Archive for December 1st, 2011

1st December
2011
written by amber

Ralph

“What you got in the aquarium, Judd? Some kind of eel or giant leech?” Henry tapped on the side of the tank.

Judd was chopping romaine for salad. He didn’t miss a stroke. “Oh, that’s my new esophagus. We call him Ralph.”

Henry stepped away from the aquarium, nearly tripping in his haste. “What?”

“You’ve heard about them growing new hearts and such for people?”

“I guess so.”

“Well, you can grow them at home if you like. It’s a lot cheaper.”

Judd’s kids surged into the kitchen at that point, dropping digital folders and lunch bags on the table. Before last night, Henry hadn’t seen them for nearly a decade. He had to shake his head at how much they’d changed. The twins, Jason and Justin, reminded him of Judd and himself at that age.

“Are you telling Uncle Henry about Ralph?” asked the girl, Charlene. “Did you tell him about the cat eating-”

“Not now!” Judd barked, but Henry asked, “What?”

“Oh, this isn’t really something great to talk about before dinner, but it’s true, the cat ate the first one I grew. Totally unexpected.”

“And totally gross,” Jason added.

“Yes, that too. Well, let’s throw these steaks on the grill.”

Henry followed his brother out onto the patio. “I’m so glad you invited me,” he said. “I don’t know why it’s been so long since I last visited you. The years just seem to have flown by. I know I keep way too busy, too stressed, by my job, but I’d swear I just sent cards for the twins’ fourteenth birthday, and now they’re in college.”

Judd poked at the steaks. Henry had seen them come out of the food processor, but they looked pretty real to him. All this technology – growing steaks out of algae, raising esophagi in fish tanks – he felt oddly behind the times. He opened his mouth to make some kind of comment about this, then saw the expression on his twin’s face.

“What?”

“I thought that telling you about Ralph would make this easier, but it’s not. So I’ll just come right out and say it. Henry, you’re a clone. My twin died from the same cancer that I have, giving me the time to fight back. And he – you – had enough money for the whole body clone.”

Henry shook his head. “That can’t be true. What about my memories? Sure, I’m a little fuzzy on current events; there could be a lot of explanations for that. But I remember our childhood, I remember my life!” Yet, even as he insisted, he realized he had no idea what had happened to Judd’s wife, no idea when he last went to work, no idea – in fact – what he’d done last week.

“It’s an over-lay. My memories, Henry’s diary, whatever we could scavenge. I’m told it’ll fade, but by then you’ll have made new memories of your own.”

Henry stumbled back into the house, sinking into a chair beside the aquarium. He looked at Ralph. He could see Judd through the window, flipping the steaks and wiping his eyes. He could hear the kids joking with each other in another part of the house. He’d felt so close to them, but now he knew he had more in common with the flesh tube growing in the murky water beside him.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.