Freedom Lane: Lobsterclaw No More

“Did you see it?” Helen asked as her brother, Paulie, entered her house. He had just shown up for for his weekly dinner with his sister and her wife, Rose. “Tell me you saw it.”

“Calm down,” Paulie said, hanging his coat up on the rack by the door. “You’re seventy-nine years old. You’re going to have a fit don’t stop jumping around.”

“Did you see it?” Helen repeated. Rose sat reading, pretending not to notice Helen’s glee.

“What are you talking about?” Paulie asked. “What should I have seen?”

“Maury,” Helen said,nearly dancing. “They aired your episode today!”

“Oh Christ,” Paulie said, looking up at the ceiling.

“You looked really good,” Rose said, trying an attempt at comforting Paulie. “At least there’s that.”

“Let’s watch it again!” Helen shouted grabbing the remote.

“No,” Rose said. “We’ve seen it three times today already.”

“Spoilsport,” Helen said, tossing the remote to the couch. “How could you do that, Paulie. How’d you think that you knocked that dummy up? Those kids were darker than midnight. And how’d you think your little pea pods had enough spunk left in them to make twins?!”

“That’s it!” Paulie said, throwing his hands to his sides like an umpire calling ‘SAFE!’. “I’m getting my tubes tied!”

“You mean a vasectomy?” Rose asked.

“Yeah,” Paulie said. “Two of ’em to be safe. One for each nut. I’m not going through this again.”

“Sure,” Helen said, sitting back down. “Let some quack doctor put a rubber band around your nuts.”

“That’s not how a vasectomy works,” Paulie said, sitting next to Helen. “I don’t think so at least.”

“You’re in your sixties,” Rose said. “Maybe you should try slowing down.”

“Not a chance,” Paulie said.

Da’Quarius walked in the house, looking at the ground. He walked passed everyone without talking, not realizing he was interrupting the conversation.

“What’s wrong?” Rose asked, finally putting down her book.

“Nuttin'” Da’Quarius said, noticing for the first time that everyone was looking at him.

“You can tell us,” Rose said.

“You better tell her,” Helen said. “She won’t let it go until you do. Madon, this woman!”

“Coach told me dat I’m off da baasketball team,” Da’Quarius said. “He said I shouldn’t be playing wit my hand da way it is.” He looked down at his deformed left hand, which he dubbed ‘The Lobsterclaw’. He had a swollen mass of flesh where his pinky and ring finger should have been due to a birth defect. His mother had cruelly given him the middle name of Lobsterclaw when she saw it.

Rose, Helen, and Paulie were all silent. They didn’t point out this physical flaw of his, but it was out there now. “That’s bullshit,” Paulie said, breaking the awkward silence. “That’s discrimination that they don’t let you play!”

“Don’t make a big deal outta dis,” Da’Quarius said. “Just let it go. The team losing its only black player is punishment enough for dem crackas.”

“I know what will cheer you up,” Helen said. “Want to watch Maury and laugh at Paulie and your mother?”

“Oh shit!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “Was dat on today?! Wha’chu waitin’ for, biddy? Put dat shit on!” Da’Quarius nearly jumped in the seat next to Helen as she turned Maury back on. The theme music played as Paulie sat down next to Rose.

“I don’t know what the big deal is,” Paulie muttered. “The kid was there watching his mother make a fool out of herself and me in person.”

“It cheers him up,” Rose said, patting Paulie’s shoulder.

“Fast forward to da part where my moms talks about what a lousy lay Paulie is,” Da’Quarius said.

Helen cackled as she obliged. “That’s my favorite part too,” she said. “I love when she calls it a ‘white maggot’.”

Paulie put his head back and began massaging his temples. “Madon!”

***

Freedom Lane

Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness

Season 3 Finale: Lobsterclaw No More

***

“I believe I can help you,” Doctor Richard Hertz said. Rose had taken it upon herself to meet with the doctor to talk about Da’Quarius’ hand and whether or not it could be fixed. “I’d have to meet your son first, of course.”

“Are you sure?” Rose asked. “He’s been told that it was just something he’d have to live with.”

“It’s not uncommon for children in orphanages or low income areas to be told that,” Dr. Hertz said. “Truth be told, it’s a rather expensive operation, and most insurance companies won’t pay for it since they consider it an elective surgery. Also, there is new a group of doctors here at Yale, including myself, that have been working on a new type of prosthetic procedure for some time now.”

Rose put her head down. They were living off of social security and Rose’s pension. Paulie paid for Da’Quarius’ schooling and some of his other expenses, but a huge surgery bill was something they just couldn’t afford. She was suddenly upset with the doctor for getting her hopes up.

“Thanks for you time,” Rose said, rising from her chair. “But it just seems impossible. My wife and I just don’t have the funds for something like this.”

“It’s not completely impossible,” Dr. Hertz said. “As I said, this is an experimental surgery for a small prosthetic that would look and feel natural. If successful, your son would have full use of his hand. We’re not talking about a fake hand. The fingers would look and work naturally. There may be a way to get Yale to fund this.”

“What are you trying to say?” Rose asked.

“We need a test subject, to put it bluntly,” Dr. Hertz replied. “I’ll pitch it to the hospital board and see what they have to say. I can’t guarantee anything, but I might be able to talk them into doing this for the notoriety it would get them.”

Rose sighed. She knew Da’Quarius hated it when him and his unique situation was used to give someone else their fifteen minutes of fame. His school had tried on numerous times to nearly advertise that an inner-ctity black orphan being raised by an elderly lesbian couple was learning there, and Da’Quaruis had nearly gotten himself expelled over it. Rose didn’t see what the big deal was… Why couldn’t people just be people? Still, it was a means to an end to the ‘lobsterclaw’.

“I’ll have to talk to Da’Quarius about this,” Rose said. “I’ll be in touch.”

“Let me know as soon as you can,” Dr. Hertz said. “A situation like this doesn’t come around often. He’d be crazy to pass it up.”

“You don’t know my son,” Rose said.

***

“Are you nuts, biddy?!” Da’Quarius shouted, spitting a mouthful of mashed potatoes across the dining room table. Rose had decided to tell Da’Quarius about her meeting with Dr. Hertz over dinner. “You want dis cracka ass doctor to use me to advertise in exchange for free surgery. Nu-uh! No way! I ain’t gonna be the poster nigga for lobsterclaw removal!”

“What color was the doctor?” Helen asked.

“What’s it matter?” Rose asked in return.

“Da’Quarius might feel better with a minority doctor,” Helen replied.

“What color is he?” Da’Quarius asked.

Rose sighed. “He’s white,” she said.

“Cracka ass doctor,” Da’Quarius said. “Sounded like something a cracka ass bitch would come up wit.”

“What’s it matter what color he is?” Rose asked. “He’s offering to fix your hand. Wouldn’t it be worth it to meet with him and hear him out? Don’t you want to play basketball and not get picked on because of something you can’t help?”

“You sho dis about me?” Da’Quarius asked.

Rose’s statement struck Da’Quarius harder than she had intended it to. Not only did Rose pinpoint his biggest insecurity, but she had done the same to her own as well. He forgot that before Rose was an old lesbian, she was a young lesbian. Rose had come from a time when she was picked on for who she was much like Da’Quarius was because of his hand.

“I just want you to consider it,” Rose said.

“OK,” Da’Quarius said. “I’ll meet this cracka ass doctor of yours if he’s for real.”

“Let’s just hope he’s no quack,” Helen said.

“Helen!” Rose said, not wanting Helen to talk Da’Quarius out of it. “He’s not a quack. He was a graduate from Whitney Magnus just like me.”

“I just don’t want to get the kids hopes up about this doctor footing the bill is he doesn’t intend to actually do it,” Helen said. “It’d be just like some quack jew doctor to get our hopes up with free miracle surgery just to pull the rug out from under us, leaving you with a bill and a kid that’s all gung-ho about getting fixed up. I’m just saying to take it into consideration.”

“Well I’m still making the call,” Rose said. “We’ll know more when Dr. Hertz talks to the hospital board about it now that Da’Quarius is interested.”

“Now there’s a quack hospital board involved?” Helen asked. “I won’t even say ‘I told you so’ this time around.”

Da’Quarius listened to Rose and Helen bicker on, poking at his food with his fork. He barely heard what was being said.

***

“Where the hell have you been?!” Tony exclaimed as Paulie entered his pizzeria, Paulie’s Pizza. Tony was Paulie’s friend and business associate. “I had to open up all by myself today.”

“You know I had an appointment with the doctor today, you gagootz,” Paulie said.

“Oh yeah,” Tony said. “You still looking to take the trickle out of your faucet?”

“What?” Paulie said, hanging is coat on a hook in his office. “Do you have any idea what you’re talking about?”

“Yeah,” Tony said. “My sister’s husband had a vasectomy. They cut you open and drain your ball. You don’t drip before you shoot. No more close calls when you’re doin’ the old pull and pray.”

“There’s something wrong with you,” Paulie said.

“Anyway,” Tony said. “We got a delivery this morning.”

“Delivery?” Paulie asked. “We don’t have any deliveries scheduled for today. What the hell are you talking about?”

“Go see for yourself,” Tony said. “It’s on the counter out there.”

Paulie gave Tony a glance before he left the back area of the pizzeria and went out to the counter. Waiting for him was a large, empty sausage casing. “Oh!” Paulie exclaimed. “What the hell is that doin’ up there?”

“Special delivery,” Tony said, trying not to laugh hysterically. “They heard you wanted to meat taken out of your sausage, so that’s how they sent it.” Tony could no longer hold in his laughter. He nearly fell to the floor.

“I’ll be laughing my ass off when some knocked up puttana comes in here saying you knocked her up with an ugly pup that looks like you,” Paulie said. He picked up his newpaper. “Stop laughin’ and get to work. I’ll be in my other office. I bet my sister and Rose will take the news better than you.”

***

“I’ve set a date!” Paulie said, entering his sister’s house excitedly. “I’m shutting down the baby batter factory on the second of June!”

“Can you announce it any more vulgarly?” Rose asked. Helen was taking a long afternoon nap, and Rose was reading quietly by the front window.

“Probably,” Paulie said. “Still haven’t heard from that quack doctor I take it.”

“No,” Rose said. “Maybe Helen was right after all. I shouldn’t have gotten Da’Quarius’ hopes up about this whole thing. Maybe this doctor is just a blow-hard quack, and I’m wasting my time.”

The phone rang and Rose picked it up. “Hello?” she said. “This is Rose Masters… Are you sure?… OK, doctor…. Thank you.”

“That the quack?” Paulie asked.

“That was Dr. Hertz,” Rose replied. “He said that he spoke with the hospital board. They agreed to pay for what they think is a fair amount of Da’Quarius’ surgery to justify using him as a case study.”

“Oh yeah?” Paulie said. “That’s better than nothin’, I guess. How much are you guys looking at to get the kid’s hand fixed?”

“Ten thousand dollars,” Rose said, lowering her head.

Paulie whistled, sitting next to Rose. “Madon,” he said.

“I guess that’s it,” Rose said. “We can’t afford that, and I won’t ask you for the money either, so don’t offer.”

“I ain’t got ten grand laying around anyway,” Paulie said. “But I do have an idea. When Tony’s sister’s husband, Sal, needed knee surgery, they threw a benefit for the mook. They raised nearly five grand.”

“But we need ten!” Rose exclaimed.

“Sal is a stunad with anchovies for brians,” Paulie said. “I’m sure the kid could hit the mark. We can use Paulie’s to cater the bash with all the proceeds and donations going towards the kid’s operation. We’ll plaster New Haven with a million flyers. We’ll get this kid his operation. If we fall short, we’ll take a nice little vacation with the money. It would take the kid’s mind off his problems anyway.”

“I suppose it would be OK,” Rose said, thinking. “I just hope that Da’Quarius is alright with all of this.”

“He will be,” Paulie said. “Why not? I tell you what… I’ll set the whole thing up and get the tickets sold. You just get the kid there and it’ll be a nice surprise. He’ll go nuts when he sees how much everyone cares about him.”

Rose sighed. “OK, Paulie,” she said. “I’ll trust your judgement on this one.”

“When have I ever steered you wrong?” Paulie asked.

***

Paulie was able to set up the fundraiser for Da’Quarius’ operation fairly quickly. Tony was able to get them a great deal on the Italian American Club that night since it wasn’t yet booked, he had Rose and Helen invite as many people as possible, he was able to get in touch with Da’Quarius’ teacher, Mr. Hessman, to invite the students and their parents, and he put a flyer in with every menu that went out with a pizza delivery.

“What a turnout!” Helen said, looking around the Italian American Club. “I can’t believe you found so many people!”

“I didn’t say what the surgery was for, you dig,” Paulie said. “Some of these mooks may assume it’s something much worse than fixing the kid’s hand.”

“Smart,” Helen said, nodding. “Also smart not telling Rose about that part.”

“I know when to omit,” Paulie said. “I learned that much from my big sis.”

“Where’s the food?” Harold Fuchs said in his nasally voice, walking up to Helen and Paulie. His husband, Lee, and their adopted daughter, Esmerelda Perez de la Hoya were in tow. “I was told there’d be food.”

“Keep your pants on,” Paulie said. “Pimple Puss is going to be delivering it.”

“Pimple Puss?” Lee asked.

“The kid that delivers my food,” Paulie said. “Pimple Puss.”

“He sounds charming,” Harold said. “We’ll be at table six whenever you’re ready.” Harold and his makeshift family made their way to the table.

“Stunad thinks he’s at a damn restaurant,” Paulie said. “I’m not serving them too. Do I look like a waiter?”

“How much did we make at the door?” Helen asked, breaking off Paulie’s tirade.

“Six grand so far in donations and tickets,” Paulie said. “That’s counting the collection bin that’s been up at Paulie’s for the last two weeks, excluding when the kid was there of course.”

“Only four to go,” Helen said, with a sneer. “This is crazy. I hate begging strangers for money.”

“It ain’t begging,” Paulie said. “Not if it’s for a good cause.”

Helen gave Paulie a dirty look. She was going to say something else, but Da’Quarius entered the club with Rose behind him, beaming. “SURPRISE!” everyone shouted.

“Damn,” Harold said from his table. “I thought it was the food.”

“What’s goin’ on?” Da’Quarius said, looking around. “What is dis?”

“Everyone came out here to support you,” Rose said. “Remember how I told you the doctor wanted some money for the operation? Well, everyone wanted to help out. Your uncle set all of this up for you.”

“What?!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “You told all dese people?!”

“They want to help you get your operation,” Rose said. “They all want to help you.”

Da’Quarius walked around, looking at all the people who had come to support him.

“Good luck, kid,” Tony said. “At least you’re not getting your nuts sapped like your uncle over there.”

“We’re all behind you,” Mr. Hessman said from a table of Da’Quarius’ assorted classmates. The classmates all nodded in approval. “You got this.”

“I believe in you, Daq,” Flounder said.

“Where’s the damn food,” Harold said. “I’m starving to death!”

“I’m so sorry about Harold,” Lee whispered.

“We all want to see you better,” Esmerelda said, with a warm smile.

Da’Quarius went through an entire room of well-wishers before catching up with Helen and Paulie at the opposite end of the hall. Rose was still standing beside him. She placed a hand on his shoulder.

“We have some prizes to raffle too,” Paulie said. “That and a pay bar. We should have the ten grand we need in no time.”

“I don’t want dis,” Da’Quarius said.

“Excuse me,” Paulie said. “We put a lot of thought and effort into all of this.”

“Nobody asked me,” Da’Quarius said. “You think I want my hand fixed just to hear a bunch of people tell me over an’ over again about how dey paid for it.”

“Nobody is going to do that,” Rose said.

“I might,” Harold put in. Lee snickered next to him. Esmerelda gave them both dirty looks while muttering “maricones” under her breath.

“See!” Da’Quarius said.

“That’s just Harold and Lee,” Helen said. “I wouldn’t pay much mind to two guys who willingly let mice up their rectums just for fun.”

“Oh Helen,” Rose moaned.

“But dat’s da point,” Da’Quarius said. “I don’t want dis and I didn’t ask for it. Give everyone dey money back. I don’t need to get my hand fixed. Dere’s nuttin’ wrong with da lobster claw! Maybe I like it!” With that, Da’Quarius stormed out.

“That went well,” Paulie said.

“I hope he’s OK,” Rose said.

Helen stared out the door after Da’Quarius.

“Hey Paulie!” Tony yelled. “Can we change this to a benefit to stop you from draining your wrinkled, grey-hair sack?”

***

Da’Quarius picked up a rock and chucked it blindly into the parking lot, listening for if he set off a car alarm. He picked up another rock with his deformed left hand and did the same. The rock didn’t fly nearly as far before hitting a car’s windshield, causing it to crack down the middle.

“Be careful,” Helen said, shuffling behind Da’Quarius. “They’ll make us use all the money we raised on fixing those damn cars if someone sees you.”

“What’s it matter?” Da’Quarius asked. “I don’t want da damn money.”

“You’re really selective about your handouts, kid,” Helen said. “You don’t mind taking us up on the offer to put you up in our home, but you do mind taking donations to get your hand fixed.”

“It’s different,” Da’Quarius said. “Me livin’ wit’chu biddies benefits all three of us. It ain’t a handout if I do something in exchange.”

“And what do you do in exchange for use of my home?” Helen asked.

“I grace you wit my presence,” Da’Quarius said. “You and Rose like havin’ me around. Don’t try and lie ’bout it.”

Helen laughed. “So why not just accept the generosity of idiots and take their money for your surgery,” Helen said. “They get something in exchange: The self-inflated satisfactory of doing something good for someone other than themselves. Everyone subconsciously wants to buy their way into Heaven. I’m sure you’ve played that card a million times.”

“It’s in the deck right under my race card,” Da’Quarius said, snorting.

“But that’s not the problem,” Helen said. “I’m smarter than I look, kid. I know you don’t actually like having a damn club for half a hand. Why don’t you tell me what’s really bothering you.”

Da’Quarius sighed. “It’s da surgery,” he said. “I didn’t wanna say anything to Rose, but I’m scared shitless. I ain’t never been cut open before.”

“It’s no big deal,” Helen said. “Take it from someone that’s been cut open more times than she can count. Hell, I don’t even have all of my original parts. I’m pretty sure I’m on my last kidney. I don’t remember if they took that, my appendix, or my gallbladder.”

“You’ve lost some marbles too if you can’t even remember what pieces the doctors took out,” Da’Quarius said.

“That’s my point,” Helen said. “In this day and age, nobody is walking around as God intended. Hell, God intended me either be dead or walking around in constant pain with my original hip and rotting insides. My point is, you have nothing to worry about. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“I could lose my hand,” Da’Quarius said, shrugging.

“Then you’ll get a hook,” Helen said. “Imagine the street cred that’ll get you.”

Da’Qaurius thought on it. “I can see that,” he said. “What’s cooler than a thirteen year old pimp wit a hook hand? Thanks, Helen. I better get back in dere before people start to leave.”

“And you owe them an apology,” Helen said.

“Why?!” Da’Quarius said, defensively.

“Because they’ll probably donate more money if they you all apologetic,” Helen said. She picked a softball sized rock up off the ground. “Now tell me what game you were playing with the rocks.”

“It’s easy,” Da’Quarius said. “Actually works better wit two players. Throw a rock into da parkin’ lot. First one to hit a car alarm wins.”

“I think I can manage,” Helen said. “I see Harold’s Cadillac in the handi-cap spot. Should be close enough for an old biddy to hit.” Helen threw the rock at the Cadillac, hitting it in the windshield near the hood of the car. A round, spiderweb like crack appeared from the bottom, all the way to the top. The car alarm blared.

“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m glad we weren’t playin’ for money.”

“Beginner’s luck,” Helen said. “Now get your ass back in there.”

***

Da’Quarius walked back into the Italian American club with Helen behind him this time. “I’m sorry, everyone,” he said. “I’m just not used to having this kind of thing done for me. I appreciate everything you guys are doing. Thank you.”

After Da’Quarius was done speaking, Tony came up to Paulie. “Just got a call from Pimple Puss,” he said. “He’s outside with the food. He said something about some rocks…”

“Dat’s nuttin’,” Da’Quarius interrupted.

“Excellent,” Paulie said. “Let’s get these people nice and fed and grease up their wallets. We got a kid to fix!”

Two hours later, Da’Quarius, Helen, Rose, and Paulie exited the Italian American Club with well over ten thousand dollars in a little lock box. Everyone had a great time, and were very generous. “We did it!” Rose said. “I’ll call Dr. Hertz as soon as we get home.”

“See if he’ll do the kid’s operation the same day as my vasectomy,” Paulie said. “We can be in recovery together.”

“What’s recovery for you?” Helen asked. “You sitting on your easy chair, icing your nuts?”

“Something like that,” Paulie said.

“I still wish you let me hire a stripper,” Helen said.

“What the hell happened to my caddy?!” Harold exclaimed. He was looking at his cracked windshield, seething with anger. “It’s ruined!”

“Damn kids in the neighborhood,” Helen said, passing Harold and Lee. “No respect for other people’s property. This used to be such a lovely neighborhood, too.”

***

“I’m so happy you were able to come up with the money,” Dr. Hertz said. “This is a big step for all of us.”

“Yeah yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Can I have this done on June second? My Unca Paulie really wants my hand fixed on da same day he gets his dick neutered.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Dr. Hertz said, not knowing if Da’Qaurius was serious or not. “Now you understand the procedure? We’re going to take out the deformed part of your hand and use a prosthetic to replace it. It will appear as if you have always had the hand. We’ll need pictures of course…”

“For what?” Da’Quarius asked. Rose breathed in sharply. She knew this was coming. Da’Quarius didn’t like being used for anyone else’s gain. She suddenly wished Helen had come along as well. She was better at calming Da’Quarius down if he went off the handle.

“For our medical journal,” Dr. Hertz said. “We so plan on publishing this operation. Did Rose not tell you?”

Rose held her breath. She hadn’t told Da’Quarius all of the details of how Yale had agreed to pay for the bulk of the operation. She waited for Da’Quarius to explode.

“Make sure you get my good side,” Da’Quarius said. “And get me a big tittied nurse to pose wit me. Nude.”

Rose sighed in relief as Dr. Hertz laughed. “I’ll see what I can do about that nurse,” he said. “But I doubt we have any that will work nude. Trust me, I’ve tried.”

***

“So dis is it,” Da’Quarius said to Paulie. Rose was driving them both to Yale Hospital for their respective surgeries in a few minutes. He was looking down at his left hand. “I guess it’s time to say goodbye to the ol’ lobsterclaw.”

“Don’t think like that, kid,” Paulie said. “Think of it as an improvement.”

“Is losin’ yo nuts gonna be an improvement?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Do you even know how a vasectomy works?” Paulie asked.

“I’ve seen enough neutered dogs to get the gist of it,” Da’Quarius said. “They’ll probably leave you with a floppy pancake.”

“You guys ready to go?” Rose asked, entering the living room.

“They’re ready,” Helen said, not looking up from her TV Guide Crossword. “Get these two stunads out of here before their bickering makes me nuts.”

“See you later, sis,” Paulie said, kissing Heken on the forehead.

“Have fun with your circumcision,” Helen said.

“I ain’t getting a circumcision,” Paulie said. “I’m having a vasectomy.”

“Same thing,” Helen said with a shrug.

“Do you not know how a vasectomy works?” Paulie said, addressing Helen this time. “How does nobody know how a friggin’ vasectomy works?”

“Sure,” Helen said. “They cut your foreskin off so it doesn’t feel so good when you use your Johnny. That way you won’t have as much sex.”

“That’s a circumcision again!” Paulie said. “Madon!”

Da’Quarius laughed. “Let’s go,” he said. “My hand ain’t gonna fix itself.”

“You sure you won’t come, Helen?” Rose asked.

“I don’t trust hospitals,” Helen said. “They’ll start giving me surgeries just to get my wallet opened. None of my parts are going bad right now, so I’m going to stay right here.”

“Ok,” Rose said, kissing Helen. “See you later.”

“Hang back a second, kid,” Helen said as they were leaving. “Da’Quarius waited as Helen watched Rose and Paulie leave. Once they were gone, she hugged Da’Quarius. “Give ’em hell, kid.”

“You know me,” Da’Quarius said. “I got dis.”

***

Da’Quarius awoke after his surgery in his hospital room. He squinted his eyes as the daylight poured through the window. His left hand was killing him. He looked down to see it all bandaged up. “Damn,” he said.

“The surgery was a success,” Paulie said from the chair. “Yours and mine. Although, I needed a transfusion halfway through my vasectomy.”

“What happened?” Da’Quarius asked. “You got yo period?”

“Hey!” Paulie said. “You watch that damn mouth of yours!”

“What’s all this fighting?” Rose said, entering Da’Quarius’ room. “Is Da’Quarius up?”

“I’m up,” Da’Quarius said, sitting up in his bed. “I feel like I was just hit by a truck. You sho they only operated on my hand? Maybe Helen was right ’bout them crackin’ healthy mo’ fuckers open.”

“It’s the drugs,” Rose said. “You’ll be fine once the anesthesia wears off. Dr. Hertz says your operation was a complete success!”

“So I’ve heard,” Da’Quarius said.

“Hey,” Paulie said. “What’s Dr. Hertz’s first name?”

“Richard,” Rose replied.

Paulie laughed. “He’s Dick Hertz, and my dick hurts.” Paulie laughed then clutched at his crotch. “Oh Madon. I have to get home and ice these bad boys. Can I get a ride?”

“Sure,” Rose said. “I’ll be right back, Da’Quarius.”

“Wait,” Da’Quarius said. “I wanna talk to Paulie for a minute.”

“OK,” Rose said. “I’ll be in the hall when your ready, Paulie.”

“What is it, kid?” Paulie asked. “You better not start bustin’ my balls about my busted balls.”

“Nah,” Da’Quarius said, laughing weakly. “Somethin’ popped in my head as I was goin’ under. There’s something I need to do, an’ I need your help. You can’t tell Rose or Helen, though.”

Paulie weighed Da’Quarius’ request. “I’m listening.”

***

Da’Quarius walked towards the steps of New Haven City Hall with Paulie next to him. His had had been fixed for the last two weeks, and things were looking better for him. The prosthetic felt natural, and he was able to use it as a real hand, except that he couldn’t use the pinky and index fingers for counting since they went down when his middle finger went down. He thought it was a shame he could only flip one person off at once, but it was a sacrifice he was willing to make.

“So they let you back on the basketball team?” Paulie asked.

“Dey practically begged me,” Da’Quarius said. “How dey gonna have a team without da only black kid in da school?”

“True,” Paulie said, nodding his head. “Are you sure you want to go through with this?”

Da’Quarius stopped walking and looked up at the building in front of him. He had an appointment to see the judge, but Paulie was adamant about him sleeping on it a little longer. “I’m positive,” Da’Quarius said.

“There’s no going back, you know,” Paulie said. “If we leave now, this stays between us.”

“I know,” Da’Quarius said. “But it’s somethin’ I have to do.”

“I respect that,” Paulie said, nodding. “You ready?”

“Ready,” Da’Quarius said. He walked into City Hall with his uncle by his side.

***

Da’Quarius cleared the table as Rose, Helen, and Paulie digested after dinner. The job went much quicker now that he didn’t have to fumble with his lobsterclaw in order to do small chores. Rose watched with a smile as he carried the dirty plates into the kitchen. She was impressed with how quickly he was getting along.

“That was a good meal,” Paulie said, patting his stomach. “You sure know your way around a pork, Helen.”

“You watch your mouth!” Helen said.

“I meant the roast!” Paulie said. “Madon!”

“You’re just mad because your pig lost its snout,” Helen said.

“Do you still not know what a friggin’ vasectomy is?” Paulie asked. “God only knows how many times I’ve explained it over the last few weeks.”

“Excuse me,” Da’Quarius said, walking back into the dining room with a dark blue folder in his hands. “I want to say something.”

“What did you do now, kid?” Helen asked, giving Da’Quarius the stink-eye. “You better not have been expelled.”

“Let the kid talk,” Paulie said. “It’s important.”

“Oh God,” Helen said, turning to Paulie. “You talked the kid into mutilating his genitals too.”

“Shaddup and listen!” Paulie exclaimed, throwing his hand in the air. “Nobody has, or will be, mutilating their genitals.”

“Please,” Rose said with a worried look on her face . “I want to hear what he has to say.” Helen and Rose stopped their argument and looked towards Da’Quarius. Paulie motioned for him to continue.

“I just wanted to thank you guys,” Da’Quarius said. “For everything. For puttin’ up wit me and makin’ me go through with the surgery. Paulie took me to City Nall today….”

“You’re divorcing us?!” Helen exclaimed.

“Let the kid finish!” Paulie yelled. “What’s your problem today?”

“Anyway,” Da’Quarius continued. “I figured it was time for another change. Paulie signed for me as a guardian, and I was able to do dis.” Da’Quarius put the dark blue folder on the table and pushed it towards Rose and Helen. Rose picked it up first.

“Oh my God,” Rose said, reading the paper. “Da’Quarius… I… I don’t know what to say.”

“What?” Helen asked. “Did he actually divorce us?”

“Read this,” Rose said, passing the folder to Helen.

Helen held the folder close to her face. “Is this what I think it is?” She asked, becoming serious.

“It is,” Da’Quarius said. “I had my name legally changed to Da’Quarius Sherman Masters. I don’t need the Lobsterclaw anymore, and I’d rather be a Masters than a Sherman.”

Rose jumped out of her chair and hugged Da’Quarius tightly. “I can’t believe it,” she said through her tears of joy. “You took our last name!”

“You did good, kid,” Helen said, getting up and joining in the family hug.

Da’Quarius relished the feel of being squished between two old lesbians.

***

Paulie walked up to his house off Willow ST after a nice dinner and desert with his sister’s family. He was happy with what the kid had done (even if he had thought it disrespectful towards his mother). He pushed his key into the lock when he heard a woman’s voice.

“Paulie,” she said. The woman had light brown hair and was a little chubby. She wore a pale yellow sweater and blue jeans. Paulie thought she looked familiar. “I don’t know if you remember me. My name is Susan Reyes. I have a daughter. I think she might be yours.”

“What?” Paulie said.

“My daughter,” Susan said. “You and I were together a little over seven years ago. My daughter just turned seven.”

“Can’t be mine,” Paulie said. “I’ve had a vasectomy. Goodnight.” Paulie closed his door, leaving Susan standing on the sidewalk.

THE END

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2 thoughts on “Freedom Lane: Lobsterclaw No More

  1. Pingback: Table of Contents | Budgie Bigelow's Blog

  2. Pingback: Freedom Lane | Budgie Bigelow's Blog

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