by B.W. Thines
Atom came to the Elk in February of 1995. He was a ventriloquist and his doll and or Partner was named Waldo. Waldo was made in 1925 by a Romanian Gypsy named Zygi Surr who lived in Wichita Kansas. It is said that Zygi made Waldo out of the wood that came from a hanging tree. Legend has it that 25 men and one woman were hung on the tree before it was cut down. Atom found Waldo at an auction in St. Lewis and there was a brief history that came with it. It seems that Waldo’s previous home was a museum in St. Lewis which had burned down and all that survived was Waldo and the trunk that he came in. Atom played the comedy clubs in St. Lewis and then traveled to California and played the clubs in Los Angeles. It was in Los Angeles that Atom met a girl named Hinnie Hyya who worked as a barmaid at one of the clubs. They dated and fell in love. Hinnie just adored Atom and they married within a month. Not everyone was happy in the relationship, oh no, Waldo was not happy at all. You see there was a consciousness in Waldo, one of many consciousness’s that lurked in the doll. Waldo did not like Hinnie; this woman was ruining his plans for Atom. Hinnie started seeing Waldo everywhere she went in the house, and when she said anything to Atom he found the doll in its proper place, the trunk. Hinnie told Atom that the doll was following her and it was creeping her out. A month later when Atom returned home from a meeting he found Hinnie hanging from the water pipes in the basement, she was dead. The police found it strange; at the autopsy they found wood splinters in her fingers? Atom was devastated by the loss of Hinnie, he fell into deep depression. He sold the house in California and moved east. He and Waldo ended up in Buffalo New York playing the local clubs and the Burlesque Theater down- town. He was staying at the Genesee Hotel in the city. The Genesee was a cheap dive that housed the down trodden, the misfits of society, prostitutes and some with mental problems. When entering the building there is the registration desk and small lobby, to the left was a restaurant that was open twenty four hours, great breakfast and hamburgers but not much more than that. To the right of the lobby you entered into the cocktail lounge with large bar, some tables scattered throughout the room and a piano. The piano player was named Jim True who played from six pm till two am. Jim was 98 years old and has been playing piano for seventy seven years. The bar is were Atom hung out when he wasn’t doing his act, he had become a hopeless alcoholic since the death of his wife. When he did return to his room he would talk with Waldo till he fell asleep. Waldo was happy now that he had Atoms full attention, he could fill his mind with all kind of nonsense. Atom had befriended a prostitute that lived at the hotel and who he would talk and drink with at the bar. Her name was Cherry Pyi, which she said was her stage name. Her real name was Sally Reepage. Atom called her Cherry mainly because he liked cherry pie, with a scoop of ice cream on top. Waldo did not like Atoms relationship with Cherry Pyi, no no, he did not. Atom didn’t see Cherry for a few days, and then the police were at the hotel asking questions. Cherry was found dead in her room, she was strangled to death. The police were puzzled by one thing though; Cherry had wood splinters in her neck. Atom moved into the Elk February 12 1995 with two bags and a trunk. He kept to himself, sleeping during the day and out at night. He would return to the Elk around three A.M. with the trunk. I found out Atom was a ventriloquist by catching his act at a local club in downtown Rochester. He recognized me and came to my table to say hello, and I met Waldo. There was Something unsetting about that doll. Atom wanted a change, he did not like who he had become and he did not like the influence Waldo had over him. That’s when he decided to get rid of the doll. After a show one night Atom threw the trunk, along with Waldo into a nearby dumpster. Upon waking the next day he had a message from the office that someone delivered a trunk to him. It was Waldo, someone returned the trunk. Two days later Atom took the trunk and Waldo to a vacant lot off North Clinton Ave. and buried it six feet deep. Upon waking the next day the crate with Waldo was outside his door. Waldo was not happy with Atom. Atom woke Tuesday with severe headaches, he did not sleep well because of the bad Dreams he was having. He dreamt he was being hung to a tree by wooden dolls. That night Atom took the trunk with Waldo to a dumpster behind a vacant building, threw it in and set the dumpster afire. A week had gone by and no one had seen Atom. I went up to his room and knocked on his door, there was no answer. I used my pass key to enter his room. Atom was in his underwear lying in bed, he was dead, and his eyes were wide open and his mouth agape as in a scream of fear. The Police stopped by a week later, they had some questions. Officer Weeks said Atom’s neck was broken and his tongue gone, but what was strange were the slivers of wood embedded in his neck.
B.W. Thines is in his 70s, retired and a long-time patron of the Rochester Public Library. He is a writer of short stories and the author of the forthcoming story collection, Tales from the Elk Hotel.