In which Citizen Jim arrives on the Gulf Coast to save Chicken Sheets from Hurricane Barry. And to give her a very important message from the BBC.
At some point Tropical Storm Barry turned into Hurricane Barry and hit the Gulf Coast in Louisiana. When that happened, hundreds of billions of raindrops fell on Alabama over a period of several hours.
Next thing I knew: trapped! Trapped inside my Hobbit House! Trapped inside my Hobbit House by the water outside as that same water started coming inside to stay cool!
After the rain slacked off I stood for a long time staring at the water standing along the south wall of the house. At the exact moment I was wishing for a ten-gallon shop vac (or fifty oversize beach towels) my phone rang.
“Hello, Precious Lamb,” I said when I answered it.
“I’m on my way! Get on the roof right now! But as soon as the ladder drops you’ve got to grab hold and climb in or I’ll have to leave you,” said Citizen Jim. “Make sure you wave your arms around so I’ll see you!”
“I don’t need you to rescue me,” I said.
“Oh! And I’ve got something important to tell you!” he said, then he hung up on me.
A minute later there was a pounding on the door. I shouted in that direction, “Who’s there?”
“Open this door!” Citizen Jim shouted. “Or I’m gonna drag you out here and drown you in a giant puddle of Hurricane Barry!”
He practically knocked me over when I opened the door to let him in. He was soaking wet from his bare head to his hair-covered toes, a pair of sweat pants and a white wife beater t-shirt clinging obscenely to his body.
“Look, I know you like nothing more than to inconvenience me,” he said. “And for once I was prepared, Sister Kristy. But I really thought you’d be waiting on your roof waving your arms around like an idiot when I got here.”
He started shaking and shimmying his body trying to get the excess water off of him: he looked like a bipedal labradoodle. He disappeared for a moment and returned from the direction of my bathroom with a bath towel wrapped around his head.
I stepped outside for a second, scanning the sky. “Where’s the helicopter?” I asked him.
He patted and rubbed his bare arms with another towel. “Oh. Yeah. That was a lie,” he said.
I threw up my hands and flared my nostrils. “What the hell?”
“Calm down,” he said. “I made a bet with my wife that I could get you to climb up on your roof and wave your arms around like an idiot.”
“How much do you owe her?” I asked.
“I don’t owe her anything,” he said. “But since you weren’t on the roof waving your arms around like an idiot when I got here, you better hand me a check for fifty bucks before I leave or else!”
“Or else what?”
“Eh. You know my wife,” he said. “So it’s hard to say. She might want money or food or she might want tickets to see REO Speedwagon at the IP Casino in Biloxi on November 16.”
“Didn’t you say you had something important to tell me when you called me earlier?”
Citizen Jim stroked his chin, scowling. “Did I?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure you did,” I said.
“Just give me a minute to think!” he shouted. “You’re the most impatient person I’ve ever met!”
“Well, I’ve got to get this water out of my house and do laundry,” I said. “Then I need to watch episode six of the second season of ‘Killing Eve’ and take notes so my friend Beth and I can discuss it during our Sunday web chat.”
“Hang on! Is ‘Killing Eve’ that show with the weird looking Chinese lady-spy and the hot Russian assassin that does all those accents?” Citizen Jim asked.
I kind of knew we were talking about the same thing, except the Chinese lady was Korean and the hot Russian assassin was, in reality, a nice little girl from Liverpool. “More or less,” I said.
“Yeahyeahyeah!” he said excitedly. “And the gigantic posh chick who did that ‘Flea Collar’ show is connected somehow, right?”
Again, he was just a little off-track but not totally wrong. “Phoebe Waller-Bridge, yes. Yes, I think she wrote the first season of ‘Killing Eve,'” I said.
“Yeah! All right! Now I remember what I was going to tell you!” Citizen Jim said.
I checked the time on my phone. “Is this going to take a long time?” I asked.
“Is that a trick question?” Citizen Jim asked. “Or do I need to punch you in the mouth?”
I sighed. Stared. Crossed my arms over my chest and tapped my foot.
“I oughta slap your face out the door and into the flooded street for acting like such a brat when I’ve got something so important to tell you,” said Citizen Jim.
I closed my eyes. “Please just tell me,” I pleaded in an angry whisper.
“So, as you may or may not know, in 1922 John Reith founded the British Broadcasting Company,” Citizen Jim said. “In 1927 it became the British Broadcasting Corporation.”
“Yeah, okay,” I said, making motions with my hand for him to hurry up. “I know what the BBC is.”
“Now, in 1932 the BBC Empire Service was launched, and became the BBC World Service in 1965. For obvious reasons.”
I was about to lose it. “What are you talking about? I don’t need to know the history of the BBC,” I said.
Citizen Jim frowned. “Oh. So you really have heard of the BBC?” he asked.
“Of course I have!” I yelled.
“Oh, I thought you were just pretending to know what I was talking about so I wouldn’t think you were dumb. My bad,” he said. “Okay, so I got an email from some big shot at the BBC yesterday.”
I raised my eyebrows in genuine surprise. “Really?”
“Well. I say I got an email, but it was actually for you,” he said.
“Yes, for you.”
“Hmmmm,” I said, wondering if I should believe anything he said from this point forward.
“Apparently someone at the BBC has been reading your self-published Citizen Jim books and wants to get that giant posh chick from ‘Flea Collar’ to make them into a TV show,” Citizen Jim said.
Oh, okay. He was lying. I just couldn’t figure out where he was going with the lie, so I decided to play along for a while.
I let my eyes light up as a smile nearly split my face in two. I said, “Oh. Mah. God! Do you think they want that Chinese lady and the hot Russian chick from ‘Killing Eve’ to play us?”
Citizen Jim shook his head. “That doesn’t even make any sense,” he said. “The Chinese lady is a lady.”
He was still wrong about most of that, but it didn’t matter. I was ready to start pissing him off. “Didn’t Citizen Meredith say you were a beautiful woman decades ago?” I asked.
He drew back his hand in fake preparation for pretending to slap me across the face. “Quit interrupting me!” he yelled. “Anyway, the hot Russian chick is too hot and too Russian to play you.”
“Now that I think about it, it all makes perfect sense,” I said. “I just have one question: why would the BBC be contacting you about this?”
“I think they must have emailed everyone you follow on Twitter,” Citizen Jim said, and shrugged. “They said they tried to contact you through your website, but there was no contact form for them to use. Why don’t you have a contact form on your website, you dolt?”
I explained to Citizen Jim that it was all tied into my further efforts to avoid that scorned woman who was still trying to contact me after an unimpressive sexual encounter six weeks earlier. I’d stopped answering her texts and started letting her calls go to voicemail. Then I’d blocked her number on my phone when I realized she wasn’t taking the hint.
Just as I was ready to draw a sigh of relief, I’d received a message via my website contact form that let me know I was still being thought of against my will.
“So I deleted her messages and removed the link to the contact form from my website,” I told Citizen Jim.
“Well, that was stupid,” Citizen Jim said. “You might be rolling around in a big pile of red £50 notes and quacking like the Honorable Lord Scrooge McDuck right now if you hadn’t done that.”
He was definitely lying. Wasn’t he? “I still could be,” I said. “Just give me the contact info for whoever emailed you and we’ll see if they’ve got enough money to buy the rights for the Citizen Jim stories.”
“There’s no reason to do that. I told them I was your agent and that you weren’t interested,” he said.
I really, really hoped he was lying, now. “But—” I started.
“They wanted to call that show ‘Killing Jim,’ you asshole! Would you be interested in something like that?” Citizen Jim asked, coming at me like he wanted to put me in a headlock.
As I shoved him out the door, twisting the deadbolt and drawing the chain into place to keep unwanted visitors from coming back inside, I said, “Of course not.”
I walked away as soon as he started beating on the door and yelling that I still owed his wife fifty bucks for not getting on the roof and waving my arms around like an idiot.