Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2003 / 7 Shevat, 5763

Barry Lank

Barry Lank
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Consumer Reports

The way things are --- and will be | Sgt. Stuart Benson No. 4 was a morning person who worked a night job, as had his father and his father before that. So when one of his patrol officers showed him the boy and the two adults in the interrogation room, Benson thought he just wasn't fully awake. The boy seemed typical, but the sergeant had never seen anyone exactly like him. The child's curly brown hair resembled that of the woman with him, while his weak chin resembled that of the man.

"Wait," the sergeant mumbled is the sleepy way that everyone in the police squad did an amusing impression of. "This kid isn't a clone."

This was 2003, and everyone was a clone. Actually, it had been 2003 for 100 years. Since humanity never changed anymore, no one bothered advancing the calendar. People got used to seeing the same faces generation after generation, and this kid's simply hadn't come up before. He'd have no place in this society, unless they built an internment camp just for him.

Society had achieved what seemed to be the point of cloning - to reproduce only the same kind of people over and over. If that wasn't what you wanted, there always had been other ways to have kids: artificial insemination, adoption and what people used to call "the usual way." But with clones, you knew precisely what you would get. And since mankind was so perfect already, it had no reason to try new combinations or fresh perspectives.

That's why everyone got a clone - in a phenomenon that social scientists called "Just for the sake of argument."

Now nothing changed anymore, leaving Sgt. Benson with a problem: He hated his job. As had his father. And his father before him.

"Did you people actually mate?" Benson asked the couple.

"It's the way people used to have children," the woman said weakly.

"People used to do a lot of disgusting things," Benson said. "They used to watch less than six hours of TV every night. They used to go out in the sunshine instead of playing video games. And yeah, they even used to have children by spinning some kind of genetic roulette wheel and taking whatever came up."

"We actually found them arguing," said the patrolman who had brought them in. "Really loudly." Domestic arguments were rare these days and subject to arrest.

"But he wouldn't go to bed," the woman said. "I always went to bed when my mother told me."

"Why were you fighting with your parents?" the sergeant asked the boy.

"I wasn't tired," the boy whined.

"How is that possible?" the woman shrieked.

With neither parent able to understand the kid completely, he'd have to be studied by scientists and raised by the state.

"Son," Sgt. Benson asked, "what are you going to be when you grow up?"

"I don't know. Maybe an actor. Or a doctor."

Benson couldn't believe it.

In the hundredth year of 2003, all kids knew what they were going to be when they grew up. Benson always knew he'd become a police sergeant, because that was what his father had done. But this boy had something Stuart Benson realized he had always wanted, a unique set of personal problems.

Just once, the sergeant wanted not to hear his father come out of him when he opened his mouth. Even his biggest personal revelations and cries of pain sounded like something he had already heard.

"Sergeant," the woman said, "I understand you've got to do you job. I supposed now you'll have to take our son away."

Actually, they hadn't broken any serious laws. Benson looked at the boy and decided to give the world something new. "Nope," Benson said. "Take him home and raise him."

The woman panicked. "But what do we do when he doesn't turn out exactly the way we want?"

"Well, I don't remember much from my old history classes," Benson said. "But as I recall, I think you're supposed to find it interesting."

JWR contributor Barry Lank is an editorial writer and humor columnist based at the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, NJ. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Barry Lank