In which Citizen Jim arrives with a wad of cash…and lots of explaining to do…
It was no use: I couldn’t think of a topic for my weekly column, and time was running out. Due on Tuesday, I hadn’t written a word of my piece by Monday night.
The president was wearing me out. I’d already abused Ann Coulter. The Fox vs. Franken case had been over for weeks, without having dragged out long enough to squeeze out even half of one more column about it.
I was a little riled up about the convenience of the FBI’s announcing a major terror alert on the Friday right after the August unemployment figures were released—obviously to distract everyone from the fact that Bush’s Labor Day talk about “economic turnaround” and “job creation” and “recovery” was nothing more than extra-dark bullshit from George W. Bush, the Bullshitter-in-Chief.
For once, I was thrilled to realize that someone was downstairs making a terrible racket while trying to open the door.
“My arm is getting TIRED!” Citizen Jim yelled. “Don’t make me finish off this job with the hatchet—come open the goddamn door already!”
This was music to my ears! I ran down to meet Jim at the foot of the stairs.
Indeed, there was a huge gash in the wood of the door; his shirt and hat, as well as the thick hair of his arms, were covered in wood chips. Otherwise, though, he looked GREAT! He’d been on the South Beached Whales Diet, which called for eating nothing but potato chips, pork rinds, milkshakes, Hawaiian bread, pancakes, King Vitamin cereal and Wonka Bars for two weeks.
Citizen Jim was FAT, just the way I like him!
“Well, I got good news, and I got bad news. What do you want to hear first?”
I knew this was a trick question, one that he’d asked many times before.
If I said I wanted to hear the bad news first, he’d tell me the good news; if I said I wanted the good news, he’d hit me upside the head with the handle of the hatchet he was holding.
“I want neither and both at once?” I said warily, taking a step back and covering my head with my arms.
“I’m gonna punch you!” he whispered. “Come on, let’s go inside. I don’t want anyone in this neighborhood to hear what I’m gonna tell you. We might get mugged.”
Before we even reached the top of the stairs, Jim grabbed my arms and held them behind my back.
“WE’RE RICH!” he shouted at the top of his lungs.
“Who’s rich?” someone called from outside.
Jim ran over to the open window and stuck his head out. “That’s not your business!” he yelled.
“What are you talking about, ‘We’re rich!’?” I asked, dragging him away from the window and brushing the splinters of wood off his shoulders and back and off the top of his head.
“Just what I said, jackass! WE’RE RICH!” Jim said again. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a hundred-dollar bill. “You see this?”
“You okay? Don’t swoon, now, or I’ll bust your head in with this hatchet.”
“So you’ve got a hundred dollars and you’re saying we’re rich?” I asked.
“Damn right!” Jim said, running the money under his nose and inhaling deeply. “You wanna smell it?”
“No,” I said. “I want the good news, now.”
“You better sit down,” he said, pointing at the couch.
I sat with my hands folded in my lap. “Okay. I’m sitting. Hurry up.”
“This hundred dollar bill? I got two more just like it,” he said, smiling widely. “Ha!”
“What’d you do, sell your bird’s eggs to the highest bidder?” I asked.
“Close, but no Kielbasa,” he said, then sat on my lap. As I struggled to breathe, he said, “I sold my book! That three hundred dollars is my advance! And they’re going to make a movie, and when they do, they said they’ll give me another two hundred dollars and two free tickets to see it! Can you believe it?”
I finally pushed him off my lap and stood up. “ARE YOU CRAZY?!”
“What is it?” Jim asked. “What? I thought you’d be HAPPY FOR ME!”
I shook my head and sighed. “And who’s paid you this money for your book?”
“Who else? Harlequin!” Citizen Jim said.
I tilted my head, as I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly. “What the hell? Why would Harlequin buy a book about a bunch of cancer-ridden, UFO-hunting chicken farmers down-wind from a nuclear reactor in Arkansas?”
“Well, I did what that editor told me, and added a love story to it. Then I took out the nuclear reactor and replaced all the former characters with new ones. But one of them does have cancer. She dies at the end, but not until she and the guy she meets at the beginning of the story share a stolen night of passionate dry-humping,” Citizen Jim said.
“In other words, you SOLD OUT!” I shouted.
“No way! They’re still chicken farmers!” he said. His face turned red, and he started sweating. “Just…you know. I HAD to take out the UFOs. The ladies don’t likes the UFOs, apparently. They loves the cancer but hates the UFOs, my editor said.”
“Well, the UFOs were my FAVORITE THING about the book. But I guess you don’t consider me a LADY!”
“You better get happy for me in about two seconds, or I’m gonna shake you like a gasoline and soap powder martini!”
He held up a finger. “ONE!” he shouted.
“Okay, okay. I’m happy. I just think you deserve a little more money, especially since they made you gut your story,” I said. I began to cry as I said, “I loved those UFOs. I did.”
“Well, who cares? I’ll write that other thing later and I’ll put extra UFOs in it just for you,” Citizen Jim said.
“Really?” I said, wiping my eyes “Promise?”
“Yeah, yeah. Cross my heart and hope to die,” Jim said, rolling his eyes.
“Oh, Jim! You’re too good to me sometimes!” I said.
He drew back his fist and squinted at me. “Listen! Just shut up with the love. Let’s go get us some steak and eggs, Stimpy! WE’RE RICH!” he said.