Sunday, January 25, 2009


Elevator doors
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.

Autumn 2018

The next morning, Jane came over to pick up the children. She looked more-than-usual short on sleep, and Lucia was cranking. Myra was in the middle of settling a dispute between David and Leah, who were accusing each other of stealing jam. Ginny was holding Charlie, and when Jane came to kiss his forehead, Ginny said quietly “We just want to you know, we think what he did was wrong.”

Jane's face perked up a little bit. “I hoped you would. Will you be telling him that?”

“First chance we get. How'd it go last night?”

Myra said “Shut up” to David, who subsided into a shocked silence. Jane said “He's never done this with me, you know. I know he's overextended, but it's hard not to see it as a slide down the dark side, somehow.”

Now all the children were listening, even Lucia, it seemed.

“Overextension is an explanation but not an excuse. And the fact is, me and Ginny have some culpability in – creating the personality, shall we say” said Myra. “As you'll find out five times over eventually. Anyhow, what's the plan?”

“Uh...Talking to support folks.” Jane was now coding her words, too. “Letting the incisions heal. Carly's coming over for a talk after dinner. He's – not happy about the – subterfuge.”

“What's that mean?” said Mimi.

“Well of course he's not” said Ginny. “That's why Margie was chosen, the only one of us who'd miss the big picture. Nothing to do with how much she cares for you, Jane, just a predictable blind spot she has.”

“I thought so” said Jane with a righteous ring of indignation.

“What's supperfeud?” repeated Mimi.

“Being sneaky” said Myra. “A dishonorable way of behaving. Are you done with those eggs? If so, quit picking at them with your fingers.”

Jane's focus shifted to her children. “Did you all thank Gramma and Bubbe for the unexpected overnight?”

A chorus of thank you's began. Ginny said “Nobody wet the bed, and a full night of sleep was had by all. Except us, of course.”

“I never wet the bed” began Leah. Charlie turned a wounded expression her way.

“We need to scoot, to get Mimi and David to preschool” said Jane. “Listen, I have to meet with their teacher afterward today, so we won't be here until 3:00 at the earliest.”

“Why don't you let me and Charlie come over early, before we go to get them at school?” suggested Leah.

“You already had a lot extra this week, don't be a greedy guts” said Jane “Come on. Charlie, where's your other shoe?”

“I see it” said Myra, bending under the table.

Once the racket was out the door, Ginny looked at Myra and said “You did most of the cooking this morning, I'll clean up. You heading back to bed?”

“You know it” said Myra.

The following day, Myra and Ginny were still in bed at 9:00. Ginny had been up but returned to sip tea and read the paper. Myra was slowly waking to the sound of rustling paper when their bedroom door swung open and Leah burst in. They heard Jane yelling “I told you to knock.”

Charlie hurtled in and clambered into Ginny's lap seconds after she managed to get her teacup safely on the bedside table. Myra sat up with a jolt of energy and said “What's wrong?”

Jane came in the door carrying Lucia and promptly began turning red at Myra and Ginny's exposed torsos. “It's Beebo, he's been vomiting for an hour, I need to get him in to the vet and, well, could you take them?”

“Of course” said Myra, standing to reach for Lucia. The two older children immediately fell silent, ogling her. Ginny's naked half the time, but my occasional bare skin is like a peep show for them she thought irritably.

“She's nursed already” said Jane.

“What's that smell?” said Charlie, sniffing the air. Jane's blush went deeper. Leah said “Toast!”

“Yes, I made some toast earlier” said Ginny. “Jane, go. Let us know how he is when you can.”

As Jane hurried out the door, Ginny said “I have to get a shower before I dress, I'll keep it to two minutes, okay?”

“Fine” said Myra, noticing Lucia needed a diaper change. As she headed for the dresser where they kept diapers and wipes, she said “Uh, Charlie and Leah? Let me give you a riddle.” She thought fast. They loved their grammas walk-in closet, stuffed with decades of accumulation. “Okay, go into our closet and count how many shoes are in there. Whoever comes up with the right number gets cinnamon toast. And don't race, take your time so you get it right.”

Charlie's counting ability was sketchy, but Leah would no doubt yell her answer first and he would be canny enough to copy her. Besides, Myra had no idea what the right answer was and didn't care. She was worried about Beebo, and trying to move fast so Lucia didn't start crying during the diaper change.

Ginny was true to her word. She had pulled on clothes, run fingers through her damp hair, and was reaching to take Lucia from Myra when Leah broke out of the closet shouting “41! The answer is 41!”

“I thought the answer to everything is 42” Ginny joked to Myra. Myra laughed, and Lucia, watching her intently, gave one of her rare smiles, which made Myra go a little goofy.

Charlie emerged, breathless and holding a gimme-cap which said “I'm a Cunning Linguist”. It had blaze orange flames along its purple sides. He said “Can I have this? Please?”

“You can wear it as much as you want while you're here” said Myra, “but that was a gift to me from someone else and I can't give it away permanently. Sure looks good on you, though. Come here, I'll adjust the back band for you.”

As she did so, she said “Did you come up with an answer to the riddle? Leah's guess was 41. Which means one pair of shoes has undergone a painful separation, I gather.”

“Dat's right, 41” he said, bobbing his head vigorously. Ginny said “You need to get a photo of him in that.”

“You do it. I'm going to shower, not as expeditiously as you, and meet you downstairs. I promised them cinnamon toast for solving the riddle. Which both of you got right, yes, you both win.”

Leah looked around doubtfully at Myra. “You're not making our cimmanon toast?”

“Ginny, they want it with brown sugar, not honey or applesauce” said Myra.

“I know how to make it” said Ginny, taking Charlie's hand and starting to carry Lucia to the bedroom door. Leah shot ahead of them, shouting “I get to push the button!” After a second lag, Charlie raced behind her, shouting “I get to push inside!”

Whenever unsteady walkers or non-walkers had to be conveyed up and downstairs, Myra and Ginny had gotten into the habit of herding all the children in the elevator. The fun of riding with Ginny was limited to being the one who pushed the button. Riding the elevator with Myra, however, was a crapshoot.

As soon as the doors bumped shut, the next several seconds of the slow, bumpy ride could contain almost any kind of transformation. Myra's most common trick was to assume the voice of a haughty announcer proclaiming the goods to found on various floors of an imaginary, not-quite-right department store. When she intoned “Flo-ah Seven – Men's haberdashery, window sashes, sausage casings, and salamanders” the children would laugh with glee and burst from the sliding doors going “eww!” about sausage made with salamanders and asking questions about what part of a man was his haberdashery.

Just as often as she did “the announcer”, however, Myra would lapse into some other character, some of them quite alarming. One day, before Lucia was born, as soon as the doors shut Myra had grabbed Mimi by her collar and shoved her against the wall, growling at her in a pirate's voice “Now tell me where ye've hidden the gold, or ye'll walk the plank, ye scurvy dog!”

The other children had frozen in disbelief. After a couple of seconds, Mimi's eyes glinted and she snarled, not quite logically, “I'll come to thee by moonlight though hell should bar the way!” Myra had slid into raucous laughter, and they emerged from the elevator as buccaneer and highwayman, weaving an adventure in which the others had to snatch roles for themselves when they could.

Myra's favorite was the day when, as soon as the doors shut, she'd cried “Jonesy! We forgot Jonesy! We can't leave him on the Nostromo!” Her forearms changed position to carry a weapon, and the children boldly assumed pistols in their own hands. When they reached the ground floor, Myra began looking around corners in a frenzy of fearful anticipation, occasionally firing bursts from her flamethrower into shadowy regions, all the while calling “Jonesy? Come here, Jonesy.”

Ginny was vacuuming that day, and she became the Alien. When Myra looked around the doorway into the living room and spotted her, she recoiled in horror and hissed to the others “It's in there.” They sprinted across the opening with bursts of fire at Ginny's back and clustered near the bottom of the stairs. Myra called urgently upstairs for Jonesy, adding “kitty, kitty, kitty”, and Keller of course responded, coming to stand at the head of the stairs, wary of both the hated vacuum and Myra's odd voice. But with pleading she came slowly down the stairs. Myra grabbed her, kissing her frantically and shielding her as they blasted their way back to the elevator, which was now the escape pod.

Once the door shut that time, Myra put Jonesy down and wiped her sweaty face in relief, saying “We still have two minutes to get into protective gear and launch this pod into space.” As each child began miming their own interpretation of what that meant, with hilarious effect if anyone had been watching, Myra stood by the door trying to come up a good substitute for animated suspension chambers.

She later realized Ginny must have simply sprinted up the back stairs as soon as the elevator doors shut. When they opened on the second floor, Ginny leaped in at them with a horrible roar, her hand snapping at Myra's face like shiny steel jaws. Myra fell backward, hitting the rear wall hard but thankfully landing on no child or cat. The high little screams in that escape pod were not pretty, my friend. Keller bolted for safety. Ginny sat down on the floor next to Myra and they laughed until tears leaked from their eyes.

This day, Myra rode down alone, entering the kitchen to the smell of cinnamon and the two older children sitting happily at stools, gobbling down the real thing. Ginny said “I made some for you, too. How about a fruit smoothie with it?”

“Aggh. Clash of sugars. But I'll eat it. Put lots of carrot juice in it, okay? And – I'll cut a slice of that Maasdammer we got.”

“Cut me one, too. There's leftover steamed squash, you know.”

“How about if I saute that real quick with onions and garlic?”

“Sounds great.”

They worked together fluidly. Leah came around the corner, carrying her plate and asking “Can I have another slice?”

“Nope” said Myra. “But if you want smoothie or cheese or squash, it'll be ready in a jiff. Look, your shoe's untied. Here.” She lifted Leah onto part of the counter with an unused cutting board and began repeating the bunny diving into the hole shoe-tying story as she tied her sneaker. Charlie called out “Is it Dink or Usagi?”

“Uh, another bunny, an Irish one whose last name is O'Steel” said Myra. At that moment she heard a long rasp on the wood of the cutting board beneath Leah's corduroy pants. Myra stared at her and said “Did you just fart on my cutting board?”

“Sorree” said Leah unconvincingly. Ginny was laughing hard, and Charlie joined her. Myra put Leah back on the floor, said “Take your plate to your stool, we'll serve you there, Vice-Admiral Flatulence.” She carried the cutting board to the sink and looked in the cabinet beneath for bleach.

Jane returned shortly before 11:00. She said Beebo was all right but on an IV, and blood tests for his kidneys and liver weren't back yet. “They think he got hold of something toxic” she said. “You know, I kept thinking about how the restaurant got fumigated on Monday – Carly and Eric complained about the smell when they got home. I'm wondering of some dying bug or mouse got through our fence and Beebo ate it.”

“Poor little guy, the only kind of hunting he could ever manage” said Myra. “Did they pump his stomach?”

“Gave him charcoal and are flushing him out. The vet thinks he probably puked enough of it out to save his kidneys. I'll call you when I hear more. I'll have to search the yard, and there's still a few upchuck puddles in the house.” Myra looked away, fighting her own instant nausea. Jane went on, saying “Hello, darling, are you ready for a snack?” to Lucia as she unbuttoned her shirt. She stole one quick kiss from Lucia's forehead, then settled in to nursing. She said, almost to herself, “The last baby I'll have, and she's not a cuddler.” Her sadness was wrenching to Myra.

As it apparently was to Ginny, who said “I know exactly how you feel, about the last baby part, I mean.” Myra looked accusingly at Ginny and was about to bring up all the times Ginny had been way too public about Myra being the one who wanted to drag out their childbearing years, but Charlie said loudly “Tell Mommy what Leah did to your board” and the moment was lost.

After Jane and children left, Ginny remarked to Myra, “You this, this morning, she acted like we'd been interrupted from having sex, I know that's what she thought.”

Myra was trying to think of an answer when Ginny said, trying for humor, “Right bedroom, wrong year, huh?” Myra remained silent, and Ginny finally faced her directly to say “Have you talked to Allie or Chris about this yet? About how we're -- not making love? You told Nancy you would.”

“Not yet. Haven't had the chance. How about you, have you told your friends?” Myra felt defensive.

“I've talked it over with Cathy. And a little with Margie.” Myra was utterly thrown by that piece of news, and didn't think she liked it. Ginny went on “I was waiting for you to have your turn with Allie before I went to Edwina or Allie myself, but I'm not going to wait any more, I don't think.”

“What's the push here, Ginny?”

“Well, Allie was – not a stone butch, that's not an accurate description, but she was one-way with lovemaking for all those years. I'm hoping she has insight about how you're feeling it but not able to act on it.” Ginny's jaw was squared off.

“It's not ability, it's a choice” said Myra. “And it's not anything like the reasons she had, because those would be the same as Bonnie had, and certainly you have your share of learning material there. Not all sexual issues are the fault of fucked-up incest experiences, Ginny. Seems to me like you're forgetting there was an actual rupture of trust that occurred.”

There was a long silence when they stared each other down. Ginny said softly “I haven't forgotten it. I won't ever forget it.”

“You've been a force for good in my life, Ginny Bates, and usually your pushing at me is useful to me. But only when I think you might more than I do. I'm...not sure here. I just don't know what all I'm dealing with yet. Inside me, in particular.” Myra didn't want to be as fair as her words sounded to her. When she saw the reception on Ginny's face, however, she breathed in and let it stand.

“Okay. I won't bring it up again. You'll tell me when something changes. Or I'll know it from our time with Nancy.” Ginny hugged her, and Myra let herself relax in those familiar arms. Perversely, she suddenly remembered how glorious it was to kiss Ginny full on the mouth, and she lay her head to the side, away from Ginny's face, to resist the temptation.

Beebo was able to come home the following day, thinner and clingy but declared by the vet to be as good as could be expected for his age. Myra invited him over for the evening, playing with him in her study until he needed a nap.

On Friday, when Gillam and Jane came to pick up the kids before shabbos dinner, Jane said sternly “I was cleaning the upstairs bathroom this afternoon, and I have a question for one of you children: Who has been wiping their buggers on the wall beside the potty?”

The three oldest children began giggling, looking sideways at each other, ready to pounce when accusation was made. Charlie stood out because he froze and would not meet anyone's eyes. Poor little dummy thought Myra with a heartwrench. But then, it wasn't her scrubbing away hardened old snot.

Jane squatted down and took his hands. “Charlie, why did you do that?”

His body writhed in conflicting emotion. “I don't know” he said, and it sounded like the truth.

“Well, what should you do if you feel congestion in your nose?” said Jane. Charlie finally let his big brown eyes face hers, confusion on his face. Myra thought he wanted to say “pick it out and eat it?”, but some whisper of caution kept him silent.

“You blow your nose, son” said Gillam, helping out. “Into a tissue or handkerchief.”

Charlie nodded, sensing a clearing path away from his public exposure. “Will you do that in the future?” asked Jane, squeezing his hands. He nodded more emphatically. She pulled him into a hug before delivering the coup de grace. “Okay, let's go home. I saved part of the scrubbing for you, you can clean off the last bit.”

He looked over her shoulder at Myra with desperation, but Myra thought he'd met justice. At one-and-a-half, learning how to wipe down a surface that she was sure Jane had sprayed with precleaner was a skill he could pick up.

That Sunday at singing potluck, when they gathered in the family room after dinner, Myra stood with a grin and said “I've written a song. A kind of theme song, I guess you'd call it. The tune is not quite right, but – well, maybe Jane there at the piano can figure it out for me. Here goes.”

Myra winked at Leah as she began:

We fart upon your cutting board
We wipe our buggers on your wall
We call ourselves the Golden Horde
We got no manners at all

We got no manners at all
We live like monkeys in the trees
We fling our poop and eat our fleas
We got no manners at all

It was an instantaneous smash. She had to sing it again because shrieks of laughter had drowned out sections the first time through, and then Carly leaped up to stand beside her for a third rendition. By that time Jane was not only pounding along on the keyboard, she was making it sound better and better, adjusting the melody in ways Myra would never have considered.

On the fourth singing, all the adults knew the words and were a wild chorus, with the children coming in half a word behind but screaming at delicious turns like poop and buggers. Lucia was wide-eyed and not a whit upset at the volume around her.

On the fifth repetition, Ginny and Margie stood up to create an accompanying dance, which consisted mostly of miming the various actions mentioned. The children swarmed to join them, and reaching around to one's backside to scoop up invisible poop to hurl at someone nearby broke out everywhere in the room. Myra sat down again, letting the mayhem go on without her leadership. She'd done her work.

It became, indeed, the children's anthem. It was not only the most requested song at singing potluck, it was a chorus which often appeared in their play sessions. After picking up Mimi and David at preschool later that week, Jane enlisted Myra and Ginny's help to reinforce rules about Where The Golden Horde Song Could Be Sung, and where it was best kept for family alone. “I meant to warn them not to teach it to the other kids, I just forgot” whispered Jane.

“I can only imagine how popular they were for a while there” responded Ginny, laughing. “I just hope it doesn't make Charlie backslide on the bugger front. He's taking great pride at having a line all about him.”

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


kat said...

As someone who would have to endure the Golden Horde song in my preschool class (you know, if Jane and Gillam totally changed everything about themselves and sent their kids to expensive private school), let me just take this opportunity to flip Myra off!!!!

I hope you're feeling better and are able to get away from the television! Hugs

Maggie Jochild said...

I am doing steadily better, thx. I did watch Fetch as I was waking up (a rerun but I hadn't seen it) and that was fun, kinda makes up for the loss of Zoom, for that age group.

The Golden Horde anthem will eventually appear in one of Myra's kids' books, so it will become as endemic to children everywhere as "greasy grimy gopher guts" and "shotgun shells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg".

kat said...

Thanks...a nice, eye-rolling, sarcastic thanks.

although, hopefully by that time in the future, by fictional self will no longer be suffering the slings and arrows of a day job, and will be a fully music-only musician, so maybe it won't be so bad.

Because if my fictional future self is still working with little kids at that time, you're gonna get it!

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