I went to FedEx/Kinkos for some duplicates of myself to move some furniture. I’d asked my kids to come and help, but they always seemed to be busy. There was a sale on, but I didn’t expect much.
“What kind of quality do you want?” the guy with the nose ring asked.
“Cheapest you got,” I said. “They don’t have to last long.”
I was going to make one copy, but then figured why strain your back if you didn’t have to? Three was almost the same price as two. After paying for the kids’ college I’m going to have to work to age eighty, so this was quite the deal in comparison. The nose ring guy helped me load them into the car.
Moving the furniture only took about half an hour with all that help. Once the stuff was shifted, it looked out of place, so I had them put it all back to the original positions. This left me with three copies of myself and nothing much to do with them. I thought of having them clean up the yard, but was already getting tired of watching myself work so hard. I decided lunch was a better option. We went to a fast food place to keep the cost down. I ordered identical meals and we sat down to eat, the four of us filling a booth.
“So how’s things?” I said.
“Good,” they answered in unison.
Nothing else. A lot like lunch with my kids.
We each took a bite of our chicken sandwiches. Simultaneously. I don’t know what I expected in terms of conversation. I already knew what they thought. It’s not like we were going to have a political debate. The more I hung around them, the less I liked them, which bothered me.
“Let’s go roller skating,” I said. I used to love to take my kids roller skating. We wouldn’t have to talk much.
“Sure,” they said. In unison.
I didn’t think there’d be much action mid-afternoon at the roller rink, but the place was jammin’ with people and their copies. Swarms of identical individuals braided in complex patterns, heading in opposite directions and meshing like North Korean drill squads or synchronized swimming teams. One woman had sixteen copies of herself in little plaid outfits that were way too short. She had great legs. But why sixteen? They did twirls and jumps non-stop and that’s when I realized the original was always in the center, the star of the show. It seemed vain, but impossible not to watch.
My copies could barely skate. Tricks were out of the question. We did a little weaving. We got tired fast. They were bad copies of yours truly, after all.
In less than an hour, we sat down on one of the benches and watched the seventeen women in short skirts twirl, glide, and synchromesh backward and forward with their permanent grins. That’s when I saw my copies slumped over. Expired.
This alarmed me. I checked my own pulse, wondering if I was going to die. Somehow I’d gotten attached. It took the wind out of me. It’s why I gave up having pets.
One of the skating rink employees coasted over. “You can’t just leave them here,” he said. “There’s a dumpster in the back for recycling. We got a dolly you can use.”
The dumpster was almost full with expired copies, although none of them were that woman with the short skirt. I wrestled my guys in eventually. It was more work than if I’d moved the damned furniture myself in the first place. I tweaked my back.
When I got home, I had to lie down on the couch with an ice pack. I felt a profound sense of loss at the expiration of my doppelgangers, even though I didn’t know them that well. The sense of grief subsided. It wasn’t like we were going to be friends on Facebook or anything.
Next time, I decided, I’ll spring for the upgrade. Go for the best that money can buy and take them out to karaoke. I can’t sing worth a damn, but I’m pretty sure that if I pay a little more and we practice, they’ll be better than me. I feel obligated to try.
Robert P. Kaye’s stories have appeared in Potomac Review, Hobart, Juked, the Dr. T. J. Eckleburg Review, Beecher’s and elsewhere, with details at www.RobertPKaye.com. He facilitates the Works in Progress open mic at Hugo House in Seattle.