Summer yelled at me—she’s inspired me. She’s darned right: I shouldn’t let Beta push me around. I don’t even know him, he doesn’t even know me! He can’t just move in here like this! I’m going to tell him off!
As soon as I ask Summer how.
I sit at my computer. I don’t really intend to drop in on her like this, it’s just the natural inclination that comes along with prolonged SuperMegaNet use. I’m already clicking the “Visit” button when I notice just how cluttered Summer’s SMN window has become. Before I can wonder if this isn’t the greatest idea in the world, I materialize in some sort of mobile storage closet, packed tight with boxes of breakfast cereal, rolls of toilet paper, bags of multi-grain snack chips—the backseat of a car, I realize. The SMN software has tried its best to arrange me in a suitable position, but there simply isn’t any room—so I’m sitting half on the floor, half on the seat, facing the rear of the car, my left leg tucked beneath me, my right extended straight up along Summer’s arm. My foot rests on her shoulder. I look like I was flash-frozen in the middle of a high kick. And let me tell you, it hurts like heck. Luckily I’m too embarrassed to feel anything but burning shame.
Summer’s mouth drops open. “Theo?” she asks, incredulous, multiple exclamation points ringing in her voice.
From the next seat over: “Theo?”
I crane my neck. Between the mesh of a brand new laundry basket, I spot poofy brown hair, baby-blue sweats, an exposed midriff—Lily, I realize.
I wave feebly with my right arm, which is wedged between Summer’s seat and the door. I mouth the word “hi.”
“Theo? What?” someone calls from the driver’s seat.
“Nothing, mom,” Lily answers, pressing her face against the other side of the laundry basket so that she can see me more clearly. “I thought I recognized someone on Summer’s Facebook, that’s all.”
Summer leans in close, presses her mouth to my ear. “What are you doing here?”
The car hits a bump in the road; the shock causes the heel of my left foot to kick into my butt (heaven forbid we should hit a speed bump!). Shifting slightly so that my mouth is now in Summer’s ear, I whisper, “I was just…I need to ask you…you said a few minutes ago not to let him—how would you suggest I go about kicking Beta out of my bedroom?”
Summer, switching our mouth-to-ear position again: “Duh, the same way you get rid of any unwanted digital house guest. Delete him, unplug his power cord, throw his laptop out the window while he’s sleeping inside it.”
“I don’t necessarily want to hurt him.”
“You said he had a gun and a knife.”
I can already feel myself wussing out. “They might have been for gaming purposes.”
“And they might be for carving up little geek boys who don’t have a freaking backbone—”
“What are you girls whispering about?”
Lily’s mom again.
Lily starts to answer, but her mom cuts her off with a sudden gasp.
“Oh, my God!” Mrs. Flammer exclaims. “Whose leg is that?”
Summer glances down at me, a pissed-off-deer-in-the-headlights look on her face. “Um…what leg?”
“The leg, that leg laying against your shoulder, Summer! Is there someone else in the car with us?”
“No, mom,” Lily says. “It’s probably just a broom or a mop that looks like a leg—”
“Oh-my-God, Mrs. Flammer!” Summer squeals, jabbing her finger over the driver’s seat. “Watch the road!”
Apparently Lily’s mom is so distraught by the concept of a stowaway leg that she’s taken her eyes off the road long enough to nearly rear-end the person in front of her. With little tact or grace, she slams her foot on the brake. Food and toiletry packages tumble down onto me. My head slams into the back of the driver’s seat; Summer’s netbook starts to slide off her lap and towards my face—I’m sure I’m going to die with $300 worth of Acer embedded in my frontal lobe, but Summer, with her gymnast’s reflexes, intervenes, catching the netbook, navigating the touchpad, and clicking the “Send Home” button, all in a single deft motion.
Before I wink out, she addresses me quickly but firmly: “Kick him out! Be firm! Don’t let anyone walk over you!”
I slip away in a wash of pixels. An instant later I’m back in my bedroom. On my computer screen, Summer has reseated her netbook and is removing several boxes of highly-jostled light bulbs from her lap.
“There’s no one here but us, mom,” Lily says, off-screen.
“But…but I saw a leg…”
Summer sends me a text message: “Next time, knock first, dork!”
I swallow hard, nodding, minimizing her SMN window. I rise from my desk, back out of my room.
Maybe Dad needs help with dinner.
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