Thursday, January 8, 2009

GINNY BATES: IMAGINARY PONIES

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

May 2018

Mimi turned four, at a birthday party where her cousins and a couple of kids from First Day School attended. She wept when there was no pony forthcoming, and Ginny's stick horses were not seen by her as consolation until the other children snatched them up and began galloping around. Myra later heard Margie earnestly explaining to her why they could not have a horse in the city, and felt a sense of time messing with itself.

During the latter stages of the party, Allie had pulled Myra aside and said “What we doing this year about going to the Gulf?”

“I don't know. I mean, I'm not even sure how to celebrate my anniversary with Ginny, except perhaps just the two of us going out to dinner. After a session with Nancy, probably” said Myra with a resigned laugh.

“Well, I know Gillam don't want his kids to miss a year, and Jane said that idea you had about hiring a private plane to haul us all was do-able for her. Nine adults plus maybe Frances, and four kids. And all our crap. You still think it's cost effective?”

“I do. And it would be way safer for Jane, wouldn't it? Let me – I'll have to talk to Ginny. The thing is...we're not sleeping together.”

“You mean that literally?”

“Yeah. Not in the same room, even.”

“How come?” Allie's dark eyes were troubled.


“At first, it was just I needed the room to not deal with anything at all. That's not really the case any more, but it feels – weird, to bridge that gap. Especially since sex is definitely out of the question right now.”

“Well, you two could sleep out on the sun porch with Carly and Eric. Give you bed to Margie and Frances, if she come.”

Myra hated that idea. “Look, I'll talk to her tomorrow. Will you make sure it's a go with Gillam and Jane?”

“When I can get them away from little ears, yeah” said Allie.

That night, Ginny and Myra stayed after guests had left to help clean up the wreckage. David had gone to bed chanting “20 days, 20 days”, which is how long it was until his birthday. Gillam said “My version of that is two weeks – two weeks until summer break is here.”

“Amen” said Jane. “What will we do with ourselves next year if we're not having a baby in the warm months?”

“Sleep” said Gillam instantly.

“I'll need to update my certification, may need some more classes” said Jane consideringly. Gillam wiped his forehead wearily and said to Myra “We're going to put Mimi and David both in preschool in September, that Montessori place we told you about. I can drop them off before work and Jane will go get them right before 2:00. I hope they're not disappointed, I doubt it'll be as much fun there as it is at home and the gramma academy of dance and mystery.”

Myra laughed. “There'll be other children to introduce them to the wickedness of the world. They'll revel in it. And Leah and Charlie will have a chance to be the big kids for part of the day.”

On their walk home through the back yards, Ginny said “I had a dream last night about that painting. The unfinished one. I think I know how to get back to it – I'll have to redo a big portion of it. It's never come to me like this before, a considered approach rather than a visionary one. But I want to try.”

“Tomorrow, then” said Myra.

“Have you been writing?”

“No. Only a few occasionals for the blog. But I want to start on the next Seed book – I think I'll call the last child Piñon.”

“Lovely” said Ginny. “Let me know when you have a draft and I can start sketches for a cover.”

They'd reached the awkward part of the evening again. Keller was waiting by the bedroom door on the first floor. Myra hugged Ginny and said “Happy descendant birthday, Bubbe.”

“Back at ya” said Ginny, kissing Myra's cheek. After the door shut, Ginny brushed her teeth and thought about sitting by the pond in the dark for a while. But it looked damp out there. Finally, she trudged upstairs and crawled under her quilt on Myra's daybed. Franklin joined her, restless for a few minutes before he settled down.

Ginny dozed off. Some time later, she woke up suddenly. She tried to clear her mind, and heard the chime of her studio clock indicating it was 11:30. Then she heard an electrical sound. By the time she realized it was the elevator, the doors had closed. She didn't hear footsteps, but suddenly Myra's silhouette was in the doorway to her study, staring her direction.

"Why are you still out here? Why aren't you in our bed?" said Myra.

"It stopped feeling like our bed. I can't sleep in there."

"You've been out here on my daybed ever since -- ?" Myra's voice was gentle.

"Yes." Ginny felt defiant.

Keller yowled down below. "Up here" called Myra. She looked at Ginny, gathering her resolve, then said "I realized tonight, talking with Allie, that I don't want to sleep away from you any more. But – well, you know the limits. If you don't want to..."

Ginny was on her feet in an instant.

"Better grab your pillow, I left mine downstairs" said Myra. Keller had reached her ankles.

"Why did you use the elevator?" said Ginny as she followed Myra.

"My joints are hurting something fierce. I'm getting old, Ginny."

The bedroom smelled odd, musty. Ginny left the door open to air it out. They had not made the bed after the last time they used it. "Should I change the sheets?" asked Myra.

"Not for me."

Keller climbed up the comforter onto on the bed. Myra looked at Ginny apologetically.

Ginny said "It's okay. She waited years get to sleep with you. But Franklin has been my boon companion, I have to let him come in here, too."

"Let's just leave the door open" said Myra.

"We may wake up with six cats in the bed" said Ginny. Her laugh was still cautious.

"It's a big bed, and we'll only take up the middle. There's room" said Myra. She had laid down, and pulled the cover back so Ginny could lie down beside her. Ginny thought about what Nancy had said. She slid under the covers, but pushed close to Myra right away, resting her face on Myra's shoulder. Myra was stiff for a moment, and Ginny wondered if she had gone too far. Then Myra's arms came around her, and her hips relaxed.

Franklin jumped on the bed, with an expression of high interest on his face. "Welcome" said Myra. He found a suitable spot on the foot, at a far angle from Keller up by Myra's pillow.

“Tomorrow, we need to talk about going to the Gulf” said Myra.

“Yeah, I've been thinking about that” said Ginny. “If I'm painting, interrupt me.”

“...Okay” said Myra. Suddenly her body was warm and fluid in a way she'd not felt in weeks. She closed her eyes, aware of Ginny's breath on her neck. She heard Ginny's tempo change and knew she was dropping off, in that rapid way she did. Myra didn't remember anything after that.

The house line rang at 8 the next morning. Ginny rolled over and answered. Myra scooted into the gap and put her arms back around Ginny.

"Hey, Margie. Yeah, I was asleep, but I'm up now, glad to hear from you. Guess who I'm in bed with?...Well, now that I look, it's not just Myra. Franklin, Keller, and get this, Anthea are each claiming a corner of the bed as well...Yeah, too far from the food dishes for her, and Spencer and Olson are each other's entire universe..." Ginny twisted her head and said to Myra "She's offering to make us breakfast."

"Tell her yes if she'll do that eggs florentine dish of hers" said Myra sleepily.

"You heard that?...No, we've got orange walnut muffins...Okay, sweetie." Ginny hung up the phone and said "She'll be here in ten. Myra, you're wheezing.

“Yeah. I have been, lately.”

“Cat dander, I imagine.”

“Well...I'll wash these sheets today and keep Keller out except at bedtime. I don't know if I can do more than that” said Myra.

They lay, spooned and silent, until they heard Margie's voice downstairs calling "Hey, you up yet?"

Laughing, Ginny yelled "Be there in a sec". Then she said "I seriously need to pee."

"Take our bathroom, I'll go to the study pissoir." Myra headed past the stair landing, leaning over to look down on Margie and say "Hi, honey, I'll be right there after I pee."

Margie craned her face up, seeing Myra's red cheeks and grin, and felt her heart lighten. She began sauteeing spinach in a sauce pan.

When Myra rode the elevator down, Ginny was already in the kitchen, wearing pants as well as a shirt, leaning against the counter talking to Margie at the stove. Myra hugged then both and said "I am hungry enough for two."

Margie laughed. "Mom just said the same thing. I'm on it. Warm up some muffins, will you?"

Ginny poured juice and milk. Moving around in the kitchen, she and Myra showed a different physical energy today, their bodies much more at ease with each other.

Dishing up the eggs, Margie took a breath and said "So...you two make love last night?"

Ginny choked on her juice. Myra grinned sadly, handing Ginny a napkin, and said "No. And I never thought I'd ever hear that question from you."

They ate like fieldhands. Margie experienced the joy of seeing others relish her cooking. By the time they were done, all the eggs were gone and only six muffins were left. “I should make more” said Myra. “A snack for when the Horde gets here. I'm going to shower, but leave the dishes, Margie, I'll do them after I start the muffins." She kissed Margie, then Ginny, and got back in the elevator.

When the doors closed, Margie said "What's with the elevator?"

"She says her joints are hurting. And her asthma is aggravated. I'll get her into the doctor eventually. One step at a time” said Ginny.

After showering and dressing, Myra came back downstairs and went into the bedroom where she had been living. She came out carrying her laptop and her briefcase, and set it in the elevator. Then she returned to the bedroom and retrieved her clothes, pillow, and personal items. As she began hauling these to the elevator, Ginny got up and helped her, then punched the up button and stepped back into the kitchen.

Myra set her laptop on her desk and plugged it back in. While it was booting up she emptied her briefcase of papers. She turned on her main PC and began researching private plane charters online. When she heard Ginny come up the stairs, she called to her and said “Can we have the Gulf talk now, instead of later?”

It was smoother than she had anticipated. Ginny said the work they were doing would continue wherever they were, and it was important to everyone's well-being that they do regenerative activity.

“However, I don't want to be there the week of our anniversary” added Ginny. Myra swallowed and said “I don't want to ignore the day. But – I don't want any kind of gathering. It's too strange.”

“Let's have dinner at the Coastal Kitchen, which is a treat and yet still familiar” suggested Ginny. “We can come back and plant seeds for the next round of the summer garden.”

“Oh, that sounds easy” said Myra, relieved. Ginny left to set up her easel and Myra sent an e-mail to the family concerning dates for the Gulf trip. As she heard Ginny go back to the varnish room, she came from her study and said “I'd like to see the painting you started. Before you change it.”

“Are you sure?” Ginny's eyes were wide and pale blue.

“It's okay, Gin.” Myra thought about joking that she didn't have anything in her her hand to throw, but decided that would not be funny.

Once the canvas was on the easel, Myra said “Huh. I can't tell much. You'd been working on it how long?”

“A day, a little over. Yeah, it's all blocking and under layers for the first two days, at least” said Ginny.

“What was I going to be doing?” asked Myra.

“Climbing up from the caldera of a volcano” said Ginny. Myra giggled abruptly.

“Then what is it going to change to?” she asked.

“You'll have to wait” said Ginny. She went to her work table and pulled out pigment grinding stones.

Myra thought about going downstairs to make more muffins and plan activities for the grandkids. But she felt drawn to her desk for the first time in weeks. She returned to its wide surface, cluttered with accumulated mail and Keller fur, and began clearing it. When that was done, she pulled out a legal pad and began making notes for the adventures of Piñon Seed.

Three hours later, she had the story drafted and printed, plus a decent poem written. It was past noon, she realized with a shock. She stretched and walked out to the sunlight of Ginny's studio.

“Damn, this feels good” she said.

Ginny grinned at her, a smear of pale blue on her collarbone. Myra rode the elevator downstairs and made quick avocado-cheese sandwiches. She carried one up to Ginny with a bottle of water and said “I'm ravenous, but I'm going to work out before I eat.” She went to the machine in their bedroom and pushed herself into a solid sweat for half an hour. She started bathwater running while she stripped the bed. She ate while sitting in the tub, dressed, tossed a bundle of laundry down the stairwell, and rode the elevator back down to begin muffins.

The next day, Myra slept in until 10:00. Ginny was gone and her side of the bed was stone cold. Keller was there and chirruped a hello. Myra looked in at the studio and said "Did you have breakfast?"

"....Just tea."

"Are you going to come down and eat with me?"

"....No."

"Okay. You're on your own, then" said Myra. Ginny didn't notice.

After cereal, Myra got out a couple of things from the freezer for dinner, then sat down at her desk to reread the previous night's output, an outline for yet another Skene book. She began writing again and wrote for three hours. When she broke for lunch, she made extra salad and called up to Ginny from the stairwell.

"Hey, Gin! There's food down here."

Ginny finally looked over the railing and said "Not yet."

"Suit yourself."

Myra put the extra salad back in the fridge and went out into the yard to eat. When she was done, she showered, changed, and cleaned the kitchen. Then she walked over to pick up the grandchildren.

Back at the house, they rushed upstairs and thronged Ginny, who was shocked at their arrival. "My god, is it 2:00 already?" she said, looking at Myra.

"Yup."

"Okay, well, I need to clean my brush and, I guess, get cleaned up myself. Did you eat lunch?"

"Yeah. Offered you some."

"Up here?"

"No, Ginny. I ate in the dining room. It's up to you to join me if you wanted to." Myra's tone was casual. Ginny's face looked a little uncertain.

"Are you mad at me?" she asked. Mimi and David got suddenly quiet.

"Not in the least, honey. So, kids, I'm thinking maybe we can go to the Arboretum for Science Day, take the digital camera and collecting bags, and see how much evidence of animal life we can document, how does that sound?" A cheer went up. "Well, we need to wait for Bubbe to get her clothes on so she can go with us. In the meantime, let's assemble our gear."

Ginny went to the bedroom, after giving a second long look at Myra's back. On their way out the front door, Ginny grabbed a power bar and a bottle of water. She was famished and wondered if that's why she felt a little unsteady on her feet.

On their walk in the Arboretum, Ginny began getting a headache and was fighting an urge to crank at the children. Finally she asked if they could go back early, and Myra headed off the children's disappointment by promising they could all help make jello for dinner. At the house, Ginny drank a glass of milk, took some aspirin, and told Myra she needed to grab a half-hour nap.

After forty minutes, Mimi, Leah and David clamored into the bedroom, announcing that her naptime was up and Gramma was feeding Charlie, would she come play with them. When Ginny, still groggy, came down the stairs with her entourage, Myra had Charlie in the high chair and was giving him bites of his early supper in between making dinner for the rest of them. Ginny didn't feel like she could complain about being woken up since Myra was multi-tasking and had been working nonstop all afternoon.

Ginny never did get her energy back, even after eating a huge dinner and sitting down with the children for quiet games around the table instead of romping, while Myra cleaned the kitchen. As soon as the children were dropped off, she said "I'm going back to bed. How about you?"

"Do you want me there to go to sleep?" asked Myra.

"No, I'm going to crash no matter what."

"Then I'll write, and join you later."

"Are you sure you're not upset with me?" asked Ginny.

"Why would I be upset with you, Ginny?" Myra kissed her cheek and walked off to her study.


When Myra came to bed at 11:00, Ginny woke up and rolled into Myra's arms.

"How's your headache?" asked Myra.

"Gone. I think it was blood sugar."

"Sounds about right."

"And I know what happened, Myra. You stopped being my tender today. You left it up to me to take care of myself."

Myra was silent.

Ginny shivered involuntarily. "Be careful of what you ask for, huh."

"I'm not doing this on purpose, Ginny, I'm not trying to prove a point."

"I know. But -- fuck, Myra."

"We'll get through it. We'll find a new method, a new balance."

“New is not always better” said Ginny.

“Out of our control” said Myra, beginning to sound sleepy. She was wheezing again. Ginny rubbed the lung pressure points on Myra's chest for a few minutes, then went to sleep despite the pull of her painting.


© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

2 comments:

Simon The Cat said...

Hey.there's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel,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.ilike it..

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but, you have a photo of one of my ponies!

etsy.com/shop/montanatoycompany

Where did you come across that?