“I got it!” Dave cried, exuberant, brandishing a cheap plastic comb as he burst into the dorm room. “Jake! I finally got it!”
Jake looked up from his fuel cell textbook and eyed Dave, unimpressed. “So your hair will finally stop looking like a rat’s next. Great. The world will rejoice.” He didn’t budge from his reclining position on his bed.
“No, you numbskull, not the comb. It’s what’s on the comb,” Dave corrected. He brought it over to his desk and fumbled in the top drawer for tweezers and a small Ziploc bag, still holding the comb carefully, almost reverently, between thumb and forefinger.
“I don’t get it,” Jake said flatly, watching Dave’s antics only because they were slightly more entertaining than his homework.
“The hair on the comb,” Dave elaborated, holding the plastic piece up to the light while he carefully tweezed a single strand of gold from between the comb’s tines, then sealed it up in the plastic bag.
Jake sat up, frowning, and let his textbook fall back against his chest. “Whose hair is it?”
“Arnold’s,” Dave answered, his lit-up eyes never leaving the bag. “It took a while, but I finally got it. Now I can go to that place in the Slats and give this fucker what he deserves.”
“You mean the revenge business?” Jake’s attention was how fully focused on Dave. “I thought you were joking about that.”
“No way. I told you, I’ve been saving up for this for month.”
Jake watched Dave gloat over the hair with a growing sense of unease. “Why don’t you just commission a hologram?” he asked. “Hell of a lot faster, and cheaper, too.”
“I did that last year. It’s worthless. Holograms don’t have bones to break.” Dave began searching his desk for an envelope and pen.
Jake flinched, though he knew Dave was too distracted to notice, and a few seconds passed before he could form his reply. “By the time they finish growing that thing, you won’t give a shit about Arnold anymore, so what’s the point?”
“Shows what you know. They’ve got speed vats now. If I put in my order today, I can have him in two weeks.” Dave labeled the envelope, then slid the plastic bag in and sealed it tight.
“Is not. They’ve got all the documentation at the lab. It’s legal as long as you grow the clone without a functional brain stem. Hereâ€”” Dave rummaged through the papers on his desk and tossed a glossy brochure onto the bed next to Jake. “Read it yourself if you don’t believe me.”
Jake didn’t move. He stayed silent for several minutes as Dave pulled out a stack of forms and began filling in information. At last, Jake looked up at Dave’s back and asked, “Soâ€¦ what are you going to do with it once they grow it?”
“Well, you only get one hour,” Dave replied without turning around. “I haven’t decided exactlyâ€¦” Jake could see Dave’s eyes narrow in profile as his roommate’s hand clenched on the pen. “But he’s going to be sorry he ever thought about touching Julia.” The bitterness in Dave’s voice sent a shiver down Jake’s spine.
“How can it be sorry without a functional brainstem?” Jake asked, his voice oddly thick.
“Oh, well he can’t, of course,” Dave said with an embarrassed laugh. He turned to face Jake for the first time since he’d come in and flashed a sheepish grin. “But close enough, right?”
Jake didn’t answer, and after a moment Dave turned back to the desk. “Well, I’m gonna go put my order in. Wish me luck.” He didn’t wait for an answer before he left, which was fortuitous because Jake didn’t have one.
In the wake of Dave’s departure, the rushing in Jake’s ears seemed even louder. He stared at the brochure for several minutes without touching it. At last he stood up, letting the fuel cell textbook fall harmlessly on the bed, and moved over to open the window. For a few moments he stood still, breathing in the chill. Then he picked up the small comb from his dresser and threw it out the window as hard as he possibly could.