Ever want to switch lives with someone else? Look to covet something someone else has on their side of the fence? More money. Better job. Bigger house. Love. Kurt Eakles does, and soon, will have the chance to do just that. But not every life is perfect and with every pro, there’s a con to follow. There’s no such thing as Fairytales. With limited times to switch between lives, he’ll have to choose between the simple, the adventurous, and the lavish. And oh yea, there’s always a catch…or two.
Days always start the same. The sun always makes its slow ascent from the east, bringing with it the fiery colors night swallowed in its entirety. Marching across the sky with the same pace as any other day, only to sink into its fiery blaze again and be consumed by darkness once more. Things like that, just simply don’t change.
When set at the curtain call of the night, Kurt’s alarm clock goes off in the same monotonous fashion at the same time every morning. The routine squawking of the little black box, receives the same round of cursing…usually a different set of uncouth language depending on the morning. Sure, as the sun is set to rise.
5 am wake up call, Good morning, Vietnam!
One of these mornings he’s bound to pick the fucking thing up and chuck it across the room, as if that action alone would mean the course of his day would somehow be affected. No more traffic filled car to drive with horns blaring over the sound of his radio, drowning out what should be his quiet time for the morning. No more slave driving prick of a boss to scream at him over the humming of the front-end loaders engine. Yea pal, up yours too. Let’s see you get up off your ass, other than to storm out of your ‘office’ to bitch. It’s a work van, but whatever helps you sleep at night and your chest feel big.
A magic reset button by breaking another.
No, as luck would have it, the blasted thing went off at the same time, followed by the typical string of obscenities. He picked it up, cradling the thing in a hand, debating whether today would be the day it would meet its end.
Tempting, really, but luck would happen to be on its side instead. He sighed, glaring at the cheap plastic device, the infernal chant raucous inside his skull, tempting him more and more with each tiny screech to send it flying across the room to have the satisfaction of watching it break into pieces. Fat lot of good it would do ‘em anyway, he’d have to buy another. He supposed that was the only reason he hadn’t done it already.
Wiping a hand over his half-sleep drunk face, he pressed the ‘off’ button on top, heaving himself out of bed with a less than half-hearted up an’ at ‘em attitude. Shuffling to the kitchen, one might’ve thought he had been drunk the night before, not that his equilibrium had seemed to ooze out of his ears like black magic while he was sleeping.
He wasn’t a big drinker to begin with anyway, maybe a few totties with his friends down at Irises once a week, but the party hardy life was for the younger crowd. He smirked at the thought, that he – at a mere twenty-six – was no longer part of a ‘younger crowd’. The length of time between twenty and thirty seemed to be a century in how you’re perceived in a social matter.
Twenty-four and below you’re just a child, a babe still suckling off the mother’s teat. Twenty-five and above, you should know better, but you’re young enough to be dumb now and again. Thirty? Party’s over kids, it’s grown-up time now. Break out the mortgages and baby carriages and get this show on the road already.
He poured himself a scalding hot cup of Joe (the only decent timer of the morning had been bequeathed to the jet-black coffee pot, steam billowing from its spout) and forced himself to wake up faster, knowing the task was doomed from the start, but old habits die hard. The last thing he needed was a blistering headache from withdrawals on top of his somnolence.
The bitter liquid puckered the inside of his cheeks. Most would think black coffee is an acquired taste one has from birth, but at least in his case, it started as a curiosity as to why his Father had drank it straight from the pot, while his mother drowned out the black substance with milk and sugar.
If he were being honest with himself, for the first few years he copied his Pops, he detested the taste of it. He much preferred the sugary alternative his mother favored, but every boy is his Father’s son. Now, he didn’t much mind the bitterness, followed by the faintly sour aftertaste that had deeply integrated itself into his daily routine.
The clock ticking away on the wall reminded him he didn’t have much time to dilly-dally before hopping in his car to relive the previous day’s affairs. Just once he would like to sit down, relax, and enjoy his coffee without being pressured by something to hastily gulp it down.
Yesterday’s PB&J lunch still lingered on his fridge handle, or rather, the jelly part did. Disgust forced instinct to rub the sticky remains on his pajama bottoms, effectively making the situation far worse. Mindlessly, he closed the fridge without grabbing his pre-packed lunch for the day (an action he would later come to deeply regret), to carefully wash his hands in the overloaded sink. The dishes piled atop one another with a precariousness even Kurt didn’t much care for, and honestly, they’d started to reek.
No time for them now, they’ll hav’ta wait ‘til I get home. Ryan will shit down my neck if I’m late again.
The glopped grape jelly finally rolled off Kurt’s skin, slipping between the cracks of ceramic and plastic kitchenware to settle somewhere (most likely in a cup, because hey, why not?) down at the bottom of the pyramid. For a brief second, Kurt contemplated wiping his hands on his pants again, barely remembering he soiled them with the same exact reason in which he had to rinse them off and glanced around for the hand towel instead.
Although the kitchen wasn’t enormous – being basic of the typical single-wide he inhabited – somehow he’d managed to misplace the towel. Better and better all the time. It wasn’t hung over the handle to the stove, where he normally kept it to dry, nor had it fallen-
The towel wasn’t on the ground, but something else entirely that caught his eye. The man’s slowly simmering pot was being pushed dangerously into the brink of boil as he stared at the muddy patch just below his stove. He followed the trail with his eyes, anticipating what he already knew he would find. The sliding glass door to his back porch was squeaked open enough for something to get in, marking its path with giant, muddy prints.
Instead of closing the door, he chose to follow the tracks where the tiled linoleum of his kitchen ended and the russet brown of his carpeted living room began, muddy prints leading the way to a treasure he most assuredly would not find grand.
The towel, what was left of it anyway, was strewn apart in strings like streamers along the floor, joining the trail of destruction with the mud. He supposed the only one having a party was the lumbering beast atop his leather couch, curled up with a ball of string that was the rest of the towel, mud slathering the furniture like a second skin.
“Mozart! Jesus fucking Christ!” The beast, soiled himself, lazily turned his head in greeting, unperturbed by the fact the man before him was about to bust the vein in his neck at the mess he’d made. “Down! Now!”
Still unfazed by the screaming, the dog sluggishly set his head down on his newfound toy, in a brazen display of how little he gave a fuck about Kurt’s belongings. Vein throbbing with his elevated blood pressure, Kurt remembered the command he’d heard screamed at the pooch from across the lawn, too many times to count.
At that, the horse-shaped hound lurched from his perch, massive paws shaking the floor underneath him as he landed. The white splotches of his fur had turned murky brown, fading into the ginormous patches of rusty fur on his back. The bandit’s mask on his face was barely visible through the filth, but the droopy, dope look remained, seemingly puzzled as to why Kurt had demanded he leave his spot.
“I don’t have time for this, big guy.” The canine strode over to his outstretched hand, nuzzling his incredibly cold nose into the palm of Kurt’s hand. If he hadn’t been covered in mud, the young man would have ran a hand through his thick fur before patting his behind, but with the cloth scattered around the room, he would have to resort to soiling his pants further for an act of affection.
“Let’s get you back home, where you belong. Приезжай сейчас!”
Even at six-three, the St. Bernard stood flush with Kurt’s hip, taking slow, deliberate steps beside the man. They strolled through the way the giant had crept in, so Kurt would remember to shut the door and lock it after taking the dog home.
Rain was starting to pool on the porch outside the glass door, proving even further how much of a bitch Mother Nature truly is. Kick a man when he’s down, that’s the ticket! With no umbrella in sight, the man and beast stepped out into the brisk downpour. With any luck, Mr. Veselovsky would simply open his door to welcome his fake pony home, say thanks, and leave Kurt to rush through his morning routine to get to work.
Something in his bones told him that wasn’t going to be the case as they jogged across the lawn separating the two trailers, it never was.
Before he could even knock, the front door to the neighboring house creaked open, a pair of bright blue eyes peering around it. The set of sapphires glanced at the wet mongrel and the door swung open to reveal the little girl behind it. No more than eight if Kurt had to guess, with her light brown hair strung up in a ponytail with a purple ribbon. She yelled something in Russian to the empty room behind her before beckoning the dripping wet fiend into the house.
With no qualms of just how filthy the dog was, as most children rarely care about such things, the little girl scaled Mozart, riding him as if he were a real pony. Kurt couldn’t help but smirk at the look the dog threw him, as if to say: see what you brought me back to? The girl, giddy with excitement, paid little mind to Kurt. Simply happy to have her play-pal back.
A brief feeling of relief washed over Kurt, that maybe, just maybe he could get out Scott-free, but that bubble quickly popped as his neighbor stood in front of the threshold; as if the act of merely thinking such a thing would disallow it into existence.
The man before him stood a few inches taller than himself, and although you could tell he’d been a good-looking guy in his younger day, years of hard work and father-hood lined his face with wrinkles.
The hair atop of his head had probably started balding when he was young, leaving him with just traces of peppered strands around his ears. The hair that had gone missing from on top of his head had collected on his eyebrows and what was visible of his chest through the white-tee he donned, his pot belly rivaling that of a woman in her third trimester.
He’d seen pictures of the man and his wife on their wedding day, both of their former selves had been subsumed by life, leaving the couple with just that. Pictures.
The same bright blue eyes the young girl had sparkled at him now, the older gentleman’s smile showing perfect teeth. Dentures, probably.
“Kurt my boy! Mozart giving trouble again?” The Veselovsky’s had come to America shortly after they’d married as teenagers, and although they’d been state-side for nearly five decades, you would swear it was their first day with how thickly their accents were.
“Yeah, but it’s fine. Nothing I can’t fix.” The older man hooted at this, patting the young man’s arm with a heavy hand.
“I tell the wife you can fix anything! Get inside, it’s pouring out there. I get you something to drink, coffee?”
Kurt’s body was starting to realize just how cold the rain was, tremors were starting in his hands from it. “I appreciate that,” like at this point there was any point in enjoying liquid happiness, “but I have to get to work soon.”
“Yes, hard worker. Always have been, take after your Father. Good man, a shame the way he went.” Mr. Veselovsky shook his head, pity replacing the look in his eyes. It had been nearly ten years since his passing, but it sometimes felt like the entire town wouldn’t let go. Wouldn’t let Kurt let it go.
“Yea, he was. I really need to –”
“Granddaughter is cute, no? She loves that dog more than anything.” The light returned to his eyes, along with the smile. A ruckus was being made from somewhere within the house, most likely from said granddaughter. “Her Ma leave her here with me when she go to learn. Good kid, bright one I say! Full of life, just like all of us once, aye?”
Kurt barely had time to nod his head before the man continued, much to his dismay.
“You have woman in life yet? You’re not getting younger you know.” The age-old saying present in every language. Fun.
“Ha, no, not yet. I’m just focusing on work right now. Which is where –”
“Don’t wait too long, my wife and I started young. Makes the years go by, sure, but I also get time with the little ones now that I’m old. Light of life, really. You’d want to enjoy it while you’re young.”
As friendly as he was, Kurt’s patience was wearing increasingly thin. His teeth had started to click together from the rain. “I’ll try. Look, mister Veselovsky, I really have to go.”
“Mister that, mister that.” Kurt assumed he meant ‘this and that’, but didn’t feel compelled to correct him. The clock was ticking away, after all. “I tell you since you move in to call me Alec. We’re neighbors, not strangers.”
Right now, he wished they were.
“Well, Alec, it’s been nice seeing you –”
“Yes! Nice indeed!” One more time and he’d lose it.
“I’ll catch you later, alright?”
“Yes, yes! You have good day son, work hard, don’t hardly work.” The old man pointed a joking finger at him, his good nature intact.
Despite himself, Kurt snorted. “I will, have a good one.”
The two men waved, leaving Kurt free to jog back home out of the rain, now that he was soaked through to the bone. The inside of his home felt twenty degrees warmer than the outside; no complaints there. He resisted the urge to strip then and there, rushing past the mess in his house, trying not to think about that as well.
The clocks in his house seemed to have a megaphone attached to the escapement mechanism, putting a beat to his haste. Each tick followed by the tock making his already spinning head worse. The thing about rushing, your brain tends to forget things in the process, making you go slower in the meantime.
By the time he’d dried off, found his clothes, changed and rinsed his mouth out with water (figuring there was no time for a legitimate brush), he was already running ten minutes behind. After looking everywhere for his umbrella, he remembered he’d put it in the backseat of his truck, forcing him to run back out in the rain; this time only for a moment.
Once in the safety of his vehicle, he forced a hand into his denim jacket. The normal jingling of keys was replaced by the jingle of change and lint. Teeth now grit together, he slammed the truck door behind him, running back through the rain to fetch them. Once inside he faintly remembered he’d forgotten to lock the back door after the Mozart incident and raced to do just that. In search of his keys, he couldn’t help but laugh. Someone wanted to cut in front of him, he might just fucking floor it.