Thursday, March 12, 2009


Green tea ice cream
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.

November 16 and 17, 2009

Chris went to Allie and Edwina's for dinner Saturday night and stayed over with them. Margie had plans with friends, and even Carly and Eric didn't come by. Myra and Ginny ate a meal of leftovers and salad, then wondered what to do with themselves. Ginny lit candles all over Myra's study, turning off lights elsewhere. They made out a while on Myra's daybed, but were somehow not in the mood to move on to lovemaking.

After a while, Ginny said “I think you should write. You've not had nearly enough writing time this month.”

“What will you do?” Myra didn't want Ginny to begin another painting.

“I'll get my sketch block and sit here nearby. Maybe work on some projects, but I won't leave the room.” Ginny felt some small urge to reclaim Myra's daybed from Chris's frequent occupancy.

“That would be super” said Myra. They sat up late, listening to music and stopping to chat when Myra reached a breathing point in her writing. They went to bed at the same time, and when Myra got up the next morning, she felt rested for the first time in what seemed like weeks. Chris had called to say she was going out to brunch, so Ginny joined Myra at Quaker Meeting, sitting between her and Gillam, and holding both Charlie and Lucia when the children joined the silent worship for the last 15 minutes.

Since they had a critical mass of adults, they went to a cafeteria afterward for lunch. The children always asked for jello in the salad section, and Gillam always had to remind them “if you get jello, then no dessert when we reach the pies and cakes later on down the row”. Jello never won against Boston cream pie or strawberry shortcake. Eating out still could not be leisurely, not with toddler attention spans needing diversion once dessert had been inhaled. They went to Volunteer afterward, because the day was clear, feeding ducks at the pond and climbing to the top of the Water Tower before returning home.

Chris was on Myra's daybed with one of her boxes, Keller, Franklin, and Anthea occupying three of the four compass points around her. She had finished sanding all 21 of the boxes and was now rubbing several coats of oil into each. Ginny had found a compound to bring out the grain that was “as least toxic as can be bought, given what it basically is”, and Chris wore a bandanna over her mouth as she worked to keep from breathing in the fumes. She pulled it down to ask “Have either of you heard back from Sima?”

Ginny shook her head. Chris let her sadness show for a minute, then resumed her mask and replenished her polishing rag with oil. Ginny said “I'm going to call Cathy, I'll be in my studio” and left.

Myra checked her e-mail, then on a whim, googled “Susan Levy”. This turned up an alarming number of hits, and she modified it to include Ph.D. and then “Harvard”. She quickly turned up Susan's blog, which was mostly dedicated to promoting her books and speaking availability, but at the bottom of the page was a photograph of her at some event with Sima at her side, Sima's arm around Susan's waist, her hair in a new and trendy style.

Myra quickly clicked to another site before Chris saw. She glanced over at the daybed and found Chris immersed in her meditative polishing. Keller turned her head toward Myra, however, chirruped and hopped down, coming to join her at the desk.

“Did you hear my breathing change?” Myra murmured to her. She felt like her skin was tingling, and did not yet identify it as rage. She pulled toward her the fat folder of Chris's health records, sitting close at hand, and found the envelope of images from the last bone scan. She took the clearest of these to her scanner at the other table and copied it to her hard drive.

Back at her computer, she returned to Susan's site long enough to gather her e-mail address. She wrote a letter to Sima without pause, attaching the bone scan and sending a copy to Susan.

“Dear Sima,

“Chris got the necklace you made for her birthday and strung onto it the elk teeth you gave her at the beginning of your relationship. It means a great deal to her. She told us the story about going camping when you were new lovers and the bear walking around your tent, the terror she felt that kept her from being able to move.

“That terror looks like a walk in the park, right about now.

“The cancer has invaded her bones and her liver is on its last legs. I am counting every hour with her now as precious. Ginny is going for hospice training tomorrow. Chris is not on narcotics for the pain yet – she will hold off as long as she can because it will cream her liver, but it won't be delayed much, given how much it hurts her to walk or sit already.

“Human beings are not replaceable parts of existence. I thought you of all people knew that. There is nothing in your present life which will offer you what Chris gave you for 30 years. I'm sure of it. She came out of the most terrifying circumstances a human being can face without dying, figured out how to love herself and have a good life, and she chose you (out of quite an array of women who wanted her, let's be clear about that) as the one she wanted to share that good life.

“You have the right to change your mind and change your choices, but there is a price to pay for refusing to tell people what is going on or make clean transitions. It's hard for me to say this, because I am so unbelievably angry at you right now, but when you reach the point of having to pay that price, if there's a way I can help, please know you can come to me. I say this because I do love you, even though I don't much like you at the moment. And because I owe it to Chris as well as you – she chose you for all the right reasons.

“Chris has requested burial next to her mother and sister, and a service in Colville for her family, when the time comes. At some point after that, we'll have a memorial service here in town. I'll let you know when she's gone, and when the service will be in time for you to attend, if you have enough support from your current life to make that journey.

“Ginny painted her yesterday. It's glorious, of course. The canvas is still wet or else I'd send you a scan of that as well.

"The rest of us are all right as we can be with hearts that break more deeply every day. We have each other, and that makes it possible. Take care of yourself in every way you can.”

She pushed send without giving herself a chance to second-guess. After it was on its way, she reopened the letter and forwarded copies to Gillam, Margie, and Allie. She pushed back from her desk, belatedly realizing the surge in her body was dangerous fury, and went to Ginny's work station.

“I just wrote Sima” she whispered. “Maybe you better read it.”

Ginny's eyes widened. She followed Myra back to her desk and sat down to read the letter. Chris had looked up and was studying Myra.

“What's going on?” she asked.

“I...I wrote Sima. And that fucker Susan. I sent her a copy of your bone scan and...well, I guess you should read it, too.”

Chris switched her gaze to Ginny, who had finished the letter. Ginny said “It's all right, Myra. It's brutally honest but it's not mean. Well, except for that oblique reference to how little support she has in her current life, I guess you couldn't help that.”

Chris asking Ginny “Do I need to read it?”

Ginny thought for a minute. “Probably not. Unless you're curious.”

“I know what Myra thinks and how she speaks. Any move on my part to get involved in this will take away energy from – other places. I'll leave it to you and Sima.” Chris turned her box to another side, then looked at Myra once more to say “Thanks, kid.”

Ginny stood and kissed Myra before she said “I'd ask you to remind me never to piss you off, but I don't need that reminder.” She stepped over to kiss the top of Chris's head before returning to her studio.

Myra sat down at her computer and opened the current chapter she was working on, still the creek girl second book. She took a cleansing breath and began rereading the last few pages.

That night they had agreed to have a sushi-making potluck at Jane and Gillam's. Frances used her seafood purveyors to buy all the sashimi, “rrraw and wriggly” she said with a disturbing mimicry of Gollum. Myra had marinated a pork loin in teriyaki before roasting and cutting it into strips as an alternative ingredient, and Ginny was bringing avocados and dried tomatoes from last summer. Everyone in the family had been assigned an ingredient, coordinated by Frances and Ginny. Imani won points by showing up with a pot of creamy polenta as a replacement for rice. The first hour, they were all busy at the table and countertops, chopping, rolling, and making dips, handing out slivers of this and that to the hungry children.

When they finally sat down, it was “like a tsunami of sushi rolls”, as Eric put it, had washed over the table in front of them. The polenta, avocado, smoked tomato, and pecorino rolls were a big hit with Mimi. Lucia in her high chair kept demanding of Chris beside her “Wat's dat? Can I have dat?”

Once the first ten minutes of sampling and exclaiming were past, Margie said, with a mouth of crab roll, “Mom, I read that letter you sent Aunt Sima. 'Bout time, I say.”

Gillam was nodding his head, also, and Myra felt a small relief. Allie said quietly to Chris “What'd you think?” and Chris replied “I didn't read it. Doesn't matter.”

Myra felt a tingle return to her bones. Ginny, her eyes watering from wasabi, said “I was thinking about what you said, and I remembered when I went to Susan Levy's class with Sima, I didn't hear her have one good thing to say about our generation. She was snide at every opportunity about how we screwed up feminism for those who came after us.”

Chris and Myra both stared at her. Chris said “That's new information.”

“Yeah, I just remembered it” said Ginny apologetically. “When I was introduced to her, she said she'd read your book, Myra. But she didn't comment on it further.”

Myra said slowly “We had ten or fifteen years to come up with a counterweight against 4000 years of patriarchy, and we didn't pull it off. I am so fucking sick of their whining about how we weren't the perfect mothers, about how the questions we raised threatened their prospects of being able to get the boys' approval even if they were willing to pretend like slam-bam penetration was exactly how women want it.”

“Mama” said Gillam softly, nodding his head at Leah next to Myra. All the children had stopped eating and were looking at Myra intently. Leah said “Are you mad at somebody, Gramma?”

“She's mad because we're starting to drop in the desert without having gotten a glimpse of the promised land” answered Edwina gently.

Chris caught Myra's eyes and said, even more gently, “More to the point – she's mad at me for leaving her.”

“Where you going?” said Lucia as Myra rose from her chair, but her question was to Chris, not Myra. Myra headed for the back door, saying to Allie “Don't let her come after me, it's not fair for her to have to deal with this.”

As she slammed the sliding door shut, Leah slid from her chair, but Chris grabbed her and said “It needs to be me this time. No matter what she said. I'll make it better, you keep watch over my plate, okay?”

Myra was huddled on the bench under the sycamore, her knees pulled up to her forehead, sobbing. Chris said “Shove over so I can get behind you.”

“Don't go, Kash-Kash, I don't know how I'll ever be happy again without you!” wailed Myra.

“I know” said Chris, pulling Myra against her and letting her own tears come. “I fucking don't want to be without you, either.”

They wept for a while together. Then Chris wiped Myra's face with her sleeve and said “You're no good at being this noble. You have to bring some of this to me. It actually helps me to see your mess, it always has.”

“There is no balm in Gilead” whispered Myra.

“Well, you've lost me there, I was raised Catholic and that sounds pretty Baptist to me” said Chris, making them both laugh. “Listen, it's cold out here and I don't have my robe, are you ready to go back in?”

“What will I tell the kids?” said Myra.

“Jane and Gillam will have already handled that” said Chris. “But if they ask you, tell them the truth.”

Myra noticed Chris's teeth were chattering. “Fuck, come on” she said, pulling Chris to her feet and walking with her arm around her. Ginny had hot tea waiting on them. Leah crawled into Myra's lap and asked “You feel better now? You cry it out?”

“I didn't cry it all out, but yes, I'm better, thank you, my love” said Myra, kissing the top of Leah's glossy head with her eyes closed.

“Leah ate your teriyaki roll” said Mimi.

“That's all right, there's plenty. We always have plenty to eat at our family dinners, don't we? It's a blessing most of the world does not share” said Myra.

For dessert, Thad had brought green tea ice cream, which made Myra turn around and grin at Ginny. She said to Charlie, now on her lap, “The first time your Bubbe and I went to the restaurant that's now where Carminati's is, this is what we had for dessert. We were holding hands under the table, and I was falling in love with her. After we went out on the sidewalk, your Bubbe kissed me for the first time, and I could taste the ice cream on her lips.”

Charlie tilted his head to beam at her. “Taste like dis?”

“Kiss me and let's see” said Myra. He gave her a chaste peck on her mouth, and she smacked her lips, saying “Yummy, yummy.” He laughed delightedly.

They went into the family room for singing, Jane choosing her cello tonight and Thad taking the piano. They had to begin, of course, with the Golden Horde anthem, followed by one patriotic song and “Amazon ABC”, the children's ritual. Later on in the evening, they had moved into show tunes, and Thad struck up “Everything's Coming Up Roses.”

“What's that from, 'Damn Yankees'?” asked Carly. Over the chorus of children saying “Language!” to Carly, Thad replied “No, 'Gypsy'. That great American homage to ecdysiasis.”

As Mimi and David both switched to asking “What is that word?”, Chris said “Which reminds me, I never did get that stripper on my birthday”, grinning at Allie and Myra.

Allie said to Myra “I think we being dissed”. Myra stood and said “I may not be much of a dancer, but bump and grind, that I can do.” She began singing, and after the first bar, Thad jumped in to accompany her. She crossed to Chris and did a creditable series of provocative shimmies and thrusts, remaining clothed, as she breathily minced

When I'm feeling blue, all I have to do
Is take a look at you, then I'm not so blue
When you're close to me, I can feel your heart beat
I can hear you breathing in my ear

Wouldn't you agree, baby you and me,
We got a groovy kinda love

Any time you want to, you can turn me on to
Anything you want to, any time at all
When I'm in your arms, nothing seems to matter
If the world should shatter, I won't care

Wouldn't you agree, baby you and me,
We got a groovy kinda love
We got a groovy kinda love

Chris's face had gone a burgundy color by the end, and when Thad played his final chord, there was a stunned silence in the room. David, leaning against Jane, asked her in a stage whisper “Is Gramma being bad?”

Ginny reached over and swung him into her arms, saying “Most definitely not, honey boy. She's being uninhibited.” The tension among the adults diminished with Ginny's pronouncement, although Edwina gave a stern look to Allie.

On the way home that night, Ginny slid her arm through Chris's and said “You got the striptease, I need her in my bed tonight, okay?”

Chris laughed hard. “Deal.”

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Monday, March 9, 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.


Sunday, March 8, 2009


White House Ruin at Canyon de Chelly by Ansel Adams
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.

Mid-November 2919

The next day, Myra, Ginny and Chris returned from the doctor visits in time for a late lunch, which was heated up veggie soup and turkey sandwiches. At 1:00, Allie and Edwina arrived. Allie began fidgeting with the salt shaker as soon as she sat at the table next to Chris.

“What'd they say?” she asked.

Chris wiped her mouth slowly before giving a succinct account of her options and new information. She finished with “I need to have a longer interview with the PA, but I think she'll be okay. Ginny's going for a hospice training all day on Monday.”

“That's it? He didn't argue with you?” Clearly this wasn't what Allie had wanted to hear.

Chris ate her final bite of sandwich and wiped her mouth again. She said “I'm out of steam.” Myra wondered which way she meant that. Chris stood and said “I have to sleep a while. But wake me up before Mystery Box, okay?”

Allie stood also and said “Can I go lie down with you?”

“Sure. But no talking. Not right now” said Chris.

After they left, Edwina said “I guess we're going to be here all afternoon. Okay if I use your second computer?”

“Yeah. I need to start bread. And figure out what to make for shabbos dinner. I think maybe it's a defrost lasagna night, I could really use a short nap myself before the kids come” said Myra. She looked at Ginny. “Are you going to make challah or should I pull out extra from the freezer as well?”

“I...Are you okay?”

“No. Not in the big scheme of things. But yeah, I'm hanging in.”

“I'm feeling driven about the painting. Can you handle this afternoon without me? You really can say no” said Ginny.

“No, I want to see your painting finished, too.” Ginny kissed her and cleared the table swiftly before going upstairs, Edwina on her heels. Myra put lasagnas in to bake, set out challah to thaw, and mixed her sponges. She turned off the downstairs phone and carried the kitchen timer with her in to the living room, where she went to sleep instantly on the couch, rousing after an hour feeling disoriented for a few minutes. She punched down her dough savagely and turned the phone back on.

Chris had found an old plumb bob at a thrift store and this Mystery Box item lead to extended play, using it as a fortune-telling device. She and Allie led the children around the yard, asking the plumb bob questions about events which once occurred or might happen in the future at various spots. Myra finished her loaves and found room for another 15 minute lie-down.

After lighting candles and partaking of bread and wine, everyone gathered around Gillam and Jane's dining table to hear the same news that Allie and Edwina had received earlier. Chris sat in the middle of the long side, Myra on one side of her, Allie on the other. Ginny and Edwina finished out the chairs on that side, a row of five women with white hair and an almost visible crackle of power.

We must look like the Furies lined up here thought Myra. No wonder the grandchildren are drawn like moths to a flame.

The meal was somber at first, but Charlie managed to turn over Eric's glass of tea next to him and then Mimi asked Margie “What's a cocksucker?”

“Where did you hear that word?” asked Jane severely.

“At school, Eddie called somebody that” said Mimi, swiftly shifting blame. Eddie seemed to get a lot of blame for things, Myra had noticed.

“It's a term that's used as a bad word, although technically it's not” said Gillam.

“So what is it, then?” tried Mimi again.

“I'll tell you after dinner” said Gillam. Myra hoped she was around to hear how he handled that one. Jane followed with “We don't use that word, understand?” looking directly at David.

Carly looked over at Chris and said “Did you hear about the gay whale who fell in love with a submarine?”

“Hey” said Gillam in a warning tone. To deflect the avalanche of questions every child was about to unleash, Myra asked “Did any of your plumb bob investigations today hint at where the Warrum Arsenica might hibernate during the winter?”

This gambit worked. Lucia eventually tried to slide from her high chair, saying “We go find out now”.

During dessert, Mimi said “When I get bigger, I get to have a bedroom all to myself.” David looked wounded and Leah was trying to come up with an argument, but Margie replied “Yeah, I remember how great it was when I didn't have to share a room with your daddy any more.”

“You had a room with Daddy?” asked Charlie.

“When we were little. We shared the room Mimi and David are in now, but then I moved into the room you share with Leah and Lucia” explained Margie.

“Where was Mommy?” pressed Charlie.

“I didn't know Daddy yet” said Jane. This was still hard for Charlie to imagine.

“I'll be in that room there” said Mimi, pointing to the spare bedroom. “And I get to paint it any color I want.”

“Who told you that?” asked Jane. Gillam looked guilty, but Edwina saved him by saying to Mimi “When your Daddy was little and lived here, every room in this house was a different color. Most of them very bright colors.”

“Really?” said Leah, looking envious. “Like, what was this room?”

“Cobalt blue” said Ginny.

“Same as your dining area now?” asked Thad.

“Almost” said Ginny. “I came up with a slightly different mix.”

He grinned at her. “You do all the color choices, I gather?”

“I'd rather live in Ginny's view than whatever I could come up with” said Myra, sound a little gallant. Chris snorted and said “Oh, don't act like you graciously bow to her will.”

Thank you” said Ginny, leaning around Myra to look at Chris.

Chris said to Allie “Remember how it took them three goddamned years to settle the sheets thing?”

“What sheets thing?” asked Margie and Carly almost in unison.

Allie sighed as Myra said, her voice rising, “When we first began sharing a bed, Ginny would take off the top sheet, wanting to have only a comforter. And since she usually got to bed first, I'd get there and have to remake it.”

“Oh” said Margie. “Well, I guess you won that one” she said to Ginny.

“No, she did NOT” objected Myra. “We finally came up with a compromise. We bought washable comforters that were soft as sheets that we could change out a couple of times a week, so I got to keep the feeling of not doing without a top sheet.”

“It made Myra feel like a trashy little poor girl” said Ginny confidentially to Margie.

“Yeah, well for you it was all about doing things that you knew Helen would find objectionable” retorted Myra.

“Here we go” said Allie softly to Edwina.

“And when we stay at hotels, we keep the top sheet on because their bedspreads are crawling with bodily fluids” continued Myra. “Unless we've brought our own comforter.”

That's why you travel with those” said Gillam. “I thought it might be some kind of temperature issue.”

“No, Myra keeps me toasty” said Ginny.

“She is a hotbox” agreed Chris. There was a slightly uncomfortable silence at the table, broken by Leah asking “Can I have another piece of cobbler?”

“Nope, we're all done” said Jane, standing and gathering plates. After the table was cleared, Ginny begged off from the poker game to return to her painting. Lucia sat in Chris's lap during the game, where Chris silently pointed to cards in her hand and Myra began to think Lucia might understand some of Chris's strategy. Eventually the children were taken, under protest, to bed, and the adults continued on until nearly midnight.

It was a very dark night and Myra held into Chris's arm as they walked through the two yards. Their own back porch light was off, as was everything in the house except the front room light giving some illumination down the hall. Myra said “I'd like to be with Ginny tonight, if you're okay.”

“I am. I'm not even going to bathe, I'm so tired.” Chris kissed her cheek and let Anthea lead the way to her bedroom.

When Myra walked out of the elevator, Franklin was sitting next to Ginny's daybed, staring at her. Returning his look, she saw that Ginny was sacked out on the daybed under a quilt. She had cupped her own cheek with one hand and wrapped the other arm around her waist, a sleeping position she only assumed if she dropped off alone. Myra thought it was because Ginny needed to be holding someone to sleep, even if it was just herself. She walked to the daybed, pulled off her shoes and pants, and slid in beside Ginny under the quilt. Ginny sighed and rolled over toward her, never waking. She smelled of linseed oil and lasagna. Myra whispered “I don't care what's on the bed, as long as you're in it” as she closed her eyes.

The next morning, Ginny got up when she heard Chris refilling the kettle in the kitchen directly below. They made breakfast together quietly, and decided to try planting the heirloom cabbage and kale sets that Chris had begun a few weeks earlier. Ginny had removable cold weather covers enough to protect two of the four raised veggie beds.

Chris pushed her wheelchair to beside her plot and sat in it under the buffalo robe to bend over and do her gardening. Ginny pulled the sets in the children's red wagon she commonly borrowed for yard use. Anthea came to sit sentry. The sun was weak and the earth chilled, but it still smelled good to be outside on a clear early winter day.

After several minutes, Chris asked "Did Sima tell you exactly why she left me?"

Ginny sat up, tines in hand, and looked at her. "You know why. For Susan Levy."

"No, I mean...She would not have given up on me if she was still in love with me like I think she once was."

"Chris, I really don't understand it. I didn't know things had -- shifted between you."

"Did she not tell you anything?"

Ginny looked into Chris's eyes. Her sclerae looked more ivory than white today, and she wondered what Myra would have her do. But she forced herself to sift through her memory. She swallowed and said "She told me you two didn't have the fairy tale version like me and Myra. She said you were -- always in recovery. Another time, she said something about getting to let completely go emotionally with Susan."

Chris closed her eyes. Ginny instantly second-guessed her own motivations. But Chris said, still with closed eyes, "Thanks for that. It helps to not just wonder."

After a bit, Chris opened her eyes and said "I saved dozens of seeds from those little yellow pear tomatoes, Ginny. They tasted like sunlight itself."

Ginny looked away, dodging the issue of who would plant them next spring. She said “Yet another miracle the native people of the Americas gave the rest of the world."

"You know, Marco Polo brought back noodles from China, and that fucker Columbus returned with tomatoes. Makes you wonder what Italians ate before that, doesn't it?" grinned Chris.

They laughed. Ginny handed Chris another baby cabbage.

Chris said "Do you get tired of Myra being in recovery? I mean, I know it's not the same. I was in the loonybin, that's a whole other degree of losing it."

"You were not locked up because you lost it" said Ginny fiercely. "You lost it because you were locked up. Right?"

Chris nodded.

"And, no, I don't get tired of Myra's recovery. I'm sick to death of the fact that she got hurt so much, that nobody helped her. But that's being sick of injustice, not of her. I wonder if Sima stopped being able to tell the difference."

"Ahh" said Chris. Ginny wasn't sure if she was just sighing or about to speak. After a long pause, Chris said "I haven't always been easy to be close to. I know you'll agree."

Ginny grinned. "I've often found you to be a pain in the fucking ass. But I'm pretty sure that impression went both ways."

Chris laughed hard. Then she said "I wish Sima had told me. I honestly don't remember her saying anything about it."

"You can't blame yourself for her decision" began Ginny.

"I can, and I do. Takes two to end a relationship" said Chris. "I knew, have known since I got out, that I couldn't just let go, as Sima put it. I've always had to be a little careful. Well – not always. It actually wasn't my nature...before. I was a lot like Margie as a kid. People have this stereotype about the quiet, thoughtful Indian, who speaks in parables -- Kalijah, and all that. Where the fuck that myth comes from -- they should have spent a Saturday night at my family's house, if they wanted to see drama and people not thinking before they opened their mouths."

Ginny laughed. "Yeah, like Jews are supposed to be loud and stomping all over each other's boundaries. But not in Helen Bates' house, no way."

After another long pause, Chris said "That's why I said no to Myra, you know."

Ginny got very still.

"It wasn't that I didn't want her. Because, in fact, I did. I'm not like Allie that way. I said no because Myra was all over the map, like me, and somebody had to be grounded. I needed somebody like Sima. I thought...I thought the deal we had was what she wanted, too." Tears began leaking out of Chris's eyes, although they were wide open and she was not overtly crying.

Ginny got up and knelt beside Chris, taking her hand. "If you're saying that I am the grounded one in my relationship with Myra, you're nuts. Pardon the expression."

Chris giggled. "No, you're both runaway mares, it's true. But you figured out how to take turns. And neither of you were scared off by prairie-fire passion."

"You have been Myra's rock all these years, Chris. Just as much as she's been yours. She needs you like nothing else on earth."

Chris squeezed Ginny's hand. "I'm glad we found a way. That we all did. I'm glad for what I did have with Sima. Sure could use her now, but, hey, them's the breaks."

It was patently manufactured bravado. It scared Ginny more than doctor's careful sentences or the numbers on blood test results.

As they were reaching the end of the last row, Myra appeared at the back door, still pantless. “Hey, how's the crops?" she called out.

"Clutching their goosepimples like you” replied Ginny. “We ate already.”

“I'm going to have that last piece of lasagna” said Myra. “It's in the microwave.”

“I finished the painting” said Ginny. “I'll show you when we come in.”

Myra ate quickly, and carried her tea with her upstairs to re-don her pants, waiting at Ginny's workbench and trying to locate both geckos in their mini jungle as she waited for the gardeners to wash their tools and hands before joining her.

Chris filled most of the right side of the canvas, big as life, turned to look out at the viewer with the expression on her face she had when considering an answer to a question. She wore the crimson tunic she'd dressed in for Allie and Edwina's wedding, and her hair was gleaming black, halfway down her back, as it had been in her 40s. Around her waist was her leather carpenter apron, full of her favorite tools. She was installing a door facing. Through the opening could be seen several other rooms with doors already in place and standing open, the vista curving to the left until only an edge of the final door was visible. Every room was different – some of them were not rooms as all, but outdoor spaces.

Myra felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Chris was completely silent. Ginny shifted from foot to foot, looking anxious, and said “I've always coveted having a carpenter's belt like that. But with my ass and hips, it would look like a dirndl on me.”

Chris finally turned and looked at her. “Thank you” she said hoarsely. She reached out and touched Ginny's hand lightly. She walked with a clear limp to the front stairs and went down them, leaning heavily on the railing.

“She's okay, right?” Ginny whispered to Myra.

“Overwhelmed. As am I.” Myra hoped Chris's more pronounced limp was from being outside in the cold for so long.

Ginny said “We haven't had a chance to talk, just you and me, since we all went to the doctors yesterday.”

“Let's go lie down in our room” said Myra, holding out her hand.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.