked Kip what she wanted, tea or water.

"Oh, I'm going to run on home" said Kip with a trace of unease.

"You're welcome to eat with us" said Myra.

"No, thanks, but I've got things to do." Kip turned to Ginny and said in a voice Myra could barely hear "Tomorrow, then?"

"Bright and early" returned Ginny. Kip hugged her and left by the front door. After she was gone, Myra said "She never will eat with us. Is it my cooking, or some kind of dietary restriction on her part?"

Margie snorted. "More like she doesn't want to be at the table with you, Mom, since you're apparently competition in her eyes." This was aimed at Myra, who laughed and said "What on earth are you talking about?"

"Seems clear to me she's got a woody for Mom" said Margie, pointing her head at Ginny. Myra continued laughing until she realized Ginny's face was tense, and Edwina had gone still.

"Have you not talked with her yet?" Edwina said to Ginny.

"Talked with who?" said Myra, feeling suddenly chilled.

After too many seconds, Ginny said "Kip. About whether she does have -- what I'd call an attraction." She glared at Margie.

"What the fuck? You think she's making a play for you?" Myra felt sandbagged and wished Chris were here. She looked at Allie and saw it was news to Allie, too. Which meant Edwina didn't tell her absolutely everything.

"If she were making a play, I'd have already said no, Myra" Ginny replied with a chill in her voice. "Clearly I'm not interested."

"Really? Because if it's so clear, why doesn't Kip know it yet? What more do you need, besides almost 30 years cohabitation and grandchildren?" Myra could feel anger building in her like a steam valve. She saw Margie glance her way.

"I have no way of knowing why someone else is deluded about my availability" said Ginny with a charge in her tone that set off all Myra's alarms. "I wasn't certain about her possible feelings for me."

"But you were suspicious enough to talk it over with Edwina? Edwina, but not me." Myra smelled something rotten.

"There was no point in stirring up trouble if I was wrong" said Ginny, facing Myra. "You like to imagine yourself as reason personified, but there are some areas where you can go nuts, Myra, and I have to tread lightly."

"Don't you dare imply that you needed to lie to me because my reaction is too much to handle" said Myra with cold calm. "If you imagine that's an excuse to lie, you've lost me already."

Ginny sat down abruptly, color draining from her face. "Are you threatening me, Myra?"

"Whoa" said Allie. "Just whoa." She came around the counter to stand near Myra. "First off, do you actually believe Ginny is attracted to Kip? Do you?"

Myra had to step completely around her anger to say "No. Not really."

"Then we be talking about Kip's feelings, which I agree with Ginny, not her responsibility. And yeah, she took it to her friend first. You ever done that, Myra?"

"Not about someone else wanting to be my girlfriend" said Myra virtuously.

"What about Cuchilla?" said Ginny. Margie's eyes flickered: New information.

"I didn't keep anything from you about Cuchilla -- " began Myra.

"No, you completely ignored her being in love with you until I had to point it out" said Ginny.

"And you went off the fucking deep end, too, as I recall" retorted Myra.

"Well, we are a lot older and more stable now" said Ginny. "I was of course going to talk with you about it if Kip confirmed my suspicions. Which she has not yet, by the way."

"Are you claiming Margie's impression is bullshit? What tipped you off, anyhow?" said Myra, turning to Margie.

"The way she looked at Mom" said Margie. "Pure goo. Butch goo." Her voice was scornful. Myra briefly wished Frances could hear this.

"No, I'm not discounting Margie's read" said Ginny, "Clumsily as she has tossed it out." Take that, you ungrateful child, her tone implied.

A burning smell reached Myra's nostrils.

"Ah, shit" said Allie, rushing back to the stove. She began turning over catfish fillets blackened on one side. Myra said to her, "That's okay, we'll call it Cajun style." With this joke, she realized she had decided to not indulge her anger.

She faced Ginny again. She took a long breath and said "This scares me. You spending so much time with someone who's decided that means you're fair game -- it scares me."

"It scares me too, Myra" said Ginny in a softer voice. "I -- hate it. I wanted...want her as a friend, absolutely nothing more. I'm not looking forward to the conversation we'll be having tomorrow."

Myra secretly hoped Kip would be so upset by refusal that she'd disappear and Myra wouldn't have to deal with her presence again. Out loud she said "Please keep me fully informed."

Ginny looked at her as if she could read Myra's thoughts. She stepped to Myra and wrapped her arms around Myra's waist. "I'm your girl, yours alone" she whispered.

Myra realized she was trembling as she leaned against Ginny. "I'm a grandmother and I still have this landmine" she whispered back.

"It goes how it goes" said Ginny. Myra sang "Like a river flows..." They hugged in recognition.

"So that's it?" said Margie loudly. "You done with this?"

"Nope. But we're not going to start breaking dishes" said Myra, beginning to wonder what stake Margie had in this confrontation. "Speaking of which, let's get the table set, looks like everything is ready to serve."

Myra went to bed with Ginny that night. As they curled together in the dark, Myra said "I kinda hate her now."

"I figured. I surely felt that way about Cuchilla" replied Ginny.

"You think all that complaining she's been doing about her recent ex was to get your sympathy, arouse your interest in her?" asked Myra.

Ginny thought for a minute. "I guess it could be. If so, it's a ridiculous tactic."

"Well, she's been with men for all those years that we spent maturing" said Myra, a little venom creeping into her voice. Ginny squeezed her and said "Have you talked with Margie about how things are going with her and Frances? Regarding Imani, I mean?"

"No. But after today, I'll make sure to do so before she leaves tomorrow" said Myra.

"I know I've been crazy busy lately. And I don't see a real let-up for months. Do you and I need to set aside some time for us?" said Ginny.

"I don't know. I'm obsessed with my book, as well. I feel more like I'm neglecting my friendships. Especially Chris, we haven't had alone time in six weeks."

Myra felt Ginny be still for a moment. "Well, if you want to make plans with her, I think you should. Take her to Anacortes."

Myra laughed. "That was extremely generous of you, Ginny Bates. Chris would rather go out in nature somewhere, not a motel near a hardware store. I'll talk to her about it. You and I will have some traveling together for your show, and my book tour."

"But that's in the fall. And we're not getting to go to the coast this summer, because of Mimi" pointed out Ginny.

"Well...let's get the yard done. Then maybe we could take off, the two of us." Myra felt reluctant to commit. She wanted the Kip issue dealt with first, was the truth of the matter.

The next morning when she got up, Ginny was in the back yard with Kip chipping at a big stone. Margie sat at the table with a cup of coffee.

"You eaten yet?" Myra asked.

"Some fruit and a piece of toast" said Margie. Myra began scrambling eggs, knowing Margie would want some of those.

"Well?" said Myra.

Margie grinned. "They were still having tea when I got up. Kip will come eat if you're not around. But it was tense this morning. Her shoulders were all hunchy, and she was being very formal. I guess Mom really did tell her 'hands off'." Margie sounded a little wistful.

"Will you cut me a bagel?" asked Myra. "When we both sit down, we can talk more."

Margie returned for the Fourth of July weekend, again on her own. She pushed Mimi in her stroller at their neighborhood parade, and that evening lit a sparkler to wave in Mimi's field of vision, cackling at the amazement on Mimi's face. The next Monday, Jane and Gillam both returned to graduate classes, staggering their schedule as much as possible but still with enough overlap that sometimes one or the other of them had to take Mimi to lectures. Gillam became extremely popular among the young women in his classes, a gorgeous father with a baby who looked just like him. He sat at the back of the lecture halls to avoid disruption when he had to take Mimi out for diaper changes or the occasional crying fit. Jane complained about how his behavior was seen as exemplary, even by the misogynist old fart professors, while Jane was treated with impatience when she had a baby in tow.

The pond was finished, barbecue area completed, and sod laid a couple of days before Myra's birthday. Kip overcome her stiffness enough to finish the work with Ginny, wading into the partially-filled basin to help plant water lilies and joining the family to celebrate when the waterfall was turned on the first time. However, she declined to be part of the flower-bed planning and installation. Instead, Eric came over after work to transfer tulip bulbs, rose cuttings, and garlic with Ginny. He chose a side bed for himself, and his white irises, ornamental grasses, and violets made Ginny whistle. Kip promised to return when the pond was balanced enough to add snails and fish. In the meantime, however, she seemed to vanish from Ginny's life. Which Myra did not mind at all, even for Ginny's sake.

Mara's brick sculptures were stunning. The curved benches were adorned with mermaids, sea horses, squid, conches, giant clams, and endless tropical fish in bas relief so vivid it was almost as if you could see their bright colors. The interior wall of the barbecue portico was filled with leaping dolphins and sinuous octopi, and the back wall sported a massive whale shark with spots whose concavities drew Myra's fingertips. "I want a bench back here" she told Ginny. "A small place to sit and meditate on the whale shark. We can put the bird feeding stations between here and the waterfall."

Below the top crest of the waterfall, Kip had carved a wide flattish stone into a basin which accepted the falls and, through a narrow gouge, sent the cataract onward to below. This was intended to be a bird bath, and was instantly discovered by every bird on Capitol Hill, Myra declared. Most of the water plants survived their new habitat, and at dusk a few frog chirps could be heard.

The extended family celebrated Myra's birthday with an outdoor barbecue. This time, Frances and Margie came together, Frances marveling at Mimi's new ability to hold up her own head, bring her hands together, and make imitative sounds, especially "eee". Myra had been buying children's videos on eBay in large lots, including an entire series run of "Dora the Explorer", against the day when Mimi was old enough to watch. For her birthday, Ginny gave her a home viewing system, large-screen, in a cabinet she promised to refinish. That night, after everyone left, Myra and Ginny inaugurated her gift by watching Show Me Love, pulling out one of the baby mats to finish their lovemaking which began on the couch.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Tuesday, October 14, 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.


"Dog" themed LOLCats:

"BIG cats" LOLCats:


Monday, October 13, 2008


(Four Mothers Tallit from IsraelCraft.)

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

May 2014

When Myra got up Friday morning, Ginny was baking granola. "This will be ready in fifteen minutes, if you want to wait" she said. Myra nodded and opened the fridge. "I already made some fruit salad" added Ginny. Myra took yogurt to the table, along with her bowl and spoon, and sat, staring out the window at their churned up yard. She couldn't remember the dream she'd had, but it felt emotionally demanding despite remaining hidden.

She was still lost in thought when Ginny dumped the fragrant, hot granola into a large container and brought it to the table. "Margie and Frances are here. Their car's out front and the note I left for them is gone" said Ginny.

"Oh, that's right" said Myra. Ginny went back to the kitchen to grab a pot of tea as Myra assembled her breakfast. After a few bites, she said "I was researching more about ponds. We need to have one part that's at least three feet deep, preferably four feet. For winter and general fishie sanctuary."

"I read that, too. But depth will mean a child risk" said Ginny.

"A baby or toddler can drown in two inches" pointed out Myra. "Either we destroy the landscaping, meditational aspect of the pond by enclosing it with a high fence, or we have a rule about constant adult presence if a child is outside."

"I vote for the second option" said Ginny. "Plus a slope toward the shallows that even a small lizard or beetle can use to crawl to the lip and escape."

"We're going to have overhang around all the deep end anyhow, right? Let's make a grotto at the round bulge near the bench, that goes under the bricking back at least a few feet, and have that be the four feet deep section" suggested Myra.

"We can see what the pond woman says." The pond woman was someone Ginny had located through her reptile friends at the store where she bought food and sought advice about her geckos. "She advised us to have a kind of grate with a cover to get in to where the pump and filter will need to be. And a heater, if we think we need one."

"Like a hole under the bricking as well?" asked Myra. "Then let's ask Sima to design that cover -- it'll be metal, right? I mean, she and Annie could collaborate, if they want. And since Annie is already willing to accept payment for her services, it'll be easier for Sima to take money for her art from us, too."

"Okay. Let's have them to dinner when Mara's going to be here, so we're all brainstorming together. Next Wednesday, right?"

Myra nodded, adding another banana to her bowl. "This isn't crystallized ginger in this granola, is it?"

"No. I know you get queasy from it. I used pineapple instead" said Ginny. "Listen, since Annie's making us a harsh-weather canopy for the herb maze, do you think it would be possible to build a similar open cover that could be converted into a winter shelter for an avocado tree?"

Myra raised her eyebrows. "I don't know, but I like how you think. When mature, they produce 400 avocados a year, if they're healthy."

"Yowza" said Ginny. "I'll call the organic nursery and run the idea by them."

"We could put it at the back corner next to the generator" said Myra. "Ask them if the extra carbon dioxide if we had to use the generator would harm the tree?"

"Is it carbon dioxide or monoxide that comes from generators?" asked Ginny.

"I can't remember. Chemistry was not my passion" said Myra.

Margie's voice said "At least not chemistry divorced from culinary arts". She was in the kitchen, looking at them from the pass-through.

"Hey, you're up!" said Ginny happily. "Fresh-made granola and fruit in here."

"I'm getting coffee, be there in a sec" said Margie. "Frances is still dead to the world."

As she joined them at the table, she said "How long do we have to wait until we can crash in next door and meet my niece?"

"After you eat" said Ginny, glancing at the clock. "We call first, though."

Margie fished out blueberries from the fruit salad and loaded her granola with them. Myra asked "How was the drive?"

"I slept most of it. Light traffic leaving Portland. Frances said the engine is knocking again, but in a different way." Margie was eating rapidly.

"Do you want to take it in to the shop?" Myra asked.

"Uh...Yeah, if we could borrow one of yours while we're here. I want to go shopping at F.A.O. Schwartz for Mimi before Sunday."

Myra grabbed the phone on the counter and called Sadie's garage, arranging to drop off the Cerebellum by 10:00. After hanging up, she said to Ginny "Maybe we could do that for them, let them stay at Gillam's? We need to do a shopping at Pike anyhow."

"Anton and Jemima want to go with us, I think" said Ginny. Myra didn't think her face registered any change, but Margie said "What? Are you getting tired of them?"

"A little. Anton retired in January and he hasn't figured out who he is now, in this new stage of life. Jemima seems determined to not give up any of her territory to him" said Myra.

"How long are they staying?" Margie's bowl was clanking from final swipes of the spoon.

"They're riding with Lucy to Tacoma Monday morning" said Ginny. Margie stood and said "I'm going to brush my teeth and grab my shoes, then can we go?"

"I'll call" said Myra as Ginny went to put on pants. When Gillam answered, he said "Bring 'er on! I browned some sweet Italian sausage, if you're still hungry. And I have a carton of RC Cola in the fridge."

"You are my hero, have I ever told you that?" said Myra. "We have still-warm granola and Ginny's yogurt from yesterday."

"Yes to the yogurt, Jane can't seem to consume enough calcium right now. See you soon" said Gillam, hanging up. They left a note for Frances and Margie let the way, pausing for a second to look at Narnia's grave and picking up Beebo, who had emerged from the house as their escort.

"You're getting chunky, Beebie-Jeebie" she remarked. "Old bachelor kitty."

"Not so old" said Myra defensively. "He's got another decade to go."

Margie gave her a wounded glance, which bewildered Myra. She wasn't able to figure it out, however, because Gillam stepped from the back door in sweatpants and a T-shirt, carrying Mimi with her face toward them. Margie literally jogged toward them, reaching for Mimi, then stopping herself to say "Is it all right?"

"This is your wild Aunt Margie" said Gillam, putting her in Margie's arms.

"My god, she's a looker!" exclaimed Margie. "Your pictures don't do you justice, movie star" she said down to Mimi, who gazed at her raptly. Margie was nudged on into the house by Myra. She had perfunctory hellos for everyone else, not noticing Jane's offer of a hug, because she was so focused on Mimi. When she finally looked up, she said to Ginny "These Bates genes, they're not just dominant, they're Borg." Jane and Gillam laughed, though not Jane's parents.

Margie said to Mimi "I intend to be your favorite aunt. I'll buy you air rifles and take you bungee jumping, I'll teach you how to argue with your PC grandmas and sneak boys upstairs using the fire escape ladder. Your first perm is on me."

Gillam was laughing nonstop. Myra looked at Ginny at the mention of the fire escape ladder. Mimi flexed her body, opened her mouth and began to cry loudly.

"Oh, shit, did I freak her out?" said Margie urgently. Gillam took her from Margie, still laughing, and said "No, she's been tuning up for an hour. She'd like that air rifle right away, I think." He walked back and forth in the hall, saying "I hear ya, it's a big noisy world, ain't it?" in a calm voice as Mimi roared.

"Look at him" said Margie, marveling. She switched her attention to Jane. "And look at you, the mother goddess! How are you holding up?"

Jane beamed under Margie's attention. "Better and better. I'm eating anything I want and still my belly is disappearing."

Gillam said "You have no idea what she went through. I still can't believe that's how reproduction is supposed to work. As far as I'm concerned, this one is the only child I'll ask of her."

Jane giggled. "You keep feeling that way, boyfriend." She confided to Margie "The drugs they wound up giving me were primo. And it's already a blur."

Myra ate her sausage and RC, sitting next to Anton who was trying to explain how one of the futuristic aircraft in her Skene books might actually have been powered, theoretically speaking. Ginny went out to harvest their garden. After ten minutes of crying, Jane spelled Gillam who came to chat with Margie.

"She does this every day?" Margie asked.

"At least once" said Gillam. "We're grateful when it's not during sleep hours."

"You cried three or four times a day like this" said Myra, cutting through Anton's digression into black hole reality states.

"Oh, let me guess -- but not Gillam, right? Gillam the cherub, Gillam the perfected baby model?" said Margie. But she was grinning playfully. He said, with an equally light tone, "The benefits of having a scrotal sac, I'm sure."

Ten minutes later, Mimi was done and actually tried to look around. Jane said "I think she wants her Margie again" and returned her to Margie's lap. Margie was consumed with her, talking to her in various voices that would have made Mimi laugh if she knew how to do that yet. After an hour of this love fest, Frances joined them, bags under her eyes but as eager to interact with Mimi as Margie.

Eventually Ginny said "We need to skedaddle if we're going to drop off your car." Frances borrowed paper and wrote a detailed list of what she needed for her part of the naming ceremony menu in her small, precise handwriting. Eventually she said "Hell, I can't leave this to you" and folded the paper into her own pocket. She kissed Mimi and Margie both, saying "I'll be back as fast as I can."

Myra said to Anton and Jemima "We'll drive up front and pick you up there, save you the slog through dirt". They took the Volvo, to fold Anton's chair int he back and hold the rolling cart for the major shopping they had planned. Three hours later, they found Margie asleep in an Ikea version of a recliner, Mimi slumbering on her chest, Jane and Gillam in their bedroom behind a closed door. When Margie woke up, she whispered "I changed her diaper!" with pride. She declined to come home with Myra and Ginny, and Frances was urged to stay as well, they'd put away her groceries.

An hour later, Margie and Frances came back so Margie could ride with Ginny to pick up Cathy at the airport. Frances took a nap and Myra did laundry while roasting lamb and chicken for shabbos dinner. She made wild rice stuffing, new potatoes and peas in cream sauce, and a three-layer fudge cake on which she placed a single candle: Mimi would be one week old right before midnight.

Ginny made a salad while Cathy and Margie sat on stools at the pass-through, the three of them very alike in looks and talking over one another. By sunset, their friends had arrived and everyone carried food over to Jane and Gillam's for shabbos. Jane had been practicing the prayers and led them this night, but Ginny held Mimi and pulled flame toward her face, a shawl covering both their heads, Mimi's eyes huge and dancing with reflected light. Myra wept hard, standing between Gillam and Margie.

They made an early night of it. It was going to be a busy weekend. Ginny, however, sat up with Cathy in the small sitting area at the front of the house on the second floor, curled on the settee facing each other to talk. Margie put on a movie and invited Myra to join her and Frances. Instead, Myra pulled out her neglected book and began writing again. She forced herself to stop and go to bed when Ginny did, to conserve her energy.

The next morning after frica and muffins made by Frances, everyone except Myra traipsed over to Jane and Gillam's house. As Myra continued to work at her desk, slowly people dropped in, talked with her briefly, then made their way to Jane and Gillam's: Edwina and Allie, Chris on her own, Carly and Eric, and Sima. Myra joined the throngs for lunch, which was take-out Vietnamese from Aux Delice, but returned home to write more. At 5:00 she walked over to see Mimi take her first swim, in the same tub where Margie and Gillam had learned. Mimi appeared to approve of this activity with every fiber in her body. Afterward, as Jane nursed her, Carly and Eric fired up the barbecue to make burgers and dogs, while many cooks crowded the kitchen and created a potluck without Myra or Gillam's help.

A card table had to be found to seat everybody, using every one of Gillam and Jane's dishes from Target. Thad had come over, and Davonn who stopped by to meet the baby was persuaded to eat with them. After pie and ice cream, Margie reclaimed Mimi for her first time doing the Electric Slide. Anton demonstrated some very smooth dance moves with his chair, and they quit after a few rounds to start two tables of poker. Davonn decided to hang around instead of going on to his usual clubbing. At one point, Myra whispered to Gillam "Do you need us to move all this hubbub to our house? You've been de facto host all day."

"I'm tired, but I like it" he said. "You taught them good manners, this bunch."

"Well, when you or Jane want to book out, go ahead. We'll take over." As she was dealing the next hand, it occurred to her that all of Gillam's groomsmen, now present again in this room, had been gay. She wondered why she'd never noticed that before.

The following morning, Myra got up with Ginny again and ate quickly so she could join Jane, Gillam, Anton and Jemima in attending Quaker Meeting. Mimi slept through the entire hour on Gillam's chest. Twice Myra saw tears leak from the corner's of Gillam's eyes. At rise of Meeting, Gillam stood and introduced Mimi to her new community of worship. She woke up long enough to pee and begin crying before they headed for home. Jane and Gillam had decided to save Mimi's presentation to their temple for the following Saturday, when Jane's family would be gone.

With Sima and Chris's consent, the chair they had created for Gillam's naming ceremony, Miriam's Chair, was being handed on to Jane and Gillam. It had sat for 23 years in Ginny and Myra's bedroom. On Sunday Carly and Eric came to carry it away. Myra would have started crying anyway, but when she saw Carly wearing David's suit, his face somber and illuminated from his role in the ceremony, she went to Ginny and sobbed on her shoulder. "I miss David and Michael so much" she said. She felt someone press against her from the side and felt Cathy begin crying, too.

Cathy said "My grandkids ask me sometimes why my face is sad at birthday parties or family occasions. I can't tell them it's because I'm noticing the people who are missing as much as I see the folks who are there."

Ginny was hugging them both. "Daddy must have been aching for his mama at Gillam's naming."

Cathy added "And Michael his dad."

"We go on without them" choked out Myra. "I find that brutal, some days."

"The not-so-secret surcharge for adding new life" said Ginny.

It helped, to get grief out of the way. They washed faces, dressed up in finery, and made a procession through the yards, Ginny with her largest wet carrier in one hand and two antique silver candlesticks she was giving Gillam and Jane in the other, Myra holding a tray of brisket and in her pocket the exquisite gold baby bracelet for Mimi, Sima carrying wine and challah, Chris with her flute, and Cathy transporting Ginny's stuffed tomatoes, Michael's tallit over her dress. Everyone else was already at Gillam's house.

When Myra saw that both Gillam and Margie also had on their David suits, she was glad of her recent cry: She was able to simply glory in it without sadness. But it was Mimi, sitting in Jane's lamp in that beloved chair, wearing the dark rose velvet onesie in which her father had been named before g*d, who stole all the light in the room. She was struggling with all the stimulation, the frequent doorbell and streams of Jane and Gillam's friends arriving. After a few minutes, Margie quietly asked Jane if she could have Mimi for a bit. She carried her outside and they stood under the sycamore, listening to a slight breeze and letting the gorgeous sunlight calm Mimi into peace.

Gillam was everywhere, greeting people, answering questions, acting as if he had been in charge of this house for years, not weeks. His hair was rumpled and there was Beebo fur on his slacks, and Jane kept grabbing his hand as he glided by, pulling him in for a kiss. Jane had on a silk blouse and long shirt of a pink so pale it made her skin look flushed -- or perhaps she was flushed, thought Myra.

Eric ran the video camera. Jemima declared the meal ready, and Anton wheeled his chair close to Jane. Allie carried Mimi upstairs and it began.

Myra realized later she had not noticed how deep Carly's voice had become. He only faltered once, and that was from emotion when he declaimed "Yochana ben David bat Yemima ha-Kohein", looking down at Mimi. Myra felt a jolt along her spine: Jane was derived from Johanna, which meant her granddaughter had a jo-name in Hebrew. Basheert, basheert.

After challah and wine, Gillam raised his voice to ask that they view the painting before moving on to the meal. Ginny delicately pulled her canvas from the carrier and placed it on the mantle. A gasp traveled around the room. Jane and Gillam, holding Mimi, moved in close to stare at it. After a minute, Gillam said to Ginny hoarsely "And you saw all this the night before she was born? Just like this?"

"I did. She is the one you should be looking at that way, not me -- she's the one who did the spirit traveling" said Ginny, hugging him from behind. Jane held Mimi up to the canvas and said "There you are. Preserved for all time."

"Don't let her touch it!" warned Ginny. "Everybody, it's very smearable, please keep back from the surface." Myra began carving brisket, which diverted attention back to the table of food, easing Ginny's anxiety.

There was one other tense moment, when Anton was talking to his son-in-law Seth about the prayers said earlier and referred to the event as "Mimi's christening". Sima was in earshot and said without hesitation "It's not a christening. We don't give our children away to -- We name them in Yahweh's presence." She stopped herself and looked around to see who had heard her. When she met Myra's eye, Myra winked. Christ had left the building a long, long time ago.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild