Daysong Graphics
Christa Banister 

Like anyone with an insatiable love for words and books, Christa Banister always wanted to write a novel. So after she received her B.S. in Journalism From North Central University in Minneapolis, she packed whatever fit into her trusty Buick Century and moved to Nashville to pursue her lifelong dream of writing for CCM Magazine, the premier national Christian music magazine. After working there for five-and-a-half years as a columnist and editor, she launched her own freelance writing business and wrote everything from music features to movie reviews and artist bios. Eventually landing at NavPress, her first labor of love (with all the names changed to protect the guilty), Around the World in 80 Dates released in October 2007. A few months later, she penned the sequel, Blessed Are the Meddlers, which continues the crazy adventures of Sydney Alexander and hits store shelves on August 15, 2008.

Stinky Switcheroo

So, I have this best friend. His name is Nate, and he's a super weird guy with a slew of issues. Want to hear more? Thought so.

Sure, just like his dad he had the same tell-tale mole underneath the bottom lashes of his left eye. And those same expressive chocolate brown eyes with the ever-so-subtle flecks of green. Even his hair, which fell into a natural wave to his chin, was a near perfect match to his dad’s. To the naked eye, there’s no doubt which family Nathan Andrew Bryant (better known as Stinky Nate to his friends) belonged to.

And while he’s practically a dead ringer for his father, save for a sprinkling of newly acquired gray hairs, Nate was still convinced he was born into the wrong family. “I was switched at birth, kidnapped by aliens, or some other mysterious, unexplainable phenomenon occurred.” Yep, the kind of story that could grace the pages of supermarket checkout reading like The National Enquirer.

“I know I’m not a Bryant by birth because of my insatiable curiosity about the world around me. While my parents and younger sister Natalie are content to accept certain realities without much questioning, I always felt the need to investigate—even when I’m perceived as strange for doing so.”

For instance, when Nate watched his beloved calico cat, Curious, lick himself clean day after day, Nate began to wonder if he could find a more natural, feline way to keep himself freshly scrubbed, too. So much to the disgust of his family (especially during the sticky, sweaty summer months), Nate stopped showering and using deodorant or cologne until he tracked down an acceptable solution (a work still in progress)—hence the all too appropriate nickname. Incidentally, being referred to as “stinky” doesn’t bother Nate in the least. While Natalie constantly reminds him that the moniker should be a serious impetus for change, Nate says, “I consider it a badge of honor of sorts, a glorious, counter-culture tribute to my dissatisfaction with what’s generally acceptable.”

In addition to his fixation on finding alternative personal hygiene solutions, Nate has also made it his solemn goal to uncover what polenta is really made of, since he craves it the way others crave chocolate. “No way is it made out of only corn meal and water—it’s far too delicious!

Even more important, he wants track down his real parents. In fact, each time a new customer waits in line for a latte at Moose & Sadie’s, the coffee shop he works at in downtown Minneapolis, he’s intentional about striking up conversations, just in case the customer happens to be his long-lost Mom and Pop.

Unfortunately, while some of the impromptu chats have given Nate more fodder for further research, particularly the ramblings of Mr. I-order-an-extra-hot-skim-vanilla-latte-every-day-even-in-the-summer Bates, who maintains the world is going to end in late 2010 because of the current ratio of plants to animals to earthquakes in the United States, he hasn’t had one solid lead in Nate’s parental search.

But in his quest for a better understanding where he came from, Nate never gives up, something his now-wife, Rain (a smock-top wearing hippie who doles out love advice based on her theory about men and Campbell’s soup labels), loves about him the most.

“So what if you were living in the wrong family all along?” Rain asked Nate before he left for work one ordinary Wednesday morning. “I mean it’s not like you can go back and start over with the family of your dreams.”

“I know,” Nate replied patiently as he tugged at his threadbare T-shirt. “But at least I’d feel like I was finally understood.”

Rain knew it was like to be misunderstood. And although she doesn’t necessarily agree that he’s been comfortably residing in the bosom of the wrong family all his life, she hasn’t ruled out the possibility, either. After all, if an entire generation of pre-teens can be happy listening to Miley Cyrus, Rain has decided that anything, yes, anything, is indeed possible.

And then one particular Wednesday night as Stinky Nate started the ten-block trek from Moose & Sadie’s to the efficiency bungalow he shared with Rain, he had an epiphany. A serious epiphany. “It was so brilliant I couldn’t believe the answer I’d been seeking sat a mere twenty-five feet away from my childhood home.

When Nate thought about all the customers he’d waited on that day, his usual end-of-the-day activity as he walked home, Nate remembered that Mr. Foster had dropped by for a cappuccino. Normally that wouldn’t have been a big deal, but this time the proverbial lightbulb beamed while they chatted.

“You see, I grew up in suburban Roseville, Minnesota, fourteen or so miles from St. Paul, in a gorgeous Colonial-style house, the envy of the neighborhood. But as picture perfect as my house was to those who admired its Hamptons-esque charms, I’d always felt infinitely more comfortable at my friend Sam Foster’s place right across the street.”

Sam’s place hardly boasted the showplace that his own house was. But Nate never had to worry about touching the glass on the Foster’s coffee table because no glass topped the Foster’s table. Theirs was an orthodox mix of oak and cherry woods with carvings that Mr. and Mrs. Foster had made themselves to give it an original flare. And instead of Chagall and Renoir prints gracing the walls, the Fosters’ preferred an odd blend of hippie handicrafts, which gave the living room a decidedly homespun, Bohemian look. “Their decor connected with my artistic sensibilities.”

But also a bit strange about the Fosters’ home was how their only son, Sam, chose to express himself. Although the rest of the house was clean but seriously cluttered, Sam’s room was the picture of perfection. His bed was always made. His collection of books was as refined as Nate’s parents’ choice of Ethan Allen furnishings. When it came right down to it, Sam had nothing in common with his parents but a DNA code and a last name.

“As these thoughts scaled through my brain a mile a minute, I remembered that Sam was born the same week as I—and at the same hospital.” Could there have been a chance the nurses got two newborn baby boys confused, considering their addresses were virtually the same? Could there have been a stinky switcheroo at Ramsey Evans Hospital?

Well, only one way to find out.

“So I hopped on the city bus immediately and made my way to Roseville. After all, an opportunity like this is really a gift now, isn’t it?”

Come back, because tale of the Stinky Switcheroo will continue in December 2008

Christa Banister © 2008