“If I were a sultan, I would have three wives
And I would be surrounded by the triple beauty.”
A song from the famous Russian film
"The Caucasian Captive".
I don’t like April. I hate going out these days because of the slush, mud and dirty snow. But that year spring was different. In the middle of April the streets were dry, and even the litter was swept and removed. I could drive a car, but I decided to walk and enjoy the pleasant sunny morning. It didn't take me long to get to the Peretrial Detention Centre.
I was appointed as a public defender in a domestic homicide case. I was to meet the defendant who didn’t deny his guilt. It was also a good sign because the cases given by Bar Association were usually protracted and became a trouble. Whether you liked it or not, you had to be put up with.
Indeed. Sometimes the private lawyers were given public cases which social defenders couldn’t cope with. It was the imperative for all the members and I wasn’t an exception, of course.
After identification and tedious process of arrangements, I found myself in a long, but narrow cell, where one wall was the prison bar. Settled at the table, I began reading the court case when the guards said the defendant had come.
“Let him come in”, I said and looked indifferently at the man. He was in his middle-age and wore a grey sweater. We introduced ourselves and the defendant sat at the table opposite me.
“Have a cigarette”, I offered.
The man refused. He stared blankly, waiting for the questions. I guessed it was his first time in prison. But he was strangely calm for a person accused of the murder.
“Start from the very beginning”, I said.
The man shrugged his shoulders, then crossed his arms on the chest and answered, “I killed her, Doc.”
I didn't understand why he called me Doc, but decided not to interrupt him at our first meeting. That’s why I nodded and added gently, “So, more details, please.”
“I hit her with a meat pounder”, he paused and then continued, “Once.”
“Can you explain why?”
“No”, the man shook his head, “But I can tell how if you have time.”
“I’m listening to you.”
“It’s a long story, so I should start from the very beginning.”
He began to speak very slowly at first, picking the words carefully, but soon his story turned into a stream, which totally absorbed all my attention. I was listening to the most amazing story of my legal practice, and, to be honest, I didn’t believe him at first. Maybe, you won’t also believe it, but I’ll try to retell it as correctly as possible. Here it is:
My wife used to do piffling jobs all the time. She took part in competitions for the best folk song, also she cut out shampoo coupons, or even collected covers of beer cans. It didn’t make her happy and she always vented her anger on me. This went on for quite a long time, and I never supposed it could turn into a story. I realized it the day when the doorbell rang. Before opening the door I remembered that my wife wrote an angry letter to “Johnson and Johnson” about the firm’s empty promises. She was sent a reply with a pledge to fulfill her any indiscreet desire. I didn’t trust a word written in the letter she got several months later. And, of course, I couldn’t believe in that kind of profusion generosity. Somehow, my wife also began to doubt. She questioned our neighbour about the price of the human clone, but couldn’t get any answer. At last, my wife demanded the piece of my nail, put it in the envelope and post somewhere. The President’s response only strengthened my doubts. I mean the President of that company. I was amused by ranting on the theme of financial difficulties and the bad market condition. My doubt ended when the doorbell rang. I went to the front door and asked, “Who’s there?”
“It’s me”, someone replied. His voice seemed familiar. I looked through the door viewer and saw myself. It was me waiting on the outside.
“Damn!”, I panicked, “They found a counterpart, forged his voice, and sent him to me!”
But comparing myself with me through the cheap door viewer wasn’t the gratifying occupation. So I decided at first to get the details and then to come to conclusion. For this purpose I let the stranger in and we even shook our hands, introducing ourselves.
“Max II”, he answered with a slight accent.
“Why Max?”, I clarified quickly.
“I don’t know”, he shrugged his shoulders, “Maybe, Russian names are too difficult for Pr. Gobeshirmenshrober.”
“You know, Max”, I tapped him friendly, “His surname is a jaw twister for me, too. Just tell me in a few words who is he?”
“He is my creator”, Max explained, “The man who created a clone.”
“You mean you are a clone?”
“What are you going to do, then?”
“To be honest…”, Max confused a little and shuffled his feet, “Well, I have no one except you.”
“Oops”, flashed in my head, "That’s it. His sneaky plan is to stay with us for the night, and, when we get asleep, he is going to rob our flat, accusing me at the end.”
“What about Professor Gobchinskii?”, I tried to object.
“You mean Gobeshirmenshrober? He's just a scientist.”
I was going to get rid of the intruder, but my wife spoiled everything. Only a woman can give a shelter to a man she sees for the first time in her life, feed him, wash, and put to sleep. As for me, I will never do such things for a stranger… I had a foreboding that he could jugulate us, so I was wide-awake all night long.
Morning headache took my attention from the thought that I had to go to work and leave my wife with me. I envy you if you don't have to be jealous, but if you aren’t jealous of yourself - you're just lucky.
It was a very strange feeling like paranoia. I phoned my wife a thousand times that day, listened to dial tones. She answered from time to time and babbled mere trifles, but at last lost her temper and forbade me to call her anymore. She said I distracted her from discovering something new.
I didn’t expect such impudence so I asked a day-off because of the unexpected arrival of a relative who was released from prison and rushed home.
Once I put on Max’s clothes, chased him out of home and began to seduce my wife. She flirted and refused for a long time, but then under the arguments such as “he won’t know anything” she succumbed. And I want to say that I hadn’t seen such a succumbing during the whole marriage.
“Damn, she is cuckolding me”, I thought, “And what about me? Me, too. I’ve sent myself to work to misuse the woman’s gullibility. That’s not right.”
When my wife started smoking in bed, I could barely stop myself from saying something wrong. It was so unusual that I decided I cheated on my wife, too. I went to the kitchen to bring her a juice in order to comply with the image of the foreigner. Doing it, I completely forgot about the time: it was just after five and Max was to come home. As I put the tray on the bed, my wife whispered terrified, “The husband’s here!”
“What?”, I didn’t understand.
“The husband’s at home! Hide under the bed!”
Only after wearing all the dust floor on my clothes, I realized that the real husband was me and the loudly closed door reported about the clone’s arrival.
Certainly, I'd heard similar jokes before. But the real life was different. I was hiding under the bending mattress and listening to a fable that the conspirators had only ten minutes for a stunningly short orgasm, because the clone was sent to a bakery’s.
Max was a bright guy, and whether he understood everything or was rather shy, but behaved decently as only a man having sex with another man’s wife could behave.
So what did I have to do? I just enjoyed my own stupidity. And you know, it wasn’t really bad. In general, from that very day we began to replace each other. At work, at home, and, honestly, we shared one life. Max could learn on my previous mistakes and innovated our work with new ideas. Somehow, he remembered the dates of my colleagues' birthdays, their phone numbers, and even the place where I’d put previous year's report. I decided to celebrate the luck and Max turned to be a good company. We feasted in the kitchen until almost 2 am when our wife appeared and forbade me to make a drunkard of myself.
Actually, I remember this time as the happiest time of my life. I finally got a chance to do aquariums. I bought rare fish that I’d long dreamed of. At last I’d got a chance to read. For the previous ten years I had found time only for two books, although had a long wishlist of them. I began to play sports and stopped worrying about the future, but the good ended.
Max got sick. His disease was called a genetic disorder, simply, he was getting older too quickly. Cloning is a still poorly understood procedure. The fact that Max was created didn’t mean that he became a real human. Although he was alike and functioned amazingly humanly. A few months past before the wife noticed that Max became shorter. First, he began to lose in growth, then in weight and as a result he turned into the oldster.
Have you ever seen yourself aging? I wouldn’t wish that anybody. Firstly, you just lose your strength, then the mobility, soon you start to fall into senile insanity and, as a result, you have to be fed with a spoon. But worst of all, you begin to realize that the same thing will someday happen to you. Not tomorrow but someday it will and this inevitability scares awfully.
Max died on Friday. We buried him at the city cemetery, and from that time I visited the grave with my initials. As for my wife...
She didn’t accepted her fate and wrote a lot to courts and international commissions. She complained to the company which had made the defective clone. It was strange but she remembered that professor’s surname. He was afraid or didn’t want to be spoken of as human cloning was still illegal in many countries. Anyway, they corresponded for a long time, and once the fatal doorbell rang again.
I was waiting for a plumber so I opened the door without any questions. And there was… noone strange, just my wife. She squinted discontentedly as usual, “You’ve made me wait.”
“Don’t you have the keys?”, I answered with a question.
“Of course, I don’t”, she resented, “I’ve just come from the airport.”
She told me something about the jet lag, went to the bedroom and fell asleep.
It’s amazing but I didn’t realize the problem at that moment. Only at dinner I discovered that the numbers of our family had grown. They were so similar that I got chill. Two absolutely identical women looked at me, waiting for my admiration.
“Say hello to my counterpart”, she said. She didn’t dare call her a clone. Maybe, she was fearfull to offend her or there was another reason.
“Hello”, I murmured foolishly, “Should I dash for a bottle of champagne, then?”
“No need to waste money”, they noticed judiciously, “We have a half empty bottle of Christmas Martini. In any case, we can open a bottle of cognac.”
So, everything began from Martini and cognac. Do you know the difference between a man and a woman? I know. I've been there. Any woman hates rivalry. She can accept the attention of two men, but she will never share one man with another female. Never.
I didn’t think it over and I wasn’t prepared for future events. I got a bonus at work which we were going to spend on a fur coat. One fur coat. A fur coat could be worn by turns, but my wives fought. It was so terrible that one of them had several stitches in her head. And I had to explain to the neighbors that this was an ordinary family quarrel.
The three of us started living together, but somehow I began to feel tired more often. I was losing weight and became constantly drowsy. The kitchen quarrels turned into a popular TV show. I would better watch advertising blocks instead of that trash. But my wives demanded attention, insisting on me taking somebody’s side. Then they cried on my shoulder one by one.
If the quarrels hadn’t ended late at night, I would have slept a little. However, female logic completely ignored common sense, and my professional growth began to slow down. As a result, I was transferred to a low-paid job, and the consequences followed soon.
“Twatt!”, they shouted in turn, “You haven't only stopped paying attention to us, you found a mistress!”
I broke up with my last lover after Max’s death. It seemed disrespectful to visit her once a quarter of a year.
“Where is the money? Why should we live in poverty? Other husbands are true men: they go home after work, and give their whole salary to their wives. But not you!”
“Why do you think so?”, I tried to justify myself.
“And how else can you explain your behavior? You go to sleep instead of spending some time with your family. Is it so hard to pay attention to your wifes for five minutes?”
“I'm so tired that won’t be able to work tomorrow", l defended weakly.
“There is no difference whether you go to work or not. You only waste our money for the bus tickets. You’d better stay at home. And if you can’t feed the family and give us decent life, we will go to work ourselves.”
“What will you do, l wonder?”
“It doesn’t matter. Beautiful and smart ones are always needed.”
It's true, beautiful ones are required everywhere, smart, too. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, they were to bring a higher education diploma. Why did the ordinary seller need to graduate from a university? I didn’t know, maybe, those who looked for employees never worked themselves or just that was a new fashion. So my wives didn’t swim with the current. They spent money on business suits, visited the presentations and castings, but at the end stayed in the kitchen and continued watching soap operas. By that time I had been emaciated. The reason was my wives’ deny of feeding me. They quarreled over the turn to cook. And if they prepared food together, it was necessary for them to salt twice or not to salt at all. Do you know the saying: "Many cooks spoil the broth"? So I realized the meaning of this folk wisdom.
Summer holidays came. We couldn’t afford to have a holiday trip together. To leave one of them at home was out of question. I asked the girls about their plans. But they weren’t going to leave me alone. They decided wisely to divide, and while one of them controlled me at home the other went to a swinging resort.
The wife returned only three months later, all in tears, like a wet sparrow. It turned out that she had a holiday romance, which had lasted happily in the capital and for some time existed in young hearts. But then the bastard became bored of either a clone, or a wife. I did not understand. After all, he rudely kicked her out without giving money for a ticket.
Next morning I stayed with one woman again, that one who came back. Because the second went to clear it up with the bastard. She was away for two months. After her return home, she said the bastard realized his error and they patched up a quarrel. But he got mad one moment and beat the defenseless woman.
Believe it or not, but from that moment I began to ponder. I was too well-mannered and never thought about it, but the fact that someone was able to put down my wife with the fists brought me here.
Do you know that a woman is a fearless creature? She is afraid of nothing even when there is no logic and common sense in it. And as for my women, they couldn’t believe that I was able to kill one of them if they didn’t shut up. The one even tried to protest. So you can guess what happened next. I have a really heavy hand. But, you know, I am thinking about different thing now. Fancy that, now!… I can’t still understand whom I killed.
My interlocutor fell silent. He didn’t seem depressed, just there was deep gloom in his eyes.
“You know”, I broke the silence, “I think, I can help you.”
“I will defend you on the grounds that you didn't kill a human. If we prove that the survived woman is your wife, you will not be charged. You see, the legal status of clones is still unsteady and not defined.
“You put it beautifully, Doc”, he said smiling sadly, “But I want to tell you the following: nobody can kill women in this country. Whether they are clones or real people - justice is always on their side.”
“Nevertheless I consider my strategy to be the most effective.”
“That’s your business. Go ahead, Doc. But, you know, I’m Ok here.”
“Do you really want to spend 15 years in jail?”
“I’ve been in jail for 12 years. You know, Doc, if I’d killed her at the wedding, I would have been already freed in three years.”
“As you wish”, I said standing up. I considered it will refresh my interlocutor’s mind.
“See you”, the man held out his hand and I shook it carefully.
“There is a chance”, I thought when the iron doors closed behind my back, “No woman confesses that she is a clone, if there’s an opportunity to pretend a human. Moreover, she lives in dependence of her husband. If he is sentenced, his wife will have to earn her daily bread.” I was lost in thought and walked absently, without paying attention where I was going to. Suddenly, I found myself walking towards home, and to the opposite direction from my work. The message was displayed on the screen of my phone: “The bonus. The amount is…”
“Well”, I thought, “It’s a lunch time. And the weather is perfect for a pleasure walk.”
A quarter of an hour later I opened the door with the key and put up my coat and briefcase on the hanger.
“Is it you, darling?”, my wife said from the kitchen.
“Yeah, honey”, I answered her.
“It's so good you’ve come! I’ve just cooked your favorite meatballs.”
“I was nearby and decided to see you”, I went into the kitchen and kissed my wife on her cheek.
“How are things at work?”, she asked.
“You know, there’s an interesting case. A guy killed his wife.”
“Oh, poor thing”, she clasped her hands.
“But why?”, I was surprised.
“He must be so worried.”
I shook my head, “Just imagine! He had two wives!”
She sat nearby and put her head on my shoulder, “I hope you won’t start a harem.”
“No, not now”, I took the phone and dialed the number.
“Who are you calling to?”
“My Dad”, I answered, “I haven’t heard from him for a long time, and he's already at that age…”
“It’s odd. You've never thought of that earlier.”
“Someday I will be at his age, too”, I told her, “Besides, we're so alike.”
Òîëüÿòòè 2004 ã.