Chad sat at the table in the coffee shop. He wasn't particularly fond of coffee, but he liked its shops and could always count on them to provide a satisfactory cup of hot chocolate -- even on the cusp of summer. He also partook of their cookies and brownies from time to time, but this wasn't one of those times.
Drumming his fingers on the tabletop, he looked up as his near-mirror image sat down across from him. Brad had two large cups in his hands. He handed the left one to Chad, who took it and handed him two dollars.
"Thanks," he said.
"So, you were saying?"
Chad took a sip of his hot chocolate. It lightly scalded the roof of his mouth, but it tasted delicious nonetheless. He set it back down to let it cool.
"I was saying it's been a while since we've been mistaken for brothers -- or twins -- in public."
"Well, twins are brothers."
"True, but we aren't mistaken for them quite as often. And we haven't been mistaken for anything lately."
"Does that trouble you?"
"I wouldn't say it troubles me, but it has piqued my curiosity. I think that might be part of it."
"Curiosity. I don't think people are as curious anymore."
"Or maybe as we've aged we've started to look more different."
"We've always looked different. Even back in college we looked different, but people stopped us and asked if we were brothers a lot more than they do now."
"Well, back in college we spent a lot more time together, so it's only reasonable to expect that we would be mistaken for brothers more often."
"The crazy thing is, I have a brother, and when we're out together no one asks us if we're brothers."
"Yes, I know. You've told me that many times."
"Well, we've had this discussion many times -- or many discussions like it."
Chad tried his hot chocolate again. This time the temperature was just right. Brad took the first sip of his coffee.
"You're a patient one, aren't you?"
"I prefer not to get scalded by hot beverages, if that's what you mean."
"I don't think it is, but your point is taken."
They clinked glasses and both took another sip.
"Wait a second. I'm confused here."
"Who's speaking now?"
"Why, you are, of course."
"Yes, I know, but who am I? Am I Brad or Chad?"
"You mean you don't know?"
"Well, we're both kind of ill-defined, so no, I don't."
"Is it? Then who are you?"
"What kind of a question is that? I'm... Huh. Now, all of a sudden, I don't know, either."
"Confusing, isn't it?"
"No, no. We can figure this out. All we have to do is follow the train of dialogue back to the first point where it's obvious who is who."
"And where's that?"
"Well, let's look. It's not this most recent patch of dialogue, that's for sure..."
"Can we at least agree that I said, '¡Salud!'?"
"Why would we do that?"
"Because I'm the one who said I was confused immediately afterwards."
"No, I don't think we can take that for granted."
"Ah, I've got it!"
"Just before we clinked glasses, we were talking about getting scalded by hot beverages."
"But we're both drinking hot beverages."
"True, but Brad's the one who waited to take his first sip. That means Chad must have said, 'You're a patient one.'"
"Not necessarily. That could have been Brad referring to the fact that Chad waited for his hot chocolate to cool down before taking his second sip."
"Could it? Yes, I guess you're right. Okay, so that's inconclusive. Let's go back further. One of us said they had a brother. Who was that?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know if you have a brother?"
"I don't know if I said I have a brother."
"Well, I don't either."
"Do we have to go back to the very beginning?"
"I think so. Let's run through it. Chad is at the table. Brad sits down and hands him a hot chocolate. Chad hands him two dollars and says thanks."
"No, no. I think Brad said thanks."
"What are you talking about?"
"Brad was thanking Chad for the two dollars."
"No, Chad was thanking Brad for the hot chocolate."
"Actually, now that I think about it, it could go either way. It's the damned 'he said.'" It could refer to either of them."
"Well, that's just terrific, isn't it? Now we'll never know. We might as well be brothers if we're this interchangeable."
"I'll drink to that."
They both picked up their cups and clinked them again.
"Wait a minute. I've got it."
"Chad got the hot chocolate, right?"
"And Brad got the coffee. So what? Oh, wait."
They both looked at the cups in their hands.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Yeah, I'm hoping I know what hot chocolate tastes like."