Saturday, May 23, 2009


Palette knives

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.

February to March 2020

On Sunday, finally Horde-less, Myra almost streaked to her desk and opened her manuscript while saying to Keller “Let's get some lines down, shall we?” Ten minutes later, she heard the sound of Ginny's big shears cutting through canvas. She sent a wish into the other room, that Ginny paint the floating candles on the pond with the children's faces reflected, before returning to an editing process which was picking up steam.

Ginny slept alone a few hours on her daybed. Myra got her up for breakfast, and Ginny only had time to eat, not shower, before they were due at Nancy's. Myra's oatmeal seemed to stop digesting as they climbed the steps to Nancy's door.

Nancy's face was unusually solemn when she began taking Myra's pulse. “Your aura is quite constricted” she commented.

“Myra's refusing her share of the responsibility in the sexual impasse between us” said Ginny.

Myra thought if Ginny was ever in a duel, she'd whirl around before taking the agreed-upon number of steps and begin shooting at the back of her opponent.

“Well, why don't you begin with telling me what your share of it is?” said Nancy with a slight smile. Myra was certain her pulse must have spiked at that point.

“I'm not sure. I've been working on it, talking it over with folks” said Ginny.

“What folks?” interrupted Myra.

“Margie -- “ began Ginny.

Margie?” demanded Myra.

“She asked me pointblank what was up with us. Wanted more than a platitude” said Ginny. “And she turned out to be helpful. What about you, whom have you included in your process?”

Myra's silence seemed to palpate briefly in the sunny room. She broke it by saying “Allie – she's had her sliding scale ratcheted upward to deal with what's going on in her feet, and Edwina's on that new osteoporosis drug – they're both scared to death, you know.”

“I know” said Ginny. “I talked with Edwina, too. Which means, by the way, she's told Allie and Allie must be aware you're not trusting her with this issue.”

Myra thought Ginny's tone was insufferably smug. She suddenly remembered what it felt like when she bolted to Anacortes, that first day when her phone was turned off and she had no connections in the world. She felt a nostalgia for that Myra, who acted impetuously in a way she could no longer consider. Then, just as suddenly, she recalled what had caused her to freak out: Finding out about Allie and Chris. The fact that they had lied to her, and about sex.

Well, shit.

She reluctantly asked Ginny what Edwina and Margie had had to say. Ginny looked briefly surprised. “Edwina's pretty negative about you and Chris having kissed. She thinks I must be madder about it than I'm admitting, and she asked me if I was spending time with Kip to make you jealous.”

“Are you?” said Myra.

Ginny leveled a clear blue look on her. “No. As I told her. I talked with Sima, too, who mostly focused on how she and Chris had screwed up through incomplete communication. I wound up listening to her tsurris. Which is understandable, at this point.”

Myra said “You mean you told her about me and Chris kissing?”

Ginny paused. “I don't think directly – I just assumed she knows, really. Why on earth would Chris have kept it from her?”

“You mean, what did she have to lose?” said Myra. “Sima had already left once?”

“No, I was thinking more about – Chris tended to face scary situations by testing those around her, to assess how reliable they were, whether they were seeing the whole picture, what the weak spots were. If she spotted a quagmire, she stayed clear until the risk was passed” offered Ginny.

“Are you calling her a coward? Because she fucking was NOT -- “ began Myra.

“Not a coward. But scared a lot of the time. You know I believe real courage comes from admitting your fear and doing the best you can anyhow” said Ginny.

Myra was rankled. She was relieved when Nancy picked up the thread. “You've still not answered my question about what you think your share of the current dynamic might be” she reminded Ginny.

“Oh, yeah. Well, Margie said she thinks we're operating on some kind of myth about how we got together. That you needed room and I gave it to you, proving my trustworthiness to you and proving to me that you chose me with a clarity you hadn't shown with any of your other lovers. She says it's a self-serving fairy tale. She kept repeating 'But you were the one who kissed her the first time, Mom', as if that altered what had gone on before. I think she's wrong, she wasn't there, after all. Still, I feel some confusion around it.”

Nancy began doing her hocus-pocus with Ginny then. Myra thought about what Ginny had said, and agreed Margie was in error. But she, too, felt a little niggle at the back of her brain, some hint she needed to think about it more deeply.

When Nancy switched to begin working with her, Myra said “Do you know what's going on with us? Like, what the problem is?”

Nancy grinned. “I think I have some comprehension of what you are each bringing to this blockage, yes.” Myra was silently delighted to hear that “each”.

“But you're not going to tell us, right?” she persisted.

“There's no urgency” said Nancy. “Every inch of the path is equally important, not simply the dramatic milestones.”

“I can really tell you're not a writer having to come up with plot arcs” remarked Myra.

“Or a painter” added Ginny. “Deciding on undercoats that will get covered over, and what gets excluded from the canvas perimeter entirely.” She and Myra looked at each other, then, the first long gaze they'd had in since the session began. Nancy smiled and began gathering up teacups.

That evening, Margie and Frances were taking the children for Jane and Gillam's date night. When they came over to pick up the kids, Frances had a small tray of ravioli whose recipe she said she was trying out for the restaurant.

“What's the filling? Should I make a butter sauce or something else?” asked Myra.

Frances glanced down at the children scuffling in the kitchen. “Uh...coniglio” she said. Myra was trying out Latin roots to come up with a translation, but Ginny of course beat her to the punch by saying “You have an organic source for rabbit?”

Mimi froze and repeated “Rabbit?” in a tone of horror. David looked at her, then turned and stared in the direction of Carly and Eric's house, as if Dink and Usagi might be in peril.

“Yeah” said Frances. “Farm-raised and free-range.” She began edging toward the door.

“You eat rabbits?” demanded Mimi, following her. “Do you eat cats and dogs, too?”

Charlie put his hand on Moon's back protectively.

Frances said “Dog isn't part of Italian cuisine. And I don't know any culture that eats cat.” Margie clicked her tongue and said sotto voce “They're going home with us, remember?”

“What are we having for dinner?” said Leah with a note of panic.

“Veggie pasta” said Margie. “With stewed apricots for afters.”

Lucia put her hand on Ginny's thigh and said “What are you going to eat?”

“Something out of the garden” said Ginny in semi-prevarication. Lucia observed “You mean rabbits who are stealing your carrots?”

“No, no” said Myra, interrupting the uproar about to emerge. “Listen, no animal any of us know is in danger, all right? It's time you went home with your aunties, I'm sure they've got fun planned for you all.”

Mimi took Margie's hand and said “Does that mean some people do eat dogs?” She whispered the last word because Gidg was flanking Margie's other side.

Margie launched into an anthropological discourse on indigenous locavore habits, full of words she knew the children probably didn't have even in their enriched vocabularies, as they herded their band out the back door. Once it shut behind them, Ginny said to Myra “It won't have a strong flavor, being farm-raised. I'd glaze onions and carrots first, with tons of garlic, and add tomatoes for a sauce.”

On Wednesday, Margie had to work all day at the university restoration lab. Myra and Ginny took the dogs for the afternoon. After lunch, Myra tackled rewriting the penultimate climax in her novel. She suddenly saw a way to thin it drastically, leaping from outcrop to outcrop like a mountain goat. She hit cut and paste keys with force, her breathing growing shallow, until finally it was ready for a read-through.

As she reached the final paragraph, she began crying. Though nothing in the book's action provided a link, she was flooded with the memory of watching the grandchildren sing the Golden Horde anthem with Chris, how Chris would make a farting sound with her palm on lips during the beginning, then pretend to wipe a bugger on Charlie's cheek, sending him into shrieking giggles. During the part where they flung poop, Chris would always swipe at her ass to collect an imaginary glob, then face Myra to hurl in her direction. Myra pushed her knuckles into her mouth as she convulsed, trying to ease the stabbing pain of missing Chris.

Keller hopped down from her cubby on the desk and sat facing Myra. She hated moisture on her fur, so she avoided actual contact when Myra cried, but she was willing to offer sympathy from a safe vantage. In the next instant, Myra felt arms that smelled of linseed oil come around her shoulders, and Ginny's voice said “Angel, what's wrong?”

“I've never written anything this good” sobbed Myra. “And Chris will never read it.”

Ginny pulled her over to the daybed and curled around her, letting her cry it out. She untied the bandanna from her neck to wipe Myra's face and offered it for a blow. When Myra was able to focus again, Ginny said “Is it really the best you've ever done?”

“Yeah. It's what I was born to write” said Myra. “I'm almost ready for someone else to see it.”

“Well, you know I'm panting at the end of my leash” said Ginny, extending her tongue and mimicking the dogs. Moon stood and came to the side of the daybed, looking at her with a question on his face.

“They need you-know-what” said Myra. “Sounds like a nice break.”

“I'll go with you” offered Ginny. “We have just enough time before the Horde gets here.”

That evening, Margie arrived to pick up the dogs at the same time as Gillam collecting his children. Carly and Eric were already there, helping Myra start dinner. They stood around the kitchen for a few minutes talking, as Ginny kept the kids in stitches by repeating bawdy nursery rhymes she'd learned as a child from Michael.

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow
With silver bells and cockle shells
And one goddamned sunflower”
recited Ginny.

All the children rushed to repeat “goddamned sunflower”, casting sideways glances at their father, who chose to ignore them.

“Margie, this strange thing happened when we were walking the dogs earlier. Gidg came to a stop and began growling. I mean, like she was about to attack, the hair was standing up on her back. But there was nothing near us, no animal or person that I could see” said Myra.

Margie looked alert and said “Where was this?”

“Do another one, Bubbe.”

“Okay: Jack and Jill went up the hill
Each had a dollar and quarter
When Jill came down, she had two and a half
You can bet they didn't go for water

The cascades of laughter were patently without comprehension, simply a reaction to Ginny's lascivious tone of voice.

“We'd gone north and west – you know that block where the spruce got hit by lightning? A house or two down from that” said Myra.

“A blue house with white trim?” asked Margie.

“Maybe. You know who lives there?”

“No, but she's done that before, stopping to look at that house as if it's a threat. I haven't heard her growl, though” said Margie.

“How many times has she done it?” asked Carly, attentive.

“Twice. Both times on night walks. It was creepy, actually. I couldn't tell if anyone was on the porch, it's overgrown with vines” said Margie.

“Have you felt like someone is following you?” asked Gillam. He and Carly exchanged glances. Myra felt a surge of tension in the room, which accelerated when Margie hesitated.

“Maybe” she admitted. “But I never saw anything.”

“Higgledy-piggledy, my fat hen
She lays eggs for the railroad men
Sometimes six, sometimes seven
Grease her little phhhtt and she'll lay eleven!”

All the children began imitating Ginny's lip-blowing sound. Gillam leaned in close to Margie and said “I don't want you going out alone at dark right now. Can you ask one of us to go with you?”

“Their last walk is after 11:00” objected Margie.

“That's all right” said Eric. “Call one of us.”

“In fact, we could take turns shadowing her” Carly said to Gillam. “See if we can spot anything.”

Margie moved to Carly's side and let his arm drape over her. “I think I'll call Aaron, too, run this by him” she said.

“Great idea” said Myra. “Give him that house address, let him find out who lives there.”

“What house?” asked Ginny, picking up on serious low voices.

“Tell you later” said Myra.

Saturday, Myra got up at dawn with Ginny to eat with her before Ginny left for a day with Kip. They were helping conduct a wetlands census two hours out of town. Ginny filled two large thermoses with soup and tea, while Myra made crab-avocado sandwiches, adding apples and oranges to Ginny's bag.

“Will you be stopping for dinner on the way home?”

“I don't know, it's up to Kip. I'll call you” said Ginny. She was visibly excited about her outing.

“Bring me back something interesting” asked Myra. She kissed Ginny's cheek. After she heard the car pull out, she finished cooking the rest of her blueberry waffle batter and stacked them on a plate in the warming oven for Sima.

She felt short on sleep but decided to stay up. She took her mug of tea out to the meditation bench. Rain was imminent. She hoped Ginny stayed warm, if not dry. Her thoughts drifted to Chris. She reminded herself to call Tina or Ricky this weekend and check in with them.

When she went back inside, Sima was sitting down to eat. Myra refilled her tea and kept her company. They discussed gift ideas for the round of grandchildren plus Jane birthdays which would arrive at the end of spring. Sima was already dressed for the day and told Myra she was going to Margie's garage, to set up her new work space. She would be eating lunch with Margie at the store, probably with Annie joining them, and she might not be back until after dinner.

Myra went upstairs while Sima did the breakfast dishes. She decided not to put on music, anticipating the rare silence of having the house to herself. A few minutes later, she heard the chime tones of Sima setting the alarm before she went out the back door.

She worked through lunch, making herself a quick egg salad with bruschetta that she ate at her desk, downing it with a cream soda. Later in the afternoon, she heard a small noise coming from Ginny's studio. She looked around – Franklin was not where he had been napping on her daybed.

“Franklin?” she called out. “You better not be trying to get in the side door of the gecko house.” There was a long silence, and she grinned. Franklin didn't like sharing his territory with Marisol and Hepworth.

A minute later, however, she heard another tiny clatter from the studio. “What do you think you're doing in there?” she called out again.

Lucia's voice answered “Nothing.”

Myra went around the corner in a run, discovering Lucia jabbing at a bucket of tile clay with one of Ginny's palette knives. Swearing under her breath, she grabbed Lucia's hand and carefully pulled the knife from it.

Lucia protested “I can come here to play, Bubbe said!”

“Where are your mommy and daddy?” asked Myra, putting the knife on a high shelf.

“Naptime for everybody” said Lucia. She was standing on one leg, and when Myra said “Come in here with me”, she saw Lucia limp badly on the other foot.

“What happened to your leg?” she asked, stopping to pick her up.

“It hurts” said Lucia. “I fell down.”

Myra switched direction, carrying Lucia to the elevator. In the kitchen, she set her on the counter and pulled up her pants leg to inspect for injury. Lucia's ankle was red and swelling. Myra probed it carefully as Lucia watched. She winced at extremes of motion but not in a way that Myra thought meant a break.

Noticing Lucia had on pajama bottoms and Charlie's beloved Batman hoodie, a garment he never shared, Myra suddenly realized she hadn't heard the alarm go off to indicate the door had opened without fingerprint access. In fact, Lucia had trouble turning the back door knob on her own. She looked over at it as she dialed Gillam's cell and asked “How did you get in the house, Luch?”

“Like Moon and Gidg” said Lucia, smiling to herself. Through the pet door? Myra measured it with her eyes and decided it was possible.

“But how did you get in the gate, then?” Lucia pressed her lips together tightly, and Myra was distracted by Gillam's voice mail kicking in. Myra hung up and dialed their house line instead. It, too, rang unanswered until the machine picked up. She pushed the button and was about to call Jane's cell when her phone rang in her hand.

“Mom?” said Gillam, sounding sleepy. “I couldn't get to it in time, what's up?”

“I have your youngest child here with me. She crawled in the pet door and was trying to hack into her clay with one of Ginny's big silver knives when I found her. She seems to have sprained her ankle somehow.”

“Son of a fucking bitch” said Gillam. She heard him say to Jane “Lucia is over at Mama's, see if the rest of them are still upstairs.” He said to Myra “I'll be right there.”

Myra warned Lucia to sit still as she went to the freezer for ice. She didn't have time to wrap it around Lucia's ankle before Gillam arrived, barefoot in sweats and a T-shirt, his hair mussed. He re-examined Lucia's leg, making sounds in his throat, before asking Myra “I don't know if I should take her to the ER or not, what do you think?”

But before waiting for a reply, he picked up the phone and called Jane “She's okay. Let 'em sleep. I'll be home in a couple.”

Myra said “I'd advise icing it and seeing how she walks on it. You can always take her in an hour if it gets worse.”

He took the ice from her and began tying it around Lucia's ankle with a dishtowel. “Luch” he said with an effort at calm, “Did you climb over the gate?”

Lucia might not offer much information but she had no skill at dissembling. She nodded, looking downward.

“How on earth?” said Myra.

“Jane's taken apart that metal etagiere she keeps plants on, to repaint it and get new glass shelves. She carried the metal frame out to the gravel at the edge of the playscape, so spray paint wouldn't hurt any grass. I found it dragged over to the gate. The scrollwork on the sides is small enough for little feet to use as a ladder, I guess. But, Lucia, how did you get through the cat wire at the top?”

Lucia said “I pushed my hands fru, like dis, and then my head. Like Batman.”

“Is that when you fell? Did you fall on the brick walk?” asked Myra, looking out the window. Six feet, at least. They needed to check for a concussion, then.

“I grabbed the blackberries, to swing like Tarzan. But it hurted my hands, and I fell on the grass” said Lucia.

Gillam swore and coaxed open her fisted hands. She had tears in the flesh of both palms, jagged but superficial.

“I'll get the first aid kit” said Myra.

“No!” yelled Lucia. “No spray!”

“We have to clean the booboos” said Gillam appeasingly. “I'll blow on it if it stings, and we'll use ointment, not the spray.”

After dressing her wounds, Gillam picked her up and leaned over to kiss Myra's forehead, saying “Thank god you were here.”

“Call me later to tell me how she's doing” Myra asked. She watched them go, Gillam talking softly to Lucia as she kept her arm stiff to hold herself as far away from his trunk as she could. She made a mental note to talk to Ginny: Lucia had never paid any attention to what she wore, but if she was starting to raid Charlie's closet for what she perceived as power garments, they should take her shopping on her own for clothes. She made a second mental note to ask Margie if Aaron had made any new security recommendations.

She pulled a turkey breast from the freezer and set it to thaw. She'd stuff it with wild rice and pine nuts for dinner. If nobody ate with her, the leftovers would do for lunch tomorrow.

On Sunday morning, Margie and Frances stopped by after walking the dogs. Myra was doing her best to make beignets, and Frances jumped in to collaborate: working with French-style dough was not either of them's forte. Margie sifted confectioner's sugar and grated dark chocolate for whatever emerged from their efforts. Ginny set a big pot of tea on the table just as Sima emerged from her bedroom.

"You're up late" remarked Ginny. "I don't remember hearing you come in last night."

Sima blushed, and they all stared at her. Ginny was the first to put the pieces together.

"You and Annie Gagliardi?" she said wonderingly.

"Well -- we sat up talking until 3. Which was -- is some indication" said Sima, pouring a cup of tea without meeting anyone's gaze.

Myra realized her surprise was not so much that Sima had already moved on, but that it was Annie. She'd always thought Annie had a sweet spot for Chris. Which didn't mean she couldn't also like Sima, she thought. She thought Margie and Frances were both waiting for her reaction. She gave a cry of gladness and dropped the round of dough she'd been shaping. Drifting flour behind her, she bustled over to Sima and gave her a giant hug from behind.

"Oh, Sima -- she's wonderful. And you are such a catch, girlfriend" enthused Myra.

"Don't make more of it than it is yet" cautioned Sima. "It's just -- well, I guess it's dating, as silly as that sounds at my age."

"Never too old to date" said Myra. "In fact, it's more fun at our age, I'd guess -- you must be pretty sure of yourself."

Sima finally looked at Myra and Ginny, her face alight. "A bolt from the blue -- but easy, and oh god it feels good."

"Well, I got only one warning for you, Sima" said Myra. "Don't you be thinking you're gonna relocate to Greenwood to be close to her. If anybody moves, she's moving in here. I'm not giving you away."

Sima laughed, a little shocked. "First of all, we're nowhere near talking about -- residential things. And secondly, even if Ginny was okay about it, I cannot imagine moving Annie in to live with us all."

Margie was giggling, and said to Frances "Annie was number five on the Myra roster if you don't count Michigan flings and the like."

Myra was scandalized. Trying to ignore Margie and Frances, she said to Sima "Then we'll buy another damned house, see if we can acquire the place across the alley from us. We'll need another place for the grandkids when they grow up, anyhow. Right, Ginny?"

Ginny only grinned at her, and said to Sima "I'm delighted for you. Whatever feels right to you, we'll support you and find a way."

Frances put a tray of beignets in to bake and said to Myra "How many more of these do we need?"

"I want to take a plate over to the grandkids, so as many as we can squeeze out." Myra returned to the kitchen to help Frances.

Margie leaned in close to Sima and whispered "Is she a good kisser? She's got a great mouth, all wide and curvy."

Sima was shocked again, but her smile deepened and she whispered back "She's to die for."

Ginny glanced at Myra, who had missed this exchange. She sipped her tea and kept silent.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Friday, May 22, 2009


Rainbow-colored row of individuals flexing their arms

Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend and Lane Hudson at Huffington Post, among others, have distilled an eight-point list of guiding principles to achieve full civil rights for the LGBT community. Known as The Dallas Principles, they are eloquent, succinct, and speak to every aspect of our liberation:

The following eight guiding principles underlie our call to action.
In order to achieve full civil rights now, we avow:
1. Full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals must be enacted now. Delay and excuses are no longer acceptable.
2. We will not leave any part of our community behind.
3. Separate is never equal.
4. Religious beliefs are not a basis upon which to affirm or deny civil rights.
5. The establishment and guardianship of full civil rights is a non-partisan issue.
6. Individual involvement and grassroots action are paramount to success and must be encouraged.
7. Success is measured by the civil rights we all achieve, not by words, access or money raised.
8. Those who seek our support are expected to commit to these principles.

Being united by common principles and engaging in united action, we will achieve the following goals:
1. DIGNITY AND EQUALITY. Every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person has inherent dignity and worth, and has the right to live free of discrimination and harassment.
2. FAMILY. Every LGBT person has the right to a family without legal barriers to immigration, civil marriage or raising children.
3. ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY. Every LGBT person has the right to economic opportunity free from discrimination in employment, public housing, accommodation, public facilities, credit, and federally funded programs and activities.
4. EDUCATION. Every LGBT child and youth has the right to an education that is affirming, inclusive and free from bullying.
5. NATIONAL SECURITY. Every LGBT person should have the opportunity to serve our country openly and equally in our military and foreign service.
6. CRIME. Every LGBT person should enjoy life protected against bias crimes.
7. HEALTH CARE. Every person should have access to affordable, high quality, and culturally competent health care without discrimination.

1. We demand that government officials act now to achieve full civil rights without delay.
2. Our organizations and individuals need to develop a collaborative and revolutionary new organizing model that mobilizes millions of supporters through emerging web and phone technologies.
3. All LGBT individuals must accept personal responsibility to do everything within their power for equality and should get involved in the movement by volunteering, giving and being out.
4. We will hold elected officials and our organizations accountable for being transparent and achieving full civil rights by active participation when possible and active opposition when necessary.
5. Our allies need to be proactive in public support for full civil rights.
6. Every government measure that quantifies the US citizenry must permit LGBT individuals to self-identify and be counted in every way citizens are counted.
7. We demand that the media present LGBT lives in fair, accurate and objective ways that neither include nor give credence to unsubstantiated, discriminatory claims and

The Preamble reads:

President Obama and Congress pledged to lead America in a new direction that included civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. We now sit at a great moment in our history that inspires the nation to return to its highest ideals and greatest promise. We face a historic opportunity to obtain our full civil rights; this is the moment for change. No delay. No excuses.

Nearly forty years ago, a diverse group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people stood up to injustice at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. In doing so, they submitted themselves to bodily harm and criminal prosecution.

Their demand was simple -- equal protection under the law.

Still today, full civil rights has eluded the same community that rioted forty years ago. Instead, untold sums of resources have been spent to divide our nation and turn our lives into a political football.

At several junctures in American history, the stars have aligned to deliver the promise of equal protection under the law to those previously denied. At this unique time in history, our nation must once again exercise the great tradition of making its people equal.

Justice has too long been delayed. A clear path toward full civil equality for the LGBT community is overdue and must come now.

Using fear and misunderstanding to justify discrimination is no longer acceptable in this nation. Those content with the way things are will be judged harshly by history. Those who do not actively advance these ideals or offer excuses will be judged just as harshly. Those who attempt to divide our community or to delay and deny action on civil equality, waiting for the right moment to arrive, will be held accountable.

We reject the idea that honoring the founding principles of our country is controversial. We believe in the inherent human dignity of all people. No longer will we submit our children, our family, our friends and ourselves as a political tool for any Party or ideology. A new day has arrived.

After almost an entire lifetime in this movement, I find this the most coherent grassroots approach to date, which can cut across divisions of gender, race, class, age, and geography. This umbrella will allow special focus without loss of collaboration. I am genuinely excited about this development.

The fact is, the Principles listed above are a basic human rights manifesto for any oppressed group. They will lift all of us toward freedom.

The fact is, the lies and violence used to keep anyone deemed "not heterosexual" or "not the right gender" have a chilling, soul-crushing effect on every woman, man, boy or girl born into this culture. The fear of being labeled "other" (regardless of who you really are) is a fear the Right must keep in place by any means necessary. Otherwise, sexism -- which is how this fear is enforced -- will be unraveled and the whole system of oppression will no longer keep us able to be manipulated.

I'm not saying the institutionalized repercussions come down on all of us in the same way and to the same degree. Articulating those differences are an important step in self-empowerment. But articulating difference is not a political strategy. The larger truth is that we are all in this together, and the Reaganite/Christianist backlash against a growing realization of this larger truth (fomented by dynamic intersections between feminism, antiracism work, the peace movement, labor unions, children's rights advocates, environmentalists, and lesbian/gay liberation, to name a few) -- the backlash understood viscerally their first step was to divide us into non-majority, weaker segments with ridicule of identity politics, exile/imprisonment, and dismantling an economy which offered security for those who have to earn their daily bread.

But, as Gandhi-Ji reminds us: "When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always."

And when that freedom train starts rumbling, it's a life-affirming action to grab Harriet Tubman's hand and climb on board.

To learn more and find out what you can do, visit The Dallas Principles.

Pam Spaulding has created a counter widget which can be inserted at your website to keep track of how long it's been under the current administration since that "Equality Achieved At The Federal Level" has remained at ZERO. (122 days and counting.) You can get the code for yourself by clicking on her name.

Because "in the end they always fail". And you might be here to see the pendulum shift.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Thursday, May 21, 2009


Xena holding her chakram
Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (first draft nearing completion), 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.

February 2020

Annie stayed late after most of the other guests left, helping Sima take down decorations and bag trash. Ginny put away leftovers while Myra set the chocolate fountain to soak. She looked at the kitchen and said “I'll straighten the rest up tomorrow. I'm going to release the cats and take a bath.”

Before she reached the elevator, Ginny said “Okay if I join you?”

“For the bath?” Myra tried not to hesitate. “Sure.” She called out goodnight to Annie and Sima, and held the elevator door for Ginny. They rode up in an not-quite, awkward silence. When cats bolted for liberation, Ginny said “You start the bathwater, I'll strip the bed and do a quick vacuum.”

“Thanks” said Myra. She added rosemary salts to the tub, and brought a fresh set of linens plus comforter to the bare bed, before pulling off her clothes, brushing her teeth, and settling back into the steamy water with a sigh.

Ginny came into the bathroom naked and said “I put the litter box in the hall. Will you deal with it in the morning?”

“Yeah” said Myra. Her eyes were closed. She felt Ginny step into the tub, then opened her eyes to see Ginny looking down at her.

“May I lean back against you?” asked Ginny.

Myra spread her arms and Ginny turned around to sit in front of Myra before closing the gap. She had a washcloth and used it to drizzle water over her and Myra's shoulders.

“Jared is 15 years younger than Jen” she said after a minute.

“I find that more shocking than Jen being with a guy” said Myra.

“She and Poe are usually very friendly when they wind up at the same event, but Poe stayed completely clear of Jen tonight, I noticed” said Ginny.

“Guys from our generation haven't aged well” said Myra. “I guess if you want someone who doesn't resist basic lessons about sexism, you need to troll younger waters. But I still can't imagine what they find to talk about. He was nice, and earnest. Not nearly as sharp as Gillam or Carly, though.”

Ginny leaned forward and began soaping herself. “Did Margie tell you, she's got an agent she likes? And there's a gallery in San Francisco that's offered to show her work in late July.”

“Hot damn! No, we didn't get much of a chance to talk. She's going to do it, right?”

“Yes. Check with her about publicity before you post it on your blog. She needs to line up a lithographer who meets her standards” said Ginny, rinsing the washcloth and handing it to Myra before leaning back again.

“Is she going to offer the Kash-Kash Creek map? Or is that restricted information under our agreement with the Nature Conservancy, I wonder” said Myra.

“Her map is her own intellectual property, to do with as she wishes” said Ginny. “I don't know the particulars of her selection yet.”

Myra had her eyes closed again. Her hip still hurt from her tumble to the dance floor.

In a minute, Ginny said “I felt you push against me. After voguing.”

Myra felt instantly exposed. “What if I did? You're the one who's closed the door on sex between us.”

“What the fuck, Myra? That's completely inaccurate, and you know better” said Ginny, sitting forward and turning to look at Myra.

“You're taking an all or nothing stance, that's an ultimatum, which is another way of closing doors” said Myra.

Ginny stood abruptly, slopping water over the edge before it subsided to a lower level. “Have you worked on things at all with Nancy?”

“I work all the fucking time on everything” said Myra. “I thought the point of your lofty distance was so you wouldn't be co-ing me about this.” She kept her eyes closed.

“I have a session with Nancy on Monday, but seems like I should change it so we can both go in” said Ginny in a voice as chilly as the air now hitting Myra's wet body. She had left the tub and was drying herself off angrily.

“Whatever you want” said Myra, sitting up to run more hot water into the tub. Ginny dropped her towel on the floor, something she never did, and left the room, closing the door behind her. When Myra finally went to bed, Ginny was asleep, curled near the edge on her side. She was under the comforter but not the top sheet. Myra slid under both sheet and comforter, facing the other direction, and put herself to sleep by trying to remember all the lines of “The Gashlycrumb Tinies.”

In the morning, Ginny's side of the bed was cold. Myra dressed and went downstairs. Ginny was on the pond bench with all the garden tools laying on newspaper around her. She was sharpening and oiling metal. Sima didn't seem to be home. Myra made herself a breakfast of leftover taquitos and fruit salad. They had agreed to take the grandchildren all afternoon and overnight so Gillam and Jane could have extended alone time. Myra decided to not think about dinner until the kids were here. She went to her desk to work until then.

She took a quick break when Ginny offered a salad of frisee with Lyonnaise dressing. Myra thanked her and decided not to make lardons for her bowl, instead adding a wedge of Edam. Myra said “I was a buttwipe last night.”

“You certainly were” said Ginny, but she glanced into Myra's eyes then.

“I guess we take it to Nancy.”

“It's a wonder she doesn't hate to see us coming” said Ginny.

“Our tempests are no grief to her” replied Myra. She could see this irritated Ginny and didn't know why. She said “I'm not avoiding you, I'm just working as much as I can before we do childcare.”

“All right” said Ginny, carrying her bowl upstairs. Myra returned to her desk. Myra was finishing answering her mail when Ginny called out "Here comes the Horde." Myra pushed her papers into a drawer and started downstairs while Ginny wiped her hands and pulled on a tunic. Myra met her grandchildren at the back door just as they poured in, noisy and excited. After bestowing kisses, the wave moved on to Ginny. Myra said to Jane "Tomorrow at 1:00 good with you? I'm taking 'em to Quaker meeting, and we thought we'd go out for burritos afterward."

"Wow, almost 24 hours to ourselves" beamed Jane. "Listen, David had diarrhea this morning. None since, and it's probably just a reaction to something he ate, you know how touchy his stomach is, but keep an eye on him."

"Will do. Give our love to Gillam" said Myra, closing the door after Jane, who was practically skipping as she headed back home.

She turned to the swirl of children around her and Ginny, asking "Now, what would you all like to do this afternoon? Any requests?"

The chorused reply came back "Swordfights!"

Ginny leveled her gaze on Myra. Myra shifted her own eyes away.

Two weeks before, Myra had found a stash of used toys at Goodwill that included soft plastic broadswords, battleaxes, shields, and a very battered ring which she recognized as a chakram from long-ago Xena days. She'd bought everything except a spear and a couple of rapiers. When she brought it home, Ginny had hit the roof.

"It's bad enough you've been letting them watch your old tapes of Xena" she began yelling, but Myra cut her off.

"I didn't let them, Gillam borrowed them and he made that decision, not me" she protested.

"So now they have this completely starry-eyed version of slaughter by hand, and you want to encourage it?" Ginny continued, unchecked.

"Every kid in the world plays these kinds of games" said Myra. "Our five have been picking up sticks in the yard and going at each other, I'd rather they use these, far less damage potential."

"It's just going to solidify aggression, you know that crap about how it releases tension is completely wrong!" said Ginny, slamming her hand down on the table.

"I do know it's crap. This is about play, and teaching them to not let anger come into it. Hands-on training" said Myra. "Plus a giant emphasis on not hurting each other."

"Yeah, well you better be on top of that, girlfriend, 'cause the first time one of 'em smacks a sibling with a sword, I'm having a plastic bonfire in the barbecue pit, PCPs be damned" said Ginny.

Myra washed the items, repaired handles on two of the shields, and laid down the ground rules to her wide-eyed band before allowing them to touch the toys: "Absolutely never swinging anything at someone else's face or belly. If you aren't laughing and having fun, we're stopping, instantly. No mean words. Whoever is older in any given swordfight is twice as responsible as the younger one. And if you screw this up, Bubbe is taking them away forever." She tilted her head meaningfully in Ginny's direction. She saw comprehension in all five pairs of eyes -- Ginny's threats were firmly enforced.

She taught them stylized parries and sidesteps, which David loved and turned into solo dances. She also trained them in ululating and banshee cries, and they would often stop mid battle to complete with voice. She rigorously enforced the groundrules, which she called the Horde Code of Honor. They were young and insulated enough to accept it without question.

Ginny had ceased to scowl nonstop every time the swords were brought out from the toybox. She'd even spent one afternoon helping the children paint symbols and made-up heraldry on their favorite blades and shields.

So this afternoon, when once again swordfighting was first on their agenda, Ginny gave Myra The Look but didn't argue. However, when Mimi said "We've come up with characters, and we need help making costumes", Ginny was all ears. "What kind of characters?" she asked.

"I'm Xena" said David. He was always Xena, which meant he got the chakram. Myra had spent alone time with him showing him how to use it without throwing it, and he had evolved a kind of capoeira with the chakram held tight in his fist. He continued "So I need a vest with fringes on it."

Ginny grinned at Myra. "But not a bustier, I'm guessing."

"A what?" asked David.

"Never mind. Who else?" asked Ginny.

Mimi was Boadicea, Leah was Robin Hood, Charlie was Peter Pan, and Lucia wanted to be the "Pink Pamfer".

Ginny's eyes were aglow. "Well, let's go to the dress-up box first, then we'll gather around the art table and create costumes" she said. Myra called after them "I need to make pies for later, I'll catch you in a while."

Leah turned around: "What kind of pies?"

"Strawberry-apricot." That drew a cheer.

An hour later, the smell of baking crust was starting to fill the kitchen when the group came downstairs, bedecked in face paint, masks, fringes, various colored sashes, headbands, and a pair of pink velvet ears plus tail for Lucia. Myra stood in the dining room and marveled over each persona. Lucia demonstrated her growl and pounced, which caused Myra to fall back in terror. Mother Courage, watching from the sideboard, was not taken in, however. She, and all the other cats, would vanish once the swords emerged.

"Will you play with us now too, Gramma?" asked Leah.

"Well...I'm planning to roast chickens for dinner, let me get those started and I can join you then" temporized Myra. They broke out the battle gear as Myra began rubbing down two large hens with garlic-laced cashew butter, her favorite choice for chicken marinade.

Shortly after she pulled out the pies to cool and put in the chickens to roast, the eddying battle of Horde against Ginny had reached the dining room again. David made a lunge at Ginny and actually touched her abdomen with the edge of his chakram. She fell onto the floor, shrieking "You've eviscerated me! My intestines are spilling out onto the ground around me, aaghh, aaghh, it hurts so bad!" She continued to scream and writhe in agony as David looked on in horror.

Myra sighed. Ginny had her own ways of teaching lessons.

Mimi, looking very much like Margie suddenly, turned and said to Myra "How about if you come play with us and let Bubbe have a rest while her guts heal back up?"

Ginny was trying to stifle her laughter as Myra ducked behind view of the breakfast bar. When she stood back up, she had a colander balanced on her head and the long wooden stirring spoon in her hand as a sword.

"It's Ripley!" yelled the children, rushing in her direction. She made a break for it into the living room. Leah reached her first, and Myra smacked her sword so hard with the spoon that it went flying across the floor. Leah screamed and dove after it. Myra was slowly outflanked and encircled, until finally she was standing on Chris's former couch, her back against the wall, when the front door opened to let in Sima and Annie, back from their matinee.

"Oh, dear" said Sima, "Is this the end of Ripley?"

"Never say I!" shouted Myra, using the distraction of their entrance to shimmy over the counter into the kitchen, narrowly missing the cooling pies. As the Horde streamed around the corner after her, she vaulted the breakfast bar -- well, vaulted is how she thought of it. In reality, it took two tries on her belly, with much grunting, to get up onto the flat surface, and then some undignified wriggling to get over to the other side.

The Horde made an about face, with multiple collisions and pratfalls which had Annie helpless with laughter. Finally sorted out, they tore after Myra, who took two steps up the back stairs and turned to face them, snarling.

Ginny's voice drifted down from her studio above them: "No fighting on the stairs."

"You heard your Bubbe, you can't get on the stairs" Myra jeered at the Horde.

"But you're on the stairs!" objected Lucia.

"She's not the the boss of me!" gloated Myra.

Ginny's voice said mildly "Myra."

"But -- Call, they've got me trapped" Myra pleaded upward.

"You'll think of something" answered Ginny.

Five faces looked at Myra expectantly, with more than a little apprehension. Myra was remarkably good at thinking under pressure, they knew.

Myra hissed at them "I'm going to spray you all with deadly poison gas". She wheeled, thrust her ass in their direction, and let loose a long vibrato of a fart. Her innards had been vigorously massaged by bellying over the counter, she was seeking release anyhow.

Lucia and David actually fell backward. Myra burst through the ranks and gained sanctuary of the living room, while Sima joined Annie in hysterics and Ginny's disembodied voice remonstrated "Oh for shit's sake, Myra!"

Myra was eventually run to ground in the living room. After she was stabbed none too gently in the thigh by Mimi, she fell down obligingly, then lifted herself on one elbow to gasp "If I should die, think only this of me, that there's some corner of a foreign field that is for ever the smelter at Fiorina 161" before collapsing into stillness.

The Horde began a victory dance, clacking swords together and accepting the applause of Sima and Annie, who had followed them into the family room. Suddenly David yelled "Watch out, the baby alien is about to bust outta her stomach!" This had happened before when Ripley was conquered. The Horde convulsed away from her, and the flat of Charlie's blade smacked Leah solidly across her face.

Leah promptly went into shrieking sobs. Sima got to her first and picked her up, while Myra pulled Charlie onto her lap because he, too, was crying loudly, saying "I didn't mean to do it, I swear!" Myra comforted him as she took a hit of her inhaler.

Ginny was there in seconds. She took Leah from Sima and sat down on the brick ledge next to the fireplace, inspecting her face, finding no damage, then murmuring "I know, it was a nasty shock, huh."

Sima picked up Lucia instead, keeping her from joining the weepers. Charlie bawled "Now we'll never get to play swords again!"

"Well, now -- did you deliberately hit your sister in the face?" asked Myra, looking at Ginny who nodded resignedly.

"No, no, I'd never hit her!" wailed Charlie.

"Then we're going to call it an accident. Only real accidents count, but we'll let this one slide by. Why don't you go tell Leah how sorry you are and how much you care about her?" suggested Myra.

Still sobbing, Charlie walked across the room with Myra and blubbered his apology to Leah, who accepted it rather well, Myra thought, considering the red welt on her cheek.

Once the crying was done, Mimi said "Can we play some more?"

"I've got to check on the chicken" said Myra. Lucia looked hopefully at Sima.

"I'll join you" offered Annie. "I'm going to be Bellona the Horrible." At Myra's questioning look, she explained "Roman goddess of war, predated Mars or Aries."

"Do tell" said Myra as she went to the kitchen, handing her colander helmet to Annie.

Ginny said to Sima, "Are you going to be Judith?"

"No, I feel more like Emily Landau today" said Sima. "Warsaw Ghetto Uprising -- a 17-year-old who tossed a grenade into a cluster of SS. Will one of you get us swords and shields, too?"

Ginny went outside to begin pulling items for a salad as the Horde took on ancient Rome and Mila 16. Half an hour later, Margie walked in the back door with a pot full of Frances's legendary marinara from the restaurant.

Annie was helping children put away swords for the night -- Myra had promised a new activity after dinner. She got hands and faces washed as Sima cut long strips of Tuscan bread, and rice buns for Lucia, to dip in the marinara. This was perhaps the children's favorite meal next to gnocchi they'd made themselves.

Over dinner, Ginny asked Margie "How's the plans going for a New York version of Carminati's?”

"Her cousin there has agreed to run it after the New Year, she's become available. And she's got some leads on locations. We're thinking about taking a couple of days at Thanksgiving to fly to New York and check it out" said Margie.

"Really?" said Ginny. "Myra and I were talking about a trip to look at Hettie in MOMA, and see the sights. Maybe take the whole gang. Do you want to be alone, you two, or would you like to join travels?"

"We have business to transact and Frances' family to see" said Margie, "But I'd adore getting to go with you all. Has to be at Thanksgiving, though."

"Let's check with Jane and Gillam." said Myra. "You too" she nodded at Annie and Sima. "We can meet more of your family, maybe, see where you grew up?"

Sima grinned.

Lucia asked "What we doing after dinner, Gramma?" Her face was smeared with chicken fat and marinara.

"It's a surprise. But should I give you a hint?" At the clamor of yeses, Myra said "It's the second half of a project we started one day last week."

You could almost hear small brains in gear, trying to remember last week. David and Mimi conferred, then Mimi said "When we painted those cans?"

"Bingo" said Myra, pointing her finger at Mimi. Myra had saved small cat food cans for a while, scrubbing them and sanding down rough edges, until she had a couple dozen. Last week, they'd sat at the art table to paint the cans with Ginny's waterproof acrylic, each child getting to design their own. The purpose of the cans had not yet been revealed.

"What we doing with the cans?" persisted Lucia.

"You have to wait. After dessert" said Myra.

Once the table was cleared, Myra gathered the bright array of cans into a basket with two boxes of tealights and a stove lighter while the children were sent to get a small quilt each from the linen cupboard. It was a clear, dry night, but would get damp and chilly fast.

They went to the fishpond, where Myra lay on her belly at the side, joined by children clustered on either side of her, faces over the lip of the pond, feet waving in the air. She helped each child light candles and let them adrift in their painted coracles, until the pond was ablaze with bobbing, flickering flames.

Everyone sang together for a while, Myra sitting up for better breath. The children stayed with hands outstretched over the pond, nudging their boats away from the side. The reflections on their faces filled her with emotions she couldn't sort out.

After one pause, she began singing softly:

Reflections on the water
Like echoes in my mind
Speak to me of passing days and nights
And passing time.
The falling leaves are whispering
That winter's on its way
I close my eyes, remembering
The warmth of yesterday
It seems a shame to see September
Swallowed by the wind
And more than that, it's oh so sad
To see the summer end
And though the changing colors
Are a lovely thing to see
If it were mine to make the change
I think I'd let it be-e-e-
But I don't remember hearing
Anybody asking me...

Ginny asked gently "Is that Gordon Lightfoot?"

"John Denver" said Myra, as David sat up with a keening sound and pushed himself into Myra's lap.

"It's so sad" he said, "That song was so sad. It makes me miss Auntie Chris. I still think about her every day!"

"Oh, honey boy" said Myra, "So do I." She sensed Ginny's arms going around Sima on the bench behind them.

"I don't understand why we don't get to see her any more. I mean, I know she's dead, but why?" he wept.

"It doesn't make sense to me, either" murmured Myra. "She surely didn't want to leave us, I know that for sure."

"I remember her" said Lucia. "She sang to me a lot."

Ginny slid to the ground to pick up Lucia. "She did, every chance she got."

"Are you going to die?" asked David, looking into Myra's face. "You and Bubbe?"

Myra felt her heart stop a beat. "Someday. Everyone who gets born also has to die. However, we plan to see you all grown up before that day comes."

"But you said Auntie Chris didn't want to die, but she did anyhow" said David.

Leah was now sitting up, pressing against Myra's side.

"We never know for sure" admitted Myra. "I hate it that that's the way things are set up. If I were Queen of the Universe, I'd make some people live forever."

"Like who?" said David, diverted.

"I bet you can come up with the same list of names I would" said Myra.

David began saying names, and all the children joined him. When they'd exhausted all the people they knew, Charlie added "And the cats. All cats."

Anthea, hunkered down across the pond watching the water for curious fish, blinked her appreciation at them.

Each child eventually found a lap, curled into their quilt and drifted off as the tealights blinked out one by one. The adults continued talking in whispers for a while, then carried sleeping children upstairs to bed. Myra took Charlie to the bathroom and persuaded him to pee, still mostly asleep. She put a plastic pad under the sheet on the guest bed where he was joining Mimi and Lucia -- he didn't have accidents often, but he was a heavy sleeper.

David and Leah were put on Ginny's daybed, and Franklin indicated he was inclined to join them -- sleeping children were no threat to cat dignity. Margie gathered the floating cans and put them on the barbecue brick wall to dry before going home.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.



Core of Omega Centauri (Starry splendor in core of Omega Centauri, showing over 2 million stars. Click on image to enlarge.)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite.

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
~~from "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost


Tuesday, May 19, 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.

(Advanced Cat Yodeling. Dinah has informed me if I ever try this, I will require plastic surgery afterward. A LOT of surgery.)


Monday, May 18, 2009


(Coyote Self Portrait by John Nieto.)

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.

January 2020

When Myra got up, Ginny, Kip and Sima were eating a lunch of soup and salad. The back door was closed and there was no hose in the hall.

“How's the pond?” she asked. Ginny was chewing, and after a few seconds, Sima answered “Almost back to normal temperature. Kip located someone with a spare heater, and it's doing the trick.”

“Well, the real rescue was by Ginny. The ph isn't back to normal yet, we're probably going to see more die-off” added Kip.

Ginny reached out and squeezed Kip's hand. Kip turned bright red. Ginny said “You're welcome to hang out here today, if you're not busy. But I have to go back up and continue painting after I eat.”

“Maybe I'll sit in your studio and make calls, if that's all right with you” said Kip. She was one of the few people Myra knew who didn't have a cell phone. Myra looked at the soup, decided she was not in the mood for cabbage, and instead made a roast beef sandwich. She wordlessly carried it up to her study with a bottle of Coke.

When she heard Kip's voice from Ginny's studio, she put on headphones and listened to music, managing to immerse herself in her writing. She jumped violently some time later when Leah leaped onto her lap from the side. She pulled off her headphones, looking at the clock and saying “My god, it's that late already?”

“I called to you several times” Ginny yelled from the other room.

“What's our snack?” said Leah, trying to read the page up on the computer screen. Myra realized it was a graphic sex scene, one of three she'd written that day, and hurriedly closed her document.

“I didn't make anything yet” said Myra. “Go ask Bubbe” she added in an innocent voice. She went to the stairwell and called down “We've got 'em” to Jane, who waved and left. The children were clustered around Ginny, tracking paint smears from the floor all over the tile.

“There's leftover soup” Ginny said to Myra.

“It's too boring for them” said Myra. “Never mind, I'll do it. Are you going to keep painting?”

“If that's all right with you. It's Thriftstore Day, I know you like doing that with them.”

“Where's Kip?”

“She left a while ago.” Ginny turned and looked out the window toward the pond. “Damn, there's another floater. I'll go deal with it.”

“What's a floater?” asked Charlie. Myra hustled them all into the elevator and used the ride to explain what had happened with the pond. They were all stricken and rushed outside to stare at the belly-up severum Ginny was netting from the surface.

“You're not going to give that to the cats, are you?” demanded Mimi.

“No. I'm putting them in the compost, where they'll return to the earth” said Ginny.

“Did the leviathan die?” asked David.

“No, I'm pretty sure not. The biggest fish hunkered down at the bottom and managed to stay warm” said Ginny.

“Let's have a funeral” said Lucia. “I'll play drums.”

“No, no funeral” said Ginny. “The pond is having its own memorial service and we're not invited, because we don't know these fish personally.”

“I do” argued Charlie. “I talk to every one of them when we feed them.”

“But they don't talk back to you, do they?” said Ginny irritably. “Listen, it's been a bad day, let me deal with this on my own.”

“Come on” said Myra. “We'll go get wraps at Ozzie's before we hit Goodwill, okay?” They went out the front gate to the car.

Later, at dinner, Ginny reheated the soup and put the tureen on the table, along with a new salad and Myra's baked potatoes. Myra got the last of the roast beef and shredded it into her soup with a dollop of sour cream and a quantity of freshly-ground pepper. Margie, over for dinner, raised her eyebrows at Sima.

“What's the total loss on the pond front?” Sima asked.

“Sixteen” said Ginny. “Eleven danios, five severum. I'm just hoping none died in the grotto and are floating in there, out of sight.”

She was eating quickly, but between bites, she pushed Margie to call her agent and schedule a show of her maps. “You can sell lithographs, if you don't want to let go of the originals” she said.

“The people who come will be hoping for a Ginny Bates Junior” said Margie.

“Yes, at first they will” said Ginny, surprising Margie. “But your work speaks for itself. It's time you take this next step, creatively. Gallery shows teach you lessons nothing else will.”

Sima joined in with Ginny, and by the time Ginny headed back upstairs to her easel, Margie had said she'd discuss it with Frances, then call their own cookbook publisher for an agent recommendation.

After dinner, Myra began cleaning the kitchen. Margie said “We're going to take in a movie, you want to go?”

“No. I'm in a good place with the novel” said Myra. Her voice was crabby, however. Margie raised her eyebrows at Sima again and said “Well, then, we'll see you later.” Once they were out the side door, Margie said “What's up with them?”

“I don't know. Sounds like something with the pond. Maybe Kip coming over?” ventured Sima.

“Mom didn't even ask what movie we were going to watch” remarked Margie. “Go ahead to the car, I have to shut the dogs in the house.”

Annie Gagliardi immediately said yes to the idea of a shared studio with Sima, and they began planning renovation to insulate and upgrade the garage. They also began collaborating on designs for the metal canopy over Carly and Eric's stairs. Ginny finished her second painting, a portrait of Sima waltzing with David standing on the tops of her feet. She came to bed with Myra the second night, but they did not wake up or talk. After finishing her painting, she slept for 12 hours and got up before Myra did the following morning.

On Sunday, Allie and Edwina showed up before lunch with two rotisserie chickens and a large chair which needed refinishing and reupholstering. Ginny and Edwina put the chair in the carport and began the project, while Allie came to the kitchen to help Myra make the rest of their meal. After a few minutes, Sima joined the carport crowd.

Allie carried around a stool from the breakfast bar and set it before the counter where she was cutting vegetables.

“What's up with you?” asked Myra.

“My feet...they're swelling a lot. And sometimes I don't have much feeling in them” said Allie reluctantly.

Myra stopped stirring gravy and said “Fuck, Al. You been to the doctor?”

“I got an appointment next week.”

“Have you told Edwina?”

“Of course. She noticed I had a cut on the side of my heel that I hadn't felt happen” said Allie.

After a long pause, Myra said “You think it's diabetes?”

“Well, I saw Nana go through this” said Allie. “That's my worst fear. Next to losing my eyesight.”

“Fuck” said Myra again. “You want me to go to the doctor with you?”

“No, Edwina is. I haven't told anybody else yet” said Allie.

“You want to keep it under wraps until after you see the doc?”

“No, it's okay.” Allie looked up at Myra. “Truth is, you were the one I was afraid to tell.”

“Why on earth would you be afraid to tell me?”

“Because...I know how I'd feel if you was in trouble right now. Scared shitless” said Allie.

Just the two of us left thought Myra.

As if reading her mind, Allie said “I lean on you so much, I sometimes feel bad about it. But lately you been – sort of across the room, if you know what I mean.”

“Allie...if anybody does too much leaning, it's me on you” said Myra, meaning it. “And I haven't been talking to you about how much it hurts to not have Chris around because I know you're feeling as much as I do.”

“We could still share it” said Allie, her voice stubborn. “We always have faced everything together.”

Myra turned off the burner, feeling like she couldn't think entirely clearly because she was so swamped by emotion.

“Al...The smartest thing I ever did was deciding to do whatever it took to have you in my life. Everything else good has come from that choice” said Myra.

“Don't talk about it like it's over” said Allie. “Are you stepping back because you don't want to lose me, too?”

“I don't know what I'm doing” said Myra. “I didn't realize I was stepping back, as you describe it.” She suddenly remembered that Ginny had said something about it to her. She didn't want to give Ginny any credit at the moment, however.

“I hate it that the last year of her life was so fucking awful” said Allie. “She never complained about her breaks, but I'm seriously pissed off at god.”

Myra crossed to Allie and leaned her forehead against Allie's shoulder. In a few seconds, she realized the odd shaking she felt was Allie starting to cry. Myra slid her arms around Allie's waist and held her tight.

“I know you just about burnt yourself to a crisp with Chris, but I still need you, more than ever” choked out Allie. “I feel bad about it, but I do.”

“I need you, too, more than ever” replied Myra, letting her own grief land wherever it wanted inside her. Which, at this moment, was a stone in her stomach.

Allie wiped her face on her sleeve, though tears were still streaming down her cheeks, and asked “You reading her journals?”

“I dip in here and there. Not in any organized fashion, not yet. You want to take some of them and read?” said Myra, realizing she should have offered before now. And Sima, too.

“What I for us to write her story. I'll do the pictures, you figure out which parts of her journal to use, write the rest” said Allie, her eyes a little frightened.

“A graphic biography, you mean? Al, that would be fucking amazing” said Myra. “I say hell yes.”

Allie looked relieved. “I guess we oughta include Sima on it.”

Myra thought for a minute. “You know, Chris left her journals to me, not Sima. It wasn't punishment, I don't believe. Maybe she hoped I, we, would do something permanent with them.”

“I'm sure of that” said Allie.

“Well...we can consult Sima about privacy stuff and her feedback, but I'd rather do the nitty-gritty collaborating with you, buddy” said Myra.

Allie grinned and wiped her face again. “Good. But I have to finish my current book first.”

“Yeah, me too” said Myra. “Still, if you want to carry some of the journals home for reading, just grab 'em. They're on the shelf above my computer table, out of grandkid reach.”

She listened for a minute to make sure no one had come back into the house. “Listen, Allie, I need to tell you something. Before Sima got here, that week – me and Chris, we kissed some.”

Allie looked into her eyes. “I know. She told me.”

Myra was startled. After a minute, she said “Did you and her -- ?”

“No way” said Allie. “And I haven't told nobody.”

“Well, don't worry about Ginny, she knew, gave me the go-ahead” said Myra. Not that she meant it, apparently she thought to herself.

“Yeah, Chris said that too. I don't know how to say this, Myra, but I hope it ain't given you any old ideas about me and you” said Allie.

Myra laughed. “Nope. It wasn't that way with her, either. I – I don't know how to explain it. Here's the thing, though: I don't think she told Sima. But I can't figure out a way to ask Sima without spilling the beans.”

“Why do you need to know whether she told Sima?” asked Allie.

“Because...what if it comes out at some point? Will Sima feel betrayed all over again? I mean, don't I owe her complete honesty, especially after...” Myra trailed off for a minute. “It's too much like how Ginny didn't tell me about her and Pat.”

“It ain't nothing like the shit with Pat” said Allie forcefully. “For one thing, that wasn't consensual. For another, you and Ginny had a promise to tell each other everything, and she broke that promise. You got a similar agreement with Sima? No, you do not. What went on between her and Chris ain't none of your responsibility.”

“You mean, the dead have no rights” said Myra.

“That not what I mean, but yes, they don't, in fact. What I mean is, your feelings about it be your problem, not something you can fix by trotting it round to Sima.”

Myra once again felt reminded of something Ginny maybe had said, or what she imagined Ginny would say. I need to tell Allie all of what's up she thought. But she kept her silence, kissing Allie's cheek and returning to the stove.

Myra took the questions Allie had raised to her next solo session with Nancy, which helped. She and Ginny didn't have a couples session scheduled until early February. The physical distance between them was not noticed by their family, not in an identifiable way, and Myra poured herself into her book as much as Ginny kept doing one or two paintings a week. Sleeping together got easier.

The last weekend in January, Gillam and Jane took their children to the cabin in Colville for their monthly outdoor adventure. After their return, the kids were full of stories about hiking along the creek and trying to find Aunt Margie's mouse in the woodpile. Gillam told Myra and Ginny “We cleaned out the holes along the creek and made mush in them, like you did.”

“I saw a coyote” declared Lucia. Myra looked at Gillam, and he nodded. “She did, actually. It was standing in brush across the creek, watching us, and I'd have never spotted it. But Luch was staring in that direction, completely still, and that's what tipped me off. It was hard to separate out from the shadows, it was well-camouflaged. A biggish one. Once I was able to see it, it slowly melted away.”

“She was still there” said Lucia. “But she didn't like people looking at her, either.”

“We went to Aunt Chris's grave and put rocks from the creek on her headstone” said Mimi. Myra was still feeling chills from Lucia's sighting. She wanted to ask Lucia if she heard any voices at the creek. Ginny said “The headstone is up at the grave, then?”

“Yeah, looks just how she wanted it” confirmed Gillam. “We also stopped by to visit Tina and her kids.”

“Jimjim can spin around even faster than me” announced David. Conversation flowed on, and Myra's question was left behind.

On February 1, Ginny and Myra sent out invitations to family and friends on glossy cyan paper with a misshapen lime green heart embossed on the front. Across the heart was a hand-painted black slash. The text inside read:

"We owe to the Middle Ages the two worst inventions of humanity: Romantic love and gunpowder. -- Andre Maurois" -- Please come to our first annual Unvalentine's Day Party. Games, group dancing, non-aphrodisiac treats and optional re-education for all provided. You are welcome to bring an un-date. Anyone who wears red or hearts will be turned away at the door. Just so happens to be on February 14th, beginning at 6 p.m. RSVP which means tell us if you are coming, dammit.

A week later, Margie came over for dinner early, as Myra and Sima were beginning to cook.

"We got two calls today -- Jen is a maybe for the party, but Kate is definitely coming" Myra said, opening the cupboard next to the sink.

"Good. I'm sure glad she lives here now" said Ginny. Then, after a pause, she asked "Are you ever sorry she turned down your proposal, way back when?"

Myra was sorting through Calphalon, but said emphatically "Oh my god, no. I mean, can you imagine?" When she turned around, lasagna dish in hand, she saw Ginny beaming at her.

"I love how that just rolled up out of you" said Ginny.

Margie cleared her throat and asked "Kate Bean?"

Myra looked rueful. "Margie, since you've been born you've been angling for a list of everybody who went before, with regard to me and Ginny."

"Well, I have Ginny's list, it's short and sweet" laughed Margie.

"You want hers? Come into my studio, I've got it all pieced together" said Ginny. Myra gaped at her. Ginny said "Okay with you?"

"Why would you -- yeah, whatever" said Myra. Ginny and Margie strolled up the stairs, arm in arm.

Sima was laughing. "You were outnumbered as soon as Margie was conceived" she said.

"Until Gillam came along" said Myra defiantly.

When Allie and Edwina arrived early for the Unvalentine's Party, Sima and Ginny had just finished putting up streamers and balloons in lime green and cyan. The family room had been cleared for a dance floor, and a sound system was at one end. Myra was setting out platters of quesadillas, taquitos, and a huge bowl of guacamole. There was also antipasto, a lime cheesecake, and pale blue amaretti from Frances' restaurant. Pitchers of blue and pale green fruit punches sat on the kitchen counter, next to party glasses and bowls of ice. The main attraction, however, was a chocolate fountain flowing with dark Amsterdam chocolate, flanked by trays of cut-up fruit, bread, marshmallows and angel food cake ready to be stuck on a plastic straw and drenched in the brown elixir.

Cats were sequestered in the upstairs bedroom, a temporary litter box in the closet. Marisol and Hepworth's rainforest habitat had been decorated on the outside with Ginny-drawn cutouts of little blue lizards and green crickets. Ginny was wearing a lace-up buccaneer shirt of sea-blue lined with white polka-dots above dark blue velvet pants. Myra was having trouble keeping her hands off Ginny's cushy ass. Myra had on a boat-neck jersey in lime-and-white horizontal stripes ("Like Mo went to Cancun" she said when she saw it) and mango rayon clamdiggers. She had asked Ginny to pick her outfit for tonight, and once she had it on, she felt like Doris Day.

Myra, at the dining table, saw her back gate open and the Golden Horde rushing toward her house, so she opened the door for them. All of the grandchildren were attired in matching T-shirts emblazoned with red hearts. Myra could hear Allie laughing behind her -- "You gonna let 'em in, flaunting the dress code like that?" she called out. Myra ignored her and exclaimed over the shirts. Once inside, they were transfixed by the chocolate fountain, and she let Gillam and Jane find their own way as she began assisting children with dipping.

The house filled up rapidly. Jen brought her new boyfriend, Jared, and Margie immediately made her way to them and chatted them up. Mara Smith and her partner brought several friends, and arriving at the same time was Annie Gagliardi. Myra was too busy now to personally greet Annie, but Sima took over as hostess for the newcomers. Ginny relinquishd music to Margie and Frances, as she got caught up in a free-flowing conversation with Allie, Mara and several other artists there. Gillam was yukking it up with Davonn and Rafe Bean, while Carly started the outside grill with Nika to cook jumbo shrimp, marinated veggies, and satay. Jane, Edwina and Kate Bean were sitting in the corner, laughing hysterically every time Myra noticed them. Jen and Jared came to help Myra with her five chocolate-spotted grandchildren.

Margie and Frances had a lot of fun being DJs, arguing frequently over which music would best suit this particular crowd, both of them wrong more often than not. After an hour, Mimi went over to Margie and said "Could we put on Bubbe's dance CD?"

"The one she plays for dance lessons? Aren't you all tired of that?" said Margie.

"No, we never get tired of it" said Mimi.

"Let me see if I can find it" said Margie. When she did, Frances read the list of songs out loud in a dubious tone -- "Cotton-Eyed Joe by Nanci Griffith, Come On Eileen which I've never heard of, Cris Williamson, Abba, Cyndi Lauper, BeBe -- what is this name?"

"BeBe K'Roche" said Margie. "Look, there's 'You Cain't Get A Man With a Gun'!"

"Oh god, there's Madonna on here" said Frances with a groan.

"We've had a request, let's honor it" replied Margie, sliding the disk into the player.

It was like a magic spell. Within a minute, everybody in the room was dancing, including Margie and Frances. But the showstopper came when the music went still, with just a long high chord and the sound of snapping fingers. All the children froze. They put on intensely serious expressions, and Ginny and Myra joined them on the dance floor.

A techno beat began, and Madonna's breathy voice said "Strike the pose." Instantly all the children began striking poses, with arched backs, spread hands, and angled arms. There were amazingly proficient at it -- clearly, this was a song they danced to often. Everybody watched in fascination.

Ginny and Myra weaved in and out of the children, none of them smiling, all of them flouncing their heads and trying to out-vogue each other. Gillam was gobsmacked, and especially couldn't stop staring at David, who was head and shoulders better than everyone else. But then the music shifted to just a beat, and suddenly all the children stopped moving and began chanting in rapid unison:

Greta Garbo and Monroe
Dietrich and DiMaggio
Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean
On the cover of a magazine
Grace Kelly, Harlow, Jean
Picture of a beauty queen
Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire
Ginger Rogers, dance on ai
Even Lucia, not quite two, was not missing a single word. Gillam wondered what on earth she imagined she was saying.

They had style, they had grace
Rita Hayworth gave good face
Here, David drew both hands, one after another, across his face in a stylized motion that made Carly gasp.

Lauren, Katherine, Lana too
Bette Davis, we love you
All the children blew a kiss into the air with pouty lips. Charlie's stolid face doing this was adorable.

Ladies with an attitude
Fellows that were in the mood
Don't just stand there, let's get to it
Strike a pose, there's nothing to it
As the dancers moved on to the next stage of the song, the audience roared with approval, but the children didn't lose their concentration. Not until the end of the song, when the last snap died away, and suddenly they whooped together. Myra sat down abruptly on the floor, laughing zanily, and instantly Ginny was in her lap, pushing her backward and lying between her legs, laughing with her. Mimi flung herself onto Ginny's back, Charlie joined her, and within seconds all five children were dogpiled on their grandmothers. Ginny was looking down into Myra's face, an intense expression replacing her laughter. As the children wrigged and shrieked, Myra's hips lifted slightly to meet Ginny's directly, her laughter morphing into a lidded smile.

Jane and Gillam began grabbing the kids for hugs, and Margie joined them, then all the adults were pulling the dancers to their feet and whacking their backs in appreciation. Myra was the last to stand, a little breathless and rubbing her ass.

"This is what you do in Mama's dance class?" marveled Margie.

But before they could say more, the Eurythmics came on and all the children rushed to the middle of the floor again. Myra and Ginny sat this one out, sitting close to each other on a sofa. Jane kept going from child to child, trying to pick up their moves.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Sunday, May 17, 2009


Painting by Julie Speed (Painting by Julie Speed)

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.

January 2020

Ginny spent three days in Painterland, taking a break one morning to have a session with Nancy. Myra had her own visit with Nancy the day after that, focusing on grief despite a bone-deep wish she could simply go numb and ignore the jagged hole in her life. Other people did, why can't I?

When Ginny finished this painting, it was a portrait of Carly sitting on the bench under the sycamore with Charlie leaning against his knee, the two of them laughing uproariously. There was a resemblance between them that looked almost like father and son.

“Hell and damn” said Myra when she saw it. “Gillam's going to want this one.”

“I want to give it to him” replied Ginny. “But – we need to talk about income.”

“I know we spent an excessive amount last year” said Myra. “And all of Chris's medical bills are not paid yet.”

“More to the point, my painting sales for the last half of the year were very sub-par. I've got that New York gallery wanting a show in May, and we can get by until then. But – most of what I've done lately are paintings of people we love. Or related ideas. And the truth is, all I see myself doing for a while is more of the same. I want to paint each of us, over and over.”

Myra gazed at her curiously. “Something about mortality?”

“I guess” said Ginny, looking irritated. She never liked to speculate about the motivation of her work until a canvas was done or a period of emphasis had passed. She seemed to think too much self-examination would jinx her muse.

“So...If you're not painting stuff we can sell, then our only income will be the pension we're drawing. Which, once the medical bills are paid, will be enough, Ginny.”

“Enough for us as usual, yes. But not enough to do our usual contribution to the Feminist Fund. Not enough to handle another medical emergency, god forbid. And the income you're producing is going directly into the grandchildren's education funds, which is a relief, of course.” Ginny trailed off.

“Well, are you wanting to sell some of the portraits, then?” asked Myra, trying to sound calm. The idea of losing the picture of Chris, or of the six friends, or any of Ginny's self-portraits, made her sick inside.

“I've got a few ideas” said Ginny. Myra took in a long breath. Ginny's ideas were like sun breaking through clouds. “One thing is, I need to publish a volume of my paintings, it's that time in my career. You know, I've got slides of over 500 canvases.”

Myra whistled. “You're a dynamo, Ginny Bates.”

“My agent thinks a book like that will actually increase demand for my work. Which might mean higher prices for what I do sell. I, we, could also invest in getting copies of paintings with that new laser technology, which recreates surface appearance, so if something has to be sold, we can have a duplicate to hang here that's almost like the real thing.”

“Nothing's like your real thing, Gin. But yeah, that's an option.”

“Also – I thought about putting an exclusion on portraits of family members we sell, that they only go to museums where they can be viewed by the public. Which means we can still go visit them from time to time. But only if whoever the portrait is of gives their okay, like you did with Hettie.” Ginny clearly wanted some kind of reassurance from Myra.

“We can talk about it as a family, Ginny. Have you discussed this with Allie?”

“Not yet. You first.”

“Well...If the choice is between some of those sales or not contributing to the Fund, I – too many people out there need the money in the Fund, Ginny. People are starving, I never forget that.” Myra began trying to think of ways she could cut back severely in their household budget – not their own food, she had to give her family organic produce and besides, supporting local farmers contributed to a greater good. And they hardly ever went clothes shopping. But she could stop ordering books, instead use the library even more --

“Myra, what's going on? Are you worrying about money?”

“Seems like that's what we're both doing” said Myra.

“No. Not worrying. Reassigning priorities, maybe. Look, I'll inventory what I have for possible sale and we'll go over that together, then with the family. We're still rich, Myra, by any historical comparison we're rich. We'll talk this out. You looked so hopeless there for a minute.”

Myra smiled tightly. “I'm going to start buying lottery tickets again, how's that sound?”

Ginny hugged her and said “What number will you use this time?”

“Ahh...I'll let each of the grandkids pick one number, and you can choose the last, okay?”

“Okay. Mine will be 34, then.”

“What happened when you were 34?” asked Myra.

“No, moron. That's our next anniversary.”

“Oh, right. What is that on the lesbian gift register, latex or Preparation H?” quipped Myra. But Ginny didn't laugh. She said “I need to go eat and lie down”, gave Myra a peck on the cheek, and headed down the stairs.

Two days later, Myra and Ginny had a couple's session with Nancy. Once they were settled on Nancy's chair and couch with tea, Nancy took Ginny's pulse beside her and said “Okay, what do you want to address today?”

Myra thought This bottomless well of grief. Boring as it is. But before she could speak, Ginny said “Sex. As it exists, or rather, doesn't exist in our relationship.”

“I don't think it's fair to say it doesn't exist” Myra protested.

“It doesn't as we once defined it. There's been a sea change and from my perspective the tide is continuing to go out” said Ginny, only a faint hint of bitterness in her tone.

“Do you make love now?” asked Nancy.

“No” said Ginny as Myra said “Yes”. Nancy raised her eyebrows, and Myra jumped into the gap. “I mean, we haven't in a while, but we've not decided to stop lovemaking. I've simply had – other things to deal with.” Myra let her own voice sound aggrieved.

“As have I, Myra” said Ginny, refusing to take the bait. “And whether it's a decision or not, the fact is, the last time we made love was the night before Chris's birthday. Are you saying you've not had any sexual desire come up the past two months? Or that other demands have superseded desire?”

“I – well, no, it hasn't really come up, and yes, if it had – I wouldn't have known how to make room for it” said Myra.

Nancy asked Ginny quietly “What about you and your desire?”

“I've been consumed with mortality questions, yes. But Myra and I were doing it together, in extreme intimacy. Which was expressed in every way we could manage, except sexually” said Ginny. “I found that exception glaring. To be so close and yet not even kissing much after a while – I have a hard time believing it was accidental. Especially -- “

Nancy waited a few seconds before nudging Ginny.

“Especially when Myra was – kissing Chris. However you defined it internally, Myra, I don't believe it was devoid of desire for you. So, you removed it from our relationship but not from your life. That's what it looks like to me.”

“You said it was okay with you, Ginny, and afterward, you said you were glad for us” began Myra, her voice rising in anger.

“I said it and I meant it. But that doesn't mean we never talk about it, never deal with it. Especially since – well, there was a replacement that occurred. I think, in fact, I've been extremely reasonable about it all” said Ginny.

“I fucking did not replace you with Chris” said Myra, trying to control her outrage. “I'm still here. And it's not just because she died.”

“You are here in every way except as my lover” said Ginny. “You have not allowed me to make love to you for over a year now. You say you're working on it, but I see no evidence of it.”

“Maybe you just have to take my word for it, or is trust out of the question because I kissed somebody else?” said Myra, wanting to pick a fight.

“I have taken your word for it. What I'm saying now is that I need a change. I need for the change that has occurred between us to be reflected in how we relate” said Ginny.

Myra's anger suddenly sidelined into fear. “What kind of change are you talking about?”

“You can continue to do whatever you need to do for yourself. But I don't feel okay about us having this inequality in our intimacy. It feels heterosexual to me, or at times S/M-y. Which is not a choice I've made to explore with regard to my sexual expression. So as long as you can't let me touch you sexually, then I don't want you to touch me that way, either.”

Myra gaped at Ginny. She was trying to find evidence of Ginny gaming her, but she could tell Ginny was deadly earnest. And sad about it, she looked really sad.

There was a long silence. Nancy stood and came to sit on the arm of Myra's chair, putting her fingers on Myra's pulse. “You seem shocked” she remarked.

“I fucking am” said Myra. “I don't know where this came from.”

“I told you we needed to bring this to Nancy” said Ginny. “I mentioned how long it had been, and -- “

“So, what, you're not going to kiss me any more?” demanded Myra.

“I'd rather not kiss with erotic content” said Ginny.

“How am I supposed to know what that limit is for you? Just slam into it and have you pull away from me? That sucks, Ginny.”

“I know what it's like to have your lover pull away from you” said Ginny mildly. “I don't mean to hurt you.”

“If you honestly think this is going to make me move any faster on what I'm trying to fix inside -- “ began Myra.

“I'm not trying to do anything about your work” interrupted Ginny. “Your work is your work. I'm simply telling you a limit I've reached.”

“This feels completely unfair” said Myra, her voice breaking. Nancy began murmuring as she retrieved a small bottle of oil to rub a few drops on Myra's forehead. She spent the rest of their session going back and forth between them, clearing blockages and retesting muscles. By the end, Myra felt resigned. As if I didn't have enough gaping bleeding holes in my life she thought, walking out to the car. She put the key in the ignition, then stopped and looked at Ginny.

“Is this going to leach out into other ways we're close?” she asked.

“I hope to god not” said Ginny. “We'll work on it if it does. At least, I will, I promise you. I want you at the center of my life, always.”

“What are we going to tell our family?” said Myra.

Ginny looked bemused. “I'm not in the habit of discussing our sex life with anybody except occasionally Edwina or Sima. I don't think it will come up at dinner, do you?”

“They'll be able to tell a difference” predicted Myra. “Eventually.”

“I honestly don't see how. We're all walking raw earth these days, anyhow” said Ginny.

Myra still didn't start the car. After another long minute, she said “I did not desire Chris. Not the way I define desire, which is all tangled up with you and your body.”

“All right” said Ginny. Myra didn't think Ginny believed her, however. She felt suddenly tender-hearted toward Ginny, and reached out to take her hand. Ginny squeezed her fingers gladly.

“Let's not go home for lunch” said Myra. “Let's grab take-out bento boxes and eat on the go, walking from gallery to gallery on Broadway.”

“It's raining” pointed out Ginny, but her eyes were gleaming.

“We'll share an umbrella” said Myra, starting the car.

“Maybe there'll be a Julie Speed painting for sale” said Ginny. She'd been looking for years.

“Only, none of those creepy cardinals” said Myra, a standing joke between them. They laughed and a little of the tension drained out of the cab. Myra had to let go of Ginny's hand to shift gears.

A couple of days later, Carly and Frances were full of plans to build an ironwork canopy over the stairs leading up to Carly and Eric's apartment, behind the restaurant. Eric grew lilies in massive ceramic pots, one on each step, but two had been stolen in the last few months.

“We can have a locking gate at the bottom of the stairs that opens with a buzzer inside our apartment” said Carly. “And Eric could hang planter boxes on the outside of the grill to train vines up the sides. There'll be a roof up to and over the first landing, and we thought we could close that in as a hang-out spot on nice days for Dink and Usagi.”

“With a flat planter of bunny greens there on the landing for them” said Eric, looking at Ginny. “It won't be the paradise your yard is, but it'll do when we don't have time to bring them over.”

“Anyhow” said Frances, turning to Sima. “We were hoping you'd design the metalwork pattern.”

“Bunnies and lilies would be wonderfully apt” said Carly. “Only we're paying for this, Frances, not you. Don't take her money, Sima.”

“I'm not sure I should take anyone's money” said Sima. “I mean, I can do some design, but I don't do large pieces like this, that's Annie Gagliardi's bailiwick.”

“Yeah, we want her to do it with you” said Margie. “And that's another thing, we're not using our garage except the rafters area for storage. We want you to set up a jewelry studio out there, and we wondered if Annie would like to have some of the space, too. I know she's got a rented studio, but she complains about the drive. This would be ten minutes from where she lives now, and she could eat with us more, and we'd only ask her to pay the insurance increase to cover possible fire damage or whatever, no rent, of course. Our place is zoned commercial, and we're an artist hot zone around here.”

Sima's face slid into excitement. “I would adore having a work space away from where I live, I've never had that. And sharing it with Annie would be catalytic, I think. Shall I talk to her, or do you want to bring it to her?”

“You do it” said Margie. “Tell her to call me or Frances with any questions. Walk me home tonight and you can look at the garage for yourself.”

The following day Ginny started another painting. Myra sat up late at her desk, rewriting an early chapter of the creek girl book. Strong emotion during certain passages kept making her dizzy. She realized she was in love with the grown-up creek girl, a kind of in love that was different from how she usually felt about characters based on her. Because she's not just me any more thought Myra. She's got Chris in her now.

A little after 1:00, she noticed the time and pushed herself back from the keyboard. Two of her vertebrae flared into hot pain. Her mouth felt dry. She went to the bathroom, emptying an overfull bladder, then bent to the sink and drank cold water for a long minute. She returned to her computer and turned it off, listening for any sound of Ginny.

When she went around the corner, she found Ginny asleep on her daybed under her paint-stained blanket, Franklin at her feet. All the lights in that part of the house were off. Myra looked at Ginny, feeling a troubling ambivalence about doing what it took for them to sleep together. If you don't want to kiss me, why bother she thought. She turned off the light in her study and walked down the hall in darkness, crawling into the cold bed alone.

She didn't have trouble going to sleep because her thoughts drifted back to the chapter she'd been working on. When she felt Ginny's hand on her shoulder, she resisted opening her eyes – she didn't want to answer any questions about why she'd gone to bed alone. But Ginny was saying “Wake up, there's a problem, I need your help.”

“What's wrong?” said Myra, sitting up with an instant headache. The light outside was still very early morning.

“The heater in the fish pond broke, and it went down to freezing last night. We have to keep them from all dying” said Ginny, heading out the door.

Myra dressed quickly and joined Ginny at the side of the pond. “It won't go back on, no matter what I do” said Ginny, dropping the heater back into the water.

“Do you have a back-up?”

“No. And the store that sells them won't be open for another two hours at least” said Ginny. “The thermometer is at the point where they'll start croaking. I called Kip but she didn't answer, I left a message.”

“Shall I get Sima?” asked Myra.

“What for? What the fuck are we going to do, catch every one of them and put them – where?” Ginny's voice was high and strained.

“Okay, let's think. How else could we heat up the water fast? Maybe covering the surface with something like a space blanket, and then shining heat lamps on it?”

“We only have one heat lamp” said Ginny. “The water at the bottom is probably still okay, but the upper half of the pond is chilled from the night air, it must have broken yesterday and I didn't notice it. Goddammit, maybe I should just scoop out the cold water in buckets and replace it – wait, that's it!” She ran toward the side of the house and began unscrewing a garden hose from the faucet.

“What, Ginny?”

“Get the other hose from the shed, Myra” yelled Ginny. When Myra returned to the pond, Ginny was no longer in sight. The hose she'd had lay with one end in the pond, the other end trailing into the house through the back door standing open.

Myra started for the house but Ginny emerged, trotting. She pulled the hose from the water and revealed a steady stream which caused steam when it hit the frigid morning air.

“Where did you hook it up?” said Myra.

“The laundry sink in the storage room, it's got a threaded faucet. Okay, I'll leave this at the shallow end here. You take that other hose to the deep end and get a siphon started, to drain out the excess. Lay the end under one of the trees or a flower bed” said Ginny.

“Start a siphon? I'm not sure how -- “

Ginny snatched the hose from Myra in exasperation and ran to a spot by the turned-off waterfall. She set one end in the water, uncoiled hose until she reached the other end, and put it in her mouth, giving a huge suck. Myra was horrified, and about to protest when she saw Ginny raising the end back to her mouth, but then a gush of water came out. Ginny crowed and dragged the hose to a discharge zone.

“Go bring me the water testing kit and all the dechlorinating tablets we have for the aquarium” Ginny said. She didn't have on a hat or gloves, but her face looked sweaty.

Myra obeyed, setting a kettle full of water on the stove and grabbing Ginny's gloves before returning. Ginny immediately filled a beaker with water and began testing it. Myra said “I'll make us something to eat, unless you need me.” When Ginny didn't answer, Myra went inside.

As she was scrambling eggs, Sima shambled into the kitchen. “Why is there a hose in the hall? And the back door is open.” she asked.

“Pond emergency. Heater broke. Ginny's replacing the water with hot from our inside system” said Myra succinctly.

“Does she need help?” asked Sima.

“If she does, she'll bark out orders” said Myra crabbily. Sima looked at her with raised eyebrows, but said nothing as she pulled toast out to butter. When breakfast was ready, Myra asked Sima to carry a plate and thermos out to Ginny, adding “She needs a hat, too, if she's going to stay out there obsessively monitoring chlorine.”

Sima stood with Ginny while she ate, holding her mug for her. Myra turned her back to the glass wall and ate extra bacon. Before she was done, the front doorbell rang.

“Kip to the fucking rescue” she said out loud. Kip declined an offer of tea and rushed to the pond, where Myra heard her after a minute say “Way to go, Ginny, a brilliant idea!” Sima came back in, pushing the back door as far closed as it would go, and sat down to eat as Myra was finishing.

“Two of the danios floated up to the top already” said Sima. “Ginny said they were juveniles, that probably the smaller fish will be the first to go.”

“They'll live on in the compost pile” said Myra brutally. She stacked her dishes in the sink and went to the elevator. She shut her bedroom door, closed the blinds tight, and pulled off only her socks before lying down under the comforter again. Where are you at this moment, Chris she whispered into the reclaimed dark. She cried for a few minutes before dropping back into jumbled sleep.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.