The day Ralph and I changed places.

June 8, 2000

I stood in the rain on White Oak Hill. In the heat I was getting soaked, clothes and fur, but I didn’t move: tigers are known for not letting anything distract them.

I waited, like I was told. Tigers aren’t really known for obedience, but we all bend the rules sometimes.

The rain conspired against my senses. The smell of it kept me from being able to pick up his scent, the craschcade of water through the trees muffled any other noise, and the rain made every leaf vibrate so I couldn’t see anything unusual, either.

I was supposed to wait till noon. I shut my eyes and took in a breath.

If he had forgotten again…

I was knocked over on my back. I opened my eyes to find Ralph on top of me, grinning as if he’d won the lottery.

“Pig beats tiger. Hah!”

“You always beat me,” I said, struggling to breathe under his weight. “You don’t always roll me in the mud, though. Mud… why?”

“Kitties, kitties… always worrying about your fluffiness.”

“You don’t know what it’s like to have fur like mine.” I rolled him over into the mud and rubbed some in his face. “But we know your kind likes the muck, eh? Oink!”

He splashed mud all over my chest. “Oink,” he said. “I think you’d make a better pig, buddy.”

“And you’d be a better tiger, I’m sure.”

“You mean that?” he said.

“You’ve got a tiger’s confidence… more than me, anyway.”

“I can do it, you know. If you want… we can change places.”


“Just for a day,” he said. “I can be you, and you can be me.”

“You’ve done this before?”


“Show me,” I said.

Who is Ralph? I only know him from the outside, this crush I have on him.

I love the way he smells, but I guess that’s natural: he’s a pig, I’m a tiger. Of course, only barbarians eat other people, but there’s no difference in smell between high pork and low pork; when I spend too much time around him, I get hungry. So when we hang out, we’re usually going out for food. He doesn’t mind; he’s not a pig for nothing.

He drives a lift truck for a living. He spends his alone time working out, but most of his free time he’s hanging out with his friends. I should qualify that: it’s more that he goes places, and people follow and hang out with him.

Actually… it’s just me that follows him.

His house is always open, and I’ve gotten in the habit of coming over to hang out. And when he’d come home, he’d take me out for a walk. Or, we might go to dinner. On weekends, we might go camping, or drive to Mexico, or any kind of thing…

Either he loves me, or I’m just his sidekick. He’s never shown an interest in anybody, so far as I could tell.

I don’t know what he wants to do with his life. I suspect he’s living his dream already, but for all I know he’s still saving up for the flux capacitor he told me about when we first met as kids.

So. No deep substance or meaning. Why do I love him so? He loves himself; he never lets anything or anybody get in his way once he’s set his mind; and…

Well, I guess he just smells nice.

There was a sudden disorientation, and I found myself on the ground, straddling a filthy pig in the mud… the same position I was in a second ago. I felt dizzy and rolled off him, lying in the dirt. “What was that?” I said.

“I was so sure it’d work,” he said, sitting up. “That was supposed to be it. But I guess it doesn’t work.” He punched the tree, and out of nowhere a blanket fell on me. He laughed, and pulled it off me.

It would have been so nice… “Didn’t it work?” I said. “I mean… something happened, didn’t it?”

“I don’t know,” he said, clearing mud from my face. “I did feel dizzy for a bit…” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, tiger. I know you really wanted to try being me.”

I could tell he was really disappointed, too. But why? I’m nothing special.

Oh, right. He thinks I could be so much better.

He knows I’m lonely.

He doesn’t know I love him, though… at least, not like that.

“Tiger?” he said, wadding up the blanket and stuffing it into a sack. It was a blanket I’d slept in a couple of days ago at his place. He’d been waiting for me up in the tree, hiding his scent with it… “Tiger, you okay? I hope I didn’t…”

I shook my head. “No, I’m fine,” I said. “I just wanna get home, wash off, and lie down a bit.” I started putting my own stuff together. “I’ll meet you for lunch at the C.K., all right?”

I tried to figure it out on my way back to the dorm. Ralph’s known about this for almost a year now, but he’s never tried it, never told anybody.

I thought about that for a second.

How did I know that?

Then I had an idea: let’s assume it did work. Identity, memory, attitude… those are all encoded in the brain, which is just part of the body, right?

So if Ralph switched bodies with me, he’d have my identity, he’d have my memories… otherwise he wouldn’t really be me. Ralph would believe he was me, just like my body does.

But there wouldn’t really be a ‘switch’ unless something got carried over. Ralph’s self, Ralph’s memories… but where would they go?

Not in the ‘self’ part of the mind… that’s where my stuff is. It’d be pigeonholed up with everything else I know about him, ’cause in a way, that’s what it is.

I pulled into the parking lot and jumped out of the car.

So if it worked… I am Ralph, and I get to be tiger for a day. I peeled off my muddy clothes and jumped in the shower. The idea of secretly being Ralph was… pretty damn arousing.

My paw moved down to take advantage of the feeling, thinking about how Ralph would do it… and sensed something like his voice in my head, fuzzy like a bad radio signal.

No, tiger… let’s save that for later.

Oh, damn. I couldn’t move my paw. Well… I’m sure I could have—but I really didn’t want to. Ralph commanding me from the inside was more erotic than anything I could do to myself.

“What should I do, Ralph?”

He guided me through my shower. As my claws pulled through my fur, I thought of his manly fingers; every touch only got me harder, with the intensity of his arousal and mine together, but I was not allowed to do anything but clean myself.

Slowly and deeply I gave control to his will, like falling into a trance. By the time I got out of the shower, it was him moving my body, while I watched.

He looked me—himself—over in the mirror as he dried himself off and brushed himself down. I could tell: he likes my eyes. He likes the way I move. He likes the way my tail lies over the cleft of my natches. Oh damn. I sensed his voice again, with a promise:


Oh damn.

He looked through my closet. He doesn’t like most of my clothes. Usually I try to wear simple, subdued things, because it’s hard to find things that look right with stripes. Ralph usually goes for the bright colors; half his closet is stuffed with Hawaiian shirts.

He reached way into the back and pulled out a shirt my mother got me for Easter. I’d never worn it, because the colors were… a bit extreme. Also, pastel. I mean, seriously.

He put it on and showed me myself in the mirror again.

I don’t know why he likes it.

He put on a pair of my shorts—without underwear, as he usually goes—and lay out on my bed.

Enjoying being me.

“I love you too.” He said it out loud, in my voice but with his Southern accent.

‘Too’? I realized it was something he wanted to hear in my voice.

“I love you too.” I said it on my own.

My stomach interrupted with a ferocious rumble.

The clock beeped twelve.

He took control again and headed out the door, laughing. I have a lunch date with myself, and I’m late!

By the time we got to the C.K., Ralph already had a few skyscrapers of food piled up in front of him, chowing down with a look of intensity that disappeared as soon as he saw me.

“You’re okay!” he said. “I was afraid there might have been side effects from the botch. You haven’t been answering your phone.”

He didn’t know.

“My roommate must have turned off the ringer again,” I said, sitting down. “I’m sorry to worry ya, porker. Some of this food’s for me, I hope?”

We sat and ate for a while, and I thought. The Ralph in my head said, Your brain is smarter than mine.

No, I thought. I just believed in you.

“So what’s with the shirt?” Ralph said, clearing his last plate. “I never see you wearing anything nice like that.”

I thought: should I tell him?

Nah, nah, my inner Ralph said. This is fun.

“Laundry,” I said. “Haven’t had a chance to do the laundry. This, I had to wear this.” Both true—I really hadn’t done the laundry—but of course the cause-and-effect relationship I’d implied just wasn’t there. “Hate it.”

Hey, now.

Ralph looked me over. “Are you sure you’re all right?” he said. “You seem kinda… I dunno, antsy or somethin’.”

Ralph-in-me took over. “Dontcha gotta work today?”

Ralph laughed. “Not for a couple hours yet, y’know.”

“I know, I know… but we never actually did get our hike in.”

“Right, right,” he said. “Are you sure you still wanna go? I’m stuffed solid… I couldn’t possibly…” Despite this protest, he janked a couple of fries from my plate.

“Pfft… you’re a bottomless pit, and you know it. Still, we could hang out at my place.”

Your place?

“Your place?” D’oh!

“Your place, I mean.”

Ralph looked over his stack of empty plates. “Yeah… yeah, I could do with some relaxin’ before work. Let’s get out of here.”

We drove back to Ralph’s house and crashed on his couches. Well, I crashed immediately. Ralph went back to the kitchen and fetched a big bag of potato chips before flomping down on the opposite couch, undoing his belt.

Mmm…, I thought.

Do you always look at me like that?

Oh damn.

I blushed hard as my inner Ralph laughed at me.

“There’s nothing on at this hour,” Ralph said. “I’ll put a movie on.”

He picked 12 Monkeys. Ralph at twenty-three was just as crazy about time travel as when he was eight.

Someday we’ll meet a time traveler, Ralph thought. That’ll be an adventure.

It’s true that time travel is one of the magical knacks a person might be born with, but it was pretty rare, and it was even rarer to find someone who’d share it. Too many complications, and all.

It’ll happen.

Being stuffed with food, I could barely stay awake. I fell asleep halfway through the movie, and when I woke up it was over and Ralph had already left for work.

Usually I got my sleeping done while Ralph was at work. For the moment, though, I’d had enough sleep.

“You bet you have,” Ralph said in my voice, taking over my body. “Time to be a better tiger.”

He put on my shoes and got in my car, heading for campus. I wasn’t really sure what he had in mind, but I felt him running through my memories on the way there.

You don’t know how good you have it, he thought.


Heck, you even get free food out here…

It’s not free.

Well, it gets billed to your parents and they don’t complain. They won’t begrudge you your brain food! My dad won’t even buy me a hamburger.

He got in line at the cafeteria.

Now me, I don’t really know anybody at school. I keep to myself when I’m not with Ralph.

Obviously Ralph wasn’t going to have any of that.

“You’re in my chemistry class, aren’t you?” he said, to the burly human in line in front of me.

Ralph’s smiles were infectious, even with my face cracking them. At least, it felt that way from inside. The guy was not won over. “Yeah… so what?”

By the look he gave me, you’d think I was some new species of pond scum—uninteresting and distasteful.

“I just thought that—”

“I’m not interested in speaking to you,” the guy said, and turned back to face the front of the line.

Ralph was kind of taken aback. I don’t think anyone had ever treated him that way before. He turned to face the mouse girl in line behind him. “What was that about,” he said.

“Everyone knows you’re gay,” she said. “Why do you think you can talk to us?”

I never knew what people thought about me, so of course Ralph couldn’t have. I’d like to say he handled it gracefully—made a joke, shrugged it off, like he would have in his own body—but he didn’t get the chance; I took over, fled the cafeteria, and hid under some stairs in the music building, crying, for a good long time.

Ralph didn’t intervene as I tried to recover. I was glad of it, too—I was embarrassed enough; I needed to be alone. By the time I’d calmed down, wiped my face, and felt I could face the world again—or at least try—dinner had already ended.

Fair enough; maybe I could face the world, but I didn’t really feel like facing campus again today.

I missed Ralph. I wanted him to hold me. Stupid evening shifts.

I headed back to his place, and I was so distracted by my own thoughts about my future that I didn’t notice Ralph had taken over my body again till we were walking through the front door.

He went to his weight room, sat me down on a bench, and we started pumping iron. We worked out for about half an hour, till I was good and sweaty, even with the fan going full blast.

I did feel better, though. Endorphins’ll do that, Ralph thought.

And that’s why you’re always on the weights, eh?

He didn’t have to answer.

I got up, wiped down the equipment, and took a good long shower in the guest bathroom, thinking of Ralph while the sweat rinsed from my fur.

It was about the time I’d finished drying out my fur—the hard way, since Ralph doesn’t have a fur dryer—and gotten dressed again, that Ralph came home.

“Ah hey,” he said, seeing me come out of the bathroom. “Didn’t expect you up already.”

“Couldn’t sleep,” I said. “Went out and had a pretty bad day.”

He didn’t pry.

We ordered some pizza and sat down to watch another movie—this time it was Back to the Future, Part II.

I don’t know how you don’t get tired of this.

I wasn’t sure whose thought that was.

The movie held Ralph’s interest better than mine. I was sleepy from the workout and I felt the strange, strange sensation of drifting in and out of consciousness without physically falling asleep. I’d just zone out for a while, waking occasionally to find more of the movie had passed and my belly considerably fuller—Ralph won’t stop eating when there’s food in front of him, no matter whose body he’s in.

Somehow I didn’t think to worry about these … blackouts.

It didn’t seem like long before the movie was over, and I struggled to get up under the weight of a gut I hardly remembered stuffing.

“Looks like you’re staying here again tonight, eh?” Ralph said, one hand on my belly pushing me down on my back.

Do me now…

Ralph smirked as if he knew what I was thinking as he stood over me, then got up and started heading back to my room—his room, I mean, pulling off his shirt before closing the door.

I felt so full of Ralph. I lay on his couch trying to sleep, but he was fully in charge of my body by now. He was lying very still, breathing for me, thinking about how to get me and him together.

“You can’t confront me,” he thought. It was true; he wouldn’t take it seriously if I just out and told him. He’d have to come to me. But he wouldn’t just out and do that either.

“Actually,…” he thought, “Actually, it could work tonight. Tonight, I know everything about you—even if I haven’t noticed yet—and sometimes, sometimes when I’ve gone to bed and you’re still outside my door, I wonder why you follow me. I never really knew, but tonight… tonight I will, won’t I?”

Immediately Ralph’s door opened and he stepped out, naked as he usually was when going to bed, and knelt by the couch, one hand on my chest.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he said.

I had no idea what to do, but Ralph-in-me took charge—kissed himself, deeply, passionately—led himself back to the bedroom—and rode himself like a tiger for the rest of the night.

As we were falling asleep, exhausted, at sunup, I heard Ralph say “You’re mine… from now on.” I wasn’t sure if the voice came from within or without. I don’t think it mattered.

“I love you,” I said. And he held me.

Return to library?

No comments yet.