The Curse by Tim Frank

The Curse

Tim Frank

“They’re everywhere,” the actor said to his agent on the phone as he neared his flat. He blinked under the translucent sky, scoping a group of men on his porch, angling their chins as if posing for celebrity mugshots. “And they all look like me.”

“Let them in,” said the agent, “talk to them. Connect, please; what harm can it do?”

Crammed into the actor’s living room, a dozen lookalikes perched themselves on armrests and footstools, peering about like curious pigeons. One of them cracked his head on a lampshade. They all had bad breath.

Each drank from random mugs that had slogans like ‘Sheeeeeeiittt’ and ‘Yada-yada-yada.’

Prodding an earhole with his pinkie, a lookalike with flaxen hair and tiny nostrils said, “When the world knows, we’ll make a fortune. People will write about it in People magazine, talk about it on talk shows and listen to it on…the radio.”

“About what?” said the actor.

“The Curse! Remember the film we were all in years ago, called ‘The Doubles’? After that, all our careers collapsed—kaput, no more. And all because of that film. Probably. And not only that, Joe’s cat died, Alan’s gums receded, and Albert still gets bizarre voicemails. Damn that curse. Curses on the curse.”

And then vague impressions of the past flooded the actor’s mind. There were the endless journeys to casting calls on underground trains that smashed through town. He would sit among the morning commuters, sharing the noise and artificial light with pestilent rats. And just when he started to believe he couldn’t make it in the biz—the constant rejection from bug-eyed men in turtlenecks and blazers—he got his big break. True, it had nothing to do with his ability as an actor and everything to do with what he looked like—his bowl-cut hairdo, his balled-up fist of a chin—but it didn’t matter; he was living the dream.

Back then, he and his doubles were all pubescent teenagers, their faces erupting with spots and blackheads, patches of fluffy stubble on their chins.

He recalled traveling from set to set in a giant forty-seater bus, watching the electric countryside slur past as they voyaged out of the charcoal gray city. Those days were the highlight of his youth because he had grown up in a block of rundown flats with no view to speak of, and arts and culture were like kryptonite to his neighbors. His renditions of Nessun Dorma in the elevator were met with ominous glares.

“Anyway,” said another lookalike to the actor, “what happened to you?”

The actor took a sip of tea and said, “I’ve worked on stage and screen for twenty-five years.”

The lookalikes became restless, formed a scrum, lurched to and fro, all for want of something better to do. They had been unemployed for quite some time, to be honest.

The agent called again, “What do you think?”

“They’re insane,” the actor said, “completely mad. What do you expect me to do with this motley crew?”

“Listen, it’s pretty rough out there. Your advert airs twice at Christmas, and your one-man play is only big in Bulgaria.”

“Well, that’s something.”

“But we’re not in Bulgaria, and there aren’t any Bulgarians in town anymore.”

“Damn those immigration laws.”

“Listen to me, I have no more work for you. The doubles are promoting a book about what happened to them, giving readings across the country. Frankly, they’re your best shot.”

“Best shot!?”

The doubles grinned gleefully at the actor. They were ready to hit the road again.

The actor fell onto his couch and heaved a sigh. The lookalikes cradled him with flaccid arms.

“The Curse,” the actor wept, “The Curse.”

About the Author

Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in Bourbon Penn, Eunoia Review, Menacing Hedge, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. He is the associate fiction editor for Able Muse Literary Journal.