Power Down

In which Citizen Jim tries to keep Chicken Sheets from being up the ass of Twitter so she can advise him on a domestic matter.

I was two days into a five-day mini-vacation from work and felt pretty smug about the fact that I’d made good on my vow to “get some writing done” during my time off.

Just as I finished giving one final look to the first draft of something I was calling “Spider Realtor®,” the light above my desk flickered and failed. The air conditioning suddenly cut off; my clothes dryer stopped tumbling; the ceiling fan blades slowed down before going completely still; and the fridge went off.

My little Hobbit House was filled with the eerie silence that marks the dim absence of flowing electricity.

It wasn’t because of an unpaid bill, as I always mailed a check for $50 more than the amount I owed the day after my bill came. If this was due to a blown fuse I was in trouble, as I had no idea how to replace one of those things.

Of course, I panicked.

Had our power grid been hacked by the Russians? Had Trump placed us under martial law, ordering compulsory blackouts to keep people in line? What if I couldn’t fill my car with gas to escape the white supremacist revolution that had been building for the last three years?

Would all the food at the Piggly Wiggly go bad before it could be looted from the shelves and freezers by bands of gun-toting grade-schoolers? And what about all the high school athletes that would probably be prancing around raping cows and sheep and warm apple pies when anarchy replaced the law of the land?

What was I supposed to do when my computer battery, my phone, my iPod, my wireless headphones, my Kindle Fire, and my Bluetooth speaker lost their charges? How was I supposed to keep up with Brexit and Bernie’s campaign, plus the online feud between Debra Messing, a TV sitcom star, and the Former Leader of the Free World (now known as #PresidentSharpie)?

By the time I heard the pounding on my front door, I was regretting the fact that I had no cyanide pills in my medicine cabinet. If the armed and dangerous marauders on the other side of the door kicked it down, I would have no chance to run and nowhere to hide!

I was hysterical by the time I looked out the window and saw Citizen Jim standing at the front door, his fist raised to deliver a few more blows to the wood.

“Open up! I know you’re in there, and it is HOT out here! I need some Hi-C punch RIGHT NOW! Or I’m gonna give you a Double-F punch—”

I thought I might cut him off by opening the door, but he continued shouting: “The F stands for my Fist in your Face!”

“Oh, thank God it’s just you! Quick! Get inside before they come down the street and start shooting at us from inside a tank!” I said. I grabbed the sides of my head and screamed, “It’s happening! IT’S HAPPENING! We’ve got to get out of here!”

Citizen Jim used his foot to push the door closed. “What is WRONG with you, woman?” he said, grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me. “Am I gonna hafta slap you and throw a glass of wine in your face to get you to stop acting like a canceled housewife of New York?”

“What have you heard?” I asked. “Do you have any idea what’s going on?”

“What’re you babbling about? What do you mean, do I know what’s going on?”

I threw my arms out in front of me and shook my hands wildly. “Out there! OUT THERE!” I shouted. “The country is in turmoil! Our president is mentally ill! Nobody will do anything about climate change! There’s no electricity!”

I ran down the list of all my fears about what this last thing probably meant, which launched me into another flood of tears.

Citizen Jim stared at me for a long moment, and then he burst out laughing. “Man, that menopause is something else,” he said, shaking his head. “I hope my wife doesn’t end up like you when it hits her!”

“This is serious!” I said. “I’ll never survive a civil war! They’ll shoot me before I

“Stimpy!” Citizen Jim yelled. “You’ve got it all wrong! There’s no civil war! No looters! No Russians hacking the grid!”

“How do you know?” I said. “You don’t pay attention to anything that’s going on in the world!”

“Look here, dummy! Your electricity is off because I cut the power lines a few minutes ago,” he said, then he got the weirdest look on his face. “Now don’t you go and black—”

When I came to my senses after blacking out, I was on my bed, a pile of pillows behind me and a few propping up my feet. Chrissy, my cat, was lying at the foot of the bed staring at me, while Citizen Jim was standing beside the bed staring at me.

“Good, you’re awake,” he said. “Now listen! I need your help.”

“Why in the hell did you cut my—”

“That’s all in the past,” he said. “I didn’t come to talk about why I had to cut your power lines. I came because I need your advice. And I need your undivided attention. Which is why I cut your power lines.”

“You cut my power lines to get my attention?” I asked.

“No, I cut your power lines to keep your attention. I knew when I got here you’d be up the ass of Twitter and trying to write and listening to your weird music and making tea and foraging for food in the refrigerator when you should be listening to me tell you why my wife is so mad at me.”

Because the air conditioner wasn’t on, and because the fans weren’t working, my little Hobbit House was stifling. I could feel sweat rolling off my chin and pooling at the base of my throat.

I wanted to kill Citizen Jim. I was glad his wife was mad at him. “I know why I’m so mad, but why is your wife mad at you? I hope she kicked you out of the house!” I said, reaching behind my head for a pillow, which I then attempted to beat him with.

“Now, stop! This is serious! You gotta help me find a way out of this doghouse so I can sleep in my own bed again,” he said.

“What did you do?”

“Why do you assume it’s my fault? What if it’s just the way my wife perceived something I did, and not what I actually did?” he said.

I put my fighting pillow back behind my head and folded my hands over my stomach. “Okay, let’s hear it,” I said.

“Well, some asshole my wife works with at the alchemy lab gave her two free tickets to see some classical music-thing downtown,” he said.

“Fine,” I said. “Go on.”

“The first thing I hated before we even got there was that I had to dress up. Why did I have to dress up? Dressing up is for the people playing that boring music, not the people who have to suffer through it,” he said. “And even though it’s hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk, my wife still made me put on that black t-shirt and those black leather trousers.”

He was stalling, I could tell. Whatever he did must have been really, really bad, or he would have launched into it and started defending himself by now.

“Anyway, I got a little excited because I thought my wife said they were going to be playing the theme to Rocky—and you know how I love that movie and that song,” he said and started pumping his fist in the air. “Dunt duh duh duh duh duh duh duh dun! Dunt duh duh duh duh—”

“Okay, okay, I know the song,” I said, but he didn’t care.

“Gonna fly now! Flyin high now!” he sang, eyes closed, still pumping his fist.

“I take it they didn’t play the Rocky theme?” I said.

He stopped singing and stuck out his bottom lip. “No! Nothing like it. But as soon as it started, I got excited because the chick playing the piano was—how can I put it? You know when someone’s so hot you feel like you might faint, throw up, and crap your pants all at once?”

I did know that feeling, but my experience with it was when I ate too much cannabis-laced chocolate before a David Sedaris book signing event in Denver, Colorado.

“That’s pretty hot,” I agreed.

“Anyway, all of a sudden I was glad we were at this stupid concert. I guess I got a little too glad,” he said, staring at the floor and shaking his head.

“What did you do?”

He ignored my question. “I mean, I’ve never been to something like that! How was I supposed to—and no matter what my wife says, I swear to God I didn’t see those signs posted all up and down the aisles and at the entrance of the concert hall,” he said.

“What did you do? For the love of God, just tell me,” I begged.

“I mean, that Oriental lady was playing so good, but nobody even acted like they appreciated it. And she was so beautiful, and her pretty fingers were just flying over the keys and pounding away—she was playing her little heart out, and I wanted her to know that I noticed how good she was even if no one else did!” he said. “And how hot she was! And I didn’t see the signs! I promise!”

“What signs?” I asked. I knew we were getting closer to the good stuff; I could hardly wait to hear it.

“Apparently there were warnings posted that said, ‘No wolf whistles between movements,’ or something,” he said. “But that makes no sense! Nobody was moving! They were all just sitting there like a bunch of stoned church ladies at a pray-a-thon.”

“So what if you whistled at a woman during a piano concerto!” I said. “I mean, it’s not conventional, but your wife should have been glad you were enjoying it, I guess.”

“Yes! Thank you!” he said, then snapped his fingers. “Dang! That’s what I should have said to her!”

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” I said. “Just a little faux pas. Surely you only did it once?”

“Well, actually, I did it a few, maybe seven, times. And I did hoot a little, and let a ‘Wah hoo’ or five come out during the quiet moments,” he said. “But I still don’t think those ushers had any right to man-handle me like they did.”

“You should sue them!” I said, bringing my fist down on the bed.

“I should! For pain and suffering! And mental cruelty! That was very cruel and embarrassing, especially since my wife was yelling at me and hitting me with her little clutch purse the whole time they were dragging me by my feet out of the auditorium,” he said. “I think she carries nuts and bolts and doorknobs in that clutch purse, as bruised up as I was the next day!”

“I’m sorry, Precious Lamb,” I said.

“Well, I’m not. But I have to figure out a way to seem like I am,” he said. “You have any ideas?”

I shrugged. “I honestly don’t,” I said.

“Jesus Christ in a wheelchair! Then why am I even here?” Citizen Jim said.

“I have no idea,” I said.

“Well, I’m gonna go,” he said. “Thank you for helping me out—and by that I mean you are the worst friend in the history of friendships.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” I said. “But did you ever get to hear the theme from Rocky, or were you forcibly removed from the concert hall before they played it?”

Citizen Jim threw his hands up. “Oh, yeah, and that’s another thing! They never were gonna play the Rocky theme—the fruit who wrote the music was named Rocky. Rocky Badenov or some damned Russian-thing or other. Whatever his name is, he’s lucky he had that pretty little Chinese girl playing his music, or nobody would have stayed for it!”

“Thanks for coming by,” I said, mopping sweat off my forehead and using my asthma inhaler. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.”

He waved and headed for the door. “I’d stay but it’s too goddamn hot in this place,” he said. I lay there on my sweat-soaked bed waiting for darkness to fall so that I could go to sleep and wake up to another day of vacation.