There’s been no knocks at the door from sheriff’s deputies consoling sobbing housewives. No friends or politicians injured from an exploding Whoopee Cushion. No familiar and inquiring faces from the Secret Service. Wednesday was April Fool’s. Drat. And drat. It passed without incident.
I am not without sin.
I’ve been blessed with The Dark Gift. I can see a practical joke forming from the nothingness of a holistic, glowing orb, morphing into its galaxy-consuming conclusion.
Years ago, when The Signal was HQed in Downtown Newhall, we had the sweetest employee. Let’s just call her Judi Conklin to protect her identity. Judi ran the back shop.
It took more than a year to set the stage for this ruse. Fittingly, as in all good jokes, Conklin threw open the front door as if asking Dracula for him to y’all come on in.
We’re putting together the next day’s paper. Pals we are, we’re chatting. It began with an innocent question:
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
The orb. It visits so quickly. Transports its vast knowledge. Then, vanishes.
I feigned disinterest. Then, I casually dropped that I had a brother.
An — Identical — Twin — Brother.
Cue the creepy organ music.
She gushed. She begged for details. Busy. Put upon. Distracted. I mumbled. Not much to tell. He looks like me. I look like him. Hence the term, “identical twins.”
“Hey! Has the copy editor made her final read?” I yelled. “C’mon! Got a deadline here!!”
I told Judi my sibling and I weren’t close and I hadn’t seen him in years, didn’t like talking about him, apologized because I think I remembered a typo then walked away. She yelled after me: “What’s his name!?” I pretended I didn’t hear.
For the entire next year?
Over months, I kept dropping innocent tidbits about — Dave.
Dave — my evil twin.
Frankly, I worry about myself. How I can tell stories like these — which some religions call, LYING — to people like Conklin as innocent as lambs?
The Day Arrived.
Heading out for lunch, a foot out the door, I called over to Judi that Dave was out on bail from Folsom. Dave might be coming by The Signal to see me, probably to borrow money.
Judi is tensed up like an Australian shepherd about to chase a Frisbee. I cautioned:
“Judi. Do yourself a favor,” I instructed. “Keep a safe distance. DON’T give him anything. Water. Gum. Money. Time of day. Your prayers. Nothing.”
Judi’s eyes were as big as saucers.
I sauntered out, drove away. Down the street, I gunned it. Home, I frantically changed into Aryan hoodlum clothes complete with a pack of cigarettes rolled up into my T-shirt sleeve and a teardrop tattoo under my eye hastily added by a makeup artist pal to indicate I had murdered someone in prison. She quickly added knuckle tattoos every journalist needs: “HATE” and “FEAR.” Hair greased back, I had borrowed a friend’s chopper. Roaring up to the backshop, I strolled in, squinting, with all the angst of Marlon Brando. I was smoking a cigarette. No one told me to put it out. Ignoring Judi, I asked the Housewife/Journalism staff if they had seen, well — me. Did they know where I went? When I’d be back? Conklin inched forward reverently and, being Conklin, couldn’t resist asking 967 detailed questions about both of us and, knowing Conklin, probably childbirth. I dragged off the cigarette, blew smoke toward Judi, looked her up and down from shoes to hair and asked if she had any money. To her credit, she offered an anecdote the length of the Iliad about loaning it all to her mother that morning for a cat bill at the vet. In a voice four octaves lower than mine, “Dave” then asked if Judi if she had any smokes.
Judi started another apologetic dialogue, this one on not being judgmental, however, there were government studies on smoking.
“Tell him I’m lookin’ for him,” I said of myself.
And, aren’t we all.
I got on the chopper, high-tailed it back home, washed the gunk from my hair, restyled it to Safe Nice White Boy, removed the fake tats with cold cream and dove into the Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirt I had been wearing earlier. Drove back to the paper eating a fudgsicle, strolled into the back shop and nearly got bowled over by Judi Conklin doing 40 while breathlessly explaining that “I HAD JUST MISSED MY IDENTICAL TWIN BROTHER” and what a rough and mean-looking cookie was he.
“You didn’t give him any money, did you?” I asked.
It’s hard to yell when you’re breathless.
“NO!!!!!” Judi said.
I may burn for this, but I took two hours off Signal time. I confided to poor Judi all the Bad Things Dave did, how I’ve been trying to make amends for him ever since.
“He killed somebody in prison?” Judi asked.
I nodded. Blood kin. It can be painful.
Some 10 years later when she found out I was twinless, Judi slugged me in the bicep. But not hard because Judi’s nice and we’re pals. She laughed and slugged me again.
Was it wrong what I did to poor sweet Judi Conklin?
Would I do it again?
John Boston is a local writer and an unrepentant heart when it comes to metaphorical hand buzzers.