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 walked downstairs to my English class. I realized that I never got a chance to ask Todd if he’d talked to his dad about freshmen not being able to take the Weight Training class. I’d ask him at lunch, but I assumed there wouldn’t be any way for me to get into the class until I was a sophomore. Stupid rules.
I noticed Frank walking alongside me.
“What class do you have first period?” I asked.
“English, same as you. I guess you didn’t notice me in class yesterday.”
“I didn’t. Where were you sitting?”
“In the back row a couple seats from the windows. I got to class late. I couldn’t find the stupid room. My registration card listed it as room L-227. There is no L-227. So I asked the first teacher I saw and she looked it up.”
I laughed. “That’s a great story. The registration cards look like they’re printed on a computer. You’d think the program would check things like the room number to make sure they’re valid.”
Frank turned and looked at me. “Tony, you look real familiar. I’m sure I saw you in the computer lab a few times last year, but you said you didn’t go to Edison. Maybe I have EOA, or something.
“That’s Early Onset Alzheimer’s.” Frank laughed.
“You don’t have Early Onset Alzheimer’s. You actually saw a guy who looks exactly like me. His name is Todd Anderson and he went to Edison. We look like identical twins.”
“Wow, I’ve never heard of anything like that. Did you know him?”
“Not before school started. We met at lunch yesterday. Lemme tell you, it was a surreal experience. When I walked up to the table, he turned around and I looked at him it was totally like looking into a mirror.”
“You’re not related?”
“Man, I’d like to see the two of you together. Maybe take a picture.”
We got to room L-127 and Freshman English. I pointed to two empty seats in the third row at the window side of the room. “Let’s sit there.”
“Okay,” Frank said.
After we sat down I asked him, “Which lunch period do you have?”
“Okay, so do I, so how about you join us at lunch today? That way you can meet Todd. The kids I sat with yesterday told me they always sit at the same table. When you exit the lunch line walk all the way across the cafeteria. The table is on the right back near the windows. Todd and his friends all went to Edison and you probably had classes with some of them, so you’ll see them at lunch. You might want to eat lunch with us every day. It’s a fun group of kids.”
“We moved here in May just before the end of the school year. I started at Edison and then in about a month school was over. So I didn’t get to know many kids.”
“Man, what a terrible time to move. Your folks couldn’t wait a month so you could finish middle school with your friends?”
“My dad’s in the army and when they tell you to move, you move. We moved a lot.”
“What’s he do? I mean, there’s no army base near here, or if there is I’ve never heard of it.”
“He’s in the Recruiting Division. Now he’s in charge of recruiting for the Bay Area. He has an office in downtown Oakland, so what he does is just like what anyone else who works in an office does. Sitting there doing paperwork, on the phone a lot, going to meetings. The only interesting things he does is to go out and meet the solders in the recruiting offices, and to go around to high schools and colleges talk up why the army is so great. The rest is mostly boring stuff, in my opinion.”
“Where did you live before moving here?”
“Boulder, Colorado. When Dad’s new job assignment came up my folks put our house up for sale and it sold the first week. The people who bought it needed to move in immediately because the wife was pregnant and they wanted to move before she had the baby. So, we packed up and moved here. We lived in a motel while my folks, actually while my mom looked for a house. The motel was here in Hillview and Mom decided that she liked this area, so when she found a house I was already going to Edison. We weren’t able to move in for another month while the people who lived there got ready to move out. School was over when we moved in.”
“You said you moved a lot. That must suck.”
“Tell me about it! I found it hard to make friends every time I’d go to a new school. My dad says we’ll be here until he retires, so that’s going to be great.”
We heard the final bell and Ms. Holbrook took roll. Then she handed out a grammar quiz.
“Let’s see what your grammar strengths and weaknesses are,” she said. There were a few groans from the class. “This will be an ungraded quiz. And the way we’re going to do it I think you’ll find interesting. You’ll have ten minutes to answer the twenty-eight multiple-choice questions on the quiz. Then we’re going have a quiz show, like some of the quiz shows on TV. First, I’ll collect all of your papers. Then I’ll pick four of you to be a team. The four will come up and sit in these chairs in front of the class, and I’ll give each of them one quiz paper. None will get the quiz paper of any other member of their team. I’ll ask these students one of the quiz questions. They’ll tell us the answers to that question on the test papers they received. The audience will then briefly discuss the answers and vote which answer, if any, is correct. Then I’ll ask a second, third, then fourth question that we’ll briefly discuss and vote on. We’ll go through the same process until every member of the class has been on a team and we’ve reviewed all of the quiz questions. Finally I’ll return everyone’s quiz paper.
“The quiz papers are numbered. Do not write your name on your paper. Write an X in the box next to what you know, or think, is the correct answer to each question. Be sure to answer every question. At the end of ten minutes I’ll have you pass your quiz papers to the front where I’ll collect them. We have twenty-eight students in this class, that’s why there are twenty-eight questions on the quiz. There will be seven teams of four students. So, let’s get started.”
After the quiz Frank and I headed to our next classes.
“That was a lot of fun,” he said. I missed two of the questions, and when we discussed those questions it made me understand those rules.”
“It was a lot of fun,” I said. “We never had anything like that at Carver. We’d just have to memorize the rules. I like the discussion too. I learned things about grammar rules I’d never heard before. I really like Ms. Holbrook. She’s a good teacher.”
“She’s a lot better than any English teacher I had in Boulder.”
“What do you have next?” I asked.
“Algebra 2, then Biology. How about you?”
“World Geography, then Chorus.”
“You sing. That’s cool.” He grinned. “You any good?” Frank blushed. “Sorry about that!”
“Hey!” I joked, “I’m a future American Idol winner. Or America’s Got Talent winner. Or The Sing Off winner. Or the X-Factor winner. Or whatever is on TV when I’m done with high school.” I grinned and winked.
“Well, I wish you luck. Is the chorus going to put on any performances?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know what we’re going to do or when. Maybe I’ll find out more today. You said you have Biology third period. Who’s your teacher?”
“How is he?”
“Well, based on being in this class for only one day, he is good. One thing I like about him is that he explains things so I understand them, he’s friendly, he smiles all the time, and he tells jokes.”
“I wish I had somebody like that for Biology. I have Mrs. Weil. She’s like an iceberg. Not friendly at all.”
“Maybe you could switch to my class.”
“Nah, that wouldn’t work. Chorus is only offered third period.”
“I guess you’re stuck then. Mr. Bristol only teaches Biology third period.”
“Whatever. Well, I better get going, World Geography awaits. It’s going to be mostly a lecture to review the colonization of the USA.”
“I need to get to Algebra 2, too.” He grinned at his use of the three variations of that word. I groaned
“I’ll see you at lunch, Tony.”
“Okay. See you then, Frank.”
I liked Frank. It looked like we were going to be friends. Because there weren’t many kids from Carver at Wilson, I’d have to build a new group of friends. I had a good start with the kids in Todd’s group, but I felt it would be important to make other friends of my own.
Mr. Ryan did give a lecture on the colonization of America, but he made it more of a discussion by asking us what we thought about some things, like how the Indians and Colonists related and treated each other.
He asked an interesting question: “Did the colonists trust the Indians and did the Indians trust the colonists?” That generated a lot of discussion, so he asked us to do some research online and in our textbook and we’d continue the discussion the next day. I thought that was very cool. Again, even though this was a Geography class it was better than any of my history classes at Carver. So far it seemed my high school classes were going to be more interesting than those in middle school.
I got to Chorus and sat down on one of the top risers. The classroom we used had a platform with risers. That’s what Mr. Emmonds called what I would have described as a stage with five steps that ran the full width across the front. We stood on the risers to sing, and sat on them to listen to Mr. Emmonds lecture, listen to music he’d play for us, and to listen when students would solo.
One of the kids I met the day before sat down next to me and said, “Hi, Tony.”
“You’re a freshman, right?” he asked.
“Uh huh. What grade are you in?”
“I’m a sophomore. This is one of the few classes I’ve had where there are kids from every grade.”
“Yeah, me too. I think that’s a good idea, having some classes that mix all of us together. I think it’s especially good for freshmen, like me. Did you take chorus last year?”
“Yeah. I’ve been in chorus every year starting in middle school. I want to be a singer after I graduate.”
“That’s cool. I haven’t decided what I want to do. Go to college, for sure. I’m interested in lots of things, so I see the next couple years in high school will give me some ideas about what I want to do with my life.”
Mr. Emmonds stepped up to his music stand. He had one of those wide, heavy duty stands that could hold a couple scores and a book or two all at the same time. One of the things that I found very unusual happened when he told us he wanted us to use his first name, Carter, when we talked to him. Weird.
“Okay, class,” he said, “today I’d like to start with a discussion of our Christmas Choral Performance. It will be held in the Performing Arts Theater. There will be four performances with one per day, starting the Saturday before Christmas. What I’d like you to do today is get together and pick the songs we’ll sing in this Christmas Choral Performance.
“Here is a list of the songs with the play time for each. The total song play time will be eighty minutes and the time of each performance will be two hours; that’s one-hundred and twenty minutes. There will be four sets of twenty minutes each with a ten minute break after the first and third sets, and a twenty minute break after the second set. If, and I emphasize the if, there are requests for encores, we will only do two. So, please select two additional songs that we can use if they are needed, and they won’t be included in the eighty minutes of our performance.
“Now, I want the class to begin a discussion of the songs to be included in our Christmas Choral Performance. Let’s start by sitting in a circle on the platform.”
I stood up and turned around to see who sat behind me. I waited until they stood and those behind them began moving onto the platform and forming a ragged circle.
“I guess we oughta join the circle, okay?” I asked David.
“Yup, let’s do it. I like Christmas songs and Christmas carols. Let’s pick some good ones.”
After Chorus and Algebra 2 I looked forward to having lunch and sitting with Todd and his friends. As I entered the cafeteria I saw Frank at the end of the line. I walked over and stood behind him.
I poked him in the back. “Hey, why you taking so long deciding?”
He turned around and grinned. “Can’t fool me. I’d recognize that voice anywhere.”
“Wow, my voice is that distinct?”
“Yup. Now, as far as deciding, I’m gonna have the tamale plate.”
“Are you sure you want that?”
“Yes. Compared to the other stuff it looks the best.”
“Okay, I’ll get it too. However, if I die from eating it I’m gonna sue you.”
Frank grinned. “But if you die from eating it I’ll probably die from eating it too. Besides, if you’re dead you wouldn’t be able to sue me. And if I’m dead and you’re not, you still wouldn’t be able to sue me.”
“Not so, Mr. Frank Candler, I have my ways!”
We moved to where the serving lady who dished out the tamale plate stood.
Frank asked her, “I’ll have the tamale plate, please.”
“And I’ll have the same,” I said.
She dished up two plates. When she handed me mine she smiled.
“Are you Tony or Todd?”
“I’m Tony. I’ll bet you’re Doris.”
“Yes, I am. Your mother phoned me last night and told me how I’d messed up the surprise you cooked up with Todd. If I say so for myself, I did a wonderful job of running interference for your mom.” She laughed.
“Well, it really worked. Todd and I fooled his mom, and my mom just laughed at us. I thought it was funny.”
“Me too,” Doris said. “But now you better move on so I can feed the kids behind you and so your lunch doesn’t get cold. Nice to meet you, Tony.”
“Nice to meet you, Doris,” I responded.
Frank and I paid for our lunches with our lunch cards. As I led him to the table where the rest of the crew sat he asked, “Who’s Doris?”
I gave a one minute summary of how Todd and I surprised his mom and how Doris had called my mom and told her about us, so our attempt to surprise her resulted in her laughing at us.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s a practical joke, and I love practical jokes.”
“So I need to be careful of your practical jokes?” I asked.
“Nope. I don’t play practical jokes on friends. My friends and I play practical jokes on others, like our brothers and sisters and sometimes even our teachers and our folks.”
“Cool,” I said. “Like the practical jokes Todd and I came up with to play on our moms.”
We got to the table. “Guys, this is Frank Candler. He’s in my homeroom and English class.”
Everyone said, “Hi!” to Frank, then the introductions went around the table. That finished and we sat down. Frank sat across from me and Todd. I saw him staring at us.
“Todd, let’s stand up so Frank can see the two of us together.”
We stood and Frank looked at us, back and forth, then he grinned.
“Damn, you guys do look like identical twins. Can I take a picture of you? I want to show my folks.”
“Okay, just don’t post in on Facebook or anywhere else online.”
“I won’t do that. I wouldn’t do that without someone’s okay, ever.” Frank pulled out his smartphone and took one picture of me and Todd.
“Cute how you two dressed alike today.”
“We didn’t plan to dress the same,” Todd said. “We didn’t talk about what we were going to wear today. I don’t know about Tony, but I just pulled out the clothes that were at the front of my closet.”
“I actually picked out what to wear,” I said. “I decided to wear jeans, a black T, and this light green shirt. Our minds must work the same because we both picked out the same things.”
“They were dressed the same yesterday, too,” Heather said, “different clothes than what they’re wearing today, but the same. And they’d never met before lunch yesterday.”
“You want to hear the weirdest thing?” Ron said. “They were born on the same date. When was it, Todd?”
“We were both born on November 11th, 2000. I was born in Chicago, Illinois and Tony was born in Glendale, California, so we know we’re not twins who were separated at birth.”
“You oughta have your DNA checked to see where it’s the same and where it’s different,” Frank suggested.
“Yeah, we thought about that,” I said. “I checked on the internet last night and found out that we could get a DNA comparison test. They require credit cards and I don’t have a credit card so I wouldn’t be able to pay for it. It’s probably better if we get our parents to agree to have us take the DNA test and pay for it, but I don’t know if they’d do it. We already know we’re not twins, so it would be one of those things my dad calls ‘idle curiosity’ and he wouldn’t be eager to pay for DNA testing just because we’re curious.”
“Still, it would be interesting to see how your DNA compares,” Frank said. “You could do it for your Biology project. That way your folks would have a non-idle-curiosity reason for paying for the tests.”
“Biology project? What Biology project?” both Todd and I asked at the same time, and that made us grin.
“At the end of the semester we have to turn in a Biology project that’s going to be twenty percent of our grade. You’ll need a partner. Mr. Bristol said he’ll let us choose our own partners. It has to be turned in on the sixth of January. That’s two weeks before the end of the semester and final exams.”
“I wonder if Weil will let us choose our own partners?” Todd asked me. “That way — with her approval — we could actually do a joint project on doppelgangers with a DNA analysis.”
“But will DNA be included in Biology this semester?” I asked.
“Yes,” Frank said. “Mr. Bristol gave us a syllabus for the class. It has everything that we’re going to be studying in Biology this year. Didn’t you get one?”
“No!” I said.
“I’ll make you a copy of mine, if you want.”
“Thanks, I want! But first I’m gonna ask Weil for the class syllabus and see what she says.”
“Hey, guys,” Brian said, “your lunches are getting cold.”
As I watched, Frank took a bite of his tamale.
“Hey, not bad. It’s spicy, and the middle is still hot.”
I tried mine, and Frank was right. I finished my tamale and the rice, but left the refried beans. While I ate my lunch, Todd poked me with his elbow.
“I talked to my dad about your idea about fighting to be able to take the Weight Training class. After he finished laughing he said to tell you, ‘Thanks for the best laugh I’ve had in months.’”
“Uh, what you said wasn’t exactly clear. Did you mean it’s funny but it’s a good idea, or that the whole idea’s laughable and forget it?”
Todd sat there looking at me. Finally I couldn’t hold it back, and I started laughing.
“So what did your dad actually say? That it’s a good idea or that I should forget it?”
“He said to forget it. Sorry.”
“Eat your beans,” Todd suggested. ”They’re probably cold by now, but you’ll need all the energy you can get to fight with Weil about the syllabus.”
“Fugget it!” I said. “If I ate these beans you wouldn’t want to be around me this afternoon. I ate my tamale, and it was pretty good, and that’ll give me enough energy to take on Mrs. Weil.”
After lunch Todd, Heather, Greg, Brian, and I went to Spanish 3. Mr. Markham handed us sheets with a story written in Spanish, and the sheets he gave each of us had several sentences highlighted. Each of us had to read our highlighted part first in Spanish then again translated into English. He gave us a few minutes to read the entire story to help each of us figure out how to do the translation of the part that was highlighted in our copy. I liked doing it that way. I could follow along in the story and see how good, or bad, each kid did their translation.
After Spanish 3 Todd, Heather, Greg, and I went to Biology. I had what I wanted to say to Mrs. Weil all planned out in my mind. All I had to do is wait until I could raise my hand and ask her.
We sat down, and she started handing out papers. When I got mine I saw the title: ‘Biology 1 Syllabus’. Well, that was sort of a letdown! Still, now we each had our own syllabus. I looked for the first semester project information, and it was exactly the same as what Frank told us. Including that we were to pick our own partner.
Todd grinned, then pointed to me and then back to himself. I grinned and nodded. So we would be partners for the Biology project. Maybe we should do the doppelganger DNA thing that Frank suggested. That would be fun!
Mrs. Weil never turned to the board. She faced us, lecturing us about the structure of human bones, all class.
After Biology we talked to Heather.
“So you weren’t able to complain about Mrs. Weil talking to us when she’s facing the board,” I said to Heather.
“No, but the first time she does it I have my question about not hearing her memorized and ready to go.”
“Sounds good,” Todd said. “Now Tony and I have PE. See you tomorrow before school starts and we’ll talk about the freshman class election.”
“Okay, see you later,” she said, and walked down the hall.
Todd and I walked across campus to the gym for PE.
“Do you think they’ll start telling us about sex today?” Todd asked.
“I don’t know. Anyway, I won’t be with you because I have to meet with Coach Kavanaugh.”
“I don’t know. I think it might be something to do with the run-in I had with Kiernan Mach this morning. Remember that Coach Kavanaugh saw the whole thing and told Mr. Garrison it was Kiernan’s fault?”
“Yeah, I remember. So now Mr. Garrison knows who we are. It’s like we each have a bulls-eye painted on our fronts and on our backs.”
“I don’t think he’s that way. He knows that we’re good guys and that Coach Kavanaugh has our backs.”
“Yeah, maybe, but I’m not sure. If I don’t see you later, call me tonight and let me know what he wanted. I want to make sure you’re not in trouble.”
“Okay, will do.”
I went to room G-102, Coach Kavanaugh’s office, and the door was open. He sat at his desk writing something, so I knocked on the doorjamb.
“Hi, Tony, come in. Have a seat.”
I sat in one of the chairs in front of his desk.
“Thanks. Uh… you wanted to see me about something?”
“Yes.” He smiled. “There’s something I want you think about. I’d like you to try out for the freshman football team.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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