Freedom Lane: Vintage Rose
“I have a new assignment that I want completed before the end of the semester,” the sandy and gray haired and mustached Mr. Hessman said to his sixth grade Social Studies class. The eyes of his students watched him, waiting to hear what fresh torture he’d be putting them through. “I call it the ‘Reverse Time Capsule’. I want you to find items from the past, and write a report on what their significance is from then to now. I’ll take anything from nineteen ninety-four and earlier, so don’t be shy about asking for parents, aunts, uncles, or grandparents to go through their stuff. I want you to really dig into their pasts and bring out anything you can, holding it up to the light for all to see!”
The class scribbled notes as Mr. Hessman stopped to catch his breath. He almost forgot where he was for a moment. He may have taken a little too much liberty with the bong he used on some of his lunch breaks. “I want an oral report to be given with the item you find,” he said, composing himself. “Three to five minutes in length, with the written version being handed in to me.”
He let the class catch up on their scribbles before continuing. “You have three weeks from Monday to get this done,” he said. “Now talk amongst yourselves. I need to sit down and rest my head for a moment.”
“What are you gonna do your report on?” the Korean-American nicknamed Flounder asked his only friend, Da’Quarius.
“I dunno,” Da’Quarius said, taking his phone out of his pocket and poking around on it. “Helen and Rose got an attic full of junk. I can probably find somethin’ neat in dere. Maybe I can find some of Rose’s hippy stuff that Helen is always screamin’ about. How ’bout you?”
“My parents still have souvenirs from their trip from Korea to America,” Flounder replied. “They had to leave everything they had before they moved, but I can probably something they picked up on the journey here.”
“Dat’s alright,” Da’Quarius said. “Everything here is made in China anyway.”
“Korea isn’t in China,” Flounder said.
“Oh shit!” Da’Quarius said, sitting up. “I just figured out what umma do my report on! I’m gonna find some of Helen’s stuff from her prison days. I bet she got some shivs an’ shit up in dat attic. Dis is gonna be good!”
Mr. Hessman looked up suddenly from his desk. “You guys are still here? I thought this classed ended hours ago!”
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 4, Episode 1: Vintage Rose
It was a normal Monday afternoon at Paulie’s Pizza on State ST in New Haven. The owner, Paulie, was reading the paper on the toilet while Tony watched the front in case anyone came by for an early dinner. There was a bang on the door, and Paulie nearly jumped out of his shoes.
“Oh!” Paulie exclaimed. “Occupied!”
“You got a visitor,” Tony, Paulie’s friends and employee, said from other side of the door. “Some mook is standing with his arms crossed, and he’s demanding to speak to you personally.”
“He say what he wants?” Paulie asked.
“I look like Barbara Walters?” Tony asked. “I’ll tell him you’ll be right out.”
“Friggin’ stunad,” Paulie muttered, putting the newspaper under his armpit and grabbing a wad of toilet paper.
“Hello,” Paulie said, moments later, stepping out from behind the counter. “What can I do for you?”
“We don’t know each other,” the man said. He was short, chubby, and what little hair he had left was dyed black and curly. Paulie figured that he was in his mid to late sixties.
“You going to stand there and keep stating the obvious?” Paulie said. “I got things to do, you know.”
“I’m sorry,” the man said. “My name is Gerald, and I’m your brother. Half-brother.”
“Are you one of Vincent Annuziato’s sons?” Paulie asked.
“No,” Gerald replied, giving Paulie something of a stink-eye. “My father was Anthony Ventriglio.”
“Oh,” Paulie said. “My pop?!”
“Yeah,” Gerald said, not changing the look on his face. “Who was that other guy?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Paulie said. “What makes you think my pop is your father?”
“He had sex with my mother,” Gerald said. Tony burst out laughing in the kitchen area. “My mother died recently, and finally gave me his name. I traced him back to you, his son.”
“You didn’t happen to meet Helen first?” Paulie asked.
“I couldn’t find a Helen Ventriglio,” Gerald replied.
“Oh, right,” Paulie said, disappointed that Helen hadn’t kicked the mook to the curb already. “So what brings you sauntering into my life?”
“I’m Anthony Ventriglio’s oldest son,” Gerald said. “I’m here for my inheritance.”
Da’Quarius dug through the large box of Helen’s prison memorabilia, looking for something good to do his report on. He had already set aside some jewelry made from shoelaces and pebbles, her release papers, a novel written in four notebooks, and a jar of teeth.
“Damn,” he said. “Dere’s gotta be somethin’ great in here. I know it.”
He found a shoebox within the larger box and took it out. He somehow knew this was what he was looking for. He took the top off if the box and started picking up the papers inside. There were scores of love letters addressed to Helen care of Havenville Pen from dozens of women on the outside. “Damn, biddy,” Da’Quarius said. “You a playa.”
Da’Quarius found an old photo that was in good condition, despite its age. It was of a long-haired redhead with her arms behind her head. She was completely nude and posing on her bed in a messy room. “Holy fuck!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “Dis is it!” He read the back of the photo and saw that it was from a woman named ‘Thorny’. He eagerly dug through the box, looking for any letters Helen received from the sexy redhead.
“These are really nice pictures,” Mr. Hessman said, looking over the photos that Da’Quarius brought him. “How old are these?”
“Well Helen is almost eighty, an’ she was in prison when she was in her twenties, so dey gotta be a little over fifty years old.”
“I should have known from the thickness of the bush,” Hessman said. “Very reminiscent of that time. These are great.”
“But is it OK to do my report on Thorny’s letter and pictures?” Da’Quarius asked. “I’m thinkin’ about doin’ it on old fashion sexting.”
“Interesting,” Hessman said, looking at the ceiling. “The school would go nuts, but it’s too good to tell you no. Why don’t you scan the photos, photoshop in some black bars, and present those?”
“Awesome,” Da’Quarius said. “What da fuck are you doin’?!”
Mr. Hessman was snapping a picture of Thorny with his cell phone. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m really into vintage porn, this is a new find, and it’s plumped my Ballpark Frank.”
“Really?” Da’Quarius said. “You think I can sell it?”
“Probably,” Mr. Hessman said. “Now if you’ll excuse me, Da’Quarius, I have an appointment with Thorny in the faculty restroom.”
Paulie talked Helen into meeting him in a restaurant to meet the Gerald character that was trying to lay claim to an inheritance that may not even still exist. He had politely tried to get rid of the little weasel, but he was persistent. Paulie thought the best thing was for Helen to get rid of him. Also, he relished the thought of watching her put him in his place.
“Where is your sister?” Gerald said, walking into the restaurant. “I want to get this over with.”
“She’s on her way,” Paulie said. “But I want to tell you a few things first. My sister is older than you, my father would have left anything to her, and you have no right to any of whatever she may have.”
“I’m only asking for my fair share,” Gerald said. “And stop trying to make it out like there’s nothing. My mother told me what he did for a living, and I’m sure he was paid well for it.”
“My pop died almost fifty years ago,” Paulie said. “What makes you think there’d be anything left if he did leave anything?”
“There it is again,” Gerald said, pointing an accusing finger. “Stop trying to say there was never an inheritance!”
“Look,” Paulie said with a sigh. “My pop wasn’t exactly a big fan of mine. He didn’t leave me anything, and my sister has always been tight-lipped about it. You’re probably barking up the wrong tree here.”
“It looks like your in the same boat as me,” Gerald said. “Maybe you and I can both get what we’re owed here.”
“Listen to yourself,” Paulie said. “You greedy little…”
“This better be important,” Helen said, walking to the table with Rose behind her.
“This is my sister, Helen, and her wife, Rose,” Paulie said, motioning towards his sister. “Helen, this is Gerald. He’s claiming to be pop’s bastard son.”
“I wouldn’t put it so crassly,” Gerald muttered.
“Is that so?” Helen asked, eying Gerald. “What brings you out of the woodwork?” Rose stayed silent, but a nervous look passed over her face.
“I’m looking for my father’s inheritance,” Gerald said.
Helen started laughing obscenely as everyone in the small restaurant turned to watch. Rose tried to get her to calm down. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Helen just switched medications.”
“Balderdash!” Helen said. “Who was your mother, anyway? Other than a hussy that would sleep with a married man I mean.”
“Helen!” Rose exclaimed.
“Her name was Mildred Greenbladt if you must know,” Gerald said, crossing his arms.
“Now I see what this is,” Helen said. “You’re a Jew. This is your nature.” Rose’s head was now in her left hand, shaking back and forth.
“He’s not a Jew,” Paulie said. “Pop was his pop. He’s Italian like us.”
“No,” Gerald said. “My mother was Jewish. That makes me Jewish. That’s our rule.”
“I’m out!” Helen said. Slamming her palms on the table and getting up. She walked quickly towards the exit.
“I need to go after her,” Rose said, standing. “She’ll try to walk all the way home otherwise. It was nice meeting you, Gerald.”
Paulie watched Rose chase after Helen. “Madon,” he said. “That could’ve gone better.”
“It might in court,” Gerald said, shrugging.
Paulie looked at Gerald. “Will you just fuck off already?”
“Before dere was sextin’ on yo cellphone, dere was writin’ filthy letters to prison inmates,” Da’Quarius said, addressing his Social Studies class. “I have in my possession, letters an’ photos from a woman named Thorny to an inmate in Havenville Women’s Penitentiary.” He pressed a button on the classroom’s remote and Thorny’s picture (with black rectangles now over her naughty bits) was up for display. The class gasped.
“Dis is the first of eleven letters I found,” Da’Quarius said. “It says: ‘I quiver, thinking about your body against mine. My perky nipples pressed against yours. The feel of your breath against my…”
“I’m giving you an A plus,” Mr. Hessman said once Da’Quarius’ presentation was complete. The class had been stunned into silence by Da’Quarius’ reading of the letters and the displaying of the photos. “Your research was solid, your presentation was riveting, and your report was well written.”
“What about his grammar?” Todd, Da’Quarius rival, asked, annoyed (he had only gotten a C minus on his report on his father’s Beach Boys record collection). “His grade should reflect how he speaks!”
“That’s how they talk on the street, you pampered little prick!” Mr. Hessman replied. “You may take your seat, Da’Quarius.”
“Thanks,” Da’Quarius’ said, his head held high.
“That was extremely offensive,” a voice said from behind Da’Quarius. It was Renee, the girl that sat behind him. She hung around with Todd a lot. “I’m telling my mother.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Da’Quarius said. “I’ll let her know when I’m done with her tonight.”
“I have a confession to make,” Mr. Hessman said after class. He asked Da’Quarius to stay after for a minute. “I showed Thorny’s pic to a buddy who runs a vintage porn site, and he wants to buy the rights to your photo.”
“But it’s not mine,” Da’Quarius said. “It’s Helen’s. She don’t even know I borrowed it. She’s been busy screamin’ ’bout some Jew that wants her money.”
“They’ll do that,” Hessman said. “Just talk to him. It’s not like she’ll miss the photo anyway. You said the box you found it in looked untouched for decades.”
“Dat’s true,” Da’Quarius said. “Where dis buddy of yours at? He ain’t workin’ out of a trailer or a storage bin, is he?”
“No,” Mr. Hessman replied. “He owns a dry cleaners in your neighborhood actually.”
There was a bang on the door of Helen’s house. Rose was in the shower and Da’Quarius was at school, so she was forced to mute her soap opera and answer the door. She became even more surly when she saw who was standing on her doorstep.
“We need to talk about this,” Gerald Greenbladt said.
“Say it walking, jerk-off,” Helen said. “I’m not interested.”
“I will take legal action against you,” Gerald said, making Helen slow her closing of the door. “I know there’s an inheritance, and I’m owed my share.”
“You’re owed?” Helen asked. “You’re an afterthought of my father. You should have dripped down your mother’s leg and washed down the shower drain. You should be grateful my father didn’t pull out in time. Otherwise, you wouldn’t exist to do your Jewish Danny Devito impression on my doorstep.”
“You’re not helping yourself here,” Gerald said.
“I guess not,” Helen said. “I’m sure your lawyer will be in touch. Cousin of yours?”
“Nephew actually,” Gerald replied.
“Right,” Helen said. “Bring the whole family. I’ll fire up my oven.” Helen slammed the door.
Da’Quarius looked at the picture of Thorny in his darkened bedroom. He was going to bring it to Hessman’s vintage porn buddy (who also happened to be his friend, Flounder’s, father) to see what he could get for it the following day after school. This may be the last night he had with the picture.
“Alright, Thorny,” Da’Quarius said, pulling his boxers down under the covers. “Let’s do this one last time.”
“How’d yo dad get in da porn business?” Da’Quarius asked his friend, Flounder. They were headed towards the back room of Flounder’s father’s dry cleaners. Da’Quarius became familiar with this are when he used to sell bootleg DVDs for Mr. Kwang.
“I dunno,” Flounder said, shrugging. “He just does these things. I didn’t know that Mr. Hessman was involved with it too.” He shuddered.
“Good afternoon,” Mr. Kwang said warmly as Flounder led Da’Quarius to the back room. He seemed to forgive and forget that Da’Quarius’ selling of his bootlegs had gone awry. He was tall, had dark black, thinning hair, and a serious look on his face that only changes when he’s greeting customers. “I have been told that you have something for me to appraise.”
“I don’t even know if I’m gonna sell these pictures,” Da’Quarius said. He still had qualms about selling something that wasn’t his.
“Please.” Mr. Kwang said. “Don’t you try to hustle me. I’ll pay you fairly. Let me see the photo.”
Da’Quarius pulled the photo from his backpack and handed and placed it on the table in front of Mr. Kwang. “Be careful wit dat,” he said. “You can see dis one, but dere’s four more.”
Mr. Kwang already had gloves on and a magnifying glass in his eye. He held the picture close, observing it. “It doesn’t look like this was properly stored, but most of these aren’t,” he said. “The fact that this appears to be a ‘found photo’ puts value on it. Where did you get this?”
“I found it in my attic,” Da’Quarius said. “Some chick sent this to my mother when she was in prison.”
“So no one else has ever seen this?” Mr. Kwang said, looking up. “I won’t find your pictures anywhere else?”
“Not that I know of,” Da’Quarius replied.
“This is very good,” Mr. Kwang said. “Vintage porn is beloved by those who appreciate nude photos from a time before they became so commonplace. Each era has a different type and feel to its respected nude photo. Whether your are in the mood for something from the ‘peace and love’ era of the sixties or the roaring twenties, vintage nudes can take you back to that particular era.”
“So how much you willin’ to give me fo dat pic?” Da’Quarius asked, snapping Mr. Kwang from his trance-like stare.
“I will pay you two hundred for your set of five,” Mr. Kwang said. “Based on the quality and age of it.”
“Wow,” Flounder said, his mouth agape.
“Two hundred?” Da’Quarius said. “Make it five hundred an’ four percent on da back end.”
“What does that mean?” Mr. Kwang asked. “The back end?”
“It means I get four percent of what you make off this picture,” Da’Quarius replied.
“Do you have any idea what I would have to do to figure that out?” Mr. Kwang asked.
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “You look it up on da computer an’ pay my black ass four percent.”
“The price is a little steep,” Mr. Kwang said.
“Dat’s a steal at a hundred bucks a picture,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m not even sure if I wanna be sellin’ somethin’ I found in da biddy’s attic.”
“Fine,” Mr. Kwang said, rolling his eyes. “Five hundred and four percent.”
“I knew it was worth more than two!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “You got a deal.”
“Excellent,” Mr. Kwang said, taking the pictures. “It’ll be up tonight on my site as an exclusive: Mr. Kwang’s Vintage Nudes Daily dot com.”
“You put our last name on your porno site too?!” groaned Flounder.
Rose sat at the dining room table, playing on her laptop while Helen napped on her big chair. There was still time before Da’Quarius came home from school, so she decided to play for a bit. She clicked out of her Facebook page and typed in a website from memory. She muttered the words “Mr. Kwang’s Vintage Nudes Daily” as she typed it in. The smile on her face faded after a few clicks.
“Helen,” Rose said. “Wake up.”
Helen groaned in her sleep, and swatted the air between Rose and herself.
“This is important,” Rose said. “I need you to come over here right now.”
“Fine!” Helen snapped, getting up. “You better be on fire or bleeding to death right now, Rose.”
“I need you to look at this picture I found on the internet,” Rose said, turning her laptop towards Rose when she got to the table.
Helen put her glasses on and squinted at the screen. “Nice tits,” Helen said. “Not a bad bush either. What are you doing looking at this stuff?”
“Notice anything about this picture?” Rose asked.
Helen squinted again. “She kind of looks like you,” she said. “A young Rose. Nice.”
“That is a young Rose!” Rose said. “Someone found those pictures I sent you when you were in prison and put them on the internet!”
Helen’s eyes grew wide. “I thought I got rid of all that stuff!” she said. “How the hell is it on the computer?!”
Paulie was helping his line of customers when he spotted someone he didn’t want to see from the corner of his eye. It was Gerald Greenbladt once again. He hadn’t heard from the little weasel in a few days, and he had hoped that Helen threatening to march him into the oven was enough to deter him from making any more waves.
“Good afternoon,” Gerald said. There was a young man standing beside him with a full, black beard, and balding head. “This is my nephew, the lawyer.”
“Unless you and your nephew, the lawyer, want a pizza, you’re going to have to leave,” Paulie said. “I am very busy, and I don’t have time for your nonsense.”
“My name is Edmond Greenbladt,” Gerald’s nephew said. “You don’t have to call me ‘the lawyer’, even though I am a very good one.”
“Are those the Jewish mooks?” Tony said, coming out of the kitchen. “You guys still sniffin’ Paulie’s ass for that wad of hundreds he keeps up there?”
“Get outta here!” Paulie shouted. “I don’t need you talking to these creeps and getting them all riled up.”
“You know he keeps a lump of coal up there too?” Tony said, being ushered away by Paulie. “He’s hoping it’ll turn into a diamond. I think he’s more Jewish than Italian. You guys might actually be twins!”
“We’ve done our research,” Gerald’s lawyer nephew said, ignoring Tony. “It turns out that you’re not even Anthony Ventriglio’s biological son. You’re his grandson. You have no right to his inheritance.”
“Congrats!” Paulie exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air. “If your stunad uncle paid the least bit of attention, then you would know that my pop didn’t give me a stinkin’ dime. You’re barking up the wrong tree.”
“That would entitle me to a fifty-fifty split with his sister!” Gerald said, excitedly.
“Hold on, uncle Gerry,” Edmond said. “We need to talk to her and verify that there was in fact an inheritance to split.”
“Which there isn’t,” Paulie said. “If you don’t leave in ten seconds I’m calling the cops.”
“On what grounds?” Gerald asked.
“They touched my johnny!” Tony shouted from the kitchen.
“His johnny?” Edmond asked. “Really?”
“The old one offered me a twenty if I let him suck me off!” Tony shouted, a large smile on his face.
“Those grounds,” Paulie said, smiling. “Now get the fuck out of my place of business.”
Da’Quarius and Mr. Hessman sat across from principal Johnston, waiting to hear his latest angry outburst. The florescent light shone off his mostly bald head as he sighed loudly. “This isn’t good, Mr. Masters,” he said. “A student’s mother complained about your report. Seems it was perverse and degrading towards women.”
“She just didn’t get it,” Da’Quarius said. “Sexting is a big part of our culture now. I showed how it used to work before…”
“I read a copy of your report,” Johnston said, sneering. “I’m leaning more towards perversion and degradation myself. What do you have to say about this, Hessman? You gave this report an A.”
“A plus,” Mr. Hessman corrected.
“You should have failed him!” Principal Johnston roared.
“I have a few concerns about your interpretation of Da’Quarius’ report,” Mr. Hessman said. “One: All photos presented were edited for graphic content. Two: There were no obscenities written in the report or spoken during its presentation. Three: The letters read were clearly stated that they were from a woman to a woman, so there are no grounds for your ‘degradation’ remark. And Four: Da’Quarius asked permission to do this report before he even started, I gave him the OK, it was finely written and presented, and he earned the grade he received.”
Da’Quarius beamed as Principal Johnston stuttered a point that just would not come out.
“Do you have an issue with the way I graded my student?” Mr. Hessman asked. “Because if you do, I can have my union steward in here to discuss how we grade and punish our students. I have him on speed dial. Would you like me to call him?”
“No,” Principal Johnston said, sitting back in his chair, defeated. “That won’t be necessary. You both can go.”
“Thank you,” Mr. Hessman said, rising from his chair. “Come on, Da’Quarius. You’re going to miss lunch if you don’t hurry along.”
“One more thing,” Principal Johnston said, a smile curling his lip. “I mailed a copy of the report in its entirety to your mothers.”
Da’Quarius stared for a moment. “Aw shit.”
Da’Quarius returned home as soon as school ended. He was hoping there’d be a miracle, and he’d somehow get to the copy of the report Principal Johnston sent home before Rose or Helen found it, but when he entered the house he found them sitting on the couch, waiting for him.
“Hi,” Da’Quarius said, nonchalantly.
“Sit down,” Rose said sternly. Da’Quarius got nervous. He rarely heard Rose talk in such a way before.
“What’s goin’ on?” Da’Quarius asked, sitting in the seat across from his mothers.
“Helen and I were up in the attic,” Rose said. “It seems someone has been going through her stuff. Some letters and pictures were missing. Do you know anything about this?”
Da’Quarius looked down at his hands. They knew everything. “Yes,” he admitted.
“Don’t sugar coat it!” Helen said. “We know you’ve been going through my shit, we know you did a report on it at school, and we know you put Rose’s picture on the internet!”
“Wait,” Da’Quarius said, looking up. “Dat wasn’t Rose’s picture. Dat came from your stuff from Havenville.”
“That’s a picture of Rose!” Helen snapped.
“Helen…” Rose moaned, putting her head in her hand.
Da’Quarius eyes grew wide. “Wait,” he said. “It said her name was Thorny.”
“My name is Rose,” Rose said. “When I wrote the letters I was ‘Thorny’.”
“Oh my gawd!” Da’Quarius exclaimed, trying to remember how many times he pleasured himself the the picture before selling it to Mr. Kwang. He felt stupid for not catching the obvious pun. “What the Hell?!”
“Don’t you play this bullshit game!” Helen snapped. “What were you thinking putting that on the internet.”
“I didn’t know it was Rose,” Da’Quarius said. “If I did, I wouldn’t have sold it to Mr. Kwang.”
“You sold it?!” Rose said, looking up.
“You and this little Jew bastard that’s been Jewwing up Paulie and me,” Helen said, getting up. “You all want to steal from me and fatten up your own wallets. Madon! A couple of shylocks if you ask me!” Helen stormed off into the kitchen.
“I’m really disappointed with you,” Rose said, getting up, tears forming in her eyes. “I just want you to know that.” She followed Helen into the other room.
“I know, Rose,” Da’Quarius said softly, looking down at the floor again. “I know.
The hours passed in silence in the house on Freedom Lane. Da’Quarius stayed in his room, not even daring to leave for dinner. Rose and Helen didn’t bother to call him down to eat. It was the lowest he’d felt since he came to live under their roof. He heard Rose and Helen’s bedroom door close softly, and he figured he’d be able to sneak downstairs for something to eat before trying to sleep.
When he went downstairs, he was surprised to see Rose still awake, fiddling away at her computer. “Hi, Da’Quarius,” Rose said.
“I’m sorry,” Da’Quarius said. “I thought you guys went to sleep.”
“Helen did,” Rose said. “She usually tries to wait for me, but I’ve been emailing all night.”
“What are you doin’?” Da’Quarius asked.
“I’m trying to get my picture taken off this site,” Rose said. “But the guy who runs it won’t do it because you signed the rights away, and he wants some kind of proof that it’s actually me. I’m sure if I get a lawyer…”
“I’m really sorry about all of dis,” Da’Quarius said. “I messed up bad. I understand if you an’ Helen ship me back to da orphanage.”
“No,” Rose said, looking up from her computer. “We would never… Well, Helen suggested it a few times, but I would never let her!”
“Even after what I did?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Of course,” Rose replied. “Come and sit with me for a bit. I think we need to talk about what’s happened.”
“You know what I was thinkin’ ’bout?” Da’Quarius asked. “You told me dat you met Helen when you guys were in yo fifties. How did Helen have a picture of you when you was like twenty?”
Rose sighed. “Da’Quarius,” she started. “You’ll understand some of this when you’re older. Sometimes grownups get urges to do things that they know is wrong, but they can’t help themselves. For some people; it may be foot stuff. For others; it’s being whipped.”
“You talkin’ ’bout fetishes?” Da’Quarius asked. “Cuz dere was dis woman from da orphanage who got fired when a video went on the internet of a dude pissin’ on her face.”
Rose sighed again. “Yes, I am talking about fetishes,” she said. “As soon as I was eighteen, my father would marched all of his old army buddies in front of me in hopes I’d marry one. I rebelled by conversing with prison inmates through a pen-pal program. My fetish was writing dirty letters and getting responses from the female inmates. After a while, I started sending some pictures, but only to Helen.”
“But that’s the part I was askin’ about,” Da’Quarius said. “You said you guys met in your fifties, an’ now you’re sayin’ you was younger.”
“We did meet in our fifties,” Rose explained. “She tried to track me down when she got out, but all she had was a fake name and a P.O. Box. If the internet was around she could have found me in a minute, but we didn’t run into each other until many years later.”
“Dat’s crazy,” Da’Quarius said.
“It’s not something I’m that proud of doing,” Rose said. “But it brought me to Helen.”
“Wow,” Da’Quarius said. “So how did you find the picture online?”
Rose shrugged. “I like vintage pictures,” she said. “They’re tasteful most of the time.”
“I can get dat picture back probably,” Da’Quarius said. “Mr. Kwang is Flounder’s father.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Rose said, smiling. “It’s kind of hot that it’s out there.”
“Goddam, biddy,” Da’Quarius said, shaking his head.
“Let’s get this over with,” Helen said, sitting down with Paulie. They had agreed to a final meeting with Gerald Greenbladt before he would apparently sue Helen for his inheritance. They decided to meet in a public office space. “I’m tired of everyone with their damn hands in my pockets for shit they didn’t earn. First it was this little weasel, then Da’Quarius is selling my old pictures to the internet.”
“Let’s get this out of the way,” Paulie said. “Then you can tell me about what the kid did.”
“He sold my nude pictures of Rose to the internet,” Helen said. Before Paulie could flip out, the door opened, and Gerald came in with his lawyer nephew, Edmond.
“Good afternoon,” Edmond said. “I’m glad we can meet before we take this to the next step.”
“We’re not taking anything anywhere,” Helen said. “There’s no money for you, and I refuse to chit chat with you filthy grease-balls.”
“I am your brother!” Gerald exclaimed. I am owed…”
“Oh you’re my brother?” Helen asked, interrupting Gerald’s normal rant. “I don’t see any proof other than your claim that my dad gave your mother a quick slam, probably in the back of a station wagon.”
“Yeah,” Paulie added. “Aren’t these things done with a blood test of some kind?”
“We can get a lab to…” Edmond began.
“I can get some DNA right here,” Helen said, reaching in her purse and taking out a small revolver. “Blood is OK, right?”
“Is that…?!” Edmond said, startled out of his chair.
“Can we use the DNA from the shit in your shorts?” Helen asked. Gerald and Edmond were both backing out of the room, slowly. “Now that I finally have your attention, let me tell you a few things. There is no inheritance. My father was killed by the men who employed him for being a snitch. Do you really think they’d leave a dime or a morsel? Come on. Use that pea-sized brain under your yamaka.”
“If you come near me or my family again, I will end you,” Helen said. “Do the math… Or get one of your nephews who is an accountant to do it for you. Now fuck off for good.”
“You haven’t heard the last of us!” Edmond said.
“You wanna bet?” Helen asked, picking the gun up once more. “That could be the last of you if you’d like it to be.”
Gerald and Edmond left without another word.
“I’m happy we’re finally done with those two,” Paulie said.
“Assuming they stay gone,” Helen said. “Those people are like cockroaches. Just pray they’re the last.”
“What are you talking about?” Paulie asked.
“That Gerald asshole could have been one of five possible kids sniffing around for dad’s money,” Helen said.
“Brushing aside Pop’s assorted bastards,” Paulie said. “What ever happened to his money?”
“It’s in a box in my basement,” Helen said. “I’m only supposed to use it if it’s absolutely needed. I’ve never needed a dime of it, and neither did you. I was going to give it to you to open your restaurant, but you didn’t need it either. I wish you did, seeing how you ended up with the money.”
Paulie nodded sadly. He got the money from his dead fiancé’s fatal car accident. “But what are you going to do with a box full of money?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Helen said. “Maybe I’ll send the kid to college with it if I don’t kill him first.”
Paulie laughed. “Speaking of Da’Quarius; what the hell did he do now? He took nude photos of Rose?!”
“So Rose forgave you?” Paulie asked, sitting with Da’Quarius and splitting a pie at Paulie’s Pizza.
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “I used the money I made to send Rose and Helen on an elaborate and expensive date. It took me an entire week to plan it. Rose forgave me and moved on, but Helen still looks at me funny. I guess it wasn’t enough for her.”
“She’s a tough old bat,” Paulie agreed. “I’m sure she’ll come around though.”
“I know,” Da’Quarius replied. “I just wish there was something I could do to help smooth this over now.”
“Hey,” Paulie said, coming up with an idea. “What were your friends names who crashed at my house that time?”
“You mean Vern and Eddard?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Yeah,” Paulie replied. “Those mooks. You got their number? I think I know a way to get back into my sister’s good graces.”
“So now we take them to court?” Gerald asked, sitting in one of the guest chairs of his nephew’s office. “I’d love to throw in Helen’s threats of violence against her to get my inheritance.”
“Look, Uncle Gerry,” Edmond said, talking through folded fingers. “I think you should call it quits with these people. You told me there was an inheritance, and I haven’t been able to find anything that says any of this exists.”
“I can’t give up now,” Gerald said, throwing his hands. “They have it hidden somewhere. You know how these old Italians hate banks. I bet that old bitch has a mattress stuffed full of money somewhere. And you really think she’ll make good on those violent threats?”
“WHERE DA FUCK IS DAT GERALD BITCH?!” A large, black man said, rushing into the office.
“Dere he at!” the smaller one yelled. “He in da office with da littler bitch.”
“Can I help you?” Edmond asked.
“I got a message for you mutha fuckers,” the smaller one said, pulling a knife from his pocket and jamming it into the desk. “You leave my two friends alone, or we gonna come and take some of yo fingers off.”
“Edmond…” Gerald moaned.
“I told you to stop bothering those people,” Edmond said.
“You gotdamn right you gonna stop bothering them!” the bigger one said. “We out. You best listen to us.”
“Or we will be back,” the smaller one said. The two left through the door.
“I think it’s time to give this up,” Gerald said.
“You think?” Edmond asked, crossing his arms.
“Hold up,” the smaller thug said, coming back into the office. “Umma need dat knife back.”