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Ken doll photo by RomitaGirl67

Choices

Phillip T Stephens
Jan 4, 2020 · 3 min read

Take your pick.

Alice nudged identical boxes toward him. Black with black ribbons. Always a choice with Alice. Never breakfast at the diner but “breakfast or brunch?” “Joe’s Diner or Jim’s?” “Pancakes or crepes?”

Same with gifts. Two gifts, always two. You choose. Identical boxes, identical wrapping. Like Schrodinger’s gift. Maybe empty, maybe not. You never know until you look. Not eve”n gifts worth thinking about. A BIC pen, a pack of Doublemint gum, a used copy of Gravity’s Rainbow with a student’s notes in the margins.

A Carpenters CD.

Jeff hated the Carpenters.

Two gifts, always two. You choose. Identical boxes, identical wrapping. Like Schrodinger’s gift. Maybe empty, maybe not. You never know until you look.

And batteries. Drawers filled with batteries. D cells. Six to a pack. Why batteries?

Jeff was too polite to ask. He would accept a hundred batteries and every Carpenters album pressed for the pleasure of Alice’s company.

He wondered what was in the other boxes, but Alice swept the unchosen box into her purse as soon as his fingers pried open the gift he selected.

One night, while she slept, her hair feathered over her pillow like fine tendrils, he crept to the back of her house to look in her spare room. A room with two doors. Another damned choice.

One night, while she slept, her hair feathered over her pillow like fine tendrils, he crept to the back of her house to look in her spare room. A room with two doors. Another damned choice.

Afraid to disturb her, he toggled the flashlight on his iPhone. The room was cluttered and disorganized, filled with BIC pens, packs of Doublemint, worn copies of Gravity’s Rainbow.

Dozens of Carpenters CDs.

Hundreds of black boxes and spools of black ribbon.

On the far side of the room, stood a wardrobe. He tiptoed across the floor and opened the doors. Inside, hanging from the rack, two dozen identical Jeffs waited for batteries to bring them to life.

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Wry noir author Phillip T. Stephens wrote Cigerets, Guns & Beer, Raising Hell, and the Indie Book Award winning Seeing Jesus. Follow him @stephens_pt.

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