Monday, November 9, 2009


Here's a new scene from my Great American Lesbian Novel (first draft), 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.

Early Winter 2021

Another holiday season without Chris was perversely harder on Myra and Allie than the first yartzeit had been. Myra said it was because it was becoming normal to never hear Chris's voice; even Lucia seldom asked about her any more. She said death was a fucked way to organize the universe and she could have plotted it much better on her crappiest writing day.

Allie just went silent. She began coming over after breakfast every day, sitting at Myra's second worktable to read Chris's journals in the original as Booray created an annotated index. She filled sketchblocks with partial scenes and minimalist renderings of Chris that were quite unlike her usual rich detail but even more haunting for their swift precision. Mrya and Ginny talked privately about Edwina's distance from the project, which seemed indirectly imposed by Allie. Myra asked Allie one day if things were okay between her and Edwina.

Allie's eyes were flat as she answered "What do you mean, okay? We not fighting."

"But are you talking with her about what all is going on inside you? Cause you're pretty much not with me" said Myra.

"I don't know how to put in it words. Except I wasn't ready to be without Chris, and I'm still not" said Allie. "And from here on out, the ante goes up to unthinkable stakes, and I can't leave the table."

"Wasn't it Luisah Teish who first said 'What don't kill us makes us stronger'?" ventured Myra.

Allie's smile was acid. "She fulla shit on that one. Being gutshot a slow but certain end."

Myra went cold. She put her hand on Allie's. "Are you saying you're gutshot?"

"Not yet" said Allie.

After a long silence, Myra said "Change is sometimes veined with hope and joy. What Margie and Frances are bringing us this spring -- "

"I know" said Allie. "I'm counting on it."

After that, Myra's grief shifted into worry about Allie. That is, until her former lover Mimosa died suddenly from an aneurysm and Kate Bean was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. Myra and Ginny flew to San Francisco for Mimosa's funeral the second week in January, and the day after their return, Myra sat in a waiting room with Kate's son Rafe and the sister who was one of Myra's more hostile exes as much of Kate's intestines were removed.

"I don't understand it" Rafe kept saying, "She's the healthiest eater I ever met."

Bodies offer possibility, not justice Myra thought to herself.

The next week, Beebo began peeing on Jane's carpeting in odd corners. The vet said his kidneys were in trouble and every morning Myra walked over to coax a dropper of a new medication down his throat. She whispered to him "You tell me when this isn't okay any more, I'll listen and help everybody else hear it too." He purred and eventually began eating the expensive canned food they switched him to. Myra bought flats of it to stack in their storage room and put all their cats on it as well.

The day before Ginny's 65th birthday, Ginny was painting upstairs while Allie was in Myra's study. Myra baked a cake made mostly of almond flour and bright orange organic egg yolks. She drizzled it with honey, and was pressing halves of succulent dates onto the sticky top when the phone rang.

Five minutes later, she emerged from the elevator and sat down woodenly in Ginny's work chair. Ginny hadn't registered her arrival. Myra looked at the pots of pigments -- heavy on the greens, this one, but that was no clue as to subject matter, not with Ginny -- before saying expressionlessly "Myra's dead."

Ginny didn't respond. Myra said in her cutting-through-the-fog voice "Gin!" When Ginny looked at her, Myra fancied she could see faint swirls of green among the blue smudges in Ginny's eyes. "Myra has died" Myra said.

Ginny looked confused. Allie's voice came from the doorway: "You ex, Myra?"

Myra gazed at her own palms. "Yes. Heart attack yesterday. She was my age, you know."

"Son of a bitch" said Allie as she came to Myra. After two beats of hesitation, Ginny wiped the painstaking accumulation of color on her palette knife into a rag and came to embrace Myra as well.

"Bad year to be one of my exes" said Myra distantly. "Maybe I should send out a warning, time for a check-up, y'all."

Allie laughed, which brought a little color to Myra's face.

"Her memorial service is Sunday" she said. She and Ginny had planned to spend the weekend at the coast, but Ginny swiftly said "I'll go with you, of course."

"No" said Myra slowly. "I'd rather not." She met Allie's eyes and said "Will you finish the cake on the counter and put it away? I think I'll go call Nancy in the bedroom."

Three weeks later a package arrived for Myra. It had been put together by the 40-something tattoo artist who had been Myra Two's lover for a year, and contained yellowing photos, a few copies of Myra's books which she had not given Myra Two, and a roll of Super 8 film.

Myra looked through the photos sadly. "My god, we were so young" she said.

"Who is this in the liplock with Myra Two?" asked Ginny.

Myra glanced at it. "No idea. I guess the new girlfriend thinks all fat dykes in Dickies are identical."

"What's the movie of?" daid Ginny, picking up the yellow box.

"Probably of a march or demo, Myra used to take her camera to events where she hoped we'd get into it with the pigs" said Myra, leafing through her old poetry volumes, hoping for a comment in Myra Two's handwriting, but there was nothing, not even underlining. Ginny had found a faint ink notation on the side of the box: "August 5th -- that's your birthday, is this a movie of some birthday party? We need to get this copied into a format where we can watch it!" she said with growing excitement.

"I think Gillam has a Super 8 projector, actually" said Myra distractedly. She'd found writing on the back flyleaf of one book, but it was some other woman's phone number. Suddenly she looked at Ginny in horror and snatched the film box from Ginny's hands. "Oh hell, I remember what this is!" Her face was going a dull red.

Ginny looked at her in swift comprehension. "Myra, please tell me you didn't make a sex tape with this woman." Myra's silence was answer enough. After a few seconds, Ginny asked "Is there audio on these things?"

Myra shuddered involuntarily as she stood and went to the hidden safe in her study. "Blessedly no" she said over her shoulder.

"Do you think that's the only copy?" Ginny called after her. Myra's step faltered for a moment before she left without answering.

A week later, on a morning when Sima was at Annie's and Myra was sleeping in from late-night editing, Ginny set up Gillam's projector in the spare bedroom and finally figured out how to thread the film correctly through its tortuous path. She closed the blinds and locked the door before pushing play.

At lunch, with Allie, Edwina, Annie, Sima, and Margie also at the table, Ginny said calmly while sprinkling cayenne on her baked squash "I watched that home movie. Of you and Moyra."

"You what?" hissed Myra.

"What movie?" demanded Margie, but Allie shook her head at Margie briefly before returning to glare at Ginny.

"I took a calculated risk" said Ginny. "It would eat you up, sitting there in the safe, someone needed to move it from the unfettered swamps of your imagination. So I was going to tell you what I'd done immediately. I figured if it upset me, I'd make sure you didn't have to deal with a scrap of it and I'd get clear to stay listening to you." She paused to swallow a mouthful of broccoli raab. Allie said to Margie "Myra and her ex who just died filmed themselves messing around after Myra's birthday party way back when. Myra got given the film yesterday." Clearly Myra had discussed it with Allie, and it wasn't news to Edwina, either. Margie and Sima goggled, however.

"So?" Myra said to Ginny challengingly, her chin thrust out.

"Not what I expected. Kinda sweet, actually -- although there are sections you wouldn't want to watch" she said in an aside to Allie, who registered horror at the very idea. Annie muffled a giggle. Ginny continued "It's you, but it's not the you I know, Myra. Not the woman I trust and love, only flashes of her trying to come through. I was fascinated. I think you will be, too. I left the projector set up in the guest bedroom."

Margie glanced at the ceiling overhead as if a living writhe of celluloid might find a way through the acoustic tiles. Myra stood stiffly, plate and silverware in clenched hands, and said "We are not okay about this."

"I'll do whatever work is required" said Ginny equably. "Turn on the little lamp for a minute before pushing the play lever."

Myra headed for the elevator. After the door shut, Margie breathed out and said "Destroy that and any cinematic efforts you two may have created before time comes for me to administer your estates, that's all I ask."

A week after Valentine's Day, Booray had his day filled with classes and meetings, so Myra and Allie were alone that morning in her study. Myra went downstairs for a ginger ale. She stood on the stairs a minute, gazing through the rain-streaked windows at the bench where her mother had some sort of spectral link. Ginny was vacuuming at the front of the house, and the kitchen already smelled of the tomato soup Ginny had started for lunch.

Back in her study, she looked over Allie's shoulder at the charcoal sketch she was making of Chris making the "okay" sign with a wry grin. Chris had always folded her first two fingers over her thumb pad instead of only her forefinger for this symbol, and Myra had never gotten around to asking her why. Allie was capturing it perfectly.

"I been thinking" said Myra, settling into her chair. Franklin had joined Keller on Myra's desk, which he always did when the vacuum was running. Aliie continued licking one fingertip to smear shadows into her drawing, but she swiveled her chair to face Myra.

"We had one ginormous bolt of luck, you and me. I mean, I bought the lottery ticket but it was really both of us won. But what we did with it was be smart, not keep testing our luck. You got art training, I got therapy, and both of us squirreled away enough to keep us comfortable forever -- well, Ginny did it for me but I picked her to help me make those choices, I'll take credit for it that way."

Allie raised her eyebrows as she looked directly at Myra. She had a dark smear on her lower lip.

"Weve kept taking risks, Al, but never stupid ones, so I don't think of it as gambling. It's never been for the thrill of it, either. It's been to keep doing the gods-honest right thing. And we've got good lives as a result, which is lucky only if you favor the power of serendipitous catastrophe over the strength of human will and intent." Myra returned Allie's slow smile and added "A delusion, that human will thang, but I'm hanging onto it for now."

"Okay by me" said Allie.

" know how utterly, passionately I love her, how I revere who she -- was" said Myra with a deep breath. "But I have to admit, Al, I'm stronger than she was. Don't know how or why, I just am. And so are you."

Allie didn't answer. There was no argument on her face, however. After a minute, Myra said "She'd kick my ass if I started living hunkered down now. And she had those steel-toed Red Wings."

Allie laughed in abrupt release. She said "I keep hearing the Wicked Witch of the West saying 'The last to go will watch all the others die before her.'"

"Yeah, well, Judy Garland was already on drugs by then" replied Myra. "Addicts got to keep they minds focused, you always say."

Allie looked at her sketch, then put her name and date at the bottom before turning to a fresh page. "You still mad at Ginny for watching that movie without asking you first?"

"A little. I know I chose to live with her and I know she can't help being someone raised by Helen and David, but I slept most of last week out here on my daybed. Rattled her good and gave me some fresh air" said Myra.

"Edwina told me" admitted Allie.

"Listen, soon as the roads clear, let's go to Colville and spend several days. Fish early, stay at a nice motel and eat out instead of cook, and pound out the final outline for this book about Chris. No children or granchildren, just us originals. Before spring hits and everything changes."

Allie said "I'll talk to 'Wina. They any salmon running this early?"

copyright 2009, Maggie Jochild

1 comment:

C. Diva. said...

Glad you're back; missed you. Hope your body stops holding you hostage soon.