Chapter 6:

Next Time, Sophie, Let's Call a Cab

The Love Triangle Between Me, The Class President, & The Spirit Possessing Me

It takes a few blocks of tripping over onto the pavement and running into telephone poles and shrubbery, but by the time we get back to my apartment building Sophie almost remembers how to walk. Thankfully, with her in control of my body I can’t feel pain very much.

Everything’s going pretty well, in fact, until we get to the foot of the stairs.

“Clark, you ninny,” Sophie says, as she lifts my leg far too high onto the fourth step up. “Why couldn’t you live on the ground floor?”

“Sorry, I should have thought of that when I moved here.” I watch from the back of my own head while Sophie tries again and slips on the edge of a step, adding a new bruise to my shin. That’s gonna hurt later, but what’s one more?

She tries again, this time over-correcting and kicking too far forward to stub my toes on a riser. “Oh, applesauce! That smarts!”

“It doesn’t feel great, no.”

I feel a flutter of embarrassment from her. “Gee, I’m sorry, Clark. I’m really making a dog’s breakfast of this.”

After she makes it halfway up the stairs only to lose her balance and send me sliding back down on my back, she seems to have an epiphany.

“I got an idea!” Sophie crows, putting my hands out to stop our fall. “Arms are easier, look!”

Like an extra from a low-budget horror movie, she walks me up the stairs in a back-bend. I can give her points for creativity, but I sure hope no one walks out and sees me right now.

“My keycard is in my front left pocket,” I tell her once we reach my front door and stand upright again.

Arms might be easier for Sophie to control, but fingers are another matter. She tries and fails to fish my keycard from my pocket like it’s the world’s hardest UFO catcher game. And even though it’s only my own hand, I’m not a fan of how close it is to my junk with all that aggressive rummaging around Sophie’s doing.

“Sophie, can you be a little more careful about...” I trail off, suddenly realizing I don’t know how to ask her to be careful without embarrassing us both to death.

She’s not listening, anyway, fully focused on navigating my keycard past the impossible barrier that is my cell phone. Why did I put them in the same pocket? At last, she manages to get the card, gripping it in my fist like a toddler.

“Got it! ...What the matter, Clark, you feeling ill?”

That’s right, if I’m not careful, she can pick up my emotions. I try to calm myself down. “I’m just tired, that’s all. Go ahead and unlock the door, yeah?”

If getting my keycard out of my pocket was difficult, using it to unlock the deadbolt is one of the trials of Hercules. Sophie has no idea how it works, and even with my instruction can’t seem to get the chip in the card in the right spot for the lock to read it, and even dropping the card a couple times. Anyone looking at me would think I was drunk.

“Sophie,” I say, feeling bad for her growing frustration but also wanting to get inside so I can clean myself up and go to bed. “Go ahead and let me take over.” I don’t think she could stop me from doing just that, but it feels more polite to give her some warning.

I concentrate on moving my own limbs, and feel her mentally step aside for me. As soon as I’m fully in control again, I drop to the floor like a sack of agonized potatoes. All that pain Sophie was keeping at bay? Yeah, it comes rushing right back into every scrape, bump, bruise, and cut.

Sophie rushes to take the reins again, and the pain subsides.

I must have hollered, because my next-door neighbor, Mr. Ramirez, flings his door open a few seconds later. I swear that guy just waits in his front room to snoop on anything going on outside. Shouldn’t retirees do something fun or interesting with all that free time?

“What’s going on out here? Clark?” Mr. Ramirez lends a hand to help me up. “You look like hell. Do you need me to call someone?”

I mentally sigh. We were so close to getting inside where there was a hot shower and a bottle of aspirin waiting for me. “Sophie,” I say in my head. “Tell him I was at football practice and that’s why I’m banged up.”

“Football practice?” Sophie repeats out loud, successfully making me look even more concussed or crazy than I am. I watch Mr. Ramirez frown in confusion. “Oh, right! We were at football practice,” Sophie says again. “We, as in, the team. The fellas. The boys. The football boys.”

Mr. Ramirez nods, but doesn’t look terribly convinced. “And you’re sure you’re alright? I can give you a lift to the hospital. You know, if you hit your head you shouldn’t be by yourself.”

That’s kinda true, but my injuries hurt worse than they really pose a danger, I think. I’m pretty sure. “Tell him my mom will be home from work later.” My parents still live in the little town outside the city, in fact, but no one in this apartment complex needs to know I’m staying here alone.

“Your mother? Is that so? Never fear,” Sophie says, incapable of talking normally for ten seconds. “My mother will be home directly to nurse me to health, I can assure you.”

“He’s not a cop, can you please play it cool a little bit?” I sigh, not that it’s going to help.

Mr. Ramirez is giving me some serious side-eye, and for once I can’t blame him. “Are you absolutely sure you’re okay?” He looks ready to herd me down to the parking lot so he can drive me to the hospital for real, which I do not want.

“Change of plans,” I tell Sophie. “Don’t talk until you’re ready to say what I need to say, can you manage that?”

There’s a long pause.

Finally, out loud, Sophie says. “I can do that.”

Mr. Ramirez’s face would be funny if this situation hadn’t already burned through every last scrap of my sense of humor.

“Sophie, tell him I’m just drunk.” I’ll just have to hope Mr. Ramirez won’t turn me in for underage drinking.

“Oh, no! We’ll get in trouble!” Sophie covers my mouth with one hand. When Mr. Ramirez looks fit to burst a blood vessel, she goes on with the new strategy. “Sir, it shames me to admit it, but I do believe I’m tight as an owl.”

What does that mean? There’s no way Mr. Ramirez is old enough to understand that slang.

“You been drinking?” Mr. Ramirez asks, as if to be a pain in the neck by proving me wrong. Well, at least he understands. “Boy, you better get inside and clean up before your mother gets hold of you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’ll think twice before trying this sort of thing again.” He actually waves a finger at me. I thought that only happened on TV.

“I’m sure you’re right, sir,” Sophie says, and she’s doing much better at acting sorry than she was at acting normal.

Mr. Ramirez chuckles. “You’ll know I’m right come morning when you feel sicker than you’ve ever been in your life, boy. You better get on inside, now. I won’t say anything as long as you don’t make a habit of this.” How gracious. Gee whiz, as Sophie would say.

“Sir,” Sophie says, stopping Mr. Ramirez from going back inside his own apartment. “Could I possibly trouble you to unlock my door?” She holds out my keycard. “It’s just that, I’m still not used to these fancy locks, and what with me feeling so poorly I just can’t manage it.”

To my surprise, Mr. Ramirez doesn’t hesitate to swipe the keycard for me. “There you are, son. Remember, no more boozing, until you’re older, alright?”

Sophie thanks him, steps inside and closes the door. At last. I decide the shower can wait until morning. Sophie’s last chore is to feed me two aspirin and a big glass of water, then walk me to my bed where she drifts out of my body.

The pain is about as fun as I expect, which is to say it’s not fun at all. But I have to deal with it myself sooner or later. At least my bed is nice and soft.

The aspirin takes the edge off my many aches and pains. What isn’t helping my pounding headache, specifically, is the fact that Sophie won’t stop asking questions about every single thing in my room.

“Clark, what’s this?”

“It’s my alarm clock.”

Sophie reaches her hand into the clock radio, the numbers fritzing a little until she stops. “It doesn’t look like a clock. What’s that?” She points to my laptop.

“It’s a computer. Let me sleep.”

“What’s a computer?”

“It’s like a notebook, but a zillion times better.” I flop over onto my side and level a stare at her. “I really need to get some sleep.”

Sophie nods. “Understood!” About thirty seconds later, I hear, “Clark, what’s this thing?”

My eyelids are lead weights, but I peel them open to see what she’s asking about. “It’s a TV. Can’t you go to sleep?”

“No, I can’t. I don’t sleep anymore.”

Naturally. “Is that right?”

Sophie nods. I guess you can’t sleep when you’re dead, no matter what the Type A people say. Huh.

“Well, then just be quiet until morning.” Since I know the odds of that are slim with Sophie being so obviously hyped up, I fumble around on my nightstand for the TV remote and switch it on.

“Oh! Keen!” Sophie exclaims, then lapses into a fascinated silence, hypnotized by Cartoons Station reruns.

Good. That works. I have a new understanding of parents who use TV as a babysitter. Anything to get some rest.

I finally am able to drift off, the last thing I hear is the opening jingle for the late-night anime block with Sophie humming along to the tune.