They say everyone has a double, a doppelganger, someone who’s their mirror image. What if you just met your double? What if you were a thirteen-year-old kid who’s gay and you just met your double?
After dinner I picked up the phone and called Todd.
“Hey, Todd. Guess who?”
I laughed, and so did Todd. “Goof. This is your look-a-like, Tony.”
“I knew that. I just wanted to pull your leg. What’s up?”
“My mom just told me your mom called and confirmed that you and your folks will be here Friday for dinner. That’s great and it’s great that your folks are coming too. And that we can have a sleepover. Or an almost not sleeping-over because we’ll be playing video games all night. I’d never get to do that unless someone was here for a sleepover.”
“Yeah, me too. What games do you have?”
“Let’s see. Crackdown, that’s one of my favorites. Far Cry 3, Forza Motorsport 1 and 2, Batman Arkham Asylum, all the Halos through 4, Madden NCAA Football, Lego Lord of the Rings. Those are the best ones I’ve got, I think.”
“Wow, that’s a lot. I’ve got the Far Cry and Batman ones, but none of the others. This is going to be so cool.”
“Yeah, I agree. It’s always fun showing a new game to a friend.”
“I like to learn to play new games. Greg’s got a Wii and a bunch of games that aren’t on the PS3, and the accessory that lets you play games like baseball and tennis.”
“The Wii is way cool. I asked for it for Christmas last year, but my dad said he doesn’t think I need more than one game system. I think it’s because I’d be asking for games for both the Wii and my Xbox.”
“So, how did you like your first day at Wilson High School?”
“I like it. My classes are good, maybe except Biology.”
“Yeah, Mrs. Weil is a real piece of work, isn’t she.”
“I don’t understand why she’s so cold. She’s like an iceberg, never moves from the front of the class, talks to us when she’s facing the whiteboard so it’s almost impossible to hear or understand what she’s saying, then when someone asks her to repeat it she’s all ‘you should be paying attention.’ I’m just waiting for someone to tell her we can’t understand what she says when she’s not facing us.”
“Heather! That’s who we need to talk to. She’s exactly the one who’d say something to a teacher. I remember she did that in a couple of our classes at Edison. Let’s talk to her at school tomorrow.”
“Good idea. Think she’ll really go for it?”
“Yeah, if she agrees that it’s hard to hear Weil talking to the whiteboard.”
“No brainer there. You have all your homework done?”
“Yup, except for starting to memorize the bones. I thought I’d start at the head because there’s fewer bones at that end of the body.”
I laughed. “That’s actually a good idea. I talked to my mom and decided that’s the easiest way to learn the names. She’s a doctor at Redwood Hospital, so she knows the bones and is going to help me learn the names and how they’re connected and how we use them.”
“Your mom is a doctor? Hey, can I sit in on her teaching you the bones?”
“Sure. I’ll have to make sure it’s okay with her, but I don’t see why not. How about World Geography? Did you get the assignment to read chapters one through three by the end of this week?”
“Yeah. I think all the teachers conspire with each other to make sure we’re all doing the same things at the same time.”
“That makes sense. It also helps us because we can study together and know that we’re doing the same homework even if we have different teachers.”
“So let’s figure out when we can get together and study together. Only trouble is we live so far apart.”
“Okay, how about this. On Tuesday night we go home together to my house, and do our homework together. You spend the night. Then we go to school together the next morning. On Thursday night we go home together to your house, and do our homework together. I spend the night. Then we go to school together the next morning. We can study for tests and help each other on things like memorizing the bones. What do you think?”
“Jeez, that’s a great idea! Let’s tell our folks about this when we come to your house for dinner on Friday.”
“You don’t want us to tell them sooner, like tonight?”
“I think it’s better to do it when we’re all together. For example, maybe my parents aren’t hot on the idea and yours are, they can talk it over and maybe they’ll both agree it’s a good idea.”
“Okay, I like that. So, what other homework are you doing tonight?”
“We’re writing a program in Computer Tech and even though I could work on it at home I don’t need to do that. I’ll have lots of time to do it in class this week. I’m getting ready for a grammar quiz in English tomorrow and starting on the essay that’s due Friday morning. I’ve got a ton of problems to solve in Algebra 2. I’m memorizing the Spanish vocabulary list. And I’m writing a story for Monday’s ‘Roundtable’ and if you don’t remember, that’s the school newspaper.”
“Sheesh, I remember! Wilson Knights, ‘Roundtable’ newspaper. How could I forget?” I laughed. “Well, for the classes that we don’t have together, I've got the same tons of problems to solve in Algebra 2, I’m listening to Les Miserable on YouTube for Chorus, and for Creative Writing we have to turn in a short story tomorrow. It’s supposed to be about something personal. I’m going to write about us finding each other. I’m titling it ‘Doppelganger’ which means… tah-da… two unrelated people who look alike. Uh, is it okay if I use your name in my story? We’re going to have to read them in class next week, and I won’t use your name unless you say it’s okay.”
“It’s okay! I can use the publicity. I might run for president of the freshman class. How’s that sound?”
“Fantastic! You know that you’ve got my vote.”
“Uh… there’s one other thing, Tony. I want you to run as vice president. That way the two of us will be ahead of anyone else running. Will you do that? Run for vice president of the freshman class?”
“Wow! I never thought about running for any school office. That’s cool. Thanks for asking.” I sat thinking about running for vice president of the freshman class few seconds. I laughed and so did Todd. “What do we have to do next? Like, when is the election? What kind of posters and flyers and stuff do we need to make? Who will help with our campaign?”
“Whoa! Lots of questions. There’s a meeting of potential candidates on Monday during homeroom. If you’re wondering, we’ll be excused from homeroom that morning and they’ll take roll at the meeting. We’ll get an overview and the vice principal will give us the regulations for running for school offices. I was thinking about asking Heather to be our campaign manager. Is that okay with you?”
“I think having Heather as our campaign manager is brilliant.”
“I’m glad you agree, Tony. I think she’ll be a brilliant campaign manager. She’s really organized and she’ll keep us in line.”
I laughed. “We’ll need a lot of being kept in line, I think.”
Todd laughed at that comment. “Yeah, I agree. And Heather will agree too. So, what are your two least favorite classes?”
“Biology, of course, not because of the subject but because of the teacher. PE would be the other.”
“I want to build up my body, my muscles, get six-pack abs, in other words, I want to take the Weight Training class. But I can’t do it until next year. No freshmen allowed. That’s crap, in my opinion. I know you were just joking today, but did you talk to your dad about how we’re being kept out of that class?”
“No, I forgot. Sorry about that. I will talk to him after we’re through with this call.”
“No problem. He’ll probably tell you there’s nothing he can do, but at least I’ll know it’s official and not just some stupid rule set by the PE department.”
“I’ll let you know when I see you tomorrow. Let’s meet at the Park Street entrance before school starts.”
“Okay. Hey, gotta go so I can finish my homework. I’ll see you tomorrow morning, Todd.”
“Ya got it. Bye, Tony.”
I ended the call and tossed my cell on my bed. I turned to my homework and got to work.
Tuesday morning I had three things to do at school. First, dump the books for my afternoon classes in my locker, and retrieve my English book for first period, which I hadn’t brought home. Second, meet Todd at the Park Street entrance to school and find out if his dad had any ideas about me taking the Weight Training class while I’m a freshman. Third, ask Todd for more information about the election for freshman officers.
As I started to close my locker I felt sort of a breeze, a movement of air, in my direction from the center of the hall. I knew exactly would happen. Some bully planned to slam me into the bank of lockers. So I left my locker open and immediately moved to my left. If this had been a football game the announcer would say I had feinted to make the blocker miss me. As I moved out of the way I turned to see if I knew the bully. I did. It was Kiernan Mach, one of the few kids from Carver Middle School who, like me, lived in the Wilson attendance area. I’d seen him in the halls a couple times. Besides being a bully he’s a real jerk.
Instead of slamming into me, which would have provided Kiernan with my body as a sort of cushion, he slammed into my open locker door and then the bank of closed lockers to the right. The locker door did a real job on the left side of his face and his left shoulder. He crumpled, bleeding and moaning, onto the floor. As he did a teacher rushed over. I didn’t recognize him, but he looked at me and grinned.
“Nice anticipation, nicer move. I don’t know you. What’s your name?”
“Tony McKinley.” I pointed at the floor to my right. “That’s Kiernan Mach. He went to Carver, and I did too. He was a bully at Carver, and it looks like he’s doing the same thing here. Uh, I’m not in trouble, am I? All I did was move out of his way when I sensed he was about to slam into me.”
“Tony McKinley, you’re not in trouble. I saw the whole thing and I will so report to Vice Principal Garrison.” He pulled out a cellphone. “By the way, I’m Jake Kavanaugh. I’m one of the PE coaches here. Let me call Roger Garrison and the nurse. They’re going to be needed. Then I’d like to chat with you.”
After he called the vice principal and school nurse I asked, “I’m meeting a friend in a couple minutes. Can we chat later? Like during my PE class?”
“That would be okay. When do you have PE?”
“That would be perfect, it’s when I have my office hour today. How about you come to my office in the gym instead of going to your regular PE class and I’ll give you a pass. I have something to talk to you about that you might find interesting. Exciting, even.”
“Sure. Where’s your office?”
“You know where the locker room is, so in the hall and before you go into the locker room go up the hall to your right. My office is in room G-102. That’ll be the second door on your right. I’ll see you at one-forty this afternoon.”
“Okay. Uh, what happens now? About Kiernan Mach?” He was still lying on the floor, groaning, and I pointed to him.
“The nurse will take care of his injury. I’ll tell Roger Garrison what happened, that Kiernan tried to slam you into the lockers and he missed when you moved to close your locker door. The nurse will attend to his injuries, and call an ambulance if necessary.”
“Okay. Thanks. I’m glad you saw what happened, otherwise it would be his word, his and two hangers-on, against mine.” I turned around looking for them, Austin Portiere and Lance Gordon. They weren’t anywhere in the group of kids standing watching us. Typical, I thought. Took off as soon as their ‘ring leader’ got into trouble.
A man in a suit, maybe the vice principal, walked up and started talking to Coach Kavanaugh. I pulled out my cell and checked the time. Seven thirty-five. Todd would be waiting for me at the Park Street entrance. I turned so Coach Kavanaugh and the other man couldn’t see me and texted Todd, ‘@ my lockr got big prob meet me here k?’ then put my cell back in my pocket.
“Tony?” Coach Kavanaugh called my name. I turned and stepped to where he and the other man stood. I hadn’t noticed, but the nurse had arrived and was kneeling next to Kiernan.
“This is Vice Principal Garrison. Roger, this is Tony McKinley. He’s a freshman.”
The vice principal put out his hand, which surprised me, and we shook hands.
“Tony, please tell me, in your words, what happened here.”
“I was getting my English book and putting the books I’d brought from home into my locker. I moved to the left to close the locker and at the same time I felt something so I moved over faster. Kiernan ran into my locker door and the locker to the right of mine. If I hadn’t moved he would have slammed me into my locker, and it would have been me lying on the floor.”
“Do you know Kiernan Mach? Is he a friend of yours? Is he in any of your classes?”
“I know him. We both went to Carver. We sure weren’t friends, though. He was, and I guess still is, a bully. He isn’t in any of my classes here at Wilson.”
“Alright. I have enough information. Thank you for your cooperation, Tony.” He turned around just as Todd walked up, and he stared at Todd. I almost laughed. I’d put on jeans, a black T, and a light green short sleeve shirt, and wore Adidas sneakers with light grey athletic socks this morning. Todd had jeans, a dark grey T, a light green short sleeve shirt, and wore Nike sneakers with white athletic socks. I couldn’t believe it. If there was any question about us being twinned and connected in some way, this proved it. At least it did to me.
Vice Principal Garrison turned and looked at me. “You’re twins?”
“No,” I said. “This is Todd Anderson. He and I are doppelgangers. That means we’re unrelated but look like we’re twins. There are differences between us, but they are minor and probably no one other than our mothers can tell us apart.”
“What’s going on, Tony?” Todd asked.
“Todd, this is Vice Principal Garrison. I had sort of a run-in with a bully who went to Carver, Kiernan Mach. He tried to slam me into the lockers but I moved out of the way just in time, and he ended up slamming himself into the lockers. That’s him on the floor over there.” I pointed to where the nurse was checking Kiernan’s injuries.
“Hi, Mr. Garrison. I’m Todd Anderson.” They shook hands.
“Todd, I assume you went to Carver and knew Tony there.”
“No, I went to Edison. We met for the first time at lunch in the cafeteria yesterday.”
“I hope that dressing alike doesn’t mean that you’re going to go to each other’s classes.” Mr. Garrison grinned.
I shook my head. “We wouldn’t do that. And you might think that we agreed on what to wear today, but we didn’t. In fact, I can’t believe that we’re dressed the same. It just happened that way. It happened yesterday too, before we’d even met each other. We dressed the same, but different than how we’re dressed today. We really didn’t talk to each other about what to wear either day. It seems that besides looking alike we also think alike. This morning I went to the closet and grabbed these jeans, the black T, and my green shirt to wear today. It looks like Todd did pretty much the same thing.”
“You said you can’t believe it. I can’t either. It’s amazing.”
“Mr. Garrison,” Todd said, “the most amazing thing is that Tony and were born on the same day, November the eleventh, and the same year, 1999. And to prove we aren’t twins and separated at birth, I was born in Chicago Illinois and Tony was born in Glendale California.”
I noticed that the nurse and Kiernan had left, and so had all the other kids who’d been standing around watching the show. The final bell for the start of homeroom rang.
“We’ve got to get to our homerooms,” I said. I turned and closed my locker door. There was some blood on the locker handle and the vent slots, and Vice Principal Garrison noticed it.
“I’ll have that cleaned up. Tony, you weren’t responsible for what happened to Kiernan Mach. Go to your homeroom, and tell your homeroom teacher… are you in the same homeroom?” I shook my head in a ‘no’ and he continued, “…tell your homeroom teachers that I have verbally excused you and that if they want they can email me and I’ll confirm that. Have a good day, boys.”
“I think we’ll find out anyway,” Todd said. “I’ll bet the Wilson High gossip line is as effective as the one at Edison, and by lunch everyone’ll know what had happened to Kiernan.”
I laughed. “I agree. Okay, see ya at lunch.”
When I told Mrs. Kellerman that Vice Principal Garrison had verbally excused my being late, she looked at me like I’d done something illegal.
“Alright, take your seat.”
The guy sitting in front of me turned around and smiled.
“Hi, Tony. My name’s Frank. Frank Candler. You didn’t go to Edison, did you.”
“No, I went to Carver. I’m one of the lucky ones who live just across the line in the Wilson attendance area, so instead of going to Lehman here I am.”
“What was going on in the hall? I saw you talking to the vice principal.”
“A guy I know, a bully who was at Carver, tried to slam me into my locker, but I moved out of his way and he ended up slamming himself into the open door of my locker and the locker next to mine.”
“Jeez, I’d hoped the whole bully thing wouldn’t be alive and well in high school.”
“From what I’ve read on the internet there’s a lot of bullying and cyberbullying in high school. We just have to be careful.”
“Yeah, right that!”
The bell for the end of homeroom rang, and the school day got started.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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