|© Erika Cleveland, 2020|
The Ill-Advised Adventures of Jim-Jam O'Neily
Serialized in Bewildering Stories, 2022.
The protagonist of The Ill-Advised Adventures of Jim-Jam O’Neily, James Jackson Ariel O’Neily, is a loser who postures as a champion. Nonetheless, that proprietor of the Make-It-or-Break-It-That-Will-be-Fifty-Dollars-an-Hour-to-You-Mister backyard science workshop gets plenty of dates and gains riches. After all, Jim-Jam is the kid who poisons the punch at the Autumn Harvest Dance, who imports exotic, monstrous beasts, and who quests, with great sangfroid, among hobos, hackers, corporate executives, and passenger ship crews. His ethics are knotty. He rationalizes. He strives to be a master flack.
To be more precise, Jim-Jam O’Neily causes: one of his nemeses to land in jail, another to be banished to a boarding school, and a third to end up on a locked hospital ward. Additionally, his orchestration of events assures that an unsympathetic grownup gets assaulted by angry barnyard fowl, and that two teenage bullies have to duke it out in a boxing class. Accordingly, he remains a regular target for his high school’s most popular kids and for his school’s fiercest intimidators. Simply, folks hate him. Adults and adolescents, alike, frequently make him the subject of their aggressions.
Simultaneously nasty and sweet, vainglorious and insecure, book brilliant and publicly stupid, and, most importantly, often inadvertently funny, Jim-Jam O’Neily fashions: technology sought by the federal government, millinery products sought by desperate mothers, and biological data sought by the enemies of a crooked, international ecology organization. Consequently, it’s easy to cheer his indirect expressions of hostility – those deeds are the kinds of behaviors that we “good kids” wished we had actualized when we were intimidated by school-aged ruffians and when we witnessed horrific crimes. It’s equally impressive to us that a gawky teenager can disrupt a self-important teacher’s class and that he can transform his socially awkward peers into school leaders.
Sure, Jim-Jam tiptoes around his disapproving mother, and, sure, he finds himself battling another highly capable nerd; his life, like our own, is far from perfect. Yet, dread never deters that boy from engaging in prodigious acts. That he escapes most scrapes consequence-free, and that he is offered many college scholarships, surprises no one, albeit, we might wonder why he’s nice to some of his antagonists.
All told, that adolescent virtuoso, James Jackson Ariel O’Neily, is as full of mishaps as his large, Indonesian lizards are full of poison. He’s arbitrary in his friendships. He spews balderdash. He focuses on profit margins. He represents the rascal found in all of us.
Chapter One: Ralph's Blemish
Chapter Two: Jim-Jam's Louse
Chapter Three: The Unintimidatable Jim-Jam Ariel O'Neily
Chapter Four: Komodo Dragons, Neodymium Flakes, and Social Studies Teachers
Chapter Five: Higher-than-Normal-Intensity Laser Cannons
Chapter Six: Sad Poultry Vent Sexing Specialists and Dragon Food
Chapter Seven: Confabulations and Covariates
Chapter Eight: Twinkly, Binky, Buckley Boo
Chapter Nine: Uncommon Life Forms' Toxicity
Chapter Ten: Ugly, Greyish Things
Chapter Eleven: Relative Responsibilities
Chapter Twelve: Doctoring Electronic and Other Sorts of Spins
Chapter Thirteen: A Nemesis' Hinky Commitment
Chapter Fourteen: Ammonia and Amines
Chapter Fifteen: Mindless Rhetorical Onslaughts
Chapter Sixteen: Acacias, Myrtle, Oleaster, and Cypress
Chapter Seventeen: Demented Patients
Chapter Eighteen: Avoiding Interest
Chapter Nineteen: Privation
Chapter Twenty: Taking Delight
Chapter Twenty-One: Unusual Fondnesses
Chapter Twenty-Two: Social Unrest and Other Adolescent Hobbies
Chapter Twenty-Three: The Mechanisms of Prosecution
Epilogue: The Essential Quality of Charm