Chapter 8:

It's the Breakfast of Champions, Clark

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

The early morning air is still cool enough that Blaine and his cronies’ breath steams as they talk.

“Man, that new guy is gonna get it today after that crap he pulled yesterday,” Blaine grouses, hands shoved in the pockets of his trousers.

One of his friends shrugs. “We can always give him a swirly after gym class, or something.”

Blaine raises an eyebrow. “A swirly? How old are you?”

“Hey! It’s a classic, alright?”

Their conversation takes a backseat as they come up on a crowd of people blocking the sidewalk, all gawking at something across from the Hotel Kensington. Despite the location setting off Blaine’s irritation even more, he leads his group over to investigate. The adults gathered around are chattering among themselves.

“What do you think caused it?” One asks.

An office lady shakes her head. “Did a drunk driver hit the building?”

“Can’t be!” argues an old man. “There’s no tire marks.”

As they shove their way to the middle of the crowd, Blaine and his friends can see what the adults are wound up about. There’s a sizable crater marring the front of the shop across from the hotel, the bricks cracked, some of them laying pulverized on the sidewalk. A rusty smear of what could be blood sits at the crater’s center.

A man in a heavy apron says, “Do you think it’s the Kensington curse?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the office lady says, but the crowd, including Blaine’s friends, glances around, unsure. There’s no shortage of stories about the Kensington and what lurks inside it.

Blaine, on the other hand, isn’t interested in any more crap about that dumb hotel.

He snorts. “Come on, lamewads, let’s get to class.”

I wake up to my alarm clocks. Yeah, clocks. As in, about a dozen of them. What can I say? I’m a heavy sleeper. The combination of beeps, buzzers, and about seven or eight different radio stations is what it takes to get me up in time for school.

Still stiff and sore, but feeling a lot better after getting some sleep, I sit up, stretch, and go about slapping the “off” button on each clock. That done, I shuffle to the bathroom to wash my face, moving on autopilot like I do every morning.


Blinking cold water and the last of my grogginess out of my eyes, I answer. “Yeah, mom?”

Sophie gives me a confused look in the reflection of the mirror.

I’ll admit, I shriek at a pitch only dogs can hear, which scares a scream out of Sophie.

On reflex, I snatch a hand towel off the rack and hold it up in front of me to cover myself, before realizing I’m still wearing my grubby school uniform from yesterday. Whew.

I totally forgot Sophie was here. Does she have to sneak up behind me like that? It’s not like I can hear her walking around!

“Hey, chill out! You just scared me, stop hollering.” I drop the hand towel and pat through Sophie’s shoulder, trying to calm her down.

She takes a breath, hands over her heart. Or at least where her heart would have been back in the day. “Land’s end, Clark! You scared me half to death!”

I’m about to ask her if she’s joking when I hear a knock at the door.

Either someone’s at the door to tell me I won a million-dollar sweepstakes, or it’s Mr. Ramirez wanting to ask what all the racket is. Guess which it is.

Go on, guess!

“Everything alright, son?” Mr. Ramirez asks as soon as I open the door. He not-so-subtly tries to see around me into the apartment. “What’s all that racket?”

“Sorry about the noise, sir,” I say, trying not to grit my teeth. He means well, and he did help me unlock my door last night. “I was trying to make coffee and dropped the coffee pot on my foot, that’s all.”

There’s a twinkle in Mr. Ramirez’s eye at that. “I thought you might be having a rough morning, with the state you were in last night.” He holds out a thermos for me to take. “That’s why I thought I’d bring you this. I was young and dumb, too, back in the dinosaur days.”

I unscrew the thermos lid. The drink inside smells like pepper and breakfast. “What is it?”

“My guaranteed hangover cure! Can’t have you missing school, you know.” Mr. Ramirez encourages me to chug the drink down.

I don’t have the will to argue. The drink tastes unspeakable, and slides down my throat a little too smooth for comfort. I sputter and cough as soon as the thermos is empty.

“Ugh, so nasty! What’s in this?” I should have asked that before I drank the whole thing, probably.

Mr. Ramirez hooks his thumbs in his suspenders, beaming. “Pickle juice, black pepper, and a raw egg! My tried and tested recipe!”

I’m not actually hungover, of course. All the same, I’m lucky I don’t puke. No wonder it tasted so bad. “Um. Thanks, Mr. Ramirez. That’s disgusting.” I hand the thermos back to him, eager to get back inside to brush my teeth.

“Think twice before you do anything stupid again, alright, son? Don’t worry your poor mother.”

Back inside, I brush my teeth twice for good measure. Jeez, a raw egg? Pickle juice?! So gross.

Once my mouth tastes like mint instead of a garbage can, my thoughts turn back to Sophie, who’s fascinated by everything in my medicine cabinet from the deodorant to the hair gel. I guess she’s going to be here a while. My bruises and scrapes hurt, but no more than a normal bout of roughhousing like I’d get into as a kid back home. They’ll heal soon enough. The real concern is what to do about Sophie. When I moved here for school, I wasn’t counting on a roommate.

Of more immediate concern, though, is getting to school on time. I can’t afford to miss my second day, and after all this craziness I want to stick to routine as much as I can.

For now, I’ll have to keep Sophie under wraps, and clean myself up so I don’t look like I spent the night wrestling a bear.

“Sophie,” I say, pulling her away from her investigation into a can of shaving cream. “I gotta take a quick shower, would you mind putting my dirty uniform in the wash?”

“Aye aye!” She gives me some privacy while I change out of my clothes, and manages to keep hold of my laundry when I pass it to her from around the edge of the bathroom door.

A hot shower feels especially great this morning, even when soapy water stings my scrapes. I make sure I scrub well to make sure nothing gets infected.

After a couple minutes, I hear Sophie’s voice through the door.

“Clark? Sorry, but I can’t find your wash basin.”

Ah, right. Sophie wouldn’t recognize a modern washing machine, would she? “Don’t worry about it,” I call to her, some two-in-one shampoo running into my eyes. It burns like cucumber-melon scented lava, but I’m not about to make any noise about it in case Mr. Ramirez has his ear to the wall, or something. “Sophie, can you just grab me a clean change of clothes from my room, then? Shirts and slacks are in the closet, and socks and shorts are in my dresser.” A closet’s a closet and a dresser’s a dresser, right? She can figure that one out.

Sure enough, Sophie comes back with clean clothes. “Here you are, Clark!” Through the frosted glass of the shower door, I can just make out my clean uniform folded up in Sophie’s arms as they phase through the door. That’s a pretty neat trick.

“Thanks, Sophie.”

With no other chores to do, Sophie hangs out on the other side of the door and chatters to me about the anime she spent all night watching. It’s one I’ve been keeping up with since it started airing, and it’s kind of nice to have someone else to talk about it with.

That is, until I figure out she watched the new episodes that just aired last night, too. I have my VCR set up to tape them, but I don’t have time to watch until after school.

“And then,” Sophie says excitedly, “just when it looked like Alfred was really a goner, he-”

“Hey, hey!” I yell through the door. “No spoilers! I haven’t watched the tape yet!” I’m so heated up over avoiding hearing about exactly what happens to Alfred that I slip, knocking the wind out of myself against the tiles.

“Clark?! Did you fall?” Before I can get my breath back to tell her I’m fine, Sophie phases through the door, looking worried. “Do you know how many people get hurt in tubs and things? Be careful!” The second she sees that I’m not lying in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the shower stall, she lets out a little embarrassed squeak and spins to face the other way. “Sorry!”

“Sophie! I’m fine, go away!”

At least the shower door is frosted, but all the same, can’t a guy get a little privacy?!

“Sorry! Sorry!” she repeats, like a CD skipping. I can still hear her apologizing after she phases back through the door and floats to the other end of the apartment.

The rest of the morning is relatively smooth sailing. I feel worlds better now that I’m clean and dressed in fresh clothes. I slap a big bandage over the scrape on my cheek. Maybe I can say I cut myself shaving. Luckily, most of my other injuries are covered by my clothing.

The entire time I’m fixing my hair, Sophie hovers nearby, gushing about all the amazing things she saw on TV (except for what becomes of Alfred on my show). She spends the whole time I’m fixing a quick breakfast asking question after question about everything in my apartment.

“What’s this?” It’s the hundredth time I’m hearing the question, but given that she spent almost a hundred years with nothing new to see, it's understandable.

“It’s a microwave,” I say between bites of toast. “You can cook things in it, like popcorn and ramen. Stuff like that.”

“Amazing! What’s ramen?”

Too bad she doesn’t need to breathe. That would at least slow her down a little.

“It’s soup with noodles. Listen, Sophie.” I wash down the last bite of toast with some orange juice. “I need to hurry up and get to school before I’m late. I’ll be home later this afternoon, okay?”

Sophie doesn’t miss a beat. “School? Can I come with you?” She clasps her hands and gives me a puppy-dog stare.


“Don’t you think that’s rushing things?” I shake my head. “There’s a ton of people, and it might be overwhelming for you this soon.”

“I’m tougher than I look! Please, Clark?” She turns up the wattage on her puppy eyes. It’s really annoying how well the guilt trip is working on me.

No! I must be strong. This is for her own good, as well as mine. “We still don’t know that much about how you work,” I point out. “What if it’s not just me that can see you? Did you consider that? You could cause a mass freakout.”

Sophie pouts, but I can tell she’s starting to see reason. “You’re sure I can’t just hide in you, like last night?”

Oh, no way am I doing that again so soon. And not for the entire school day. “I think it’s best if you rest for today, alright? We’ll figure something out later.”

“Fine,” Sophie sighs, sagging lower in the air. “Have it your way, then.”

I feel a brief urge to say “my house, my rules,” but I’m not ready to turn into my parents yet. “Just hang out and watch TV, or something. It’ll be fine.”

Reminding Sophie about the TV does the trick. “Oh, that’s right! The tee vee!” Her eyes light up, and I wonder if she’s going to shove me out the door herself. “Have a good day at school, Clark, old chum!”

As Clark leaves and locks the door behind him, Sophie can’t help but feel a little glum. He’s right, blast him. It’s a bad idea to follow him to school right away. She doesn’t want to cause trouble for him, truly! It’s just that she isn’t eager to be alone again so soon.

“Chin up, girl,” she mutters to herself, floating over to the TV and pushing the power button. “He’ll only be gone until this afternoon. What’s a few hours?”

The TV isn’t showing any more of the moving pictures about the ghost boy she was enjoying so much last night. Instead, it’s just some people sitting around talking about things that don’t sound terribly interesting. Like when Sophie would sit quietly during dinner parties and tune out her parents talking about dull adult things with other adults.

Clark had said something about viewing something he called a tape after school. He’d made it sound like some kind of recording or film. Could she watch more of the ghost boy’s adventure that way? It really is the cat’s pajamas. She’s sure the day would pass quickly if she could find it.

Which of these contraptions should she try? Maybe one of these chunky black rectangles lined up on a shelf above the TV?

Just as she sets herself to searching through these mysterious tape things, something like a breeze or a powerful magnet pulls her away from the shelf.

“Goodness! What in the world?”

She makes a grab for the bookcase, but the force pulls her away before she can reach it. This is serious! She’s being swept away to Oz!

Phasing through the front door quite against her will, Sophie makes a desperate lunge for the door handle and clings onto it. Her body draws a straight horizontal line in the air, the mysterious force unwilling to let her go.

“Oh! Oh, what is it now?!” Hanging on for dear life, Sophie hears a thud and a muffled curse from the sidewalk below. At the same time, the force stops pulling at her.

Right away, Sophie dashes for the railing, peering down over it. That voice sounded familiar.

Sure enough, Clark blinks back up at her from the sidewalk, looking as baffled as she feels. He’s just picking himself off the pavement, one hand rubbing his backside where he landed.