The Twinning Factor – Chapter 5

The Twinning Factor
Joseph McGee Private Investigator: Book Seven
McGee Faces A Conundrum
By Carl Douglass
Neurosurgeon Turned Author Writes With Gripping Realism

Chapter Five

Jason Benjamin Richter II, father of the genius toddlers and husband of the irrepressible Theresa, considered and pondered the decision about the family’s life that a move to Iowa would entail. Truth be known, he hated the desert and for him, Nevada had little else to offer. The only ways he could expand his business in Silver Dollar City and Summit county would be to diversify into other businesses, like real estate (meaning buying and selling dust bowl sites) or to expand the family banking business into satellite branch banks. That would be a headache he would rather avoid. None of that seemed to have any promise. His ponderings kept coming back to Iowa and his in-laws growing agribusiness.

He called his father-in-law James Darlington to see what he and his family might be able to do in Iowa while the boys were doing their thing at the U. He did not know that Theresa had already communicated several times with both her mother and father about the prospects for the Richters in Iowa.

“Hello, James, how’re things out there in the grain belt?”

“Going splendidly both business and familywise.”

“Our boys are going to be enrolled in a special education program at the U of Iowa starting a month from now, as I’m sure you know from Theresa. Can you give me a heads-up about the prospects in business or somewhere else for me? You know my background, and you know me.”

“I do, Jason. What I don’t know is how amenable you are to change. Doing different things in life comes hard to some folks.”

“Obviously, James, I’ve given that a lot of thought. I don’t believe in splitting up families; I don’t like for children to be separated from their parents, particularly during their early childhoods; and, frankly, I am ready for a real change and for that change to take place in Iowa. Theresa and I are proud of the success you and Carol have made there. I would very much like your input.”

“I wouldn’t like to have you think of me as a buttinsky or a know-it-all like some guys. But, if you don’t mind, I would like to offer you a partnership in my agribusiness. It is too much for one man, and I need someone with a good business background and who is healthy and able to do physical work as well. Who knows whether it would work out; so, I propose that we have a one year trial period where I pay you $100,000. After that if we are sympatico, we can split 50:50—costs, risks, and profits. Would that be something you could consider?”

“It is a wonderful offer, James. I take it that you value me as a family member, and I won’t be coy. Of course, I accept. James, I have worked hard–including physically–all my life. I look forward to pulling more than half of my weight. Okay if we knock on your door in a week?”

“Carol and I will look forward to it. As it happens, we have a big shipment to get out this month. We’ll be glad to make you sweat.”

Before the month was out, Jason II was pretty well acclimated to the new job; he was a fast learner; he had calluses upon calluses, just like his wife’s father, James. He and Theresa closed on a small almost new house, and Jason III and James were now actively engaged in Ames in the most different kind of school either parent had ever even heard about.

The first day in the school was much like a regular kindergarten. There were colorful toys, swing sets, sand boxes, black boards, chalk, and piles of children’s books. One difference was that the room was filled with quiet classical music, mostly French. Another difference was there were six instructors for eight children. One more difference was that the average age in the class was five, and that was because five of the eight were age three or less, and the oldest student was seven.

The boys thought the school was the most fun they had ever had. They trotted around speaking to each other in their own special language. Unknown to them, the teachers were recording their conversations with each other and with their toys to be submitted to a linguist to see if the twin-talk could be considered a real language, if it could be translated, if it could be written, and if it could be taught to other people.

The linguists at the U identified five basic components: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, found across all the world’s 6,000 languages that need to be present for a language to be accepted as distinct and a “real language”. It does not matter that only two people on earth speak that language. Jason and James were the subjects of an intense scrutiny and the source of a great deal of controversy among the faculty unknown to them. They were just in school to have fun.

Part of the controversy was a fight over whether linguistic universals even exist: the relationship between speech rate and information density unearthed in a study at the U was likely to appeal to functionalists, because it suggests that something about language is fundamentally geared toward transferring information between speakers. But, the Chomskyans on the faculty insisted that was completely irrelevant. They subscribed to a linguistic theory of Chomsky’s based on his theory that all languages contain similar structures and rules, i.e. a universal grammar; and the Chomskyans were convinced that all children everywhere acquire language the same way–and without much effort–indicating that humans are born wired with the basics already present in our brains.

Jason and James found a friend in a trucker who worked the stretch between Ames in the center of the state—Jolley, Carroll, Sioux City—and over the border to the tri-corners of western Iowa and southern South Dakota and Nebraska. Le Mars to the north was only slightly out of the way. Their parents paid the trucker’s gas in exchange for bringing the boys home three nights a week and taking them back to the university in Ames the next day. It was arduous for all concerned, but there were two compelling reasons to make the trip frequently. They were able to eat a hefty country supper prepared by their mother, “the best cook in the world”, to help their father with the evening’s chores which they enjoyed because they could get good and dirty, and mostly because they had free time to cuddle, chase, tease, and otherwise endear themselves to Elle. The bond between the boys and the little angel girl was so strong that sometimes it worried Theresa. Would they ever be able to make friends at the school, have girlfriends, branch out; or, would they fixate on the beautiful little sister at the exclusion of all others?

The linguistic dilemma posed by the “twin-talk language” begged the question of how to comprehend the linguistically identical two boys and their unique means of verbal communication. They were tested regularly–which the boys enjoyed–because they saw it as matching wits with the faculty and testers. It was obvious that in general, cross-linguistic comparison was difficult at best and approached Gordian knot difficulty to try and understand the Richter twins.

Every child in the study group had several important characteristics: almost all were very alert as infants; a similar percentage had a long attention span as an infant or toddler; over 90% showed early language development; more than half showed early motor skill development; half were ambidextrous; over a third had imaginary playmates; the mean age of speaking their first word was nine months; and the mean age for sight-reading was earlier than age four. Early manipulation of symbol systems, and early abstract reasoning ability factored in as well. All children in the University of Iowa study group had to demonstrate eight of the ten qualities to be accepted.

Including the Richter boys, most of the younger children who did not yet speak any language fluently, understood most of what parents, family members, and older children, said to them as evidenced by compliance to spoken requests, pointing to particular colored blocks, and ability to point to a specific animal picture after only a verbal request.

The twins had a quick stock answer when asked if they enjoyed the school. Each made the deaf language love sign in reply. It was considered to be a positive sign that the twins exhibited awareness, exhibited aggressiveness, eagerness, and a preference for complex learning experiences as opposed to the standard sequencing and resting policies used to teach average children who have limited attention spans. James and Jason could focus for well over an hour on things that interested them, and they ignored things they were not interested in.

The Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale can be used with children as young as two years; the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence is designed for use with children as young as age three. It seemed almost impossible, but when the Richter twins were tested, they got the same exact score, IQ 179, well into the genius category. It was possible that they could have differed, but that was the upper limit of the test. The plan was to repeat the test yearly to see how well the test scores corelated with advancing age.

The problem of the twins forming friendships with other boys their age seemed to be settled when Hector Darlington–Theresa’s nephew—who was the same age as the Richter boys, and his two brothers and four sisters, who were a year or two older or younger that the twins, moved into Ames. Their father and mother–Gretchen and Oliver Darlington–had joined the Catholics a decade ago and felt like they were being shunned by the rest of the family who were all Protestants. They got caught up in an unfortunate Ponzi scheme run by one of their fellow parishioners in New York and lost their shirts—almost literally. Oliver and Gretchen had to swallow their pride and their sense of hurt and to rejoin the family to get help to start again. As it worked out, the religious intolerances—if ever there had been any—were no longer even thought about. Nobody really cared any more.

Hector and his siblings were immediately drawn to the peculiar, but fun-loving twins and—like everyone else—to Elle. The relationship between the new Darlington and the now established Richter family grew into a firm fraternal bonding that was as close as even a nuclear family association could be. That was especially true for the Richter twins, Hector Darlington, and rambunctious and lovable little Elle.

I chose to use a pseudonym for personal reasons. I’m a retired neurosurgeon living in a rural paradise and am at rest from the turbulent life of my profession. I lived in an era when resident trainees worked 120 hours a week–a form of bondage no longer permitted by law. I served as a Navy Seabee general surgeon during the unpleasantness in Viet Nam, and spent the remainder of my ten-year service as a neurosurgeon in a major naval regional medical center. I’ve lived in every section of the country, saw all the inhumanity of man to man, practiced in private settings large and small, the military, academia, and as a medical humanitarian in the Third World.