“Shmug”: Letters to a Missing Brother (Quinelle’s Twin)

More about Quinelle’s twin brother.

On June 24, 2012, I mentioned that Quinelle had a still-born twin brother.

However, it turns out that her parents have lied to her and Qeah; the brother was actually given up for adoption and is still out there.

Quinelle finds out about him via her father’s good-bye note; her obsession, then, is to find her brother and get in touch with him.

Meanwhile, she writes letters to him, who she has nicknamed “Shmug.” (Obviously, Quinelle has an obsession with writing letters to the missing people in her life)

Here’s her first letter to Shmug:
September 11, 2002

Dear Shmug,

Hi. My name is Quinelle Quinella and I’m your twin sister.

I’m sorry I haven’t written to you before.

Today’s our 12th birthday and one month ago today, I found out about you for the first time.

Well, I knew about you but I thought you were dead, still-born at our birth.

I’m sorry I couldn’t sense your existence. I thought twins were supposed to read each other’s minds but maybe it’s because we’re not identical twins.

Otherwise, I would’ve written to you before.

All my life, I’ve thought about you, about how you might’ve turned out, and now I can still wonder, but I might be wrong. As along as you were dead, you could have been anything in my mind. Now I have to think about a real you.

I will tell you someday how I picture you but I’m too shocked at the news of you being alive. Besides, I don’t know you good enough yet.

I have so many questions, like, who are your adoptive parents and where do you live? Are your adoptive parents nice? I hope so. I hope your life is better than mine and Qeah’s, our baby sister. She’s 8 now and a pest. She says I’m too bossy and I guess I am but it’s for her own good.

Even when she’s yelling at me for being mean, I love her anyway.

Don’t tell her that, she might get a big head, LOL.

(BTW, I’m not mean, just strict.)

Maybe someday I’ll tell you all about your other family and how I found out about you but you might not want to know.

I hope you don’t mind when I call you “Shmug.” I know it’s silly but I like what it means: “A big hug for someone in the dumps” (from me). Better meaning (IMHO): “A smile and a hug” (to you).


I hope you have a cool real name but if you don’t, it won’t matter to me anyway.

I like my name, even though it’s weird and all my friends tell me it sounds African-American. I’m not but you’d know that already, wouldn’t you?

My dad says they almost named me “Quinella” but decided “Quinella Quinella” was just too strange.

I’m glad they changed that “a” to “e” at the last minute.

I’m having a sad birthday, we’ll always have a sad birthday, won’t we?

Nothing on TV but 9/11 stuff, falling bodies and buildings, ashy people running from rolling clouds, over and over.


I wish we could forget about that awful day...

I might change my birthday. If we ever meet, we could discuss that possibility, though it might not be legal.

Do you know about me?

I hope so.

I must go for now.

Yours Very Truly,

Quinelle Quinella
In the letters Quinelle writes to Shmug, she’s creating some subtext about her life.

As the novel fills out, I will tweak these letters some more.

I’m beginning to get a real sense about Quinelle.

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