Freedom Lane: Debatable Differences
“As you can see,” Principal Johnston said, sitting across from Da’Quarius Lobsterclaw Sherman and his teacher, Mr. Hessman. “We caught young Da’Quarius installing hidden cameras in the teacher’s lounge. This is quite disheartening.”
“It is,” Mr. Hessman said, nodding. The light shone from the front of his balding head.
“As Da’Quarius’ student advisor, it is your duty to handle his punishment,” Principal Johnston said.
“I am well aware of my duties,” Mr. Hessman said. “I will call his parents immediately and set up a punishment for him.”
“You don’t think a suspension is in order?” Principal Johnston asked.
“Not in this case,” Mr. Hessman said. “Da’Quarius will serve detention with me for the next two weeks. Each afternoon we will go over what he did and why it was wrong. I believe Da’Quarius was merely acting out because of the government’s watch on its people.”
Principal Johnston gave Mr. Hessman a long and calculating look. “Fine,” he finally said. “Take him and get out of my office. Don’t let me catch you doing something like this again, Da’Quarius.”
“You won’t,” Da’Quarius said, getting up from the chair and leaving his office. Mr. Hessman followed. “That was close,” he said once they were in the hall and Mr. Johnston’s door was closed.
“Thanks for not flipping in there,” Mr. Hessman said. “We’ll talk more later today when you serve your detention.”
“You mean I still have to go?!” Da’Quarius loudly whispered. “Man, you a cold mo’ fucker, Hess!”
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 3, Episode 3: Debatable Differences
“What the hell are you smiling about?” Tony said, walking into Paulie’s Pizza on a Monday afternoon. His boss and friend, Paulie, was sitting at one of the booths starting into the bright, blue sky.
“Nothing,” Paulie said. “I just had a coffee date with the most beautiful woman.”
“Really?” Tony said, putting on his apron and hairnet. “She was able to hang out with you while thinking of those wrinkly balls of yours?”
“What do you know about my balls?!” Paulie said, turning to Tony. “Have a little class and you can score a beauty like this too, you gagootz! Check out her picture!” Paulie took his phone from his pocket and showed Tony a picture of the girl he was dating.
“I have scored a beauty like this,” Tony said. “This one! That’s my ex-girlfriend Candy, you snake!”
“Really?” Paulie said. “And here I thought she had some standards.”
“This ain’t funny,” Tony said. “You need to break up with her right now.”
“I’m not breaking up with anyone,” Paulie said. “I really like this broad.”
“You break up with her now, Paulie!” Tony said. “You’ll be sorry if you don’t!”
“Why?” Paulie asked. “Other than dating you, is there something wrong with her?”
“No,” Tony said. “I just don’t want you dating her.”
“I’ll date who I want!” Paulie said. “What are you gonna do about it?”
“You want to know?” Tony said, taking off his apron and hairnet. “I’m going on strike until you dump her!” He threw his hairnet and apron at Paulie and went out the door.
“You can’t go on strike!” Paulie called after him.
“Watch me!” Tony said, slamming the door. “PAULIE’S PIZZA IS UNFAIR TO ITS EMPLOYEES!”
“Dis some bullshit,” Da’Quarius said, sitting in the desk across from Mr. Hessman. “Why do I have to sit here and look at your face all afternoon?”
“Because you’re in detention,” Mr. Hessman said, flipping the page of his magazine.
“I’m only in detention because you had me set up those cameras in the teacher’s lounge,” Da’Quarius said. “Why did you need those, anyway?”
“That’s my business,” Mr. Hessman said.
“Well I’m sittin’ here because you make a shitty lookout,” Da’Quarius said. “So you best tell me somethin’.”
Mr. Hessman sighed. “I needed to find out whose been talking about me when I’m not around,” he said.
“I’ll clue you in since I ain’t got anything better to do for the next hour or so,” Da’Quarius said. “They all say you a shit head because you act like a damn shit head.”
“Be grateful I was able to talk Johnston out of a suspension,” Hessman said. “And you know you’d be in a lot more trouble if he knew I put you up to it.”
“I ain’t no snitch,” Da’Quarius said. “But I’m done wit dis shit. You look out for me an’ I look out for you, but not anymore. We’re too different to keep this goin’.”
“So that’s it?” Mr. Hessman said. “Just like that?”
“Jus’ like dat,” Da’Quarius said, crossing his arms. “I’ll get another advisor and try and drop yo class.”
“It’s not that easy,” Mr. Hessman said. “You need a member of staff to sign off on something like that, and you need a pretty good reason. You going to tell them that I put you up to that little act and burn yourself to burn me?”
“No,” Da’Quarius said. “You gonna sign it.”
“You have nothing to blackmail me with,” Mr. Hessman said. “And I like you just where you are.” He gave Da’Quarius a huge smile.
“I’ll beat you at this game,” Da’Quarius said.
“You want to make this interesting?” Mr. Hessman said. “You like a challenge?”
“Wha’chu talkin’ ’bout?” Da’Quarius asked.
“I’m head of the debate team,” Mr. Hessman said. “If you can win in a debate, I’ll sign off on your transfer to another advisor and teacher. Deal?”
“Fine,” Da’Quarius said. “Deal.”
“We have a practice in two weeks,” Mr. Hessman said. “The Saturday after our last detention. The subject: Our differences don’t make us different. You’ll be on the opposition.”
Da’Quarius stared at the smiling Hessman. “You dirty mo’ fucker.”
At the end of the day, Paulie closed up his pizza place as usual. He was sore from working both the counter and the kitchen since Tony was on strike. Luckily it was only a Monday night, and Paulie was able to handle the small dinner rush. He watches as Tony starts to walk towards the back carrying the picket sign that read: “PAULIE’S IS UNFARE” towards the back alley.
“Whoa!” Paulie said, walking out the door. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“Up to my apartment,” Tony said.
“Not so fast, ya mook,” Paulie said. “Your apartment is on my property. That apartment is reserved for someone in my employ. If you want to go up there, you’ll have to come back to work first.”
“You dump Candy?” Tony asked.
“Nope,” Paulie said. “Just phoned her a minute ago. She’ll be having a late dinner at my place tonight.”
“Then I’m still on strike,” Tony said. “I’ll hold vigil outside all night if I have to.”
“Good luck,” Paulie said, turning to go back in. “Have a good night.”
It was the end of Da’Quarius’ first week of detention, and he was spending the time silently putting together an argument that would win his debate against Hessman. He had been wracking his brain trying to oppose Hessman’s subject of “Our Differences Don’t Make Us Different”. He would’ve asked Paulie for help, but Paulie was having Da’Quarius steer clear of his pizzeria until the heat died down from the investigators following the fire across the street.
“I see you’re using your time wisely,” Mr. Hessman said.
“Don’t even try to get in my head,” Da’Quarius said. “Umma win dis debate and get you outta my life for good.”
“Sure,” Mr. Hessman said. “Doesn’t matter that Todd is one of the best debaters in the school.”
“Todd?!” Da’Quarius said. “I’m debatin’ dat sissy mo’ fucker!? I thought I was debating you!”
“No,” Mr. Hessman said. “You’re debating my debate team. I thought I made that clear on Monday.”
“You didn’t!” Da’Quarius said, throwing his notebook to the floor. “You purposely made me waste this whole week preparin’ to debate yo’ ass!”
“What’s the difference?” Mr. Hessman said. “Me. Todd. The entire team. You seemed confident when you took the challenge. I tell you what. Beat my team and I’ll give you a C for the year and you can come in here and sleep for all I care. What do you say?”
“I say you still a dirty ass bitch,” Da’Quarius said. “And umma beat yo’ ass anyway, Hess. You got a deal.”
“Don’t eat at Paulie’s!” Tony shouted, standing on State Street just outside of Paulie’s Pizza. “Paulie is unfair to his employees!”
“So he’s on strike because you’re dating his ex?” Valerie asked. She was six foot three and built like a linebacker. She had short, spiked hair on the top of her head.
“He’s a stunad,” Paulie said. “But this week has been hell running the counter and the kitchen without him. I won’t be able to get through this weekend without some help. Your brother told me you have experience working in a pizzeria and you can use some cash right about now.”
“I’ll work while that pretty boy out there shouts at nobody,” Valerie said. “Do I start tonight?”
“Right now,” Paulie said, handing Valerie an apron and a hairnet. “I’ll show you around the place before the dinner rush starts up.”
“Oh!” Tony said, coming inside with his “PAULIE’S IS UNFARE” sign. “You hiring scabs now?”
“I need help to get through the weekend,” Paulie said. “Unless you want to be an adult and come back to work.”
“Not happening,” Tony said. “Not until you break up with Candy.”
“Not happening,” Paulie said.
“Then I’m going back out there,” Tony said. “Have fun with your scab. You know scabs are only good for one thing: bleeding.”
“You come try and bleed me, and I’ll put your friggin’ head through a windshield,” Valerie said, flexing her biceps.
“Madon!” Paulie said. “You better get back out there, Tony.”
“Your sign is misspelled, by the way,” Valerie said.
“No it isn’t,” Tony said. “Paulie spells his name with an ‘ie’. Not a ‘y’.”
“Stunad,” Paulie muttered.
“HE’S GOT SCABS IN THERE!” Tony shouted at an old couple walking their dog. “PAULIE VENTRIGLIO IS HIRING SCAB LABOR!”
“Does he realize that he’s not even a union guy?” Valerie asked.
“Nope,” Paulie said. “He doesn’t.”
“I need some help,” Da’Quarius said to Rose and Helen during dinner on the weekend before his big meet. “I have a debate on Friday afternoon and I don’t have anything good for it.”
“You joined the debate team?!” Rose exclaimed, nearly glowing. “That’s wonderful! I was on the Haven Hill debate team when I went there.”
“I’m not exactly on the team,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m debating against them.”
“Oh,” Rose said. “Trying out?”
“Something like that,” Da’Quarius said.
“A little competition is good for the boy,” Helen said. “But he should probably do something less soft than debate.”
“I’m sittin’ right here,” Da’Quarius said. “And I’m on the basketball team too. You know dat, bitty. You been goin’ to my games.”
“Debate’s for sissies,” Helen said, either ignoring or not hearing Da’Quarius. “I played Roller Derby once I got out of prison. That’s a real man’s sport.”
“Men don’t play roller derby,” Rose said. “And you’re not a man either.”
“My name was Cunt McCunts,” Helen continued. “I was a blocker and the captain for the East Rock Cunts.”
“Don’t use that kind of language in front of Da’Quarius!” Rose said.
“We had clever names back then!” Helen said.
“Clever isn’t the word,” Rose said.
“You just don’t get the puns,” Helen said, absently waving a hand at Rose. “My rival was Twat Farts of the Newhallville Shit Pushers.”
“We’re all done with dinner,” Rose said, clearing the table quickly. “Come on, Helen. Let’s get the kitchen cleaned up and get you up to bed.”
“I’m not tired!” Helen said, following Rose with the plates into the kitchen.
“You will be!” Rose said.
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said, sitting alone at the dining room table. “Umma get no help from dem bitties, dat’s fo sho.”
Tony watched from outside Paulie’s as Paulie cheerfully greeted the customers. Valerie worked the kitchen, making subs and pizza for the customers. Paulie said something and Valerie laughed. The patrons seemed overjoyed with the exchange. Outside of Paulie’s Pizza, the night sky was cloudy, and it looked as if rain was imminent.
“That should be me in there,” Tony said. “Friggin’ scab broad, taking my job and my best friend. I’ll show her.”
“Will you shaddup!” a bum lying near the alley said. “You’ve been yelling fer days. Nobody gives a shit!”
“Eat shit, Lou!” Tony said. “I’ll boot you into oncoming traffic, ya mook.”
“Bah!” Lou the bum said, pulling his dirty blanket over himself. “Stop bein’ such a fuckin’ pussy and get your job back.”
“What the hell do you know about it?” Tony said.
“I gave up a job flippin’ pancakes when the boss started fuckin’ my mother,” Lou said, turning to sit up. “I never forgave either of them, and it’s their fault I’m homeless.”
“You’re a freakin’ bum because you got fired from Wal-Mart for stealing TVs to buy crack, Lou,” Tony said.
“There’s that too,” Lou said, shrugging. “Your stupid ‘unfare’ sign is spelled wrong, you idiot.”
“You’re the idiot,” Tony said. “Paulie spells his name with an ‘ie’. Not a ‘y’. You and that scab broad. Couple of dumb mooks. Madon.”
Tony looked back into the window of Paulie’s and watched as Paulie showed the scab how to make sausage and pepper grinder, using Tony’s secret sauce that he kept on the bottom shelf of the fridge. “Scabs are good for one thing,” he said as it began raining. “Bleeding.”
“Are ou ready?” Mr. Hessman asked Da’Quarius. The Haven Hill debate team sat behind him, watching. They were holding the debate in Mr. Hessman’s classroom, and two podiums and a judges table were erected for the practice. Todd looked nervous at the prospect of debating Da’Quarius. He still remembered the beating he was given for insulting Rose and Helen.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Da’Quarius said.
“We never discussed what you’d do if you lost,” Mr. Hessman said. “This wager of ours is starting to seem a bit unbalanced.”
“Your head is unbalanced,” Da’Quarius said. “And who are all these people here?”
“Them?” Mr. Hessman said, turning to the classroom that was quickly filling up behind the three student judges. “Someone must have let out the secret that a certain boisterous student was finally putting his money where his loud mouth is and taking on the entire debate team on his own. Naturally, there were plenty of students that wanted to watch.”
“So I get humiliated if I lose?” Da’Quarius asked. “Is that it?”
“Something like that,” Mr. Hessman said. “Come on. It’s time to start.”
Todd stood in front of his podium, smiling smugly at his team mates. Da’Quarius stood at the podium across from him, still trying to figure out how he was going to argue whatever Todd was going to spew out at him.
“Welcome to our debate practice,” Mr. Hessman said, addressing the small crowd of students. “Today’s topic is: Our Differences Do Not Make Us Different. Arguing for is Todd Segrins. Arguing against is Da’Quarius Lobsterclaw Sherman. Todd will make his opening arguments.”
Todd cleared his throat. “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” he said with his arms out. “Truer words have not since been spoken…” Todd’s speech was well spoken and well thought out. Da’Quarius zoned out immediately as his mind calculated how best to deal with Todd. The last time they two had been this close together, Da’Quarius had beaten Todd so bad that they hadn’t spoken in nearly a year.
“Da’Quarius,” Mr. Hessman said. “Your rebuttal.”
Da’Quarius nearly panicked. Finally, it came to him in a moment of genius. “If I prick you, will you not bleed?” he said, looking at Todd. Todd suddenly turned as white as a ghost, and Da’Quarius turned and faced the three student judges. “If I prick any of you, will you not bleed? Our skin is different but our blood is that same. Is dat the point dis sissy is tryin’ to make? Is dat what you’re supposed to take away from all of dis, because I can tell you why our differences make us different.
“Todd here won’t ever know what color your blood is, because he don’t got the balls to cut any of you. I, on da other hand, know what color Todd’s blood is, because I had the guts to make him bleed. I’m guessing that you all have the same color blood as Todd, but there’s only one way to find out, right?
Valerie took the garbage out in the late afternoon sun. She opened the top of the dumpster, tossed the bag inside, and turned to go back into Paulile’s to continue her shift. That’s when she noticed something from the corner of her eye. A man in a ski mask was coming at her brandishing a crowbar in his right hand.
“I don’t think so!” Valerie shouted, moving fast and clotheslining her attacker. He fell to the hard ground with an OOF, and Valerie started kicking him in the rib cage.
“YOU THINK I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU ARE, TONY?!” she shouted. “I play roller derby, bitch! You picked the wrong scab to try to bleed!”
Tony writhed in pain as Valerie picked up the crowbar and held it over her head. “Drop it,” a voice said. She turned to see Paulie holding pointing his gun at her.
“He attacked me!” Valerie said. “This is self defense.”
“I see my friend on the ground and you standing over him with a weapon,” Paulie said. “And I told you to drop it.”
“He’s wearing a ski mask for God’s sake!” Valerie said.
“I don’t see a ski mask,” Paulie said. “I see a woman I barely know standing over my friend with a weapon screaming obscenities, and I said: Drop. The. Weapon.”
“Fuck this,” Valerie said, tossing the crowbar aside. “You assholes deserve each other.” With that, she left through the alley towards State ST.
Paulie put his gun back in its regular spot in the back of his pants and he knelt next to Tony. “You OK?” he asked. “That bull dagger really did a number on you.”
“Fuckin’ bitch,” Tony said.
“You’re OK,” Paulie said, pulling Tony up. “Why don’t you head upstairs and lay down for a bit.”
“You mean I can come in?” Tony asked.
“If you can put all that Candy nonsense behind us,” Paulie said.
“You still nailin’ her?” Tony asked.
“No,” Paulie said. “She actually broke up with me last night.”
“I’m sorry,” Tony said, sitting up. “What happened?”
“Her husband was starting to suspect she was cheating,” Paulie said.
“No shit,” Tony said, holding he chest and wincing. “That’s why she dumped me too.”
The two laughed behind Paulie’s Pizza in the warm afternoon sun.
“That was clever,” Mr. Hessman said. “You know you wouldn’t have won an actual sanctioned debate with a not so thinly veiled threat to the judges.”
“You picked the venue and the judges,” Da’Quarius said.
“You got me,” Mr. Hessman said. “I have to admit when I’m beaten at my own game. Here’s your letter.” He handed Da’Quarius a folded piece of paper.
“Thanks,” Da’Quarius said.
“I’m a man of my word,” Mr. Hessman said. “I’ll reassign you to the back corner of my classroom, you can do whatever you want, and I’ll give you your C for the semester.”
Da’Quarius looked at Mr. Hessman. “Fuck dat,” he said.
“Excuse me?” Mr. Hessman said. “Those were the terms of our little wager.”
“Nah,” Da’Quarius said. “I can earn an A in yo dumb ass class.”
Mr. Hessman laughed. “I’m sure you can,” he said.
“And keep this,” Da’Quarius said, handing Mr. Hessman his paper back. “I’d rather stick with the honky I know.”
“Very wise,” Mr. Hessman said, taking the paper and putting it on his desk. “I think you’ve served enough detention. Why don’t you head home?”
“Thanks,” Da’Quarius said, picking up his backpack. “I’ll see you Monday, Hess.”
Mr. Hessman watched as Da’Quarius disappeared out the door and down the hall. “Poor predictable Da’Quarius,” He said, opening the folded piece of blank paper and laughed as he crumpled it up and tossed it into the garbage. “You need to watch more Saved By The Bell if you want to stay ahead of me.”
The Pauile and Tony portion of this episode is dedicated to ‘DC’ and his union brothers at Fairmont Communication in Manchester New Hampshire, who passed their 50th day on strike last week. Stay strong, keep your faith, and bleed those scabs.