They say everyone has a double, a doppelganger, someone who’s their mirror image. What if you just met your double? What if you were a thirteen-year-old kid who’s gay and you just met your double?
After my last class I walked to the bus pickup area to wait for Scott. I saw Frank and called out to him. He turned and when he saw me he waved and walked over.
“Hey, Tony! You taking the bus home?”
“No, Scott and I are going to walk to Todd’s house and hang for a while. Todd’s mom will drive Scott home. How about coming with us? You can get a ride home with Scott.”
“Sounds good. Thing is, I’ve got a ton of homework and I really oughta get started on it.”
“You have the whole weekend to do your homework. You’ll only miss maybe two hours or so anyway, and it’ll take less time for Todd’s mom to drive you home than it would take you to ride the bus. Sounds like a win-win to me. Besides, you look like you need some time off of homework.”
Frank stood thinking for a few seconds. “You know, you’re right. I do need to get away from school stuff for a while. Let me call my mom and get her okay.” He stepped away just as Scott and Todd walked up.
“Hey, how you doing, Scott?” I asked.
“What am I, chopped liver or something?” Todd asked, interrupting Scott’s reply.
Scott and I laughed at Todd’s comment.
“Where did that come from?” I asked him.
“I overheard Shanna, a girl in my World Geography class, saying that to someone she was talking to on her cell.”
“In class?” Scott asked.
“No, in the quad before class.”
“So, you listen to other people cell calls?” I asked.
“Only when they’re yelling loud enough to be heard two blocks away. Whoever she was talking to was getting a real yelling-at.”
Frank walked up and joined us. “I heard you talking about Shanna. You probably oughta stay out of her way,” he said. “She can be real nasty when she wants to, and she seems to want to most of the time. I know because she’s in my Spanish 2 class.”
We started walking to Todd’s house.
“Why do some girls have to act like that?” Scott asked.
“Damned if I know,” Todd replied. “Maybe it’s a girl’s way when they’re a bully.”
“That’s a better way than guys who attack other guys physically. It could be the old ‘sticks and stones can hurt my bones but words can never hurt me’ thing.” Frank said.
“But words can hurt, sometimes worse than some guy slamming you into your locker or knocking your books out of your hands,” I said. “Think about cyberbullying. Both girls and guys do it.”
“I read where girls do it a lot more than guys,” Scott said. “But you’re right, Tony, both girls and guys do it. That sucks because stuff like that can go viral and some kids think their life is over. Some have even committed suicide.”
“Do any of you know anyone who was cyberbullied?” I asked.
“I do,” Scott said. “When I was in the seventh grade at St. Anselm — that’s in Chicago — a friend of mine started getting really nasty postings on his Facebook page. He changed postings to ‘Friends only’ but the posting kept coming. He complained to his folks, and his dad complained to Facebook and they told him they couldn’t do anything about it without a court order. So Garrett, that’s my friend’s name, started blocking people one at a time for a couple days then unblocking them. He discovered the perp that way. So he started posting that Stewart, that was the kid’s name, was a cyberbully and he included some of the posts he’d made on Garrett’s Facebook page to show what he’d been doing. He posted on Stewart’s Facebook page and Twitter account. Seems Stewart had been cyberbullying a lot of kids, and the Twitter posts went viral and Stewart freaked. Garrett confronted him one day at school and that ended the cyberbullying.”
“Whoa! That’s amazing,” I said. “What happened to Stewart?”
“He was ostracized by most of the kids at school. He switched schools and I never heard anything about him after that.”
“Did he post anything on your Facebook page?” I asked.
“Nope. Stewart wasn’t a friend of mine. He was in mostly different classes than me, other than catechism. That was a class that had a large number of students at our school, and we were assigned seats alphabetically by last name. His last name started with some letter near the beginning of the alphabet, so we never sat near each other. No big loss for me.”
“You went to a Catholic school?” Frank asked.
“Yeah. Saint Anselm’s is a Catholic middle school. I went to Catholic schools until we moved here. Have any of you gone to a Catholic school?”
We all shook our heads as a ‘no’ answer. “My family is Catholic,” I said, “but my folks never sent me to Catholic school.”
“How about you Todd, since you and Tony are related?”
“My folks’ are Catholic, but like Tony I didn’t go to Catholic school either.”
“Do either of you go to church?” Scott asked.
“Not regularly,” Todd replied. “We go to church at Christmas and Easter.”
“I don’t go to church either,” I added, “except at Christmas to listen to the music. And for weddings.”
“How about funerals?” Frank asked.
“I’ve never been to a funeral,” Todd said. “Have you, Tony?”
“No. A funeral is something I wouldn’t want to go to but I would if it was a relative or a close friend.”
“Would you care if it wasn’t a Catholic funeral?” Frank asked.
“Nope. Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Jewish, Muslim, whatever. If it’s for a friend I’d go to show my respect for them and so their family would know he or she had friends who were sad they’d died.
“Scott, have you ever gone to a funeral?” I asked.
“No. I think it would be depressing.”
“I did,” Frank said. “My grandma died and there was a Jewish service and a wake after. A wake is where everyone gets together and eats food and talks about the person who died and things they did during their life. At least it was that way for my grandma.”
“I didn’t know you were Jewish,” I said. “I don’t care what someone’s religion or background is, it’s just that I think it’s interesting to hear about different kinds of churches.”
“I’m not Jewish. My grandmother on my mother’s side was Jewish, but my grandfather was Mormon. So my mother was given the choice and she says she chose ‘none of the above’ because she doesn’t like organized religions. My dad was raised as a Catholic. My folks took me to several different churches when I was younger, and said I could choose whatever I wanted. I chose my mother’s way, ‘none of the above,’ so I don’t go to church.”
“So,” I said, “among us we’ve got three Catholics and one ‘none of the above.’ And all of us would probably be in the ‘sort of’ categories for their religion. Except Frank. You’re probably a devout ‘none of the above’ — right?”
“Not quite,” Frank responded. “Like Todd and Tony, I like to go to churches at Christmas, and to the synagogue at Hanukkah, to listen to the singing.”
“I’ve never been to a Jewish Hanukkah ceremony,” I said. “I think it would be interesting. So Frank, could I go along with you this year?”
“Sure. And Scott and Todd, if you’d like why don’t come along too?”
Both said they’d like to do that.
“When is Hanukkah?” I asked.
“This year it starts on Tuesday, December sixteenth at sundown and ends Wednesday, December twenty-fourth.”
“So that’s right when we’ll be having our Christmas concert and then Christmas Eve,” I said. “I’d have to fit it in to my schedule. When will be the best time to go to listen to the music?”
“I’ll find out what music performances they’ll be having and when, and I’ll let you know,” Frank replied.
“You know, Tony,” Scott said, “you never asked me and you assumed that I’m in the ‘sort of’ Catholic category. I’m not. I go to church on Sundays with my folks, and I especially like Christmas music at that time of year. So I’m actually in the practicing Catholic category.”
“Scott, sorry I assumed that about you,” I said. “So we’ve got three Catholics, Todd and I are in the ‘sort of’ category and Scott is a practicing Catholic. We’ve also got Frank who’s a ‘none of the above’ but goes to the synagogue for Hanukkah. Now I think I have it right.”
“Lemme change the subject,” Frank said. “Tony, how come there’s no freshman football game today?”
“We have a bye. The Varsity is playing a non-league game against Justin-Siena in Napa tonight, but the freshman team only plays one non-league game and that’ll be at Clayton Valley in October. The freshman team doesn’t play Justin-Siena, which would be a non-league game, this year.”
“Are you going to the varsity game?” Scott asked.
“No. I decided not to go. Partly because I don’t have a ride.”
“Oh. That’s too bad. I’ve heard that Justin-Siena has a strong team. Should be a good game to watch.”
“Yeah, but my other reason for not going is that I need a break from football. Both playing and watching. We’ve had two games so far, and we play Lehman next week. They are supposed to have a real good team this year. They’ve won both of their games, against Justin-Siena and Campo, and they’re playing Riverview this afternoon.”
“How’d they do against Campo?” Todd asked.
“They won 24 to zip. We beat them by a larger score, 42 to 7, but they were able to score against us and they couldn’t score against Lehman.”
“Come on, Tony!” Scott said. “The only reason Campo scored was we had our second and third string in there at the end of the game. You guys were playing with a continuous clock, or whatever it’s called. You wiped up the field with them.”
“It’s called the non-stop clock,” I replied, “and it’s used in the fourth period when the difference in the score is 35 points or more.”
“And you guys wiped the field with them. So we beat Campo by 35 points, Lehman beat them by 24 points, so we’re 11 points better than Lehman.”
“As if it would really work that way! Then we could figure out who the winners were after half the games had been played each season.”
“Well, how do you think the pollsters come up with their predicted scores in football and basketball and other sports?” Scott asked. “They use comparative scores between two teams and common opponents,” he said, answering his own question.
“Yeah, but they also look at things like the offense and defense of each team and how they’re going to fare when they play each other. That’s a lot more important than comparative scores. Another thing is it’s too early in the season to be able to make informed analysis of the teams, especially freshman football teams.”
“Sure it is. Almost all of the guys on the freshman football teams have played in middle school and even earlier.”
“That’s not the case with the Wilson freshman football team. There are nine guys who are on the team who never played football before. I should know, I’m one of them!”
“Do you know whether there are a lot of guys on the other teams that never played football before? I don’t think so.”
“Yes! That’s true. That’s one of the reasons we can’t make comparisons between us and Lehman,” I said. “You just proved the point I was making.”
“But how else are you going to estimate what the score might be? You have to compare the results of every game to figure that out. That’s the only way you can do it.”
“We don’t worry about what the score might be. We worry about how their other team’s defensive line is compared to our offensive line, and vice versa. Think about it, you do the same thing in basketball. You look at the height of the players on each team and how many three point shots each makes and how good they are at making free throws and whether they commit a lot of fouls and turnovers or not. Stuff like that, not how two teams did against a common opponent and calculate what the score is going to be when they play each other.”
“But that’s exactly how we do it in basketball!” Scott shouted. “We do estimate what the score might be by comparing against common opponents.”
“And does that work for you?” I said. “I don’t think so.”
All of a sudden I realized that we’d left Frank behind us. I turned around and saw that he’d stopped about ten feet behind us and stood there laughing at us.
“Hey, what’s so funny?” I asked.
“You guys are hilarious. It’s the argument you two were having about the Campo game and if how they lost to us by a larger score would make us the favorites against Lehman and whether that’s important or not and whether freshman teams have experienced players or not and then you’re talking about basketball. It’s like, when are you going to start making comparisons between football and baseball, or soccer, or track and field. It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s very funny.”
“Ignore him, Tony,” Scott said. “We’re the sports experts here. That means we can debate about the upcoming freshman football game against Lehman.”
“Yes! And we were debating, not arguing.”
“Attention, attention!” Todd shouted. “We have now arrived at my house. If you continue walking you’ll walk right past it. So forget your argument — sorry, your debate — and let’s hang a hard left right here and walk to my front door. And when we get in, let’s do something like play a video game. And not a football video game, either.”
“Okay, okay,” I said. Then Scott agreed, and so did Frank who’d walked up to join us.
The three of us followed Todd into his house. It was also temporarily my house, but I certainly wouldn’t say anything about that. Scott knew that I’d be moving to Davis, but Frank didn’t. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Frank, it’s just that the more people who knew about my Davis move, the more I’d have to keep track of who knew and who didn’t. Besides, I didn’t know when I’d be moving. I didn’t even know when my folks would be moving since they hadn’t bought a house in Davis yet.
Todd had three controllers so we played Trine 2, the only three player game he had. Trine is a fantasy-based game so it wasn’t one of my favorites. In my opinion Trine 2 didn’t have an interesting story line. It’s like, go out and search for stuff while you fight goblins and witches, and stuff like that. Not my cuppa. I prefer either science fiction or sports games first, then racing games.
Todd’s mom, my Aunt Nora, agreed to take Scott and Frank home. That created the first complication. If I stayed at Todd’s house there’d have to be a reason for doing that. I talked to Aunt Nora and we agreed that all four of us would go for the ride. She’d drop Frank off at his house first, then Scott. That way Frank would think I’d be going home after we’d drop Scott off at his house. Of course, Scott knew I was staying at Todd’s house, so he was in on this bit of subterfuge. The only thing that could go wrong would be if Frank decided to take a walk and stop by my house to see if I was home. My folks would be there, but not me. So I had to call my mom and ask her that if Frank stopped by to see me she should say I’d decided to spend the weekend with Todd at his house.
When we got back to Todd’s house I decided we needed to talk about Frank.
“Do you trust Frank to not tell anyone else?” Todd asked after I explained what I wanted to do.
“I think so. We’re friends, and when I tell him I’m sure he won’t tell anyone else about it until after the end of the school year.”
“The end of the school year? So you’re going to tell him you’re going to be here all of your freshman year.”
“Yes, because I’ve decided that’s how it has to be because of when their fall semester ends and their spring semester starts compared to Wilson’s. I can’t easily transfer in the middle of the year. I told my folks and they are okay with it.”
Todd grinned. “Works for me. Does my mom know?”
“Yes, my folks discussed it with your mom and dad. They’re all on board. That also means if I win the election as freshman class vice-president then I won’t be leaving in the middle of my term of office.”
“I think it’s a win-win for you, Tony.” Todd wiggled his eyebrows, then said, “And besides, you’ll be able to spend the entire school year with your boyfriend.”
I grinned. “I thought about that, too. It’s the icing that makes the cake really delicious!”
Todd wiggled his eyebrows again. “You two done the nasty yet?”
“Have you and Brian done the nasty yet?” I asked, wiggling my eyebrows.
“I thought you might have forgotten about that part. No.”
“No, you haven’t?” I asked.
“No, I’m not telling you,” Todd replied.
I laughed. “Speaking of Brian, where is your boyfriend?”
“He’ll be here after dinner. He’s sleeping over tonight.”
“Cool. I wish Scott could sleep over here tonight too.”
“Will he be going to the SuperSport gym with us tomorrow?” he asked.
“Oh shit! I forgot about that. I’m going to call him right now.”
I realized that I should have asked Scott if he wanted to join the gym and come with us on Saturdays and some weekday evenings.
Scott picked up after one ring. “Hi, Tony.”
“Hi, Scott. Todd and I are going to the SuperSport gym tomorrow morning. Would you like to join and come with us?”
“That’s a great idea. I’m already a member. My dad’s got a family plan. I went to the SuperSport near where we lived in Chicago, and I planned on going to the one here but haven’t gotten around to it. You’ve just given me a good kick in the posterior so I have no excuse to avoid it any longer. What time are you planning to go?”
“It depends on Todd’s dad. Todd has to join and to do that his dad has to drive. He offered to drive all of us. We’ll probably plan on getting there around ten o’clock. As soon as I find out exactly what time we’re going to leave I’ll text you.”
“Have you ever been to a SuperSport gym?”
“I’m already a member like you, and I’ve been to the SuperSport here, the one on North Main Street. It’s a great facility, with a lap pool and lots of exercise equipment, free weights, basketball, handball, tennis, and volleyball courts, and lots of cardio equipment including rowers and steppers besides the usual treadmills.”
We chatted about football and basketball, our classes, and the election. I told him about the house in Davis, and that I didn’t know if my folks were going to buy that one or keep looking. I told him that Todd took lots of pictures, especially the back yard with the pool and pool house, the patio, and one of the ‘Jack and Jeff’ bathrooms including the urinal.
“I’ve heard of those in some new houses. It would be so cool. No more uh… dripping on the floor, if you know what I mean.”
I started laughing and so did Scott. “I know exactly what you mean,” I said. “So, how was Josh’s birthday celebration? How old is he now?”
“Josh turned sixteen. We had a lot of fun. We went to the waterpark then to Pizza Antica for dinner. He got a Microsoft Surface tablet. Man, it is so cool! That’s what I want for my birthday.”
“When’s that going to be? It’s in… like July, right?”
“Right, the twenty-fifth of July. Maybe I should ask for it for Christmas. You think?”
“I think! Good luck with that. You’re fourteen, right?”
“Uh huh. And you’re barely in your teens, as I remember. Your birthday, and Todd’s, are in November, on the eleventh. So you’ll catch up with me in a couple months.”
“Yup. Then I’ll be fourteen too. Say, my uncle has a saying you can tell Josh. ‘After sixteen it’s all downhill.’”
“What’s that mean?”
“He says that when you turn seventeen you start deteriorating.”
Scott laughed. “Deteriorating? In your teens?”
“Yeah. So you should do all the fun stuff while you’re sixteen ‘cause you might not be able to do it after you turn seventeen. It’s just a joke.”
“I think it’ll fit Josh perfectly. He’s gotten lazier as he gets older. Maybe he started his deteriorating early. My mom says sometimes he acts like he’s got early-onset Alzheimer’s.”
“Early onset Alzheimer’s. That’s funny. I’ll have to remember that saying. Anyway, tell Josh I sent him a happy birthday shout-out and you’re passing it on, and it’s late because I didn’t know it was his birthday.”
“Will do. Hey, I gotta go. I’ve got a ton of homework. Seems whenever Mrs. Aaronley gives us a ton of Algebra problems to solve then Mrs. Kellerman gives us a big writing project in French.”
“Well, just remember, life sucks then you die. It’s all part of sliding down the razorblade of life.”
“Eww! That last one made me clench my butt cheeks together! Where do you get these wonderful awful sayings? Which I’m writing down so I don’t forget.”
“My Uncle Phil. He has a ton of them. I write ‘em down too. He’s the one who made the video of our game against Campo.”
“I’d like to see it. Do you have a copy?”
“That we do. He copied it to a DVD for us. Lemme know when you’d like to see it.”
“Okay. Hey, my mom just shouted for me to move the trash cans from the curb to the side yard so I’d better get to it. This is the second time she told me to do it, and I don’t want to have her tell me again. The third time is like the third strike in baseball.”
“I’ll text you as soon as Todd’s dad gets home and we can ask him what time he can take us to the SuperSport gym.”
“You’ll ask him if he can pick me up, right?”
“Absolutely. Talk to you later, boyfriend.”
I ended the call and put my cell in my pocket.
Uncle Dennis said we should leave around ten o’clock, and we were ready to go. We stopped to pick up Scott. I ran up to his front door and he pulled it open before I had a chance to ring the doorbell. He’d put on his basketball shorts and a Wilson High T, and had a gym bag.
“Looks like you’re ready to rumble,” I said.
“I am ready. Say, Josh asked if he could come along. Would that be okay?”
Scott turned around and called out, “Hey, Josh, you’re good to go. Get your butt out here!”
I bumped fists with Josh, and the three of us got in the back seat of the car and about ten minutes later we arrived at the gym. Uncle Dennis went in with us to get Todd registered. Scott, Josh, and I found available lockers for the clothes we’d brought to put on after we finished exercising and showering. We each were handed a towel and had our own water bottles. Todd and his dad joined us and I showed Todd the lockers and how the combinations worked.
“You guys have fun. I’ll pick you up at twelve thirty,” Uncle Dennis said. “Be out front by then, okay? Finding a parking place here at that time is always difficult.”
Because Todd had just signed up, he got a free two-hour session with a personal trainer who said she’d show him the facilities and all of the equipment, then plan an exercise program for him and work with him today. I heard her tell Todd she went to Sand Hills Community College and majored in physical therapy. She had a great physique — you know, well endowed — and I planned to joke with him about that on the way home.
The range of exercise equipment went way beyond what we had in the weight training room at Wilson, both the types of equipment and the number of each. After using a treadmill and stepper to warm up, I worked out on the equipment that would let me concentrate on my legs, biceps, and shoulders. After about an hour and a half I went to the lap pool and swam to cool down until I had to get my clothes from my locker, shower, and get dressed. Scott and Josh were already outside waiting for Uncle Dennis.
We talked what we each concentrated on, and what equipment we’d used. Finally Todd joined us, and just in time because Uncle Dennis drove up to take us home.
“You guys have a good time?” he asked.
Scott, Josh, and I all said yes and talked about what equipment we used and what muscle groups we were working on. Todd didn’t say anything.
“Todd? How about you?” his dad asked.
“I think I’m going to die,” he replied. “That Jenna, the trainer, had me doing these reps over and over again on a whole bunch of different machines. I can’t remember when I’ve been so tired.”
“Are you hurting?” I asked.
“No, she made sure I wouldn’t do anything to the point where it would hurt. She said the old ‘no pain, no gain’ is bad, and that when you feel that you’re about to start hurting that’s your body telling you to stop. Then she’d take me to a machine to work on a different part of my body, like starting with my arms and shoulders then moving to my butt and my legs then working on my abs then my shoulders and back and then my thighs then my neck and over and over and over. I didn’t think I could make it to the showers when we finished but I did. Then I forgot I had to go to my locker to get my clothes and I got there and couldn’t remember my combination then I finally remembered it and got my gym bag and went back to the showers and stood there under the hot water for about ten minutes. That’s why I was almost late to get out here for our pick up time.”
We all laughed at his soliloquy, including Todd.
“Sounds good to me,” I said. “You can use the weight training room after school this week. I’ll make sure it’s okay with the coaches. We don’t have any home games this week, so there should be room for you to do some cardio and use the exercise equipment. I’ll work with you, and you’ll be ready to go next Saturday.”
“Okay,” he said. “Dad, can I sign up for four personal training sessions? It’s expensive, $295 for four one-hour sessions, but I think it would really help me a lot.”
“Okay. I’ll go in with you and find out about it, and set it up for you to use next Saturday,” Uncle Dennis said.
It impressed me that Uncle Dennis was willing to pay that much for Todd to have a personal trainer. Thinking about it, I realized that my dad would also pay that amount for me if I asked him. But I didn’t need a personal trainer at the gym. I had two at school — my football coaches.
I spent Sunday on homework. Then Todd and I worked on our DNA project for Biology. We used the DNA comparison report we got from Dr. Sanderson, Scott’s dad. He arranged for us to get it for free. He could do that since he’s the Director of the Western Region of Galahad Fertility Centers. I wondered how much it would have cost us if we’d had to pay for them. Probably way too much. The report had 264 pages. Woof!
“How are we going to use this,” Todd asked.
“Okay, most of the report is technical detail. We’re not going to use that or hand it over to Mrs. Weil. We’ll give her a copy of the summary report he wrote. It has 34 pages, and includes a section titled Executive Summary which he wrote more or less in English that Mrs. Weil should be able to understand. It starts by saying that two fathers were identical twins and they married two mothers who were identical twins. This is called a ‘quaternary marriage’ and that’s our parents, Todd. When we were conceived and born we were genetically the same as full siblings, and are genealogically double first cousins which is what we should be called. That we look and act like identical twins happens in only six percent of double first cousins.
“The second section is a summary of the technical parts of the tests. It includes twin zygosity tests, genome matching diagrams, has a discussion of divisions of each of the zygotes and the formation of gametes, and the specific matching that makes us look like twins.”
So we drafted our version of what Dr. Sanderson put in his report, and included some information we found on Wikipedia and the internet so we didn’t have only one source. Then we scanned some of the diagrams from Dr. Sanderson’s detailed report to my PC and inserted them in the report. That made it look very professional. After several editing passes we were satisfied with our report. We printed four copies, one for Mrs. Weil, one for me and one for Todd, and one for Dr. Sanderson. We made a copy of the cover letter and Executive Summary Dr. Sanderson wrote, and attached that to the copy for Mrs. Weil.
“I think we’re good to go,” Todd said.
“I agree. It sure took us a lot less time to write it than I thought it would.”
“Yeah. I thought we’d still be working on it over our Christmas vacation. I think she’s going to be surprised when we turn it in on Monday.”
“Hmm. You know, maybe we should wait until she asks to have us turn in our reports. If she only has ours, because we turned it in early, she’ll have a lot of time to nitpick what we wrote and especially our conclusions.”
“You’re right, Tony. I’ll put in my desk until we need to turn it in.”
“We better go to bed. Tomorrow’s going to be an interesting day. We’ll find out who won the election. If it’s you and me, which we expect it to be, we’re going to be mobbed by kids wanting to congratulate us.”
“Let’s hope we’re surprised and not disappointed when we get to school tomorrow. If we win at least we don’t have to worry about being in a parade like they had for President Obama,” Todd said. We both laughed at that, and said goodnight and headed to bed.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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