Now Which One Are You?

Identical in every way


When I was in elementary school, lo those many years ago, a pair of identical twin boys moved into our school district. It was a small district, and I don’t think there was ever a pair of identical twins in the district before they arrived.

There was really no warning for us kids. We went home for summer break, did our summer break things, and when we came back to school in the fall, there were two new kids. Identical twins.

But it wasn’t as if, by magic, there they were, side by side for all to see. They put the boys in different homerooms. Homeroom in U.S. schools is the first class of each day, where they take roll and make sure everyone is present. The teacher introduced the new student, Greg, I think, and we all said “Hi”, and then it was time for the next class.

I think I was in my 5th or 6th year of elementary school at that time. In their earlier years, students stayed in the same classroom for the entire day, and the same teacher taught all subjects. But by the 5th and 6th years, the students moved between classrooms to teachers with different specialties who would teach specific subjects.

I had to change classrooms for my next class, so I gathered my stuff and moved out the door with the other students who were changing. I looked over my shoulder and saw Greg sitting there. Apparently, his next class was in the same classroom.

I filed into the classroom next door, found a seat, and got out my stuff. As I was settling in, I looked to my right, and there sat Greg. It was as if he had just materialized from thin air because I knew he had not walked out of the last classroom.

But how could that be? I just left him in the last classroom. But there he was, same shirt, same pants, same shoes, same haircut, same notebook, same pen, everything identical. Right down to the voice, a slight U.S. southern drawl.

I would have chalked it up to inattentiveness if I had known what that was at the time. The class finished up, and I had to move to my next class in a classroom across the hall. Once again, Greg remained behind. And once again, there he was, in the classroom across the hall, identical.

This time, I mustered up some courage and said, “Hi, Greg.” He said hi back, and class went on. Class ended, and my next class was in the same classroom, so it was Greg who gathered up his trappings, said goodbye, and moved out the door.

And then, I swear, he walked right back in the door. Identical. He sat down just behind me, so I turned around and said, “Hi Greg, I thought your class was next door.” He looked at me and said, “Oh, you must mean my brother, I’m Jeff.” I imagine I was looking a little confused.

Class ended, and my next class was back across the hall. Apparently, so was Jeff’s, or Greg’s, or whoever he was. I stood behind him in the line forming to enter our next classroom, across the hall. I looked over his shoulder at the students streaming out of the classroom, and there he came. Jeff, or Greg, or whoever he was. Walking out of the classroom that he was entering. Identical.

I knew Greg and Jeff for quite a few years after that. As they aged, it became easier and easier to tell them apart. But that first year, I wasn’t alone, even the teachers had to ask, “Now which one are you?”

To All My Buddies

When are you no longer BFFs?

Just what constitutes being a buddy? A bud. A BFF. Can you be a buddy with someone you just met? Or is there some unwritten rule that says you can’t be best buds until some certain period of time has passed? Is it like a probationary period, are you like “buddies in waiting”, or maybe “provisional buddies?” And if you’re buddies, can you fall out of “buddy-ness”, like we humans fall in and then out of love?

I’ve had lots of buddies over the years. There was my buddy Peter, who lived across the alley when I was a kid. I look back on that time, and I think we were inseparable, but then, we weren’t, because I haven’t seen him for decades. Were we really buddies?

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The Stone Stairs

A short fiction piece on place and memories

The stone stairs tumbled down the breach dug into the side of the hillock, steep and uneven. Grass burst from the spaces between the slabs, moss clung to their faces. The tumble poured into the earth, down a shaft that ended at a rough hewn door, a vertical plank of wood that seemed carved in place, as if from the taproot of some massive oak tree that had once stood on the mound.

OldFfarmsteadNature had long ago curled her tendrils around the head and jambs of the door’s timber frame, trying hard to pull it deeper into the hummock, the door appearing to meet directly with earth. A rough wooden dowel poked from a horizontal slot cut in the left side of the slab, and to the right four rusted carriage bolts signaled the iron straps that held a slide bolt to the inside of the door.

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One Love

Don’t miss the chance

I heard she died recently. I had a good cry, the next time I was alone. I wonder what life would have been had I chosen differently, had I chosen to go with her? That was a watershed time. As I think back, I’m not sure my reasoning was sound. Maybe it wasn’t reasoning at all. May she rest in peace.

FlowerOfSwirlsShe was the real love of my life. I didn’t know it then, because I didn’t know what it was, I hadn’t experienced it before. The closest was during an overnight school trip to a Thespian competition. We stayed at a hotel with groups from other schools. I met a girl that night and we stayed up all night sharing our deepest secrets. I experienced an unfamiliar feeling the next morning, when we exchanged our goodbyes. I didn’t know what it was. But the experience faded when I was back in school.

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The Old Woman

Every village needs a mother

The old woman had raised most of the children in the village. Every Sunday she would go to the little restaurant on First Street, sit at the same table, and hold court. A stream of young people would enter the restaurant, stop by the table, and submit to her review. Some came by themselves, some in groups, but all came to see the old woman.

Harper's_New_Monthly_Magazine_Volume_104_December_1901_to_May_1902_(1902)_(14781045774)She knew all their names. She’d helped raise some of them from infancy. She remembered all their birthdays, all their hopes and dreams, and all their past mistakes, better than they remembered them. And though some of them were well into raising children of their own, they still came, they still presented themselves for inspection, and they still listened to the old woman.

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The Best Thing Ever

What did we ever do before this?

What did we do before there were cell phones? Before there were cell phones, you had to go to the phone. The wealthy had them in every room of the house, but you still had to walk to them. The phone was actually attached, by wires, to the wall of your house. And you had to stand there for as long as you wanted to talk. Can you imagine how primitive and barbaric the world must have been?

Before there were cell phones, if you were driving and wanted to call somebody, you had to pull over and find a phone booth. Back then phone booths were all over the place, on almost every corner. Imagine if Superman had to find a phone booth today. The phone was actually attached, by wires, to the phone booth. And you had to stand in the booth for as long as you wanted to talk. How inconvenient is that?

What? A phone booth? It was a little glass cube along the side of the road that housed a pay phone. What? A pay phone? It was a phone that had a coin slot that you put coins in to pay for your call. No, there was not a slot for your debit card, we all carried change back then. No, there was no such thing as unlimited talk, you paid for every minute of every call you made.

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Things That I Used to Do

That I’ll never do again

“Things that I used to do. Lord, I don’t do no more.” That’s the start of a 1953 recording by Guitar Slim. It was quite popular back in the day. It’s a song about unrequited love, but many things that make us say “Never Again” are about things unrequited. Love is just one of them.

Usually, when we do something or try something that disappoints us, our disappointment can be traced to becoming too invested in the thing, sometimes to the point that the thing will never live up to our expectations. That restaurant that everyone is talking about, that you’re so eager to try, that you’ve been dying to eat at all week, sometimes it’s just not all that. The restaurant may be all that, but you became so invested that even all that isn’t enough. So you say never again. You’re anticipation was unrequited.

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