Life trade, p.1
Life Trade, p.1Adam Bender
by Adam Bender
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Copyright © 2013 by Adam Bender
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by Adam Bender
The two of us arrived at the bar around six, the same time we always did on Friday nights. But by the time I had finished my first beer, Joey hadn’t even touched his Budweiser.
“Bro!” I gasped. “What the hell is your problem, bro?”
Joey looked more unshaven than usual and his black hair was an absolute mess of curls. Shaking his head morosely, he said, “I guess I don’t feel much like drinking.”
“Don’t feel like—wait, you don’t feel like drinking?”
In all my years knowing him, Joey never once turned down a beer. We’d been drinking buddies since we were five years under the legal drinking age. But there was no explanation I could come up with as to what was bringing on Joey’s depression. He never complained about his job, and sure, he didn’t have a girlfriend, but he still got laid way more frequently than I ever did.
“Why the long faces, boys?” interrupted a low, booming voice.
When my best friend Dugan arrived, Joey’s sober indiscretion suddenly felt like a thing of the past. The two of us had been best friends as long as I could remember. If he hadn’t let me copy his math and physics homework, I don’t know how I ever would have passed high school. And then if he hadn’t been there to tell me film school was a waste of time, I’d probably be out on the street begging for coins.
“Dugan!” I cheered. “Just what the doctor ordered. Our boy Joey won’t take his medicine.”
My dependable friend rolled up his sleeves tightly around bulging muscles and considered Joey with a finger on his chin.
“Leave me alone, Dugan,” mumbled Joey.
“Aha!” Dugan exclaimed. “I do believe I know the answer to our little conundrum here. Methinks our boy requires some womanly attention.”
That Shakespeare thing he did always got me cackling like a hyena. Dugan picked up Joey’s Bud and tried forcing it to his lips. When the sourpuss knocked his hand away, Dugan chugged the beer himself. Then he pulled Joey up off his seat and steered him toward a group of girls at the bar.
That’s when Joey squealed, and I’d never heard his voice hit such a shrill pitch. Dugan let him go right away.
“Hey bro,” I tried. “Did something happen or—?”
“Nothing happened,” spit Joey. “I’m just…I’m just done with you losers!”
All we could do was watch dumbly as our friend stormed out the door.
Dugan turned to the women at the bar, and then to me. “Well,” he said. “More girls for us.”
Thanks to a long day at work, I arrived a little late to happy hour on the next Friday. Dugan greeted me at the bar with the Jäger bombs all ready to go.
Three, two, one. We dropped shots of black liquid into pints of yellow. Chug, chug, chug!
Dugan finished first, as usual.
I exclaimed “Nice!” and dropped my empty glass onto the bar.
“I got a text message from Joey about 20 minutes ago,” said Dugan. “He’s on his way.”
I have to admit it was a relief to hear he was coming after acting so strangely last Friday. I had meant to call all week but just never got the chance. I decided I would try to talk to him about it tonight.
The bartender arrived to take our glasses away. “Two more?”
“Make it three,” came a voice behind me that I didn’t recognize.
I turned around and saw a guy I’d never seen before. At first, I figured it was a friend of Dugan’s. But Dugan looked just as dumbfounded.
“Don’t look at me like you don’t know me,” the new guy said.
Time to get to the bottom of this. “Uh,” I stammered, “Do we know you?”
New guy grins. “It’s me, Joey!”
He did have the same dark, curly hair as Joey, but this definitely was not Joey. He looked unnaturally combed and clean shaven, for one thing.
Dugan laughed merrily. “Joey put you up to this?”
“No… I’m Joey.”
I laughed awkwardly. “No, you’re not.”
The stranger showed us a driver’s license with his picture next to Joey’s name.
“Anyone could have faked that,” declared Dugan. “Let’s see your old school ID.”
He pulled out a high school card with a slightly younger picture of himself next to Joey’s name.
Dugan and I exchanged glances for like the hundredth time. That’s when I got a bright idea. “Wait, Joey texted us earlier. Let’s see your phone with the message.”
At this point, New Joey was starting to look a bit hurt, but he still did as he was told. I took one look at the phone and dropped it on the floor.
“Dude!” cried New Joey, scrambling to pick up the device. “That’s an iPhone!”
“That’s Joey’s phone,” I whimpered to Dugan.
Dugan winked at me like he had a plan. “Okay, Joey,” he said slowly. “Sorry for the mix up.”
He turned to me and excused himself to the restroom.
“Me, too,” I said sneakily. “Uh…Joey…guard the drinks, will ya?”
The two of us ended up outside. There was a chill in the air and I wished I had my coat.
“You know what this is like?” I whispered sharply. “This is like when you’ve been watching a TV show for years and then one of the actors quits, but his character is too important to the show, and the writers are too lazy to come up with a new character, and so they just switch out the actor and hope no one notices.”
Dugan lit a cigarette. “Wait, what are you saying? We’re on a TV show?”
I scanned quickly for cameras. “Maybe.”
“That only happens in the movies.”
“What, you mean sequels? Like Batman and James Bond?”
“No, I mean The Truman Show and the kind of crap you used to make. Ha!”
I have to admit that last comment stung a little, but there were bigger things at stake.
“So what should we do?” I ask.
Dugan blew out a puff of smoke. “Think we’ve got to go with the flow for now. Joey’s probably just getting revenge on us for last week. Given how low he was, maybe it’s for the best we let him have his fun tonight.”
But Joey didn’t come back the next week, either. When New Joey showed up again, Dugan slapped his glass down on the table, grabbed the imposter by the collar and shoved him against a dart board.
“Where’s Joey?” he screamed.
“You are fucking not!”
Everyone in the bar stared, and I started to get worried we’d get kicked out, so I took it upon myself to calm Dugan down. It took a little convincing, but somehow I managed to get the big guy to let New Joey go. The three of us moved to a table and attempted a more peaceful conversation.
I showed New Joey a picture on my phone of the three of us—the original three—and asked him to explain.
New Joey, maybe still a little freaked out from his encounter with Dugan, let out a resigned sigh.
I waved at him to stop like flagging a taxi. “What do you mean, traded?”
New Joey continued on undeterred. “I really think we could be good friends if you guys just gave me a chance.”
Dugan pounded the table. “Answer his question. What do you mean, traded?”
After some hesitation, New Joey said, “There’s a website called LifeTrade. It’s kind of like a matchmaking site, only it’s not for dating.” He said this last bit with a chuckle. “Basically, the website finds people with compatible lives and you pick the one you want to trade with.”
I still didn’t get it. “Trade what?”
“Trade lives. Ever seen Trading Places? It’s a lot like that, only more permanent.”
“But you can’t just trade places with someone,” I protested. “I mean, what would your boss say?”
“Life Trade works with your job to manage the change,” he explained. “You get the other person’s job, no questions asked. I mean, obviously you still have to do good work to keep it, but other than that it’s pretty seamless.”
Dugan shook his head in disbelief. “Joey’s boss is okay with you just stepping in?”
“So far, so good.”
“How did you know about us?” I asked.
“When you agree, they give you this big booklet with details on the other person’s life. Plus, we had a few video chats to ask each other questions.”
It was a lot to take in, and I really wished I had a beer. But there was still something nagging at me which I had to ask
Life Trade by Adam Bender / Humor / Science Fiction have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on18 votes