Updated date:

Skewed - a Short Story

Author:

DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.

j-hunter-warren-a-short-story

Dean woke up in a bed that seemed familiar but not quite right, somehow. There was someone in the bed next to him, yet he could sense it wasn’t Viki. He opened his eyes and looked around. It seemed to be his bedroom, only the color of the walls wasn’t the faint rose color Viki had painted them. Scooter’s dog bed was missing from its place next to the door to the storage room over the garage.

I must still be asleep and dreaming, Dean thought.

The person in bed next to him stretched and yawned. Now Dean was sure the person wasn’t Viki. Dean knew what it sounded like when Viki yawned. After twenty years of marriage, he should.

Dean rolled over onto his back. He looked at the ceiling and noted that the ceiling fan looked different. At the same moment, Dean realized he didn’t have on the boxers he usually wore to bed. He didn’t have on anything at all.

Very slowly, Dean turned his head to look at whoever was in bed with him. What he saw made his heart stop in his chest. Long, light brown hair framed a narrow, pretty face. Eyes brown like maple syrup looked back into his. A slender, tanned arm propped up this lovely face.

“It’s too bad we don’t have time to do anything, J, but you need to leave before my roommates find you here.”

Who is J

j-hunter-warren-a-short-story

Dean blinked his eyes. Who is Jay? What is she talking about, roommates? For that matter, who is she?

The woman suddenly pulled back the sheet to reveal a body Dean realized was his from twenty years ago.

This dream just keeps getting stranger.

You’ve got to hurry and go. I’ll never hear the end of it from Shelly and Linda if they find out I’ve been with you again.”

She pushed him gently toward the edge of the bed. Dean took the hint, got out of bed, and headed for the door that should take him into the bathroom. He closed the door behind him and turned on the lights.

The room Dean found himself in was a bathroom, but it wasn’t his and Viki’s bathroom. Instead of the double sink, toilet, bathtub, and closet he expected to see, there was a pedestal sink, toilet, garden tub, and shower stall. There was a small set of shelves with towels and facecloths behind the door. A pair of cabinets with mirrored doors over the sink held the woman’s beauty supplies and other items one would typically expect to find in a bathroom cabinet.

Dean availed himself of the toilet and borrowed a facecloth and towel to wash up at the sink. He looked at himself in the mirror. The reflection looking back looked like him, only not as old. Dean shook his head and turned toward the shower stall. The woman seemed in a hurry for him to leave, so Dean didn’t think she’d appreciate him jumping in the shower.

This is turning out to be an incredibly detailed dream.

j-hunter-warren-a-short-story

The woman was waiting by the door when Dean walked out of the bathroom.

“I put your clothes at the foot of the bed,” she said, pointing. “Kiss me good-bye now and show yourself out. I’ve got to get ready for work. Saturday mornings are always busy, and Donna will have a fit if I’m late.”

“Uh, okay,” Dean managed to say. “When will I see you again?”

Huh, where’d that come from?

“You won’t. We’re not together anymore, remember. I broke up with you, remember. I got tired of waiting for you to make up your mind and ended it between us. Last night was a mistake. Now, you’ve got to get out of here before my friends find out you’ve been here.”

The woman went through the bathroom door, and Dean heard her fiddling with the lock. Not knowing what else to do, he got dressed and opened the bedroom door. After a careful check of the hall showed no one else stirring, both other bedroom doors were closed, Dean slipped out the door and went down the stairs.

He glanced into the living room when he reached the bottom of the stairs and stopped. Nothing in the living room was what it should have been. Dean took another step down and looked to his left. There was no door in the doorway leading into what should have been his and Viki’s home office. In the office was a dining room table and a matching hutch, not the desks and filing cabinets that should have been there.

This is getting a little too weird. I hope I wake up soon.

Slipping out of the house

Not daring to explore the house further, Dean unlocked and went out the front door. There was no storm door, as there should have been. He locked the door behind him and looked for the key to lock the deadbolt. It only took a moment to realize that if the house weren’t his, he wouldn’t have a key for the deadbolt, at least in the dream.

Taking a good look at the keys that he found in his pocket, Dean found a Ford key, a post office box key, a couple of smaller keys, and a house key that didn’t fit the door of the woman’s house. He pressed the unlock button on the Ford key. The parking lights on a blue F-150 at the end of the driveway blinked on and off.

If I had to dream up a truck, that’s the one I’d pick. It sure beats my old Pathfinder.

Dean walked to the truck, got in, and put the key in the ignition. Curious, he reached into the glove box and found the registration. The owner’s name was J. Hunter Warren, and he lived at 1338 Lost Hope Road, Building 4, Unit 402.

That explains why the woman was calling me J, but where is Lost Hope Road?

Dean put the registration back in the glove box. He reached into his other front pocket and pulled out a wallet. He searched the wallet and found a driver’s license. His picture was on the driver’s license. The picture looked twenty years too young. The name on the license was J. Hunter Warren, just like the registration. Dean read every detail on the license. The address was the same as on the truck’s registration. That didn’t surprise him. What did was the date of birth: August 12, 1981. J. Hunter Warren’s birthday was twenty years to the day after Dean’s own.

Why in the world would I dream that I am somebody who looks just like me, born twenty years later?

j-hunter-warren-a-short-story

The truck started right up, but as Dean reached to put it in gear, he realized he had no idea where he was going. He looked to the left and right. The neighborhood looked like his own. Some of the houses were a shade or two different. There was a white Buick sedan parked at the place next door instead of a black SUV. The three other cars in the driveway his Ford was in were all Honda’s – a blue Civic coupe, a maroon Accord sedan, and a yellow Insight. He had no idea which one the woman he’d woken up with drove.

When the truck started, a computer screen in the dashboard lit up.

“I wonder how I turn on the GPS,” Dean said aloud.

“GPS starting. Please state your destination,” a female voice said over the truck’s sound system.

“How about showing me the way home,” Dean instructed the voice.

“Calculating,” the voice replied. A moment later, it said, “Route calculated. Please follow the highlighted route on the screen.”

Dean took a last look at the house that stood where his house should be but wasn’t. The siding is darker, and the shutters are brown instead of blue. Viki would hate to see that.

A rear-view camera helped Dean get the unfamiliar truck out of the driveway. He experienced an odd form of déjà vu as he drove toward the end of the road. It was his neighborhood, only in many small ways, it wasn’t. At the Stop sign, he waited for a couple of cars to pass and then followed the GPS instructions to turn left. A glance at the road sign told him the road’s name wasn’t even the same as it should have been.

Not quite a mile later, Dean came to another intersection right where he expected to. What he hadn’t expected was to find a Port City Java in the little strip mall across the intersection to the right where Ricky’s Café should have been.

Could sure use a cup of coffee

I may be dreaming, but my dream self could sure use a cup of coffee, Dean thought. He ignored the GPS, drove straight through the intersection, and found a parking place near the coffee shop. Entering the shop, he was surprised to see a poster with his face hanging on the wall near the door. The poster said Waynesboro’s own JH Warren announces his newest book, BACK TO BOSUN BEACH. On the poster, JH Warren was standing on a beach holding a hardcover copy of the book. Along the bottom of the poster was a plug for what appeared to be other books by JH Warren, including BOSUN BEACH, BOSUN BEACH: DREAMING, BOSUN BEACH: TIDES CHANGE, BOSUN BEACH: HOPES ADRIFT, and GOOD-BYE BOSUN BEACH.

Dean scratched his head as he looked at the poster. Those kind of sound like my books, but I sure don’t have any posters up around town about them. And why would they say, ‘Waynesboro’s own’? I’m from Goldsboro.

Leaving the poster to ponder later, Dean walked up to the counter to place his order. The girl behind the counter stared at him.

“You’re him, aren’t you? You’re the writer, Mr. Warren. I heard that you used to come in here all the time before you moved to Wakeland Lake.”

Dean glanced back over his shoulder at the poster. “Yeah, I guess that’s me. It still takes me by surprise seeing myself on a poster like that.”

Maybe if I go along with it, I’ll get to the end of this dream faster. Viki will never believe all this.

“Can I get you to autograph a copy of BACK TO BOSUN BEACH for me?”

“Uh, sure. Do you have a copy handy?”

The girl reached under the counter and pulled a hardcover book out of her bag. She handed it to Dean. “Make it out to Ramsey, please.”

“Sure thing,” Dean said. He reached for the pen he always carried in his pocket and found one there. I guess Mr. JH Warren always keeps a pen on himself, too.

Flipping to the title page, Dean wrote:

For Ramsey,

May you always enjoy the sun on Bosun Beach!

JH Warren

j-hunter-warren-a-short-story

He handed the book back to Ramsey. “Thanks for being a reader. I hope you enjoy the book.”

“I’ve read all your books, Mr. Warren,” Ramsey gushed. “I can’t believe you walked in here today. I missed your book signing at Walden Books last month because I had to work. Oh, my mom is going to be so jealous.”

“Well, I’m glad you had a copy with you.”

The door chime sounded, and another customer came into the store. Ramsey looked over Dean’s shoulder at the new customer. “I’ll be right with you, Shelly. I just need to take Mr. Warren’s order first.”

“By all means,” Shelly said. “Finish the great J. Hunter Warren’s order first. I wouldn’t want to keep him waiting.”

Ramsey gave the older woman a puzzled look but didn’t say anything more to her. Instead, she asked Dean, “What can I get for you, Mr. Warren?”

“How about a large house blend with two creams and two sugars?”

“Coming right up,” Ramsey replied. The simple order took her little time to prepare.

In that little time, Shelly moved up closer to Dean and whispered harshly in his ear.

“Just what are you playing at, J, sleeping with Nikki last night. I can’t believe she let you drive her home. What happened to Steve?”

Dean squeezed his eyes nearly shut and digested what he’d just learned.

Evidently, Nikki is the woman I woke up with. This must be her roommate Shelly. Who is Steve?

Who is Steve

“Who is Steve?” Dean asked, verbalizing his last thought.

“Oh, like you don’t know,” Shelly hissed, pulling down on Dean’s sleeve. “Steve is Nikki’s fiancé. They’re getting married this June. At least they were. If he finds out she slept with you three months before the wedding, she won’t stay engaged for long.”

A vision flashed through Dean’s mind of a woman crying at a bar. The woman was Nikki. Dean realized it must be something J. Hunter was remembering through him somehow.

“For your information, Shelly, I can tell you what happened to Steve. I found Nikki at the bar at the club, crying. Steve had left her there and gone off with some other woman. I guess they’d both had too much to drink and had a fight. She needed a ride home, and by the time we got here, well, you know how it is with Nikki and me. She asked me to come in, and I did.”

“And how drunk were you, J?” Shelly accused.

“I was stone-cold sober, Shell. You know I don’t drink. You’re the one who has a problem with booze, if I remember correctly.”

A memory of Shelly and her late husband being heavily intoxicated and in a car wreck one New Year’s morning surfaced in Dean’s mind.

“Screw you, J. I haven’t had a drink since that night.”

“I would never screw you, Shelly, out of respect for Roger and because you’re Nikki’s sister.”

“As if I would ever let you. Just stay away from Nikki, J.”

“Or what?”

“Or nothing, just stay away from her.”

Shelly turned and stormed out of the coffee shop.

Ramsey cleared her throat. “Mr. Warren, I’ve got your coffee ready.”

Dean smiled at Ramsey. “You can call me J. How much do I owe you?”

“Two dollars and fifty-nine cents, J,” Ramsey told him, blushing lightly under her tan.

He looked in his wallet, and there was no cash. There were a couple of credit cards.

“Do you have our app on your phone?” Ramsey asked helpfully.

j-hunter-warren-a-short-story

Dean checked his shirt pocket and noticed there was a cell phone in it. The phone looked much like his and worked the same way. He found the icon for Port City Java and brought up the payment app. Ramsey scanned it, and when it asked if he wanted to leave a tip, Dean added two dollars.

“Thanks very much, J,” Ramsey said. “I hope you come back soon.”

Dean raised his cup to her and nodded. “Next time I’m in this neck of the woods.”

Sipping his coffee carefully, Dean left the coffee shop and got back in his truck. After starting it up again, he said to the GPS, “Take me home, darling.”

The voice of the GPS said, “Please follow the indicated route.”

The indicated route took Dean through Waynesboro to a gated community on the shores of a rather large impound lake. The guard at the gate stopped Dean only long enough to recognize him before waving him through.

“Good morning, Mr. Warren,” the guard called as Dean drove past.

“Good morning, Henry,” Dean called back through his open driver’s side window.

Now how did I know his first name? His name tag reads Brindle.

The GPS led him to Building 4, right on the lake, and a sign indicating which parking spaces belonged to Unit 402 showed him where to park.

There was a card reader on the wall near the door. Dean held J. Hunter’s wallet up near the reader and heard the solenoid on the door buzz. He opened the door and found himself in a nicely detailed lobby. To the right was a reception desk, to the left, a bank of elevators. Two other elevator doors were across the entrance on either side of the doors leading to the lake.

Above one of the elevator doors on the right was the number 402. Dean walked up to it, and evidently, the card reader on the elevator door picked up the card in his wallet because the call button, which had been glowing red, turned to green. The doors slid open as Dean got close. He stepped on board and turned around. The doors slid closed, and the elevator started up.

Going up

Only seconds later, the elevator stopped and opened onto an expansive living room. Dean looked to his left and saw a sliding glass door leading out onto a balcony that overlooked the lake. Past the sliding glass door was a hearth and fireplace.

I’ve never seen a fireplace like that, one that’s open in front and on the side.

Above the hearth was a flat panel that Dean thought looked like a screen. On a whim, he said, “Television on.”

The flat panel flickered to life. A menu appeared. Dean decided watching television wasn’t what he wanted to do right then. “Television off.”

He walked past the white leather and chrome matching love seat and sofa with the chrome and glass end table at the corner. The furniture was arranged for the best view of the television, not the view out the window.

The kitchen was separated from the living room by a breakfast bar. Three stools matching the living room furniture stood along the bar. A dining room with a glass and chrome table and six captain’s chairs of the same chrome and white design was to the kitchen’s right.

Whoever it is I’m dreaming I am; he’s got terrible taste. This place looks like it belongs in a lousy movie about the Eighties.

A hallway began just past the kitchen. Rooms branched off from either side of the hallway. The first room on the left was the master bedroom suite. Dean turned and walked in.

The decor of the bedroom was much more to Dean’s liking. Walls just a hint of light blue, wood furniture with a light maple stain – dresser, chest-of-drawers, bookcase headboard, and a small desk. The desk held a twenty-one-inch screen and a wireless keyboard and mouse.

“I wonder if there’s a laptop. I don’t remember seeing one in the truck,” Dean said aloud. “Maybe I just need to say computer on.”

He watched the screen for a moment, but nothing happened. “I guess that won’t work.”

j-hunter-warren-a-short-story

Dean continued through a door on the right side of the room between the desk and the chest-of-drawers. The door led into a bathroom. This was no ordinary bathroom.

In the center of the bathroom was a hot tub. The tub wasn’t just a garden tub; it was a full-on hot tub complete with teak decking on the floor around it. Directly over the hot tub was a huge skylight.

Along one wall was a double vanity sink, though only one sink had a toothbrush, what looked like a Water-pic, and a soap dispenser next to it. A blue towel hung on a ring attached to the wall next to the sink. The other sink was bare and looked like it hadn’t been used in a long time.

At the end of the double vanity was a closet. Dean opened it up and found just what he thought he would, an eclectic collection of towels.

Opposite the closet was a walk-in shower that Dean estimated could hold four people comfortably. Next to that was a room that looked like a larger closet. When Dean looked inside, he found the toilet.

I was starting to wonder where that was. I need to go.

After he finished in the bathroom, Dean returned to the bedroom to check out the drawers and the closet. There were a lot of blue jeans and golf shirts. The closet also had numerous sets of slacks and dress shirts. Dean even found several nice, light-weight suits.

“I assume these are the same clothes I wore yesterday,” Dean said, looking down at what he had on. “I’ll try out the shower and then see if some of these clothes fit.”

Half-an-hour later, dressed in his new - to Dean anyway – clothes, Dean returned to the kitchen to see what might be in the fridge. Much to his surprise, the fridge was empty except for a bottle of grape juice.

“Don’t tell me this guy eats out every meal?” Even as he asked himself the question, Dean realized the answer was yes.

Even dreamers get hungry

Dean decided to finish exploring the apartment. Across from the master suite were two bedrooms, a full bath, and a laundry room. One of the bedrooms was obviously a guest room. The other had been turned into a home office and den. Both bedrooms on that side of the apartment would have been master bedrooms in most homes.

Only the actual master bedroom and the home office seemed to have seen much use. The rest of the apartment hardly seemed lived in. Dean searched the phantom memory of J. Hunter Warren and learned that was the case.

Dean figured out how to start J. Hunter’s computer – it was an all-in-one - and used it to find someplace that would deliver lunch to the apartment. Then he determined how to let the desk attendant in the lobby know to expect the delivery. Thirty minutes later, the front desk rang to let him know his lunch had arrived. Dean took the elevator down to sign for the order. He added a generous tip to the bill.

“Thank you, Mr. Warren,” the delivery guy said in a surprised voice. “You enjoy that food, now, you hear.”

“I’m sure I will,” Dean said. He took the food and returned to the elevator.

Once back in the apartment, Dean took the food to what he’d decided to call the den and settled into the comfortable recliner in the corner near the window.

This is the weirdest dream I’ve ever had. It’ll make a great story to tell Viki when I wake up.


Meanwhile, in a house across town yet a dimension away, a confused J. Hunter Warren was trying to explain to a lady named Viki that his name wasn’t Dean, and he had no idea who she was.

© 2021 DW Davis

Comments

DW Davis (author) from Eastern NC on January 26, 2021:

Thank you, Bill. Your kind words are much appreciated.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 26, 2021:

We come from a long line, a rich tradition, of storytellers, and it is my humble opinion that what we do is important. We are in good hands with storytellers like you, my friend. Well done!

DW Davis (author) from Eastern NC on January 26, 2021:

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

The pandemic sent us into distance learning mode fourth quarter last year. This year, with masking, social distancing, and intense sanitiazing, we've been in-person since August.

Hope you're well and having a good New Year.

DW

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on January 25, 2021:

JW, all I can say is wow! What an interesting and suspenseful short story! It's nice to see you again on Hubpages. Has the pandemic affected your school teaching much?