“This is it?” Ginger’s roommate frowned as he looked at the petite Edwardian containing window displays of colorful teapots, trays, cups and saucers.
“Yup. We’re here.” Ginger replied cheerfully from the passenger side of the car.
“Looks like crap.” He said giving a disgusting look. “Well, let’s get this over with.”
Ginger’s roommate climbed out of the car and headed for the door of the teahouse as Ginger watched from the inside of his car. Her roommate seemed to revel in his size; walking with his shoulders back, arms cocked slightly out as if he was holding the handlebars of an invisible motorcycle. When he reached the door of the teahouse he called out, “You coming?”
Ginger tried exiting the car but a Catahua tree blocked her egress and she had to squeeze herself out which not only erased her smile but also any doubts she had of her current plans. Inside, and the hostess and Ginger followed her roommate as he maneuvered his barrel shaped body around the room until he found the table that suited him. Ginger placed an order as her roommate pulled an extra chair over from a nearby table. Her roommate then removed the hat that covered his apish dome and placed it along with his coat upon the chair he had dragged to the table.
Ginger had convinced her roommate to join her on this little journey to the far-flung town of Bolinas through subtle manipulation. She knew what he expected if he acquiesced to treating her like a woman once in a blue moon, the inevitable demand of tit for tat, something she was sure she’d avoid this afternoon.
Ginger slouched forward in her chair, her arms hanging to her sides below her knees as she prepared for what she often considered to be worst then sex with her roommate, his talking. Talking, talking and more talking. He began with a story he had told her yesterday. It was the same story he had told her a week before and several more times before that. And he did this all the time, the rehashing of a story ad-nauseam. It brought Ginger to the realization early on in their relationship that either he was stupid or he just liked hearing his head rattle. His endless monologues gave her heartburn and a nervous twitch that caused her to pound her chest to relieve the heartburn and to scratch at the itchy spot that would develop in her armpits.
And the way he told stories was like the way he had sex; selfishly, relentless, and indulgent, whereas she was not allowed to get a single word in edgewise. He would not allow her the satisfaction; that was until she learned a trick, a way to get him to momentarily pull back from his onslaught of repetitive storytelling.
The trick Ginger learned early on was to get him to eat, which he performed extremely well in a primordial sort of way; mouth open, smacking and slurping all the while. As he ate with his head inches from his plate, he would sometimes gasp for air just to say a few words but then it was back to his feasting upon whatever was in front of him. Once his plate was cleared of food of any substance, he would take a finger to wipe away any excess residue from his trough and clean his finger pornographically.
A multi-tiered pyramid shaped tray carrying scones, small sandwiches, cakes, berries and petit fours was brought to their table and Ginger’s roommate cried “That’s it?” His face resembled a young boy who just saw his dog run over by a truck. Ginger nodded and he quickly grabbed at the tray, snatching handfuls of items and piling them high on his tiny plate.
Ginger had taken her roommate to this teahouse for its location and to throw him slightly off-guard as she hoped the atmosphere of the area might soothe the savage beast enough that he could be caught unawares. It was just a matter of time before she could make her move and until then, she would just continue sitting here, feeling like a captive animal stuck watching a freak show. Ginger furrowed her brow as she pinched, picked and tasted a doorstop shaped scone.
Her roommate emptied the tray, ordered a replacement, and a pot of coffee before announcing “I gotta take a shit.” He stood and added, “And after this, maybe outside, you and I can drive somewhere and you know what they say, Ginger settles the stomach.” He laughed at his old joke Ginger heard so many times before.
As soon as he left the room, Ginger saw herself reaching into his coat pocket and taking his wallet and car keys. She then took his hat, ran from the teahouse to jump and swing from a branch of the Catahua tree before letting out a hoot and landing in the street near the driver side of his car. Ginger unlocked the car and then with the hand that still held her roommate’s hat, she curled her arm and quickly extended it as if she was going to throw a Frisbee.
But Ginger didn’t release the hat. Instead she flicked the hat into the air to catch it upon her head. She then pushed it back with her index finger and brought her finger down to her mouth to blow as if cooling a smoking gun.
Bolinas, far from the city and with no regular bus, boat or taxi transportation back, it would be hours, Ginger thought, if not days, before he was able to make it to their apartment and by then she would be gone and have him out of her life forever. She would just keep his cherished hat as a memento to remember what she did not want in a man.
Ginger’s roommate returned from the restroom, poured himself a cup of coffee and asked “Bout ready to go?”
Ginger, hatless and glassy eyed, nodded.
All of the stories really seemed to hang together in this round of stories so I would like to publish them all in the upcoming catalog for the show at Ohlone because they all describe a facet of the portrait and they all work equally well. I think all the stories were winners so please send me some info where I can send all of you a watercolor or drawing.. Unfortunately I only have one drawing of Ginger so I think the story I liked the best was Matt O’Malley’s.
Ginger it seems, despite her smile in her portrait is actually a young woman of many sorrows ranging from jilted ex-lover to a lonely woman looking for a lover, even if just for one moment. The common thread through all the stories seems to be Ginger’s relationships to other people, especially men, and how they affect her inner thoughts and outward behavior.
I had a moment of sadness when I got to the end of Matt O’Malley’s story. The way he describes Ginger’s thoughts and her roommate’s behaviors was extremely clever and even slightly misleading. Wow! I don’t even want to give it away the ending but it contains pathos.
First, there’s Ginger’s relationship to herself. God can’t help Ginger to forgive her sins so in Mary C. Charest’s story Ginger literally needs to reflect on her own sins and either forgive herself or at the very least let herself off the hook.
“Ginger Bread” by Elizabeth Hodson and “Nickname” by Karlena Lee the motif of Ginger’s nickname, revolve around sex and loneliness. In one story Ginger’s nickname is a reward and in the other a reminder of something she’s lost. In one story she has sex and in the other she is witness to it. In one case there’s an erotically charged encounter which dispels her loneliness and in the other Ginger is accidentally witness to her lover’s erotic dalliance and it ends up creating loneliness in for her. In each case we are a witness to Ginger’s thoughts and emotions.
Mindy Nguyen also describes Ginger’s thoughts but this time we are not empathically linked to her. Instead we see them more through her ex boyfriend’s eyes. Isaac and Ginger have their own stories. It’s pretty clear that Ginger is looking to connect, but, I’ll leave you to decide why Isaac doesn’t want to connect with her. It’s a bit of an enigma to me.
Also a bit of a mystery is Ashley Mitcheom’s version of Ginger. The opening paragraph reminded me a bit of Emily Dickenson’s “Certain Slant of Light.” What put Ginger in that state of mind that seems to make a moment feel like days or hours?
The notable exception where Ginger’s thoughts and motivations are not explored is in Stephen Rogers’ story. Is Ginger really the Samaritan she appears to be or is she some sort of procuress for a more sinister purpose? Since we don’t know what she’s thinking we don’t know who she is and what she’s doing.
Thanks for writing!
Read them all here:
More competitions coming soon!