ONE OF A KIND
by Paul Negri
“No two are the same,” my brother Blisten told me. “Every face is like a snowflake. Even though there are millions, billions, trillions of them, each one is one of a kind. Except for me. I’ve been cheated.”
Blisten and I were identical twins, the same in every physical detail except one: I could not speak. There was nothing wrong with me, no more than there was with Blisten. I had been examined every which way from the time I was little and was pronounced normal, physically and mentally. I simply had a pad and a pencil instead of a voice.
I wrote to Blisten: That’s not my fault
“It’s still not right, Tim. You walk around with my face like you own it. It’s mine. I was born first—”
By six minutes I wrote.
“That doesn’t matter. It’s my face. You should go back and get your own. I should throw acid in your face. Or burn it.”
I went to Mom and wrote that Blisten was mad at me for having his face.
“He’s not mad, sweetheart. He’s 12,” said Mom. “He’s just going through a phase.”
If Blisten is mad then I’m mad too
“You’re not mad, sweetheart. You’re 12,” said Mom. “You’re just going through a phase.”
* * *
We measured our penises with a ruler. Blisten said you had to stretch it out, but not cheat. We stretched our own, but looked at the ruler for each other.
Two and a little bit I wrote.
Blisten looked at the ruler for mine. “Just two,” he said. “No little bit.”
I looked down at the ruler.
“All right,” he said. “Two and a little bit.”
We both have that little dark spot in the same place
Blisten shook his head. “I can’t even have my own dick.”
I was going to write I’m sorry, but Blisten took my pencil and broke it.
* * *
“You boys don’t know how lucky you are,” said Dad. “You have a special bond. I don’t have a brother.”
“You have your own face,” said Blisten.
I could wear an eyepatch I wrote.
“You could wear a mask,” Blisten said. “But behind it you’d still have my face.”
I could dye my hair red
“That would just be me with red hair. I don’t want red hair.”
Dad had gone back to reading the paper. Blisten tapped his knee. He looked up. “What, Tim?”
“I’m Blisten. You called me Tim.”
“I meant Blisten.”
Blisten glared at him. “You don’t know who is who.”
“Of course I know.”
Blisten grabbed me by the arm and pulled me to the bathroom. “Take off your clothes.”
No I wrote.
“We’ll leave our shorts on. They’re both white.”
We stripped down to our shorts and walked back to Dad.
Dad looked up from his paper. “What on earth?” We stood there staring at him. I tried to let him know it was me by blinking my eyes, but he didn’t notice. He looked from Blisten to me then back to Blisten. “This is ridiculous. I know very well who is who, but I don’t have time for such silly games.”
“You ought to brand a big T on his forehead,” said Blisten. “T for thief. Then you’d know.” And he marched off.
I picked up my pad and pencil from the coffee table. It’s okay, Dad. Sometimes it’s hard to tell
“What is the matter with him?”
He’s just going through a phase I wrote.
* * *
Blisten stopped talking to me. He stopped talking to anyone. He got a pencil and pad that looked like mine and began to write everything, just like me.
How do you like it? he wrote.
Not having what makes you special
What are you talking about?
Having no voice makes you special. Now I’ll have no voice and you won’t be special
I shook my head.
You have my face and I’ll have this He held up the pad and pencil.
You’re not going through a phase I wrote. You’re crazy
We’ll see who’s crazy
* * *
For the next week Blisten would answer only to the name Tim, and would write everything down, like me. At home. With our friends. Even at school. Our teacher, Mr. Bates, sent us to the principal. The principal sent a note home to Mom and Dad. They already knew all about it and were not sure what to do. It was true: they could not tell us apart.
“This has got to stop,” said Mom.
“Right now,” said Dad.
Blisten wrote on his pad, Blisten is crazy. You need to send him away
Blisten is crazy all right. But I’m Tim I wrote. He is Blisten
“You’re making me crazy,” said Dad, and looked at Mom.
“Can’t you tell by the hand-writing?” Mom asked Dad.
“I’m not sure. I never looked at it like that.”
Dad shook his head.
Mom looked at Dad. “I’ll take them to Grandma,” she said. “She’ll know.”
* * *
Grandma lived in an apartment building that faced the river. She sat in her wheelchair by the window. Grandma was a gypsy. Roma, Mom said. She was blind.
“When did this start?” asked Grandma.
“A week ago,” said Mom.
Blisten and I stood in front of Grandma. She reached out and touched Blisten’s arm. “Come,” she said. She put her arms around Blisten and held him for a minute, then kissed him on the lips. Blisten made a face. “Now you,” she said. She held me close. “Do you want a voice, Tim?” she whispered, so low only I could hear her. I nodded. She kissed me on the lips. She turned me around to face Mom. “This is Blisten.”
“I thought so,” said Mom.
“What do you say to your mother?”
I swallowed hard. I felt my tongue and lips move. “I’m sorry, Mom,” I said. It was Blisten’s voice.
Blisten put his hand to his throat and began to cry. He scribbled wildly on his pad I’m Blisten. He’s stolen my voice
And Blisten never spoke again.
Paul Negri is the former president and publisher of Dover Publications, Inc. and the editor of a dozen literary anthologies published by that firm. He has twice won the Gold Medal for fiction in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition. His stories have appeared in The Penn Review, Vestal Review, Pif Magazine, Jellyfish Review, Oyster River Pages, and other publications. He received an M.A. in English from Long Island University in Brooklyn in 1970. He lives in Clifton, New Jersey.