Drum roll……….signal the music!
I have the great honor my first ever Guest Blogger, none other than the fabulous…Sally Bellerose!
She has graciously agreed to talk about one of my all time favorite stories “Fishwives”. And as if that wasn’t enough, she will offer a copy of her newest release “The Girls Club” to a random commenter to this this blog. Without further ado…Sally,
Sally Bellerose’s novel The Girls Club won the Bywater Prize and was published by Bywater Books in September, 2011. Bellerose was awarded a Fellowship from the NEA based on an excerpt from this book. The first chapter won first place in fiction from Writers at Work. Excerpts from the novel have been anthologized and featured in literary journals including Love Shook My Heart, Sinister Wisdom, The Sun, The Best of Writers at Work, Cutthroat, and Quarterly West. The manuscript was a finalist for the James Jones Fellowship, the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, The Backspace Scholarship, and the Bellwether Endowment. Chapter Two won the Rick DeMarinis Short Story Award.
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I am excited to have the opportunity to exchange posts with Barrett (appearing today at http://sallybellerose.wordpress.com)
Thank you for having me as a guest and for asking me to discuss my newest writing obsession, Fishwives, a group of linked short stories. The collections takes its title from the “anchor” story which won first place in Saints and Sinners Fiction Contest and can be found in the anthology Saints and Sinners New Fiction from the Festival, Queer Mojo, 2010. Proceeds go to No/Aids Task Force.
Fishwives is a group of stories which feature the love, trials, and tribulations of two elderly impoverished lesbians who have been together for over sixty years. Or, if you prefer the pithy version, the collection is about old ladies behaving badly. In truth, the collection is not finished. Recently the main characters’ younger selves, as well as two contemporary adolescent Puerto Rican boys, have insisted on being part of the story. So a synopsis of the collection is premature.
I didn’t have to look hard for inspiration for Fishwives. I am a sixty year old lesbian with friends and family, all of whom, even our five year old granddaughter, are aging. Some of my beloveds are women. Some of them are lesbians who have been together for a long time. Some of them are poor.
I had to look harder to find older lesbian couples represented in literature, especially poor women. And I had to look harder still to find stories that allowed old women of any sexual orientation any sexuality whatsoever. And, of course, I had the hardest time finding sexual old lesbians. Infuriating, that we should be defined by our sexual orientation while denied our sexuality.
So I started to write a sex scene between two old ladies. Of course the story took me where it wanted me to go, which involved sex, but not exactly a sex scene. Now I have several finished stories, none of them exactly a sex scene. I have written erotica involving older women. Writing sex is not the problem. Getting these two women and the characters in their neighborhood to settle down long to have sex is the problem. There is a lot going on. These old ladies need health care and heat and proper nutrition. These characters, and my own lived-life, inform me that for some of us anyway, sex and sexuality gets more nuanced and complicated with age. And I would not deny that aging usually diminishes sex drive, if not sexuality. However, aging does not preclude a sex scene between elderly women, definitely does not.
If anyone has read great sex scenes between older women, please do let me know. I’d love to read the passages.
Here is the opening of Fishwives followed by a link to the story. Thanks for reading.
My wife Jackie and I teeter-totter, arm in arm, through a few inches of unshoveled snow before stepping over a dead Christmas tree to get to our car. We missed the city’s curb side tree pick-up by over a month. Between us, we’re 161years old, me and my Jackie. The maneuvers to get down the walk and over the tree take a few minutes.
We’re both wearing puffy down parkas, the kind with fake fur around the hoods. The coats cost a fortune when they were new, got donated to the Survival Center because the fashion of encasing yourself in four bushels of airy feathers went out of style when new synthetic fibers came along. I try not to care about being out of fashion, but can’t seem to stop.
When we reach the car, I flap my hand at Jackie. “You could at least drag the tree away from the curb.”
Jackie winces. Her right hip still hurts from falling off a folding chair while pushing poker chips across a table. She gambles when she’s depressed. Losing makes her more depressed. There’s a cycle here. I give her my serves-you-right-to-suffer grin. We stand there, hanging on to the door handles, thinking our separate thoughts while we catch our breath.
I think about being old and poor. And queer. I love that the young ones have rehabilitated that word, queer. Poor, I’m afraid, is a word beyond a face lift. Poverty has always been the third woman in our marriage. We consummated our three-way lesbian alliance decades ago. We lived beyond our means and worked shitty jobs without putting a single penny toward retirement. Who knew gay marriage would become a reality? We thought the whole business of IRAs and 401Ks were a pathetic middle-class scam. Even a simple savings account was too bourgeois for us. We were too unconventional to be bothered by the unlikely fact of old age; we were radical. We flaunted being poor like it was some sexy illicit arrangement and worked nights while we got liberal arts degrees. This made Jackie a fairly well-spoken fork lift operator and me a failed novelist. We borrowed what we could and paid as little attention as possible to the bills.
But poverty is a fishwife who gets louder when ignored and meaner in old age. If it weren’t for poverty shrieking, “Where’s the milk money?” Jackie could skim off a hundred bucks once in a while and I’d never know. For us, a hundred dollars is a week’s worth of groceries, ironic, because the grocery store is where she usually gambles. Lottery tickets: a dollar, five dollars, ten dollars a pop. Hate the lottery. At least when she finds a poker game that welcomes a not-so-little old lady she exercises her mind.
People suppose your thinking slows when you’re old. Sometimes my mind spins like tires stuck in a muddy field. Now, while I’m hanging on to the car’s door handle, my thoughts move like an old dog circling back on its tail. I want to concentrate on a way to get her to get rid of the tree, but looking at Jackie through the little clouds my breath forms in the February air as she unlocks The Bucket, our once gold, now faded to tan, 1992 Buick, distracts me. How did Jackie get so old? The calendar, the mirror, and our joints, scream, “You’re old!” I look at her all day, every day, and elderly is still a shock.
Thanks, Sally. Be sure to leave a comment, with an email address for a chance to win The Girls Club.