(NOTE: The following is the final installment of four parts that make up the continuation of my debut book from Eraserhead Press, Muscle Memory, picking up the storyline on the day after the first book ended. If you read the book, then I hope you have enjoyed more of this story, which you will be able to download an either a PDF or eBook soon. If you haven’t read the the first part of Muscle Memory but want to get in on this fun, you can find it on Amazon.com: CLICK HERE. Thanks – Steve)
Part IV – Well, That Didn’t Work (READ IT HERE)
Part V – Roadtrip! (READ IT HERE)
Part VI – Matt Lauer, Muthafucka! (READ IT HERE)
What Would Kirk Cameron Do?
If I wasn’t freaking out and running for my life, I would be rolling on the ground laughing my ass off. The machine worked. Oh man, did it work. The SWAT guys shat themselves. Nobody cared about us anymore, especially when Joey turned on them with his SWAT guy rifle and chased them off.
OK, real quick:
I’m back in Tina and Rico’s back in himself. He seems pretty pleased about it. Just keeps looking at his hands and gurgling. Personally, I’ve never been happier to be sporting a set of tits and a va-jay-jay again.
Unfortunately, Tucker and Julia are back in each other, but compared to the alternative – our corpses lying back in the mine, leaking from a hundred bullet holes – they seem to be pretty cool with it.
Joey made out like a bandit. He switched with the SWAT guy that was nearest to him. He went from a skinny white dude with a taser to a badass SWAT honcho with a machine gun and all kinds of sweet gear. As soon as the switch went down, he sprung on the rest of his crew, knocking them over and generally scaring the hell out of them by pointing his gun in their suddenly unfamiliar faces. They didn’t know what was happening, and before they knew what hit them, we were gone.
We’re coming up on the house now and the light’s starting to fade. Joey checks the lay of the land, but there don’t seem to be nobody around. No need to be here, I suppose, when they knew we were in the mine.
Julia stops and everybody turns to look at her. “OK, we need a plan,” she says in her newly re-acquired Tucker voice. “What do we do now?”
“We need to get you guys switched back,” Joey says.
“What about you?”
Lord knows where Joey’s real body is now. Since we got the van, Tim has been MIA and I’m guessing they got him, or he went back and turned himself in. That would explain how they knew where to find us.
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll take care of that on my own time. But you folks need to get straight and then disappear.”
I say, “What about Edgar?”
“Nothing we can do for him, either, if he’s alive. Besides, they have his real body and there’s no way we’ll be able to get to that. This is the best we can do for you now.”
It’s a shitty deal, and I hate to do it to Edgar, but SWAT Joey is right. There’s nothing we can do for him. It won’t be long before the BODY SWAP team stops freaking out and comes after us. My guess is they’ll be plenty pissed, too, and won’t be stopping to tell us to get on the ground this go around. We are most definitely out of time.
“Alright,” I say to Joey, “how do we do this?”
“Tucker and Julia, you two head home and stay together.”
I look and Rico. “What about us? We just got him right. I can’t be switching back with my son again.”
“About that…” Joey grabs my arm and leads me toward my house. “Listen, we need to try something radical here.”
“Radical like how?”
“Like, put Rico in his crib, make him nice and comfortable, close the door to his room to make sure none of your pets and anyone else goes in there. Then you go over to Tucker’s barn and have a seat on the ground where you guys buried your body.”
Actually, that makes a hell of a lot of sense. Kind of wish I would have thought of that last night.
But that also means one of two things will happen. Either I stay who I am because Tina’s really dead, or one more switch puts me where I belonged in the first place.
“You understand what that means, right?”
I look SWAT Joey in the eyes and nod, but my “Yep” gets stuck in my throat.
“OK,” he says. “You get there right now and wait about ten minutes. I’ll head back the way we came, throw the switch on the machine one more time, and hold off the SWAT guys for as long as I can. As soon as the switch goes down, Tucker and Julia will come check on Rico and… Tina. Or whichever one of you is in there. And you all jump in a truck and get the hell out of here. Find a way through the containment line. You should be able to get out because everything is in disarray. There’s bound to have been switches all over the line and the longer we wait, the longer they’ll have to collect themselves. We have to move fast before they can get square again.”
“There’s a lot left to chance in this plan,” Julia says.
“I know, but what options do we have left?”
Julia just nods ‘cause she can’t think of anything better. Tucker comes up to me and wraps Julia’s arms around my Tina shoulders. “Dude,” he says. “If I don’t get another chance to say this, I want you to know you’re my best friend.”
He lets go and steps back. It’s getting dark out, but I’m pretty sure I can see tears in his eyes. “Same to you, dude.”
Julia puts a meaty Tucker hand on my shoulder and squeezes. “Good luck, Billy. No matter what happens, we’ll be there for Rico and Tina. Or you.”
They linger another second and then hurry off to their house. I pump Joey’s hand and say the only thing I can think to say to him. “Thanks.”
He nods. “Hurry up, now. You’ve got ten minutes and then I’m throwing this switch.”
He takes off into the woods.
I head for home.
* * *
I clean Little Rico up and he’s asleep before I get him in the crib. I know I ain’t got much time, but I stay there an extra minute to look at him. I know that it’s probably the last time I’ll get to. I want to stay there and rock him and smell him and listen to him breathe, but I can’t. There’s no more time for that. I kiss him on his forehead and close the door behind me.
Demolisher and Princess Diamond Roses are sitting in the living room watching me.
“You two, stay there. This will all get right real soon.”
Princess Diamond Roses barks at me in response and Demolisher lifts a huge Mastiff paw to his mouth and licks it, clearly not interested in anything I have to say.
Tucker’s barn is kind of a wreck from the party there the night before. Rubber bullets are still all over the ground from when the SWAT dudes shot up Danny Boy. But they ain’t playing with kid gloves this time. No more rubber bullets. This shit got real. I rip away the yellow caution tape over the door and sit down on the ground in front of Tucker’s truck. Just below me is me. And her.
I close my eyes and set my palms on the dirt floor. Any minute now, Joey will throw the switch, and I’ll find out if I’m dead.
But first, a shuffling sound nearby disturbs the silence inside the barn. I open my eyes and look up at a dark form standing before me, backlit by the fading sunlight of the day. For a second, I think maybe I’m having another dream, like the night before. Maybe Terry Bradshaw has come back to answer my questions again, put everything straight for me before the final switcheroo.
But it’s not Terry Bradshaw, God rest his Super-Bowl-winning soul.
A flashlight clicks on in my eyes and the beam blinds me for a second, then it’s gone. I open my eyes and look at the illuminated face hovering before me in the darkness of the barn.
What the fucking shit? Did the switch happen? Am I imagining this? Am I already in Hell? That must be it, I died and now I’m in Hell.
“You’re probably wondering what I’m doing standing here.”
“Are you the angel of death, Kirk Cameron?”
He laughs and clicks the flashlight off. “No, I’m not the angel of death. I’m looking for something.”
I can’t even begin to imagine what Kirk Cameron would be looking for in my neighbor’s pole barn, in the middle of a quarantined area, so I ask him to explain himself. “Um…”
“Actually,” he says as he squats in front of me and switches off the flashlight, “I’m looking for a machine. I’m sure you know what machine I’m talking about.”
“Small, really lightweight, kind of looks like something that was made out of Home Shopping Network products?”
“Yeah… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Kirk laughs. “It’s OK, I’m not going to hurt you over it.”
“You hurting me wasn’t really what I was worried about, Kirk Cameron.”
“Here’s the thing: I need to find that machine. It’s pretty important and it’s kind of my job.”
“How is finding an alien switcheroo machine your job? Ray Comfort put you up to this, didn’t he?”
Kirk Cameron sidles over and sits next to me on the ground. “No, nothing like that. Ray Comfort and I really aren’t friends. Actually, much of my public persona is really a front. In all honesty…” He pauses for effect and looks me in the eyes, the auburn sunlight faintly illuminating half of his face. “I’m an undercover agent.”
“Ha!” I accidentally spit on him a little. “You’re shitting me, right?”
He smiles congenially and wipes my saliva off his cheek with the back of his hand. “Sounds totally nuts, right?”
“Which is why it makes me the perfect covert agent.”
“Covert agent for who?”
“That’s Top Secret.”
“Fine, don’t tell me. But at least explain what the hell you’re doing here.”
“Like I said, I’m looking for the machine.”
“How do you even know about the machine?”
“Well, it all began in 1987-”
“Hold up a sec, dude. Is this a long story?”
“It was going to be, yeah. Why?”
“Because in, like, two minutes, the switcheroo machine is going off again to set us straight. But if you’re here, you’re going to be stuck in my wife’s body, and I’m going to be stuck in yours. And I don’t think either of us wants that.”
“You’re right. You want the short version?”
Kirk Cameron cracks his fingers. “OK, here it is. The government came to me after the release of my body-switching film ‘Like Father, Like Son’. Seems that a switching machine really did exist and, based on my familiarity with the strange effects of body-switching, coupled with my unique ties to a very specific situation, I was the only man for the job.”
“That really doesn’t explain why they chose you.”
“Because of my connection to its inventor.”
“Really? How’d he build it?”
“Aliens showed him.”
“Where is he now?”
“Aliens took him.”
“Why do you need the machine?”
“That’s how I’ll find him.”
“Aliens leave a forwarding address on it or something?”
“So, where is it?”
“SWAT guy Joey has it.”
“Where’s SWAT guy Joey?”
I point out the door to the woods. “That way.”
Kirk Cameron nods and stands. “Then I’ll take it from here. Good luck, Billy. Thanks for your help.”
“You’re welcome, Kirk Cameron. Hope you find your pops. Now, you better get out of here before we do the flip-flop.”
Kirk Cameron heads for the door. Just before he leaves, I say to him, “I never saw any of your movies after you got all churchy.”
“That’s alright. They were bankrolled by the government to be used on captured insurgents as a form of psychological torture, anyway.”
“And that whole crocoduck thing? That’s real, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.”
“I knew it.”
“Take care, Billy.” He looks down at the ground beneath me. “I’m sure when this is over, your wife and kid will be fine.”
Kirk Cameron smiles and turns and walks out the door, disappearing into the dusk.
It’s real quiet after he leaves. No crickets making noise, none of the normal night sounds. I wonder if they’ve switched as well. Nothing is what it was before. Nothing will be again, either.
I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Even once all this gets set right, it’ll still be different. No, that’s not a bad thing at all. I guess that’s the way it was supposed to be, anyways.
There’s a lot I still don’t know, won’t never learn the answers to. And you know what? I’m good with that. There ain’t answers for every little thing. Sometimes, it’s got to be matter over mind.
But as I look up into the bright blue flash of light that’s filling the evening sky, I am certain of one thing: Kirk Cameron is right.
I’m sure my wife and kid will be fine.