"Sophie From Shinola," Chapter 20

>> Sunday, April 06, 2008

"Sophie From Shinola" has lapped! It's my turn to add another part to the tale! Another part! Lo! Behold! Ahoy! Avast! It is time for "Sophie From Shinola," Chapter 20! Also released as "Sophie From Shinola--The Quickening," "Sophie From Shinola, Electric Boogaloo," "Zombi XIV: Sophie From Shinola XX" and "Patriots: 24; Sophie: 20"

Sophie From Shinola—Chapter 20

Billy Chenolla pulled out his pack of Marlboros and put one in his mouth, patted the pocket of his stained labcoat looking for his lighter, and fuck it if the lighter wasn't there. He became aware of an annoying sound behind him and he looked around and Dr. Pike was looking at him with nothing but contempt. At first Billy thought it was because of every fucking thing that was wrong and then he realized: “I can't light it, I don't have my fucking lighter,” he mumbled, but the damage was done.

That was a helluva phrase. “The damage was done,” that was the grand summation of it all.

There was another noise, one that Billy thought was maybe a TV show, which made no sense, who the hell would be watching TV? And then he realized it was someone shouting at someone else who was being placating, and so it had to be Neil Gareth and Werner Chittenden. Neil Gareth wanting his wife back and Werner Chittenden wanting to make everything okay, because Werner Chittenden was project administrator and abhorred “issues” the way nature abhors vacuums, and Mona Gareth was an issue right now.

“Not something we can fix,” Billy Chenolla said. “What?” Pike snapped, and Billy shook his head at him and shuffled through the hardcopies piled up on his workbench as if maybe there was a lighter there.

“No smoking near the subject,” Pike said in such a clipped fashion that Billy imagined thin delicatessen slices of the neurologist's tongue sliding through his teeth at the end of each word. “It's a filthy habit anyway, you should quit.” This was vintage Pike all the way, from referring to Mona Gareth as “the subject” to talking about Billy's habits when the problem was Mona Gareth, “the subject.” Billy stopped looking for his lighter and shuffled around the benches and servers, past Mona's prone body and her shaved, wirebound head on the stretcher, and out through the double doors into the corridor where Mona's husband was flecking the unflappable Chittenden with spit.

“'Surge'? What the fuck do you mean 'surge'? What the fuck are you people doing? Do you fucking have any idea who you're fucking with?” This was Neil Gareth screaming in Chittenden's face while Chittenden stood like an aluminum mast in a storm, bending back slightly in the wind and spray but unbroken. Chittenden must have seen Billy Chenolla out of the corner of his eye because he said, “Ah yes, here's Dr. Chenolla, our development head,” and Neil Gareth turned his wrath on Chenolla and damned if that wasn't when Chittenden, the bastard, stepped subtly back like a chorusgirl slipping away stage left at the end of a musical number.

“I'm going to have your fucking licenses!” Gareth screamed, but for some reason he seemed to be screaming at the unlit cigarette drooping from Chenolla's mouth and Billy was glad he'd left it there.

“Not that kind of doctor,” Billy mumbled, “Ph.D. in philosophy and another in computer science. Anyway, your wife signed a release

“Fuck you!” Gareth screamed. He was about to lunge for Billy's throat.

that specifically covers non-negligent errors during the transcription phases,” Billy finished.

“What the fuck are you people talking about? I want to see my fucking wife!”

Billy shrugged, stepped back, pushed open the door and gestured at Gareth. Chittenden's face actually changed expression and he started to step forward, started to tell Billy that this was a bad idea and that Gareth needed to go back to the waiting room or maybe even go home and wait by the phone, but the billionaire in the golf shirt and khakis was already through the doors and making a beeline for his wife.

“Dear God, what did they do to you?” Gareth whispered.

“What we said we were doing, Neil.” Gareth actually looked away from his wife to drop his jaw at Billy's informality, Billy could feel Chittenden's eyes burning a hole in the back of his head. Billy enjoyed that. “We uploaded your wife's consciousness into that bank of computers—it didn't take quite as much storage as we'd expected,” he added with a nasty glint in his eye, “the surgeons removed that golfball of a brain tumor and filled in the missing meat with stem cells from the bone marrow they removed from Mona in February, and yesterday afternoon we got the go-ahead to begin re-integrating the backup copy per the protocol that Stan Pike and I worked up. At five a.m. this morning, there was a glitch

“A power surge in the system,” Chittenden interjected, “something nobody could have

“It wasn't a surge,” Billy interrupted. He pulled his reading glasses out and picked up a printout from the bench closest to the comatose media-magnate's wife as he hooked the limbs behind his ears. “We thought it was a surge, but then Stan noticed—how did you put it Stan?” Billy asked mildly.

“Professor Chenolla,” Pike said, “I really don't think this is the best

“Oh yeah,” Billy said, “'electroencephalography consistent with epilepsy and/or certain neurological disorganizational disorders including some variants of paranoid schizophrenia'.” Billy took his cigarette out of his mouth and thoughtlessly tucked it behind his ear. “This EEG was done in January, before her first surgery, but somehow didn't end up in the paperwork Stan and I received in March. We stumbled across it in the files we asked for this morning. Which is also how we found out about the—hold on” he picked up another hardcopy, “'aripiprazole,' 'tetrabenazine,' 'lamotrigine'... hm... Stan, didn't you say those were antipsychotics...?”

“The lamotrigine is usually prescribed for epilepsy and bipolar disorder,” Pike squeaked. Neil Gareth had turned the same color as the linoleum floor of the lab, he matched the beige cases of the 345 off-the-shelf PCs that had temporarily been turned into his wife.

“Your wife ever been hospitalized, Neil?” Billy asked casually. “I don't mean for the tumor. I mean for psych

“That's none of your fucking business!” Neil Gareth managed to cough. “I don't know what you maniacs have done, but I called my goddamn lawyers on the way in and they'll be here in

Billy Chenolla looked straight into Gareth's eyes and cut him off with a question that caused the man to turn from off-white to purplish-red in the space between two heartbeats.

“So,” he said so bland and casual it burned, “who's Sophie from Shinola?”


Jeri Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 4:41:00 PM EDT  

Damn, Eric, that is really good! It's a totally different tangent, very creative, with great setting and characterization for a short piece.

I'm impressed. :)

Eric Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 4:45:00 PM EDT  

Oh, and hopefully it's a way of tying together all of the assorted threads, and not just a tangent. Or maybe it is a tangent. That will be up to the next writers in the queue....

Nathan Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 4:55:00 PM EDT  

I love this. It's kinda full circle plus a brand new world. Excellent.

kimby Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 5:04:00 PM EDT  

Ditto to what Jeri and Nathan said. It is really well done Eric!

Tania Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 5:45:00 PM EDT  

I'll fourth the applause/kudos/praise. Nicely done.

Should be interesting to see where we go from here. Very interesting.

Michelle K Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 6:52:00 PM EDT  


The whole thing was Mona's hallucination?

Other than generally being confused by the Mona parts of the story, excellent job Eric. The dialog was great!

MWT Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 8:28:00 PM EDT  

Hrm... so who's hallucinating whom now?? o.O

neurondoc Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 10:13:00 PM EDT  

Liked it, but why does the neurologist have to be a jerk? One quibble -- it is an EEG, not an ECG (electrocardiogram)...

Natalie (your friendly neighborhood neurologist peering over your shoulders

Matt Warnock Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 10:21:00 PM EDT  

Wow Eric, good job. I had no idea what I was going to before and I really don't know what I'm going to do now. Hmmmmmmm...

Eric Monday, April 7, 2008 at 12:02:00 AM EDT  

Thanks, Natalie! The thing that gets me most annoyed at myself is that I was careful to get it right the first time in the paragraph, and then my damn brain went and typed "ECG" the second friggin' time! (It's fixed now.)

My apologies if Pike comes off as a jerk; I suspect he's a little bit of a tightass, but that doesn't necessarily make him a bad guy. And this bit is in a sort of subjective third person, looking over Billy Chenolla's shoulder--just because Chenolla and Pike rub each other the wrong way doesn't necessarily mean anything objective. (And, while I like Billy Chenolla, I suspect that he is a jerk.)

Assuming any of these people are real that is, and not figments of Mona's delusions, Blink's dual consciousness, Sophie's vivid imagination, characters in someone's screenplay, or part of a bizarre sanitation fleet plot to wipe out the residents of Manhome....

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