When I got home on Monday evening I found out why my Instagram feed hadn’t been refreshing: every social media service owned by Facebook happened to be down all day. And those applications were still down even after I’d been home long enough to feed the cats, make a cup of tea, and write 55 words of this story.
Who was responsible? The Russians? The Chinese? Bill Gates? The computer that wore tennis shoes from that old Disney film The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes?
Did it really matter? Down all day! All those apps owned by that white-faced little weenie with the Julius Caesar haircut! I was busting a gut!
Next thing I knew there was some lunatic pounding on my front door with what sounded like an aluminum softball bat. There was only one person I knew who would bang on my door like a lunatic with something that sounded like an aluminum softball bat. But I couldn’t pay too much attention to current events or Citizen Jim when I had bigger fish I needed to fry.
“You better turn off that electric skillet right now! I need to talk to you about something more important than pretending you know how to cook anything besides oyster cracker stew,” said Citizen Jim.
I didn’t really want to let him in. I knew that he would waste a lot of the time I needed to stay within my deadline. Then again, I knew if I didn’t let him in he would probably gather up a group of people to stand outside my little Hobbit House and yell at me until I did finally let him inside. If they didn’t yell at me, they might throw things at my windows or empty out my trash cans on the sidewalk or write vulgar words on the front and back windshields of my car with white shoe polish.
I couldn’t stand to waste more time having to deal with that, so I flung the door open and motioned for Jim to come in, then slammed the door as soon as he was two steps through it.
“Hurry up! I can’t spare much time,” I said. “You know what tomorrow is!”
“Tomorrow is Tuesday, but today is your lucky day!” said Citizen Jim.
“No, today is almost over and I haven’t finished writing my annual story in celebration of Kate Winslet’s birthday,” I said.
“You need to wash that English Rose outta your hair and get in on this sweet Lady Di deal I’ve got for you,” he said.
He certainly knew all the right marks to hit, all the right buttons to push. The only person who could possibly make me forget writing a story about Kate Winslet in honor of her birthday was my first and forever British crush, whose smushing of my heart started sometime in 1980 and hasn’t stopped, even 24 years after her death.
“If you’re going to tell me you want to take me to see the movie Spencer, forget it. I don’t think I could live through that,” I said.
It was true: even the trailer for the film made me weep.
“There’s no time for that,” Citizen Jim said. “And we don’t need to go see someone else’s movie. We’re gonna make our own.”
As soon as he said this, I thought that maybe a few dirty words scrawled on my windshield or some rotten fruit stuffed in my mailbox might be better than whatever Citizen Jim was going to say to me next.
“You’re wasting my time, Precious Lamb,” I said. “Can’t you come back tomorrow evening, or—better yet!—how about October 6? Could you do that? I’ll give you all the time you need to explain your crackpot scheme to me if you’ll just leave right now and come back in a day or two.”
Even as I was saying this, I knew it was like the captain of Titanic trying to bargain with the iceberg that would eventually rip a hole in the ship. (Allegedly. I’m not convinced it wasn’t insurance fraud. But that’s another story for another day—a day that isn’t Kate Winslet’s birthday.)
“No ma’am! Not this time! I’ve let you get away with brushing off my foolproof plans for quick, untold riches too many times already,” said Citizen Jim. “Now make us a cup of tea so we can suss this out like civilized people.”
Actually, a good, strong cup of tea was exactly what I needed at that moment, so I agreed to his request and started toward the kitchen. Just as I was about to drop a Barry’s Gold teabag into each cup on the counter, Citizen Jim yelled, “And don’t you dare make us any of that that damned Irish tea! I’ve gotta talk about British things, so we need to be drinking Yorkshire Gold.”
After pouring water into our cups, I walked back into the living room. Citizen Jim was not there. A second later, I knew why.
The warbly sound of Jim’s singing voice tottered around the corner:
“Oh, my lady!
My sweet lady!
I’ve got a shoebox full of love
a shoebox full of joy
a shoebox full of you,
a shoebox full of Lady Diiiiiiii…”
While he sang this song I had never heard, he was pounding random keys on my keyboard.
Almost in a whisper, I said, “What in the actual—”
Citizen Jim held up the palm of his hairy, ape-like hand. “Don’t say it! You might read this story to one of your residents and she wouldn’t like hearing that word!” he said.
“Let’s go back in here,” I said, indicating my living room.
“But I’ve got eight more songs to play,” he said.
“If they’re anything like the nonsense you just sang, I don’t want to hear them,” I said.
“Nonsense? NONsense? Are you kidding me? Didn’t you hear the lyrics?” Citizen Jim asked.
“I heard them.”
“Then I guess you know, now, why I’m here and what I need to talk to you about!” he said with less excitement in his voice than that exclamation point might indicate.
“I have no idea why you would be here singing a song about what sounds like my childhood obsession with collecting articles about Princess Diana,” I said. “That’s off the rails-weird even for you.”
“You mean you haven’t watched the show about Diana they just released on Netflix?”
I shook my head.
“Oh, God, Stimpy. No wonder you seem more dense than usual. I’m sorry, I thought you would’ve watched Diana: The Musical by now.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and reopened them. “Did you really just say Diana The Musical?” I asked. “As in Princess Diana? That Diana?”
“Yep! And it’s a disaster! It’s got a 15% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, two and a half stars on IMDB, and look at this review in the Guardian,” he said, fishing his phone from his back pocket and showing me the screen. He said, “One star! They gave it ONE STAR!”
I squinted at the phone. “That looks like Tina Brown,” I said. “If that’s the lead actress, I’m sure Diana is rolling in her grave that someone who looks like Tina Brown is playing her in a one-star musical.”
“Yeah, I know! That’s why we’ve got to strike now, while the iron’s hot! I’ve got all the lyrics and melodies here in my little notebook,” he said, waving around an old Trapper Keeper (bulging with paper and covered in Pink Floyd stickers).
“Oh! So you want us to do a new musical about Diana? A really good one that will win awards and respect from the industry?”
“Now you’re talking!” he said. “I knew you’d understand sooner or later, but I was pretty sure it’d be later. Because of your little raisin brain.”
I just shook my head. “I’m going to go finish making our tea,” I said.
“Come on!” he whined, stomping his feet and hugging his Trapper Keeper. “Don’t you want to hear more of ‘Lady Shoebox, My Love’ or maybe ‘I Love That You Danced with John Travolta’? I’ve also got one called ‘You’re No Thickie, You’re My Dream Girl.'”
I shook my head, this time violently while waving my arms. “Maybe by the time I get back you’ll have forgotten this whole scheme.”
“Maybe by the time you get back, I’ll be gone. To pitch my idea to Hulu and Amazon without you tagging along and making me look bad,” he said.
“Maybe,” I said. “I’d love it if you’d do that, as I’m trying to get busy writing my annual Kate Winslet Birthday story.”
“Bah! You’ll never get any money or respect doing that,” he said, “and most importantly, neither will I! Now come in here so we can work on our show. You can bang the piano while I sing.”
I just stared.
“Yeah, you’re right. On second thought, since this keyboard does other stuff let’s try a church organ first and if that doesn’t sound right we’ll mix some sick beats with the dance function and take it from there.”
The clock was ticking. Before I knew it, it would be Kate Winslet’s birthday, and because of this lame-brain trying to make me do his ridiculous bidding the window was closing on writing my story in honor of her existence on the day celebrating her existence.
“I’ll tell you what,” I said. “You might not know this, but I was a bit of a poet back in my youth. I could write some really good lyrics based on the actual experience of being in love with Princess Diana during the 80s.”
“You’d do that for me?” Citizen Jim asked.
I smiled and reached for his hand. I said, “Sure I would!”
Obviously, I would not.
“Really?” he asked.
His face clouded over. “Then what are you doing standing around trying to hold my hand? Get busy! I’ll come by tomorrow to check on your progress. And when I get back you’d better have ten new songs written and arranged and ready to sing!”
“Piece of cake!” I said.
“That’s good!” he said, walking toward the front door. “Cake is very good! You need to write something about the bulimia.”
In response, I slammed the door and locked it, whispering, “Asshole,” from my side. To the ceiling I said out loud, “Don’t worry, Kate! I won’t let you down!”