In these ten great tales of misadventure, Citizen Jim proves that any idiot can make the destination quite unworthy of the journey. Every time Citizen Jim visits Chicken Sheets she is overcome with both joy and fear, for she loves this violent, abusive man more than anyone on the world!
But if Citizen Jim stories have anything to teach us, it’s that sometimes the most beautiful and meaningful relationships we have the good fortune to experience are also the most violent and abusive.
Included in Book 4 of the Citizen Jim Stories:
How to Fix the Oscars®
In which Citizen Jim—who has his own ideas about who should be awarded by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences—coerces Chicken Sheets into helping him…What an idiot!
Hobo Jim’s Boxcar Betrayal
In which Citizen Jim has a nasty trick played on him by “the guys,” and immediately runs crying to Chicken Sheets. What a SHOCKER!
It’s Landing That’s a Real BITCH!
In which Citizen Jim “crashes” the two-person UNO party being enjoyed by Chicken Sheets and her lady friend, Miss Mabel.
BTK is on the LOOSE!
In which Citizen Jim arrives to warn Chicken Sheets about an infamous killer on the loose.
Big Feet, Big…Shoes!
In which Citizen Jim arrives with bus tickets to Malaysia and government-issued permits to hunt the mighty Sasquatch!
A ‘Stonishing Tale
In which Citizen Jim arrives to explain Citizen Dan Liebke’s role in country superstar Keith Urban’s losing battle with substance abuse.
Brothers of the Shield
Citizen Jim appears at the workplace of Chicken Sheets with an announcement that could very well end their decades-old best friendship.
Fuck Off, Ya Fuckers! (Scroll down to read right now.)
Citizen Jim pulls a “David Foster Wallace”-type stunt only to find himself on the run. And not from booksellers.
In which Citizen Jim almost breaks his hand complaining about Chicken Sheets’s departure from Twitter and the consequences of not being on Facebook.
Renting to Own
In which Citizen Jim finds himself in the fight of his life against geriatrics when he goes looking for Chicken Sheets.
Fuck Off, Ya Fuckers!
Citizen Jim pulls a “David Foster Wallace”-type stunt only to find himself on the run. And not from booksellers.
It was a Tuesday and God knew I despised the very thought of going back to work, having left sick the day before.
But Mrs. Chain Gang, my supervisor, had made it clear that on this particular day attendance was mandatory. In the same calm and sinister tones of an early 20th century coal operator addressing a gaggle of sad, overworked children covered head to foot in black coal dust, she’d insinuated the previous week that not coming to work on Tuesday would result in immediate termination.
She paused to let her threat sink in before offering an alternative to being fired: a “hellacious butt-whipping” with a switch the associate being punished would have to choose and cut down him- or herself from a special tree growing in the office parking lot.
Also mandatory was bringing some type of food for a fellow associate’s farewell party. Patti Miller, who compiled quality reports for our team, had finally won favorable judgment in a sexual harassment suit against my former nemesis, Kenneth (or “Kenny,” as I had to call him or he would cry) Murphy. She must have been hatching big plans for that money, because she put in her two-week notice the day she received a check for the lump sum of $68.23 from Kenny Murphy’s attorney.
Working in an office with more than a hundred people has many, many drawbacks to it. Without doubt, though, not even the smell of the employee restroom at quitting time is as disgusting as the pervasive culture of food theft where I work. And since our special luncheon was only for members of Mrs. Chain Gang’s team, we’d gone to the trouble of unambiguously marking our culinary territory with various and sundry signs which let others know they were not welcome to our food.
Of course, that didn’t stop several amoral gluttons from trying to slink past our security check. But any sneaking food thief who had in mind to load up a Styrofoam plate with our party chow was going to have to tangle with Mrs. Chain Gang–never an advisable path to tread regardless of the impending reward.
Besides herself, Mrs. Chain Gang had two other people guarding the buffet in the break room, with each extra person stationed beside the giant pan of mac and cheese Mrs. Chain Gang had made and Tippy Lou’s famous and fabulous buffalo chicken dip.
After showing my employee badge and my passport, I fulfilled the remaining requirements to get my lunch by whispering the pass phrase into a voice-DNA device (“That’s what she said”) and counting from ten backwards (in French).
Walking out of the break room and toward the exit, I was targeted like an unseasoned social worker making her way to counsel a violent maximum security prison inmate. The walls on either side of me were lined with folks giving me the finger and leering at my mound of buffalo chicken dip, reaching out as if to grab my bowl heaped with meatballs and soft, buttered bread.
“Don’t choke on it, baby,” someone called out when I walked by.
A bitter supervisor from another team dragged a blood-red fingernail across her throat as I passed her.
I was almost in tears by the time I made it to the doors. The girl who sits directly across from me–but who is not on my team–covered the security button to open the door as I went to press it.
“Give me that mac and cheese or you’re gonna be real sorry,” she said.
“B-b-but I’m hungry,” I said. “And-and-and you aren’t on our team.”
“You’re not gonna need a team if you don’t give me what I want, bitch!” she said, now covering the security button by backing against the wall. She thrust her arm out and grabbed my wrist but I twisted free. I was hoping she’d triggered the release on the door by leaning back upon it, so I shoved the glass with my shoulder and ran when the door gave way.
She hissed at me before the door closed.
As I stepped outside the natural light of the sun made me squint and stumble like a mole unwittingly emerging from underground at high noon. While my eyes were trying to adjust, some asshole came from behind me and jabbed me in the ribs.
I screamed like I imagine a lot of Asian women probably do while climaxing during sexual intercourse. And my arms jerked upward. Every last morsel of the food I’d worked so hard to access and pile onto plates flew in all directions, leaving me nothing to eat.
“Do you really think you deserve anything to eat after taking so long to even mention Citizen Jim in a goddamn Citizen Jim story?” asked a voice behind me.
I slowly turned around, still mad as hell. “What the hell–”
“It’s a disguise,” said Citizen Jim, lifting the bottom half of a black ski mask to reveal his eyes. “It’s me! Jim! You know–Citizen Jim?”
I groaned since there was nothing else disguise-like about Jim’s outfit. He was wearing a pair of hot pink cargo shorts, a green and black hoodie and tube socks with red stripes near their tops. Besides Jim, there was nobody I knew personally or in a hobo jungle who dressed this way.
“Are those new hiking boots?” I asked him.
He looked down at his feet. “Yep. Third pair I’ve bought since I left Birmingham,” he said. “That was Wednesday of last week, I think. You can wear out a pair of hiking boots pretty fast walking 700 miles.”
There were four or five non-Chain Gang team members staring at the food on the sidewalk like drag queens in a Rodeo Drive wig shop.
Citizen Jim nudged me and motioned with his chin at them. “They’re like those possums and raccoons I had to kill bare-handed on my way up here,” he said out of the side of his mouth. To them he said, “Go ahead and eat it. Can’t be worse than what the bears leave behind in National Park dumpsters.”
They moved in such a hurry to scavenge my scattered lunch that their bodies blurred in a circle around me before zooming away toward the approaching city transit bus.
“Boy, that bus sure brings back some horrible memories,” said Citizen Jim, pulling his ski mask even with his chin to hide his face again. “Listen, if anyone contacts you later, you never saw me.”
“Whoa, whoa,” I said. “Hang on. You walked all the way to West Virginia to tell me that and now you’re just turning around and going back?”
Honestly, he’d done much, much dumber things.
Citizen Jim sighed and put a hand on each hip, but the girl bent over in front of him tying her shoe stood up, turned around and slapped him across the face, a gesture at which he laughed like a demon at an exorcism. “Bitch, you can’t hurt steel through a knit ski mask!” he said, and dragged me away toward the parking lot.
“Look, I’m in a lot of trouble. At least I think I am,” he said, then stared into the distance for a full ten seconds. He shook his head. “I don’t know how I couldn’t be.”
“What’ve you done this time?” I asked.
“It’s what I didn’t do,” he said.
I grabbed the side of my head. “Oh, Jim! Not you, too–not the inner chicken!”
Citizen Jim has always had a theory that states that, while most people have a little voice in their heads telling them to do the things they shouldn’t, I have a voice in my head that tells me not to do the things I should. He calls this my “inner chicken.”
“Did your inner chicken tell you not to pay your tab at Boo Boo’s King Kole Klub? Because you know Marie will have you killed,” I said. “She is cold-blooded.”
“No, no,” said Citizen Jim, swatting at the air. “Nothing like that.”
Unfortunately, the Citizen Jim of my imagination is never as wild or as reckless and irresponsible, or as destructive as the actual Citizen Jim. I didn’t even want to know how shocked or disappointed I would be by what he was about to tell me.
“Just spill it,” I said, closing my eyes and adding, “You know I’m in your corner no matter what.”
And I would be. Because I love him so much!
“Well, I never told you this because I was afraid to curse it,” he said, “But I recently got a job.”
“But that’s wonderful! Why wouldn’t you want to tell me you got a job?” I asked, patting his arm. He jerked away immediately.
“Oh, because I was ashamed! And I was scared!”
“Scared of what, Precious Lamb?” I asked.
“Scared I’d screw it up,” he said, then tore off his ski mask. “And man, did I ever!”
“What happened?” I asked.
“I got me a job with the Jefferson County Public School System,” he said.
I leaned closer to him and said in a low voice, “Is your wife in a class you teach? But you didn’t tell anyone so you wouldn’t get in trouble?”
Citizen Jim stared hard at me and said very slowly, “Nooooo. And that joke about the age difference between my wife and me played itself out a long, long time ago.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. And I kind of was. Until next time.
“If you must know–and I know you’ll cry if I don’t tell you–if you just have to know, I was driving a big yellow school bus.”
“What’s wrong with that? Miss Crabtree says the bus drivers in our county make awesome money,” I said.
“The money wasn’t the issue,” he said. “It was those fucking assholes they wanted me to put up with every day. Those kids were the worst! You know how much you hate that yellow book? I hated the kids on the yellow school bus a million times more!”
“It couldn’t have been that bad! What age–high school?”
“Middle school, ages ten to sixteen,” he said. When I made a face he said, “Don’t ask–the kid was a third-year eighth grader. I think his papa’s trying to get him big enough to start high school football on the varsity squad.”
“So what happened?”
“Oh, God–the things that came out of those kids’ mouths! Have you ever been called an old, hairy, dickless son of a bitch?”
I shook my head.
“I have–by a sixth grade girl who looks like a coked-out, whored-up Lindsay Lohan,” he said.
“Oh, geez. That’s terrible,” I said, fighting the urge to laugh.
“Ever had your brand new running shoes pissed on by a ten-year-old who then spit snuff juice on the brim of your favorite Red Sox cap? All because his daddy said, ‘The new bus driver must be a liberal, Yankee-loving commie’?”
“I am so sorry,” I said. “I can’t even imagine.”
“I’m gonna have nightmares for years,” said Citizen Jim.
“How long did you drive the bus?” I asked.
He made a “V” of his index and middle fingers.
“Two months of that crap? I’m surprised you lasted that long,” I said.
“Days!” he screamed. “Two long, mother-humping, shitty days. I couldn’t take it, Stimpy.”
“But why are you here? What did you do?” I asked, dreading the answer when I considered how red and violent and angry he looked just talking about it.
“I told you–it’s not what I did,” Citizen Jim said. “Here’s the thing: I didn’t drive those assholes home on my second day, okay? I told them again and again to sit down and be quiet and be good, but they kept running the aisle and screaming and sticking their bare ass cheeks against the windows facing the oncoming traffic. So I pulled over.”
“And you just sat there?” I asked, fascinated and appalled, wondering what I would do in a similar situation.
“Hell no I didn’t just sit there. We’d been on the road for ten minutes. I figured we were about four miles from the first drop-off,” he said. “So I opened the door, stood up and flipped them the bird.”
“What’d they do?” I asked.
“They stared at me like the slack-jawed Neanderthals they are,” he said. “So I said, ‘Fuck off, ya fuckers! Have fun walking home!’ and I just left the bus sitting there.”
“Good for you!” I said, raising a fist in the air. I’m not sure if I really meant it, but it seemed like the most supportive thing to do at the time. After a respectful moment, I had to ask: “You don’t happen to know how those kids ever got home, do you?”
“No, and I don’t care!” said Citizen Jim. “I never even went home myself. I’ve been walking since I left that bus on the side of Alabama State Road 76. And now I can’t stop. I know the law and the horrible parents of those little monsters probably mean to have me tarred and feathered.”
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“First off, I need to go to Boston and get a new Red Sox ball cap,” he said. “Then I’ll see Nate, who, as you well know, I love more than you. After that, I really have no idea where I’m headed. I might not go back to Birmingham until those kids are out of high school.”
“You’re kind of like a fugitive,” I said.
“No–it’s those kids who are fugitives,” Citizen Jim muttered, embracing me. He backed up and pulled his black ski mask down over his face. “They’re all fugitives from their own consciences.”
I shivered inside to think how earnest he sounded when he said this, and how little sense it made.