Friday, January 23, 2009


I've been dealing with two days of fever and joint lockdown, but I wanted to express my happiness at the good news flowing out of the Oval Office. A year ago, I made a list of my top ten issues I wanted to see addressed by a new government. At the very top was "Restore the Constitution". This had several subcategories, including limiting so-called executive privilege, restoring transparency, enforcing accountability, returning checks and balances -- you know the rest.

I believed (still do) that if these Cheney-spored rots were scrubbed out, all else would follow much more easily. Which is why when Obama caved on FISA, he went down on my list of Presidential picks.

But damn, the Constitutional scholar in him is coming forth, ain't it? So far, I'm happy as a gator in a chickenranch.

I wanted to alert you all to an interesting website run by the St. Petersburg Times called "The Obameter: Tracking Obama's Campaign Promises". As of this morning, out of about 500 campaign promises, here's the scoreboard so far:

Promise Kept -- 7
Compromise -- 0
Promise Broken -- 0
Stalled -- 1
In The Works -- 14
No Action -- 488

Go to the site for more details. And bookmark it for future reference. Remember, happiness depends on noticing what's going right as much as it does expressing your expectations for improvement.

Or, to quote Jennifer Warnes in the working-class anthem for Norma Rae:

Bless the child of a working man
She knows too soon where she's from
And bless the hands of a working man
He knows his soul is his own

So it goes like it goes
Like a river flows
And time, it rolls right on
And maybe what's good gets a little bit better
And maybe what's bad gets gone
Maybe what's bad gets gone

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Thursday, January 22, 2009


In a well-known city, there are 21 streets running east and west whose names (with a couple of exceptions) begin with consecutive letters of the alphabet. Two other city landmarks also fill within this alphabetical scheme. The first four streets, from north to south, are Anza, Balboa, Cabrillo, and Fulton.

For 10 points, name the city.
For 10 points, name what corresponds to G.
For 10 points, name what corresponds to Z.
For 2 points each, name as many of the other 17 streets as you can.

Answers after the fold.

The city is San Francisco.
G corresponds to Golden Gate Park.
Z is the city zoo.

The streets in order are:
Golden Gate Park


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


(From SomeEcards)

On my sixth birthday in 1961, my family was living in Pecos, Texas, in a trailer park which would be massively damaged by multiple tornadoes a year later. My mother had finally given up on my father ever changing to a job which would bring him home at nights. She agreed to selling our ranch-style three-bedroom in Lafayette, Louisiana and buying a trailer, a 10x50 New Moon with three bedrooms if you count the closet-sized room assigned to me as a bedroom (it was so narrow I had to pull my feet onto on my twin bed to open the dresser drawers). We began moving every few months as my father's crappy job demanded. But Mama thought this meant we'd be together for dinner at night, on weekends, holidays, birthdays.

She still didn't know my father, really.

However, all that slow decline in despair was ahead of us. On my birthday in 1961, I was given a "Have Gun -- Will Travel" toy rifle with a Paladin style black hat and, most thrilling of all, a small set of calling cards embossed with his logo. To keep my little brother Bill, who was two, from feeling left out, he was given a similar set from "Wanted: Dead or Alive" with a plastic sawed-off shotgun.

Have Gun, Will Travel calling card
The first time I took my rifle to the playground in the middle of the trailer park, a little boy named Corky stole it, saying it was not something a girl should have. I went home crying and told Mama. She steamed over to his trailer, where his mother flatly denied he'd come home with anything that didn't belong to him. My mother got into a screaming fight with her, wherein Mama unleashed her legendary ability at profanity and called the woman "white trash". The woman slammed her trailer door in Mama's face. Mama walked around in a rage the rest of the day and unloaded on my father when he came home two hours past dinner time.

It's a milestone memory for me, an initial slam into class and gender walls.

The day before that birthday, Barack Obama had been born in Honolulu, Hawaii.

(Barack Obama as a young boy)

I work nights, sleep days, usually being sound asleep by 8 a.m. But not yesterday. I was too excited to drop off, and wound up flipping from channel to channel for eight hours. I cried a lot. Here are some non-chronological impressions.

There was no smirk on McChimpy Flightsuit's face, not once that I could see. What a fucking relief to see him looking like something might be penetrating that beady-eyed, alcohol-damaged frontal lobe, especially if it might in any way be noticing he is Mr. Epic Fail. How long will it take Laura to divorce him, I wonder? Here's a contest we should start: Which will occur first, McCain admitting he has recurrence of melanoma, Laura divorcing Dubya, or Palin being arrested on corruption charges?

I knew immediately when I saw Cheney in a wheelchair that smart-mouthed teenboy progressives were not going to be able to resist making cheap swipes about it. And I was right. They've jumped on the bandwagon, comparing him to every movie villain they can name. Have you dickheads never stopped to consider why it is that movie-makers (especially the Bond series) feel so free to make the bad guys disabled or having an obvious physical difference? Because it's okay to play on that hatred. Can't pick on blacks or women any more, but wheelchairs, man, that's the kind of difference that's fair game. (Almost as good as swish jokes. And talking about fat chicks.) I mean, I hate the man enough to give me serious pause, but him being in a wheelchair has nothing to do with the issue, pro or con. No wonder FDR hid his braces, with the likes of you losers itching to make comment.

I loved the music quartet, the joy on their faces as they played, the music itself. As a prior attender of Quaker functions, I've heard "Tis a Gift To Be Simple" more times than I can count, but this was an original take on it. (Although, I have to confess, I always think of a parody a friend of mine wrote: "Tis a gift to be pimple / Tis a gift to be wart / Tis a gift to be a blemish of any sort...") I do wish they'd been in a better line of sight. Maybe they should have been to the left of Biden and Obama, and move Darth and Dubya up to the nosebleed zone. I also wish they'd once done a close-up of the pianist (the only woman) performing. But the guys always get most of the camera action -- unless the woman is partially nude and playing a sex kitten, of course.

And Aretha -- the first album I bought on my own was by Aretha. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Yowza. Perfect choice.

I am always glad to support poetry read in public and included in ceremony. However, it was a poem that needed editing, and the poet reader was far too stiff. I kept wishing for Sonia Sanchez or Sharon Bridgforth to be reading up there, now THAT would have been something to see.

I ADORED seeing Obama led in by two powerful women, setting aside my differences with those women at various times. I also adored how many non-white faces were filling the lenses. It's like my chest got full of air for the first time in ages, you know? It got all tight again when I looked at the wide shot of the Congressional luncheon later -- almost all white men over 40, how can this be considered representative leadership? You have to ignore so much about the planet, about human history, to accept that logic.

And speaking of which: My lizard brain is hoping for retribution against John Cornyn. He kept Hillary from being confirmed on Inauguration Day just because -- like the dog licking its genitals -- he could. One more CDS prick-slap. Or do you really buy his argument about transparency?

I found Obama's speech to be EXCELLENT. He was direct, was clearly speaking to the rest of the world as well as America, and he spoke truth to power (take THAT, Bushies). I particularly liked his reminder we don't have to give up civil liberties to be "safe".

I was also glad to hear a few direct references to race, more than his usual allegory. (Excepting the single "race speech", whose title right there tells you how often Obama raises the issue concretely.) He's elected now, he no longer has to play to the majority of white supporters who want proactive redemption for a guilt they deny feeling, who want him to speak in terms of "we" and "it's gonna be better" instead of pointing to the elephant in the room. White people prefer not to move on the issue of race unless it seems like it was their idea in the first place -- or the National Guard is involved. He did it deftly enough that commentators like Charlie Gibson and Bob Schieffer felt a sanctified glow in repeating his remarks, sure the troubles he referred to are all in the icky past.

So, now we have one out of 44 Presidents who is Not White. I have mixed feelings -- incredulous relief at it occurring in my lifetime, followed immediately by noticing the pathos of needing to feel such relief. If the next four Presidents are African American, the next five after ten or eleven after that Latino, then at least one Asian and Native American, we'll reach actual racial diversity in Presidential representation. Of course, every one of those plus another 27 Presidents (until 2184) will need to be women for us to reach gender equality.

(From SomeEcards)

Now, as for the prayers. Let me begin by saying I'm so fucking ready to take g*d out of all these oaths and falderol. If you don't believe they'll tell the truth without bringing g*d into it, then they're not who we should have as leaders, right? And either g*d loves us all and supports us in everything we do (even Dubya) or g*d is not much of a supreme being, more like a Britney kinda parent.

I multitasked during PRick Warren's ridiculous display. I did sit up straight and sing "America the Beautiful", thinking about the end of the second stanza (America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw / Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!) and the author's 25-year relationship/residence with her beloved Katherine Coman. But I also read the captioning on my TV screen and when I'd finished singing, I listened critically to the style of PRick's prayer as well as trying to hear if there was any resistance coming from the audience. Flipping between channels, I noticed at first the camera showed quite a few people who were obviously not "praying along", looking bored or disgusted. Eventually the networks all found folks with closed eyes and clasped hands, and stayed with this stereotype until he was done.

I grew up listening to fundies preach, and the thing is, he simply wasn't very good. Aside from the obvious offenses in his content (I'll get to that), it didn't hang together very well, it was overly exhortational or groveling, alternating between the two, without any good hooks to suck in the emotion of the listener. And the expression on his face looked to me like that of a man who was busy sucking off the sweat behind a largish pair of balls.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

As for offense: You don't introduce Jesus as g*d in a prayer designed for people of all faiths. You'll notice Lowery didn't do it, nor did the Chaplain who prayed at the beginning of the Congressional luncheon, both of them devout Christians, I'm sure. It's as offensive as if he had insisted on using the term Allah instead of the agreed-upon generic g*d. But -- this is a man who earns his living by refusing to see the full humanity of others. No big surprise there.

He also appropriated the Sh'ma and altered it (perhaps botched it). Again, fundies think they have a right to claim Judaism, and too many right-wing Jews in the last few decades have allowed them to get away with it. In lesbian-feminist circles, you'll be met with torches and pitchforks if you refer to "Judeo-Christian" anything or allow gentiles to lead Jewish prayer without obtaining prior consent.

It was, in short, a pitiful effort, definitely not worthy of the cost to Obama to include this vermin on that platform. Plenty of that example on the other side of balcony.

Reverend Joseph Lowery would definitely have looked better by comparison, in any event, but he did everything right. He spoke the language of actual inclusion, he caught us up, and he ended with humor. It's the kind of prayer an atheist can listen to and find enough relatable to accept as speaking for all of us, not just "believers" (as if nonbelievers have no beliefs). Below is a YouTube copy of his benediction.

I kept watching after the ceremony was over, mainly in hopes of seeing President Obama sign some key executive orders right away (didn't happen) and wondering if the networks would also block out the lesbian/gay portions of the parade, as HBO did to Gene Robinson this weekend (didn't see all of the parade, so I can't say for sure). During the parade, all three main stations made some comment about how the Obamas were expected to make D.C. their actual community, to go out in it and do community organizing, eat at local restaurants, and make friends there, in contrast to the Bushes who had no locally made friends after eight years. They also put up a photograph from the podium looking down the length of the National Mall to show the vast crowds attending, juxtaposed with the same shot from Bush's inauguration which drew perhaps one-fourth the number of attendees. (So much for a fucking mandate.) Why wasn't this sort of analysis ever done by the mainstream networks while Bush was in office?

I also have to say, I think people who don't wear a warm, buttoned-up coat when they have to be out for hours in that kind of weather look stupid. It's painful to see that much insecurity on display (i.e., my looks are more important than my well-being.) When will my sisters be "free at last" from that imprisonment? And don't try to tell me it was a choice. You know damned well that all anybody would be talking about is if the First Lady had dressed appropriately instead of an object on display. But reverse it: Imagine if Barack had been in shorts and a light dress jacket. At least they put their daughters in coats.

I'm reminded of a story about Sam Houston, the first President of the Republic of Texas. (He was a slaveowner but was opposed to the extension of slavery into new American territory, and was forced to resign his later governorship of Texas because he refused to sign an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. He proclaimed "A house divided against itself cannot stand" eight years before Lincoln did.) When the Republic was new, a group of visitors from the East came, bigwigs in fancy clothes whose report on Texas would be instrumental in gaining future assistance and favor. Houston was showing them around the grounds of a new building, and in the back near the kitchen, a pot of cornmeal mush was hung over a fire, simmering. Houston picked up a spoon and took a mouthful, not knowing it was near boiling. He promptly spit it out onto the earth near the feet of his horrified visitors. Houston remarked "There's many a damned fool who would've swallowed that!"

As for all the "designer" obsession, let me just report that my cat Dinah chose to wear full-length tortoiseshell to her Top Of The Bookshelf Inaugural Ball.

When I finally gave up on there being anything covered except fluff, I came back to my computer where I had an e-mail waiting from a friend living in the Boston area, but formerly from Texas, saying "Happy New President! I'm so sorry you have to take the old one back now." Ah, you and me both, Amanda. You'll notice he went to Midland first, where there's still enough of the deluded to gin up a crowd for him. (I say that having lived in Midland as a child.) You'll also notice he's chosen Dallas, not Austin, as his future residence. Dallas can have him. I only wish we could give all of Dallas from Central Expressway to Irving away to Oklahoma and not have it affect Texas elections any more.

I opened my blog's layout and removed the Backwards Bush Clock, which for six months has been counting down the days until he was gone. It's amazing this day has come. I'm glad I watched, totally worth it to lose an entire cycle of sleep over. Then I made dinner and, in the words of Jeb Bartlet, said to myself "Next?"

(Image by Alvin Blair.)

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there. As usual, those from little gator lead the pack.


Monday, January 19, 2009


(U.S. athletes Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos, extend gloved hands skyward and stare downward in racial protest during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze for the 200 meter run at the Olympics in Mexico City on Oct. 16, 1968. Australian silver medalist Peter Norman is at left.)

No pretense.

That's what I'm asking for this inauguration, and of you who have a chance to witness it in person tomorrow.

If you respect Barack Obama's message, the platform he ran on, the possibilities that are waiting for him and us, you will demonstrate that by respecting him AND by having the guts to disagree with his mistakes. (He does and will make mistakes.) Inviting Rick Warren to usher in this new era with prayer is an offensive mistake.

If you agree with the positions Rick Warren promotes about the role of women to be submissive to their husbands, his Johnny-come-lately recognition that AIDS exists with a position which favors abstinence and prayer over condoms and sex education, his refusal to accord human rights to lesbians and gays (including being instrumental in fundraising for the recent effort to remove marriage rights for lesbians and gays in California), his insistence that someone who does not believe in g*d should not be allowed to hold public office, his opposition to reproductive choice and equation of legal abortion to the Nazi Holocaust, his insistence that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers, his "nonegotiable, nondebatable" opposition to stem cell research, his disavowal of evolution, his refusal to take a public stand against torture, his contention that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other non-Christians will "burn in hell", his request to followers that they emulate the mindless devotion of Hitler youth -- then you'll find no reason to object to his presence on the podium. But if you agree with the man, you're not an advocate of progressive human rights, that's fairly clear.

If, on the other hand, you find his views repugnant, you should not pretend to allow him to speak for you (and us as a nation) in his address to g*d. Do not pretend to a respect you do not feel. You'll regret your silence, you know you will.

Here's where you make your chops as a feet-on-the-street activist, instead of a keyboard theorist. Stand up and turn you back on the man when he starts to speak. If you believe in prayer, do your own, out loud and with honest feeling. If you don't believe in prayer, sing "America the Beautiful", which was written by a LESBIAN. (Except if it was me, I'd replace every other "brotherhood" with "sisterhood".)

I booed Tommy Thompson at the Kennedy Center when he came to speak to an international gathering of disabled artists. It made some heads explode, but he heard it, others heard it, and who knows how far those ripples have traveled.

And you won't be alone. There's a Turn Your Back on Rick Warren Campaign well underway. (I wonder if its inception was my original post on this issue here.)

I'm all for forgiveness. I live by forgiveness. But since being given this honor, this reward for past hateful behavior, Rick Warren has not sought our forgiveness nor has he sought reconciliation. He's scrubbed some of past (and no doubt future) hate-based views from his website. He's raised money for his anti-liberation work by parading his selection around as proof that the conservative message of convert or die is working. He has Not Changed. And when people resist growth, you can have patience but you don't give them respect for persistent shitty choices.

No pretense. Not on this day.

{And, just to prove the point that Obama could have chosen from a vast number of religious leaders who DO live/preach genuine liberation messages, check out Reverend Al Sharpton's keynote speech at the Human Rights Ecumenical Service held at Atlanta's Tabernacle Baptist Church to welcome the Atlanta-based Alliance of Affirming Faith-Based Organizations.}

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Sunday, January 18, 2009


Baby with smudgy blue eyes
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.

Autumn 2018

Lucia was yet another version of the Bates imprint, like Ginny, Margie, and Mimi before her. She had the wide brow, dark glossy hair, and smudgy blue eyes that felt to Myra like the best looks in the world. Her shoulders were Gillam-squared, but her jaw came down into a heart shape.

However, she cried much more than any other baby Ginny and Myra had seen. She did not appear to be consolable. Nursing was especially trying for Jane. After a week, Chris observed that Lucia preferred not to have hands on her -- “She don't like to be grabbed” is how Chris put it. Which of course make caring for her problematic, but when the adults could hold her facing away from their chest, make diaper changes swift instead of sweet, and Jane could resist stroking Lucia's face while feeding her, Lucia seemed to be much calmer.

Gillam had to return to teaching three weeks after Lucia was born. He came to Myra's study at the end of his first week of work and broke down crying at how he had not had enough time with this baby. “Do you think she cries so much because she's being short-changed?” he asked.

“No” said Myra firmly. “Every child is different, you of all people know that.”

Jane contracted a bladder infection after delivery, which recurred a week later. On her second round of a new antibiotic, she developed lingering diarrhea and, as she expressed it, every day became a race for her to take in adequate nutrition before it roared back out of her.

Charlie was cheerfully resisting any progress toward toilet-training, Leah sprained her ankle badly enough to require wearing a brace, and Edwina had a wreck which didn't result in injury to her or Allie but did total her car. On the plus side, Mimi liked Lucia as much as she had Charlie.

Myra finished her final Seed children's book – well, if her agent had her way, it wouldn't actually be the last of them. The fifth child, Piñon, was painted by Ginny with silver bands spiraling up her arms and legs. When asked what that meant, Ginny said she didn't know, it's just what she saw.

Cathy came on September 12th to spend the rest of Rosh HaShanah with them. The second evening, Chris and Sima came over for dinner. Gillam, Jane, and the children walked over with a pineapple upside-down cake to share. After the children were revved up on sugar, Gillam inflated several balloons, invented a complicated game with them, and set the kids loose in the living room while the adults remained around the dining table. When he returned to his seat, he poured another cup of tea and said “My principal is really on my ass to sign up for at least one extra-curricular duty this semester. She says I need to be doing a lot more to advance my career.”

“You already direct the play every spring” objected Myra.

“Not enough. She especially wants me to help manage a sport. Problem is, there's no swimming pool at Nova and the only other sport I know really well, baseball, would mean practice and games that are hellishly long. I wouldn't make it home until the kids are asleep. I think I can put her off until next semester because I have a newborn, but after that...” He absentmindedly cut a sliver from the last remaining piece of cake and began eating it.

Ginny got up to clear her part of the table, which included the cake plate. She returned with a bowl of oranges. Myra grinned to herself.

Gillam licked his fork and said to Myra “She says her aunt knows you, by the way.”

“Who's her aunt?” asked Myra.

“I forgot to ask. But my principal is single, and her last name is Rosenthal, if that helps” said Gillam.

“Oh” said Myra and Ginny in one voice.

“Blue” giggled Chris. “She won't have had much good to say about you, huh. Seeing has how you wronged her twice, not just once.”

“What do you mean, twice?” asked Ginny.

“That's not how I'd put it” said Myra. “She severed contact with me both times.” She was a little embarrassed at this coming up in front of Cathy.

When Myra didn't answer her question, Ginny turned to Sima. “How so, twice?”

Sima glanced at Myra. “Uh...Well, they dated for a while back when – you know about that. Then, after Myra won the lottery, it looked like they might start back up. But – I did think you were the one to end it that time, Myra.”

Myra sighed. “I told her I needed to do some hard work. I wanted to keep seeing each other, only no sex and no romance. Simply getting to know each other – frankly, in a way we'd not ever actually done. She said, and I quote, 'If you don't fuck me, you don't see me.' And that was that.”

“I never knew about this” said Ginny in a voice she was trying hard to keep clear of accusation. “This was after our first potluck, or before?”

Myra wrinkled her brow, trying to remember. “After the first one, I guess. Because it was right before Gil died.”

“So, if she'd been willing to work with you, she might have wound up with you?” asked Ginny. She felt like smacking Chris, who wouldn't stop giggling.

“I cannot in any way imagine me having wound up with Blue Rosenthal” said Myra. “I was just trying to change my spots, and that was one kind of effort.”

“You said no to that woman in Portland, too, not long after that” reminded Chris. “When you took the train down there for a week.”

“Kate Bean?” said Ginny, her voice rising. “Kate Bean offered to be lovers with you, you said she absolutely -- “

“No, not Kate” interrupted Myra. “Emily something. A friend of Kate's; actually, someone Kate was interested in dating.”

“And you were flirting with her, or what?” said Ginny.

Myra faced her. “I did not flirt with her, I made an effort to get to know her because Kate had a crush on her and couldn't talk about anything else. She was fascinating, she had gorgeous soft black curls and a big hook nose and was brainy as hell, and I could easily see the attraction for Kate. We went out to dinner and she talked about seeing the Broadway version of Amadeus, how every time Salieri entered a scene all the extras would hiss his name in a barely audible sussuration of menace. I liked her a lot. But then Kate went to the bathroom, and Emily put her hand on my leg and asked me if I wrote letters. I didn't understand her at first. I said I actually loved to write letters. She handed me a piece of paper with her address on it and told me she'd hope to hear from me, she could visit Seattle any old time. That's when I realized she was, well, hitting on me.”

“What did you do?” said Gillam, interested in spite of Ginny's tension.

“I didn't tell Kate. I wrote Emily and said I liked her, I'd like to be friends, but if there was any part of her that wanted romance, I was not available. She didn't reply” said Myra.

“The old Myra would have changed her train ticket and shacked up with that woman secretly for a few days, praying not to run into Kate” said Chris.

“Why did you never tell me about any of this?” said Ginny.

“It didn't matter enough to me” said Myra. “The process I was in kinda overshadowed blips along the way.”

Ginny was a little mollified by that term “blips”. She realized this insecurity was what Nancy talked about as not having anything to do with Myra, and she began trying to track down where it lived inside her. Myra sensed the shift and leaned over to kiss Ginny's cheek.

“I know you don't do the male-female division” said Cathy, “but when I hear these stories about you, Myra, it reminds me of a guy. Like a dog of a guy.”

Gillam laughed. “Ballsy of you to say so, Aunt Cathy. We're never supposed to make that comparison, or imply anything to do with men and sex around the mother-world.”

“Oh, knock it off” said Ginny. “There's a difference between us having a redefined world view and you being censored somehow. Myra's not prohibitive – I mean, she has those erotic dreams about Rich Trethewey.”

“Who the hell is that?” said Sima. But Chris was chortling. She punched Myra on her shoulder and said “The fat bald guy from 'This Old House'? You have the hots for him?”

Myra scowled at Ginny. “No. I've had a series of dreams about him that, well, seem to have ambiguous symbolism, is all.” She began clearing the rest of the table. Everyone else came to help. As Myra bent over to lift the broiler pan from the oven, Chris whispered “You want to put some joint seal on my copper pipe here, Myra?”

“Stop it” commanded Myra. Ginny and Sima looked around at them, then at each other. That night Myra was asleep by the time Ginny came to bed.

Cathy's third day there, Ginny “woke up with a painting”, as Myra thought of it, and Cathy began spending mornings with Jane and the children, afternoons as a surrogate bubbe with Myra. Her quiet patience reminded Myra a great deal of David. At one point, Myra said to Cathy “David now has nine great-grandchildren. Not bad for the single Bates survivor.”

“And six of them are girls” said Cathy with a sad smile. “He'd like that percentage.”

Ginny finished her painting Thursday night but refused to sleep, instead sitting up with Cathy and talking after dinner until Cathy tactfully decided to go to bed early. The next afternoon, after Mystery Box, Myra made bread, Ginny made challah, Lucia sat in her carrier on the counter dozing amid the smell of yeast, and Cathy led the other children through endless rounds of “Let's Go Hunting”. Carly and Eric arrived at 4:00, leaving work early because of the holiday, and a few minutes later Gillam and Jane walked in the back door.

They were immediately besieged by their children. Lucia woke up and began crying, and Jane said “My breasts are bursting, I know she's got to be hungry”, but Lucia fought nursing. Gillam had changed Charlie's diaper and was trying to get his pants snapped back together, without any cooperation on Charlie's part. Cathy's cell rang and she went into the front foyer for enough quiet to talk. David stood beside Jane, yanking at her elbow and saying “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy” in an endless drone that made Myra think he'd forgotten what he wanted from her, he'd simply gotten sucked into the rhythm of whingeing. From the living room came Leah's voice yelling “Hey, that's mine, I was playing with that!”

Gillam turned away from Charlie to shout “Mimi, I swear to fucking god -- “. David and Charlie both went still. Cathy stepped back into the kitchen area with a pale face, saying “That was Elyse. They think Nate's had a heart attack.”

“Oh my god” said Ginny, rushing to put her arms around Cathy. “Is he all right?”

“They're doing cardiac catheterization. They think if they clear the arteries, and he got there in time, he might not have any residual damage” said Cathy numbly. “She's going to call me back in an hour, they'll be done by then.”

“He's what, 40-something?” said Gillam in a shocked voice.

“He turned 50 last June” said Cathy. “He's never had any symptoms, if he had he would have done something about it, I know it.”

“Well, Daddy didn't -- “ Ginny stopped herself, realizing that train of thought was terrible. But it had been launched. Jane took Gillam's hand and squeezed it tight, looking at him anxiously.

“Mommy” said David again. Carly swooped him up and carried him into the living room. After 30 seconds, Charlie went after them, his unsnapped pants legs flapping around his chubby knees like chaps. Lucia was still squalling.

“I'll make her a bottle” said Eric, standing.

“But I need to get rid of this milk” said Jane, still staring at Gillam's face.

“Go upstairs, take the pump” said Myra to her and Gillam. “Take a break, you two. We'll let you know when we hear more.” She took Lucia from Jane gently, holding Lucia facing outward. Her small body was rigid but her crying diminished slightly at the change.

Gillam went to Cathy and kissed her cheek before heading up the front stairs after Jane. Cathy said “I need to go to New York.”

“Come on” said Ginny. “We'll go to Myra's study and call the airline on that phone, keep your line free. I need to call Margie, too.”

When Lucia's bottle was ready, Myra put her in the carrier and held the bottle for her, and Lucia ate greedily, watching Myra with an intense expression.

Nate was in postop by the time they began dinner. They'd found major blockages of four arteries and cleared or stented them. Elyse said he'd be good as new. Still, Ginny turned to Gillam and said “You need a complete work-up. For that matter, I'll go in, too.”

They coaxed a meal into Cathy, then Ginny helped her pack and drove her to the airport with Margie. Poker was cancelled. Myra and Carly played Hi-Ho the Cherry-O with the children until bedtime, but Myra was so distracted that Mimi stole cherries from her basket and Myra didn't notice until Leah pointed it out to her. The next day, Cathy called to say Nate really did seem to be okay. Myra's worry went into simmer.

Two weeks later, Gillam took a Tuesday off to go to the doctor. That afternoon, Margie showed up at Myra and Ginny's as dance class was winding down.

“I just drove Gillam home” Margie said to Myra in the kitchen.

“He's been having tests all day?” said Myra. “Did they find something?”

“No. The tests were done by noon. Mom, he had a vasectomy today” said Margie in a whisper. “He added it on to avoid having to take another day off work.”

“Why are you whispering? For that matter, why didn't Gillam or Jane tell us about it?” said Myra.

“He didn't tell Jane he was having it done today” said Margie.

“He what?” said Myra. She saw Ginny look around the door facing in her direction.

“I mean, it's not a total secret, they'd agreed they would use a vasectomy for birth control after they hit five kids” said Margie, looking in the refrigerator.

“But...what are you saying, they had an agreement but he still lied about doing it? I don't understand.” Myra glanced at the back gate. “Is he all right?”

“Moving slow and looking for an ice pack” said Margie. “A little woozy from the sedation. They don't put them out, though, you know, not for that.”

“What's going on?” said Ginny, joining them. David was right behind her. Myra said to him “I need for you kids to go play for five minutes. We have to talk grown-up for that long. I'll call you when we're done, I promise.”

“What will we do?” he whined.

“Go make up a dance and teach the steps to your siblings” said Myra impatiently. When he trudged away, she filled Ginny in.

“Are you implying he went in for surgery without telling Jane about it first?” Ginny demanded.

“Uh...I guess” said Margie, starting to become wary about her mothers' reaction. “Look, what he told me is that he's made all the children he ever intends to father, no matter what. So it's like his body, right? He gets to draw the line.”

“That's not the point” said Myra. “The point is that he lied to Jane, essentially. Not about the big picture, but the timing -- “

“Oh, right, you're going to go off on him about dishonesty, aren't you?” said Margie.

“How we react to this isn't going to hold a candle to what Jane is going to do” said Ginny grimly. “In fact, even as we speak...” She mirrored Myra's glance at the back gate.

“I thought he was done with this kind of crap” Myra said to Ginny. "She's right at the six weeks mark, off of pelvic rest."

Ginny held back two or three different things she considered saying. Finally she said “We probably should take the kids for overnight. That all right with you?”

“Yes, except Lucia doesn't sleep well here. Maybe Jane could handle that much?”

“I'll call her and leave a message. Then I'll help you start dinner” said Ginny.

Myra said to Margie “I can't believe you went along with him on this. Jane's going to be royally pissed at you as well.”

Margie looked defensive. “It's his body.”

“He's a husband and father as well as a body” said Myra. “How would you feel if – okay, not sterilization, maybe, but if Frances decided to have breast reduction without telling you when she did it?”

Margie laughed at her incredulously. David's voice came from the doorway. “Is it time yet, Gramma?”

“Oh, hell. Yeah, David, you can all come in here and help me decide between meatballs or chicken nuggets for dinner. Mimi can have some of Ginny's batter-dipped tofu. Or maybe we'll all have that...” She forced her thoughts away from the fight going on in the house behind them.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.