Included in Book 6 of the Citizen Jim Stories:

Fear and Loathing 
In which Citizen Jim arrives at the sick-bed of Chicken Sheets with a crackpot scheme to run for public office.

Don’t Mock the Afflicted (Scroll down to read now.)
In which Chicken Sheets falls hard for Nurse Sexy Scrubs and Citizen Jim accuses her of using Mama Chicken as a pawn in the game of love.

Where in the World is Rah Rah Rotkins?
In which Citizen Jim arrives dressed in his lab coat, catcher’s mitt, and safety goggles with an idea for securing his legacy.

Thanks A Lot, Obama!
In which Citizen Jim finds a way to blame President Obama for his bowel troubles.

Don’t Mock the Afflicted

It was love at first sight.

For more than a day my mother had been complaining of fever and joint pain and back pain, deciding that she most likely had a kidney infection. Loath to disappoint her or make her feel that I had no faith in her ability to self-diagnose her myriad illnesses, I trundled her to the car and set out for the local emergency room while the leaves blew off the trees all around us.

We’d been waiting to see a doctor for two hours, maybe longer. The truth was that I’d happily lost track of time. While part of my attention was focused on reading Cancer Ward by the late, great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, what remained of my focus rested on trying to figure out a way to get the registered nurse attending my mother to run away with me.

My mind’s eye saw us living happily ever after in the back of a van from which we would also solve creepy-but-predictable mysteries while eerie-but-groovy music played in the background as we searched for clues.

A brief moment arose when I was more concerned with my reading material and less determined that I might—through the sheer force of my will—make Nurse Sexy Scrubs look deep into my eyes to discover and return the mad, helpless, fervent love I had felt like a symphony of jackhammers in my heart from the moment I laid eyes on her.

Unfortunately, I found myself forgetting about my book and the beautiful Nurse Sexy Scrubs when I became distracted by a commotion out near the ER entrance. My eyes followed the noise, landing on a wildly unattractive, grossly obese woman in not-sexy-scrubs pushing at the shoulders of a man who faced her.

The woman was an ultra-rude triage nurse we’d wrangled with before my mother was wheeled into an observation bay. The man she was roughing up barely resisted her violence and shouted at the top of his lungs: “First of all, I was using my cellular telephone to contact Rick Bragg, Pulitzer prize-winning author of All Over But the Shoutin’, Ava’s Man, and The Prince of Frogtown—he owes me money and an audience with Operation Iraqi Freedom heroine Jessica Lynch! And secondly, I don’t care about any stupid, idiotic one-person limit on visitors in the ER because I need to see Chicken Sheets right now!”

Every bed in the ER was full and they were all too low to the floor to dive underneath; thus, there was no way I could avoid being noticed by the owner of that voice. I hid my face behind the book in my hands, looking at my mother. She lay in a semi-tranquilized state murmuring George Clooney’s name over and over while carrying out the motions of smoking an invisible cigarette.

When Citizen Jim finally broke away from the burly and belligerent Nurse Triage and fled into the room where my mother and I were, he looked down and smacked his forehead. “If that’s not you in thirty years, I never went out on a series of hot dates with Erika Eleniak,” he said, pointing at my mother.

“Don’t be silly—I don’t even like George Clooney,” I whispered, then smiled at him. “You’re my truest friend in the whole world, Precious Lamb. Thank you for coming to support me and help me with my sick mother.”

“I’m not here for any of that crap,” Citizen Jim insisted.

“Then what the hell are you doing here?”

This was, of course, a rhetorical question, as it was obvious that Jim had appeared in the ER solely for the purpose of ruining my chances of finding love with Nurse Sexy Scrubs. Whether he was aware of this yet, I had no idea; however, he’s done it before, believe me.

“What am I doing here? What are you doing here?” he asked. “Don’t you know by now that you can never hide from me, not even deep inside a busy emergency room in the middle of the night?”

I pushed him aside as Nurse Sexy Scrubs walked into view out by the nurses’ station. I curled my fingers in a coy wave. She turned her back to me just as I mouthed the words “I love you.”

Citizen Jim shook his head. “You’re the most pathetic creature I’ve ever encountered,” he said. “You dragged your poor mama out at this ungodly hour just so you could come here—of all demented places—and ogle women?”

“Have you lost your mind?” I asked.

Me? Gah!” He scowled. “You’re sicker than I ever realized, Sister Kristy.”

I explained to Jim that, in fact, it was I who had been dragged out at such an ungodly hour because my mother was very ill. I also informed him that I wasn’t ogling “women” in the plural: “It’s just the one, Nurse Sexy Scrubs. And I’m going to marry her one day, so I don’t consider it ogling, really,” I said. “It’s more like I’m trying to imagine my future as it might look naked and covered in massage oil.”

“That sounds a lot like some stupid thing you’d have me proclaiming in one of these stories, don’t you think?”

I shook my head. “No, I don’t think.”

“You said it, not me,” Jim said. “But I can tell you right now: I have a better chance with that snaggletooth rhino who tried to bushwhack me out in the waiting room than you’re going to have with that sexy nurse.”

“You don’t know that,” I said, feeling my intestines cave in at the very idea that I might not gain the everlasting devotion of Nurse Sexy Scrubs. I mean, really! How dare Citizen Jim piss on my dreams of finding true love among the sharps and I.V. drips and wheelchairs of Fairmont General Hospital? “You don’t know anything about true love, and you know even less about Nurse Sexy Scrubs.”

“Oh, Missy, I do know and I’ll tell you what I know: besides the fact that she’s probably heterosexual and married and the mother of four or five children—”

“That can’t be true—look at her!” I interrupted, pointing. “She stands just like she’s holding a basketball between her hands and getting ready to pass it the next open player on her team.”

I was fairly shocked that this realization did not disgust me in the least. This is what the magical, ethereal presence of Nurse Sexy Scrubs had done to me.

“The main reason you’ll never leave the dugout, let alone get to first base with Nurse Sexy Scrubs, is because you didn’t meet her ON THE INTERNET!” he yelled, clouting me upside the head.

I shook my head. “I’m through with online love—it’s nothing but face-to-face from now on for me,” I swore. “And you should see the way this woman inserts an I.V.-thingy. She can apply a bandage one-handed and gives a shot faster than the human eye can observe. Plus, look at her teeth! They’re perfect!”

“Yeahyeahyeah—you just need to kill those heart-shaped Tweety Birds flying in a circle around your head and help me get Mama Chicken out of this awful place. Now you grab her legs and I’ll grab her arms.”

I looked over at my mother just as she was grinding her invisible cigarette into an imaginary ashtray that did not hang suspended in the air beside her. “Tell Gorgeous George I’ve quit smoking, just like he wanted,” she slurred as she attempted to lift her eyelids; they might as well have been weighted with stacks of Susan B. Anthony dollars.

“We can’t move my mom—she has no clue where she is, or that George Clooney is nowhere nearby,” I said. “Gorgeous George gives her purpose, a reason to fight this kidney infection and go on living!”

“Hey, now. Don’t mock the afflicted,” Jim said. “Your mother has a debilitating fixation on that oily eye-talian. She’s to be pitied, not encouraged.”

He had an excellent point (for once). However. “We need to at least stay here until Nurse Sexy Scrubs comes back with the medicine I requested an hour ago.”

I had an awful headache, the sort of blinding and desperate and ill-fated love-based headache that is rarely mentioned in stories about blinding, desperate and ill-fated love. I was sure it would never go away until Nurse Sexy Scrubs was all mine. As I saw it, the aspirin was a means of bringing her a few steps closer to that end, regardless of what Citizen Jim said about it—even if it cost me $15 per capsule.

And anyway, he was more worried about being discovered by Nurse Triage, who wanted to kick him out of the hospital for breaking rules. “I’m not going to stand around in here waiting for Nurse Ratched to find me and make mince me outta me,” Jim said. He ducked down and lowered his voice to a hoarse whisper. “That bitch put the hurt on me out there—I’ll be bruised in ten places tomorrow!”

I pitied Citizen Jim and myself in equal measure as I watched Nurse Sexy Scrubs place a pill cup into the fist of the Nurse Triage, who closed in on us with a quickness that belied her zeppelin-like girth.