Winner Take All
by Michael Pelc

Identical twins we were, my brother and I.  Jack and John.  John and Jack.  Lifelong mirrors one to the other, so precisely the same in both manner and appearance that our own parents could not tell us apart.  And we played it – played that confusion, that monozygotic confusion that nature had gifted upon us – for all it was worth, oftentimes one of us pretending to be the other for no particular reason except for the sport of it all.

Though to be honest, there were times – situations I suppose you might call them – when there was a certain, shall we say, advantage to being able to switch places one with the other.  If I told you this and nothing more, would you understand what I meant so that I would not have to go into the lurid details?  At the age of thirteen we both lost our virginity to the same girl.  On successive nights.  Behind the same barn.  She never knew that we were two, supposing that she was being true to but one of us, as did so many of the conquests who followed in her stead.

Indeed, at first we were quite content to share the wealth, as it were.  For such is the way of adolescent young lads, that the libido must be satisfied above all else.  And so, if one of us were fortunate enough to come upon a female of the species who had, shall we say, less than the highest of moral values, he would share his discovery with his temporarily less fortunate brother.

There is, however, one other thing you must understand about brothers.  Indeed, it is quite probably true of each member of the male sex, be they related or not.  And that thing that you must understand in order for what I am about to tell you to make any sense at all, is quite simply this:  competition.

After a certain number of conquests – the exact number is not important here – it began to seem to each of us – rather separately in our own minds, I'm sure – that one of us was riding on the coattails of the other.  That one of us was doing all the work while the other was content to – how shall I say this? – go along for the ride.

At first we began to keep score, that was all, much as one might keep a tally sheet when playing whist or canasta.  It was innocent enough, not at all unlike a schoolyard game of marbles or pitch.  And like many a schoolyard game conducted without benefit of adult guidance, it soon turned into a series of wagers.

Alas, these are the kinds of things – the kinds of behaviors – that have a way of feeding on themselves, of branching out, of encompassing ever wider and more disparate matters.  Some quite innocent, of course, engendered by nothing more than a chance encounter with a rock by the side of the road – wagering to see who could throw it the farthest or the straightest or the highest – that sort of thing, the kind of thing all boys go through at one time or other in their lives.

But, as we each constantly strove to outdo the other, we soon found that there were all sorts of other matters that would hold a wager as well.  The not so innocent.  The illegal.  And the dangerous.   Who could steal the most apples at market.  Who could break the most windows at old Mrs. Wilson's cottage or slay the most crows with his slingshot.  Those sorts of things.

And then, last night while we were lying abed in our room staring at the darkness, the ultimate wager.  I don't know who it was that first brought it up, who first set forth the proposal.  It might have been my brother.  And yet, it just as well might have been me.  After all, I was the one with the knife beneath my pillow.

"I bet I can live longer than you."

Michael Pelc lives in Florida with his wife and a spooky black animal that might be a cat of sorts.  His short stories have appeared in several online e-zines, including Apollo's Lyre, Long Story Short, Kidvisions and Crimson Highway. Contact Michael.
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