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NARRATOR: That would be me. b. 1964. I am a professional writer and editor living in California. Only lately I don't work much, just stay home with my kids and think about what I would buy if I ever managed to finish and sell a novel or screenplay.
DUFF: Mon partniere domestique; father of my children. b. 1970. He works as a senior technology analyst at a prominent computing magazine and talks about attending law school, but it hasn't happened yet. Accepted to MIT as an undergrad, he chose instead to attend a small engineering college in his home state on a full scholarship that was both athletic--he swam and played water polo--and academic. We met on a MUD in the spring of 1993, while we were each falling out of graduate school in different parts of the country (he in Arizona, me in Iowa). His interests include NFL football, especially his longtime favorite team, the Raiders, proportional representation, and unabashedly geeky games like Vampire, the Eternal Struggle and Settlers of Catan.
FELONY AND CRIMINY: The drama queens. Felony is the outgoing one who wants to be the center of everyone's attention; she studies dance. Criminy is a bit more introverted, curious, opinionated. A great reader. b. 1995.
JASPER LUCIFER, aka JINX: My little angel, the light of my life. Who knows what the future will bring? b. 1998.
MOM My mother. b. 1928. She's always been supportive of me. She used to work in a casino gift shop, now she's retired and babysits for me a lot. Smokes 1-2 packs a day. She favors Jasper; says he has the map of Ireland all over his face.
DIANE My sister. b. 1950. Never a dull moment.
BAMBI My niece. Very un-Bambi. b. 1969.
ROJO Bambi's son. b. 1997.SEAN Bambi's second son. b. 1999. COLIN and ANTHONY. Bambi's twin sons. b. 2000. There is also a half-sister named STARLAH.
DAMIEN My nephew. Hell on wheels. b. 1976. Now married to STEFANI and expecting a baby.
FRANK My best friend. Lives 30 miles away. I first met Frank in 1983 or '84. His longtime companion is FIONA, a highly regarded professor at a world-class university.
STEPHEN My other best friend. Lives two states away, in Seattle, with his husband. I miss him, but we communicate by e-mail and phone regularly. Have known him since 1985, when I walked up to him outside a classroom in Wheeler Hall and said, "Aren't you Rory's friend?" A deeply considerate and loving man, despite having grown up in what he calls "the Protestant refrigerator."
MAXINE You just can't have too many best friends. This one lives in Ohio. We met in graduate school in 1992. She's generous, practical, and conscientious--in short, an absolute peach. She's a writer, too.
MIKE and SCOTT Married friends who moved upstate to Borring, California, and subsequently discovered that, in certain conditions, a trip to Berkeley can feel like a European vacation. I've known Mike since she was 17 and I was 20. We're very tight.
SHIRL Best friend from high school. She's a social worker in Florida, and the one I'd call to bail me out if I ever got arrested.
KALLIOPE A good friend from college. She's a professional singer with a dry wit.
JOE My former boss. Funny guy; good heart.
RUTH Hilarious, self-righteous feminist atheist foodie. Sister of Joe, she lives in Kentucky and just finished a novel. She is my closest friend I've never met.
LEO An older writer who is a friend and mentor to me and has been since the late '80s. Grumpy. Lives in Europe.
CHARLOTTE A newer friend, she's a quiet, thoughtful British journalist living in New York with her husband, a scientist.
CHRISTOPHER An old friend I met through Stephen. A Catholic pop musician with an 18th-century sensibility. He loves Fielding and the Brontes.
RITA She's one of a kind: a fast-talking, lightning-witted entrepreneurial Cuban-American Anglophile in Los Angeles. Intimidates the hell out of me. She's old friends with Christopher, Stephen, and Patrick.
PATRICK I've never met him. He joined my mailing list at Christopher's behest. He's a New Yorker who likes to push people's buttons.
BARBARA We got our kids into the same school in Lesser Loserville and now we compare notes regularly. Married to Josh, her kids are Caleb and Marissa, who was adopted from China.
KIKI A single mother I met through our kids. She's into Harleys, Beanie Babies, and Wicca.
SASHA Another single mother, this one with an slight activist bent; her son Bay was in Felony's kindergarten class.
BIRGIT Editorial director at the publishing house for which I volunteered last year. Smart, thoughtful, and a real sweetheart.
CAMILLE My biggest adventure was traveling to France with her in 1984. We've been out of touch for years, but struggling (mostly against my own ineptitude as a correspondent) to get back in touch now. She lives in Brittany. I'd love to visit her there.
BRIAN My ex. We were together eight years, starting when I was 20. He was well-mannered and eccentric. Liked to wear ascots with cowboy boots. Came from a wealthy family. Called me collect from South America on Thanksgiving to break up with me.