Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Lettuce and greens table
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.

March 2020

Monday afternoon Myra answered the kitchen phone. Allie said “Hey, how's it – what the hell is going on over there, y'all having some construction done?”

“No, they're learning clogging in Dance Class today. Talk loud.”

“Last week I heard Ginny talking to Frances about building what she called a lettuce table, a structure for growing small plants at about waist level, you can put 'em anywhere outdoors. Me and 'Wina was talking about doing that for greens. What with her not drinking milk or liking most dairy products, she needs to get calcium and minerals even more from other foods. If we had small tender greens right outside on our little patio, we'd eat 'em three times a day. It'd be good for me, too. So can you ask Ginny to give me a call, when she's done stomping through the floor, and maybe share us the plans for what she was talking about?”

“You bet. In fact, we'll help build it, if you want.”

“You can hand us tools and make lemonade” said Allie. “I ain't giving up my power tools to you. Or Ginny, whether she got on Chris' leather belt or no.”

“I hear ya.” Myra walked to the storage room, stepped inside, and closed the door. Silence surrounded her. “Listen, you heard about Sima and Annie?”

“Yeah, I saw it coming. Can't believe you missed that one. You ain't weird about it, are you?”

“Not that I can tell. My first thought was just that I'd always imagined Annie having the hots for Chris.”

“She did. They slept together a few times this past year.” Into the long silence that followed, Allie said “That's news too, I gather. You gonna have crap about that, then?”

“Nope. I'm glad for them both, actually. Seems like the only person Annie's missed in her line-up, though, is Ginny.”

“And me, I never even danced with her” said Allie.

Myra had slid onto the long freezer case to sit. Now she stretched out prone and said “Speaking of sex...you got a few minutes to talk?”

She could sense Allie's abrupt alertness. “Yeah, a few. Edwina's having her hair done, I gotta boogie in half an hour to fetch her.”

“Okay. Well, I gather you know about me and Ginny being high and dry right now.”

“I heard. Please tell me she be wrong in thinking it have anything to do with Chris.”

“She's wrong. I mean, as far as I can figure out. I just – I don't know how I would've reacted if Chris had wanted to make love with me. It never came close to that.”

“And you knew that from the git-go?”

“Yeah. So the brakes were safely on there, as well.”

“Is that the point, safety?”

“I don't know, Al. I definitely feel desire for Ginny. Since she said no one-way stuff, I've been crazed at times.”

“Well, I hope I don't live to regret this, but mayhap I should ask you a few questions.”

Myra grinned nervously. “Go for it.”

“What is it, exactly, that gives you the heebie-jeebies? The idea of coming with somebody there? Ginny's hand inside you? Her head down between you legs?”

Myra felt her face going red. “You must be about to die over there.”

“Easier over the phone” said Allie.

“It's not the hand or mouth thing, it's not about a particular action or position, I can tell that right away.”

“So is it loss of control?”

“I've considered that.” Myra gave a long sigh. “I always hate to admit my control-freak-ness when it crops up.”

“You the magnanimous Leo, why don't we all just 'preciate you as a beloved and benign tyrant, that about it?”

“Ouch. Okay, yeah, most of the time. But I don't think that's what the key is here. It's more – I want to ask her why she wants me, wants to make me come. And I'm sure she will blow up like the Hindenburg if I do express that doubt.”

“You never had that kind of crap before?” asked Allie.

“At the beginning, a lot. It was all the debris from my past, that I could never even acknowledge with other lovers. Ginny was different. Over time, we dug it all out. Or so I thought.”

“I know what you mean. About the debris.” Allie's voice was very soft. “So you hit a submerged layer?”

“Maybe. Or maybe I stopped believing the work we did was real.”

“Why? Because of that fucker Pat?”

“Because Ginny lied to me. Having to do with sex.”

“Everybody on earth lies about sex, Myra. They ain't no way not to lie about it, we all fucked up around it and unable to walk a straight line. We do the best we can.”

“I know that, Allie. Or at least I did.”

“You one circulation deeper into the spiral, a membrane away from where you was before, heading into the cochlea. That may be all it is. Listen, buddy, I gotta run. We'll talk more, I promise.”

“Okay. This helped. Give my love to Edwina.”

When Myra hung up, she continued to lie on the freezer, staring up at the ceiling. The metal top of the appliance was surprisingly warm. I am so fucking tired of working this hard to figure out ABCs she thought. Stuff I bet Charlie, for instance, knows effortlessly.

The door to the storage room swung open and Sima stared in at her. “What are you doing, taking measurements for your cryogenic preservation?” Before Myra could reply, Sima turned and yelled down the hall “I found her.”

Myra sat up as grandchildren flooded into the room. “Can I lie down up there?” two of them immediately asked.

“Knock yourself out” she said, touching the tops of their heads as she wove though them, retreating to the kitchen. She put the phone in its cradle and passed on Allie's message to Ginny. Ginny looked at inquiringly, but instead of asking what else they talked about, she reminded Myra “Sima's taking them for Jane and Gillam's date night, but it's going to be here. Annie's coming over to help her after dinner. You want me to cook? You could retreat to your study.”

“I accept. I started some salt cod soaking, you could make that creamy baklava casserole for the meat course.”

Ginny gave her a chaste kiss. “Happy writing.”

The following Thursday, Gillam's school had a teacher in-service and he got out early enough to go pick up Mimi, David, and Leah from their preschool. When he arrived at the house, Myra was deep in writing and Ginny was painting. He called upstairs that he'd make the kids' snack before leaving.

Myra tore herself away a page later, walking downstairs and listening to her knees creak. The children yelled out greetings, eating rice and leftover teriyaki vegetables from small bowls with their messy fingers. Myra said “Shit, Gillam, did you use the brown rice from the fridge?”

“Yeah, I'm sorry, were you saving it?”

“No, it's just that I cooked it with chicken stock.” Myra pulled away Mimi's bowl and leaned down to her, saying apologetically “There's meat in the rice, sweetheart. Let me make you some couscous real quick.”

Mimi's face slid from disbelief into outrage before she burst into shrieking sobs. Gillam came to sit beside her, saying “I didn't know, I apologize.”

Myra put bowl of water into the microwave, listening to Mimi wail “Why did Gramma put meat in the rice, she knows I eat rice!”

“She didn't make it for us, it was for this house only. Gramma always cooks vegetarian for you if you're going to be eating, too.”

“Meat rice is poopy! You all eat poopy food, I hate how Gramma cooks!”

“That's not fair, Mimi. She goes out of her way to give you nutritious and delicious meals. We all do, but Gramma especially.”

Myra thought She's not going to be fair at the moment, Gillam. She needs to vent. But Gillam was tired and had spent the day listening to others. She pulled out the now-boiling water and added instant couscous. She cut a slice of Gruyere and set it in a small bowl before fluffing the couscous and putting a generous serving on top of the cheese.

“I hate being the only vegetarian. I hate being different, everybody makes fun of me.”

“Nobody in this family makes fun of you for how you eat, Meemers. In fact, a lot of us are eating more vegetarian because of your example.”

“You all still eat meat, even Aunt Margie. And lots of people make fun of me.”

“Like who? Somebody at school?”

It all poured out, then, a horrid girl named Sedona who had nicknamed Mimi “Meatmi” and pretended to gag when Mimi pulled out her lunch bag every day. Myra put the couscous in front of Mimi, now in Gillam's lap sobbing without his interruption. Ginny had come downstairs and was sitting beside them. Leah immediately asked if she could have couscous, too.

“Nope. You can have more rice if you want” said Myra.

“Or applesauce” said Ginny. The other children decided they were done and began leaving their chairs.

“Bus your dishes” reminded Myra. “Then go wash your hands and faces very thoroughly. We're heading to the library used book sale this afternoon.”

Mimi allowed Gillam to wipe her face, and she began downing her couscous, lifting long strands of melted cheese to her mouth with her fingers. Ginny said “How can there be a child in this day and age who thinks it's okay to make fun of vegetarians?”

Gillam replied “She's got a crappy home life. Her mother has a retraining order out on her dad, and that includes Sedona. I think she's – been victimized.”

“What does that mean?” asked Mimi.

“It's adult knowledge, Meems. I think the truth is, she feels bad about herself and because she doesn't have anyone to help her feel better, she's focusing on you. She thinks making fun of you will get other people to like her.”

“That's stupid” declared Mimi.

“Yeah. She needs more help. She's very sad” said Gillam. Mimi looked like she wasn't buying a word of it.

Myra said to Gillam “We've got this covered now, you can go on home. We'll bring them back directly from the library sale.”

“Can we come back here and have dinner with you tonight?” asked Mimi swiftly. Gillam snorted as he stood, whispering “Monster” to Mimi as he kissed her goodbye. Ginny said to Myra “You want me along?”

“No, go paint. I'm ordering Thai for us tonight” said Myra. Which answered Mimi's question, she thought all versions of Thai food was too spicy.

That night Myra wrote until past midnight, eating dinner at her desk although Ginny took a break to dine with Sima. Myra finally reached the point of looking for grammar errors instead of substantive editing and made herself stop. She stretched, said goodnight to Keller, and walked around the corner to discover Ginny putting her brushes into their jar for the night.

“Are you going to shower?” Ginny asked.

“No. But I'll stay awake if you're quick” said Myra. She closed the blinds, stripped, and lay down. Ginny was drying off as she emerged from the steamy bathroom. She plastered herself along Myra and said “God, I miss you.”

“That's bittersweet news” said Myra in a gentle tone.

“Did you talk with Allie?”

“Yes. No new landscape yet. Except: I tried on the idea of making this permanent. Us being partners without having sex.”

Ginny leaned back to try to see Myra's face. “And?”

“Fucking hated it” said Myra.

“More bittersweet news” replied Ginny, lying her head on Myra's shoulder.

“I'm going to see Nancy in the morning, she had a cancellation” said Myra.

Ginny moved a little closer. A minute later, they were both asleep.

Friday afternoon, Myra announced to the grandchildren it was monthly making-pumpernickel day. The four older children adored pumpernickel, both the finished product and the making of it, with molasses, espresso powder, and prune paste in the dough. Myra had not been able to come up with a gluten-free version, so Lucia was handed off to be Ginny's special challah helper on these days, whispering the bracha alone with her and wrapping the kezayit for disposal. Lucia's braids of her gluten-free challah were distinctive, with four strands instead of three.

During the kneading process, children standing on chairs before two different counters, Ginny said to Myra “How did your session with Nancy go?”

Myra said “You eat much more of that, Charlie, you're going to have terrible diarrhea” before turning to grin at Ginny and said “Good. Very good.”

A moment later she added “A glimmering on the horizon. No shift yet.”

“Glimmering is something” said Ginny.

“I want to go see Nancy sometime” announced Leah.

“Oh, yeah? You have an emotional issue to work on?” teased Myra. She saw Leah glanced in Mimi's direction before she said “Yes.” Myra went briefly still.

“Okay, let's ask your mommy and daddy” said Myra. “Then Nancy. I'm not sure if she works with small children.”

That night, Annie came to shabbos dinner and poker. She had a tell when she drew a good hand: She'd shift from one side of her ass to the other in her chair. Carly had figured it out right away and was methodically stripping her of quarters and dollars. Myra felt conflicted about whether to Annie aside to warn her or join in the plunder herself.

After the children were taken to bed, Gillam said “You know we had that guy come last week to consult with us about Lucia's Asberger's, see what he had to recommend.”

“I was wondering about that” said Edwina.

“We had to talk it over first” said Jane. “I call your sorry ass, you've got nothing higher than a queen” she said to Eric.

“He thinks the reason she's having such interrupted sleep is because her bedroom is not set up right” said Gillam “Fold.”

“Check” said Carly. Annie and Allie folded before Gillam continued. “The wall murals are too stimulating, she doesn't have enough defined space of her own, and the crib has got to go, for sure.”

Ginny and Myra both looked upset the mention of the murals. Ginny bravely said “So do you want to cover over the walls with drapes, like we did for you?”

Gillam sighed as Jane said “Kings in nines. What Lucia really needs is her own room. But I don't see any way to make that happen now, Mimi would never shut up about it if she wasn't the first to get the guest room.”

“You need to ante” Margie told Allie as she dealt. Gillam said “Check. So we're left with moving Mimi fairly soon, to at least get Lucia into a room with only one other sibling. And no, Mom, there are alternatives to covering the wall. Giving her divided space could leave the walls intact, they have meaning for her as well as the others. He recommended an enclosed bed, open on only three sides, plus some sort of hammock chair for her to swing in. He's recommending enclosure for her space in the family room as well, where she plays with her pattern pieces.”

“Raise two-twenty five” said Annie, shifting in her chair. Carly immediately folded. Myra looked at the two cards showing: No possibility of a flush, no sign of a straight. She must have a high pair, then. Myra had two aces. She raised another dollar ten.

“The question becomes, who rooms with whom” said Jane. “We could do the boy-girl split, except the truth is, Lucia gets along best with Charlie. But that would mean putting Leah in with David. They're okay together, despite Leah being a little wary of David because he's Mimi's best bud.”

“However, at some point in a few years, with hormones approaching, boy-girl sequestration is almost certainly going to be necessary” said Gillam. “Raise 65 cents.” Myra looked at him sharply.

“And the thing is, Charlie gets along with everybody, but if he had first choice, he'd want to be with David. He adores his big brother” said Jane. “I don't think he should be penalized for being the non-squeaky-wheel.” It was clear she and Gillam had been over the territory several times.

“How do you think David would feel about Charlie replacing Mimi in his room?” asked Ginny.

“He's going to be crushed about losing Mimi no matter what. Charlie or Leah, it won't matter much to him. He's a little too touchy-feely to share a room with Lucia, she likes more space than he offers” said Gillam.

“Whichever way we go, we'll do it at the start of summer so they have a few months to get adjusted. In September, we're going to enroll Lucia in that special preschool the support group recommends” said Jane.

“It's tres expensive” said Gillam. “But we can swing it, thanks to Chris. I have a heart flush, by the way.”

“Goddammit” said Myra and Annie together.

“Does that mean you'll be going back to work?” Sima asked Jane.

“At least half-time” said Jane, a mix of anticipation and regret on her face. Myra got up to fetch another Sobe from the fridge. She heard Ginny saying “I think Leah would also flourish being with only one other sib. And Lucia's focus would be fun for her. She loves Charlie but he's a scatterbrain. That's my two cents.”

Annie came into the kitchen looking for a second brownie. Myra whispered to her “You fidget in your chair when you draw good cards.” Annie looked wide-eyes and whispered back “Okay. Thanks.”

“In fact” continued Myra, “Carly has no tells, but Allie will put down her cards and crack her knuckles, Eric stops grinning, and Ginny pulls at her ears when she gets exciting hole cards.”

Annie grinned. “And what about you, my oracle?”

Sima was watching them whisper. Myra replied “I'm like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.”

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

Jesse Wendel said...


Love the discussion of tells.

Don't play poker with me.

I'll show you a fake tell all night. Or all week. Or for a month or two, whatever it takes. Then clean you OUT when the fracking BIG pot shows up. *smiles sweetly*