Swap 06/15/2017tg


 Davis Palmer 1,377 word

N Carrywood Dr


Tucson, AZ  




By Davis Palmer


I sniffed the air.  The breeze was salty.  I was in the room in the blue house on the beach, such a pleasant memory.  Minutes, seconds, hours passed.

I heard a steady hum, something forgotten.  I opened one eye and saw the glow behind the face of the alarm clock.  The second hand moved smoothly, an electric clock, an AC clock.  I had one like it in fifth grade.  I read the hands.  Six thirty-five.  The sky was already bright.  Summer.  Was it summer when I went to sleep?  Sunlight streaked the room.  I saw a dresser, a mirror, a desk, a closet, clothes on the floor, presumably mine.  The bed was large enough for two.

“Hello?  Anybody?”


There was a lamp over the bed.  I clicked it on, saw the room clearly.  It was papered, green stripes.  Light fixtures in oval bases were mounted on the wall and ceiling.  Had I gone home with someone?  The radio by the bed was pink plastic.  I clicked it on.  A light began to glow behind the dial.  Tubes?

“And a happy Saturday to everyone.  Here’s number one in our countdown, Elvis Presley…”

Elvis, AM radio, tubes.  Was this an elaborate joke or the home of someone who literally lived in the past?  Did I know anyone who might do such a thing?


I caught my reflection in the mirror.  Whoa!  I was decades younger.  I had red-blonde hair, blue eyes, a firm chin.  I opened the door and looked out.  A door faced me with a room number, three.  At the end of the hall was a bathroom.  I stepped back into my room, found a robe, walked to the bathroom and took a shower.  I locked the door, stepped from the tub, studied myself in the full length mirror.  I never looked so good.  I toweled myself dry, put on the robe, went back to my room to dress.  No shorts, no tee shirts, no sandals.  I chose a short sleeved shirt, slacks, loafers.  I found a wallet, checked it for cash, put it into my back pocket.  I found a set of keys.  One locked my door.  I went downstairs.

“Goodness, you’re early.  Want some breakfast?”

She was grey haired, 50 or so.  Were we related?

“Thank you.”

“Your usual, or do you feel daring?”

“How daring?”

“Picked up these new things at the supermarket called English muffins.  I made a couple with eggs and cheese for Mike yesterday.”

“Sounds good.”

“I thought so.  Cousins think alike.  Is he up yet?”

It was nice to know I had a cousin in the house.  Maybe he’d explain my present situation, but how would I recognize him?  A guy entered, my age, maybe younger.  He was tall, lanky, with a blonde crew cut.

“Morning, Mrs. Smith.  Eggs on muffins?”

“You liked those, didn’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am.  Mornin’ Bricks.”

He patted my shoulder.  Bricks?  Must be the hair.

“You look good,” I said.

He arched an eyebrow, but smiled.  He had a great smile.

“What’s the plan today?” I asked.

His eyebrow arched a bit higher.  Mrs. Smith set out two cups of coffee.  He picked one up and sipped, watched startled, alarmed, as I poured cream into mine.

“We’ll talk after breakfast,” he said.

We were joined by a third man, middle aged.  He set a newspaper on the table and greeted us all.

“Mrs. Smith, Mike, Bricks.  How’s our little family today?”

“Mr. Morgan,” Mrs. Smith blushed.  “Who’d mistake us for a family?”

“Anyone, Mrs. Smith.  You’re the mother, I’m the father, and these are our two fine boys.”

“And old Miss Ronson?”

“The grandmother, of course!”

Mike laughed.

We finished breakfast.  I went upstairs, checked my wallet again.  It took three tries to find my drivers’ license.  It was a piece of paper, no picture.  Bernard A. Morton, 132 Spring Street, Pittsburgh.  I might at least recognize my location.

I stood on the porch.  A whiff of air told me this was Pittsburgh in the days of Big Steel.  I remembered it too well, the black skies, the Penn-Lincoln Parkway, the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.  Mike passed, tapped me on the shoulder.  I followed.  We covered a block in silence.  At the bottom of a hill, he turned to me.

“Did you do this, Bricks?”

“I woke up in a strange bed.”

He clenched his fists.  “Damn you.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“Not you, well, yes, you, the guy whose body you’re in.  Do you know who you are?”

“Daniel Jay Wilson, 306 Ninth Street, Maplewood…”

“Can you find the place?”

“If you can find Maplewood.”

“We’ll find my cousin, switch you back, everything will fine.  Get your car.”

“My car?”

“Sorry.  Transfers usually know more.”


“My cousin can body swap.  I don’t know how.  He did it to me once.  I was where you are.”

“You were me?”

“I had Bricks’ body.  He had mine.  It was scary.  You aren’t a millionaire, are you?”

“Just a working stiff.”

“I’ll take you to your car.”

My car was a Rambler Classic, two tone, four doors.  It was parked at our boarding house.  I didn’t ask Mike why we lived in a boarding house.  He fed me directions.

Maplewood wasn’t hard to find, nor was Ninth Street, but though Maplewood dated from 1893 and the house I grew up in was erected in 1922, it wasn’t there.  My address was a vacant lot.

“Excuse me,” Mike called out the window.  “We’re looking for 306.”

The woman, a girl, a teenager, turned and looked at us.

“The Martin house burned down in 1952.  Terrible fire.  The children died.”

“Children?” I asked.

“Two little girls.”

“Thank you,” Mike said.  “Sorry to bother you.”

I tried to drive to the park, but it wasn’t yet built.  We parked on a side street.  

“Something’s very wrong,” I said.

“You sure you have the right address?”

“I haven’t forgotten who I am.  What’s going on?”

“Damned if I know.  Do you remember anything else before you woke up?  Were you anywhere else?”

“I smelled salt air.  I was near the beach.”

“What beach?”

“Ocean City, New Jersey.”

“You sure?”

“I went there with my parents in 1959.  The house was a half block from the beach.  The room cost $2.50 a night.”

Mike looked at me, slack-jawed.  “You went in 1959?  You come from the future?”

“I was 11.”

Mike wept.  I reached over to pat him, then remembered where I was, when I was.  We stopped at the house, told Mrs. Smith we’d miss dinner, drove six hours to Ocean City.  The room I remembered was rented out.

“They’re probably out for the day.  A couple in their forties with a little boy?  The father has a mustache.”

I nodded.  

“Our aunt and uncle,” Mike said.

“Won’t they be surprised,” the owner said.

We rented the room down the hall.  It had two double beds.  It was a rooming house, not a boarding house, but there was a common room.  A console TV stood in one corner.  We settled in to wait.  What might happen if I met myself?  Did I want to grow up to be me again, or stay the handsome guy I’d become?  

They were almost my parents, almost, but not quite.  I didn’t put my finger on it till their black dog ran into the room, ran to me, began barking.

“Lucky, stop it,” the man who wasn’t my father said.

“I don’t mind.” I scratched the dog.  “I like dogs.”

“Let me know if he bothers you,” the woman who wasn’t my mother said.  I didn’t look at the boy I wasn’t.  I knew where Bricks was.

Mike stretched on his bed.  “He’s in the dog?”

“That’s why I remembered the scent so well.  A dog’s sense of smell is much keener.”

“But as a dog, he won’t have the mental ability to swap.  You’ll have to do it.”

“I won’t end my days as a small black dog.  I’m Bricks now.  I’m young again.”

Mike propped himself up on an elbow.

“Do you know why we live in a boarding house?”

There was a knock on the door.

“Hurry.  Come down and watch the news.  President Eisenhower’s dead.”




060612   SWAP