Valuable life lessons, prepackaged and ready for application, come from many sources and in just as many forms. Consider Robert Fulghum’s primer on hard-won wisdom “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” or that Jim Croce tune “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” with its rousing reprimand “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, You don’t spit into the wind…” both of which are affirming signposts on the road to wisdom.
Newspaper columns, likewise, have long been conduits of life advice and though I would never deign to a pen a “Dear Daedalus” feature (the paper would pass on it anyway for fear that I’d crash and burn somewhere between liability and libel), I have, in weaker moments, felt my fate might one day mirror Nathanael West’s “Miss Lonelyhearts.” The novella’s title character is a debauched beat reporter whose sense of self is challenged when he is assigned the “advice for the lovelorn column.” He eventually contracts a fatal martyr complex and gets shot and killed in a stairwell. To wit, I will keep my advice in this space to a minimum. So here goes: Never order your clone off the Internet.
True story: Since I’ve often pondered the notion of franchising myself, you know, when my brand is in such demand that I’ll have to expand more than my waistline to maintain leverage in the market place, my position on the human cloning debate has officially been, “Yes, but what can you do for me?” The answer recently came in the form of spam to my newsroom e-mail account, in which the pitch “Got DNA?” was followed by “Get your ready-made, fully-grown clone – no assembly required, no questions asked.” The possibilities of the offer proved too alluring to decline and soon I was letting the genome out of the bottle.
As requested, I sent my DNA sample (easier to obtain that you think – merely a swab of the inner cheek) along with a brief bio and a list of my favorite books and movies for the “socializing and contemporizing” portion of the clone’s conditioning. An audio recording of my voice was also necessary to mimic my accent and speech patterns (which, admittedly, are homemade and difficult to replicate even for me). I greedily input the digits of my credit card, paid extra for expedited shipping and handling and waited. And waited. Until last Tuesday. When the doorbell rang, I had all the giddy anticipation of a selfish child on the eve of a birthday, which was only slightly diminished when I was greeted by the slouching figure at the door.
“Da-dood-alist?” the man asked, staring hard at the receipt pinned to the lapel of his coat.
“Daedalus, yes?” I corrected.
“I’m your clone.”
Ah, yeah. I double-checked the receipt before letting the clone indoors and gave him a hard once-over. You see, when I look into a mirror, I usually see my reflected image (except that one time I came down with vampirism and had to take antibiotics until my reflection came back). I expected the same when I looked at the clone. However, I saw not my swarthy Mediterranean mien, the hooked and crooked proboscis, the A-frame brows and piercing gaze I’ve honed since adolescence in every reflective surface I’ve chanced to pass, but some freckled Irish kid, both shorter and thinner and definitely redder than I. Moreover, he lisped, which made my patter sound untowardly comical and had trouble with the subordinate clause – my stock in trade. Not to mention that my clothes didn’t fit him, he had food allergies (which I do not), and he did little to disguise his unabashed interest in my wife’s chest.
After a few days, I had to accept the fact that my clone wasn’t sourced from my DNA at all, but was rather just some dude who had the chutzpah to claim he was a copy of me and move into my guest room. But he’s a helluva ghostwriter.