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The Ghost of Jimmy Faust
...Identity theft gone wrong
As the barking of the dogs outside the window echoed through the hall, Cyrus Reeves turned the key and wondered what he would find behind the door of the SRO unit on Wilson Ave. The manager told him, "clean it out; it's yours...$90 a week." He'd been told that the previous tenant had not been heard from for two months. Opening the door he couldn't help but mock the drawl in the manager's voice as he repeated the answer given to his inquiry as to the fate of the prior occupant, "sheet, he prob'ly dead, he look like he be prob'ly dead."
The first impression of the dark, musty room instinctively led him toward the window. Get some air and light in here, he thought, as he pulled the shade revealing the pock marked brick and crumbling tuck point wall of which was now to be his view. Getting the window open was a bit of a chore. The old warped wooden frame stuck along the runners requiring a couple of jolts from his fist, nonetheless it opened, allowing the breeze from between the buildings to aerate the room. Turning around, he was able then to evaluate his new home. "It's like I never left...,"he said jokingly, rubbing the head of a gargoyle statue on the dresser to his left "...how you doin'?" He asked.
Sitting down on the unmade bed, he slapped the mattress a couple of times, checking for signs of life, then scratched himself and lit a cigarette. Next to the mattress there was a night stand with another gargoyle upon it. "I was just talkin' to your brother," he said, as he picked up the checkbook sitting in front of it and read, "James Faust!... I sure hope he was better lookin' than you, buddy!" He looked up to the gargoyle on the dresser in front of him, and then noticed there was a third statue acting as a bookend for five hard cover works of literature. “Gargoyles...! That's what these things are,” he realized as he gazed around his new surroundings. It was then he began to wonder about Jimmy Faust, the father to these hideous beasts, former occupant of this room, and soon,or so he thought, to be a newly resurrected resident of Uptown. Cyrus's wheels were spinning: five years in Statesville and a record you wouldn't want to convert to C.D ... maybe being Jimmy Faust wouldn't be such a bad idea. He wondered, is it still identity theft, if the identity comes with the room? Who was this Faust guy anyway?
As he looked around the room, Cyrus became aware that he was not exactly alone there. The three gargoyles were starting to creep him out, and until that time, he hadn't even noticed the picture frame that hung above the books. The photograph was of a man at a table in a tavern. He wore an old weathered motorcycle jacket, and had long straight hair the color of Halloween, or so he thought. The lighting from the camera flash gave his sunken cheeks a surrealistic quality accentuating his large dark eyes, and putting to mind the vision of an anorexic troll doll... with a conk. "Daddy didn't break too many hearts, that's for sure." Cyrus found talking to the statues made him feel a little less uneasy as he thumbed through the books placed in their charge. "Oxford Companion to Law, and The Holy Bible, I guess ol' Jimmy was looking for loopholes, huh boys?" Those two were the only books Cyrus recognized, although the tittles of the other three seemed to intrigue him: The Stranger, The Idiot, and The Prince. "Must be the family album," he mused to the trio as he turned his back. Cyrus then focused his attention to the rest of the room. He felt more relaxed now that he had given names to his inanimate companions, stemming from the good fortune which had been Jimmy Faust’s preference in literature.
Between the entrance door, and another door, one he had failed to notice in his haste to open the window, there stood a pair of crutches; braces actually. They were curved on top to grasp the forearms, with hand grips for support. Cyrus wondered why a man who needed such devices would leave without them, and not return. He was more curious though as to what was behind the door, which appeared to him to be a closet. On the floor, of what had turned out, in fact, to be a closet, were strewn about a number of flip-flop style sandals, "shower shoes" back atStatesville. He thought it odd that this crippled troll would have such footwear, but his attention was then diverted to a small table toward the back of the closet. On the table sat a bowl filled with matches, and an ashtray holding rolling papers and a brass pipe. Behind the table was an acoustic guitar, and Cyrus knew enough about guitars to know the brand name Martin would fetch him a pretty penny. Hanging in the closet were a number of leather jackets, one of which was worn in the photograph that hung upon the wall. Cyrus put on the jacket, grabbed the guitar, ashtray, and matches; then went back to the bed to sit down to study his finds. The pipe was made of brass fittings, and had a chamber which he unscrewed to discover a chunk of black tar like material. "Opium!?" He brought the chunk up to his nose to let his nostrils taste the sweet perfume.
Now overcome by anticipation, Cyrus scurried about the room searching for means of cutting off a little chunk of his new narcotic prize. On the bookshelf, at the bottom, between some back issues of Guitar World magazine and a stack of old record albums, he found a rusted box cutter and hurriedly: removed the razor blade, cut off a chunk of the rock and smoked it. "It's the real thing Prince," he smiled, talking to the statue while fumbling through his pockets only to find an empty pack of cigarettes. "Shit, I need smokes." The effects of the drug were beginning to take hold as Cyrus finished what was in his bowl and searched around the room looking for the keys, which lay on the table before him, then told the "boys" not to wait up; he had no idea how long he'd be. He headed out the door and as the opium buzz grew more and more intense he staggered, and smiled again. The hall began to spin as he reached the steps, he then navigated each one meticulously, holding on to the rail for support, while laughing with the tone of a triumphant madman with each individual conquest. The desk clerk shook his head incredulously, and said “goodbye.”
Walking east on Wilson Ave., towards the store, Cyrus began to break out in a cold sweat. He felt a shortness of breath as he reached the bridge beneath the tracks of the Wilson "El", then fell to his knees. His esophagus began to swell, and he gasped as the tear ducts of his swollen eyes gave way. His lungs expanded from their inability to expel their contents, and his vessels filled with blood, racing to send a signal to his brain. The vessels and corpuscles within his body were not enough to hold the massive surge contained within, and burst. The last thought that went through Cyrus Reeves head was, " Damn this shit was laced."
A month had passed since the coroners van collected the corpse that lay on Wilson Ave., whose only form of identification was a balanced checkbook in his pocket with the name of James Faust on it. A stranger walked up the stairs of the SRO building next to the Wooden Nickel Saloon, and called out, "Anybody here? I'm looking for a room!" The sound of barking dogs could be heard from out the window, down the hall, past Jimmy Faust’s old and vacant room. A tall, thin, desk clerk appeared from behind a door, his hollow eyes sized up the stranger, as he shook his head and said, " clean it out; it's yours...$90 a week."