Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 5
Stories
Beauty's Folly
by Eugie Foster
Under Janey's Garden
by Margit Elland Schmitt
Rumspringa
by Jason Sanford
The Polka Man
by William John Watkins
Original Audrey
by Tammy Brown
From the Ender Saga
The Gold Bug
by Orson Scott Card
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
Toon Out
by David Lubar
Braces
by David Lubar
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Essays by Orson Scott Card
Who Is Snape?
by Orson Scott Card

Original Audrey
    by Tammy Brown
Original Audrey
Artwork by Raffaele Marinetti

Elvis Presley watched Audrey Hepburn eat her breakfast in front of the Tiffany's window in the Caesar's Palace Mall. He loved how she managed to devour the food without spilling a drop on her black evening dress. He wondered if today he would walk over and introduce himself.

But where to begin? Haven't I seen you somewhere before? Hey, come here often? I couldn't help but notice that you're a clone of a famous person and I'm a clone of a famous person, so I guess we both have something in common. Or maybe he should just try a more classic approach. Can I buy you a diamond tiara?

He knew he was being stupid. He was just so tired. The wedding party he had been hired to emcee had gone on all night. Judging by the numerous requests for Blue Suede Shoes, even a hundred years after the King's death, he was still as popular as ever.

More people were beginning to fill the mall. Marilyn Monroe walked by, flashing her shapely legs and a coy smile. He caught himself blushing and immediately dropped his lower lip into a snarl. His namesake, Original Elvis, would roll over in his grave if one of his progeny blushed just because a pretty girl smiled at him.

Then the blood rose to his cheeks again, but for a different reason. A young boy, and his mother were hurrying past him. It was Elvis at age six. The woman had even dyed the child's hair black just like his own mother had dyed his, as soon as he had hair to dye. He wondered if she had been a big enough fan to know ahead of time that Elvis was actually a natural blond. Would it help if he stopped her and talked, yelled or pleaded until she understood that her child was more than a life-sized collector's doll? Could he convince her to just let the child be himself. Probably not. It wouldn't have changed his mother.

Audrey's breakfast was almost finished. He wasn't in the mood to approach her now. Maybe he should wait until another day. He had told himself that every day for the past three months. The night before, when only the thought of her had sustained him through the endless repetitions of "Thank you very much," he had promised himself that he wouldn't let another week go by.

There was something special about this woman. He had felt it every time he had seen her. It wasn't just her beauty. He had seen other Audreys before. No, it wasn't the beauty. It was the moments that she didn't think anyone was watching her that made him fall for her. The look on her face would become wistful, and sad and haunting all at the same time. He recognized that look. He saw it every morning in the mirror. Something inside of her was trying to speak from behind her famous face. He wanted to know what it would say.

His throat tightened as he walked up behind her. "Do we know each other?"

"Why, do you think we're going to?" She answered with her back to him, probably bored by what she must have heard a million times.

"How would I know?"

"Because, I already know an awful lot of people and until one of them dies I couldn't possibly meet anyone else."

"Hmmm. Well, if anyone goes on the critical list, let me know." Any moment now she is going to laugh in my face and walk away.

"Mmmm, quitter. You give up awfully easy, don't you?" She turned to him, and stared him with amazingly clear, blue eyes.

"See anything you like?" He pointed at the rows of diamond necklaces and rings that filled the display.

"So many choices and so little -- money." She scrunched up her nose in mock disappointment.

"Just say the word."

"And you'll buy me my favorite?"

"No, but say the word anyway, I like to hear you speak."

"Well, you're no help." Again, she held him in her eyes.

This was it. "You have the most beautiful, blue eyes."

Her lip pouted and her forehead crinkled. "I hate my eyes. They should be brown. Beautiful, doe-like, brown eyes."

Fix it! His mind screamed at him. "Blue is nice." Lame. Really lame. Next time tell her that you think she's swell. That'll reel her in.

"Original Audrey had brown eyes. A clone should look exactly like the original. You look exactly like Original Elvis. Pre-fat days of course."

Why did everyone feel a need to comment on that? When you know for a fact that your genetic predisposition is to gorge on fried chicken, you just never eat it at all. If you do, at least ten people feel compelled to point out your genetic future.

He must have frowned without realizing it. "I meant that as a compliment," said Audrey.

"Actually, I'm not so perfect. I have a mole on my butt that's shaped like Illinois. I don't think he had one. You want to see?" He hoped he could coax a smile back on her face.

"Sure." She paused expectantly and then gave a wicked little laugh when he panicked at the thought of baring his bottom. "Just kidding. I guess like anything else, cloning can't be perfect. That's why I have fake ones."

"Excuse me?"

"I have fake eyes. I mean contacts. My eyes were tired so I took them out."

Neither spoke for a minute. "So, come here often?" He couldn't believe he just said that.

Neither could Audrey, obviously. She held him in her gaze for a moment and then started laughing again, but not unkindly. "Been practicing that line long?"

"Every morning in front of the mirror."

"Hmm," she yawned. "Sorry, It's been a long night. I need some more coffee."

"We could get some. We could go to the coffee shop."

She took a moment to evaluate him in his rhinestone jumpsuit and nodded. Only in Vegas could an Elvis in a white rhinestone jumpsuit ask an Audrey Hepburn in a black evening dress to coffee, and not have it be weird.

"What's your name?" She asked as they walked.

"Elvis Presley Schwartz." Pretty obvious. Like many parents of cloned children, his mother had wanted to be sure that the world would know exactly who he was. Like it was possible for them to forget his face.

"Oh good. I hate when you meet an Elvis and his name is Stan."

"Why?"

"It just seems wrong. My high school had an Elvis. His parents named him Frank."

Elvis shrugged his shoulders as if to say "so?"

"It wasn't just that. He dyed his hair red and pierced his nose. He even got a tattoo." She shook her head. "You can't undo a tattoo. I mean you can, but it'd still leave scar. Also, he never sang, never. Sometimes, I wonder what he's doing now. I imagine he's doing the exact opposite of what Elvis would do. What would that be? Probably an accountant. Don't you think that being an accountant would be the exact opposite of a rock and roll star?"

He nodded. "So, you're name is Audrey then?"

She blushed. "Yes. I'm sorry, you must think I'm a complete ninny. I just keep talking and I haven't let you say anything. I'm Audrey Hepburn Collins."

She's using her chatter like a mask. What doesn't she want me to see, he wondered. "I was just thinking how much you remind me of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's."

"Do you really think so? Don't say it if you don't mean it, but I hope you mean it because I've tried so hard. I know that some clones try to act exactly like the original. How many hotel rooms do you think have been trashed by some Mick Jagger copy?" She grimaced. "Although I don't why anyone would want to clone him anyway. He was just some star, not timeless like Audrey, or the King of rock and roll like Elvis. There are a whole lot of copies I don't understand. Do you know what the French see in Jerry Lewis?

Elvis hated when clones were called copies. It made him feel redundant.

They reached the coffee shop and waited to be seated. "Anyway, I could act like Audrey and I probably will when I get older. I'll live in seclusion and volunteer for charities. But, right now I want to have fun, and I think Holly was the best character she ever played. So I'll be her for a while."

Her attitude wasn't uncommon. It had taken him most of his life to realize he could never be the real Elvis. Two loving parents and plenty of money meant that he would never understand the desperate need Elvis had to be adored by his fans.

Only one small room in the coffee shop was open at this early hour. A waitress in a short, roman-style toga, pointed to a table she was clearing and waved them over. The only other person in the room was an older woman who was constructing stacks of nickels all over her table. Surrounding the stacks were PEZ dispensers of varying shapes and sizes. Each time she finished a mound of nickels, she would ritualistically touch each PEZ dispenser and then close her eyes for a moment.

The woman looked up as Audrey and Elvis took their seats and cursed under her breath. Elvis didn't need to hear her to know what she was saying. She stood up, continued her muttering and swiped her nickels off the table, clearly more willing to disrupt her good luck ritual than to sit too close to two perversions of nature. He rolled his eyes and then looked right at her, giving her his best Elvis snarl. He laughed as she gasped, swept her bowl of nickels and PEZ dispensers into her bags and left.

The waitress brought their coffee. Elvis reached for the sugar and then thinking of the "pre-fat" comment from earlier, opened a few packets of Sweet n' Low instead. "Would you like some sugar?" He asked, offering it to Audrey.

She didn't answer. She was staring at where the old lady had been. Her features drooped like day-old roses.

"Don't tell me you're going to let that old bag get to you? There'll always be people like that." Elvis kept holding out the sugar as if it were the key to her consolation.

"I don't know. Sometimes I think people like that might be right." He voice dropped out of the lilting, musical tone it had held to this point and became huskier.

"About what?" He put down the sugar.

"About how we were made. Think about it. How many stillborn, and disabled children were created in order to make cloning possible?"

Finally, an honest feeling. "That wasn't anyone's fault except the fanatics who conducted their research in silence. No one knew what they were doing until they had perfected the process."

"And the world used their research anyway. We wouldn't even exist if they hadn't." She put her spoon into her cup of coffee and stirred, even though she hadn't put anything in it yet.

Elvis concentrated on his own coffee for a moment. It's not true, he thought. Maybe I would still exist, but maybe I would have been an original. I could have been myself.

It seemed that a clone could never really be his own person. The original was always in the back of everyone's mind. Clones usually responded to this pressure by becoming perfect replicas or exact opposites. This gave rise to Sean Connerys who spoke in Scottish brogues despite growing up in the Midwest or fat versions of Julia Roberts who crammed Oreos by the dozens in order to look nothing like their original. There rarely seemed to be a middle ground. It seemed like none of them just grew up to be themselves.

"At least we weren't taken from living celebrities." He offered this as consolation.

Audrey put her small hand to her mouth in a gesture of dismay. "Oh, that would be awful. And to think, they used to only be afraid of the paparazzi. I had nightmares for weeks after I heard about the Tom Cruise incident. At least that got congress to make some cloning protection laws." Her face grew even more serious. "Sometimes I still have terrible nightmares. Deformed children and stillborn babies are trying to choke me with their umbilical cords."

"Can I see you again?" He said it. He looked at her with raised eyebrows.

Her eyes widened a bit as if he had taken her off guard. "You're seeing me right now. Why do you need to see me again?"

"You know what I mean. Can I take you out? How about Thursday?"

"I have such a hard time remembering Thursday. It just seems to slip right by me. Wednesday is easy, I have --"

He interrupted her. "Don't do that. Don't become a character. I want to see you again, not Holly Golightly."

"Oh." She started to say more and then seemed to change her mind. They sat in silence for several minutes. "Don't you play a character too? You obviously aren't in Las Vegas to be an accountant. Unless of course there is some sort of dress code I was unaware of." Her long, elegant arms waved towards his jumpsuit.

"I love music. No one would listen to me play if I were just me. So I play the part of Elvis when I'm on stage and I get to sing. But when I come off stage, I'm me."

"Are you?"

"As me as I can be. I have his genes. I have his mannerisms, but I'm me. I want to make a name for myself, but how can I with his shadow always looming over me? So, I take the coward's way out and I don't even try." He looked her in the eyes. "Don't you ever wish you were an original?"

"I'm better than an original. I was made for a reason. My parents didn't have me just because it was a fad. They were a childless couple who wanted a beautiful, graceful daughter. They wanted someone who could make the world a more graceful place, just like Original Audrey did. My purpose in life is to prove that in a world of fake boobs and tummy tucks, nothing can compete with natural beauty."

"But you're not natural." He didn't mean to say it, but he also didn't want to take it back.

She looked stunned. For the first time since he met her, he saw her built up persona slip completely way. Her face had none of the coy attitude of Holly Golightly or the regal, aloof bearing of Original Audrey.

"But I don't know how to be me," she whispered.

"Right now you are you. I know that we just met, but I knew from the moment I saw you that you were special."

"Because I look like her."

"In spite of looking like her." He picked up the aluminum napkin dispenser from the table and held it before her face. "I've seen other Audreys before. You are the only one I spent months trying to work up the courage to meet." How would she react if he took her hand? He decided to chance it. She didn't pull away. "Times like right now when you let your mask slip a bit, I see an amazing woman who I would like to get to know."

"You think I'm amazing?" Living in the shadow of a legend, she obviously never realized that a normal girl could be loved for being herself.

"Yes, I do."

He could see that the honesty of the moment had become too intense for Audrey. She couldn't be used to speaking so frankly.

She replaced her mask, a coy expression this time. "I must say that I am amazing, or at least my many boyfriends think I am. There is this Duke from England who comes to visit me every month, just for a weekend. Just to get his Audrey fix as he says. Of course, he pays for my apartment so he knows where to find me. That is a fair exchange don't you think?"

This wasn't working. She's lost, and I need to help her find her way out.

He knew the movie she was playing at but couldn't remember the name. She's protecting herself against me, he realized. If she doesn't let me see behind the facade I can never reject her, only her persona. Elvis let her continue speaking. He knew that he wasn't ready to give up on her yet; there was something about her worth saving.

She kept talking, her words saying more and less than she intended, her eyes scanning the room as if looking for an audience. But, not the whole room. There was one table that she studiously avoided. It wasn't obvious at first, but the more he focused on her, he could tell that there was something she was purposefully ignoring.

He snuck a look out of the corner of his eye. At first he didn't know what it could be, and then saw it. He smiled and laughed out loud.

"What?" She looked self conscious. "Did I spill on my dress?" She searched for the imaginary spot.

"No." he said. "But wait here. I'll be right back."

"Where are you going?"

"It's a surprise. Promise you won't go anywhere?" He tried to suppress the grin that was bubbling to the surface of his face."

"Sure." She didn't sound sure.

"I promise it will be worth it."

A few minutes later he had returned, his hands behind his back, the grin still on his face.

Her eyebrows scrunched together in expectation. "Am I getting that tiara after all?"

Elvis didn't say anything. He just smiled again, and from behind his back, produced the largest chocolate fudge ice cream sundae that he had been able to persuade the kitchen staff to make. Two scoops of chocolate fudge ripple, two scoops of tin roof sundae, and two scoops of double chocolate were smothered in hot fudge sauce, nuts and whipped cream.

Her mouth formed a little "o". The sundae she had been avoiding looking at on the other table looked like a mole hill to this mountain of ice cream. She didn't say a word, and she didn't take her eyes off prize as he brandished a long handled spoon and placed it in her hand.

"It's for you. Dig in."

"I don't like chocolate or ice cream."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes?"

"I don't think you're sure."

"No?"

"No." He couldn't believe that a woman could look so terrified of dairy. "I think that Original Audrey hated chocolate and ice cream."

"She did."

"But you don't hate it." He took her hand in his and guided the spoon to the sundae, filling it with a large mound of ice cream.

She stared at the spoon for a few more seconds and then put it in her mouth. She took another bite, and another and then another. Tears melted down her face, dropping onto the table, mixing with bits of melted chocolate.

A crowd of people began filtering in the coffee shop. The sounds of the slot machines seemed to grow louder, yet for the first time that night, Audrey wasn't performing for an audience. She was sobbing now, alternating gulps of air with bites of ice cream. Finally, she finished the dish and set down the spoon. She looked up at Elvis through tears and chocolate and said, "I think I like chocolate ice cream."

That did it. He began to laugh. Trying to control it only made it worse, and great guffaws began to shake his body. At first Audrey seemed to become frozen in time, but then she began to laugh as well. People at nearby tables turned to stare and that only made them laugh louder.

Finally, they gained some control, and quietly looked at each other.

"So, now what?" Audrey asked a little timidly.

"Now we find out what else you like." Holding her in his gaze, he moved to sit beside her on the booth bench. Then, gently, he took her hair out of her Holly Golightly updo and let her hair fall softly around her face. He began to lean in.

She pulled away from him. "I'm sorry I'm such a mess," she said.

He grabbed the aluminum napkin holder and held it up to her face. "Do you know what I see?" he asked her. Chocolate sauce dotted her cheek, her eyes were red and puffy, black mascara rings circled her eyes and ran down her face.

"A completely insane woman?"

"No."

"A federally recognized natural disaster area?"

"No."

"A --" He put his finger to her lips so she couldn't speak anymore.

He looked at her a moment more, her mouth pursed in a small pout under his finger. She really was a mess, and she still had a long way to go towards finding who she really was. But then again, so did he. Maybe we can figure it out together, he thought.

She looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to speak.

"I see an original Audrey." Then, he kissed her.


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