In which Citizen Jim arrives while Chicken Sheets is daydreaming about having her own show on a radio station in Tipperarry, Ireland. But why is her bathroom door destroyed?
It was already almost 11:00 on Saturday morning and I hadn’t made a move toward showering or changing from my pyjamas to regular clothes. I didn’t even have any immediate plans to take off my robe. I just wanted to live in peace and keep my weekend routines in place.
These included but were not limited to recuperating from a hard week at work by ignoring the outside world and plotting my permanent escape from the United States within three to five years.
On this weekend, I had in mind I would flee to Ireland. Maybe this was because I was engaged in yet another weekend routine: listening to Tipperary Midwest Community Radio, a station that fascinated me because it was so provincial and relaxed and, you know, real.
I enjoy Tipp Mid-West Radio so much that I’ve given them donations via PayPal. I never know what I’m going to hear when I turn on the station—they might be playing traditional Irish music, pop songs from the 90s or oldies from the 60s, or Daily Mass at St. Michael’s. The station featurs blocks of programming with names like Afternoon Delight with Muriel O’Connor and Easy Listening with Paddy O’Leary.
There are also transmissions of farming shows and obituary announcements. Sometimes announcers use a pause between songs to alert listeners about missing animals from local farms, or to wish happy birthday to someone in their family. One weekend when I was listening, a befuddled announcer apologized for dead air by saying, “I’m afraid that was the fault of a broken CD machine.”
On this day The Saturday Jukebox with Colin Samworth played Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry while I hoped that The Cutting Edge with Clodagh Cummins might come on. Sometimes I feel so close to Ireland that I think I could just walk a block or two from my little Hobbit House and check the time on the clock tower on Mitchell Street. Other times, I am determined to move to Tipperary and ask the radio station to hire me for a daily (or nightly) slot they could call The Ugly American if they wanted to.
But I know this was a dream that will never come true, so I turned my mind back to the real world at the present moment just in time to hear a thumping against my front door. I knew it wasn’t the exercise bench I’d just ordered from Amazon, and I’d already received my order of dumb bells and exercise bands the day before. And, so, I thought the only explanation was that my unwavering concentration of daydreaming about moving to Ireland had produced the results I desired—just like people were always telling me about The Secret!
This is why I jumped up and ran to the door, ready to tell whoever was there that I could be counted on to bake cookies for any Martin Breen Cumann fundraiser, but that I hadn’t seen Eamon Doyle’s ailing bull or Bronagh Murphy’s chickens.
I came crashing back to Earth when I threw open the door and met a vision of Citizen Jim, my best friend and the person I love most in the world.
“You don’t look very happy to see me,” he said.
“I’m sorry, Precious Lamb. I thought you were someone from Sinn Féin asking me to help them raise money for the cause.”
“In that case, you ought to be thanking your lucky stars it was me at the door!”
This was never true. “I don’t think that’s true,” I said.
“Boy, wouldn’t those Sinn Féin villains love to get their hands on a stooge like you,” he said. “Why, they’d have you planting bombs in cars and throwing bricks through the windows of Anglican churches before you knew what was happening.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.
“And you think you do?”
“I know more than you,” I said.
“Ha! That may or may not be. But! I’m not the one who voted for Ford in a mock election at Grant Town grade school just because ‘Ford’ was easier to spell than ‘Carter,'” he said. “So. I have a feeling that what you actually know about geopolitics might fit under the pinkie toenail of a baby with room to spare for dirt and poo.”
By this time, I was ready to go back to my worthless daydreams.
“I really need to be getting in the shower and moving into the productive part of my weekend,” I said. “So if all you came here for was to cast aspersions on my worldview, you can mark it off your To-Do list and move on to the next thing.”
“Oh, okay. So that’s it? You aren’t going to fight back or offer me something to eat? What if I need to pee?”
“You wouldn’t want to use my toilet right now,” I said, and beckoned him to follow me until we reached my bathroom.
His eyes bugged out. “What the hell happened here?” he asked. “Why are all those slats missing from the top of the door?”
I was curious to find out what he thought might have happened versus what actually happened, so I said, “I’m not sure. I just came home from work one day and found it like this.”
“Really?” he said.
“Yeah. I was hoping you could figure it out for me.”
Citizen Jim stepped back, tilted his head, took a few steps forward. He examined the inside of the door, stuck his head through the space where the slats had been, ran his fingers along the frame. He closed his eyes, let them snap open, then closed them again.
Finally, he looked at me and said, “I know what happened.”
“Yeah, but to explain it to you I’m gonna need a hot towel, a funnel, a jar of beet juice, two roofing nails, and a can of bread,” he said.
“I don’t have an extra hour to justify my methods to you,” he said. “Just bring me what I need. Time is running out! You’re in terrible danger!”
“I’m sorry, but the only thing I have that you say you need is a jar of beet juice,” I said. “Plus, I was just messing with you. I already know what happened to my bathroom door.”
“There’s no way someone with such a little raisin brain could figure it out,” he said. “I’m not even sure of the details yet. I need more time.”
“Well, I guess I need to admit that I did it,” I said. “I messed up my bathroom door.”
“That’s not what I was seeing in my mind’s eye,” he said.
This statement made me think of a weird coincidence from the previous week. I’d been listening to a history podcast about William Blake during which the expert guest explained aphantasia (the inability of some people to make mental pictures) as opposed to hyperphantasia (when a person’s ability to “see” things in their head extends to being able to hear, smell, taste, and feel them). Being a wildly creative weirdo poet and painter whose words and images were obviously taken from a very fertile, clearly imagined inner world, it was posited that Blake was blessed—and maybe a bit cursed—with hyperphantasia.
The very next day, I read an article in the New York Times that laid out aphantasia and hyperphantasia in an article called “Many People Have a Vivid ‘Mind’s Eye,’ While Others Have None at All.”
Maybe Citizen Jim, through his admission of not “seeing” my part in the destruction of my bathroom door, needed to be tested for aphantasia. I wasn’t sure how to broach the subject, or if I should mention it at all.
Citizen Jim snapped his fingers a few inches from my face. “The last thing you need to do is hold up the progress of this story with a lot of thinking,” he said. “I need to know what caused the psychotic break that made you start tearing up your house.”
“I didn’t have a psychotic break!” I said, then pointed. “I got trapped in there when the doorknobs fell off on both sides.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard about,” he stopped and cleared his throat, then continued in a much quieter voice, “I know all about the doorknobs falling off on both sides. I just didn’t think it could happen to a woman.”
I had no clue what he could be talking about, and I’ve known Jim long enough to know that I was way better off embracing my ignorance of the matter.
“Anyway, that’s what happened. I had to pick up a little footstool beside the bathtub and beat my way out of the john like someone having a bad trip at CBGB in 1976,” I said.
“Fine. But I’d still like a hot towel and a can of bread, if you don’t mind,” said Citizen Jim.
“And I still only have the beet juice,” I said. “Sorry.”
He threw his hairy, ape-like hands in the air and said, “You aren’t sorry! One day you’re gonna ask me for a hot towel or some canned bread and I’m gonna say, ‘Too bad, Stimpy, I only have beet juice.'”
“And if all you have is beet juice, I’ll understand and I won’t harass you,” I said. “But I doubt I’ll ever want to eat bread from a can.”
“You probably never thought you’d get trapped in your bathroom and have to beat your way out with a footstool,” he said, then cocked his thumb at my messed-up door. “But here we are.”
“Touché,” I said.
“Anchors aweigh!” said Citizen Jim.
“Peanut Buster Parfait!” I said, raising a fist in the air.
That’s when Citizen Jim spat on the floor and left me standing beside my busted bathroom door. The front door slammed hard, making the cats bug out and zoom through the front hall a couple of times.
I couldn’t help but wonder what Citizen Jim will do when he stops by to visit one day to find out that I’m strolling along Blind Street, headed for the station on St. Michael’s Street to start my radio show, right between Solid Gold Sunday with Paraig Londra and Sunday Spin with Pat O Connor, or maybe after Alan’s Thursday Tunes.