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?
Tuesday morning I had to get up at seven and get cleaned up, dressed ‘in nice clothes,’ and went downstairs and finished eating breakfast by the time Mom arrived at eight to drive to Davis. Of course, she arrived about fifteen minutes early. She and Aunt Nora chatted while I finished my toasted English muffin with peanut butter and apricot jam. Then I went back upstairs to brush my teeth and gargle so I wouldn’t smell like peanuts when we met the counselor at Davis High. I grabbed my tablet and put it in my backpack and was downstairs and ready to go at exactly eight o’clock.
“You’re ready to go, Tony?”
“Yeah. I have my backpack with what I need for my afternoon classes. Can we put it in the storage bin behind the back seat? All I need right now is my tablet.”
“Sure. Let me unlock the bin for you.”
When we got going I powered on my tablet.
“What are you reading on your tablet?”
“I have the textbook for my World Geography class.” I told her how Mr. Ryan put the Kindle version of our textbook on my tablet, and that I was a gamma reader for this test version.
“That’s quite a responsibility. I’m proud that you got selected since there are only five students who can be one of those gamma readers.”
“Actually, he said it’s five others, and it’ll probably be some of the WorldGeo students and some of the other WorldGeo teachers.”
“What is WorldGeo?”
“You know, you shouldn’t use that abbreviation when you talk with the counselor.”
“She oughta know what WorldGeo means. It’s the geography class required for all high school freshmen everywhere in California. Everyone calls it WorldGeo including my teacher.”
“Still, it’s more polite to avoid using abbreviations.” I wondered what she’d say if I told her the new abbreviation kids had started calling World Geography: Wo-Gee. It’s a lot easier to say.
“Do you plan on reading this book all the way to Davis?”
“Yeah. The reason is we need to review the first eight chapters in the textbook for our midterm exam that’s coming up. So I need to read and study those chapters. I have the advantage of reading them using this new Kindle app on my tablet.”
“Doesn’t that give you an advantage over the other kids in your class? Isn’t that unfair?”
“I don’t know how it’d be unfair. Mr. Ryan doesn’t grade by the curve, it’s based on the percent of how many you get right. Besides, the other students have all of the same text and pictures and graphs and charts that I do. I just have it in a smaller, lighter package. In fact, it’s easier for them to flip back and forth between pages using the printed textbook than me using the Kindle version.”
“So what’s the advantage of the Kindle version you’re using?”
“It’s small and lightweight. I can carry it with me no matter where I go. I can search for a word or phrase in the book and it lists every page where it’s found, then I can click on any of those and it takes me to that page. I can select any word I don’t know and it pops up the definition or lets me go out to Wikipedia or the internet to look it up. I can highlight sections in different colors and do as much highlighting as I want. I can insert notes in the text. I can underline parts of the text. If I don’t need something that I highlighted or marked or commented I can remove it with a couple clicks. If I used a highlighter or underlined or wrote anywhere in the printed textbook I’d get dinged for the replacement cost because it has to be returned the way I got it, like new, with no highlighting or underlining or writing.”
“I can understand that. When I was in college I’d buy a used textbook because they were much less expensive. First I would always check each one to make sure it wasn’t all marked up.
“Well, go ahead and study for your World Geography midterm. I might interrupt a few times about something on our trip or something I think about that you should discuss with the counselor.”
“What’s her name?”
“Mrs. Julia Harrington.”
“Okay. Thanks.” I hoped I’d still remember her name when we got to Davis High. Whatever.
The WorldGeo textbook had 460 pages. I scrolled to the end of the Kindle version. It had 510 pages. The difference was 50 pages added to the end as an interactive study guide. I’d have to be connected to the internet to use the interactive, so that’s something I could try out tonight. I could read the guide without being on the internet.
I thought of two questions to ask Mom.
“Who bought our house?”
“A young family with two grammar school age boys. Why did you ask?”
“Just wondering. Also, I absolutely have to be back for my sixth period Biology class. We’re doing experiments that I can’t make up and that would ding my grade. Mrs. Weil also said the results and techniques we use will be covered on our midterm.”
“What time is your class?”
“We’ll be sure to leave by eleven forty-five, then. You might have to miss your lunch, though.”
“I’d rather miss my lunch than my Biology class.”
Mom laughed “Tony, I never thought I’d ever hear you say anything like that!”
I went back to my textbook. When I finished reading the first three chapters I stopped to stretch my shoulders and arms.
“How much further?”
“About a half hour. You certainly focus on what you’re reading.”
I yawned. “Yeah, I do. I think I have good retention, and being focused when I read is important for that. That’s probably one of the reasons that I’ve always had a straight-A average.”
“Make sure you tell the counselor about your grades if she asks.”
“How much have you read so far?”
“The first three chapters. I know what they cover so all I had to do was skim over everything except names, places, and dates. The other five chapters have a lot more detail, and I’ll have to do more than just skim over them.”
It took me about twenty minutes to read chapter four. I looked over the interactive study guide for it and the rest of the chapters and decided it would be a good way to study what would be covered on our midterm.
“How long now?” I asked.
“Ten or fifteen minutes. I’m not sure.”
“What’s the GPS show?”
“Eleven minutes. But it’s not always accurate to the minute. It depends on traffic and other conditions.”
“Anything you wanted to tell me to discuss with the counselor?”
“Well, I think you should ask about how they’d handle it if you transferred at the end of this semester instead of waiting until the end of the year.” She raised her right hand for a second. “I know you don’t want to do that, but I think it’s important to find out how they’d handle it if you had to transfer into Davis High when their second semester starts on the fourth of January.”
I took a deep breath. “I can’t transfer into Davis High when their second semester starts on the fourth of January. Remember, Davis High starts with the tenth grade. I’d have to transfer to one of the junior high schools. That’s like my going back to middle school. I absolutely do not want to transfer from a high school to a junior high school.”
“I’m not saying you would. What I think you should find out is how they would handle it.”
“It wouldn’t work because I wouldn’t have completed any of my semester projects and wouldn’t have taken any of my finals. It’s a really bad idea and I don’t want to consider it.”
“You know, you shouldn’t burden Nora and Dennis for another six months.”
“Have they told you that I’m a burden?”
“No, but that’s not necessarily something they’d tell me.”
“Why not? If I was a problem I think they’d sure as heck tell you. Instead they keep telling me how glad they are that I’m living with them. I help with the chores, Todd and I study together, we do things together, it’s like we’re brothers.”
Mom didn’t say anything more, and I started reading chapter five.
A few minutes later I looked up as Mom pulled into the visitor parking lot at Davis High.
“Here we are,” she said.
I got out of the car and stretched, then straightened my shirt. The air was warm outside, but in the sun it felt hot. I assumed they had air conditioning and could hardly wait until we got inside the building.
“I’m glad it’s not hot today,” she said. “I thought Davis was hotter than this in the summer.”
“It’s not summer. It’s fall, almost the end of October. It’s probably warm in the shade and hotter when we’re standing in the sun, like right now when we’re standing in an asphalt parking lot. I looked it up and the temperature today is supposed to be 76. It’ll be a lot hotter in the summer, in the 90s and 100s.”
“You don’t mind the heat, Tony?”
“Nope. As long as the school buildings have air conditioning I’m okay being outside when it’s hot. Of course, it’s not nearly that hot in Hillview. I don’t know what it would be like playing a football game in that kind of heat.”
We walked into the administration building. The receptionist asked, “May I help you?”
Mom replied, “We have an appointment with Julia Harrington. My name is Trish McKinley and this is my son Tony.”
“Have a seat, and I’ll let her know you’re here.”
We sat down. About one minute later a young looking woman walked out and smiled and looked at Mom, then at me. Mom and I stood.
“I’m Julia Harrington. You must be Tony McKinley.” I shook hands with her. She turned to Mom. “And you’re Tony’s mother, Trish McKinley.” They shook hands, and she said, “Is it alright if I call you Trish?”
Mom nodded and said, “Yes.”
“Thank you. Please call me Julia. Let’s go to my office.”
Her office was about the same size as the one my counselor, Mrs. Brownlee, has at Wilson. There were three guest chairs, so Mom and I took the two nearest the door.
“So, Tony, you’re going to be transferring from Wilson High in Hillview to Davis High School. You’re a freshman right now, and you’ll be a sophomore next fall. Is that correct?”
I liked how she talked directly to me. And I liked that she said I’m going to be transferring to Davis High School, not to a junior high school, and that I’d be a sophomore next fall. What a totally excellent start!
“Yes, that’s right,” I replied.
“I received your preliminary transcript from Gloria Brownlee, your counselor. She has very good things to say about you and your grades. I see that you’re a straight-A student since you started grammar school. You’re also an athlete?”
“Yes. Right now I’m on the freshman football team.”
“I understand that your team is undefeated so far. That’s impressive.”
“Thanks. We are doing great. We have three games left this season, and we’re aiming to win those too.”
Now she looked at Mom. “So, Trish, your family is moving to Davis.”
“Yes. Rob, my husband, got a teaching position at U.C. Davis. He started his job on the second of October. We found a wonderful house here in Davis, and it will close escrow and be ours on the first of December. We just sold our home in Hillview, and we have to be out by the end of December. We’re planning to move over the two week Christmas holidays so Tony won’t be too inconvenienced.
“For now Rob and I have a temporary one bedroom apartment in Davis. If we had stayed in Hillview it would be a long commute for Rob, and I know that it would have been very stressful for him. Tony is staying with my sister and her husband in Hillview. To prevent any residency complications we made Nora and Dennis Tony’s guardians so he can continue going to Wilson High until he moves to the new house in Davis.”
“Thank you for that information, Trish,” she told Mom. Then she turned to face me.
“Tony, you know that we don’t have a freshman class here at Davis High School. We have four junior high schools that cover seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. Ninth grade basic classes are held at the junior high schools, but some elective and advanced classes are held at Davis High School or Da Vinci Charter High School. All interscholastic sports are held at Davis High School. Though we try to limit the number of trips, it’s possible that you’d have to commute between the two high schools and your junior high school. You’d have to arrange your own transportation, it’s not provided by the school district. Some kids ride their bikes between campuses, take the public bus though the schedule is limited, or they have a parent or a carpool that can drive them.
“Mrs. Brownlee sent your second semester class plan. I’ve tried to work up a schedule that will fit your needs, but unfortunately it means you’d have to make some changes. You’re taking Spanish 3, and we do offer that class but it’s only offered at Davis High. We don’t offer a creative writing class until the twelfth grade, so you wouldn’t get credit for one semester of that class. You planned to take Computer Tech instead of Chorus next semester. Chorus here is a full year class, and for you to get credit for that class you’d have to take the second semester here. We don’t offer the equivalent of the Computer Tech course you want to take next semester. In the ninth grade we offer Introduction to Computers, which you already took in the eighth grade in middle school so you probably wouldn’t be interested. We offer two other classes, Computer Programming with Robotics and Multimedia, which are semester courses and you might find one or both of those interesting.
“Trish, I have a question I should have asked earlier. What’s the address of your new home here in Davis?”
“Let’s see, it’s 2745 Alder Court.”
“Let me check that address against the district chart. Okay, if Tony moved to Davis now he would go to Francis Harper Junior High. That’s the furthest junior high from Davis High, which would make taking Spanish 3 difficult because you’d have to provide transportation between the schools for him. The alternative would be to drop Spanish 3 in the middle of the year and pick up the last semester when he’s a sophomore at Davis High. I don’t recommend that due to the discontinuity caused by separating the two semesters of one class.
“Transferring at the end of this semester also poses a problem. That’s because the major employer in Davis is the university and their hiring schedule is matched to the quarter schedule that U.C. Davis uses. So we have people moving to Davis to start their new job on one of the quarter start dates. That’s why our second semester starts on January fifth. It coordinates with the start of the second quarter at U.C. Davis which starts on January second. Your first semester at Wilson High doesn’t end until January twenty-third. That means you’ll miss three weeks of classes here. We’d have to work out some sort of arrangement with Wilson High to have you turn in projects and take your finals early, or for you to have tutoring to cover what you’d miss here by starting three weeks late. I don’t recommend either. Ninth grade is a very important time in a student’s life, and I wouldn’t want to do anything to compromise your success.”
“Then what do you recommend?” Mom asked. She seemed stressed.
“If Tony’s temporary residency with his aunt and uncle could be extended, I’d strongly recommend that Tony complete his entire ninth grade at Wilson High School. That way he will avoid the problem of the mismatched semester start times between Wilson High and Davis High. He will complete his current classes and get credit for all of them as long as they have the same schedule, semester or year, as the equivalent class here.
“Tony, that means you’d need to take a full year of chorus so you can transfer the credit. We would arrange to give you credit for your Creative Writing class, and if you are able to take Computer Tech next semester we would give you credit for that class as well. Of course, all of your other full year classes would transfer as well. Then when you’re finished with your school year there won’t be any problems transferring to Davis High as an incoming sophomore.”
She reached on a shelf and pulled out a document. The title was ‘Davis Senior High School 2014-2015 Course Schedule.’ She handed it to me.
“Tony, this is our course catalogue. I think it will give you an idea about the classes we offer here at Davis High School. I think in addition to the basics you’ll find many classes that will interest you. We have a very large number of Advanced Placement classes as well as many electives.”
Her phone rang, and she picked it up.
“Yes, send him in.”
A boy about my age walked in. He looked at me and smiled. He looked a little familiar, but I couldn’t place where I’d seen him.
“Tony, this is Tom Croyden. Tom, meet Tony McKinley. Tom’s going to take you on a tour of the campus and then to the cafeteria where you can have lunch.”
“Uh… I have a problem. I have to be back at Wilson by one o’clock. I have a Biology lab that I won’t be able to make up if I miss it, and it’s important for my grade in the class.”
Tom grinned. “You can skip lunch. Our cafeteria is probably about the same as yours.”
I laughed. “So, no loss, then?”
“None whatsoever. You ready for the campus tour now?” he asked.
“As long as it’s okay with Mrs. Harrington and my mom.” I looked at Mom knowing she wouldn’t object to my campus tour.
“Tom,” Mrs. Harrington said, “have Tony back in my office by the start of fourth period.” She turned to my mom. “That will give us a chance to talk with Tony and still give you over an hour to get back to Hillview.”
“That sounds acceptable,” Mom said. “Is that okay with you, Tony?”
“Okay, let’s head out then,” Tom said to me. I got up, handed the course schedule to Mom, picked up my tablet, and we left for my tour.
As soon as we got outside he stopped and held out his hand. “We didn’t get a real introduction, so I’m Tom Croyden. I’m a sophomore here at Davis High. I’m on the JV football team. Glad to meet you, Tony.”
We shook hands. It was sort of weird, but when I looked at him close up I really thought I’d seen him somewhere.
“Glad to meet you Tom. I’m Tony McKinley and I’m a freshman at Wilson High in Hillview. That’s in Contra Costa County, a little over an hour from here. I’m on the freshman football team.”
“A high school is pretty much like any other high school. I’ve never seen Wilson High, but I assume you won’t be too surprised by most of what you see here. So,” he waved his arm at the administration building, “this is admin. If you’re late to school this is where you come to get a pass to get into class. That’s the library — we’ll take a look at it — and this space is the quad.” As we walked around the campus I took pix of everything I saw using the camera on my tablet.
The library was big, a lot bigger than the one at Wilson. He showed me the multimedia room and stations where you can get on the internet to do research. He said they blocked sites that were considered inappropriate. That was just like the computers at Wilson.
We walked past classrooms and he took me into the computer lab, then past more classrooms and to the Performing Arts Theater which was very impressive. We walked past the South Gym and I saw the weight training room which was much larger than the one I use at Wilson, and it had more exercise equipment, too. Then we walked into the new North Gym, where interscholastic games like basketball and volleyball and school events were held. Again, this was much larger than what we had at Wilson. We saw the pools for water polo and swimming and diving. We walked by the tennis and basketball courts. He pointed to the stadium, which looked about the same size as the one at Wilson, the football practice field, and fields for other sports like baseball, lacrosse, and soccer.
He showed me the Ag department and the barn. That was where they had agriculture and animal science classes. That was something that Wilson definitely did not have. They had agriculture classes because Davis was in the middle of the Central Valley, California’s major farming and ranching area. We ended at the auto shop.
There were classes being held everywhere Tom showed me, unlike how quiet it was when Todd and I wandered around here on a Sunday a week and a half ago.
“That’s pretty much everything,” Tom said. “You want to hang and just talk for a while?”
“That’s a good idea.”
“Why are you moving to Davis, if it’s okay for me to ask.”
“It’s okay to ask. My dad got a teaching position at U.C. Davis. He started on October second. So, we’re going to move here. My folks just bought a house here and sold ours in Hillview. But we can’t move in until the middle of December because the people we bought the house from are waiting for their new house to finish being built.”
“What’s the house your folks bought like?”
“It’s a lot bigger than our house in Hillview. It’s got five bedrooms and four bathrooms and a pool.”
“Yeah, you’ll need a pool in Davis.” Tom looked at me for a few seconds, then asked, “Just curious, is the house at 2745 Alder Court?”
“Uh, yeah, it is. Did you overhear my mom telling Mrs. Harrington?”
“Nope. I recognized your description of the house.”
“What, you’ve seen the house?”
“Yeah, you could say that.” He grinned.
I stood there looking at him. That was a strange thing for him to say about the house my folks bought. He really looked familiar, and then I remembered where I’d seen him.
“You live at 2745 Alder Court now, don’t you!”
He laughed. “Bingo! That is where I live. You’ll love the house and the pool. And we’ll be neighbors ‘cause our new house is only two blocks away.”
“I thought I’d recognized you, and I did. There were pictures of you and your six brothers over the fireplace in the living room.”
“You know there are seven of us? How that?”
“When my folks asked why there were so many bedrooms in the house the real estate woman told us that your family has seven boys — and a girl on the way.”
“It’s so hard to keep secrets these days,” Tom said, but he grinned to show he wasn’t upset.
“So which one are you, one of the twins, one of the triplets, or one of the two singletons?”
“God, she told all of our family secrets!” Tom laughed. “I’m the third oldest, one of the two ‘singletons’ as you called us. The twins are the oldest, they are seventeen. I’m fifteen, the triplets are twelve, and the baby, who hates being called that, is ten.”
“As soon as your sister is born he won’t be the baby anymore,” I suggested.
“You’re right. But we keep kidding him that he’ll still be the baby boy and she’ll be the baby girl. We probably won’t call him that after she’s born. At least I won’t ‘cause he’ll be eleven by then, and it would be mean to keep calling him a baby.
“Tell you what, Tony, since you’re moving into my house I’m going to leave something in my bedroom for you to find. Maybe you’ll pick that bedroom to be yours. It’s really the best because it’s one of the two bedrooms that faces west so you don’t get the early morning sun that would force you to wake up.”
I laughed. “Sounds like a fun idea. I’ll definitely look for something in that bedroom. My folks are probably going to clean everything and paint, so you’ll have to be clever about where you leave it.”
“I assume they’re not going to paint inside the closets. It’ll be on the top shelf at the left end of the closet.” He grinned.
“I’ll be sure to remember that.”
We walked back to the quad and found a shady spot on a bench under a tree.
“So do you like playing football, Tony?”
“Yeah, I do. I’d never played football before I went to Wilson. Except for tossing the ball around with friends. The coach of the Wilson freshman team asked me to try out and I did and I made the team. I’m on the first string and the starting lineup, mostly on offense. I love playing football. How about you? You said you’re on the JV team. How are your JV team and the varsity doing this year?”
“So far my JV team has done okay, we’ve won four and lost two. The varsity isn’t doing as well, they’ve won two and lost four. We’re hoping that next year the varsity will be better as some of the guys on the JV team move up. We play some really tough teams like Grant, that’s a big school in Sacramento.”
“Does moving up include you?”
“If I can make the team, it does. We have to go through tryouts like any newbies.”
“It works that way at Wilson, too.”
“How about you, Tony. How’s Wilson’s freshman team doing?”
“We’ve won all of our games so far this year. We have three games left, against probably the strongest teams we’ll have played this year. Our next game is at Clayton Valley, a non-league game, and it’s their homecoming. They beat Orland 33 to 0 last week, so it’s going to be a tough game for us. Next is at Riverview, and finally College Park at home. Our varsity also won all their games so far. They have three games left against the same three teams as the freshmen.”
“Our next JV game is Pleasant Grove. We should win that one. Next is at Grant. If we win that game it’ll be a miracle and it will prove that there is a God in heaven. Our last game is at Monterey Trail, and that one is a toss-up.”
“You go all the way to Monterey to play a football game?”
“Huh? Oh, that’s not the city of Monterey down on the coast. Monterey Trail is the name of a high school in Elk Grove.”
I laughed. “You can tell I don’t know the teams around here.”
“No reason you should. What was your toughest game so far?”
“For the freshman team, it was Lehman. They are our cross-town rivals. We squeaked out a 21 to 20 win. It was their homecoming, so it was fun to spoil it. Our varsity won too, 35 to 13.”
“Sweet. What are you going to do about football when you transfer to Davis High?”
“Maybe I’ll tryout. When do you have tryouts? Do you try out for the JV team or the varsity or is there one tryout and you get delegated to one or the other?”
“It’s one set of tryouts. Of course, if you’re going to school in the spring semester you can go to the tryouts in May. Then if you make it, you can go to the summer tryouts and the practice sessions. I suppose you wouldn’t be able to be here for the May tryouts, though. Since you’re coming to Davis High with a rep you can still come to the summer tryouts.”
“I’m not sure about the reputation thing. If I think I’m good enough maybe I’ll go to your summer tryouts. That’ll be after I move here.”
“What do you mean, ‘maybe’ you’ll go to the summer tryouts? Does that mean you might not go out for football when you transfer here?”
“I don’t know. I’ve gotta think about it.”
“It sounds like you’re a pretty good football player if you’re a starter on your team and you’re undefeated so far. You ought to come to the summer tryouts. Tell you what, since we’ll be neighbors I’ll just go to your house and drag you to the tryouts. I’m bigger than you so I should be able to handle the dragging part.” Tom grinned.
“Okay, okay, I give. I will go to the summer tryouts. But no dragging, please. Just let me know when and where they’re going to be held, okay?”
“Okay, will do. Let’s exchange cell numbers so I can text you and bug you about the schedule.” So that’s what we did.
“How do you like the idea of moving to Davis?”
“I don’t want to move to Davis — no offense intended — especially in the middle of the school year. My mom’s really pushing it, but Mrs. Harrington said the same things that I’ve been saying, that some of my classes won’t transfer and our first semester ends three weeks after your second semester starts. Either I wouldn’t finish my classes and finals at Wilson, or I’d miss three weeks of classes at Davis. Pardon the swearing, but I’d really be fucked. And besides, I don’t want to transfer from Wilson High school to the ninth grade in some junior high school with seventh and eighth graders. I already went to middle school, and now that I’m in high school I want to stay in high school.
“I keep telling my mom that I need to stay in Hillview until my freshman year is over. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer because they’ve moved to a temporary apartment here in Davis so my dad doesn’t have to commute over an hour twice a day. My aunt and uncle, my cousin Todd’s folks, have become my guardians. I can continue going to Wilson as long as they’re willing to put up with me — which isn’t a problem. They seem to like me living with them and Todd, and they think his grades are improving with me around because we study together.”
“It really sucks that you’re being pressured into transferring mid-year. Stick to your guns, Tony. I think right now in the Admin office Mrs. Harrington is convincing your mom that you should stay where you are until the end of the school year.”
“Thanks for the encouragement. I really hope that’s what happens. “
“Well, it’s probably time to head back to admin. I like you, Tony. I think you’ll come to like living in Davis and going to Davis High. It won’t be so bad. You have at least one friend here already. Moi.”
“Thanks, Tom. I’m glad we’re going to be friends. It’s going to be tough leaving my cousin and my teammates and my friends and my boyfriend.”
“Do you think it will work out so you two will continue being boyfriends after you move here?”
“Whoa… I really made a slip of the tongue, didn’t I. Are you okay with me being gay?”
“Sure. Why not? I’m gay.” He smiled.
“Really?” I stepped back a couple feet and looked at him up and down. “I really never would have guessed.”
“Your gaydar is broken, Tony. Mine isn’t. It’s been buzzing since we shook hands. I had you pegged way back then.”
I smiled. “So Tom, do you have a boyfriend?”
“Not yet. But I’m starting to work on it.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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