Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Morally Ambiguous Boyhood Adventures of Me and My Evil Twin

I didn’t want to get a cat, but Abel did. We convinced our parents, and they said, Okay, but you have to take care of it. Meaning me. And then I realized that he was the one who convinced me about getting the cat, but now I’d have to be responsible for it.

“Let’s go to the movies,” Abel suggested. We couldn’t. We had to stay and make sure the cat was okay. It had been sick.

“It’ll be fine,” he said. But he couldn’t know that for sure. At least one of us had to stay home.

“But either way is bad,” he argued. “If you go, you’ll worry about the cat. If you stay, you’ll know you’re missing the movie.” But if that was the case, then how come he could go?

“Because I know the cat will be fine,” he said, putting on his jacket. “I’ll bring you back some Raisinets.” But the cat wasn’t fine, and the leftover Raisinets melted in Abel’s pocket before I got any.

+ + +

When the camp counselor took me aside and threatened to send me home, I couldn’t understand what I’d done.

“What you’ve done?” he asked me. “I’ll tell you what you’ve done. You scared that whole cabin of girls when you snuck into their showers this morning.” I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I knew someone who probably did know.

“And don’t accuse your brother again,” the counselor warned me. “I’m onto you. Every time you get caught, you pretend it was his fault.” I wanted to say no, it wasn’t me, but what was the point? If I didn’t give in, I probably would have been in more trouble.

Later I told Abel about it, and about how I was put on kitchen duty for the rest of the time at camp. “They can’t do that to you,” he said. “I’m going to straighten this out.”

After supper, Abel took me to the counselor. He told him it wasn’t fair. There was no way to be sure I had done anything.

“The girls know who they saw,” the counselor said. “They pointed him out. Unless it was you.”

“Memories are tricky,” Abel said. “Like, I’m not sure which counselor goes to meet the arts-and-crafts lady by the docks every night after lights out. Even though I've seen it myself.”

“Which lady? Miss Deery?” the counselor asked.

Abel nodded. “If everyone trusted their memories, people might start thinking that guy looked like you,” he said. “Which would be a bad thing for them to say, because what they do out there is against camp code.”

I asked if someone should tell anyway, if it was against camp code. If it was wrong, we should stop it. Abel looked at me. I shut up.

The counselor nodded. “I see your point,” he told my brother. He looked at me. “You’re lucky to have a brother to look out for you. Why don’t we all just forget this ever happened?”

Abel nodded. “That’s what I was thinking,” he said. I wasn’t so sure, but it meant that I didn’t have to have kitchen duty.

Two days later, another counselor said I’d broken into the mess hall and stolen some of the chocolate we used to make s’mores. “If we’d put you on kitchen duty the first time,” he told me, “I bet we wouldn’t be having these problems anymore.”

I agreed that was probably true.

+ + +

Our glee club won the all-district competition on a technicality. The other group had to forfeit. They couldn’t get their uniforms out of their dressing room in time to perform.

“They lost the keys,” our director told us. “So they have to award us the prize.”

“But that’s good if we win,” Abel said. “It will be the first championship for our school.” It didn’t seem totally fair to me.

“It’s still fair,” Abel said. “That’s why there’s the rule. And no one’s going to remember later if we had to sing or not. When they see our trophy at school, they’re just going to know that we won.”

“So it’s good for the whole school,” another kid agreed. Everyone liked the idea.

Later they engraved all of our names on the trophy. It didn’t say anything about the forfeit or about how the keys got lost. It just said that we came in first. Our parents took a picture of me and Abel in front of the trophy case when they came to open house.

+ + +

Abel threw some of his macaroni and cheese with hot dogs in the trash when our mother wasn’t around to see. I told him he shouldn’t. Mom always said there were kids who were starving in other countries.

“That’s the narrow view,” Abel said. “That’s just our species. The food won’t go to waste.” Unless someone got it from our trash to get it, I didn’t see how it was going to get eaten.

“Nothing is wasted,” he said. “Bugs will eat it. Or mold or something. It’s the cycle of life.” I didn’t know what he meant.

“Food is matter, and matter is energy,” he said. “And energy can’t be created or destroyed. Everything’s becoming. So the macaroni is just becoming something else. Just like you will one day.” I didn’t like the way that sounded, but I knew Mom still wouldn’t like it.

“Then don’t tell her,” Abel said. “Why does she have to know about things that would just upset her? It seems wrong to tell her.”

So we didn’t. When Mom came back to the kitchen, she saw that my plate was still full. She told me to eat up, to be more like my brother. I ate.