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?
Todd’s mom drove us to my house and parked across the street. Mom’s car wasn’t in the driveway, so I knew she wasn’t home yet. It was after 4:30, so I was glad she was late. We walked around to the back door and I let the three of us into the house.
“Todd, I think we should do something different. When I come home I either go up to my bedroom, or I sit at the kitchen table having a snack, usually a peanut butter sandwich. I think that’s what we should do, both of us sitting side by side eating peanut butter sandwiches. Mom comes in the front door, and when she walks into the kitchen we’ll be sitting on that side of the table looking at her. She’ll freak seeing two of me. You like peanut butter, don’t you?”
“Sure, a peanut butter sandwich is great. Uhh, I really only like them with jam.”
“No problem. That’s the way I always make them for me. Strawberry okay?”
“Uh, do you want one, Mrs. Anderson?”
She laughed. “No, thank you, Tony. I think it’s very polite that you asked me.”
I hurried and made two peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches, and cut them diagonally the way I like them, then poured two glasses of milk. I arranged them on the back side of the kitchen table so they were lined up exactly the same. That’s where I always sat, facing the kitchen door. That way my mom would see the two of us like she had double vision.
Mrs. Anderson went into our family room which is at the back corner of the house, at the other end of the kitchen. She stood peeking into the kitchen, standing where she couldn’t be seen except from inside the kitchen. Todd and I sat down, with Todd on my right, and waited for my mom to get home. After a few minutes I heard her car.
“That’s my mom. Hey let’s take a bite of our sandwiches, and drink a little of the milk. That way it won’t look like we were just sitting here waiting for her.”
We took a couple of bites, and drank some milk so what was left in the glasses lined up perfectly. We held our sandwiches in our left hands, with our elbows on the table like I always do. That way it looked like we were exact copies of each other.
The front door opened, and Mom came in. “Tony, you home?”
“Yeah, Mom. In the kitchen eating a sandwich.”
Mom walked in the kitchen door and stopped, staring at Todd and me. We both grinned and waved at her with our right hands, exactly the same way, and said “Hi, Mom” at exactly the same time. I realized Todd and I hadn’t talked about how to do this, but we did it the same anyway. Just like if we were twins. Amazing. I kept looking at Mom, wondering why she hadn’t said anything.
She started laughing. That was sure different than what I expected and different than how Todd’s mom had reacted. Mom was laughing so hard she had to pull out a chair and sit down across from us.
She finally stopped, took a deep breath, leaned forward, and stared at us. “I cannot believe it! Doris was right, you two look exactly alike.”
“What? Who’s Doris?”
“She works in the cafeteria at Wilson. Doris Kerrigan. You might remember her. I’ve known her for years, she used to work at the hospital. She and her husband came to our barbeque in July. She phoned me and said that there was a boy at the school that looks exactly like you, she saw the two of you together at lunch. I thought she was exaggerating, I didn’t believe that he’d be your spitting image. And here you are, trying to fool you poor old mother. Shame on you both. I might have had a heart attack. Or something!” Then she burst out laughing again.
Mom looked at me with the same expression she has when I forget to take out the trash. “Well, young man, explain yourself. Or maybe I should say, explain yourselves.”
“At lunch today I met Todd. We couldn’t believe that we looked alike, and we were even dressed alike. Look!” I stood up and then so did Todd. “See, he’s wearing a blue shirt, a white T, tan khakis, and even the same Rockports I’m wearing. And the same color socks! It’s amazing, like we were twins separated at birth.” We both grinned.
Mom looked us up and down, shook her head, and started laughing again. Todd and I sat down, and Todd’s mom walked into the kitchen.
“Mom, if you can stop laughing I want you to meet Mrs. Anderson, Todd’s mother.”
Todd’s mom was grinning. “I’m glad to meet you, Mrs. McKinley. My name’s Nora.”
Mom stood up and they shook hands.
“Sit down, sit down, Nora. My name’s Theresa, but please call me Trish. Would you like a cup of coffee, or tea?”
“No thanks, I’ll have to be getting home with Todd in a few minutes to get dinner ready. It’s very funny that you spoiled our sons’ attempt to surprise you. I didn’t have any warning, so I was surprised. No, I was shocked. Your Tony came in pretending to be my Todd, and he gave a 100% accurate performance. They not only look exactly alike, they talk the same and their voices are the same. And did you know that they’re both going to be 14 on November 11th?”
Now my mom was surprised.
“No! You mean that not only do they look like identical twins, they have the same birth dates too?”
“Yes. They’re the same height and weight. The differences are all minor, like Tony has more freckles than Todd.”
I could tell that they were on a roll, and would probably be talking for the next hour or longer. I looked at Todd. “Want to see my room?”
“Mom, I’m going to show Todd my room.”
“Okay, Tony. Just make sure you two come down as soon as I call so Mrs. Anderson can get home with Todd.”
“Okay.” We went upstairs to my bedroom.
“Wow, cool room, Tony.”
“Thanks.” I have a huge bedroom. Our house was built with two master bedrooms. My folks have one, I have the other. I have a huge walk-in closet, and a private bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub and a big shower. My bed is king size. It was the one that my folks had before they bought a new one. I have a big computer desk with lots of cabinets and drawers, and one wall that’s all built-in bookshelves. There’s even a balcony with a sliding glass door. I showed Todd my Xbox, my HP laptop, and my photo printer.
Todd looked at my bookshelves. “You have a ton of books,” he said. “I see that you like science fiction. I love to read sci-fi stories. You have the Rama series by Arthur C. Clarke. They’re great. What’s your favorite sci-fi story?”
“I guess if I had to pick one it’d be Frek and the Elixir by Rudy Rucker. I think I’ve read it a dozen times.”
Todd grinned. “I have Frek and the Elixir and it’s one of my favorites too. You have Going Postal by Terry Pratchett! That is such a funny story. I especially like it because I like to collect stamps.”
“You’re kidding! I collect stamps, too. What countries do you collect?”
“The USA of course, and Canada ‘cause I like their designs, and Scandinavia because my dad’s great-great-great or whatever grandfather came from Sweden and we have relatives there. How about you?”
“The USA, the UK especially the regional stamps for Scotland because that’s where my dad’s side of the family came from, and Ireland because that’s where my mom’s side of the family mostly came from, and Greenland and Iceland because I like the designs on their stamps with pictures of glaciers and geysers. And stamps that we get on letters from other countries. Would you like to see my collection?”
“Yeah! That’d be great.”
I got out my album and we spent the next fifteen minutes or so looking through the countries I collected, and I pointed out some of my favorite stamps.
“Maybe I could come back some time and I’ll bring my stamp album and we can exchange some of our duplicates. I see you’ve got lots of Xbox games. I’ve got a PS3 and none of my friends have an Xbox. I’ve never played any Xbox games, so you could show me your favorite Xbox games and maybe we can play a few.”
I smiled. “That’d be great. Maybe we could do it this Friday after school?”
“That’d be great. Definitely we could do it this Friday after school, school, school, school, school,” he said, making it sound like an echo.
“Sounds like an echo chamber in here,” I said.
“I couldn’t resist,” he responded. “Thing is, I heard the word ‘school’ in my classes so many times today it sounded like an echo chamber. I’ll probably dream of that word all night tonight.”
“Say, since you mentioned dreaming, do you want to sleep over on Friday night? We can come up with something to do on Saturday. My mom makes a killer fried chicken. I could ask her to fix that for dinner.”
“Awesome. That’s a great idea. When I’m leaving to go home let’s ask our moms. I’m positive that it’ll be okay with mine.”
“And I’m positive that it’ll be okay with mine, too. You know, I don’t have your phone number or address or anything. Let’s exchange our info, okay?”
Todd pulled out his cell. “Let’s do it.”
We exchanged cell and home phone numbers, street and email addresses, and our IM IDs. Just as we finished I heard my mom call out from downstairs. “Tony, Todd’s mom is ready to go.”
We went down to the kitchen.
“Mom, can Todd come over on Friday after school, then we could have a sleepover Friday night?” I asked. “We can play some of my Xbox games, he doesn’t have an Xbox. He collects stamps too, and he’ll bring his album and his duplicates so we can trade. Maybe you could fix your fried chicken, that’s his favorite thing to eat just like me. Is that okay?”
Todd’s mom grinned when he repeated what I’d asked my mom but the other way around.
My mom answered my question first. “Of course that’s okay. How could we keep you and your identical not-really twin from getting together?” Then she turned to Todd’s mom. “In fact, Nora, why don’t you and your husband come to dinner Friday night?”
“That’s very nice, Trish, thank you. I’d love to come to dinner on Friday, assuming that my husband Dennis doesn’t have a meeting at work that evening. I’ll bring Todd’s baby book and we can compare pictures.”
“Aw, Mom!” Todd whined. “Why do you always have to embarrass me?”
She grinned. “That’s what mothers do. It’s in our official mother’s instruction manual.”
I just stood there laughing at Todd. My mom ended that right away.
“I’ll find the pictures we have of Tony. I think comparing will be interesting. We can see if they looked like twins from birth on.”
“Mom!” I said, shaking my head and glaring at her. She ignored me.
“I’ll make fried chicken since it’s what the boys want. Maybe I’d better get three chickens, with six of us, especially when two are teens with hollow legs, one certainly won’t be enough. And mashed potatoes, green beans, and how about apple pie for dessert?”
“Wow, that all sounds fantastic,” Todd told my mom. His mom smiled and nodded. I assumed that meant she agreed with what we’d have for dinner.
“Thanks Mom, that’s great,” I said.
“Well, it’s time for me and Todd to head home so I can fix tonight’s dinner. Trish, I enjoyed meeting and talking with you. I’ll give you a call this evening to confirm Friday.”
After Nora and Todd left, I sat down at the table. I knew my mom would want to talk about our surprise that backfired.
“Tony, I’m sorry if Doris spoiled your surprise. But it was still a surprise, no, it was a huge surprise that the two of you do look like identical twins. What surprises and amazes me even more is that you were born on the same day. It’s like God had something left over and he created two of the best baby boys in the world, and that’s you and Todd.”
“Thanks, Mom. That’s a nice thing for you to say.”
She smiled. “It looks like you and Todd like each other.”
“I hope so. I really like him. I hope he likes me as much. It’d be great to have a best friend at Wilson. I thought I’d miss my friends from Carver, but I’ve met a bunch of Todd’s friends and they are neat. It looks like I’m going to be real happy at Wilson. My classes are fantastic, especially Chorus and Creative Writing. The teachers all seem nice, maybe except the Biology teacher Mrs. Weil. She doesn’t seem very, uh, personal, or personable, or whatever the word is. And there’s gonna be a ton of memorization in that class. This semester we have to memorize the names of all of the major bones in the body. That’s going to be tough. And Spanish 3 is going to be hard. It’s all translation, and reading and writing, and grammar, and Mr. Markham said it’s going to be a lot of work. Chorus is great. Mr. Emmonds is going to have us learn Les Miz, uh, Les Miserables, a fantastic musical. He played about 20 minutes of it for us today, and I totally love it. The songs keep going through my head. I want to sing along, but I don’t know the words yet.”
“I can help you with Biology, especially coaching you on the names of the bones. And for Chorus, let’s go to BuyMart this weekend and get you a CD of Les Miserables so you can learn the words at home. Your dad and I saw a performance of it on PBS, and the music is wonderful.” She looked at me and smiled. “Tony, I am so glad that you’re enjoying high school, especially since you couldn’t go to Lehman with your friends.”
“Thanks, Mom. I was bummed that I couldn’t go to Lehman, but now I’m glad I’m at Wilson.” I grinned at her. “Besides, Wilson always has better football teams than Lehman. I’ll take you up on coaching me on the names of the bones. And thanks for offering to get me Les Miz.”
“You’ll have to tell your dad all about your first day during dinner tonight. He worried about how you’d like Wilson. For me, I can hardly wait until he gets home and you can tell him all about you and Todd. Nora’s going to email the pictures she took of you two. He won’t believe it until he sees those pictures.”
“Thanks, Mom, I love you, you’re the greatest.” I hugged her.
“Do you have any homework?”
“Other than Biology, just some reading. I’ve gotta start memorizing the bones in the human body. I figured I’d start at the top and work down. Does that make sense?”
“Yes, it does. How about you get started on your assignments and I’ll get started on dinner.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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