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?
Tuesday turned out to be a duplicate of Monday, with just a bit of new material covered in our classes. I couldn’t understand why we were moving so slowly in almost all of my classes.
After our eighth period classes were over, Todd and I walked to the pick-up area and waited for his mom. We were going to the Galahad lab to have them take some of our blood to test our ‘twin-ness,’ then they’d do the same with our moms to find out if they were twin sisters and if so if they were fraternal or identical twins. If they were identical that’d explain why Todd and I looked like identical twins.
Frank and Scott walked over and asked us if we were taking the bus.
“No, Todd and I have a doctor’s appointment,” I said. “We’re waiting for his mom to pick us up.”
I didn’t want to get into a big discussion with Frank where we’d have to explain everything that happened over the weekend. Scott seemed to catch on.
“Okay, guys, we’ll see you tomorrow. Hey, Tony, that’s your first day in weight training, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. I’ll probably have to be taken to the hospital when seventh period is over tomorrow.”
We all laughed.
“Hey, there’s my mom!” Todd said. “Let’s go.”
I waved to Frank and Scott and we headed to Aunt Nora’s car. Todd got in the front passenger seat and I got in the back seat behind him.
“Hi, Todd. Hi, Tony, how was school today?”
“They don’t seem to be moving very fast in most of my classes,” I said. “I’m really looking forward to the start of weight training tomorrow. At least that’ll be something new.”
“I recommend that you enjoy the slower pace you’re experiencing. I think you’ll find that things will pick up real soon, and then you’ll be complaining that your classes are moving too fast.”
“You don’t seem very chipper today. Did something happen at school I should know about?”
“No, everything is fine. I’m looking forward to having Todd stay over so we can do our homework together then talk about the campaign that Heather worked up for the election.”
We talked about that some more, including the part about the guy mistaking Todd for me at the meeting yesterday. Neither of us had remembered about it to tell our folks last night. Fortunately, Todd didn’t bring up condoms or anything else from the Health and Reproduction class.
We arrived at Galahad Laboratory, a one-story building that looked like most of the other office buildings in the industrial park. They were expecting us. I got the short straw and went first. I went into a room and sat in a chair that had a padded section where I laid my arm.
The technician asked my name and birth date.
“My name is Anthony Charles McKinley, and I was born on 11-11-2000.”
“Well, I’m Margaret Collier and I’m a phlebotomist. That’s someone trained to draw blood. The first thing I’m going to do is use an alcohol swab to wipe the part of your arm opposite your elbow. That’s where I’m going to draw the blood sample. I’ll bet you don’t know the anatomical name for that part of your body.” She grinned.
“The inside of the elbow,” I said with as much authority as I could come up with.
She laughed, then told me, “It’s called the antecubital fossa. Now you know something that most kids in your high school don’t know.”
I laughed at that name. “Anti-cub-er-all fossil?” My mispronunciation made her laugh.
“No, it’s the antecubital fossa.” She spelled it for me, then repeated the pronunciation several times.
I said the name a few times. “I think I’ve got it, ‘ante-cube-it-tell fossa’ — is that right?”
“Yes, that’s the correct pronunciation.”
“When are you going to draw my blood?”
“I’m drawing it right now.”
I looked down and saw she’d already inserted a needle in my vein, and blood flowed into a little vial. She removed the needle and pushed down where it had been with a cotton swab, then she had me hold it in place while she wrapped it with a long piece of stretchy tan tape that went all the way around my arm. She held up the little vial that contained red blood, my red blood. I could see a computer-printed label on it with my name and date of birth.
“Man, you’re good. I never even felt the needle go in.”
“Thank you, thank you!” she said. “I always like having satisfied customers. We’re all finished with you here, Mr. McKinley, so you can return to the waiting room.”
“So that’s it? Nothing more?”
“That’s it, Tony. Nothing more. I hope you brought something to read. Our selection of magazines is pathetic.”
I walked back to the waiting room, and Todd grinned as he walked past me to have his blood draw. I found an old copy of Nature magazine and read an interesting article about how they found the rare Ivory-Billed Woodpecker living in Louisiana. Todd came out, then my mom went in for her blood draw, and finally Aunt Nora went in for hers.
“Did it hurt?” I asked Todd.
“No, not really. It just felt weird when she shoved the needle into my vein. Then it looked weird seeing my blood flowing into that little collection bottle. How about you?”
“I didn’t even feel the needle going in. We’d been talking and I paid more attention to her than to what she was doing to me. But I saw the collection bottle filled with blood, then she pulled out the needle and pushed a piece of cotton where the needle had gone in. She had me hold on the cotton while she put this tape around my arm to hold it in place.”
“Same here. This tape is strange, isn’t it.”
“Yeah. Sort of like one of those Ace bandages but it sticks to itself so it probably won’t come loose.”
Aunt Nora came out, and the four of us were finished. Mom asked if there was anything else and the receptionist said there wasn’t. So Aunt Nora drove us to my house and she and Mom got together for coffee and a chat. I took Todd upstairs to my room to escape the terminal boredom that we’d have suffered if we’d stuck around.
“Okay, what do you want to do?” Todd asked.
“Right now I’m going to get my books. Remember, we have to do our homework to keep this Tuesday-Thursday thing going.”
“Yeah, you’re right. What do you have that we don’t both have?”
“I have to read three stories written by other kids in my Creative Writing class, and write a one-page summary of my opinion about each one. That’s it for me. How about you?”
“I have a journalism project I have to have done by the end of the month, so I have enough time to get it done without working on it tonight. So, now for the classes that we both take. For English we have to write an essay on something, Biology we have the stupid bones to memorize, we probably should read the next two chapters in World Geography, and we need to translate the short story Ostentacion for Spanish 3. Ser pan comido.”
“It might seem like a cinch,” I said, “but we are expected to translate it so it makes sense and has the same meaning as the story in Spanish. That’s not going to be very easy. When’s it due?”
“Friday,” Todd said.
“Okay, I say let’s get the things that are due tomorrow done first. I’ve already read the next three chapters in the World Geography book, so you can read them now. I’ll start on the stories I have to review for Creative Writing. If you finish early, you can start the English essay. We have to write an essay that describes the reaction of three people who witness an automobile accident and each remembers it differently. The essay is to analyze the three points of view. Ms. Holbrook handed out a sheet with a description of the accident. Your teacher should have done the same.”
“Yeah, he did. Man, that’s gonna be tough.”
“No it isn’t. You make up the three different points of view, like one sentence each, then write the essay. For example, you might contrast what each thought they saw versus what actually happened.”
“That sounds good. I’ll do that.”
“Thanks for stealing my idea,” I growled. Then I grinned because I couldn’t keep scowling.
“So what are you going to write about instead of what you told me?” Todd asked.
“I’m writing what the policeman’s opinion was when each witness told him what they saw. I made up what they said they saw. I got started on it in class this morning.”
“Okay, let’s get to it, ‘eh?”
So we did.
At about six-fifteen Mom came upstairs to my room and knocked on the doorframe.
“You look busy,” she said.
“Homework,” I replied.
“A student’s work never ends,” Todd added. “I hope you’re here to rescue us, Aunt Trish.”
“That I am. You have fifteen minutes to finish up what you’re working on and wash up for dinner. We’ll eat at six thirty.”
“Thanks,” we said simultaneously.
She stared at us for a few seconds. “I don’t care what anyone says, you look like twins and you act like twins and I couldn’t be happier about it. You two are great kids, and I love both of you.” She turned and went downstairs.
“Man, what she said was nice,” Todd said.
“Yeah, it was. And I know that your mom feels the same way.”
“She does, Tony. She said just about the same thing when we were eating dinner last night.”
You know, we’re lucky. We have great parents, great friends, and each other too.”
Todd wiggled his eyebrows. “Life couldn’t be better.”
After dinner we watched TV with my folks for a while. When the ten o’clock news came on we said our goodnights and went up to my room.
“How much homework do you have left?” I asked.
“Maybe a half hour or forty-five minutes. Mostly reading. You?”
“The same. And I want to go back and look over my translation of Ostentacion for Spanish 3. Maybe run it through the translation program and see how it compares.”
“You know it won’t compare at all. That’s the thing about translation programs, they aren’t the same as translating by hand. They miss idioms and slang and sayings that we’re supposed to know now that we’re in third year Spanish.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Thing is, they can show some things that I missed when I translated the story by hand.”
“What about that plan Heather gave us to read?” Todd asked.
“How about we read it on the bus tomorrow. We should have enough time, it’s not that long.”
“Okay, sounds like a plan.” That made us both laugh.
We spent an hour working on what was left of our homework, including putting our Spanish translations through the software. I found three word choices I’d made that I decided to change.
After we finished I uploaded my Spanish 3 translation and the English essay, which I’d finished three days early, to the school’s Blackboard website. I put my homework and books in my backpack.
“I’m going to brush my teeth,” I announced. “Come on in when you’re done.”
“Okay. I’ll be there in about five.”
He came into the bathroom while I rinsed with mouthwash. I spit it in the sink and he grabbed me around my waist from behind.
He turned me around. “I love you, Tony.” He leaned in and kissed me.
“I love you, Todd.” I leaned in and kissed him back.
Wednesday morning after breakfast we walked to the bus stop. Scott had arrived ahead of us, and a few minutes later Frank joined us. There were about eight other kids waiting for the bus; none of them were freshmen. I knew all of them since we were neighbors, and I introduced Todd since they didn’t know him. Everyone said they’d heard about us, that we were sort of famous at school as the unrelated twins. I told them that we’d discovered we were related, first cousins, and so on. The bus arrived about fifteen minutes late, and the driver gave us late slips saying there’d been construction and an accident that make him late.
Todd and I sat in front of Leslie Banks and Sandra Givens who were in my World Geography class, and Scott and Frank sat two rows in front of us.
Leslie leaned her chin against the back of the seat between me and Todd.
In an almost whisper she said, “Did you guys have sex ed this week?”
We turned around so we could talk to her, and I replied in the same almost whisper, “Yeah. Did you?”
“Yeah. Yesterday, and we’ll have it again today, during PE.”
“Ours was yesterday and again next Monday,” Todd said.
“Did you learn about girls’ private parts?”
“Yes. Some of it was an ‘eww’ in my opinion,” Todd told them. That made them chuckle.
“Did you learn about guy’s private parts yet?” I asked.
“No, that’s today. Did they show pictures of naked guys?” Sandra asked.
“Yes,” I said. “There were a bunch of pix of guys showing from here,” I pointed to my belly button, “to here,” I pointed to just above my knees.
Todd added, “They did that to show how much variation there is between guys’ private parts.”
“Are guys that much different?” Leslie asked.
“Totally,” I said.
“How?” Sandra asked, then she giggled.
“That’s for you to find out today. If they show you the same pix they showed us.”
“I’ll let you know if I see you two on the bus after school.”
I was curious and wanted to find out if they’d actually show the girls pictures of naked guys’ private parts.
“I’ll be taking the bus,” I said. “I’ll see you then. Todd lives near school. He stayed over last night, so that’s why he’s taking the bus this morning.”
“They’re going to give us condoms,” Todd said. “Are they going to give them to you girls?”
“No,” Sandra groused. “Some girl’s mother objected so they aren’t going to give them to us.”
“That sucks,” I said.
“It’s fucked, that’s what it is,” Leslie said. “The girl is one of the super-religious types. They go to that church downtown that is always preaching against gays.”
“They can believe what they want,” Sandra added, “just don’t force the rest of us to believe their misinterpretation of the bible.”
The bus arrived at school and we got off.
Scott asked, “What was all the whispering about?”
“Leslie and Sandra wanted to know about our Sex 1A class,” Todd replied. “Their class was yesterday and today. I don’t know why it was done that way.”
Frank laughed. “Where’d you come up with ‘Sex 1A’?”
“That’s what Todd insists on calling our Health and Reproduction class,” I replied.
“That’s what it was,” Todd said.
“I agree with Todd,” Scott said.
“Me too,” Frank said.
“Thank god it’ll be over next Monday and we won’t have to rehash this ‘Sex 1A’ name thing until next year.”
“We do this again next year?” Scott asked, sounding very enthusiastic.
“That’s what they told us. We get to sit through it at the beginning of every school year.”
“Will it be ‘Sex 1B’ or ‘Sex 2A’ or just a repeat?”
“Sorry, just a repeat,” I replied.
I pulled out Heather’s plan and read through it, then handed it to Todd.
“We need to talk about this, just the two of us, before we talk about it with Heather. We need to make sure we’re in agreement about what she’s planning for our campaign,” I said.
“Okay, we’ll grab some lunch and eat outside and talk.”
I arrived at my homeroom just as they were letting out. I gave my late pass to Mrs. Kellerman then went downstairs to my English class.
I didn’t pay attention in my classes the way I normally would. I was eager to get to seventh period PE and start doing some weight training. Finally Biology finished, and I ran to the gym and put on my jock and cup, gym shorts, T, socks, and tennis shoes.
When I walked into the weight training room Coach Kavanaugh handed me a sheet of paper with the goals and schedule for the class. I looked it over.
Wednesday, August 20 and Thursday, August 21
(Weight Training room):
Assess personal fitness.
Tuesday, August 26 (Classroom):
Compare personal scores to health standards;
Set goals for maintenance and improvement;
Weight training principles
and concepts to achieve desired results;
Fitness technology using tablets and apps;
Physical Fitness Concepts and Techniques,
Wednesdays starting August 27:
Resistance training; Basic resistance exercises
(free weights, hand weights,
exercise bands and tubing, medicine balls,
fit balls, weight machines);
Use of upper and lower body exercise equipment;
Fitness and conditioning.
Labor Day School Holiday,
Monday, September 1.
Physical Fitness Concepts and Techniques,
Mondays starting September 8:
(spotting, proper body alignment,
proper lifting techniques);
Advanced weight training techniques;
Advanced strength training techniques.
There were about thirty-five guys in the room. I saw the rest of the ‘Gang of Nine’ and walked over to where they’d gathered.
“Hey, how’s it going, guys?”
“Good,” Dennis said. “Glad you’re sticking with the freshman football tryouts, Tony.”
“Hey, I wouldn’t bail on the Gang of Nine. Anyway, I’m looking forward to it, especially once we start practicing on the football field.”
“Say, Darryl, did you find out if your dad can get us discounted memberships at the gym where he works?”
“Yeah, I almost forgot. Hey, guys!” he called out to the other Gang of Nine members, and they gathered around. He gave us each an intro flyer and explained how to sign up for a free Family and Friends membership at the gym.
Everybody was talking in groups, and the noise level got sort of high. Coach Kavanaugh walked to the back of the room, took out his whistle, and blew on it three or four times.
“Okay, hold it down!” he shouted.
Once we quieted down he continued.
“Guys, I’ve handed you the weight training room schedule for those going out for freshman football. We’ll start with two days of fitness pretesting, today and Tomorrow. Then we’re going to teach you how to use free weights, barbells, and simple and complicated exercise equipment. So let’s get started. Anyone who hasn’t been evaluated this period will have to either stay over into eighth period or come here after school. We’ll work that out with each of you who hasn’t finished.
“You know me, Coach Lenning, and this is Coach Hilton. Divide yourselves into three groups of about the same size, I’d guess about twelve per group, and each group line up in front of one of the coaches.”
“Let’s grab three guys and go for either Coach Kavanaugh or Coach Lenning,” John suggested. “They seem to be the friendliest coaches. I don’t know about Coach Hilton. He’s the one we had for the sex ed class yesterday. He’s sort of a cold fish.”
Luigi and I found three guys who didn’t seem to know what to do, so we grabbed them and they were happy to join our group.
“Guys, I’m Tony McKinley. These guys are,” and I pointed to each in turn, “Ron Feirman, John Garchik, Cameron Phillips, Jiago Garcia, Darryl Chiu, Jacob Rummel, Luigi Asuncion, and Pete Ross. What are your names?”
“I’m Parker Hampson,” a tall, blond, well-muscled guy said.
“I’m Johnny O’Shea,” a guy with curly brown hair and a strong Irish accent said.
“And bringing up the rear, as usual, I’m Ryan Wong,” a heavy-set Chinese guy said. “If you’re wondering about the ‘bringing up the rear’ bit it’s because I’m not very athletic and get picked last. Except in football. I played at guard and tackle in the seventh and eighth grades and I love playing on the line. And to brag a bit, I’m really good at those positions. But ask me to do twenty pushups or climb a rope, or play baseball or basketball or soccer, and I’m dead meat.”
Coach Lenning walked over to where we were standing. “Looks like you’re my group for the tests. To start, I’ll need to take down your names.”
So we went through the name bit again and he checked each of us off on a name chart on his clipboard. Why do coaches always have clipboards, I wondered.
“Let’s get started by having you do twenty pushups. You can find room and all do it at the same time. I’ll do the count, and I’m not going for a speed record so don’t try to impress me by getting ahead of my count.” We all made it to twenty except Ryan; he made it to eight. Next was a machine that he used to measure our upper body strength, then one for the legs and glutes. It went on like that for about forty-five minutes.
“Okay, guys. That’s it for today. You all completed the tests and I have your results. Tomorrow we’re going to do agility tests on the football practice field. That’s the field alongside the baseball diamond. So tomorrow suit up the way you are now and go directly to the practice field. Any questions?”
“Should we wear our cleats instead of tennis shoes?” Ryan asked.
“That’s a good question, Ryan. For the tests we’re going to do tomorrow you should wear your tennis shoes. On Friday we’ll have different tests and you should wear your cleats. Raise your hand if you have your cleats.”
We all raised our hands and said, “Yes,” together.
“Okay, guys, you’ll have enough time to shower and change and get to your eighth period classes.”
So, this was the start of freshman football tryouts. So far, it had been both easy and tough.
All of our group headed for our gym lockers and the showers. That gave me a chance to perv the other eleven guys. A couple guys I didn’t know were looking at Ryan.
“You can tell he had a well-defined six-pack sometime in the past,” one of them said.
“Yeah, but now instead of a six-pack he’s got a kegger.” They walked off, laughing. Poor Ryan. He needed to work of some of that flab. It would help him move faster. Ryan was so heavy that it almost hid his private parts in the folds of fat. But despite the fat, he had some muscle definition in his arms and thighs. He looked like a guy who’d been strong but started to gain weight and got fat. I could see how he could still be a useful on the line because of his overall size. I hoped the coaches were going to work with him.
Most of the other guys were normal in build and their private parts were, too.
The guy with the best build was Parker Hampson. And I mean that in every way, arm and leg muscles, shoulders, back, eight-pack abs, and his private parts. He caught me looking, so I just grinned. On the way back to my locker he seemed to be following me, and that worried me a bit. He went to the locker next to mine and unlocked it.
I looked at him. “How old are you, Parker?”
“Man, you have the build of a guy who’s a lot older.”
“Yeah, I know. And all of my muscles are big, too.” He looked at me and laughed.
It took me a couple seconds to figure it out, and when I realized what he meant I started laughing too.
“Yeah, that too,” I said, looking down at his private parts and nodded. They were… impressive. Majorly impressive.
He looked around, but we were the only ones left in that bank of lockers. “I’m gay,” he whispered.
“Me too,” I whispered.
“Cool. Maybe sometime we can get together.” When he saw my expression he added, “Just to talk. I don’t have anyone I can, you know, talk to, about things. Uh, you won’t tell anyone about me, will you?”
“Of course not, and you won’t tell anyone about me, either, right?”
“Right. It’s up to each gay guy to tell others if and when he wants to.”
We’d finished dressing and were heading to our eighth period classes.
“Where do you live?”
“On Conejo Street, just before the place where it turns into San Luis.”
“Did you know that you live on Rabbit Street?”
Parker took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yes, I know, conejo is Spanish for rabbit.” He shrugged his shoulders and grinned.
“Anyway, that’s only four or five blocks from where I live. I’m on Oakmead, two blocks south of Trimble.”
“Hey, cool. We live close to each other. Say, you need a ride home tonight?”
“You got a car?” I grinned.
“No, but my brother Lane does. He’s a senior. He gives a ride to me and a guy who lives on Trimble, and he has room for one or two more.”
“Could that guy who lives on Trimble be Josh Sanderson?”
“Yeah, that’s the guy who rides with Lane. You know Josh?”
“Yup. Josh and I are casual friends. I’m a good friend of his brother Scott. Scott’s a freshman.”
“I met Scott a couple times at school.”
“How did Josh connect up with your brother? He just moved here from Chicago, he’s a junior, and your brother’s a senior. Seems like they’d run in different circles.”
“My Aunt Amy introduced them. Who do you have for Biology?”
“Is that Mrs. Weil?” He nodded. “She’s your Aunt?”
“Josh told us the story about how he had her for Biology when he was at Loyola High in Chicago, and then she moved away. He saw her at Wilson last week and said hello. She joked that she’d moved here to get away from him and there he was following her. That’s a funny story. So… how did she decide to introduce them?”
“She knew that Josh was looking for a ride home so he wouldn’t have to take the bus. Aunt Amy said since she knew both of them so well she hooked them up.”
“Josh is gay?”
I must have been standing there with my mouth hanging open because Parker’s expression changed.
“Oh, shit! I hope you didn’t think that I outed Josh. Man, that was such a dumb way to put it. No, Josh isn’t gay, as far as I know. And neither is my brother.”
“I guess I shouldn’t have made an assumption when you said your Aunt hooked them up. I read stories that use it as a gay term for getting together.”
Parker let out a big sigh. “I knew that. I can’t believe that I said it that way. You know, on the other hand, we’re probably too sensitive about things we say that might have a double meaning.”
“Don’t worry about it. Okay… one question… well, two questions. First, does Lane know you’re gay?”
“Yes. He doesn’t have a problem with my being gay and semi-out.”
“Semi-out? What does that mean?”
“I only tell some people, people who I think I can trust to not spread rumors even if they’re true. Especially if they’re true.”
“You can trust me.” I ran my fingers across my closed lips like I was zipping them closed. “So, my second question. You’re gay and your brother knows it, so why are you looking for someone you can talk to about being gay? I mean, he’s right there.”
“Well, biggest reason is I’m gay and he’s not. Also I look at things in a different way than he does. He’s a senior and I’m a freshman. He’s a big-time jock, and I’m not — well, not yet. He’s a party animal, and I’m so not that way. Besides, I want somebody my age to talk to. Does that explain it?”
“Yeah, it does. Another question, are you out to your folks?”
“Yes, I came out to my folks when I was eleven. In fact, it was at my eleventh birthday party.”
“That’s cool. I’m not. Maybe when we get together I can ask you about what it was like to come out, and if you have any advice for me.”
“Sure, though I don’t know if my eleven-year-old experience will be of any help. Can I ask you a question?”
“Have you told anyone that you’re gay?”
“Just Todd. He’s my cousin, and we look alike. In fact, like identical twins.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen you two at lunch.”
“So talking about telling people, what’s Josh going to say when you and I get in Lane’s car and Scott doesn’t?”
“I don’t know either Scott or Josh very well. Do you think there’ll be a problem?”
“Nope. But I still think Josh is going to be real surprised to see me.”
“Don’t worry about it. Let’s meet at the bus pickup area after school.”
“Okay, see you then.”
We walked into the Language Arts building. I turned left to go to my eighth period class. As I walked down the hall I thought about the probability of the four of us, we’re friends, we’re freshmen, and we’re gay. Todd, Scott, Parker, and me. I believed that each guy should decide who he wants to tell that he’s gay. So I wouldn’t tell Todd. Not my job to tell anyone about Scott or Parker. In fact, it’s my job to keep my mouth shut about others.
I realized that life could get real complicated real fast if you’re not careful.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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