Chuck: A Ghost's Story

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Chapter 1

Being a ghost, or whatever, is far less fun than one would imagine. Sure, it had its moments, but invisibility got old pretty quickly. I watched a lot of free movies and ball games, hung out in a lot of ladies’ locker rooms, followed people around on their crime sprees or romantic trysts…you know…basic stuff. People, however, are predictable creatures, and a guy can only watch the ultimate reality TV show for so long before he needs to find a more stimulating hobby.

It didn’t take long for me to test the boundaries of my condition and discover that certain, shall we say, entertaining abilities came along with being disembodied. For example, if I concentrated enough effort, my immaterial hands could still grasp and move material objects. My feet, though invisible, could still kick a can across an intersection. I could blow dandelion seeds all over a suburbanite’s perfectly manicured lawn, though I had no real breath. Apparently there was something to that “mind over matter” riff that people loved to spout off about. Who’d have guessed that crystal rubbin,’ new-age freaks knew anything? Death turned out to be full of surprises for old Chuck.

I’m sure you know me well enough by now to guess that I didn’t use my newfound power for good. Sure, I could have put change in peoples’ parking meters, or closed windows that were left open by accident, or straightened improperly balanced dishes on a new waitress’s serving tray, so she wouldn’t drop hot soup on some poor schmuck’s lap…but what fun would that have been? Nah. Chuck was no Boy Scout.

My favorite past time was tripping people. Childish, yes, but endlessly amusing! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to actually touch living creatures, for some reason. They’d just pass right through me, in an oddly uncomfortable fashion, so I had to be creative in my new found sport. I left toys on staircases, rubbed soap into shower tiles, or just shot a marble into someone’s path, as they hurried along the sidewalk. They’d fall on their tuxedoed rumps, break their fancy heels, and bruise their perfectly pampered and sculpted physiques. It’s probably obvious by now who my favorite targets were. Chuck Butkis…bane of the rich and famous! I’d never been a fan of the upper crust, and literally knocking them down a peg was pure, unadulterated fun. Not nearly as much fun, however, as possessing them.

Yep, you got it! Chuck could jump right into bodies! It took quite a few years to properly hone this skill, but once I had the trick perfected, it became my go-to pastime. I made my meat puppets behave in the lewdest, most embarrassing manners, and though I could only maintain control of them for a matter of minutes, I’m proud to say that I made those minutes count! Rich, old ladies flashing traffic cops ala “Girls Gone Wild,” movie stars dropping trou to urinate all over the red carpet, millionaire moguls caught shoplifting canned meat…all courtesy of little ol’ me! But, alas, even this game stopped being fun, eventually.

Occasionally, I’d encounter other wandering spirits as I stalked the living, desperately trying to entertain myself. I quickly discerned that there were five distinct subcultures, among the dead. The first group, I designated the “Lost.” Lost ghosts were those stumbling around in confusion, unable to mentally process what had happened to them. They didn’t understand that they were dead…couldn’t understand why they weren’t being seen or heard. I tried to wake a few of them up, but nothing I did seemed to register. They could hear me, that was obvious, but couldn’t comprehend a word I said. Lost ghosts were too busy drowning in denial river to engage in conversation, so I quickly lost interest in trying.

The second subculture of wandering spirit was even less fun…and downright scary sometimes! I called them, the “Demon Dead.” This group was comprised of disembodied lunatics, rather than actual demons, but the name was fitting. The Demon Dead crept, crawled, and climbed all over the city, hissing and cursing and crying while lashing out at everyone they encountered. Fortunately for the living, they were oblivious to these creepy characters. I didn’t have this luxury. The dead can’t touch one another, any more than they can touch the living, so I was in no actual danger from the Demons. Even so, they were at best annoying, and at worst profoundly disturbing to be around. I avoided them as much as possible.

The third subculture of spirit, the “Shut-Ins,” were hardly even worth mentioning. I didn’t notice them, right away. These ghosts appeared to be under perpetual house arrest, peering longingly though windows, but never stepping outside. I was unsure if they were unwilling or unable to leave their places of residence, but after failing in a number of attempts to coax some out, I gave up. These were obviously not my kind of people. Members of the fourth subculture, however, could have been worthwhile playmates for a guy like me…but they weren’t.

The “Missionary Ghosts” were as self-aware and mobile as I was. They knew exactly who and what they were, and maintained the same level of awareness and personality that I had, when I died. Unfortunately, Missionaries had no interest in running amok with a guy like me. As the name implies, Missionaries were…well…on a mission! This group were all about their “unfinished business,” focused solely on their attempts to wrap up whatever loose end kept them earthbound. I had a few decent conversations with Missionaries over the years, but they generally couldn’t be bothered with fun and games…which was all I had left.

The fifth and final subculture of spirit consisted (as far as I could tell) of only one ghost. Yep, you guessed it. Good, ol’ Chuck Butkis! I was one of a kind. This was normally something I would brag about, but in this case, it just plain sucked. I enjoyed the fact that I hadn’t met another ghost capable of moving material objects the way I could, but it was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that not one other spirit on earth seemed intent on having a good time. They were either all-business, or flat out brain dead! It was no wonder I found the living far more interesting. Though, to be honest, “interest” isn’t a strong enough word. I was damn near obsessed with the living. Attempting to make contact, to interact with them in any way, consumed most of my time. I’m not sure exactly where the fascination came from, other than the fact that I envied them beyond reason.

The day I met Gracie James I was in the thick of a deep, bitter depression. So deep in fact, that when my own personal hell-mouth reappeared, I decided to enter. I didn’t notice it at first, opening in a shadowy alley across the street from where I stood, rolling a cigarette between my imaginary fingers and wondering if I would ever figure out some way to smoke it. It wasn’t until the smell of the mysterious, black hole wafted over on the breeze that I finally paid attention. The disturbingly familiar aroma of its breath, somewhere between sour milk and rotting flesh, was instantly recognizable. It gave me the willies.

Tossing the unlit cigarette over my shoulder I stood and stretched, though I admittedly had not felt stiff or sore since I died. I guess I was stalling. I didn’t really want to go in there, you see. I just didn’t know what else to do! Bored out of my gourd and feeling extremely sorry for myself, I could not stand the idea of spending an eternity repeating the same, old games. If there was anything Chuck Butkis hated, it was repetition. I did not know what was at the bottom of that dark, stinky tunnel, and though it was surely nothing good, at least it would be something new.

Waving my middle finger at the world in gesture of farewell, I made my way across the sidewalk to meet my destiny. As I stepped past the bus stop, however, I noticed a frumpy, but oddly attractive, young woman walking directly toward me. Normally I would have stepped aside and let her pass, but seeing as how she was the last pretty face I would ever see, I decided to linger a bit and enjoy the view. A mass of tightly curled, dark brown hair cascaded over the shoulders of a white, button up blouse that made my mystery gal look like the world’s youngest grandmother. Paired with a shapeless, ankle length skirt, the outfit was totally at odds with her soft, youthful features. She could not have been more than twenty-four…twenty-five? The closer she came to me, the more beautiful I discovered the strange girl was, despite her attempts to bury that beauty under god-awful clothing.


I was just noticing a slim scar on the otherwise flawless skin of the girl’s neck when she passed roughly through me. The sensation was horribly unsettling, not unlike gagging.

“Watch it!” I shouted, whipping angrily around to face my pretty assailant.

That’s when it happened. In a split second, everything changed.

When I yelled at her, the dark haired girl stopped cold in her tracks, looking curiously around for the source of the sound. I thought, somehow, she had heard me! I wanted to believe it, and when she dismissed me to take another step, I could not resist testing my theory.

“Hey!” I shouted again, and the girl stopped…just in time to narrowly avoid being crushed by a city bus.

I had not seen the vehicle coming any more than she had, but when she fell gratefully to her knees, clasping her pale hands together, I realized that she saw things differently.

“Halleluiah!” The girl cried, tears streaming down her rosy cheeks. “My prayers have finally been heard!”

Passersby on the busy thoroughfare gave the weeping woman a similar look to the one I gave her. Not that she saw it.

“What is your name, angel?” She asked, teary, brown eyes darting in my general direction.

I was stunned speechless. This crazy chick thought I was an angel?!

“Please!” She begged, when I did not answer. “Speak to me again!”

Crouching down so we were face to face, I responded eagerly.

“Chuck,” I said.

“Chuck?” The girl replied, knitting her shapely eyebrows in confusion.

“Yeah,” I replied, with an invisible shrug. “You asked for my name.”

“Your name is Chuck?” She responded, skeptically. “What kind of name is that for a guardian angel?”

The girl had a point! But where did she get off questioning celestial beings?

“If my name is not pleasing to you,” I said, in my most official tone, “perhaps you would prefer I go guard someone else.”

“No!” She shrieked. “Please, stay! You saved my life! I’ve prayed and prayed for proof of God’s existence. Proof that my faith has not been misguided. You are that proof, Chuck! Please stay with me.”

It was an intriguing idea. Being a ghost was tiresome, but an angel? Now that was something different! Yes… “Chuck Butkis: Guardian Angel,” would indeed stay with Little Miss Halleluiah. He had nothing better to do, and it could turn out to be his best game yet!

“Do not despair, child,” I said, grinning like the devil I was. “Chuck is here, by your side.”

“Forever?” The girl asked, looking even more beautiful in her hopefulness.

“Sure,” I replied, flippantly.

“Thank you Lord,” she breathed, pressing her fingertips to her lips.

“He says, you’re welcome.”

The young woman fell back on her heels.

“You can hear…him?”

“Well, yeah, I’m an angel aren’t I? Direct line to the almighty, hot stuff!”

The girl grimaced, and I resisted the urge to snicker.

“Wow,” she said. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…you’re not quite what I expected.”

“Oh yeah?” I asked, thoroughly entertained. “How so?”

“I don’t know, exactly,” she admitted. “I guess I just never thought angels would be so…earthy.”

Hmm. That was something I’d never been called before. And I’d been called lots of things.

“Well,” I began, making things up as I went along, “not all angels are as down with the modern lingo as I am. That’s one of the reasons Big-G made me a guardian. He knew that I could converse with today’s man in a way he’d understand.”

“Big-G?”

“Yeah, you know, God.”

“You call him Big-G?”

“You seem a little suspicious for a supposed believer,” I said, genuinely irritated. “Do you dare doubt the things I tell you? I mean, I did just save your life, after all! Maybe I would be better off guarding someone else…”

“No, please!” The young woman begged again, this time more frantically. “I didn’t mean to…”

“No good,” I interrupted, crossing my invisible arms, “I think you need to be taught a little lesson about the importance of blind faith, when dealing with Chuck! I’m going away for a while. I may come back, someday, if you ever become ready to receive me properly.”

“No!” The girl cried, but she received no response from me.

I had no intention of actually leaving the sweet thing’s side, mind you, I just thought giving her a taste of the silent treatment might make my game a little easier to control, in the future. I was curious about Little Miss Halleluiah. I wanted to know what made her tick and see what that granny getup was all about. It would no doubt be easier to manipulate her as I saw fit, once I’d hung back and gotten her figured out a bit through some good, old fashioned spying. This, surprisingly, turned out to be quite the project!

It was just my luck that the one being capable of communicating with me lived a fourteen and a half-hour bus ride from the city. In my entire life, I had never stepped foot outside of the San Francisco bay area, and had no desire to. Ironic that after death I would suddenly find myself “haunting” an unfamiliar town… and that this town would be located in, of all places, Utah!

Upon arriving at the ultra-conservative city of Provo, I naturally assumed that religion must be to blame for my little lady’s granny wear. She was obviously a zealot, after all, and living smack dab in the heart of Mormon country, it appeared the girl’s story was simple…a dusty, old book to open and shut immediately with an emphatic yawn. I could not have been more wrong.

My first clue that Little Miss Halleluiah was not what she seemed came with a ring of her doorbell. She had cried pathetically during the entire bus ride to Provo and all the way to her quaint, two-bedroom townhouse. In fact, my new pet continued to weep, occasionally calling out my name, for nearly twenty-four straight hours! She cried as she unpacked her tattered, beige suitcase, cried as she drew a bath, and cried the entire time she soaked in the tub. This detracted slightly from my enjoyment of the scene…but only slightly.

It was not until the naked beauty’s unexpected visitor arrived that her cocoa colored eyes finally dried.

“Rodge?!” The still dripping girl cried in obvious disbelief, when she answered the door.

Thoughtlessly dropping her towel to throw her arms around a well-dressed, black man on her porch, my weepy new friend must have made quite the spectacle for any fortunate onlookers. Surely this was not something you saw every day in Provo, Utah.

I couldn’t help but notice that Rodge seemed apathetic to the delightful nudity of the sweet, young thing in his arms. He did not turn his shiny, bald head to sneak even one glance at his companion’s luscious rear end and I assumed then and there that Rodge must not be into chicks. I was right, by the way. After all, you don’t grow up where I did without picking up a little “gay-dar.” Yeah, yeah, you can get all huffy about my stereotyping, if it makes you feel better! But the truth of the matter is that stereotypes persist for a reason. Think about it. Anyway, back to the thorn in my side called Rodge…

Ushering his naked friend protectively back inside her home, the visitor nonchalantly swept her fallen towel off of the floor with his foot, and wrapped it around her.

“Cover your shame, Gummy Bear!” Rodge teased affectionately, and I winced at the nickname.

Gummy Bear? Seriously?

“What are you doing here?!” The girl shouted, nearly losing her towel again in her enthusiasm.

Rodge shrugged theatrically.

“I couldn’t leave things the way they were, Gracie. You should have known I’d hunt you down! Friends don’t let friends get away with dropping suicidal comments and disappearing. I should smack you!”

Suicidal, huh? Interesting…

“I’m sorry if I came off that way,” Gracie sighed. “I was just in a very dark place. The thirteenth is tomorrow and… I don’t know. I guess being reminded of what happened, and how lonely I’ve been since, had me wondering if it’s all even worth it. What good is a life without love?”

“How can you say that, honey?” Rodge, responded, forcefully, “I know I haven’t kept in touch as well as I should have lately, but you know how much I love you! You will never be alone in the world as long as I’m in it. It’ll always be you and me, Gummy Bear. Best friends ’til the end.”

Gag. This guy’s speeches should come with a label:

“WARNING: Exposure May Induce Uncontrollable Vomiting.”

Gracie listened to her friend intently then shrugged, biting her tiny, pink, bottom lip. God, she was cute.

“I know you love me, Rodge,” she said, after a moment. “But I’m sorry, that kind of love is just not enough. I want to live. Really live! Ever since...you know…my life has been so meaningless. I work, I come home. I work, I come home. That’s it! But I’m terrified to do anything else, and even when I’m feeling just a little bit brave…even when I want to get back out in the world…it feels like I’ve forgotten how. I’ve been desperate for proof that there is more to the human experience than this empty space. Back in your condo, that’s all I meant, when I said I ‘might as well embrace the void.’ I didn’t mean death, just acceptance that there is no God, no divine plan, no reason for what I’ve been through…”

Rodge opened his mouth to argue, but was silenced when his friend leaned forward to grab his hand, excitedly.

“But I was wrong, Rodge!” She cried, shaking her dark, wet hair. “There is a God! And I spoke to one of his messengers!”

The stunned man momentarily said nothing, his dark eyes opening wide.

“Um,” he began finally, “you spoke to…whom?”

“A messenger of God,” Gracie replied innocently. “An angel.”

“You spoke to an angel?” Rodge responded, trying hard to keep judgment from his tone and failing miserably.

“Yeah! What, you don’t believe me?”

The man lowered his eyebrows, staring at his companion as though she belonged in a straightjacket.

“Are you okay, Gummy Bear?” He asked, quietly.

“No!” Gracie shouted, her pretty face suddenly ugly with rage. “I’m not okay! I made contact with the divine! I talked to an angel! And I screwed things up so badly that he’ll probably never speak to me again. I try to tell my best friend, my only friend, and he treats me like a freakin’ lunatic! No, Rodge, I am definitely not okay. I feel like I had the door to the universe opened up before me yesterday, only to have it slammed in my face, and I just don’t understand why!”

Collapsing into a fit of tears that might have earned my sympathy, had they not been so completely unnecessary, Gracie was quickly scooped up into her companion’s muscular arms. As she soaked the shoulder of his grey and pink pinstriped shirt, I began to grow annoyed with my little project. This girl had some serious toughening up to do, if she was going to make it in the world. I mean, seriously, all this because of a little rejection? Suck it up, lady! Life’s a bitch and then you die! Then, in some cases, it’s an even bigger bitch!

I decided then and there that my game was no longer just a game. Chuck Butkis was a man, er, ghost with a mission! He was going to teach Gracie a thing or two about life. Push her off of the sidelines and into the game! Let her take a few hits and thicken up that baby soft… milky white… sweet smelling…damn, the girl had some nice skin. Get back on track, Chuckster. What was I saying? Oh, yeah! Chuck Butkis was going to make a survivor out of this weeping willow. As soon as Rodge, the enabler, quit babying Gracie and pranced off from whence he came, I would have at her. I wasn’t exactly sure what my plan was, at this point, but that did not stop me from being convinced it would work. After all, I was Chuck! And Chuck always got what was coming to him.

Much to my dismay, Rodge decided to stick around Provo for a while, stinking up Gracie’s spare room with his undoubtedly over-priced cologne. Apparently he did not share our hostess’ opinion that God’s handymen are all around us, and his concern for her psychological well-being manifested itself in extraordinarily annoying ways. He watched her like a hawk, following her around, screening her phone calls, and even tucking her in at night like the baby he apparently took her for. It was nauseating.

Unable to stand Mama Rodge any more than I absolutely had to, I was always grateful to follow my gal Gracie to work. I’m sure you’re guessing about now that the buttoned up little thing was a librarian, a Sunday school teacher, or something along those lines, but you’re absolutely wrong. Believe it or not, she was a massage therapist. Not one of those infamously nasty, “happy ending” masseuses, you see on late night, cable TV, but the legitimate kind. Not that you would know that by the way her clients treated her.

The sheer number of inappropriate advances the unhappy woman had to squelch a day was mind boggling. I mean, yeah, she was young and gorgeous and rubbing her nimble little hands all over these guy’s bodies, but…hmm…okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly “mind boggling.” It was, however, quite entertaining! Watching these pathetic excuses for men try to weasel their way into Gracie’s sweet, white, cotton panties quickly became my favorite spectator sport.

The pitch varied from man to man, but the wind-up was always the same. Gracie would knock softly on the treatment room door (to be sure her naked client’s goodies were safely hidden beneath the massage table’s sheets), before entering. They would be, as most of these guys seemed prepared to receive an actual, honest to God “therapeutic” massage…until they saw Gracie. Then all bets were off.

One glance at my pet, in her soft, pink spa uniform, and they’d instantly pitch tiny, little tents. “Pitching a tent” is massage therapist speak for popping a stiffy while on the massage table, by the way. I heard one of Gracie’s co-workers use the expression and found it so amusing that I had to add it to my permanent vocabulary. Anyway…these guys would see Gracie walk in, pitch their tents (not that I could blame them) and turn into slobbering hogs from that moment on.

Most would try to engage Gracie in polite conversation, only to run their hand up her thigh at the first opportunity. Others would spend the first half hour of their appointment trying to come on to her in the traditional sense, before resorting to offering her impressive sums of money in return for hand, blow, or any other type of “job” you could think of. And a few truly ballsy fellas would simply pull their sheets off, exposing what they apparently believed was so impressive that Gracie would have no choice but to surrender herself to them. All hail the wonder cock! Woman, bow down before its awesome glory! Ha!

Apparently, seduction was a lost art form in Provo, Utah. If I had found myself in that treatment room while still in my physical form, little Gracie wouldn’t have stood a chance! I would have had that sweet thing bent over the table in less time than these guys took to drop their pants. But that was neither here nor there, I guess. And besides, watching them fail was infinitely more fun than watching them succeed would have been. Though, I was dying to see what Gracie was like in the sack…figuratively, of course. Did she ever actually let go or was this Mother Theresa act all there really was?

Finding out proved difficult as Gracie showed the expected level of disgust for her lecherous clients, and had no life beyond her workplace. In fact, with the exception of Rodge, there was only one male she ever interacted with, and for reasons I did not quite understand, Gracie seemed to hardly notice his existence. His name was Joshua, and though he was the owner’s son (and technically, Gracie’s boss), he fawned over her like the love goddess she had no idea she was.

One particular day, Gracie walked into the linen room with an armload of oily sheets and a disgusted expression, passing her admirer with hardly a glance in his direction.

“Another Prince Charming, huh?” Joshua guessed, trying to hide his protective irritation at the thought.

He failed, as always. It was blatantly obvious how much he liked the girl. A part of me was rooting for him, despite myself.

“Another frog, anyway,” Gracie sighed, tossing the sheets into a laundry bin. “When did the term ‘massage therapist’ become synonymous with ‘prostitute?’ I mean, who do these assholes think I am?”

Even with her defeated tone, there was an edge to the girl’s speech that I had not heard before…just the slightest tinge of attitude! I liked it. But just like that, it was gone.

“All I want to do is help people,” she whimpered. “Why do they have to take such a pure impulse and make it cheap and dirty?”

“I don’t know if I’d call it cheap,” Joshua responded, playfully, “I heard the last guy offered you five grand for a one-night stand! That’s pretty pricey.”

I winced and shook my invisible head at the comment. Poor, dumb kid. Joshua’s attempt to lighten his beloved’s mood with humor failed miserably and she stood glaring at him from across the room, mouth agape at his audacity. As he swallowed hard, I could actually see the apology forming in the boy’s bright, blue eyes, but it never found voice, as Gracie swept out of the room before he could utter another word.

Suddenly, I could see why my girl didn’t give poor Joshua the time of day…sure he looked like one of those Abercrombie models chicks and gay guys love so much, but he had a serious case of verbal diarrhea and no wit to speak of! I couldn’t help but gain a little respect for Gracie…for all women, actually. They seemed to be much better then we men at overlooking a pretty face, if it happens to be plastered across an empty head. Of course, to be fair to us guys, it’s not that we are necessarily fooled by appearances; we just often choose a face over a brain, if it comes down to a decision. I mean, come on…it’s not a chick’s IQ getting sprayed at the climax of a porno, now is it?

Gracie left the spa just as a remarkably tall, blonde fellow was entering. As they passed each other in the doorway, I noticed a little…spark? Blondie flashed a toothpaste commercial grin at my little lady and I distinctly saw her pale cheeks blush at the attention. It was adorable. Well, okay, it was sickening, really. But it had potential to further my agenda, so I encouraged the interaction.

“Where do you think you’re going?!” I shouted in annoyance, when Gracie kept walking farther and farther away from her potential conquest.

The surprised young woman stopped dead in her tracks.

“Chuck?” She whispered, hopefully.

“Yeah, it’s me,” I replied, with a shrug.

“Oh!” Gracie cried, actually jumping up and down with joy. “You’re back! Praise-”

“Yeah, praise the Lord, or whatever!” I interrupted, anxiously. “Now turn that sweet, little, tail around and go after that guy!”

Gracie blinked in innocent confusion.

“What do you mean?” she asked. “What guy?”

“That guy you passed, coming out of work! You know, the seven-foot tall Ken doll? You wanted him, he wanted you, go back there and get him!”

“Get him?”

“Yeah! What, am I speaking fucking Chinese?! GET HIM!”

The expletive seemed to shake my credibility a bit. Gracie scowled in the direction of my voice, crossing her arms and cocking her shapely hip. I could feel my control of the game slipping away, hear the unspoken accusation forming on Gracie’s tight, little lips. She had begun to doubt my angelic status. I had to be more aware of my language. Dropping the f-bomb might be pushing it.

“Forgive my harsh tone, child,” I said, as apologetically as possible, “but there is much at stake, and I wouldn’t be much of a guardian if I didn’t push you in the right direction, now would I?”

Gracie still looked skeptical. I’d really stepped in it this time! Chuck Butkis’ Achilles’ heel had always been his temper.

“I suppose not,” she admitted, reluctantly. “But what’s the big deal? Why do you want me to chase that guy?”

As Gracie spoke, I noticed the man in question had left the day spa, and climbed into a new orange and black Camaro. He drove away before I could make another peep, effectively thwarting my matchmaking attempt, once and for all. I roughly kicked an aluminum trashcan beside me on the curb, and the deafening bang made Gracie jump in surprise. Damn it, I was trying to stay calm, but the girl was so frustrating! I had to take a long, deep breath before speaking.

“What if I told you that your hesitation just now, your refusal to listen to my commands…God’s commands…just cost you something precious?”

Gracie’s eyes grew wide and her pink lips parted. Yep, ha-ha, got her! The game was back on, and the ball was definitely in Chuck’s court.

“What do you mean?” The girl asked, softly. “What did I miss?”

“That guy,” I replied. “He was supposed to be yours, kiddo!”

Gracie’s breath caught, and she grew even paler than usual.

“You mean, he was my soulmate?” She whispered.

“Your what?”

“Soulmate…other half. You know, my ‘meant to be.’ That guy was…him?”

The desperation in my pet’s voice was just too delicious to resist.

“Yep,” I replied, smugly. “Bet you wish you’d have listened to old Chuck now, don’t ya? Your skepticism just cost you true love, babe! What a pity.”

Gracie’s lip trembled and I rolled my invisible eyes. As pretty as the sweet thing looked when she cried, I’d really had enough of her water works to last a lifetime. Or, an afterlifetime, I should say.

“Oh, there, there, now,” I soothed, awkwardly. “It’s not as bad as all that. I’m sure you’ll get another chance at happiness. But next time I say ‘go,’ you GO, got it?”

The devastated young woman nodded obediently, but said nothing.

“Alright,” I sighed, “I’m bored, let’s get outta here.”

Gracie nodded again, and pulled her cell phone from her purse, to text Mama Rodge, no doubt. My gal’s annoying houseguest had been acting as chauffer since his arrival, and I dreaded his picking us up almost as much as I regretted not just tripping Gracie at the blonde man’s feet. She sure would have gotten his attention then, like it or not! I chuckled at the thought of it. Gracie crashing face first onto the pavement…pretty, little rump in the air…yep, he couldn’t have missed that one!

“Why are you laughing, Chuck?” Gracie asked, startling me from my daydream.

Thankfully, Mama Rodge pulled up at that very moment, giving me an easy answer.

“Rodge’s car,” I said.

It wasn’t exactly a lie. Not a day went by that I didn’t laugh at Rodge’s car. He drove a freakin’ Pinto, for Christ’s sake! The hideous little thing had enough body damage to suggest a tour through the Middle East, and I could not help but to wonder how a guy that dressed so impeccably could drive such a piece of shit car. It was quite the conundrum.

“I’m just grateful that he has a car,” Gracie responded, heading toward the steaming pile of automobile. “It’s been awesome having a week away from the city bus…and its smells…”

I laughed heartily at the statement, and Gracie smiled beautifully. I must admit, the positive interaction felt rather nice. Might as well face it, crybaby or not, I liked this girl.

“What are you grinnin’ about?” Rodge asked pleasantly, as Gracie climbed into his…ahem… “car.”

The girl smiled even broader and grabbed her friend by the shoulders.

“Are you ready for this?” She asked, excitedly. “Chuck is back!”

Rodge looked horrified, and rightly so.

“Chuck… the angel?”

“Yeah, duh! Who else?”

Rodge took a long pause before speaking again, pressing his fingertips into a tense steeple.

“Is Chuck here…now?

“Yeah, I mean, I think so. Are you still here, Chuck?”

“You know it baby!” I replied, from the back seat.

Rodge didn’t hear my response, of course, but Gracie did not realize it.

“See?!” She exclaimed.

Her elation quickly dimmed, however, at the continued blank stare on her friend’s face.

“What’s wrong?” She asked, anxiously. “You don’t have to be afraid, Rodge, he’s an angel! A heavenly being! He’s here to help me.”

Rodge’s expression remained frozen, though he seemed to pale a bit. Gracie stared back at him in confusion for a humorously long time, and I relaxed in my seat, enjoying the scene.

“You didn’t hear him,” my little brainiac finally deduced, an eternity later.

“No,” Rodge responded, softly.

Gracie was visibly perplexed.

“How is that possible?”

“I don’t know, Gummy Bear.”

The two just stared at one another until I broke the silence.

“I’m your angel, not his,” I said. “Why should he hear me?”

Gracie pouted for a moment, before responding,

“He shouldn’t, I guess.”

“Who shouldn’t…what?” Rodge asked, cautiously.

Gracie sighed.

“Never mind,” she said. “Forget I said anything.”

Rodge stared at his friend for a long while, visibly disturbed, before noisily shifting into gear and driving home.

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