Freedom Lane: Good Da’Quarius Hunting
Principal Jonhston stood in front of the sixth grade class of Haven Hill School in New Haven. Today, he had some bad news for the class.
“Students,” Principal Johnston said with his hands raised in the air. “Please be calm. I have an announcement to make!”
The students calmed down so their principal could talk.
“Thank you,” Principal Johnston said. “I regret to inform you that your social studies teacher, Mrs. Coleman, will not be returning to teach here. Your new teacher will begin tomorrow. For today, I am going to teach this class.”
A girl with red hair raised her hand.
“Yes, Cindy?” Principal Johnston asked.
“What happened to Mrs. Coleman?” Cindy asked.
Principal Johnston sighed. “She found out she was pregnant and decided that she didn’t want to be a teacher anymore.”
The entire class turned and stared at Da’Quarius, the class’s only black student.
“What?!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “I didn’t knock dat bitch up! Can’t a black kid go to a white school without fuckin’ da teacher?! Shit!”
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 2, Episode 1:
Good Da’Quarius Hunting
It was a quiet Monday morning in New Haven, Connecticut. Seventy-two year old Rose Masters looked out of the large window of the house on Freedom Lane she shared with her life partner and wife, Helen. He red-dyed hair was pulled back.
“What are you moaning about?” the seventy-nine year old Helen asked, not looking up from the TV Guide crossword puzzle. Her gray hair held together with a hairnet.
“It’s that tree out front,” Rose said. “It’s been dead for a while now. If it fell over it’ll crash right through our living room.”
“Then we’ll sue those useless pricks that run this crooked city and become a couple of rich old dykes,” Helen said with a cackle.
“What if one of us is hurt or killed?!” Rose exclaimed, turning toward Helen.
“Then one of us will be a really rich old dyke!” Helen said, cackling again.
“What if it falls on Da’Quarius?!” Rose exclaimed, nearly bringing herself to tears.
Helen looked up from her TV Guide. She knew what Rose was up to the minute she let out that first, sad sigh. Rose hated confrontation and knew that Helen thrived on it. She also knew what their adoptive son, Da’Quarius meant to Rose. “Alright,” Helen said. “Dial the City of New Haven, and give me the phone. That damn tree will be gone by the weekend.”
Rose ran off onto the kitchen to get the phone and the phone book. Helen looked back down at her crossword. “What’s a five-letter word for pain in the ass wife?” she said under her breath. She cackled again.
“Good morning, class. I’m Mr. Hessman.”
Da’Quarius watched his new Social Studies teacher make his introductions with boredom in his eyes. Mr. Hessman was tall, had slightly unkempt sandy-brown hair, and wore a brown jacket with a white button-down shirt underneath. The school year had just started and they already had to start over because of this new teacher.
“I guess you kids are all up to speed,” Mr. Hessman said. “Who can tell me what page we were on in our books?”
“Da’ last one!” Da’Qluarius yelled. The class erupted with laughter.
“How about we turn to page one?” Mr. Hessman said, turning the classes laugher into moans. He looked at the class chart. “Da’Quarius, why don’t you start reading from the first sentence.”
Da’Quarius sighed and began to read from the book. After four sentences, Mr. Hessman threw his book against the chalkboard. The entire class jumped at the sound. Da’Quarius stopped reading. “This stuff is boring! Close your books. I want to hear what you, as America’s future, think of what’s going on in the world today.”
The class looked at Mr. Hessman as he started back into their faces.
“Can anyone tell me what they think about the conflict going on between the Ukraine and Romania and what it means for the European and Russian industries?” Mr. Hessman asked.
Again, the class was silent.
“Well I’ll tell you,” Mr. Hessman said, kicking his book under his desk. “It all started back in the late nineties when a man names Fatmir Alovabochzect was assassinated by the very government that swore to protect him…”
After a frank and a little disturbing discussion between Mr. Hessman and his class, the bell rang, and class was dismissed. “Read chapters three and four for homework,” Mr. Hessman said. “Turn in the exercises at the end of each chapter by tomorrow. Da’Quarius, I’d like you to stay for a moment.”
“Umma be late to my next class,” Da’Quarius said, walking to Mr. Hessman’s desk with his backpack on one shoulder.
“I’ll write you a hall pass,” Mr. Hessman said. “I’ll give you an extra ten minutes for the trouble.”
“Wha’chu need?” Da’Quarius asked.
“I like you,” Mr. Hessman said. “You don’t fit in with the others in the honors program. You project yourself off as dumber than the others, but I think you may be smarter. Street smart definitely, but I think you could give these pampered kids a run for their money if you applied yourself.”
“I know what you’re doin’,” Da’Quarius said. “You see a troubled black kid, an’ you think you can make a name for yourself by turnin’ his academic life ’round. You ain’t da’ first dat tried, honky.”
Mr. Hessman laughed. “I’ve seen a lot of kids like you when I taught in the inner city,” he said. “I find you fascinating.”
“Oh yeah?” Da’Quarius said. “Well guess what? You ain’t Michelle Fifer, an’ I ain’t Coolio.”
“Did you even see Dangerous Minds, or did you just see the music video for Gangsta’s Paradise?” Mr. Hessman asked. “You didn’t even spell Michelle Pfifer’s last name right when you said it.”
“That don’t make no sense,” Da’Quarius said. “I gotta go. Where’s my hall pass at?”
Mr. Hessman sighed and filled out Da’Quarius’s hall pass. “I gave you fifteen,” Mr. Hessman said. “Use the time wisely.”
“I’ll use da time on yo’ mama’s ass,” Da’Quarius said under his breath as he left the classroom.
“Hey!” Mr. Hessman called.
“I fucked Michelle Pfifer, by the way,” Mr. Hessman said with a crazy look in his eyes. “In the ass!” He motioned to his crotch with both hands before slamming the door on Da’Quarius.
“Where’s my old walker?” Helen asked.
“What walker?” Rose asked in return.
“The old walker that Chinaman doctor made me use after my knee surgery four years ago,” Helen replied. “I know you didn’t throw it out, you old pack rat!”
“It must be in the basement,” Rose said, thinking with a finger on her chin. “Why do you need it?”
“Those hippies from New Haven are coming to look at the tree today,” Helen replied. “I need to pull off the ‘feeble old broad’ act so they’ll take that stupid tree away for you.”
“I’ll go get it now,” Rose said, running off to the basement door. “Great idea! You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, after all!”
“You’ll catch even more with shit,” Helen muttered when Rose was out of earshot.
Minutes passed, and Rose emerged with the old walker. “Found it!” she exclaimed.
Helen looked it over. “Where’s the damn tennis balls?!”
“What tennis balls?” Rose asked.
“The tennis balls that go on the bottom,” Helen replied. “How am I supposed to pull off ‘crippled old bag’ without tennis balls on my walker!”
“I’m starting to reconsider this whole thing,” Rose said. The doorbell rang.
“Well it’s too late,” Helen said, opening the walker. “Do you want that tree removed or not?”
Rose sighed. “Yes,” she said.
“Alright,” Helen said. “Then let me do my work.”
“So this teacher of yours is giving you shit?” Paulie asked. He sat behind his small desk in the back room of Paulie’s Pizza on State Street. He folded up his newspaper when he had an unexpected after-school visit from his nephew, Da’Quarius.
“Hell yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Crazy cracka thinks he’s gonna take me under his wing an’ shit. I ain’t need help from dat old-ass bitch.”
“And he really told you he fucked Michele Pfifer in the ass?” Paulie asked. “Why the hell would that mook say something like that? You don’t think he actually fucked her in the ass, do you?”
“He’s just testin’ me,” Da’Quarius said. “He wants to see if I turn snitch on him. He knows they’ll take his word over mine if I ever went and told on him.”
“Da’Quarius,” Paulie said, becoming serious. “He’s not touching you, is he?”
“What?!” Da’Quarius shouted. “I’d cut his goddamn hand off if he touched me!”
“That’s good, kid,” Paulie said. He became distracted by some kind of ruckus outside his office. “Oh shit. It looks like Tony is going to deck that guy out there.”
Da’Quarius turned to look as well. “Let him,” he said. “Dat’s Mr. Hessman.”
“Tell me your order one more time,” Tony, Paulie’s friend and employee, said. He had a pencil and an order slip in front of him.
“I want a meatball grinder,” Mr. Hessman said. “Hold the cheese, bread, and sauce.”
“So you want plain meatballs,” Tony replied.
“No,” Mr. Hessman said. “I want a meatball grinder. Hold the cheese, bread, and sauce.”
“Are you shittin’ me, wise ass?” Tony said, putting downthe pad and pencil. “You want the grinder or not?”
“Surprise me,” Mr. Hessman said with a wide smile. Tony rolled his eyes and went into the kitchen area.
Da’Quarius came from Paulie’s office. “Wha’chu doin’ here?” he asked.
“Da’Quarius!” Mr. Hessman shouted. “I was in the neighborhood, and I decided to come try the local flavor.”
“Bullshit,” Da’Quarius said. “You here checkin’ up on me!”
“That’s only a little true,” Mr. Hessman admitted, sitting in one of the booths. “Come and sit with me while I wait for what I suspect is a sandwich covered in an Italian man’s spit.”
“It only be spit if you lucky,” Da’Quarius said.
“So you wanted to know why I came here,” Mr. Hessman said. “I know you work here with you uncle from the report you did on your summer vacation for Mrs. Coleman. I wanted to make sure it was a nice establishment.”
“An’ what do you care?” Da’Quarius asked.
“You’re a fish out of water, Da’Quarius,” Mr. Hessman said, “but I think you can thrive, nevertheless. I meant what I said about you being the smartest kid in that class. Those other kids will have life handed to them, but you’ll have to work for everything you need. In the long run, it will make you a better person if you can stay on the right path. You need to study hard, work hard, and make those well-off white kids your bitches when you’re older.”
“An’ you think you da’ one to guide me through?” Da’Quarius asked.
“I’m not going to guide you,” Mr. Hessman said. “I just want to impart this wisdom on you. The rest will be up to you, but I think you can pull it off. You have the right mind for it.”
“Whatever, Hessman,” Da’Quarius said, getting out of the booth. “I’ll see you in class tomorrow.”
Da’Quarius left, leaving Mr. Hessman to reflect on their conversation. He was deep in thought when something was slammed on the table. There were six raw meatballs smashed in front of him. Tony was looking down from where he stood, wiping his hands on a filthy towel.
“Surprise, numb-nuts,” Tony said. “That’ll be seven-fifty.”
“This tree is in good health,” Tom Winterkorn from the City of New Haven Tree Warden’s office said. “Besides, nearly half the root system is on your property, so it’s not completely New Haven’s problem. I think this tree has a good ten to fifteen years of life left in it, minimal.”
“The roots are ripping up the sidewalk!” Helen cried, inching towards a crack in the sidewalk near the base of the tree. “I’m an old lady! I can trip and break my hip!”
“That crack can easily be repaired,” Tom said. “Call someone from our Public Works department, and they’ll come out to assess it.”
“This tree is a hazard!” Helen said. “Rabid raccoons live up in the hole near the top!” Helen motioned to a large crack near where the branches split off. “There are young children in the neighborhood! They could get bit!”
“If there really is a problem with rabid raccoons, you need to call Animal Control and have them come out,” Tom said.
“You have a stupid answer for everything, don’t you?” Helen said.
“This tree isn’t ready for removal,” Tom said, taking a note on his clipboard and placing his pen into his shirt pocket. “Trust me. I look at a lot of them. It is what it is. I have other matters to attend to. Have a good day.” Tom turned around to leave.
“Walk away, you little prick,” Helen said. “You will take down this tree.”
“This tree will live longer than you,” Tom said, turning back to Helen. “I’ll see to that.”
“And I’ll see to your wife tonight!” Helen said, wagging her tongue between two of her fingers, not taking her eyes from Tom’s. His eyes grew wide before he turned and got into his car. He sped off without another look in Helen’s direction.
“What was dat about?” Da’Quarius said, walking next to Helen.
“Damn tree guy,” Helen said. “He won’t take down this piece of shit tree. Rose really wants it gone, but the city won’t do jack shit. I ain’t done with them yet. Should’ve had the damn tennis balls for this.”
“Whatchu gonna do now?” Da’Quarius asked.
“I’m going to call Paulie,” Helen said. “He’ll burn this thing down and make it the fire department’s problem.”
Helen walked back inside with her walker. Da’Quarius looked at the tree when a thought occurred to him that didn’t involve his uncle getting arrested for arson. He ran after Helen to tell her.
Rose walked downstairs the following morning to make a breakfast of tea and toast when she saw the flashing lights outside. “Oh my God!” she shouted.
“What?!” Helen said, walking out of the kitchen.
“How long have you been up?” Rose asked.
“Long enough to hear you screeching,” Helen replied. “What the hell is all the racket?”
“The lights outside!” Rose said. “The police are here!”
“They are?” Helen asked. “Took them long enough.”
Rose looked at Helen then back to the window. “What did you do?” she asked.
“Me?” Helen said. “I didn’t do a thing! Why don’t you come join me for breakfast?”
Rose gave Helen one more look before turning leaving through the front door. When she got outside, she saw Da’Quarius talking to two police officers. A man she recognized as Tom Winterkorn, whom she had only observed from the window as Helen argued with him yesterday, was with them. There was also a man she didn’t recognize in a suit standing next to Tom.
“This a hate crime!” Da’Quarius shouted as the neighbors emerged from their houses. “Why can’t an at-risk black youth live in this neighborhood without bein’ harassed! Is this what New Haven has come to?!”
Rose turned to look at the tree behind Da’Quarius. The N-Word was gouged into the trunk. Rose’s hand went to her mouth in shock.
“Calm down, son,” one of the police officers was saying, holding his hand out towards Da’Quarius.
“Calm down?!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “Someone does a hate crime on my home an’ you want me to calm down?! What’s yo badge number, bitch?!”
Helen came around in her robe and slippers and looked at the tree too. “OH MY DEAR LORD!” She shouted, loud enough for the entire East Rock neighborhood to hear. “WHO WOULD DO SUCH A THING?!”
Rose looked down near the base of the tree and saw the word “DYKES” carved out as well in deep gashes. She also saw that the tennis balls were back on the bottom of Helen’s pretend walker. She was offended and angry at what her wife and adopted son had done, but she couldn’t help herself. She ran inside so the police wouldn’t see her laughing.
“Good plan, kid,” Helen whispered to Da’Quarius, hugging him as he cried. “Much better than having Paulie set it on fire.”
“Just wait for part two, biddy,” Da’Quarius said.
A white car suddenly parked on the opposite side of the street. It had the logo for the New Haven Herald on the side. The driver got out with a pad and paper and started scribbling notes. The passenger jumped out with a camera and started snapping pictures of the tree with Da’Quarius and Helen standing in front of it.
The man with the suit turned to Tom Winterkorn. “You have this tree out by the end of the day today,” he said. “I don’t care what you have to do. Make it happen.”
“Get to school, kid,” Helen said. “I’ll take it from here.”
Da’Quarius ran off to catch his bus to school as Helen screamed at the top of her lungs how it used to be such a nice neighborhood before all of the hate crimes.
“So the town is taking the tree out right now,” Da’Quarius told Mr. Hessman, who was smiling at the story.
“See,” Mr. Hessman said. “None of the other kids would have thought of that. They would have just argued with the Tree Warden for months.”
“I get what you’re sayin’,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m startin’ to like you. You best stick ’round for a while, Hess.”
“I won’t be getting pregnant and retiring any time soon,” Mr. Hessman said. “But I do have to take a shit before my next class. I left you a blank hall pass. Take as much time as you want.” Mr. Hessman picked up a text book and exited the class.
Da’Quarius grabbed his hall pass and noticed Mr. Hessman had left his phone. It buzzed once. Da’Quarius looked at the display. It read: “I miss you so much, Hessy. My asshole is still tingling from last time. It misses you too! -MP”
“Holy shit,” Da’Quarius said. “Mo’ fucker really did fuck Michele Pfifer in the ass!”