The International Writers Magazine: The Twins
The flocks of media had gathered in the front parking lot like sea gulls because today was the date Judge Black set for sentencing the twins. Josh, the smaller boy, was relieved but nervous as he huddled close to their attorney.
Judge Abner Black sat quietly looking at
the two boys, studying in amazement how different they were and
how much more different they seemed after many months of a gruelling
Lenny, however, with arms crossed over his chest, was openly more defiant; frowning, exchanging stares with the judge and his brother. Lenny spoke up to the judge. 'How in the hell do you think you can possibly do this? You can’t give us separate sentences. It’s not possible,' Lenny sneered 'Josh needs me and I need him. We both gotta go together or not at all.' But the judge was sympathetic to the boys and ignored Lenny’s outburst. Josh was too embarrassed to comment or look at the Judge. 'Typical of Lenny,' Josh thought out loud. 'Just like him. He’s gonna make it bad
Twins Josh and Lenny were born in a small midwestern country hospital before World War ll. This was a time when illegitimate children and single mothers were shunned; especially girls who got pregnant in a small, Southern Baptist town. The mother died from complications in childbirth during an emergency caesarian section; a complex and dangerous procedure that had never been performed by her young doctor before. Her death, although untimely, spared her years of humiliation from neighbours and towns-folks. The twins, however, would be destined to suffer a degrading and humiliating existence.
They were immediately given up to the local social services for foster care. This was a difficult proposition given the fact they were twins and couldn’t be given out to separate foster homes. That was more responsibility than most people were prepared to take on. But some couples tried.
The boys suffered many miserable years as they were handed from one foster home to another. Lenny became the dominant one and Josh the weaker; forced by his brother into submission. Lenny was difficult, often creating stressful conditions that most foster parents found intolerable. Social workers were becoming desensitised, ignoring them as they grew older and frequently rejected them as unmanageable.
Then there were professional foster parents, Ira and Joan Crutchfield, who would do anything for money; who had undertaken a few difficult cases before but none quite like Lenny and Josh. That challenge appealed to them because they really didn’t care and knew how to handle difficult teenagers; they simply locked them away in the basement and out of sight until they succumbed to hunger or loneliness. They gratefully accepted the challenge the two teen age boys posed, especially when they were paid considerably more for their trouble; more than they would have been paid to take care of the usual child.
Whatever Lenny wanted, Lenny got and what Lenny got Josh would also get. Lenny didn’t mind standing up to their abusive foster parents, which often resulted in harsh punishments like the dark basement, and Josh was forced to go along or he would suffer Lenny’s anger for days. Josh was too timid to argue with his brother or foster parents. His physical frailties made him unable to defend himself and wherever Lenny went, Josh followed doing as he was told. As time passed in the Crutchfield household, their lives became more tormented as Lenny’s attitude became more brazen. 'They were being home schooled,' the Crutchfields reported to occasional visitors from county agencies, 'Because they simply couldn’t get along in public schools and they’re doing quite well.'
Home visits from Miss Sterling, County Child Services agent, became frequent but the boys were never seen alone with her. Miss Sterling seemed to have taken a special interest in the twins and made many visits to discuss them with the Crutchfield’s. As the visits became more frequent the boys would be ushered out of the room and locked away where they couldn’t be seen or heard. At least, they felt, this kept them from the silent threats of the Crutchfield’s. The boys did notice that Miss Sterling began to visit Ira more frequently when Joan was away from the house. Ira was becoming friendlier and as she left he would be close behind, to open her car door, assuring her that all was well with the twins.
'I’m tired of this shit,' sneered Lenny as they watched from their bedroom window as Ira make over Miss Sterling, 'We’re not gonna be locked away like some rabid animals any more.'
'How’re you goin’ to stop it? We’re locked in all the time.'
'Stop your God-damn whining and leave it to me. I’ve always work things out, haven’t I?' Lenny reminded Josh, 'You’re too damn weak. If it weren’t for me we’d be worse off than we are, and besides, I’ve got a plan to get even.' That scared Josh. He knew once Lenny got an idea in his head trouble would follow so all he could do was grit his teeth and hope it wouldn’t turn out too bad.
With a pessimistic outlook, and convoluted opinions created by years of foster home abuses, Lenny had made up his mind years before that he would have to be the stronger of the two. Despite his roughness he felt a deep love for his brother and it was his brotherly obligation to protect Josh from abuse no matter the consequences. It also enabled him to prevent any public humiliation that his brother’s weakness would cause them.
Josh was puny and their situation was bad enough without other people looking at them as puny and weak. So Lenny became overly aggressive by demonstrating his strength and single mindedness. Josh had been forced into submission over the years. Both were now realizing that their door to independent manhood was fast approaching. How would they handle it?
Entering adulthood with the Crutchfield made Lenny more contentious as time neared for their self-determination. As they reflected on the difficult years behind them there was a certain amount of relief that at long last living with the beastly Crutchfield’s was soon to end. But now they were faced with new obstacles; the time when they would be expected to make it on their own. Although it scared Lenny he would deny it when asked by his brother. The thoughts of finding a solid, rational footing for their freedom weighed heavily on Josh’s mind but Lenny’s power over Josh convinced them both and with it a deeper sense of relief and hope.
The closer to the time of release for the twins, there became frequent, problematic moments of discipline with Lenny that made Josh wish he could leave his brother. Lenny’s meanness grew, fed by the frequent beatings from Ira. Josh knew he could not survive on his own. He was powerless and so he endured. It would soon be over.
Young and attractive, Miss Sterling began visiting the Crutchfields more frequently as the boys neared their release date. And Ira found many reasons to visit her office concerning the twins because they were approaching the day when they would no longer be living with them; there were arrangements that had to be made, he told Joan, with the social services people.
During the days following his visits with Miss Sterling, Ira would be unusually pleasant. The boys noticed that he was smiling more often and to the twins it became apparent that he was trying to hide something. Now was their opportunity. Lenny grinned and Josh shuddered.
Many times in the past, Lenny had gotten them both in trouble many times before by stealing, fighting with foster parents. In one case he severely beat one man into a near coma as Josh watched helplessly. Nor were family household pets exempt from Lenny’s angry eruptions as he became more vicious; many disappeared. Whatever trouble Lenny got into so did Josh. The courts were very familiar with the twins but because of their circumstances the judges were sympathetic. Now the time approached when the two boys were expected to take responsibilities for their lives; put out of the Crutchfield home to face the world on their own. But not before Lenny had the last word.
Despite Josh’s weak objections, Lenny outlined his plan for a spectacular prank against Ira and Joan Crutchfield before they were to be set free to be on their own.
'Do you remember why the Crutchfields wanted us here?' Lenny asked Josh. 'They didn’t want children of their own because the State paid good money for foster care,' Lenny sneered. 'We’re just merchandise to them and nothin’ more.'
Josh remembered just how often Joan told Ira that, having children was not profitable. She hated the thoughts of having children and the burden of such a responsibility, not to mention the cost. Foster care was their business. Foster kids were a disposable commodity; they could abandon the ones that were too difficult, too old or independent, or get paid well for the more bizarre, such as Lenny and Josh.
And so Joan took extraordinary precautions not to jeopardize their lucrative business, or her figure, by becoming pregnant. This included making sure that she had an abundant supply of every known birth control device known to man for those rare moments and keeping Ira at arms length; in his own bedroom. There would never be the slightest chance she could get pregnant, she would see to that.
The resulting disappointment Ira felt from his almost sexless marriage had made the boy’s life even more miserable and he would beat them whenever he needed to vent his sexual frustrations. But with Ira’s interest in Miss Sterling and her recent interest in them, Ira had not been quite so active with his beatings; only when Joan felt they needed one.
Josh listened intently as Lenny detailed his plan of revenge to Josh. Both boys knew that Joan kept a vast supply of birth control paraphernalia in a secret place under her hat boxes in the bedroom closet; a discovery made when they peered through the keyhole one rainy day curious about the moans and shouts from Ira. And they also discovered that Ira kept his hidden a secret place behind the books in the study.
Since they were not permitted outside, their resources for revenge was limited. Lenny detailed his twisted plan, Josh laughed and agreed the prank was, kinda neat.
One day when Joan was shopping and Ira fell asleep in front of the TV, after a long visit from Miss Sterling, the boys crept into the birth control supplies wielding straight pins.
'We’ll poke small invisible holes,' Lenny demonstrated to Josh, 'and they won’t know what happened until it’s too late. Then we’ll replace Joan’s birth control pills with aspirins.' As they quickly worked they imagined what was going to happen and the thoughts made both boys laugh. Any nastiness they sustained in the meantime would be nothing compared to how Joan and Ira would feel in a month or two.
Months passed and to the Crutchfields, the twins seemed unusually happy despite the grief that was inflicted on them daily. Ira and Joan became suspicious that the boys were up to no good. When they were questioned about their good moods they refused to answer so Ira locked them in the basement. Then as suddenly as she began her visits, Miss Sterling stopped. Ira appeared worried then agitated when she didn’t call or visit. Something was wrong and he just knew the twins were responsible so he resumed his pre-Miss Sterling beatings.
The day the twins had been hoping for finally arrived. Joan got pregnant, became distraught, sought counselling, cried, paced the floor and unsuccessfully sought medical help to end the pregnancy. This was the ‘60’s and doctors just would not do abortions. Then Miss Sterling came by once to see Ira. Lenny and Josh saw she had gained a lot of weight and Ira became very nervous. Soon he began to drink and stayed away from the house with greater frequency returning home late. Loud arguments filled the nights. Lenny and Josh were beside themselves with satisfaction at the predicaments they created with a straight pin and aspirins and pleased that they were finally able to get some justice for the terrible conditions they were forced into; conditions they had no control over.
'Think of it Josh,' Lenny giggled; 'the Crutchfields are going to have their own kids now and no longer have kids only for profit. Now they gotta’ pay.' The boys couldn’t help but laugh as the Crutchfields dilemma deepened and Joan and Miss Sterling began to plump out. Joan became deeply troubled and depressed over the loss of her figure, the expenses of having kids. Then Joan found out about Ira and Miss Sterling. What a name, she thought, Miss Sterling isn’t so sterling after all.
Ira and Joan separated after she discovered Ira’s liaisons with Miss Sterling. The twins returned to Social Services where they were to remain until they became of age. A date for a court hearing was made to make sure the twins would receive any help they required before their release. Because of Lenny’s inability to stay out of trouble the Judge would study their case closely and make any exceptions to their unusual circumstances he felt necessary. They were still wards of the court.
It was the first day of many deliberations that would last for months. Judge Black was considered the best choice for determining the disposition of the twins and he carefully read the volumes of information presented by the State. It was apparent to the Judge that Lenny was the more calculating and aggressive and Josh the mild, sensitive, and dependant brother. Now it was time for him to pass a landmark judgement. Judge Abner Black had both boys stand.
'Boys,' he began, 'Because Mrs. Crutchfield had twins of her own last week, Mr. Crutchfield has left town, and Miss Sterling is well on her way to having her child, you have become wards of the court and under the care and supervision of Social services.' The judge paused while he shuffled some important looking papers and Lenny noticed what he thought was a smile on the judges mouth. 'I guess maybe the judge ain’t all that bad,' Lenny whispered to Josh. 'And,' he continued, 'I can find no reason for you not to be happy about leaving the Crutchfield home. But now we must see to your best interests. The court recognises your birthday is just a few days away but because you are still under the age of eighteen, it is the court’s responsibility to do what is best for you both.' He paused again.'Damn, I wished he would get on with it,' Lenny whispered. The judge looked at Josh and began.
'Josh, you are to serve six months in the State mental health facility to receive counselling and training that will enable you to become independent of Lenny, get a job, and start a life of your own. Lenny you are to be committed to the same mental health facility but in a different ward and away from Josh.' Both boys gasped not believing their ears.
'The term of your detention,' he continued with Lenny, 'will be determined by your progress and, when released, you are not to visit Josh for at least one year. Is that clear?'
Lenny chuckled to himself. He knew the judge couldn’t do this. It’s impossible but he nodded in agreement anyway. The judge noticed Lenny’s sneer and continued, 'Had you boys been brought to this court a few years ago I would not have been able to pass this judgement on you,' he paused again. 'Recent medical advances have enabled doctors and hospitals to successfully separate Siamese twins joined only at the hip and once apart you boys will begin serving your sentences. Court adjourned.'
Lenny gasped, Josh laughed, and both boys were escorted,
speechless, from the courtroom.
© Richard Corwin May 2006
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