Ernie had wanted to have chocolate cake on his 8th birthday, but Bernie and Journey had voted for vanilla. “We’re not getting more than one cake,” their father said, and that was the end of the discussion. Ernie hated when they won.
His brothers were inseparable. They played together constantly, to the point of having their own language. They watched the same shows. They emulated the same ninja turtle. Any toy that belonged to one in turn belonged to the other.
Ernie had tried to be their friend, but they knew each other so well that they only spoke half of what they said. He tried to understand, but without their telepathy, he was left behind.
The three of them were supposed to blow out the candles together, but Ernie held back. If he got his wish, he’d be blowing out the candles alone, and on a chocolate cake. “Never make a wish you don’t want to come true,” their mother had said, once.
His brothers fed each other cake, like a newlywed couple. He watched them from a distance. They licked the frosting off of each other’s mouths. “Come on over!” they waved to him. “We’re genetically identical!”
“Excuse me,” the man said, grabbing a waitress by the wrist. “Do you know where our server is? We’ve been here ten minutes and we’re ready to order.”
“I’m not sure,” she said, “but I can go ahead and take care of that for you if you like.”
“Don’t you dare!” came a voice behind her. A young man in rumpled black clothes came barreling from the kitchen, two plates of food in his hands. “I’ve known your order since the moment you arrived. Here’s your fettuccine al Fredo, and here’s your mixed green salad with chicken, dressing on the side.
“Egad!” the man ejaculated. “That’s exactly right. How did you know?”
“Simplicity itself. Although your suit is tailor-made, it’s too tight for you and not your color. Either you got it second-hand, or you’ve filled out a bit since the acquisition. Probably both. Since you’re obviously someone who wants to be more sophisticated than you are, I assumed you would want our closest equivalent to macaroni and cheese. As to your wife—“
Before he was finished, the couple stormed out in a huff, but the young man didn’t care. No one with those shoes ever tips.
“I guess that guy’s going to Hell,” the guard said to his partner in front of the other door.
“Heaven, you mean.”
The guard smiled. These conversations were always the same. “It must be hard having to lie all the time,” he mused.
The other guard made no comment, but flashed a knowing smile of his own. It was a look of cheerful derision, and it made the guard uncomfortable. He had to remind himself that the look was a lie, as well.
“I’m glad we get to spend this time together,” he said.
“Go fuck yourself.”
And an attitude could be a lie, too. A whole personality.
He went home that night and spent a quiet evening with his wife. They had dinner. They read books in separate rooms, and just before sleep, he told her that he loved her.
“I love you, too,” she said.
They kissed in a warm embrace and slept soundly, glad that they could only tell the truth.