The following is an email written by Meg Langslow, usually found sleuthing in the popular series by Donna Andrews. This is to Meg's husband, Michael Waterston. Internal evidence suggests that it was written shortly before the events of Stork Raving Mad.
How is New Orleans? No, I'm not mad at you for going without me--I just had to hang up quickly last night to haul Spike away from the stray cat that's been hanging around. I AM more than a little vexed with the Theatre Faculty Association--did they have to hold their conference in an interesting place during the one year I'm not allowed to fly? But you're fine. Although you do owe me a trip to the Big Easy. Perhaps when the kids are old enough to eat beignets.
And it's not as if you're leaving me all alone, not with Rob and Rose Noire here, to say nothing of all those stray students we took in. I hope by the time you get back the college will have fixed the heat and the students will all have gone back to their dorms, but we'll manage. It was a little difficult the first afternoon you were gone, when they all kept trooping upstairs to bring me cups of tea and ask if I needed anything. (Note to self: remind Rose Noire to replenish the tea supply soon.) Finally Rob printed up a sign that said "Shh! She's napping!" We keep it posted at the bottom of the staircase all day long, and Rob says it's quite touching how they all tiptoe around. They sound like elephants tiptoeing, mind you, but they're trying.
Yesterday, I mentioned to Dad how much I wished I could go with you--triggering a ten minute lecture about the dire perils of flying while eight months pregnant with twins. And he's been hanging around ever since, keeping an eye on me, as if he expected me to make a break for the airport the second his back was turned. Not likely. Actually, the "She's napping!" sign is on right the money more often than not.
This will be a short email, because I've just about reached the limit of how long I can sit up at the table and type, and perching the laptop on my belly sets the kids off kicking for hours. But I did want to ask you something.
Remember I told you about the letter from Great-Aunt Hephzibah, suggesting some names for the twins? I was going to draft a reply and show it to you when you got back, so you could make sure it didn't sound too sarcastic. But apparently Great-Aunt Hephzibah has been nagging Mother, too, and Mother wants me to send her a "nice" answer as soon as possible. So here's the draft; tell me if it gets too snarky.
Dear Aunt Hephzibah,
(Technically, she's Great-Aunt Hephzibah, but Mother advises leaving out the great. Makes sense; an eighty-four-year-old who's still pretending not to dye her hair probably doesn't want to be reminded that she's in my grandmother's generation.)
Thank you very much for your kind and interesting name suggestions. (Should I leave out interesting? She might know that Mother taught us to say "interesting" when we couldn't think of anything nice to say.) And I agree that Hezekiah, Melchizedek, Manahethites, Keren-Happuch, and your own Hephzibah are lovely and distinctive names that are certainly not overused these days.
Unfortunately, Michael and I have already agreed on names for the twins--four names, of course, since we don't yet know whether we're having girls, boys, or a mixed set. We're not yet announcing the names, partly because we want to surprise everyone, and partly because we like the idea of taking a look at the new arrivals and seeing if we really think the names we've chosen fit. (And partly because we want to postpone as long as possible the moment when relatives like her start second-guessing our choices.)
The boys' names we've chosen are both family names, and the girls' names are ones we think are beautiful. I'm afraid none of them are nearly as unusual as your suggestions--in fact, we were a little dismayed to find that all of them were in the Social Security Administration's top 200 baby names last year. (Should I say that? She's perfectly capable of asking us about all 400 names on the SSA list. Should I maybe say top 500? Or leave that part out entirely?)
We realize that the kids might have classmates with the same name, but we think that's probably less of a trauma than having a name that's too unusual. Remember what a difficult time Cousin Abednego had in school? (She probably also remembers that Abednego changed his name when he turned twenty-one. He's the one who always come up to you at family gatherings and introduces himself as "Bill. Just Bill!")
And don't worry, we're not choosing anything truly outlandish like your friend's grandson and his wife. (Though actually I'm not sure I think Go Red Sox Waterston would be any stranger than Keren-Happuch Waterston.) Both boys' names and one of the girls' are found in the Bible, and the fourth name has graced a saint or two, so I don't think our minister will balk at the christening.
(Should I say anything about her offer to leave us her brother Hezekiah's house in return for using one of her name suggestions? Probably best just to ignore it. The house is in even worse shape than ours was when we bought it. It's been empty since he died ten years ago, and she's frantic to find someone to dump it on. Maybe I should be ruder; if I'm too polite she might leave it to us anyway.)
Thank you again for the lovely baby shower gifts! We will think of you whenever we use them. (We probably will; she sent a case of baby wipes and a giant economy-sized tube of diaper rash cream.)
So, does that sound okay? And don't worry--I'll get someone to check before I mail it, to make sure I haven't accidentally left in any of the snarky comments meant only for you.
Got to run--Spike's after the stray cat again. You think he'd at least wait until we'd paid off the vet bill from their last encounter.
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For those of you who think you may have figured out what Meg and Michael are naming the twins, Donna's running a contest: guess the names and you could win a signed copy of The Real Macaw, in which the babies make their first appearance. Meg's email contains some clues to help you. And oh--if you want another clue: writers tend to write what they know. And Donna has twin nephews.
Send your entries to Donna: firstname.lastname@example.org
Donna Andrews was born in Yorktown, Virginia, the setting of Murder with Peacocks and Revenge of the Wrought Iron Flamingos, and now lives and works in Reston, Virginia. When not writing fiction, Andrews is a self-confessed nerd, rarely found away from her computer, unless she's messing in the garden.