Down to Bidness

In which Citizen Jim arrives with a wagon full of “priceless treasure” he wants Chicken Sheets to sell for him on eBay. Uh huh…

Miss Mabel had been at the Hospice Thrift Store for close to three hours, and I was pacing a good path onto the wood of the front porch. It always made me nervous when she was gone so long on a trip to any sort of thrift store, as she usually came back with her arms loaded down and her eyes glazed over, unable to walk or talk for a day or two afterward.

Last weekend, it had been a collection of miniature plastic footballs that caught her eye at a flea market. The weekend before that she’d bought every single copy of The Cross and the Switchblade from a Goodwill Store in Newberry. And a month ago, we became the proud owners of 28 fine sets of plastic false teeth which had been donated to the local Salvation Army Store by the Tender Trappings nursing home, which was fighting a losing battle with a common cold epidemic.

Suddenly, Mister Meme stood upright and lifted his paws to either corner of his mouth. The shrill whistle he let out told me there was someone suspicious making his or her way down the road that passed our house, and that I should be ready to run inside, then lock, deadbolt and chain the door.

However, as the form lumbering toward the house came into clearer view, I realized I would only have to use the lock on the knob if the visit turned ugly.

But I knew it wouldn’t, because I love Citizen Jim.

I threw up my hand in welcome as he trudged up the gravel of our driveway. “Oh, Citizen Jim! How I’ve missed—”

“Can it with your put-downs, Sister Kristy,” he said, and dropped the handle of the little red Radio Flyer wagon he’d been dragging behind him.

The wagon—equipped with wood slats that rose up from the bottom of the wagon to form a foot-high barrier—was packed almost to overflowing with green garbage bags, white garbage bags, burlap sacks, plus a few loose packages of beef jerky and granola, as well as some flattened Kool-Aid juice boxes.

“What’re all those bags in that wagon?” I asked.

Citizen Jim’s hands flew up to grab his hips, a sure sign he was angry. “You’ll do just about anything to hold me up when time is of the essence, and that’s a freaky fact!” he yelled.

“What? Why are you yelling at me?”

Citizen Jim shook his head. “Listen to yourself! THEY’RE BAGS! That’s what those bags are in the wagon!” he said, then looked around wildly, whispering, “And they’re full of priceless treasures.”

I reached out toward one of the bags and Citizen Jim whacked my hand with a ping pong paddle he’d pulled from his back pocket with lightning speed. “Don’t touch the goods,” he said. “You’ll fuck ’em up and then we won’t be able to sell them.”

“Sell what?”

“MY PRICELESS TREASURES!” he screamed. “I gotta sell this stuff, and you and Miss Mabel’re gonna help me.”

“How can you sell priceless treasure? Isn’t priceless treasure, by its very nature, unsalable?” I asked.

“Yeahyeahyeah. This would be a great philosophical discussion to have if there were time,” he said. “But I need to unload this stuff PRONTO!”

“How come?” I asked. “Did you get another checkout girl from Publix in a family way?”

“Ha ha. Very droll,” he said, chuckling. He threw his arm around my shoulders and pulled me close. “Stimpy, I know you don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the world. I know you don’t give a shit about politics, and I know you hate the news. So it might surprise you to learn that the Democrats have taken over the House of Representatives and the Senate.”

My face began to glow like a candle up the ass of a mummy. “I know! Isn’t that GREAT?”

Jim’s gentle hug around my shoulders became a fierce headlock. “HELL NO! You know what those jackasses are gonna do—they’re gonna start throwing money to all the poor people and sick people and crippled veterans and Army widows and 9/11 orphans and anyone else who’s too damned lazy or feeble-minded to get a job.”

“It’s about time, too,” I said.

“Are you crazy? Do you know where they’re gonna get the money for all their hand-outs and giveaways?”

I shrugged. “The best way would probably be by closing corporate tax loopholes, charging companies for having overseas factories and call centers, then bringing the troops home and making the Iraqis hand over their oil revenue to pay us back all the money we’ve wasted there.”

“Oh you fond, foolish child,” Citizen Jim said, closing his eyes and shaking his head slowly. “I think we both know that all those Democrats who won were running on anti-war platforms, but were secretly vowing to raise taxes as high as the tower of Babel, their corporate headquarters. And they will raise taxes, mark my words. So I need to be ready for that.”

“So?” I said.

He nodded. “Yeah. So. We need to get down to bidness.”

“Bidness,” I said. “Bidness?”

“Yes, bidness. It’s a pun—a clever literary device I’m sure you’re totally unfamiliar with since you don’t know shit about shit.”

“A pun alluding to?”

“Look, Missy, I know you and your damned girlfriend are stealing folks blind on eBay these days, and I want a piece of that action.”

“Okay, let’s see what you’ve got. We don’t sell anything that wouldn’t be worth more than $25,” I said. “But we will take photos, write the listings, monitor the auctions, then pack and ship what sells.”

“Ha! Twenty-five dollars? That’s pennies compared to what you oughta be able to get for this stuff I brought,” he assured me and dug around in one of the bags piled into the Radio Flyer wagon. He produced a plastic baggie. “Check this out!”

I peered closely at the bag and frowned. “Is that…pencil shavings?”

“Sure it is. Five hundred bucks’ worth, seven-fifty if we split this bag into two bags.”

“If the rest of your stuff is like that, you might want to forget about making your fortune on eBay, Precious Lamb,” I said. “We’re not going to risk our standing as sellers by listing half a pound of pencil shavings.”

“Didn’t you say you write the listings?” Citizen Jim asked.

“Yes, but–”

“Shut up! It’s simple. When you write this listing, you point out the fact that these are pencil shavings from the writing instruments of Henry David Thoreau when he lived at Walden Pond!”

“Jim, they’re obviously from an electric pencil sharpener – anyone who ever spent a day in an office would know that.”

“You’re pissing me off, Stimpy!” he yelled. “I did not pull this little red wagon 300 miles in the middle of winter for you to tell me my stuff is worthless.”

“But it is. You should’ve called first,” I said. I pointed to two objects sticking up from the center of the pile in the wagon. “And we can’t sell that pirate cutlass or that BB gun. You can’t sell knives or guns on eBay.”

“Who says I want to sell them? I’ll be using those to guard my treasures while I camp out here in your yard and wait for the money I’m gonna make.”

“So far, I’d say you’re 0 for 1,” I said.

“Gah! Ok, then, what about this?” he asked.

He pulled from another pile a CB microphone—sans a CB, or even a spiral cord to plug the mic into a CB. I shook my head, saying nothing. “Observe,” he said and put his mouth against the mesh grill of the mic. “Breaker one-nine, we’ve got a bloomin’ idget standing here unawares of all the danggone money she could make from selling my treasures. Over.”

“Jim, you are wasting my time!” I said.

“Well, yeah, if this were an ordinary CB microphone,” he said. “But the listing should say that it was given to me by Greg Evigan on the set of the hit TV show ‘B.J. and the Bear’ during a taping of the last episode.”

“Is that true?”

“There’s a great quote by Virginia Woolf—and I don’t have time to explain to you who that is—but she said, ‘One gains a stranglehold on hashish and cocaine habits by writing them down.’ In other words, if you write it, it will be true!” he said.

“Um, that’s not she meant, and that’s not what she said,” I told Jim. “She actually said, ‘I think it is true that one gains a certain hold on sausage and haddock by writing them down.'”

“Bah! What you know about literature wouldn’t fill a flea’s asshole, so just shut it,” he said. After a few beats, he shouted, “COME ON! I’ve got tons and tons of cool stuff—a Chinese food carton thrown from the window of a car being driven by Tommy Lee Jones! A pair of panties that belonged to Erika Eleniak! The old Hills Brothers coffee can that Fannie Flagg used as a spittoon at one of her book signings!”

I cut Citizen Jim off before he hyperventilated. “What about the advanced reader copy of Mason and Dixon you have? That’d probably fetch about—”

He grabbed my face with his left hand and squeezed my cheeks until I had fish lips. “Don’t you even joke about something like that! No way in hell am I gonna sell my Mason and Dixon ARC!” He loosened his grip on my cheeks and shoved me backward.

Near tears, as much for Jim’s disappointment as the pain in my jaws, I said, “I’m sorry, it looks like that’s your only chance for success on eBay right now.”

Citizen Jim hung his head, so I tried to cheer him up. “There’s always the wagon. If you took all the garbage out of it and cleaned it up, we could probably get $35 or $40 for it,” I let him know.

Citizen Jim turned on his heel and picked up the handle of his little red wagon. “I’d love to take your advice, but unfortunately, I’m gonna be walking up and down the streets of Laurens County with my wagon full of treasures screaming about how shitty your eBay services are!”

I waved as he started down the driveway, cursing every few steps as the wagon overtook his heels and almost sent him flying. “I love you!” I yelled. He gave me the finger without even turning around and kept walking.