This was a pretty big deal at the time, as I rarely spoke to my parents back then and the few calls that were made inevitably came from my mom. Immediately I tensed up, preparing myself for bad news. "What's up?" I asked.
"I've got a problem," he said, "and I'm not sure I can trust you."
"What?" My dad and I don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but I never would have guessed that his doubts about me ran that deeply. "Why?"
"Well, because the problem is that I'm not sure that you're really you." His tone was even, but concerned. "Really my son."
Oh, my god, I thought. Had he found some yellowed, old loveletter in my mother's underwear drawer? Had my mother made some drunken confession or talked in her sleep? When I was a kid, my mom told me once that she'd seriously dated some French boy when she was young and that if things had gone a little differently, I might have grown up in Paris instead of New Jersey. She was just being fanciful, of course, but I was young enough to think she was speaking literally. I was so mad that she'd broken up with that guy, denying me a completely different, and therefore better, life. It never occurred to me to wonder how my two older brothers fit into that storyline. In France, I somehow knew that I would have been an only child.
"So," he said. "Is it true?"
"I don't know, Dad. Why are you asking that?"
"Well, I was getting things ready for the movers, cleaning out the drawers in that desk in the den." My parents were in the process of moving out of my childhood home into a gated community for senior citizens. "And I found a note folded up and taped above the uppermost drawer."
"The note says... To whoever finds this: Help! I have been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by an exact duplicate! Signed, Steve. P.S. THE DUPLICATE IS DANGEROUS!!!"
I laughed out loud, but Dad kept it up for a couple more minutes, asking me if I could prove I was really me and acting like he was scared for his life. Judging from the handwriting (which I got to see later), I figured I must have been around ten when I wrote it. It still cracks me up all these years later. Watch out, world! I've been a duplicate for three decades now… and I'm DANGEROUS!