Waitresses played a big role in Return from Avalon (and Points West). I didn’t intend it that way. It all started innocently enough, with a little waitress named Tina up in Crescent City, California, suggesting to Arnie that he go east and not north.
“East, definitely. There’s lots of cool stuff that direction. Seattle’s pretty neat too, but after that it’s mostly ice and outhouses and Canucks.”
Pretty soon Arnie got where anytime he wanted to know something, he sought out a waitress to ask. Ended up sleeping with one, Moonglow from the Indigo Cosmos restaurant. Another, the earthy Maggie in southern England, helped him find the farmhouse he’d been dreaming about (she propositioned him, but he turned her down). And up in Hay-on-Wye, on the England-Wales border, the ageless waitress Vivianne turned out to be the lady of the lake.
(I know, I don’t have to tell you these things. You’ve just finished rereading Return from Avalon (and Points West) for the 3rd time last week).
There were no waitresses of note in Strange Bedfellows. But lo and behold, in Avalon, S.C., a waitress appeared casually and ended up taking over the part as the romantic partner of our hero, Rick Whittaker.
I honestly don’t know what it is about waitresses. I don’t think I’ve ever personally known a waitress in real life, other than friends who worked an occasional odd job as a waitress.
So now, in **working title only!** The Adventures of Sir Kay, here’s another one trying to take over the book.
OK–or “Oh, Kay” as they say in the Old Boar’s Head, Kay’s favorite pub outside Camelot–not really. That’s where Gilda works as a barmaid, incidentally. And that’s all she was, just a nondescript early 6th century working woman who brought pitchers of ale to the drinkers. But she refused to stay nondescript.
Here’s the first time she gives us a glimpse that there’s more to her than just a simple barmaid. In this scene, Sir Kay is questioning the bard, Cambry, to try to find out what he can about the Holy Grail. *** Warning! Gilda uses earthy language. ***
“How did Jesus come by such a thing? Wasn’t he a poor carpenter? That would be like you owning a bejeweled gold cup.”
Cambry scratched his head. I nodded at Gilda who slipped off and brought back a pitcher.
“Well, m’lord, I guess I never thought of that. Maybe it turned to gold when Joseph held it up to the dying god’s side to catch his blood.”
“Why did Joseph want to catch his blood?”
“Why? M’lord, stories don’t say why, they merely tell what. Why did the gods create men in the first place? Why did Tristan drink from the drugged wine? Why did Merlin not do something when he knew that love would be the death of him? Why does man die without ever figuring anything out? Why, why, why?” He looked over at Gilda spinning her silver coin on the table. “Why do men have most of the lust while women have all of the cunny? Who knows the why of anything?”
“Even I know that, and I’m just a dumb waitress,” Gilda answered. “If men had half the cunny, they’d do nothing but fuck themselves the entire day until half of them starved and the rest were bored with it all, and then there wouldn’t be any more people.”
“A perfect explanation, I must say. Well played, Gilda. Maybe there was once a whole country of folk like that, but if there was, they all died off.”
“Well, there you go,” Cambry stared down into his ale. “If you want to know what, ask a bard. If you want to know why, ask a barmaid.”
“Gilda, why would Joseph of Arimathea catch Jesus’ blood in a cup?”
“Because blood is the most powerful substance known to man. That’s why women, who are supposedly the weaker sex, are really the strongest: because we bleed. The blood of a dead god would contain great power. It could cure or kill, and in the hands of a sorcerer, could probably crack the earth. Men only bleed when they’re dying, and then it comes as a big fucking surprise to them. Women know they are dying because they bleed, and so they make the most of living.”
Wow! That from a “simple” barmaid. Obviously, much more than than initially meets the eye. Kay is also impressed and thinks about teaching her to read, but decides that is too intimate. Incidentally, Gilda is not a prostitute; she only sleeps with fighting men.
So yesterday she showed up again and attempted to steal another scene. Kay and I kept her from being totally successful, but it was a near thing. In this chapter, the innocent Galahad is all confused about his purpose in life, since the Holy Grail that he found turned out to be a fake. Kay is speaking as we take up the story.
“Gilda. If I told you that Galahad was the chosen knight, what would you say he was chosen for?”
“Him? Chosen to succeed his father as the greatest knight in the world, maybe? Chosen to find the Holy Grail, and that first little adventure was just a warm up to make the story better?” She ran her fingers through Galahad’s hair. “Or how about this? He was chosen to make Gilda the barmaid bounce and thrash around in her bed and feel like a young maiden again?” She bent over and gave Galahad a sloppy kiss full on the mouth, rendering him beet-red and speechless in one fell stroke.
[interplay here with other characters giving their opinion about Galahad. We resume with Father Gascon]
“I think God chose you to remind us that the His ways are done in His time and not when it’s convenient for us. Even those of us who wear the clerical garb and think it makes us better than other men. And I thank you for that, Galahad. Now that you’ve accomplished His first purpose, I think you will yet find the Holy Grail, when God wills it.”
“Y-y-you think I’ll find the Holy Grail, Father?”
“I do, son. Because you have humility, and innocence, and a purity of spirit that the rest of us seem to have lost. But,” he reached across the table and ruffled Galahad’s hair as Gilda had done, “if you plan to keep that innocence and purity of spirit long enough to succeed, you’re going to have to stay out of Gilda’s clutches.”
The pub exploded with laughter.
“So, twice chosen knight.” Gilda plopped herself down in Galahad’s lap with her arm around him and her lips close to his ear. “What’s it gonna be? Some old cup that nobody knows if it’s real or not, or the best cunny this side of the English Channel?”
Galahad leapt up out of his seat, almost dumping Gilda on the floor. But her arm around his neck allowed her to keep her feet until his reflexes kicked in and he caught her in time. Which put his hands in places he clearly hadn’t intended, deepening his blush until I feared that he might burst blood vessels. But innocent, pure of spirit, and overly susceptible to the debilitating effects of alcohol or not, Galahad was first and foremost noble to the core. He stepped back out of Gilda’s embrace, picked up his almost-full mug of ale, and upended it over his own head. Then, shaking his head to clear his thoughts—or perhaps to rid his hair of excess ale—he knelt down and took Gilda’s hand.
“Nay, fair lady. I am deeply honored by thy offer, but alas, it cannot be.”
Gilda looked down at Galahad with astonishment—and undisguised admiration. If I were a betting man, I would have laid down two gold pieces that she would be the ultimate victor in this contest.
But innocence and purity of spirit are so rare in my world. So I stepped up on the bench, placing my fingers on my temple and closing my eyes as Oswald and Garcon had done, before speaking.
“She offered her honor, he honored her offer, and all night long he was off her and on her.”
That effectively ended the seriousness of the evening. Galahad scurried out the door and fled into the night. Gilda swatted me half-heartedly.
“Oh, Kay! Having robbed me of my game and spooked my prey, are you volunteering to take his place?”
My thoughts turned back to the night before Oswald and I had left on our own Grail quest. Back to when Gilda revealed the normally-hidden delights of her intellect. And I thought it only fair to at least consider her offer for a moment. But I didn’t have enough purity of spirit that I could afford to squander any.
So, with a touch more reluctance than I expected, I got down on my knee and took her hand as Galahad had done.
“Nay, fair lady. I too am deeply honored by thy offer, but alas, it also cannot be.”
“Sweet puppies of Arawn. What does a girl have to do to get laid around here? Father?”
Gascon got as far as one knee before Gilda threw up her hands and stormed back to the bar.
Sweet puppies of Arawn! Am I destined to be plagued by waitresses my entire writing career? Fortunately, we’re leaving Camelot and going back out on the road today, so Gilda is going to have to bide her time and wait for another opportunity to demand a larger role in the novel. But I’m not ruling her out by a long shot.