's 2020 Horror Write-off:

The Nut and the Bolt

Submitted by The Hungry Reader (email)

I seem to recall my mother once saying, in reference to a coincidence long since passed from my memory, "Everyone's got a double out there, somewhere." Some twenty years later, long after she had thankfully left this world, I remembered her words, for I was stunned by how close to the truth she had been.

As it turns out, everybody's got a Dale out there somewhere.

You remember Chip and Dale, right? The chipmunks from the Disney cartoons? Somebody working on the human genome found out, no doubt after a few dumbfounded recalculations, that that really is how the world works. The exact reason why isn't known yet, but test after test proved that this surreal hypothesis was scientific fact.

People, as it turns out, are either Chips or Dales.

If you're born a Chip, congratulations, and don't waste your gift. You are a leader: proactive, determined, a self-starter, and doubtless you're physically attractive. It's likely what we based our standards for attractiveness on in the first place, after all. You have the talent to do great things in life; now all you need is an extra pair of hands.

Dales, on the other hand, lived difficult lives until the genome was cracked. Unless one was born into wealth, it was a struggle for any Dale to meet the challenges of everyday life. Dales, science tells us, are emotional and illogical; they have strong attachments to pleasure, food and drink, and little patience for study and hard work. To be a Dale is to be aimless, shiftless, to see silent contempt in the eyes of everyone you meet. Yet they have loyalty and conviction, can show competence and improvisational skills, and are always the life of any party. A Dale is a force to be guided: he needs a leader.

You'll see it happen every day, in the streets, schools, and workplaces of this country: a Chip finds their Dale. They always know them almost immediately: a Dale invariably looks almost identical to their Chip, but exaggerated, caricatured. Often they would look perfectly normal on their own, but with a Chip by their side, you'll always know which is the original, and which is the parody.

("Original" and "Parody" are the official terms used by the government, by the way. The Disney corporation fights tooth and claw to keep the common phrase "Chips and Dales" out of the newspaper and other official sources.)

Imagine, for a moment, how it must feel to find your Dale! To recognize your own face distorted so comically, and know that this is where it all turns around for you. Now your life truly begins, because you have a friend for ever and ever;

Someone who would compliantly go along with any of your crazy schemes.

Someone who was naive and simple, and trusted your judgment in all affairs.

Someone who would take abuse from you and never complain, because they knew you were theirs for life too-- and your victories were theirs.

Apart from each other, you were two individuals with no rank in the world: but now, side by side, with you in the lead and your new faithful companion following dutifully behind, nothing could stand in your way.

What a feeling!!

I saw it happen myself, earlier this year.

It was any normal day at my workplace, and I was doing clerical business at the front desk. I heard the door open, and the sound of weeping; the customer was bracing himself against the door, trying to collect himself, and managing it quite poorly.

You see, I work at a funeral home.

My boss has said I'm too empathetic for this job, and sometimes I agree: I couldn't continue my work with my heart breaking for this customer, who must have just suffered a terrible loss. I left my desk and found him still slumped against the door, his face buried in his hands.

"Who did you lose, sir?" I asked, extending a hand to help him up.

He looked up, lowering his hands, and our eyes met. My heart skipped a beat. It was the most familiar face I'd never seen before.

Shocked out of his grief, he pointed up at me. "It's... it's you," he said, half-laughing as if he didn't dare to believe it.

"I guess it is me," I said numbly, struggling to process this new information.

"It's you," he repeated, the laugh becoming louder. "You're my Dale!"

"Am I?"

"Of course, you are, look at you!" He almost bounded to his feet to get a better look at me. "Look at those eyebrows, the way they meet in the middle? That huge nose! Your eyes even CROSS! You're my parody!"

I frowned. I like my nose; my eyes are NOT crossed.

Suddenly he hugged me, squeezing violently. "It must be fate!" he crowed. "I lose my mother and find my Dale, all in the same 24 hours! What a lucky break! Holy fucking shit, did I need this today! You're my Dale! Finally, my Dale!"

I had to jerk myself out of his arms to get his attention. "SIR!" I had to bark. "Did you say your mother had died? Are you here for funereal needs?"

He looked almost reproachful that I had to remind him of that. "Yes, actually," he said, awkwardly sticking his hands in his pockets. "I'm here to look at coffins."

"Let me take you to the showroom where our best models are."

"Hey, do you know any cemeteries where they pair graves?"

"...I beg your pardon?"

"You know, where they organize graves in pairs so you can tell who in the pair was the original and who was the parody."

I tried not to grind my teeth. "We do, sir. Rosewood, Appelbaum, and Our Lady--"

"Hey, you don't have to call me Sir, you know. My name's Daniel," he grinned. "I bet you'll be glad to leave this place behind, huh?"

"It's not the most glamorous job, but I like it."

"Sure, but you're my Dale! I can get you a job at the car lot, easy!" he said excitedly. "It's the easiest money ever, and girls just line up when you wave car-salesman cash under their noses! Even for a Dale, I'll bet!"

I looked at him for a cold second; his confident crossed arms, the dimple in his chin that mirrored my own double chin. His perfectly straight teeth.

"Cash gets the girls, huh?" I said, raising my eyebrow. "You know, these caskets are a lot of money. I know a way you could save a lot and still inter your mom respectfully."

"Oh yeah?"

"Let me show you our crematorium."


I've been to Rosewood, Appelbaum, and Our Lady.

I've seen the rows and rows of paired graves. One line filled, the next empty. Filled, empty.

Dales have the highest suicide rate in the country, you see.

The good news is, no one ever digs up a plot to make sure that's a Dale in there.

Only a DALE would do that!