Thursday, December 4, 2008


Stacks of poker chips
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.

Spring 2016

David became an increasingly sunny baby as he began speaking more and, especially, gained mobility. Jane occasionally called him Dah-veed, the Hebrew version of his name, and this caught on among the rest of the family. It was particularly how Ginny came to refer to him, probably to differentiate him from her father, Myra thought. He was still much shorter than Mimi had been a year ago, but he was very strong for his size and surprisingly deft with his coordination.

As Mimi approached her two-year mark, however, she came into the power of “no” and, like all who developmentally discover their first alternative to being a doormat, she experienced it as a rush no matter how her family mediated it. She began by responding, when asked to do a certain action, with an airy “Not right now”, which was said with such charm the adults laughed and let it slide a few times. Possibly this was a mistake, possibly there were no changing the course she was on. “Not right now” inevitably became a scream of indignation, and Mimi began to wage rebellion and discord in every arena she could. As Gillam remarked, “Newly realized power combined with no maturity at all – it's like living with a two-foot-tall Cheney.” The only person not targeted for her outbursts was David, whom she treated as an ally.

Ginny went off to Pilchuck where her nightly calls home to Myra were full of new terminology and concepts which sent Myra to online research after they hung up. She was exhausted by caring for the grandchildren alone each afternoon that week, and wondered how Jane did it every morning: It was her main career at the moment, Myra decided.

The Thursday she was at Pilchuck, Ginny called home during an afternoon break, sitting somewhere outside, Myra could tell from the birdsong.

“Got news and a question” said Ginny.

“I got news, too – the pear tree is in full bloom” said Myra.

“Excellent” said Ginny. “Listen, I want to buy a glass globe made by one of the visiting blowers this week, it's indescribable. I'm thinking about floating it in the pond, using a filament anchored to the bottom if I can figure that out.”

“Wonderful idea” said Myra. “You don't ever have to ask me about bringing art to the house, you know -- “

“It costs $3500” said Ginny.

“Oh. Wow. Well, and it'll be a joint expense, that's what you're saying?”

“Yes, Myra. But if you want me to claim it as my own, I will” said Ginny.

“No. I trust you. I'm a little wary about floating that much money in the pond, however” admitted Myra.

“We'll talk it over when I get there” said Ginny. “I'll be just in time for shabbos dinner, there's an exhibition here I want to stay until the last minute for, can you defrost challah for me this week?”

“Sure” said Myra. “So that's your news and question, what else has gone on today?”

“Uh, no...That's the question and a second question, I guess” said Ginny. “The news is – you know that guy from Sedona, Roger, who's been my buddy all week? The new friend I was hoping to collaborate with?”

“Yep” said Myra. “The guy who does ikebanas, which has nothing to do with real flowers as you've explained it.”

“Yeah. Well, he made a move on me last night” said Ginny.

“Holy crap. Like, what, tried to kiss you?”

“Lunged my way but I smacked him a bit sharpish in the windpipe, I thought he was maybe falling on me” said Ginny. “Anyhow, turns out he's completely misconstrued all my artistic fervor and friendliness.”

“Ah, Ginny, I'm sorry to hear that, I really am. I thought he was smarter than that, from what you've said” commiserated Myra.

“I did, too. But apparently he mostly hangs out with women a generation younger than us, for whom lesbian is much more vague” said Ginny.

“Well, and if he watches porn, he's been warped by that definition, too. Which, come to think of it, is part of what has warped the younger generation of feminists as well. But it does raise the question, how come you keep attracting folks who think you're on the market, huh?” mused Myra.

There was a long silence. “What do you mean by that?” came Ginny's voice, high and strained.

“Oh, not any kind of accusation, I swear, I was just wondering – oh, listen, Gin, here comes the grandkids, I have to get off the phone. Call me back later if you want, okay? Go for the glass, sweetie. Love you.”

Ginny did not call back later and Myra was busy all evening making stock – veggie, chicken, fish, and beef – to freeze for quick use. Chris hung out with her, talking about grammar as a whittler of culture.

The next day, the family gathered at Jane and Gillam's waited half an hour past sundown for Ginny to arrive. She rushed in with ruddy cheeks, apologies, and new hand-blown wineglasses for Jane and Gillam in pale green flecked with gold melted into interior layers. She chose the chair next to Myra for the meal, and they kept leaning against each other, kissing lightly at intervals.

After clearing the table, Ginny asked David if he wanted to be her poker partner. He clambered into her lap happily and tested his hand-eye coordination skills to limit by stacking chips, to Ginny's steady murmur of “Now, what color is that one?”

“Yeyyow” he declared.

“Not quite. More purply, don't you think?”

“Purpul. And dis is yeyyow.”

“Well, on the greenish side of yellow. Here, what color is this one?”


“Bonzai! Nope, not in the mouth, it makes them all stick together. Okay, here, we've got our cards, let's have a look. Hmm. Should we open or fold? And if we open, with this many chips or this many?”

“Open! Dis minny.” He stood on Ginny's thighs to push their chips into the center. Four seats down, Mimi was likewise advising Margie, which Chris complained tossed out the window all hope of rationally assessing odds.

Once the flop was revealed, Ginny said softly to David, “Now, what colors are those three cards in the middle?”

“Red, red, and byack.”

“Absolutely right. That first red card is a heart, and so is the second one. Which means anybody with two hearts in the hole is feeling antsy right about now – though they couldn't have known these would come along, eh? The black card is a club. The only face card showing is a king of hearts. Now, your Daddy, sly boots that he is, raised us a small but solid amount, which means he had something worth pushing about. Because Gillam is a steady player, not given to bluffing – except, of course, for that occasional wild hare when he catches us all off guard. The question is, does he have a king that's making him stay in the game? What is he holding, I wonder?”

“I go look” offered David.

“Not on your life, buddy” said Gillam.

“Okay, Dah-veed, let's assume he has kings. Which means that's what we need to beat. Let's look at our cards again – no, not in the mouth. What shall we do, fold or bet?”


“All righty, then, put these in the pot, will you?”

Gillam called their bet and raised again, which David decided they should call. The turn revealed an ace of spades, bringing forth more betting from Gillam and a call from Allie.

Ginny said “All right, beautiful boy, do we call it a day or do we sing 'take me to the river'?”

“Ribber!” said David, pushing their chips in.

The final card was the queen of hearts. When Ginny turned over a heart flush, Allie expostulated “You opened with a goddamned 3 and 7 of hearts?”

“Worked, didn't it?” grinned Ginny. David was gleefully raking in their chips, sending half of them to the floor. He slid off her lap to laboriously pick them up. Mimi said “I come stack those for you.”

“No!” shouted David, trying to hurl himself back into Ginny's lap.

“Here, Mimi” said Margie, “You can rearrange our dwindling resources. See if you can alternate each color, first a green, then a purple, then a yellow.”

Myra bent over and rescued the chips David had abandoned. Ginny said to the table “I surely did miss you all this week. Did you miss me?” She was looking at Mimi.

“No” said Mimi in a hard tone.

“Oh, fiddlesticks, you whined every afternoon about how lonely you were for your bubbe” said Myra severely.

“Did not” said Mimi. David patted Ginny's cheek and said “Bubbe” softly.

I missed you” said Margie. “Listen, everyone else knows, the inspection of the house next door turned up a minor plumbing issue and a recommendation for a new roof. We've put in a counter-bid, either they repair it or come down on the price.”

“Have you heard back?” asked Ginny.

“Not yet. It'll probably be better for us to the roof ourselves, we need to reconfigure a couple of the interior walls anyhow” said Margie.

“But you have to give your tenants three months to move out, which means you can't start work on it until then” said Ginny.

“True. Well, we'll see” said Margie. “In the meantime, Frances's cookbook is at the publisher Allie's agent recommended. And I'm about to be handed a 14th century Japanese map to restore.”

“Can I come look at it?” asked Eric.

“Any of you can, as long as you put on cotton gloves and a breath mask” said Margie.

Edwina said, “Hey, I saw in the paper that the Alvin Ailey dance troupe is coming to town in a month. I know David's attention span is miniscule, but I'd be willing to walk him outside for breaks if you think we can try taking him.”

Jane and Gillam looked at each other. “I don't think Mimi would like it -- “ began Gillam.

“What? I would, too!” shouted Mimi.

“But maybe you could take just him, and we'll find another treat for her that night” finished Gillam.

“What treat?” Mimi was scowling. “Can I have it now?”

“No, it's a month away. After your birthday” said Jane smoothly. “Have you decided on what kind of cake you want for your birthday?”

Tonight her choice was strawberry chocolate. Which brought up pleas for more dessert, and tears when the answer was no.

Once the blow-up was over, Gillam waited another 15 minutes before announcing “Okay, it's bath time.”

Before Mimi could erupt again, Margie said “Oh, yay, could I be the one to play with you two this bath?”

Mimi looked at her suspiciously. Carly jumped in, saying “Me too, I want to play, too.”

David was already sliding off Ginny's lap. Gillam grinned and said “Have at it. You can use our big tub down here.”

Margie went upstairs to get pajamas while Carly began running the water. Gillam called after him “Use the lavender bubble stuff, it helps 'em sleep.” Eric took over Carly's hand and Myra walked around to assume Margie's place.

A few minutes later, bare-assed Mimi and David emerged to do a brief potty dance before Margie herded them back into the bathroom. It was another three-quarters of an hour before they all returned, the children wet-haired and shiny-faced, for goodnight kisses.

“Daddy tells us a story and Mommy sings us a song” announced Mimi. “Just them.”

Gillam stood tiredly and pulled Jane to her feet. Myra slid over to take Gillam's hand instead of Margie's. Grown-up poker settled in with serious faces and edgy betting.

When the parents came back downstairs, Jane was still humming “Lavender Blue, Dilly-Dilly”. She put on water for tea and returned to set the baby monitor on the table. Gillam booted Myra out of his chair, commenting “I have visibly fewer chips than when I left, what did you do, go hogwild?”

“Come sit with me again, sweetheart” urged Ginny. As Myra snuggled beside her, she said “You haven't told them about your boyfriend yet.”

Ginny looked irritated, but she recounted the episode with her now given-up-on friend Roger. Chris thought it was hilarious. Margie said “As if you'd possibly be looking for guys, with that haircut you wear. I can't believe you two still cut each other's hair.”

“We get what we want that way” said Myra. “And you're a fine one to complain, with your generation preferring a style that looks like you slept with a neurotic cat who sucked on your hair all night.”

Ginny cracked up. “Just watch, when Jane and Gillam's kids become teenagers, our 70's dyke do's will have come back into fashion and they'll all be doing it.”

Jane shook her head quietly at Margie.

Carly said to Gillam “Listen, when they pottied, David's poop smelled weird.”

“Yeah, I noticed he was gassy when I was holding him for story time. I'll give him rice cereal and applesauce for breakfast, see if we can ward off another bout of diarrhea” said Gillam.

Jane brought a large pot of tea to the table, and as she poured milk into her cup, she said “Gillam and I are talking about setting up a surveillance system in the kid's bedrooms upstairs. At least while they're little and using the hall up there as a main play area. With me alone downstairs, it would help if I could listen in and watch them. Mimi's been stuffing things down the toilet and trying to climb over the fence on the outside deck up there to get onto the roof.”

“Holy fuck” said Allie. She looked at Margie and said “Have you been telling her she can levitate, too?”

Ginny asked Jane “Are you still planning to start sleeping in that second bedroom up there, once the new baby comes?”

“Yes” said Jane. She had pushed her chair close enough to Gillam's to lean partly against him. On Monday, she'll be at 33 weeks thought Myra.

“Call Aaron” Myra said to Gillam. “He can talk you through your options.”

“Yeah, I was going to anyhow, about the idea of putting a gate between our yard and Carminati's parking lot. So Margie and Frances can get here directly. I'll have a gate in every fence, I guess” said Gillam. Allie nudged him and said something under her breath but Myra heard “compound”.

At that moment, a thin wail came over the baby monitor. Before Jane and Gillam could shift, Ginny stood and said “I'll go to him.” Gillam said “That sounds like his 'I've crapped myself' cry.”

“I recognize it, too” said Ginny. She hurried up the stairs. In a minute they heard her murmur coming from the baby monitor, “Hey, honey boy, let's take you to the bathroom.”

They all jumped a few minutes later when Ginny's voice came in a loud whisper, saying “All righty, snuggle up here and I'll tell you a story. What do you want to hear?”

“Baba Yaga?”

“I'll tell the one about when she makes paprikash and all her pots and pans start sneezing” said Ginny. After she began, David interrupted to say “Bubbe, do you have milk?”

“Not in my breasts any more, no. I did when I had babies, when your daddy was a baby, and Aunt Margie. You can touch but don't squeeze, okay?” She went on with her story.

Margie said to Jane “He does that with me, too.” Jane looked sad.

When Ginny returned, she said “I'm begging off for the night, it's been a very long day. You can split my chips among you.”

Myra stood up immediately to join her, and she heard Sima giggle. They didn't talk once they got home, or even unwrap the glass float, but went directly to bed.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild

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