I wasn't exactly sure how to take this. My old roommate always used to say, "If it sticks to your shoes and smells bad, it's probably bullshit." The sentence Wuju claimed to have passed on Commander Griff and Sam Doggleson was about the silliest thing I'd heard, well, ever. At the same time though, the thought of being locked in a small metal box and being forced to listen to an inane television theme-jingle made me cringe a little.
"You've got to be kidding," I finally decided.
Wuju misunderstood me. "Yeah. You wouldn't think I was the sort of guy to do that to anyone," he said seriously. "I'll tell you, it made me do some serious thinking about myself later on when I had some time."
The Tweedles flanked us as Jack and I began briskly covering the distance between downtown and The Bird's mountain. Jack had been uncharacteristically quiet.
"What's the matter?" I asked him noticing how troubled he looked.
He looked up at me, a frown crossing his pale face. "You deviated from the script and could have jeopardized the entire mission!" he accused. "No one said for you to sentence anyone to... to..." He faltered and shuddered violently.
Actually, my actions on the stage had really surprised me as much as anyone else present, but I felt a need to defend myself. "Listen," I said to him, "for this plan to work, I have to appear to be the genuine article, right?"
"Sure," admitted Jack. He looked to the Tweedles for support, but they were embroiled in some whispered argument of their own.
"Did I do anything that my counterpart wouldn't have done?"
"I... guess not."
"There you go then," I said. "Compared to what my counterpart had in mind for him, I think Doggleson got off easy."
Jack shivered again.
"Excuse me a minute," I told him. Across the street from us, an old man -- okay, a pig actually -- with a cane was walking slowly down the sidewalk in violation of my curfew order. It did briefly occur to me that maybe he just hadn't heard the order, or maybe he had heard and was trying to get home as fast as he could. Nonetheless, I trotted across the street, pushed him into some shrubs and trotted back with a diabolical laugh.
Jack glared at me. "You didn't have to do that!"
"Look," I snapped back, "do you want this to work or not?" It's what the real Woo-Julanski would have done."
"But you're not the real Woo-Julanski," Jack reminded me.
I started to say, "I am so!" when the sheer paradox of our exchange suddenly struck me.
Across the street, the old pig groped for his cane and weakly struggled to free himself from the bushes that were tearing at his shirt. He squinted at us through thick-lensed spectacles, seemed to recognize me, and quickly covered his eyes in a polite salute. He bowed his head and saluted again, then he struggled with the bushes some more and saluted a third time. The shrubbery refused to let him go despite the fact that his cheap clothing was quickly being reduced to tatters. Having no further luck with the bushes, the oldster looked up a fourth time and saluted again, this time accidentally knocking his glasses off his snout and into the gutter where they fell down a grate. The pig hadn't made a sound the entire time.
My counterpart would have laughed that laugh of his and maybe cited the old pig for loitering or something. I just felt queasy. There was no excusing what the real Woo-Julanski would have done. Except....
....Except I was the real Woo-Julanski and had thought of myself as such for my whole life.
....Except I was the one who had done this cruel and inexcusable thing. And enjoyed it.
I started back across the street to help the old pig out, but Jack put a hand on my sleeve. I don't know if he was concerned that I might do further harm to my victim or whether he was trying to keep me from blowing my cover.
"Leave him," said Jack. "We're on a schedule."
We walked silently toward the mountain.
"How did my double get to be the way he is?" I finally asked.
"You don't know?" asked Tweedledee incredulously.
"You've never heard The Ballad of Martin Woo-Julanski?" asked Tweedledum.
"I'm new here," I said tiredly.
"Young Martin was the sweetest lad," sang Tweedledee.
"As sweet a lad as could be," Tweedledum went on.
"He was never cruel or mean or bad..."
"Till he turned ten and three."
"No malicious thought had he ever had..."
"Till he fell for Tina C."
"Young Martin was in junior high..."
"When fate would make its mark."
"A trusting soul, he sought to try..."
"For the love of Tina Clark."
"But Woo-Julanski was so shy..."
"He didn't dare embark."
"How his heart ached, and to make things worse..."
"Sweet Tina yearned for Handsome Dan."
"Oh such a blow! Oh such a reverse..."
"There was no youth more handsome than..."
"(And we ought to keep this terse)"
"There was no youth more handsome than the cursed Handsome Dan!"
"But Woo-Julanski believed that love..."
"Would somehow set the pace."
"He trusted it that faith and love were always hand-in-glove."
"So, hat in hand, he asked her out with nerve and style and grace..."
"But for all it's worth, his lady love..."
"Just laughed right in his face!"
"Poor Woo-Julanski! Oh such a fate!"
"To lose his love to Handsome Dan!"
"And ridiculed for wanting to date..."
"The girl who loved that man."
"So young Martin's mind got bent with hate..."
"And he hatched an evil plan."
|"'Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, 'if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be:|
|but as it isn't, it ain't. That's
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
"Around the school he spread the word..."
"That Handsome Dan, despite his looks..."
"Had made a plan to oppose The Bird!"
"He linked Dan's name with well-known crooks..."
"And making sure that folks got stirred..."
"In Dan's desk he hid banned books!"
"So the Secret Police, they took Dan in..."
"While Martin went for Tina Clark."
"And when she spurned him once again."
"And disdained his love in light or dark..."
"Well, Martin turned her parents in."
"Only then, to her, were things made stark."
"Of course by then, it was far too late."
"When young Tina came to beg and plead..."
"He just laughed that laugh abominate."
"Be mine, he said, And they'll be freed..."
"Maybe, probably at some later date."
"But Tina, by then, he didn't really need."
"He soon tired of Tina and sent her away..."
"To the mustard mines where she lives somehow."
"Handsome Dan, not so handsome now, digs a ditch all night and day."
"And Martin does the laughing now."
"You wondered how he got that way."
"Well now you know it anyhow."
The Tweedles bowed to each other and then turned and bowed to Jack and me.
I was speechless. When I was in seventh grade, I had a crush on a girl named Tina Clark who was sweet on a guy named Dan. He wasn't actually that handsome, but he was the captain of the football team. The ironic thing is I don't think he even knew Tina existed. Be that as it may, I never did work up the nerve to even talk to her. Eventually, I grew up and forgot about her. To this day, she probably still doesn't know who I am.
The Tweedles' song did make me wonder what would have happened if I had had the nerve to introduce myself to her. Would she have laughed at me? Would I have been so traumatized by the humiliation that I'd spend the rest of my life taking revenge on teenaged girls and the rest of the world in general? Would my mind have become so twisted with hate that I would be incapable of ever loving or trusting again?
Probably not. But it was food for thought. I had to wonder how much my counterpart and I were really alike. I'd already made the unpleasant discovery that I was more like him than I had ever hoped to be. Now, listening to Tweedledee and Tweedledum, I had to wonder if evil Wuju was hiding a soft side somewhere under that mess that served as his personality. Like I said: Food for thought.
"Look alive," said Jack tugging on my sleeve and snapping me back out of my head. "We're there!"
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