Jan 31
joseph.deffner's picture

The Swap

          It was a beautiful morning and nothing was wrong ‒ until I looked out the window. I did not recognize my surroundings. This isn't where I was last night! But then it hit me. I did recognize some things. I could see the London Clock Tower and Big Ben. I was in the U.K.! I ran outside and straight into traffic. Cars honked from every direction. I couldn't concentrate. It was raining. Within a minute, I was soaked to the skin. I could smell the asphalt and the car exhaust. I had always wanted to visit London, but this was not how I thought it would be. How could this be? When I went to bed, I was in Vermont. I had no idea how I had gotten here, but I had one thing on my mind. This was where my pen pal lived. I had to find him! Maybe he could explain what was going on. Maybe he could help me get home.

           I remembered my pen pal's address. I asked a policeman and discovered it was close by. At least one thing was going right. I set off walking because, after all, I didn't have any money. Thank goodness I wasn't wearing my pajamas. The streets were full of traffic. Everyone was rushing around. It was as if they were looking right through me. I was afraid to ask for help. I followed the policeman's directions, and in about twenty minutes, I found myself looking at the address where I had been sending letters to my pen pal. I went to the front porch which, thankfully, had a roof. I lifted my hand to knock on the door but I realized I would look pretty bad to whomever opened it. I was soaking wet. But I was pretty worried by now. I didn't even care how wet I was. I just wanted to get home.

           I knocked. A butler answered. Whoa! Was my pen pal rich?

           "Yes? May I help you?" the butler said.

           "Is Oliver here?" I stammered. I could sense the butler's disapproval.

           He looked down his nose at me. Without responding, he turned from the door and called out, "Madame. I think you will want to come right away."

           A short and stout woman with messy hair rushed to the door holding a box of tissues. "Hello? Who are you? Do you know Oliver? Do you know anything about Oliver's whereabouts? Oh, please. Can you tell me anything about where my son is?"

           She was distraught.  She looked like she was about to pass out. She was obviously very upset. I was speechless. What could I say? I hadn't heard from Oliver in a month. How would I know where he was? I opened my mouth, but no words came out. The butler and the woman just stared. Before I knew what was happening, the butler reached out his arm, yanked me inside and shut the door.

           "What do you know about the young master?" hissed the butler. If I wasn't so scared myself, I would think he was a real creep, kind of like Lurch in the Addams Family. I pulled away from him to get out of his grasp.

           I stumbled backwards and said, "What is going on? I don't know where Oliver is. I came here because I don't even know where I am." Suddenly, I felt like everything was crashing in around me. I was not where I was supposed to be and neither was my pen pal. If I was here and Oliver wasn't to be found, how could I expect his family to help me? They were too busy being worried about him to care about me. I was so confused.

           I could tell that Oliver's mother was quickly losing interest in me. "Wait," I cried out. "Could I at least call my parents? They're probably worried about me and I don't even know how I got here."

           "Yes, yes, go ahead," Oliver's mother said. "Yes, they certainly need to know where their own son is. Jeeves, please show this boy to the phone. By the way, what is your name, dear?"

           "I'm Michael, Ma'am." She gave me a sad smile.

           The butler led me to the kitchen where I found a land-line phone. How old fashioned, I thought. I quickly dialed my number and waited. One ring, two rings, three rings...

           "Hello?" It was my mother's voice. I could sense that she was as frantic as Oliver's mother. "Where are you, Michael? Oh my, oh my, oh Michael. Where are you? We have been so worried. There is a boy here named Oliver."

           I was stunned. I didn't know what to say, so I was silent. Finally, I spoke up, "Mom, I'm in London. Oliver is my pen pal. He lives in London. But he's there now? He's in Vermont?"

           Well, I don't know how it happened. Somehow we had switched places. We had to spend hours talking with his parents and mine, trying to convince them that we had no idea how it had happened. My parents ended up flying to London to bring Oliver home and to get me. They still don't believe that we didn't have anything to do with the switch. To this day, we don't know how it happened, but now we're not only pen pals, we're friends for life!