It was about four p.m. when Andrew Barker drove into a small town which had a tinge of familiarity. Maybe it was because he’d seen so many of them on his drive.
As an average man he’d often been taken for someone else. Some one would approach, call him by some name, he’d turn, the stranger would stop, apologize, walk off.
It happened everywhere, even when he was living with Belinda. They’d be at the supermarket, someone would approach. Sometimes they mistook Belinda for some past school mate, or himself for a high school team member, because they were so average.
The stranger always realized, once it was fully face to face, they were wrong.
He was in this town, leaning against the car, watching life pass when a man, about fifty, came up and said, “Pete Paulson! Great to see you!”
Andrew smiled, nodded, waited for the guy to appreciate his mistake. The man continued to smile at him and said, “It’s me, Mitch Furrier!”
“Yeah Mitch!” Andrew replied, enjoying the charade, giving that strong handshake, waiting for a confused look to wash over Mitch’s face when he realised his error.
That didn’t happen.
Mitch began to ask questions about how long he’d be staying, if he’d stay at his folks place, and went on and on, so that within the short conversation Andrew Barker learned Pete Paulson’s parents had died three years before, the house was locked up and empty, save for the old maid, Agatha.
Andrew asked Mitch about himself, got some information. It was funny that Mitch didn’t notice his voice was ‘different’ from this Pete, and kept talking.
Andrew didn’t mind, it was a diversion. Then Mitch took him to the bar Pete had always gone to, bursting in with; “Look who’s back! It’s Pete!”
As Andrew entered, he was greeted by a half dozen men and three women, everyone talking, questioning, and he was smiling.
He couldn’t believe it. All these people, thought he was this Pete. He found it really funny. To drag out the game he answered their questions with dropped platitudes;
“Well, you know how it is…”
“Well,sometimes you see…”
“I never thought about it…”
As more people came in, more bits of Pete Paulson’s past came out.
Apparently, twenty years ago, Pete Paulson had left the town to join the Army. There were a lot of reasons why he’d left and never came back… each person had their own reason, some asking if he made up with his parents before they died, or if he had married.
Andrew he tossed a few more empty remarks really enjoying the show.
At some point they went over to his house. The women decided the place was too filthy for him to live in and would send their cleaners tomorrow morning to get the place livable. Pete was invited to stay with the Hudson’s and went.
He was trying to recall everyone’s name and face, knowing it was important. This woman was Carol May Hudson, that one was Cathy Bowen, this man was Dave Brown, this one was Al Williams, names and faces, smiles, and eye hooks.
Inside the Hudson’s house he was shown to his room, and Mrs. Hudson went to prepare dinner. Andrew bathed, changed his clothes, told to put his dirty thinks in the hamper to be laundered tomorrow.
He was feeling happier and more wanted than ever in his life.
It was soon meal time and he truly enjoyed the dinner. Mrs. Hudson told him she had made everything he liked.
They sat around watching the local news, talking about nothing much, and being tired he went to his room. He felt he belonged.
He decided he would be this Pete Paulson. He would love everyone in this town, he would want to be here, he would be grateful and happy. He fell asleep happy.
In the morning, it was as if he’d always been here. He ate breakfast with the Hudsons, and went with Elliot, the husband, to his gas station.
He helped out. While cleaning around back, he dropped his wallet, containing his Andrew Barker identity into the waste collector under the outside toilet, aware that the acid should dissolve it. The money was in his pocket.
Later on he’d mention losing his wallet. He was sure they’d help him get Pete Paulson’s identity papers, from birth certificate to driver’s licence.
Yes, gone was Andrew Barker. He’d become Pete Paulson, and even if he left the town, he’d still be Pete Paulson.
Unless of course the real Pete Paulson arrived.