Thursday, June 18, 2009


Akula remote-controlled toy submarine
Note: I haven't been able to start on editing yet. But characters keep appearing in my dreams and quiet moments during the day, demanding I write this or that. After a week of holding them off, I'm trying out the idea of putting some of it down on paper.

8 June 2020

Myra and Ginny didn't get up until almost 10:00. Claire and Leila had left for SeaTac much earlier, sharing a cab with Nate and his family. Cathy was sticking around for a couple of days, however. She was at the dining table with a newspaper and a carafe of coffee.

"Where's Sima?" asked Myra, noticing her reflection in the convection oven glass door. Fuck, was that a bite mark on her neck?

"Hanging out by the pond. I think she's wishing she had an Ecto-Containment Unit" said Cathy. Ginny burst into laughter. Cathy added "There's still cake left, are you going to freeze a piece to eat in ten years?"

"My god, no" said Ginny. "I wouldn't eat it in ten days." Myra was distracted from examining her own neck by the idea of cake for breakfast. With pancetta, she thought.

Ginny sat down next to Cathy with an imperceptible wince. "Will you make me some toast?" she called to Myra.

"Okay. We have some of those pumpernickel rounds left over" said Myra.

"Perfect. With cream cheese and lox" said Ginny. Myra turned on the kettle as well, thinking Does this mean I make our breakfasts, too, now that I'm a wife? She cracked herself up, giggling as she put her All-Clad skillet on a front burner and lined it with pancetta.

"Do you need help?" asked Ginny belatedly.

"No, talk with your sissy-poo" said Myra.

Ginny saw the side gate open. Gidg and Moon gamboled through, rushing first to greet Sima, then streaking for the back door. "Here comes Margie" Ginny called. Myra set aside two crumbs of meat for the dogs. Margie sat beside Sima for a few minutes before they both came into the house and joined the dining table crowd. Margie kissed her mother and aunt, then asked Ginny "So? You feel different today?"

Ginny's eyes went a little flinty. "I always feel different the day after our anniversary."

Atta girl thought Myra. She called through "Anybody else hungry?"

Sima shook her head. Margie was focused on Ginny. "What's your plan for today, then?" she asked her mother.

"Well, Myra's getting fitted for a diaphragm" began Ginny. She and Myra burst into giggles as Myra came to the table with plates for them both. "Teapot's on the counter" Myra said, and Ginny retrieved it, dodging the dogs who were unbudging lumps between her and Myra's chair.

"We need to drop off those clothes" Myra said to Ginny, "see if the drycleaners can keep that linen from being damaged by its dunk in the pool. Allie's tux is still here, too, might as well take it in with ours."

"Last time I saw her top hat was when Charlie was trying to get Moon to wear it" said Ginny.

"I think the hat is a lost cause" said Myra. "What's that you got?" she said to Margie, pointed to a small padded envelope on the table in front of Margie.

Margie grinned. "DVD of the, ahem, multimedia performance project."

Ginny's face lit up. She stood instantly and said "Let's watch it while we eat." Myra followed her to the living room and snagged the spot next to Ginny on the couch. The video opened to a static shot of the closed gate. They could hear Gillam's friend Kyle saying nearby "So my idiot roommate pulled off a wooden panel from behind the stove and torrents of roaches poured out. I shut the door to my room, pushed a towel into the crack at the bottom, and left the house."

"Jesus H" they heard Gillam reply. Amplified from the pool area came Mimi's voice jeering "You have buggers hanging out both of you noses", and Leah yelling "I do NOT". There was a wet smack, and Gillam jostled the camera as he went to intercede, swearing softly.

"Who was that man with Kyle again?" asked Ginny.

"Jesse. Her father, you remember" said Myra.

"Oh yeah. And why didn't Jared come with Jen?" continued Ginny. Sima answered "I think Poe asked Jen to leave him behind for once, because he's not part of the long-time friendship network."

"Hey, there's Allie poking her head around the gate" said Myra, her pulse starting to race. She put her plate on the floor for the dogs to lick clean and pushed close to Ginny. The next several minutes were delicious. Ginny took the remote away from Myra eventually because of one too many slo-mo replays, but then she rewound the section where Myra shoved Pat into the pool five times herself, crowing each time.

Finally they reached the end and sat, hands clasped together, grinning at each other. Myra said to Margie "This the only copy?"

"No, I have the original."

"Guard it with your fucking life" said Myra. "Press out there would kill to have this."

"To answer your earlier question" said Ginny, "We're meeting Liza for a late lunch. And we're going to stop by a travel agent to look into Alaskan cruises."

"What?" said Margie, startled.

"Yeah, we've always wanted to do it, and this is a good summer for it" said Myra. "After we all go to the beachhouse for the Fourth and Lucia's birthday, but before my birthday, that two week period is when we want to take the cruise. You're all invited. But we're going to have a private stateroom with a balcony overlooking the iceberg-calving side."

"Jane mentioned something about taking the kids to Yellowstone after your birthday, before school starts" Sima said. "Seems like a fun-packed summer is on everyone's minds."

Ginny said softly "It was such a hard year", looking at Sima with sorrow.

Margie stood, saying "Well, I have to get some work done." The dogs scrambled upright on the parquet floor. "Are you eating lunch with them or hanging out with me?" Margie asked her aunt.

Cathy looked at Ginny before answering "I think I'd like to watch you work. Ginny and I are spending the evening together."

"Annie's bringing some muscle over to erect scaffolds for Carly and Eric's project" said Sima. "I'll be there if anyone needs me."

The house cleared out. Ginny did dishes while Myra carried the DVD to her computer and made a short wav. file that featured her palm connecting with Pat's shoulder and Pat sailing backwards, the big splash, then Pat leaping forward to meet Myra's hand again and get shoved once more. She sent a copy to immediate family in an e-mail titled "Who let the wasps out?"

She then did research on Alaskan cruise options, finally settling on three possibilities and calling in Ginny to look at them. "Send an e-mail about it to the family" suggested Ginny. "I'm willing to bet Jane and Gillam don't go, trying to keep their five entertained on shipboard sounds daunting. Plus they were talking about going to Fresno for a week after the Gulf Coast."

Myra noticed Ginny kept twisting her new ring around and around on her finger. She was wearing on her right, dominant hand. Myra said "I remember feeling those stones slipping in and out at my opening." Ginny gave her a smudgy look and said "I was trying really hard to be gentle."

"Just right" said Myra. "How is it painting and drawing with a ring on, challenging to get used to?"

"The sensation of wearing a ring, or the symbolism?" asked Ginny. "Yes to the former, but being coupled with you is ancient comfort."

They looked at each other a long minute. Myra said "I'm going to work on my manuscript. Qiana is picking up a copy tomorrow morning, I think she can edit this particular book as well as my poetry. Also, Nika told me she has a grad student to recommend for the Chris journal project."

"Too bad it's not Nika herself" said Ginny.

"Yeah, but she's too busy as a professor now. The student she's promoting is named Robert but they call him Booray. He's Yurok, from Northern California."

Ginny looked at Myra with interest. "Like Umai, you mean?"

"Yeah. Not gay but his parents have both been very involved in the resurrection of Yurok language. He sees Chris as a hero, Nika says."

"So not gay, and not a woman. You trust him to sort through Chris's journals?"

Myra replied "Not yet. I'll hire him to do what Nika began with, scanning every page of Chris's work into readable files, and I'll see what notes he keeps about which entries he thinks would be good for a graphic biography. If I agree with his judgment, I'll use him more. He's without a job at the moment and if I give him full-time hours, he could maybe finish all the journals before we leave on the cruise. Which means Allie and I would have everything on disk to begin collaborating on the book while we travel."

"Speaking of book, this afternoon I need to create an outline for that volume of my work that my agent wants. Can I interrupt you if I need to bounce ideas off somebody?"

"Yeah. Why don't you haul your slides in here, use the other work table behind me?"

Ginny stood, then said "What are we doing for dinner? I'm pretty sure Gillam and his crew are coming over to eat, because they want to see Cathy again."

"I bet Margie and Frances do, too. I'll send out an e-mail saying it's potluck, we'll do salad, bread and some veggies, okay?" Myra began composing it.

"Plus leftover wedding cake" grinned Ginny.

They broke in an hour to go have lunch with Liza before she left town, returning to plunge back into silent, focused work. At 5:30, Myra heard the beep of the back door alarm and children's voices shouting "We're here!" She and Ginny went downstairs together.

Gillam was unloading three large pots from the little red wagon. "We've got pink beans with pork, white beans with fennel, and a monster batch of brown rice" he said tiredly. "Best I could manage with kids on hand all day."

"Sounds delish" said Myra. Ginny handed out baskets and gloves to the children and they headed toward the veggie beds. Two minutes later, Carly and Eric arrived. Carly said "We stopped and picked up two kosher hens. I was thinking about doing beer-can chicken on your grill, but I just realized you might not have beer."

"I do have beer, in the storage room fridge, but it's in bottles" said Myra. "Let's spatchcock them instead, they'll cook a lot faster."

Carly headed for the storage room, returning with four bottles of Jarlsburg which he handed out to Eric, Gillam, and Jane. Eric was already pounding chickens flat with the meat hammer. "I'll go start the grill" said Carly.

"I'll walk out with you" said Myra. As Carly filled two coal starters and lit a match, Myra said "I want to ask you how it is with -- you and Gillam. And Eric. And Jane, for that matter. Your perspective."

Carly met her eyes, then blew out his match. "I've hated not telling you. But I had to honor Gillam's choice."

"I figured as much. He has to build his fences where he can, he's so attuned to his family. Well, especially me, I guess" said Myra.

"Eric loves Gillam, and Jane. As do I. It's very comfortable between us all. Of course, we're careful to not rub each other's faces in anything" said Carly.

"I try to imagine it but I honestly can't. Which is fine, I can't listen to the music you all do, either. For me, the troubling question is..." Myra trailed off. Carly waited.

"It was my older brother, you know, who -- came after me. I always thought, do think, of you and Gillam as brothers. I don't know how else to ask this, Carly, but isn't this some kind of incest for you?"

"Wow. Never occurred to me." Carly leaned against the brick half-wall. "No. I mean, yeah, Gillam was like a brother, but I had a brother and Gillam was way different from Truitt. In mostly good ways. And...We messed around before it became really sexual, if that makes any sense. After puberty, it became different, but by that time we were best friends in a new way. Facing the world together, not just playmates. In love the way friends are."

"I know that kind of love. So, then, did you never hope to become his life partner?"

Carly looked away. "I did, for a while. But I'm gay, and Gillam -- whatever he is, he's not one thing. He wants women in a way I do not. It was tough for a while. We fought a lot. I was so scared he'd go away. Finally I believed him when he said he'd never leave me, we'd find a way to make family together. He said he knew how, he'd grown up with it. And that I could understand."

Myra thought about various tensions she'd noticed over the years. "Well, at least now you can come bitch to me about him without censoring" she said, smiling.

"Yep. I mean, I had Allie and Chris -- and David, when he was alive. But you're the mother lode. So to speak."

David? Myra was reeling from this when Leah zoomed around the corner and said attached herself as an appendage from Myra's arm, saying "What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to make sense of something" said Myra. She quickly improvised. "The leviathan just rose up out of the center of the pond, next to the float, standing up on her back fin like killer whales do."

"Nuh-uh" said Leah, turning to stare at the pond. There were ripples from the breeze on the surface, lending credibility to Myra's story.

Carly said "But then, even more incredible, she opened her silver mouth and spoke. It was gill-choked and metallic, but we could still understand her."

"Nuh-uh" repeated Leah, belief in her tone. "What did she say?"

Myra couldn't think of a single word. Carly put on a high lev-voice to say "So long, and thanks for all the fish!"

Leah couldn't take her eyes off the pond. Charlie scooted into the barbecue area with them, and Leah turned to him with the breathless announcement "The lev just talked to Gramma and Uncle Carly! Right there! It thanked them for the fish."

Myra had slyly reached into the fish food canister and pulled out a handful. She tossed this now toward the pond, and it scattered across the surface. In a split second, splashes skittered everywhere as small fish near the surface fought for a pellet.

Charlie broke for the house. Myra, laughing, followed him with Leah glued to her hand on the side away from the pond. "You threw that food, right, Gramma?"

"I did."

"But there really is a lev, right?"

"There really is an unusually large severum in that pond. I'd love a better view of her" said Myra. She had the sudden idea of buying a remote-control toy submarine and fitting it with a micro-camera for exploring the depths. Maybe with a tiny light. She segued from this into outfitting the sub with attached fins and flashing LEDS, having it surface briefly when the children were around -- her own version of the Loch Ness hoaxer. She entertained herself with this fantasy as she checked her sweet potatoes simmering in cream and found they were done.

Leah said "Can I mash those, Gramma?" Myra lifted Leah to sit on the counter and handed her the masher. "Be careful, the pot is very hot. Toss in some salt and pepper first. I'll get you butter to melt in, too, stay put."

Frances, Margie and Cathy had come in the back door, passing Eric carrying marinated-and-microwaved chicken out to Carly. Cathy perched herself on the top of the kitchen footstool, tucked into a corner. Myra realized Cathy had, this last year, crossed clearly over the line from old into elderly. She was smaller than she'd ever been, in bulk and height. Myra kissed her cheek and said "You need a tide-me-over? We've got at least 20 minutes before eating."

"All I need is this river of family around me" said Cathy. Myra could hear Charlie telling his mother in the living room about the leviathan appearance in an insistent tone.

"Where did that beer come from?" Margie said to Gillam.

"There's more in the store room fridge. But Marg, take the small galvanized tub, fill it with ice, and load it with beer plus any juices and sodas in there. Put it by the back door, on the tile" asked Myra.

"What sodas?" she heard David asking as he trailed after Margie. Cathy said to Ginny "My god, what kind of tomatoes are those you're slicing?"

"Oaxacan Jewels" said Ginny. "Here, take a bite."

"Do I need to warm up bread or are we covered?" Frances asked Myra.

"The spelt rustic rolls, yes, in case Lucia needs extra carb" answered Myra. Margie handed a beer to Frances on her way by with the tub on the little red wagon. Half a minute later, they heard Lucia scream "I wanted the Orangina!"

"There's another one" Margie said. "Here, Charlie, you want this Peñafiel? It's strawberry."

"No, I want a pretty bottle" he said.

"Okay, uh...look, this Jarritos has all these bumps on the top, nice, huh? It's tamarind. Here, let me open it for you."

Myra called out "Margie, put a guarana by my plate at the table, okay?"

Mimi said "Can I have a guarana too?"

"No" answered Ginny and Gillam in a single voice. A few seconds later, there was the sound of breaking glass and David's wail rose up from the shocked silence. Ginny grabbed a dish towel and the whisk broom, heading for the living room.

Gillam said, unusually loud and angry, "Don't take a fucking step, David! Not until we pick up the shards around your feet!" He roared at the other children "Go sit down at the table in your seats. NOW."

Leah's whisper to Charlie was audible to Myra in the kitchen "Daddy's in a bad mood." Cathy stood and headed for the table, calling out "Lucia, you cannot climb into a high chair with a bottle in your hands, give it to me and I'll help."

The children had become very restless by the time Carly and Eric came in the back door with a platter of chicken, but Gillam was ruthless in keeping them pinned to their chairs. Jane released them for hand-washing. As everyone was sitting down again, Sima and Annie came through the yard. Sima apologized for their lateness, and Annie said "I have to scrub off the top layer, don't wait on me." Her clothes were streaked with sweat and grime.

Her dog, whom Ginny had taken to calling "Omar the Oblivious" when Annie wasn't in earshot, stood stiffly by the door for a minute, then walked slowly to a separate dog bed Sima had set up for him in the living room. He was the most phlegmatic canine Myra had ever met. He responded to no one but Annie, and children, cats, other dogs didn't seem to register on his radar.

Myra spooned a chicken gizzard from the sauce pan of giblets she'd simmered on the stove and put it on a small plate, dicing it. She carried this unobtrusively to the living room, except of course Moon saw her and responded with a wounded expression. She set the plate next to Omar's bed, put her hand lightly on his head, and murmured "Dogs who've been working hard all day with their person need a little snack while waiting for real dinner, I bet." She couldn't tell if Omar was even looking at her, the curly hair around his eyes was overgrown. As she walked away, however, she heard a small scrape of ceramic plate on parquet, and she smiled to herself.

The children's soda bottles were all empty and Gillam was offering "Water or nothing". Myra sat down next to Leah and poured her own guarana with a small sense of guilt. Frances said to Annie "You were impressive today, sinking that bolt into the side of the store from a perch 30 feet above the asphalt."

Annie shyly said "Well, I had to be sure of that anchorage, the whole structure will hang from it."

Margie said to Carly and Eric "Wait till you see the patinas she's got for us to choose from for the copper and steel, it's all 'better art through chemistry'-ish."

Everyone ate quickly, because dinner was late tonight. Jane gave the children small pieces of wedding cake, which even Myra had misgivings about after looking at Gillam's stony expression. Jane retreated to the kitchen to start clean-up. Annie said "I'm too exhausted for dessert. What I need most is a long soak in the tub."

"Use our hot tub" offered Jane from the sink. "It's ready to go, it'll do wonders for you."

Annie was going to demur, but Sima said "Thanks, honey, we'll accept." She went to her room to get robes and towels while Annie stood with a groan to feed Omar. Myra reminded her and Frances there were giblets to mix into the kibble. Annie carried Omar's bowl into Sima's sitting area where he preferred to eat in solitude. As she and Sima opened the back door, Annie said to Myra "Okay if I leave him here?"

"Of course" said Myra. Gillam was in the kitchen banging pots into the dishwasher. She heard Jane say "You cooked, go take a break." He disappeared into the hall and up the front stairs.

Margie glanced at Frances and said "We're going to take the dogs on a long walk after they eat, would any children like to go with us?"

David was on his feet instantly. "Can we go as far as that house with the lions by the gate?"

"Sure" said Frances. Ginny pulled small metal pails and flashlights from a cupboard, handing them out to the children with instructions to pick any ripe fruit along fences and alleyways. Myra added "Whoever brings me a full bucket will get an individually make fruit tart for dessert on shabbos." Ginny repeated "Ripe fruit." She and Cathy started up the back stairs for their private time together.

Carly said to Myra "If you've got a few minutes, there's something I could use talking over with you." Eric shooed them both out of the kitchen as Carly said quietly "Mom called me a lunch today. She heard about what happened at your wedding and, well, I think she might be ready to budge."

Myra saw Jane look around at them with interest. "Do tell" said Myra.

"Let's go out by the pond" said Carly. As Myra opened the back door, she saw Omar standing motionless in the hall. "Care to join us?" she offered. After a long moment, he trudged toward her and out the door in front of her. She sat on the middle of the pond bench and lifted Omar to one side of her. The bench retained heat from the sun now set. Omar circled twice, then settled with a sigh. Myra reached to rub behind his ears as she turned toward Carly, who was saying "I think she's finally figured out Pat's shit had nothing to do with her." Half a minute later, she felt a feather-light tongue cross the back of her hand, then Omar returned his head to easy reach of her fingers.

Margie and Frances kept the children away for an hour. When Myra and Carly went back in, trailed by Omar, Jane was asleep on the living room couch and Eric was watching a movie in Sima's sitting area with Sima and Annie, damp-haired and nearly asleep themselves. Eric left with Carly. Myra went upstairs and discovered Gillam asleep on her daybed. Ginny whispered to her "He came up here and unloaded on us, I'll tell you later what's up."

Myra whispered back "David knew about Carly and Gillam, Carly used to go to him for advice. Also, Patty called Carly today and change is afoot. I'll tell you later about it."

Ginny looked shocked, but Cathy didn't. Myra went to her computer and turned it on. She heard Ginny say "Well, hello, there." She looked around and Omar was standing in the doorway to her study. She took the unused quilt pushed from the daybed by Gillam's feet and made a pallet from it under her desk. Omar shuffled to her and lay down with his back close enough to her bare feet to touch them. Keller's fur was bristled and her smooth forehead was peering over the edge of the desk. Myra whispered "It's okay, he needs safe harbor." She rubbed his head again, noting grease and grit in his tangled fur. She entered "remote control toy submarine" into her search engine and pushed Enter.

After the children returned and were herded home by sleepy parents, Myra emptied the pails of assorted fruit into a large colander for rinsing before freezing. She discovered a snail in the mix, and was stumped, trying to figure out what to do with it besides murder. Finally she carried it out the front door and two doors down to the yard that nobody ever tended. When she got back, Omar had disappeared into Sima's bedroom. She put the fruit into ziplocks, opened a second guarana, and returned upstairs to write. Ginny would be up very late with Cathy, who was flying home the next day.

(chapter not yet finished)

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


C. Diva said...

Whatever you need to do in finishing up loose ends is fine by me; I just enjoy reading your fiction.

Jesse Wendel said...


And so the tale continues.

One possibility might be to edit on the front end, say, equal to 1/3x or 1/2x what you are adding to the back end. Edit one page away from the front, add two or three to the back, whatever the ratio is, 1:3 or 1:2.

At least that way BOOK I is headed towards publication, instead of just sitting there. *smiles*

It's an idea, anyway. *smiles again*

BOOK II sniffs good already. Goody.

Later gator-bear.

kat said...

interesting.......very interesting.

I had the same explosion as Gillam (minus the F word) at work a while back. Most of the kids were in the bathroom area and I knocked over a whole tray of paint pots. One little guy listened to my very clear instructions about NOT MOVING till I could wipe up the paint, looked at me, looked at the paint, and tried to make a break for it.
He cried like hell when I caught him in my arms, picked him up and put him down away from the paint, and no amount of calm "I told you all that I needed you to stay away. I told you why. I'm very frustrated that you listened to the directions but came over here anyway."

ugh.....When what I wanted to say was "Ok, dumbass, what part of "don't move" is hard to understand??"

You all must think I'm a horrible teacher....oh well.