It's poetry night in the Talon. Smallville isn't known for its poets, aspiring or otherwise. I watch the sign-up sheet get passed from table to table. No one signs up. Walking to the mike slowly, I wait for someone to take the initiative to sign up. Once one person signs up, others will. Small town mentality, no one wants to first. At a table are Pete, Erika, Drew and a girl, who was more likely Erika's friend than Drew's girlfriend.
I look at my brother, a chubby redhead, and know he won't sign up because he looks at his feet when he says hello to a classmate at the supermarket. I, finally, reach the mike and a stand near a wooden stool. "A sign up sheet is going around. If no one signs up in fifteen minutes, I'm reciting Tennyson."
Lana is standing behind the counter, getting mugs and plates. "We want to sell coffee, not make people flee."
"The Charge of the Light Brigade," I trumpet. I was going to recite The Lady of Shalott, but Lana didn't have to insult me. When I recited John Donne to her, she swooned. They turn on you so quickly.
Pete says, "Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die."
Erika took Pete's hand. "You'll need to do another poem."
I hold out the mike in Pete's direction. "Would you care to recite the rest of poem?"
"No, it's something about six hundred men," says Pete. I figured from the look on his face knew enough about the poem that it was better not to recite it.
I see Clark, carrying a well-worn poetry book, enter the Talon. He was probably rescuing damsels in distress, but his two favorite damsels, Chloe and Lana, are safe in the Talon. Someone else must have needed rescue. There are few constants in this universe: the speed of light is one, another is Clark Kent will always be late.
"Chloe, can I have the sign-up list?" I ask.
The perky blonde gives me the blank sheet of paper.
I walk, holding the mike, since I'm not the sit on the stool and talk type. The mike's long black cord is attached to an ugly jet-black amplifier that looks older than most of the people in the coffee house, myself included. "Poetry slams were very popular in London when I lived there. You losers may recite poetry for prizes since winning a lady's heart isn't enough to move you. Poetry is all about seduction. Lana, any prizes?" I ask. "Nothing too nice since reciting a good poem is its own reward."
Lana is walking around refilling mugs with coffee. She finishes serving a customer and says, "I can give the winner a pound of coffee. Their choice on the flavor."
"Chloe would dance naked for a pound of coffee," says Pete.
"I would not," retorts Chloe, not getting up from her seat.
Erika puts an arm around Pete and says, "That's not what I heard."
After Lana rings up a sale, she says, "This is a respectable place. No naked dancing."
I walk as close to Pete as the mike cord will let me. "Mr. Ross, you seem full of witty comments tonight. Would you care to be a judge? However, you'll need to limit your witty comment to a number between one and ten, but I'm sure you'll be able to manage that."
"Sure," says Pete.
"Erika can be a judge, too," I suggest. "Drew, do you want to be our third judge?"
"Lex, do we need to recite original work?" Drew asks.
"Original work would be nice, but you can recite anything," I explain. "At this moment, I'll take the backs of cereal boxes if said with class."
"I want to try my hand at reciting poetry," Drew says in a soft voice. Drew may share my genes, but he talks with a shy nervous voice and I never needed a microphone to make myself heard. He's been living in Smallville for several months now and most people fail to notice that he's my twin.
"I'll need another judge them." I look around the room and focus my eyes on the latecomer. "Clark, could you move to the judges' table?"
Drew escorts Erika's friend to another table as Clark takes a seat by Erika and Pete.
"The Slam will be done by elimination," I explain. "The lowest score will be dropped from the next round until we have a winner. The highest score a judge can give is ten and the lowest is one. Let's begin."
Chloe grabs Clark's poetry book and walks up to the stool.
"Chloe, you'll need to recite poetry to receive the pound of coffee. Lana, the proprietress, doesn't allow naked dancing in her establishment," I explain.
She takes the mike from me and puts it on its stand. After sitting on the stool and opening the dog-eared book, she reads Paul Revere's Ride by Longfellow. By the end of the first stanza, her eyes are more on the audience than the page. I'm impressed since I didn't think most children today memorized poetry. She gets nines Pete and Clark and an eight from Erika.
Another teenager girl takes the poetry book from Chloe and reads Harlem by Langston Hughes. She reads from the book but she reads well. Then Drew finally takes the mike. He recites The Lady of Shalott without a book. He stays seated on his stool for the whole poem and looks at his feet in their black Nikes curled around the stool legs. Knowing our father, poetry would make up a long part of any download of human knowledge. Drew couldn't help but know every syllable of the long ballad but his delivery sucked. The girl before him did a good performance of a short poem she read and Drew did a lousy performance of a long poem he recited. I wondered how the two scores would compare. Also Clark and Pete knew Drew had information downloaded into his head and Erika didn't. This contest was going to be interesting.
By the fourth round, Drew is making eye contact with the audience, but his voice is still soft and half his words mumbled. When Pete's score eliminates Drew from the final round of competition, Erika kicks Pete on the shin.
"Why are you being so hard on him?" Erika asks.
"He's a Luthor," Pete says. "He probably had to recite a new poem every day just to get his breakfast, besides he slurred half his words in that last poem."
The last round was between Bryon and Chloe. I didn't expect to see Bryon around after Dad had agreed to take care of his medical needs, but the medicine must have worked because Bryon isn't chained in the basement anymore. The Moores are the only people that could benefit from parenting techniques taught by my father.
Chloe recites Spring and Fall. She doesn't need a book for this one. It seems like the type of poem she would memorize.
"Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By & by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie; And yet you will weep & know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for."
Chloe gives no sympathy for that small child crying over falling leaves. Clark and Erika give her tens, Pete gives her a nine and the contest is all but over.
Bryon makes up a poem on the spot. The poem is about falling into a well and he leaves the audience at the bottom of the well. He gets two nines and an eight, but that isn't enough.
Chloe goes to the counter to accept her coffee. After she picks out the bag she likes, she walked over to the mike stand. She bows and says, "Thank you and I didn't need to dance naked."
Pete shouts, "Chloe, Chloe."
Drew joins the chant after some other boys do. "Chloe!"
Chloe sticks out her tongue as she walks back to her seat.
Drew says, "Don't stick out your tongue unless you plan to use it."
I sit down with Clark "How is Drew doing in school?"
"Doesn't he talk to you?" Clark asks.
"I'm the evil big brother," I explain.
Pete and Erika walk off hand-in-hand. Clark and I now have the table to ourselves.
"You have genes in common," Clark teases.
"All of them." I tease back and smile.
Chloe sits in one of the recently vacated seats. "All of them?" she repeats.
"His dad cloned him," says Clark.
"Really," Chloe puts her bag of coffee and the poetry book on our table as if to mark her territory. "Drew, looks like you, but?"
"I didn't lose my hair until I was nine. I also had Drew's metabolism until the day of the meteor strike," I explain.
"His hair is a brilliant red and your eyebrows are more strawberry blond," she says.
"The meteor strike, again." I raise an eyebrow. "Fine. Don't believe me."
Drew comes over to our table. "So, Chloe, what other tricks can you do with your tongue?"
Chloe looks at me then him. "Shit, he is your clone. Shave off the hair and he's you." She must have never heard Drew speak with confidence. Poetry night might have not been such a good idea, now that Drew is no longer mumbling to his shoes, people will eventually realize we have the same voice.
"That doesn't mean I'm not a real boy." Drew gives her my smile. "I have the keys to the Ferrari. I can show you how real."
Chloe hands Clark the poetry book and picks up her coffee. After Drew opens the door for her and they leave the Talon, I look at the swinging door until the next couple exits. That awkward boy is getting more of me in him. I'm not sure this is a good thing, especially since Chloe had a reputation of doing more than dancing naked, not that I know from personal experience. I don't sleep with children. Clark is a sexual mature extraterrestrial, so sleeping with him doesn't make me a hypocrite.
As Clark and I are getting ready to leave, Lana says, "Thanks for helping out tonight."
"I could be a professional MC, but being CEO of LexCorp and a major shareholder of LuthorCorp pays more," I tease. With Lucas owning ten percent and another ten percent in trust to Drew, I didn't own a majority of LuthorCorp stock. Without control of Drew's shares, I have fewer shares than Dominic. The little weasel was buying up Luthor stock for years. The way Drew caught on to being a high school student, Dad could have taught him how to be a good facsimile of me if given enough time.
Clark and I go back to the castle and make love. Clark was gone before I woke in the morning. Drew must have woken to the sound of a helicopter preparing to take me to business meeting in Metropolis.
"He was here last night," Drew says as I force down my coffee.
"Who?" I ask before swallowing the last few drops in my mug.
"Clark Kent," says my furry chubby doppelganger. Drew isn't fat, but I can see him getting fat if he continues gaining weight. He's genetically identical to me, so I tend to exaggerate the slight differences between us even identical twins conceived by normal methods have slight differences.
"What of it?" I ask. I really need to get to that board meeting.
"Helen told me about your obsession with him."
"You were trained to see me as the enemy. Dad designed you to replace me." I pat his tummy. "Too much of the good life. If you want anyone to believe you're me, you need to start dieting and exercising."
"I want to look as different from you as possible."
"Then, keep eating too much. I really have to go." I run out to the helicopter with my laptop bag. The meeting goes well. The other stockholders are beginning to see Dominic for the weasel he is. Even Lucas's proxy votes with me. I get home from my meetings long after Drew has been home from school.
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