It was at around that point that they all began to sing Gilbert and Sullivan. Tiberius and I looked on in mute horror as Uncle Crassius, Aunt Rose, Mother, Father, Julia, and even Caius all proclaimed themselves to be little Japanese schoolgirls. I was certain that there was no God or devil, for no deity could possibly be so cruel as to inflict this on me… not only was I alone in an uncaring, heartless, expanding universe, I was alone in an uncaring, heartless, expanding, Godforsaken universe.
(Who Loves Octavia Pranddishaw?, Chapter Seven)
Octavia Pranddishaw, like all fourteen-year-old girls as seen through the eyes of a male retired machinist, believes herself to be the center of the universe. Her narcissism and melodrama are the running gag of the (justifiably unpopular) comic novel, and these remain the core of her personality.
Almost alone of the Pranddishaws, she never wears the drab khaki skirt and top which are her “arrival” wardrobe. Instead, she has collected a bewildering assortment of off-the-rack fashions, never wearing the same outfit twice. Similarly, she has amassed a sizable collection of makeup, purchased or stolen from local pharmacies and convenience stores.
Octavia spends the bulk of her time in the company of Caius or Tiberius or both; the two youngest Pranddishaws still treat her with a certain amount of deference, possibly in holdover from the time before “the arrival.” They walk Robert Burns every day, and watch television at night.
Her preferred method of killing is by ripping her victims’ throat with her unusually long, straight, sharp teeth. In Chapter Three of Who Loves?, Octavia mentioned her teeth were in remarkable shape and that she had never needed braces or had a cavity. Usually this requires the victim be restrained in some way, and the spurting blood from the victim’s throat tends to stain and ruin Octavia’s clothing.
In Who Loves?, Julia Pranddishaw was the ironic counterpoint to Octavia. Though only seventeen, she functioned as the adult presence and balance during the bulk of the novel. As she was most often the straight-man to Octavia’s or Caius’s schemes, her few clever lines were generally ironic commentary on a sitcom-noir “wacky misadventure.”
This position of authority remains the core of her personality. She is the only member of the family to work for a living, albeit as a part-time waitress paid under the table at a nearby Mexican restaurant.
Due to her efficient, authoritative manner, Julia is the de facto head of the family and presides over meetings. Her opinion is valued highly by the rest of the Pranddishaws, with the exception of Octavia who, though she loves her sister, dislikes her with the fiery intensity of a thousand white-hot suns.
As she spends the most time apart from the rest of the family, Julia is easily the best-adjusted Pranddishaw. Her “level-headedness” (so often cited by Octavia in Who Loves? as proof that there is no God) has allowed her to adapt to the world she finds herself in. Julia has befriended one of the other waitresses at the restaurant, an insecure girl named Stacey, and spends much of her free time there. Stacey and the other employees of the restaurant believe Julia attends a private high school several miles away, which has a progressive and flexible schedule (Julia’s explanation for her ability to spend so much time at the restaurant). Stacey has no idea what Julia’s home life is like, and Julia goes to great lengths to avoid her meeting other Pranddishaws, as Julia suspects Stacey would not survive the encounter.
Julia, unlike the rest of the Pranddishaws except for Caius, is completely lacking in sex drive. In Chapter Five of Who Loves Octavia Pranddishaw?, she takes Octavia and Caius to the beach, where a lifeguard (whom Octavia has an obvious crush on) flirts with her, extremely unsuccessfully. Octavia watches in horror as her sister rejects the object of her affections out of hand.
Julia’s preferred weapon is a knife with a sharpened tip and edge. She generally overpowers her victim, and once she has him pinned, stabs him through the eye socket a few times. When a knife is unavailable, she tends to strangle, as this causes minimal mess. Julia murders much less often than the other Pranddishaws, however.
The youngest Pranddishaw, eight-year-old Caius, drove what little plot there was in Who Loves?. It was his idea to take Robert Burns to the beach, his demands for a snow-cone, and his refusal to give Tiberius a birthday present that resulted in Octavia’s mortifying reprimand from the lifeguard, her humiliating trip to the Piggly-Wiggly, and her utterly life-destroying embarrassment at hearing her family sing “Three Little Maids Are We,” respectively.
He is still fundamentally contrary, and spends time with Octavia because she’s unlike the elder Pranddishaws, more than any other reason. He’s an extremely active child, running hither and thither, though he doesn’t run off as often as he did before Octavia stopped telling him not to.
Caius is also the most bloodthirsty of the Pranddishaws. If someone has something he wants, Caius acts quickly to take it. He never goes anywhere without a baseball bat, which from time to time he is forced to replace (he uses a wooden bat, and it eventually splinters from use). In Chapter Five of Who Loves? the family attended a Little League game, in which Caius bunted at his only at-bat. Caius thought he had invented the bunt, and was very disappointed to learn there was already a word for it. Caius usually stops beating his victims when they stop struggling, and so has actually killed the fewest number of people, though he has assaulted more than any other Pranddishaw.
The children’s father, mother, and uncle, Ulysses, Lily, and Crassius Pranddishaw, respectively, function as a unit. Their daily routine of one hour cleaning the apartment, two hours making and eating food (stealing groceries as necessary), and twenty-one hours playing Gin Rummy, has gone nearly uninterrupted for months. Crassius is winning, with four hundred sixteen thousand, eight hundred twelve points, and Ulysses is third, with three hundred ninety-seven thousand, one hundred eighty-three points.
In Who Loves? the adults (who are all an indeterminate, but roughly equal, age) play Gin Rummy on three separate occasions, and it is Octavia’s joining the game at the end of Chapter Eleven that signals her acceptance of her role as a Pranddishaw.
They speak only a little while playing, and have only a little more personality than they did the night of “the arrival.” Crassius sometimes unleashes a series of bad puns, as he did in Chapter Four of Who Loves?, Ulysses occasionally reminisces about the Korean War, as he did in Chapter Eleven of Who Loves?, and Lily will remind the children to dress warmly on cold days are dryly on wet ones (which instructions they ignore), just as she did in Chapter Three of Who Loves?, but by and large the adults remain half-formed semi-personalities, who obey Julia’s instructions with little dissent or initiative. Their faces are expressionless, and hours pass with no sound other than cards being shuffled and scores recorded.
Usually the three quiescent Pranddishaws merely restrain their victims while more active family members do the actual killing, but Ulysses, Lily, and Crassius are more than capable of beating someone to death with their bare hands.
Crassius is Ulysses’s half, rather than full, brother. This is a fact that twelve-year-old Tiberius “Tiber” Pranddishaw, Crassius’s pubescent son, reminded Octavia on two separate occasions in Who Loves?. Though Octavia never quite realized it, her “half-first-cousin,” as he called himself in Chapter Seven, suffered a considerable attraction for her. His tragicomic seduction attempts formed a running subplot through Who Loves?, and remained unresolved at the end of the novel.
This desire remains the center of his being. Since “the arrival,” however, it has blossomed out from Octavia to an unfocused interest in nearly every woman and girl he sees. Given the amoral and ruthless manner in which the Pranddishaws comport themselves, this might be very grisly indeed save one mitigating factor.
As Chapter Ten of Who Loves? made abundantly clear, Tiber has absolutely no idea how to express his desire. Rather than assault the constantly shifting objects of his affections, Tiber chases after them verbally, with wolf-whistles and uncreative professions of adoration. As this stream of propositions comes from what looks like a poorly-dressed adolescent boy, most women either ignore him or snap back. Tiber is dreadfully afraid of harming the objects of his affection, and thus does not bear to touch them.
When sufficiently provoked, however, Tiberius Pranddishaw prefers to beat his victims with whatever blunt object is at hand. He can’t be bothered to keep a weapon on his person.
The only member of the Pranddishaw family who didn’t have a single line Who Loves?, Tiber’s mother Rose Pranddishaw has developed into someone unlike her relatives. Without a personality-seed from the novel to build on, Rose has since “the arrival” developed a burning curiosity and interest in sensation. She rarely interacts with other Pranddishaws as she moves from project to project: sampling every variety of cereal sold at the local supermarket, watching every DVD available at the nearest rental store, picking strangers of either gender at the nearest bar. Like Octavia, she has forsaken her “arrival” clothing in favor of a wide variety of garb, the better to experience all life’s vicissitudes.
Rose is also the only Pranddishaw still interested, especially, in the tripartite mysteries of how the family “arrived,” how it is they don’t need to sleep, and how it is that although Rose estimates her relatives have killed around eight hundred people (she herself has killed no one, as far as she can tell) and stolen thousands of dollars worth of goods from area merchants, no one has lifted a finger in protest or indeed seemed to even notice. It is, however, a low priority with Rose, as she has no idea how to solve either riddle; for now her actions on this front are limited to reading all four local and municipal newspapers daily, looking for any mention of the family’s activities. Thus far, she has been disappointed.
Rose would be fascinated by a copy of Who Loves Octavia Pranddishaw?, but as the book is rare and she doesn’t know it exists, she has not encountered it.
In keeping with her urge for variety, Rose rarely dismembers her victims the same way twice.
Since his death and subsequent resurrection, the collie Robert Burns has become a timid and passive thing. In Who Loves? he was a rambunctious troublemaker, constantly declaring his supremacy over all neighborhood dogs, cats, et cetera, and an endless source of embarrassment to Octavia.
At first his behavior matched that in the novel almost exactly. His strong jaws were the death of a dozen pets in the area of the graduate students’ house, and he terrorized any number of squirrels.
The fateful encounter with the front and rear right tires of an SUV changed all that, however. The vehicle didn’t even slow down after smashing Robert Burns’s skull flat against the pavement.
The family was saddened by the loss, though none of the Pranddishaws could quite bring themselves to cry. Robert Burns’s seeming return from the dead was cause for much jubilation, though (except for Rose) none of them thought much of or questioned the event.
Since his bodily resurrection, Robert Burns has refused to eat or drink (or sleep, but that was also the case before his death). He spends most of his time in the house, watching the adult Pranddishaws play cards. Robert Burns ventures outside only when cajoled by Caius, and even then only when wearing a leash. He is visibly uncomfortable on the sidewalk, much less on the street, which he will cross only when dragged by the leash.
He does, however, seem to genuinely enjoy the park, which is free of cars.