Saturday, July 26, 2008


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.

October 2012

Later that afternoon, Myra dialed Carly's cell. When he answered, she said "Well, we've gotten the word about Jane and we're all happy here. But it occurs to me that you're probably being left on your own a lot down there."

Carly sounded wary as he said "Yeah. You could say that."

"I remember what it was like. And I went out of my way to make sure Allie didn't feel ditched when Ginny and I did our big Incredible Adventure of Two Girls In Love thang. Of course, you'll have to ask her if I was successful at it."

Carly's voice was a little aggrieved as he replied, "Well, it's being hardest on Beebo. I mean, he's sleeping with me at night but he gets up and searches the apartment several times, looking kinda bewildered."

"I know you were just up here, but if you wanna come tomorrow for all or part of the weekend, you could get only-child attention. I'll teach you a recipe I've withheld from Gillam, and you can watch movies in your boxers" said Myra.

He giggled and said "I wear briefs."

"Whatever. You can bring Beebo, whaddya say?"

"Okay. I'll leave after my last class, be there by 4-ish. Can we have turkey for shabbos dinner?"

"You got it." When she hung up, Ginny was standing in the doorway, grinning at her.

"You are a good, good mother" said Ginny. "But he wears briefs, you know."

"I do now. He requested turkey for dinner. Is he dating at all that you know about?"

"Not that I know about. I'll ask Patty the next time I talk with her. I need to go work on the roses, they're looking neglected. You doing okay with all this?"

"I think I am, Gin. But I'm going to schedule Nancy for as early next week as we can get in, if that's good with you."

"It is. You and I also need to have a budget meeting, together and then with Alveisa, if you'll schedule that with her as well." Ginny came to kiss her and said "It may take you a long damned while for you to see you're wrong, but when you do, you admit it without any games. I don't know quite how that meshes with your Leo ego."

"Oh, even caesars are allowed to make mistakes" said Myra airily.

The next afternoon, as Carly was making wild rice and blueberry stuffing while Myra basted the already roasting bird, Ginny came into the kitchen with two quarts of baby carrots and said "I know you love her orange glazed carrots, Carly, I thought we could make those tonight."

"I know that recipe" he said meaningfully to Myra. She replied "Then which one are you after?"

"Your mother's salmon croquettes" he said instantly. Ginny looked at Myra and said "I don't recall you ever sharing that with anyone."

Carly's expression shifted to worry. Myra said "Might as well not die with it. Tomorrow night for dinner, all right?" She bumped his arm with her elbow, and he laughed.

Ginny said "I've been meaning to tell you, Carly, with that nice new paint job in your bedroom, you don't have to keep all of Margie's rejected furniture up there. In particular her loveseat is Narnia funky. Would you like to get up with me tomorrow morning and go to the used furniture stores, look for stuff you prefer that we could re-do?"

His face lit up as he said "Sure thing!" Ginny pulled out salad makings before saying to Myra "I think I want to not have the kid's art table taking up so much room in my studio any more. I'd like to put a dry sink along that glass wall, for plant starts, with storage underneath. But I'll need some sort of small table to go by my easel, for my palette and brush. I was thinking about taking one of the end tables from the living room, the one with the leg that Margie broke horsing around, especially since your study side table is in there right now and we're a bit crowded."

"That's fine with me, but -- why don't you get a rolling table for your easel? And Ginny, again, I want to you consider getting a rolling chair to work in" said Myra.

Carly added "It can only help you orthopedically, it's not making you strong to stand in one spot like that."

"Okay, okay, I'll look at them" said Ginny with a trace of irritation.

"Let's give away the broken-leg table, we have my Anacortes table in the living room most of the time anyhow" said Myra.

"That was meant for the deck, you know" said Ginny.

"Yes, but I can't bear the idea of it getting damaged by the weather. We can move it out there for chess games, if need be. And what if it had been outside when the burglar struck?" said Myra.

Ginny's eyes got wide. "I hadn't considered that."

"What are you going to do with the old art table?" asked Myra.

"It's good wood underneath all the layers of paint and clay. I'll try stripping and refinishing it. If it looks good, I'll put an oilcloth on it and add it to the array on the upper deck" said Ginny.

"I don't know why that cop said our house was not 'rich and famous' looking, I think our furniture is really beautiful" said Myra.

"She was a philistine" said Ginny. "Endive or arugula?"

"Both" said Carly and Myra in unison.

Allie and Edwina arrived for shabbos dinner, but Chris and Sima had a date with other friends and promised to come on Saturday. After pineapple buttermilk pie, Carly asked if he could use Myra's computer to write a paper -- "If I get it out of the way now, I can relax the rest of the weekend" he said.

"Nerd" said Myra, giving him a hug before shoving him toward her studio. She and the others sat in the living room, discussing the news about Gillam in a level of detail and speculation that would have given him hives to overhear.

When Myra got up the next morning, there was a warm plate for her in the oven and a note from Ginny saying she and Carly would be back by lunch. Myra got herself a Coke and ate leisurely. She'd gone to Pike the day before, they were well-supplied. She left her plate in the sink and went upstairs to the weight machine for a work-out, feeling virtuous. As she was coming back downstairs, Chris walked in the front door.

"Hey. I'm about to hit the hot tub for a few minutes, care to join me?"

"No. Have you eaten?"

"Yeah, but there's two links of that sweet sausage left, some of Carly's pecan muffins, and a bowl of fruit salad. Help yourself and come out on the deck with me. Where's Sima?"

"She had a meeting and dropped me off. She'll be back later, we're running errands together" said Chris, opening the fridge as Myra walked past her.

Chris pumped Myra about the Gillam news as she ate, and Myra covered all the ground the four of them had broken the night before. Chris trailed after Myra when she returned to the house to dry off and dress, talking to her from the bedroom chair through the bathroom door. Myra emerged missing only socks and lay down on the still unmade bed, linking her arms over her stomach to ask "So, how goes it with you and the dictionary?"

Chris said "Better and better. I've begun having dreams where people in it speak Nimipu. Even you, once."

Myra wanted to ask what Chris had dreamed about her, but didn't. After a pause, Chris added "Thanks to Edwina, it's changed shape, the project, I mean. At first I just wanted something that satisfied my needs. Now I'm starting to see it as -- well, as meeting the needs of my people."

"Hot damn, Chris. Are you thinking about publication, then?"

"Edwina sure is" grinned Chris. "The thing in, to make it right, I'm realizing I need to be doing what you're doing."

"What do you mean, research?"

"Yes, and interviewing people. Not all over the U.S. like you, but anywhere there's a local population of Nimipu, I need to go talk with the old folks and note regional variations. With Edwina's help."

"Oh, Chris, who better than you? I am totally behind you in this."

Chris crossed her legs uncomfortably. "Well...I need to ask you something."

Myra waited.

"I'm think I need to cut back on my hours at work, keep enough to stay on bennies but otherwise -- I need to travel. Which means cost. A lot of cost, anyway I figure out, and I can't say I'll ever make it back even if it does get published..."

Myra still waited. If Chris had wanted to bring this to the Fund as a project, she would have. This was personal.

"Sima says I shouldn't ask you for the money. But if there was ever anything I've done which is for the greater good, this is it. Would you like to give me the money?"

Chris direct. Myra took a breath and said "I'd be honored. And don't you fucking dare put my name on anything, except a brief thanks in your list of thank yous. This is for me as much as for you. It'll be me and Ginny, though. At this point, she makes more of our income than I do."

Chris stopped fidgeting with her shirt lapel. "Will she object?"

"Not in a million years. She'll be as happy as I am. You want to ask her, or shall I?"

"You can mention it, but I'll be ready to talk with her, of course. I don't have an estimate yet -- "

"I know how that is, with my own jaunts. Doesn't matter, we'll give you a credit card and you use it like it was your own. Because it is. We have to not lie about this to Sima, though" said Myra.

"No, I won't. She'll get over it. Especially if it's both you and Ginny" grinned Chris.

"Does this mean you'll be out of town more?"

"Yes. Lots of weekends in nearby states. I think, deep down, that's part of what's bugging Sima" said Chris.

"Take her with you" said Myra.

Chris hesitated. "I don't think -- I won't get the same kind of reception if she's along."

"Ah. Well, I'd hate that too, if I were her. But I understand it. We'll keep her company, if we're around, that is."

Myra heard the front door open and Ginny call out, "My?"

"In here" she answered. Ginny came to the bedroom door and glanced at Chris, then Myra's wet hair. "We bought a big stuffed chair and it's tied to the roof of the Volvo, but we could use some help getting it in" she said.

Chris immediately stood and headed for the door. Ginny said "I'll be there in a sec, wait for me." When Chris was out of earshot, she said to Myra "Everything okay?"

"Yeah, actually." Myra quickly filled her in on Chris's request, and Ginny's face brightened. "Wow. Okay, we'll talk more, but I don't want them lifting that alone."

She was too late, however. Chris and Carly had it to the front door by the time she got into the living room. She made them set it down while she got a dropcloth from the storage room and spread it in the clear area between the living and dining rooms. She and Myra helped them position it on the dropcloth. The fabric was filthy but the chair was massive, the wood strong-grained underneath a marred finish, and Ginny said it had great bones.

"Are you going to reupholster this? Have you done that before?" asked Chris, lifting a torn strip of backing. Beebo appeared and converged on the chair with his nose sniffing repeatedly.

"I haven't, have you?"

"Yeah" said Chris.

"We're about to head out to a fabric store to get what we need, would you come with us and be our expert?" asked Ginny.

"Sure" said Chris instantly. Then her face changed, and she turned to Myra: "Sima's due back any time now -- "

"I'll tell her where you are, keep her busy" said Myra. "Should I make lunch later?"

Carly was already heading back out to the car, his face excited. Ginny said "I don't know, honey. We'll pick something up, how about that?" She followed Chris out the door.

Beebo rooted through all the crevices on the chair, his tail a little puffy, his face intent. Myra returned to her bedroom to make the bed, put on shoes and socks, and brush her teeth. She was in her study, hard at work, when Sima returned. Myra filled her in on the chair project.

"Hell's bells, I'm not going to be able to tear her away from that" complained Sima.

"What errands were you supposed to do?" asked Myra.

"I need go to the bead store, pick out stones for a necklace commission" said Sima. "I like to have someone to run ideas past."

"I'll go with you" said Myra. "Sounds like fun. We'll leave 'em a note."

"Bead store" turned out to be something of a misnomer. It carried bins and bins of semi-precious stones as well every kind of bead, wire, tools, every sort of jewelry-making supply. Myra was enchanted and Sima had to hurry her up to keep her from rummaging through every bin they passed. Once Sima reached the items she was considering, Myra focused on her questions and immensely enjoyed hearing Sima's creative process being spoken out loud. She said as much, causing Sima's face to glow.

They took their time. When Sima was finally done, Myra said "Can I ask you a question? These stones right here, what are they called?"

"Lapis lazuli" said Sima, coming to Myra's side. "Technically, these are rocks, not minerals. If they're intense blue like this, with no white casts or a grey shade, they're purest and haven't been dyed."

"This one is exactly the color of Margie's eyes. Used to be, Ginny's eyes, too, but hers have lightened in the last ten years. You can say no, Sima, but would you consider making Margie something out of these?"

Sima grinned. "I'd love to. What did you have in mind?"

"I don't know, you guide me."

"She likes earrings, dangly ones. And three-strand necklaces. A matching set like that would look stunning on her. But I'd offset these with another stone -- hematite, I think, she loves black. And in gold, she prefers gold" mused Sima.

"If you can't get it done by her birthday, maybe Hanukkah or Christmas" said Myra. "What do you need?"

"Yikes, Myra, these are expensive. Okay, never mind, I know, it's Margie. Grab one of those plastic boxes and hold it out for me while I sort through these to pick out the best."

As Myra was watching, she said "Hold on, that one there, by your finger -- that one's paler, is that because it's been faked or whatever?"

"No, it has no cast to it, it's just not as pure. There's a lot of them in here" said Sima, continuing to sort.

"Well, that particular blue is the color of Ginny's eyes now. Could I make it a double project for you?" asked Myra.

Sima stopped to look at her. "Ginny doesn't like earrings or necklaces. And she doesn't wear rings because of her painting."

"I know, but a nice bracelet made by you, it would become one of her most prized possessions, she'd wear it all the time" said Myra.

Sima grinned again. "Set in copper, a thick band, with contrasting chrysocolla -- I could pull that off. Okay, now I have to do computations in my head. Give me that box and go away for a while. I'll come find you when I need to select the metal."

Myra wandered up and down aisles, wishing she wore jewelry every day so she could have Sima make her pieces from almost every stone she saw. She reached the section where storage and sorting boxes were sold. She found a shelf of lovely small boxes, with silver hinges, lined with soft cloth -- she wasn't sure if these were to keep precious stones safe from scratching or to use as gift containers. At any rate, they were the kinds of thing Ginny loved to paint and give away. She'd made so many of them for friends and family over the years, she'd had to begin selling her creations along with her hand-made cards. They brought in ridiculous prices. Ginny used the adornment as a breather between paintings, a means of keeping her juices flowing, she said.

Myra found a basket and put an assortment of two dozen boxes into it. She also bought a large irregular glob of malachite to put in the gecko habitat, because it reminded her of them. When Sima found her, Myra paid for everything except Sima's original project items and chortled as they walked back to the car.

Ginny's car was at the house. Myra separated out her purchases and decided to carry them in by the carport door, hoping Sima's entrance through the front would distract the furniture crew enough to allow her to slip past with her bag to her study. However, as she entered, Chris wheeled around with a jerk from her position kneeling by the chair, saying "Why the fuck are you coming in that way?"

A small, ragged laceration was vivid on Chris's cheek. Myra said "What happened to you, are you okay?" Sima was closing in from the other side.

"The biggest fucking cockroach you ever saw in your life leaped out at me when I pulled off the bottom burlap" said Chris savagely. "I jerked to the side and impaled myself on this metal flange."

"You need to have that looked at" said Sima, as Myra said "When was your last tetanus shot?"

"Last year" said Chris, "And it's fine, I'm not a fashion model."

"It has to be cleaned and covered with antibiotic cream, for starters" said Sima.

"I tried" said Ginny, "But she wouldn't listen to me."

"What have you got in your medicine chest?" demanded Sima. She and Ginny headed for the bathroom. Chris returned to helping Carly remove nasty-looking batting from the arms. Myra went to her study, hid the bag, and returned swiftly to ask "What happened to the roach?"

"Beebo" said Carly with satisfaction. "Except Ginny kept screaming, so I took it away from him and threw what was left of it in the alley."

Sima forced Chris into the light by the window and began doctoring her cheek. Ginny said "You need to stay out of here, Myra, the air is full of dust and god knows what kinds of microbes."

Myra retreated to the kitchen. "What did you get for lunch?"

"There's a variety of curries, masala and kormas from Annapurna in the fridge" said Ginny. Myra washed her hands and began assembling plates for her and Sima. She heated them in the microwave, slid another Coke from the back of the fridge, and carried the food to her study. Sima joined her shortly. They ate side by side on her daybed, talking about jewelry techniques.

Sima carried their empty plates back to the kitchen while Myra sneaked her bag into Ginny's studio. She arranged the boxes on Ginny's supply shelf and managed to get the malachite onto the central floor of the gecko cage without letting either of them loose. Immensely pleased with herself, she did a quick jig as she took the empty bag to recycling.

"Is this what you're covering it with?" asked Sima, fingering a partial bolt of blue and white striped fabric on the dining table.

"Yes, the periwinkle and ivory" said Ginny shortly. She looked up and said "Myra, really, this air is full of crap."

"All right, all right" said Myra. "Did you happen to get dessert?"

Ginny leveled her eyes on her, and Myra said "I'll eat some ice cream, then, to cool down my mouth. Care to join me, Sima?"

"No, I need to start on this necklace. Chris, I gather you're staying here. You can catch a bus home, I guess" said Sima, not really irritated. Chris stood and gave her a hug, whispering "Thanks." Sima made a small signal to Myra before she left, pointing to her eyes and then at Ginny.

In the study with her bowl of ice cream, Myra resumed work. Beebo eventually joined her, curling into his desk cubby for a nap. "No more hunting required at the moment?" said Myra to his back. She found a groove and didn't notice the time until Allie said to her from the doorway, "Hey. You're banished, I hear."

"Mm. Getting a lot done. Fuck, it's time to eat, isn't it? I promised to teach Carly how to make salmon croquettes tonight." Myra stood up swiftly.

"They got batting and cut-up pieces of cloth all over the dining room" said Allie. "Plus don't walk barefoot in there, I got a tack in my shoe. I'm gonna walk over to Aux Delice, bring back dinner for us all. You wanna go with?"

"Absolutely" said Myra. She walked quickly through the living room, where Edwina had apparently been sucked into the reupholstery vortex. The sides and back of the chair seemed to be done. Myra didn't understand why Ginny hadn't stopped to strip the wood before applying new fabric, but perhaps they were in too much of a frenzy to notice. Chris's wound was crusting over. Myra said to her in passing "You can tell everybody you got that from a switchblade" and Chris grinned at her briefly.

When she and Allie got back, Edwina had cleared the table materials to the sideboard and persuaded the crew to stop. Ginny was vacuuming, Carly was hauling out a bag of trash, and Chris was scrubbing her hands at the sink. "I put on the fan" yelled Ginny over the vacuum, "But if you start wheezing, we'll move to another room."

Myra's breathing remained normal. Eventually, Carly, Ginny and Chris stopped looking longingly at the chair and began to have normal conversation again. After clearing the table, they played poker until 10:00, when Chris said "I better get home, I guess. Are you going to finish that in the morning?" Her voice was wistful.

"Can you come back tomorrow?" asked Ginny. After a moment, Chris shook her head slowly. Ginny said "Well, I'll save some of the table stripping for you, okay? Hang on a minute, I need to talk to you privately." She led Chris back to Myra's study, while the rest looked after them wonderingly.

Carly began putting cards and chips away. Allie said "We'll give her a ride home. What they talking about, furniture secrets?"

"I don't know" said Myra. "You want to take this pho home with you?"

"Nah. Ginny'll eat it for breakfast, it got crab in it" said Allie.

Ginny had sat down at Myra's desk and opened the top left drawer. "Myra told me about your dictionary project, and I'm thrilled that you asked us to help. Here's a Visa with no limit on it, but you're going to need cash, too, a lot of places you'll be going, won't you? So I'm signing five checks, made out to you. I'll tell you what I tell Myra: Estimate what you're going to need and double that for the amount of the check. I know how working class patterns work. Don't worry about what it is, just shoot one of us a text message about the amount when you cash it. If you have extra, save it for the next round." She handed the checks and card to Chris, who silently pulled out her wallet and placed them inside.

Ginny stood and put her hand on Chris's arm. "I know what kind of trust it means for you to do this. I also know this project is as important as Myra's, and I...I'm just lucky to know you both." Her voice was thick.

Chris said "Remember about the counter-pressure when you're putting in pleats before laying down a tack."

"I will" said Ginny. Chris gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and headed for the front.

After their friends were gone, Carly wandered over to the DVD shelf and said "You got any new zombie movies?"

Ginny looked at Myra pleadingly. Myra said "I do, actually. But it's gonna be me only, Ginny's been on the go as long as she can handle."

"Okey-doke" said Carly. "If you'll put it in, I'm going to get some of that ice cream you had earlier. You want another bowl?"

"No" said Myra. "But I will take a Coke." She hugged Ginny and whispered "I haven't seen him this all-day-happy in a long time. Good job."

"You, too" said Ginny, with a kiss. "You can wake me up when you come in, if you want."

"Over ice or in the bottle?" called Carly from the kitchen.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Friday, July 25, 2008


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.

October 2012

Eight days later, Chris met Ginny and Myra at SeaTac just past 2 a.m., waiting in her car at the baggage area Ginny had specified. Myra was pushed out to the curb in a wheelchair by airline personnel, an oxygen mask on her face and the tank in her lap. Ginny was right behind with a cart piled with their luggage. Chris helped Myra into the back seat, her face taut at how winded even this transfer left Myra. Ginny tipped their helper carelessly and got in the back seat with Myra.

Myra said, still breathless, "I'm so damned hot, can I please take off my coat now?"

Ginny helped her, then folded it to make a pillow against the window. She checked Myra's seatbelt and locked the door.

"Your plan still to go home or is it the ER?" asked Chris as she pulled into traffic.

"Home" said Myra urgently. Chris looked at Ginny in the mirror, who finally nodded. When Myra saw this, her shoulders relaxed a little. She lay her head against the pillow and closed her eyes. Ginny watched her and could tell a few minutes later that she had gone to sleep. She leaned forward to whisper "Bless you, Chris, for coming out at sudden notice."

"You said this came on today?" replied Chris.

"Yeah. This afternoon. I've been racking my brains trying to figure out what set off her asthma. We had a great week, Chris, one of the best. We stayed at a hotel in Park Slope near the Archives, and I began a painting the first day. Well, two at once, actually, because what was in my mind was a giant canvas but I knew I couldn't get it home on the plane, so I divided it into a diptych. Myra would order room service breakfast for us, which she loves beyond all reason. There was a deli on the same block as the hotel, so before she left for the day, she'd get us each lunch for later. She was at the Archives until closing, and they treated her like royalty. She was phenomenally productive. On the way back to the hotel, she'd pick up some version of world cuisine for dinner, getting to experiment all over the place. She was asleep every night by 9:00, getting at least ten hours of solid rest every night. I just don't think she got exhausted, she looked bright-eyed and deliriously happy." Ginny's voice was raw with fatigue and worry.

"On Friday night, we moved to a hotel on Manhattan, because I said we had to have fun, too, not just work. I insisted we hire a car and driver for the weekend, which turned out to be enormously helpful, and the driver was a young Boricua woman, sharp and hilarious. Saturday we had another fabulous breakfast out at this place that featured dishes from the Netherlands, which brought up good memories for both of us. Then we did a little gallery schmoozing, which I know is boring for her but she kept pulling out her notebook and writing what I think were poems, so she was okay. I hope. Then we went to MOMA, to see "Hettie", and they made a bit of a fuss over me, which tickled her pink. Later we went to a broadway show and had a late extravagant dinner. It was pure vacation. We slept in, checked out, and began going to rare and used bookstores, getting ferried to the door each time. She was on a buying spree. But when we got back in the car after the third store, I noticed she was wheezing, and she said her chest was tight. I asked the driver to cruise around Central Park for a while, and it just got steadily worse. That's when I called our doctor here, got past the service and persuaded them to call in prescriptions to the nearest pharmacy for some meds plus the oxygen. I didn't know if I should check us back in a hotel or risk the flight home, I didn't know what was setting her off, maybe the air in Manhattan..."

Chris asked, "So she's been on oxygen at least ten hours? And taken the drugs they ordered?"

"Yeah. I can tell she's a little better than she was by the time she started the oxygen, and that's with being in a goddamned pressurized cabin. Did I do the right thing, bringing her home? It's what she kept begging me to do" said Ginny. Without waiting for reassurance, she said "I thought last time it was exhaustion and the plane, that's why I set up a break afterward. I'm scared her immune system can't handle what it used to."

Chris was thinking hard. She said "Was there anything worrying her, like the kids or something you might not want to tell me about?"

"No. I've considered everything. And I'd tell you, at this point. Twice today, before she got sick, she mentioned calling you to see if you could come to dinner tomorrow night, she wanted to see you. I persuaded her to wait until we got home, I'm so sorry for that. Once she did get sick and we were on our way back, that's when I called you to meet us. I know this is wrecking your night's sleep, but I -- "

Chris said "I'm glad to be here, don't second guess yourself."

"What if it's this book, Chris? This is her magnum opus, she was born to write it, and I'm determined to do whatever it takes to help her through it, after all the years she's supported me..." Ginny came close to tears and halted.

Chris said slowly "I think it might be related to the book, but not that it's too much for her. She's writing the definitive history of a suppressed revolution. You know how she is, she probably feels responsible to every lesbian of our generation. She was in the thick of it, and now it's -- seemingly vanished. What she has left is the corner of community she managed to keep intact, which is us, her friends, plus you. I bet when she emerges from time travel, she needs a strong reminder that she made the right choices, that she has everything she needs, we're still here and life is good."

Ginny laid her forehead on the neck rest of the front seat. "I don't want her to go on any more of these trips without me or Allie, at least."

"I think that's a good idea. And we should set up a definite plan for her return -- two days off the clock, so to speak, with meals and family and fun only. Back here, where it's real."

Ginny put her hand on Chris's shoulder and said "I think you're right. There was one other thing -- she found a book in that last store, a good copy of the New Woman's Sourcebook, and inside the cover was written the name of one of her exes. Someone who had moved to the East Coast a long time ago."

"Who was it, do you remember?" asked Chris.

"It was a new name for me, hang on...Anna, that was it. Myra didn't want to talk about her, just showed me the name as she was buying the book" said Ginny.

"Anna was like a month or two the year before Myra won the lottery. And yeah, she moved back to Queens. I'm pretty sure -- she committed suicide a few years ago. I heard about it from somebody else, and finally decided to tell Myra. She didn't seem to be very upset at the time; she and Anna were not ever close, really." Chris looked at Ginny. Ginny said "But that, with the other, would be enough to rock her foundation, I bet."

Chris shifted sideways to look at Myra in the mirror. She was clearly asleep, her mouth open behind the plastic mask.

"She always feels safe when you're nearby" said Ginny, following her gaze. "She couldn't sleep on the plane, but once she's got you in sight..."

Chris was silent for a minute. "Before you two got together, she had major attacks three or four times a year. We were scared a lot for her. Her job was hard on her, and she lived in a dump, and the drugs she got weren't always good for her. But once she moved in with you, no more wheezing half the time, or worse, that kind of panting she does when her rib muscles are overextended. It's been almost 30 years of you keeping her healthy and happy, Ginny. You haven't failed her, she's simply venturing out into harder territory. She'll be okay. We'll all get her through this with you."

Ginny closed her eyes, squeezing Chris's shoulder. A tear leaked out from under one lid.

At the house, they walked Myra in between them, but Ginny thought it was less taxing than effort had been for Myra in 12 hours. Chris hauled in luggage while Ginny ran a hot bath at Myra's pleading that she had to get clean before going to bed. Chris joined them in bedroom as Myra sat on the edge of the bed so Ginny could remove her shoes and socks.

Chris said "I'm not going to stick around to watch you get nekkid, much as you secretly want me to." Myra grinned. "I'll call you during the day tomorrow, but count on me for dinner tomorrow night. We'll do something fun afterward. Sima too, if she's free." Myra's grin widened. Chris bent over and kissed her at the edge of her mouth. Myra said "You are the wind beneath my wings" and began laughing at her own soppiness. Chris, giggling with her, paused and then kissed Ginny the same way. She hurried out the door.

"Can you eat something?" said Ginny.

"I don't know. Tea would be good. I don't know what we have here" said Myra, coughing briefly.

"Take the oxygen with you into the bathroom. I'll be back soon as I can. I'll wash your hair for you" said Ginny.

"Eggs" said Myra suddenly. "Ginny eggs. With orange juice, plus the tea."

Ginny smiled, lines deep in her face. "You got it."

They slept until noon, and Myra's breathing was nearly normal when she got up. Ginny answered phone calls, hung her paintings to dry, and with Myra dozing on her daybed, finally left the house long enough to inspect her baby garden. Allie arrived at 4:00 with bags of groceries and two cooked rotisserie chickens. She answered the phone at the breakfast bar and told Nika she should stick to whatever schedule she had set up with Myra, but to ask no book-related questions of Myra for two days -- bring them to her or Ginny. When she hung up, Ginny said "You talked with Chris and heard her theory?"

"Sounds right to me" said Allie. "She'll be here by 5:00, Sima at 5:30, Edwina by 6:00."

On Thursday, Myra woke up fully recovered and itching to work. She was at her desk shortly after noon when the phone rang and the caller ID showed it was Gillam. She answered gladly. "Hey, boychik, you between classes?"

"Yeah. Thought I'd check up on you" said Gillam.

"I be fine. I'm back at it, and your mom is outside transplanting a twelve-pack of Danish Ballhead cabbage she found at the new nursery she's discovered."

"Green or red?" asked Gillam.

"Green and bolt resistant. I can't wait to see what they taste like" said Myra.

"So you're really off oxygen and not stressed any more?" asked Gillam.

"Promise" said Myra, with a sense of foreshadowing.

"Well, then, I've got some news for you. Good news" said Gillam, his voice softening into his happiest tone.

"Who is she?" asked Myra, a smile in her voice.

"How the fuck did you -- Oh, never mind, I don't care. You remember me telling you about the girl who has three classes with me this semester, the one who said Skene changed her life? It's her. I feel like I've been in a nonstop conversation for six weeks with her. We began officially dating a couple of weeks ago, I mean in addition to seeing each other every day on campus and...Last weekend I told her I was falling in love with her, and she said she felt the same way. I can't get enough of her, Mom." Gillam wasn't the least embarrassed, which was new, Myra thought.

"I am over the moon for you, honey. I knew this was on your event horizon, I did. So what's her name, what's her story?"

"Jane. She's Jane. And you actually met her, Mama, at that barbecue we had -- she wanted to talk with you more than she got to, she said, but you and Mom barricaded yourself in your study too soon" said Gillam.

Jane. Oh god no, not the fucking Valkyrie?!!! Myra went numb, her brain unable to find speech.

"Mama, you still there?" said Gillam.

"Uh...there's someone at the door, honey, I need to go answer it. Can I call you back in five minutes?"

"Sure. But my next class is in half an hour" said Gillam.

Myra hung up and walked outside. Ginny was mixing fish emulsion with water in a sprinkling can. She glanced at Myra, then took a longer look.

"Are you feeling bad again?" she asked.

"No. I mean...Gillam just called. He's in love, he says. He wants to tell us about it."

Ginny set down the can. "Is he on hold?"

"No, I said I'd call him back. Ginny -- it's Jane. He's in love with that Jane."

"Jane? Why is that name familiar?"

"She's the blond giantess at his party who..." Myra didn't know how to finish her sentence.

"Oh. Ohhh." Ginny came to Myra and put her hand on Myra's arm. "Well, I know she upset you but I rather liked her, you remember."

"What the fuck am I going to do, Ginny?"

"You're going to learn to like her, Myra. It's Gillam, if there's anybody on earth who knows what they need, it's him. Come on, let's not leave him hanging. I'll cover for you as much as I can, but you don't express any doubts to him at all, you understand?"

They returned to Myra's studio and Ginny plugged in the extension. She spoke first when Gillam answered.

"Hey, sweetie, Myra told me your news. We're both on the line, and I'm so happy for you. I liked meeting her at your party" said Ginny.

Gillam's voice burbled in enthusiasm. "She liked you, too, and get this -- she said I'd already caught her attention, all during Read Right, but when she saw that painting you did of me when I was about four, the Writing on Waves one? She said it made her nearly pass out with longing, and as she realized it was me, she said that's what did it for her. Just took me a while to catch up with her. So Mom's book Skene, and your painting, it's like it was meant to be, don't you think?"

Basheert, though Myra dully. She saw Ginny look at her, probably having the same thought.

"Tell us about her background" said Myra, in a voice that sounded remarkably normal.

"She's from Fresno, her family is farmers on both sides back forever, she thinks. But -- you're gonna love this, Mom -- her dad was raised Mennonite, not strict but still in the church and definitely anti-war. So when he was about to graduate from high school, the draft was gonna grab him and ship him to Vietnam, he knew. His parents and all the church folks were on him to get CO status, even though apparently Nixon was just as likely to put people in prison for refusing to serve, he says. But Anton was 18 and tired of listening to his parents, and he wanted a college education which they didn't really have the money to pay for. So he enlisted in the Navy. Which got him disowned before he even left basic training. Anton was in Vietnam for six months when the small boat he on got blown up, killed everybody on board except him. He came home in a wheelchair, pissed as hell and now a bona fide anti-war activist. He moved to San Fran, which is where he met Jane's mom, Jemima, who was also from Fresno but from Okies who moved there during the Dust Bowl. Jemima was a hippie chick, is how Jane puts it. They both got teaching degrees at SF State, and eventually they reconciled with Anton's family -- Jane says family is really important to them all -- and they moved back to Fresno when Anton got a job teaching physics at the junior college. But he stayed radical, and although they let the kids -- Jane's got seven brothers and sisters, she's the youngest -- the kids went to the Mennonite church once a month to be with the rest of the clan, otherwise they were raised in the Quaker Meeting there. Isn't that incredible?"

Ginny said, "Ah, thus your interest in the movie a couple of weeks ago."

Gillam giggled. "Yeah. I finally just asked Jane to fill me in. I can explain several hundred years of Anabaptist history to you at this point. But for now, she feels Quaker to me, though in a feisty way. And with her looks, and her German name, Leichty, she's always running into people who assume she's secretly Aryan Nation or some such bullshit. She has a lot of fun setting them straight. Can you believe how stupid people are?"

"I can, indeed" said Myra hoarsely.

"I think you missed the confrontation she had at the barbecue, but it sure made me take a look at her. There was this guy in Read Right, one of the already working teachers who we suspected was part of a fundamentalist home school network, he'd drop lines during discussions that weren't quite revelatory but kinda slimy, you know? So she pretended to be an advocate of some horseshit theory that the wingnuts have about education, and he came out from cover, began agreeing with her all bug-eyed because he thought she was one of the chosen, because of her looks. She slammed him hard, cited chapter and verse about why he was wrong. He left right afterward." Gillam was gleeful.

"I am sincerely sorry I missed that" said Myra.

"Ah, shit, I'm gonna have to run. I don't know when we can get up to see you again, it might not be until Thanksgiving but she wants to do our annual tradition with us, okay? And one more thing -- I made sure we had this conversation early, not gonna make the same mistake twice: She wants to have a big family." He chortled. "Anyhow, spread the word, I'll call in the next couple of days."

"I love you, son" said Myra.

When they hung up, Ginny's eyebrows were asymmetrical peaks in her brow. "He's already asked about children?" she said. "That's extremely fast."

"Well, Ginny, you're the one who said if there's anybody on earth who knows what they need, it's him" said Myra. "I feel like I've just experienced whiplash."

"I bet her family wants her to move back to Fresno" said Ginny with a small scowl.

"Let's wait on concrete data from here on out" suggested Myra. She walked into the dining room to look again at the Writing on Waves painting. If she's fallen in love with that boy, she's done it exactly right, thought Myra.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, July 24, 2008


(Cover from book three of what is probably my favorite sci-fi series of all time, by C.J. Cherryh. The figure is Pyanfar, a brilliant tactician and diplomat in a pocket of space inhabited by several different -- EXTREMELY different -- alien species. She is a hani, a feline sentient race that is matriarchal and fond of silk pantaloons. Read all five books if you can. I think it's an allegory of Native American response to European invasion of North America.)

I've been puny, as we say in Texas, for the last 24 hours so have been mostly sleeping, taking albuterol treatments every four hours and, when awake, watching broadcast TV. And even in these circumstances, interesting items bob to the surface.

(1) I have yet to see a national news broadcast mention the earthquake in Japan. Maybe I just didn't hit the right channel, but it seems to me like this is should be of national significance, don't you think?

(2) The way the three major networks handled Obama's speech in Berlin was fascinating. Couric followed with an equal amount of time, it felt to me (subjectively), about McCain in the Midwest, though the coverage had no substance despite everybody trying to make it seem relevant. Williams had a one-on-one sitdown with Obama, which I missed (the perils of channel-surfing). Gibson seemed to have the longest sound bites and camera shots of faces in the crowd, a couple of which choked me up, I have to admit. He also had the obligatory "Meanwhile, back at the corral, McCain..." return, but this included a little vignette with a Midwestern couple who had just watched Obama's speech interrupting the McNovocaine blah-blah by saying they had really like what Obama had to say and thought he looked "at ease" meeting all those foreign presidents. No Merkel mauling, is what I read into it.

(3) David Letterman's second guest last night was Jane Mayer, whose book The Dark Side has published only two days ago. The Dark Side is subtitled "The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals". As The New York Times review states, "It’s a cage match between the Constitution and a cabal of ideological extremists, and the Constitution goes down." Letterman is increasingly allowing his political convictions to show, and having Mayer on as a guest this immediately after publication was a clue as to his sympathies. He had clearly read enough of the book to speak intelligently about its main points, and he asked questions we dearly wish the so-called pundits would push out past their narcissistic lips, giving her lots of time to answer. He eventually began trying to maneuver her into saying that Chimpy McFlightsuit and Gunner Dick were the eponymous "dark side", that their intentions were neither patriotic nor in any way separated from their lust for power. He used that clear, smart Midwestern voice of his, and I could feel the breathlessness of the audience. She would not commit herself to this assessment, however. I haven't read the book, so I don't know if she's that guarded in print or if she was operating on air from a lawyer's strict admonitions. Still, it was a delight to see somebody on "regular" TV with Letterman's influence declaring that Cheney just wants the sick thrill of waterboarding people.

And, saving by far the best for last: I got an incredible mention by Kathy G. at The G Spot, talking about the dinner a wonderful bunch of us had at Threadgill's during Netroots Nation. I especially appreciated her assessment of Netroots Nation itself, her candor and courage, and agree with her 100%. I will write myself about it when I'm feeling more cogent. In the meantime, give her some sugar, ya'll.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008


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.

Early October 2012

Ginny was up early to research security firms. She made an appointment with one which sounded good to her for that afternoon at 3:00. After catharsis and regeneration the next morning with Nancy, Myra and Ginny went to Pike and stocked up on fresh vegetables. They went home to eat huge salads in front of the computer monitor, making a final order for heirloom seeds. Ginny wasn't able to get many of them sent overnight delivery -- the places growing such rare plants tended to not have streamlined shipping departments.

At 2:00, a woman from service they used once a year to scrub the pool arrived to disinfect their tile and the hot tub. When the security rep arrived, a 40-something white guy with a quiet manner, Myra walked the fence perimeter with him. They returned to Myra's study, where Ginny was still making plant diagrams on Myra's computer. Myra sat on the daybed, and despite repeatedly offering the guy a chair, he insisted on standing, looking frequently out the glass wall.

"You don't currently have any cats, but you want to keep the protective fence barrier intact?" he asked, staring into the yard.

"Yes. Keeps our son's cat in, neighborhood strays out, and seems to have prevented raids on our garden by raccoons" said Ginny.

His gaze had locked on something. He reached into the jacket of his windbreaker and pulled out a small pair of folding binoculars. He trained them over the eastern fence, at a house that was up the street from the Limon's and opposite the alley. He lowered them to look at Myra, unsmiling, and say "One of your neighbors has a telescope aimed right at this room."

"Well son of a bitch!" said Myra, standing and taking his binoculars from him to verify. Ginny followed suit, saying "I think it's that teenaged boy who lives there."

"I have a proposal for you, then" said the rep. There was a new material they could angle atop the fence, in accordance with zoning, that would conceal even more view and could handle an electrified strand along the top. "It will block your peeping tom over there" he said, "unless he climbs to the steep part of the roof and dangles from a vent pipe."

"How electrified is it?" asked Ginny. "Will it hurt birds?"

"No. Could give any mammal that's grounded a nasty jolt" he said.

"We have squirrels in the sycamore" said Myra. "And I'm pretty sure they don't forage just in our yard, they come and go."

"Despite how much cracked corn you leave out for them" remarked Ginny. "But they're sharp little buggers, one buzz and they'll figure out how to get past it, they've outwitted us on every bird feeder set-up we've tried."

"How much rewiring are we talking about?" asked Myra.

"Depends on what you want. I'm going to recommend camera surveillance of the alley and the already known entry point on the opposite fence, plus one out front. The electrical strand won't just be a deterrent, it can sense the weight of whatever causes impedance and if it's human, an alert will instantly be sent to you and to our office. I think you should upgrade all your doors to keyless entries with fingerprint access, a revamping of your painting vault upstairs, and a waterless fire control system for a couple of areas." He was calm and unhurried in his speech.

"Camera surveillance? Will I have like a monitor in here?" said Myra, a hint of excitement on her face. Ginny was about to protest when the rep said "No, you can dial it up on your computer when needed, but it won't intrude on your sense of well-being otherwise."

In the end, they accepted all his recommendations. His company offered a complete refund of any fees they had ever paid should a break-in occur as a result of their error, which won over Myra. That plus the chance to spy on the alley with night vision video. He said a technician would come out the following day to take measurements and create a schematic, but they could not begin work until the following Monday.

"We've planned to be in New York all next week" said Myra. "Can we designate a proxy to be here and oversee the work?"

He nodded silently, took down their credit card information, and left. They did housework and made dinner together. Nika arrived at 6:30 and Myra began teaching her the system she'd devised for indexing JPEGs of periodicals. Ginny wandered outside to refill the sparkling pool and hot tub, plus turn the compost and estimate how much new soil they might need for redoing the beds all the way down their depth of two feet.

Before Nika left at 10:00, Myra drew up a list of work that could be done in the coming week and let Nika set a schedule for herself. "Once we've got the JPEGs we have so far catalogued" said Myra, "I'd like to have you start shooting images of all the periodicals I own personally. Next week I'm spending five days at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and I've already interviewed over the phone a woman who is an intern there, she's going to be scanning their publication holdings for me and copying it to my online file. When I know who will be housesitting for us, I'll set up access for you to my study whenever you want to work on downloading those, too."

"I keep wanting to read everything that shows up on the screen" said Nika, "It's like a visit from another world."

"Well, don't be a complete hardnose, feel free to stop and digest what catches your eye. You'll need that comprehension for the next stage of compilation" said Myra.

"Should we ask Allie and Edwina to stay here, or Chris and Sima?" said Ginny.

"I actually don't feel good about imposing on any of them. It'll be messy, from construction, and they have their own busy lives. I think we should hire a housesitter service, like we have in the past" said Myra.

"A housesitter? I could do that" said Nika.

Myra eyed her. "We've had one break-in, you might have to deal with a burglar" she said. "And the security crew will be in and out..."

"My graduate housing is crowded and loud all the time, I never get enough sleep" said Nika. "Coming to this place is like a haven."

Myra and Ginny exchanged glances. "All right" said Myra. "We'll get you set up with the security service before we leave, and have our friends check in on you at least once. You can eat anything you want from our pantry and fridge, and use the pool, of course. And we'll pay the going rate -- "

"Oh, no, I can't take money for it" said Nika.

"Sure you can" said Ginny. "We'll be asking you to sign a contract, you'll earn it. But I'll feel easier having someone I know here."

After Myra saw Nika out, she sprawled in her chair and said "What a long day. I want some kind of treat and then to bed. With you, my heirloom aeronaut."

But when they lay down together, Myra noticed Ginny was extremely warm where her skin touched Myra's. When Myra woke up in the morning, Ginny's side of the bed was long cold. From the looks of things, she had been up and painting since 3 a.m.

It was a good week. Myra grew increasingly fond of Nika, and Ginny finished her painting by Friday morning. She slept until mid afternoon, got up to make challah and plan a Gillam-and-Carly style feast for shabbos. Myra persuaded Nika to stay for dinner, wondering what the boys would make of her.

Beebo did his usual streak upstairs, racing circuit of the downstairs, and then burst out the pet door into the yard when Gillam set him loose. By the edge of the deck, however, he had stopped and went into a crouch, looking around him with suspicion. He inspected every inch of the yard with an open mouth and a glowering expression. Myra walked out and picked him up, finally, saying "Smart kitten. Yep, bad guys were here. If you ever see any more, you go hide in the house, you hear me?"

The aunties were present for dinner as well. Carly and Nika managed to send each other into gales of laughter, bringing out a side of Nika that Myra hadn't known existed. After dessert, Nika left, the table was cleared, and everyone sat down as Ginny pinned her Grand Garden Plan to an easel and explained to the boys what was planned for the weekend. They finished off the evening with pool volleyball and, of course, late night poker.

Myra slept in. Ginny had left her some leblebbi, which she drank with a Coke -- Ginny was hard at work outside. When Myra finally joined them, the soil of one long bed had been completely turned and half of another was completed. On the edge of the deck was a small cluster of faded plastic toys. She picked them up, remembering who each had belonged to: When Margie had lost that Ninja turtle, the weeping had gone on intermittently for most of a day. In fact, most of the lost items were Margie's. What had she done, shoved them down into the garden soil for some reason and forgotten about it?

It was a very cool day, but Gillam and Carly were both shirtless and already sweating. Such beautiful men they were, she thought. Gillam was at the corner of the second long bed, where decades ago Myra and Ginny had inserted thin flagstones lengthwise to wall off a 4 four square bed for mint. She remembered Ginny saying "If we don't incarcerate it, it'll run amok." "Like the Scots and Hadrian's wall" Myra had remarked.

They had never needed to replant that bristle of mint, only thin it occasionally when even Ginny's pruning of leaves for tea couldn't keep up with its vigorous growth. Gillam put the long blade of his square spade down along one of the flagstones, then stopped and said "Hey, Mom. Look at this."

Ginny stood up, brushing her hands on her khakis, and went to his side. She bent over where he was pointing and said "My god. At least one piece of root system survived, and it's sent up a new shoot."

She turned and looked at Myra, who was rocked by the expression on Ginny's face. Half a minute later, Ginny was sitting on the edge of the bed, weeping into her grimy palms. Myra crossed to sit beside her and murmur "It didn't all die, how about that."

Ginny sucked back snot and said "That's not it. You remember when we first planned these beds, arguing about where in the yard to put them, dickering over how many tomatoes vs. lettuces vs. onions? And then planting those tiny seeds at night, and transplanting a couple of weeks later? Do you remember how miraculous it felt?"

"Because we were crazy in love, and this was our life we were starting" agreed Myra.

"Gillam and Margie, and Carly, you were just wild notions we had. It would be two years before Margie arrived. And all that time since, these plots have fed us, kept us strong and sitting down to meals together. I've been feeling like I can't quite accept this kind of end, so abrupt and -- hateful. But now I see -- here's our garden all grown up, ready to help up start a brand new version. One that has them in at the roots. It's a blessing, this turnover. I can't believe I'm saying that, but I mean it" Ginny wept.

Gillam wiped his brow with his forearm and grinned at them. Carly turned on the hose and dribbled a little stream of water onto the baby mint. He said "It's like Ripley, you can't kill her." They laughed, and after that, Ginny referred to Ripley iced tea or Ripley mint cookies.

They stopped early for dinner. The beds were ready, and only a few transplants were available for moving into their new home the next day; the rest would have to be nursed from seeds currently in the mail. After eating, Carly asked for Nika's phone number. Myra gave it to him without asking why, but she eavesdropped enough to hear him ask her out dancing with Davonn and friends. Apparently she accepted, because he offered to give her a ride.

When Carly hung up, Gillam said "I'm going to stay home with the elders, I think." Myra realized that must be one of the nicknames he and Carly had for them, "the elders". It wasn't so bad. When Carly went up to change into club attire, Gillam began rummaging through Myra's collection of videotapes and DVDs. She settled on the end of the couch and put her feet onto the coffee table.

"This one" he said, holding up a copy of Witness, "It's pretty good, right?"

"I actually really liked it" said Ginny, sitting down next to Myra. "Until the shoot-em-up at the end."

"Okay, then" he said, inserting it into the DVD player and coming to sit beside Ginny. She took one of his big hands between hers and began massaging the muscles of his palm as the movie started.

They replayed the opening sequence, with wind visible through a field of wheat, three times, Ginny saying "I'm going to catch that motion in paint, you watch me". Myra had no doubt. They also replayed the barn raising sequence, and the ravenous eating midday.

Gillam said "Now I want lemonade, just like theirs."

"I'll make some" said Ginny. Gillam stood also, saying "I guess we can't throw together fried chicken in a jiff, but popcorn will do." He set up the hot air popper while she sliced lemons. He doctored the popcorn his favorite way, with unsalted butter, brewer's yeast, and cayenne. Myra drank half a tinkling glass of lemonade before digging into the popcorn. Beebo was dozing on the couch arm beside side, and roused himself enough to sniff her fingers -- Gillam's popcorn always smelled like it would taste good, but Beebo had been offended one too many times by the bite of cayenne. He declined a lick.

Gillam said "Is this movie accurate in its portrayal of Amish, d'ya think?"

"I seem to remember that the director went out of his way to not distort their culture, and to not use any shots of real Amish in the film" said Myra.

"Because that would be offensive?" asked Gillam. When Myra nodded, he said "Are the Mennonites the same way, or are they more modern, like Quakers?"

Ginny said "Depends on where they live and whether they're like the Jewish version of reform. What they most share is German origins and pacifism, I think."

"Simplicity" added Myra. "A tendency to isolationism, strong male authority, and tight family structure of the patriarchal sort."

Gillam wasn't looking at her. "Ms. Hoffmann, that really old woman at Quaker meeting?" offered Ginny. "She was raised Mennonite, you could ask her. Is this for a school project?"

"No, just curious" said Gillam, starting the movie back up. During the final gory minutes, Ginny hid her face in his shoulder while Myra and Gillam chanted "Death by silage! Death by silage!"

When it was over, Gillam carried the popcorn bowl and empty pitcher into the kitchen. Myra called to him "Care to make it a double feature? I've got a new print of Stage Door."

He grinned at her from the doorway, doing his best Katherine Hepburn imitation: "'The calla lilies are in bloom again'." He glanced at the clock, and said "Nah, I think I'll retire to my bood-wahr." He crossed to kiss them, saying to Myra "I'm making blueberry pancakes in the morning, don't sleep your ass away this time."

As he strode upstairs, Myra looked at Ginny and said "It's not even 10:00 yet."

"Either a phone call or online date, is my guess" Ginny answered. "Do you know about anyone?"

"No" Myra said. Beebo appeared to be choosing to stick with her. She stood, saying "Carly always comes home hungry from his dance sessions, I'm going to make some little sandwiches and leave them in the fridge for him."

"Then I'll make another pitcher of lemonade" said Ginny, coming to the kitchen with her. "I bet Margie is home, waiting for Frances to get off work."

"We'll call her next" agreed Myra. "Ah, look, there's a slice of that fried eggplant left, he'll enjoy that."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.



(Susannah Dickinson)

On Saturday night of the Netroots Nation conference, a big crowd of us (because of Sara's brilliant idea) went to Threadgill's to eat and then attend the Austin Lounge Lizards concert in the beer garden outside the front door. We had an EXTREMELY good time, no holds barred.

Afterward, rather than have me (with my Chair Whisperer Lower Manhattanite) try to negotiate the obstacle-strewn streets of downtown Austin back to the Hilton in my power chair, Sara urged us to find out if the local cab service offered a van that would transport a big chair like mine. Yellow Cab said they had two in service, both of them currently in use but we were put in their queue. We then had a long wait outside the front door at Threadgill's, during which time an earnest young man on their staff checked in on our cab's status no less than three times and came to give us updates. Austin friendly...

The minivan, when it arrived, loaded my chair via a ramp into a lowered back well, a single slot with more protection and belting than I've experienced being transported in a chair. My four companions claimed seats in front of me. I was exhausted beyond speech, and facing another cab ride home, walking into my house unassisted, and retracing those steps in the morning after, at best, five hours' sleep. Even so, my mind was racing.

We got stuck in a construction zone for a while on 4th Street next to Brush Square, and directly outside my window was a historical marker indicating in the tree-filled park beyond was the home of Susanna Dickinson. I was flooded with emotion. I wanted to share this with my companions, but, first of all, the layout of the wheelchair van meant I'd have to shout forward to be heard. Second, if you are not a Texan of a certain age, how to explain the significance of Susanna Dickinson?

Susanna was inside the Alamo. She had gone inside the soon-to-be-surrounded mission with her husband Almeron Dickinson, who had joined a group of volunteers fighting for Texan independence from Mexico. She and her baby daughter were the only white survivors, and they were saved only by the direct intervention of General Juan Almonte. Other survivors include Enrique Esparza, eight-year-old son of Alamo defender Gregorio Esparza, and Joe (no other name known), slave of Colonel William Barrett Travis. The eyewitness accounts of Susanna, Joe and Enrique, the first two of whom were illiterate, gave us most of what we know about what happened inside the Alamo. For a complete list of survivors and accounts, see Survivors of the Alamo.

Susana hid in the chapel, where she was discovered by Almonte. As he escorted her to an audience with General Santa Anna, she was shot in the leg by a soldier because final mop-up was still going on. She was questioned extensively by Santa Anna, who offered to adopt her baby. I can only imagine her terror and confusion. Eventually, she was released with a note written by Santa Anna to be delivered to San Houston. Dickinson and a few companions retreated to Gonzales, where the families of other Alamo defenders were awaiting news. Dickinson was who had to inform them everyone else was dead, their bodies burned in a mass funeral pyre. With Santa Anna's army headed their way, Gonzales and its environs had to flee in what is known at the Runaway Scrape. It appears that Dickinson was not emotionally stable during this time, likely not able to process what she had just lived through, not to mention the loss of her husband whom she had genuinely loved.

Joe's last name seems to exist in no record. Most accounts seem to indicate he escaped to freedom, and presumably he was reluctant after that to draw attention to himself by asserting his claim as an Alamo survivor. But it is of course racism that also contributes to his lesser-known status as an Alamo informant. As a child growing up, I never heard reference to Joe, or to little Enrique Esparza. To admit that Mexican citizens fought alongside the "heroes" of the Alamo would have contradicted the white vs. brown association of the battle.

Susanna Dickinson was revered all her life as the Alamo Widow. However, she was repeatedly denied any sort of compensation or benefits by the Republic and later the State of Texas, with claims of financial hardship on the part of the Republic and the argument that if they gave her assistance, they'd have to help everyone else who suffered losses during the war. This might hold water if I did not have in my possession a grant of handsome reimbursement to my ancestor Brinkley Davis, a large landowner in Limestone County, Texas during the Texas revolution, for his contribution of "beeves" to the army. Brinkley needed the money far less than Susanna did.

In desperation, she went through a series of three marriages, to men who beat her and her daughter, were alcoholics, and divorced her when she became associated with a house of ill repute. Her fifth and final marriage turned out to be stable and happy. However, her daughter Angelina, another idolized Alamo survivor who was likewise denied financial assistance, died young from hemorrhage of the uterus while working as a prostitute.

This story reminds me of how George W. Bush consistently withholds meaningful aid to the institutions and groups to whom he pays the most patriotic lip-service. Indeed, his trashing of the National Guard and veterans in general is nothing short of pathological. In the Right's world, active duty and honor is for those too dumb and poor to know better. Survivors are not as admirable as those who die for the cause. And the families left behind are not our concern. I swear to god, I want this brought up every single time any talking head refers to the Republicans as the party of family values.

There we were, progressives and revolutionaries meeting for four days within hollering distance of the home of Susanna Dickinson. She could have told us worlds about the consequences of eliminationist rhetoric, about the reality of immigrants who steal territory from sovereign nations (which Texas did perpetrate upon Mexico, hence our projection and paranoia), about the status as property or shadow beings accorded women, children, and people of color.

A recent series on PBS has been The War of the World by Niall Ferguson. In the last episode, concerning the period after World War II when superpowers engaged in so-called Cold War, he pointed out that 20 million people died in battles during the Cold War which were not considered a real war. Overwhelmingly, these have been ethnic assaults, genocide in the name of nation-building, occurring at the edges of empire: A perfect description of Iraq now. And it applies equally well to Texas in the 1830s.

Sara Robinson and I, in a later discussion, agreed that we have to abandon the linearity of Left, Right, and Center. We need to completely reframe not just our/their rhetoric, but also the ways in which our brains envision what we are about, we here in this great electronic conversation about hope and change. Consider it as a spiral, a cochlear unwinding (or tightening) which we travel, always very close to one another no matter much we claim disagreement, and likewise separated from all the lessons of time by only a thin membrane. There is power and confidence in such a stance.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008


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


Monday, July 21, 2008


Since I am now officially a staff writer at Group News Blog, you may hop on over there to read posts by me there as well. Don't worry, all the Ginny Bates stuff will stay here!

I am honored beyond words...



Okay, this is simply outright theft from Kat's blog BitchCraft. But I am a Beaker FANATIC, and this clip was new to me. It also struck me as a perfect tribute to the downside of a weekend spent with Netroots Nation bloggers (none of my Group News Blog companions, thank g*d, who were utterly remarkable in their ability to converse on any topic and their equal hunger to listen attentively).



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.

Almost all of this section was scribbled long-hand at various locales while I was at Netroots Nation this weekend. Deep thanks to Liza for always being two steps ahead of me.

Late September 2012

The following day, Edwina and Allie arrived with barbecue chicken and bean salad shortly before lunch. Ginny had made a pitcher of iced mint tea but otherwise no effort had been extended toward a meal: Ginny was on one computer researching seeds for her winter garden and Myra was on the other making daringly low bids on plane flights for research jaunts. They joined their friends in the kitchen to make quick steamed potatoes and heat up some of Ginny's canned corn. As they all sat down, Allie said to Myra "You and I heading for Philly on Wednesday, right?"

"Yep. Thursday and Friday in the archives, Saturday and part of Sunday talking with wimmins. Back home late Sunday night" confirmed Myra.

"Well, I wanted to let you know, I'm taking the train to Portland in the morning for a day. I'm going to see Margie and Frances. Talk with 'em about what-all" said Allie.

"You mean the Imani situation" said Ginny unnecessarily. After a few moments, Allie said "It bothering me."

"Me, too" said Myra, tenting her fingers together over her plate. "They know you're coming?"

"Yeah, but I left the reason why open" said Allie.

"And they didn't ask?" queried Ginny. When Allie shook her head, Ginny grinned. Margie wouldn't be getting much sleep tonight.

Myra reached out her hands and took one of Allie's between hers, ironing her pink palm flat and tracking the brown creases in it tenderly. She said softly "I love you so very much."

"You better" said Allie gruffly.

Ginny said to Edwina "While they're gone next weekend, you want to go out dancing?" Edwina grinned at her and mock whispered "Not where they can hear us." She continued "There's a Haida canoe carving demonstration at the Center for Wooden Boats that Chris mentioned to me, I'd really like to go and tape it for a paper I'm writing about craftworker vernacular."

"Count me in" said Ginny. She said to Allie, "Are you going to be Myra's photographer on this trip?"

"What do you mean, take photos of her in the library?" said Allie, startled.

"No, making prints of endless offset-press journal pages about why collectivism is the only route to revolution and bad poetry about why my lover's vulva reminds me of nature" said Ginny.

Myra said "Oh, I don't feel all right about asking Allie to do that for me, it's too tedious."

Ginny stared at her, and Edwina asked Ginny to elaborate. When Ginny did, tersely, Edwina said "I agree it's too tedious for Allie, but it's also too tedious for Ginny. Why on earth waste your time that way?"

"It's not a waste of time" began Ginny, "It's essential to her book."

"Yes, but you can hire a grad student or one of the library assistants to do it. They'll have that offered as a service, most archives, and if they don't, the local university can find someone to do it for you" said Edwina.

"It has to be done perfectly" argued Myra.

"There are grad students who aren't slackers" challenged Edwina. "I know of several here who would jump at the opportunity; in fact, I was going to recommend a couple to you for leg work around the collating of all the material you're piling up. You have the money, it's insane for you to do anything that doesn't absolutely require your judgment and expert knowledge guiding it. What is it with you and delegating, Myra?"

Allie looked as guilty and defensive as Myra did. "I like a lot of what you call leg work" Myra said.

"Fine, keep whatever makes you happy. But for you to complete this project, you have to call in competent help. And why on earth" said Edwina, turning back to Ginny "were you going along with this 'I can't pay someone else a decent wage to do some of my work' crap, I thought you knew better?"

Ginny was listening attentively now. She said "I wanted to be with her, sharing in the project, hands on."

"There's plenty of ways to do that which call on your unique abilities" said Edwina. "You could be making sketches of the era as it was then for chapter headings, or portraits of key figures. If you illustrate this book, it's value will double. Or you could just sit beside her and have her talk out loud, you're quite knowledgeable yourself about the content she's researching."

Now Allie and Myra were following Edwina's argument. Myra and Ginny's eyes met, and Myra said quietly "You were feeling insecure, is that it?"

"Looks like" said Ginny.

"Well, I like Edwina's suggestions. So let's find Ginnyesque things for you to do" said Myra.

"What you insecure about?" asked Allie. Ginny's cheeks went red, and as she opened her mouth, Myra said "Oh, please, no, I really don't want to share it even with them."

"I wasn't about to tell" said Ginny. Looking at Allie, she said "It's between me and her. And we addressed it."

Allie was a little flushed, too. "Okay, never mind."

"Personally, I think the idea of you staying in the hotel and painting a canvas worth 50 grand is the only rational choice" said Edwina with finality. "You two have worked it out just fine for decades now, I don't think you should try to fix something that's functional. Myra, one of the students I'd like to send your way, she's deeply ignorant about the particulars of our era but she's brilliant and fascinated, I think you should make a protege of her. Someone you can use as a sounding board. It will make her career, to be known as your assistant, and she'll have the guts to ask questions when she should."

"Say more about her, then" said Myra.

"Raised in Oklahoma, part Comanche, full scholarships anywhere she wanted to go because her SATs were off the charts and her family has zip money, lesbian since childhood, and, quite rare, self-confident without being obnoxious" said Edwina. "Her name is Nicole but she goes by Nika, with a K."

Myra checked Ginny's face. Ginny nodded, and Myra said "Give her my number. See if she's available for dinner on Tuesday, maybe. Should you be here, too?"

"I'll think about it" said Edwina. "She might do better without me around."

Ginny squeezed Edwina's hand. "Thanks, professor." Edwina smiled angelically.

"Have I told you two that we've decided to rotate out all our veggies and herbs until we're growing only heirlooms?" said Ginny.

"Can you do that?" asked Allie. "They enough varieties to go around?"

"It's a steadily growing seedbase out there. Myra will have to adjust some of her recipes, we'll experiment until we see what works and what you all like in terms of flavor. But I'm tremendously excited about it" said Ginny. Talk switched to gardening.

Nika did come for dinner on Tuesday, along with Edwina, Allie, Sima and Chris. Ginny had woken up that morning to the beckon of a new painting, so Myra ordered three different Asian cuisines to free herself up from meal-preparation. While waiting on the delivery, she showed Nika her study, outlines, and research schedule. She was gratified by Nika's instant comprehension and the excitement in her voice. She was also impressed with how calmly Nika handled conversation at the table with this sextet of powerful, intimate women. After dessert, she told Nika to return the following week, after her trip to Philly, and they'd hammer out a work schedule. Nika left with a huge smile.

Ginny did a perfunctory rinse of her plate and silverware, her head turning frequently to her studio, but before she could be sucked back into Painterland, Chris got her attention by asking Allie "How'd it go with Margie?" Not Margie and Frances, Myra noticed.

As Ginny returned to the table, Allie leaned back and sighed. "They closed ranks."

"Oh, for fuck's sake" expostulated Ginny.

"Yeah" mourned Allie. "Frances insisted Imani know the score, not being exploited, and Margie even tried to act a little huffy with me that I could think she'd go along with anything different. But she dropped that fast." A small smile crossed Allie's face. "I said my piece, I know they heard me, and we had a nice dinner otherwise. I went back to my hotel. Next morning, I showed up at Imani's door and asked her to breakfast."

Chris let out a whoop, and Myra said "You did what? How'd you get her address?"

"I have skills" said Allie with a growing grin. "We had some truly excellent home fries and a frank talk. She hadn't talked with Frances since the day before, so I got her unprepared. But she say the same thing, she not being led down the garden path, she just enjoying what's there. It a mass delusion. Roswell" concluded Allie.

"By god, I wish I could be there to see Frances' face when Imani tells her about your tracking her down!" crowed Ginny.

"I not heard a word from Margie, have ya'll?" asked Allie.

Myra giggled. "Nope. I probably shouldn't be enjoying this so much. I keep telling myself, it's in her long-term best interest. She wants Frances rock-solid in her life forever. But I bet she's dropping kittens out her ass tonight."

"I can hear the tiny mews as they splat on the floor" agreed Chris, making Ginny grimace momentarily, but Myra and Allie hooted with laughter.

As Myra packed the next night for her trip the next day, she called Margie's cell but got the voice mail. She left a warm, sweet message, telling her how long she'd be gone and what hotel she and Allie were using. Margie didn't return her call then or while they were gone. She doubted Ginny would hear the phone to answer it for the next couple of days. Ginny did finish her painting in time to make her date with Edwina on Saturday. She and Allie shared a cab from the airport, coming in late at 2 a.m. Ginny was asleep and woke up long enough to kiss her, ask if she was all right. "Happy to be with you" said Myra, snuggling her head on Ginny's shoulder. She dropped off fast.

After only five hours of sleep, Ginny woke up Myra, saying "I need you, something's wrong." Myra sat up and looked at the phone -- it was still in its cradle. "Who -- are they okay?" she asked in confusion.

"It's not someone we know" said Ginny, handing Myra a T-shirt and sweats. "The back yard..."

Myra stumbled after Ginny, straightening her shirt, as Ginny went to the sliding door by the deck. She pointed silently.

All of the deck furniture was in disarray. Some of it had been overturned. The bench was broken, and the chaise longue had been thrown into the pool where it drifted, half-submerged. Its cushions were ripped to shreds, and white fluff was everywhere. This was what Myra took in first.

"Oh my god" said Myra. She looked beyond the pool to the fence, searching for how the vandals had gotten in. The gate and boards of the fence looked intact, as did the cat-proof wire overhang which topped the perimeter. She slid back the door to step outside to go take a clear view of the other side of the yard.

"Wait" said Ginny, putting her hand on Myra's forearm. Myra realized Ginny was trembling. She moved in close to her, lending warmth and protection. Ginny said "Put on shoes."

Myra stepped into wellies by the back door. She took Ginny's hand and they walked into the mess. Myra's attention was focused on a small section of wire above the fence near the back corner. It didn't look right. Before she could point it out, Ginny cried "Oh no" in a tone of utter anguish. She leaned against Myra heavily, and Myra shifted her weight to hold Ginny, looking where Ginny was staring.

The vegetables had disappeared. Every plant was torn from the dark, rich earth, leaving gaping pocks. Myra slowly realized all Ginny's beloved tomatoes, squash, lettuces, marigolds -- everything was wilted and shrunken uprootings which lay dead on the grass over the back half of the yard.

She felt like she couldn't bear it, because Ginny wouldn't be able to bear it. She wrapped her arms around Ginny and kept repeating "No, no." Ginny was mute and stiff for a couple of long minutes. Then she pulled jerkily from Myra's embrace and walked forward to a bedraggled baby cabbage, browned and flattened by what must have been a foot stomp. Ginny picked it up and pulled leaves from it hopelessly, trying to find a salvageable interior. When she could not, she let it drop from her hands listlessly.

"I don't..." she began.

Myra refocused on the boundary. Yes, the wire had been cut, next to the tree in the corner. She thought she could see a few broken branches in the tree, too, where "they" -- whoever it was -- had climbed down into their yard.

She said "We need help." Ginny stared at her blankly. "Who could possibly help?" she said stupidly.

"Come on, we have to go back inside" said Myra. She took Ginny's hand again, which was disturbingly cold, and led her into the house. As they passed the hot tub, she saw something dark at the bottom, distorted by the water. It wasn't until she was in her study that her brain identified the relic as the metal Gila monster sculpture which had guarded their pet cemetery.

She sat heavily on her daybed, pulling Ginny close beside her and draping a quilt over them both. Ginny was in shock, she suddenly thought. She picked up the phone receiver and dialed Allie's house.

Edwina answered. "About to head out the door, what's the haps?" she said cheerfully.

"Someone broke into our yard. They killed Ginny's garden."

She wasn't able to explain more than that, except to say neither of them were injured. Allie and Edwina said they'd be right over. But Allie must have called Chris, because Chris got there first, letting herself in the front door and yelling Myra's name. Myra realized the alarm had not sounded, not when she and Ginny had gone outside nor when Chris came in.

"Back here" called Myra. She asked Ginny "Did you turn off the alarm when you got up this morning?"

Ginny didn't answer. Myra clearly remembered setting the alarm before she had gone to bed. When Chris reached them, Myra said "I think she's in shock", looking at Ginny.

"Have you called the cops?" asked Chris, glancing out the glass wall.

"No. Nobody."

Edwina and Allie came in the front door then. After hugging Myra and Ginny repeatedly, they went out in a group to look at the devastation. Edwina was the first back in, going to the kitchen to make tea.

Myra said to Ginny, "You need to tell me what you're feeling."

Ginny said slowly "I didn't. Turn off the alarm. I was going to my studio when I"

"We'll replant, darling. Every bit of it" said Myra, as Edwina brought them mugs of tea. Myra took a sip; it was milky and sweet.

"Did you look outside when you got in last night?" Edwina asked Myra. Chris and Allie came back in, grim-faced, as Myra said "No. I didn't turn on any lights except the living room, and that was only to get to the bedroom. But I do recall pushing the 'set alarm' button."

"Did it beep in response?" asked Chris.

Myra thought. "I don't remember."

"There's marks on the lock here outside the sliding door" said Allie. "Was it locked this morning?"

Myra felt a jerk, and pure terror streamed through her. She closed her eyes to focus. "Yes. I was looking at the chaise longue floating, but then I looked down at the inside latch and turned the lever to open it" she said, and opened her eyes again to stare at Allie. "You think...did someone try to get in the house?"

"We need to find out" said Allie gently. "You have to call your security service, but I'm sure they'll want a police report."

"I hate the cops" said Myra.

"I know" said Allie.

Edwina squeeze in next to Ginny and asked her softly "Last night, when you came home after dinner with me? What did you do?"

The tea was working. Ginny was tracking more easily.

"I...pushed the alarm when I came in, it's just automatic, you know? I...don't remember if it beeped or not. I -- what did I do? The house was so dark. And empty. It made me feel...bad. I went to Myra's desk and checked e-mail, because -- I wanted a connection, if nobody was here.'d sent me a message from the airport in Denver, saying you were delayed." A grateful smile flooded her face as she looked at Myra. "I hated the news, but it was so good to hear from you just then."

Ginny took two breaths, and continued. "I wrote Margie, and Gillam, and Cathy. I looked at some stuff online..." Her voice choked, and she said "Heirloom seed places."

But she did not cry. Not good, thought Myra.

"Then...I walked back to my studio and looked at the new canvas on the drying wall. I checked on the geckos. I was still so tired, from finishing the painting and going to meet Edwina on Saturday with only four hours sleep. And being out all day with her again on Sunday. So I went on to bed, to wait for Myra. I -- yes, I used the keypad here by the back door to reset the alarm, I did."

"So you didn't go outside at all, or look in the yard?" pressed Edwina.

"Not once on Sunday" said Ginny.

"What about Saturday?" asked Chris.

"I worked until dawn" said Ginny slowly. "I ate oatmeal and a big wedge of cheese, then, standing at the stove." Typical for Ginny if she'd been in Painterland without Myra to feed her. "And a banana. Two glasses of milk. No, I didn't look outside then, either, or go out. I crashed. Got up when the alarm rang, showered, went to meet you all at the boat place. When I came home, it was dark then, too, though I'd left the light on in my studio. I turned it off, and went to the bedroom. To call you" she said to Myra.

"We talked until you were sleepy" said Myra.

"Yeah. And I'd set the alarm when I went to the bedroom, because I didn't think I'd get back up" said Ginny.

"So..." Chris took Ginny's hand tenderly in hers, something Myra had seldom seen her do. Ginny's fingers gripped Chris's tightly. "The truth is, this could have happened any time over the weekend? Is that right, Ginny?"

Myra had a sudden, brutal image of someone hiding in the dark of their yard, watching Ginny paint through the glass wall. She felt bile rise in her throat.

Ginny was frozen, her eyes fixed on Chris. Finally she croaked out "Friday. That afternoon, I got dizzy. I was burning up. I got in the pool, rinsed off my sweat. Then I cut some lettuce and the last of the cherry tomatoes for a quick salad, those little grape tomatoes..."

Finally the dam burst, at the implicit destruction of the grape tomatoes. Ginny wailed. Edwina and Myra both cradled her, Myra murmuring "We have all the seeds. And we'll get even more, new kinds. We'll bring it all back to life."

"Why would someone do this?" bawled Ginny.

Myra had no answer. Chris, however, looked grim again. She ventured "Probably they meant to rob you. Maybe they knew Myra was gone, maybe they were keeping track. But they couldn't get in the door, or these walls which are a lot more indestructable than they look. So they vented their frustration on what was nearby."

Chris thought someone was watching Ginny, too, realized Myra with a fresh wave of nausea.

"Why the fuck didn't your security people call when the circuit failed? Isn't that wire border on the fence part of your system?" asked Allie.

"Supposed to be" said Myra.

"Maybe they did call, and I didn't hear them" said Ginny guiltily. Myra turned to the phone machine and pushed the play messages button. Margie had called twice, plus Ginny's agent and someone wanting a donation for a project. There were also two hang-ups, with loud dial tone leaping to Myra's ears.

Chris went to the phone dial and cycled through the called ID. "Four are labeled 'no information given'" she reported. "Margie's here, so at least two of the unknowns you can ID because they left messages."

"Time to call the police" said Allie firmly. Chris picked up the receiver and dialed, handling all the ensuing transfers and reports with seldom-seen patience. The rest listened intently. When she hung up, she said "They say someone will be here by noon."

"Okay, now your security place" said Allie, taking the phone from Chris. The number was on speed dial. She was blunt and increasingly angry. By the time she hung up, her news was not news at all.

"'Why, lookee here, there sure has been a circuit break, happened Friday night. No idea why you didn't get a call or someone out here to check on you. Very, very sorry. A rep will be here to assist the cops in their investigation.'" Allie's voice was venomous.

"Thank all that is holy, neither Beebo or Narnia were here, maybe out in the yard when..." said Myra.

"I'm making toast and eggs" announced Edwina. "You have to eat."

"Aren't you supposed to be at work?" remembered Myra belatedly. Edwina snorted as she went into the kitchen.

"You getting a new security company" declared Allie.

"You got that right" seconded Chris.

Ginny was looked at Myra with fear on her face.

"I know" said Myra to Ginny. "Listen, I'll see how soon Nancy can see us. We'll do this with her." When Ginny nodded, Myra picked up the phone and called Nancy.

Over the next several hours, the five of them dealt with various phases of clean-up. The police officer who arrived, a white woman, was disinclined to even call in a forensics unit until Myra said "We want this door printed. And the outside glass. We want footsteps in the soil preserved. This is not just an attempt at major theft, I believe the element of surveillance means assault was possible and only thwarted by circumstances."

The cop all but sneered at her. "I don't see a rich and famous lifestyle here. Are you known to collect valuables on the premises somewhere?"

Myra's voice went very soft -- what Gillam referred to as hani hunter state. "My partner is world famous for her art. On the 'premises' at this moment is over half a million in sellable paintings. Someone knowledgeable planned this. It may be that kidnapping was a consideration as well, since they hit while I was out of town." Myra's emphasis on 'knowledgeable' was laced with scorn.

The cop tightened her jaw. "Half a million?" she said, looking around her.

"We're insured for three million in art, we simply don't have a full load of canvases on board at the moment" said Myra. "You need to consult with the appropriate experts in your department." Clearly not you her tone implied. Chris's glowering menace backed her up.

The security company rep was a soft-handed white boy with a paramilitary haircut and glib patter, neither of which worked on Myra and Ginny. In front of the cop, Ginny said "Your inexcusable lapse could have been life-threatening. We'll be terminating our contract as soon as we can arrange for your replacement. With no penalty to us. Non-negotiable." He didn't stick around after he copied the police report number.

It was Myra and Chris who slid into the pool and muscled the waterlogged chaise longue out to Ginny and Edwina. "Will the wood swell and rot?" worried Myra.

"If it does, we'll find another" said Ginny. Since they had established an appointment with Nancy for the next morning, Ginny had snapped back to her usual crisp competence. This was tinged with rage, but that was true for all of them. One of their own had been threatened and indirectly assaulted. They longed to ride out in posse.

Myra also retrieved the Gila monster sculpture from the hot tub. Ginny dried it and inspected it for damage. "It's fine" she assessed. "But you go shower. You too, Chris. They may well have pissed into our tub or pool."

Myra felt her skin crawl. She went to her bedroom, got some sweats and a shirt for Chris, and they went to different bathrooms. When Myra got out, Ginny was on the phone with Margie, sitting on Myra's daybed with Edwina nearby. Myra could tell from Ginny's tone that Margie was freaking out at a moderate level. She did sign language to asked "Do I need to get on the extension?" Ginny shook her head. Myra sat down at the dining table next to Chris, hand-combing her still-wet hair.

"Maybe you two should get your own dog" said Chris. "Something with big teeth."

Myra sighed. "Or a leopard. The problem is, our travel plans through next spring preclude healthy pet-bonding. I guess I need to think about maybe not going away so much."

"No fucking chance" said Allie, settling in beside her. "We not gonna let lowlifes change you art, neither one of you. We'll stay here at the house while you gone."

"I like the leopard idea" grinned Chris. "I could use a big chunk of fresh meat right now."

"Hell, so could I" said Myra, turning to look at the clock. "We've missed lunch. I'll go raid the freezer if you'll fire up the grill, Kash-Kash. The one inside."

"I'll do potatoes" said Allie.

In the storage room, Myra chose Ginny's favorite veggies from the jeweled rows of mason jars, already mourning the absence of fresh salad. She took lobster from the freezer as well as steaks.

Ginny was still on the phone but from eavesdropping as she prepared a salt and garlic rub for the steaks, Myra deduced she had switched to a call with Gillam. In a few minutes, Ginny walked into the kitchen and said "He wants to hear from you directly." Myra handed the platter of steaks to Chris and told Ginny "Three pounds of shelled lobster here, how do you want to prepare it?"

"I'll take over" said Ginny as Myra claimed the phone.

Gillam said "I can be there in an hour."

"First of all, no, you can't, not if you drive safely. And -- we're okay here. We weren't earlier, but the sisterhood has convened, we're about to stoke up on protein, and there's Nancy in the morning."

Gillam's voice was higher than usual. "Is this as sinister as I think it was? Mama's downplaying it, but..."

"Sugar boy, honestly, it's scared me down to my toes" said Myra. Ginny glanced at her. "This will take some retooling. But I feel up to it."

"I want to do something" said Gillam.

"You always do. I can't give you a task yet, but I promise I will when I think of one" said Myra.

"Well, me and Carly are driving up next weekend. We'll help replant the garden" said Gillam.

"Great idea. We'll save you lots of hard labor" said Myra. She was watching Ginny sautee shallots found in the crisper in a voluminous amount of butter, adding dill, curry, cardamum, and a trace of saffron. Interesting. Ginny lowered still partly-frozen chunks of lobster meat into this simmer, almost submerging them. She didn't usually cook with so much fat. But Ginny knew her own body wel, and if she was craving butter, she needed it.

Half an hour later, at the table, Ginny forked open yellow flaky baked potatoes and poured the buttery lobster ambrosia over them. Everyone else followed her example. Ginny took half of a porterhouse as well. They feasted, managing to save a heaping plate to send home with Chris for Sima when she got off work. It was 4:00 by the time they stacked plates in the dishwasher and, as if on the same lever, all turned to look out the glass wall.

The deck had been swept and all the blown cushion fiber picked from the yard. Allie had started draining the pool and hot tub, which would take days and hours respectively.

"A colossal waste of water" said Ginny. "But I can't trust what might be in it."

The broken bench was irreparable, according to Chris, so she had reduced it to firewood for the coming winter. The birdfeeder cracks had been patched with duct tape and the tubes refilled.

The breach in the fence was still there, and the alarm was nonfunctional except for fire detection and the panic button. Myra said to Ginny, "Do we sleep on high alert with our bedroom door open or barricade ourselves in?

Ginny leveled on her a dark blue smudgy gaze. "We don't change a thing. I pity anybody stupid enough to fuck with us again."

"That steak was a tonic for you" grinned Myra.

"We gonna head home, if you okay" said Allie.

"We are, thanks to you" said Ginny, giving Allie, Edwina, and Chris in turn lavish hugs and kisses. Chris looked embarrassed but returned the hug.

"Call me" Chris mutterered to Myra.

"Always" said Myra.

When their friends were gone, Myra looked at Ginny and said "What now? We won't be hungry again until nearly bedtime."

"That organic nursery you complain is too far away stays open late on weeknights" said Ginny.

Myra picked up her keys. "Let's go." Ginny walked back to check the lock on the sliding door, remarking "Margie said she was worried about me all weekend, didn't know why."

"Well, Allie's visit..." pointed out Myra as they went through the front door.

"Yeah. But this gets her out of that sticky wicket, at least for now" said Ginny.

"They are both incredible kids. Reliable and giant-hearted" said Myra.

"I want to try strawberries in one of those special pots, on the deck" said Ginny. Myra didn't see it as a change of subject at all.

"Whatever strikes your fancy, we're going for it" said Myra.

"And let's stop for Thai wraps on the way home" said Ginny.

"Excelsior" said Myra.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.