“Are you sure you’re feeling up to this, Grunkle Stan?” Dipper asked nervously. “We can still cancel it if —”
“I’ll be fine, kiddo,” Stan reassured him. He reached down to flick the brim of Dipper’s hat good-naturedly, and was pleased to realize that he could remember a dozen other times he’d done so before. “Trust me, nothing’s gonna get me back in the swing of things like presenting a new attraction.”
Dipper chuckled at that. “Yeah, well, just take it easy, okay?”
“Don’t worry. I’m only gonna be doin’ half the work this time, after all.”
He walked out onto the stage, and faced the crowd of vaguely familiar faces. Mabel and Wendy were walking around holding boxes labeled with dollar signs, calling out “All proceeds go to rebuilding the Mystery Shack!” and “Donate now to get a complimentary ice cream after the show!”
Knowing that there was no ice cream, Stan smiled. He’d taught them well.
Soos handed him the microphone. His electric keyboard had been broken during Weirdmageddon, but he pressed a button on a tape recorder, and a pre-recorded “ye-ah!” played. The crowd stopped talking amongst themselves, and turned their attention to Stan.
“You all know me, folks!” Stan began. “Town hero Stan Pines! Now, as I’m sure you all know, I don’t spend all my time defeating demons of unimaginable power. I also pride myself on bringing this town novelties and befuddlements, the likes of which the world has never known!”
He stepped away from his podium, and towards a tall object draped in a light blue sheet. “But that’s enough about me! Now, behold… me!”
He whisked the sheet away, revealing next to him a statue of himself, lacking a fez but with every other detail appearing to match perfectly, right down to the wide smile. Soos played a few more “yeahs.”
The crowd shifted awkwardly in their seats. They were reluctant to boo, because they’d all heard what Dipper and Mabel and Soos and Wendy had said every time they’d come into town over the past two-and-a-half days — that Stan had been the one to save Gravity Falls in the end, that he was a true hero — but this presentation? This just felt like some remastered version of the wax museum exhibition back towards the beginning of the summer.
“Well, I guess this statue does look a little more realistic…” someone in the front row murmured.
“I want a refund!” shouted someone in the back.
Stan ignored them both, a wide smile spreading across his face. Ah, he’d missed this. He’d missed this feeling of a perfectly executed trick, where the audience suspected some sort of con but were wrong about where it truly lay…
He turned to the statue, holding the mic to its face with one hand and gesturing to the audience with the other. “Why don’t you introduce yourself?”
The statue left just enough of a pause for the audience to feel awkward, and then replied in a perfect imitation of Stan’s voice:
“Thanks, Stan. I think I will!”
The second half of the sentence was almost inaudible beneath the noise of over three dozen people gasping, laughing, and spitting out drinks all over the backs of whoever was unlucky enough to sit in front of them.
Ford (because of course it was him) feigned an insulted look.
“Really? That’s how you greet the town hero? With spit-takes?”
“Yeah, well, you know these people, Stan,” Stan replied. “I could wrestle someone’s firstborn child out of the hands of a bloodthirsty Mothman and I’d still be just ‘that guy who runs the tourist trap’ to them.”
“You’re right, Stan. But then again, we always are.”
“You said it, Stan!” They high-fived — or rather, high-sixed, but it didn’t seem like the audience had picked up on Ford’s polydactyly yet.
“Stan and I will now take questions!” Ford announced.
Being one of the few audience members who wasn’t in some state of shock or confusion, Mabel was the first to call something out. “How would you rate Mabel Juice on a scale of one to ten?!”
“I think I’m gonna leave this one to you, Stan.”
“Thanks, Stan.” Ford took the mic, still using his gruffer-sounding Stan impression. “I would call Mabel Juice something out of a nightmare, except you’re not gonna be sleeping, much less dreaming, for about a week thanks to the caffeine content. The plastic dinosaurs are a nice garnish and make me feel like I’m at a fancy restaurant. I give it six hundred and eighteen out of ten! Stan and I will be selling it for sixty bucks a gallon after today’s show!”
“Be sure to pay in small bills!” Stan added. “Next question!”
By this point, the people in the audience were whispering to each other, asking questions like “Are they twins, or clones?” and “I thought I saw someone who looked a lot like Stan back at the Fearamid, but I also thought I might have been hallucinating? Did you see him?”
“Who’s your favorite employee at the Mystery Shack?” Wendy yelled above the chatter.
“That’s an easy one. Stan is,” Stan replied, patting Ford on the back.
“Oh, come on, Stan, you’re too kind.”
“Hey, I’m just bein’ honest! Don’t think anything of it.”
A middle-aged woman in the second row from the front raised her hand. “So, you’re identical twins, right?”
“Right,” Ford responded, returning to his normal voice. “You’ve done it. You’ve exposed our secret. We are, indeed, two separate entities.”
An evil spread across Stan and Ford’s faces in perfect unison.
“But the question remains…” they both began at once.
“Which one of us is the real Stan…” Ford spoke in his normal voice, while pointing to his brother —
Stan placed his fez upon Ford’s head, and finished in a dead-on impression of Ford: “And who’s the new twin?”
The crowd gasped.
“Huh.” Ford switched back to Stan’s voice. “That’s a good question. I’m not sure even I know.”
“If we wanted to mess with our audience — which we do, of course,” Stan posited, still using Ford’s more sophisticated-sounding tone, “we’d make the real Stan the statue, and cast his twin as the one everyone assumed was the real Stan at first.”
“Yeah, good point —” Ford changed back to his own voice mid-sentence “— but counterpoint: reverse psychology. We could expect them to suspect that trick, and do the opposite instead. Making you the real Stan.”
“Maybe,” Stan replied as himself before continuing as Ford: “but there’s also reverse reverse psychology to account for. Making you the real Stan instead.”
“This will just go on for all eternity, won’t it?”
“Probably. It might have to remain a mystery.”
They shot one more set of mirror-image evil grins at the audience. In unison, they concluded:
“What a shame.”
Soos was the first person to break into applause, and soon the rest of the Shack’s crew and then the entire audience joined him. The twins bowed as the clapping started to die down, prompting it to begin again, even louder.
Placing his hand over the mic, Ford whispered to Stan: “You lucked out. I think everyone forgot about the promise of ice cream.”
Stan snorted. “That wasn’t even my idea!”
“Oh, I know,” Ford replied with a smile. “I told Wendy and Mabel to promise free food here after they mentioned the free pizza disaster back in June. And I’ll be honest, I would of liked to see your reaction had it blown up in our faces again.”
“You? Ford, I can’t believe you’d try and set your own brother up like that!”
“I was just trying to stay in-character,” Ford replied, deadpan.