Saturday, June 6, 2009


Sisterhood Feels Good poster from the 1970s
Here's the final installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (first draft), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

May to 6 June 2020

Sima was out for the evening with Jen. After dinner, Myra settled in to write and Ginny was on her second day with a new canvas. Over an hour of silent work passed. Then Ginny came into the study and sat down on Myra's daybed, looking at her questioningly. Myra managed to ignore her until a stopping point in her typing.

"Ye-es?" she said, leaning back in her chair. Ginny was holding a palette knife that had a rim of cerise on its edge. She was naked and smeared here and there with dark brown pigment, but not sweaty.

"I can't stop thinking about the conversation we had with Jane last week" said Ginny, an undefinable glint in her eyes.

"Which conversation?"

"The one about me and you getting married."

Myra felt a little tendril of unease. "What about it?"

Ginny clasped her hands together, almost dropping her palette knife. She stood to pull a sheet from Myra's legal pad, lying the knife on it. Myra couldn't remember ever having seen Ginny do that before, not with paint gathered on the blade.

Ginny sat again, facing Myra earnestly. "You and me, Myra, we've never done things halfway, you know? We didn't ever date unless you call lesbian potlucks a form of dating -- which maybe they are, I concede -- we became lovers five days after we admitted we wanted to be more than friends, then a day later you asked me to have your children, and a month after that we were financial partners. I mean, we've made one quantum leap after another together."

"Yeah. But we were ready to do that. We weren't spring chickens" said Myra.

"I know, that's part of it. The other part is, we're revolutionaries. We, not just us but a lot of our generation, we turned things on their head. We said 'We refuse your definition of woman, we're gonna define it for ourselves', we said 'lesbians are too natural women', we said 'the personal is political' -- we've used the power of changing perspective to take on the fucking patriarchy, and they can't drag things back to the good old days no matter how hard they try. And almost all of it began with just ideas. Just language, and art, and really, sometimes, a single conversation."

"Where is this going, Ginny?"

Ginny grinned hugely at Myra. "If there are any two people on the planet who are married in spirit, it's you and me, girlfriend. We are the poster children for marriage. Not by their definitions, but by ours. Why not go all the way and drop their definitions off a cliff? Why pretend it matters in the least to us any more?"

Myra stood up in agitation. "Because no matter how we use the term, they'll misunderstand it, you heard Jane -- "

Ginny grabbed Myra's hand and pulled her down beside her on the daybed. "I don't actually care what Jane understands about us. Or Gillam. I love you in ways the world has seldom witnessed, Myra. I believe our commitment and connection is a living example of what women can do if they step outside their chains far enough."

"I agree, Ginny, I love you the same way -- "

Ginny slid off the daybed and knelt in front of Myra, who gaped at her in alarm.

"Myra Margaret Bates-Josong -- would you do me the great honor of marrying me before we die?"

Myra's ears pounded with blood. She had a moment of worrying about Ginny's aged knees holding her weight on the hard wooden floor. She looked at Ginny's shock of white hair, buzzed to a length that showed her ears really had gotten rather large. Ginny's flushed face had an intricate roadmap of lines, some of them furrows around her mouth. Her eyes were not as dark blue as they once had been. Her hands, clasping Myra's, were still as strong as ever but there were liver spots all the way up her arm. Myra lifted one of Ginny's hands and kissed the back of it tenderly. She didn't know what she was going to say until it came out of her mouth.

"Yes. I say yes."

Ginny threw herself at Myra with a yelp, and they tumbled onto the daybed together, laughing wildly. They were so excited they couldn't stop to kiss.

"Oh, Ginny, I thought you'd never ask" said Myra, and they went off into shrieking laughter. After a minute, Myra asked "But -- what about the quicksand of any ceremony, and the whole issue of demanding special privilege for our decision?"

Ginny grinned. "I have an idea..."

Four days later, Margie had dropped in on Sima's workshop, where Sima had shoved away something she working on into a drawer when Margie entered. Margie said "I don't mean to bother you. I need to ask your advice, or maybe help, on something. But it's a secret, and I need you to not let either of my mothers know you know."

"My lips are sealed" said Sima.

"Well, as you know, their 34th anniversary is coming up in June, and they're planning some kind of big celebration for it. But Myra came to me privately and said she'd like to give Ginny a ring as an anniversary gift, and she's asked me to make it for her. I've got some ideas I'd like to talk over with you about the design, if I could."

Sima goggled at Margie, then began laughing. "Okay, now I'm going to swear you to secrecy" she said. "Ginny approached me and asked me to make a piece of jewelry for her to give Myra, and we finally settled on a ring." She opened the drawer and showed Margie the mock-up she had been constructing from soft wire.

They cackled together. "Oh, how rich" said Margie. "It's all 'Gift of the Magi'-ish, isn't it?"

"Let's take it to the next level" said Sima. "Let's make the same ring for both of them!"

"Will that be okay?" asked Margie, a little uncertain. "I mean, it's a little -- "

"Matrimonial?" giggled Sima. "Would serve 'em right. But no, Myra specifically asked for silver, not gold, and if the two of us collaborate on a design, it will be so right for them, the symbolism will arise from that, not hettish kinds of things."

Sima pulled out her design sketches and they leaned over them together.

That weekend, a beautiful hand-made invitation went out to every member of Myra and Ginny's families and friendship circles, inviting them to a grand reunion and anniversary celebration on the weekend of June 6th, which would fall on a Saturday. A block of rooms at a local hotel was reserved for any out of town guests, and all transportation costs were to covered by Ginny and Myra. Festivities would begin with a dance on Friday night and conclude with a picnic on Sunday afternoon. Saturday they planned a catered barbecue and pool party at Gillam and Jane's house, followed by a talent show that evening. In small print, there was also the notice that during the barbecue, there would be a "multimedia performance project" presented by Myra, Ginny and Allie.

Once the invitations had time to arrive via mail or e-mail, Ginny and Myra hit the phones, persuading everyone they knew to attend in a very personal way, helping with logistical issues, until the RSVP rate was extraordinarily high. Ginny secretly began meeting with their clothes maker, measurements and swatches in hand. Myra drew up a menu with Frances and insisted she delegate the cooking and serving to hired staff. They contracted a couple of young women recommended by Annie to build a small stage about one foot off the ground for Gillam's back yard next to the pool, a platform that could be struck into sections and stored for future use. They burned a mini-disk with music for the dance, a second secret disk for the "performance project", and one night when Sima was out with Annie, and Edwina was otherwise occupied, Allie came over to show them her new certificate of ordination. They were flushed with success at how well they were implementing Ginny's greatest idea: A surprise wedding, pulled off with no demands on the attendees.

June 5, 2020

Ginny hired a stretch limo to run back and forth to the airport on Friday afternoon, and reunion guests began arriving at the hotel by 3 p.m. They had set up a hospitality area in a corner of the small ballroom they planned to use for the dance that night, with snacks, drinks, games for the kids, and lots of comfortable chairs. Margie went to the airport on her own to pick up her Aunt Cathy and her cousin Nate with his wife Elyse and their two teenagers. Cathy was staying with Myra and Ginny, and Nate's family was staying with Margie and Frances. Sima had given up her room, saying she'd stay with Annie, so Claire and her partner Leila were given Sima's room.

Jane's parents and three of her siblings with their children flew up from California, staying at the hotel in rooms next to Lucy and her family. Liza Cowan came with both her daughters, now in their 20s, for an extended family vacation. On Monday they planned to drive to Vancouver for a few days before returning home. Rafe Bean accompanied Kate and immediately attached himself to Nate's oldest daughter Elena. Edwina's niece and nephew from Chicago both came, as well as Sima's younger sister Joanna -- the first time any of them had met her -- and Allie's cousin Vachel. Eric's parents came, along with his sister and her husband. Carly said Truitt would be coming the next day from Olympia. Jaime and Paul flew up from Southern California on the same flight, it turned out, as Frances' parents and brothers. Half the over-sixty lesbian population of Seattle seemed to be there as well.

The dance and party went very late. Ginny and Myra got home long after Margie had taken her guests back to her house. Cathy, Claire and Leila were already in bed. Myra led Ginny into the storage room and showed her the massive cake with alternating layers of dark chocolate and Italian cream, decorated with a hand-made confection of two women with buzz cuts in overalls. She'd managed to sneak it into the house that morning, and hid it on a top shelf along with the wedding gift bags.

"Let's transfer all this to our closet" suggested Ginny. "We're going to need to confine the cats in here tomorrow when people begin streaming in and out."

"Good plan" said Myra. Once in their bedroom, Myra pulled out the rings again and they marveled at Margie and Sima's skill. Each ring was a flat twist of interlaced platinum and pure silver, inset with an emerald flanked by two sapphires. Their names were engraved on the inside of each ring, along with the date of their anniversary.

"I honestly don't think they have a clue" said Ginny. "And Sima was so tickled at my reaction, just barely keeping her own secret about how they had made the same rings for both of us."

"Margie was better at lying" said Myra. "But, yeah, when I went batshit over this ring, she was pretty darned proud of herself. As they should be."

"I don't know if I can sleep tonight" said Ginny.

"Is that a proposition?" laughed Myra.

"No, actually. I want to wait until tomorrow night, is that too conventional for you?"

Myra was laughing even more. "Your definition of 'waiting' is shot through with holes, sweetheart. But yeah, I get your drift."

"Let's light some candles and get into a hot bath and tell each other stories about that year when I was waiting for you to notice me."

"Let's" agreed Myra.

The next morning, everyone met for brunch at Myra's favorite diner, rented for the morning just for their crowd. Then people split up for sightseeing or traipsing back to Myra and Ginny's for hanging out in the family room. Myra couldn't stop grinning from ear to ear, and more than once she caught Gillam or Margie looking at her with interest. She was afraid they would figure it out at the last minute.

The barbecue began at 2:00, and Frances went over to Gillam and Jane's at 1:30, despite Margie's attempt to stop her, to make sure everything was being done properly. After the food was ready, overflow from Gillam and Jane's back yard spread into Ginny and Myra's yard. People ate lingeringly, teenagers and 20-somethings clustered together. The grandchildren, Jane's nieces and nephews, plus the children of Jen and Poe's daughter Ava romped in the pool. Ginny found herself unable to leave Myra's side, no matter the temptation. She finally realized, with a shock, that she was actually scared about what was coming up.

At 3:30, Myra announced it was time for them to get ready for their performance piece, and she asked everybody to vacate her house and grounds, congregating at Gillam and Jane's so they would have privacy to prepare. Margie set up the video camera as instructed by Ginny. Allie placed on the platform a small table containing a sound system that was connected to wireless speakers in corners of the yard. She kept the remote in her pocket as she walked back to Myra and Ginny's.

Myra put the cake on the dining table while Ginny carried in armloads of gift bags. Each bag was labeled with a guest's name, and in addition to all kinds of hand-made or special treats, every guest was receiving a knit shirt silk-screened by Ginny with a drawing of her and Myra as they had appeared 34 years ago and text which read "Myra and Ginny got hitched -- 6 June 2020 -- I was there!"

The three of them changed together in the bedroom, giggling and adjusting their clothing. Allie said "Take a deep breath, you two. You ready?"

Myra's hands were shaking. “I need a minute of calm. Maybe I'll go sit by the pond.”

“Where should we wait for you?” asked Ginny uncertainly.

“Come with me. We'll all prepare together” said Myra, taking both their hands.

They lined up on the curved stone bench, Myra in the middle. She focused on the glass float, remembering the video she'd made of pond depths, another world so close at hand. The sun was bright for June. She could tell Allie was fidgety. Ginny's eyes were closed and Myra suspected she was praying.

When Myra looked back at the pond, there was a reflection on the surface across from them. She followed it upward, disbelieving, to see Chris standing on the other side of the pond, grinning at her. Her hair was dazzling white, long and full, with tiny blue feathers tied into side strands. Myra felt sweat pop out of her palm pressed flat against the upper side of the bench.

“Oh my god” breathed Allie. Myra used peripheral vision to determine where Allie was looking: Did she actually see Chris too?

“You all look mighty fancy” came Chris's voice, laconic and teasing. Myra heard Ginny gasp. Ginny, too, was staring where Myra saw Chris.

“Tell me it's not just me” Allie whispered beside her. Ginny answered “It's not.” Myra said “Kash-Kash...Are you all right?”

“Of course I'm all right” said Chris. Her dark eyes were shining, and her skin had never been so clear. She crossed her arms over her chest and jutted one big hip out the side. “So listen, kiddo. You got that white girl thing about always needing proof, and just this once, I'm cutting you some slack.” Her voice was tender and full of humor. She pointed with her head to the side, at the bench near the whale shark.

Unwillingly, Myra looked in that direction. Sitting on the bench was Allie's grandmother and another elderly woman who looked familiar to Myra. Standing behind them, her hands on the back of the bench, was her mother, who blew her a kiss. Myra heard Chris's giggle.

“Bubbe” breathed Ginny.

It was a painful choice for Myra, whether to look at her mother or Chris. But Chris won. Myra stared at her, trying to find the nerve to stand up, walk around the pond and slide into her arms.

Chris said “Tell Lucia I'm glad she saw me across the creek. Tell her I'll be back.”

Myra said “Chris...I don't understand.” Chris gave a big laugh, then blinked out. A strong ripple traveled across the pond, from west to east. Myra jerked her head toward the bench, and those three were gone as well.

Allie's cold hand closed over hers. Ginny said “That was your mother, right?”

“And my Nana” said Allie. She began crying.

Myra let her palm leave the stone and pulled Allie close to her with that arm. She didn't feel at all like crying. Her body was seized with joy. She looked at Ginny and said “If I ever had any doubts about this marrying thing, they're gone now.”

“Did Chris bring them here? Or your mother?” Ginny wondered.

“They came for the wedding” said Allie, sucking back moisture in her nose. “They prolly here all the time.”

“Where was Daddy, then?” Ginny said to herself.

Or Gil. But joy reclaimed every cell in Myra's body, her memory playing over and over the expression on Chris's face.

Myra took Ginny's hand. She asked Allie "You have the rings?" After a few seconds, Allie nodded. Myra wiped Allie's face with the hem of her shirt and said “Let's go. They'll be there.”

Standing was a little wobbly for all of them at first. They linked arms and moved slowly to the back gate. Allie took off her hat and opened the gate, telling Edwina posted on the other side to announce them. They closed the gate again and listened to Edwina shushing everybody. It took a little longer to get the cooperation of the children playing Marlo Pomo in the pool. Margie turned on the video camera. Once everything was quiet, Allie lifted the remote in her hand and activated the sound system.

As Meg Christian's voice began singing

Bread and water
Like some poor man's daughter
No, never for me

Ginny opened the gate, and she and Myra stepped through. Allie was right behind them. Ginny had on a linen suit, with poet's blouse and balloon-leg pants, in cobalt blue. Myra's suit was identical except it was a color Ginny called jacqueminot. They both wore garlands of flowers around their heads, and no shoes. Allie, on the other hand, was resplendent in a tuxedo of dark plum with a top hat and spats.

They reached the platform as the chorus began

I was walking around in little pieces
And I never even knew
That the way back home to me
Was the road I took to you

Myra and Ginny faced Allie, and as the music died away, Allie said in a loud ecstatic voice, "Dearly beloved..."

Myra distinctly heard Margie scream. They were standing sideways so they could watch the reactions of almost everybody except those directly behind them in the pool. Allie plunged ahead. “You two ready to be married?"

Ginny, then Myra answered "Yes."

“It mean what everbody think that mean?”

“Hell no” said Myra.

“They need to find out each day what it means to us” added Ginny.

“You gonna be any different after this?” continued Allie.

“Hell no” repeated Myra.

“It doesn't change a thing” said Ginny.

“And you're part of our marriage” Myra said to Allie.

“For all time” said Ginny.

Allie said “I do.” Then she pulled out the rings -- which made Margie scream again, this time joined by Sima -- and handed them over. Myra put hers on Ginny first and said "I choose you." Ginny repeated her action, and they kissed lightly. Allie said "As a minister in the Sanctified Order of Earthly Delights, I declare y'all married."

Myra and Ginny turned around. As a roar began from their family and friends, they joined arms, held their noses, and leaped from the platform into the pool together. When they swam back up to the surface, they were mobbed by their shrieking grandchildren.

Everybody's attention was diverted, however, by Allie's stately march to the diving board at the end of the pool. She climbed the few steps with dignity and strode to the end of the board. Then, holding her top hat firmly on her head, she did a backward flip and sliced cleanly into the water. Despite her efforts, the hat came off and was promptly snatched by Charlie. She joined the mob in the center of the pool, who were all laughing so riotously they were having difficulty treading water. Slowly they made their way to the steps and got out, sodden and besides themselves with glee. They were set on by everybody in the yard with incredulous congratulations and hugs which ignored their dripping clothes.

When Margie finally reached them, Myra and Ginny wrapped her between them, then pulled in Gillam too as he came within reach.

"We're finally legitimate!" squealed Margie, and Gillam just plain wept. Finally he got out "How -- how long have you been planning this?"

“Not long” crowed Myra. “We move fast, you know.”

"And you didn't tell anybody?" demanded Margie.

"Just Allie" said Ginny, reaching around for Allie and dragging her and Edwina into their arms. Edwina said "Are you really a minister in whatever it is?"

"Yes, indeed" said Allie. "I'm a holy woman now."

Eventually they were able to retreat home and change into dry clothes. Margie, Edwina, Sima and Annie came with them. Myra, Ginny and Allie told the story of the pond visitation, stretching out every detail. Sima cried joyously, saying “I knew she was hanging around here, I knew it.” A few minutes later, she asked “Was she wearing the elk tooth necklace?”

Myra looked at Ginny before saying “I didn't notice. Her collar was up...but with those feathers, I'm sure she must have been.”

Eventually Frances came to see what was going on. She helped carry over the cake, while Margie, Sima and Annie had the gift bags. When the wedding trio re-emerged from the gate -- now wearing bright Hawaiian shirts and drawstring pants -- they were applauded and cheered all the way to the platform. Myra made a speech about why they had a surprise wedding. Allie held up a framed copy of their marriage license, obtained the week before at the King County registrar's office, and explained they would not be returning to register the marriage, leaving it in permanent limbo as a statement against government sanction. Then Ginny thanked Jane for the conversation that changed her mind.

They all sat down together on the platform, Myra leaning back against Allie, Ginny beside her. Edwina, Sima, Annie, Cathy, and Frances joined them, Sima leaning back against Ginny and Edwina behind Ginny, next to Allie.

Sima fingered the ring on Ginny's hand and said "I cannot believe you were able to keep this from me."

Ginny chortled. "Me, neither."

"Remember when you two showed up at the Dance Brigade, and I lost a $5 bet to Chris about whether or not you'd gotten together?" Sima and Myra began laughing, and Ginny said "Now Chris would've figured it out, she'd have seen through our obfuscation."

Margie, standing at the sound system which had moved back to a table near the door, turned to smile at them as "The Woman In Your Life is You" began playing. The group on the platform started laughing, and Myra gave her a thumbs up. Gillam was acting as host and answering the door occasionally to Seattle residents arriving late. He stood in a triangle with Carly and Eric, Jane behind him but facing her sister and brother-in-law. Gillam's lemon yellow cotton shirt was unbuttoned, revealing his swimmer's abs over a boxy pair of turquoise shorts. He, too, kept looking over at Myra and Ginny, his face radiant.

At one point, Carly said something funny, because they all laughed and Gillam put his arm affectionately over Carly's shoulder. Carly moved a little closer to Gillam and spread his hand on Gillam's bare stomach. As Myra watched, he slid one little finger inside the waistband of Gillam's shorts, and left it there for a minute. Gillam grinned down into Carly's face, and Myra saw an expression pass between them whose meaning she recognized instantly. She froze, and looked around to see if anybody else near her had seen what she had seen. No one was watching Gillam at that moment.

She didn't know what to do. Ginny was talking with Cathy, and Allie was whispering with Edwina. After a minute, she slid her feet over the edge of the platform, turning to Allie and saying "Save my place, I'll be right back" and then headed for the cluster that now held Jane and Kate Bean as well as Gillam, Carly and Eric. When Gillam pulled her into an exuberant hug, she whispered in his ear "Can I talk with you for just a sec? In private?"

He led her in through the sliding door, to where her study had once been, and faced her with his magnificent grin, looking down at her with those tender brown eyes. She took his hand and fumbled for what to say.

"Gillam...I need to know that you're not lying to Jane. About -- anything."

She saw his face register recognition. His grin dimmed just a little.

"I don't lie to Jane, Mama. I never have."

When Myra continued to hesitate, he added "We understand each other, and have since before we got married. I tell her -- everything."

Myra suddenly remembered the camping weekends Gillam took four or five times a year with Carly and Eric, excursions that Jane cheerfully supported. Then other memories of Gillam and Carly, leading all the way back into toddlerhood, crowded into her head. She felt a little dizzy.

Gillam was still grinning, this time with a little hint of amusement on his face. "I have it all, Mama" he said gently. "You told us to go for it all, and I did."

He hugged her then, and she wrapped her arms around him. He was quite the man, her son. He led her back outside, handing her a rosette from the cake and pushing her toward the platform. When she settled down in front of Allie again, Allie murmured "What was that about?"

Myra turned away from Ginny to whisper "I just -- figured it out. About him and Carly."

Allie cracked up, her arms shaking as she squeezed Myra. She said, no longer whispering, "Me and Chris used to laugh our asses off at how you only saw what you wanted to see with your kids."

"What?" demanded Ginny. "What didn't we see?"

Myra looked at her, then all the others in their cluster. "Gillam. Gillam and Carly. Since -- I don't know when. And it's fine with Jane."

As Ginny stared at her in disbelief, Edwina joined Allie's laughter. "Since I met them" she said.

"Oh, before that" added Sima. Ginny took Myra's hand and scanned the faces of her friends, still in shock.

"You all knew?" said Ginny. "But we didn't -- why wouldn't he have told us?" she said plaintively to Myra. Frances laughed hardest at that. Even Cathy seemed to be in on it. Their outburst drew a little attention from the rest of the party. Myra was staring at Carly, but didn't realize how constant her gaze was until he turned directly toward her, grinning, and gave her a little wave. Gillam had rejoined their group and was bent over Jane, telling her something that made her smile. Myra felt a deep flush begin, and looked away from Carly. Allie put her mouth next to Myra's ear and said "Damn, you smooth, Josong." Myra finally let herself giggle. She was glad for Ginny pressed up next to her, reeling from new information just as much as she was. Ginny whispered in Myra's other ear "I guess he's managed to have his Allie as well as his Ginny." Myra kissed her gratefully.

"Hey, are you two having a honeymoon?" asked Sima suddenly.

"Not yet" answered Ginny. "We wanted to enjoy this weekend with all the folks we love, and we love our summers with the grandkids. The thing is, we already have a great life, you know? But -- I hate to admit this -- we have already engaged in -- premarital sex."

This drew another roar of laughter, and Margie and Gillam both turned to look at them again. Myra noticed the red light was still flashing on the video camera, which meant it had been taping all this time, and she motioned to Margie but Margie was mouthing something to Frances. Then they heard the doorbell ring, and Gillam peeled away to go answer it. Myra wondered who was showing up this late.

So she was watching when Pat walked through the sliding door onto the deck, followed by Truitt. Pat Prewitt in an elegant Panama suit, just a little unsteady on her feet as if she'd had a few drinks before she came. Myra's entire body went rigid, and Allie said softly "God fucking dammit." Which is when Ginny turned to look, and her body went stiff as well.

Gillam's face was unsmiling, and he was clearly trying to ride herd on the new arrivals. Pat had walked on ahead of him, and was bearing down on Carly and Eric. Carly's grin had disappeared as well. Margie went to Truitt and began talking to him. They could hear him say "Yeah, at the last minute, Pat said she was free -- " but Truitt's expression indicated he was beginning to realize he had made an error in bringing this particular guest. Carly, however, was on top of it. He said something quietly to Pat, something forceful, and waved a hand back toward the door.

But Pat glanced around, her bleary smile still plastered on, and caught sight of the cluster on the platform. She pulled her arm free from Carly and headed directly toward Myra and Ginny. Carly, Gillam, Jane and Margie all stepped into her wake, but Pat reached the platform quickly and threaded the small lip of concrete between the platform and the pool so she could get right next to Myra. She squatted down, saying "Hey, I just heard you two got married, well, ain't that the cat's meow". She reached out an arm to touch Ginny, on the other side of Myra.

Myra suddenly waved her hand violently in front of her own face, as if shooing away something, and dodged her head from side to side. Then her hand waved even more wildly, and the heel of her palm connected with Pat's shoulder, giving an unobtrusive but firm shove. Pat went backwards into the pool, almost head-first, in the blink of an eye.

The entire party stopped to gape as Pat flailed back to the surface, choking and gasping. Nate, who was in the pool with the children, reached her quickly and helped get her to the steps, where she hacked up water as she crawled out on her hands and knees. Gillam was there to pull her to her feet. Jane arrived with towels, and they adroitly shepherded Pat back into the house, murmuring condolences. Carly led Truitt behind them.

Margie called out "We need to put the cake back inside, it's drawing wasps" and some people jumped up to help her. She came to the platform and said, a little loudly, "Did you get bit, Mama, or did you manage to scare it off?" Then she knelt in front of Myra, pretending to examine her face and arms, and whispered "That was amazing."

Allie leaned forward and said softly "I take back anything I ever said making fun of you." Ginny couldn't stop staring at Myra. Gillam and Jane returned, having seen Pat and Truitt to the front door. Gillam came to the platform as well and sat in front of his mothers, saying in a carrying tone of voice "I apologized for us all, Mama. I told her to let me know the cost of replacing her suit, because in our family, when we make a mistake, we assume responsibility for it." He leaned over and kissed Ginny first, then Myra.

Ginny expression was luminous. Putting her face right next to Myra's, looking her long and steady in the eyes, she said softly "That was deliberate, wasn't it?"

Myra grinned at her and said "You and me, Ginny Bates. You and me." Ginny slid her arm behind Myra's neck and, slowly, leaned in to put her mouth on Myra's.


© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, June 4, 2009


Take Em Out poster by Austin Cline (Poster by Austin Cline.)

Here's a few updates culled from various sources.

From Daniela Altimari at the Hartford Courant:

Radio Host Hal Turner Charged With Inciting Injury To Two Connecticut Lawmakers

Radio host Hal Turner — accused of hosting a website that incited Connecticut Catholics to "take up arms" and singling out two Connecticut lawmakers and a state ethics official — was taken into custody in New Jersey late today after state Capitol police obtained an arrest warrant for him.

Turner, who has been identified as a white supremacist and anti-Semite by several anti-racism groups, hosts an Internet radio program with an associated blog. Last week, the blog included a post that promised to release the home addresses of state Rep. Michael Lawlor, state Sen. Andrew McDonald and Thomas Jones of the ethics office.

....Turner has been branded a racist by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Elsewhere on the blog, the recent fatal shooting of a Kansas abortion provider is called "a righteous act."

(More details in story link above.)

The two men who are the subjects of Turner's death threats, Lawlor and McDonald, have been involved in legislation which would give lay Catholics, rather than priests, oversight of church finances. What began as a struggle for separation of church and state devolved into gay-bashing focused on Lawlor and McDonald, both of whom are openly gay, according to the Fairfield Weekly article Holy War.

Regarding the hate crime this week, the murder of physician Dr. George Tiller by Christianist assassin Scott Roeder, Feministe reports that Jill Stanek, Forced Birth advocate, has published on her blog "photographs of the clinic of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, another physician who provides late-term abortions and who has said he is willing to take over providing services at Dr. Tiller's clinic".

Feministe links to the original article by Emily Douglas at Reproductive Health Reality Check, which also passes on this chilling information concerning "Operation Rescue senior policy advisor Cheryl Sullenger’s admission, just reported by McClatchey, that she provided information to suspect Scott Roeder about Tiller’s planned court appearances when Tiller was tried for performing illegal abortions. (Sullenger’s name and the Operation Rescue phone number were found on a note in the dashboard of Roeder’s car.) [Sullenger] said Roeder’s interest was in court hearings involving Tiller. ‘He would call and say, “When does court start? When’s the next hearing?” ’ Sullenger said. ‘I was polite enough to give him the information. I had no reason not to. Who knew? Who knew, you know what I mean?’”

Stanek's blog links to another site which lists the home and work addresses of one of the doctors and displays numerous photos of him, his wife, and his daughter. Jesus' General at Patriot Boy (whatever would we do without him) has responded by writing to Stanek's pastor at Parkview Christian Church requesting a "blessing of the rifles".

BlueGirl, writing for They Gave Us A Republic, points out in her post They Should Have Had Roeder In Custody that Scott Roeder "should have been under surveillance since he was caught with bomb making supplies in the mid 90s when he was involved with the 'sovereign citizen' movement and militant anti-abortion groups."

She goes on to inform us "On May 23, he vandalized a clinic in Kansas City, Kansas then returned on Saturday morning, May 30 to vandalize the clinic again. The clinic manager filed police reports in both instances, and on Saturday, about 24 hours before Dr. Tiller was gunned down in the foyer of his church, the clinic manager gave the FBI Roeder's license plate and a description of his car." "He had also posted on the Operation Rescue website that he wanted to confront Dr. Tiller in his church."

Since Roeder is not eligible for the death penalty based on Kansas' criteria, and since I'm opposed to the death penalty in any event, I suggest we start arresting and trying these self-declared assassins as domestic terrorists, with permanent incarceration. Following thorough interrogation, of course.

(Hat-tip to Shadocat for the information about Kansas law.)

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]



Cat's Eye Nebula (Intricate structures of concentric gas shells, jets of high-speed gas and shock-induced knots of gas make up this complicated planetary nebula. The Cat's Eye Nebula is about 1,000 years old, and could have resulted from a double-star system. 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.

Each that we lose takes part of us;
A crescent still abides,
Which like the moon, some turbid night,
Is summoned by the tides.
~~poem #97 by Emily Dickinson


Wednesday, June 3, 2009


(Green flash at sunset, taken from Oregon by George Howard)

This is the penultimate post of the first draft 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.

April to early May 2020

The next morning at 11, Ginny came briskly downstairs in a T-shirt and said hello to Sima and to Margie who had stopped by to drop off African violet cuttings. Ginny opened the refrigerator and took out a bottle of cranberry juice. Setting this on the counter, she loaded a plate with bialys and cream cheese, balanced two glasses along with the juice in the other arm, and started back for the stairs.

"Breakfast in bed?" said Margie.

Ginny turned with an exultant expression on her face. "Actually, all meals in bed today." She turned back to the stairs.

"Have fun" said Margie.

Ginny waggled her ass at them briefly but didn't stop.

When she was out of earshot, Margie said to Sima "Well, then."

Sima replied "Thank god they had their bedroom thoroughly soundproofed."

"I hear that, sistah" said Margie. "There's a sale at Crate and Barrel, you wanna go be a consumer with me?"

"Let me get some shoes on" said Sima.

The following evening, after potluck but before singing, Jane said to the children “How about if we go put on costumes for tonight? Anything you want to wear is okay.” She followed them as they scrambled up the stairs.

Once they were out of the family room, Gillam turned to Margie, Frances, and his mothers to say “We have to tell you something.” Carly, Eric, Thad, and Allie moved to stand beside him.

Carly said “We found the guy who's been stalking you. He lives in that house where Gidg said he did.”

Margie instinctively put her hand down beside her, and Gidg stood to meet it. Frances took Margie's other hand.

Gillam continued “We told Aaron, who put him under legal surveillance and also did a little investigating.”

“I did more investigating on my own” said Thad. He worked in an office that had access to banking and credit records. “We compiled a complete dossier on him.”

Gillam said “He's got a record. He's trouble. We were going to bring it to all of you, but I talked with Allie first.”

“We decided to take care of it quiet” said Allie. “He live alone. We knocked on his door late – well, Carly did. Carly got that grin which make anybody trust him. Once he inside, the rest of us followed. We told that fucker what we had on him, that we'd hired a service to keep watch on him, and we spell out what we do if he ever come near you again, Margie. In fact, if anybody ever come near you again, he be toast.”

Frances gave a choked, incredulous laugh.

Gillam handed Margie a manila envelope. “All the information is in there. But you won't need it. He was so scared, he had to sit down. I imagine he'll probably move out of the area.”

“My fucking god” said Myra, finally finding her voice, “Are you out of your minds?”

Ginny said to Allie “You let them pull this stunt?”

“It my idea” said Allie. “I also supplied the guns we carried.”

Guns?” Ginny's voice went into the stratosphere.

“What if he files a complaint against you?” demanded Myra.

“With what evidence?” said Gillam, grinning. “He doesn't know who we are. We were a motley crew – Thad looks way butcher than he is, you know.”

Thad flexed his muscles playfully.

“I can't believe you -- “ Ginny's voice trailed off, but her look at Allie was tragically wounded.

“That why they come to me, because I believe what you can't” said Allie. “Ain't no way Margie gonna be a target again, not on our watch.”

Margie leaped to her feet and hugged Allie exuberantly, then the rest of her brothers and brothers-in-law. Frances joined her. Ginny looked around at Edwina, who was also grinning proudly. She said to Myra “I think we're outnumbered.”

“Let's just hope that schmuck feels the same way” said Myra. She was watching the relief and pride on Margie's face. Mimi raced back into the room, wearing plastic football pads, a clown wig, scarves wrapped around her legs, and a bunny tail strapped to her bottom. They could hear the other children clattering down the stairs. Thad crossed to the piano and opened the lid over the keys. Edwina leaned over to Ginny and said “Allie carried her shotgun with a polished nickel barrel. I took a photo of them all, if you want to see.”

The following Saturday, Jane was running a high fever and aching all over. Gillam fed her soup at lunch and kept checking the children for signs of them coming down with the same thing, but they were bursting with energy. The skies had opened up, so the yard was not available for play. They kept fighting with each other and crashing into the bedroom where Jane was trying to rest.

Finally, Gillam said to Jane “I'll take them out somewhere for a few hours. And get them dinner out, too, if you can wait on me feeding you until later.”

“I'm not hungry” said Jane. “Good idea.”

“Are you going to be okay here on your own? I can ask someone to come over.”

Jane thought about it. She sat up and said “Ask Myra if I could come lie on her daybed. It's quiet and warm up there.”

Gillam called while Mimi and David chanted “Chuck E Cheese, Chuck E Cheese” at his elbow. Ginny answered and said she'd come walk Jane over, carrying the big umbrella. Jane was settled in Myra's study with a quilt and a pot of fever tea. Myra left on her desk lamp but had turned off the music she'd been blasting. Beebo had accompanied them and decided to nap at Jane's feet instead of Myra's desk.

While Jane dozed off, Myra went downstairs to make custard to go along with Ginny's chicken soup. She returned to her desk and opted to proof part of her manuscript with pencil instead of on the computer. Half an hour later, Ginny came to whisper that she was going to get on the other computer to look at garden sites. A peaceful hour passed. When Jane woke up, she accepted Ginny's offer of soup and more tea.

She sat up to eat, leaning against the wall which held the Gee's Bend quilt. Beebo decided to move next to her knee, in case she felt like sharing a stray morsel of chicken.

Ginny returned to the computer and said “I'm going to try this purple cauliflower, Myra. And that new habanero hybrid, I think I can get it to grow under the big coldframe.”

“Whatever you plant does its best to grow for you, Ginny-O” replied Myra. “You've fed us all for 34 years.”

“Yes, well, we're a good team, because you've made most of the meals” replied Ginny.

Myra looked up. “Not quite accurate. You've mostly done breakfast and at least half the lunches. But even so, I did the math recently and estimated I've cooked at least 24,000 meals since we got together.”

“My god” said Jane.

“And that's nothing compared to women who are the only people in their families preparing food, from their teens until they drop dead of exhaustion” said Myra.

“Let me say here, thank you from the bottom of my heart for teaching Gillam to cook the way he does” said Jane. “I'd call him the perfect wife except for that big shiny cock of his.”

Myra and Ginny went mute with embarrassment. Jane was fishing for a pearl onion in her soup and didn't notice. Her cheeks were still flushed with fever. She continued “Speaking of which, he certainly gets jumpy when I call myself his wife. Is that something you instilled in him?”

Myra said “Well, it's not a term we use. It's got a crappy etymology and a worse herstory.”

Jane waved her hand dismissively. “Is that why you two have never married? I can't believe you're the only hold-outs.”

“Chris and Sima didn't get married” said Myra. “Nor have lots of the women from our generation.”

Ginny sang softly “I never will marry, I'll be no one's wife...”

“I know that song. But you haven't lived single all the rest of your life” argued Jane. “In fact, you're more coupled than any of us.”

“Coupling is not synonymous with marriage” said Ginny.

“Well what do you have against marriage, then?” said Jane, setting her empty bowl beside her so Beebo could lick it out. Keller heard the clank of his tag against the metal spoon and looked alertly in that direction. “Do you think me and Gillam shouldn't have married?”

Myra said diplomatically “It would have been fine with us if you had not. You'd be just as much part of our family either way. His commitment to you would be identical.”

“Nope” said Jane. “I don't believe that. Nor does he. He promised something particular when he swore his loyalty to me as a husband.”

“You can make that same promise without marriage” said Ginny. “It's a emotional promise, and I don't think the state should be in the business of regulating or rewarding it – not over other emotional promises.”

“The state is in the business of making sure parents fulfill their obligation to children” said Jane.

“Yes, because children have to have caretakers. But I need friends as much as I need a spouse, and the state doesn't give me a tax break for having Allie in my life” said Myra.

“In fact, marriage has a 50% failure rate, and when that happens, it's your friends who make sure you're okay” said Ginny. She stopped to remember that Sima was out of the house before adding “Like we did with Chris.”

“And that's part of what I find creepy about weddings” said Myra. “Two people get up in front of all their friends and family, usually with all those other people having paid for the experience, and say 'what we have together is way more special than what we have with any of you'. Even if they've just known each other two months. We play along, we act like it's sacred and singular, and in the meantime, the real network of relationships that makes us healthy and sane is taken for granted. Kids are taught to find a spouse but not how to make a family, not a real family.”

“I was taught both” said Jane stubbornly.

“You're an exception” said Ginny. “And your own parents are somewhat unconventional. I mean, with your Uncle Charlie and all.”

“I don't believe marriage is synonymous with monogamy, you're right about that” said Jane.

Myra didn't catch Ginny's glance at her because she was preparing what she wanted to say next. “The origins of marriage – not the emotional choice to couple and make family, but marriage as an institution – is all about insuring property rights. To enable a man to believe the children a particular woman has are his, to pass on land and titles, but especially to name that woman as property – the man's property. Women lost their freedom when marriage came on the scene. They passed from being their father's object to their husband's object. And this remained true, to some degree, until I was in high school. It's only very recently that women could keep their names after marriage, or have their own credit rating, or refuse sex to their husbands without being legally raped. My grandmother Hettie, the one in the painting, was only able to vote in one election before she died – every other woman in the country prior to that time lived her entire life without voting for those who decided infinite details about her life. Marriage is part of that history of government-sanctioned subjugation, and it's not worth rehabilitating, in my opinion, any more than indentured servitude can be made pretty. I can follow my heart just as effectively, and sometimes more so, without needing state approval.”

“My revolutionary” said Ginny fondly.

“I actually do believe that lesbians getting married fundamentally asks to alter the definition of marriage as it has traditionally existed, because it doesn't confer right of property and control on one of them – it can't because there is no husband” said Myra.

“So isn't that an argument FOR gay marriage rights, then?” said Jane. “If it's going to bollix up the whole meaning to give you the right to marriage, why don't you jump at it?”

“Not gay marriage” interjected Ginny. “We're not gays, we're lesbians.”

Myra went on, “The argument used to include us in the category of those allowed to be called married always falls back on 'we love the same as anyone else, we're just like everybody else'. But I don't think we necessarily love the same as anyone else. And we're certainly not like everybody else. As Carmen Vasquez points out, the only way that's true is if you erase looking at gender, race, class, and all the other categories that determine power in our culture. The goal should be respect for difference, not assimilating so we kinda sorta get a few human rights.”

“It's a daily choice we make” said Ginny, meeting Myra's gaze. “That's where the meaning lies. I never forget it.”

“Okay” said Jane, sounding tired. She lay back down.

Myra looked guilty. “Didn't mean to go off on you, honey. Do you want some more soup?”

Ginny came to feel Jane's forehead. “I think your fever is down some. I'll bring you more tea.”

“Okay” said Jane. “And did you mention custard?”

The following weekend, for Heroic Adventure Day Myra enlisted the help of Margie, who had just given Mimi a birthday present of her own 6-year-old sized kayak. Margie rented two more children's canoes and gave preliminary lessons in crewing and kayaking to all five on their family pool.

Eventually, Myra began telling them the story of Umai and the Light at the Edge of the World. One by one, each child assumed the role of Umai, who “magicked” a toy canoe and went down the Klamath from her Yurok village across the ocean to the edge of the world, following the green flash at sunset. Once they had all reached the shore of the World Beyond The World, they walked to the pond, where Ginny had set up a firepit and was ready to play the role of Laksis, the firebuilder who persuades Umai to come be her lover.

They roasted salmon, seaweed cakes, and acorn bread over the fire, eating it with blueberries and mint tea. The various Umais told stories of their home and family, until they became too homesick to stay away any longer and left for a visit, promising to return soon to Laksis. Laksis fervently vowed to always light a fire each sunset to guide Umai's return.

They paddled back home, where the entire village (Allie, Edwina, Carly, Eric, and their parents) waited to greet the five Umais with over-the-top relief that she was still alive. The celebration, with dancing and singing, lasted so long that night fell. Eventually Myra broke it to them that Umai in fact never returned to Laksis, which is why you can still sometimes see her fire on the western horizon of the ocean, as she vainly waits to be reunited with her love.

Leah cried for a long time, and Charlie kept trying to think of ways that Umai could be speedboated over to Laksis. Ginny promised on Monday they would make acorn shell rattles to tie around their legs before dancing. Margie hauled the rental canoes back to her garage, but left Mimi's kayak slung on its berth above the deck. In addition to monthly kayaking outings, she had begun taking Mimi and David on children's orienteering events. To ease the wait for the three younger children, Sima bought them each a silver compass and taught them how to use it.

The next Wednesday, Myra and Ginny flew to New York to prepare for Ginny's gallery show. On Friday afternoon, Sima, Allie and Edwina joined them. They ate a very early dinner with Liza before heading for the gallery. That night, Ginny's agent pulled her aside to whisper in electric tones “There's someone here from the Prado!”

Myra thought Ginny might pass out. Finally Ginny calmed herself down by deciding it was simply an accident, someone coming to the show as an individual, not representing the institution for which they worked. Four days later, however, a phone call sent Myra running down the stairs because Ginny was screaming in the kitchen. She had her finger down on the phone receiver but hadn't managed to hang up yet.

“It's them! That guy from the Prado! They want to buy the series I did at the cabin, what you call the metastases paintings. They want all three, and they're hoping I'll give consent even though the museum is in Europe, not very accessible to us visiting.”

Myra found she had to sit down. Sima had joined them, and Ginny looked at her with a dumbfounded face. “What do I do?” Ginny asked.

“You sell them. It's right they should be together. Chris would be over the moon” said Sima.

“What are they offering?” asked Myra. When Ginny told her, Myra said “So much for three such little paintings?”

Apiece, Myra” said Ginny. Myra closed her eyes. After a minute she said “Ginny, whatever you decide will be the right thing. Or ask Sima, Margie, get their advice. I can't quite take this in.”

“Museo del Prado” breathed out Ginny. “This means a trip to Madrid.”
Myra knew Ginny's decision then. Jamón Iberico de Bellota she thought. Valencia oranges, and fields of saffron. She grinned at Ginny and said “I sure picked the right girl.”

Note: The exact quote from Carmen Vasquez to which Myra refers is: "The color of your skin, your gender, your sexual orientation, and your wealth matter greatly to the pursuit and attainment of success in America. The complexities of race, class, gender, and where you sit on the economic ladder create differences among us, differences that place us on one side or the other of privilege and power. To say otherwise, to say, We are just like everybody else, has no meaning in a progressive context. The phrase, as used by queers in pursuit of mainstream 'respectability,' has enormous class and race bias attached to it. Which everybody else? ~~ Carmen Vazquez

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Tuesday, June 2, 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.

Bonus Video this week: Maru and the Giant Box


Monday, June 1, 2009


(George Tiller, MD)

In November 2008, I published here an essay sent to me by Charlotte Taft in the post If You're A Feminist, You'll Vote Obama. At that time, I introduced her as: "Charlotte Taft is what I think of as a Feminist's Feminist. She is particularly well-known and respected in Texas because she founded the Routh Street Women's Clinic, the first feminist reproductive rights clinic in our state. Routh Street became known, under her leadership, as a place where the whole woman was treated, where abortion was approached as the complicated and life-altering decision that it is without judgment or denial. With her efficient pragmatism and creative humor, she managed to dissuade Operation Rescue and other hate groups from keeping Routh Street Clinic as its number one target."

Tonight I received an e-mail from her which read "I was stunned this morning to have someone telling me of the murder of my longtime friend and colleague Dr. George Tiller. I have come to believe that the only useful response is one that is in our own hands -- hence my essay. Please share it if it speaks to you."

It did speak to me. I share it with you below.

This morning a friend of mine -- a wonderful man I have known for thirty years -- was shot and killed. He was executed -- shot at point blank range while ushering in his church. This was not a robbery -- not a domestic dispute -- not an accident -- not a surprising act of violence. This was a mob hit.

The man, Dr. George Tiller, had been shot before -- and his offices vandalized and bombed more times than I can count. He had been vilified and demonized and mercilessly attacked, and through it all he never wavered in his commitment to serving his patients -- the women who for myriad reasons needed the later term abortions that were not available anywhere but at his Kansas clinic. George and his staff reminded patients of their goodness -- he valued family and love. In my visits to his center my foremost memory is of the thousands of letters of gratitude he received from women whose lives he saved literally and figuratively. It was George who said, “To understand abortion you must understand the heart of a woman.” He was a rare and generous man, and one of a kind.

The mob in question has long been known for its brutality -- for past murders, bullying, stalking, domestic terrorism, kidnapping, vandalism, intimidation, and emotional blackmail. Yet this mob hides behind religion and behind respectable churchgoing people. This mob does the dirty work for the nice people. This time, as every past time, the nice people will say that they didn’t know about it, or have anything to do with it. Yet they created the atmosphere that allowed George Tiller’s death as surely as if they had pulled the trigger themselves.

In my grief and anger this morning I want to find some way to wake this country up to the fact that these are the people who are supposed to be so reasonable. But their idea of compromise is for everyone to obey them!

The middle ground in abortion is LEAVE ME ALONE TO FOLLOW MY OWN CONSCIENCE! Pro-choice IS ALREADY the middle ground.

I got a note from George Tiller dated 5/13/09. “Charlotte -- We have come a long way!!! Sometimes it seems as if we are back at the beginning. Thank you for your love and support throughout these decades.” His words echoed the fears of many of us who provide abortion services -- that we are once again in a Twilight Zone in which brutality, murder, bullying, stalking, domestic terrorism, kidnapping, vandalism, intimidation, and emotional blackmail are rewarded with respect and treated with kid gloves. I have been an abortion counselor for more than thirty years. I have already lived through murders of my friends and colleagues and the violence against doctors and clinics across the country. I have watched as the police allowed my colleagues to be overrun by whomever held up the biggest cross. A small number of people, no matter how dedicated, makes an easy target.

I believe that we abortion providers have made a fatal mistake. We have stood between the millions of women in this country who have had abortions, and the vicious, righteous, hypocritical terrorists that make up the anti abortion movement. We positioned ourselves as the guard of women’s freedom, dignity, and integrity, but in our wish to protect our patients we have forgotten that it is their freedom we fight for. We have turned ourselves inside out and in many ways sacrificed our lives to protect the most fundamental and primitive and basic freedom of all -- the freedom to decide when and if to bring children into the world. More than 45 million women have had legal abortions in this country, yet we have guarded their secrets and their voices are not heard. This latest murder screams to us that, as the gay right movement taught us, silence equals death.

I call upon my colleagues for a new order. We can no longer collude in the shame and silence that the anti abortion forces have laid upon women like a pall. As every other group who treasures freedom we must break open that silence. We must do it in honor of the values we stand for -- and in honor of our fallen heroes.

~~Charlotte Taft, 31 May 2009

(Quote from Audre Lorde.)

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]



Here's your weekly time-lapse video showing a fascinating natural event. Hat-tip to WordWeaverLynn for the original link, and Wired Science for the article which brought them all to our attention.

Thunderstorm Illuminated by Lightning, created by 06solareclipse.