Tonight’s regularly scheduled programming will not be seen tonight, so we can bring you this special presentation of Freedom Lane.
A twelve year old white girl named Denise Sherman got up from her bunk at the orphanage in the woodsy Westville neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut. She had pale-white skin and blonde hair. The sun came in from the clear window, where she could see the forest. It had been a long time since she’d been abandoned by her father, and she wondered if she’d ever find a home of her own.
Lorene Lorie from the New Haven Child Welfare department came in. “Here you are,” she said. Miss Laurie was tall, thin, and had a head of long, brunette hair. “I thought you’d be out playing with other other children.”
Denis looked out the window toward the playground. The other kids were playing, but she hadn’t felt like joining them. They hadn’t been the same since she had come back from her last foster family.
“Nobody blames you for what happened at the Spencer house,” Miss Lorie said. “We have opened an investigation to as to what he was having you and his other foster kids doing in that basement.”
“It was nothing,” Denise said. “Just a little sewing to make money for the family. I didn’t mind it.”
“It was child labor!” Miss Lorie said. “I hope you’re more vigilant when you’re placed again.”
Denise turned from the window. She was under the impression that Miss Lorie had given up on her, and she’d be forced to stay at the Westville Orphanage until she was eighteen. “You’re placing me again?” she asked.
“Yes,” Miss Lorie said, looking at the paper on her clipboard. “We think we have found you a home in a house in the Newhallville section of New Haven. A little street called Confinement Road.”
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Randall Servant walked onto his porch and looked at the sun rising in the distance. He was seventry-three years old, and had small, circular glasses and a gray afro with a untidy gray goatee to match. He had owned this little house in Newhallville most of his life, and he now shared it with his life-partner, Hector. The two spent their lives here on Confinement Road, and Randall couldn’t be happier in the golden years of his life. It was one of the worse neighborhoods in New Haven, but he loved it. He sat in the rocking chair on his porch and began eating his breakfast of grits and back bacon.
He reached towards his lunch box that was full of Colt 45s when he noticed a shadow coming across the porch. “Good morning,” a woman’s voice said. “My name is Loraine Lorie. I’m from the City of New Haven Chid Welfare Department.”
“Da fuck you want?” Randall asked, cocking an eyebrow. “Can a nigga eat his breakfast on da porch without some white bitch interruptin’ him?!”
Hector Servant got himself settled for breakfast in the small kitchen. He heard the mice running in the walls, finding their beds for the day while they awaited the lights to go back out. Hector was seventy-eight, and and was mostly bald, except for some scraps of gray on the side. He had his bacon burnt how he liked with a tall glass of tap water to take his many pills. He carefully poured a small pile from his ziplock back in his pocket, tossed them into his mouth, and swallowed them down with his water.
“Slow da fuck down!” Hector said. “You gonna pop a nut rushin’ like dat at’cho age. Shit.”
“You gotta come see!” Randall said. “I cain’t believe it! After all dis time! It’s happening!”
“You need yo slow yo ass down,” Hector said, pulling a seat out. “Calm yo ass and tell me what happened.”
Randall took a breath. “Remember when we applied to adopt a kid like twenty sumtin’ years ago?” he asked.
“I cain’t remember when I had fo supper last night, fool,” Hector said. “Get to the damn point!”
“I thought dey wouldn’t let us adopt, cuz we a couple ‘a queer ass niggas,” Randall said. “But dey jus’ lost da paperwork!”
“Wha’chu tryin’ to say?” Hector said.
“Hector,” Randall said, beaming. “Dey found our lost paperwork. We parents! After all dese years, we finally parents!”
“Bitch, you best calm da fuck down wit dat parent shit,” Hector said.
Randall snuck into the living room with Hector, they moved slowly watching the little girl that woman named Loraine Lorie had dropped off. “Dat’s her,” Randall whispered.
“Gotdam,” Hector said. “Dey should know better den to send a little honky bitch up in dis hood. She gonna get knocked up right quick!”
“She’s only twelve,” Randall said, rubbing a hand absently on Hector’s back. Sometimes he forgot how Hector was brought up, hating whites in the projects. “Besides, she won’t get pregnant if we teach her right.”
“My moms was thirteen when I was born, mo’ fucka!” Hector spat. “What am I s’pose to call dat little ho anyway?”
“I dunno,” Randall said. “Let’s go ask her.”
Randall left and walked in the living room towards the little girl sitting on their dirty couch. “‘Sup?” Randall asked, nodding once in the girl’s direction. “Wha’cho name?”
“My name is Denise Sherman,” she said, standing up and giving Randall a little bow.
“Cool,” Randall said. “I’m Randall, and this is my life-partner, Hector.”
“Yeah, we queer niggas,” Hector said, scowling and nodding in Denise’s direction. “Do sumthin’.”
Denise looked visibly afraid and backed up a step.
“Mo’ fucker, don’t scare her,” Randall said, whispering to Hector. “She didn’t say shit about us bein’ queer niggas, fool.”
“I’ll get my belt and strap you both,” Hector said, removing his belt. Denise now fled, hiding behind a couch.
“He’s jokin’,” Randall said, holding a hand up towards Denise. “Ain’chu, Hector.”
“I ain’t jokin’ ’bout shit,” Hector said, holding his belt over his head. “Umma lay da law down before you get outta line, you honky-ass mo’ fucker!”
“You ain’t got’chu cane, boo!” Randall called out to Hector.
“Umma strap me a white bitch!” Hector shouted, shuffling towards Denise. His pants fell down as he swung his belt over his head. He tripped and fell face first into the table.
“Hector!” Randall said, falling to his knees next to his lover. “You out cold? Shit, mo’ fucker. You out cold.”
“Should we call an ambulance?” Denise asked.
“Naw,” Randall replied. “He knocks his own ass out all da time. C’mon. Let’s go down to da bodega and get’chu some cereal or some shit.”
Denise sat on the bed of the guest room of her new home. It didn’t feel much like a home to her, but not many places had since her father left her in that Red Lobster restroom, never to be heard of again. The bed smelled of mold, the blankets were full of holes, and she could hear mice scurrying under the floors and in the walls. The window didn’t close all the way, and stray cats kept trying to come in through it. Denise pushed bricks into the space from the pile in the corner of her room to block the flow of cats. She didn’t know why there was a pile of bricks in the Servants’ guest room, and she didn’t want to ask.
The moon shone through the filthy and cracked window, and Denise turned to pray. She didn’t know what to pray for. It seemed that so little of her prayers were ever answered. She came from such a good family, and now she was forced to live in squalor. She knew greed was a sin, but anything would have been better than getting your toes nibbled off by rats or mice in your sleep.
“God,” Denise said through her folded hands, “I know I ask a lot of you, especially lately, but I don’t know how much more I can take of this life. I don’t want to live here in the ghetto with Randall and Hector. I want to go back to my home, looking out at the trees and the stream. I would rather spend the rest of my life in that orphanage. Please do something, even if it means killing these two men that took me.
Denise turned from the window and pulled the blanket over herself as she tried not to cringe from the disgustingness of it. She was optimistic, thinking Randall and Hector didn’t use this room much, so they were unaware about how filthy it was. In the morning she’d ask if they could take the sheets and blanket to the laundromat to be cleaned. Maybe they’d even get her some cleaning supplies so she could start to make this room her own.
With Cinderella-like dreams in her head, Denise fell asleep.
Hector woke up the next morning with a splitting headache. Randall slept next to him, but he didn’t bother to wake him. He figured he could get a hard tea in him with his pills before he woke his lover. He spilled a pile of pills onto the top of the table, decided it looked like the right amount, and put a pot of water on for tea and got the rum out of the cabinet to harden it up a bit. That’s when he heard the noise from the other room.
Hector peeked into his living room from the kitchen door, and saw a little white girl he was sure he’d never seen before. She was watching cartoons on his TV and eating a bowl of cereal. “What do white people do in this situation?” Hector asked himself. “Call the police? Fuck dat.”
Hector rummaged through a drawer, pulling out his old revolver. He rummaged some more and found three bullets. He wished he had more, but one would do the trick. That white girl had broken into his home, so anything he did was perfectly legal now.
The girl started drinking the milk from the bowl as Hector raised his hand, aiming the barrel of the gun at the white girl’s head. “BREAK YO’SELF, YOU SKINNY WHITE BITCH!” Hector called as his finger squeezed the trigger.
“NO!” Randall shouted, tackling Hector. The gun went off and shattered the cereal bowl the girl was drinking from. “That’s Denise, you fool! We adopted her yesterday!”
“I’d remember something like that!” Hector said, getting the gun wrenched form his hands. “Give me that gun back! I still got two bullets for dat girl!”
“You ain’t shootin’ her!” Randall shouted.
There were red and blue flashing lights from outside and the sound of a siren.
“Shit!” Hector said. “Look at wha’chu did! Da cops are here!”
“I’m sorry we couldn’t help you officers,” Randall said, closing the door. “But we don’t know who was shootin’ what.”
The officers nodded, looked inside the doorway again, and left.
“Fuckin’ pigs,” Randall said, closing the door. “We lucky da bullet was lodged in da wall and I was able to put the picture in front of it. If dat bullet ended up outside, we be in prison by night.”
“Don’t blame me,” Hector said with his arms crossed. “You da one bringin’ strangers in our house.”
“You’re lucky Denise ain’t no snitch!” Randall said. “Even doe you tryin’ to shoot her.”
“I was only tryin’ to graze her to scare her off,” Hector said.
“I’m sorry if I’m any trouble,” Denise said in a meek voice. “I don’t mean to be.”
“See!” Randall said. “She scared of you now!”
“She should be!” Hector said. “You goin’ and adoptin’ dis white girl. Shit. Jus’ wait until Paulina gets here tonight.”
“Who’s Paulina?” Denise asked.
Randall looked as if someone bitch-slapped him. “Mutha fucka!”
The doorbell rang and Randall rushed to open it. “Hello, Paulina,” he said, greeting his sister-in-law.
“Randall,” Paulina said, kissing Randall hello. She was dark-skinned, heavy-set, and had a pair of triple D breasts that nearly hung to her belt. She had on a curly weave that was shoulder length, and wore heavy makeup. She was in her early sixties, and her ass was nothing short of gigantic, even by black people standards. “So good to see y’all.”
“Sit down,” Randall said. “I wanna talk to you ’bout sumtin’ right quick.”
“Erytin’ aight?” Paulina asked. “Hector OK?”
“Hell yeah, bitch,” Randall said. “Hector’s fine as fuck. I’ll come right an’ say it. We’ve adopted a child.”
“Mercy!” Paulina shouted. “Dey let you two wrinkled old butt-riders adopt a child?!”
“A white bitch too,” Randall said. “Denise! Get’cho little white ass down here so Paulina can see just how white it is.”
Denise walked down the stairs from her bedroom. “Good evening,” she said. “How do you do?”
“How do I do what?!” Paulina said, bobbing her head and putting her hands on her hips. “You got a sass mouth on ya, honey child.”
“Paulina, dis is Denise,” Randall said. “Denise, dis is yo Auntie Paulina. She owns Paulina’s Fried Chicken over on Dixwell Ave.”
“Dinner be ready,” Hector said, coming in from the kitchen. “Oh. I see you met my baby sister, Denise. Get’cho little ass in here and set the damn table!”
“Yes, sir,” Denise said, running to set the table.
“So how’d you two queer mo-fos end up with da white bitch?” Paulina asked, putting a third piece of fried chicken on her plate.
“It’s da oddest thing,” Randall said. “Bitch from da City came by an’ said we were s’posed to get one twenty five years ago, and it took this long for our paperwork to process. Have you ever heard anything so crazy before?”
“I don’t remember askin’ for no white bitch,” Hector said through a mouthful of chicken. “Maybe dey meant to send her to da Hector Servant dat lives over on Goffe Street. We always gettin’ dat nigga’s mail an’ shit too. Eat’cho damn dinner, ho. Don’t be pokin’ at it.”
“What is this?” Denise asked, poking at her chicken with her fork.
“Dat’s our family recipe,” Hector said, beaming proudly. “Chicken fried in pork fat and battered in Colt 45 and hot sauce.”
Denise tried a small bite. “I don’t think I can eat this,” she said. “Is there any way I can get a piece broiled?”
“Aw fuck,” Randall said under his breath. “You done fucked up now, boo.”
“What?!” Hector said, getting up. He took the gun from his back and slammed it on the table. “You gotta problem eatin’ my mo’ fuckin’ chicken now?!”
“Put that gun away at the table!” Randall shouted. “Not again!”
“I’ll eat it!” Denise said, beginning to cut a piece. “It looks good. I swear I’ll eat it!” She took a piece and choked it down, hoping the tears in her eyes from a combination of fear and the spiciness wouldn’t be noticed.
“Don’t you pull a gun on dat little white girl!” Paulina said, slamming her nine millimeter on the table. “You’ll be dead before the bullet leaves dat little revolver, brotha.”
“Bah!” Hector yelled, tossing his gun onto the table, breaking two glasses and a serving platter. “I was only gonna graze her like earlier!”
Randall snatched the gun from the table. “I think we’ve had enough of this,” he said, stuffing the gun into his pocket. “OK, everyone. Show’s over now. Let’s eat!”
The next morning, Randall stashed the gun in a drawer in the kitchen, making sure the loose bullets were in a separate drawer so Hector couldn’t easily start shooting at Denise again. He came back in the living room to find Denise flipping the pages of his photo album.
“I love dose pictures,” Randall said. “That’s da album from Hector and my life ceremony.”
“What’s a life ceremony?” Denise asked.
“They didn’t let men marry each other back then, so we set this up instead,” Randall said. “It was my idea.”
Denise turned the page to find a photo of Hector feeding a piece of cake to Randall. “They’re beautiful,” she said. She flipped to the next page to find four pictures per page of Randall and Hector naked and in various sex acts. “Oh my god!” Denise shouted, shutting the book.
“Those are from our honeymoon,” Randall said, sighing with a hand on his chest. “We went to Hawaii.”
“The honeymoon’s over for dis little trollop,” Hector said, entering the living room. “I called dat Lusty Lorie bitch. She comin’ tomorrow to take Denise back.”
“Why’d you do dat?!” Randall said. “Denise didn’t do shit!”
“I told her dat little white bitch tried to shoot me!” Hector snapped.
“What?!” Randall shouted. “You da one dat’s been tryin’ to shoot her!”
“Da adoption bitch don’t know dat!” Hector said. “‘Sides, wha’chu gonna do wit a little white girl anyway?”
“Raise her into a fine-ass white woman,” Randall replied.
“And put her ass out on da street?!” Hector exclaimed. “You in dis shit for da long haul, nigga!”
“No!” Randall said. “You don’t understand shit, you old bitch!”
“Who you callin’ an old bitch, you old bitch?!”
Randall and Hector were so busy arguing that they didn’t even notice that Denise had left the house.
Denise walked, unknowing where she was or where she was going. She passed people watching her from their porches, and she felt extremely uncomfortable. Some crazy guy even tried to have a conversation with her, but she couldn’t understand him. Without realizing it, Denise found herself on Dixwell Ave, staring at Paulina’s Fried Chicken. Paulina had defended her from Hector the night before, so she figured her best shot at getting away from those two was with Paulina.
Denise walked into Paulina’s restaurant, and she found its owner sitting at one of the booths, running a file across her nails. “Denise!” she exclaimed, looking up from her hand. “Hey, Tonya! Get out here and meet the little white bitch my brother adopted!”
A dark-skinned woman stuck her head out from the kitchen. She was covered in acne from working the fryers all day. He afro was covered in a hair net, and she wore only a wife-beater over her slim torso and ample breasts. “Dat her?” she asked.
“No,” Paulina said, turning. “Dis her great grandmother. Da fuck you think dis is, standin’ in front of me? Bring her out a number three combo, you gotdam bubble-head!”
“I don’t have any money,” Denise said.
“Family eats free here,” Paulina said. “Dat’s always been my policy. Sit’cho white ass down for a minute.”
Denise sat down across from Paulina. “Family,” she said under her breath with a small scoff.
“Somthin’ botherin’ you?” Paulina asked, putting her nail file down. “Tell Auntie Paulina all ’bout it, honey chile.”
“Don’t worry about my crank of a brother,” Paulina said. “If he wanted to kill you, you’d be dead. He’s just asserting his dominance. He learned that shit in prison.”
“Hector was in prison?” Denise asked, becoming more scared than before.
“Oh yeah,” Paulina replied. “How do you think he became such a queer-ass mo’ fucker? He loved getting passed around that damn prison yard like da community bitch.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” Denise asked.
“You gotta show him dat you ain’t gonna roll over and cry just because you gettin’ shot at or strapped with da belt or whateva,” Paulina said. “Establish yo dominance like it was yo’ first day at prison.’
“How do I do that?” Denise asked.
“You’ll figure it out,” Paulina replied. “You a smart bitch. I see a lot of myself in you.”
“Get’cho ass back in dat kitchen ‘fore I drag you back dere by dose hoops in yo ear!” Paulina shouted, getting up. Tonya skulked back to the kitchen. Denise giggled.
“I tell you what, kid,” Paulina said. “Go back to my brother and Randall’s house and give ’em another chance. See if you can deal. If you can, I’ll give you my chicken stand. After I’m dead, I mean.”
Denise almost choked on her biscuit. “What?!” she exclaimed. “I can’t!”
“Sho you can,” Paulina said. “I won’t live forever, and Tonya back dere got chicken grease for brains. You’ll do great.”
“No… really,” Denise stammered. “I don’t want it. Why would anyone want it?”
“Hush,” Paulina said. “Hold up. I got something fo you.” She got up and walked to the counter. She pulled out a cardboard box marked lost and found. “You like basketball?”
“Not really,” Denise replied.
“Nonsense,” Paulina said. “I got a Knicks hat in here somewhere dat some kid left. Here it is!” Paulina took the old Knicks hat out of the lost and found box along with a large rat. The Rat fell to the floor and ran into the kitchen. There was a scream and crash as Tonya fell over trying to get away from it.
“HELP!” Tonya shouted. “Dere a grease fire back here! OH SHIT! MY ARM IS ON FIRE!”
“I’m comin’!” Paulina shouted. “Umma get da bucket o’ water, and we gonna douse dat grease fire!”
“I’m gonna go,” Denise said, backing towards the door.
“Good idea,” Paulina said, filling a filthy bucket with water as black smoke began to fill the entire restaurant. “We ain’t insured.”
Hector woke up the next morning and made his burnt bacon and his small pile of pills. His grimace worsened when Denise came into the kitchen. “Is Randall up yet?” she asked, opening the drawers and looking for something.
“Scared I might strap dat pretty face off yo damn head without Randall to hold me back?” Hector asked. “You make me sick.”
“No,” Denise said. “I was hoping you and I could have breakfast together.”
“Dat skinny white bitch from Child Welfare cain’t get here fast enough,” Hector said. “I should leave you on da porch in a gotdamn sack.”
Something cold and round touched the back of Hector’s head. He heard the click. “Don’t make a move or scream or I’ll blow your fucking brains all over this fucking table,” Denise said. “Do you understand me?”
“Yes,” Hector whispered.
“Good,” Denise said. “Put your hands on the table, palms down.”
Hector did as he was told, slowly putting his hands on the table.
“Here’s what you’re going to do,” Denise said. “You’re going to tell Miss Lorie that I’m a delight to have in your home, and you’re going to tell her that you want to keep me.”
“Why stay?” Hector asked. “There’s better homes out dere for a young white girl like you.”
“Because I’m in control now,” Denise said. “I’m keeping this gun. If you stray one step from what I tell you to do, I’ll shoot your balls off.”
“I’m an old man,” Hector said. “You think I fear the warm embrace of death?”
“Maybe not,” Denise said with a shrug. “But if you were really not afraid of death, you would have had the guts to do the respectable thing and kill yourself by now.”
“You a foul bitch,” Hector said.
“You made me this way,” Denise said. “Don’t think I won’t put you out of your own misery.”
“You wouldn’t,” Hector said. The doorbell rang.
“Try me,” Denise said, stashing the gun behind her back.
Randall answered the door. “Hi, Miss Lorie,” he said with a beaming smile.
“What’s going on here?” Miss Lorie said, stepping inside. “Why is Hector calling and saying that he wants me to take back Denise? Is she really shooting guns at you?”
“That’s not what I meant,” Hector said, shuffling into the living room. “I took da wrong pills yesterday. I wanted to tell you dat Denise is a pleasure!”
Miss Lorie gave Hector an odd look. “You could have done that over the phone,” she said. “And not telling me that she’s somehow obtained a weapon and threatening you with it.”
“You sure took your time for a black man being threatened with violence by a white girl,” Hector said under his breath.
“What was that?” Miss Lorie said.
“I’m sorry,” Hector said. “I’m an old man. Sometimes my imagination tricks my mind.”
“Let me show you out,” Randall said, moving Miss Lorie to the door by her shoulder before she could think of a reason to keep questioning Hector.
“There,” Hector said, scowling at Denise. “You happy now?”
“For now,” Denise said. “Don’t forget our deal.” She skipped back up into her bedroom.
“Oh no,” Hector said, reaching into the side of his ragged boot. He pulled out a shiv made from a discarded toothbrush. “Hector never forgets, you little bitch.”
Randall and Hector were playing dice with the others from their block behind Jermain’s package store. “I’m so glad Denise gets to stay,” Randall said. “This is like a dream.”
“Being a parent is fuckin bullshit,” Hector said, throwing some money on the ground. “I hope you’re up for it, cuz I sure as hell ain’t.”
“I am,” Randall said. “Dis is going to be a great adventure for us both.”
“If I don’t kill dat little ho first,” Hector said under his breath.
“What was that?” Randall asked.
“I said it’s your turn to roll,” Hector said, motioning towards the dice.
“Alright,” Randall said, throwing the dice into the wall. “Let’s see my numbers!”
“Fuck yes!” Hector said, scooping the money from the floor. “I guess Denise gets to eat for another night!”
“You gay ass niggas!” a thug named Mica shouted. “Don’t think dat I don’t know you cheatin’!”
“I don’t cheat!” Randall said.
Hector pulled the shiv from his boot and buried it in Mica’s shoulder. “YOU ANCIENT MOTHER FUCKER!” Mica shouted, pulling the shiv out and throwing it the ground.
“Randall doesn’t cheat,” Hector said. “Say it again, and you’ll pull dat outta your dick!”
“Oh Hector,” Randall said, picking up his money and giving Hector a big hug while the others stepped away from them. “You so crazy!”
Helen sat up suddenly, breathing heavy. “Oh,” Rose said, waking up next to her. “Is everything alright?”
“I had the craziest dream,” Helen said, holding her chest to stop herself from breathing too heavy. “More like a damn nightmare.”
“Do you remember it at all?” Rose asked.
“It was just like when we adopted Da’Quarius,” Helen said. “Almost exactly, but instead of you and me, there were two old, gay blacks. They were just plain nasty!”
“Do you want me to get your pills?” Rose asked.
“Da’Quarius was there,” Helen continued. “But he was a white girl named Denise, so it wasn’t Da’Quarius at all. Paulie was a fat black woman who owned a fried chicken stand. I think she died in a grease fire. Oh, it was horrible.”
“I’m going to bring you your pills and a strong cup of tea,” Rose said, swinging her feet out of bed.
“Thank you, dear,” Helen said. “It was so vivid and detailed. I hope never to relive anything like that ever again.”