Most people wouldn’t be impressed by my new apartment, but that hardly mattered to me. It was affordable, had an extra bedroom, and came furnished. It was also within walking distance of my new job. Hell, I deserved something good after escaping the town where I grew up, the place most everyone called Povertyville, Maine.
This was my first weekend after moving in and getting settled at work. It had taken eight years, sometimes working two or three part time jobs, and even living a semester in my car, but I’d managed to graduate debt free with marketable degree.
I finished the take out dinner bought on my way home from work. I was tired and had no interest in going out. Granted the ancient TV that came with the apartment only had a 21 inch screen and no remote, but I needed to numb my brain after all the work-related stuff I’d had to absorb during orientation.
That’s frustrating, I thought. The channel selector seemed to be stuck on the local Fox Channel. I’d read a book, but hadn’t had time to scope out the local library. I would remedy that tomorrow.
“Get your ass out of my chair!”
I jumped as the words were accompanied by a sharp pain. I reached around and pulled a long pin from my butt. Fortunately, it wasn’t rusty, but how had I missed it when I sat down?
I tended to my wound and grabbed a beer from the fridge before returning to sit, but the moment I did, I heard the same voice yell again.
“I said get your ass out of my chair!”
I moved to the ratty couch as fast as I could, unwilling to risk another attack by whoever or whatever was upset by my seating choice. I couldn’t be pranked because nobody knew where I was living yet. Was this the reason the rent was so reasonable in comparison to what I heard my new co-workers were paying? Two beers later, I gave up and went to bed.
After locating the city library and signing up for a card, I met an older gentleman on the stairs while returning to my third floor apartment. We started chatting and when he heard which apartment I lived in, he got a strange look on his face.
“You encounter Lenny Miller yet?
“No, you’re the first person I’ve had a chance to talk to since moving in,” I said “What apartment is he in?”
The man shook his head. “We better be sitting down for this conversation. Follow me.” He turned and went back up the stairs.
I followed, curious to learn what the story was regarding this Miller fellow.
When we got to the fourth floor, I was surprised to find an open area overlooking the street bordering the back of the building. I waited for the older man to take a seat at one of the tables, then sat opposite him and waited.
“I’m Jason Madore,” the older man said. “Been living in apartment 304 for the past twenty-three years. I’ll probably die there, which brings me to Lenny. Did you know he died in your apartment?”
I shook my head.
“Thought not. Bet you got a break on the rent. You had to, since everyone who’s tried to move in hasn’t lasted more than a couple weeks. Lenny was a sour bastard, and I doubt death changed that.” Jason gave me a sympathetic look. “I hope you figure out how to live with him.”
Three months later, I still felt like an unwelcome guest in my own apartment. I couldn’t use the chair, had no control over the TV, and was awoken at odd hours by sarcastic comments about my choices of food, clothing, and reading material. I was close to giving up and emptying my meager savings account so I could afford a different place, when a miracle happened.
College taught me to be a good listener. When I overheard Jimbo, one of my fellow employees, talking about how some of the technology featured in Ghostbusters, had been developed, my ears perked up. At lunch, I introduced myself and asked him what he meant earlier.
“You a fan of weird stuff?” he asked.
I decided to take a risk. “Not really, I have a real life haunting situation.”
That got his interest. “Mind cluing me in? I’m into the supernatural and a tech nut to boot, so I keep up on both.”
I had nothing to lose, so I invited him over after work.
“Mind if I try provoking your poltergeist?”
I shook my head. “I’m desperate enough to try anything short of burning the place down.”
Jimbo sat in the chair. He didn’t even have time to lean back before the angry voice that had become my nemesis hollered “Get your fat ass out of my chair!”
Jimbo shot up with a look that was half pain, half satisfaction. “This is the real deal,” he said as he pulled not one, but two rusty sewing needles from his rear. He tried changing channels on the TV, but had no luck.
“Let me do some more research and we’ll talk on Monday. Thanks for trusting me with your problem,” he said before leaving.
I spent the weekend alternating between hope and wondering whether I was going to experience something worse. How likely was it that technology had developed a real ghost remover?
Jimbo smiled mysteriously when I arrived at work. “I got together with some of my fellow Ghostbuster fans yesterday. I think we might have a solution to your problem by the end of the week.”
That was all I could get, no matter how much I begged him to say more. By Thursday, I was poster person for National Nervous Wreck Day. My appetite was gone, as was my ability to get a decent night’s sleep. If Jimbo didn’t come through, I was finding a new apartment, no matter what the cost.
Jimbo said he’d be at my apartment by six pm on Friday. He was, but I didn’t expect him to be in costume.
“What the hell?” I asked as he waddled into my kitchen wearing something that was a cross between a space suit and a pirate rig. The only unprotected part of his body was his face, but some sort of respirator dangled below his mouth.
“Desperate measures and all that. Here, hold this and don’t lose your nerve, no matter what happens,” he said before leading me to my living room.
He handed me some sort of vacuum canister that was attached to a round metal object on his belt. A long flexible hose with a flaring attachment on the other end extended from it. The hose sparkled as though it was charged.
“It might look hinky, but this thing has been sucking up ghosts all over the country for almost two years. You’ll never see an ad because the guys who developed it don’t want to start a panic. Remember to hold tight. The last thing we need is half a pissed-off spirit running amok in here.”
Jimbo crept up behind the chair where I could see a ghostly outline watching a HeeHaw re-run. He flipped a switch and a low whine filled the room. As soon as it steadied, he poked the ghostly figure with the side of the hose. When it turned to yell as him, he flipped the switch another time and the whine increased to an ear splitting level. The specter tried to resist, but as soon as its face was sucked into the hose, it stopped fighting. In a couple minutes, nothing remained in the chair.
“Best to be extra careful,” Jimbo said as he ran the nozzle over every inch of fabric.
“What now?” I asked when he indicated it was safe to set the canister down.
“We seal the bag inside, send it off, you get your life back, and in a few weeks, you and I split a nice payment from the people who buy ghosts.”
“What?” I looked from Jimbo to the canister. “Someone buys ghosts?
“Yup,” he said. “Thanks to the internet, there’s a market for everything. Your problem boy is likely to end up haunting some half-demolished castle in Transylvania. It’s the hot market right now.”
I couldn’t resist asking, “how much do ghosts go for?”
Jimbo looked around at the shabby furniture in my living room. “Your share should allow you to replace all this crap, even snag you a nice flat screen with remote. No more black and white shows for you, my friend.”