Monday, February 2, 2009


Sumeg Village House, Patrick's Point, California (Sumeg Village House, Patrick's Point, California)

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.

Late October 2018

Myra began laughing. She and Ginny looked at each other without hurry. Myra had always been someone who preferred to keep her eyes open when kissing, but she could remember, before Ginny, this was almost always colored by fear. With Ginny, it was joy, the kind of anticipation before opening a present from your oldest friend, sure it was going to be a good one.

Ginny closed the gap slowly. As her mouth met Myra's, she made a sound of appreciation, as if tasting an extraordinary food, and breathed out slightly. Myra found herself literally dizzy with desire. Without remembering how it came to be, Myra found she was lying on the couch with Ginny full on top of her, their thighs between each other's knees, making out with abandon and a lifetime of practice.

Myra found she was not worried about the boundary that existed at the moment. She knew neither of them would cross it without prior communication. Kissing was its own universe, and they went on for a pile-up of minutes, stopping to catch their breath, laugh, and take in another look at their illuminated faces.

During one pause, when Ginny had her head on Myra's shoulder, she asked “I can see the connection between – well, the symbolism of your bigfoot terror and – sexual violation. Why it might have come up. But Nancy pretty much hinted that you'd made a decision to bust through, here and now. I keep wondering what pushed you over the edge into that decision.”

“Huh” said Myra. She thought for a minute. Ginny leaned her elbows on Myra's shoulders to look at her from a non-blurry distance.

“Those grandkids, Gin...It's not like our own kids. I figure we'll last until they're young adults, but that's probably it. I feel like I'm pouring the equivalent of concentrated nourishment into them, a version of me that will have to last the rest of their lives.” She stopped to think again.

“I know what you mean, Myra. This is not to knock our kids, whom I think are the finest humans who ever walked the planet. But this next generation – they're not going to be content with being good citizens. I think those five, each in their own way, will be leaders, artists, malcontents – they're going to be like us. I worry for them, and I'm also happy for them.”

“I guess that's part of why I'm encouraging them to try on the role of heroes” said Myra.

“And why I'm teaching them to dance. Emma Goldman, you know” grinned Ginny.

“So...they kinda suck us dry. And if it's not them, it's the rest of the family and of course our respective siren calls of creativity. I often feel like I'm putting out a sliver more than I'm taking in. I don't talk about it because how can I compare myself to Jane and Gillam, the overwhelming burden they carry every day?” said Myra.

“Each generation builds on the extra handed them from the one before, if they were lucky enough to get extra” said Ginny. “They're doing all right.”

“But we began with me and you, Gin. Well, and our friends. And being out of that house, away from the Compound” Myra winked at Ginny, “It helps me get back to bedrock. We really do need to leave town more often.”

“You know, I heard Jane talking with Margie about those monthly camping trips they take the kids on. She said it was wonderful how the children have so many adults who play with them, who give themselves permission to play. Margie said she looked forward to it as much as when she was four or five. But Jane said even so, playing with adults imposed a structure on children that they don't experience with each other. I winced at that, because I know it's true. And she said she and Gillam believe one of the chief perils of modern life is our dissociation from the unknowable complexity of nature, the impact simply exploring wilderness through play has on our developing brains. She sees it as a form of deprivation. So they're trying to make sure their kids don't have that deprivation.”

Myra said sadly “We didn't quite pull that off with ours. We gave them nature, but not wilderness. I did have that, growing up. Jane's right.”

“No regrets, Myra. Anyhow, here we are, letting wilderness do its thang on us” said Ginny.

“In our own messy way” agreed Myra. They resumed kissing.

After another half hour, they reached a point of temporary satisfaction. They lay in silence for a while. Then Ginny asked "What shall we do now? Are you going to write some more?"

"Not unless you're going to paint" said Myra. "I like being here on the couch with you. We could read aloud to each other."

Ginny's eyes sparkled. "We haven't done that in ages. What books did you bring with you this trip?"

"Well, there's that new Shackleton bio."

"No" said Ginny instantly.

"The last Martha Grimes mystery, but I'm almost at the end of that. An N. Scott Momaday I somehow missed way back when, but I'm well into it and it's cumulative. A collection of Sharon Olds' poetry -- not ideal for the cabin-bound. What do you have?" said Myra.

"The letters of Berenice Abbott, but it helps to know her oeuvre the way I do. Oh, I know, I have a compilation of Carolyn Gage's one-acts, we could act those out with each other!"

"Perfect" said Myra. Ginny went upstairs to get the book, bringing back wool caps for them both, while Myra retrieved her glasses from the small table. They swapped dramatic readings, with much making out and laughter, until almost 8:00.

"I'm hungry again" said Myra.

"There's enough soup left for a second meal" said Ginny.

"With a bacon sandwich" said Myra. "I'll make you a toasted crab bun with cheese."

"Deal" said Ginny. As they stood from the couch, Myra said "Damn. It's even colder now."

"Yeah, when I went up, I turned on the gas heaters in the bathroom and our bedroom, shut the doors. I don't think there's any insulation in this roof but maybe it'll keep the damp from settling into the sheets" said Ginny.

"No wonder this place sits empty during the winter" said Myra. "We should've asked the woman who rents it out more questions, I guess."

They ate by the fire. When they were done, Myra said "Oh, crap, I forgot to send the grandkids an e-mail today."

"I'll help, we'll make it extra big and it'll be there in the morning" said Ginny. They collaborated on a visual treasure hunt game involving various downloaded photos of their ramblings thus far and sent it off. Myra glanced through her e-mail and said "I should write Mai back."

"Go ahead. I'm going to check on my canvas, see if there's any way I can work in this room temp" said Ginny. With a final kiss, they parted, and didn't notice their immersion until midnight, when the fire had died enough to make Myra's hands start to cramp from the cold. They went to share a bath in a room filled with choking heat at eye level, nasty drafts from the knees on down. As they climbed into bed, Ginny still in her spaghetti-strap shirt and Myra in a tee, Myra said "Turn off the gas heater, if I sleep in these fumes I'll get a sinus headache."

"I'll keep you warm" said Ginny with a grin. They kissed again until Myra felt sweaty from desire. She thought briefly about all creatures in the woods on a night like this, but no fear leaped out of the corner. Surprising herself, she went to sleep without a pause.

She woke again at dawn. She didn't think the rain had stopped once all night. Somehow, during her sleep, Ginny had shrugged out of the spaghetti-strap shirt. Her breasts were mashed against Myra's side. Myra wanted to touch them, and tried to distract herself with thinking about the Humboldt current, the whales migrating a few miles away and what they might be seeing in the cold upwelling darkness, but it didn't work.

After a minute, Ginny said “You awake?”


“You're putting off lovely heat.”

“Gin...You can say no, let me begin with that.” Ginny rolled so she could see Myra's eyes, her asymmetrical eyebrows raised.

“I know it doesn't make sense, but I'm – I can't see my way clear to letting you make love to me” began Myra.

“I know, Myra. It's all right, we're fine.”

“No, wait. What I want to say is – if you think it's not going to fuck up our balance – I want to make love to you. One way. I know that's not our style, and you'll have to have faith it won't be that way forever. But I can't tell you when it would shift, either.”

They stared at each other. Myra's heartbeat was loud and liquid in her ears. Ginny's face slowly took on a smile. “I won't get all grabby, but you have to take off that t-shirt” Ginny said. “And that ridiculous wool hat. Here, let me help.”

The morning light coming through rain-soaked windows was itself pale blue, it seemed to Myra, marking out the blue and green veins in Ginny's breasts and setting the dark rose of her nipples into higher contrast. Her skin was both softer and thinner feeling than it had been decades ago. Gravity had definitely had its way. Myra closed her eyes momentarily against the well of gratitude she felt at knowing this woman, this body, this love.

She gathered the weight of Ginny's right breast into her palms, lifting it gently and nuzzling underneath. Ginny leaned toward her, her hands light on the crown of Myra's head. Myra traced the tip of her tongue around Ginny's areola, then lowered her open mouth over the nipple, letting her tongue wash in all directions before she began lightly sucking. Ginny's responding cry was sharp.

After all this waiting, Myra paradoxically felt no rush. She took her time with one breast, the nearby underarm, the ribs below, Ginny's collarbone and nape, before moving to the other side, then back again. Ginny kept moaning and saying her name, and sometimes Myra would move upward to kiss her mouth again, replying “My Ginny, my darling”.

She wanted to go down on Ginny, but stopped first to explore Ginny's belly, the rucks and puckers which proved she had borne children, stretch topography which was even silkier and more fragile than the rest of Ginny's skin. When she went back up for a final kiss after this, Ginny rolled half onto Myra, her legs spread, and Myra could feel the hot soak against her thigh. She could not help but move one hand down into it, and when Ginny arched against her the way she always did when Myra first touched her vulva, Myra could not help but keep stroking up and down this other woman's folds she knew better than her own.

Ginny began repeating “oh god, oh god yes”, and Myra used all four fingers to explore the terrain up and down, right and left, trying to slow Ginny's galloping need. Ginny's eyes were unfocused and dark, dark blue when she gasped “My god, Myra, now, now”, and Myra slid two fingers into her as Ginny pushed herself against Myra's hand. She could tell Ginny was already coming because her upper slope inside was smoothing out, taut and creating more room. She felt the waves pass through Ginny, and then Ginny was weeping hard against her chest, open-mouthed sobs. Myra slowly pulled out her hand and held Ginny as tightly as she could. “I know” she whispered. “I know.”

When Ginny slowed her crying, she looked around for a tissue and found none. “Use my t-shirt, it's there beside you” offered Myra. Ginny giggled congestedly, blew, then rolled to her side and spooned back into Myra's curve, facing the front window. The sky had not shifted from pale charcoal.

“That was as good as it's ever been” she said quietly.


Ginny sighed, stroking Myra's hands on her chest. “I want nothing more than to roll over and have my way with you.”

Myra kissed the back of Ginny's neck.

“We maybe shouldn't have turned off the gas heater before we went to sleep. That looks like ice on the sill there” commented Ginny.

“Praise Isis for body heat” said Myra. “We can just stay in bed.”

“I love you more than I can quite comprehend. All the time” said Ginny.

“Yeah” said Myra.

They dozed a while, afterglow and pooled warmth seeming to Myra almost like a red haze in the grey room. After waking, Myra began tracing the grooves between Ginny's ribs with her thumbs, finding them with recovered memory beneath Ginny's generous flesh. She nibbled with lips only at Ginny's shoulderblades, and felt her coming fully awake. Ginny pulled her right knee up, and Myra knew this exposed her inner thighs, strong and wide. She moved her hand around to Ginny's hip, massaging the curve down and back up the angle of her gluteus maximus, which on Ginny was maximus indeed. Her fingers found the dimples at the top of each buttock, and her palm followed the curve back down to at last dip again into magma territory.

Ginny rolled onto her stomach with a sigh which caught in her throat. She turned her head to face Myra, her cheek pressed into the pillow. Myra kissed her forehead, her nose, and her mouth as she moved her hand around Ginny's crevices. But coming from behind created a little more obstruction, so she scooted down a foot in the bed, resting her own cheek on Ginny's upper back, closing her eyes to listen only to Ginny's body, telling her what it wanted.

An hour later, Myra woke again and began, reluctantly, leaving the island of warmth which was their bed.

“Where are you going?”

“I have to wash my hands” said Myra.

“Will you turn on both the heaters?” asked Ginny. “Oh, never mind, I have to use the toilet.” Eventually, they opted to pull out the thermal underwear they'd packed as an afterthought and get dressed.

“I want fried potatoes” said Myra.

“We're out. We could go to that cafe, their breakfast menu looked good” said Ginny.

They put on a second layer, resuming their hats and adding boots, and dashed to the rental car through sandy mud. Over breakfast, they considered what food was left in the house, planned meals to use up everything except quantities of applesauce, and stopped briefly to buy a cooler for transporting the applesauce home plus half and half for chai.

When they got home, Ginny said “As long as my poncho is soaked, I'm going to haul in as much wood as I can again. I'll stack it inside the door so it'll dry out by the time we need it.” Myra made biscuits for later. She noted the chicken stock was gone, but they'd bought kombu and bonita flake at the natural foods store, so she soaked the kelp in boiling water and strained it. Ginny loved to use dashi as the basis for any soup.

Ginny was red and cold by the end of her woodhauling. Myra made love to her on the couch in front of a new fire. They put back on their thermal underwear and separated to computer and easel. The day was spent in work, making out, and tending the fire. In fact, the next 24 hours was a repeating cycle of these satisfying activities.

For dinner their last night in the house, Myra made salmon a la Ginny. She superheated a rimmed baking sheet in the oven while scoring the skin side of thick fillets just to where the flesh began. She put these skin side down on the sheet, hearing the sizzle begin, and drizzled the fish with olive oil, salt and pepper before putting it to bake at a normal temperature. She had already cooked cut-up sweet potatoes in a pot with a half inch of cream and pureed garlic in the bottom. She mashed these with butter and more pepper. She had steamed baby carrots and broccoli.

Now, as the fish cooked, she started two small skillets with generous amounts of butter. In one she fried sage leaves from the garden until they were crisp and the butter permeated with their flavor. This was to pour over the veggies. In the other skillet, she mashed a handful of gooseberries, cooking them until they were a buttery stew. She dressed the salmon with this after it had rested a few minutes.

Ginny took a bite of everything and said “My god, Myra. Frances would steal every one of these recipes from you.”

“Yeah, well that tomato leek soup you made for lunch was pure genius as well. Have I ever told you how much I love that you make soup way, way better than me?”

They ate every scrap. Myra said “Oatmeal for breakfast, that's all we got.”

“You know, I'm worried about the drive back to Grant's Pass in this weather. I think we should pack tonight, get up with the dawn, and leave then. We can grab meals on the road.”

“Good idea. I'll check road conditions online.”

Myra found it hard to leave the house. At the last minute, Ginny said “Damn, I meant to gather some of those berries for seed stock, see if I can get 'em to grow at home. Give me a minute, okay?” She tromped out the front door toward the southwestern clearing. Myra stood in the empty main room, now reverting to deep chill, and spun around slowly. I'll be back she thought.

She walked out to warm up the car. Ginny returned with a few baggies of frost-bit berries, shivering and wide-eyed.

“You okay?” asked Myra.

“Yeah. Just – turn up the heater, okay?”

“You should have worn gloves” said Myra, pressing Ginny's hands between her own for a minute before putting the car into gear and slowly driving toward the creek.

They hit icy patches and took turns driving to stay fresh. When they got to Grant's Pass, they discovered the train was delayed, the small station crowded. The only seats they could find together were near the door. Right outside the door, a crowd of smokers huddled under the small overhang, and every time someone went in and out, a toxic cloud blew in over Myra and Ginny. After Myra used her inhaler a second time, Ginny went to complain to the station manager.

He looked at her with narrow eyes. “I can't force people out into the rain, ma'am.”

Smoker thought Ginny. She tried to upgrade her and Myra's tickets from the regular car to a private room, but none were available – or the agent was jerking her around, she wasn't sure. When they finally boarded, Myra complained about having a chill and her chest being tight. Ginny unsnapped her wool-lined poncho and wrapped it around Myra as a makeshift blanket. She made a pillow from her hoodie and Myra leaned it against the window, dozing off.

But the train traveled slower than usual because of snow in the passes. Ginny began worrying they'd get stopped for good. She kept walking to the food car and returning with six-pack cups of tea, plus orange juice, until Myra said she was diuresing. She also walked with Myra to the bathroom, because Myra's breathing was growing steadily more short-winded. When Myra began running a fever, as they pulled into Portland, Ginny called Margie and asked her to pick them up at the station with the portable oxygen tank they kept at home.

It was almost 11:00 before they got home. Myra, leaning on both Margie and Frances, had to stop inside the front door and sit on the couch before she could walk on. Ginny went into high gear while Frances kept Myra company and Margie unloaded the car. She raced up the front stairs to their bedroom, discovering the door standing open and signs that more than one cat had slept on Myra's pillow for many days.

“God fucking dammit” swore Ginny. Margie, arriving behind her with suitcases, said “Uh oh. The kids came over with Gillam to check on the house, I bet one of them came up here looking for you and left the door open.”

“She's sitting down there with Keller, Franklin, Spencer and Olsen already glommed onto her” said Ginny, savagely ripping bedding from the mattress. “She was fine the whole time we were there in that damp, cold cabin, despite the freak-out -- it's the dander that gives her grief here.”

“What freak-out?” said Margie.

“Later. Will you help me? Pull out the HEPA vacuum and run it over this floor, especially around and under the bed” said Ginny, piling the linens in the hall outside. She went into the bathroom to start the tub with hot water and eucalyptus salts. As she left the room, she said “Then give it a light wet mop with that eucalyptus mix in the broom cupboard. Wipe it down with a clean towel. I'll be back to turn off the tub.”

She brewed a pot of her herbal mix for lungs and carried it upstairs, putting it on the nightstand next to the albuterol machine. Margie was finishing up. Ginny called downstairs, “Myra, honey? Take the elevator up. We're going to wash off ciggie smoke and cat fur.”

Ginny began stripping before she hugged Margie bye. “We'll be okay. Thanks for all your help. Lots to tell, but could it wait until tomorrow?”

“Sure” said Margie. Ginny had Myra strip in the hall, adding their clothes to the pile of laundry already there. The bath helped, the tea and a breathing treatment helped more. Ginny began to think maybe Myra could avoid another round of antibiotics for incipient bronchitis. After Myra dropped off, Ginny went down to check on the alarm and turn off lights. She discovered the cooler of applesauce and put most of it in their freezer, saving out two containers for sharing the next day. She sent a text to Gillam, saying Myra was sick, they probably couldn't care for the grandkids but a short visit would be welcome. When she returned to the bedroom, she found Keller waiting outside the door.

“You've had your run” said Ginny. “I want her in good shape for longer than you'll be alive, you need to get used to sleeping with Franklin on your own.” She shut the door in Keller's face.

The next morning, Myra came downstairs a little past 10:00, wheezy but not blue around the mouth any more. As she sat down to Ginny's pancakes, Allie and Chris arrived.

“We hear you sick” Allie said, kissing her forehead and taking a temperature simultaneously.

“How was the trip?” asked Chris with meaning.

“Extremely good” said Myra, smiling. “With one horrific episode in the middle, right, Gin? I got sick because of problems on the trip home.”

“What episode?” asked Allie, helping herself to a pancake and spreading it with applesauce.

Ginny said “Myra saw a sasquatch in our back yard there one night.”

Allie froze in mid bite, and Chris snorted. “Holy shit, I can just imagine how that went over” said Chris. “I'm surprised you're still functional.”

Myra was grinning but her eyes were on Ginny. “You're being very kind, Gin. I notice you said 'saw' instead of 'thought she saw'.”

Ginny took a long breath. “I have something to tell you.”

Myra put down her fork. “What?”

“When I went back for the berries...I startled something at the edge of the clearing. Something that crashed into the trees, making the saplings shake violently all the way up to their crowns. Like, 20 feet high. And – there was that smell again.”

Myra's face lose all its smile. “You didn't tell me.”

“I – I wasn't sure how to. I just wanted to get out of there. But...that's not all, Myra. I called the woman who rented the place to us this morning, to tell her we'd left and the problem with the gate getting broken. She...she got weird, Myra. She asked if we saw what had busted through the gate, and I said you'd seen something in the dark, which must have been a bear. She didn't agree with me, she didn't argue. But she did say other people have seen what they thought were bears. Then...she asked if we heard anything. When I asked what she meant, she said they thought there was a mountain lion in the area because people had reported hearing it scream.”

Ginny and Myra's eyes were locked on each other. “Fuck me running” whispered Myra.

“Exactly” said Ginny. “I called Nancy to make sure it was a good idea to tell you all this, and she said yes, the breakthrough was irrelevant to whatever you actually saw.”

After a minute, Myra said “I guess we won't be going back there again.”

“Not if I have a vote in it” said Ginny.

“Okay, whoa, back up, start at the beginning” said Allie. “And where in hell did you get this applesauce, it's like nothing I've ever had.”

Sasquatch applesauce” said Myra. She and Ginny roared. “Okay, so there was this creek nearby that ran back into the mountains...” began Myra.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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