Gabor Nogradi

The Story

of Pie

Chapter One

   THE SWAP

One bright spring morning, eleven year old Pete Peters was awakened by the sound of his heel bumping into the foot of the bed.

         ”What’s going on?” he wondered. “Has my bed shrunk in the night? I must be dreaming. Okay... so, let’s have a go at flying!” he said as he stretched his legs so he could leap out of bed and fly, just how he always did when he was dreaming.

He shouldn’t have done it. He kicked the end of the bed, then bounced right back and knocked his head against the headboard.

“Ouch!” he yelled, “I’m not dreaming after all! In that case, what’s happening to me?”

He opened one eye and was astounded to see two huge feet peeking out from under the duvet. Two hideous, hairy feet! As he fixed his eyes on the two outlandish apparitions, he gulped like a toad that had spotted a stork.

“What’s happening, Pie?” he asked no one in particular as he gave a good look around. Pie was the nickname his mum and dad had given him when he was a baby.

“Is this a joke?” he continued, hoping that maybe his dad had climbed into his bed during the night and stuck out his feet to trick him. On second thoughts, however, that didn’t seem likely. No, it wasn’t likely at all.

Dr. Adam Peters, a psychologist, was a sad man ever since the family lost Pie’s mum to a malignant illness. He never played jokes on him, he was always too busy. He had to make calls, read the papers, write reports, attend meetings, do the bookkeeping, then check the accounts. Hurry, hurry, hurry, he was always on the run.

Each day Dr. Peters came home late from the television studios where he worked, producing children’s TV shows. When he got home, he went straight to his room. And if he did speak to Pie, Pie wished he hadn’t, because his father usually had a go at him for some insignificant errors not even worth mentioning. “You broke it, you forgot it, you didn’t wash it, you tore it, you dropped it, you forgot to buy it, you didn’t eat it, why did you throw it out, and why didn’t you throw it out?” And before Pie realised it, they were arguing over something that could have been smoothed over with a kind word or two.

When Pie’s mum was still alive, life was so much better. When Pie’s mum was still with them, Pie’s dad often took the time to play with him.

 

Pie watched the two huge feet for a while. Maybe he was just hallucinating. He was very good at putting his imagination to work.

“Giant feet! Be gone!” he muttered as if he were a wizard.

But those feet stayed right there at the end of his bed. He decided to wiggle his toes. If they moved, the legs belonged to him. If not, then he must be lying in bed with two artificial legs. Both possibilities scared the bejesus out of him. He took a deep breath and…

Holy macaroni! Those toes were moving!

Then he had an idea. “I must be ill. If I put some ice on those feet, they’ll shrink back to normal.”

Once, he’d had an operation on his knee and it had swollen up badly. His mum had put cold, wet towels on it and the swelling slowly went down. Maybe he should start sponging his feet with cold water?

Pete looked at his arm, which was rapidly growing dark, brownish hair. Now he really started panicking.

“Am I turning into a monkey?” he yelled out loud. He heard a crusty, dust-in-the-cracks voice. This wasn’t his voice! It was his dad’s. He had a thin, high-pitched voice so that, in the school choir, Mr. Frederickson put him in the trebles. Next to the muscular, hairy arm he noticed some clothes in shreds. It reminded him of the new, blue pyjamas he’d got two weeks ago, the ones he hadn’t wet yet. (Since his mother had died, Pie had wet his bed quite a few times.)

in that,Pie took a closer look and realised fact it was the remains of his pyjamas, but they had been torn into pieces… in the night. It looked as if… that from one minute to the next… he had transformed into… No!!!! This was totally impossible!   

 

Yesterday an unexpected guest had arrived. Uncle Larry, Pie’s mum’s brother had paid a visit. Uncle Larry had always been a strange man, with a bearish figure. He had white hair and a white beard. He was a lone ranger, who spent all his time travelling around the world and had no other family. He came to see the Peters a few times a year, but since his sister’s passing, he hasd become a frequent visitor. Pie’s tight-lipped uncle had flown in from Iceland the previous night and was going to fly to South Africa the following morning – a beautiful country at the bottom tip of the hot African continent. Uncle Larry had always been like that. He was a true roadrunner. He’d been on the road all his life. He was a businessman – whereever he went, he bought and sold unusual stuff. Pie loved his uncle. His dad was an anxious man while his uncle gave off a feeling of calm, quiet and mystery. He smiled like a peaceful sorcerer.

Landing from the North, heading South!” he announced when he had arrived at the Peters’ home.

He made himself supper, as he always did, then parked himself in the lounger, the green one that his sister, Pete’s mum had cherished so much.

“Just look at him!” Adam pointed to his son. “He isn’t studying anything like he should.” Pie’s father was glad to grab a chance to file a complaint to a relative. “He got D for maths. How can you get a D? I always got As when I was a kid. I don’t know what he’ll grow into.”

”Want to know what I’ll be?” Pie talked back to his father. ”I will bejust like you guys – grown-up!”

 

”You hear that, Larry? He thinks being an adult is nothing but a joyride.”

”Well, it’s a whole lot better than being a child, that’s for sure!” nodded PetePie. ”You don’t have to do homework and do what everyone else tells you all the time. Come here! Go there! Stand up! Sit down! Be quiet! You got a C! You’re grounded!”

”Aaah, you poor thing. What a terrible life you have. I think I’m going to burst into tears – I feel so sorry for you!”

”You should feel sorry for me!” retorted PetePie. Do you have any idea what I hear at school all day? Up to the board, Pete! Answer me, Pete! Stop talking, Pete! Have you done that exercise, Pete? Why haven’t you finished your project, Pete?...”

”You know what? I wish I could be in your position!” lamented his father. ”I wish I had nothing else to do but go to school and study and stand at the whiteboard... Whatever happened to the good old days...eh?”

”Good old days...?!” grinned Pete, mocking his father. ”Oh yeah! I’m su-uuure you’d rather worry about getting bad marks than just sit watching telly at work all day, right?”

Adam took a stunned look at his brother-in-law.

”Can you hear what I have to put up with? This ridiculous boy thinks that all I do at work is watch TV. This child is something else, I’m telling you. You know what, son? You want to do a swap with me? Okay, let’s switch over! You be the adult, if that’s what you want. And I will be the child ­– with pleasure!”

Pete’s eyes sparked with excitement.

”Are you being serious? That would be so cool! Yes!!! Let’s swap! Go on Dad, please!”

Adam turned back to his brother-in-law.

”What do you think, Larry? Look at this feisty little rut-rag. What shall I do with him?”

Uncle Larry slowly stroked his beard.

”Well, leaves fall straight off the tree, don’t they? And all trees grow straight from the roots.” He paused, then added: „Apples just won’t ripen before they’re ready.”

Both father and child had puzzled looks on their faces. What on earth did the idea that they could even think about changing bodies have to do with trees and apples? They were having a hard time following what the old man was talking about.

Adam and Pete spent the rest of the evening watching TV. It was not until the next morning they realized that Uncle Larry had gone silently on his way.

 

PetePie stood in front of his bedroom mirror. He knew that normally, he was supposed to see his own reflection staring back from that mirror. The trouble was, this morning, he wasn’t looking at himself, he was looking at his father.

”Hi, Dad!” he waved sheepishly.

The image in the mirror waved back and said ”Hi, Dad!”

PetePie gave the mirror a dumbfounded smile. And in the mirror, his father smiled too.

Only – it wasn’t his dad... It seemed like his dad, because he could see his dad... but he could also see himself, Pie, being his dad right now – in the mirror.

”You must be joking!” he whispered.

 

PetePie suddenly had a wild idea. He thought that if it wasn’t a dream, he might have gone crazy. He must be crazy if he was seeing things that didn’t exist. But no, surely he couldn’t be crazy. His pal, Steve Wright said that a lot of mad people in hospitals think they are Napoleon or Jesus Christ. He had read it somewhere. But he, PetePie, did not just think he was his dad. Because when he looked into the mirror, he was actually his dad. He could see it! So he wasn’t crazy. Moreover, he actually liked what he saw. He was tall, athletic, hairy. In a word – manly! With his stubbly cheeks, he resembled one of the criminal Beagle Boys in old Scrooge McDuck comics. If he went to school like this... now, that was gonna be some fun! First he would grab the neck of that McCulloch lad, the one who was always bullying him at school. McCulloch was red haired and three inches taller than PetePie, and he was always punching him on the arm. It was really painful. But now, he could take him and wipe the floor with him. Easy!

All the girls would see how he, PiePeters could beat the scary big creepy McCulloch. And the girls would all be totally impressed with him. Especially Sandra Kowalski. When PetePie thought about Sandra, he had a curious uneasy grin. Sandra, with her blond hair and blue eyes. When she entered the class room, the sun was shining and so was she.

 

PetePie felt his father’s fingers (which were now his fingers) twitch nervously. Hang on a second! He couldn’t go to school like this, could he? No one would believe that he was Pete Peters, a Year 7 pupil from Downlands Middle School. The thought of meeting the head teacher sent a chill down his spine.

”Good morning, Mrs. Gibson!”

”Good morning! Can I help you, Sir?”

”It’s me, Mrs. Gibson! Pete Peters!

”What? Pete? You? Ha-ha! Did you hear that children kids? He says he’s little Pete...!”

”I am! I swear! I sit in row three, at the window...”

”What’s wrong with you, Sir? Are you out of your mind? You are a grown man! What do you want from the children...?”

”No, you don’t understand! I am little Pete. You must believe me!”

”Help! A madman has entered the building! Help! Someone call 999! Sir, if you do not leave these premises immediately, I am calling the police...!”

 

PetePie sat on his bed, watching his monstrous, giant knees shaking. Okay, so he couldn’t go to

school, because nobody would believe him. And what about his dad? Oh, my God, what will Dad say when he sees how I’ve changed? What if Dad thinks he’s bumping into himself in the kitchen, like that chubby security guard in the second Swarzenegger movie, when he was 'the good' Terminator?

 

Dad would be scared to death!

 

Pete slowly stood up, opened the door and sneaked out of his room. There at the end of the corridor was his parents’ bedroom. Well, his dad’s bedroom now. Pete stalked to the end of the corridor and knocked on the door. There was no reply. Slowly, he grabbed the handle and opened the door. He peeked into the bedroom. His dad was not in the king size bed. The shutters were still down. He did not want to scare his father. He squatted down as if he were tiny again. He tried to speak with a thin, childish voice.
”Dad...!” he whispered into the subdued light. ”It’s me! Something’s happened, but please don’t be cross with me... There’s nothing exactly wrong with me. I’ve just grown a little bit... But I am fine! Are you here?”

 

Pete was now crouching on all fours, cautiously approaching his father’s bed, just like a lion creeping up on its prey. Suddenly he heard a bewildering sound. PetePie heard a little boy’s voice. He had heard this voice before. It was his own voice!

”Stay exactly where you are!” the voice said, then repeated it louder: ”PetePie, stay where you are!”

Pete was numb with fear, hardly capable of wiggling a finger, let alone moving anywhere.

  

   

 
 

© 2020 by Gabor Nogradi. All rights reserved.