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“Ghost-Sick Jarvis” – Fiction by E.L. Siegelstein

William S. Marriott and his spirit hands, circa 1910
William S. Marriott and his spirit hands, circa 1910

“Ghost-Sick Jarvis,” E.L. Siegelstein‘s supernaturally funny contribution to our Winter 2015 issue, is an excerpt from his novel-in-progress. And while it makes us want to read the rest of the story right freaking now, we think it also makes for a very satisfying episode all by itself.

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IT’S LIKE NAILS ON A CHALKBOARD. Kind of.

There’s no sound, but I feel it in my inner ear, a rasping, sickening sensation tugging on all the tubes, nerves, veins and what-have-yous in the back of my brain. Or like a dentist’s drill, if you could somehow remove the actual sound and leave only the way it makes you feel.

This will be accompanied by quick flashes. An image. A phrase, or a word, or just a fraction of a word. Like a vivid dream you forget as you wake. The memory of a memory.

And along with this, a feeling. Sorrow. Frustration. Regret. Joy. Pride. Contentment.

That’s what it’s like to talk to the dead. They don’t appear standing in front of me or anything like that. And they sure as shit don’t like to talk in clear, no-interpretation-needed, complete fucking sentences.

My name is Jarvis Chumley, and I’m a goddamn medium.

Yes, that is my real name. It’s English, fuck off. I started hearing the dead when I was fourteen years old. Nobody else in my family can do it, though my Aunt Nigella claimed to be psychic. She died in a car crash when I was six. My mom, too. Same crash. Anyway.

Being a medium is not the easiest way to make a living. I’ve got a storefront in Astoria, Queens, which I share with another medium, Ivonne, who is a charlatan. There’s also a massage parlor in the back, where you can get the massage therapist to masturbate you if you leave your cash on the table and ask for the full service. No, I’ve never done so; that’s my place of business. All relationships concerning it must remain strictly professional. Also, I can’t come when the girl’s ancestors are screaming at her through me from beyond the grave.

It’s Friday night and I’ve got one last client before turning the place over to Ivonne. She does great business with the late-night drunk crowd, while I have every intention of being part of that crowd. The client is a fat Italian man-child with thinning hair, and I know he wants to speak to his mother even before she starts nattering in my ear. He looks at the door to the massage parlor – GUARANTEED RELAXATION & TRANQUILITY, it says – before looking at me.

“Are you the medium?” he asks.

“Sure am,” I say.

Our little sitting room is decorated in the traditional storefront-psychic style:  a lot of silk, crystals, a weird plaster hand sculpture. The Italian man-child’s name is Tom, and as soon as he walks in I feel the presence of what has to be his dead mother making me want to spray my lunch all over my customer.

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