Lost Cause

In which Citizen Jim arrives in Glenville and harasses a video store clerk before ranting and raving about the lack of entertainment and culture in the small town Chicken Sheets has made her home.

It was a Wednesday and I’d been walking around the Towne Bookstore for an hour trying to find a DVD to rent.

Brian, the clerk behind the counter, had finally given up trying to help me, as I’d become the monster I used to hate when I worked in a bookstore: “Is this any good?” I asked the poor man at least 50 times in the space of 55 minutes.

“That woman wouldn’t know a fine film if it jumped out of a movie projector and bit her on the ass,” I heard someone say from the direction of the military movies. Then, in Brian’s direction, the voice called out, “Hey, Batman! Don’t you people have a copy of G.I. Bro around here? Shit and tarnation!”

I felt lightheaded and my heart brimmed with joy: it was Citizen Jim!

Wait. Oh, no

Just as I feared he might, Brian the Clerk informed Jim that he’d never heard of G.I. Bro.

“I should’ve known! You call this a bookstore, but there’s nothing by Thomas Pynchon on the shelves. And then you call yourself a video store clerk, and you’ve never heard of G.I. Bro! If you’re a Kraut, he’ll take you out! You are FIRED!” Citizen Jim yelled. “Get out of here!”

“Precious Lamb, don’t be mean to Brian,” I said, peeking my head around the corner of the DVD section of the store. “He’s working his way through college. You know how it is.”

“What the hell are you doing here? Can’t I have one evening of peace without you following me around every goddamn place I go?” Citizen Jim said as he walked over to where I stood.

I reminded him that he was in Glenville, not Fairhope, and that I lived there, not him.

“What are you trying to say? Are you trying to say that I’m the one who’s following you around? Oh, please. I think the FBI knows different, Missy!”

Brian the Clerk cleared his throat and said, “Um, I need to close up, so. . .”

“You SHUT UP!” Jim shouted. “I am trying to talk to Chicken Sheets here. She’s a very important person in this town! City Editor of the newspaper, don’t you know, and a very goddamned popular political columnist!”

“Yeah, but—”

“Save your breath, Batman! We’re leaving, and we’ll never be back in this place again!” Jim said, grabbing my arm and yanking me through the store. Before we stepped out onto the sidewalk, Jim turned to Brian the Clerk and said, “She’s gonna write about this in the paper, just so you know!”

I tried to smile at Brian the Clerk, shrugging my shoulders, but Citizen Jim smacked the back of my head. “Just go!” he yelled. “We got more important things to do, anyway.”

As we walked down the sidewalk in the direction of my car, I asked Citizen Jim, “How did you know Brian’s nickname is Batman?”

Citizen Jim stopped and put his hands on his hips, staring at the ground for a long moment. “Don’t try to change the subject,” he said.

“From what? And it is! I swear!” I said.

“Now what the hell do you think you were doing in there?” he asked me.

“I was looking for a movie to rent, and I almost had one before you caused such a scene,” I said.

“What do you mean, I caused a scene? It’s not my fault those people don’t have any copies of G.I. Bro! And you don’t need to be in any stinkin video store looking for something to rent when the movie you’re supposed to be seeing isn’t out on DVD yet. Now let’s walk to the theater and see that new Kate Winslet flick.”

Citizen Jim knows I hate the word “flick,” but I let it pass and pointed to his feet, frowning at his purple plastic flip-flops with big yellow flowers right between the big toe and the second toe on each foot. “You’re not wearing the right shoes for a 45-mile hike, I can tell you that,” I said and started walking again.

Citizen Jim ran up to me from behind and tackled me on the cold, hard concrete, rolling me over and pinning my shoulders to the cement. “You said you wouldn’t like that stupid Some Bug-Eyed Girl Kissing Jessica Stein on the Mouth garbage, but then you loved it, right?” he said.

“Yeah, but it made me sad, too. And it was a comedy! If I see this sunshine movie, I’ll have to go back on the Paxil!” I wailed.

“You only took two of those stupid pills and then you were fine, so quit your crying,” Citizen Jim demanded.

He was certainly right about the Paxil. But I wasn’t crying. Yet. He was working his way there, though.

“Please, Jim! Just reading the reviews of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had me thinking about the Great Lost Love of My Life, and that wrecked me for a whole week!”

“You’re gonna see that movie if I have to tie you up like a wild animal and have Farmer C. take you in his cattle trailer!”

Then I did start crying. “I told you! I can’t see that movie! I just can’t!”

“Listen! You need to tell me where the cineplex is in this town so I can take you there. Or I’ll—”

“The nearest theater is in Weston! That’s two counties away from here!” I sobbed. “And besides that, if I see that movie, I’ll just start thinking about—”

Citizen Jim cut me off by clapping his hand over my mouth. “You mean this town doesn’t have a goddamn movie theater? Jesus jumping on a trampoline!” he swore. “You got no Taco Bell, no Wal-Mart, no Winn-Dixie, no Dr. Music, no Steak-n-Shake, and now you’re telling me there’s no place to even watch a goddamn movie on the big screen?”

I moved my head side to side.

“If I find out you’re lying to me, I’ll stick my foot so far up your ass you’ll be able to tie my shoelaces every time you open your mouth, Missy!”

“I swear to you, there’s no theater!” I said.

“Oh yeah? Then just where did you see all the Lord of the Rings movies?” he asked.

“I haven’t seen them. You know I—”

“Gah!” Citizen Jim groaned, wrapping his fingers around my throat and squeezing. “Are you trying to KILL ME? What do mean you haven’t seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies?”

“You know I hate that kind of movie,” I tried to say without the benefit of being able to breathe.

Citizen Jim finally let go of me and hopped up, shaking his head. “You’re a lost cause, Stimpy! You make Alicia Silverstone look like a girl genius,” he said.

“I love you,” I whispered.

“I don’t know how you ever tricked me into being your friend, but the longer I know you the more I appreciate those water-based tattoos I used to get from the bottom of the Cracker Jack box,” he said.

“Can’t we go back to my apartment and watch the DVD I just bought of ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’?” I asked as I stood up and picked the gravel out of my arms and neck and scalp.

“You must already have a spotless goddamn mind if you think that ‘Dick Van Dyke’ crap is funny,” he pouted. Then he smacked my hand away from my arm and pointed in the direction of my car. “Let’s quit lollygagging and get the hell out of here before someone sees us and thinks I know you!”

Until he wrenched free of my grasp and started running away from me, I walked arm in arm with Citizen Jim, a huge smile on my face because I was so happy to have him in my life!