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Half soul

David was born with only half a soul, but nobody noticed for years. He was a twin, not conjoined, but still half of a whole. The doctor said that they were identical, but he and his brother thought otherwise. To their eyes, they looked only as similar as brothers do, nothing unusual or special. They also didn’t have the same interests or tendencies as most identical twins did, and would point these facts out to their mother when she would bring up their connection when one would bring a new girlfriend over for dinner. Because the doctor said so, she too was convinced they were identical and no amount of fact would make her budge.

She was long dead before there was any suspicion that one of her sons had suffered any ill effect from his natal experience. You can get by with half a soul if you get the correct half. Daniel was lucky. As the one who was on the left side of his mother’s womb, closer to her heart, when the quickening happened at 18 weeks of gestation, he got the good half, while David, on the right side, got the bad half. Now the bad half wasn’t evil per se, it just wasn’t quite up to snuff. It made him less compassionate, less caring. He was a bit self-centered, a little selfish, even.

Daniel was usually picked first for group projects in class because he simply worked well with others, while David was usually picked first for any sport that required ruthlessness, like rugby or dodgeball. Compassion never won a sporting match, after all.

Neither one felt left out by this arrangement, which had developed quietly and surely over the years. Neither one realized that the repetition of this pattern, determined by their divergent natures from their half souls, over the many years shaped them into the people they had become. They were in fact identical, as the doctor who delivered them had said, but they were as different as the two sides of the coin – one thing but with two halves, both different. Just like with a coin, with one side you won, and the other, well, you didn’t.

David wasn’t bad, he just wasn’t good either. Some people thought he was shy, and that was part of it. He wasn’t shy out of actual bashfulness or a desire to be polite, whether they were friends, family, or coworkers. He kept to himself because deep down, he didn’t like other people. He thought they were lesser than him.

In school, he blamed his average and never exceptional grades on his belief that the teachers were jealous of him and gave him lower marks then he deserved out of a desire to put him in his place. He was convinced they had a coordinated plan to subtly remind him every report card day that they were in charge and he wasn’t. He was sure that they did this to him and only him out of a mistaken desire to keep him from getting full of himself. He was sure that they were operating on the premise that too much praise early on and the child wouldn’t get along well with others – they’d either lord it over their classmates or they would shun them. They were doing it for his own good, he told himself, so he said nothing to anyone, not even to his brother.

When they moved three states away after his father’s job transfer, the low grades continued and he just knew that the teachers at his old school had sent a letter explaining their plan along with the transcript to the new school. Never once did he think that his lackluster grades were due to a lackluster performance. He maintained his fecklessness throughout his life, never quite amounting to much in whatever he did.

He wasn’t a schmuck, but he certainly wasn’t a mensch either. He had married well, with a patient wife who usually made up for his social gaffes. Their son, an apple from the tree, was possibly even more socially inept than his father and even with a graduate degree still lived at home and waited tables for a living. Members of their church gossiped that David’s wife, Jane, had married him as either a favor to him (she was forever taking in strays and rehabilitating them) or as someone who wouldn’t have the spine to challenge her whenever she wanted to do her own thing. Headstrong men were challenged by strong women. They felt threatened by a woman calling the shots, so some nontraditional girls chose to stay single, associate with other women, or marry a man who acted tough but really was a wimp. The latter was most certainly the case.

He was all show and no go. At work, where he was a manager solely out of attrition, he would bluster about schedules and vacation requests from his employees, but clam up when they would confront him with the unfairness or duplicity of his newly minted rules, which never seemed to apply to him. He had become a manager because of budget cuts. His job as an designer was being eliminated, so he had a choice: become a manager or go find another job. He was already counting the months until retirement (it was under 100) so it made more sense to take what they were offering, distasteful as it was, than get a cut in his pension and have to start all over at the bottom of the pile somewhere else.

Fortunately upper management put him at a location where he could do the least amount of damage – one with little business. They were few customers and enough staff to cover his ineptitude. This worked well until further budget cuts and staff complaints forced him out of his office and at the service desk, assisting customers. It didn’t matter that he didn’t know how to use the software to look up auto parts or how to use the cash register to sell them. He had glided by on ignorance and feigned helplessness for too long. It simply wasn’t fair to force his subordinates (in position only, not a know-how or aptitude) to do all the work while he spent his 40 hours a week reading a book, chatting with friends from his previous office, or writing his latest novel on work time.

The CEO was aware of how much he shirked. Everyone knew. The only person who was fooled was David, he thought he was doing a fine job. He thought he’d coast right on for another year until it was time to retire. Little did he know that his invisible handicap was soon to catch up with him. Little did he know that going through life with only half a soul would have negative repercussions very soon.

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