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?
Friday morning lived up to the promised start of a warm but not hot day. I rode the bus to school with Frank and Scott. We talked about some school stuff, then what we were going to do over the weekend.
“I’m going on a hike on Mt. Diablo with my dad and brother,” Scott told us. “Either of you guys ever go hiking there?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I think I was six years old the first time my dad took me hiking there. Every summer since then we go hiking on Mt. Diablo or in one of the open space areas every other weekend. During the week I get together with some of my friends and we go on a walk on the trails around town or go hiking on Mt. Diablo. This is a great area for hiking, Scott. You’re gonna love it.”
“I like to go hiking too,” Frank said. “I’ve been on Mt. Diablo twice. One time my dad and I hiked the Eagle Peak trail. That’s a great hike, but there’s a lot of elevation changes so you’ve gotta be in shape.”
“You can go online and get information about the trails,” I told them. “With the weather we’re having you’ll need sunscreen, a cap, and lots of water. And something to eat, of course. You’ll need a daypack or a small backpack.”
“What are you doing this weekend, Tony?” Frank asked.
“Todd and his folks are coming over for a meet-and-greet and dinner, and Todd’s going to work on my computer. He’s going to install some software that will help me get around the internet site blocking and tracking software my folks have installed on our home network.”
The bus arrived at school and we got off, walked to the court next to the cafeteria, and sat at one of the tables.
“So this software that Todd’s going to install on your PC will get around the block your folks have on your internet connection?” Scott asked.
“Yup, that’s the idea. Todd’s like this computer wizard, and from what he told me it seems like what he’s going to install will let me go anywhere on the internet I want, completely private. One thing I want is to be able to do research that doesn’t block me in ridiculous ways.”
“Like what?” Frank asked.
“I’ll be taking AP Chemistry next year. So I wanted to do research on what kind of projects we’d be doing. I tried to a Google search for analytical chemistry and got an error message saying that was blocked.”
“It was the ‘anal’ part of analytical. Can you believe that? I stormed downstairs and actually yelled about how stupid that was. My dad said he’d try to find out how to prevent that sort of block, but he never did. So I had to do the search in the computer room at Carver.”
“It wasn’t blocked there?” Frank asked.
“I hope it’s not blocked here,” Scott said.
“It won’t be,” I replied. “Wilson uses the same school district network as Carver and Edison and Lehman.”
“Is this software he’s going to install expensive?” Frank asked.
“He said it’s freeware.”
“Won’t your folks know there’s something like that installed on your PC?”
“He says they won’t know about it, that it’s not something like a major app that has icons on the desktop.”
“Will that software let you get through so you can go to, maybe, like a porn site, and not get caught?” Scott asked.
“Todd says it would,” I replied.
“Okay, so what kind of porn sites are you going to visit?” Scott said, wiggling his eyebrows.
“Whatever I can find that’s hot and free,” I replied. Then I laughed. “Actually, I’ve read about it and to go to most of those kinds of websites you have to have a credit card to pay for a password that lets you logon. What I want to do that’s free is go to story sites that are also blocked by the software my folks installed.”
“What kind of story sites?”
“They have stories written by kids our age. Some are on the edgy side with violence and sex scenes, and some are about gay kids. Those things are why those sites get blocked. I think I’m old enough to read that kind of story if I want to. The software Todd’s going to install will let me do that. Besides being able to research analytical chemistry.”
“Say, speaking of gay kids,” Scott said, “did you hear about the two gay kids at Kendall High that got beat up in one of the boys’ bathrooms? It was on the news last night.”
“No,” I replied.
“I didn’t hear about it either,” Frank said. “What happened?”
“Three seniors, they are known bullies at Kendall, followed the two guys into a bathroom. They beat them up really bad, including kicking them in their heads. They must have thought it was funny because one of the dumbasses took a vid of the whole thing, then posted it on GoSho and a couple of other websites. Anyway, the gay guys were found and taken to the hospital. One of them died, the other guy’s in critical condition.”
“Whoa! Did they get the guys who did it?”
“Yup. They were shown in the vid, clear as anything. The cops arrested them, and the D.A. said they were going to prosecute them for first-degree murder as adults. Two are sixteen and one is seventeen, but because they’re charging them as adults they gave out their names, but I don’t remember what they were. Anyway, we wouldn’t know them because they went to Kendall.”
“I hope they rot in jail,” Frank said. “Killing one guy and beating up another so he’s in critical condition sucks, man. If someone’s gay they’re born that way. They can’t do anything about it.”
“Those assholes’ll probably get away with it,” I said. “They’ll have rich daddies who’ll hire a shyster lawyer to get them off.”
Scott and Frank agreed.
“I’ll bet if that story’s on the internet it’d be blocked by that software my folks installed,” I said.
“Why’d they install it?” Frank asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe they think I’m too young to hear about that sort of thing. Jeez, if they heard what we talk about at school they’d probably have a heart attack or something.”
“You know,” Scott said, “my folks are the same. Come on, Tony, my dad and your mom are doctors, for god’s sake. They should know that we’re going to find out about things like sex and violence and being gay. It’s on TV news and in the newspaper all the time. There isn’t anything that they can block that we don’t know about already.”
“Back when they went to high school things were different,” Frank said. “It was all about protecting little Johnny and little Janie from the big, bad world. They didn’t have access to the information we can get on Google. They think they have to ‘protect’ us the way their folks ‘protected’ them back then.”
“Yeah, that’s right on,” I said.
“Is Todd going to be able to do the install without your folks looking over his shoulder?” Frank asked.
“Sure. We’ll be upstairs in my bedroom while the ‘rents are downstairs making adult talk. Todd said he can do the install in about fifteen minutes. They’ll think we’re playing some video game.”
“Do you think Todd would do the same for me?” Frank asked.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “Thing to do is ask him. Speaking of Todd, I wonder where he is.”
“Yeah,” Scott said. “Usually he’s here by now.”
“Maybe his bus was late, but if it was he could just walk,” I said. “He said he lives close enough to walk to school. Brian’s in my English class first period. He lives near Todd so I’ll ask him if Todd’s not in school for some reason.” That would suck, I thought, because of our plans for tonight.
We heard the first bell and got up to go to our homerooms. Scott started laughing.
“What’s funny?” I asked.
“Look who’s coming!” he said, pointing toward the bus loading zone.
We turned and saw Todd running toward us, so we waited for him.
“Fucking bus was late this morning,” Todd said, breathing heavily and trying to catch his breath. “I started walking to school and I saw the bus heading to where I get on, so I had to run back to catch it. Then the asshole driver wouldn’t give us late passes. I told him if I’m late to class I’m going to report him. The asshole said, ‘Go ahead, see if anybody cares.’”
I laughed and shook my head. “Good thing Heather isn’t here. She’d be punching your arm for each of those swear words. Then you’d have to go to emergency to have your arm put in a sling.”
Todd grinned. “Well, Heather’s not here, so can it, twin brother!”
I’d completed my English reading assignment and finished the commentary, so I turned it in. We started discussing our opinions about the story. I was one of the few who didn’t like it, and Ms. Holbrook said my explanations made sense but would only apply to me. That got us in a discussion about how we can have very different interpretations of and opinions about stories we read.
Frank said, “That’s why there are so many stories out there to read. If we all agreed, there wouldn’t be a market for stories except for those that everyone liked.”
We seemed to agree with that, including Ms. Holbrook.
In World Geography Mr. Ryan discussed how geography and religion might impact the relationship between the colonists and the Indian tribes. Even though I’d finished, I got a few ideas to add to my report. Then all I’d have to do is print it to turn in on Monday.
In Chorus we began practicing for our Christmas concert. Carter, what Mr. Emmonds wanted us to call him, told us that after the Christmas concert we’d be using the music from the musical Les Misérables to learn how to train our ears and voices to stay on key and coordinate with the others in the chorus, how to read music, and practice vocalization, intonation, self-discipline, coordinating the vocal mechanisms of breathing and resonance, and discovering our individual singing voices.
In Algebra 2 we were starting to get into trigonometry. I thought it was interesting, but a lot of the kids in the class seemed to be having a tough time with the homework problems.
When I got to lunch I saw Todd trying to explain what happened with his bus this morning without using any swear words. I could see how important that would be since Heather sat next to him, and the way he rubbed his right arm it appeared that he’d been careless.
After lunch Todd, Heather, Brian, Greg, and I headed to Spanish. Mr. Markham had an evil grin as he said we’d all been very lazy and maybe a little vocabulary quiz would wake us up. Ugh! His ‘little vocabulary quiz’ took us all period to complete.
Mrs. Weil blew our minds again today. We’d all expected the more complicated version of her ‘Match the Bone’ quiz game. She told us the video projector stopped working, and pointed to the ceiling where it had been taken down. She said they promised it would be reinstalled some time on Monday. So what she did is walk us through ways to group the bones to make it easier to remember their names. One of the tricks make us laugh. She took Gandalf, our skeleton, and hung it upside-down. For some reason I‘d assumed that it couldn’t be inverted. Goes to show. Anyway, memorizing the bones starting with the toes made sense because there are fewer bones between the toes and the hips than between the hips and the skull. When we left Biology we all agreed we’d been wrong about Mrs. Weil. She’d moved onto our ‘favorite teachers’ list.
Todd said he’d be playing soccer in PE, and I said I’d be in my Football 1A class. When we got there Coach Kavanaugh told those of us who hadn’t already done so to go to the locker room and put on our gym shorts, but not our jockstraps. Then we had to go to room G-104 to be measured for our uniforms. I’d forgotten about that. The guys who had team football experience were there too.
The embarrassing part came when they measured us for our supporter. That’s a jockstrap with a carbon-fiber cup. They gave us each a supporter and made sure we knew how to put it on and adjust the cup. The supporters come in small, medium, large, and extra-large sizes, and the cups come in the same sizes. So if you were skinny but really hung you’d get a small supporter and a large cup. What size cup I got is my business, and I don’t plan on telling anyone. I kept thinking, “Don’t get hard, don’t get hard,” and luckily I didn’t. A couple guys did, though. Man, they were so embarrassed. But they were lucky, no one laughed or joked about it.
Coach Kavanaugh said, “Guys, this could have happened to any of you. It’s the way you’re wired. Hassling a guy who gets an erection is a violation of the district’s policy against bullying. That’s here in this room, in the showers, anywhere on campus. We won’t stand for that kind of lack of teamwork, and you will find yourself suspended and maybe dropped from the freshman football team if we find out you’re violating that policy.”
When the measuring was finished we had our supporters to keep and told to go to a sporting goods store and buy a couple more so we wouldn’t start smelling rank. When we got back to our room, G-106, Coach Kavanaugh joined us and reminded us that we had to go to the health lectures on Mondays in classroom G-108. He assigned chapters one and two in Offensive Football Systems, and Rules 1, 2, and 3 in The 2013 NFHS Football Rules Book for us to read and be ready to discuss, along with parts one and two from Football for Dummies, on Wednesday. He told us these were also assigned to the guys who had team football experience, so we were catching up with them.
We went to the locker room to dress, and I saw Todd.
“Hey, how’d you do playing soccer today?” I asked.
“Okay. Basketball is more my sport, but we had a lot of fun. This was a training session, and we’ll start playing on Wednesday. Are you going to shower?”
“No. All we did today is get measured for our uniforms, and they gave us supporters.”
“What’s a supporter?”
I dropped my gym shorts and showed him.
“It’s a jockstrap?”
“Yup, with a protective cup.” I pulled off the supporter and pulled the cup out of the front pocket and handed it to him.
“Damn, that looks like it would be real uncomfortable.”
“It isn’t. It’s got padding all around the edges.”
Todd pulled off his gym shorts and jockstrap, held my cup against his crotch, and moved it around a bit.
“Yeah, you’re right. It feels comfortable.” He handed me my cup. “I wonder if we’re going to wear something like that when we actually play soccer. There’s lots of ways we might get hit in the balls.”
“You should be able to buy a jockstrap with cup at one of the sporting goods stores. Might be a good idea to get a couple, just in case.”
“Sounds like a good idea,” Todd said. He looked around, and wondering what he’d been looking for, I did the same. Everyone else in our locker bay had gone to the showers or left for their eighth period class. He looked at me and started to grin. Then his gaze went down to my crotch. He smiled, then looked up at me.
“You know, Tony, this is the first time we’ve ever seen each other naked. And you know what?”
“Uh… no, what?”
“We look alike. Down there.” He pointed at my crotch. “Exactly alike. Anyone who says we’re not twins is wrong.”
I looked at Todd’s crotch. He did look the same as when I looked at my stuff in the mirror. I started to laugh.
“What?” he asked.
“This is, so, gay! Interesting, and funny, but gay.”
“Is that a problem?” he asked.
“I sure don’t think so.”
At that moment Todd looked up. “Coach Kavanaugh is coming. I’m gonna go in and take a shower. You better get that jock off and get dressed.”
“Okay. I’ll see you at the bus loading zone after school.” I dressed and put my new supporter in my backpack and headed to my next class.
Our stories about something personal were due today in Creative Writing. Todd told me it was okay to use his name in the story, and mine too, of course. He decided it would be a good idea because I could include something about us running for freshman class president and vice president. That way when I read the story I’d be making a small campaign speech at the same time. So, I’d figured out how to include it, showing how much we’d been able to bond in less than one week since we met. I dropped off two copies of my story to Ms. Porzio on my way to my seat.
After the bell and everyone had turned in their stories, Ms. Porzio told us she’d randomly selected partners for each of us. Our partner would read and comment on our story and we’d read and comment on their story. Jeramin Flynn and I were ‘partners’ and Ms. Porzio handed me Jeramin’s story. Her title was One of Thirty-One. I didn’t have time to read any of it because we were told to put them away and we heard about things that can interfere with writing, like writer’s block, terrible first drafts, and editing as we write. She handed out a list of books on writing that she recommended we read.
After class I hurried to the bus loading zone. Todd stood waiting for me.
“Tony, I have an idea. Why don’t you come home with me? That way you can see my room. I don’t think you’ve seen my room, have you?” I shook my head as a ‘no.’ “Then we can have a snack and play video games or do homework or relax for a while. You haven’t met my dad, either, and this’ll give you a chance without being upstaged by the adults doing their greet-and-meet bit. My dad’ll drive us to your house. We’ll have dinner, then you and I can install the software on your PC and set up your proxy server while they talk, and after we can play video games or whatever.”
“That sounds like a great idea. Lemme call my mom and make sure that’s going to be okay. She might want me to do something to help get things ready for dinner.” I pulled out my cell and called her. She told me that going to Todd’s would be fine. She didn’t have anything for me to do other than set the table, and I could do that when we got home.
I told Todd, “We’re good to go. Um… I should have asked her what time we’re supposed to be home, you know, at my house.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m sure our moms have talked about it and everything is planned.”
“How long before your bus leaves?” I asked.
“About ten minutes. Why?”
“I’m going to walk over and tell Frank and Scott that I won’t be on our bus so they don’t wonder where I am. Be right back!”
The bus got to the stop near Todd’s house at ten minutes to four.
“You know, if we’d left as soon as school got out and walked, we would have gotten here ten minutes ago,” I said.
Todd looked at me like I’d gone crazy. “Yeah, but we’d be all sweaty and then we’d have to take a shower…. Damn!”
He looked at me with one of his evil grins. “We could have taken a shower together! Man, I blew it.”
His eyes got big and then he started laughing. I looked at him like he’d been the one who’d gone crazy. When he finally stopped laughing, I asked, “What’s so funny?”
“I can’t tell you. It’s just something we didn’t do, and the moment’s gone along with what I said.”
I thought back to what he’d said. Suddenly I got it, it was the last thing he’d said. It was a double entendre. I blushed.
“Dufus!” I shouted. He started running down the street, and I started chasing him. I caught up but all I could do is start laughing, which got him going again. We kept that up until we got to his house. Even then, we were chuckling as we walked into the kitchen.
Todd’s mom grinned when she saw us. “What’s so funny?”
“Just a stupid joke,” Todd replied.
“And who is this stage double you brought home?” she asked him.
“Aww, mom, you know Tony,” Todd answered.
“I know Tony, but I didn’t know he was coming home with you.”
“Oh. I’m sorry, it completely skipped my mind to call you.”
“That’s alright. Welcome, Tony. How are you?”
“Great, Mrs. Anderson. Todd suggested I come home with him so I can see his room, and I’ll go to my house with you guys. I called my mom and she said it’d be okay.”
“I think that’s a good idea, Tony. Todd, you need to shower and change to something a bit nicer than jeans and a T-shirt.”
“I took a shower after PE, about an hour and a half ago. I don’t need to take another shower.” She gave him one of those ‘don’t argue with me’ mother’s looks.
Todd looked at me and grinned.
“Okay, and Tony can take a shower too. He didn’t shower after PE.”
My eyes got big again, and I made sure Mrs. Anderson didn’t see my look. I grinned. I liked what Todd suggested. ‘Wow. Maybe she knows that he’s gay too,’ I thought.
Much to my disappointment we didn’t shower together. He showered first, then I took a shower. We got a good look at each other. Nothing else happened.
Todd gave me clean boxer briefs and a T, and we dressed. He put on a pair of tan khakis and a light green short sleeve shirt. I shoved my dirty clothes into my backpack, and I put on my jeans. I’d change when we got to my house.
“Lookin’ good, Todd.”
“Thanks, but it’s just khakis and a shirt.”
“That green shirt looks good on you. Maybe I’ll put on a green shirt too. Thing is, the only ones I have are dark green. That’s actually a good thing. That way we won’t look like twins who dress alike.”
“Yeah, that is a good thing,” he said.
I looked around his room. He kept it neat, like I did mine. He had a big bed, probably a queen; I coughed to stifle a giggle about that name. I walked over to a bookcase next to his desk and checked out his CDs and DVDs.
“I like the music you have. We like the same groups, but you have some that I don’t have.”
“Most of the music I have now is MP3s. I listen with headphones on my PC and on my cell. Same with books, I download them to my Kindle and Nook apps and read them on my PC and tablet.” He grinned. “Even on my cell when we go somewhere and I don’t want to carry my tablet.”
“Yeah. That’s the same for me.” I looked at the posters he had on the wall above and his bed, then a painting he had next to his desk.
“Who did the painting of you? It’s fantastic.”
He walked over and stood next to me. “I did it.”
“Man, you’re good.”
“But it’s not me.”
“But….” Then I understood. “It’s me?”
“Yeah.” His voice was soft, and he was looking down.
“Oh.” I looked at him, then reached down and took his hand in mine. “I love it, Todd. Thank you for doing this painting of me. I love you, bro.”
“I love you too, Tony. We’re supposed to love each other, aren’t we? We’re twins, right? Twins love each other, don’t they?”
“Probably most of them do, especially identical twins. I think of us as identical twins, so I’d say we should love each other.” I smiled. “And we do. What I want to do right now is kiss you. Would that be okay?”
Todd looked up. His eyes glistened like he had been tearing up.
I leaned over and kissed him lightly on the lips, then leaned back. He grabbed me in his arms and pulled us into a hug.
“I love you, Tony McKinley.”
“I love you, Todd Anderson.”
He grabbed my shoulders and I did the same to him, and we pulled back so we were arm’s length apart.
“Was that gay?” he asked, then he started giggling.
“No, but your giggle is definitely gay.”
I started laughing, and so did Todd.
“How about playing a video game?” he suggested.
“Works for me. What do you have that I don’t?”
“How about Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock?”
“I’ve never even heard of that one.”
“That’s cuz you’re stuck with that dead-end Xbox.”
Todd pulled out his console and two controllers and set up the game. I’m a big fan of the Doctor Who TV series, and I got pulled into the game right away. It had a feature I hadn’t seen on any of the Xbox games I have, collaborative multiplayer. It let us play together with each of us in a different time period in the game, but able to cooperate. Cool!
After about forty-five minutes Todd’s stomach gurgled and he laughed.
“You want a quick snack, Tony?”
“Yeah, maybe just something to drink. We’re having fried chicken for dinner tonight so I don’t want to fill up before.”
“Okay, let’s save where we are in this game and we can pick it up again on Thursday.”
“You sound real confident that our folks will give the okay to our Tuesday and Thursday sleepovers.”
“Sure. Why not? What excuse would they use to say no?”
“I can’t think of any,” I agreed.
I helped him box up his PS3 system and put it away, then we went to the kitchen.
“Mom,” Todd said, “we’re thirsty. Is it okay if we have a Coke?”
“Sure. Help yourself. But I suggest that you skip eating anything. We’ll be having a big dinner at Tony’s house in about an hour.”
“Yeah, we already figured that out. We’re just thirsty now.”
“By the way, Todd, you look very nice,” she said. That made him blush. I stifled a laugh. I’d for sure get the same comment from my mom.
We sat down at their kitchen table and drank our Cokes and answered Mrs. Anderson’s questions about the Doctor Who game we’d been playing.
“Hey,” Todd said, “I heard the garage door open. That means my dad’s home. Let’s finish up our drinks and when he comes in I’ll introduce you. He’s seen you in the pix that my mom took of us, but he wants to see you in person, for real. Remember, he’s an attorney. Even at home, sometimes. So he needs to make sure the opposing counsel, meaning me, isn’t trying to pull the wool over his eyes and that you’re real.”
We finished our Cokes, then got up and put the empty bottles in the recycle bin under their sink. I heard a man’s voice behind me say, “Hi guys!”
I turned and couldn’t believe who I saw, and I grinned. “Dad? What are you doing here?”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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