WIPpet Wednesday—Party prematurely ended


Here’s a recent picture of my geese, who are kind enough to let me get really close to take pictures and videos. It’s getting harder and harder to tell the four babies apart from the adults. Their rapid growing-up, over only two months, just drives home one of the things I wrote about in Pet rabbits, chickens, and ducks should be for keeps, not just Easter (my fifth-most-viewed post). The cute baby stage doesn’t last long in animals, and you have to understand and respect how quickly animals mature. A stuffed animal stays cute, unlike a real-life counterpart.


WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. The caveat is that excerpts must be related to the date in some way. There are 15 sentences this week, for the 15th of the month.

These lines are from the opening chapter of Part II of my alternative history. A large banquet is held for Aleksey’s 18th birthday in August 1922, on the eve of his leaving for Paris to study at the Sorbonne. All seems to be going fairly well until his grandmother, the always-opinionated Dowager Empress, starts suggesting brides for him. A distant cousin has the nerve to challenge her wisdom in arranging marriages, and then one of Grand Duchess Olga’s sons suffers a cerebral hemorrhage. This is the fourth generation to be afflicted by hemophilia.


The Dowager Empress (then just the Tsesarevna, the wife of the Tsesarevich) and her firstborn child, the future Nicholas II

“I can’t believe how eager you are to marry off your grandson, after how spectacularly you failed at arranging your own children’s marriages,” some distant cousin at the next table said. “Is this your way of trying to make up for your past mistakes?  I suppose at least you’re making the effort as early as possible, instead of inviting the risk of a romance with a commoner or first-cousin.  God knows, we can’t afford to jeopardize the dynasty with an unequal marriage and let those scheming Vladimirovichi steal the throne.”

A stunned silence filled the room, with everyone frozen.  Just as Mikhail had opened his mouth to finally break the silence, a loud squeal pierced the air.  There was no doubt in anyone’s mind as to the cause of the squealling when Konstantin pushed back his chair and ran towards the source.  It was just a question of which young prince had hurt himself, thirty-five-month-old Savva or eighteen-month-old Yulian.

The squealling had given way to an eerie silence by the time Konstantin came back to their table, little Prince Savva motionless in his arms.  Olga, heavily expecting a third child, had turned pale and now pulled herself up.  She and her sisters followed after Konstantin and left the hall.

“This banquet is over,” Mikhail announced. “I’ll deal with the upstart who insulted me and my mother later.”

“Why are you adjourning our party?” another distant cousin asked. “I’m sorry the child hurt himself, but that’s no reason to put a premature end to the celebration.”

12 thoughts on “WIPpet Wednesday—Party prematurely ended

  1. The cousin’s comment at the end is priceless. “Oh, do let’s carry on regardless of any crisis.” LOL Nice.

    I love the photos you find. This one is such a drastic departure from those of the Tsarena (?) and her family — where everyone was always looking either sad or angry.


  2. Your geese are gorgeous! Look at them! I em envious. 🙂 My sister and brother-in-law recently got four chickens and two baby chicks for eggs. It’s pretty neat, but I wouldn’t be able to have my own.


  3. This is a great scene! I felt like I could cut through the tension with a knife. And that last line, I was just like “Dude, shut up, clearly bigger things than a party are going on here.”


  4. I have a very, very bad feeling about this one. I know all too well how Olga must be feeling…

    Only a few hours after Elijah died, we went to buy a new phone, because the one we had stopped working the day before, and we knew the Oregon relatives were waiting for updates.

    The salesperson walked up to us and asked, “And how are you today?”

    We both just stared at her with no idea how to respond.

    This scene has that same surreal nature, with some simply oblivious to the disaster that’s just happened in their midst…

    This was hard for me to read, because it’s so very well-written. Extremely realistic.

    As for the image – what a lovely, lovely mother and child. I’m somewhat partial to boys with headfuls of curls.

    I always love warching the goslings grow up – it seems to happen in a flash!


    • It’s always hard for me to write death and injury scenes, even if the person is very old and more than ready to cross over anyway. I even was emotionally gutted when writing the death chapter for little Kroshka, a 25-year-old Pomeranian whom I created at 17 years old and really made into a little character in her own right. Her farewell chapter is called “A Modern-Day Argos,” in reference to how she’s waited till the last surviving member of her family has come to America. The Pomeranian who “replaces” her, Snezhinka, hasn’t caught my heart in nearly the same way.

      The most emotional children’s death-related thing I’ve written so far is probably the scene in my second Russian historical, when secondary character Granyechka, a priest’s daughter, loses her two children to diphtheria (off the pages). She’s so distraught, she tries to walk to Yonkers to break the news to her husband and father, barely looking where she’s going and leaking milk all over her blouse. After suffering a miscarriage and stillbirth at seven months, she finally has three surviving daughters and a son. Two of her daughters are stricken by polio, but after losing four children, all she cares about is that Violetta and Flora are still alive.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, that detail about the leaking milk…the day Elijah died, I had finally managed to pump the 16 ounces the NICU nurses wanted for the first time. I wanted to donate it to another child (here were babies there who really had no one to care for them) but, even though I’d had all the relevant tests and don’t remotely live a high-risk life, laws wouldn’t allow it, and the milk was dumped.

        It took a few days to gt the flow slowed down, and that seemed like insult to injury…

        I grieve with you for all the characters, human and canine, that you have lost over the years…


  5. Personally, I think geese are more cute once they’re grown up. I’d love to have the kind of space necessary for them…

    It’s almost difficult to reconcile the cute pic of Nicholas II as a child with his adult self! I do love the pictures you manage to find.

    These distant cousins really are something… Kinda remind me of my family, who have a similar lack of tact and sense. The scene itself really is gut-wrenching, which in this case is good. You wrote it really well.


  6. The impact of the last sentence… the clear intention to obliviousness (for surely the family problem with hemophilia cannot be all that much of a secret among family). It’s easy to see why you made Mikhail harden himself later in the book.

    As for the picture… I like the gentle smiles.


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