AUGUSTUS YOUNG        light verse, poetry and prose

  a regular webzine of new and unpublished work
‘There’s no such thing as a poet. Only people who write poems.’

Smith's Family Fortunes


Dr Marcos

Moge and Bols

Dan the Dog

P'tit Frère

Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier

The White Twins


Fancy Footing

Nature Morte

Sleeping Dogs

Verse Journal


The White twins are pregnant. A double wedding and now a double birth. How close can a family get? Jude the Handsome is only doing his duty as a young Anglo-Catholic husband, but Daniel, the aging spouse of Beattie the Beautiful, has gone beyond the call. Such fertility is rare amongst second homers in Bras de Venus. There is a smattering of youngish couples who can afford one by deciding not to have children, but most secondaries are worn out from making money, and too much sun on the beach does not rejuvenate. 

The Whites are barely thirty but they could be said to be old before their time, taking early retirement after a few years of work experience. Jude writes and Beattie translates. But the odd piece in a trade journal or interpreting for mixed race partners can hardly pay for house, car, dog, culture and now children. Though of course Jude is writing a novel. Neither of their spouses have money. Little Flora's TEFL diploma is redundant here. English is not considered a Foreign Language due to the predominance of American serials on television ('Shut up, Budd' is playground argot, taximen say 'Let's go'), and Beattie's Daniel worked for the Council and 'got out before it got him'. Why didn't the Whites trade on their good looks and education and marry, what used to be called, well? I doubt if they fell head over heels with Flora and Daniel, steady and reliable though they are. Poor Flora must have a crick in her neck from looking up to Jude, and Daniel's slight limp is undoubtedly due to trying to keep up with Beattie, who never stops.

The search for a mate to live with, in theory, should not be difficult. The world is not short of people wanting to be dominated. But with the middle classes, finding good-humoured masochists with ready sperm and eggs is not so easy. In developing countries making babies may be the main means of production, economic or otherwise, but in the pampered West it's a dying art. Indeed trying for one can be an expensive business, often ending up with triplets or a scorched womb. But the Whites, who see their raison d'être, a little like royalty, in terms of replicating themselves for one another, were governed in their pursuit by a single-mindedness that leaves no stone unturned, no Cinders or Cinderella untried for the shoe. And their choices, though at first sight incongruous, are inspired. A wide-hipped woman like the young Victoria, who has never smoked or partied, and whose docile nature purrs to the slightest attention, and a mature man with a track record (three sons and a daughter) and a long loveless marriage behind him, but still with a hopeful glint in his eye. 

However, choosing someone to have a baby with is hazardous, particularly for the privileged and talented. Fifty percent of the genes are the others'. The Pavlovian approach is to bed down with submissive partners and hope that their recessive genes will remain recessive. But Mendel has to be considered, to be sure. You have to skip a generation and look at the character traits of grandparents, on both sides. If Daniel's maternal grandfather was a farmer and Flora's paternal grandmother wielded a whip in a Croyden brothel, the White dominance could be the other way round. Jude and Beattie's joy is muted, knowing they won't be producing twins like themselves, but they could be expecting a red-faced cattle jobber from Ballyhassle or a reincarnation of Cynthia Payne.  
They arrived at their respective partners by a process of elimination. Other good-looking people were tried (either too stupid or demanding). The clever endeavoured to come between them, aware that the twins' happiness is not necessarily theirs. Artistic types became competitive and lost out as the twins had home advantage and one another. Nobody is good enough for them. Ideally they would marry one another. Their interdependence is so deep it goes back further than childhood, to the amniotic sea.

What a perfect couple they would make. Being so alike in character and appearance should, according to conventional wisdom, make them hate one another. But it would be self-hating, I think. And I have the feeling that that is unlikely. They both preen when faced by a shop window, or any reflective surface. And together they are so much at one that you'd think you're seeing double. They look into the mirror of each other's eyes, not always approvingly, an eyebrow raised to be plucked, a curl of the lip to be ironed out. Most people are not enraptured at what they are until someone else is. The Whites seek that state of harmony in one another, sometimes with the desperation of lost love, other times aggressively. It's something they have known and want to find again.

In sum, it's an emotional time-share. Surrogates enter the deal only by their mutual agreement. The insemination is artificial or immaculate, depending on your perspective. What impregnates or fertilises is neither a biological scientist attached to some human battery project, nor the Holy Ghost. It is their joint will incarnate, a communion of spirit made flesh, a consummation by proxy. Hand in hand, the twins contracted out the least worst solution in an impossible world. They know their humours will flow side by side through a life where their identical selves can reciprocate but never, like parallel lines, meet. Beattie will forever be translating Jude, and Jude writing about Beattie. As was in the beginning, world without end, amen.

Their union from the womb to the grave is for better or worse, and they find consolation in a pragmatic solution to the impasse. That is, tolerable partners who can put up with their artistic temperaments and be stand-ins to make babies, a compromise that will be catalysed by the constant presence of their parents, who are preparing to move their lives from Dorset to next door, and are noted baby doters and social buffers. So the twins can, more or less, keep themselves pure for one another.

The presence of their parents is not just that of bored retired people who worked hard all their life. They are in the foreground, actively investing in the future. The apartment, car and money for sundry insurances no doubt came from them. Their dedication is total, and exclusive. The world revolves around the twins and they are whipping the top. It might seem dizzily incestuous, only they are so dutifully respectable. Normally you would expect the children to be looking after the ageing parents. I presume the elders are overseeing the perpetuation of the White tribe, in an imperfect world.