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 woke up lying on my back with Todd on his left side facing me. He had his right leg on top of my body with his knee pressing at my belly button. It felt good but made me realize that I had to get up and take a leak, right away.
I pushed his leg off me then got up and rushed to the bathroom. I made it in time, and returned to bed and got in. I turned on my right side, facing him. Like when I woke up, he was on his left side, sound asleep. I could hear him snoring, very softly. I smiled.
Todd looked so cute. That made me chuckle out loud. If I think Todd looks cute, since we’re almost-twins it’s the same as thinking that I look cute. There’s a word for that, narcissistic, named in a Greek myth. A handsome Greek youth, Narcissus, saw his reflection in a pool and fell in love with himself. When he realized that he loved his own image he committed suicide.
So what if I’m narcissistic if I look at Todd? It’s not like I’m actually falling in love with my own image the way Narcissus did. Anyway, Narcissus was pretty stupid for killing himself. Mrs. Livingston, my eighth grade English teacher, said if we can’t love ourselves we can’t love others. I think that’s pretty cool.
Todd’s eyes fluttered open. He saw me smiling at him and scooted over so we were face to face, our bodies pressed together.
“Morning,” he whispered.
“Morning,” I replied. “It’s real early, around six o’clock.”
He put his right arm around me.
“I love you, Tony McKinley,” he said.
I realized what he meant, and I started to tear up.
“I love you, too, Todd Anderson.”
He reached in and we kissed, then he pulled back a couple inches.
“You know what I mean, don’t you.”
“I think so.”
“I love you more than how cousins should love each other.”
“That’s good. Because I love you the same way.”
Todd smiled. “We make a great pair, don’t we?”
“Yes, we do. A perfect pair, in my opinion.”
“So, Tony, what do you want to do now?”
“How about go back to sleep?”
“Nah,” he replied, pushing his hand down between us. “How about this?”
“Oh!” I exclaimed. “Oh, that feels good!”
After our early morning exercise, the scent of bacon woke me at around eight-thirty. Time to get up. I looked at Todd. He grinned.
“The bacon smells good, doesn’t it. Bacon and eggs for breakfast?” he asked.
“Or pancakes and bacon. Or waffles and bacon.”
“Any of those sounds excellent. I guess it’s time to get up.” He stretched, yawned, then leaned in and we kissed.
We got up, showered, did our morning bathroom routines, then got dressed and went downstairs.
“Morning, Mom, I said.
“Morning, Aunt Trish,” Todd said.
“Good morning, boys. How did you sleep?”
“Good,” I said. “Todd snores.”
“What! I don’t snore. You need to have your ears fixed.” He grinned.
“He does snore,” I stage whispered.
Todd poked me in the side. “And you snore, too!”
I jumped away, laughing. “Don’t tickle!”
“You know, Tony,” Mom said, “if Todd snores then you snore too.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” ‘But I don’t,’ I thought to myself.
“So,” Mom asked, “how do pancakes and bacon sound?”
“It sounds great, Aunt Trish. Thanks.” Todd said. “I agree,” I added.
Todd sat down at the kitchen table. I went to the refrigerator and pulled out the bottle of orange juice.
“Orange juice okay, Todd?” I asked.
I poured two large glasses of orange juice, then sat down across from Todd.
Mom gave us each a plate with four pancakes and four slices of bacon. We put butter and real maple syrup on our pancakes and started eating.
“I assume you’re going to finish your homework this morning,” Mom said.
I looked at Todd and he nodded.
“Yeah, we’ll work on it as soon as we finish eating,” I said.
“Do you have any other plans for today?” she asked.
“I’m going to talk to Todd about my trying out for the freshman football team. I want his opinion and approval if I’m going to do it. Then I need to talk to you and Dad about it. Where is Dad?”
“He went to the hardware store to pick up some pots so he can transplant some flowers for me. He’ll be home in a little while.”
“I’m going to call Scott and ask if his dad can come over this afternoon or tomorrow afternoon. I’ll let you know what I find out.”
“Alright. Either is fine, but if it’s today we’ll need to phone Todd’s parents to let them know before they make other plans.”
The other thing I needed to do was ask Todd if he went to church on Sundays. Our family wasn’t very religious, but on Christmas we went to church to listen to the Christmas carols.
When we finished we rinsed our dishes and put them in the dishwasher. Then Todd and I went upstairs to talk.
“I have a question,” I said. “Do you go to church on Sunday? We don’t, but if you want to tomorrow morning, that’s okay. My folks can drive you to your church.”
“No, I don’t like the church. My mom and dad go on Easter and Christmas.”
“What kind of church is it?”
“Catholic. My mom’s Catholic. She took me to church every Sunday when I went to elementary school, but when I started fifth grade I decided that I didn’t want to go any more. She said that was my decision and it was okay. The reason, which I never told her, was that they kept preaching about gays and how it’s a sin. I guess even in the fifth grade I subconsciously knew that I was gay. I do like to go on Christmas because they sing Christmas carols. How about you?”
“Sort of the same thing,” I replied, “but neither of my folks go to church every Sunday. We go to the Metropolitan Community Church on Christmas to listen to the choir singing carols. Do you believe in God?”
“I don’t know,” Todd said. “I haven’t figured that out yet. Do you?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t like most of the organized religions. They are homophobic, and I also know that I’m gay so that turns me off. I find it hard to believe in the God that’s in the bible. Or maybe what I should say is, I don’t believe in the bible. There’s a lot of good stuff, like the commandments, but then there’s this stuff about stoning people for stupid things like men shaving and for being gay and for wearing clothes made of two kinds of cloth. Then there’s all this hocus-pocus miracles stuff that’s more like magic and fantasy.
“The bible is too out of date,” I continued. “I believe in science. What it says in the bible doesn’t fit well with that. I think if there’s a God he would have created science. I also think that if a God created me and I’m gay that’s how he made me and that’s okay.”
“This stuff about ‘God made you gay because God is testing you so you can’t love another guy’ is garbage,” Todd said. “The Catholic Church says that we’re made in God’s image. Well, if there’s a God he made me and I’m gay so he must be okay with being gay. But you know what really turns me off about religions?”
“What?” I asked.
“Those bible-thumpers on TV. That’s what my dad calls them. I watched a few of them and it looks like all they’re trying to do is get people to send them money. What a rip-off!”
I laughed. “Yeah, I saw this one preacher ranting about how the gays are ruining the country. What a jerk. Well, I guess we won’t have to take you to church tomorrow morning.”
“Nope,” Todd agreed. “Tell me about this football decision.”
“Okay. So far I really like what I’m reading about playing football on a team. I like Coach Kavanaugh. He’s easy going and friendly. We haven’t had practice yet, but we’ll start that this week. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about it once I start getting hit and knocked down, but I’m kinda eager to see what it’s going to be like. I have to sign up to try out for the team in order to be part of the practice sessions. For that I need my folks to sign their approval. For that I need you to tell me that you’re okay with me going out for freshman football. What do you think about it? Are you for or against me trying out for the team?”
“As long as you can quit if you feel it’s not for you, then I think you should do it. I’ve been thinking about it, and I realized it’s cool that you’re able to try out. I’ll be able to write stories about your games for the Roundtable. I asked Mr. Flynn and he said I would be assigned to cover the freshman football team.”
“Thanks for your okay, Todd. And it’s fantastic that you’ll be covering the games. That means you’ll travel with the team to away games, too. That oughta be fun.”
“I think it’ll be good to get to know the guys on the team and maybe write stories about them. I’ll also have access to the locker room and I’ll be able to check out their hot bods. Say, speaking about checking out things, we should call Scott and ask about his dad coming to your house to meet us and check us out.”
“Yeah, we do need to do that,” I said. “Let’s see, it’s quarter to ten, so either Scott’s out of bed by now, or he should be. Let’s call him.”
I turned on my cell and we waited while it powered up, then I logged on. I clicked on Scott’s cell number and turned on the speaker so Todd could hear.
“Hi, Tony. What’s up?”
“Todd’s at my house, and we were wondering if your dad wanted to come over this afternoon to meet us like we’d talked about. And you can come, too, if you’re not doing anything.”
It sounded like he was walking downstairs with his cell in his hand. Then I heard him ask his dad about this afternoon.
“Tony? My dad wants to talk to you.”
“Hi, Tony. I’m Robert Sanderson, Scott’s father. He’s told me about you and… uh…” I heard Scott say, ‘Todd’ and his dad continued, “Todd, and how you look and act like identical twins. I’m very interested in coming to see you two this afternoon. But I want to talk to one of your parents to make sure it’s alright with them.”
I got up and started walking downstairs to the kitchen.
“I’m taking my phone downstairs and my mom can talk to you. She and my dad and Todd’s folks are interested in what you think, and Todd’s folks will come to my house when you come over this afternoon. She can also tell you where we live.”
“Alright. I’ll wait for her to get on the call.”
Mom sat at the kitchen table reading the morning paper and drinking a cup of coffee.
“Mom, I’ve got Dr. Robert Sanderson on the phone. He wants to talk to you about coming over this afternoon.”
I handed her my cell. There wasn’t much to hear other than he’d be here at two and would bring Scott.
Mom handed me my phone. Todd and I were about to go upstairs when I remembered something. “Mom, he doesn’t know that our dads are actual twins. He just thinks he’s coming here to see me and Todd.”
“Well, then he’s certainly going to be surprised, isn’t he!” she said.
“Maybe our dads are twins is a reason for me and Todd to look like twins,” I suggested. “That would be really interesting.”
“That’s certainly possible,” she said.
“Why don’t I call my folks and let them know?” Todd asked.
“Sure. I’ve got your home phone in my contacts.” I handed him my cell.
He talked to his mom and the meeting with our families and Dr. Sanderson was set for two o’clock.
Todd and I went upstairs and got into what homework we hadn’t finished already. Most of mine was just reading, and we both finished by eleven-thirty.
“Okay, what do you want to do now?” I asked.
“Do you want to try running that Rama game on your PC?”
“Yeah! Let’s do it.”
I opened the box. “It’s on three CD’s, I said.”
I inserted disk one. It spun for a bit, then a message was displayed in the upper right corner of the screen asking what I wanted to do with the CD. I opened it in File Explorer and clicked on install.exe. A message displayed, ‘This app can’t run on your PC. To find a version for your PC, check with the software publisher.’
“Shit,” I said. “I guess it’s a no-go then.”
“Not necessarily. Lemme try something.”
Todd right-clicked on the install.exe file and selected ‘Troubleshoot Compatibility’ from the pop-up list. A dialog box opened with the words ‘Detecting issues’ and a progress bar with a green part that kept scrolling across the bar. After a long time it showed two options, to use the recommended settings or make my own choices. He picked the first option.
The dialog box now read, ‘Test compatibility settings for install.exe’ and ‘Settings applied to install: Windows compatibility mode Windows XP (Service Pack 3)’ and a button reading ‘Test the program’ — and he clicked the button. Two new buttons showed up at the bottom right corner, ‘Next’ and ‘Cancel’ so he clicked on ‘Next’ to see what would happen. There were three choices and he checked the one that said the problem had been fixed, then clicked the ‘Next’ button. The next screen had a box that read, ‘Issues found’ then ‘Incompatible program, Fixed’ with a green circle and a checkmark in it. He ignored the other two choices and clicked the ‘Close’ button.
“Well, let’s give it a try.” He was about to click on install.exe to see if it’d run when I noticed a larger program with an icon, autoplay.exe.
“I think you should check the compatibility of this program. Look, it’s a lot larger file.”
This time it went immediately to the screen with the ‘Test the program’ button. But this time we both noticed that it said ‘Test the program before clicking Next’ So he double-clicked on autoplay.exe. It opened a screen with a wireframe diagram of the Rama ship and choices to Launch, Install, and Exit.
“Look, it worked. At least this far,” Todd said.
“Cool. What now?” I asked.
“I’ll go back to the dialog box and see if it says it’s fixed, like it did with install.exe.”
He clicked the ‘Next’ button and it read ‘Fixed’ like before. Then he went back to the opening screen and clicked Install. We got a message that said that setup.exe wasn’t compatible with 64-bit versions of Windows.
“It’s dead, Tony. It won’t run on a 64-bit version of Windows. Do you have a PC in the house that has the 32-bit version of Windows?”
“No. They’ve all been upgraded to the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1. What about at your house?” I asked.
“No, bummer. My laptop and the PC in my dad’s office are both 64-bit.”
“We can ask Scott if he has a 32-bit PC when he comes over this afternoon.”
“Okay,” I said. “I guess there isn’t anything else I can do except use it as a place to save the instructions for you-know-what.”
I put the instructions back in the Rama box and put it back on the shelf where it had been for a long time.
“Maybe it’ll be valuable someday,” I said.
“Could be, but I don’t think it’d be as valuable as a diamond or an antique.”
“That’s true,” I responded. “Now, what should we do between now and lunch?”
“Could we go for a walk around the neighborhood? I’ve never been around here other than when we tried to surprise your mom.”
“You mean your Aunt Trish, don’t you?”
“I didn’t know she was my aunt then, so it’s probably better to refer to her as your mom. That’s also better when I talking about her with you because her being your mom is more important than her being my aunt.”
“Okay, that makes sense. Also your idea about walking around the neighborhood before lunch makes sense too. That way we’ll get some exercise and build up our appetites for lunch.”
“Then lead on, McKinley!”
“Why did you use my last name?”
“Because if I said it the way it’s in Shakespeare I’d have to say, ‘Lead on, McDuff’ and that wouldn’t make any sense.”
“Yeah, it really wouldn’t make sense because that’s not what Shakespeare wrote. It’s in Macbeth, and the correct quote is ‘Lay on, Macduff.’ In Shakespeare’s time ‘lay on’ is what you’d say when you were telling someone that you were ready to fight them. Kind of like if we said, ‘Okay asshole, come and get me.’”
“Tony, how do you know all this kinda crap?”
“We had to read Macbeth last year in eighth grade English. Didn’t you have to read it?”
“No, we read Romeo and Juliet.” Todd raised his voice a couple octaves, and said, ‘Oh, Romeo, where the hell are you, Romeo.’”
I burst out laughing. “Where the hell did you get ‘where the hell are you’? That’s not quite the way Shakespeare wrote it.”
“I can’t remember all that ‘where for art’ crap. The way I said it makes more sense. Besides, when am I ever going to use Shakespeare?”
“English 2 next year when we’re sophomores?”
“No, I’m not kidding. We cover English lit in the tenth grade. That includes Shakespeare and other almost prehistoric English writers. Then probably when we get into college and have to take college English. So this year’s a good time to start cleaning up your act, Mr. Anderson.”
“We’ve just wasted a couple minutes standing in your bedroom talking about this stuff. So let’s get going and you can give me a guided tour of your neighborhood.”
“Let’s do it, then. But first I want to talk to my folks about trying out for football.” I led the way downstairs, and I told Mom what we were going to do.
“Did you finish your homework?” Mom asked.
“Yes, both of us,” I said. “Is Dad back? I want to ask him something,”
“Yes. He’s in the garage getting the pots ready for planting.”
Todd followed me to the garage.
“Hey, Tony. Hi, Todd. I there something I can do for you guys?”
“Uh, no, thanks. It’s just that Todd and I have been talking about me going out for the freshman football team. I wanted his okay before asking you and Mom about it. He said it’s okay with him. So, do you time so I can officially ask you and Mom and answer any questions you have?”
“Sure. Let’s go in and after I wash my hands we can sit down with you and have a discussion.”
Mom wasn’t in the kitchen, but I checked the family room. She sat reading a book.
“Mom, I want to ask you and Dad about what you’ve decided about me going out for the freshman football team. He’s washing his hands and will be here in a minute. Do you have time to do it now?”
She put down her book. “Yes, this is a good time. You told us that you were going to talk to Todd about it. I assume you did that and he’s okay with you playing football.”
“That’s right,” Todd said. “Tony told me that he could quit if he didn’t like being tackled and hit during practice. That helped me decide that it’s okay. I trust that his decision is right for him.”
Dad joined us and sat down next to Mom. Todd and I were standing.
“Why don’t you guys sit down,” Mom said. “It’ll be easier for all of us if you’re not standing like you’re giving a lecture.”
“Okay,” I said. “So, I’ve been in the Football 1A class for three days. So far all we’ve really done is read about football, and I got measured for my equipment. This week we’ll start practicing on the field. It’ll be conditioning, running and exercises, and I’ll be using the weight room. All of this is to build up my muscles and my stamina. I’ll get my uniform and pads and my helmet some time next week. Once real practice starts I’ll be wearing that equipment, including my helmet. That will help me from getting a concussion.
“Do you have any questions about what I said? Do you have any questions after reading the material Coach Kavanaugh handed out?”
“I have some questions,” Mom said. “Will there be a doctor at each of your games?”
“Yes. The school has a neurologist who will be at every game. The coaching staff is trained to recognize guys who have concussions and remove them from the game.”
“What about at your practices?” she asked. “You could get a concussion there just as easily as at a game.”
“The coaching staff has been trained about what to do, and a doctor is on call and can be at school in a few minutes. If they think it’s serious, they’ll call an ambulance and the paramedics can take care of simple stuff like cuts, and they’ll take me to the hospital.”
“What hospital? Kaiser?”
“I don’t know. It could be a different hospital, like Redwood Hospital where you work.”
“I’d prefer that,” she said.
“We decided that we’ll take the supplementary insurance that will cover the copays for any hospital and doctor bills,” Dad said. “Knock on wood that Tony wouldn’t get hurt and we wouldn’t have to use that policy.”
“Tony, are they going to buy you a new uniform and equipment?” Mom asked.
“If they have uniforms in stock and it fits, they’ll give those to me. I’ll have four uniforms. Two for games, one for practices, and one as a spare. The game uniforms will have to be washed after each game. The practice uniform, and if it’s used, the spare one too, will have to be washed once a week, on the weekend, and brought back to school. If a uniform is torn they’ll provide a replacement. The same with the pads, but I’ll only have one set that I’ll use. There are two things that’ll be mine and I’ll need to have you buy me some extras. The supporters, those are jock straps with protection cups, and each player gets a size that fits. I was measured for my helmet. It’ll get two, and they’ll be an exact fit for my head.
“Any other questions?”
“I have a question,” Dad asked. “How much hitting and tackling will there be in your practices?”
“I don’t know. We will have practices to simulate what happens in a game. If we didn’t then we’d never learn how to avoid the kinds of collisions that could cause a concussion or get us hurt. We also have to learn and practice our playbook in game conditions, so that means we’ll get all suited up and we’ll play against our defensive players.”
“Will some guys play both offense and defense in a game?” Dad asked.
“It could happen, but Coach Kavanaugh told us that they want to avoid having guys on the freshman team play both ways. It would only happen if we’re short-handed or if there’s a guy who’s so fantastic and wants to play both offense and defense and they’ll let him do it.”
“Well, your dad and I have been discussing this and, based on what we’ve read and hearing your answers today, you have our okay and we’ll sign the various agreements that you gave us.”
I stood up. “That’s fantastic, thanks.” I hugged Mom and Dad.
“We’ll try to get to your games to cheer the team and you,” Dad said
“Thanks. You know that our games are at around three or four in the afternoon, and about half of them are away games at other high schools?”
“No, I should have remembered that’s the way it was when I went to high school,” Dad said. “But at a minimum we’ll try to be at your first game.”
“Then I guess that’s it,” Mom said. “We’ll give you the signed papers so you can take them to school on Monday.”
“Okay, thanks. Todd and I are going for a walk around the neighborhood now, so he can see this area and we can get a little exercise.”
“Be sure to be back by one o’clock to have lunch,” she told us. “And remember, Dr. Sanderson will be here at two.”
“Okay, Mom. See you at one p.m.” I added, “I’ll have my cell with me so you can call if there’s something you need, and I’ll call if we’re going to be late.”
“Okay. See you boys later.”
“So long, guys,” Dad said. “Have fun.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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