Double Trouble*

"Double Trouble"

"Double Trouble"

One teen at a time, please, is the hope held out by every parent in America. After all, it’s hard enough raising one thirteen-year-old, but two? Forget it!

My parents had no choice, however. God had blessed them (or burdened them, depending upon your point of view) with identical twin boys, me and my brother, Richard. We were nicknamed “double trouble,” a well-earned title that stuck with us throughout high school.

When we were young, Richard and I were so alike that even my father could not tell us apart. To discipline us, my father would shout our names until we both assembled at his feet. Then, pointing to one of us, he would ask, “Now, which one are you? Michael or Richard?” Soon after the discovery of the correct twin to be punished, a penalty for wrongdoing would begin.

Well, it didn’t take me long to figure out that, since my father couldn’t tell us apart, aiding him in his apparent disabil­ity only quickened the inevitable spanking and lecture that followed. A new strategy was necessary. At this point, I need to tell you that my mother would help my father by writing the name of the twin to be disciplined on a note pad next to the kitchen phone. When my father would come home late from work, he’d simply read the name of the disobedient twin, climb the stairs to the second floor, and pull me (who always slept on the top bunk) or my brother (who slept on the bottom) from our deep sleep to administer justice. This, by the way, added a whole new dimension to the words, “Wait till your father gets home!”

To continue the story: One day when I was eight years old, I broke a living-room lamp. I had been told to stay a safe dis­tance from the lamp to avoid just such an accident, but I had disobeyed. I was in need of reproach. So my mother wrote my name on the infamous pad of paper. After dinner and a bath, Richard and I were sent upstairs to bed. Awake on the top bunk, I awaited my doom. And then it struck me! If only I could get Richard to sleep on the top bunk.

Because we were avid fans of the hit TV show “The Adven­tures of Superman,” I decided to arouse my brother’s curiosity by pretending to be “the Man of Steel.” With the top bunk creating the illusion of flying over the great Metropolis, I said in low tones (but loud enough for my brother to hear), “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound . . . it’s SUPER­MAN!”

“Hey, what are you doing?” he asked.

“Nothing, just go to sleep,” I replied.

“No, tell me. Tell me.”

Baiting him, I continued: “I’m pretending to be Superman, flying over the city. See, by swinging my arms out over the bed, I feel like I’m really in the air. … Da dum … da da da dum . . . Faster than a speeding bullet . . . whee!”

As predicted, Richard began to plead, “Let me play, please.”

“No, only me.”

“Come on! Just for a little while, please.”

“Oh, all right.” I gave in to his request with the one condi­tion that he stay on the top bed for the entire night—some­thing he previously would never do. But tonight he decided to make an exception, and a costly one at that. Why, I could barely contain my laughter as Richard began the Superman antics where I left off.

“More powerful than a locomotive . . . Da dum … da da da da dum.”

It was about ten o’clock when our father came home. I can still remember his footsteps pounding up the stairs and head­ing for our room. The anticipation had kept me awake while my unsuspecting twin had long since fallen asleep. I hid my head under the covers as Richard was hoisted out of bed and tarried downstairs to the spanking and lecture that awaited him. His protestations that night haunt me to this day.

“But I didn’t do anything.” WHACK! “I didn’t do anything.” WHACK! “I didn’t do anything.” WHACK!

As Richard and I got older, sibling rivalry got so intense that we could no longer sleep in the same room at the same lime. My father’s method of discipline had to be updated as well. Rather than try to figure out whose fault it was—that is, which twin first provoked the other—Dad decided both of us would be punished. This was accomplished by placing one twin over his knee at a time and hitting us, only once, with a gun belt, which was as thick as three regular belts! It got our atten­tion.

To further complicate my parents’ bedtime dilemma, I would go to bed in their room, Richard in our room. After the evening news, my parents would take me, the sleeping child, upstairs to where my twin was already fast asleep. The bunk beds had long since been dismantled, and now the two beds were placed at opposite ends of our room. It all worked out rather well and nighttime spankings were quite rare . . . until one night when my mischievous streak reared its ugly head.

Late one evening I found myself awake. I noticed that Rich­ard was restless and every half hour or so would get up to go to the bathroom. It was time to make my move. I decided to make up my bed as if I were still in it—to avert suspicion—and slide down one side of Richard’s bed next to the wall. Barely visible, I would wait for my brother to return from his bathroom ritual.

Without hesitation, Richard plopped back into bed. I could hardly quiet my breathing as I remained hidden from view, ready to pounce on my unsuspecting victim. I waited a few minutes and then laid my right hand on his chest. My brother gasped but did not say a word. I began to move my hand ever so slowly up his chest toward his throat. Richard seemed para­lyzed with fear. I could hear air being sucked into his mouth, as though he were gearing up for one big scream, but still nothing came out.

I continued my trek, moving my fingers like a large spider making its way toward prey. Just as my fingers neared his throat, the air that had been sucked in like a vacuum cleaner exploded from his lungs and mouth, filling the entire house with a tortured cry like a dog gone wild. Every attempt to calm him with the words “It’s Michael, it’s Michael” were in vain as he jumped out of bed and began running in circles wailing louder than before. I had never seen such a thing. I was amazed! Just then Dad burst through the door.

“What the heck is going on?!” he shouted at the top of his voice.

Even Richard didn’t know quite what to say, still dazed as he was by my nighttime antics. In keeping with my father’s new rule, both of us were spanked. I can still hear my brother plead­ing as if it were yesterday:

“But I didn’t do anything.” WHACK! “I didn’t do any­thing.” WHACK! “I didn’t do anything.” WHACK!

Now lest you think that I was overly cruel and took unfair advantage of my brother, let me assure you that our teen years seem to have evened the score. And so, another story comes to mind. In the fall of our seventh grade year in school, Richard and I were given an allowance that included enough money for a required monthly haircut. Richard persuaded me that if we could cut each other’s hair, we could pocket the savings. There was only one catch: I had to go first.

The plan involved going to the upstairs bathroom and using our father’s straight razor—with the door locked, of course. Running the razor carefully over my scalp, Richard began to remove large chunks of unwanted hair. Things seemed to be going better than expected and talk of saving a small fortune over the next year filled the room . . . until Richard’s facial expression changed.

With a look of wonder and surprise—as though Richard could hardly believe his eyes—he began to mutter, “Oh, no. Oh, I, ah … Gosh, Michael, I’m sorry.”

Not the kind of thing one wants to hear from a barber, especially a novice.

“What?” I asked. “What’s the matter?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“Sorry for what? Will you tell me what’s going on?”

Before Richard could explain, I began to run my fingers slowly through my hair. Starting at my crown and sliding my hand down the back of my head, I could feel that something was missing. Not believing my own sense of touch, I grabbed up my mother’s cosmetic mirror to survey the results. As the small, hand-held mirror reflected the back of my head onto the large bathroom mirror, a large gasp filled the air.

“Oh, no,” I moaned. “It’s gone. The hair on the back of my head, it’s all gone.”

Because this was the late ’60s, when hair defined a man, my discovery proved worse than a face filled with zits. Immediately I began to cry.

“What am I going to do now?” I sobbed as Richard tried to comfort me. Of course, there was only one thing to do—tell Mom and Dad.

Certainly Mom and Dad would come to the rescue as they had always done in the past. They would know what to do.

Being compassionate parents of teens, they agreed that I could stay home from school for a day or two faking a not-so-serious head injury. Then for the next three months, I wore a bandage around my head to hide my pretend scar—giving my hair a chance to grow back. Revenge for Richard had come at last!

* Taken from my book “Good Kids” (Doubleday, NY: 1996).

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~ by revdrmichael on August 30, 2009.

4 Responses to “Double Trouble*”

  1. Great story, Michael. Thanks for sharing it with us. Oh the stories I could tell about Diana and me..

  2. It is good to read your story and connect. Trust you are well.

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