Freedom Lane: A Trip Down Memory Block A
“I don’t know why she did what she did or how she got there, and I especially don’t know how our son was involved. All I know is that I love them both very much, and I just want them both to come back home to our little house on Freedom Lane, safe and sound like we’ve always been.”
Helen’s plastic tray landed on prison’s mess hall floor. Her supper splattered around her feet. She looked up to see the biggest black woman she had even seen standing over her. “What do we have here?” the woman asked. “Looks like fresh meat.”
It was Helen’s first day in Havenville Women’s Penitentiary, and she was among the youngest there at twenty-two years old. She knew from her father’s associates that the first day was key. They also mentioned that this would happen, and if she didn’t stand up for herself, she’d be at the wrong end of ass-kicking and rapings for the remainder or her twenty-one year sentence. She looked up to see a large, female prison guard urging her on with a raised eyebrow.
Hellen put both of her hands together, and brought them up into the woman’s chin. Blood and teeth flew from her mouth as she fell over the table behind her. The other inmates moved away as the guards rushed in. Helen had a baton across her throat and was dragged from the mess hall by force.
“NEXT ONE OF YOU THAT FUCKS WITH ME IS GOING TO END UP IN THE MORGUE!” she shouted. “THE FUCKING MORGUE, I SAY! PLAYTIME IS OVER, BITCHES!”
Da’Quaruis stretched his arms and back. He couldn’t remember having a more peaceful sleep as the one he had just had. He reached for his pillow, but his arm hit something hard. It was the back of the seat in front of him. He jarred himself awake and looked around. He wasn’t in his room after all. He was in the stands of a baseball staduim.
Da’Quarius turned to see Helen in the seat next to him, snoring away. He looked around and saw nobody else. They had somehow gotten in when the place was empty and fallen asleep in the stands. The worse part was Da’Quarius had no memory of how he got there.
“Da’ fuck is goin’ on?!”
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 2, Episode 5: A Trip Down Memory Block A
“What do I know about Helen’s past?” Rose asked, repeating the question. It was a trick she learned while working as a police dispatcher. You repeat the question so the person asking knows exactly what you’re answering, even if it’s not exactly what they asked. “Yes, I’m aware she did some time in Havenville, and I know she has a record. She doesn’t talk about it much, and I never really got the entire story out of her. All I know is that she ended up serving eight years of a twenty-one year sentence.
“But that was years ago! I don’t see how any of Helen’s past can have any bearing on her current situation. I worked as a police dispatcher for my entire career, so I know the business. I understand you have to do all your checks and balances, but the fact is that Helen is an old woman now, and she is no longer a stable one at that. Without me to take care of her I don’t know how long she would actually last.”
“Wake up, biddy,” Da’Quarius said, shaking Helen by the shoulders. “We gotta get da’ fuck outta here.”
“If the house is on fire let it burn,” Helen said. “Hopefully it will be less fiery when I wake up on the other side.”
“Gotdam, you morbid,” Da’Quarius said. “Seriously, doe. You better get up before security finds us.”
“Security?” Helen said, regaining her senses. “Kid, what in the hell -” She opened her eyes and looked around like Da’Quarius did when he first woke up. Her head slowly spun in a semi-circle, taking in the scenery of the ball field and sunrise. “Holy shit. I can’t beleive we did it.”
“Did what?” Da’Quarius asked. “I don’t remember comin’ here.”
“What’s the last thing you do remember?” Helen asked.
Da’Quarius tried to think back. “You needed help taking your glaucoma medicine,” he said. “Shit. You blow dat smoke in my face again?!”
“The stuff you got me was too strong,” Helen said. “Last thing I remember is talking to you about how my father wanted to take me to Yankee Stadium after I got out of prison. We laughed and I promised to take you. I didn’t mean that night!”
“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “But dis Shea Stadium.”
“Mother fucker,” Helen said, under her breath. “I can’t get shit right. Fucking Mets can suck my dick.”
“How da’ hell did we get here?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Fucked if I know,” Helen said. “But we have to find a way home. I don’t need Rose finding out about this.”
“How’s Rose not gonna notice?” Da’Quarius asked. “When she sees your not watchin’ soap operas or brewing Metamucil tea, she gonna know dat you missin’. Plus that snitch principal is gonna call and tell her I ain’t in school today.”
“We’ll figure it out as we go along,” Helen said. “But first thing first, kid. You’re going to have to help me go to the toilet.”
Da’Quarius argued, but relented. He stood outside of the handi-capped stall and waited for Helen to finish her morning business. “You don’t need me to wipe your ass, do you?” he asked.
Da’Quarius leaned up against the wall and stared at the ceiling. “You said yo’ daddy wanted to take you to Yankee Stadium after you got out of prison,” he said.
“That’s right,” Helen said. “Not fucking Shea.”
“You never told me ’bout yo’ time in da’ slammer. Wha’chu do to get eight years?”
“They gave me twenty-one,” Helen said. “I only did eight.”
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “Why?”
Helen sighed. “I dragged you here,” she replied. “I might as well tell you while I wait for this turd to drop.”
“Guilty!” the judge yelled, slamming his gable down. Helen looked down as her mother cried and wailed. She barely heard when the judge sentenced her to twenty-one years in Havenville Women’s Penitentiary. All because of some skank and her boyfriend who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants (along with a laundry list of petty crimes that took nearly ten minutes to read).
The funny part was that Helen never slept with the skank’s boyfriend. He tried and then claimed to everyone and their mother that she had. When the idiot’s girlfriend got wind of it, she went right to Helen.
“What’s this I hear about you sleeping with my man?!” Audry exclaimed, loud enough for everyone on the block to hear.
“I didn’t sleep with your man,” Helen replied. “That limp dick couldn’t pick the meat from between my teeth!”
“Don’t you talk about him like that!” Audry shouted. She was drawing a crowd with her shouting. “You take that back!”
“The hell I will!” Helen said. “He whipped it out and tried to get me to go down. Damn thing looked like a dead baby bird in a collapsed nest. He couldn’t make a gnat squirt.”
“You bitch!” Audry shouted. She charged Helen, but she was waiting. She had her switch blade out and cut a gash into Audry’s face. Audry backed up two steps and put her hand to the fresh cut. Her hand came back covered in blood. “Oh my God!”
“I ain’t done with your pretty ass,” Helen said. She grabbed Audry by the front of her blouse, kissed her on the lips, slammed her tongue into her mouth, and then proceeded to beat the ever-living piss out of the girl in the middle of State Street.
“You stopped traffic!” Helen’s father shouted through metal bars. “Four blocks, either way! You cut this girl with a knife, sexually assaulted her, and then beat her half to death?! You realize how many people watched you do that?! What’s a matter wit you?!”
“She started it!” Helen shouted back.
“I don’t give a shit who started it!” her father retorted. “Do you have any idea how bad this is; how bad this makes me look?! You’re going to do hard time! You’re lucky you didn’t kill this broad.”
“She deserved it,” Helen said.
“And I deserve this?” her father said. “Your muddah and I are raising that brat kid a’ yours, and now you won’t even be around to take over raising him when you’re finally mature enough to tell him the truth! Do you even realize what having a daughter in prison does to my reputation in my line of work? This is just great. What did I do to deserve you, huh?!”
“Just leave,” Helen said, sitting on her cot and turning around. “I don’t need to be lectured by a man that drowns stoolies for a living.”
“You ungrateful little shit,” her father said. “You and your kid are living the good life off my money. You got no right questioning how I make it. You’re lucky you’re behind these bars right now.” He turned and left as Helen stared at the wall.
“I wasn’t aware she did all that,” Rose said, reading Helen’s rap sheet. “But what does it matter? She’s not the same person. She’s never even harmed a fly since the day I met her. This should have no bearing whatsoever on Helen now. She’s seventy-nine years old, for God’s sake. She’s not the girl that committed those supposed crimes any more.
“And as for Da’Quarius? How dare you insinuate that Helen would force him to do anything. I know we’re an unconventional family, but how dare you assume that she would make him do anything atrocious or humiliating!”
“You’re going too slow!” Helen shouted at Da’Quarius.
“Dammit, biddy,” Da’Quarius said, dancing on the sidewalk with his Vagabond Saints hat lying on the ground in front of him. He was dancing and singing, trying to get enough money to buy a train ticket to New Haven. “You ain’t da’ one dancin’.”
“I’m doing my part too!” Helen snapped. A man in a business suit began to walk past her. “Money for a war vet,” she said, holding out an old coffee cup she found. The man reached in his pocket and dumped some change into it. “God bless you.” Helen looked inside the cup. “Cheap bastard.”
“How much you got?” Da’Quarius asked.
Helen shook the change in the cup. “I think I have enough for breakfast,” she said. “You want to split a hotdog?”
“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “Dat sounds good as fuck.”
Da’Quarius counted out enough change for a hotdog and ran it back to Helen, sitting on the stoop next to her as she added his change and few ones to hers. He ripped in half and handed her a piece. “You got enough for train tickets yet?” Helen asked.
“Almost,” Da’Quarius said. “Another hour should do it.”
“Rest for a few minutes,” Helen said. “Eat up. When you start again, I’m going to start yelling about how you needed money for a liver transplant or something. Maybe we can get home by dinner after all.”
“You all right, biddy,” Da’Qauarius said. They were silent for a moment. “How’d you get out?”
“What?” Helen asked through a mouthful of hotdog.
“Of prison,” Da’Qauaris said. “You got out after only eight of twenty-one years. How’d you pull dat off. I know it wasn’t no good behavior.”
Helen sighed and looked down. “I’m not proud of it,” she said. “Not in the slightest. I never talked about it, not even with Paulie or Rose. Nobody knows the whole story but me, kid.”
“Can I hear it?” Da’Quarius asked. “If it’s weighin’ on you, it might help to talk about it.”
“It’s been decades,” Helen said. “Maybe it is time to tell that part of the story. It might keep your little ass out of the joint.
“I was in the eighth year of my sentence…”
Life in prison was good to Helen Ventriglio. She had the respect of the other inmates and an entire stable of girlfriends. Any time she wanted companionship in a dark corner of Havenville, all she had to do was whistle. She got along well with her cellmate, Bea (who would always be less than whistle away), and she had begun writing fiction to pass the time. The other inmates loved reading her stories and passed them around the cell blocks. A Helen Ventriglio prison fiction was worth three packs of cigarettes.
But like everywhere, there’s alway a mutt that wants to take a bite out of the big dog. Helen’s mutt was named Sasha. Sasha walked right up to Helen with her crew standing behind her. “You ain’t goin’ to live past this weekend ‘less you give me a cut of what you makin’,” Sasha said.
“I’m just living day to day,” Helen said. “I got no need for cash in here. I can’t give you a cut of the respect I’ve earned, so you need to back the fuck up with that shit-breath of yours.”
“You nuttin’ but a bull dyke in an orange jumpsuit,” Sasha said. “And you dead meat if you cross me again.”
“You get that one for free,” Helen said. “Next time, I’ll take your tongue.”
Helen made the biggest mistake of her time in prison that day. She turned her back to Sasha.
Sasha was on Helen in less than a second. She was fast for a woman so big. Helen was on the ground in another second with Sasha pummeling her. Helen was a scrapper and a tough broad, but even she couldn’t get up from the weight of Sasha on her stomach and ribs. Sasha’s huge hands smashed into her face over and over again. Finally, Bea intervened and dragged Sasha off her.
Helen sat up (which was excruciatingly painful to do) and watched Bea stab Sasha through her ribs with her shiv. “No!” Helen shouted. She was in the open and killing another inmate. Sasha’s crew had scattered by now, and the guards were rushing. Bea was dragged off by four guards, screaming, and Helen never saw her again.
Two days later was Helen’s birthday. She almost didn’t go meet her father, who would only come on this day every year. She didn’t want him to see her face, which was still bruised and swollen. After almost losing her life, she couldn’t make herself not go.
“Hi daddy,” Helen said, sitting across from her father.
“What happened to you!?” he exclaimed. The guards turned to look.
“Nothing,” Helen replied.
“Don’t tell me nuttin’!” her father said. “You’ve been beaten.”
“You should see the other bitch,” Helen said. “She might still be in the morgue.”
“Madon,” her father said. “I don’t want this for you. I never did. You’re going to die in here.”
“I am not,” Helen said. “They’ll die before I do. Trust me.”
“Listen to you,” her father said. “I don’t want this life for you.”
“I still have thirteen years, dad,” Helen said. “This is my life, like it or not.”
“No,” her father said. “I can get you out. The feds have been trying to flip me. They offered to release you if I give them some names. All I have to do is make a call, and you’re free.”
“Tell them to fuck off!” Helen said. “They’ll kill you! You know what they do to snitches better than anyone. It’s how you fed our family!”
Helen’s father smiled. “You’re worth it, kid,” he said. “I love you, Helen.” Before Helen could argue, her father left.
“So my father made the call and made the deal to get me out,” Helen said, riding the train to New Haven station with Da’Quarius. The woman at the ticket booth looked at them funny when they dumped the mound of change for tickets in front of her, and her face didn’t change as she counted out the money for two tickets in nickels and pennies.
“An’ you got out?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Yup,” Helen replied. “I was out within two days. I had a few good years with my father before his bosses found out about the deal he made to get me out of the slammer. He named names and gave the feds everything they were looking for to put a lot of men away. They found his body in the trunk of a car in a junkyard a year after he went missing.”
Da’Quarius wiped a tear from his eye. “I’m sorry,” was all he could think to say.
“Don’t be, kid,” Helen said, closing her eyes. “You were far from being born yet. Besides, it’s what he wanted. Not everyone gets the chance to do something noble.”
Da’Quarius had another question, but Helen was snoring away within seconds. He decided to follow her lead and take a nap on the train as well. All that dancing for pocket change had worn him out.
“So let me get this straight,” Rose said. “You’re holding my wife and our son in the transit authority lock-up because your employee shook her awake and she slapped him? You’re also bringing up something that happened decades ago to justify why you think she should have spent all afternoon in lock-up along with a twelve year old boy?
“Is there any reason why I shouldn’t call the real police and my lawyer right now?”
Helen held her duffle bag on her shoulder as she turned to get one last look at the Havenville Pen as the sun set behind it. Her father waited by his car, leaning up against it.
“You didn’t have to do this,” Helen said.
“I did’t have to do anything,” her father said. “I couldn’t stand to see you like that, Helen. Even after everything, you’re still my baby girl.”
“Thanks, daddy,” Helen said, hugging her father. “Can we go home how?”
“Yeah,” her father said opening the car door. “We can.”
“I don’t know what you two were doing on the train from New York, but I had to lie through my teeth to get you out of that cell!” Rose said, driving Helen and Da’Quarius home.
“How’d you get us out?” Helen asked.
“I pretty much told them that you have dementia,” Rose said. “When that wasn’t working, I threatened to sue the hell out of them.”
“That’s my girl,” Helen said.
“I suppose you’re not going to tell me what the two of you were doing in New York or how you got there?” Rose asked.
“Nope,” Helen and Da’Quarius said in unison.
“Just call me next time,” Rose said with an exasperated sigh. “I would have come and picked you up.”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “We’d be home by Christmas!”
Helen started to cackle and Da’Quarius joined in. After a couple of seconds, Rose started laughing too. “Let’s get you home, fed, and showered,” she said. “You both smell like garbage.”