A few years ago I took a class in specialized origami. This wasn’t making birds or butterflies out of construction paper, our paper was sized by the hectare. It took 17 people to fold our life-size alien spacecraft and various rudimentary vegetables.
The class was started by Mr. Yushi, a 61-year-old Japanese immigrant who came to America for a delicate nose-hair removal operation and stayed 22 years working as a teacher and part-time slinky repairman. Then he got deported. So, in the middle of the year we got a substitute.
When I walked into class that night, I was so surprised you could have knocked me over with a 20-ton industrial crane. It was my long lost identical twin cousin Larry.
Larry and I were born on the same day in 1980. We looked exactly alike and were as close as brothers until 10th grade. By then, my growth spurts were over, but Larry shot up nine inches in one year. One of his hands could engulf my head and his feet when he walked looked like waste barges chugging down the Susquehanna River. His voice dropped to an octave only earthworms could hear by absorbing the vibrations. We drifted apart and I hadn’t seen Larry for eight years.
“Larry, is that you?”
“Cousin!” he bellowed back, swallowing me into his amoeba-like body. “Where have you been?”
“I’m not hard to find.”
“Well . . .”
“My number is in the phonebook.”
“See . . .”
“I still live above the garage of my parent’s house.”
“Uh huh …”
“I haven’t left this town for even a day.”
“Ok, well, we found each other again, that’s the important thing.”
“I guess you’re right, Larry, but why did you stop talking to me in high school?”
“Well, I was better than you.”
“You were still short and had a high-pitched voice.”
“Yes, like that. Anyway, I had grown tall and proud with a bass voice. I have huge hands and feet and you know what that means.”
“That you’re a marginalized freak?”
“See, you were always jealous.”
“I can’t believe I was glad to see you again.”
“I can’t believe you’re in this class. As if you could understand an art form as demure as origami.”
“I can outdo you, Yeti!”
“Oh yeah? You’re on!”
The battle lines were drawn. To help me, I bribed 8 class members with bottles of cold Yoohoo and raspberry cordials. Larry took the remaining 10 by hitting them repeatedly with a jagged stick. We worked feverishly folding our massive sheets of paper. One of my team was trapped by a sharp corner and stabbed in the leg. I tried to convince him to stay with promises of glory and minimal insurance coverage but he passed out from blood loss before I got to the amortized deductions.
I sent Mrs. Pradawatowidboto over to spy on Larry. She reported back at having seen a man in period clothing and when she described the outfit, I knew what Larry was up to. I quickly shifted gears from my original idea of the fat Elvis.
It was near midnight when we finished. Everyone was exhausted and covered in bloody paper cuts. Larry’s team walked their construction over confidently, pulling the cover off with a flourish. It was Edward III, King of England from 1327-1377. He stood majestically, a chain mail hood covering his head and wearing an ankle length brocade tunic. His right hand rested on a lobed-pommel sword. It was gorgeous and I had to give Larry his due. But I also knew I had guessed correctly.
Larry’s love of English history, especially the kings, had betrayed him. I pulled my drape off and Larry gasped. I had remembered which king was Larry’s favorite, and had constructed the perfect foil. An 18-foot rat infected with the plague.
“No!” Larry shouted, but it was too late. We pushed my rat over and it attacked Edward. The gallant king doubled over and collapsed. Larry threw himself on Edward, his tall, proud body wracked with bass-voiced sobs. In my heart, I wanted to go over and console Larry, but I knew he was too full of himself to accept my sympathy. Besides, when I turned my back, the rat escaped and attacked the class. Six were already dead and for some reason had turned into zombies. So, we all had problems.