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.
Myra spent the weekend catching up with family, baking, and creating a list of questions for interviewing a potential editor. After breakfast on Monday she began making calls, and this continued more or less all day since Ginny had Dance Class with the grandchildren and Leah was content to play with toys sitting in Myra's lap at her desk.
Allie stopped by at lunch and asked to read Myra's interview questions. The first one, “Did you ever vote for Reagan or one of the Bushes?”, made Allie snort.
“What that got to do with editing?” she asked.
“I can make allowance for someone having been delusional in the past, but not if it manifested in supporting an ideology whose intent, at baseline, was to shaft other people” said Myra. “I can't trust 'em with my writing, if they've given in that to impulse.”
“You was a born-again for a while as a kid” pointed out Allie.
“Kids don't vote” replied Myra. “I'd come to my senses by the time I reached a ballot box. You'd be surprised at how that question cuts through the chaff.”
“I see you asking 'em who they favorite writers is, and favorite poets” said Allie. “They got to agree with you?”
“Nope. But it has be writers whose style isn't antithetical to mine” said Myra. “I want them to potentially love my writing. I know how to critique and edit the work of writers I love, I can expect at least that much of an editor.”
“How come these two names crossed off you list with SP written beside it?” asked Allie. “What SP stand for?”
“Spelling. Their fucking resumes they faxed over had common spelling errors on them – the kind that spellcheck doesn't catch. Both of those applicants were also under 35, you'll notice. I'm not giving up on basic spelling skills, not yet.”
Allie was enjoying herself. She took the loaves of bread Myra had set out for her, however, and left to pursue her own work.
Myra was ready to schedule in-person interviews by Wednesday morning. One woman in her 40s sat down on Myra's daybed rather than the second rolling chair and scanned the study with a sharp eye. Myra said “Your name, Qiana, that's fairly unusual.”
“My parents were hippies” Qiana said. “Extremely well-educated hippies. Mom is Hawaiian, Pop is Jewish.” Ginny had been lurking in the doorway, and Myra saw her grin as she faded back into her studio.
“You said on the phone you've read a lot of my stuff. Give me your impression of whatever it is your familiar with” said Myra.
Qiana stopped perusing shelves and walls to focus on Myra. She said first, however, “Was that cat born without eyes or did she lose them?”
“We had to have them removed because of infection” said Myra. “Her name is Keller.”
Qiana laughed loudly. “Does she compensate with her other senses?”
“Yes. And she knows every millimeter of this room, her main territory. Here, watch this.”
Myra opened a small drawer and Keller instantly sat up, alert. Myra pulled out one of the throw toys she used with Beebo, made of soft plastic, without bells or much sound to it at all. She threw it in an random direction. Before it even landed, Keller leaped from the desk after it, pouncing on it before it had skidded to a halt. She carried it in her mouth with a single growl and hopped back up to the desk, dropping it in Myra's lap.
“Wow. She hears the slight rush of it going through the air?” asked Qiana.
“I think so. Plus she may be able to tell which direction I'm facing by the sound of my breathing or the squeak of the chair. She also knows instantly when I'm done writing for the night. I must make some body shift or sound unconsciously, but I've not been able to figure out what tips her off” said Myra with admiration in her tone.
“I have two cats” said Qiana. “Both with eyes. To answer your question, let's start with your poetry, since your biography usually identifies you as a poet first. It's accessible, which means you're deliberately writing to connect with the reader, not simply move them or educate them. I see that lack of didactism as your main strength, a strength not always present in your essays, for example. You let yourself tell a story, which most poets are afraid of doing, afraid of especially of the confessional label. The only drawback to it is when you are so fond of your own voice that you forget to be succinct – even good folktales know when to not always list three items, or get cute when charm has been established. I'd push you to find a say it the way your grandmother would have, but in less than a line – there no such thing as too many leaps asked of the reader in a good poem.”
It was at that point when Myra decided Qiana was The One. Ginny later said for her it had been the instant Qiana called her parents hippies without apology or scorn.
“Now, as for your science fiction books, or as I like to think of it, Hopi lesbians in space -- “ Qiana had to stop for a minute, because Myra was laughing so hard. “Your story-telling is given a free hand, and rightly so, you earn every reader you have in that genre. But I began thinking, around the end of the second Skene book, that you were dodging what you really wanted to write, which was the story of your life. You've tucked it into poetry, or short stories, or adventure tales, or blog posts. And you bought permission to focus on yourself by the trilogy of research about your beloved movement. But I'm glad to hear you've finally stepped up to the plate and are doing straight autobiography now. Pardon the hackneyed sports analogy, and any implication of you being straight.”
Myra was laughing again. She tapped the stack of six reams on her desk and said “I guess I had quite the backlog. This is the manuscript in question.”
“My god” said Qiana. “Well, clearly, that will never do. At most you can count on putting out two volumes right now.”
“Why not a trilogy?” said Myra.
“Because you've got another 15 or 20 years to go, you want to save the third volume for what else you'll have to say” explained Qiana. Myra heard a sound from Ginny's studio that she thought was a small cheer. “So, that –what is it, 3000 pages? -- will need to come down to 700. We can begin with deciding what your overriding narrative must be, boil that down to a few arcs, and cut without remorse. The extra material can be reshaped into short pieces which could get leaked out to major periodicals three or four times a year, juicy little morsels which will sustain an appetite for the world according to Myra.”
“Do you feel up to carving a glacier into ice cubes?” asked Myra, hope in her voice.
“Of course. But for a detailed plan, I'll have to read your overgrown pumpkin there first” said Qiana. “I'd prefer a paper copy for the first read-through. I like holding fiber in my hands.” She reached toward the desk, and for a wild moment Myra thought she was grabbing for the manuscript. Instead, Qiana snagged the cat toy. Keller's head swiveled, her ears pushed forward, following Qiana's arm motion and reacting to the throw with complete confidence. Qiana laughed loudly again as Keller started back with the toy and paused, considering who was a better bet for a continued game.
Myra finished the two interviews she had scheduled but it was simply a formality. The next day, Qiana came for dinner, meeting Chris and Sima, and left with a check and the manuscript after signing a three-page confidentiality agreement. Myra Fed-exed her newly compiled poetry volume to her agent and began outlining her new Skene book.
Friday morning, Ginny said “I don't mean to stop the writing freight train, but today is when Annie Gagliardi is coming to install the metal canopy she sculpted for the back corner, where we hope to plant an avocado tree. The company which manufactured the plastic awning that will go up and down for bad weather is also going to be here, because Annie may have to adjust her structure per their specs.”
Myra poured a glass of juice and said “When do they get here?”
“Annie any minute now. I thought you might want to put pants on.”
Myra got dressed and pulled on socks before adding boots. When she returned to the kitchen, Annie was leaning against the counter, eating a piece of toast while Ginny made her coffee. She gave Myra a one-armed hug and said “You're gonna plotz when you see how this came out.”
Myra made another two pieces of toast and put sliced sausage between them. She grabbed a Coke and walked outside to eat as two teenaged girls unloaded metal from a truck in the alley, through the side gate and onto a sorted pile in front of the shed.
“That copper is so beautiful” said Myra.
“Wait until you see the patina on it three years from now” said Annie.
“What are the shiny pieces?”
“Stainless. I had to use non-reacting stuff for certain elements, you'll see” said Annie. It took another hour for the crew to erect a scaffold. Myra went back inside to plan lunches for the workers that would be around all day. Ginny promised to call her once the actual canopy began coming together. After half an hour, the phone rang.
Jane said “The kids have spotted activity at your place and want to come over. Is there a safe viewing point?”
“Not outside. Wait – I'll pull one of the stair gates off and stretch it across the opening between our yards. They can stay in your yard but have a clear vantage point. You'd better lock up Beebo, though. We've shut all our cats inside. I'll come meet you at the gate.”
Myra took Leah from Jane and sat on the ground next to the gate. Mimi and David reached their hands through the mesh to lean on Myra's shoulders and bombard her with questions about the activity. Myra had to admit, it was fascinating. By noon, the basic structure was erected.
The uprights were double struts between which were three-dimensional carvings of every creature and craft mentioned in Myra's Skene books: Leviathans leaping from the deeps, the verminous shu, hnisa racing through waves, large katts, schools of fisk, gnarled olive trees, and elusive sakana. The cross braces, midway and at the top, were panoramas of the island archipelago, with lighters and sinners flying above, magma pouring into the sea off Yanja, ferries traversing the Morrie Vaseos on protected lagoons, and rice paddies climbing the terraces of Beras.
“Gramma, wat are doze things? I want to see, please can I go see?” asked Mimi.
“Not yet. When they're done, I promise to hold you up so you can look at each one, both of you. And I'll tell you the stories of what they are above. I've told you a couple of stories about Skene already, remember? About the children who fly kites and grow up to be pilots?”
“Can we go to Skene?” asked David.
“Only in our imagination. I dreamed it up” said Myra. “When your daddy was about the same age you are now, I wrote the first book.”
The scaffolding was moved so Annie could lie on her back and bolt into place the tempered glass which covered the slanting roof of the canopy. The runoff from this glass emptied into stainless steel gutters which, at a certain filling point, would spray the rain into the interior, insuring irrigation for whatever grew there. However, between the gutter and walls there would be no gap to allow in cold, once the heavy clear plastic awning was attached. In essence, Annie has created for them a unique, 20 foot high convertible greenhouse.
The scaffolding was moved once more so Annie could lie atop a ladder across the roof and attach the finial, a whirling weathervane whose four blades held cutouts of lunar phases. Skene had two moons, and knowing the tides there was a matter of life and death. When Annie slithered back to the ground, triumph radiated from her lanky body. She squatted before Myra, grinning hugely, and said “Plotzed yet?”
“Soaking in it” declared Myra. “You are a genius of an artist. That's the most glorious sculpture I've ever seen." She grabbed Annie's collar and pulled her in for a big smack of a kiss. Leah was able to get her small fingers clamped onto Annie's overall strap and she opened her mouth wide, angling for a kiss as well, which Annie was happy to accept.
“Me too” said David. Annie leaned over the gate and shared kisses with David and Mimi.
“Can we come climb it now?” asked Mimi.
“No” said Myra swiftly. “You cannot ever climb it, you'll damage it and damage yourselves and -- “
“Don't worry, I didn't leave space enough for feet to fit” said Annie. “Besides which, those copper edges will hurt if they try to put their weight on it.”
“There's another work crew coming in an hour to put on the covering” said Myra. “I need to go make lunch for us all. You go eat with Jane, and when you're done, you can come hang out in the house by the glass wall upstairs to watch from there, okay?” She handed Leah back and walked with Annie into the house. The teenagers followed shyly. Ginny was still busy studying technique and assemblage.
After soup and sandwiches, plus fruit bars and several pitchers of lemonade, the second team arrived. Myra spread a refreshed buffet on the dining table and walked back to get the kids from Jane as Ginny came in to eat hurriedly. When Myra returned, she noticed Anthea was haunting the area by the back door. She scooped her up, to Anthea's utter horror at being clamped next to a grabby baby against Myra's chest, and transported Anthea to the front bedroom for imprisonment until the back yard was secure again. Anthea would make a bolt for life on the streets if she could, Myra thought.
After an hour, even the bird's eye view of tedious detail installation palled for the little ones. The electricity had been turned off so the motors controlling the awning could be installed. Myra took them back down to the living room, lit candles by the fireplace, and taught them how to make shadow figures with her hands until they got tired enough to be cranky. She persuaded them to lie down with her on the mat and told quiet stories about Winnie the Pooh until they all dropped off, Myra included.
She woke up to Ginny nudging her, saying “You've been sacked out for two hours, their parents are going to kill you when it's bedtime and they can't go down.”
Myra sat up, noting Leah was overdue for a diaper change and a feeding as well, from the looks of it. Mimi was catapulting herself upright, saying “Can we go see now?”
“It's done” said Ginny. “I'll carry you, okay?”
“Me, me” clamored David. Annie said “I'll take you, if I may” and he didn't hesitate – he had really changed in the last year, thought Myra. She pulled out the diaper bag and said they'd be out later.
Gillam got home from work in time to join Jane for a demonstration of how the sides glided up and down, with an outdoor button but also controls added to the pond keypad inside the house. Myra said to Leah, “This means your birth tree will finally be planted. Uncle Carly and Uncle Eric are going to dig a hole for it on Sunday, and you'll be here to watch our new avocado tree go into the ground. In a few years, we'll be eating guacamole in honor of your birth.”
Mimi swung her fist at Leah's foot, yelling “That's not fair, I want a tree under here!”
“No hitting” said Gillam severely. Ginny said “Your tree is over there, and it's so big we made pies from its cherries this summer, remember?”
Mimi doubled up her fist again and Gillam said “That's it. Home for you.” He pulled her, beginning to scream in protest, through the back gate.
Jane took Leah from Myra and said to David “Come on, brother, we need to go get ready for shabbos.” Myra called after them “I'll see you soon.”
The teenagers were gone, but Annie came back into the house with Myra and Ginny. “Listen, I want to ask a favor: I've got a friend who's an arts reporter, I'd love for her to write a piece about this sculpture and take some photos, would that be all right?”
“Absolutely” said Myra. “Margie said she and Frances have asked you to make a special sign for the restaurant too, is that right?”
“Another challenging project” grinned Annie. “I'm meeting with them Sunday afternoon to go over sketches.”
“Well, join us for the tree planting” said Ginny. “And, if you want to wash up here and borrow a clean shirt before shabbos, feel free.”
“Be glad to” said Annie. Myra pulled out the platter of fried chicken she'd made the night before while Ginny garnished her bulgar salad with last-minute parsley. Annie carried a bottle of shabbos wine and the challah for them as they walked to the gate, looking to their left at the gorgeous new canopy the entire time.
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Hey, ya'll, exciting news: One of my cowriters at Group News Blog, Minstrel Boy, had just been a contestant on Jeopardy and will be appearing on the show next week, Wednesday, December 16th (you should check your local listings to verify). I can't wait to see him in action.
You can read what he has to say about it in advance in his post at GNB. Brainy guy, as well as the writer of my favorite literature these days. He also blogs at his own space, Harp and Sword.
Other good news is that GNB has added a new staff writer, DrBopperTHP, to our masthead. He's a longtime favorite of mine from his comments, so I expect the quality to continue increasing over there. Give him a shout out when you get a chance.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I received the following e-mail from a friend, who said it's going around out there. I don't know the source, but I love it.
Dear World --
The United States of America, your quality supplier of ideals of liberty and democracy, would like to apologize for its 2001-2008 service outage.
The technical fault that led to this eight-year service interruption has been located.
Replacement components were ordered Tuesday night, November 4th, and have begun arriving.
Early tests of the new equipment indicate that it is functioning correctly and we expect it to be fully operational by mid-January.
We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the outage and we look forward to resuming full service and hopefully even to improving it in years to come.
Thank you for your patience and understanding,
[Cross-posted at Group News Blog. Hat tip to Martha.]
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.
After a minute, Ginny called Nancy's number. She got voice mail and hung up again. She made a mental list: Edwina and Allie – no, not yet, she didn't want the over-the-line version of that look exchanged between them. Sima – no, she might get Chris and she could hear Chris's laugh already. Margie – nope, she hadn't redeemed herself yet there. Maybe Cathy?
Fact was, the person she most wanted to call for advice, for calm, was Myra herself. Her best friend. She tried to set aside all the screams of betrayal in her head and imagine what Myra might have to say, if Ginny were talking about the behavior of someone else. Within seconds, she heard Myra's gentle humor saying “Well, what would you do if you weren't making this absolutely all about you, Ginny Bates?”
She licked her lips, realizing her mouth was cotton dry. She could hear her pulse in her ears. Why would Myra have left Bread Loaf, if not to shack up with Cuchilla? She didn't have an answer to that question, but at least she could ask the question. All right, if not why, then where? Where in Burlington would she have gone? Why not Liza's house?
She and Myra had only stayed at one place in Burlington, the Willard Street Inn. If Myra had gone there to be with Cuchilla – no, set that aside for the moment. Just see if she could be located. Ginny picked up her cell and checked the crowded number log that Myra teased her about never clearing out. Yep, there was the number for Willard Street Inn. She pushed dial and when the desk clerk answered, she asked for Myra. Her mind began reeling again when the clerk said “Let me connect you.”
There were two rings, that much time to breathe in and out before she heard Myra's voice saying with obvious curiosity “Hello?”
Long silence. Then “My fucking god, Ginny, how in the hell did you just call me here? I've been there all of ten minutes. This is too freaky for words.”
What else but the truth? “I called Bread Loaf and they said you'd checked out, gone to Burlington. I thought it was worth a try.”
“I have to sit down, this is a jolt. Wow. But it's so good to hear your voice in person. Hang on a sec, willya?” She heard Myra say “It's Ginny, I don't know how long I'll be.” She could hear Cuchilla, though not clearly enough to know what she was saying. Myra's voice, a little removed, came back “Yeah, anything with real meat in it, preferably beef or pork. No tofu under any circumstances. And if they have actual salads with something besides iceberg, and veggies that are not old and yellow, I'd love it. Plus the biggest Coke they've got, or two if they're small. Just keep it, I'll come find you when I'm done.”
Myra's voice returned strong in her ear “Hey, Gin. Okay, it's just me and you now. I was about to call you anyhow. We got a ride suddenly from Middlebury and Cuchilla's cell was spotty on the road, so I'm sorry I didn't let you know about the change of location beforehand. Why are you calling, are you okay?”
I don't know, thought Ginny. “I – I just needed to talk with you.”
“Good, then. So, the story is, we got popular over there, individually and then as the cool old dyke poets, and literally every half hour someone was dropping in to visit. No work space could be had. Plus, this morning, the internet connection in my room went out. They said I could go to the library and use the computers there, they still had DSL, but fuck that, I needed to be able to reach home at any hour of the day or night. And, well, to be honest, Gin, I needed some solitude, not just from the acolytes but, well, it's been great with Cuchilla but I wanted a room of my own, like Ginny Wolfe said, you know? Which is why I chose a hotel instead of Liza's – this way I could pay for Cuchilla's room, pay for separate space, without it looking like rejection. I mean, I don't want to force her on Liza, whom I'm seeing for dinner later, by the way. Plus, I realized if I came here, you'd have a phone to reach me directly. So we packed in a rush and boom, here we are.”
Ginny did an internal dance over the fact that Cuchilla had her own room, separate from Myra's. She didn't know what to say next.
“Gin? You there?”
“The poetry you've been writing, angel – we were all talking about it, it's so beautiful. Gillam said it's the best you've ever done.” Ginny suddenly burst into tears, agonizing crying she had no hope of stopping.
“Ginny, oh sweetheart, what's wrong?”
“I missed you” Ginny choked out.
“I've missed you like billy-ho, too. So much has been going on inside, like my artist soul is being remapped, and there's no way to really convey that in an e-mail, you know? You can keep crying, I'm right here. I need to go rent a car before the place closes, but that give us at least an hour, so no rush.”
Ginny felt dishonest, but it did not seem possible to tell Myra over the phone all the doubts she had been having. It was too good just to have her within reach again, being tender and available. Finally she was able to say “Do you have a direct number in the room there, where I don't need to go through the switchboard?”
“Yeah, let me give that to you. Ginny, you sound pretty freaked out.”
“I have been.”
“Because of the phone thing?”
“Oh, more than that. We'll talk about it when you get back, okay? It's just – crap.”
“Well, you know, tu crappa es mi crappa.”
Ginny began laughing as hard as she had been crying.
“So what else do you want to say, Ginny?”
“Um...we found out today that the biggest food critic on the West Coast gave a rave to Carminati's. In particular, he talked about her dish Meglio del Mare Marjorita. Frances' publisher is trying to get that blurb onto her cookbook jacket now.”
“Fabulous. How goes the renovation?”
“Better than ours was, but Margie's in a constant dither about it.”
“Of course. And the babies?”
“Leah doesn't understand why you're not here, I can tell she's looking around for you. Mimi tried to put doll clothes on Franklin and got scratched pretty thoroughly. David picked the lock on the gate across the front stairs and was up half a flight before I caught him.”
“He's got very deft little fingers, that David. Listen, Ginny, there's something I should probably wait to tell you in person, but I want to do it now, are you up for a serious talk?”
Ginny's chest closed in again. “If you think it best, Myra.”
“I don't want to upset you. But...You know I've not been getting what I need. Not all of it. Talking with Cuchilla has made it really clear in my mind. So, I'm ready to make a decision. It will affect us, though – me and you.”
Ginny's mind was repeating please god, please god, please god. She managed to say “Okay.”
“My memoir...It's too much for me to know how to structure it, how to edit it. And it's too much to ask even Cuchilla to wade through. I mean, she's a writer, she has her own work which should be her primary focus. And in our family, well, maybe Gillam has the ability to do that kind of review but he has two full-time jobs as it is. So...I want to hire an editor. A professional, who's got tons of experience and can understand my kind of writing, who'll be able to push me without pissing me off. And someone not from the publisher, because those folks – they have other skills, not the ones I need. But it'll mean money, a big chunk of it, to hire this out. It may eat up all the income I make from the book, I don't know, depends on who I find. I can't rely on a graduate student for this. Does that make sense?”
Ginny had closed her eyes to keep from fainting in relief. “Yes” she croaked.
“Are you okay?”
Ginny cleared her throat. “Yeah, just – I need to get a drink of something. Go on.”
“Well, I made a couple of contacts here who suggested folks I might call. I can do the interviews when I get back, but I – I really want to find someone who's dedicated to my writing, who'll be a coach and – I'm sorry it's not you, Ginny, I hope you don't feel left out.”
“I'm sorry it's not me, either, Myra, but you have nothing to apologize for. Of course we'll get you what you need. Whatever it takes.”
“Hallelujah. I mean, I pretty much knew you'd say that, but it matters so much to me, Ginny, I've been antsy – I really want to get back and drop my book into capable hands. Plus, I didn't tell you this yet, night before last I had a couple of dreams and I've realized I have the plot for a fifth Skene book rattling around in my head.”
“Yeah, all my original characters are dead now, you know, and their kids are elderly, so this will be the adventures of the third generation. After the big migration, after all the cultural change, showing how they've coped with it. I'm ready to move on there, as well. Ginny, you were so right that I needed to come here and do this. The place itself didn't really offer me answers, but hooking up with Cuchilla plus the permission to be nothing but a writer, it busted down some doors for me.”
“I say hallelujah too, then.”
“Have you been painting, or working on furniture?”
“No. It's been – hard. But maybe I'll be able to now. You get back in four days, I could start a canvas and if I'm not done, I could stop it for a day when you get home” said Ginny.
“Or not. As long as we get to sleep together and catch up later. And I get to eat from your garden, I'm so spoiled, Ginny, I really hate veggies that come from commercial sources.”
They talked on for half an hour, and when Ginny hung up, she called Nancy to make another appointment before Myra returned. She made some tea, singing softly, and headed upstairs to stretch a canvas.
Myra's plane came from the East Coast arrived shortly after noon the next Friday. Ginny was at the gate to meet her. They made out a little when they reached the car in the parking lot, like teenagers, Myra said. Ginny was lightheaded, having been up all night painting and probably a little dehydrated as well. Myra drove them home, where they found Margie heating up a leftover sausage and artichoke pasta dish from last night's menu at the store.
“Mom has a salad for you in the fridge, but I thought you'd like this as well” said Margie.
“And you wanted to see me, didn't you, baby girl?” grinned Myra, hugging her tightly.
“I did. I have the afternoon off because I need to work all day tomorrow at the U lab in a joint project” said Margie. “I could hang out with you while you bake bread.”
Myra grinned even wider. “Ordinarily, I'd grab at it. But I was up before dawn, and apparently Ginny hasn't slept at all. We're heading off for a nap after eating. And no, that's not a euphemism for jumping each other.”
“Not necessarily” added Ginny. “Still, sit down, eat with us. Myra, you want tea?”
“Non-caffeinated” said Myra. “I'm going to detox now I'm back home.” Keller had come yowling down the stairs, and Myra scooped her into her lap, exclaiming hellos at the cat.
“How was Cuchilla?” asked Margie, not looking at Ginny.
“She had a blast. She's taking home a completely revamped poetry volume and reams of new work. I've got the same, plus.”
“And Liza, how's Liza?” asked Ginny.
“Oh, we had the best damned time night before last. I found these ham steaks in the Burlington farmer's market that are from free-range pigs, and I made dinner for us all, with mashed potatoes and some local green beans whose variety I wrote down, they were the best I ever had. And a chocolate cake. Then we watched the newest Aaron Sorkin drama, making hilarious comments throughout. We sat up talking till 2:00 a.m., even though I had a final reading the next morning. She sends her love to us all here, and says now you need to come for a solo visit with her, Ginny.”
“I'll take her up on that” said Ginny. They were now at the table, serving themselves. Myra peered out the glass wall and said “Looks like the new gate is all done. Will you take me on a tour of your house later?”
“After the work crew leaves” said Margie. “So I can rant about all the deadlines they've missed this week.” She fished a cherry tomato from her salad, ate it in one bite, then said “So...have you talked about all the drama while you were gone?”
“What drama?” said Myra. Ginny set down her fork and glared at Margie.
Margie said “Mom went ballistic because Cuchilla lied to you about not knowing you'd be at Bread Loaf and because she thought that somehow you'd fall prey to her tactics. When I told her that was stupid, she told me I could just shut the fuck up since I'd bought my partner with a house and business, what could I possibly know.”
After two incendiary seconds, Myra burst into laughter. “Good one, Margie. You went over the line or I'd have believed maybe part of it.”
But Ginny and Margie were not laughing, were not even smiling, their gaze locked on each other across the table. Myra stilled, and Ginny said “Well, she put that unmistakable Margo Batiz spin on it, but that's more or less an accurate account.”
Now Myra's gaze was fixed on Ginny. “You said that to Margie? About Frances?”
“I did, and I've already apologized for it.”
“But she's here, waiting for me to get home, to tell me about it before I can finish a meal. So it's burning a canker inside her” said Myra slowly. She turned to Margie and put both her hands over her daughter's. “I'm so sorry, darling. It's not true, and she knows it's not true. I promise you, on my honor.”
Margie's stony face dissolved as she lay her face forward onto the backs of Myra's hands and began crying. Ginny immediately came to hold her from behind, whispering “I'm so sorry, too, I did a terrible thing and there's no truth to it at all, I swear it to you, too.”
Myra let them reach out to one another. She drank her tea and sorted through her mind. When Ginny sat back in her chair and looked at Myra, Myra said “I ought to be pissed at you, saying such a thing like that to our daughter. If you were someone else, I'd be ready to boot you out the door.”
“Why aren't you, then?” asked Ginny, with a hint of challenge.
“It's been coming on for a while, I think. This whole mishegas.” Myra looked at Margie for a minute and said “We're about to have the kind of talk we usually do alone. I'm assuming, since you waded in here, you're ready to be part of it.”
Margie hadn't consciously made that decision, it was clear, but she wouldn't back out now. “Go ahead.”
Myra looked at Ginny again. “To back up a bit, a few days ago I was going through my notebook and noticed that a photograph of me was on the front of the Bread Loaf brochure this year. Which meant Cuchilla had to know I'd be there. So yes, she must have lied. Unlike you, however, I stopped to think about why she would lie, for something other than evil reasons. I've been as hard up as she's been this year, Ginny. Not in decades, but I still remember trying to find hope in impossible places. I had empathy for her, and the truth was, by that time we'd begun the work we were actually meant to do together, a connection that will wind up meaning more to her than if her romantic fantasy had come to pass. I love her, and respect her, and I let it slide because she showed up for the real connection after all.”
“All right” said Ginny, breathing deeply.
“I had a lot of room to think. One thing I noticed about most of the other writers there is that they are either single, moving from relationship to relationship without leaning a whole lot from it despite the reams of writing they do about it, or they're partnered with someone who has placed all their ambition in being the helpmeet of an artist. They've found their Alice B. Toklas, as it were. And they would gush on and on about how different from boring old home it was to be at a gathering like this, to talk with other artists who understood how special we are, blah, blah, blah, a lot of which was just snake oil to get into some young person's pants, you dig.” Myra stopped for another sip of tea.
Ginny said “I know exactly what you mean. I noticed that at Pilchuck, too, although I didn't put it into so many words.”
“But me and you, Gin, we live with another artist. We live by art, among art, and we've had to find a way to be equals. Not just because we're the same gender, but because for a brief blip of time, our gender decided to toss out all the horseshit about complementary opposites, all the dance-of-dominance masculine-feminine putrefaction, and live on the actual edge of the precipice, negotiating eye-to-eye in each new second. I mean, as best we could. And to not just be artists, but parents and citizens and save the world, too, when we could squeeze it in. You know how consciously we took that turn in the road, how we wake up each morning and choose it again. So why do you fall prey to the fear that what I really want is a wifey? Why do you see me as someone who could be seduced away from my heart's desire?”
Myra had leaned back in her chair to ask this question. Now she sat up straight again and resumed eating from her plate.
“I've been working on that question, Myra. I've seen Nancy twice.” Ginny stopped. “Before we go on in this direction, I just want to say to Margie, when you said how I attacked you was me channeling drunk Helen, you were absolutely right. I don't ever want to admit I'm like her, but I picked up some of her world view in spite of my best efforts, and it comes out at the ugliest moments.”
“Not just Helen” said Myra, crunching a crouton in her teeth.
“What do you mean?” said Ginny.
“It's David, too. And Rosa, I'm pretty sure, though I never met her” said Myra. She turned to Margie, “Anti-semitism gets picked up by Jews and non-Jews alike, you know. We all internalize shit about the groups we belong to.”
Addressing Ginny's shocked face, Myra said “I'm willing to bet your parents hurled accusations of using each other for financial security in their fights, both of them, not just Helen. And I bet Rosa made comments about how you had to be careful in choosing your friends and sweethearts, they'd be angling for money or influence from you if you didn't look sharp.”
“How in hell would you know what? I've never said that.” Ginny's face was staying pale.
“Because that's what upward mobility does to folks. Plus – whenever Rosa wanted to help you toward independence, she gave you money, not other forms of intervention. And David expressed his initial approval of me by giving us that check for 50 grand, not by coming to visit more or making Helen get off her goddamned throne. They were accustomed themselves to buying emotional loopholes, they certainly would expect it of other people” said Myra calmly. She said to Margie again “So, your mom doesn't really believe all that garbage, but it was shoved down her gullet at a tender age and sometimes it urps back up. Your job is to not hand it on. As best you can.”
She added, almost to herself:
“They fuck you up, your mum and dad
They may not mean to, but they do
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”
Margie giggled abruptly. Her lunch had been eaten. She reached out with her fork and stole a slice of avocado Ginny had been saving at the side of her own plate.
Myra said to Ginny “She's all right now. She needed to know I didn't agree with you, and that you were working on your shit. You can leave it up to her from this point out.”
Ginny said quietly “We didn't have any way of knowing what kind of ballast we'd be for each other as parents, not really. We lucked out.”
“Maybe” said Myra. “I'm sleep-deprived and high on poetry at the moment, I kinda think maybe we were smarter than we give ourselves credit for. Anyhow, back to the elephant in the room...”
Ginny glanced in Margie's direction with a look of misgiving. Margie caught it and, after a couple of heartbeats, said “If you'd rather I not be here, it's okay.”
“No...” said Ginny unconvincingly. Myra patted Margie's hand again and said “It's fine if you stay. Really. She's my sweetheart, I'll be the one taking care of her.”
At these words, Ginny let her shoulders sag. “Oh, Myra. It's such a cesspool that I've uncovered.”
“They always are. Give me the main lie that flashes through your head when it hits.”
“I'm not your first choice. I've never been anybody's first choice. Until Margie was born, that is.” Ginny broke into sobs. Margie looked dumbfounded.
Ginny's word came out in a torrent. “The only reason I'm alive is because abortion was impossible to find in Denver in 1956, and yeah Daddy loved me but on the sly, by the time I'd given up on finding a way to make Mother notice me, Cathy was out of the house and – oh, why the fuck haven't I gotten over this? I didn't date, I didn't even let myself hope much, until I was grown, and then my first lover, I was just a baby dyke-wanna-be at a concert who somehow got her into bed, she had her main lover in Portland and others elsewhere, I wasn't even her second choice. And Jules, I thought she wanted me but she wanted my adoration, not me. And I'm the one who made the move on Dakin and Bonnie, too. So I waited on you, yes, Myra, a lot longer than you actually know, I met you while I was still in love with Jules but you caught my eye even then. I waited and waited, because this time, this goddamned time, I was going to have the satisfaction of someone turning to me and asking ME, choosing me. Only you took so long, and sometimes I remember how long it was, and it just crashes in on me, you know, what if I just happened to be there right when you were ready to do something different but I'm not really what would have been your first choice? What if you keep growing and you grow out of loving me, because I'm more a symbol of love than who you think you love?”
Myra's voice was light and dry. “Wow, that'd kinda suck, wouldn't it?”
Margie gaped at her, but Ginny began laughing hysterically even as she still wept. “Fuck you, Myra Josong. Fuck you for being so sure.”
“Can't help it.” Myra removed Keller from her lap, slid into the chair next to Ginny, and pulled Ginny onto her lap. “I wish I could fix that little girl's broken heart, though. I wish I was that powerful.”
“Fuck, I know, the only person who can fix it is me, god fucking dammit!” wailed Ginny.
“Well, you're doing a good job of it” said Myra.
“I have to get over this, Myra. I'm sick of this set of luggage!” ranted Ginny.
“Yep” said Myra. Ginny soaked her collar and eventually had to stop crying in order to breathe, blowing her nose on a napkin.
“Toss that on the floor if you're done with it” said Myra. “It goes straight to laundry.”
Ginny smiled blurrily at her. “I fucking missed you. More than you missed me, I think.”
“Well, why is it I can't leave this place without stuff falling apart?” teased Myra.
“Oh, shut up” said Ginny, laughing. “Wait till you see the painting I did.”
“Later” said Myra. “I'm down to my final ounces of fuel. I need to go sleep, and so do you, wacky girl.” She turned to Margie and said “We're not going to be able to bring a dish for shabbos, will you get something on our behalf from Frances? We'll pay later.”
Margie said “Of course. And go on to bed, I'll clear the table.” She stood to kiss Ginny's cheek, saying “You're a creampuff, if I could only remember that.”
Ginny stood and pulled Myra to her feet. “My calves ache” she said.
“C'mon, Keller, you can doss with us just this once” said Myra, starting up the stairs. As Ginny reached her side, Myra said “I need a new map of Skene from you, one that shows the town a hundred years later.”
“Sleep first” said Ginny. “Sleep in your arms.”
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
(Bread Loaf Inn, built 1882, Middlebury College, Vermont; photo by origamidon)
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.
Gillam had enrolled for a three-week special ed training during mornings in August. To give Jane a break, they enrolled David and Mimi in a summer nursery school program through the reform temple. “It'll be a head start on Hebrew school and mostly give them a chance at socialization with other toddlers and babies” said Gillam. On the occasions when he and Jane stayed for dinner with Myra and Ginny, the young couple talked non-stop about the theories and applications Gillam was acquiring, and Ginny was an avid participant in the conversations as well. She told Myra the new comprehension of brain development was affecting how she approached her paintings. Myra was glad for them, but followed it all only imperfectly. She focused more on making sure Mimi ate something more than bread and “chicken nuggets”, or getting David to laugh – he had an angelic, whole-body laugh.
Myra's birthday was on shabbos this year. She asked for cupcakes, to please the kids, with of course a barbecue around the pond followed by a talent show indoors next to the fireplace. She was already packed for Bread Loaf; she had to leave the next morning at 5 a.m. Mimi and David exuberantly opened her presents for her while Leah sat in her lap, tiny fingers wrapped tight around Myra's forefinger.
When Myra heard the alarm go off before dawn, she forced herself to the bathroom and sat on the toilet with the small trash can in front of her, trying not to throw up. Ginny, joining her, asked “What's wrong, do you have food poisoning?”
“Just nerves, I think. I really, really don't want to go, Ginny. Please can I back out?”
“Not without letting down a lot of people. Myra, it'll be all right. You'll be fine once you get there, I promise. You need something different, and this is a big honor.”
“It doesn't feel like an honor, it feels like a chore.”
“I'll make you some tummy tea. And Ginny eggs. Wash your face, get dressed, and meet me in the kitchen.”
Her stomach remained iffy all the way to the airport. Ginny didn't see her to the gate, at Myra's insistence. “I'll route my bags through here at the front and go get a Coke, that'll help. Otherwise I'll spend the whole time trying to think of a way to persuade you to take me back home” said Myra.
“You have your tickets? Your cell? Turn it on – hell, Myra, did you forget to charge it? Well, plug it when you get to the gate area, recharge it before you take off. Call me whenever you can. Writers are fascinating, wonderful people, Myra, give them a chance. I certainly love them more than other kinds of folks.” But even this didn't draw a grin from Myra. Ginny drove off into morning light and growing traffic.
Sixteen hours later, it was almost 11:00 p.m. but Ginny was still up, waiting for an “I'm here” call from Myra. Margie had stopped by, and they were noshing on pickles and cheese as Margie complained about renovation problems at the new house. When the phone rang, Ginny literally leaped toward it, but her eye caught the caller ID and she stopped herself, saying out loud “Not bloody likely.”
“Who is it?” asked Margie.
“Someone who definitely doesn't want to talk to me” said Ginny, picking up the teapot to refill it with hot water. They both fell silent, waiting to hear the message machine.
When Myra's voice came out of the speaker, however, Ginny repeated her leap, saying “I didn't think it was you.”
“Yeah, not my cell number, huh?” said Myra cheerfully. “It's hammered, my phone, I mean. At first I thought it was the battery, but now I think there's a broken connection inside it or something. I don't know if there's a local place where I can get it fixed, I might have to buy a disposable one for the time being – but even that, I'm not sure about, I'll have to get a ride into the business district and most places may not be open tomorrow. So, listen, stuff to tell you, but the most fantastic news is, guess who's here at Bread Loaf too?”
“Cuchilla” said Ginny flatly.
“Whoa. How the fuck did you ever – oh, wait, did her name come up on the caller ID? Yeah, I'm borrowing her cell. Isn't this is a kick in the fucking pants? She got a fellowship here this year – remind me to come up with another goddamned term for fellowship, I'm so tired of crap like that going on forever – anyhow, it's almost 2 in the morning here but people are still arriving and we're at the check-in center, arranging for her to get transferred to my room. I've got two desks and two twin beds to myself, and she was not impressed with her roommate, so we're going to bunk up. I warned her I snore, but she says she gets up two or three times a night to pee, and we've both got earplugs, so we think we can tough it out. I'm so relieved to have a friend here, I could crap a brick.”
From the high excitement in her voice, Ginny thought it sounded like Myra was already trying to pass such an object.
“Anyhow, once she gets checked in, we'll schlepp her stuff to my room and probably crash, it was one hella day of travel and bureaucracy for me. But I wanted to give you her cell, in case of dire emergency, and remind you the number for Bread Loaf in general is on that sheet on my desk, and my e-mail is working, I tried it already, so I'll check that at least twice a day if you want to contact me there, too.”
Ginny heard the sounds of Myra using her inhaler. “Are you feeling all right?”
“Yeah. There's some young folks nearby smoking, I'm outside the admin building or whatever they call it. Plus just whacked and short of breath in general. It's nice here, though, the weather is dry and my room – our room – seems clean enough. I'll take a digital photo and send it tomorrow. So, do you want to write down Cuchilla's cell number?”
“It will be on the caller ID memory” said Ginny. “She didn't tell you in advance she would be there?”
“Well, no, it's a glorious surprise for both of us. I was just walking down here to see about rides into town and she climbed out of an airport shuttle in front of me. We began screaming out heads off. Not that anybody much noticed, nobody seems to be sleeping or have much attention for those outside their own little clique” said Myra, with a tinge of bitterness. “Anyhow, I don't want to run up her minutes. I'll let you know tomorrow about the cell situation. How're things there?”
“Fine. Margie's here's right now” said Ginny.
“Good, you've got company. Give her my love, and give yourself my extra special love. Hey, there she is, gonna run.”
Ginny turned off the phone carefully, turned and hurled the teapot against the big farmer sink Myra had taken two days to choose.
Margie came bolt upright, gaping at Ginny. “What on earth?” she said.
“Your mother is ecstatic because an old heartthrob is going to be sleeping two feet away for the next 11 days” said Ginny through clenched teeth. “Her cell is conveniently broken and she's up in the wee hours so she can set up house with Cuchilla the soulmate poet.”
Margie came into the kitchen and began picking out pieces of ceramic, putting them into a plastic bowl.
“Oh, throw it the fuck away, it's not worth fixing” said Ginny, opening the cupboard to find her second-favorite teapot.
“Are you implying Mama somehow arranged to have a get-away with Cuchilla?” asked Margie.
“No. I believe she didn't know she'd be there. But that fucking Cuchilla – Myra's name was all over the publicity, she's doing two reading/teaching things this week, and there's no way Cuchilla missed knowing in advance Myra would be there. She has her e-mail, they've stayed in touch – but she's acting like it's all a surprise to her, too. Which means she's a fucking liar.” Ginny put the second teapot on the counter. Her hands were shaking too much for her to fill it with boiling water at the moment.
“So, wait – were Mom and Cuchilla involved at some point? I thought they got close after I was born” said Margie.
“Myra -- “ Ginny stopped to take a deep breath. “Myra was not romantically interested in Cuchilla. She said so, and I believed her.” Then, thought Ginny. “But Cuchilla told Myra she was in love with her. They tried to keep close after that, despite Myra's limits, but there was always some tension. Then Cuchilla moved to New Mexico, and it got easy because of the imposed distance. However, I distinctly remember Myra telling me that Cuchilla has broken up with her long-term lover this past year.”
Margie had tossed the remnants in the trash and now leaned back against the counter, looking at Ginny. “Aha. So you think Cuchilla is hoping for a second chance with Mom? Well, so what? It takes two to tango.”
“They'll be living together, two dyke poets of a certain age bonding in a strange environment, in a place Myra was dreading.” Ginny closed her eyes.
“Again, so what? You can't honestly think circumstances are going to alter Mama's commitment to you” said Margie, derision creeping into her voice.
“Circumstances are what we make of them” said Ginny. “You have no idea what can happen when you think everything is settled, or what relationships contend with over time -- “
“I have more of an idea than you do, in some respects” interrupted Margie. “Particularly when it comes to monogamy and the pressures thereof. It just doesn't make sense to me, how your trust pops like a bubble sometimes. It's erratic, almost crazy, the place you go. I can't afford to let my head get stuck in those kinds of ruts, not with Frances.”
“Oh, give me a break, you have Frances bought and sold. And that goes in a literal sense, as well as emotionally” snapped Ginny.
Margie's eyes went very dark blue. “That's a vile thing to say. If you believe that, you must think Mama purchased you with her lottery money. Is that part of what's going on here, now that you're the main breadwinner – is she not acting properly obedient to your power as the earner of income?”
“You are so full of shit” began Ginny.
“No, you know what? When you get nutty, you will say absolutely anything that comes into your head, you start channeling Helen the drunk. And I promised my therapist to stop engaging in this dynamic with you. I'm not your partner, I don't have to take it.” Margie was breathing hard. “If you want to talk without taking swipes at me, call me.” She pushed past Ginny and was out the front door in seconds.
Ginny turned off the simmer under the teakettle and, leaving cheese and pickles on the table, went upstairs to Myra's computer. She wrote a five-page e-mail that, in the end, she didn't send. She saved a draft, turned off the lights upstairs, set the alarm, and went to bed. She was afraid she wouldn't get to sleep, but after a few minutes of imagining screaming at Myra, her adrenaline was depleted and she dropped off. She woke up every couple of hours, feeling cold and exhausted, and had to talk herself into sleep again each time by promising to go see Nancy as soon as she could get in.
Myra called back the next afternoon, while Ginny was outside gathering salad greens for the Sunday potluck. The message she left said “No luck on the cell phone yet,honey. Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, I met a couple of folks I like, a lot more I don't like, and I wrote a poem right after I woke up. Cuchilla did, too. Thank god she's here, I'd be wretched without her. Everybody is either looking for sex, looking for influence, or both. Well, not quite everybody, but enough to make me nervous about even mealtime conversation. Cuchilla and I have gone over the schedule, and as much as possible we're going to avoid the ratrace, hole up in our room and write. She says it's time I publish a large volume of my selected poetry, and she's going to read over my work, make suggestions toward that end. She has her own volume coming out this year, and I'm going to help her with the final arrangement on that. Bliss, Ginny, absolute bliss. Except the food sucks and no grandkids. Tell Keller I really will be back. Love you, Ginny O.”
When Ginny came to the kitchen and saw the blinking light on the message machine, she looked at the caller ID first. Swearing steadily enough to send Mother Courage under the sideboard, Ginny listened to the message, pounded on the counter briefly, then dialed Cuchilla's cell number. Nobody answered, and she hung up as it rolled over into voice mail. She went to Myra's computer and checked her e-mail. There was a longish message from Myra, mostly full of description which at another time would have entertained her. She also included the new poem and a photo of her lodgings, with Cuchilla standing in a shaft of sunlight, looking smug, Ginny thought.
Keller had climbed into Ginny's lap while Ginny was examining the photo for any nefarious clues. Ginny wanted to shove her away. Instead, she rubbed Keller's head, talked to her a few minutes, and wrote a brief, entirely calm answer to Myra, urging her to buy any kind of cell phone she could as soon as possible. She also reminded her to make time to have dinner with Liza during the week, not just after her Bread Loaf stint was over. Since so far Myra had not said she was missing Ginny, Ginny refused to write that to Myra.
When she went back downstairs, Keller followed her. Ginny took one of Myra's pecan pies from the freezer and set it to bake before she began assembling a massive chef's salad with boiled eggs and spicy shrimp. Before she was finished, Allie and Edwina arrived with a platter of fajitas.
After hugging Ginny, Edwina said “I hear Cuchilla is at Bread Loaf.”
Ginny looked at her coldly. “Did you hear that from Myra or from Margie?”
“Both, actually. Allie got an e-mail from Myra, but Margie called us. She said you went off on her. Margie, I mean.”
Ginny pursed her lips. “It's a little difficult for me to take being lectured to about relationships by Margie. That's the gist of it.”
Edwina didn't try to hide her skepticism. “You want to talk about it?'
“No, clearly I'm not in appropriate control of my emotions. I'm planning to see Nancy tomorrow, she can deal with my irrationality.” Ginny couldn't leach all of the sarcasm from her voice.
Edwina shared a glance with Allie, which usually didn't irritate Ginny like it did today. Ginny packed the pie into a basket with a bootie Leah had lost earlier and a bouquet of roses for Jane and Gillam. She looped this over her arm and carried the giant wooden salad bowl in both hands as they walked next door together, talking of other things.
Monday was Margie and Frances' turn to take the children for Jane and Gillam's date night. After a solo dinner, Ginny went in the direction of kid's shrieks. Frances was in the pool with Mimi and David. It was a lovely warm night, and Ginny wished she could join them. She still felt too raw, however. Margie was in shorts and a tank top on the deck chair, giving Leah a bottle.
Ginny sat down next to her and said “I owe you an apology.”
“Yes. You do.” Margie smoothed a curl back from Leah's forehead. Leah's hazel eyes were fixed on Ginny.
“I saw Nancy today. I had no right to say any of what I said to you.”
“Did you root out why you're so gonzo about Cuchilla?” asked Margie bluntly.
“Some of it. Enough to feel very sorry. Though I do still think Cuchilla is lying and conniving” said Ginny.
“I hope not, for Mom's sake” said Margie. “Have you talked to her about this?”
“I haven't talked to her at all. She hasn't found a replacement phone, so I can't call her, and she keeps calling me at the precise moment I can't hear the ring. And no, I don't think she's avoiding me, it's just an accident. Or perhaps g*d punishing me for being insecure.” Ginny finally grinned, tightly, and Margie grinned back.
“Well, do you want to tell me what you've figured out so far?” asked Margie.
“Nope. I'll wait until it's clearer. Thanks for the offer, though.”
Margie lowered her voice. “I didn't tell Frances what you said. She might not forgive you.”
Margie shrugged. “I will. Listen, I need to pee, you want to finish this bottle with her?”
“I do, very much” said Ginny. She wanted the redemption babies offer like gold dust falling from their fingertips.
By Friday, Ginny and Myra had still not had a direct conversation with each other, and Ginny was beginning to think her joke about g*d's punishment was maybe not a joke. Myra was writing her good letters at least once a day, and sending one or two new poems with each. Ginny could tell the poetry was stellar, and Myra was breathing writing with each waking moment. She reminded herself constantly “This is what you wanted for her. Whatever it took.”
At shabbos dinner, Gillam said “Have you been reading the work Mom is turning out? It's incredible, isn't it?”
“Yes, a torrent of poetry.”
“It's not just the quantity. I think these may be the best poems I've ever seen her write” said Gillam. Jane added “He was crying at his laptop this morning, sobbing away.”
“Which one set you off?” asked Carly.
“The Ishi one” said Gillam.
Ginny raised her eyebrows. “I guess I didn't get that one. Nothing by that title.”
“It's not in the title” said Gillam. “The one that begins with how to make a clear broth, why cloudy broths are dangerous to the spirit.”
“Oh, yes, I got that one. What makes you think it's about Ishi?” asked Ginny.
Chris said “That long section about how no one will ever know her name, because she cannot speak it out loud? And the reference to volcanic tunnels?”
Everyone else was nodding. Ginny felt stupid and, worse, unable to comprehend Myra's mind.
“I...I thought that was about the invisibility of class. About trying to pass around middle class people” confessed Ginny.
“It's not” said Chris with a grin that was not kind at all.
“The one that really got to me was the one with all the fabric names in it” said Edwina. “I counted at least six different ways she was using assonance, alliteration, and other techniques. It was simply flawless.”
“Yes, and the meter of those lines, plus the structure? It's identical to 'John Anderson My Jo', by Burns, you know. Took me a while to recognize it. Yet another clever way of telling us it was about her mother.” Gillam's tone was reverent.
Ginny had thought that poem was about Myra's first lover.
“I hope Cuchilla is including these latest in the 'best of Myra's poetry' volume she's helping her pull together” said Allie.
Ginny could tell Margie was looking at her. “I hope so, too. I'll mention it to her.”
The next day, at noon, she was desperate to have an actual verbal exchange with Myra. The schedule indicated there was a big reading with a writer Myra liked at the main building. Ginny decided to call the Bread Loaf main number and see if they could page Myra, bring her to the phone. The young woman who answered the phone was not particularly adept with either verbal skills or research. She clearly didn't recognize Myra's name, which made Ginny label her ignorant instantly. She could hear the moron fumbling with papers, and Ginny said “I don't need to find out if she's registered, she is, I know that for a fact, I want you to go find her at the reading -- “
“Yes, she's registered. But she checked out” said the moron.
“What do you mean, checked out? The conference isn't over until Tuesday” said Ginny.
“Checked out of her room. She's gone to a hotel in Burlington. She'll be here for a lecture tomorrow, it says. Do you want the hotel number?”
Ginny hung up without thinking. She sat down carefully and tried to figure out what to do next.
© 2008 Maggie Jochild