The N*zi Question
I hadn’t even started the story and Citizen Jim was already in my living room.
It was close to 11:30 on Thursday night, and I should have been in bed. But I’d watched the second half of a very disturbing movie called Saltburn, and got out of bed to walk off the layers of ick that the film had piled up in my brain.
“You know better than to watch movies about the landed gentry,” said Citizen Jim. “It’s like someone with sea sickness jumping from the boat to the beach then back into the boat.”
I wasn’t interested enough in what he was saying to actually listen to him and figure out what this gibberish was supposed to mean, so I went straight into a detailed outline of my future as a writer and the fact that it would entail leaving Substack after two years of using the service.
When I indicated my explanation was over by bowing and doing an awkward curtsy, Citizen Jim was FURIOUS!
“No! No ma’am—NOOOOOO MAAA’AAAM! I’m not moving again. Enough is enough,” he said, shaking his head.
Harking back to my days as a miserable, underpaid, overanxious call center employee, I said, “Sir, I understand your frustration.”
“Don’t you ‘sir’ me, Missy! I’m not some morally bankrupt Tory backbencher with a heroin problem and a thing for drinking with underage girls! And anyway, I don’t know how you could understand my frustration—you’ve been moving the Citizen Jim Stories around for more than twenty years, now! I’ve lost count of the number of repositories you’ve used for this crap,” he said.
“May I please put you on a brief hold while I talk to my supervisor?” I asked.
Red-faced, his fists doubled up, he came at me. “I’m gonna put you on a permanent hold if you don’t stop this nonsense and tell everyone you’re kidding, haha, and there’s no worry about moving Citizen Jim Stories by Chicken Sheets to yet another location in cyberspace.”
“But we have to move off of Substack!”
“Nazis, Precious Lamb! Because Nazis!”
He looked a bit stunned, then confused, then kind of angry, though he ended up looking resigned to whatever and whyever.
“Well, Stimpy, I’d like to roll my eyes and stomp my foot and call you delusional and propose that you sleep on the whole idea to make you forget it by the time you wake up,” he said.
I waited in silence.
“Are you going to do all of that now, or did you have something else to add?” I asked. “I need to wrap this up so I can get busy on the other website.”
“Were you even going to offer me the chance to take a look at where I’m headed before you uproot my literary existence and transplant it?” he asked.
“Yes, but I’m trying to figure out the best way to do that,” I said.
“I’d tell you what you ought to do, but you think I’m so damned dumb that I’m not going to waste my breath,” Citizen Jim said.
“When have I ever even—”
“Shut it! What you need to do is put a link to the other site right here in this story,” he said. “That way we can whiz on over there AND you can get em to subscribe to a Nazi-free newsletter right away!”
I looked around. “Where do you think would be a good spot for a link?”
“Not a link! A button, right there,” he said, and pointed downward.
The Ante Chamber
Citizen Jim struggled to stand after we were flung through a weird void in the creative process contained within my brain.
Once upright, he looked around. “What is this place?”
I told him it was an antechamber where people could decide whether to continue reading the story. If they wanted to keep reading, they’d be redirected when they subscribed to the newsletter I would send every now and then from kristalsheets-dot-com.
“So you’re holding the second half of the story hostage? What are you, the SLA?” he asked.
He knows I always love a good Patty Hearst reference. That’s why Citizen Jim is my best friend and the person I love most in this world!
“I’m not extorting anyone—there’s no charge. And I don’t want full name, occupation, groceries for everyone in Oakland,” I said. “I’m not asking questions like, Where did you hear about us?“
“Okay, well, if all you need is their email and permission to sign them up for the newsletter, I can’t really object to that. And I’m sure most of the people who read these stories found them by accident on a computer in the prison library,” he said. He nodded to signal his approval of my plan. “Go ahead with the form.”
I went ahead with the form.
He walked around with his hands in his pockets, whistling as he looked up at the ceiling and muttering “Cripes!” when he caught a glimpse of the home page of the website.
“What in the holy hell is this?” he asked.
“Those are my plans for the website,” I said.
“That’s nuts—there’s no way you’re going to have a website with all that shit on it,” he said. This place is as empty as a Catholic Church during Mardi Gras.”
I stepped back and gave the home page a long, thoughtful stare.
He was probably right. There was nothing waiting in the wings to be published, and my future plans for the website now seemed comically overextending.
But I didn’t care! I had principles I had to stand up for. And if the road to hell really was paved with good intentions, my shoes would have already melted and I was still walking.
It had to count for something that I kind of wanted to do a digital version of the Zine I never published as a teenager. At least it would keep me writing despite the lack of compensation, a dearth of readers, and absolutely no chance of ever finding a traditional publisher.
However. Was I truly going to write three serial novels, a fake Fleabag Motel Travelogue, a blog of my own personal ramblings, and Citizen Jim Stories—all at once?!
I can barely write a simple Citizen Jim Story in one sitting these days—especially sad when I look back to the time in my life when I never spent more than forty-five minutes on a Citizen Jim Story from start to finish.
Wasn’t there something—anything at all—that I could do with my time that might yield me more satisfaction, happiness, and creative fulfillment than writing for an audience of five with no revenue stream to keep the enterprise afloat?
I supposed not, and began weeping.
This made Jim more furious than the news we were moving away from Substack because of the fascists being platformed there!
“Dry it up! There’s not a damned thing you can do to keep your creativity from forcing its way through your brain looking for an escape hatch,” he said.
He was right, but I would never tell him. It would doom the endeavor before it even got started.
And I definitely wanted him to come back—if for nothing else then for his sweet, never-ending encouragement.