Good morning, my young scholars. I would like to begin with a few comments about cloning. Yes, I am aware that the subject has been done to death in cheesy science- fiction thrillers. It will soon be evident, however, that I have some rather novel ideas to impart.
For example, let us ponder the sexual applications of cloning. Their significance, I assure you, is staggering.
Consider owning a fully mature clone of yourself—a “you” that has been custom-designed to be free of all inhibitions. Curious about homosexuality, but mildly repulsed by the thought of mucid intimacies with a person of your own gender? Fair enough. But you might be “turned,” as they say, after dallying with a self-clone, a throbbing, flesh and blood love-toy with textures and smells quite pleasant and familiar.
But who would be content with a clone of oneself? Imagine a bordello of starlets, raised, through agile intracellular contrivance, to a level of perfection glimpsed only in the drawings of Vargas, the airbrushed libidroids of the foldout, the oiled, rippling torsos of young men in pornographic magazines—and each one ready to please, to perform any act, no matter how nauseous or degrading! For the ladies, an escort service providing companionable clones of Mr. Tom Cruise and Mr. Brad Pitt. Disinterment and DNA scrapings from the stars of yesteryear will yield gamboling simulacra of Harlow and Rita Hayworth, broad-shouldered replicants of Bill Holden and Burt Lancaster.
I see the waving of hands. Alas, recent troubles have left me in a weakened condition and I dare not pause, for want of energy to carry on. If I am able, I will entertain your questions at the close of this lecture.
I admit that the idea of putting a nubile screen goddess or dashing matinee idol in every Tom, Dick and Mary’s bed is a pipe dream, for who but the wealthiest could afford such an extravagance? However, I predict that legions of obscure but achingly beautiful youths will provide budget-priced clones for the average working man and woman. These young people, often college students burdened by debt (like many of you, I suspect), will gladly trade cell matter for cash, thereby avoiding the indecencies of prostitution, which, sad to say, many fall into as a way of augmenting the meager wages of a teaching assistant or fry cook. I know this to be true, for I have seen notices in the so-called “Craig’s List” by “coeds” offering massages (“satisfaction guaranteed”), or a good spanking. And one summer night as I strolled the quadrangle of a campus in Georgia (where I was the keynote speaker at a conference on sociobiology and speculative literature), I encountered a raven-haired boy of nineteen who sat on a ledge, his bare feet suggestively dangling, his unbuttoned shirt revealing a hairless chest and muscular abdomen. He admitted during our conversation that he was in the habit of being paid by middle-aged businessmen and academics to endure their sweaty palpations and worse. Naturally I took the waif back to my hotel for a room-service cheeseburger with fries, then a shower and a clean bed. As an afterthought, and with the full consent of my guest, I performed certain measurements and sensory manipulations for acquiring data useful to the bioengineers at Somatech, a company for which I am a consultant. Breakfast at a pancake restaurant was accompanied by a stern lecture, though I doubt it was taken to heart. He is, in any case, exactly the sort to attend a cloning center, just as he probably lines up to sell blood during hard times.
Do you see the possibilities? Consider a vacation resort where every staff member, top to bottom, is a celebrity clone. Rafael Nadal will instruct you in tennis. Michael Phelps will be your lifeguard. In a comic touch, Donald Trump will carry your bags to your room. At the buffet, Gandhi will serve the roast beef.
I’m glad to see that some of you are taking notes, but in fairness I must say that none of this will be on the final exam.
How many of you are troubled by our modern epidemic of random and serial violence? Take heart, my darlings, for the cure is nigh. Yes, that’s right—clones.
Forgive me, but I must stop for a moment. It is hard sometimes to continue with my train of thought. I’ve been having headaches, and my task here is made more difficult by the unpleasantness of my surroundings. I don’t mean the place where I do my writing and studying—which in fact is a well-lighted scholar’s alcove complete with mahogany desk, journals, reference books, foolscap, and fine writing instruments leaning like a dozen or so miniature Pisas out of a blue ceramic mug—but the university—this university—where I am forced to toil amid whispering backstabbers. I have, for instance, just now come from the faculty dining room and a session of vapid chit-chat with certain colleagues who bear me no affection and are in all likelihood plotting against me.
Let me ask you something. Before you came here, when you were stuck in your little cow-town high schools dreaming of higher education, what did you suppose a department chairman should look like? Updikishly tall and slender? Salt and pepper hair, glittering sardonic eyes, tweed jacket and pipe? Or perhaps stereotypically bald and mutton-chopped with black-rimmed glasses, repp tie, brown sweater-vest. A bit of a let-down, then, was it not, to find that the lunk presiding over the study of Shakespeare and Swinburne has the massive hands and dull gaze of a hog butcher? And a drunkard, to boot, his face a mask of sagging jowls and ruptured capillaries. One’s eye moves queasily away from his poorly shaven, wattled neck. His white hair, unwashed and plastered to his gigantic head, shines in the dining room’s track lighting like greased chrome. His jeans, sneakers, and corduroy jacket are preposterous attire for a man in his sixties. He will bore a listener senseless with jibber-jabber about boxing or baseball, and has an antique crossbow mounted on his office wall. Manly posturing, all of it, to distract the observer from his true nature, for I have seen him break into a sweat when overwhelmed by the pheromonic allurements of teenage boys. At a factory-like university in the Midwest he earned his stripes with a dissertation on Hemingway, and later wrote a bad novel in the master’s style, a novel which, I am told, smart-ass English majors read aloud at pot parties, howling with laughter at its pretensions and clumsy dialogue.
Where was I? Oh yes, the faculty dining hall. The lout takes his morning meal every day at the same time, and half of it ends up on his tie. Today his sergeant at arms (let us give her an initial only—P) sat leaning toward him, hanging on every word. Conversation stopped the moment they saw me. Their table was littered with breakfast components: styrofoam cups of coffee, half-pints of milk with protuberant straws, inefficient little beverage napkins, cheese Danishes on paper plates, and a banana with one big bite torn off, its trisected foreskin pulled back in horror. Tray in hand, I sat down with my chums. Don’t stop on my account, I said. Their bright smiles hid their discomfort.
Scheduling problems, said P.
Fiddling with my milk, snack-cake, and apple, I stared challengingly into her lichen-gray eyes. Anything I can do to help? I have an eight-o’clock I’d be happy to trade for something in late afternoon, when the lads and lassies are drowsy and dreamy, and there is an ambient sense of good will and one soliloquizes at a leisurely pace about literary theory, one’s shoe collection, all sorts of things.
No, she said. I’ve got it covered.
The Chair cleared his throat. How’s the book? he asked, feigning interest in my annotated bibliography of John Rechy, a work long in progress.
I shrugged, fingering the scabrous pate of my Drake’s Cake, and told him it was coming along just fine, thank you. Why should I let him in on anything? I dined cheerfully, then, satisfied that I had spoiled their little confab.
But there is only fleeting satisfaction in such victories. The workday still lies before me like a frothing ape manacled to a vivisectionist’s table. I drag my aging, heavy frame through the corridors of academe amid throngs of lithe, laughing students, a diplodocus among faery folk. I do my job. I lecture, I grade essays. At home, exhausted, I half-heartedly watch an old movie—Breakfast at Nuremburg, Judgment at Tiffany’s, I can never get the titles straight. While performing ablutions I try not to stare at my mournful face, that sarcophagus of youthful dreams. Like the Godhead, I have only phantoms to play with.
As I was saying, the proliferation of serial murder, rape, torture and other forms of abuse has reached epidemic proportions. I believe the solution is to create special houses wherein sociopaths can enjoy the application of violence upon clones, thereby exhausting sadistic impulses that would otherwise be directed at human beings.
One can thus envision a future very like the Paradise depicted in the colorfully drawn pamphlets of certain religious sects that canvass door-to-door. A pair of clean-cut young men in suits and ties stopped by my house recently with just such a pamphlet. When opened and laid spine-upward on my coffee table, it showed a panorama of attractive people sitting beside a lake, traversing a path in a flower-strewn meadow, sauntering through an orchard filled with tame jungle beasts (clones, certainly), and throwing a Frisbee, of all things.
Remove those awful jackets, I said. For heaven’s sake, get comfortable. This is rich stuff and we have a lot to discuss. (Since I live alone, the lads were all mine.)
They began their spiel. I listened a while, then interrupted, asking their opinion of cloning. I was not surprised when the taller of the two, a blond, bony boy with enormous hands, red-scrubbed knuckles, and the hint of some shaving cream or soap mingling with the provocative odor of perspiration, said that cloning was the work of the devil.
Let me assure you, I replied, my avuncular smile keeping them at ease, that the scientists I have met during my consultations for Somatech have no interest in Satanism. In fact, I said, many are fine family men who attend church regularly, and the CEO of Somatech was once a devout Scientologist.
Well, said Mr. Shaving Cream, we don’t mean to offend you, but we feel that it is not man’s place to create life, and if you will look in that pamphlet, on page—
Later on, I said, I shall read your material with great care and an almost sensuous languor. And by the way, in my capacity as consultant I also have pamphletic materials, but I’m not going to show them to you. Not because I’m a tease, you understand, but because they are for the eyes only of stockholders and clients.
The shorter boy, dark-haired and beetle-browed, had a look suggesting rigidity of thought. He said they would leave the pamphlet without requiring payment, but must be on their way.
I didn’t want them to go. You realize, I said, speaking rapidly, that clones are not people. On that point, at least, we agree, for only God can make a he. Smiling at my little rhyme, I suggested that we might enjoy refreshments. I’m a skilled baker, I said, and can whip up a batch of brownies before you can say Merle Oberon. Are you aware, I continued, that since a clone has no soul you can do whatever you like to it? I then explained my concept of torture houses. And this would not be merely for the deranged, I said. Quite normal chaps who just need to let off a little steam. Think how the world will change if aggressions normally funneled into business, marriage, and politics are dissipated in the savage maltreatment of gagged, hogtied clones. What a splendid catharsis!
They edged to the door, opened it, fled to the porch. Still I addressed them. You are young, I said, and not yet men of the world. You fail to grasp that even trusty old Jim Anderson, who sits with pipe and slippers and evening paper in his easy chair, while Margaret prepares the roast and Bud and Kathy play at his feet, even he is plagued in the privacy of his dreams by visions that would send a jaded habitué of a Sadeian dungeon howling into the abyss of night. Outwardly bland Rotarians, I tell you, long for unnatural congress with pulsating hermaphrodites of the infernal regions. Imagine the anatomical deviations, the supernumerary organs and body parts sprouting from the necks and torsos of clones special-ordered for timid librarians tormented by secret fetishes!
By now they were in their little Toyota. God bless you, shouted the blond one through the open window of the passenger side. They sped off down the wide suburban avenue. For a moment I stood squinting in the late afternoon sunlight. A terrier was barking at me from across the street, and I felt the beginnings of a headache.
As I gaze upon you I see expressions of confusion and dismay. No matter. I have decided that this will be my final lecture. I am not a well man, and the strain of teaching while under the Damoclean swords of gossip and innuendo has left me unable to acquit myself in a professional manner. To be candid, I was unaware that I would make this decision before I ascended to the podium. And now it is made. Iacta alea est.
Some of the information I have presented to you this morning can be explored in more detail at a website I have constructed. If you are interested, go to www.manclone.net.
I am looking forward to a long rest.