The following is a story that somehow escaped inclusion in what I truly thought was a complete collection of Citizen Jim stories written between 2000 and 2018.
Like a couple of others, this story is actually a two-fer: directly following the actual Citizen Jim tale is the beginning of a fake “novel in progress” by Citizen Jim called Doodah! Doodah!: The Divine Adventures of Happy Hufstutler.
After reading it, I realized why I didn’t collect it with the others. So.
There I was, just sitting in my mother’s living room darning socks and sipping hot apple cider by the fire (Mom got rid of her wood-burning stove; the fire was from one of her neighbors’ falling asleep in bed with a cigarette) when the bell tolled and I saw the silhouette of a man outside the front door, a top hat and cane casting shadows in the moonlight.
I went to the door and asked who was there, and received this reply in an eerie monotone: “I am death. I am mayhem. I will destroy you! I am the ghost of Hallowe’en past, come to steal away your treats and stuff your bag with tricks! Haha!”
I just laughed and let Jim in, wondering aloud why he was so darned early, since Hallowe’en, though definitely “around the corner,” is still not “right upon us.”
He said he’d come by to see if I wanted to go to Wal-Mart with him, then pulled a bunch of near-rotten bananas from under his black cape. “I thought we could make some coffee cake while we’re at it, too,” he said.
So we passed a quiet evening laughing about old times and snickering at the thought of John Bethea and the Town Whore going to the Fairhope Masquerade Ball as L’il Abner and Daisy for the fifth year in a row—*** ******* hates trying to wash that black shoe polish out of the Town Whore’s hair!
After we’d enjoyed our evening together, Jim decided to tell me the real reason he was there.
Apparently, he’d written a story that so pleased him that he was thinking of abandoning his 400-page manuscript of The Downwindies so that he could devote his time to developing a novel-length continuation of his new story.
I could not convince him not to, so I guess the excerpt below will be his new work in progress.
Doodah! Doodah!: The Divine Adventures of Happy Hufstutler, A Novel in Progress by Citizen Jim
“The trouble is,” he told Cave Man and Omar while they sat inside a warm donut shop on a bitterly cold winter day, “they think that’s all you do, all day long. What I get out of the boots is such a small percentage of my overall happiness. If only one thing in this crazy, beautiful world made me grateful for the life I’ve been graced by God to live, I don’t think my name would be Happy Hufstutler.”
Happy knew Cave Man and Omar didn’t understand him by the way they glanced at one another and smirked before gazing back at Happy with the beginnings of frowns playing on their mouths.
“Where we come from, they take people like you and lock em up tighter ’n a drum in Weston,” Cave Man said. “That’s the nuthouse.”
“Yep,” Omar said with a short nod. “The loony bin.”
“They’d putcha in a strait jacket and have a real ugly, big-boned nurse come in and feed ya porridge with salt, huh, Omar?” he asked, never taking his eyes off Happy.
“Yep,” Omar agreed.
Happy’s expression didn’t change. Smiling, he shrugged. “Sorry.”
“You ain’t kiddin,” Cave Man said, nudging Omar with his elbow. “Let’s get the hell outta here before he wrastles us down and steals our shoes.”
“Not a chance!” Happy called after them as they made a path for the fogged glass of the door. “I only like new merchandise!”
“Morning, Happy!” the manager would say as Happy strolled through the door into the store, already giddy from the smell, fighting himself not to run as fast as his legs would carry him past women’s pumps, children’s saddle oxfords, ladies’ house shoes until he stopped on a dime in front of his reliable treasure: rows and rows of gleaming, carefully laced men’s work boots. He preferred a size inside which he could easily fit his entire head, and if he arrived early enough, he would choose just such a pair.
However, after the altercation with a city worker who grabbed Happy by the neck and yanked his head from inside a pair of size 16 DW, demanding to know “what kind of pervert” Happy was “sniffing a god damn boot,” Happy usually opted for smaller boots which could be quickly whisked away from his face should he find himself watched by any disconcerted customers who could never know or understand the intoxicating pleasure he found in this harmless activity.
He often called it “poor man’s laughing gas” because of the effect it always had upon him, releasing all tension and sending away his anxieties, bringing him peace and light-headed bliss.