Chuck: A Ghost's Story

By C.A. Cardoza All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Fantasy

Chapter 2

The days that followed were tense…at least, for Gracie and Rodge. For me, they were a hoot and a half! It was obvious that after witnessing our conversation in his Pinto, Rodge was thoroughly convinced that his best friend was a certified lunatic. In response, Gracie pulled away from him, relying more and more on yours truly for companionship. She no longer talked to me in front of Rodge, for obvious reasons, instead announcing that she wanted to be alone to “pray,” before retreating to her room, where she thought our conversations went unheard. What Gracie did not know, however, was that the rather fortunate configuration of her townhome’s duct system carried the sound of her voice through her bedroom vent, straight into the guest bedroom…where Rodge would listen anxiously as she chattered away.

Of course, I knew he was listening, as I would occasionally wander off when Gracie would get caught up in some monologue on a subject that disinterested me. The day I discovered her little “vent problem,” for example, she was ranting and raving about her pervert clients and how offensive it was to be treated like a piece of meat, and all that blah, blah, blah feminist noise. I get it, okay? Women want to be treated like equals. YET, they also want you to treat them like princesses…open their doors, pull out their chairs, lift and carry, build and repair…basically do everything for them, so that they feel “taken care of.” In other words, they say they want to be treated no differently than we men, but in reality, they expect us to treat them better than we are treated. Where’s the equality in that, I ask you? Anyway…

I popped into Mama Rodge’s room to see if there was anything more entertaining going on in there than rants on sexism and discrimination, and lo and behold…there was! Our houseguest sat on the corner of the bed with an expression of absolute dismay, listening to Gracie go on and on to her “angel,” every word audible through the vent above him. Of course, I had to use this new information to my advantage. Chuck always was an opportunist, remember?

I made it my mission to turn every one of Gracie’s “prayer times” into conversations that would sound wildly bizarre to Rodge’s diamond-studded ears. One of my favorite games was asking her a simple question, then telling her that there was “dimensional interference” and could she please repeat the answer…over, and over, and over. I once managed to get Gracie to repeat the word “kill” (during a conversation about the Ten Commandments) fifteen times before she gave up trying to get her message across. I did not get to see Rodge’s reaction to that little stunt, as I had to remain in Gracie’s room to keep her going, but I can tell you that the man actually locked the guestroom door, that night! And who could blame him? The voice of a crazy person wafting into your room praying, “Thou shall not kill. Kill…kill…kill…KILL…KILL…KILL…” would be enough to make the most macho of men uneasy, let alone a pansy like Rodge!

Turns out that night’s shenanigans went a bit too far, however, and the next morning when Gracie was getting dressed for work, I discovered Rodge engrossed in a very “hush hush” phone call on the back porch.

“Yes, sir,” he said respectfully, to whoever was on the other end of the line, “I know I said it would only be a week, but I just can’t leave yet…I think she might be dangerous…Herself, I think. Maybe others, I just don’t know anymore…I don’t know if I can do that. Gracie and I have been looking out for one another our entire lives. I can’t just have her hauled off like a convict! I know…I know…no, of course not…”

Suddenly I knew how Rodge felt, only hearing one side of a conversation, and I did not like it one bit. Especially the part about having my gal Gracie “hauled off!” As far as I could tell, someone out there was doing their best to convince Mama Rodge to send his little chickadee straight to the cuckoo’s nest, and that just wasn’t going to happen. Nobody, and I mean nobody, ever took a girl from Chuck Butkis! This game was going to last until I decided it was over!

I could not risk Rodge deciding to listen to the voice on the phone and have my Gracie committed, so my course of action became clear. Mama Rodge had to go! And it would be no great loss. He was irritating as hell, anyway. I hated that he refused to eat any form of fast-food, calling it “poison.” I hated that he did stupid yoga poses every night before bed and shaved his head every morning, even if there was no stubble. I hated that everything in Rodge’s squeaky clean, little world had to be imported, organic, fair-trade, and cruelty-free. I often found myself glaring at him, for no apparent reason. The world is neither fair nor cruelty-free, friend. The sooner everyone accepts that, the sooner we can all get on with life and stop pretending we are anything more than technologically advanced animals.

Animals know that it is sometimes necessary to defend their territory from dangerous invaders. Logically, I intended to do the same. As much as I would have loved to send Rodge out of the door with a simple, well-placed kick to the ass of his designer jeans, this was not possible. After all, I no longer had a real foot. What I did have, however, was the one weapon that followed me into the afterlife…my devilish wit.

Rodge was a jumpy bastard and it did not take long to observe that he was also incredibly superstitious. I imagined this delicious combination of traits would make him an easy mark. Chuck Butkis was going to clear his playing field by scaring the bejeezus out of Mama Rodge! Oh how fun I thought it would be! And it was, until an ironic accident changed the rules of my game, entirely. But I’m skipping ahead…

It required patience to properly terrorize our inconvenient houseguest, and I had to resist the urge to cut straight to the chase. I did not want to scare the guy off with one giant gesture, only to have him convince himself later it was only his imagination and come scampering back. No, to get rid of Rodge for good I had to slowly set him off kilter, and then go in for the kill (so to speak). I wanted him to be 100% sure that there was something “supernatural” going on in Gracie’s townhome, so that he would not set foot there again for all the tea in China.

At first, I started small. Waiting ’til Rodge was snuggled up in his beddy-bye, I would creep into the darkened guest room and blow softly onto the back of his neck, stifling my laughter as he twisted his head to look over his shoulder suspiciously, each time. To this nightly ritual, I soon added gentle tugs to Rodge’s sheets. Blow, tug...blow, tug…for hours. With each tiny pull of the sheets, Rodge would spring to a sitting position, looking frantically left and right, but of course, seeing nothing in the darkness.

After a few nights of this, sleep deprivation was beginning to take its toll on poor Rodge. He had enough baggage under his eyes to travel the globe twice, yet still he stayed with Gracie. I would have been impressed by this loyalty, if something as pointless as loyalty meant anything to me. Instead, I just found it aggravating, and cranked my “haunting” up a notch. Rather than simply tugging Rodge’s sheets at night, I now grabbed a handful of blankets at the foot of the bed, and ever so slowly slid them all the way off of his slumbering body and onto the floor. I discovered this was too subtle, however, as the guy slept right through the experience, not noticing his blankets were missing until morning.

This was not a mistake I meant to repeat, so the following night, I stormed into the guest room slamming the door open on my way in, yanked the blankets abruptly off of the bed, and grinned wickedly as my victim leapt from his bed to cower in the corner of his room.

“Who’s there?!” He whispered, aggressively.

I wanted so badly to answer…to compound his terror with some blood-curdling comment straight out of a horror movie. But Rodge could not hear me. It seemed that only one person in the world could, and this schmuck was not going to take her away from me! Imagine the nerve... shipping Gracie off to some loony bin, where quack doctors would convince her that she was crazy, until she finally decided that I was imaginary and stopped speaking to me. Nope! Not gonna happen! Sorry, Rodge.

I thought for sure that night would have sealed the deal, as Rodge never did get back into bed after I ripped off his blankets. He eventually drifted off while crouched in the corner. That is, until I slammed the door again. After that, there was no more sleep for Rodgey-poo! I congratulated myself on a job well done, fully expecting our unwelcome visitor to hit the skids at morning’s first light. I was wrong…dead wrong.

I did not follow Gracie to work the following day, choosing instead to remain with Rodge as he prepared himself to spend another night in what was an obviously haunted house. He made up the sofa-bed in the living room (as if changing rooms would deter me), scrounged himself up a flashlight to keep under his pillow, and even went out to procure some “holy water” from god knows where. Don’t ask me what he planned to do with that. I was a ghost not a vampire! But “desperate times,” I guess…

As Rodge prepared his new bedroom, I sat at the top of the stairs, concocting my scheme for the night. A flash of gold against the beige carpet beside me suddenly caught my attention, and I reached out to find that Gracie had apparently dropped a tube of lipstick on her way out, that morning. Rodge climbed the stairs beside me, heading into the bathroom, as I slid the cap off of the tube and examined the color inside. It was red…slut red…and I wondered why a fresh-faced gal like Gracie even owned such an item. I concluded, then and there, that there was a wild streak in that girl that simply needed to come out.

I set the lipstick down beside me and went back to my surveillance of my mark, as he went on about his morning routine. He showered, singing what sounded like off-key opera the entire time, then stepped out of the shower and over to the sink. It was the same thing every morning. He would shower and sing, then Bic his already shiny, bald head. This guy ticked like a clock…tick, tick, tick…hands moving around the face in the same direction, over and over and over. I never understood it.

As Rodge prepared to shave, I eyed the fogged up bathroom mirror deviously. It was time to up the creep-out factor on this little scenario, and the man’s morning routine offered perfect opportunity. I crept up beside my unsuspecting victim, and reached out toward the hazy glass before him. My first instinct was to write, “Get Out!” As that was the sentiment I most wanted to get across, but realizing that the phrase was both horribly cliché and not nearly frightening enough, I quickly changed my mind. Instead, I slowly, deliberately spelled one, enormous word on the bathroom mirror. “DIE.”

Rodge watched in undisguised, open-mouthed terror as the word appeared miraculously on the glass before him, then fled the scene in a full run. He ran down the hallway, toward the stairs leading to the living room, and the door to freedom from my torments. He never made it that far, however. Gracie’s slut-red lipstick still lay at the top of the stairs, right where I had left it, and for the first time ever, Chuck Butkis accidently tripped someone!

I laughed heartily when my prissy mark tumbled roughly down the steep staircase, but soon stopped, when I realized that he was not getting up from the hardwood floor. I ran down the staircase and looked the mangled body over, unsure what to do. After all, I couldn’t touch the guy! Rodge occasionally twitched, letting me know he was still alive, but neither rose nor made a sound, and I began to panic. I grabbed the house-phone off of the fireplace mantle and dialed 911, knowing that though I could not give an address, emergency services would trace the call.

I stared at the door, waiting for them to arrive, when I was startled to hear a familiar voice speak up, from behind me.

“What…what’s going on?” The voice stammered.

I turned to find Rodge standing over his motionless body, and shrugged awkwardly.

“Umm,” I responded, “I think you’re dead, man.”

Dead?!”

“Yep.”

“I’m dead…” he repeated, struggling to come to grips with the situation. “This isn’t happening…it can’t be…”

“Oh, trust me, it’s happening. It’s weird as hell, I know, but it is happening.”

Rodge whipped around at the comment, to face me.

“You,” he began, pointing at me with an expression of complete bewilderment. “You’re dead too?”

“Yep.”

“So you’re…I mean…we’re, what? Ghosts?”

“Far as I can tell.”

Rodge turned and paced around the room, his hands pressed to his lips, and his dark eyes locked onto the body on the floor. When he finally stopped, however, his gaze turned back toward me.

“Wait a minute,” he said, suspiciously. “Are you the one that’s been keeping me up at night and scaring the shit out of me?!”

“Guilty!”

“And now…. you’ve killed me! You killed me, you son of a bitch!”

With that, Rodge came at me, and I was grateful that he couldn’t touch me... especially since the swing Rodge took at me was shockingly well-aimed! It would have been one hell of a black eye, if I’d still had an eye.

“Down, boy!” I shouted, holding my hands up in front of me. “Chuck Butkis is no murderer! That was an accident! I did not kill you! At least, not on purpose.”

Over Rodge’s shoulder I suddenly noticed the faintest twinkle of light, hovering in the corner of the room, and stared in fascination as it slowly grew into what I could only guess was the “tunnel of light” you’ve heard so much about. As hideous as the hell-mouth that appeared at my death scene was, that is how beautiful the sparkling tunnel appeared. Its brilliant, yet pale light seemed to be soft, somehow. Gentle, safe, and warm, the air around it was charged with the most peaceful energy, and it smelled deliciously sweet. I did not know what was beckoning on the other side of the tunnel of light…but I desperately wanted to find out!

I considered making a run for it, knowing fully well that the tunnel was not there for me, but was distracted by Rodge’s sudden shouting.

“Wait…did you just say ’Chuck’ Butkis?!” He exclaimed furiously, as mention of my name helped everything click into place. “You’re Chuck?! Gracie’s angel?!”

I bowed theatrically, in response.

“You monster!” He cried, lunging at me again, to no avail.

“I am no monster,” I replied, evading his pointless charge, “and I’m certainly no angel! But I am a man on a mission, and you’ve been getting in my way, ever since you got here. So why don’t you prance on over to your sparkly, little tunnel over there and be gone, once and for all! Let me take care of Gracie.”

“Over my dead body!” Rodge shouted, rolling his eyes when I chuckled at the statement. “You know what I mean, Chuck.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I replied, waving my hand dismissively. “I get the whole, BFF thing you and Gracie have going on, but your ride is here buddy and trust me, they won’t wait forever! That tunnel will close.”

“Then let it,” Rodge replied stubbornly, crossing his arms across his chest. “I’m not going anywhere, as long as you’re here.”

As if in response to his refusal, the light began to fade, and the tunnel slowly dissipated back into Gracie’s living room wall. We two ghosts stood and glared at one another, as a couple of cops arrived to investigate my 911 call. They were soon followed by the paramedics, who were obviously useless at this point, but at least they were kind enough to clean up Rodge’s broken body and inform Gracie of the accident, while she was still at work. I would not have wanted to see the look of shock and horror on her face if the woman would have come home to find her best friend dead on the living room floor! Witnessing her grief was bad enough.

There were still a few cops at the scene, when Gracie walked in the front door. Rodge hovered around his friend protectively, occasionally shooting me a murderous glance across the room, as the officers asked our girl the expected questions. Why was Rodger Winston Morris in her townhome? Would anyone else have been there? Was there any reason to suspect foul play? Luckily, Gracie’s being at work gave her an airtight alibi and neighbors confirmed that, with the exception of Rodge, no visitor had ever been seen entering Gracie’s home. The case was obviously being chalked up to the accident that it was, and before long the circus cleared out, leaving only the townhome’s three inhabitants.

Gracie walked mechanically to the couch and dropped to a seat, bringing her knees up to her chin, like a little girl. In a misery beyond tears, the woman’s beautiful face was hideously twisted with pain. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. Rodge, on the other hand, walked right over to his friend and knelt before her, though he knew she could not see him. He took a long, deep breath, and closed his eyes, obviously gathering his thoughts, before speaking.

“It’s okay, Gummy Bear,” he said, finally. “I’m still here.”

Gracie’s expression remained unchanged, and Rodge sat roughly back on his heels.

“Gracie?” He called, worriedly. “Gracie, can you hear me?”

It was obvious that she couldn’t and I felt a slight snicker escape my lips, before I could stop it.

“What the hell are you laughing at?” Rodge growled, standing to walk toward me.

I shrugged and leaned back on my elbows.

“Why can’t she hear me?’

Again, I shrugged.

“She can hear you, but she can’t hear me,” Rodge persisted. “Why?!”

I opened my mouth to comment, but was silenced by Gracie’s soft voice.

“Chuck?” She called, weakly. “Are you here?”

“Yes,” I called back, smirking at the scowling man in front of me. “Of course, child. Chuck is always here for you.”

A small sigh of relief escaped the young woman’s lips, as an enormous tear made its way down her flushed cheek.

“Good,” she whispered. “I don’t think I can handle this.”

Mama Rodge whipped around, momentarily forgetting about me, and rushed back to his friend’s side.

“You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met, Gummy Bear,” he said. “You’ll get through this. You survived when we were kids! You survived that bastard, Marcus Crowley! You can survive this!”

Oblivious to her friend’s attempts at comfort, Gracie pulled her legs more tightly to her chest, and her shoulders began to shake with her violent sobbing.

“Marcus Crowley?” I asked Rodge.

Gracie’s head jerked up and her eyes grew wide.

“What about Marcus?!” She demanded, visibly terrified. “Did he find me?! Was he here?! Did he do this?!”

I did not have to look at Rodge to know the look he gave me, as I tried to calm Gracie down.

“No!” I exclaimed. “No, Gracie. This was an accident! No one was responsible.”

“Except, maybe, the ghost that chased me down the stairs?” Rodge added, bitterly.

I ignored him, and focused on my girl.

“Then why on earth would you say that horrible name, at a time like this?” Gracie asked, sniffling.

“Well,” I began, moving across the room to position myself between Gracie and Rodge. “I just wanted to remind you of all of the terrible things that you’ve been through. You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met, Gracie. You survived your childhood! You survived Marcus Crowely! You can survive this!”

I could swear that I heard Rodge’s teeth grind behind me, though he had no real teeth, and I could not help but smile.

“Yes,” Gracie said miserably, “but, why? Why must I go through these things? Why did Rodge have to die?!”

She had me stumped for a minute, there.

“Yeah, angel, why?” Rodge taunted.

“Well…you see…” I mused, “people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” I heard Rodge groan behind me, but continued on. “Rodge’s season has passed. You didn’t need him anymore, so he moved on to a better place.”

“Seriously?” Rodge interrupted, sarcastically.

“Didn’t need him?!” Gracie cried, with a stunned expression. “Of course I need him! I will always need him! Rodge has been the one constant in my life, and without him I’ll just be…lost.”

The woman’s pretty, pink, bottom lip began to tremble and I knew a fresh flood of tears would be close behind.

“God,” I heard Rodge sigh, from behind me. “This is so messed up…”

“No,” I said firmly, to both of them, “everything is just as it should be! It’s time for little Gracie to start living. Really living, without relying on a security blanket of a best friend when times get tough!”

Gracie’s lip stopped trembling and settled into a childish pout.

“What a terrible thing to say,” she said, softly.

“No kidding!” Rodge added, angrily. “This woman just lost her best…no…her only friend in the world! Have you no heart at all?! Do you really think that bullshit is what she needs to hear right now?!”

“Look, I have exactly zero interest in telling people what they want to hear, okay?” I shouted, frustrated with the turn of conversation. “Life is no bowl of freakin’ cherries! It’s hard. It’s messy. It’s painful. But there are moments of fun, of ecstasy, of wild, reckless abandon that make it all worthwhile, and you are missing out, Gracie! You’re missing everything, buried beneath layers of clothing and hiding inside this stupid townhouse with a guy that treats you like you’re some helpless kid! You are by no means helpless, and you do not need Rodge. You don’t need anyone! None of us do.”

As the living room’s other inhabitants sat in silent shock, I began to pace in irritation. I didn’t like to vomit my thoughts the way I had. And I didn’t like thinking about how much I loved being alive…but I did! Chuck Butkis loved every stupid moment of his short, misguided life. Well, maybe not childhood. Being a kid sucked balls! Kids have no control over anything. But as soon as I went out on my own at fifteen…yeah…life was pretty sweet, from that point on. I spent the next fifteen years doing, and taking, whatever the hell I wanted. I sucked every ounce of sweetness out of any experience that presented itself, leaving only the dregs for those that followed. I wanted it all back. I wanted it desperately. But it was over…at least, for me.

“Don’t waste your chance to live, Gracie,” I sighed, interrupting the silence in the room.

“I don’t think I know how,” she whispered, in response.

“Don’t worry,” I said, beaming. “Chuck will teach you.”

“Chuck…NO!” Rodge shouted, following me through the townhouse.

“She needs this, Mama,” I answered, not breaking stride. “She hasn’t left the house since you died. She needs to get out, in a big way!”

“Well, encourage her to go to work then! If Gracie doesn’t make some money soon, the bill collectors are going to start breathing down her neck, and she does not need that, right now! Just like she doesn’t need to go out and get wasted in some stupid bar, with no one to protect her! What are you trying to do, get her raped and murdered? Gracie has already been through so much, Chuck. And neither of us can do a damn thing if someone tries to hurt her!”

“Women go to bars, by themselves, all the time! Yeah, sometimes bad things happen, but sometimes bad things happen to women in shopping mall parking lots. Should Gracie avoid the mall too?”

“It’s different, and you know it.”

I shrugged and strode into Gracie’s closet, trying to find anything that didn’t look like it belonged on an eighty year-old Jehovah’s witness.

“Maybe it is different,” I finally admitted, tossing blouses. “But she’s doing it anyway.”

“Damn it, Chuck…”

“Look, all I keep hearing about is how Gracie’s past is sooo terrible, Gracie has been through sooo much, well…Chuck says it’s time to move on with life and get over it! She’s living for both of us now, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend my afterlife stuck in freakin’ Utah, listening to you piss and moan like that irritating goldfish in The Cat in the Hat! We are getting out of here and you can’t do a damn thing to stop it, Mama Rodge.”

“For the hundredth time, will you please stop calling me Mama?”

“Quit being an old bitty, and I’ll think about it.”

Gracie walked out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, surrounded by a cloud of steam.

“Stop staring at her like that,” Rodge scolded. “It’s repulsive.”

I circled Gracie’s now naked body and took in the sight, appreciatively.

“There’s nothing repulsive about that!” I responded, winking at my furious rival.

“Nothing repulsive about what?” Gracie asked, wrapping back up when she realized that she was not alone.

“Oh! Uh,” I stammered. “I was just talking to Big-G. He was pointing out how much they have cleaned up the downtown area lately. It’s not repulsive anymore.”

“Nice save,” Rodge replied, sarcastically.

“God thought downtown was bad?” Gracie replied, hiding in the closet to change. “I always thought it was pretty nice, for a city. But I guess compared to San Francisco, Provo…”

“Oh no,” I interrupted, suddenly inspired. “He didn’t mean downtown, Provo. We were talking about Vegas.”

“Las Vegas, Nevada?” Came the surprised response, from the closet.

“The one and only!”

“I would have thought that would be God’s least favorite place! You know…Sin City, and all.”

“Nah! Vegas is great,” I argued, becoming more and more excited. “At least, from what I’ve heard. And as it just so happens, that is where we are going, tonight!”

“What?!” Gracie and Rodge cried, in unison.

“Yep, Vegas,” I continued. “As soon as you’re dressed.”

Gracie and Rodge began to argue with me simultaneously, and their muddled pleas were like nails on a chalkboard.

“Look!” I interrupted, firmly. “I’m the boss…er…guardian, here! And if I say Gracie needs to go to Vegas, then to Vegas she shall go!”

“But…why?” Gracie asked.

“Lookie here, sister,” I replied. “Big-G did not go through the trouble of creation just to have cowards like you squander the gift of life by spending it in hiding.”

Gracie straightened her shoulders, set her jaw, and faced my general direction with an expression of pure defiance.

“I am not a coward!” She nearly shouted, with a startlingly aggressive step forward. “I’m not.”

I had never seen this side of Gracie before, and to be honest, had no idea how to handle it.

“She’s no coward, Chuck,” Rodge agreed. “Don’t mistake Gracie’s sweetness for weakness. She may be a bit gun-shy these days, but that woman is a survivor…and she can be tough as nails.”

“Again with the survivor, riff, huh?” I replied.

“Yes,” Gracie said, thinking I had spoken to her. “I am a survivor. And I don’t mean to squander the gift that I’ve been given. I swear.”

I watched the woman’s jaw unclench as she finished her sentence, and her trademark vulnerability returned to her tone.

“I do know how special the gift of life is. I do. I just…don’t know what to do with it anymore.”

“That’s exactly what I am trying to teach you, Gracie!” I exclaimed. “So pack your bag. Wait, better yet, we’ll buy you stuff when we get there. Let’s go!”

Gracie blinked in confusion.

“Wait, what do you mean go?”

“It’s a two letter word, Gracie! There’s nothing to understand. Just GO!”

“But, Las Vegas is over five hours from here,” Gracie pointed out, as she walked uncertainly down the staircase. “How are we going to get there?”

“We’ll take Rodge’s car,” I replied, casually.

“What?!” He exclaimed, following us down the stairs. “Chuck, the Pinto will never…”

“Do you think it’ll make it?” Gracie interrupted without realizing it, as she grabbed her purse off of the couch and headed obediently out the front door.

“I don’t know,” I replied, honestly. “But if it doesn’t, maybe we’ll hitch hike! Either way it’ll be an adventure.”

“Hitch hike?” Rodge spat, hurrying to follow Gracie. “You are not…”

Before Rodge could finish his sentence, he was silenced by the shock of slamming, face first, into an invisible wall blocking the doorway. The startled man jumped back and glared at me accusingly.

“Hey, that wasn’t me!” I exclaimed, throwing my hands up.

Rodge tried to walk out the door a second time, but again, was repelled back. He reached for the opening, and slid his hands over the unseen barrier, looking kind of like a well-dressed mime.

Huh…so Rodge was a ‘Shut-In.’ Interesting…

“We’re trapped!” He exclaimed, shooting me a panicked look, as he pawed at the barrier.

I strolled past him and through the doorway, to stand casually on the front porch.

“No,” I sang, gloatingly. “You’re trapped!”

“How did you do that?” Rodge asked, in awe.

“Do what?”

“Get past the door!”

I shrugged.

“I just walk right through it, slick as snot.”

“But…but…” Rodge stammered, still trying to figure a way out. “Why is it that you can leave, and I can’t?”

I flashed him my cockiest grin and walked away with one last shrug.

“’Cause I’m Chuck!”

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