Thursday, February 5, 2009


Viwe of yard throught night vision goggles
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.

(Winter 2018-2019)

Allie and Chris were still there an hour later when Margie walked over with one of Frances' rustic loaves and a bowl of seafood marinara. "Franny said she wasn't sure you'd have fresh bread and, well, we always have marinara" said Margie. "Plus, I wanted to see how you were doing."

"Better, thanks to all your help last night" said Myra. At that moment the doorbell rang and Margie said "I'm up, I'll get it." She returned with a package, setting it before Myra. Myra used the butter knife to open it and said "My night vision goggles!"

"Your what?" asked Allie.

"Myra went shopping as a way of dealing with her sasquatch visitation, before we called Nancy" said Ginny.

"Your what?" repeated Margie. Ginny gave her the short version as Myra installed batteries and tried on her goggles. "It's too bright in here, I can't tell how they'll work" complained Myra, as Margie kept repeating "No way, no way" to Ginny.

Chris said "There's rooms in this house without windows". Ginny interrupted her story to Margie with "The varnishing room, it's pitch black in there when the door's closed and the light is off. Plus there's canvases to look at on the wall racks."

"Let's go" said Chris. Myra pulled off the goggles and said "I don't feel up to the trip, you take 'em. I'll play with them after dark. Wonder when my maple sugar candy will get here?"

"You sure?" asked Ginny, her hands closing gladly around the goggles.

"Yep. I'm going into the living room and use my albuterol machine in there, I haven't had a treatment yet."

"I'll go with you" said Allie. "What else did you buy?"

Margie elected to go with the goggle contingent. "The kids are going to go ape over those" she said.

"Which reminds me" said Ginny, feeling her way upstairs with the goggles on. "Not a word around them about the sasquatch, you hear?"

"Hey, Mom, say 'Resistance is futile'" urged Margie. Ginny said "What do you mean?" as Chris giggled.

As Myra settled into the armchair and Allie was twisting open an ampule of albuterol to put in the face-mask hose, Myra said "I could use talking with you alone for a few minutes."

"Okay. 'Bout the sasquatch thing?"

"No. At least, not directly. No, about -- sex."

Allie got a wary expression on her face. "Whose sex?"

"Mine, and Ginny's. Don't worry, it's not a question about technique."

"Well, you want the drugs or the talk first?" asked Allie.

"I guess the talk, while they're busy upstairs. Here's the deal. Well, first of all, we -- we kinda did it."

"My god, Myra, sometimes you talk like you still in the 50s" said Allie with a nervous laugh.

"But...I can't hack the idea of letting me. It feels like -- I just get so scared, I'm numb" said Myra.

"Oh. Yeah, I know 'bout that" said Allie.

"It doesn't make sense to me, Al. I mean, what hit me hardest about the whole Pat episode is that Ginny didn't know how to say no right away, that she's got -- crap, I guess you'd say, like the rest of us, that makes her vulnerable to -- violation. But I got back to the point of trusting her, of trusting that she's doing the best she can and if she fucks up, we'll figure it out together. It's not my job to do more than be as sure as I possibly can at the moment. You know?"

"Yeah" said Allie.

"So, then, why can't I turn that around on myself?" said Myra.

"Why can't you trust that who you choosing to open the door to is actually trustworthy, that what you asking? Well, that's the million dollar question, Myra."

"It doesn't seem logical that it would go one way but not the other" said Myra.

"Ain't none of it logical" said Allie. "It all lies. You find little hummocks to stand on, in a swamp that stretch to the horizon. Good as it gets."

"I guess I thought I'd drained the swamp" said Myra.

"At least you go someone willing to hop from hummock to hummock with you" said Allie. "Okay, now, I'm gonna turn this thing on."

Myra held the mouthpiece to her face. Margie came back downstairs before she was quite done to say "It may be rude but I'm hungry, can I heat up some of what I just brought over?"

"Yeah" said Myra, lowering her mask for a moment. "We ought to still have good cheese in there. And the garden will have stuff to pick."

"We harvested yesterday for you, it's in the crisper" said Margie. "I'll steam some kale."

When Ginny and Chris came downstairs, they began going through the seeds and berries Ginny had brought back from California.

"Don't plant most of this right away" suggested Chris. "That sage plant rootlet, yes, you'll have to. And maybe a few of the apple seeds, you can let the trees get a head start under your grow light over there until the spring."

Ginny gently dislodged a tablespoon of soil from the baby sage plant and said "Let's check this with my soil testing kit. I'll create a planting mix to match."

"Where are you going to plant apple trees?" said Myra, finishing her treatment.

"Well, that spruce at the front of Margie and Frances' lot looks on its last legs" said Ginny.

"Yeah, but part of the reason why is because there's so much traffic at that corner" said Margie, putting salad on the table.

"We could build a little baffle to help it get a good start, maybe" said Ginny. "The rest of the trees, I know Kip will find people who want them."

"Joanie Appleseed" said Allie.

"Your cat is curled up on the bedding pile outside the bedroom door" Chris said to Myra.

"Poor little reject" said Myra.

Ginny squared off on Myra. "Listen. We can make her a special bed in your study, or buy a cat tree thing like you've always wanted, but she needs to not sleep on our bed any more. You have to have sleep in a clean room. Don't argue with me, Myra. I vacuum and mop this entire fucking house at least twice a week, and I don't mind dealing with the fur because I love these cats, too. But for at least one third of each day, I want you not breathing them in. Your lungs aren't made for it. Franklin will sleep with her, and she's got your study as secure territory."

"I agree with Ginny" said Allie instantly. Chris nodded her head, and Myra said "When did you all hatch this plot?"

"We didn't. It's just great minds thinking alike" said Ginny.

"Okay" said Myra reluctantly. "But I am buying that cat tree. In fact -- "

"Oh god" said Ginny. "You want to build that ledge around the upper perimeter of your study, don't you?"

"A real catwalk" said Myra, her eyes brightening. "With a couple of ramps up and down."

"I'll help you" offered Chris.

"So fur can rain down on her all day, and I get to vacuum overhead" muttered Ginny.

The doorbell rang again. Ginny went to answer it, returning with another package for Myra. "If this is that candy, you need to wait until you're better before pigging out" she said.

"It's not -- this is one of the things I got from eBay" said Myra excitedly. "I wonder -- yay! It's my Honey West doll!"

Margie reached for it across the table. "Wipe your hands first" said Myra.

"My god, this is a velvet catwoman costume she's got on" said Margie.

"Before catwoman" said Myra. "I had the serious hots for Honey West when I was ten years old."

"This doll is 50 years old?" said Ginny. "How much did you pay for it?"

Myra decided not to answer. "Look at this little revolver -- they don't make toys this good any more." She turned to Allie "I found a set of metal Amazon toy soldiers, too, with tiny bows and arrows."

Allie said "Don't you let eBay get they hooks in you again. Speaking of which -- I got that LOLCat you sent."

"What?" exclaimed Ginny and Margie together. Margie said to Ginny, "Remember when we were teenagers and she was making like a dozen a day? I got to where I deleted them from my e-mail as they came in."

"This was a one-time deal" said Myra defensively. "I made it for the grandkids, and I sent Allie a copy because I thought she'd find it funny. And Chris."

"It was hysterical" said Chris. "I bet the humor went over the little ones' heads, however, probably just bummed them out."

At Ginny's raised eyebrows, Myra said "You know that really great head shot of Keller? Well, I captioned it with 'I hate it when I can't see you'."

Ginny burst into laughter. "Utterly twisted, Myra. Did you post that at I Can Has Cheezburgers? They'll ban you."

Myra ate a little kale and marinara dipped into bread with Margie, while Allie took her leave. Chris hung around most of the afternoon, through the grandkids' visit and until nearly dinner. Ginny pulled out her unfinished canvas and decided it could use a night vision inset in one section.

At Halloween, Myra and Ginny walked with the children to go trick-or-treating while Jane and Gillam went out to an adult party. Myra let the kids have so much candy that getting them to bed was a nightmare of meltdowns and false starts. On Dia de Los Muertos, Myra helped the kids make sugar skulls, with Ginny saying “Why is it you can't learn not to stoke them up?” They pitched a tent by the pet cemetery, blew up air mattresses and Myra slept out there with the four oldest children, keeping candles lit on the graves and telling ghost stories.

In mid November, Myra had a series of readings at Seattle bookstores promoting the Seed books, with Ginny and Allie also guests of honor, but the evenings were stolen by the appearance of the grandkids, each of whom thrilled to the fame of being associated with their respective literary characters. An article with photographs appeared in the local paper, giving Mimi and David a swollen head for the week at their preschool.

Eric got promoted to a management position in his occupational therapy department, and he began taking a course one night a week in small business management for the day when he and Carly could open their own clinic. The week before Thanksgiving, Frances and Margie had a joint birthday party at their house. The older crowd attended but were overwhelmed by the numbers and noise fairly rapidly.

In mid December, Margie's, the new Galveston restaurant, opened to immediate success. Frances insisted the lunch service include an at-cost pasta dish with open-air tables in the covered parking area below, feeding a steady number of homeless and unemployed people each day with homemade food. She set up a donation jar by the register for paying dinner patrons to contribute to this effort, and eventually was able to offer the lunch meals for free.

During the late winter and spring, Sima audited a class at U-Dub on the history of Communism in the Jewish community of the U.S., especially focused on the phenomenon of Red Diaper babies and their contribution to later social movements. It was taught by a lesbian professor named Susan Levy who was visiting for the year from Harvard. This class and what she was learning there soon dominated Sima's conversations. Her face was animated, her energy higher than it had been in a long while. Ginny loved the change in her, and even went with her to one class. The professor clearly doted on Sima and funneled questions her way.

Chris, in the meantime, was increasingly absorbed with Seven Drums training, frequently traveling as far away as Idaho and Northern California. When Chris was out of town, usually Sima did not come to Friday night dinners, either. Myra began to miss them both, and tried to make alone or couple dates with them, but this was not working out as often as she'd like.

Since Ms. Schevitz had died, Myra had continued paying for a Christmas day buffet at the assisted living center where Ms. Schevitz had lived, a residence of about 50 people plus staff. This year, she and the grandchildren made extra cookies, cakes and pies to supply the center, and she hired two of Frances's kitchen crew to do the catering for extra money. She and Ginny decided to take the grandchildren for a visit there on Christmas Day. Once that was arranged, she and Ginny bought a gift for each of the residents and staff, then helped the children wrap them. Jane prepared a concert of Christmas songs, Ginny coached the children in dances some of the residents could do, and Myra took her Seed books to read aloud. That afternoon was enormous fun, and Gillam asked they repeat it each year: “It will do the kids good to give as much as they get” he said.

They also continued the tradition begun when Margie was a baby of going out to feed wild animals and birds in nearby parks after gifts were opened. This year, a heavy snowfall on Christmas Eve made this outing a frolic. Margie put coats and booties on the slender greyhounds so they could go as well, whining on their leashes at the tempting flocks of birds who arrived to feast on sunflower seeds and cracked corn.

The day after Christmas, as they were waking up, Myra said "Gin, I need to ask you something. Are you not approaching me for lovemaking as often as you'd like to? Are you holding back?"

Ginny rolled over and looked into Myra's face from a couple of inches away. "Yeah. I think I am."


Ginny thought for a minute. "We're not being us, with this one-way dynamic. We've always been so -- enthusiastically equal about going after each other. At least half the pleasure for me is making love to you. I'm just honestly answering your question here, sweetheart, I'm not trying to put pressure on you."

Myra's face was deeply sad. "I don't like this change any more than you do."

"I know that."

"I wish you'd keep asking like you used to."

"The hesitation has become automatic. I mean, I'll see, but -- lots of the time, what I want most is what we can't do."

Hesitation was contagious. Myra had to push the next words out of her mouth: "Do you want me right now?"

"I do." Ginny put her thigh over Myra's and exhaled in sweet pleasure as Myra began kissing her.

Gillam turned 28 with the New Year, entering his Saturn cycle, Myra said. Ginny turned 63 just over a month later. She had a show planned for April, but when they had filed their taxes in early January, her income for the previous year had been much less than usual: She simply hadn't done enough paintings. She and Myra decided to begin drawing on their retirement fund, a partial pension. Sima and Chris were already on Social Security plus the pensions Myra and Allie had set up for them and paid into the last three decades.

The first week in March, Ginny went out to lunch with Sima alone at Sima's request. After they had ordered, Sima said, fidgeting with her napkin, "I need to confide in you. I don't have anyone else to talk with this about."

"Okay" said Ginny. "Is something wrong?"

"Yes, and also no. Very much no." Sima was smiling in an odd way. "You know Susan, my instructor?"

Ginny nodded.

"I'm...I think I've fallen in love with her."

Ginny sat back in her chair, shocked to the core. "You're kidding -- right? Oh, no, Sima, how can that be?"

"We have so much in common, Ginny, and I feel alive and young again around her. She brings out parts of me I'd forgotten. It just happened."

"What about Chris?"

"I love Chris, nothing's changed there. But she's so preoccupied with her spiritual path, for years now. And she's -- she's always in recovery, got a tight line she's walking. I never realized before how tight it was."

Their food arrived, but Ginny didn't even want to look at it. This was terrible news, no matter the luminous look on Sima's face.

"Does Chris know? For that matter, what about Susan, is she in love with you too?"

"We haven't talked directly -- I mean, me and Susan -- but I'm pretty sure...We almost kissed last week, I think. I have to talk with Chris, but I don't want to until I can figure things out with Susan. You can't tell Myra about this, Ginny. This is just between you and me."

Ginny stared at her. "Of course I have to tell Myra, Sima, I can't keep secrets from her, especially now. Especially about sex and infidelity. Surely you knew that. And for that matter, Chris is my friend too, what did you think, that I would help keep this from her as well? You can't wait to tell her until you've landed Susan, that's -- reprehensible. I can't believe you're even suggesting it. I don't understand how you can treat Chris this way. For that matter, I can't understand why you'd do this to yourself. Susan must be twenty years younger than you, she lives in another state, and you're married, doesn't she know that?"

Sima was extremely upset by Ginny's reaction, she could tell. "Don't you dare go running to Chris, you or Myra."

"Well, then, you have to tell her yourself."

"I'm not ready..."

"Get ready. Myra is planning to see her in two days, you need to tell her before then."

"You're completely out of line, Ginny. You don't have any right to meddle in my business."

"You made it my business by telling me, involving me. I won't be part of hurting Chris by silence, I just won't, Sima. I'm not Susan, playing games with you."

"You don't have any fucking idea what Susan is like, don't you talk about her that way. This is not you and Myra, this is not you cheating on her with your best friend's partner, and don't try to get all moral and righteous with me, Ginny!"

People nearby in the restaurant were starting to look their way. Ginny wanted to shout at Sima, but deliberately lowered her voice.

"This is a godawful mess, Sima. It's not my mess, it's yours. It's not too late for you to do the right thing, here. Think about what you're doing. You and Chris have been together over 30 years, my god, how can you rupture that kind of trust and history?"

"Chris and I don't have the romantic fairy-tale illusions that you and Myra have" Sima all but hissed. "And I know damned well that part of what you're freaking out about, aside from how Myra will associate this with you, is also that you're scared if Chris is free, Myra will finally get a chance to light that torch she's been carrying for her all this time. Look to your own house, Ginny, and quit making judgments about mine!"

Sima stood up and left the restaurant. Ginny couldn't think coherently for a few minutes. The waiter appearing at her side returned her to the moment. She said "I need to pay the check" and he presented it immediately. She tossed money on the table and walked to her car. She was furious and terrified at the same time. She wanted to go talk with Allie and Edwina, or see if Nancy was available, or even Margie -- anyone but Myra. Instead, she drove home and went directly to Myra's desk.

"You're back early, aren't you?" said Myra, looking at her clock. Then she looked again at Ginny's face and put down her pen.

"I have to tell you something" said Ginny. Myra's blood turned cold. Ginny pulled over a chair and took Myra's hands.

"Sima is planning to leave Chris. She says she's fallen in love with that goddamned professor of hers."

Myra had a one-two punch of relief that it wasn't about her and Ginny, then the crushing reality of who it was about.

Ginny recounted the entire conversation as best she could, including the final comment about Myra and Chris. When she was done, she wanted Myra to reassure her. But Myra didn't know what to say; she didn't even know how to take this all in.

"Has she lost her mind?" she finally whispered. "Is this about sex, at her age?"

"She's our age, Myra, you tell me." Ginny was hanging by a thread.

Myra looked at her, meeting her eyes. That was a help.

"I'd never do what she's doing" Myra said. "I'll never be in love with anybody but you. It's an easy promise to keep, because I keep feeling it, but even if wasn't, I'd keep it. And no, I'm not secretly hankering after Chris. I do love her with all my heart, and at this moment, I'd do just about anything to keep this from happening to her. Can we -- if I talk with Sima, can we stop this?"

Ginny could breathe again. "I don't think so. Seems like it's -- she's not listening to me, and I think she'll listen to you even less. Oh, hell, Myra." Finally Ginny was able to cry. She got up and sat in Myra's lap. Myra pressed her face against Ginny's chest and let her cry.

"I can't give her two days to let Chris dangle this way. I know you offered her that, but I can't" said Myra.

"Oh, god, what are we going to do?"

"We're okay, Ginny. We've got hard work for us right now, I know, and we're not back to where we once were, but we're solid enough. And we have to help them. Sima, as much as she'll let us, and Chris -- this could threaten her sobriety. This could -- I don't know how she's going to deal with this, I really don't. But we have to keep her safe. Allie'll help. We can do this a piece at a time."

Ginny kissed Myra, still weeping, and Myra kissed her back. After a while, Myra said "Okay. What to do first. No, stay here, I want you on me like this. I guess I have to call Sima and tell her I can't cover for her. Try to get her to talk with me. Then -- Allie. Does that make sense to you?"

"Yeah. I want to see Nancy, too, and offer for either or both of them to see her."

"Good. Can you and I go together to Nancy, or do you need a solo session?"

"I'd love to go with you, Myra. Oh, honey, I was so scared to come home and tell you."

Myra looked into her face again. "I guess you were. See, we really are doing okay, if you ignored the fear and came straight to me." They kissed again.

Ginny said "Have you had lunch?"

"No, I was writing. I need something to eat, though. My body feels weak with -- grief, I guess it is."

"I didn't eat, either. I'll make us something, but will you come in the kitchen with me to make your calls?"

"Let's go."

Sima didn't answer her phone, and Myra couldn't think of a message to leave that Chris would be okay to hear. She did get through to Allie. She told her the news, and Allie said she and Edwina would come right over. Then Myra called Jane and told her they wouldn't be able to take the grandchildren that afternoon.

Ginny doubled the Cobb salad she was making. She put on a pot of tea, and set out sugar and milk -- both seemed like a good idea at the moment. Myra went to the freezer, got out a black cherry pie and set it to bake as well. Comfort measures.

Allie looked old when she arrived. The four of them talked throughout lunch. None of them could think of a plan, or even something to say to Sima, that would fix things. It was like being tied to the post of a pier, watching the tide come in. Myra asked "Do we know where Chris is right now?"

"She's in town, because I'm supposed to see her tonight" said Allie.

"You want me to join you?"


Myra leaned back and grabbed the phone from the counter, tried to call Sima again. Still going directly into voice mail. Eating hadn't really helped her energy level; she still felt weak.

Allie watched her for a moment, then said "How are you two? Is this -- are you talking? To each other?"

Ginny reached and put her hand over Allie's. "Yes. We're connected. You know, we never ask you and Edwina how you two are doing. Shouldn't be that way, that only the...troubled relationships get all the attention."

Myra closed her eyes briefly at that word, troubled, but opened them again to focus on Allie and Edwina.

Edwina said "It's been painful to me, individually, to see -- you and Myra, see how much you've suffered. And now this. But when I'm in Allie's arms, it's just me and her."

Allie leaned sideways against her, grinning for the first time since they'd arrived.

Myra picked at a bit of pie crust. "Allie...I got a question that may make you mad."

"Out with it, then."

"Are you worried that this may push Chris into -- are you worried about her going off the wagon?"

Allie's black eyes got flatter. Her long, strong hands, now with a fine network of wrinkles over their backs, adjusted the silverware on her plate. She said "No. I'm not worried. There's some of us who move beyond that, after enough time. We change, we completely change. Honestly...I don't think I'm an alcoholic any more. Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I can't remember the last time I wanted to drink in any way. And I know that's true for Chris, too."

Myra nodded in relief. "Sometimes time is on our side."

Ginny suddenly ached to be on Myra's lap. Instead, she stood up and began clearing the table. Myra went to help her. They were in the kitchen, Allie and Edwina holding hands at the table, when the front door swung open and slammed against the wall. Chris stood there, wild-eyed, her bone-white hair loose and a little tangled.

Myra reached her first. Chris was wooden, couldn't seem to feel Myra's arms around her. Myra got her to the couch and sitting. Allie pulled up the hassock and sat in front of Chris, and Ginny got on the other side of her. Chris kept breathing in big gasps.

"Do -- you know?"

"Yes, that's why we're all here, trying to figure out what to do. What did she tell you, Chris?" said Myra.

"She's in love with someone else. She said she still loves me, but not that way any more, not enough. She wants to be with someone else." Chris's voice was high with disbelief.

"She said that definitely?" asked Ginny.

Chris looked at her. "Yes. Do you think she doesn't mean it? Did she say something different to you?"

"No, oh god, Chris, no. I was just hoping..." Ginny kissed her cheek. Chris was still unbending, unnoticing.

"I don't know what to do" said Chris, bewildered.

"You don't have to know" said Allie. "You with us."

Chris looked at her, then Myra. "Don't let them lock me up again." Her voice was begging.

"Never" swore Myra. "Never, never, never. No matter what."

Chris began making long ragged sounds then, almost like crying but there were no tears. She lay her head on Myra's shoulder and gripped Allie's hand, drawing in long breaths to force out another sound. After a couple of minutes, Ginny motioned to Edwina and stood up, saying quietly "You take my place. I've got to go find Sima and see if she's all right."

But Chris's car was parked behind theirs, jutting out in the street. Ginny went back in and Myra coaxed Chris's keys out of her pocket. Ginny reparked her car and returned the keys to the house. As she was getting into her car, Margie came up the driveway from her house.

"Looks like a party" she remarked.

Ginny sat with her door open and reached her hand to Margie. She told her what was going on.

Margie leaned heavily on the roof. "Oh god, Mama. I'm not old enough to handle all this. I'm sorry, I shouldn't say that to you -- "

"No, I feel the same way. And I'm your mother, I'll always want to hear how you're doing. I mean, if I'm in my right mind..."

"Do you want someone to go with you to see Sima?"

Ginny looked at her beseechingly. "Is that really okay to ask of you? I mean, yes, I really really want you with me."

Margie walked around to the passenger side and got in. "Bates women on the move" she said. Ginny backed out of the driveway and headed for Sima's.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

Jesse Wendel said...

I'm happy for our story leads.

I'm sad for our supporting characters.

What an absolutely shitty thing to do to a relationship after 30 years.

This is why we have friends. This is why we have family. We all have issues and crap which comes up. However FAMILY COMES FIRST. We don't abandon our family for, pardon me, some piece of young ass, just because it makes us feel good to look at her across the room. That is what children do. Ain't none of us children any more.

Worse, all this crap was just in her goddamn HEAD, mostly, till she decided to act on it. Child-like teenage bullshit.

I so so so so HATE protracted teenage bullshit. At least teenagers have an excuse -- they are teenagers. But people in their thirties and forties don't get a break from me on those grounds. Other grounds perhaps, but not on the grounds of that they simply haven't grown up.

This is bullshit, all the way down.

My heart and love to Chris.

Earlier today I was speaking with my mother. THIS, I was saying -- without having read this section -- is why we have friends. So when the crap hits the rotating thingy as we get older, someone will be there to share with in good and bad times. Friends, family... in the end, they and the difference one makes in the world, are what matters.