James Frey

The Final Testament of the Holy Bible

© James Frey 2011

He will come again

– The Apostles’ Creed

This book was written with the cooperation of and after extensive interviews with the family, friends, and followers of Ben Zion Avrohom, also known as Ben Jones, also known as the Prophet, also known as the Son, also known as the Messiah, also known as the Lord God.


He wasn’t nothing special. Just a white boy. An ordinary white boy. Brown hair, brown eyes, medium height and medium weight. Just like ten or twenty or thirty million other white boys in America. Nothing special at all.

First time I saw him he was coming down the hallway. There was an apartment across the hall from where I lived that’d been empty for a year. Usually apartments in our project go quick. Government supports them so they’re cheap, for people who ain’t got shit in this world and, even though they always telling us different, know we ain’t ever gonna have shit. There’s lists for them. Long and getting longer. But nobody would live in that one. It had a reputation. The man who lived there before had gone crazy. He’d been normal. Sold souvenirs outside Yankee Stadium and had a wife and two little boys, real cute little boys. Then he started hearing voices and shit, started ranting about devils and demons and how he was the last man standing before us and the end. He lost his job and started wearing all white and trying to touch everybody on their head. He got his ass whooped a few times and his church told him to stop coming. He screamed at his family and played this organ music all night. Cursed the demons and pleaded to the Lord. Howled like some kind of dog. He didn’t ever let his family leave. We stopped hearing the music and it started smelling and Momma called the cops and they found him hanging from the shower. Wearing a white robe like a monk. Tied up with an electrical cord. They found his wife and boys with electrical tape around their ankles and wrists and plastic bags over their heads. There was a note that said we have gone to a better place. Maybe the Devil got him or the demons got him or his Lord left him. Or maybe he just got tired. And maybe they did go to a better place. I don’t know, and won’t probably ever know, not believing what I believe. And it didn’t matter anyway. Everybody heard about it and nobody would live there. Until Ben. He came down the hall with a backpack and an old suitcase and moved right in. He either didn’t know or didn’t care about what had happened before. Moved right the fuck in.

He was the only white boy in the building. Except for the Jews who owned the liquor stores and the clothing shops, he was the only white boy in the neighborhood. Rest of us was all Puerto Rican. A few Dominicans. A few regular old-school black motherfuckers. All poor. Angry. Wondering how to make it better and knowing there was no answer. It was what it was, is what it is. A fucked up ghetto in an American city. They’re all the fucking same. Ben didn’t seem to notice. Didn’t care he was out of place. He came and went. Didn’t talk to nobody. Wore some kind of uniform like a pretend cop during the week that made everybody laugh. Stayed in his apartment most of the time on weekends, except when he’d go out drinking. Then we’d see him passed out on the benches out front of the buildings, right near the playground. Or in the hallway with vomit on his shirt. One time he came stumbling home on a Sunday morning and his pants were all wet and he was trying to sing some twenty-year-old rap song at the top of his lungs. My brother and his friends started going along with him, making fun of him and shit, and he was too drunk to even know. We started thinking we knew why he was living among us. Why he didn’t care he was out of place, didn’t belong. We thought he must not be welcome where he came from anymore. They didn’t want him around. And we was right, he’d been kicked the fuck out by his people, we just had the reasons why wrong.

First time I talked to him was in the hallway. It was probably six months after he moved in and me and my daughter came walking out of our apartment on our way to chill in front of the building. He was standing there in his boxer shorts and a t-shirt with his door open, holding his telephone. My daughter was like a year and a half old. Just learning some words. She said hola and he didn’t say nothing back. She’s like her momma. I say something to someone, I expect they say something back. Everybody wants that. Some basic level of respect. Acknowledgment as a human being. So she said it again and he just stood there. So I said hola motherfucker, don’t you know how to be a decent motherfucking neighbor and say something back. And he looked nervous and sort of scared and said sorry. And then my girl said hola again, and he said it back to her and she smiled and hugged his leg and he laughed and I asked him what he was doing just standing there in the hallway with his drawers on and his door open and the phone in his hand. He said he was waiting for a new TV, that he had bought one on sale and it was being delivered. I told him he better have a good goddamn lock, that there’s motherfuckers around here that’d kill a motherfucker for a good TV, no lie. He just smiled, still seeming all nervous and scared, and said yeah, I think the lock is good, I’ll check and make sure. And that was that. We left him standing there. Waiting for a TV.

I know that damn TV came too, ’cause we started hearing it. Bang bang bang. Some explosions. Helicopters and airplanes flying around. Heard him whooping and hollering, saying yeah yeah yeah, gotcha you bastard, how you like me now, motherfucker, how you like me now. Could hear him pacing, walking around. Got a little scared ’cause he was sounding like the crazy man who killed his family and I started wondering if that place really was cursed. Made my brother, who dropped out of school the year before me and was still around then, go listen at the door. My brother got all serious and listened real close and turned to me and said this is bad, Mariaangeles, real bad, we got a honkey playing video games across the hall from us, I better round up some of my boys and take care of this shit. I laughed, and knew I shoulda knowed better. But that’s the way it is in this life, you love your own, and you don’t trust people who ain’t like you. If I’d a moved into a white neighborhood and one of my neighbors’d started hearing gunshots and hollering, there’d a been a fucking battalion of cops kicking my damn door in. That’s just the way it is.

My brother liked video games. He started spending all his time in that apartment with Ben. They got a basketball game and a driving game where the more people they ran over with their car the more points they got. They started watching Knicks games and drinking beer together and sometimes smoking weed. I told my brother to be careful ’cause white people could be tricky, and you could never know what they might want. I thought everything in my life that had gone wrong had been because of white people, and most of ’em looked Jewish. My daddy got sent to prison by some when I was little. My momma had to work cleaning their houses most her life. My teachers, who all pretended to care so much but was really just scared of us and treated us like animals, was white people. They’re the cops, the judges, the landlords, the mayors, the people who run everything and own everything. And they aren’t letting go of any of it or sharing any of it. The rich take care of the rich and make sure they stay rich, and they talking about helping the poor, but if they really did, there wouldn’t be so many of us. And it was one thing having a white boy live across the hall and saying hi to him now and then or watching him get drunk or wear some silly uniform, but it’s another having my brother spending all his time with him. I didn’t think nothing good would come of it.

My brother didn’t ever listen to me. Never did. Wish he had, he might still be with us. This time, though, he was right and I was wrong. Even before he knew, before he became what he became, before it was revealed, Ben was okay. Nothing more, nothing less, just okay. I first found out when my brother took me over there. He had got tired of me telling him all the time that the white boy was no good, so one day he says you either come with me and see he’s cool or you shut the fuck up about me spending time over there. I ain’t one to shut the fuck up, only a few

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