Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Number Fifteen

I needed some clones.
Who doesn’t?
A clone for working,
a clone for shopping,
a clone to get my oil changed,
a clone for cooking,
a clone for cleaning,
a clone for dog walking in the rain,
a clone for shoveling snow,
a clone for laundry—
make that three clones for laundry—
a clone for personal correspondence,
a clone to assist my elderly mother,
a clone to manage the finances and file the taxes,
a clone chauffer,
and maybe just a spare for emergencies.
This may sound like a lot,
but it’s important not to overload any one clone.
They didn’t require much in the way of maintenance
and were easily stored overnight in a garden shed.

I was then free to relax,
peruse a museum exhibit,
try that new restaurant,
see movies,
and live the orderly, productive life I always dreamed of.

For the most part,
it worked out really well.
Clones are becoming more and more popular
and more and more indispensible.
You’ve got the housework clones
and the road construction clones
and the childcare clones
and the retail clones…
I could go on.
I enjoyed all of my clones,
treated them fairly,
used positive reinforcement,
and tried to motivate them,
give them a sense of real purpose.
It’s not just about scrubbing a toilet, Number Five,
it’s a small but crucial piece of a bigger picture,
it’s about doing one’s part,
taking pride in a job well done.

That last clone, though,
the spare—Number Fifteen—
she was a problem.
Not always having a job to do,
not always knowing her role to play,
she didn’t always want to take on the tasks I assigned.
“Isn’t that better suited to Number Four?” she’d ask.
Or “Isn’t Number Nine unassigned as well?”
She also had very unclonelike impulses
to do all sorts of things in her spare time,
things that I would never choose to do myself,
and who ever heard of a clone
with outside interests or hobbies?

One day, Number Fifteen asked if I would permit her
to spend the evening at the movie theater.
A clone at the movies!
“By yourself?” I asked.
“That’s absurd!”
Only companion clones go the movies
with their Sources.
I didn’t even know if it would be allowed.
“Not by myself,” she replied quietly.
Friends, my clone—
my spare clone—
wanted to go on a date!
A date with another clone!

It was completely unheard of
and probably illegal,
so of course I forbid it.
I had to then assign her more chores,
like washing the baseboards,
even if it annoyed my Cleaning Clone.
Her attitude became sullen,
and her work was frankly poor.
I explained to her
that I try to be kind and fair and understanding.
Of course she wouldn’t always enjoy all her tasks.
She exists because I didn’t want to do these things myself.
But I couldn’t have her upsetting her sisters,
and if she couldn’t adapt,
I’d have to send her to the Local Office,
where she would be repurposed,
sent wherever she was required,
to perform whatever task was necessary,
separated from all her sisters
and all she had ever known.

She appeared to agree,
but that thankless clone ran away one night,
aided by Number Eight and Number Ten,
a betrayal I never would have foreseen.
It was a real nightmare
and embarrassing, to say the least,
to call the police and report a missing clone,
to inform the Local Office of the incident,
to have Number Eight and Number Ten repurposed
and to explain why I needed three more clones.

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