Chapter 6: Gaining Ground
“I can explain!” I clichéd, in the most non-threatening voice I could muster. Instinctively, I scanned the room for anyone else I’d have to explain my situation to and spotted Shannon sitting at her desk, her attention focused on her laptop computer. For a few beautiful seconds, I assumed that I could brush by her and focus on explaining my situation to Kara. Alas, my plan was trounced when she suddenly looked up from her screen and straight at me. She must have locked on to my scent with that ingenious device she wears on her face that she refers to as a “nose.” Curses!
I really couldn’t deal with two frantic girls at once, so I concentrated on Kara and prayed that Shannon would listen as well, instead of just calling the Ghostbusters.
“I really can explain!” I yelled.
“This ought to be good,” Kara replied calmly. She still stood in front of me, her hand remaining on the doorknob.
I blinked a few times with joyous disbelief. “You mean you’re not going to scream and run away?!” I was puzzled, but also ecstatic, kind of like a dog when you come home from work early. I hoped that I wouldn’t suddenly wet myself like my canine cousins sometimes do.
“Run away? Why, just because you’re a little muddy?” she returned, walking back into the room and sitting on her bed. “I’d stick around even if you were covered with tuna and had dead fish in your pockets.”
“That’s great Kara, but there’s something I need to-”
“Take off that muddy jacket and come sit next to me. Let’s watch some TV.”
Thankfully, my girlfriend and her roommate were woefully uninformed! Neither of them had read the newspaper that day! I guess when The Dean had come to their door with his crazy bullhorn trying to get them to get out of bed to come to my impromptu memorial, Kara and Shannon had simply taken Kara’s mattress and placed it against the door, muffling out even the loudest of The Dean’s flustered protests. Kara went back to sleep on the rug with her pillow, blanket and stuffed dog, Rolley, and after about ten minutes of howling obscenities at their door, The Dean gave up and moved on. Ironically, it probably would have been easier to just go to the damn service, but I wasn’t about to start complaining about that!
I stood, staring mystified at Kara. I couldn’t believe that both she and Shannon had completely missed the news that everyone and his brother’s therapist knew about. What luck! For a few seconds, Kara and Shannon ignored me because they were watching Charlton Heston’s new cooking show, From My Cold Dead Hams. But soon, using her finely tuned psychic powers, Kara sensed my bewilderment. Either that, or she picked up on the fact that I had been creepily staring at her for the past 20 minutes. But I’m pretty sure it was the other thing.
“Matt, are you all right?” she inquired, a look of concern washing over her face. “What’s wrong?”
I had made it to the one person (or two, if Shannon didn’t have any homework) who could help me out of the unexpected mess I found myself in, but I quickly realized that I had no idea what I was going to say to her. How do you explain to someone that everyone thinks you’re dead, and a ghost too now, because of an erroneous newspaper article? I hadn’t even brought a copy of the paper with me! And although I’m a very serious person, Kara might think that I was joking about the whole thing, go to class, and then go back home for the winter break. Then I’d be stuck “haunting” my own home, never leaving the driveway and living off of cheese and ramen noodles until the spring semester! Only this time people would think I was dead! I had to approach the subject gently and gain Kara’s trust before telling her the whole confusing tale. I removed my jacket, sat on the bed next to her, and eased carefully into the awful events of the day. Very calmly, I began my story.
“OH MY GOD, KARA!!! Everyone thinks I’m a ghost but I’m not really dead and orphans beat me up so Mom smashed my Christmas gifts with a big hammer and then I wanted French fries but I had to hide behind a tree and some neon green orange pants girl threw her soup at me and it’s all because of The Dean’s bullhorn and the newspaper!”
Twenty or so minutes later, after Kara managed to get me to stop weeping so hard, I told her the whole miserable story – from the orphans to the obituary, and finally, The Dean’s sinful bullhorn. Just as I feared, Kara thought I was joking.
“I think you’re joking,” Kara said predictably. “If it’s in a newspaper, it must be true. I mean, how could anyone be so stupid as to think you were…”
Just then, Crazy Soup Girl’s voice came echoing down the hallway.
“…and his ghost flew through the wall, firing some kind of lasers wherever he looked! His mud-caked body oozed with corruption and shined with evil! He attacked me and consumed my delicious gourmet soup in one malicious slurp!”
Crazy Soup Girl flung herself into Kara and Shannon’s room. She desperately shook Kara by the shoulders. “Kara! Shannon! We all need to get out of here! This dorm is haunted by the terrible ghost of Matt Fr-”
And that was right around the time when she caught sight of me. I waved dumbly at her.
“There he is! Sweet Merciful Jesus, I can feel him licking my soul with his demonic, hellfire-charred eyes!” With that, Crazy Soup Girl ran straight for the window and gracefully dove out. I guess someone had done a great job cleaning it that day, because that window seemed open… that is, until Crazy Soup Girl shattered it on the way out. As I watched her sail through the window, glass spraying around her, she looked like an ugly neon bird attempting to take flight. Actually, I hoped that maybe she would sprout wings and fly away before hitting the unforgiving soil below.
I could see by reading her lips that Kara was attempting to form words, but every time she got close to actually saying one, something went off in her head that brought her back to square one. It was kind of like a car that almost started, but promptly died before it could be driven to the shop. In my head, I thanked Crazy Soup Girl for being so gullible.
“I… I’m really sorry that I thought you were joking,” said Kara, hugging me tightly.
As I heard the telltale thud of Crazy Soup girl versus the ground outside the window, Kara continued, “We can’t just leave it like this.”
“I know,” I muttered. “Also, someone should really go out there and clean up what’s left of Crazy Soup Gi-”
“We need to do something to help you!” Kara exclaimed. Something glowed in her eyes as she spoke. I had heard about things like this before – it was called the “Eye of the Tiger” and it usually meant that someone was about to get severely beaten in the name of victory and personal perseverance. I began to back away from Kara, afraid that she was going to fix the problem by actually killing me. That way, I really would be a ghost and universal equilibrium would be achieved once more. Although it would probably have been the easiest of the solutions, somehow I wasn’t too keen on it. I braced myself for a thrashing.
“We’ve got to let people know you’re still alive!” Kara yelled, thrusting her fist in the air triumphantly.
A smile slowly formed on my mud-caked, grass-smeared face.