Included in Book 7 of the Citizen Jim Stories:

Let Freedom Scream!
In which Citizen Jim arrives on Independence Day to escort Chicken Sheets to the annual fireworks display on Fairhope’s Municipal Pier. Special guest appearance by Lulu Whippy!

Citizen Jim: A Good Patriot!
In which Citizen Jim tries to help out Attorney General John Ashcroft in the War on Terror…Oh, brother!

Never Good Enough! (Scroll down to read now.)
In which Citizen Jim tries to please Chicken Sheets with a “great surprise.” Unfortunately, Chicken Sheets and Senator Robert C. Byrd have met before…Eeeesh!

How to Beat the Heat
In which Citizen Jim comes face to face with Senator John D. Rockefeller, one of the most powerful men in Washington, perhaps the world…Oh no!

All-American Tuesday
In which Citizen Jim arrives to announce that he’s “a goddamn national treasure!”

Never Good Enough!

The day was fast becoming a study in horror and pain.

I was trying to get rid of a blinding migraine that had started after I read the first sentence of an Ann Coulter column on TownHall.com. I’d already told God that if He could remove all thoughts and memory of Coulter from my mind I would rip off my fingernails and burn them on an altar while saying three decades of the Rosary.

When I heard a knock at the door, I was less than happy to answer it, as I was afraid it would be for my yellow tom cat, Jay, again. He was being regularly accosted by a pregnant Dachshund named Scooby that had been running around the neighborhood with her belly dragging the ground for a month; as Jay’s mother, and as a fierce advocate of spaying females (including human females), this infuriated me.

Anyway, I called down the stairs for whoever was knocking on the door to “Come in, damn you to hell!” knowing that, if it were Scooby, her lack of thumbs would keep this from happening.

I heard mumbling outside as the door opened. One voice, I knew, was Citizen Jim’s, and he was saying, “It’s not that many stairs! Am I gonna hafta carry you, fer fuck’s sake?”

I figured Jim had brought Martin Lanuax along for a visit, and waited for the two of them to burst through the door arguing about which of them had a better chance of getting the attention of Angina, a street maintenance worker with the City of Fairhope, Alabama. They were both totally hot for her, and every time the subject of Angina came up, they were like two guys from the Chess Club fighting over the twirler who used flaming batons during the big half-time routine.

“Close your eyes, Stimpy! I got a great surprise for you!” Jim shouted from the foot of the stairs.

From the clump-clump-clump sound in the stairwell, it was obvious that they were not bounding, but shuffling up the steps, one at a time.

“Now, listen!” Jim said, his whispering hoarse and trembling with impatience. “If you ask me to call those secret service guys one more time on that government issue cell phone, I’m gonna throw that jackass piece of Uncle Sam shit into the nearest coal mine shaft!”

More mumbling, then, “Oh, bullshit! I’m not hurting you! And besides that, you’re a grown man. If you tell people I kidnapped you, those numbskulls at Fox’ll be calling you a pinko commie tutu-wearing crybaby. Just help me out here, and then we can go! This is important!”

“Is everything okay?” I asked, massaging my temples.

Another incoherent burst of speech was followed by Jim’s growling, “Yes, I know! You still get around just fine but Strom Thurmond is dead! You need to keep up, or else in another couple years they’ll be pushing you out there on the floor in a wheelchair. Hurry UP! Stimpy, keep your eyes closed!”

“I am,” I said wearily.

“I mean it! If you try to see the surprise, I’ll beat the piss out of you with that Underdog lunchbox you made me buy you at Wal-Mart!” he said, then lowered his voice and said, “Gah! I’m gonna have a big-assed bruise if you hold my arm any tighter!”

“Jimbo, do you need my help?” I asked from where I was sitting on the couch.

“Fine time to offer help, now that we’re up the damn stairs,” he said. “You need to put an elevator in this place, Stimpy!”

I lay back with a cool rag over my eyes, head throbbing. I kept my eyes covered, as any light was like razors on my eyelids.

Citizen Jim (and whoever he had with him) was right there in the room with me in the next few seconds. Jim was advancing toward me, I could tell, and saying, “Take that damn blindfold off, Stimpy, and look who I got here with me!”

He snatched the wash cloth from my face and swept his hand to the side. “TA-DA!”

I didn’t have on my glasses, so I could only make out a fuzzy outline with a shock of white hair across the room.

“Is that Dudie? Oh my god! How’d you get Dudie to—”

“What the hell? Dudie? Are you mentally ill?”

I felt around on the coffee table for my glasses, and put them on.

“That’s her,” the figure said. “It’s her! Give me that phone, young man, so I can—”

“Pipe down, grandpa,” Citizen Jim said, pulling his arm back as if he might smack the man. To me, he said, “Now blink the funk out of your eyes and see what I brought you!”

“Oh my God,” I murmured when I finally could make out who Jim had with him. “Is that really—”

Leaning toward the man, Citizen Jim smiled broadly and said, “You’re her NEW HERO! That bitch right there LOVES you! You’re always flappin your trap about Bush and the war, and she LOVES that shit, lemme tell you!”

“You dial that number I gave you and you tell them that girl is here,” the man said to Jim, backing up as I stood and took a step in his direction. “Stand back, now.”

“What is it, Senator Byrd?” Jim asked.

“That’s her!” he said, pointing at me. He narrowed his eyes at me. “You’re the girl who touched me!”

“What?” I said. “I touched you?”

“At the prison dedication! It was you! I know it! You touched me! Young man, in the name of the flag, the national anthem and the United States Constitution and all it stands for, I command you to call the secret service this instant!”

Jim crossed his arms over his chest and tapped his foot. “I don’t get it,” he said, shaking his head.

That is the girl I was telling you about! The one who touched me!”

Jim grabbed the sides of his head. “This is the girl? The one you wouldn’t shut up about from the time we left D.C.?” he said. “Christ almighty, Stimpy, this man drove me crazy all the way here. ‘Recently, at a public appearance, a young woman touched me. A brazen jezebel! I tried to get away, but she held me back with her scrawny little paws!’ he kept saying. Jesus! And it was you?”

I shrugged. “I guess so,” I said.

Citizen Jim rolled his eyes and put his hands on his hips. “What the hell’d you do that for?” he asked, totally exasperated. “Why are you always touching people? Every time I turn around, there you are, yakkity yak yak yakkin’ and trying to touch every—”

“I didn’t hurt him!” I finally said.

Jim just hung his head, then sighed; this was, I knew, the calm before the storm. Seconds later, he blew his top!

“Well it doesn’t matter! The whole thing is ruined now!” Citizen Jim shouted. “Here I am, trying to make you happy ONCE AGAIN, and ONCE AGAIN, it’s not good enough for you! All I’ve ever tried to do is love you, but that’s not good enough! It’s never good enough for you! I don’t know why you don’t just kill me quick, instead of torturing me day after day, year after year! From the moment I laid eyes on you my life’s been a big bowl of rat poison, and like a fool I keep eating from it like it’s cereal!”

See? What’d I tell you?

In the middle of Citizen Jim’s tirade Senator Byrd pulled a fiddle from under his suit jacket and plucked at the strings before launching into “I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow.”

“Goddamn right I am!” Jim yelled, then burst into phlegmy tears. “Come on, Senator! Let’s get out of here before she TOUCHES YOU AGAIN!”

Jim doubled up his fist and took a step toward me. “I’ll get you for embarrassing me, if it’s the last thing I ever do!” he said. “And don’t be pissed if your FBI file grows a few inches after this, you…you BRAZEN JEZEBEL!”

Then he gently took Senator Byrd by the arm and led him back down the stairs. One at a time.