By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
More than 63 years ago in her mother’s womb, Margaret King knew what it was like to be on her own.
Katherine King was born first, leaving Margaret about a half hour of “me” time.
“The only 25 minutes of peace and quiet I ever had,” she said, “and I don’t remember it.”
From then on, the identical twins took on the world together. As she did in the beginning, Kat was in the lead.
“I’m the …,” Kat started.
“Mastermind, and …” Margaret said.
“She’s the co-conspirator,” Kat said.
“Co-conspirator,” her sister agreed.
One Sunday morning when they were kids at church, both girls were fascinated by a woman sitting in front of them and wearing a fox stole. The mastermind couldn’t keep her hands to herself.
“Kat had to touch it,” Margaret said, “then she had to touch the eyes.”
“Then the eyeballs fell out,” Kat said.
“And the eyeballs fell out,” Margaret said, laughing.
Their kids prodded them to put some of their childhood stories in writing, which is exactly what they started doing about 10 years ago. It was a hit-and-miss effort at first.
“We would write a story and not look at it for six years,” Margaret said.
“But we’ve been serious about it for the last year and a half,” Kat said.
The result is ‘Y’all Twins?’ It’s the King sisters’ memoir of their elementary school days in Oxford during the 1950s.
“It’s basically about us, as identical twins, getting away with everything because we could,” Kat said.
She had a mathematical mind, so that was her homework responsibility. Margaret excelled at history and writing, so she reworded essays for her sister to turn in.
They also might’ve ended up in the wrong classrooms from time to time.
“Most of our friends could tell us apart, but they never would have told on us,” Margaret said.
Their interchangeable looks were heightened by their mother, who sewed matching clothes for them. It made sense to buy one pattern and use it twice.
Kat and Margaret dressed alike until college, and recently returned to the practice. That has everything to do with “Y’all Twins?”
“Now, everybody expects us to dress alike for interviews and book signings,” Margaret said.
“We have to go and buy clothes together,” her sister said.
Some 250 family, friends and well-wishers showed up at Off Square Books for a signing. They’ve traveled as far as Florida, and are trying to set up a signing in Asheville, N.C.
The King sisters will be at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore in Tupelo from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday. They’ve also shipped copies of the book all over the country, and had one customer, a childhood friend, in England.
“She got the first copy,” Kat said.
They decided writing a book shouldn’t take 10 years, so they’ve set an October deadline for the sequel.
The work is made easier by their living arrangements. In 2007, the divorced sisters moved into a house that was built on their parents’ land. They share a common kitchen and living area, and both have their own suites.
“We work on weekends mostly, and at night, when we’re home from our day jobs,” Kat said.
“On the road, too,” Margaret said. “We get a lot done when we travel. It’s uninterrupted writing time.”
As the better speller and typist, Margaret is tasked with transcribing their stories, but Kat’s an integral part of the process.
“We have both minds working because we remember things differently,” Kat said.
“Kat remembers it in her best light, and I remember it the best way,” Margaret said.
“We negotiate and talk about it,” Kat said.
Publishing a book is something of a rite of passage in their hometown of Oxford, where it seems everybody has written a book or plans to write one. They’ve also incorporated the town’s most celebrated citizen into “Y’all Twins.”
The Kings grew up around the corner from William Faulkner. The young sisters didn’t know he was a world famous author. To them, he was the man who rode his mule-drawn buckboard down their street.
“It was something we couldn’t resist,” Margaret said. “We hopped on it, on the back, and rode it home and got off.”
One day, Faulkner stopped by the house and had a talk with the sisters’ father. It didn’t look good for the mastermind or her co-conspirator.
“We thought he was going to tell off on us,” Margaret said.
“But he didn’t,” Kat said.
“He didn’t,” Margaret said.
Playing their cards
The women have plenty of stories to share, and they keep accumulating new ones.
Margaret, who works in a bank, wasn’t a math whiz as a child, but she’s been trained by her sister, who teaches mathematics at Northwest Mississippi Community College’s Oxford Center.
“She can fill in for me. She’s pretty good at math now. I’ve taught her everything,” Kat said. “In fact, one April Fool’s, she went in and taught. They couldn’t tell us apart. She’s right-handed and I’m left-handed. You’d think they would’ve figured it out. Not a clue.”
People seeing the sisters together for the first time often shift their eyes from side to side and say, “Y’all twins?”
“It’s obvious, but they can’t help asking,” Margaret said.
Friends and co-workers like to guess which one’s which, and usually ask, “Am I right?”
Still the mastermind and co-conspirator at heart, the King sisters don’t consider themselves bound to answer truthfully.
“We don’t always tell them,” Kat said.
“We’ve always played the cards we were dealt,” Margaret said, “and we enjoyed it.”