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?
On the ride home we talked about the house.
“You guys should take that one. It’s cool,” Todd said. “Great pool and pool house, big yard, basketball half-court, covered patio with a barbeque. Those bedrooms connected by ‘Jack and Jeff’ bathrooms are fantastic. And imagine, a urinal in both of those bathrooms.”
“It’s really big,” I said. “It has five bedrooms and an office.”
“We don’t need five bedrooms,” Dad said.
“I know,” Mom responded. “But ignoring the two extra bedrooms the rest of the house is perfect. It has what I want, a big kitchen with stainless steel appliances, and Donna said they all stay, quartz countertops in the kitchen, a big utility room, three and a half bathrooms, large showers, large walk-in closets, a sitting area in the master bedroom. It just goes on and on.”
“That it does, that it does,” Dad said. I could tell he was dragging his feet.
“Don’t forget the big yard and covered patio and the pool,” Todd said. “A pool’s really important in Davis. I read that it gets real hot during the summer.”
“Does the house have air conditioning?” I asked.
“Yes,” Dad replied. “It has two units, one for the first floor and one for the second floor. I asked Donna to get me copies of the electric and gas bills for this year.”
“Did you see the solar panels on the roof?” Todd asked.
“No, I didn’t,” Dad replied. “That could help with energy costs.”
“How much does that house cost?” I asked.
“It’s listed for $803,000. Donna says she thinks that she can get it cut back to about $780,000. That matches comparable prices for this size house in this part of Davis”
“Wow! That’s almost a million dollars!” I said. “How much can you get for our… for the house in Hillview?”
“About $850,000. That’s according to our real estate agent,” Dad replied.
“You’re kidding, right?” I asked.
“No, Tony, that a fairly typical price for a house in Hillview like the one we have and in the neighborhood where we live. We’ve lived there long enough that it’s appreciated from the $320,000 we paid for it when we bought it in 1994. We could never think about buying a house for $803,000 if the price of our current house hadn’t appreciated along with the cost of houses in the Bay Area.”
“What’s the address of your new house?” Todd asked.
“It’s at 2745 Alder Court, in the city of Davis,” Dad replied. “But it’s not our new house yet. We haven’t decided on it yet, and all three of us will have to talk about it. We have to decide if a five bedroom house makes sense for us. There will be negotiations over the price. We need a home inspection. We need to make sure the bank will provide the interim loan we need to buy the house and that’s based on their agreeing on the sales price we expect to get for our current house. We need to find out what the utility bills are. We need to find out what the property taxes are. We need to find out what high school Tony will attend.”
I added, “I need to find out where the house is in relation to whatever high school I’d go to, and how I’d get to school and back. I need to find out what their football team is like and what the coaches are like. I need to find out what kinds of classes they offer and that I can take when I start tenth grade there. I need to find out if all my units will transfer to that high school.”
“Why wouldn’t all of your units transfer?” Mom asked.
“I’m taking Creative Writing and Chorus as elective courses. I’m taking freshman football for PE. I took Algebra 1 in seventh grade and Geometry in eighth grade. I took Algebra 2 and Trig at Sand Hill Community College and got approval from Edison to accept that for my high school credit. I need all those units to transfer so I can get credit for them. If they don’t I might have to take Algebra I or Geometry or both over, I might have to take an extra semester of PE. I might not have enough units to graduate if they don’t take Creative Writing and Chorus. None of those are acceptable because it would end up being a real mess.”
“I would think that any public school has to accept all units from any other public school in the same state,” Dad said.
“I asked Mrs. Brownlee, my counselor, and she’s the one who said I needed to get my transcript at the end of the semester and talk to a counselor at my new high school about those classes transferring. She looked up the junior high school and they don’t offer Algebra 1 or Geometry in the eighth grade.”
“What did she say would happen if those classes don’t transfer?” Todd asked.
“I’d either have to retake some classes in summer school or during the school year instead of electives. The biggest problem is that I took Algebra 1 and Geometry in middle school, the seventh and eighth grades. If they’re not accepted and I can’t take them in summer school then I’ll be behind a year and I might even have to take Algebra 2 and Trig over again if they don’t accept what I took at Sand Hill, and that means I won’t be able to take the AP Calculus class in my junior year. Without that I might not be accepted at Cal. That sucks big time.”
“Tony! Watch your language,” Mom said.
“Sorry. But if what I say happens to me, it’s true. High school will be wrecked for me.”
“You’re overreacting, Tony,” Dad said. “Just wait until we find out what high school you’ll attend and we’ll take your freshman schedule and middle school transcript and talk to them.”
“I guess,” I said. “The one thing I know is there’s only one high school, Davis High.”
“Don’t be so grumpy,” Mom said. “You keep fighting this move.”
I didn’t say anything. Todd bumped me with his shoulder, and when I looked at him he did a quick, short shake of his head and mouthed a ‘shhh’ telling me to drop it. I dropped it. But I think I made my point.
“Did you like the house, Tony?” Dad asked, changing the subject.
“Yeah, I did. My bedroom wouldn’t be very large, but if I can use one of the other bedrooms for my desk and computer, and for my TV and have a couch to sit on, that would be great. That still leaves two bedrooms for guests. Maybe Mom could use one of them as a space for things she’d want to do. You know, reading or hobbies or something.”
“Hey, how about me?” Dad asked.
“You’d have the office downstairs,” Mom replied. “And it sounds like the five bedrooms aren’t a big problem.
On the way home Dad drove through Davis. It looked like a bigger version of Hillview, but everything was flat. We got to see Davis High School. It has a large campus and modern looking buildings. He drove in and parked, and Todd and I walked around a bit. There’s something weird about a high school campus on a Sunday. No kids, no adults, no one at all. We saw the football stadium off in the distance, and a big park on one side of the campus. Thing is, once you’ve seen the outside of a few buildings at a high school it gets repetitive and boring. So we went back to the car and left Davis High.
Dad drove through the University of California Davis campus. Now, that was a huge campus! He pointed out the Math building where he’d be teaching, and some other things like the Veterinary Medicine school with barns for large animals. He said they handled the normal cows and horses, but could handle zoo animals like elephants that needed treatment. He said he’d give me and Todd a tour of everything during the holiday break.
“Can Scott come too?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said. “Todd, you can invite Brian to come along if you want.” It surprised me that Dad remembered Brian’s name.
“Uh… Brian doesn’t know Tony’s going to move to Davis. We decided to keep it quiet.”
“The only ones who know are Todd, Scott, Coach Kavanaugh, and Mrs. Brownlee,” I added.
“Why is that?” Mom asked.
“I don’t want to spend all of my time answering people’s questions. And Todd and I are running for class president and vice president, and that could change people’s minds about voting for me and maybe for Todd, too. So I’m not going to tell anyone until the week before the end of the semester.”
We left Davis and I was quiet until Dad pulled into a steakhouse and we had dinner. The steak I ordered was really good, and Todd started joking and I joined in. Todd always has a way to pull me out of one of my grumpy moods.
When we got home I went to my room to check email and surf the net looking for stories about Del Rio’s freshman team and about their first game. There wasn’t much, just a couple mentions about their varsity game in Sacramento newspapers. The high school sports sites didn’t have anything which didn’t surprise me. They depended on the schools to update freshman and JV teams in every sport. The Del Rio website didn’t have any scores at all, just the schedules of their fall sports varsity teams and something about getting permission slips signed to be on a team. What a waste of the one sports page they had on their site.
I looked up and saw Todd standing in my doorway.
“Nah. Just trying to find something about Del Rio. There wasn’t anything about their freshman football team, even on their school website. They don’t even have their varsity scores listed.”
He came in and sat on my bed. “Is there anything about our games on our website?”
“Good question. Lemme look.”
I brought up our website, and right there on the home page, in the right sidebar, the results of our varsity and freshman games were listed followed by short stories on each game. The stories were bylined by Rick Coyle.
“I’m impressed,” I said. “Who’s Rick Coyle?”
“He’s in my Journalism class and writes sports stories. I’m glad to see that our website guys are on top of what goes on at school.”
“Hey, I Googled what my folks and the real estate salesperson thought was so funny. “Turns out Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is an old movie about… well, you guess!”
“Some brides and some brothers get together and decide to play soccer?” Todd guessed, obviously kidding.
“Nope. You lose.”
“Damn, I never win anything! Anyway, the reason I wanted to talk to you is it’s time to finish our interview.”
“I thought we were done.”
“Nope. I still have some questions for you.”
“Why didn’t you ask me while we were driving to Davis?”
“I figured you wouldn’t want to have your folks hear my questions, and that you might be more careful about how you answered them. This way you’ll be more relaxed.”
“Oh. I didn’t think about that. Okay, let’s do it.”
“Okay, my next question is how much experience did you have before joining the freshman team?”
“Other than tossing a football around once in a while, none. I didn’t play in middle school or on Junior, Pop Warner, or Pee Wee teams.”
“So what made you decide to try out for the freshman team?”
I repeated what Todd already knew. “Kiernan Mach tried to slam me into my locker and I felt him coming and moved away so he slammed himself into the lockers. Coach Kavanaugh saw it and said he’d like me to try out for the team. Uh… you better leave Kiernan’s name out of the story.”
“Good point. I’ll just say ‘a bully’ in the story. So what did it feel like the first time you got on the field wearing your uniform?”
“I assume you mean practice uniforms. Well, it was a little scary. Most of the guys had been part of the summer practice sessions, and I hadn’t. Thing is, once I got out there it felt exactly right. I liked handling and running with the ball, I liked playing on defense. It was such a great feeling. Working with the other guys on the team was the best part. We were all learning and figuring out how to handle our assignments for the various formations and plays, and how to cooperate with each other.”
“What did it feel like when you were told you’d made the team?”
“Amazing, just amazing. Sometimes it still seems like a dream.”
“How about when you were told you were on the first team and would be starting in your first game against Campo?”
“I was surprised. I was pleased. I was ready. That game was the most fun I’ve ever had.”
“You started on defense. Did that surprise you?”
“Just starting surprised me. I wanted to play, and like I told you playing defense is fine with me. As it worked out I intercepted the ball on Campo’s first play. The ball went up in the air and I caught it and ran to the Campo 7 yard line. We were able to score a touchdown on the next play and that set the tone for the game.”
“You’re only thirteen years old. What’s it like starting on a high school football team when you’re that young?”
I grinned. “Fantastic.”
“Does it make a difference that you’re younger than most of the other players on the Wilson freshman football team?”
I sat back and looked at Todd. “I am? I didn’t know that.”
“You are. There are only eight other players on the team who are thirteen. So back to my question: does it make a difference?”
“I don’t think so. Why would it? Today is what,” I stopped and thought for a moment, “the fourteenth of September. In less than two months I’ll be fourteen.” I grinned. “Funny how those numbers match.”
Todd ignored my joke. “And in your last game this year, against College Park, you’ll be the only player on the team who’ll still be thirteen.”
“And… does that mean anything? For me it doesn’t make any difference. I’ll still be the same guy, the same player, the same teammate, as I am today. I’ll play on the offense or on the defense or both as long as Coach Kavanaugh wants me to play.”
“Two of the starters on the varsity football team, the quarterback and one of the running backs, came out as gay. Their teammates seem to be okay having gay teammates. What do you think about that? Do you think the freshman team would be as accepting?”
“That’s a question I won’t answer, Todd. I don’t think it’s appropriate. Please drop that question from this interview.”
“Okay. Forget that question, it won’t be in the interview.
“That’s all, Tony. Thanks for your time answering my questions.”
“You’re welcome, Todd. Will your article be in this week’s Roundtable?”
“I think so. It’s the editor’s decision, of course. But the spot for my article is in this week’s galley.”
“Will I get a chance to see it before it’s published?”
“Sure. I’ll email you a copy tomorrow.”
Monday morning Todd and I walked to school and talked about the house.
“Okay, after sleeping and probably dreaming about it, how do you like that house in Davis?” Todd asked me.
“I like it. I like it better than our house here. It’s bigger with two more bedrooms and one and a half more bathrooms, a big pool and a pool house with changing rooms, a huge yard with room to throw a football and play soccer, and the basketball half-court. For a house there’s lots to like. What’s wrong with it is that it’s in Davis.”
“You really are grumpy about this move, aren’t you.”
“Yes. Wouldn’t you be if it was you who’d be relocated to Davis, California in the middle of your freshman year?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Like you said yesterday, it sucks.”
“Actually, I said it sucks big time.”
“That’s an even worse kind of sucking. At least the school looks pretty nice, newish buildings and lots of grass and trees.”
“Maybe. I just don’t want to leave here. I’ve got you, my almost-twin cousin. I’ve got your folks, I’ve got Scott, my boyfriend. I’ve got lots of friends like Heather and Frank and Brian and Parker and lots more. I’ve got my teammates and coaches and football. I’ve got the weight training room. Hey, don’t look at me that way. The weight training room is fantastic. I’ve got teachers who like me. Hell, I’ve even got an enemy who I know, Kiernan Mach, who I think is in jail now. I remember reading something in World History last year. It goes something like, ‘Always know your enemies. The ones you know can’t attack you by surprise.’ Or something like that, if you get what I mean.”
Todd stopped short. “Oh jeez.”
I stopped too. “What?”
“There’s Heather with fire in her eyes.”
“You can’t see anything in her eyes, Todd. She’s too far away.”
“It’s not seeing or not seeing her eyes. It’s the way she walks. Watch her for a few seconds.” We started walking again.
I watched the girl Todd thought was Heather. She was pacing back and forth in front of the entrance to the Wilson campus. After a few seconds I recognized her. It was Heather.
“Todd, it is Heather. Don’t let it slip that we went to Davis yesterday,” I said.
“I won’t. I’ll bet she has our speeches,” he said.
Finally she saw us and waved. I waved back; Todd didn’t.
“Wave at her. Be nice,” I said.
He put up his right hand and wiggled his fingers.
When we got to the entrance she grabbed us and pulled us up the walk to the Social Studies building.
“Hurry! The meeting is going to start in five minutes!”
“Wait… what meeting?” Todd asked.
“Hurry. The election committee meeting. All candidates have to be there. Didn’t you get my text message?”
“No,” Todd said.
“Me either,” I added.
“Did you check your phones for messages?”
“No,” I said. “I turned my phone off and plugged it in to recharge the battery. I haven’t turned it back on.”
“Well, here we are, just on time. Let’s find seats together.”
There were three empty seats together in the back row, so she pulled us there and we sat down.
“So tell us what this meeting is about,” Todd insisted.
I was glad that Todd was between Heather and me. She gave him such a look.
“The election is Friday. Today you’re going to confirm that you’re running for your office. Second, the rules for the voting are going to be handed to each of us and we have to sign one copy saying that we’ve received the rules and read them and agree with them. Then I’m going to give you your speeches that you’re going to read Friday morning in your homeroom.”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “You mean only my homeroom is going to hear my speech?”
Heather leaned forward so she could see around Todd, then glared at me like I was a three-year-old. She closed her eyes, sighed loud enough that some other kids turned to see what was going on, and told me, “Tony, your speech is going to be broadcast to each of the freshman homerooms. You will be given a microphone and you will talk into that microphone and it will send your voice to those other rooms. It’s all modern technology at work. Okay?”
“Yes, okay, but you don’t have to be so weird about it. I’m not in elementary school!”
“Alright, I’m sorry. But we were supposed to check in ten minutes early. When you didn’t get here on time I started to freak. If you’d been here on time we would have talked about your speech before the meeting.”
“Sorry we didn’t check for messages,” Todd said. I interrupted him, “Yeah, we had family stuff to do yesterday and got home late.”
“Attention, please.” The same teacher that headed up the first election meeting we attended, Mr. Neilson, stood and asked us to come up when the office we were running for was named, and we were to sign the form next to where our name was printed. I thought this seemed rather juvenile.
Eventually he called out, “Freshman Class Vice President.” I walked up along with Loren Ellerbe and Jeffrey Stotomis. When it was my turn I signed the blank space next to my name and handed the form to Mr. Neilson. Then I returned to my seat.
Then he called out, “Freshman Class President,” and Todd walked up with the other kids who were running for that class.
The rules for voting were handed out, and then Mr. Neilson read them. Like we couldn’t read them ourselves? Sheesh! Maybe redesigning how the class elections were conducted is something the freshman class could take on as a project.
“Okay, any questions?” Mr. Neilson asked.
There were some questions, none of them very important, and most were answered in the handout.
“Okay, good luck to everyone.”
Heather said we should stick around. When everyone else had left the room she started talking to us in her professorial voice.
“I have your speeches drafted. We need to practice. I know you have a game on Thursday afternoon, but what about Thursday night? That will be a great time for your final run-through. You’ll still remember your speech on Friday morning.”
“That means I’ll miss the varsity game with Del Rio. That’s a problem. My coach wants us to go to all of the varsity games.”
“How important is the varsity football game with Del Rio?” Todd asked.
“I don’t know. I’ll find out during PE seventh period.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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