Twins - The 4th of July
By: Jess Mercer
(© 2011 by the author)
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's
consent. Comments are appreciated at...
All Dirk could
remember of his first day at school was being afraid of the strange surroundings
and the teacher who looked so old. He best remembered watching the teacher go to
the door and talk with the couple standing there for a few moments, before she
led a boy on crutches to the seat beside him. "This is Randy, Dirk. I hope you
will watch out for him. Don't let any of the other children knock him down or
Randy smiled weakly at him, but Dirk was staring at the boy's left leg which ended just below the knee, the pants leg pinned up snugly. "Where's the rest of it?" He whispered.
"Got cut off."
From that moment the boys became inseparable, spending alternating weekends at each other's homes. Their parents became friends as well, timing their vacation trips so the boys could be together. The only disturbing thing to Dirk's parents came the evening his mother went to his room to call him to dinner and found him lying on his bed, his left leg folded up in his jeans.
"What on earth, son?" His mother asked.
"I want to look like Randy."
She hugged him. "I'm glad you want to be like him, he's a lovely boy, but he wouldn't want you to have just one leg as he does. Now take off your jeans and put your leg down."
By the time they were twelve, their similar builds and dark good looks confused everyone except their parents. To avoid temper tantrums, the parents of both boys always bought two of whatever they purchased so each boy had the same, even clothing. The boys became known as 'the twins', Dirk often switching seats with Randy at school just to further confuse their teacher. Only when Randy occasionally used crutches was it possible to identify him from Dirk at any distance.
With only two weeks separating their birthdays, they celebrated together with one party. This year it was Randy's mother who fixed dinner and a cake for them, disappointed that neither boy wanted to invite any of their classmates to help celebrate their fifteenth birthday.
"What do we need anybody else for?" Randy said when she asked.
"I thought it might be nice if you had some friends join you."
"Nah. Dirk and I got each other. We don't need anybody else."
Worried, she mentioned it to his father that evening. "It just isn't natural for two boys to be as close as Randy and Dirk are. Except for their voices, I would almost swear they really were twins."
"It'll pass soon enough. Once they discover girls our worries will really begin. Let them enjoy each other. Randy's lucky he has someone who doesn't treat him differently."
At the same time the boys lay side by side on the sweet smelling hay in the loft of Randy's father's barn.
"Want me to pretend?" Dirk asked.
Randy's smile flashed. "Yeah." He pulled up on his one leg and reached for the old cigar box on the rafter above his head. He took out a roll of duct tape as Dirk slipped off his jeans. He pulled Dirk's left leg up and taped it in place, then helped him pull his jeans back on. He rolled the empty part of the jeans leg up until Dirk's knee was just visible and handed him an old pair of his crutches. "If you had a little more leg you'd look just like me. Be funny to see people's expressions if they saw twins with one leg each."
"Yeah. We'd be the coolest looking guys in school." Dirk grinned. "I like it when you wear shorts so I can see your stump and touch it."
"You're the only one I let see it. I bet you were really disappointed when I got my leg."
"How'd you know?"
Randy laughed and punched Dirk. "Every time we're together you make me put on shorts and use my crutches. I think you've got a thing going about my stump."
"Do I ever! You wouldn't be you without it." Dirk ran a finger over the thin scar. "I want my leg just like yours."
"No way. Sometimes I stand in front of the mirror and hold my leg up and pretend it's you I'm seeing. If it was true, then I wouldn't have to pretend and we'd be just alike in every way."
Randy laughed. "I know. When I'm wearing my leg and I look at you, it's just like looking at myself. Would you want a leg like mine?"
Dirk shook his head. "I like you on crutches. If we both used 'em it would be great. We gotta be alike."
"We sure do. Come here, twin." Randy held out his arms.
Dirk swung on the crutches easily and hugged him, before they lay back down on the hay, Dirk's hand caressing the end of Randy's stump. "Tell me again."
"Damn, buddy, I've told you a thousand times."
"I know, but I like to hear about it."
Dirk closed his eyes to visualize the images as Randy spoke. "I was almost six. I got up in the hopper of the grain elevator and dug myself in the corn, just like we do in the sand at the beach. Dad didn't know I was in there, so he started the auger. The corn shifted and I was trying to dig myself out, but my leg got caught in the auger. It ripped my foot off just above the ankle. I must have yelled because dad heard me and got me out."
"Didn't it hurt?"
"Nah. I guess it must have crushed the nerves or something, because it never did hurt a lot. Just something like a toothache. Still does if I hit the end on something. Anyway, I was in the hospital for about three weeks so they could be sure I didn't develop an infection. You know, from being in the corn and all. They taught me how to walk on crutches, and when my stump was healed up, it was time to start school. I was scared the first few days that somebody might push me down and hurt my stump, but you never let anybody come near me." He rolled over and hugged Dirk. "I won't ever forget the way you busted that bigger guy in the nose when he wanted to take my crutches. Thanks twin."
Dirk smiled. "You tell it so good it's almost like I was there sharing it with you." He propped up on his elbow and looked at Randy. "Why don't you ever rub my knee like I do your stump? It would feel good."
"I guess, because I like the way it feels when you rub it, but it's not the same for me. I mean your knee doesn't feel like a real stump. I like seeing you with your leg up and all, but " he shrugged, "I just can't help wishing."
Dirk glanced at his watch. "Better get my leg down, almost time for my old man to come."
He dressed and they started toward the house just as his father pulled up in the drive and called to him.
Dirk put his arm around his friend's shoulders. "Gotta go, buddy."
"You coming back next weekend? Mom's invited your folks for dinner Saturday. It's the 4th and I got some fireworks. Dad said we could set them off in the meadow. He'll have the hay cut then, and we've had so much rain it'll be safe. You can stay the whole weekend."
Dirk grinned. "No way I'll miss that. We'll have some real fun. I got some super cherry bombs."
"Where'd you get 'em? I thought they were illegal."
"They are. A cousin of mine got 'em where he lives and sent 'em to me."
All the next week Dirk thought about what Randy had said. There had to be some way that wouldn't hurt too bad. Yeah, He'd look as great on crutches as Randy.
He rode the school bus home with Randy Friday afternoon, the over-night bag at his feet. He moved closer to his friend so he could rest his hand on Randy's stump without anyone seeing.
"Don't you ever get enough of it, buddy?" Randy whispered.
"No way. It's beautiful. It feels good, too."
"I'm glad you think so, nobody else does, 'cept me."
Randy book-marked the site and shut down the computer on his desk. "Time for bed, twin. Those pictures were awesome. How'd you find that site?" He spoke quietly to avoid waking his parents.
"I was playing around on the web with my dad's computer. I typed in amputee and it was one of the choices. I couldn't believe it when those pictures came up." He tightened his arm around his friend into a hug. "One of those guys looks so much like you I can't believe it."
"Just like you, too. His stump was almost neat as mine. You ever think of sending in a picture of you so we could see how you'd look with one leg?"
"We already know. I'd look just like you. I would have, but dad doesn't have a scanner. I don't know how to work one anyway."
The next afternoon, Dirk could wait no longer. "Let's set off some firecrackers. Don't need to be dark for that."
"Okay." Randy pulled out the box of fireworks and set them on the bench in the workshop next to the barn. He watched Dirk pull several large cherry bombs from his pocket. "Be careful, buddy. Those things are powerful."
Dirk smiled. "Got a plan that's gonna make us just alike if it works. Get me a cup of water."
When Randy returned, he watched Dirk take a small bottle of tablets from his pocket and slip several in his mouth, washing them down.
"What did you take?"
"Codeine. Had these left from when the dentist cut out my wisdom teeth." He put his arm around Randy's shoulders. "Let's go before I get sleepy."
Randy frowned. "What you going to do, buddy?"
"Told you. We're gonna be just alike for real." Dirk walked into the newly mown meadow. He stopped to take off his left shoe and sock, then pulled his belt tightly around his leg just below the knee. When he took three of the cherry bombs and twisted the fuses together, laid them in a row on the ground and put his bare foot on top, recognition came to Randy. He pushed Dirk aside. "Don't do it! Please, Dirk, don't do it. I don't want you crippled; I want you like you are."
The codeine began to take effect. Dirk staggered back to the fireworks, holding on to Randy for balance. "I'm gonna be your real twin. You got a stump, I want a stump." He pushed Randy back hard enough to make him fall. "Go way. I'm gonna do it." He fumbled in his pocket for the pad of matches. "Gotta lite 'em." He mumbled thickly and fell face forward, but kept his foot on the cherry bombs and held the flaming match pad to the fuses while Randy struggled to pull up on his crutches.
Randy swung toward the house as fast as he could, yelling for his dad. A loud explosion and sharp cry left Randy's ears ringing, then silence.
"Oh, dear God!" Randy's father cried. He pulled the belt tighter around Dirk's leg to stop the flow of blood, and picked him up in his arms, running for the station wagon, Dirk's parents close behind. Randy slipped in the rear seat and holding the towel wrapped around Dirk's mangled leg, tears flowing.
Not far from the farm, a cop pulled them over, but after one look at the bloody towel on Dirk's leg, he jumped back on his motorcycle and led them the rest of the way to the hospital, lights and siren clearing the traffic.
The boy's parents consoled each other, finally asking Randy, "How did it happen?"
"He he did it so he could have a stump like mine. He pushed me down and I couldn't get up in time. I'm sorry. I didn't want it to happen."
Dirk's father hugged him. "Don't cry, son, it's not your fault. Dirk's always been determined. I know you would have stopped him if you could."
A hour later the surgeon came out to speak with them, but when he saw Randy standing on his crutches, his mouth flew open. "Dear God!"
"What?" Dirk's father asked.
The surgeon wiped his forehead. "I would have sworn that young man was the one I just operated on." He looked at Randy's rolled up jeans leg. "Even their stumps will be identical. But how?"
Randy's father laughed nervously. "Most people think they're twins, but they're not. Just the best of friends like his parents and us. How's Dirk?"
"He'll be fine. His leg was a mess, so I had to take it a little higher than I would have liked. He's a strong young man, so he'll heal fast. I suggest that you all go home and get some rest, then see him tomorrow morning. He won't be awake before then."
Randy's parents stayed with Dirk's. Randy lay crying in the bed he and Dirk shared so often. Dirk's mother came in and sat down on the bed, pulling him to her, hiding her own tears. She stroked his hair comfortingly. "Don't cry, Randy. Dirk needs you to be strong and help him. When he " she fought her tears, " when he gets a leg like yours, he'll need you to teach him how to use it as well as you do." Her tears joined his for a few moments, then she giggled. "You're completely identical now. How will we ever tell you apart?"