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The young boy was right and wrong about his use of the words “quadruplet freakshow.”  A quadruplet is any set of four objects:  musical notes, dogs, cats, cars and so on.  However in the scientific parlance relating to multiple birth, these four Harolds, who all appear similar to Dr Harold Smith, are not a set of quadruplets.  A quadruplet would be one of four offspring born during a single pregnancy.  Clearly, these Harolds were of complementary temperaments and different physical constitutions, which is always allowable even if they were quadruplets born to one mother, as quadruplets can be either fraternal or identical.  Even if n-tuplets are identical genetically, they may still display different physical traits or phenotypes which explains why one identical twin loves to garden and the other volunteers at a local animal shelter.  
There was no indication that any of the Harolds were born at the same time.  Why, one was much older than the others with snow-white hair on his balding pate, clearly having returned home from his last day at work.  The young teenager was boisterous, the older man was soft-spoken and the second to the eldest Harold was frail and played idly with his pepper-gray hair.  Each of the Harolds was lanky and lean, yet all around average heights with the second eldest appearing the tallest.  Dr Smith was the third tallest exceeding only the youngest Harold.   The second youngest Harold was definitely the broadest of shoulder and although not overtly virile looking, he was a pleasant enough person to look at.
For naming conventions, consider apparent age as the main and obvious characteristic and the easiest to use to differentiate between the four . Dr Smith will thus be known as Harold, the original Harold, Harold-zero.  Verily, the eldest of the other Harolds is Harold-one, making the young man Harold-two and the very youngest Harold-three.  Let us look closer at their similarities.  All four Harolds have the same facial structure.  Their eyes are all a dark brown color, with dark pupils.  Harold-two’s hair is a dark brown color, and straight, cut in a crew cut which the elder Harolds favor, but not the youngest whose hair was unruly and shoulder-length.  
Harold-three has left the room, but not the building, he went upstairs mayhap to pound upon his keyboard and yell into a headset while shooting things online.  Good times.  So we are left with Harold, Harold-one and Harold-two.  They continued on with their lunch munching away despite the adolescent outburst, they appeared to be three peas in a pod.  Peas in the same pod are considered part of one organism, the legume Pisum Sativum.  The green peas that are frozen and canned to be sold in the grocery store are typically a breed of the species which you’ve never heard of, yet peas are one of the best examples of applied scientific method, simple enough that even children in primary school may grow peas ignorant of the scientist they are emulating.  Think of how middle school kids would giggle if they knew that pea plants reproduce sexually!  Everyone needs something ribald to chortle at sometimes, especially middle schoolers.
Austrian monk Gregor Mendel grew peas in the nineteenth century and enlightened the world about the casino hall known as genetics:  this is the schoolchildren’s version of the story.  He bred peas, over twenty thousand of the plants, and in addition to artificially fertilizing successive generations of pea plants, noted the occurence of several differentiating characteristics between the plants, parents and filials, for nearly a decade.  This was a man who knew the difference between a pistil and a stamen!  
Mendel was interested in inheritance, not necessarily the exact formulas of inheritance which he gave to be honest, as he didn’t know which molecules in a cell were the discrete units of inheritance:  genes were not discovered for some time after his death.  Without knowing about genes, he was able to expound broadly about simple rules of genetics using ratios of characteristics’ incidence from generation to generation of pea plants.  This mountain of work lay unappreciated by many until after he died.  Celibate people who love arithmetic do contribute to society.  They may end up obscure and unmarried, but at least they can become Abbott and lay the groundwork for an entire discipline of biology.  Mendel’s pea plants are more than likely long dead, but not before passing on their genes.  In some ways, peas and edible plants are more important than science:  you can’t stick knowledge in an emptied milk carton with dirt and watch it grow towards the sun.
The Harolds are not plants, since they breathe, talk and eat like humans, males specifically.  When Harold-three thumped upstairs and passed no picture of a female or any framed photographs of any Harold.  Perhaps they themselves were monks, perhaps they were merely free of the tyranny of females or body image.  
Harold-three sat at his desk in his own room staring at his computer monitor.   Since it was noon, most of the stay-at-home mothers and fathers would be off-line, and they were the people he could really talk to most of the time.  The moms and pops, as he thought of them, had better grammar than the gamers in their twenties who would log on in the late afternoon and then stay on until the early morning hours before heading out to their own jobs.  Of course, there were the regular schoolgoing teens who logged in at during odd hours between classes or between the end of the school day and some sort of activity.
With a sigh, Harold-three threw himself down on his single bed.  He looked around his tiny room, his plants, and mechanical knick-knacks, things he had accumulated, gifts from the other Harolds.  His bookshelf was his pride and joy.  On it was every book all of the other Harolds had read, and he had read them as well.  There was nothing in his room that wasn’t instantly familiar.  He buried his face in his pillow.
Downstairs, the other Harolds finished up their delicious meal by engaging in some after-lunch conversation.
“I don’t know why he is always so angry.  Do you think its so strange that we are so much alike, Hare?”  Harold-one simpered.
“I find it comforting, Harry.”  Harold-two, Hare, stretched his arms above his head.  “That doesn’t mean that he would, but I know I like being part of a set.”
“I can clean up today, you should go on up.”  Harold collected his own plate and walked it over to the sink.  “I feel responsible for upsetting the boy.”
“Thanks, but no thanks.”  Harold-one, Harry, chewed on his upper lip.  “Maybe I should go talk to him.  I think he wants to go outside again.  Oh, dear.  I don’t want to talk to him, no no.”
“I felt the same way, closed in, a bit crazy when I was his age.”  Hare pushed his chair away from the table in a clean jerk.  “Don’t worry, I’ll go talk to him.”
“Don’t forget, Hare.  The boy, he wants to be called Rold now.”  Harry laid a comforting hand on Hare’s arm and then stretched his legs out on front of his seat. “Come on Harold, we can clean up now.  Yes yes, you and I can talk about why you’re home early.”
Hare headed out of the kitchen and up to Rold’s room.  Harry tiptoed to the stairs and then back to Harold. “So, uh, what’s the story?”  
“Rold is right.”  Dr Smith grabbed Rold’s mostly empty plate.  “I got fired.”
“Retiring the old horse?”
“Yes.”  Rold’s plate was scraped clean over the trash can.
“I should tell Rold he was right.”  Harry muttered.  “He does so love being right all the time.”
“I know I do.”  Harold admitted.
“Me too!”  Harry shook his head in amusement.  “Think that’s inherited?”
Harry and Harold shared a good laugh at that.
“Well, if you were fired, why did you come home?”  Harry sifted the leftover salad into a smaller bowl.  “You know any changes in a day’s schedule can set Rold off these days.  He’s getting to be a real, well, what’s the word for it?”  
“Teenager.”  Harold grabbed another empty plate.
“Yes, well, whatever his disease is, you shouldn’t upset him.”  Harry put the smaller bowl into the refrigerator.  “No, you shouldn’t upset him.  You know, he’s nearly as big as Hare was when Hare started getting all out of whack with the hormones and whatnot.”  
“I know.”  Harold snorted.  “You were like that, too, for a while.”
“Well, I don’t remember it.”  Harry took a deep breath.  “I still feel that way sometimes.  I really, really want to go outside, maybe, meet a woman.  Or two.”  Harry chuckled.  “I bet they’re even prettier up close.”
“I’ve explained to all of you why that’s a bad idea.”  Dr Smith retrieved Harry’s used plate.  “You should all stay inside.”
“Yes, but really, would it hurt anyone so, so bad if any of us left the house once or twice?  I mean, I’m old, no one notices an old man in a park here or there on the sidewalk.  And Hare and Rold, they’re so lonely.”  Harry rubbed his hands together nervously.  “Would you be upset, really, if we left every once in a while?  You know we’d come back.”
“Yes.”  Dr Smith glared at Harry. “You know what excitement does to you, Harry.  You’re certainly not as physically fit as Hare.”
“Maybe its worth it.  I mean, I might not find it all that exciting to leave the house now.  Not because I’ve left, no no.  Not in years, I haven’t left.”  Harry raised his hand in a bid for silence.    “Every year that goes past, well, its another year that I’ve gotten past.  And I know, I’m a miracle, its a miracle that I’ve lived this long and that any of us, your boys . . . that we’ve lived this long.  I’m sure I won’t even remember half of it, the days and nights we spend in this house.”
“There’s no need for any of you to go outside.”  Dr Smith turned away from Harry.  “And that’s final.”


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November 2010

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