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and now for a short story called Duplicity

Duplicity (1)
by M

Dave sat at his typewriter, grimacing as he tried to imagine the main character for his latest novel.

Something about hair... Moustaches! A man with two moustaches, one on the left and one on the right!

Dave smiled to himself. This was gonna be good. A man with two moustaches. He picked up his non-mobile phone
– a black and teal number from 1998 which he kept and maintained, ironically of course.

“Computer – put me in contact with my agent.”


“Dave! So good to hear from you. How’s that novel coming?” Dave’s agent Larold Quemplar sounded drunker than usual,
slurring his words and obviously repressing an urge to belch into the telephone receiver.

“Larold, this is completely off the record but I think I’ve just had the most brilliant idea in the history of English literature.”

“Lay it on me, compadre.”

“OK, it’s a man with a moustache, but –“

“Let me stop you there, Dave,” Larold sobered up quickly upon hearing the m-word. “Don’t you think you’ve done enough
moustache stories? We’ve had medieval moustaches, we’ve had sci-fi moustaches. We even did that young adult paranormal teen romance
where the moustaches were so short you didn’t know the main characters even had them until the last chapter.
I’m sorry, Dave, but the market is just saturated with moustache novels and ARGs at this point.”

“Just shut the fuck up for a minute, Quemplar! I’m gonna forget my idea!” Dave took an enormous drag on
a custom electronic blunt he had commissioned at great expense and buried his face in between his
muscular thighs, cutting off circulation just enough to provide the mental clarity he needed for the task at hand.

“It’s two moustaches! A guy with two of ‘em!”

“Like one on his lip and one on his chin?”

“Think, Larold, think! That would just be a normal moustache and a beard. It’s a hell of an idea though.”

Dave jotted the idea down on an action memo using the S-Pen from his Samsung Galaxy Note 4 –
‘TWO MOUSTACHES BUT ONE IS A BEARD.’ He knew Larold would never remember that he came up with it in his drunken stupor.
He could practically smell the listerine and Tanqueray mojitos that were Quemplar’s wont electronically effervescing from the off-brand
Skymall VOIP service for which he had long since eschewed traditional telephony.

“But as for my idea…”

“The guy with two moustaches.”

“Yeah. This guy has two moustaches, one on the right and one on the left.”

“I’m gonna be honest, Dave, I am having a hard time picturing it. Can you give me a visual?”

“Give me five minutes.”

Dave stood up and ripped the wire out of the telephone receiver as he made his way to the bathroom. The wire was purely skeuomorphic,
all the phone’s workings were inside the handset and synced via Bluetooth to his Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Dave hadn’t looked at himself in over nine days. He had no idea what his moustache situation was.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he spied his wiry whiskers.

“Shaving system, online!” Dave shouted authoritatively, deriving some small pleasure from actually
being able to boss something around, even if it was an inert facial grooming automaton.


“Mop-chop, level 3! Sideburn factor point-four-two! Apply preset ‘baby’s bottom’ to chin, cheeks and neckbeard-area.
As for the moustache… give me two of them.”


“Over-ride the safety parameters! Voice-print authorization, password: Centaurs!89.”
You had to pronounce the exclamation mark with a tone of excitement in order for the computer to recognize it.

A giant helmet reminiscent of the machines old ladies use to starch their hair in place before funerals descended
over Dave’s head. He hummed along to the midi rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, which played by default
while the FaceGroomer did its work, crisply rendered by the off-brand polyphonic analog synth which made up
the bulk of the device. He kept meaning to change that.

A puff of steam and a mechanical wheeze signaled that the machine had completed its task. Groaning under its weight,
Dave lifted the FaceGroomer off his head and shoved it back behind the toilet. He told the mirror to take a selfie,
flip it horizontally so that his hairline didn’t look subjectively weird to him (but normal to everyone else) and shared the photo with Larold
via Instagram, chuckling as he imagined the look on Larold’s morbidly obese and rosacea-tinged face when he finally got wind of what Dave was cookin’, beard-wise.

Dave grabbed the telephone receiver off the counter. “Well? How do I look?”

“Idiotic.” Larold said, but Dave could tell he was excited. “Idiotic, but brilliant.
I want you to promise me exclusive rights to all derivative works based on this idea.”

“No can do, friendo.” Dave cut the connection. Fuck Larold Quemplar. Fuck his shitty publishing connections. Fuck literature.
Dave had two moustaches, and that was one more than anyone else. Writing a novel about it now would raise all kinds of questions of authorship,
Baudrillardian simulacra and other bullshit he couldn’t be bothered with.

In a flash of insight, he applied a pea-sized daub of moustache wax to each of his two ‘staches. It occurred to him that without the wax it was possible
that someone would think that he was just terrible at shaving or had a patch of skin directly beneath his nose that didn’t grow any beard.
Now there could be no uncertainty.
There could be no mistake. He had done this to himself on purpose.

Authenticity (2)

There was a bakery across the street from Dave’s apartment, oddly named Filial Piety. Not so odd, though,
considering that it was a father-son operation and apparent that the son would bear a moral responsibility
to carry on in his father’s footsteps upon his passing. In that sense, it was a perfectly apt name for the
shop. In fact, its most unusual feature was simply the fact that the name of the bakery so proudly identified
with the Confucian ideology while also referencing the business’s nepotistic chain of command.
Dave took tea in this shop regularly. On his first visit, he ordered a slice of cherry pie and a cup
of too-sweet chai, feeling vaguely obligated to get something “ethnic” (the shop owners were Indians,
and Confucian Indians do exist) while also not feeling confident enough to actually order something he
hadn't heard of. In fact, he had never had chai before but had heard that it was simply an Indian synonym
for tea, thus making the expression “chai tea” redundant. Conscious of this fact and attempting to subtly
signal his advanced cultural understanding, he proudly asked for “chai and pie”, only realizing it
rhymed at the last moment.

He realized he had made a terrible mistake. When he had rehearsed this interaction in his head, he
had planned to order “pie and tea”, a casual pun on the shop’s name. Now it was too late and he couldn't very well
call the waiter back to his table just to amend his order to include the joke, which was itself a bit of a stretch
and not really all that funny. He had briefly considered specifying that his wanted a phyllo pie and tea, rendering the
pun more phonetically similar to the tea shop’s name but sensibly decided that this was a step too far in the direction
of the abstract, and besides, he also didn't know what phyllo pastry was either.

Ever since that first visit to Filial Piety, Dave had become locked into this order. It had progressed to
the point that the staff now knew him as the “pie and chai guy”, and graciously began to prepare his order the
moment he entered the shop. This always happened to him, and usually resulted in him shamefully abandoning the businesses
which had come to know him so well. He moved through town in a horribly convoluted manner, meticulously planned to avoid the
various barristae, waiters, gas pump attendants, valets, masseuses, insurance salesmen, Bitcoin evangelists, prostitutes and cobblers
who had memorized his extremely predictable desires and needs and strived to fulfill them before they had even been asked. Customer service had come
too far, and it made Dave uncomfortable.

But today, Dave didn't give a fuck. Emboldened by his moustaches, he felt like a new man. He burst confidently
into the tea shop, advanced toward the front desk and shouted:


The staff were nonplussed. As Dave looked around the joint, he realized that something was wrong. There were no tables,
no glass counters protecting little cakes from the public’s many sneeze-borne illnesses. The establishment was almost entirely
empty and the father/son tea duo were nowhere to be seen. In their stead were about a dozen middle aged women in athletic
clothing standing on one foot.

“I beg your pardon, sir?” One of the middle aged women, apparently the leader of this pack, had stepped forward to form a sort
of socially implied buffer between Dave and the rest of the squad.

Dave was flustered. He thought he had better revert to his usual routine, even though it made no sense contextually.

“Do… do you have any chai tea?” Dave was stammering and tears were welling up in his soulful brown eyes.

“Sir, this is a dojo. Were you here for the tai chi lesson?”

“Um… Yes. Yes of course. A simple Spoonerism on my part. I said chai tea, but I meant tai chi.”

Now he’d done it. All he had wanted to do was have a simple muffin and a cup of regular, non spice-infused tea.
And now it seemed that he had enrolled himself in a women’s tai chi class.

He instinctively withdrew his Visa card as his new sensei produced a wireless debit/credit card reader and established a recurring
monthly charge of $169.99 in his name. He hoped this was a reasonable price, having recently cut ties with his literary agent and
thereby eliminating his only source of income.

As he signed for the charges, Dave marvelled that he had ignorantly managed to further embroil himself in yet another tangentially-Confucian
confusion. Things had been so much simpler in the tea shop, where his only concern had been wordplay. Now he would have to
work hard to impress his sensei and not let his classmates down. He realized that he would need a pair of yoga pants or something and
would need to invest in athletic socks, as the only socks he currently owned were the extremely sheer black business socks that no
one really enjoyed wearing but had still become established as the most generic men’s sock over the last hundred years.

Excusing himself on account of his socks and promising to return the next day (hey, he was paying for it), Dave left the dojo,
stopping only to glance at the sign on the door which identified the dojo as “The Form of the Good Dojo and Lamaze”. He dejectedly
walked next door to Filial Piety, where he was jovially greeted and immediately supplied with the usual, cherry pie and chai. Resigned to
his fate as the eternal pie and chai guy, Dave sipped his chai as he ordered several pairs of athletic socks and yoga pants from on
his Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Worried that the order wouldn't make it to him in time for his first lesson, he subscribed to Amazon Prime for a yearly
fee of just $120 dollars in order to get free overnight shipping.

Just as he was completing his order, Dave received a text from Larold:

LAROLD QUEMPLAR (agent): [1/3] Dave rlly sry about this morning I wuz out of line demanding exclusive royalties
for the moustache thing.
But I have good news m8! U no how u r always talking about

LAROLD QUEMPLAR (agent): [2/3] doing a ted talk? Well I got u a spot! its tedX, but still.
Consider it my apology. Ur topic will be

LAROLD QUEMPLAR (agent): [3/3] The Aesthetics of Crowdfunding Consumer Electronics: Ukuleles,
Toy Pianos and Abiguous Ethnicity

LAROLD QUEMPLAR (agent): hope u have PowerPoint ;)


I keep watching this stuff as it changes and the distinction between the digital and the so-called
real or the so-called digital and the so-called real is just going.... it's just going away. And assuming that we keep being able to
make these gadgets and systems I think it'll continue. It will continue to go away. And those who grow up with that will regard us with some puzzlement
- as transitional creatures between themselves and a world before television that
they will struggle to comprehend, much as we struggle if we seriously try to comprehend the lives of our ancestors in the


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