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?
I watched as Todd waited for a response from his folks.
Todd’s dad stood and said, “Come here, Todd.” He opened his arms and Todd rushed around the table into his dad’s hug. His mom stood up and they created a three-way hug.
“Of course we’re okay with it, Todd,” she said. “It doesn’t make any difference if you’re gay or straight or bi or none of those. You’re our son, and that’s all that counts.”
I saw tears flowing down Todd’s cheeks, and had to wipe them off my cheeks as well.
“Come here and join our family hug, Tony,” Uncle Dennis said. I got up and he pulled me into the embrace. After a bit we all pulled back. Todd’s dad looked at him.
“You know who’s missing, right?” Todd nodded. “When is Brian coming over?”
“He can come tonight, or tomorrow.”
“Let’s make it tonight,” Todd’s mom said. “That way Tony can be here too.”
“Lemme call him now,” Todd said. He had his cell in his pocket, and dialed Brian’s number. We only heard his end of the conversation.
“Hey, Bri.” … “Yeah, and it went perfectly. They want to know if you can come over tonight.” … “Good.” … “Of course that’s okay.” … “Okay, we’ll see you then.” Todd ended the call.
“He’ll be here in about fifteen minutes. His folks are going to come too. They want to meet you. I assumed that would be okay.”
“Of course it’s okay,” Todd’s mom replied. “Can we assume his folks are okay with the announcement that you’re Brian’s boyfriend?”
“He said they’re glad I’m his boyfriend because they know and like me.”
“What’s not to like?” I said.
“Hmm… let me see,” Todd’s mom said.
“Todd, no one is perfect, especially a thirteen year old.”
I cleared my throat, loudly. “Excuse me? I remember when Todd and I surprised you that day you said I’m perfect.”
“I think I was talking about how you were a perfect replica of Todd. That means bad habits and all.”
I elbowed Todd. “Your mom, my aunt Nora, just said you and I have bad habits. I think we should ask her for a list, don’t you?”
Todd stage-whispered, “I think you better drop this. She already has a list.”
For some reason Todd’s folks started laughing. I didn’t think it was funny. If she actually had a list she might give it to my mom. That could become a problem.
“Let’s clean off the table,” I suggested.
“Good idea,” Todd said.
We picked up the dirty dishes off the table, rinsed them, and put them in the dishwasher.
“Do Brian’s parents drink coffee?” Uncle Dennis asked Todd.
“Yeah, they do.”
“I’ll make some,” Aunt Nora said. “We have some chocolate frosted brownies I bought today. I’ll get those out.”
“Um, chocolate brownies, and chocolate frosted,” Todd said. “My favorite flavor, times two.”
“Let’s get together in the living room,” Uncle Dennis suggested. “It’s easier with seven of us.”
“Uh… I just thought about something,” Todd said. “Brian’s got twin brothers. They’re younger, I think they’re ten or eleven. Maybe they’ll come too. Do we have enough brownies?”
“There should be. The store had a buy one, get one free deal. Let me look and see how many are in one of the boxes.” She took a plastic box out of the refrigerator. “It should be fine. There are twelve brownies in each box.”
“I’m surprised Brian’s mother wouldn’t have mentioned that her twins would be coming,” she said.
“I just talked to Brian, and I heard him yell to his folks that he was coming over to meet you guys, then he told me his folks said they were going to come too.”
“Well, it doesn’t make any difference,” Uncle Dennis said.
Todd looked nervous. “Why’re you so jittery, Todd?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It just seems like such a big deal. Brian and I talked about how we wanted it low-key.”
“Well, it wasn’t low key at lunch today. You had all the people from our table and some from the tables around ours coming over to congratulate you and Brian. That should have calmed down your nervousness.”
“You told kids at school that you and Brian are boyfriends?” Uncle Dennis asked.
“Yeah, dad, we did,” Todd replied, not sure where this was going.
“Are you sure that was a good idea? We hear about homophobia and bullying at schools everywhere. Will you be safe now that the kids at Wilson know you’re gay?”
“Daaad! It’s not that way at Wilson. I spent the whole afternoon being congratulated by kids, a lot of ‘em I didn’t even know. I didn’t hear one negative thing all day.”
“What about in your gym class. You might have comments or even problems in the showers and locker room.”
“I had PE seventh period. No one was negative, no one accused me of staring at their junk — sorry about that Mom — anyway, everything was fine.”
“I agree with that,” I said. I have PE seventh period too, and we came in from freshman football practice and I showered with Todd and the only thing I heard were guys saying they thought it was cool that he and Brian came out, and that they thought they made a good looking couple.”
“A couple guys thanked me, too.”
“They thanked you? Why?” Aunt Nora sounded like she didn’t believe anyone would do that.
Todd grinned. “They thanked me because they said now I wasn’t going to compete for the best looking girls.”
“I heard Shawn Vandergrift say he was glad because now the best looking guys were still available,” I said. “Shawn’s gay and out, and has been since seventh grade at Carver. You know, I should ask him if he’s run into any homophobes at Wilson so far. Anyway, after saying that he laughed.”
“That’s not funny. The best looking guys are not still available! That’s because Brian and I are already taken.”
“Hey, all the guys in the locker room thought it was funny!” I said. “And besides, if you’re one of the best looking guys then so am I, and I’ll be competition….” I suddenly realized that I’d maybe outed myself, but Todd saved my butt.
“There isn’t a girl at Wilson who’d even look at you, Tony!”
Todd poked me and I poked him back, but we stopped because we heard the doorbell. Brian and his folks had arrived. Talk about ‘saved by the bell!’
They didn’t bring the twins. I was sort of disappointed because it would be fun to meet the twin boys and have them meet me and Todd. Anyway, we did the introduction things then sat down and talked for a while. Brian’s folks were very friendly and showed from what they said that they are gay-friendly and accepting. After hearing about me and Todd, Mrs. Case had us stand alongside each other.
“I’d swear that these two boys were twins. But you say they’re cousins?”
“Yes,” Aunt Nora replied. “Dennis and Rob, he’s Tony’s father, are twins who were separated at birth. Then it appears that maybe Trish, Tony’s mother, and I could be related and separated at birth, and there’s a possibility that we are twins as well. That combination, twins married to twins, could result in cousins who look like identical twins. It’s very rare, but it’s possible. It would explain why Todd and Tony look like twins.”
“They look like identical twins. I’d guess they could switch classes sometimes, fooling their teachers.” Mrs. Case grinned.
“Oh no, we wouldn’t do that,” Todd said. “Tony’s on the freshman football team and that’s about the last thing I’d ever want to do.”
“Wimp!” I said.
“It’s so sad,” Brian said, “here I might have had a boyfriend who’s a football hero and now that’ll never happen.”
“Hey! Who decided today is ‘beat up on Todd’ day?” he grumbled.
Brian grabbed Todd in a hug. “Oh, poor Toddy. We’ll be nice to you for the rest of the evening. Right, Tony?”
“Oh… alright!” I replied. “But where did that cutesy new nickname for Todd come from?”
“Don’t you dare say it again, Brian Case, or I’ll start using my cutesy nickname for you!”
“What sort of cutesy nickname could you come up with for Brian?” I asked, then suddenly I realized I knew it had to be ‘Bribaby’ and I started laughing. None of the parents caught on, but I could tell that both Brian and Todd were worried that I’d guessed it. I’d have to verify it when I could be alone with them.
That’s when the two sets of parents started telling stories about Todd and Brian. I turned to them. “Say, this is going to be embarrassing. How about we go to your bedroom and hang until Brian and his folks have to leave.”
“Good idea,” Brian said.
When we got to Todd’s room he shut the door.
“Okay,” I said, “I’m never going to use it but I think I know Brian’s cutesy nickname. And I’ll bet his folks called him that when he was like one or two years old.” Brian blushed. “My guess is ‘Bribaby.’ Am I right?”
“Geez, Tony, how’d you guess it?” Brian asked.
“It’s easy. How many nicknames, including non-cutesy ones, can you make out of the name Brian? Bri, which sounds like a girl’s nickname. Ryan or Ian, which are different first names than Brian, and the one that I guessed. I’ll bet that Brian’s mom called him that when he was a baby.”
“You’re never going to tell anyone Brian’s or my cutesy nicknames, are you Tony?”
“Of course not. I truly will never use either of those nicknames, even joking around with you two.
“Hey, Brian, I’m sorry that your twin brothers didn’t come with you. I think it would have been fun, identical twins meeting identical twins — even if Todd and I aren’t really identical or any other kind of twins.”
Brian grinned. “But you’re look-identical cousins and my brothers wouldn’t care. You two should both come to my house one day next week after we get home from school. They’ll flip when they see you two.”
“We’ll make sure we’re dressed the same that day,” Todd said.
“The best day will be Thursday,” I added. “That’s the day I go to Todd’s from school and spend the night so I can go to football practice Friday morning.”
“You know, my brothers have never seen another set of identical twins in person.”
Todd shook his head. “Whoa! That’s amazing. There must be other sets of identical twins around here. I’d expect that they’d have seen at least one other set. Like maybe at the mall, or downtown.”
Brian shook his head. “Never in person. They’ve seen them in movies, on TV, and on the web. That’s not in person, where they can walk right up to the two of you and touch you and stare at you up-close and personal.”
“Eww! I don’t think I want two ten-year-olds…” Brian interrupted, “eleven year-olds,” so Todd continued, “eleven-year-olds walking up to me and touching me. You never know when the last time they washed their hands.”
“I don’t care,” I said. “Bring ‘em on.”
“Thank you, Tony,” Brian said.
“Are they gay?” Todd asked, wiggling his eyebrows and grinning. “After all, their brother is gay.
“Gay? Geez, they’re only eleven years old. They think the only reason they’ve got a dick is for taking a leak.”
Todd and I laughed at that comment.
“Brian, think back. Were you that clueless when you were eleven?” I asked.
“Hell no! But they’re a lot more protected than I was.”
“Protected how? Are they home schooled?”
“No, they go to Edison.”
“Are they restricted to your house when they aren’t in school??”
“No, don’t be silly.”
“Are they prevented from watching TV? Going on the internet? Having friends? Going to other kid’s houses?”
“No, no, no! I see what you’re saying, Tony. Maybe they do know about things. But not about gay kids.”
“Do they know you’re gay?”
Brian didn’t say anything for a while. He just looked at me. Finally, he said, “Yes.”
“So they know about gay kids. Are they okay with you being gay?”
“They probably know more about being gay than we did at their age. I think kids in middle school aren’t as homophobic these days as they were when you and Todd went to Edison and I went to Carver. There are probably a lot of middle school kids, boys and girls, who are out these days. When I was in the eighth grade they started a GSA at Carver. Did they do the same at Edison?”
“Yeah, they did,” Brian replied.
“Well, maybe Todd was kidding around asking if your brothers were gay. They probably aren’t; they say that ten percent of kids are gay. I’d bet they know kids at school who are gay, and because they know you, they think it’s okay to be gay. That’s a good thing.”
“You’re probably right, Tony. It’s just that they’re my little brothers. I want to make sure they don’t get hurt if some homophobic S.O.B. decides to whomp ‘em because he overheard them saying something positive about gay kids.”
“They’re going to have to take care of themselves,” Todd said. “You’re not at Edison to pull them away from trouble or out of a fight. What you need to do is make sure they can take care of themselves and they’ll go to a teacher or administrator if someone hassles them.”
“Alright, exactly how are they supposed to take care of themselves? Remember, they’re only eleven.”
“Tai Kwan Do classes can help,” Todd said. “Getting a membership and going to a gym. You and I oughta do that too, boyfriend! I’m starting to get jealous of how Tony’s building up his bod.”
“How he doing that?” Brian asked.
“Hey, I’m right here,” I said, “I can answer questions about me and my body. Because I’m on the freshman football team we use the weight training room four times a week. Todd’s suggestion that you and your brothers go to a gym is a great idea. Even if you only go once a week, like on the weekend, it will help a lot. A Tai Kwan Do class will teach them moves to protect themselves if they did get into a problem with some guy or guys.”
“I don’t know about going to a gym. They’re pretty young for that, don’t you think?”
“Nope, I don’t,” I said. What grade are they in, seventh?”
“So they have to take PE now, right?”
“Building up their muscles is a good idea. They can get a trainer to help them understand the equipment and weights, and how to use them so they won’t get hurt. A Tai Kwan Do class will teach them how to move and avoid getting hurt if a bully trys to whomp them.”
Brian shook his head. “Where can we find a gym where we can all go? Uh, by ‘all’ I mean me, my brothers, and Todd.”
“I know there’s one about a half mile from school and there are probably others,” Todd said. “We should talk to our folks. They can check out the gyms and find out which ones are kid-friendly. Besides, they’ll have to register us and pay for the memberships.”
“Okay, enough about Logan and Mason. So how do you like being on the freshman football team, Tony?” Brian asked.
“I’m having fun. I like the stuff we’re doing to learn how defenses work. You know, blocking and figuring out how to keep from being blocked or tackled.”
“So you’re playing defense?”
“No, most of the time I’m playing offense and I will play defense when Coach wants me too. I will learn defensive moves as we are taught how to cope with our opponents defenses.”
“What position are you playing on the offense?”
“We’re using a double-wing offense, and I’m playing one of the wing back positions.”
“I don’t have a clue about what you’re talking about,” Brian said.
So I spent the next fifteen minutes explaining how the double-wing offense is set up.
“It’s mostly a running offense,” I said, then I described what each of the players in the backfield is responsible to do, and why it’s difficult for the other team to defense our formations. I also talked about the wing backs and how we played our positions. I explained what our coaches said about why they selected the double wing. “By not relying on passing, the chance of losing possession of the ball to the other team is greatly reduced. It’s a great formation for a high school freshman football team.”
“Okay, I think I’ve learned enough to know what’s going on when I’m watching your games. When is your first game?” Brian asked.
“It’s Friday afternoon. We’re playing Campo at home. The game starts at four p.m. Say, if you come to the game we could grab something to eat after our game, then come back and watch the varsity play.”
“Is that against Campo High too?” Brian asked.
“Yeah, it is. Lehman is our number one rival, and Campo is number two.”
“How do you think the freshman football team is going to do this year?” Todd asked.
“Ask me after our scrimmage with the JV team. We’re doing that on Wednesday after school.”
“What’s a scrimmage?” Brian asked.
“We’re going to use it as a way for the JV and freshman teams to practice against an opponent. A lot of schools scrimmage against another school, so it’s like a regular game but not played as heavy-duty. The idea is to put your guys and plays to a test without as much danger of anyone getting injured. Also, we’re playing with shortened quarters, just six minutes each. The only time the clock stops is if there’s a time out called or if someone is injured.”
“So you don’t try to win the scrimmage?”
“Sure we try to win. But the idea is to play all of our guys in the scrimmage, try all of the plays in our playbook, and test our defense against their offense. The JV team will be doing the same things.”
“Good luck with that.” Brian laughed.
“So I assume you and Todd will be at our game on Friday?”
“Yeah, we’ll be there, rooting for you guys to win against Campo. And I like the idea of eating then coming back for the varsity game.”
“That’s great. Do you have any ideas where we could go for dinner after our game? I’ll be starved, so it should be where I can get a lot to eat without being hugely expensive.”
“Then how about Counter Burger? Or Roam? They both make huge burgers from scratch and you can get your burgers made pretty much any way you want them.”
“I’ve been to both Counter Burger and Roam,” I said. “I like them both. Counter Burger is closer to school, so maybe that’s a better choice.”
“Is your dad coming to the game?”
“He can’t. He teaches a class and has office hours on Friday afternoons, and he can’t get out of that. But he is coming to the varsity game. He’s a member of the Wilson Boosters Club, which is a bunch of men who help support our teams.”
“How about your dad, Todd?”
“He has some big deal meeting at the courthouse on Friday afternoon. Tony, I’ll get my dad to talk to your dad about that Wilson Boosters Club. I think he oughta become a member.”
“My dad won’t be home from work in time to go to the game,” Brian said. “It’s a Bummer that none of our dads are available to take us to dinner and back. I guess we’ll have to walk from school to wherever we decide to eat, then back to school for the varsity game.”
“Hey,” I said, “maybe we can get Parker’s brother Lane to give us a ride. He has a car, and maybe if we buy him dinner he’ll do it. I can call Parker now.”
“Okay, do it,” Todd said. “That’s a great idea.”
I pulled out my cell, found Parker’s entry in my contacts, and clicked on it to place the call.
He answered, “Hello.”
“Hi, Parker. It’s Tony.”
“Hey, Tony! What’s up?”
“You have plans after our game on Friday?”
“No, not really. You have a suggestion?”
“Yeah, I do. I’m at Todd’s house, and he and Brian are planning to come to our game. Is Lane coming to the game?”
“Yeah, he’s staying after school for the freshman game so he can watch my magnificent playing style. Afterwards we’re going to the varsity game. In between we’ll probably grab something to eat.”
“We were wondering if he’d have room for the three of us, and if so could he drive us to Counter Burger after our game?”
“Sure. No problem.”
“Good. That way he could drive us to school for the varsity game too. The three of us will pay for his meal.”
“Hey, that’s a great idea. But screw paying for Lane’s meal, he’d pay for it anyway. I know he’ll be glad to have you guys along, otherwise it’d be just him and me. You know, he can take you guys home after the varsity game, too.”
“He won’t have to drive us home. My dad’s going to the varsity game and he’ll take us. Aren’t any of Lane’s friends going to the freshman game? Not even Josh?”
“Nope. None of his friends have brothers who are on the freshman team. I guess that’s a prerequisite for sitting through a freshman football game.”
“I think you could use some positive reinforcement about the quality of our team.”
“Just pulling your leg, Tony.”
“So I guess you have to check with Lane about having the three of us tag along on Friday, right?”
“Yeah, but like I said I think he’ll be glad you guys are coming. He’s never seen you and Todd together. Identical twins aren’t common. Anyway, lemme go talk to him now, and I’ll get back to you.”
“Okay. Later, Parker.” I put my cell back in my pocket.
“Okay, he says Lane’s going to the freshman game, and he’s sure Lane will want to go somewhere to eat and will drive us there and back. Parker thinks you and I are identical twins, not cousins. I decided to wait and tell him when we’re together, maybe at dinner on Friday.”
It was like a prophecy, because I heard my cell ringtone.
“Hi back at ya, Tony. Lane is on board, and he’s glad we’re going to Counter Burger. So we’ll meet up with him and Todd and Brian after the game on Friday. See you at practice tomorrow morning.”
“Tell Lane thanks for the three of us. See you mañana.”
I turned to Todd and Brian. “We’re all set, if you didn’t figure it out from what I said to Parker.”
There was a knock at Todd’s bedroom door.
“You guys decent?” It was Todd’s dad.
“No, but you can come in anyway,” Todd hollered.
Uncle Dennis stepped into the room. “Brian, your folks are ready to leave. They want to know if you want to go home with them, or if you’re going to stick around here for a while.”
Brian looked at Todd and they both nodded.
“I’m going to spend the night here with Todd and Tony.”
“As long as Tony’s in here and there’s no hanky-panky, it’s okay with me. Brian, you need to get your folk’s okay.”
Brian left with Uncle Dennis and Todd sat looking like he had just won the lottery.
“You’re not going to mess around, are you?” I asked.
‘Oh, this is going to be bad,’ I thought. “So, what are the bed arrangements going to be? I asked.
“All three of us will sleep in my bed. It’s a king, so we should fit.”
“And what’s the pecking order going to be?”
“Me, you, Brian.”
“So I’ll be in the middle. Between the two of you.”
“Right. Any ‘hanky-panky’ would have to be accomplished by leaning across your body. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
“Or I could act as the messenger,” I said. I tried to keep from laughing, but I couldn’t, so I laughed and Todd growled.
“Asshole! No messengers in bed tonight!”
That’s when Brian walked in. “We’re good to go. So, why’s Tony an asshole, and what is the ‘messengers’ thing about?”
“Tony asked how we’re going to arrange ourselves in bed tonight. I told him it’s me, then him, then you. I said that would constrain the hanky-panky that my dad’s worried about because we’d have to lean across his body. He said he could act as the messenger.”
Brian looked confused. “I still don’t understand what the messenger part means.”
“Think about it,” I said. “Think about what messengers do.”
They deliver messages and documents from one person or company to another. We’ll be close enough to talk to each other. We don’t need a messenger.”
“What else do they do?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Ride a bike from place to place?”
“You’re thinking bike messengers,” I said. “Don’t they also ha….” I broke off saying the whole word, raised my eyebrows, shrugged my shoulders, and put my hands out palms facing each other. What I was trying to do is get Brian to understand the messenger comment. Still nothing.
I tried again, “Don’t they also hand….” I repeated the eyebrows, shoulders, and hands bit, and waited.
Suddenly Brian’s eyes opened wide. “Oh my god! Oh my god oh my god!” Then he started to laugh. He’d say “I love it, I love it!” then start laughing again. Over and over.
Todd and I looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders. We sat on Todd’s bed waiting for Brian to stop standing there laughing and looking at the two of us. Finally he calmed down and flopped on the bed alongside Todd.
“I want to experience this messenger handling things in action,” He said. He sounded serious.
“You’re not serious,” I said. “It was a joke!”
“Yes, I’m serious.” He looked at Todd and grinned. “Just think how strange and bizarre and fun it would be.”
“Yeah, it could be,” Todd said. “Maybe you’re right. We could give it a try tonight.”
What in hell had I gotten myself into?
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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