Ask Sam

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Chapter 26

Sam materialized in the chair Josh vacated. “I had to wait until Josh got out of my chair.”

“Hm-m. Come to think of it, until today, you are the only one who has used the chair.”

“Your family and friends know that your studio is off-limits.”

“Am I that territorial?”

“When it comes to your work you are. I am surprised that you showed the character sketches to Josh.”

“I don’t want to discourage him. He has shown an interest in my work. He has also been invaluable since my injuries.”

“He’s a sensitive, Joanna. He sees things other people don’t see.”

Joanna’s eyes widened. “Are you sure?”

“He came over one evening when I was sitting on your screened porch. He thought I was Alex.”

“Oh, no. What did you say to him?”

“I stayed as close to the truth as I could. I told him that you and I had been friends since grade school. That I stopped by to say hello when I was in town.”

“He didn’t tell me that he met you.”

“That’s because he is trying to protect you. He thought I was a ghost. My guess is that he hasn’t told anyone about his gift.”

“Thanks for telling me. I’ll be careful what I say. Did you hear him tell me about a prowler?”

“I did. Are you aware that Chip drives a black Chevy?”

“I am not surprised. I assumed the prowler was Chip. I don’t want my neighbors to face incidents of vandalism because of my actions. The neighborhood is deserted from 7:30 am until three in the afternoon. The parents are working, and their children are in school. Chip has a curfew, but he is free to come and go as he pleases until late afternoon. A lot of mischief can happen during the morning hours.”

“Joanna, blaming yourself for Chip’s manic episodes is counter-productive behavior. If anyone is at fault, it is his parents. Martin and Gretchen are painfully aware that Chip has a genetic predisposition for paranoia.”

“Alex believes Martin can be persuaded to seek therapy for Chip.”

“When the senior pastor at St. Matthews tried that approach, Martin moved the families membership to another church.”

Joanna swiveled the chair so that she was facing her computer. She took a thumb drive out of a storage container and inserted the drive in a USB port. She clicked on the D drive and pulled up the WORD document Plan A. She stood and stretched. “While I take a much-needed break, I would like for you to take a look at the analysis, notes, and suggestions on Alex’s document. He calls the document a plan, but there are no hard and fast rules.

“Since I am unfamiliar with Martin’s personality, I am not in a position to gage his reaction if he comes face to face with the truth. I need to rely on your judgment.”

When Joanna reentered the studio, Sam was back in his chair. She crossed the room, sat down in her chair, ejected the thumb drive and placed the drive in the storage contained. She slowly swiveled her chair until she was facing Sam. “Don’t keep me in suspense.”

You have obviously talked to Alex about our unusual friendship.”

“When Dad and I wouldn’t discuss your part in Chip’s arrest, he called Aunt Polly.”

“The great arbitrator. I should have known.”

“Is Alex’s plan feasible?”

“If you are asking if I can handle my part of the plan; my answer is I think so. Years ago, I gave up my power for time.”

“I don’t understand.”

Sam paused so long Joanna was sure he wasn’t going to answer, and she was frustrated. She began to drum her fingers.

“If one of your students asked you to explain how and why the internet works, what answer would you give?”

“I would explain that I wasn’t technically savvy enough to give him or her an answer.”

“I am in the same position. I am able to appear and disappear in your world, but I cannot explain how or why. Humans are fueled by food. An imaginary friend, or soul, as we are referred to in my world, is fueled by Zolotex. When a soul receives a mission, a specific amount of Zolotex is issued. When the fuel is gone, the mission is over.

“Every action a soul takes requires fuel. Appearing to your subject requires a small portion of fuel, but appearing to another source, takes more. In a crisis, a soul can become flesh and blood, but that action takes a vast amount of fuel. I rationed my fuel, so that I could be around when you graduated and when you went to college. Today, my fuel is running low. If the Zolotex is gone before we convince Martin that Chip needs medicine and psychotherapy, you and Alex will be on your own. I won’t be able to help you.”

A lump lodged in Joanna’s throat and tears welled in her eyes. “You won’t be back will you?”

“When you were a child you chose Alex to be your friend, but it wasn’t meant to be. I was his substitute until the time was right. Now that he is in your life it is time for me to go.”

“I can’t imagine my life without you in it.”

“That, my friend, is the reason a human is designed to have memories. Now, before we get maudlin, there are more important issues we need to discuss. You and Alex need to talk about what measures you will take if I’m not there. Your reputation and his business might be at risk if the plan doesn’t work. Are you sure that you can accept the consequences of your actions?”

“If we don’t move forward with Alex’s plan, my life will still be at risk. So will Chip’s, his parent’s, and other innocent people’s.”

“If you and Alex decide to move ahead with the plan, I will lend a hand. Now, I need to leave. I will be back Wednesday evening to find out if the plan is a go.

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