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Mind Dweller - Chapter 8
    In the morning, as Dr. Hopkins is talking, I close my eyes and concentrate. I picture how the room must look to him, how we must look to him. I see the side of Dad’s face in my view, the crooked bridge of his Irish nose, but I know the doc sees him head on. So I picture one of Dad’s wrinkles on his forehead, just one of them. It’s all in the details.
    I feel a tug at the back of my head, slightly.
    I picture the breast pocket on Dad’s flannel shirt, Mom’s pearl necklace from the front, the sunlight crashing against the wall behind me. There are flowers from Derek’s mom on the table next to me, and I spent ten minutes earlier staring at the red and pink hibiscus. I know this is immature, but the way the inside folds together and the pedals fold outward and the little stamen at the top middle, it totally looks like a vagina. I turned the hibiscus away from me, toward where Doc is sitting, and picture it now.
    The tug gets a little stronger, like someone opening your head from the back. Not painful, like if cracking your head open was a cool party trick, the way old folks take out their teeth at Maple Meadows.
    I picture Doc’s glasses as if they’re over my eyes. I imagine feeling them, resting there and pinching, kind of, the way glasses do. I feel his pudgy fingers, the little paunch in front of him as he sits.
    Get me out of here.
    There are words coming out of my mouth. In his voice.
    “If you decide on the pins, it--“
    The world comes into focus quickly, like a camera lens. I see Mom and Dad and me sitting there. Jennifer Clark and Abraham Clark III and Abe Clark IV--who closed his eyes a moment ago, and now just opened them--senior in high school with a busted up leg and an ornery scowl on his face. Talking patients into treatment is never easy, especially people with strong wills and young souls.
    I think back to the many, many seminars and classes and textbooks on the subject of treatment psychology. It is by far the most difficult part of Clyde’s job. The surgery is easy, relatively. The recovery and follow up, routine. But recommending the treatment, that is often the hardest part.
    Dr. Hopkins truly feels sorry for Abe. I can feel it. He had trouble sleeping last night because of Abe Clark. And now, this kid is sitting here scowling like I’m telling him he has to cut both his legs off and grow new ones.
    Life isn’t fair, but it’s the duty of the doctor to set it as right as it can be. They’re like soldiers that way. Pins will help Abe, will give him the best chance of being whole again, if only I can convince him.
    “Er, where was I?”
    Dad gets a funny look on his face, and then eyes his son cautiously for a second. Mom sits with a brave face on, hanging on to Clyde’s every word, being the rock a woman must be between the man she loves and the man she’s raising.
    “Your options,” I make Dr. Hopkins say. I have to be discreet here. “Just to run through them a final time before I hear what you’ve decided. On the one hand, the pins, right? Slower recovery, but more precise.”
    I know what the meniscus is. I know words like HYPOGLYCEMIC and ANAPHYLAXIS.
    “On the other hand,” I continue. “A natural recovery aided by intense physical therapy. We’ve discussed the pros and cons of both. I’ve been fairly objective thus far, trying to allow you space to make an educated decision, Abe, and your parents to consider the short and long term consequences of either decision. I can’t stress enough how very sorry I am for your situation.”
    I start to choke on my words a little bit. I feel Clyde’s eyes sting with the stifling of tears. They’re real. Mom, too, begins to tear up, and even Dad, as tough as he’s pretending to be.
    “Nothing pains me more than to see a healthy, young life turned upside down by an unfortunate accident,” I say. “That said, you are thankfully still with us, Abe. Lest we forget it could have been much worse.”
    “Amen,” says Mom.
    “And being that you are young and healthy, I wanted to give my subjective recommendation for a moment before we make a final decision together.”
    I know what subjective means.
    I breathe deep into Clyde Hopkins chest. RESPIRATION. Dad eyes Abe again.
    “Given everything we can possibly know about how this might pan out--which admittedly isn’t much--I would recommend a natural recovery without invasive surgery if possible.”
    “What?” says Dad. I see a stunned smile come across Abe’s face. Words like OSSEOUS and SEQUELAE flash into my mind like warning flags.
    No! Why would you say that? The recommendation is obvious.
    “I know this might seem contradictory to previous counsel I may have given you.”
    “Directly, actually,” says Dad. I can remember the conversation he had with Clyde, behind closed doors.
    “I understand. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, Mr. Clark. The more I weigh the risks,” I say--Why are you saying this?--“The more it seems like your son may be right in thinking--“
    Something tugs at the back of my head. It’s quick and painless, and I am back in my body, looking at Dr. Hopkins. He has a blank stare on his face, then picks up his sentence where he left off.
    “--that his body will heal itself correctly and he can get back to wrestling quicker. However, if we’re considering long term damages--and I think we should be--the fact of the matter is that inserting pins, especially in the more delicate parts of the ankles will, in fact, increase his wrestling abilities and lead to a better and more sustainable recovery.”
    “Huh?” says Mom.
    “What?!” I say.
    Dad is nodding his head, pretending not to notice me. Dr. Hopkins gives me a look like he’s angry at me, like Possession can’t affect him, like he knows my secret and he has the power. He pushed me out.
    Maybe someone like a doctor isn’t as easy to possess and manipulate as someone like Chloe Campbell. I close my eyes and concentrate, picturing myself as Dr. Hopkins again. I get close, feel the air through his large nostrils, his CILIA filtering the air before it passes through the PHARYNX, LARYNX, TRACHEA, BRONCHI, and LUNGS. Then I hear--in Dr. Hopkins voice, like a thought coming through, the way Chloe’s did--Don’t test me, son.
    I’m forced out, back into my own nostrils, and I breathe heavy, resting back against my hospital bed.
    “Damnit!”
    “Abe!” says Mom. “So what you’re saying, Dr. Hopkins, is that Abe is right and should get a natural recovery, but that pins will be a better recovery?”
    “Precisely,” says Dr. Hopkins.
    “Okay,” she says. “Wait. What? I’m sorry--“
    “Mom,” I say. “It’s fine. I get it. I surrender, Doctor.”
    “I’m so confused,” says Mom.
    “Without a shred of doubt,” Dr. Hopkins says, looking straight at me. “I recommend having pins inserted into Abe’s tibia, fibula, and parts of the ankle.” Dr. Hopkins shakes his head and blinks a few times, like he’s trying to get rid of floaters in his eyes.
    “I’m sorry,” he says, coughs. “This might sound like a weird question, but what was I just saying?”
    “I don’t know!” says Mom.
    “You were recommending that Abe get pins in the leg and ankle,” says Dad. He looks at me. “What do you think of that, Abe?”
    “I don’t have much choice do I?”
    “Don’t test me, son,” he says.
    What. The. Hell.
    “Abe,” says Mom, nudging Dad. “Honey. This is one hundred percent your choice. Okay? But I would take Dr. Hopkins advice very seriously. Whatever it is...”
    I think of Dr. Hopkins’ empathy, his serious concern that I’d make the right decision. He pushes up his glasses, smiles and nods to me.
    “I am,” I say. “I’m getting pinned.”

    At dinnertime, Mom runs out for Chinese food. While she’s gone, Dad says, “We should talk about what happened.”
    “Well, Caroline had another vision that harm will come to Abigail’s baby, and Andre is conspiring with Sami to kill Taylor. Plus, you’ll never believe this: Bo is still in his coma, but he just muttered something about cheating on Caroline!”
    Dad sighs. “What are you talking about?”
    “What happened,” I say. “On Days of Our Lives. It’s compelling television, Dad. I’m so thrilled I get to sit here and watch every episode all freaking day long.”
    “Try reading a book,” says Dad, then he sighs. “Look, I understand this sucks.”
    “You do? You understand what it’s like to lose your entire future?”
    “Don’t be so dramatic.”
    “Saw-ry, mistuh. I guess all o’ mih stow-ries is a-startin’ to go to mih head.”
    “You want to be treated like an adult, Abe? Quit acting like a child.”
    “I am an adult. I can make my own decisions about life.”
    “What, like joining the army?”
    “And there it is.”
    “Look,” says Dad in that way he does when he’s trying to ‘connect with me.’ “I learned how to do it when I was five.”
    “What?”
    “I was sledding in Palimpsest Park and went out of control into the woods. I went into my friend Chester’s mind for a few seconds and flew back into my own after my body had hit a tree.”
    “Were you hurt?”
    “Ruptured my intestines.”
    “What did you do?”
    “I cried my eyes out for my mommy. What do you think?”
    “I mean about the...possession.”
    “Possession?” he says. “Sounds demonic.”
    “Yeah,” I laugh. “I guess it does.”
    “I called it Mind Dwelling. At first it freaked me out. Then I just figured everyone could do it. I was only five. I started Mind Dwelling all the time. My friends, my parents, my Kindergarten teacher.” He laughs. “I made her excuse me to the cafeteria where I’d Mind Dwell the lunch lady into giving me double chocolate milks.”
    “Thanks for comparing the decimation of my future to your extra chocolate milk, Dad. You want to tell me how you made your parents buy you a two-wheeler next?”
    “Look, Abe. It took me a while to figure out that other people can’t Mind Dwell, that we’re not supposed to. For good reason.”
    “Why?”
    “You’re not supposed to manipulate people, Abe. Period. Mind Dwelling is too much power for a person.”
    “Maybe for you.”
    Dad sighs. Respiration. Diaphragm. “Thing is, you abuse this power, Abe, and before long you don’t know who you are.”
    “Funny how life does that just fine on its own,” I say, tapping my remote hard against my bandaged, numb-from-medication legs.
    “Don’t do that,” says Dad.
    “Five days ago I was a wrestler who was going to win states and get on the army wrestling team. Now I’m a cripple with no future at all.”
    “I can’t stop you from Mind Dwelling. I can kick you out of Dr. Hopkins’ mind, but I can’t follow you around forever. All I can do is warn you and hope you’re wise enough to take the advice. There’s real danger here, more than you can imagine.”
    Derek walks in, and Dad settles back in his chair, playing ‘Cool Dad.’
    “Hey, man,” says Derek. “How you feeling?”
    “Like I got run over by a car,” I say.
    “Mrs. Clark is bringing Chinese, Derek,” says Dad. “You’re welcome to stay and eat.”
    “No thanks, Mr. Clark. I have a pound to lose before the tournament.”
    Mom walks in, and I devour some General Tso’s. I do enjoy eating again. God, food is so awesome. I’m an addict. I’ll admit it. Derek gives in a little and eats some cooked vegetables. Mom and Dad go for a walk to give D and I some time. To ‘chill,’ is how Dad puts it.
    “I lost my match against Guilderland,” says Derek.
    “I heard,” I say. “You placed in the tournament last weekend, though.”
    “Yeah, third.”
    “Third is better than fourth.”
    “It’s not enough to get you to states.”
    “Then wrestle better, Derek. What the fuck?”
    “Jeez, sorry.”
    “I’m sick of you being down on yourself. I’m stuck here watching stupid Big Bang Theory reruns. I’m probably never wrestling again, and you’re bitching about third place.”
    “Never wrestling again?”
    “I’m getting pins in my legs like some bionic freakazoid.”
    “Did you just say freakazoid?”
    “Shut up.”
    “That reminds me. Fifth grade called. They want their insults back.”
    “Eat shit,” I say, punching his arm. It feels good to be goofing off again. For a moment. “I’d give anything to be where you are, D, states or not.”
    “I know, man,” he says. “I’m sorry. Oh, I almost forgot.” He pulls out a can of Wintergreen Skoal.
    “You’re the best! This will be such a better way to pass the time than shitty TV.”
    He and I throw in a dip and I settle into the buzz.
    “Hey Abe,” says Derek. “You think you could help me? Like coach me. We can watch tapes of my opponents together. You know, since you don’t have to worry about yourself.”
    “I have plenty to worry about myself.”
    “I didn’t mean it like that.”
    “I know what you meant. And sure. Better one of us gets to states than neither.”
    “You think I could win states? Stenglein’s nasty. You should have seen him at the tournament.”
    “I saw on the news.”
    “Jesus, he was on the news?”
    “Pinned his way to the finals.”
    “His longest match was a minute, seventeen.”
    “You could shoot for my weight class for states.”
    “And wrestle up? That always works out...said no one ever in the history of wrestling.”
    “There might be another way,” I say.
    “What?”
    “Well. You asked me to coach you.”
    “Yeah.”
    “Well, this would be kind of like coaching. The next level of coaching.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “It happened again, Derek.”
    “What happened?”
    I stare at him for a second. “It.”
    His eyes go wide. “Possession? You possessed somebody?”
    “Keep it down,” I say, looking into the busy hallway of medical staff. “When I got hit by the car.”
    “Who?”
    “I don’t know,” I lied. “Some girl.”
    “Somebody in the car?”
    “No, she lived nearby I think. It doesn’t matter.”
    “Too bad you didn’t possess the guy who hit you, could have made him jump off a bridge. Fucker.”
    “His life is over. Doctor said he was high as a kite when he came in.”
    “On what?”
    “They won’t say, but I bet heroin.”
    “Really?”
    “It’s nasty stuff. Super addictive.”
    “Oh, man. What an asshole.”
    “I don’t want to talk about him.”
    “Sorry,” says Derek. “So...let me get this straight. All we have to do is put your life in mortal danger right before my matches, and then you possess my opponent and let me pin you.”
    I laugh. “No, that’s the thing. I figured out how to do it. On my own.”
    “No. Way!”
    “Way.”
    “Do me, right now,” says Derek. “Wait, don’t. Okay, yeah, do it.”
    “Jesus, relax.”
    A part of me immediately regrets telling him. But I had to tell someone besides Dad. His knowing feels like a punishment. At least Derek is no one new to the secret. Plus, I really want to. I feel like I need to Possess like I need this tobacco buzz right now.
    “Are you doing it?” says Derek. “I feel a little funny. You’re doing it, aren’t you?”
    “I’m not.”
    “Or maybe that’s just what you want me to think.”
    “Trust me. You’d know.”
    “Why? Would I feel it? Does it hurt?”
    “Yes, because I’d make you slap yourself.”
    “So you Possess the guy I’m wrestling. And you...?”
    “Lose.”
    “What if someone finds out?”
    “How could they find out?”
    “I don’t know. What if they do?”
    I think of Dad.
    “I’ll be discreet,” I say. “I won’t just fall over on my back for you. And, listen, before you get too excited, I’m not going to make it easy. Don’t forget, this is a chance for me to wrestle again. I’m going to wrestle you. But however I can make it work, I’ll throw the match.”
    “We’ll have to practice this.”
    “That’s smart. We’ll practice. In practice. I’ll Possess your partner and we can work any bugs out before we go live. And listen, you can’t talk to me like it’s me in there. Whoever I possess remembers what happens--kind of. I think. We can’t have a conversation or anything.”
    “Got it,” says Derek. “Wow. We’re really doing this.”
    “It’s not cheating.”
    “It’s coaching. Next level.”
    “Evolved coaching.”
    “God gave you this power for a reason.”
    “Right. We have an extraordinary advantage at our disposal, and we’re using it for the betterment of mankind. Or you. You’re part of mankind. It’s coaching with an extra, ordinary--natural--advantage.”
    “Sounds a little like cheating.”
    “We’re not doing it every match,” I say. “Here and there. As needed. The big ones.”
    “The big ones,” says Derek. Then, “The small ones count toward my record too.”
    “The small ones are your own battles.”
    “Maybe you only jump in if I really need it?”
    “Maybe. If you really need it.”
    “Like if I’m losing.”
    “I know what ‘need it’ means, dick.”
    “You think...?”
    “What?”
    “You think you could possess... Felicity?”
    “If you suggest that again, I’ll possess you and make you swallow this remote.”
    “You’re right, you’re right. Out of line.”
    “Way out of line.”
    “I feel like we should shake on this.”
    “To the states,” I say, holding out my hand.
    I picture how my hand must look to Derek. I try to feel how his heart must be fluttering with the thought of saving his sorry season. The excitement of turning his confidence around--
    --and I’m in. I’m Derek, looking at Abe with an outstretched hand. I pull back Derek’s hand, look at it. I make him smile. I see Abe smile. And then I make Derek slap himself right across the face. Hard.
    Right before I exit his mind.
    “Don’t do that!” he yells.
    I crack up. “I have to practice. Remember?”
    My parents walk back in, and Derek and I never actually shake on the deal.