Double Double

November 2020’s short story of the month

In German it’s called a doppelganger, a look-alike. Literally, a “double-goer.” I stared at the boy in the newspaper article. Was it possible that he wasn’t aware that he had a double out there, just like I didn’t know until today when my cousin showed me the paper?

I was spending the summer with my cousins. We were doing our best to keep out of trouble, but we’d started taking day trips outside of town. We weren’t supposed to, and if their parents found out we were using magic to travel, we’d all be grounded until we were grown.

“He looks just like you,” Mary said. Her sisters nodded in agreement.

“I know. I can see,” I said exasperated. “Does it matter though? Don’t they say that everyone has a double?”

“That’s just something people say to be funny,” said Tilly the youngest of my cousins.

“What if it’s true though? It’s probably just coincidence,” I said.

Mary, Angela, and Tilly all glared at me for being flippant.

We were all casters, and one of the first lessons we learned as children was if it seems like a coincidence, it’s probably magic.

“Should we tell your parents?” I asked.  

They all shook their heads in unison.

“How would we tell them we found a newspaper from out of town?” asked Mary. “They’ll know we left town, and worse, they’ll know we used magic.”

“We’ll be grounded for life,” whispered Angela.

“Okay. Okay. We won’t tell them. Why would a doppelganger of me be here? I don’t live here. I’m just here visiting.”

We were sitting on the patio of an ice cream store. We were splitting a banana split. While Tilly and I had been buying the sundae, Mary and Angela were claiming a table. That’s how they’d found the paper. Someone who’d been here earlier had left it on the table.

That seemed like a coincidence too. It probably wasn’t.

He really did look just like me. He was in the paper for helping save a little kid from drowning at the lake. The article was titled “Local Teen Saves Child.” The article was about how he was a hero, and he was standing there grinning in the picture shaking the hand of the mayor.

If it was a spell, I didn’t see the point.

If we weren’t going to tell my uncle and aunt, we needed to look into it ourselves. That meant more trips to town and more possibilities of being caught.

“What can we do?” I asked. I should have known better than to ask my cousins to help with something like this. Any opportunity to scheme or defy their parents, and they had a habit of taking things too far. I loved them. They were more than family; we’d grown up together and were truly friends. However, they were a handful, especially Mary.

“We’ll start by tracking him down,” said Mary. Her eye twinkled with mischief. She was plotting already.

“We could look him up at the library,” suggested Angela. “The article included his name. I’ll bet he’ll be easy to find.” She was spooning up the melted ice cream and whipped cream.

“It’s a good idea,” I said.

We let Angela finish the ice cream soup before we set out. We didn’t walk there; it was too hot for that. We went behind the shop and teleported to the library.

I loved this town’s library. The architecture was classic from the stone steps and façade to the columns holding up the roof. Stone lions sat on either side of the stairs guarding the knowledge of the collected books.

My cousins and I moved chairs and gathered around one computer. The article said the boy’s name was Cole Mathers. At the keyboard, Mary put his name into a search engine. The article we’d just read was the first hit.

After that all the results we tried took us to information about an adult named Cole Mathers who was well known for founding a town further north. He was also a philanthropist whose vast fortune was left to various charities.

We couldn’t find any other information about the local Cole Mathers. That wasn’t all that surprising; he was a teen after all, just like us. It was odd though that he didn’t have a single social media account. My cousins and I weren’t supposed to use that stuff because our families were backward—most magical families were that way. But non-magic teens were always online. Their whole lives could be found there.

“Try searching for any adults who are local with the last name Mathers,” I whispered to Mary.

We didn’t get any results.

“Why don’t we try an old-fashioned phone book?” suggested Angela. “I saw one on the front counter by a public phone.”

I shrugged. “Might as well try,” I said.

Tilly and Angela left to go search the phone book while Mary and I tried more of the links from our first search. We weren’t having any better luck. Everything we opened was still about the former Cole Mathers, not the teen.

Before long, the other two returned from the front. As they sat, they both shook their heads—no luck then.

“We could try to find him with magic,” said Tilly.

“Shhhhh…,” I said. Other library patrons weren’t paying attention to us, but I didn’t want anyone to over hear us. Most people would assume we were just kids being silly playing some game, but we still needed to be careful. We weren’t the only magical users in the whole world, and if this doppelganger was part of a spell, we might be on someone’s radar already.

“That’s a bad idea,” Angela said.

Mary cleared the computer screen and motioned with her head for us all to follow her.

Back outside in the sun on the library steps, my cousins escalated things. Mary cast a tracking spell on the paper. When I realized what she was doing, I broke it up.

“Don’t do that,” I said. “It might draw him here. We should just tell your mom and dad.”

“Malcom,” said Mary in her exasperated voice. “Don’t be such a baby.”

Interview and Nano #3

This has been an exciting NANOWRIMO for me. This is my third year participating. I’m loving it again, and I’m glad I decided to join. I am at about 38,000 words so far for the month.

In addition to writing like a crazy mad fool, I’ve been busy with some smaller projects.

If you missed it, I was featured in an interview by Literary Express. You can read it here: Amanda’s ‘Block’ | LITERARY EXPRESS.

I also finished my list of editing, and book two in the Magical Realms Adventures went to my editor!

And I’ve almost finished my holiday shopping.

November has been very productive for me so far!

I hope everyone is meeting their writing goals!

Happy reading and writing this month!

November Prompt

Well, after being on the fence for a while, I decided to participate in NANOWRIMO again this year. The first four days have gone great so far. I’ve been hitting my target each day, so hopefully that energy will continue.

Anyway, whether you are doing NANO or just writing per usual, here is this month’s short story prompt:

In German it’s called a doppelganger, a look-alike. Literally, a “double-goer.” I stared at the boy in the newspaper article. Was it possible that he…

Complete the Story

Happy reading and writing this month!

New Friend

October 2020’s short story of the month

She was the new girl. The one who sat in the cafeteria at lunch alone. Maybe she was from the next state over. Maybe she was from another country. I wanted to know everything about her: her mother’s name, her favorite movie, if she had brothers, sisters, what she ate for breakfast—in other words, everything.

In my ten years going to this school, we’d never had a new person. No one ever moved to this town. They moved away and never came back. Well, there was that one family, but they were weird, even for this town.

If I wanted to make friends, I needed to move fast. Every kid in the school would be chomping at the bit to get to know her, my sisters included. My family was well liked in town and my younger sisters were considered popular, but everyone, including my family, considered me an odd duck. If I wanted a chance at a new friend, I needed to make my move now.

She’d already been here for a week, and every day she sat in the cafeteria alone. No one had invited her to sit with them. See how weird we all were. We didn’t even have the decency to invite a newcomer to share a meal.

I got up from my seat and grabbed my tray. I walked slowly over to where she was sitting. I didn’t want to move too fast and draw attention. If the others knew what I was up to, they might suddenly become interested. I also didn’t want to run up to her and seem like a lonely weirdo.

When I got to her table, I stopped and waited standing across from her. She slowly looked up at me. She didn’t say anything. I guess I was going to have to break the ice.

“Mind if I sit here?” I asked, indicating the seat across from her.

She shook her head causing her messy up-do to slip a little. Several pieces of hair fell out of her tie and brushed her shoulders.

“My name is Mary,” I said, hoping it would prompt her to talk, but she just sat there. She stared at me for a while then went back to eating her sack lunch. It looked like a ham and cheese sandwich, and she was piling the crust directly on the table and only eating the middle.

I wasn’t going to let her shyness prevent me from making a friend. I needed a friend. In this small town, you didn’t get many chances to make them, and this late in high school, it was almost unthinkable to gain anyone into your social circle.

“So…you like it here so far?” I asked.

She just shrugged.

“Yeah, that’s how I feel too, and I’ve lived here my whole life.” I wasn’t giving up.

She finished shredding her sandwhich and reached into her bag for something else. She pulled out a juice box and inserted the straw. She drank it until it slurped loudly and then flattened it on the table and put it back in the bag.

Meanwhile, I was taking small bites of what our cafeteria considered spaghetti and trying to think of something else to say.

“Do you like your classes?” I asked. She just shrugged again. “I haven’t seen you in any of mine.” I waited, hoping it would prompt her to say something about her teachers. I was determined to get something out of her. “I have English right after lunch. What about you?”

She shook her head.

That didn’t really answer my question. “Well…” I was running out of ideas. I looked up at the clock and saw that lunch was almost over. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said gathering my tray and heading to my locker.

**********

The next day I went straight to her table. This time I didn’t say anything. She had a sack lunch again, and I had what the cafeteria considered a hamburger. There were large chunks of orange in it, which were obviously carrots. They weren’t subtle about hiding vegetables in the food.

She ate her sandwhich just like she had the day before. She pulled the crusts off and dropped them on the table. Then, she pulled her jucice box out and emptied it then proceeded to flatten it. She finished by putting all of it back in her sack to be thrown out. Then she just sat there watching me eat.

I didn’t speak. I thought maybe if I just sat there smiling, she might be tempted to say something. She didn’t. We ate in silence, and just before the bell, I left and went to English.

*********

The next day I decided on yet a third tactic for getting her to talk. When I sat down with my chef’s salad from the cafeteria, and she opened her sandwich, I just started talking. I didn’t wait for her to answer this time. If she couldn’t be bothered to speak, or was too shy, I was still going to make her my friend.

“I’ve lived here my whole life. I have two sisters. You might have met them. I’m nothing like them. They are kind of popular, and I’m more like you,” I paused realizing she might have taken what I’d just said as an insult, but she didn’t say anything or even react. I kept talking. I told her about my parents and my grandparents. I told her about what I liked to eat, when I wasn’t at school. I told her about my favorite movie, and retold it scene for scene. Just before the bell, I cleared my tray and went to English.

As I sat down in English, Tracie tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see what she wanted. She rarely spoke to me because she was part of the more popular crowd.

“Yes?” I asked.

“Why do you keep sitting alone at the first table and talking to yourself during lunch?” she asked.

“What are you talking? I’ve been sitting with the new girl.” I thought maybe they hadn’t seen her. But she had sat alone for a week before I’d joined her.

“There is no new girl,” Tracie just stared at me.

I turned around but all through class I sat there wondering if she was just messing with me. At the end of the day, I went to the office. I knew how I could learn the new girl’s name. I asked the secretary but she told me there hadn’t been any new students this school year.

********

The next day at lunch, I sat with the new girl again. I didn’t speak this time. I just watched her as we ate. She watched me back. I didn’t smile at her this time. When I stood up to go to English, she winked at me.