The Twinning Factor
Joseph McGee Private Investigator: Book Seven
McGee Faces A Conundrum
By Carl Douglass
Neurosurgeon Turned Author Writes With Gripping Realism
Early life for the Richter twins revealed their precocity, inborn intelligence—genius, in fact—which was a distinct surprise for their parents who generally thought of themselves as above average, maybe, but nowhere close to how bright the boys were. The other surprising thing about the twins for their admiring and rather astonished parents was just how “twinny” they were. They looked identical; grew and developed with an uncanny sameness: they learned to walk at age nine months, to speak single words at ten months, to speak in short sentences by thirteen months, and to carry on adult level conversations by the time they turned seventeen months.
Theresa Marie decided to see if she could teach them to read a bit even before they started school. They were fascinated by the idea of learning and especially by speaking. So, they took to learning—especially to reading—with a near passion. The educational vogue at the time was to learn to read phonetically, and their mother learned all about it. Before they were two, she was showing them the way the verbal word sounds they made corresponded to those sounds. The spelling seemed ridiculous to father J.B.R II, and he feared that it would ruin their chances to read real American English forever. But, Theresa prevailed by showing J.B.R II what the experts were writing about. He reluctantly gave in but with a proviso, a bet actually.
“I’ll put up them trying to learn this gobbley-gook for six months. After that, they have to switch over to real reading and writing. Whoever heard of two or three-year-olds reading anyhow? So, I’ll make you our usual bet. A milkshake and a show in Las Vegas if I’m right, paid by you.”
“And if I win, and those boys can read the Summit County Gazette before age three, what do I get?”
“Oh, you know what. And I’ll throw in an expensive diamond pendant.”
Theresa blushed—a quality that never failed to charm her husband—and said with mock sternness, “I should wash your mouth out just for what you’re thinking, you dirty old man.”
They both laughed at one of their comfortable and intimate little jokes. They had even started to number them because of the frequency of their repetition; The milkshake v. “other” became joke number seven. The total communal joke numbers had reached forty-two.
For all their precocity and innate competitiveness with each other, the twins fell in love completely and unreservedly when baby Elle came along. They watched how their parents held the new little round bundle of pink softness and who was fascinated by her fingers and toes.
They were as quick to see a new little development in the pretty little girl and to report it to the parents or their neighbors as the doting parents where themselves.
“Mama, can I hold her? I know how. You have to be real careful to hold her head straight to protect her delicate little neck. And you can’t squeeze her too tight, either,” either or both of the three-year-old boys would say, beg, or argue.
“We’ll go one step at a time. First you have to sit on my lap and hold her, and I will be able to prevent mistakes. You have to pay attention all the time when you have her.”
Both the twins demonstrated a phenomenal level of concentration and focus as they held the baby who was as precious to them as she was to their mother and father. They learned how to swaddle her tightly in light soft flannel—a bit clumsily, but practicable. Unlike their father—who could muck out a sheep shed but could not stomach the sights and smells attendant to diaper changing (“woman’s work”)—the boys were fascinated.
“She’s different,” “She doesn’t have a pee-pee,” “She stinks, how come?” “She’s so little and soft. We have to be very careful not to let her get hurt, don’t we, Mama?”
“Yes, boys; she’s different. Boys and girls are different in how they’re made down there. But they are both just as good as the other kind, don’t you think?” “No, she doesn’t have a pee-pee you can see. Her’s is kind of secret and private. And we have to be careful not to hurt it or to let other people see her lady parts down there. That would embarrass her and hurt her feelings, right?” “Of course, she stinks; so, do you, and me, and daddy. We all poop; and all poop stinks.
“Just go out to the barn once in a while. That is a pretty powerful stink. We have to be very soft and careful how we clean her up after she gets a dirty diaper. Watch how I do this. She is little and soft, and her little teeny pee-pee is especially so. We have to keep poop away from it and away from her little lady parts near it. So, see that I wipe her from top to bottom; so, none of the poop gets into some of those wrinkly little places she has.”
The boys made mental notes. After a few times of watching every day for the first week or two of Elle’s life, Theresa let them work together to do the diaper changing. After two practices each, the little boys could do a good, clean, and successful, job of diaper changing—again not quite professional, but practicable. Theresa hovered, and always had them do the job with the baby flat on the floor; so, she would have no place to fall. They learned almost intuitively to wash their hands before and after dealing with the diapering and the diapers themselves. They took turns rolling the soiled ones up and putting them into the special canister.
The boys were simply too small to give Elle a real bath, but Mama helped them to learn how to do a “spit bath” with her on the floor. By the time she was three and could sit up in the tub, and they were six and could help; Theresa put all three of them in the bath together and let the boys wash themselves and their treasured little sister. They made sure the water that went on her head and face was lukewarm, clear, and clean, and took great care that no soap could get into her eyes.
A couple of times, she was too slick and slipped under the water. Before Theresa could react, the boys acted in concert to sweep the little one out of the water and wash the soapy water away from her eyes.
Jason and James learned how to dry her off after baths by paying attention to how they were made dry themselves. It was no time before they could do their own bathing, drying, dressing, and toileting, by themselves and took genuine pride in what they were accomplishing. They were unaware that they were many months earlier at accomplishing those tasks than other children of their own age.
Sometimes Elle came out of a dressing by the boys with her shirt on backwards, with mismatched socks, and her little shoes tied with a scramble of impossible to loosen knots; but generally, they could take a load off their mother’s busy schedule. All she needed to do was to give a few supervisory comments and suggestions and to come by a little later and change the clothing choices and handiwork done by the boys without having to make them realize that their loving attentions to their spoiled little sister were not always quite perfect. They certainly could never be faulted for any lack of love and attention for the child, or for the fact that she looked upon them with adoration.
Another captivating quality possessed by the twin boys was that—well before they could speak English—they developed a definite language of their own, known only to themselves, and understood less that the neighbors could understand ancient Swahili. The sounds were screeches, outcries, growls, and whines. But, the boys obviously understood well what they were saying and could keep their secrets from prying parents or fascinated extended family. They were able to continue the use of that special language for several years, with refinements over time.
Theresa won her diamond pendant and happily gave in to the “other”, when she proudly sat both twins—age three—to read the sports news, complete with statistics, from the Summit County Gazette without once asking for help. Their flabbergasted father got a second dose, when each boy took turns—more or less—to discuss the meaning of what they had read, without referring back to the text. J.B.R. II considered himself something of a local expert on major league baseball, but he could not hold a candle to either son. It would have been like bragging to show off the boys’ remarkable accomplishments; so, he had the family keep it as their special secret.
Theresa–the doer of the family–became concerned that her boys would stunt their educational growth if they had to wait until they were five before starting school, or that they might become bored with school when they got there and do poorly for lack of interest.
Theresa read a book about Alexander the Great and took particular interest that his father—Philip II of Macedon—saw his son’s great potential and hired the foremost scholar and teacher in the ancient Greek world, Aristotle, to be young Alexander’s tutor. She was certain that they would never be able to afford a tutor the likes of Aristotle, but the concept drove her to action.
She went to Summit High School to talk to the woman who was considered to be the best in the school, probably in the state. Her name was Irene Hoyt, and she taught all levels of English classes and creative writing.
Theresa was afraid that the important teacher would laugh her out of the building when she fixed herself up, took pen and notebook, and went to her appointment with Mrs. Hoyt. The well- thought-of teacher’s office was crammed floor to ceiling with books, almost all bearing distinct marks of having been thoroughly thumbed. There were three tables bearing student papers, some graded, others not yet.
Mrs. Hoyt was rather severe looking as befit her reputation, but she was gentle, affable, and paid attention to Theresa’s ideas and requests. Despite the American sounding last name, Mrs. Hoyt was Armenian by birth, early childhood, and considerable education. Her birth name was Azadouhi Nalbandian, she told Theresa, but that no one could pronounce it when she emigrated to the United States; so, she decided to call herself Irene. When she arrived in Ellis Island, she was alone, illiterate, penniless, and had never even heard English. She had escaped the Turks and considered her other issues to be minor in contrast.
“I walked into the old Central School in Red Hook, New York and signed up for grammar school. I had the great good fortune to meet the principal–who was also Armenian–and he took me under his wing. We spent the first year getting me to the level of English speaking that I could interact successfully with my “peers” at the same grade level. I was almost twice the size of my fellow grade level school mates. With a great deal of help, I finished grade school with my age-group peers and along the way developed a love for the English language and history.
“I married Bill Hoyt when I was twenty-five and had completed high school as the valedictorian, got a BS from Yale after three years there, and a master’s and doctorate in secondary school education from the University of Nevada, Reno, where I met him—a most promising young engineering student—who was five years my junior. He got a job at the Kennecott Copper mine office and was given an early promotion to vice-president.
“I got a job at the high school, where I have stayed ever since. Teaching was my profession and career, but it became my passion. I have to say that I have had favorites over the years among the students, and all of them were from the excellent student group, irrespective of socioeconomic class or ethnic background—alas, too few. If your sons are what you say they are, I would very much like for you to allow me to engage in their education from the beginning.”
Theresa was shocked, excited, and thrilled. Mrs. Hoyt promised to be a dream come true.
“Do they need to be tested or something?”
“That would be best. First off, I would like to do a little testing myself to see what and to whom I might refer them for further work. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Can you bring them to my office the first of next week, Theresa?”
“I sure can, you betcha!”
The preliminary testing proved that Theresa had not embellished or oversold her sons. In fact, Mrs. Hoyt mined areas of their young minds that indicated that there was enough evidence to consider them to be prodigies. She wrote a paper in the Nevada Journal of Education entitled Discovery of a Child Prodigy and sent a copy to the University of Nevada School of Education:
Dean of the Nevada School of Education
Dear Dean Bradstreet-Adams
I have discovered a child prodigy (in my opinion), age just under three. To be brief, he reads like an adult, speaks like one, and is something of an expert on sports statistics. His opportunities here in Silver Dollar City, Summit County, Nevada are quite limited as you might imagine. I am so impressed with him that I ask that you take him to Reno for further testing and—if he merits the effort—that you arrange a tutorial program to assist this remarkable little boy to achieve his potential.
His name is Jason Benjamin Richter III. I would very much appreciate the favor of a reply,
Dr. Azadouhi “Irene” Nalbandian Hoyt.
It might have seemed to be a minor slip on Mrs. Hoyt’s part that she had neglected even to mention Jason’s equal prodigy twin in the letter to the dean. However, that error would eventually prove to have profound effects on the lives and careers of both twins, even though Irene took great pains to correct the error verbally and to get the same salutary results for both boys. It seemed like nothing at the time, but—like the proverbial butterfly effect—it would prove to be very highly consequential.
While the efforts to capitalize on the boys’ child prodigy functional level as it percolated through the University of Nevada academic system, another–albeit unrelated–event occurred that would add to the effect of Mrs. Hoyt’s omission. The day before Jason and James were to celebrate their third birthdays, the Dr. Edgar Simmons Memorial Hospital, and the adjoining city-county building caught fire and burned to the ground destroying all records, books, equipment–and most tragically–causing the death of young child, a boy of indeterminate age, but not more than five years of age. The child was never identified; no one ever claimed him; and, although speculation was rife, it came to nothing and was fairly soon forgotten.
Dean Bradstreet-Adams replied to Irene’s letter expressing delight at the opportunity to see if they were looking towards a new Einstein, Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr, or William James Sidis. Popularity and notoriety of young geniuses was so great that prestigious universities competed for such students matriculate with them. She concluded with a paragraph that read:
“…and dear Irene, our studies of Jason indicate that he is more than precocious, he is likely to be found a genius of the first order when he is old enough for the Child Stanford-Binet testing. I agree with you that he would flourish with the best training. For that reason, I recommend that he be taken in hand by Professor Karl Lincoln Merriweather who heads the department in the University of Iowa in Iowa City.”
Theresa quickly and verbally corrected the error that was extant that she had produced only one genius—and both boys were give their just due, but not in writing. As always, however, James seemed to be invisible, at least in printed matter. When Theresa heard the news from Dean Bradstreet-Adams that her twins were both going to Iowa for the chance of a lifetime to soar to the skies with the best educators in the country–even the world—she praised God for two miracles: the marvelous and free schooling and that her parents were already fully settled in—or at least near–La Mars, Iowa, only 175 miles from Ames and the university. What more could a good mother ask?