I came home from that visit to Dr Rumsey, started dinner, then took another bath and used some scandalous perfume Briney had given me for Christmas, got into a lime-green négligé Aunt Carole had given me as a wedding present, checked dinner and turned down the gas - I had it all planned - and was ready when Briney got home.
He let himself in; I was posed. He looked me up and down, and said, ‘Joe sent me. Is this the right http://www.o-trip.ru address? '
‘Depends on what you are looking for, sport, ' I answered in a deep sultry voice. ‘May I offer you the specialty of the house? ' Then I broke my pose and dropped my act. ‘Briney! Dr Rumsey says that it is all right! '
‘You'll have to speak more plainly, little girl. What is all right? '
‘Anything is all right. I'm all back together again. ' I suddenly dropped the négligé. ‘Come on, Briney! Let's ring the cash register! '
So we did, although it didn't work that time - I didn't catch again until early in 1901. But it was always delirious fun to try, and try we did, again and again. As Mammy Della once told me, ‘Lawsy a mercy, chile, jes hunnuds an' hunnuds a times ain't nuffin happen a tall. '
How did Mammy Della get in here? Brian found her, that's how, when I started being too big to do a washing easily. Our first house, a tiny one on 26th Street, was only a short distance from darktown; Della lived within walking distance, and she would work all day for a dollar and car fare. That she didn't use the streetcar was irrelevant; that dime was part of the bargain. Della had been born a slave and could not read or write. .. but she was as fine a lady as I have ever known, with a heart full of love for all who would accept her love.
Her husband was a roustabout with Ringling Brothers; I never laid eyes on him. She continued to come to see me - or to see Nancy, ‘her' baby - after I no longer needed help, sometimes bringing along her latest grandchild. .. then she would drop her grandchild in with Nancy and insist on doing my work. Sometimes I could nail her down with a cup of tea. Not often. Later she went back to work for me with Carol. Then with each baby, up to 1911; when ‘the Lord took her in His arms'. If there is a heaven, Della is there.
Can it be that Heaven is as real as Kansas City to those who believe in Heaven? This would fit, it seems to me, the World-as-Myth cosmology. I must ask Jubal about this, when I get out of this jail and back to Boondock.
In gourmet restaurants in Boondock ‘Potatoes a la Della' are highly esteemed, as are some others of her recipes. Della taught me a great deal. I don't think that I was able to teach her anything, as she was far more sophisticated and knowledgeable than I in the subjects we had in common.
These were my first five ‘cash register' babies:
Nancy Irene, 1 December 1899 or 5 January 1900
Carol (Santa Carolita, named for my Aunt Carole), 1 January 1902
Brian junior, 12 March 1905
George Edward, 14 February 1907
Marie Agnes, 5 April 1909
After Marie, I did not catch again until the spring of 1912. That one was my spoiled brat and favourite child, Woodrow Wilson. .. who was later my lover, Theodore Bronson. .. and much later, my husband, Lazarus Long. I don't know why I didn't catch sooner, but it was not from lack of trying; Briney and I tried to ring the cash register at every opportunity. We did not care whether it caught or not; we did it for fun. .. and if we missed, that simply postponed those several weeks when we would have to refrain before and after each birth. Oh, not refrain from everything; I became quite skilled with hands and mouth and so did Briney. But for solid day-in and day-out happy fun, we both preferred the old-fashioned sport, whether it was missionary style or eighteen other ways.
Perhaps I could account for all the times I failed to catch if I had a calendar of the Mauve Decade, with a record of my menstrual periods. The calendar would be no problem, but a record of my menses, while I did keep one at that time, is long gone and irretrievable - or nearly so; it would take a Time Corps operation to retrieve it. But here is my theory: Briney was often away on business; he was ‘ringing the cash register' his own way, as an analyst and planner for corporate mining ventures, one whose exceptional talents were increasingly in demand.
Neither of us had heard of the simple fourteen-day role for ovulation, or the thermometer check, much less the more subtle and more reliable techniques developed in the latter half of the twentieth century. Dr Rumsey was as good a family doctor as you could find at that time and he was not constrained by the taboos of the time - he had been sent to us by the Howard Foundation - but Dr Rumsey knew no more about this than we did.
If it were possible to prepare a calendar showing my menses 1900-1912, then mark on it by the fourteen-day role my probable dates of ovulation, then mark the dates that Briney was away from Kansas City, it is long odds that such a chart would show that those little wigglers never had a target to shoot at on those occasions that I failed to catch. This seems certain, as Briney was a prize stallion and I was Myrtle the Fertile Turtle.
But I am glad that I did not know the roles of ovulation at that time, because there is nothing that beats the tingling excitement of laying back, legs open and eyes closed and bare to the possibility of impregnation. And I know that this is not just one of Maureen's many eccentricities; I have checked this with endless other women: the knowledge that it can happen adds to the zest.
I am not running down contraception; it's the greatest boon to women in all history, as efficient contraception frees women from that automatic enslavement to men that has been the norm through all histories. But the ancient structure of our female nervous systems is not tuned to contraception; it is tuned to getting pregnant.