A Time When It All Went Wrong by Colin Kelly

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?


Chapter 30: A House Is Not A Home     Story Index >>

I planned Sunday to be a quiet day. That’s something I wanted: quiet. Todd seemed to understand, and he left me alone. After breakfast I looked at the homework I still had to finish.

For Spanish I had to write a story in English then translate it into Spanish. One page for each. I wrote a story about our Campo football game. Translating it posed a challenge; there were football related words that I had to use to describe the game. Most of these words weren’t in the vocabulary we’d studied, and many of them not in my English-Spanish dictionary. That meant searching the internet and that took a lot of time. But I finished, and I thought my story in Spanish was great.

I had two assignments for Creative Writing. First, I had to write a short poem in free verse about something I could see inside or outside of my home. I looked around. This wasn’t really my home; this is where Aunt Nora and Uncle Dennis and Todd lived. I was a temporary resident. What would a temporary resident see in their temporary home? How about what’s in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom I’m using? I wrote about what I saw there and what I would have expected to be there but wasn’t.

The second assignment was to write a four-chapter novella on any topic. It had to be turned in by the twenty-ninth of September. That gave me just about two weeks to finish. I set it aside. I’d start it on Monday or Tuesday. In the meantime I’d try to figure out what to write about.

That finished my homework. I surfed the net and found a list called OHFB, One Hundred Free Books, for the Kindle. I went ahead and subscribed to receive their daily emails. There were two free books that looked interesting, both science fiction and both free. I “bought” them which downloaded them to the Kindle app on my tablet. I sat on my bed, leaning against the headboard with the pillow stuffed behind my head, and started reading. The story was set in London and a small town in Wales. A teen had gone missing in the town in Wales, and then his body had been found in the swimming pool at the mayor’s house. He’d been stabbed fourteen times with a butcher knife. The police detective assigned to the case had to figure out who hated the kid so much that they’d murder him.

I guess I fell asleep because Todd came in to wake me.

“Lunch is going to be ready in about ten minutes, Tony.”

“Okay. What are we having?”

“Ham sandwiches on rye, potato salad for us, green salad for you, tortilla chips.”

“Sounds good. I’ll wash my hands and be right there.”

“Okay.”

During lunch we talked about our freshman win over Campo and the varsity’s game.

“I feel sorry for the Campo varsity. I can’t imagine what it would be like to play when you’ve got the flu,” I said.

“When I played football in high school,” Uncle Dennis said, “we didn’t have the flu but almost our entire team had a cold during one of our games. Our line kept sneezing and the coach of Jordan High, the team we were playing, complained to the officials that we were sneezing on their linemen. The officials told him that if they had those gauze face masks he’d suggest that our linemen use them. They didn’t, so we continued with the game. We won, seven to nothing. They complained to the CIF and were told there was no rule about playing with a cold.”

“Weird that the coach would complain. What, were your guys sneezing right into the faces of the other team?” I asked.

“Not really. It wasn’t like we were sneezing all the time. Think about what it was like the last time you had a cold. You’d sneeze a couple times then you wouldn’t sneeze for a while. We had towels tucked in the waist of our pants we’d use to blow our noses, so the sneezing wasn’t all that bad.”

“Didn’t you have to remove your helmets to blow your nose?” I asked.

“Yes, but we put them right on again.”

“Didn’t you have to come out of the game for one play when you took your helmet off?”

“No. We didn’t have that rule back in the ancient days when I played football.”

We laughed about that.

“Those weren’t the ancient days,” Aunt Nora protested. “That was only thirty years ago.”

“Sounds ancient to me,” Todd said.

“You still listen to music from bands that were popular and we listened to in the nineteen eighties,” she said.

“You’re kidding,” Todd said.

“How about Queen, R.E.M., Kiss, Blondie, Journey, and lots more. You listen to all of those,” I said.

“Yeah, but… they’re different.”

“How?” Uncle Dennis asked.

“They’re popular now.”

“And that means they couldn’t have been popular back when they got started, in the nineteen eighties?”

“But Dad,” Todd whined, “they’re classic.”

“Give it up,” I said. “You’ve lost and you know it.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry about that.”

“You don’t have to be sorry. It was pretty funny,” Uncle Dennis said.

Todd shrugged his shoulders. “Whatever.”

“How was your meeting with Heather yesterday?” Aunt Nora asked.

“Great,” Todd said. He seemed glad that the conversation had changed.

“Todd and I finished everything she wanted done in about a third of the time she thought it would take us,” I said. “Only thing I don’t like is each of us has to give a speech on Friday to the freshman class. We have to tell them why they should vote for us.”

Todd chuckled. “Tony told her that he doesn’t do speeches.”

“And how about you, Todd?” I asked.

“Yeah, me too. I’ve never given a speech to that many before.”

“How many are in your freshman class?” Uncle Dennis asked.

“Heather got the fall semester registration information for the election. There are 390 freshmen,” I said.

“What about the other grades?” Aunt Nora asked.

“I don’t remember,” I said. “The total is about fifteen hundred.”

We continued to talk about the election, our classes, and the weather. Yeah, the weather.

“It’s supposed to be hot this coming week, Tony. How will your team handle the heat? Will it put you at a disadvantage?” Aunt Nora asked.

“If the weather is hot for us, it’ll be hot for the other team too.”

“Do they do anything to help you on the field?” Uncle Dennis asked.

“Sure. We have water and sports drinks, spray bottles to cool us off, things like that.”

“You drink all the time you’re not playing during a game. When can you take a bathroom break?” Aunt Nora asked.

“We can pee behind the board where the kicker practices. Once of the coaches or assistants holds a towel and we kneel down untie our pants, and let go into a bucket. Some guys just let go and pee in their pants. That’s why we like home uniforms. They are dark colored and you can’t see any pee stains.”

“What about number two?” she asked.

“We hold it until halftime or the end of the game. I’ve heard stories about guys who let go in their uniform, but that would be totally gross. You do that on our team and they’ll pull you and have you go to the locker and clean up and change your pants.”

“Eww!” Todd said. “That is totally gross. How about those guys on the Campo varsity who had the flu? What did they do?”

“I don’t think it was affecting them that way. It was regular flu, like a really bad chest and head cold and aching muscles, that sort of thing.”

“I’d hope!”

Uncle Dennis cleared his throat. “Let’s abandon this subject matter and move on to other things. Tony, you never mentioned if your dad made it to your game Friday afternoon.”

“No, he wasn’t able to go. Because he’ll be leaving Sand Hills Community College in the middle of the semester he’s been asked to spend his Fridays helping his replacements catch up with the classes they’ll be taking over.”

“That sounds messy. How does someone take over a math class? I assume they have to know the material, but there are tests and assignments and grading that has to be reviewed. So when does he leave?”

“His last day is Friday, the twenty-sixth of September. He starts at Davis on Thursday, October the second.”

“How is the orientation he’s giving the new instructors going?”

“Okay, I guess. We don’t see each other much.”

That sort of stopped the conversation. It was true that I wasn’t seeing my folks very often. Our schedules were like complete opposites time-wise.

“Did you see Scott at your game, Tony?” Todd asked.

“No. Did you?”

“Yeah. I saw both Scott and Frank. Scott said it was Josh’s birthday and they were going out to dinner. Frank said his grandmother was in town and he had to get home to see her. They left as soon as the fourth quarter was over.”

“I’ll see Frank tomorrow in Homeroom and English. But I’d better call Scott today. We don’t have any classes together.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Todd said.

When I got upstairs I pulled out my cell and called Scott. I got his voicemail, so I left him a message to give me a call.

I called Frank, and he answered.

“Hey, Tony. What’cha doing?”

“Hmm… talking to you on the phone. Ya think?” I laughed.

“Hey, your game was excellent. You probably didn’t see me and Scott sitting in the stands with a bunch of the people from our lunch bunch.”

“No, I didn’t. Todd told me you and Scott both had stuff you had to do so you left before I got showered and dressed. You missed the varsity game. It was weird because a lot of the Campo varsity had the flu. We won 66 to 10.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Nope, I’m not kidding. You didn’t see the article in the Times sports section?”

“We don’t get the Times. Maybe I can read it online. Was there anything about the freshman game?”

“Uh… yeah. Not a lot. I mean, it’s just the freshman game and not many of the people who read the sports section would be interested.”

“Well, Scott and I sure were interested. Imagine, 42 to 7 in our first game. You guys had Campo under control the entire game. Scott said that he read that the Campo freshman team was favored to win the game by 14 points. If I remember right, they didn’t!” Frank started laughing.

“Do you know where Scott read that?”

“No. You’ll have to ask him.”

“I called him but got voicemail. Maybe they went somewhere today for Josh’s birthday.”

We talked more about the game for a while, then about the election, then about our English assignment.

Todd walked into my room, waved his hand and grinned, then leaned against the doorjamb waiting until I finished my call.

“Hey, Frank, I gotta go. I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”

“Okay, see you, Tony. Take it easy and get enough rest so you’ll be ready for the Del Rio game Thursday afternoon.”

“Will do. Bye, Frank.”

I put my cell to sleep and put it on the nightstand, then looked at Todd. He was still grinning.

“What?” I said, grinning at him.

“It’s time for my interview of the hero of Friday’s freshman game. Namely, you.”

“Interview?”

“Yes, interview. Don’t tell me you forgot that way back at the beginning of the semester we agreed that I could interview you after each of the freshman football games. This is your first interview.”

“Oh, crap. I did forget about that.”

“Well, I’ve got my voice recorder and tablet ready to go. Where do you want to do this?”

“How about the family room?”

“Works for me.”

We went downstairs. “How about something to drink,” I suggested.

“Okay.”

I got a diet root beer and Todd got a Coke.

“You want something to munch on?”

“No thanks, I’m okay.”

When we got to the family room Todd pointed to the couch. He moved a chair so it faced where I sat.

“You can sit there and get comfortable, and I’ll sit here.”

We sat down. I put my root beer on the coffee table.

“Tony, what do you think was the turning point in the game that insured a Wilson win?”

“I’d say the interception on the first play of the game. It would have been more impressive if we’d scored a touchdown, but getting the ball to the Campo 7 yard line led to our first score. Leading 7 to nothing in the first few seconds made us feel like we could play and win against Campo, and it had to deflate their self-confidence as well.”

He asked me other questions about my game, and a few about the varsity game. I made sure to emphasize that the Campo varsity team had a lot of guys who had the flu and that impacted their game. Still, it was an impressive win for our varsity.

His next question surprised me.

“Why do you play football?”

“Wow. That’s an interesting question. I guess the first thing is that it helped me build up my strength and endurance.” I laughed. “The original reason I joined the freshman football team was to use the weight training room. Otherwise I would have had to wait until I was a sophomore. But I discovered that I liked the action, playing offense and playing defense. I love working with the other guys on our team. They’re a fantastic group. We have a great coach, Jake Kavanaugh, and the whole coaching staff has our backs including Coach Lenning and Coach York. It’s fun. And I’ve learned a lot.”

“You say you’ve learned a lot playing football. What are some of the things that you’ve learned?”

“Cooperation. I have to cooperate with my teammates. Leadership. I have to follow the game plan and the leadership of my team captain, the quarterback, and our coaches. I have to become a leader, too, when I’m the designated ball carrier, moving in ways that will lead the blockers so they can clear a path for a first down or to score a touchdown. Friendship. I’ve met a great bunch of guys who are on the team. We’ve become friends, too.”

“Do you like or do you endure the hitting?”

“I like it! That’s as long as I’m doing the hitting. I endure the part where someone else is hitting me. So I try to keep that from happening as much as I can.”

“What do you do to keep from being hit?”

“So you’re asking me to tell you my secret moves?” I laughed, and so did Todd. “Actually, there’s nothing secret. On running plays I try to fool the defenders by making little changes in my route that will cause them to change direction just enough to let me avoid being tackled. That’s basic football.”

“You play both offense and defense. Which do you prefer?”

“Both.”

Todd laughed. “You really don’t have a preference?”

“Yes, I want to play on the offense and on the defense. That’s what I meant when I said both.”

“You want to do this in one game, or play one game on the offense and another game on the defense?”

“I want to play both offense and defense in every one of our games. Assuming that’s what the coaching staff wants me to do.”

“I have a question about the Campo game. Near the end of the game it looked like one of the Wilson defenders, number 57, was about to sack the Campo quarterback in his end zone. That would have been a safety. Then he appeared to slip and the quarterback was able to run to the 3 yard line. Because Wilson was leading by a score of 42 to 7, some might think that number 57 slipped on purpose. Is that what happened?”

“I don’t know. You’d have to ask number 57.”

“Who’s number 57?”

“Evan Carmody.”

“Where can I find him?”

“I don’t know. You’re the investigative reporter. Isn’t it your job to find him?”

Todd ginned. “Good one. Now, let’s see….”

My cell’s ringtone went off. “Hang on a minute. It’s my mom calling me.” I swiped the phone icon and started to walk outside.

“Uh… hi, Mom.”

“Hi, Tony. You sound busy.”

“Todd’s interviewing me for the Roundtable, the school newspaper.”

“Well, this is quick. We think we found a house in Davis that we like. We’d like to take you to see it. What’s your schedule for the rest of the afternoon?”

“I have to finish the interview. Todd has to finish his article so they have it by the time the paper has to be put to bed tomorrow.”

“Put to bed? What’s that mean?”

“It means that everything is finished and our school newspaper is formatted and ready to print. Todd told me that being ‘put to bed’ is an old journalism saying.”

“I see. That makes sense. When will you be finished with your interview?”

“I’m not sure, probably fifteen or twenty minutes.”

“Oh, that’s fine. Can we pick you up in a half hour?”

“Sure.”

“Alright, see you then. Bye, Tony.”

“So long Mom.”

I ended the call and walked inside.

“My folks are going to pick me up in a half hour to go to Davis and see a house they want to buy. Can we finish my interview by then?”

“Sure. Hey, why don’t I come with you? That way I can make sure you ask the right questions if there’s anything you forget about. And I might see some things that you don’t notice. What do you think?”

I grinned. “Sounds good to me. You need to check with your folks and make sure it’s okay with them.”

Todd stood up. “I’m on my way.”

~~~<<>>~~~

When my folks arrived Mom came to the door. Uncle Dennis answered the doorbell and invited her into the living room.

“I think Tony has a surprise for you, Trish.”

“What?” I heard her ask from the family room where Todd and I were waiting.

“Tony! Todd!” Uncle Dennis called out. Todd and I got up and walked into the living roome.

“Hi, Mom,” I said, with a big grin. “We’re ready to go.”

She looked at me and Todd, then rolled her eyes and sighed.

“Okay, that’s fine with me. I assume it’s fine with you, Nora?” she asked my aunt.

“Yes, but only if it’s okay with you.”

“Yes. It’s okay with me.” Mom shook her head and chuckled.

Todd bumped me with his elbow. “What are they talking about?” he said in a stage whisper.

I replied to his question out loud, “I think my mom figured out the surprise and it’s okay with her. Right Mom?”

“Right. Put on your coats and bring something to keep yourselves amused,” she replied. “Something quiet!” she shouted after us as we ran to our rooms to get our coats, my tablet and camera, and Todd’s Kindle. We were back in about one minute.

“Have you both been to the bathroom?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, answering for both of us.

“Okay, let’s go,” Mom said as she walked out the front door.

“Take lots of pictures,” Uncle Dennis called out as we walked to the car.

“I will,” I shouted.

~~~<<>>~~~

Dad drove us into a cul de sac and parked in front of a large two-story house next to where the street ended. The drive to Davis took exactly one hour and twenty minutes. I knew that because I noted the time when we left and the time when we pulled up in front of the house. Mom had called the real estate person who said she’d meet us at the house. The people who lived there were gone for the afternoon.

“Now, boys, don’t touch anything in the house. We’re responsible if anything is broken or missing.”

“Mom! We’re old enough to know that,” I said.

“We’ll be very careful. We can open doors and closets and things like that, can’t we?” Todd asked.

“Of course. But if you open a door then make sure you close it after you’ve had a look. And don’t open drawers or cabinets in their furniture.”

We got out of the car and a woman got out of an SUV that was parked in the driveway.

“Good afternoon. Was the drive up alright?” she asked.

“Yes, no problem,” my dad replied.

“Are these your boys? I didn’t know you had twins. You boys will find this home perfect for the two of you.”

For some reason that made me start laughing, then Todd joined in too.

“Ignore them, Donna,” my mom said. “The one in the light blue jacket is my son Tony. The other is his cousin Todd. They aren’t twins. They just look like they’re twins.”

“That’s amazing,” Donna said. “Well, hello Tony. I guess your cousin Todd has come along to help you decide if this should be your new home, right?”

“Yup,” I said.

“So, how old is this house?” Todd asked, then grinned.

Donna laughed. “Oh, I can see that I should get hazardous duty pay for this showing!”

“Nah,” Todd responded. “I’m a pussy cat. Tony’s the one you gotta watch out for.”

“Shush, both of you!” Mom said. I could tell she was kidding — well, sort of kidding — because she chuckled.

“To answer Todd’s question,” Donna said, “this home is five years old. You probably want to know why the current residents are moving.” I nodded my head as a ‘yes’ and she continued, “It’s because this home isn’t big enough. They have seven kids and one more on the way, and this home has five bedrooms. They’ve found a larger home here in Davis, which is still under construction. So they need to stay here until their new home is finished. That will be in about two months.”

“What if it takes longer?” Dad asked. “What do we do?”

“You told me you still have your current home in Hillview. We will track their progress as their new home is completing construction and let you know weekly. As soon as they have a certificate of occupancy for their new home they will have thirty days to complete their move. Then this home will be yours.”

“How big is this house?” I asked.

“It’s 3,429 square feet not including the garage or pool house.”

“It’s got a pool?” I asked.

“Yes. I’ll show that to you on the tour of the first floor. So, let’s start the tour.”

“Yes,” Dad said. “Let’s do that. Tony, this tour is for your benefit, so be sure to ask any questions you have as you see the house.”

Downstairs there was the entry where we were standing. To the left there was a coat closet for guests and a bathroom with just a toilet and sink. Donna called it a half bath. Straight ahead was the office. It was large, about the same size as my bedroom at home. To the right we walked from the entry into the living room. It had a fireplace on the outside wall, and there were pictures of a bunch of kids above the fireplace. It was interesting because they were all boys and they all had blond hair. There were double doors with glass panes � Mom called them French doors � that led from the living room into the family room. The family room, dining room, and the kitchen were all open onto each other. Donna said this was called �open concept� and that it was very popular these days. The family room had a fireplace and a huge TV mounted on the wall above it. It was a big room with lots of places to sit. A pair of glass sliding doors in the family room led to the back yard. The dining room had a large table. I counted and there were twelve chairs around the table. The kitchen was the biggest I’d ever seen. It had a huge three-door refrigerator, a gas cook top with six burners, two dishwashers, three ovens and a microwave, and a big island in the middle with room to seat eight people.

From the kitchen there was a door into a large utility room that had two washers and two dryers and lots of counter space for folding clothes. The utility room had a door leading outside to the back yard and another door into the three-car garage. We looked into the garage and it looked like ours at home with an SUV, room for two more cars, and five bikes of various sizes hanging on the side walls with empty hangers for more bikes. There was a sink and counter at the back next to another door leading to the back yard.

Donna led us back to the utility room and we went outside onto a covered patio with a built-in barbeque. In the back yard we saw a large pool with a diving board at one end. The pool house had two small changing rooms, one his and one hers. Each had a bank of twelve gym-type lockers for guests to put their clothes and a bathroom with a shower. There was also a storage room for pool supplies. The pool and pool house were inside what Donna called a removable safety fence. It looked like it was made of steel. She said the fence was required by the building code so small kids playing in the back yard couldn’t accidentally fall into the pool.

Against the back wall of the garage there was what looked like a regulation basketball hoop and a concrete half-court. It looked perfect for playing horse and three-man basketball. Uh, I guess that should be three-person basketball.

The yard was large and fenced all the way around. In back of the pool there was a lawn with plenty of room for tossing around a football. At the right side it backed onto a park. There were a lot of trees just beyond the fence in that part of the yard. Donna said there was a golf course on the other side of the back fence. The only neighbor was across the fence at the left side of the yard. Of course, there were houses across the street, too.

We went back into the house and went upstairs. There were five bedrooms.

A big master bedroom was at the end of the hall. It had a sitting area with a fireplace and a sliding door that went out onto a small balcony. Mom raved about the two large walk-in closets, one for her and one for Dad.

There was a master bathroom with what Donna called a Jacuzzi tub with massage jets all around the sides, a big walk-in shower with three shower heads, and a counter with two sinks. The toilet was in a little room behind a door so it could be used by one person while the other person was doing something else like taking a shower.

Down the hall there were two bedrooms on each side. They were all the same size, but not as large as either my bedroom at home or Todd’s bedroom. Each pair of bedrooms was connected by what Donna called a ‘Jack and Jill’ bathroom.

“Actually, in this house I should call this a ‘Jack and Jeff’ bathroom,” Donna said.

“Why?” I asked.

“You’ll see.”

We went into the bathroom and did see what she meant. It had a counter with two sinks, a big shower, a toilet in a little room by itself like in the master bathroom but with a urinal too!

“Oh my god,” Todd said, “a urinal! That’s freakin’ amazing! How perfect!”

“I wonder why more houses don’t have urinals,” I said.

“Having two boys of my own, I’ve wondered that too,” Donna said.

Todd looked at the other bedroom. “Tony, you’ll have one of these bedrooms then when someone comes over, like moi for example, I can use the other bedroom that’s connected to your bedroom through the ‘Jack and Jeff’ bathroom. That’s very convenient.”

After Donna and my folks left the bathroom, in a soft voice I said, “You mean like you and Scott.”

Todd grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.

“There’s a walk-in closet in each of the connected bedrooms,” Donna continued. “Across the hall there are two similar bedrooms with walk-in closets that are connected with their own Jack and Jeff bathroom which for Todd’s benefit is complete with a urinal.”

“Why did they put urinals in both of these ‘Jack and Jeff’ bathrooms?” Mom asked.

Donna grinned. “All seven of their children are boys.”

“Good grief,” Mom said. “How do you handle a bunch like that? Now I understand why there are two dishwashers and two washers and dryers in this house.”

“Someone oughta keep it zipped,” Todd whispered to me. I burst out laughing. Donna must have overheard Todd’s comment because she looked at us and grinned.

“This family had twins, then one boy, then triplets, then one boy. So it’s not seven births it’s four births with seven babies.”

Mom asked Donna, “Why would they want another child? In fact, why didn’t they stop after seven?”

“They told me they wanted a girl,” Donna replied. “This time they’re expecting a girl. Finally.”

“Oh, my, that poor mother!” Mom said. “That girl will be spoiled rotten by her seven brothers.”

Dad laughed. “They’ll have to find seven brides for those seven brothers.”

Mom and Donna laughed too.

I looked at Todd and shrugged my shoulders.

“I don’t know what they’re laughing about either,” he said.

That made all three adults laugh at us.

I shook my head. “I’ll have to Google that and find out what they think is so funny.”


Continued


Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong


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