Change Partners

Posted: November 8, 2014 in Uncategorized
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The following is a response to my writers’ group prompt: “Take two to three words from a song and write a story”. Change Partners is a song by Stephen Sills.




Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about setting up a menage a trois. Why? Maybe it’s because I lead such a vanilla life. How “vanilla” a life? I’m a CPA. And if that doesn’t sound vanilla enough, let me add a few other clues:

I drive a station wagon. Not just any station wagon, but you know the one with the fake wooden side panels? Yeah, that one. I’ve had it ever since I inherited it from my parents as they sent me off to college at, where else? Purdue University in Indiana. The heart of vanilla country.

Despite how absolutely nerdy I feel and look driving this car, it comes with a story too good not to share. And, it’s part of the reason I have it in the first place. If you were able to look in the back seat – all the way in the backseat,  you would find a couple of words carved into the faux leather seat covering. They’re all but faded now, with only a semi-perceptible outline remaining. After all, the car is over twenty-five years old. I’m twenty-three. So, if one did the math correctly – and trust me, as a certified, licensed, board approved, vanilla laced CPA living in the heart of nowhere, USA, you’d pretty much be able to figure out what those carved words actually say. Okay, so maybe you can’t. Let me fill in the blanks:

Stanley Norman Alexander Preston, 6-12-83

Yep, that’s good ol’ me, Stanley. Or, SNAP for short. You see, twenty-three years ago, on a warm summer’s night, in the back of my parents’ (now mine) very vanilla, very classic station wagon with the fake wood paneling, semi bald tires and gas guzzling tank, I was conceived – a child born of passion, lust, and the unfortunate by-product of a swingers’ party.

Six years ago, my mom and dad were struggling to get along. Mom had always been the happier one of the two. Dad, well, he was a bit of a prick to both mom and me. I never actually understood why until THE FIGHT happened. Oh sure, I’ve heard them yelling and snapping at each other often – what kid doesn’t grow up hearing their parents fight? Mine were no exception. They’d find the silliest things to argue about – the toothpaste cap was left off, there wasn’t enough gravy for the mashed potatoes, anything unexpected, out of order or just plain annoying to either of their perfectly boring lives was perfect fodder for an argument. But, after a few nits had been picked fairly raw, they’d usually run out of steam and eventually just head to their separate corners – mom to her sewing room and dad to his garage, to find something to dither over until the storm had completely passed.

So it was a bit of a shock, needless to say, when I was studying in my bedroom one night and noticed that the volume of their argument was much higher than any other one they’d ever had. I tried to shut it out the best I could and just cranked up my radio a bit higher. That worked for a while until I heard the crash and subsequent sound of glass shattering in the room across from me. I dashed out of the room to see what had broken, when I heard my mother screeching at the top of her lungs “YOU ARE STILL PAYING FOR  HIS COLLEGE, REGARDLESS OF YOUR PATERNITY, YOU SELFISH ASSHOLE!” My father was cowering in the corner, hands and arms covering his face, small shards of glass glittering in his hair. I wasn’t sure what to do so I just stood there – stunned to all hell, as both my mom and dad (what had I just heard? something about paternity?) rushed over to me and, fight forgotten, pulled me into the living room and forced me down on the couch.

“Son,” mom smoothed her mini-skirt down, crossed her legs and folded her hands in her lap, trying to regain as much composure as possible. Dad took a seat in his leather recliner, leaned back and began picking glass fragments out of his hair. His purpled cheeks said he would need a lot of time to calm down before he could speak, unless we wanted to witness a brain aneurysm happen right there in the living room of 4714 Vanilla Drive, Anywhere USA. Mom continued.

“Son, I am so, so sorry you had to hear what you just did. It was never our plan or intention to mention the subject ever again. We –your dad, er – um, George over there – and I promised ourselves we’d do everything we can to give you as normal a life as possible…um, uh –” Mom was trying, and failing miserably, to get through the story with as little discomfort as possible. Dad just sat there quietly as the blood continued to drain from his face. I, on the other hand, was growing increasingly confused. I begged mom to continue.

“Well, son…here’s the thing,” she stammered a bit, but held on long enough to offer a partial explanation. “When we–” mom pointed to dad, then back to herself “When we were newly married, we, um…kinda. Oh how do I tell you this? We –”

“For God’s sake, Norma, let me do this.” Dad was back to his normal cranky self. I turned to look at dad and, perhaps for the first time, saw that his features and mine didn’t quite match. I had brown hair, brown eyes, and  he had blond hair and blue eyes. I was short and squat, he was tall and thin. As for mom, she was a redhead and from what I know about redheads, they’re sort of a mishmash of genes. Mom was a mutt, so I could have come out anything but albino and mom would have been able to pass off her very differently featured son as hers. My true dad, however, was obviously not the man who I have watched fall asleep in his recliner every night at 8:45 since I was old enough to remember. I felt a little panicky, I must admit.

The man I no longer thought was my dad continued, “Stan, it’s like this. Your mother and I were in a real romantic funk. We had stopped having the kind of mind-blowing, roll your eyes in the back of your head, blow the top off –” “GEORGE!’ my mother interrupted, “I think he’s got enough of an idea…” she chided. She was right. I really did not want to, or need to, hear about my parent’s sex life. For all I had convinced myself, they hadn’t had sex since I was born. However, George insisted on barging forward with the story. I think he was enjoying the memory, to be honest.

“Norma was feeling a bit randy one day, and since it was so close to my birthday, I decided to toss out an idea so wild, so foreign to the both of us, that we needed a bit of time to get used to it. You see, we wanted to find another couple to join us in the bedroom.” I started feeling nauseated. Was I really sitting here hearing about my parents having sex with another couple? What the hell?

“We found the couple through a newspaper ad. Sure, it was a huge risk to take – we were worried they’d come over, hurt us,rob us blind, then steal the station wagon and drive off. The wagon was brand new and back then, it was quite the car because of the space in the back, if  ya know what I mean.” Dad winked at me knowingly. Even though I was seventeen, and knew exactly what he meant, my only thought was eww, eww, eww. I wanted to put my hands to my ears and roll into a ball on the floor. This was becoming more and more unbearable to hear. But of course, dad needed to finish because, we’ll he’s a guy and, now that I’m the age he was when all this was going on, I get how important it is that he bond with his son over sex. It’s a right of passage, so I’ve been told.

“Anyways, things were going along smoothly, Norma and John – that was the guy’s name, and me and Deb – that was his wife’s name, were flirting with each other. I had the booze out and was serving drinks all around. The alcohol was passed between us like a water jug. Then, things just got wildly out of control.” Dad paused a moment, the memory obviously right in front of his eyes. Mom, meanwhile was caught between awkward and titillated. I didn’t know. I really didn’t want to know anything at that point. I just knew things were about to get really uncomfortable for me.

“One thing led to another. Mom and I were together one minute, enjoying each other’s bodies, then out of the blue someone would yell, “Change Partners!” and we’d all shift positions like some kinky game of musical chairs.” Dad poured himself a bourbon on the rocks. Mom finished it up for me, but only after scrubbing the story clean.

“Stan, the man you think is your dad, really isn’t. John, the guy from Dad’s story, is actually your father. He and I had a wild romp in the back of the station wagon. Unfortunately, we didn’t think about protection until it was too late. And,” mom shrugged her shoulders matter-of-factly and finished, “here you are, years later, getting ready for college. We’re so proud of you, son!”

Mom had a way of finishing stories with absolute finality. I could hear from the tone in her voice that what they just told me was all they were going to say on the subject. It was over, done, and life was to go on. However, I had one final question to ask them. I wanted an honest answer, too.

“Mom, dad – can I still call you dad?” I sputtered out. “How do you know dad isn’t my father? After all, weren’t, man this is awkward, all screwing each other at the same time?” There, it was out. “I was really hoping that dad–I pointed to the man in the recliner–THIS dad, I mean, was my real dad. But, now that I know what  happened, I was wondering if I could see a picture of my possible dad?”

Mom snapped her fingers together in an aha! motion and hopped up quickly. “Of course! That’s it! Let me go dig out one of the pictures we took. Geez, we were all so drunk, I don’t remember much about that night except for the other couple’s names. I’ll be right back.”

As mom was searching through her closet for a long ago picture of who might possibly be my real dad, the only dad I had ever known was drifting off to sleep in the recliner, empty rock glass still in his hand. Obviously that wasn’t the first drink he’d had all day. I was still trying to wrap my head around the whole story when I heard mom shouting from upstairs. She was whooping and hollering like crazy!

Dad was startled awake again, and rocketed out of his chair like someone had just set his hair on fire and his ass was catching up. Mom flew down the stairs, shaking an old Polaroid picture pinched between her right thumb and pointer finger. She was practically bursting with excitement. I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck. I was about to see who my real dad was. I wasn’t sure what to think about anything at this point.

Mom came barreling into the living room and ran right to dad, holding the picture up to his face and grinning from ear to ear. Dad took the picture between his two fingers, shook his head back and forth a couple of times, whistled softly between his two teeth. He looked from the picture to me, then back again. Then, he started to laugh – a deep, belly laugh that practically shook the pictures off the wall. I watched the two of them as they huddled together and hugged each other, laughing so hysterically mom had tears streaming down her cheeks. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just asked, “Well, can I see his picture?”

Dad caught his breath one final time, wiped the tears from his eyes and said, “Oh son, there is no doubt I’m your father.” I perked up, hoping of all hopes that he was being one hundred percent honest with me this time. I asked, “What makes you know for sure?” I challenged him. Dad took the photo between his fingers and chuckled one last time. He turned it towards me and said,

“Because John and Deb, well, they are both black.”

I guess I really am “vanilla” after all.




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