by Paul Beckman
James hated being called Jimbo but it became his nickname because his father always called him that and continued to when he realized that his son, who he was at constant loggerheads with, hated it. His mother only called him James.
He thought when he joined the army things would change but he must’ve looked like a Jimbo because immediately in basic training his Drill Instructor began calling him Jimbo and it stuck through his years in the Middle East. He had made the mistake of telling his DI to call him James and not Jimbo. DI’s, even ones a foot shorter than one of their soldiers don’t take to being corrected, especially in public and kicked his ass in front of the whole squadron after ordering Jimbo to throw the first punch. He threw a wicked left hook that could’ve shattered the DI’s nose had he not been so quick as to lean back and then throw two shots rapid fire in Jumbo’s gut and finish him off with a right cross to the eye that stayed black for a couple of weeks. He then gave the other soldiers orders to call him Jimbo or else.
He looked forward to his mother’s frequent letters that always began “Dear James . . .”
When he returned home he moved into the house he grew up in at the end of a cul de sac. His father disappeared when he was a senior in high school and his mother died during his third tour. He was hopeful he’d be James to everyone but then he got a job in the IT department of a large company and ran into people from high school who jumped right back on the Jimbo train.
He gave in after repeatedly returning calls at work with, “This is James,” and the callers would ask “James who?” and he’d say in his resigned tone, “James—Jimbo.” And the people would say, “Jimbo. Why didn’t you say so?”
“He was a loner, but neither friendly nor unfriendly. He’d never be the first to say hello but he’d always respond with a nod or a hello back. He never asked us neighbors for help or us him.”
“He kept his small lawn mowed and let the trees and bushes grow to the point of hiding parts of the house. He did keep his windows covered up 24/7.”
Afterwards, when the neighbors spoke to the press they had only good things to say about him but all said he was quiet and kept to himself and didn’t seem to be violent in any way at all.
“No, I’ve never seen anyone with him at his house and don’t know if he had a girlfriend but I doubt it. He was a loner alright.”
“We all thought he worked in computers somewhere.”
“No, I never had an extensive conversation with Jimbo. I don’t think any of us on the street did. I just got back from vacation, why do you ask?”
“James, yes we called him James because that was his name. Yes, we heard others call him Jimbo but we didn’t know him well enough to use his nickname. The families who lived here when he was growing up were the Jimbo people.”
“He did seem to have more UPS deliveries than an average person.”
“No, I never saw him with a pet or play with any of our dogs.”
“Nothing strange at all. He was one of those people who kept to himself. If I went shopping late at night I’d sometimes see him doing his grocery shopping. No, I never looked in his basket.”
“We had a block party every year and always invited him but he never came—never responded and never complained about the noise.”
“No, he hadn’t seemed any different lately.”
“A weapon? No. I never saw him carry a weapon but you have to remember he drove in and out of his garage so no one saw much of him.”
“Come to think of it you may be right—only the neighbors who called him Jimbo.”
“No, I didn’t hear any shots. No screams either and our windows were open.”
“He got out of his car at the bus stop and was selective. That’s what I heard.”
“Only the people at work who called him Jimbo? Doesn’t that beat all? He probably should’ve said something to them.”
“They’re going to dig up his yard looking for his father? Doesn’t that beat all? You think you know someone and then something like this happens.”
published 8 March 2014