Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Green dragon
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 2018

Two nights later, after coming back from the campfire and showering off sand and smoke, Myra crawled into the king-size bed beside Ginny and, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the dark, said softly “Happy other anniversary.”

“I wondered if you remembered” said Ginny sadly.

“I thought of it off and on all day, but we were always around other people” said Myra. “Ginny, I adore being your lover. I always have and I always will.”

“I don't think we can call ourselves lovers right at the moment. Can we, Myra?”

“Well, we're naked in a bed together. We've reclaimed most of our physical intimacy” said Myra.

“That's not making love. I'm not complaining, Myra, or trying to push you.”

“I believe you, Ginny. No...I guess it's not.” Myra lay thinking for a minute. She was glad to not sweat all night long, but she still missed not being able to hear surf, peepers, and wind from this beach house bedroom. Finally she said “I miss you. I miss our lovemaking.”

“Glad to hear it” sighed Ginny, rolling over to put her head on Myra's shoulder. There was another long interval before Ginny said “Well, maybe I want to push this much: Do you really believe we'll go back to being lovers, or will you decide to stay in this comfortable place? Lots of women do, especially women our age.”

“I can't imagine me settling, Ginny. Can you?”

She felt Ginny's body relax in ways she hadn't known Ginny was tense. “No” said Ginny. Myra heard Ginny slide into sleep.

The following morning, Margie and Frances drove into Galveston to meet Amy and her two sons, coming in for the day from Houston. After lunch, Myra was writing when Gillam came in the front door with Mimi by the arm. He said “Now go use the toilet. We're not dogs.”

Mimi stomped her bare feet across the tile floor and slammed the bathroom door shut. Gillam turned to Myra and said “We're all hanging out in the kiddie pool after a swim, and she stands up to pee in the water where we're soaking.” His exasperation was tinged with humor.

“I'm sure they've all done it” Myra commented.

“Yeah, well, the volume of liquid there to absorb it is much less than our pool at home” he said, looking down at his wet trunks. Mimi came out of the bathroom and stomped by him again, leaving the screen door open. He reached over to shut it and said “Time for a nap.” Instead of following her out, however, he poured himself a glass of lemonade and sat down at the table with Myra.

They almost never had time where it was just the two of them any more. No complaining she admonished herself. He lives next door, he vacations with you, he's entrusted his extraordinary children to you. She waited for the lecture to take.

“I'm getting a little tired of her treating me like the worst carnivore on the planet” Myra said. “I mean, she's still catching her share of fish with Allie and Edwina, only now she leaves before the slaughter begins. And I'm the one who's making sure she gets a complete set of amino acids with every meal.”

“That's her right, as center of the Mimiverse” said Gillam with a grin.

“Ginny eats as much seafood as I do other kinds of meat” continued Myra. Gillam raised his eyebrows and said “I'm on your side, Mom, but even I can't agree with that.”

“It's the snake thing, isn't it?” said Myra.

“Yeah. I'm sorry I didn't get them inside fast enough.” Gillam kept peeling skin from the sunburn he'd gotten the first day here, letting patches of it fall on the floor.

Myra said, with a grin, “I like you better unapologetic. Most of the time, anyhow. Jane's good for you.”

He smiled to himself. “Mimi's focused on blaming you because you can take it. And because she picks up a lot of her direction from Margie, you know.”

“You're right that Margie never blinked at taking me for granted” said Myra. “Her engagement was with Ginny, I was often simply furniture.”

“Not when it counted” said Gillam, pulling at a patch of skin that wasn't quite ready to be parted from him yet. A brief expression of pain crossed his face. Then he said quietly “You know, that guy lives somewhere in Texas now.”

Myra didn't have to ask Gillam which guy he meant, she knew instantly. “Where did you find that out?”

“From Margie.” Gillam met her eyes. “One of her old high school friends, so-called friends, calls periodically with an update, mostly to fish for Margie's reaction. She says he's not on parole on any more, and there's been no repeat offense.”

“That we know about” said Myra.

“Yes, exactly” said Gillam. “But Margie says he's cut all ties with his family. I told her I think that's a good sign.”

“Why?” Myra thought it could mean he was becoming a dangerous loner.

“Well, you did. You left behind a toxic family. Not that I'm comparing you to him -- “ Gillam looked suddenly worried.

“No, I've never slid over the line he did. But I agree with you, if he was still tight with that father of his, I'd be more inclined to see him as a continuing menace” said Myra. “Listen, Gillam...Is Margie all right? Does she have regrets about how we handled it?”

“You could ask her yourself” said Gillam. “She has no trouble talking about it.” Which answered Myra's question, she decided. He had drained his glass. He stood and said “I'm going to hose off the urine marinade urchins and force them down for a rest.” He left his glass full of ice on the table. Myra pulled it over, filled it with more lemonade from the pitcher and took a drink as the sound of shouting children came in the open door.

The next month, a week after Charlie's first birthday, the Golden Horde streamed to Myra and Ginny's house on Sunday afternoon for Heroic Quest day. Myra met them in the dining room, looking serious, and said “Instead of our usual adventure, we have a dangerous problem to solve.”

“For real?” asked David, pushing back his hair to look at Myra's face closely.

“I'm afraid so. We had a visitor last night, in our yard. Stick to the brick walkway, and don't step on the clues. See if you can figure out what it was.” She led them outside. Charlie reached for Ginny, who picked him up to carry him.

At the point where the waterfall rocks rose up, the head of the pond, as Myra thought of it, there was always a muddy patch. Today an enormous three-toed track sunk deep into the mud. Smeared impressions of the same tracks led around the pond and even appeared on top of the bench: Whatever made them had perched there for a bit. In the leaf litter and mulch underneath David's pear tree by the meditation bench and Charlie's new plum tree, set into a bed between the waterfall and the side bench, were drag marks where something heavy had disturbed the soil. On the brickwork beside the barbecue pit was a patch of blackened scorch. The final piece of evidence were various greeny-black shards of metal, all the same irregularly rounded triangle, with a sticky roughness underneath at the corner as if they had been ripped from organic tissue.

“Let me tell you straight off, nothing came through the gates. I checked the security log. And I investigated the entire perimeter: Nothing climbed the fence anywhere.” Myra's eyes were somber.

“How could it get in, then?” said David, almost whispering.

Leah pointed to the overcast cast with a single small finger.

“A bird?” said Charlie.

“Well...what flies, has wings big enough to push away the mulch this much, leaves shards of metal behind, and – I shudder to say it – belches fire after drinking?” Myra was avoiding looking at Ginny's face, because she'd start laughing. Her money was on Mimi, and sure enough, it was Mimi who said “A dragon. A dragon?”

When Myra nodded slowly, each pair of wide eyes looked down at the scales Ginny and Annie Gagliardi had carefully constructed a few days before, now horrific talismans resting in small palms. Charlie stopped trying to put his in his mouth.

“A dragon landed in your yard?” repeated David, begging for contradiction.

“I guess this pond looked like a wonderful place to take a long drink” mused Myra. “I've heard there are colonies of enormous dragons who live on uninhabited islands in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. I think they migrate back and forth between there and the lava fields around Mount Lassen in California, which is a part of a volcanic range, you know. There are unexplored lava tubes going down to regions where magma is just an earth rumble away. I bet they spend the winters there, restoking their fuel, and summers up in the islands where no one dares intrude. This house would be on the flight path between the two. I can show you on a map when we go inside.”

Leah looked as if she thought going indoors would be an immediately preferable action. Myra added “I don't think they fly around during the daytime. If they did, we'd have seen dragons, wouldn't we?”

“So could we stay with you tonight and watch for them through the window?” asked Mimi.

Myra heard Ginny giggle. Any pretext at all for spending the night...

“Well, no. The reason why I need your help is to figure out how to keep the dragon from returning. You see – sometimes we're out here after dark. Me and Bubbe. And dragons are known to eat people. As well as kitties and doggies.”

Leah's worst fears were verified. She edged closer to the house, scanning the clouds above. Myra said “What could we do to keep this yard, all our yards, safe from a visiting dragon?”

“Kill it” said Leah easily. Mimi wheeled on her with violent intent. Myra said swiftly “Absolutely not. No killing of dragons, and no putting them in a zoo. We have to come up with another way.”

Mimi was distracted from launching herself at Leah by this emphatic statement. She squinted at Myra, readjusting her opinion, Myra hoped.

“We could ask it to stay away” said David. “Like the children talked to the Warrum Arsenica.”

“Ah, the Warrum Arsenica was a different kind of creature. Dragons are not known for cooperating with humans. Besides, I don't speak Dragonish, do you?”

David considered lying and inventing his own version of Dragonish, Myra saw the urge on his face. She intercepted with “Listen, we need to brainstorm about this. Bubbe has the blackboard set up, let's go inside and have a snack while we put our heads together around the dining table. Bring your dragon scales, we can put them in your treasure boxes if you want.”

Each child had their own wide drawer in the cupboard array opposite the kitchen, and these were referred to as treasure boxes. Myra assembled peanut butter on apple slices while Ginny got scales stowed and hands washed. Ginny stood by the portable blackboard to take notes with colored chalk, in both letters and pictographs. Ginny's notes were lovely to behold.

After half an hour, the following options were portrayed in Ginny's bold letters and clear doodles:
Buy a lion to guard the yard
Fill the pond with milk instead of water (“But what about the swimming pool?” asked Myra the killjoy)
Figure out which plants dragons hated and plant those in each yard
Cover the pond and pool with a giant mirror
Ask advice of Margie, who was deemed an expert in general by Mimi but also, David pointed out, had once ridden a dragon because Bubbe had painted it
Ask the advice of Sima and Annie Gagliardi, who worked with metals and this somehow made them likely to know about metal-scaled creatures

Myra began gathering empty sippy cups and said “Well, that's a good set of ideas. Now, much as I'd like to live with a lion, the fact is they're wild animals who don't tame, so having a lion in the back yard would be just as dangerous as the dragon. And the milk option, well, we can see that wouldn't be practical, can't we?” She appealed to Charlie, who'd wanted a milk pond very much. “Where would the leviathan and other fishies go to live?”

“I suggest we print out our photos of the tracks, grab the scales, and walk over to Aunt Margie's for a confab” said Ginny. Margie had been informed of the scheme, and sitting at her kitchen table were Sima, Chris, and Annie, waiting for the dragon conference.

It was a memorable day. Mimi was deathly earnest in her agenda to keep the dragon from harm, and the aunties turned out to have lots of interesting suggestions. Sima and Annie offered to make a dragonbane sculpture, a small magical shape which could be mounted on the top stone of the waterfall. Chris said she would sage it, to release its powers. While they were awaiting that foolproof talisman, Margie listed a few plants which she assured them were irritating to dragons. Ginny and Myra loaded the children into a car and they went to Ginny's favorite nursery, where the plants happened to be in stock. Back home, these were transplanted into large pots and arranged around the pond, while Moon and Gidg stood guard.

Before heading home for dinner, Ginny helped the little ones get filthy mixing plaster of Paris to make a cast of the dragon footprint. Leah became anxious during the latter stage of this task, as dark was beginning to fall. She asked to be carried for the walk home. Myra thanked them all formally for their assistance in “insuring a balance between human needs and those of the rest of nature”, a phrase she felt certain Mimi would memorize and aim back at her as soon as possible.

The day after Myra's 63rd birthday, at noon, Jane went into labor. Gillam called Myra and said "Her water's broke and after the last time, I'm getting her to the hospital as fast as possible, her baby canal is like a jetway now."

"We're coming to get the kids" said Myra and hung up. Gillam and an already strained-looking Jane waved at them from the front door as Myra and Ginny came in the back door. "Call everybody" yelled Gillam "except Carly, he's on his way there." He shut the door. The children turned as one and looked at their grandmas.

"A new baby!" crowed Ginny. "When they come back, they'll have a new baby brother or sister for you!"

"Can we name this one after me?" asked Leah.

"No, everybody gets a fresh name" said Myra, forgetting the fact that Leah was named after both her and Ginny. "Let's pack bags, you're going to stay overnight at our place."

The children began yelling and crawling upstairs, Myra behind them. Ginny sat down at the phone and started making calls.

But nobody else had a chance to get to the hospital after work. When Gillam called three hours later, he told Ginny "She's here. Born about 20 minutes ago. Everybody is fine, and she looks just like you."

"It's a girl!" Ginny turned and screamed to Myra. "Another sister!"

"Already?" said Myra. "Godamighty."

Leah repeated "Godamighty. What sister?"

Ginny said "What's her name?"

Gillam chuckled. "Well, she's the last, so we emptied out the store shelves for her. You ready? Lucia Christina Allene Rebekah Rose. Bates-Josong."

Ginny was laughing. "Good job. Lucia is for Jane's sister Lucy, I'm gathering. And the rest are self-evident except -- Rebekah?"

"It's the middle name of both Frances and Edwina -- and Sima's Hebrew name is Rivka" said Gillam.

"Oh, bless you son. Bless you both." Ginny's voice was thick with emotion. "Do I get to -- share the names?"

"You do. We'll be here overnight, maybe come home tomorrow. Eventually Jane's family will arrive, and we can get help from them. Carly and Eric are here, of course. And we know the kids are in good hands. I need to go, will you make the calls for me?"

"My honor and delight" said Ginny. "I love you so much, Gillam."

"Same here. I'm -- well, you know how happy I am at this moment. We have a full house."

"Take care, get rest. Call for anything."

When she got off the phone, she went to sit beside Myra and took her hands in her own. Myra shushed the children and gathered them around to listen.

"We have a new Bates-Josong girl -- a baby sister for you all. She'll be coming home tomorrow. She is doing great, and your mama is fine, and your daddy is beside himself. And -- her name is Lucia Christina Allene Rebeka Rose."

Mimi began chanting the name like a counting-out rhyme, and David joined her, holding up his hands so they could play patty-cake on each other's palms. Myra helped Leah and Charlie do the same, and the names bounced around the walls of the room. In the middle of the cacophony, Ginny walked to the kitchen phone to make a second round of calls.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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