Freedom Lane: Father Figger
“It’s the History Channel!” Helen snapped. “God forbid something intelligent gets past those dreadlocks and into your vulgar brain.”
“Dis show is ’bout Bigfoot,” Da’Quarius said. “Unless he shot Kennedy, dis ain’t history!”
“This is a good program!” Helen snapped back.
“Please,” Rose said. “Can we just watch the show?”
“Alright, dear,” Helen said, putting a hand on Rose’s knee.
“Although, they never seem to find any concrete evidence, do they?” Rose asked. “It’s these guys just making up ways to track Bigfoot as they go. That guy was setting out donuts for him a minute ago!”
“I didn’t say a word when you made us watch that goddam Golden Girls marathon when it was your turn to pick a show,” Helen muttered.
“Yes you did,” Rose replied. “You kept going back and forth, calling Blanche a whore and a ‘fine piece of aged ass’.”
Helen cackled. “May she rest in piece,” she said, making the sign of the cross. “On my face.”
“Helen!” Rose said. Da’Quarius laughed.
“Now shut your mouths and let me watch my show,” Helen said. Rose and Da’Quarius abided, and Rose returned to rubbing Helen’s ear as the Bigfoot trackers went back to work. They stayed quiet until something fell in Helen’s lap.
“Oh my God,” Rose said, shifting in her seat.
Da’Quarius turned to see what startled Rose. “Da fuck is dat?!” he exclaimed.
“Holy shit,” Helen said, looking in her lap. “Is that my fuckin’ ear? No wonder it’s been aching for the last few weeks or so.”
“You mean when I told you to wear your ear muffs so you wouldn’t get frostbite while you were supervising Da’Quarius’ snow shoveling?” Rose asked.
Helen laughed. “There’s only one kind of muff I care about, and it doesn’t go on my ears,” she said.
“You said dat then too,” Da’Quarius said. “I think you need to be more worried ’bout yo ear fallin’ off. You should get to da hospital.”
“Bah!” Helen said, waving a hand at Da’Quarius. “Remember my friend, Bev, who I used to go to the market with? Her asshole fell out. I’ll go to the hospital when that happens.”
“Come on, Helen,” Rose said, standing up. “He’s right. Let’s get you to the hospital.”
“Damn thing hasn’t worked right in years, anyway,” Helen said, ignoring the worried tone in Rose’s voice. She picked up here ear and started shaking it. “Where’s that damn dog? Come here, doggy. You want a treat?”
“No!” Da’Quarius shouted as his light brown pitbull terrier, Dutchie, jumped up from his spot on the couch next to Da’Quarius, rushing across the short distance to Helen, and putting his paws on her lap.
“Good boy,” Helen said. “Here you go.” Dutchie snatched the ear from Helen and ran off with it.
“Dammit, Helen,” Da’Quarius said, getting to his feet. “You cain’t let my dog eat human flesh. He gonna get da taste for biddy meat an’ start tryin’ to eat old ladies at da park! Dutchie! Come, boy! Drop it!”
“Get the ear from him, and we’ll get it on ice!” Rose said, running into the kitchen.
“Damn worry-warts,” Helen said. Her glasses fell off onto her lap. She looked down at them, realizing there was no longer a left ear to keep them on. “Oh dammit all to hell!”
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Season 4 Finale: Father Figger
“How’s the new ear?” Da’Quarius asked Helen, coming downstairs on a Saturday morning. Helen was given a prosthetic ear to replace the one she recently lost to frostbite (and then Dutchie’s stomach).
“Better than my old one!” Helen said, smiling. “I should have ripped that thing off my head years ago!”
“Dat’s awesome!” Da’Quarius said.
“It’s the pain killers,” Rose said. “She was half-deaf out of that ear anyway.”
“I did not hit the dog!” Helen snapped before popping a pill in her mouth and chasing it with a sip of prune juice.
“Why don’t you take Dutchie for a walk and check the mail?” Helen asked. “I’m sure the fresh air will do you both some good.”
“Sounds like a plan, biddy,” Da’Quarius said. “Come here, boy!” Dutchie danced around Da’Quarius, eager to get outside and lift his leg on any object unlucky enough for him to come across. His jumping and playing doubled once Da’Quarius opened the door to find a man there.
“CALL THE POLICE!” Helen screamed. “THEY’RE HERE FOR US!”
“Calm down!” Rose said, moving past Helen towards the door. “Wait until we see what he wants until we call the police on him.”
Rose approached the man in the door. He was black, around five and a half feet tall, and a small gut pushing out his button-down shirt, and a small afro on top of his head. “Hi,” he said nervously. “I don’t mean to cause any trouble.”
“Where’s my gun?!” Helen exclaimed, nearly falling out of her chair. “Keister your jewelry, Rose!”
“My name is D’Lo Marten,” the man at the door said. “I don’t mean to intrude on your family, but I wanted to see my son, Da’Quarius.”
Da’Quarius stood and stared as Dutchie playfully jumped and barked at D’Lo. “Da fuck you just say?!”
“How many times are we going to do this?” Helen asked, sitting at the dining room table with Rose with her tunafish sandwich in front of her. Da’Quarius went out for lunch with the man who claimed to be his father (Rose and Helen had both protested, but Da’Quarius insisted he’d be fine).
“We adopted a child,” Rose said. “You had to have known his real parents were out there somewhere.”
“No,” Helen said. “I mean this whole situation. First it was Paulie’s real father, then it was the kid’s piece of shit mother, then there’s some little yid who thinks he’s my brother, and now the kid’s father shows up at our door.”
“I don’t know what your getting at,” Rose said.
“I’m saying that this particular situation seems to keep coming up over and over again,” Helen said. “I don’t know. Maybe I should just get used to estranged relatives popping in and our of our lives from now on.”
“Are you worried about Da’Quarius?” Rose asked.
“He’s a big boy,” Helen said. “He’s always been a step ahead of most of what life throws at him. I wouldn’t worry too much about this D’Lo character kidnapping him or anything.”
“I wasn’t worried about Da’Quarius getting kidnapped,” Rose said, her eyes growing wide.
“Are you worried about a kidnapping now?” Helen asked.
“Yes,” Rose replied.
“Then you shouldn’t have let him go out alone with a strange man,” Helen said. “Pass the mustard.”
“So what do you do?” Da’Quarius asked. He went with D’Lo to a hotdog place on State Street, not too far from Paulie’s Pizza. He didn’t want Paulie to see that his father was trying to weasel his way back into his life just yet.
“For work?” D’Lo asked.
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “I haven’t heard the name D’Lo Marten during any Jet or Knick games, but you could always play for a team I know nuttin’ ’bout.”
“I don’t understand,” D’Lo said. “I don’t play professional sports.”
“You don’t play professional sports?!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “Da fuck you abandonin’ kids for?!”
“Calm down,” D’Lo said, looking around to see who was staring at them. “You have a lot of your mother in you.”
“How’d a straight-laced nigga like you end up with a hardcore bitch like Lotasha anyway?” Da’Quarius asked.
“How does anyone meet anyone?” D’Lo asked, shrugging. “And don’t use that word again.”
“What word?” Da’Quarius asked. “Nigga?”
“Yes,” D’Lo replied. “That word.”
“Shit,” Da’Quarius said, leaning back in his chair and looking away. “Wha’chu say you did for a livin’?”
“In short,” D’Lo began. “I work for a software sales company with bases in Hartford and Boston. I travel all over, presenting our products to companies, and…”
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “Now I know how you got Lotasha knocked up. You tol’ her dat story, then took care of her while she was sleepin’.”
“You asked me what I did,” D’Lo said. “Not every job is as exciting as a football player.”
“Yeah?” Da’Quarius said. “An’ not every job sucks dick like bein’ a software jockey.”
“I understand your hostility towards me,” D’Lo said. “I wasn’t there for the first thirteen years of your life, and then I come to your house out of the blue. The truth is that I never married or settled down because of my job on the road. My own mother died last year, making you the only family I have, and we’ve never even spoken. I know, it’s pathetic.”
“No,” Da’Quarius said. “I didn’t mean to act like an asshole. Lotasha came back not too long ago and tried to fuck up my new life. She even got my unca Paulie on Maury to take a blood test on two kids that weren’t even his. Dere wasn’t even a chance. Little niglets were black as night!”
“Niglets?” D’Lo asked.
“Sorry,” Da’Quarius replied. “Little shits. Anyway, I gotta keep my guard up for shit like dat. Not everyone is on da level.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” D’Lo said. “Is there any way I can meet your whole family? Uncle and all? I’d really like for them to get to know me.”
“We gettin’ together for dinner tonight,” Da’Quarius said. “I’ll call Rose an’ Helen an’ see if it’s OK.”
Rose was relieved when Da’Quarius called and asked if D’Lo could come by for their dinner with Paulie. She had been pacing the house and cursing herself for letting Da’Quarius leave with the strange man who came to their door ever since Helen pointed out that he could be a kidnapper. It wasn’t exactly odd for an estranged parent to kidnap a child they were forcefully separated from. “I worked for the police department, for God’s sake!” she said.
“Are you still going on about that?” Helen asked. “The kid called. He’s safe. Calm yourself down and get dinner in the oven already.”
The front door opened and Rose jumped. Paulie came inside. “Hello, ladies,” he said, hanging up his coat and scarf on the coat-tree near the front door. He handed Rose a bottle of wine. “Is the kid here too?”
“He’s on his way,” Rose said. “Look, Paulie. There’s something you have to know about. Sit down.”
“Madon,” Paulie said. “What happened now? Is everyone OK?”
“Everyone is fine,” Rose replied. “I just don’t want there to be any surprises tonight. Da’Quarius’ father is going to be joining us for dinner.”
“What?” Paulie said. “His father?”
“His father,” Helen said, starting to sound more surly than before. “You think he’ll be mad that you banged his baby-mamma?”
“Helen!” Rose said.
“I’m just saying that I would be upset,” Helen said. “That’s all.”
“Let’s back up a second,” Paulie said. “What’s the kid’s father doing here?”
“That’s what I was saying to Rose earlier,” Helen said. “Why do all these mystery relations keep popping up in our lives? Do we really have nothing else going on that we have to keep dealing with this same situation? It’s not just me, right?”
“It doesn’t happen that often,” Rose said. “And it’s not the same situation every time.”
“If you say so,” Helen said. “I’ll start the countdown until the next one shows up.”
“Slow down,” Paulie said. “The kid doesn’t have a father.”
Helen got up and walked to Paulie. “If you’re suggesting that Thad kid’s scumbag mother is the Virgin Mary, and that Da’Quarius is the son of God; you can take your blasphemy right out of my house,” Helen said, pointing at the door.
“That’s not what I meant, Helen,” Paulie said. “Oh, Madon.”
“He’s always had a father,” Rose said. “He just hasn’t been here until now. It sounds like he just wants to connect with his son.”
“OK,” Paulie said. He got up and walked towards the dining room.
“What?” Rose asked, getting up and following . “I know that look. Helen does the same thing. Something’s bothering you.”
“Nothing is bothering me,” Paulie said. “Let it go.”
“No,” Rose said. “You’re jealous that Da’Quarius may have another father figure in his life now, aren’t you?”
“No I’m not,” Paulie said.
“Yes you are,” Rose said, concerned. “You don’t have to be. I know Da’Quarius always looked up to you as role model, and you’ve been doing a great job.”
“I’m no father to that kid,” Paulie said.
“You don’t have to be a father,” Rose said. “You’re really great at being an uncle.”
“Oh stop it,” Helen said, getting up and sitting at the dining room table. “Open that wine, pour me a glass, and get my dinner in the oven. I’ll have no more of this Brady Bunch bullshit. You’ll have me heaving before I even get my damn dinner inside me!”
“Thank you so much for having me for dinner,” D’Lo said, cutting into his chicken. “Everything looks delicious.”
“It’s not a problem,” Rose said. “Were happy to have you.”
“I can’t even remember the last time I had a home-cooked meal,” D’Lo said.
“You’re so well spoken,” Helen said sarcastically.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” D’Lo asked.
“Cut the shit,” Helen said. “You can hear how the kid talks, and his mother was worse than him. Stop trying to talk like us. You’re not impressing anyone.”
“Like you?” D’Lo asked.
“Yeah,” Helen replied, giving D’Lo the stink-eye. “Like us.”
“Ignore her,” Rose said, putting her fork down. “She recently had an ear replacement, and she’s a bit cranky while she’s healing.”
“She always like dat,” Da’Quarius said, picking at his chicken. Rose looked over at him, trying to figure out why he was being so quiet.
“So, D’Lo,” Paulie started, putting his own fork and knife down. “You like pizza?”
“For God’s sake!” Helen exclaimed. “Just called him a moulignon already!”
“Helen!” Rose exclaimed. “What on earth do you think Paulie just said?”
“I would never…” Paulie stammered, addressing D’Lo. “I don’t use words like that.”
“Remember what you used to call that guy that delivered the cheese to your pizza place?” Helen asked. “The cheese moulie.”
“That was ten years ago!” Paulie said. “I pick up my own cheese now. I get it fresh three days a week.” He addressed the last two sentences to D’Lo, sitting proudly in his chair.
“So you’re the cheese moulie now?” Helen asked.
“Yes,” Paulie said. “No! Nobody is the cheese moulie!”
“Please stop saying moulie!” Rose shouted.
“I’m going upstairs,” Da’Quarius said.
“Is everything OK?” D’Lo asked, turning towards Da’Quarius.
“I’m fine,” Da’Quarius said. “I just remembered ’bout some homework I forgot. I’ll see you later.” He left without saying goodnight to everyone, went upstairs to his room, and closed the door.
Helen coughed and took a sip of her wine. “Look at what you did, D’Lo.”
Rose gently knocked on Da’Quarius’ bedroom door once D’Lo and Paulie left. “Da’Quarius?” she asked softly. “Can I come in?”
“Sure,” Da’Quarius said. “Come on in.”
“Do you want to talk about what happened today?” Rose asked, coming into his room and sitting on the side of his bed. Dutchie looked up at Rose from his spot at the foot of the bed before putting it back down.
“Which part do you wanna talk ’bout?” Da’Quarius asked. “Unca Paulie actin’ weird as fuck ’round my dad, Helen being racist as fuck ’round my dad, or… oh yeah… the fact that my dad is ’round here at all?!”
Rose didn’t know what to say. It was an odd day capped off with a disastrous dinner. “They all mean well,” Rose said. “I think Paulie is just a little taken aback that he’s may not be the only male figure in your life, and you know Helen. She doesn’t trust him, and this is her defense mechanism.”
“She don’t trust any black people,” Da’Quarius said. “She refused to go to checkout line cuz she thought the black bagger would pocket her groceries.”
“This is different than Helen’s usual mild racism,” Rose said. “She’s worried about you. She doesn’t want to see D’Lo do what Lotasha did.”
“I don’t think Unca Paulie is gullible enough to think he knocked up D’Lo,” Da’Quarius said.
“I don’t know,” Rose said. “Paulie has surprised us all before.”
Da’Quarius laughed. “I just don’t know whether I should let him come ’round any more. He’s just from a different world dan da rest of us. We’re street smart, and he’s a white collar guy.”
“What do you want, Da’Quarius?” Rose asked. “If you want your father in your life we’ll do whatever it takes to make it work. Paulie and Helen will come around eventually.”
Da’Quarius thought for a moment. “Let’s keep him ’round for a bit,” he said. “Just to see what da guy is all about.”
“OK,” Rose said. “We’ll keep him around. If you want him gone…”
“I’ll get Helen,” Da’Quarius finished.
“Sounds like a good plan,” Rose said. “Goodnight, Da’Quarius.”
“Goodnight,” Da’Quarius said.
Rose left the room and closed the door. She walked down the hall towards her own bedroom. “This won’t end well.”
“So I work here on Saturdays,” Da’Quarius said, leading his father into Paulie’s Pizza on State Street. “I don’t get to cook, doe. Mostly dishes an’ moppin’ an’ shit.”
“Does your uncle pay you well?” D’Lo asked.
“He don’t pay me at all,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m learnin’ da business.”
“Oh,” D’Lo said. “It sounds like your uncle is using you for free labor. Like a slave.”
“It ain’t like dat,” Da’Quarius said.
“Hey, fellas!” Pauile exclaimed, coming from his office. He was holding a football and wearing a Giants hat turned backwards. “I thought that was you.”
“Hi,” D’Lo said. “You usually play football inside of your pizzeria?”
“No,” Paulie said, laughing. “I was just wondering if you wanted to head to the alley behind my place and toss the ol’ pigskin around.”
“Do you mean me?” D’Lo asked. “Or Da’Qaurius?”
Paulie blinked a couple times. “Da’Quarius of course,” he said.
“We ain’t never played football in da alley,” Da’Quarius said.
“Hey, kid,” Tony said, coming from the kitchen. He was wiping his hands on his filthy apron. “This must be your father, Dildo. You guys want a slice?”
“D’Lo,” Paulie corrected, looking at his friend and employee. “I said his name is D’Lo.”
“No,” Tony said. “I’m sure you said Dildo. I was going to question it, but then you gave me the spiel about how blacks names don’t mean the same in English.”
“I speak English,” D’Lo said.
“Alright, Professor Dildo,” Tony said, holding his hands up. “I didn’t know I was in the presence of a scholar all of the sudden.”
“It’s ‘all of a sudden’,” D’Lo said.
“That’s what I said,” Tony retorted. “All of the sudden.”
“The expression is ‘all of a sudden’,” D’Lo said. “You sound like a moron when you say it the other way.”
“Hey, tough guy,” Tony said, taking his apron off. “You think I’d sound like a moron when I’m bustin’ up your face?”
“Probably,” D’Lo said, shrugging. “Would you like to give it a shot and find out?”
“Outside!” Tony said.
“Let’s do this,” D’Lo said calmly, following Tony out.
“Unca Paulie?” Da’Quarius asked once Tony and D’Lo were outside.
“Yeah?” a stunned Paulie asked.
“You still wanna toss that football in da alley?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Sure do,” Paulie said. “But you can watch your father beat some sense into Tony if you’d like.”
“OK,” Da’Quarius said, smiling. “Dat sounds better.”
“You know you deserved that,” Paulie said.
“Shaddup and give me that steak,” Tony said, reaching out to Paulie. He was sitting in one of the booths, nursing the bruises he received from D’Lo moments earlier while Paulie, Da’Quarius, and anyone walking down State Street watched.
“I only have the good steaks left,” Paulie said. “Will a raw chicken do?”
“Fine,” Tony said, snatching it from Paulie and holding it against the side of his head. “How’d the other guy look when I got done with him?”
“He looked good, considering you didn’t land a single blow,” Paulie said. “I thought you knew how to take care of yourself in a scrap.”
“I usually do,” Tony said. “But that mook was fast. Must’ve had some boxing training or something.”
“Yeah,” Paulie said, looking out the window. “Must’ve been something like that.”
“Let me ask you something,” Tony said. “What’s your problem with this guy?”
“What do you mean?” Paulie asked.
“That crap with the football earlier,” Tony said. “You’ve been acting weird since dinner at your sister’s the other night. You OK with this guy hanging out with the kid?”
“Why would I have a problem with it?” Paulie said. “Besides, if I did, what can I do. It’s his father, after all.”
“Oh,” Tony said. “There it is.”
“What?!” Pauile said, getting up. “Not you too and the ‘male role model’ nonsense. Rose already laid that trip on me.”
“It’s not that,” Tony said. “You never really had a good relationship with your father, so you’re transferring your jealousy onto Da’Quarius. You’re not jealous of D’Lo taking over as the lead male role model in the kid’s life. You’re jealous that the kid is getting a second chance to have a decent father; something that you never had with your pop or your real father.”
Paulie continued to look out the window of his pizzeria, then turned back to Tony. “Dammit, Tony,” he said, sullenly. “We need to get you to a hospital. That guy hit your harder than I thought, because not a word of what you just said made any kind of sense.”
“I’m glad we got to spend a few days together before I have to go,” D’Lo said after the waitress took his plate away. He decided to take Da’Quarius out for burgers before hitting him with the bad news.
“Before you have to go?” Da’Quarius asked. “But where are you going?”
“Germany,” D’Lo said. “My business wants to relocate me to their corporate headquarters in Hamburg for a year and a half.”
“Dat why you took me out for hamburgers?” Da’Quarius asked.
D’Lo laughed. “No,” he said. “I just wanted one good memory of my son before I leave next week.”
“It don’t have to be the last memory,” Da’Quarius said. “We can still keep in touch. Dey got the internet in Germany?”
“I assume so,” D’Lo said, smiling.
“Den we can instant message and Skype,” Da’Quarius said. “We can even talk to da same sexy forty-year-old white bitches on Twitter together.”
“But it won’t be the same as being able to go out for a slice of pizza and watching your old man kick the crap out of an obnoxious Italian guy,” D’Lo said.
“He’s had that comin’ for a while,” Da’Quarius said. “Do dey got racist Italian guys in Germany you can beat up?”
“I’m sure,” D’Lo said. “It’s too bad I can’t take you with me.”
“Why not?” Da’Quarius said. “I got da summer comin’ up. Maybe Germany would be better den spendin’ it wit da biddies. Helen gets really smelly if the AC’s not on, and she screams ’bout da electric company when it is on.”
“I’ll be working during the day,” D’Lo said. “Are you sure you’d be able to get along on your own?”
“Sure I would be,” Da’Quarius said. “I been gettin’ along on my own since my days at the orphanage.”
“I don’t know,” D’Lo said. “I may be your biological father, but Helen and Rose are still your legal guardians. We’d have to talk to them first.”
“How can dey say no?” Da’Quarius said. “Let’s go ask dem right after lunch!”
“Rose!” Helen shouted. “Where’s my pain pill?!”
“You’re all done with your pain pills,” Rose replied. “You need to come down from your most recent dependency.”
“Give me my pills or I’ll burn this house to the ground!” Helen spat.
“I flushed them down the toilet,” Rose said. “You went weeks with dealing with your ear rotting off because you’re too proud to see a doctor. You can deal with a few days of it being sore from the prosthetic now.”
“Damn, I get hot when you put your foot down,” Helen said. “Fuck the pain pills. Let’s go upstairs right now and…”
The door opened and Da’Quarius came in with D’Lo. “Rose!” Helen shouted. “Call the…”
“Police,” Da’Quarius finished. “We know. You already met D’Lo.”
“Don’t mind her,” Rose said. “She’s just like that because she’s off her pain meds.”
“So that’s what it is now,” D’Lo said.
“I told you,” Da’Quarius said. “All the time.”
“Are you going to stay for dinner, D’Lo?” Rose asked. “I’m making a baked ziti.”
“No thank you,” D’Lo said. “Da’Quarius actually wanted to ask you something, and I felt it would be best if I was here when he asked.”
“Oh?” Rose said, sitting next to Helen and putting her hand on top of hers. “What do you need to ask us?”
“Well,” Da’Quarius said, kneading his hands. “D’Lo has to go to Germany for a while for business, and he said it’s OK with him if I went for a bit.”
“Oh,” Rose said, becoming more worried than before he asked.
“Those krauts are insane over there,” Helen said. “You’ll end up with a shaved head, marching through the streets to cleanse the neighborhoods of the inferior races.”
“She realizes that you’re black, right?” D’Lo asked. “Also, she didn’t say that like it’d be a bad thing.”
“It would only be until school starts again in September,” Da’Quarius said. “And I wouldn’t leave until it’s out in June. Please. How many kids get see a foreign country?”
“Tons of them,” Helen replied. “Rose and I just watched a special on human trafficking…”
“Hush,” Rose said, patting Helen’s hand. “I don’t know about this…”
“Come on,” Da’Quarius said. “How many orphan kids get to get know their father. I have dat chance. All I’m askin’ for is the summer.”
Rose looked down. She couldn’t say no. How could she do such a thing to Da’Quarius. Maybe the old cliche was true: If you love something, let it go. “Alright,” Rose said. “Just for the summer. But you have to show me how to talk to you on the computer!”
“Alright,” Da’Quarius said, beaming. There was a scratching and barking from the kitchen.
“Oh,” Rose said, turning. “Dutchie must finally realize that you’re home.”
“I’ll go get him,” Da’Quarius said. “I’ll let him jump all over me before he gets in the house and starts knockin’ shit over.” He ran off through the kitchen.
“Why don’t you head in there with him,” Helen said.
Rose looked at Helen. “But…”
“Just go,” Helen said, kindly. Rose didn’t argue. She followed Da’Quarius into the kitchen.
“He’s a good kid,” D’Lo said. “You guys are doing a good job with him.”
“He was a good kid before we got him,” Helen said. “No thanks to you or his street-walker mother.”
D’Lo chuckled dryly. “I know I haven’t been there for him until now, but I want that to change,” he said. “Thank you for giving me this chance.”
Helen harrumphed, watching D’Lo.
“There’s only one thing,” D’Lo said. “My company only pays for my airfare and accommodations. They are a good company, but notoriously cheap. They only pay for a one bedroom apartment for my entire year and a half long trip out there, and it’s not a good idea for him to share my bed. We can rent a room near mine. I don’t have a ton of money, so I would need it from you and Rose.”
“Uh-huh,” Helen said, still eying D’Lo.
“It was his idea!” D’Lo said, defensively. “I wouldn’t even be asking if he didn’t get himself all worked up about it. You know how he is. I told him I’d have to talk to you two first, but he blurted it out before I could go over the details of this trip. It would probably cost between twelve and fifteen thousand.”
“You’ve finally played your hand,” Helen said.
“Excuse me?” D’Lo asked.
“I’ve been waiting for you to do it,” Helen replied.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” D’Lo said, stepping towards Helen. “Besides, you’ve done nothing but spout incoherent racism at me since I started showing an interest in my son.”
“Oh please,” Helen said. “I may be incoherent and racist at times, but I’m not stupid. Also, Da’Quarius isn’t your son.”
“He is,” D’Lo said.
“Alright,” Helen said, reaching for the phone. “Then how about I call Lotasha over here to get her take on all of this.”
“No!” D’Lo said. “Wait…”
“There it is,” Helen said. “A good conman should know when he’s through, and I got you dead to rights. I’m going to tell you what I think happened here, and I want you to tell me how good my aim is.
“You’ve been searching the news for that article that puts a spark in that con artist head of yours, and you came across a doozie: A thirteen year old orphan put out a book that he found on his seventy-nine year old adoptive mother’s attic, and it was gaining mass popularity. You immediately went to work devising the con to sink your teeth into the money his mother would have surely made him put away for a rainy day.
“You played on an orphan’s natural want to meet his real father. You inserted yourself into his life, and you played the role perfectly. You were stern when you needed to be and embarrassed for him when we made fools of ourselves. When it came time to toss your net; you made sure it was Da’Quarius who tossed it. He’d beg and plead for us to let him use the money from the book’s sale to accompany you to Germany, and we wouldn’t be able to say no.
“Then the day would come when Da’Quarius would be dropped off at the airport, waiting for a plane that would never show up. He’d be out of the money he should have used for college, and you’d be burning through it, looking for another mark and another con.
“I originally assumed that Lotasha had something to do with this. She did try to con my brother into thinking he knocked her up with twins, after all, but she’d be too stupid to do something as smart as not insert herself into all of this nonsense. The fact that you got so squeamish when I threatened to call her tells me one thing: You did reach out to her in some form or another, maybe to gain information, and you now want nothing to do with the bitch.
“How’d I do?”
“Bravo,” D’Lo said. “Almost a perfect score. All you left out was the part where I threaten to take your son unless you give me the fifteen grand anyway. Maybe I up it to twenty-five for the trouble.”
“There is no money, you fool,” Helen retorted. “If you continued to do your research after you had the spark, you would have seen that WOMANHUNT was pulled thanks to some free speech hating feminazis, and they had to issue refunds to nearly everyone who bought it. In the end, we only made out with a couple hundred bucks. We spent it on groceries.
“Don’t beat yourself up too badly. It was a good con, and you performed it well. You just didn’t plan on smart, old bull dagger who’s been around the block a few times herself. Hell, I won’t even call the cops if you just get out of our lives forever.”
“Fine,” D’Lo said. “Just tell me one thing before I go. How’d you know? Lotasha Sherman made it seem like you guys expected his father to show up at some point like she had.”
“One thing tipped me off,” Helen said, holding up a finger. “If you were really the kid’s father, you wouldn’t have shown up until he was playing professional sports and making a few million dollars a year.”
“Damn,” D’Lo said. “That’s some good ol’ fashion racism right there. I can’t argue that logic. Old ladies are usually the easiest targets.”
“I’m not your typical old biddy,” Helen said. “Now get out of my home. I don’t even want you saying goodbye to my son.”
D’Lo nodded and stood up. He walked to the front door and opened it. He was greeted suddenly by Paulie, who was about to open it from the other side. He was holding a kite with a cartoon pirate on it in his right hand. “D’Lo,” he said. “I was hoping I’d find you here. You see, I have this kite, and I’ve never flown one before…”
“Paulie,” D’Lo said, putting his hand on Paulie’s shoulder. “You got issues, man.” He passed Paulie and went out into the late afternoon sun.
“What was that about?” Paulie asked, turning towards Helen.
“You need to get your shit together,” Helen said. “That’s what that was about, you stunad.”
“Hey,” Da’Quarius said, coming back in from the kitchen. Rose was behind him and Dutchie was jumping all around him. “Where’s D’Lo.”
“He had to go,” Helen said, looking away. “He won’t be coming back.”
“Oh my,” Rose said. “What did you do? I’m going after him.”
“No,” Helen said, but Rose was already outside before she could get up. She looked at Da’Quarius, who made no move. Rose was back in less than a minute.
“He’s gone,” Rose said. “I can’t believe you…”
“He wasn’t really my dad, was he?” Da’Quarius asked.
“No,” Helen said, sadly. “He thought there was more book money from WOMANHUNT, and this was all a con to get it.”
“Helen,” Rose said. “Of all the far fetched…”
“She’s right,” Da’Quarius said. “If he was my dad, Helen wouldn’t have been able to scare him off dat easily. He would’a done a blood test just to shut her up, but it never even came up.”
“I’m so sorry,” Helen said. “I wanted to be wrong this time. I really did.”
“Wow,” Paulie said. “This is all really heavy stuff.”
“Why you holdin’ dat kite?” Da’Quarius asked.
“This?” Paulie said, looking at the kite he had forgotten about. “I’ve never flown one of these before. Seems stupid.”
“Me neither,” Da’Quarius said.
“Hey,” Paulie said. “You want to take a ride to Lighthouse Point and see if we can’t figure this friggin’ thing out?”
“Sure,” Da’Quarius said. “Let’s bring Dutchie along. Maybe he can catch a seagull this time.”
Life was finally back to normal on the house on Freedom Lane. “I’m glad all that’s over,” Helen told Da’Quarius while they waited for Rose to join them for their TV time.
“Me too,” Da’Quarius said. “Don’t forget; umma pick the show tonight.”
“Yeah yeah,” Helen said, tossing the remote towards Da’Quarius. “What’s it this time? Another show about those obscene race-mixers who are only famous because the big sister with the fat ass made the sex tape with that rap guy?”
“Fuck dat,” Da’Quarius said. “I found a show from Europe where a group of guys hang around Scotland tryin’ to prove that the Lochness Monster is real.”
Helen smiled. “Sounds like my kind of show, kid,” She said. She put her feet up and put her arms behind her head. “I am so done with this surprise visits from estranged relations bullshit. I’ll die a happy broad if I can forget about this one before the next one comes around.”
“Amen,” Da’Quarius said.
Rose came in the room, looking worried. “I’m sorry I’m late,” she said. “I just had a long phone conversation.”
“Oh yeah?” Helen asked. “Everything is OK I hope.”
“Everything is fine,” Rose said, looking at her hands. “It’s just…”
“Rose,” Helen said. “We’ve been together forever. Nothing you can say will upset me.”
“That was my father’s wife on the phone,” Rose said. “They’re coming to stay with us for an extended visit.”
Helen’s jaw dropped. “You have to pack your bags and get the fuck out of here.”