(scroll below for links to other stories in this series)
Randall Harris discovered, at a very early age, that the secret to success is imitation. Well, perhaps not to success. To acceptance, maybe. To avoid rejection, the distance that sneaks into people’s eyes when they realize: He’s different. Not acceptable.
Not like his twin brother, Ralph – Rallie, everyone called him. Randall would kill Rallie long before he became old enough to be called Ralph.
Randy and Rallie. Cute duo of identical blond curls, of Alaska-sky eyes, of rosy skin and dimples when they smiled. Identical, yes. On the surface. Randall never smiled. And he never thought of himself as Randy.
He absorbed, like everyone, the rather untraceable pop culture concept of the evil twin, but he never felt it applied to him. No, he wasn’t evil. He wasn’t cruel, he didn’t enjoy others’ suffering. When the Bruce boys across the street caught that stray cat and set it on fire, Randy didn’t enjoy it. The screaming didn’t bother him, not like it did Rallie, who screamed louder than the cat, but he didn’t enjoy it. He didn’t gloat in righteous justice, either, like Rallie and his parents did, when the boys were whipped on the Bruce front porch so the whole neighborhood might bear witness. It didn’t bother him, but he didn’t enjoy it. Thus he was not evil, was he? What was he, then?
I am not acceptable.
He might’ve been five the first time he reasoned it out in so many words. His brother hated broccoli. Rallie was, plainly, the favorite child, but still Mother continued to serve broccoli with offensive frequency.
Rallie pushed his plate away. “I’m not hungry.”
“Come on, Rallie,” Mother begged. “It’s smothered in that yellow cheese. The one you like.”
Rallie poked a tine of his fork into the creamy sunshine among the green and brought it to his mouth. “Ugh.”
Mother rolled her eyes. “Don’t eat, then. But that’s all I have. You’ll go to bed hungry.”
When she disappeared into the kitchen, Rallie pushed the plate farther away.
Randall set down his fork and lowered his voice. “How do you know you don’t like broccoli?”
”How is it yucky?”
Rallie had become, perhaps, inured against his brother’s weird questions. He shrugged and gazed at the ceiling. “Tastes yucky. Like – like grass. Or paper.”
Randall tried paper once. Tasted different, but everything did. How did one tell whether something tasted yucky? He hadn’t tried grass yet. Maybe he should.
Rallie looked down, saw Randall chewing a broccoli chunk, grimaced. “What’s something you don’t like?”
Randall thought about that while he chewed. “I don’t.”
“You don’t what?”
“I don’t not like anything.”
The smooth skin on Rallie’s cute forehead sprouted a thin line. “You have to. You’re supposed to not like stuff.”
But he didn’t. Randall didn’t like, or dislike, anything. He knew there were things he was supposed to do, like smile. Or cry. But when, exactly?
I am not acceptable.
His knee began to jiggle under the table.
published 7 January 2013
click below for more stories in this series:
• Years of Study (#2)
• The First in Anyone's Memory (#3)
• The Bogie Comeback (#4)