Friday, February 27, 2009


(Raven puppet created by Paul Jomain.)

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 breakfast, Allie said “What's your plan for today?”

“I have to call Tina and Ricky” said Chris. “Ricky will be at work, but I can reach Tina. I don't have a current phone number for my other nephew, he's in Couer d'Alene on a new job, but he's not much for phone conversation anyhow. And – I need to talk with you all about money.”

Myra put down the napkins she was folding and said slowly “If you seriously try to say something about paying us back, Kash-Kash, cancer or not, I might have to kick your ass.”

Edwina was startled, but Chris laughed almost normally. “You think you can maybe take me now, huh? No, I've given up on settling our accounts. I'm going to assume even-steven from here on out.”

Which made Myra's stomach clench up again. She saw Allie get very still.

“No, I mean about what I'll be leaving behind. I already changed my will, before the surgery, cutting Sima out and leaving my insurance to Tina and the boys. It's a good amount. But, now that I'm not going to use the trust fund you all set up for my old age, well, that's a big chunk of silver. And – well, let me begin with, if Sima winds up out on her ass, which she will be eventually, are you going to make sure she doesn't fall through the cracks?”

Edwina's mouth looked like it was ready to throw Sima to the wolves. Ginny, however, immediately said “I won't let her wind up homeless or in an institution, you can count on that.”

“I don't feel like leaving her money” said Chris. “Not when my gut says part of what appealed to her about the professor was all that middle-class stability. We polished nickels together, me and Sima. I don't appreciate having that experience discarded once I'd finally retired.”

Myra was suddenly very glad Chris had written the letter she had to Sima, no matter what its current repercussions.

After swallowing a couple of times, Chris said “I'm thinking about transferring my trust to Lucia.”

Myra was startled. “She's – we've got her education covered, Chris. All of their education, no matter where they want to go or what kind of degrees they seek. And her health care is also guaranteed. Gillam's job doesn't pay much but his benefits plan is great.”

“I mean after she's grown. I have the feeling she may not ever really be able to work for a living. Or that she'd find it very difficult. If I set it up to kick in when she's out on her own, say in her early 20s, by that time it will have accumulated another 20 years of interest. I haven't done the math, but I bet it will cover her for decades. In addition to whatever comes from the rest of the family, of course – I know none of you will leave her hard up. I'd like to be the one who gives her a chance to just study patterns or whatever when she's independent. I'd like her to know I did that for her.”

Myra thought if she tried to speak, she'd cry. Ginny said in a husky voice “You're right, it will mean something in particular to her, coming from you. But I know there are other places that could use money -- “

“I want a personal legacy” said Chris.

“My god, you've got one already, in triplicate” burst out Allie.

“I want this one” argued Chris. She turned her eyes on Myra.

“I get it” said Myra. “We should do it right away, before doctors and health care weasels try to suck you dry as you go.” Chris laughed again.

“The other thing I wanted to talk with you all about is Thanksgiving. I don't really want to face those folks and try to explain about – everything. I'm wondering if, this year, we could pay the shelter to hire folks to do all the cooking and serving we usually do. And we can just stay home. Would that be disappointing to you?”

“Not in the least” said Edwina. “It'll mean a lot more time to rest and to be with each other.” Everyone else nodded. Ginny said “Cathy's already got a flight booked, she was planning to spend four days with us.”

“Great” said Chris. “I'd like to invite my niece and nephews as well.”

“Go for it” said Myra. “We'll get B&B rooms in the neighborhood if they don't want to crash in one of our houses.”

Chris leaned back in her chair. “I'm tired again. I think for now I want to go sit by the pond. Then I'll come in and make calls, appointments, TCB. What is it today, Wednesday? That's Puppet Day, right?”

“Or it could be Goodwill Day, since we missed it yesterday” said Ginny. “I can take them out of the house if you need to rest -- “

“No, I want to see 'em” said Chris. “Can we concoct a raven puppet, you think? Out of a black sock, maybe?”

“I have some silk feathers we can dye black with shoe polish” said Ginny, her eyes lighting up. “And we could make a beak out of PVC, paint it, too.”

“You going to perform one of your Craven Raven stories?” said Allie, leaning forward.

“I thought I might.”

Allie looked at Myra. “You need to videotape it. Chris, I keep telling you, those tales would make one hell of a book, and...” Her voice trailed off.

Chris grinned in a brittle way. “Better preserve it while we can, huh. All right, I won't give you shit about that.”

Edwina said quietly to Allie, “Honey, I need to go home for a part of today, I've got calls -- “

Allie looked torn. Ginny said “Come back for dinner. We can show the puppet video after.”

“Don't you start making Craven Raven sketches without me” Allie said to Ginny.

“Well, I can't control what my charcoal does, you know that” Ginny replied, not entirely joking.

Chris stood, retrieving her buffalo robe from the nearby cupboard. “See you later” she said, easing herself down the step outside the back door by leaning on the facing.

“There's ice on the grass out there” said Edwina. “I worry about her and pneumonia.”

“That robe is unbelievably warm” said Allie. “She and Sima didn't go in much for heated rooms, either.”

Myra looked at Ginny. “Are you going to call Sima back, give her more info?”

“I'll wait on her” said Ginny “She made a move, sending that necklace. She'll call eventually.”

Every hour counts now thought Myra. She stood and said “Well, I'm doing laundry and starting a soup with shin bones. Then maybe a nap before the Horde arrives. I didn't sleep well.”

Allie and Edwina hugged her tightly before leaving. Ginny said “We have an appointment tomorrow at 10:00 with Nancy, she left a message.”

“Praise Ishtar” said Myra. She leaned her head briefly on Ginny's shoulder before going to strip bed linen.

When she returned to the kitchen, Ginny was making a broccoli rice casserole. She asked Myra “Does Chris eat prunes, I can't remember.”

“I don't know. I hate them” said Myra. “You're not putting them in that dish, are you?”

“No, it's just for future reference.” Myra made the connection, then. Chris was missing a section of bowel, and narcotics were notoriously constipating. She didn't want to think about it for a while. She focused on setting the frozen shin bones to thaw in a mix of red wine, lemon juice, and beef stock.

“Myra...I woke up with a painting in my head” said Ginny.

“Good for you. I guess I can handle Puppet Day on my own” said Myra, feeling weary already.

“No, I want to do that with them, and Chris. In fact, if you want to bow out -- “ said Ginny.

“I feel overwhelmed, Ginny” said Myra.

“I can tell. We have to do this a piece of a day at a time, honey. But about the painting – it's of Chris. Do you think I need to ask her consent?”

“Why now? You've never painted her before, have you?” said Myra. She wanted to ask what Ginny saw in her head.

“No, just a few sketches here and there. You're right, I shouldn't make an exception to my usual process. I just don't want her to feel -- “

“Memorialized before she's dead?” There, that word was out in the open. A long silence hung in the room as Ginny chopped broccoli.

“Edwina told me that Allie is pretty bad with the issue of death and dying” said Ginny. “She said she freezes up and can't access her emotions, then starts acting out.”

Myra turned to look at Ginny. “Really? I wouldn't have thought – well, she did go off the deep end when her father suicided, but I assumed that was other stuff. And she did okay when her mom died -- “

“Edwina said they had to get a lot of therapy, together and Allie on her own, to get through that period. Right near the beginning of their relationship. She said Chris knows this isn't Allie's strong suit. That's why she's counting on you, mostly. But it won't be you alone, Myra, not ever. I'll be right beside you. You keep that in mind” said Ginny.

“What if – what if we have to give her a shot, or pull a plug?” said Myra, faltering. “I'm not sure -- “

“I'll do it, then” said Ginny, coming to put her arms around Myra. “If you don't want to be that person, honestly, I will. I love her in a different way than you do.”

“I can't really imagine how I'm going to do any of this. Except you're right, one step at a time.” Myra let her body shake a few minutes in Ginny's embrace. They pulled apart when they heard the back door latch.

Chris's cheeks were bright red. “Smells like snow out there” she said happily.

“We sure do come from different parallels of latitude” said Myra. She touched Chris's face and said “Do we need to turn on the heaters under the avocado and herb canopies?”

“I just did it” said Chris. “I fed the fish early, too. Listen, Ginny, instead of PVC for the raven beak, how about bamboo?” They began discussing puppet-making. Myra went to transfer a load of wet sheets to a dryer before heading for her desk to do research on end-of-life questions.

At 3:00, the Horde arrived with their usual chaos. Jane left immediately because she had a music student waiting at her piano. Myra stopped Lucia in a dash across the room and said “Hold on, your shoe's untied.” She swung Lucia up to the counter and swiftly tied her shoe without a lesson this time, then said “All right, bobs yer uncle” as she lifted Lucia back to the floor.

“No!” Lucia shouted at her.

“No what? You don't want to get back on the floor?”

“No Uncle Bob!” Lucia's face was becoming red with fury.

“What are you – oh. What I said doesn't mean you have an uncle named Bob, it -- “

“Take it back!” screamed Lucia. “You lie, Bob is not my uncle!”

“I wasn't lying, Luch, it – all right, all right, I take it back” Myra retreated. Ginny appeared and squatted in front of Lucia, saying “Remember how we talked about lies, jokes, and slang? How to tell the difference?” She embarked on a patient explanation.

Myra walked away, remarking to Chris “Literal Lucia.” She saw Lucia glaring at her and said “That's not a nickname, it's an adjective.” In a lower voice she said to Chris “She never bitches when you call her 'Namesake'.”

“She knows what namesake means. It's a honor” said Chris.

“I have five names” said Lucia over Ginny's attempted discussion, aiming it at Myra's back. “Lucia Christina Allene Rebekah Rose. I named for five aunts.”

“How come she gets named for all those aunts?” asked Charlie jealously.

“You all got named for people your parents loved and respected” said Myra. “Charlie, you're named not just for an uncle but also your father, a major honor. Mimi has her mother and grandmother's name, David has his grandfathers' names, and Leah -- “

Leah interrupted smugly “I got the best, I'm named for you and Bubbe.”

“Nobody's is the best” countered Myra. “You all received equally strong, important family names, but your mommy and daddy cleverly figured out how to make sure what you got called is unique, so when we say Charlie or Leah, we think of you first, not who you might be named after.”

Lucia said stubbornly “I have five names, and a song.”

Myra threw up her hands. “Fine, duke it out, wiseacres.” She went to the elevator and pushed the “Door Close” button before any child could appear for a ride up with her. But as she walked to her study, she heard Leah calling up the airwell “Gramma? Gramma, can I come read with you?”

Myra leaned over the railing to look down into her lovely face. “Not right now, sweetie. I need some time to think.” Leah looked like Myra had spit on her. She heard Ginny saying “All right, everyone, grab the puppets you want to use today”, and Leah moved dejectedly out of view.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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