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by Rudi Dornemann

I had a doppelganger that year. Walking home from school, I'd see him on the other side of the street, walking just as slow or fast as I did, swinging a Six Million Dollar man lunchbox that had dents in all the same places as mine. When I went to the park after school to play Frisbee with Steve, Brian, and Elsie Fina from up the block, he was there too, leaning against a tree on the edge of the woods on the other side of the river. He looked just like me.

But, when my hair fell out after the first few treatments, his didn't. It was still red, and it still stuck up in the same places that mine had. When I got too tired to walk to school and dad drove me, we'd pass him every morning, always at the same place two blocks from school. The lunchbox that was cold in my lap glinted as he drummed his fingers on it in time to his steps. I drummed too, softly, so I wouldn't test whether dad would tell me to stop like he always used to, or would just let me keep going.

I went to the park alone on one of my stronger afternoons, and stood on the river bank. I looked at him, and rubbed the Frisbee in my hands. He looked back. Finally, I made up my mind, and I snapped my wrist the way Brian and Elsie always did but Steve and I could never master. The disk flew perfectly, fast and low over the water like a skipped stone, and he caught it. Before he could throw it back, I ran, and, when I tripped and skidded grass stains into the knees of my jeans, I got up and kept going until my lungs felt like they were squeezed empty and I thought I was going to throw up.

I didn't go back to the park until after the transplant. My hair was itchy stubble, but his head was bare and hung down like he was tired. I stayed way back from the river's edge, further away than either of us could have thrown even when we were well. I came back every afternoon. Eventually, I played ball with the Fina kids -- I wasn't ready for pickle yet, but I could toss it back and forth. He sat on the far bank, the lunchbox on his lap, watching and dozing.

Then it was winter, and I didn't go to the park, and when I did finally go back in the spring all I saw was a rusted rectangle that might once have been a Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox. By the beginning of summer, the grass had grown up so tall, though, I couldn't even see that.

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