Valentine and Ajax (Verdana)

(Warning: Contains some mature language.)

Font: Verdana

Year created: 1996

Personal experience: Some of my files of notes and scratch work have been saved into this font through default, and I rather like it, for a sans serif font.

Chapter: “Valentine and Ajax”

Book: Cinnimin

Written: 4 September-1 October 2002


This is Part XLI (41) of my magnum opus under the current table of contents, the second Part of Saga VI (the Nineties), Children’s Children. The title couple are Cinni’s firstborn grandson, Ajax Kevorkian, né Seward-Filliard (born February 1972), and the firstborn of her dear friend and stepsister-in-law Gayle, Valentine Pinkerton-Pembroke (born 1970). (Valentine was, surprise, born on Valentine’s Day!) It’s set from 17 May-23 August 1991. Near the beginning, the Seward patriarch, dear Grandpa Stan, dies.

During the wedding reception, Julieanna’s troubled son André is thrown over the edge to learn that his wife Bridget, who’s also his stepsister, is pregnant a third time without consulting him, esp. since they’ve already got two sets of twins. The elderly family patriarch suffers a stroke during André’s ranting, and things only get worse from there.

Some highlights:

“Corpses rot quickly in the heat,” Al advised. “Somebody wrap him up in ice packs before rigor mortis sets in.”

“Under my roof, you will cut off your own head if I order it,” Mr. Seward growled.

“Don’t be coy about what you do,” Max laughed. “My beautiful daughter-in-law hawks pornos and sex toys.”

Mr. Seward turned white when he spied Luke assembling the sixty-year-old television set. He anticipated hearing a huge pop or snap or bang when Luke adjusted the rheostat that turned it on. Instead a fuzzy black and white image filled the small screen.

Eunomia came into the room carrying a chocolate dildo filled with honey. Fudzie ran to lock up the rest of that month’s freebies, only to find Pandora and Stan sitting wide-eyed before a VCR broadcasting Aspen’s Mountains. He yanked the plug.

R.R. reached out and cuffed Ernie. “Do you really want to imagine your big sister slamming the sheets?”

Gayle pinched him. “And must you talk so cavalierly about our firstborn having intercourse?”

“Now Ajax, you’d better knock my daughter up asap,” R.R. said. “Gayle and I are dying for some grandkids. Just look what happened to your great-uncle M.J. He nearly went insane waiting for grandkids!”

[Cinni’s firstborn Demian, increasingly upset at the extravagant wedding presents his de facto father-in-law Max is giving Valentine and Ajax] “No fair! I had to bust my ass painting just to put my wife through Princeton, and they’re getting everything handed to them on a silver platter!”

“I helped Mommy get pregnant again,” Olivia said proudly. “So she’ll let me name the kid as a reward!”

“I have been duped for the last time by that woman! I swear to God I shoulda had a vasectomy after she told me she’d tricked me into impregnating her with a second set of twins!”

Everyone but André froze in horror as old Nathaniel Malspur toppled over on his right side, his face white and limp.

“What, you think the grounds are cursed just ’cause some geezer on his last legs had a stroke here?” Bobbie Jo challenged. “It’s bad enough the perpetrator fled.”

“Oh, thank God, Max.” Luke’s eyes lit up. “I was just hideously attacked by that man, and your bitch of a daughter is already spinning it to make me look like the bad guy. Give me like ten thousand dollars and I’ll leave town to go on a mission asap.”

“So you can try to convert more old folks on their deathbeds?” Nick screamed, nearly popping his jugular.

“Wolfgang!” André thundered. “No kid of mine is gonna be named Wolfgang!”

“Do you have a toy like this?” Pandora gleefully pushed a button that sent a lifesize Oscar the Grouch towering out of a plastic rubbish bin. Kevin screamed.

“This is just one big conspiracy to rob me of my money!” he ranted when they got home. “What is it, quints?”

Bridget screamed when she saw her oldest daughter’s cello had been brutally smashed. André laughed.

[Bélgica, Julieanna’s oldest daughter] “André got recovered by a family out for a yacht ride, bleeding, unconscious, slit wrists, an apparent jump from the bridge into the ocean. They don’t think he’s gonna make it.”

[The elderly Mr. Malspur] “Give André my blood. I have negative AB.”

“I’m ninety-eight years old. I’ve lived long enough. André is only twenty-eight. He has four young children and two more on the way.”

[Typical Violet, not understanding her niece was giving her anything but a compliment] “Oh, my heart glows to hear you say that, Ash! I may be two months shy of sixty-one, but I love to be remembered as a cold domineering bitch who always gets what she wants!”

Multiple births in your writing

I know I’m not alone in noticing how there seem to be a lot more multiple births in books, TV, and the movies than there are in real life. Not only that, but these births are often treated like no big deal. It was thanks to the sugarcoating and glorification of multiple births by the media that I had some laughably wrong ideas about multiple birth for so many years, and why I created so many multiples of my own.

The odds of conceiving twins naturally are about 1 in 80; triplets, 1 in 8,100; quads, 1 in 729,000; quints, 1 in 55,000,000; sextuplets, 1 in 4.7 billion. The Dionne quints were actually originally sextuplets, but Elzire Dionne had a suspected miscarriage in the third month. It is believed that this sixth baby shared its sac with Cécile, the quint who was alone most of the time, as compared to the other four, each of whom was closest to her sac-mate. It explains why genetic tests later showed they were created from the same egg.

I tried making a list of all my multiples awhile ago, and ended up remembering even more sets after I thought I had compiled them all. That made it so obvious that I’d created way too many. A lot of these multiples weren’t even important characters. I’d only created them to give their parents the Magickal “perfect” family of more than one child, or two of each, so each child would have at least one sibling of the same sex. (Sort of like the Table for Twelve family on TLC, who just HAD to undergo fertility treatments a third time so their only daughter might have a sister.) For years, I didn’t understand how anyone could be happy with only one child ever. Now I know much better!

I’m not against having multiples in a book, but they shouldn’t be overused. Even though I write family/town sagas, with way more characters than most books and thus a bit more leeway, I’ve stopped piling on all the twins and triplets a long time ago. And when I still do have a multiple birth, for the purpose of an actual storyline and not just to have multiples, I try to accurately depict multiple pregnancy and birth.

Off the top of my head, I can think of four of my characters who naturally run to multiples, Kat Vrangel of my Russian novels, and Violet Hitchcock-Fredrickson, Bridget Brewster, and Magdalena Brandt (later Peterson) of my Atlantic City books. Kat and Bridget have three sets of twins, Magdi has quads, twins, a singleton, and twins, and Violet has two sets of triplets and two sets of twins (plus one singleton pregnancy she terminates very early, at an extremely young age). Max’s stepmother Bambi also has quints and twins in her second marriage, but that’s more due to her advanced maternal age.

Some women really do have a natural proclivity towards multiples, and it increases with each set they naturally have. But that doesn’t mean you can have someone naturally having, say, triplets, quads, twins, quints, and twins. That’s like something a child would think were realistic.

Now that we’ve established that it’s very rare to naturally have something above twins, let alone for those multiples to be identical, let’s cover the reality of writing about a multiple pregnancy and birth.

For years, I naïvely thought that the nine months of pregnancy referred to a span of nine months, and thus inadvertently ended up with a number of births that were really a bit premature. I didn’t realize that pregnancy is more accurately measured in weeks, and that a full-term pregnancy is 40-42 weeks. Sometimes a woman can safely go a few weeks over 42, though even I’m not so into the natural childbirth groove I’d feel comfortable with that. But with multiples, you can’t be pregnant for the full 40 weeks. There’s just not enough room in the uterus.

Full-term for twins is considered 36 weeks; triplets, 32 weeks; quads, 30 weeks; quints, 29-30 weeks; sextuplets, 29 weeks. Under certain circumstances, such as the mother’s overall health, a tall height (seriously), starting bedrest or limited activities early, and having a damn good perinatologist, all these multiples can be carried past those averages. Some triplets and even quads have been carried almost to full term, and even born vaginally. But these are still considered high-risk pregnancies. Don’t show your character having quads carrying on like everything is normal and doing extreme sports when she’s 30 weeks pregnant!

Since these babies will be born prematurely, even if they make it longer than average in utero, they’re going to spend some time in the NICU. Tragically, if they’re too early, they might not all make it. See the sextuplet stories of the Morrisons; those smug, delusional, selfish, entitled Stansels; and the Jehovah’s Witness couple in Vancouver. Not all of those babies made it, and the survivors have some serious medical issues.

It’s not covered much in the media, because of the sickening love affair still apparently going on with higher-order multiples, but many couples faced with this prospect undergo selective reduction. I’m planning a storyline about this in the future Saga VII (the 21st century Aughts) of Cinnimin. Violet’s daughter-in-law Rowena, the niece of her friend Julieanna, has been undergoing fertility treatments for awhile after having had twins awhile ago. Rowena finally ends up with sextuplets, and she and her husband Oriel decide to reduce to triplets. There’s a miscarriage, and they’re left with twins, to be named after Julieanna’s late parents, Hermione and Nathaniel. (I named Julieanna’s mother in 1995, WAY before the Harry Potter fad! Her nickname was Ione.)

I’ve had three natural sets of quads, one of which is the leading story as Saga VII will begin. Their parents, Violet’s daughter Cordelia and Cinni’s nephew Xavier, have been married since 1977 and haven’t conceived ever. Finally, when Cordelia is heartbroken to think she’s had menopause, she discovers she’s pregnant instead. And I have one set of quints made from early fertility/surrogacy treatments, a well-deserved medical miracle for their parents.

In good conscience, I would never create a multiple birth, either natural or lab-assisted, above quints, not even for a good storyline. I personally feel writers have an obligation to present responsible, realistic storylines, even if they might be in a genre like sci-fi or fantasy. Even a fantasy or far-future world can’t change the reality of a woman’s uterus not being designed for more than two babies at a time, and of the moral dilemma of being able to keep alive babies born at a younger and younger gestational age. For every happy outcome like the Dilleys, the Rosenkowitzes (first living sextuplets, born in South Africa in 1974), and the Gosselins, there are more-common, more realistic outcomes like those of the Morrisons, the Stansels (I freaking hate this couple), and the Frustacis.