kristal sheets

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My Dumbest Idea Yet

A Citizen Jim Novel by Chicken Sheets

It was Tuesday morning, the day I was going to launch the first-ever novel-length Citizen Jim Story by Chicken Sheets, and I was just giving some last looks and edits to the preface that would kick off a serial of an indeterminate number of installments.

I thought it was a no-brainer that the story would need a preface since many people who started reading it without having read any Citizen Jim Stories by Chicken Sheets might be a little confused.

If they got confused, they might stop reading.

And if subscribers to the publication stopped reading before I even shared the actual first chapter of the publication, I knew I would have to count myself as the biggest failure alive.

Then, of course, I would have to take a hammer to my computer, quit my day job, buy a wig, and head to Mexico to become a drug mule. That’s all I would be fit for.

The clock was running out on me, as I had to leave for work at 8:00. I needed to schedule the release of the first chunk of my story for some time that day. If I put it off too long I might lose my nerve.

If I lost my nerve before releasing even one part of the story, I’d probably be too scared to write a second part. Once again, I’d probably end up a drug mule in Mexico if this happened. And the more I thought about being a drug mule, the less suited I felt I’d be for the job.

When I glanced at the clock and saw that it was 7:59, I panicked.

Was it possible to explain in 60 seconds the genesis and expansion of a collection of 200 short stories featuring a fictional version of my friend Jim and a fictional version of myself and a fictional version of our friendship and fictional reactions to the all-too-real world that couldn’t stop being a dick for five minutes?

I was just about to tell myself this wouldn’t be possible when I heard the most god-awful banging on my front door since the time I put a box of Yorkshire Gold teabags on the front porch of the fit bloke from Winchester, England, who lives next door to me.

It was a harmless gesture of appreciation for a favor. Apparently, though, his wife—who he’d described to me once as “feisty” in a way that made me think he meant to say “stark-raving mad” or “dangerously insane”—thought this was some type of signal from MI5 to let her husband know they would be whisking him back to England within a day or two—but without his wife and two children. When he told her who he thought might have left it—to thank him for helping move a desk the day before—she made a beeline (fueled by jealousy) for my little Hobbit House with her fists balled up before she even got through the fence gate.

I can’t remember how it was resolved, but I do have some vague recollection of an animal control officer, a dart gun, and an ambulance speeding away in the opposite direction of the hospital.

Come to think of it, I haven’t seen those people since that day. Huh!

Since I was pretty sure it wasn’t the fit bloke from Winchester’s “feisty” wife beating on my door, I thought it would be safe to open up and see who was out there. Once I opened the door, I knew this assessment of the situation was only half-right.

There stood Citizen Jim, my best friend and the person I love most in the world! He looked as panicked as he might if someone whispered in his ear that the government was planning to cut down Walden Woods and turn it into a go-cart track and firing range.

He shoved me from behind. “Get inside! Hurry!”

I did as he said. Even after I closed the door I was still trying to wrap my head around his outfit on this hot summer morning.

It was already 90 degrees by 8:00, but for some reason Citizen Jim was dressed in a three-piece suit: the jacket, the vest, and the trousers. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, and he wasn’t wearing any type of tie. Thick tufts of ape-like hair were struggling to stay as much inside the vest as possible. His clothing appeared to be made out of wool. I reached out and touched his arm and found that it was made out of wool.

He smacked my hand away. “Don’t mess with my threads. I borrowed this suit from a guy at the funeral home who owes me a favor,” he said. “I wanted to look sharp just in case I can’t talk you out of this madness.”

He was one to talk about madness, showing up in such a silly outfit. These days he was sporting very short bangs that looked pasted to his forehead like a series of toothbrush mustaches. Knowing Citizen Jim, he might have shaved hair off of his chest and his ape-like arms to fashion into bangs with the help of an adhesive spray. For some reason, he was wearing brown wingtip shoes without any socks.

To make everything as terrible as possible, he smelled like he’d filled a bucket with Old Spice cologne before asking someone to climb on a chair and dump the whole thing over his head.

I wasn’t brave enough to ask about any of this. And I was more than pressed for time.

“I can’t talk right now. I have to go to work,” I said.

“You better grab your phone and call in sick, Missy,” he said. “We got something important to discuss.”

I tilted my head and squinted at him, scrunching up my nose at the same time. “Do we?” I asked. I grabbed my computer bag and my car keys. “Can we do it later?”

“No, we can’t do it later!” he said. “I’ve got to have these clothes back to that undertaker by noon for a 1:00 viewing.”

The last thing I wanted on my conscience was delaying some poor man’s funeral, so I put my bag beside the door and shoved my keys into my pocket. I made a scoop of my hand and waved it in the direction of my living quarters. “Go on. I can listen for five minutes,” I said.

And this was true, as the traffic was considerably less congested if I left five or seven minutes later than everyone else who got on the road at 8:00.

“Are you seriously going through with this nutty idea?” he asked.

Citizen Jim has considered pretty much every idea I’ve ever had to be “nutty,” but I usually had some notion about which idea he was calling nutty. This time, however, I was stumped. I told him so.

“Oh, of course! You have no idea what I’m talking about, even if I’m talking about that stupid, stupid Citizen Jim novel you want to write,” he said.

This was certainly a shock. He’d been imploring me to write a Citizen Jim novel for ten years. Until now I never felt I was in the right headspace to write a novel.

“But didn’t you make the suggestion to me back in 2013, during my annus horribilis?” I asked.

“I’m not here to talk about your undiagnosed skin diseases, woman! I’m mad as hell that you didn’t give me a heads-up about this novel-writing nonsense,” he said. “If you must do this ghastly thing, are you at least going to use the title I gave you all those years ago?”

I sighed and shook my head. “I have got to go!” I said.

He didn’t care. He threw his hands in the air and said, “You’re not going to get a better title than that one, especially not from any website with a random novel-title generator. Not even from a Mad Ave copywriter.”

“I’m sure you’re right. How did you say I should spell it?” I said.

I knew the exact title he was talking about. I was just trying to make him think I forgot—to prove the point that it wasn’t a very memorable title for a novel.

“You can’t spell the words ‘gorilla’ and ‘crap’ but you think you can write an entire book?” he said and started laughing.

Non-plussed, I said, “Well, I’m going to try! No matter how much you whine and complain and rend your garments and gnash your teeth, I won’t rest until this Citizen Jim novel is written and published and then picked up by Amazon Prime or Netflix as the basis of an animated series on par with…I don’t know! Maybe it’ll be as good as ‘The Simpsons!’ Or ‘The Groovie Goolies!'”

“Good luck with that, you deluded fool!” He shook his head as his laughter died to a chuckle. “I gotta admire your enthusiasm, even if it’s just to spite me.”

“So you’ll give this project your blessing?”

“I said nothing of the kind! I’m sure you’ll fall flat on your face the way you do with everything you try,” he said. “But I have to say! I’m pretty excited to watch the whole disaster unfold from the best seats in the house!”

The instant he declined the opportunity to condemn the entire project in order to revel in my impending failure, I knew this Citizen Jim Novel in Chunks was truly My Dumbest Idea Yet.

© Copyright 2022 Kristal Sheets.