Citizen Jim arrives with big ideas about attaining a state of immortality and never-ending handsomeness.
It was a horrible, rotten, no-good day. I was lying facedown on the pool table in our basement crying my eyes out for so many reasons that to list them all here would only make me start crying non-stop for another two or three days.
The cats were stationed at either end of the table – Adam at my head and Smokey at my feet – seeming to protect me in what they know to be a very dark hour.
“Oh, Adam!” I wailed. “Why can’t the world just stop and let me off for a day or two?”
He responded by making slits of his beautiful eyes, flattening his ears against his majestic head and slapping my cheek with his powerful tail.
“Talking to cats again, eh?” said a voice outside one of the basement windows that ran even with the front porch of our split-level house. The glass of the window slid up and I watched helplessly as Citizen Jim used a steak knife to slice the screen and create an opening for his big, bearded face.
“I can’t get in this way!” he yelled.
I just turned my head from him and continued to cry. He started banging on the basement door. “Answer this goddamn door, you gloomy little piece of miserable shit!” he said.
When I didn’t answer, I heard a small motor rev into life, but I didn’t have the energy or the inclination to say, “Please don’t use the chainsaw again.”
He continued revving the motor, yelling, “I will mess you up when I get in there!”
I finally relented and slid off the pool table, crawling toward the door with tears streaming down my cheeks and snot dripping off my nose. I turned the lock on the door handle and said, “It’s open, now.”
Jim forced the door open, barely missing my head, and stomped past me. He was holding a weed eater.
“Seriously? A weed eater? You were going to try – ” I started, but burst into tears again.
“Zip it, ass hat,” he said, backing up and tossing the weed eater out the door. “I didn’t come here to wallow in misery with you. You need to pull yourself together for a minute.”
I thought I might be able to manage that, so I sniffed and croaked, “Okay. I love you.”
“Love?! You don’t know shit about it. Here’s the thing. I’ve been thinking,” he said, then pushed at my chest with his foot until I fell backward and hit my head on the cement of the basement floor.
“What the hell?” I said, struggling to stand up, rubbing my head.
“I had to do that to keep you from saying something you might regret,” he told me. “I’ve made a big, big decision, Stimpy.”
That stumped me. For one thing, he was already married. And he insisted that his wife hated children with excessive zeal, so that door was bricked over for Jim as well. Those were two huge decisions already.
“Are you finally going to get tested to see if you caught any STDs from Erika Eleniak when you two hooked up in the 90s?”
Jim put a hand on my shoulder and frowned at me. “Obviously, Stimpy, you’re out of your mind with heartache and misery, probably over something I can’t begin to give a shit about,” he said. “So I won’t punch you in the mouth for bringing up the touchy subject of my past dealings with Erika Eleniak.”
“Good,” I said. “Because I’m too upset to remind you that you had no dealings with Erika Eleniak.”
“That’s perfect. Now, here’s the deal: I’m getting older. Not old, mind you, and don’t even think I mean that or I’ll smack you so hard you’ll think you died and came back as one of the Three Stooges,” he assured me. “Anyway, I still have my looks, and I remain a powerful, desirable man of charm and refinement. But one thing I’ve decided is that I won’t – and don’t have to – accept my mortality.”
I lay down on one side of the sectional couch and turned my back to Citizen Jim, just in case a wave of sorrow broke over me and made me start crying again.
“Keep talking,” I said. “I’m listening, no matter how stupid what you say might be from this point on.”
“I appreciate that, you cold-hearted bitch,” he said so calmly that I almost had to turn around, afraid he might be coming at me with his fists doubled up. “In order to avoid the ‘D’-word – checking out, passing on, kicking the bucket – I’ve looked into many options. Mineral supplements, multi-vitamins, moving to Europe, letting Calgon take me away, ancient Chinese secret. You name it, I’ve thought about doing it. But there’s one thing I keep coming back to.”
“Please don’t say anything about bathing in the blood of virgins,” I said.
“That’s close – very close,” he said. “In my desperation to pass the time, I started reading those kooky, spooky romance novels by that Mormon lady.”
“Mitt Romney’s wife wrote a book?” I asked.
“Oh my God – how can you be such a smartass about something so important to my life? You know good and well I’m talking about those ‘Twilight’ books!” he shouted.
I finally had to roll over because otherwise, Jim wouldn’t have been able to see the look on my face.
“You look a little gray,” he said. “Are you gonna throw up or something?”
“Maybe,” I said. “Unless you can explain what I just heard you say.”
“What is there to explain? I want to stay handsome and strong forever! I want to accrue inexplicable wealth over several centuries! Werewolves are not my friends! I want to live in the Great Northwest and watch the Aurora Borealis! But most of all,” he said, twirling an invisible dance partner around the pool table. He stopped, simulating a “dip,” and continued, “I want to be…sparkly!”
“I am so confused,” I said.
“Never have I ever been surprised to hear you admit that,” Citizen Jim said. “It’s like this: I aim to become a vampire.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said.
Citizen Jim pulled a copy of the Riverside Shakespeare off the bookshelf beside him and hoisted it above his head.
“How about if I crack your bony skull with Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Herod? Do you think that’d be a good idea?”
I buried my face in my hands and mumbled, “King Herod is from The Bible.”
“Oh, now you want to pretend to be a good Catholic – har har!” Jim said.
“Obviously not, if I mentioned the Bible,” I said.
Everyone knows Catholics aren’t concerned with independent biblical scholarship. That’s why the Old and New Testaments are read to us every day during the Mass.
“Look! I need to know if you can help me find a vampire willing to…you know…convert me,” he whispered. “So I can live forever and forever.”
This was all it took to kick my restlessness and melancholy into the toilet!
“Why’d you have to beat around the bush?” I asked him. “My God, this neighborhood is full of vampires!”
He let the Riverside Shakespeare fall out of his hands. Unfortunately, it fell on his foot and he screamed like a little girl. “Oh my God – I think my toes’re broken!” he said. “But I have to push on. This is too important, Stimpy.”
“Well, you’ll need a cape,” I said. “And maybe a tuxedo. Plus, you’ve got to shave. Your beard isn’t going to fly with the vampires – your neck’s so hairy they’ll never be able to find your jugular.”
Citizen Jim had taken a pen out of his fanny pack and was scribbling frantically on a small spiral pad of paper. “What else do you know about your vampire neighbors?”
I thought for a moment, not wanting to squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “Well, there’s a signal – for when you want them to turn you into a vampire?”
“What is it? I have to know!”
“Well, you fill a bag with waste. You know – feces?”
Citizen Jim drew back his arm, ready to slap me into the nineteenth century. “Are you lying to me, you awful beast?” he asked.
“No, no! Of course not! No! This is important! You take a paper bag, fill it with caca, set it in front of the vampire’s door and light the bag on fire.”
“Then run?” Jim asked.
“Oh my God, no! How will they turn you into a vampire if you run off? You have to stay there so they’ll know.”
“Oh, yeah – yeah, right. That makes sense,” he said. He limped to the door, tightening the strap of his fanny pack around his waist. “Now give me some house numbers.”
I didn’t have house numbers, but I pointed him in the right direction. “See that house over there across the main road? With the Jet ski and the pontoon boat in the driveway?”
His gaze finally settled in the right place. “Yeah, sure. Okay,” he said. “Where else?”
“The house on the corner across from the Jet ski house? Them too.”
“Wow! Which one should I go to first?” he asked.
I thought for a moment. We called the dad on the corner, a monstrous man with a bald head and hands big enough to strangle a moose, “Douche Bag” because it was obvious he always sent our son Marmaduke home for no reason other than the fact that the child has “two mommies.” The guy with the Jet ski, who we believed was a dog catcher for the county (and seemed to have the appropriate spirit and ruthlessness for the job), we called “Dick Head” because of a little skirmish between our sons and his self-righteous declaration that they weren’t allowed to play together anymore.
“Take your pick,” I said to Jim, adding, “Let me get an extra large bag and fill it with some good, fresh stuff from the cat box.”
Citizen Jim smiled. “You’re such a true blue friend,” he said. “What would I do without you?”
“You certainly deserve my help,” I said.
So did my neighbors.