Freedom Lane Special: Summer’s End

 

Helen sat in the shade of her backyard. A tall cup of strong iced tea sat on the table by her side. It was the end of August, and soon the summer was going to turn to autumn. “I hate this time of year,” she muttered.

Rose turned toward her wife and life partner. She wore a large, floppy straw hat and huge sunglasses. She put down her book, folding the corner of the page to save her spot. “Why’s that?” she asked. “I thought you loved sitting out here on the cooler days.”

“The end is near,” Helen said. “There’s a week left to August and then what?”

“September,” Rose replied.

“Right,” Helen said with a grimace. “I hate September.”

“Just stay in the present for a little longer then,” Rose said, reaching over and holding Helen’s hand. “Da’Quarius is in camp for another week, and we have this lovely weather to keep us happy.”

“You’re right,” Helen said. “I’m not going to brood on what’s coming. Let’s just enjoy the end of summer.”


***

Freedom Lane: Summer’s End

Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow

Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
***

Another day had started at Hognailer Camp in Woodbridge Connecticut on Monday morning.

“Fall in!” Da’Quarius called as the campers all gathered around the meeting area. There were plenty of logs to sit on, and the kids did that, circling around him. He started camp back at the end of June, and it was finally the final week. His Korean friend, Flounder, had joined him, and the two were soon promoted to junior assistant counselors along with anyone else over the age of thirteen.

Flounder stood next to Da’Quarius, looking over the kids, whose ages ranged from nine to twelve. Flounder had to stay close to his best and only friend. If he didn’t, the smaller kids would bully him. Since coming to camp, he’d been punched in the nuts more times than he could count.

Counselors Sally Beam and Ron Grimes observed as the kids followed Da’Quarius’s lead. He was a natural, and a keen speaker, even if his grammar wasn’t the best. They hadn’t had a junior counselor this well received in years, and they hoped he’d consider taking a summer job there once he was sixteen.

“We’re gonna continue our lessons ’bout bullies,” Da’Quarius said. “Last week, we talked ’bout identifyin’ ’em. Today, we gonna talk ’bout defusin’ da’ situation, usin’ nuttin’ but our words.”

The kids all paid rapt attention while Flounder nodded at Da’Quarius’s lesson. Beam and Grimes nodded to each other once and decided Da’Quarius had control of his group. They walked off to have a make out session before they taught swim lessons at the lake.

“They’re gone,” Flounder said, watching the two walk off toward the changing rooms near the lake. “I’ll keep a lookout.”

“Good,” Da’Quarius said. “Forget all dat ‘fight wit’cho words’ bullshit,” Da’Quarius said. “All talkin’ gonna get’chu from a bully is a double-dose of yo’ ass kicked. Who can tell me where we left off last week?”

A little boy raised his hand in the first row. “There is no such thing as a fair fight,” he said.

“Right, Pete,” Da’Quarius said, pacing. “Especially with bullies. Don’t be afraid to rub dirt in dey eyes or hit dem with a brick. Remember: dey deserve it.”

The kids were all nodding in agreement.

“Alright,” Da’Quarius said, rubbing his hands together. “Let’s talk about da’ balls.”

***

“I need help, boss,” Tony said, coming down from his apartment above Paulie’s Pizza on State Street. “Tell me today is the day the kid comes back.”

“Next Saturday,” Paulie said. “He’s working at his camp, so I gave him the weekends off until he’s done. What a racket they got going on. Helen and Rose pay to send the Da’Quarius to camp, and they put him to work. At least he’ll build some character over the summer. What’s your problem anyway?”

“I got this drunk girl on the internet hot for me,” Tony replied. “It started off innocent enough; tits and dick pictures. But she gets drunk, and then she starts calling me out of the blue. She got pissed when I was at my mom’s house for dinner the other night! I have a life outside a girl who lives halfway across the damn country, you know.”

“Madon,” Paulie said. “And I suppose you need Daq to delete you off the internet or something.”

“No,” Tony said. “Just her.”

Paulie sighed and tucked his newspaper under his arm. He walked toward his private toilet near his office. “I need to take a little break, Tony. Something about your stories upsets my delicate stomach.”

“It’s called I.B.S.,” Tony muttered. “Normal people don’t shit that much. Go see a friggin’ doctor.”

***

“You know what?” Da’Quarius asked, sipping his soda in the shade of a large oak tree while he and Flounder watched their group swim in the lake. “I’ll be happy if just one of dese kids twists a bully’s balls off.”

Flounder laughed. He had been coming to Hognailer since he was nine, and he was ecstatic when Rose and Helen sent Da’Quarius. He had to talk him into putting his name in to be a junior counselor with him, but the two spent the summer together when they got pulled to team up for the same group.

“Hi guys,” Esmerelda Perez de la Hoya said, taking a seat between them. She had been sent as well. She put her name in for junior counselor when Da’Quarius told he her put his in. They didn’t see her much since she was with a group of girls.

“Yo,” Da’Quarius said. “Da’ fuck is goin’ on?”

“The girls in my group are making jewelry,” Esmerelda said. “The boys get to do much funner stuff here. What are you guys doing after swimming?”

“We’re making wallets,” Flounder said. “My dad has me help his workers make sneakers in the basement some weekends, so I’m really good at it.”

“That’s sad,” Esmerelda said.

“Why?” Flounder asked.

“Shit,” Da’Quarius said, looking into the distance. “Here comes that bitch-ass Dapreet and his bitch Roderick.”

Dapreet Patel walked with his arms swaying at his side as the kids in his group followed. He was wearing dark lenses on his face. He was only thirteen, but he already had a mustache on his mocha-colored skin. His hair was short, black, and slicked back. His lip curled into a smirk when he saw Flounder.

Roderick DePalma walked at Dapreet’s side. He was much shorter than Dapreet, but he made up for it in muscle. He wore a shirt with a lacrosse stick that had the phrase “WEAPON OF CHOICE” printed under it, advertising that Roderick, in fact, played lacrosse. His head was shaved, making him look like a pumped up midget version of Curly from the Three Stooges.

“Well, well, well,” Dapreet said, walking in front of Flounder. He spoke in a thick Indian accent. “What brings you here.”

“Our kids are swimming,” Flounder said.

Our kids are swimming,” Dapreet repeated, imitating Flounder’s Korean accent.

“Yo’ accent is worse den his,” Da’Quarius said.

“What did your say?!” Roderick said, stepping forward.

“Chill,” Dapreet said, holding up a hand. “The senior counsellors are watching. Get our kids in the water. That’ll keep ’em busy.”

“GET IN THE WATER!” Roderick shouted, turning to his kids.

“Our kids are in there,” Flounder said. “They’re going to start pushing them around in the water again.”

“Shut up, dork,” Dapreet said.

“Ain’t yo’ father sellin’ beef jerky at da’ 7-11?” Da’Quarius asked.

“My father is a cardio-vascular surgeon,” Dapreet said, crossing his arms and looking extra smug. “He makes more money a year than your family will in their whole lives. I already have Mercedes Benz waiting for me as soon as I turn sixteen.”

“D’jour father isn’t a cardio-vascular surgeon,” Esmerelda said. “He’s the doctor who put in Harold’s penis pump. His card is on our refrigerator at home in case he pumps it up too much and it explodes.”

Da’Quarius laughed. “Your father plays with old guys’ dicks all day!” he said, roaring with laughter.

“I would love to get you on the lacrosse field one day, Masters,” Roderick said, stepping forward. “I would DESTROY you!”

“You know why sports with sticks are da’ only sports white guys can dominate?” Da’Quarius asked Esmerelda as if Roderick and Dapreet weren’t standing in front of him. “Cuz black guys don’t need to carry ’round sticks to make up for their tiny ding-dongs like white guys!”

“Come on, Flounder,” Dapreet said. “Why don’t you take a little walk with us. We need to have a chat.”

Flounder groaned and stood up.

“No!” Da’Quarius said, standing. “Every time you get him alone, you push him around. I’d like to see you do dat shit in front of me!”

“Your boyfriend standing up for you?” Dapreet asked as Roderick chuckled.

“I’ve had enough of dis bullshit from you,” Da’Quaruis said. “You a piece of shit, and you always smell like pickles an’ onions. Da’ fuck you eatin’ for breakfast?!”

“Probably pickles and onions,” Esmerelda said.

“I think it’s more like B.O.,” Da’Quarius said.

“My father doesn’t believe in deodorant,” Dapreet said. “It’s unhealthy.”

“Well it’s unhealthy for us to smell you,” Da’Quarius said.

“What are you gonna do?” Roderick said, attempting to stare down Da’Quarius. “Fight us? Two on two? I’ll snap you in half like a twig.”

“It’s the last week of camp,” Flounder groaned. “Let’s just get thought it, and I won’t have to see these guys for another nine months.”

“Fuck dat,” Da’Quarius said. “Like da’ troll said: two on two.”

Da’Quarius and Flounder’s kids came running from the lake, shouting and crying. “They kicked us out!” one wailed. “The counselors won’t stop them!”

Dapreet and Roderick laughed as the kids screamed and cried about being bullied from the lake by the other kids. Da’Quarius stared the two down as Flounder tried to calm them all down. “Friday at two,” he said. “Bring yo’ kids.”

“Excuse me?” Dapreet asked.

“Our kids versus yo’ kids,” Da’Quarius said. “Da’ last day of camp is Friday. We gonna end this summer by kicking the shit out of the two of you an’ all yo’ kids.”

Everyone went silent, watching Dapreet and Roderick silently look at each other as Da’Quarius stood in front of them, waiting for a reply.

“Fine,” Dapreet said. “Friday at two.”

“See you there, pussy,” Roderick said, following Dapreet.

“Da’Quarius,” Esmerelda said, coming next to him. “Why did d’jou do that?”

“I’m sick of dem bullyin’ an’ shit,” Da’Quarius said, “an’ I’m sick of my kids not standin’ up to bullies like I’ve been tellin’ dem too. Da’ counselors cain’t do shit, da’ teachers cain’t do shit, and da’ bitch-ass parents cain’t do shit. They’re going to have to fight or get their asses kicked forever.”

With that, Da’Quarius walked away from Flounder and the bewildered kids.

“C’mon,” Flounder said. “Let’s go get changed and get to arts & crafts.”

***

“Dammit,” Paulie said after he gave the last customer in line their box of pizza. “Tony, I’ve been up here for the last ten minutes, and your phone hasn’t stopped buzzing next to the register.”

“Leave it alone,” Tony said. “It’s that friggin’ broad from the internet again. She won’t stop sending me messages. It’s ‘I love you this’ and ‘why won’t you pick up your phone’ that. It’s enough to make a guy crazy.”

Paulie sighed. “Why don’t you, I don’t know, talk to her like she’s a human being?”

“But she’s not!” Tony snapped.

“Hi, welcome to Paulie’s Pizza,” Paulie said, smiling at the female customer who just walked to the register. She gave Tony a sideways glance. “What can I get for you tonight?”

“I’ll have two meatball grinders and a large pepperoni pizza,” the woman said.

“You heard the order, Tony,” Paulie said, clicking buttons on the register. “Start cooking it up.”

“But you understand me, right?” Tony said, ignoring the order. “She’s not a human being. She’s just some electronic broad over the airwaves.”

“Just make the damn grinders and pie,” Paulie said, forcing a smile so his customer wouldn’t walk out.

“No, really,” Tony said. “What does she expect from a guy she met on a friggin’ app. She hears wedding bells, but all I want to hear is screeching tires.”

“Make the food, Tony,” Paulie said.

“What kind of twisted bitch falls in love with a guy after some cyber and phone sex anyway!?” Tony said.

“YOU FRIGGIN’ STUNAD!” Paulie shouted, turning to Tony. “There’s a real person on the other end of that phone, sending you these messages. You don’t want to be with her? Fine! Just have the common friggin’ curtesy to tell her yourself, you friggin’ coward!”

“Jeez,” Tony said, walking toward the kitchen. “What crawled up your ass?”

Paulie groaned and turned back to his customer. “It’ll be up in one moment, dear. That’ll be twenty-two ninety-seven.”

***

“Dat Dapreet thinks he’s hot shit,” Da’Quarius said, pacing in front of Flounder and his kids on Wednesday morning. “Just cuz he came in second in da’ state spellin’ bee. Wish dat mo’ fucker got stung.”

“It wasn’t that kind of bee,” Flounder said. 

“I know it wasn’t dat kind of bee!” Da’Quarius snapped.

“Are you going to kick his ass?” Flounder asked.

“No,” Da’Quarius said, thinking. “He’s scared of me. He’ll have Roderick come at me. You’re gonna have to kick his ass.”

“Me?!” Flounder said.

“Yeah you,” Da’Quarius said. “You’ve watched me try an’ teach dese kids about standin’ up for demselves. Haven’t you heard a gotdamn thing I said?!”

“I thought that was for them,” Flounder said.

“I’ve listened to you bitch about dis Dapreet douchebag the second I started at dis camp,” Da’Quarius said. “You gonna be too old to come here soon, unless you get a job with da’ useless counselors. Dapreet ain’t from New Haven like you an’ me. Dis might be yo’ last chance to whoop his ass.”

Flounder looked away, embarrassed.

“An’ da’ rest of you!” Da’Quarius said, addressing the kids. “I watched you take shit from Dapreet’s group all fuckin’ summer! How many times did I tell you to twist their nuts off?!”

A scared-looking boy looked up at Da’Quarius. “It’s not -“

“HOW MANY TIMES?!” Da’Quarius shouted.

The boy looked away.

“You’re brawlin’ dis Friday,” Da’Quarius said. He looked toward Flounder. “ALL OF YOU!”

“You’ve told us all year about twisting balls,” Flounder said, “but what do we know about the fight building up to the ball twisting?”

“I’ve arranged a hike for us,” Da’Quarius said, smiling. “There’s a clearing in da’ woods. I’ve seen the maps on how to find it. We’re gonna head there and practice fighting today and tomorrow. You’ll be ready on Friday.”

“What if we get beat up?” The scared boy in front asked.

“Den you’ll get beat up,” Da’Quarius said with a shrug. “You cain’t win e’ry fight.”

***

Da’Quarius, Flounder, and their group came back to the main area of the camp after their long hike in the woods. The kids were exhausted from Da’Quarius’s lessons on how to punch and fight. He promised them one more hike the following day, then they’d be able to rest up for the brawl on Friday. The kids were still nervous about it, but their confidence seemed to be growing.

“Look at this,” Dapreet said, coming toward them with a snickering Roderick. “Your kids look like they’re about to drop dead from just a little hike.”

“You smell something, Flounder?” Da’Quarius asked, sniffing the air. “Smells like pickles an’ onions. Dapreet must be ’round.” Flounder laughed.

“What the hell are you laughing at, you fat dork?” Dapreet asked, turning on Flounder instead of Da’Quarius.

“Nothing,” Flounder said, looking away.

“Stand up to him,” Da’Quarius said. “He’s a pussy.”

“What did you say?!” Roderick asked, clenching his fists and stepping forward.

“Pussy,” Da’Quarius said, stepping to Roderick. “Dat thing you wish you had instead of dat tiny dick.”

Roderick pulled back his arm to throw a punch, but Dapreet stopped him, grabbing Roderick’s arm. “Friday,” Dapreet said. “We can wait two more days.”

“Yeah,” Roderick said. “I’m going to snap you like a twig.”

“I’m gonna snap my twig off in yo’ mamma’s ass tonight,” Da’Quarius said.

Roderick looked toward the approaching counselors and gave a sick laugh. “Friday, Masters,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy it.”

“Why da’ fuck do you let him just talk shit to you like dat?” Da’Quarius asked.

“He’s smarter and better looking,” Flounder said. “He’ll always have a comeback.”

“How does him bein’ better lookin’ help him make comebacks?” Da’Quarius asked.

Flounder shrugged.

“Look,” Da’Quarius said. “Dat Indian nigga can spell, but he ain’t got no street smarts. He’s smart enough to keep a jacked-up bitch like Roderick at his side, but you can probably take him one-on-one.”

“No I can’t,” Flounder said, “and Dapreet knows it.”

“Yeah, he does,” Da’Quarius said, “but that’s his problem. He’s overconfident. He knows he cain’t shit talk me without Roderick, so he don’t. He thinks if I’m busy getting my ask kicked, the you’ll be easy. He’s wrong.”

“You really think Roderick will kick your ass?” Flounder asked.

“I dunno,” Da’Quarius said. “He’s bigger than me, dat’s for damn sure. Does he know how to fight? I dunno dat either. I’ve never seen him do anythin’ other than threaten people. All I care about is getting him away from Dapreet long enough for you to do some damage to him. If Dapreet gets his ass kicked, dey all lose.”

“You’d really get beaten up for me?” Flounder asked.

“Sho,” Da’Quarius said. “What are friends for? You just have to kick Dapreet’s ass, or my ass-kickin’ will be in vain.”

***

Tony came running to Pauile form his apartment as soon as Paulie opened for the night. “Please tell me Da’Quarius is back on Saturday,” he said. “This chick is driving me bananas.”

“Why?” Paulie asked. “What happened now?”

“She’s still on this ‘I love you’ kick,” Tony said. “It got ten times worse after we were done talking last night.”

“Madon,” Paulie said. “What are you doing talking to her?”

“I was bored and horny,” Tony said. “What was I supposed to do?”

“I don’t know,” Paulie sighed. “Watch a dirty movie and jerk off like a normal member of society.”

“Yeah,” Tony said. “I did that for forty something years, waiting for the internet to bring lonely skanks directly to my phone.”

“And look where that got you,” Paulie said, looking through the ingredients behind the counter. “I’m going to make a supply run today. Anything you know that needs restocking?”

“Come on, boss,” Tony pleaded. “Call the kid for me. See if he’ll stop in tonight for an hour.”

“I told you: he’s in camp,” Paulie said. “From what Helen and Rose tell me, he’s tired, sweaty, and just about ready to drop when he comes home. He’s having a wholesome summer, and I’m not going to ruin it for him with your nonsense.”

***

“So why do you think Roderick hates you so much?” Flounder asked as they hiked their way back to the camp on Thursday after they trained for the last time before their brawl.

“I know why he does,” Da’Quarius said. “Remember when I first got here? I walked by him showing off his free-style rap skills to some kids. Dey were all impressed an’ shit.”

“Oh yeah,” Flounder said. “He’s been doing that forever.”

“Well, I recognized the lyrics,” Da’Quarius said. “I said, ‘hey, Rod. Who da’ fuck you tryin’ to impress? Dat’s some of Biggie’s lyrics!’.”

“What did he do?” Flounder asked.

“He got laughed at,” Da’Quarius said, “an’ he deserved it. Lyin’ sack of shit, tryin’ to steal lyrics from Biggie.”

The counselors Sally Beam and Ron Grimes came toward Flounder and Da’Quarius, a serious look on their faces. “Can we speak with the two of you for a moment?” Beam asked.

“Shoot,” Da’Quarius said. “You’re da’ boss, right?”

“We’ve heard of a little fight that’s supposed to take place tomorrow,” Grimes said.

“We shouldn’t have to remind you that fighting is against the rules,” Beam said. “We’d hate to have you kicked out of Hognailer Camp.”

“On da’ last day?” Da’Quarius asked.

“You won’t be allowed back,” Grimes said, “and it will prevent you from ever becoming a councilor here later.”

“Dere’s no fight,” Da’Quarius said, “so go worry somewhere else.”

Beam and Grimes gave Da’Quarius an odd look before turning away and leaving.

“So that’s it,” Flounder said. “One of our kids went to the counselors. We aren’t fighting on Friday.”

“We still fightin’,” Da’Quarius said. “None of our kids told on us. Dapreet did dat so we won’t show up, so he can tell da’ story of how he punked us down.”

“But we’ll be expelled from camp,” Flounder said.

“No we won’t,” Da’Quarius said. “You too old for camp anyway. Do you really want to work here when you’re older?”

“Yeah,” Flounder said, looking down.

“Well you cain’t,” Da’Quarius said. “Not if you don’t kick Dapreet’s ass first. He’ll definitely be a counselor here. You see how he walkin’ ’round like he own da’ place. You don’t need a fuckin’ bully lordin’ over you if you work here.”

Flounder looked on, nodding. He knew Da’Quarius was right. He had twenty-four hours to steady his nerves for the fight, even though his nerves told him to be worried.

***

Paulie wiped down the counters before the lunch rush, and Tony was getting his stations ready to cook. The door opened, and a woman in her mid-forties came inside. “Welcome to Paulie’s,” Paulie said, stashing the damp cloth behind the counter and looking at his customer. “What can I get for you?”

The woman looked around. She had short, dirty-blonde hair and was a bit chubby. She was wearing a short dress with jean shorts under it. “Is Tony here?” she asked.

It took all of Pauile’s willpower to not sigh and roll his eyes. At least once a month a woman came in there to scream at Tony. He was grateful there were no other customers this time. “I’ll check,” he said.

Paulie took the small walk to the kitchen where Tony was separating dough. “There’s some woman here to see you,” he said.

Tony looked past Paulie. The woman was looking around, and she didn’t notice him peeking. “Oh fuck!” he whispered. “That’s the friggin’ broad I was telling you about! She must’ve drove all the way here from Ohio!”

“You gave her your address?” Paulie asked.

“No,” Tony said, panic coming into his voice. “I don’t know. Maybe I told her where I worked.”

“You stunad,” Paulie said. “What are you gonna do now she’s here? She’s not going to drive all the way back to Ohio without a fight you know.”

“See,” Tony said, pulling on his hair. “I asked you to call the kid for me. He could have deleted this. He’s good with that shit. What the fuck?!”

“Oh!” Paulie said. “Don’t go blaming anybody else for this. You toyed with that ditzy broad’s emotions. Now go out there and make it right.”

Tony nodded. He took one step toward the waiting woman and then backed up two. “No,” Tony said. “I need to take a sick day. Carlos will be in any minute.” He ran back to the stairs connecting Paulie’s to his apartment upstairs.

“Tony!” Paulie called. Tony didn’t turn around or acknowledge the shout. The door upstairs slammed, meaning Tony was gone. He turned to the girl, who was waiting patiently for the man of her dreams she had met online.

“How many times is he going to make me do this shit?” Paulie asked himself, leaving the kitchen area. He looked the woman in the face.  “I’m sorry. Tony is out sick today.”

“Oh,” the woman said, a look of disappointment coming over her face. “Do you mind if I wait for him?”

The door opened again, and Carlos, a handsome Hispanic man in his late thirties, walked in. He nodded to Paulie once, seeing he was with a customer, and went into the back to start his kitchen shift. “Look,” Paulie said, feeling bad for her. “How about I take you out for a piece of pie and some ice cream.”

The woman looked over Paulie. “Alright,” she finally said. “I’m Rowena, by the way.”

“Sure you are,” Paulie said. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

Paulie went to Carlos, who had picked up where Tony had left off. “I have to run out for a bit,” he said.

“With the girl?” Carlos asked, not looking up from the dough.

“Yeah,” Paulie said with a small snort. “One of Tony’s.”

“Again?” Carlos asked. “Is he hiding in his room?”

“You can go get him as soon as I leave,” Paulie said. “Just tell him I took care of yet another one of his broads.”

“You got it, boss,” Carlos said. He put down the ball of dough he had been working on and went toward the stairs to Tony’s apartment. Paulie checked his hair in the reflection in the steel refrigerator and went to go take Rowena out for pie.

***

Da’Quarius walked with Flounder by his side. The kids they were supervising were walking behind them. They had gotten the same kind of pep talk from Da’Quarius they had gotten all week. He didn’t say for sure they they wouldn’t get beaten, but he encouraged them to take out as many of the others as possible.

“There they are,” Flounder said, spotting Dapreet and Roderick, along with their own kids, waiting in the field closest to the bus stop. “They looked surprised.”

“Told you,” Da’Quarius said. “Dey thought we’d back down after the counselors told us to back off.”

“You came,” Dapreet said.

“Sho did, DP,” Da’Quarius replied.

“What’s this?” Dapreet asked. “Your’e giving me cute nicknames now? You wanna be friends or something?”

“No,” Da’Quarius said. “It means you’ve had two dicks in you. At once.”

Flounder snorted with laughter as a look of repulsion spread across Dapreet’s face.

“We doin’ this?” Roderick asked, cracking his knuckles.

“Come on, Flounder,” Da’Quarius said. “Just like we talked ’bout.”

Flounder didn’t acknowledge Da’Quarius’s suggestion. His foot flew out, hitting Dapreet in his balls. Dapreet bent with pain, and Flounder pushed him over. He climbed on top and started punching years of rage out of his face.

“You little chink!” Roderick shouted, moving to pull him off.

“Nuh-uh,” Da’Quarius said. “You been talkin’ shit to me all summer, Rod. Come see if you can back it up.”

Da’Quarius threw a punch of his own, hitting Roderick in the jaw. Roderick barely moved his reddening face. His whole body was in motion less than a second later as he swung wildly at Da’Quarius. His punches found nothing but air as Da’Quarius deftly dodged. “You lacrosse boys are slow as fuck,” Da’Quarius said, dancing around Roderick’s punches with his fists in front of himself.

“Hold still!” Roderick exclaimed, becoming frustrated with his moving opponent. Da’Quarius opened his mouth to laugh, but his foot caught a tree root. He stumbled a bit, and Roderick’s large fist connected with the side of his head, sending him sideways.

The kids of both sides ran at each other as well, being told by their respective junior counselors how important winning the fight was. Dapreet’s kids were punching and kicking as Roderick had told them, but Da’Quarius’s kids were fighting dirty.

One of Dapreet’s kids got a face full of dirt from the ground before being pummeled in the stomach. Another got kick in the balls like Dapreet and fell backwards. One kid picked up a stick and brought it across the legs of another. They were all screaming or crying as the fight turned into an all out brawl, sending clouds of dirt and dust into the air as they fought.

***

“No more bets!” Ron Grimes shouted, holding his arms out. Sally Beam was counting the money they collected next to a notebook of everyone’s bets and wagers. “The fight has already started!”

The counselors all grabbed their binoculars and watched from the roof of the camp’s rec center. They had climbed up there to stay out of sight. They knew if they were seen the two groups would call off their fight.

“Looks like Flounder got a hold of Dapreet,” Sally sad, watching Flounder straddling his foe and punching him. “Think Dapreet can roll out of it?”

“I hope so,” Ron said. “I put twenty bucks on that annoying, brown fuck and his kids.”

“Can anyone tell which group of kids is doing what to who?” another councilor asked, moving his binoculars back and forth. “I wish they wore colors like the bloods and crips.”

“I don’t think the kids are really paying attention to who they’re fighting,” Ron said. “This will probably come down to Da’Quarius and Roderick and Flounder and Dapreet.”

“Shit,” Sally said. “I thought Da’Quarius had some kind of trick of his sleeve. He’s street as fuck, but it looks like Roderick is pummeling him right now. I backed the wrong horse.”

The counselors looked on, waiting to see who would come out victorious.

***

Paulie walked back into his pizzeria, whistling a tune as he did so. “Oh!” Tony said, running from the back. “Where the hell have you been?”

“Taking care of that wayward girl of yours,” Paulie said. “You can’t talk a girl like that into coming all the way here from Ohio and just blow her off like that. What’s wrong with you?!”

“So where is she now?” Tony asked.

“I bought her a bus ticket and sent her back home,” Paulie said. “You’re welcome.”

“And nothing else?” Tony asked.

“What do you care?” Paulie asked, waving a hand. “You were hiding when that poor girl came all the way here just to see you.”

“Promise me nothing else happened, Paulie,” Tony said.

“Fine,” Paulie said. “Nothing else happened.”

“OK,” Tony said. “I believe you.”

“Good,” Paulie said. “I’m glad we could get all that out of the way.”

Paulie walked toward his office when Tony reached into his pocket and pulled out his vibrating phone. He read a text and then put it way. “Hey,” he said. “If you just put her on a bus and nothing else; why is she asking me for your phone number?”

Paulie looked at Tony for moment, grabbed his newspaper, and headed toward his bathroom. “I can’t talk right now,” he said, closing and locking the door behind him.

“Paulie!” Tony shouted. “You can’t pretend to shit forever!”

***

Dapreet pushed Flounder with all the might he could muster, finally freeing himself from the fury of punches. Flounder fell backward, and Dapreet got to his feet and kicked him in the stomach, sending him back to the ground. “That hurt?” Dapreet asked. “I knew you couldn’t keep that up for long.”

Dapreet laughed as he kicked Flounder again as he tried to get up. Flounder tried to block the third kick with his hands, but Dapreet’s shoe hit him in the face, making his nose bleed freely. “Last chance,” Dapreet breathed. “I’ll let you run off now if you want.”

“No way,” Flounder breathed, turning. “We finish this.”

Dapreet tried to step back, but Flounder’s hand flashed upward. It was too late for him to block.

Da’Quarius laughed as he picked himself up from the ground. Roderick had hit him quite a few times, and each punch felt like there was a miniature train behind it. “What the hell is so funny?” Roderick asked, readying his fist for another.

“You,” Da’Quarius said. “Why you got a boner right now?”

“I don’t!” Roderick said, hitting Da’Quarius again and sending him to the ground.

“I can see it!” Da’Quarius sad. “You gay. It’s OK. I don’t care. I’m not into you gettin’ off on touchin’ me, but it’s OK. You can be gay.”

“Shut up!” Roderick shouted. In his anger, he let his last punch hit nothing but air. A second later, Da’Quarius swung a large branch, hitting Roderick in the side of the head. He fell down on his side, breathing heavily as he slept.

“You went down like a sack of shit,” Da’Quarius said. “I was serious about dat gay stuff. It’s cool if that’s why you bein’ such an asshole.”

Da’Quarius turned to see which of the kids were still fighting, but they all seemed to have stopped. They were standing in a circle around Dapreet. Da’Quarius moved forward to see Flounder kneeling in front of him, grasping his balls with a look of fury on his face.

“Tell him to let go,” Dapreet said, pleading with a bloodied Da’Quarius as he approached.

“I cain’t,” Da’Quarius said. “You fucked with him, an’ now you gotta take yo’ medicine, DP. Do it, Flounder.”

Flounder screamed with rage as he twisted his hand. Dapreet screamed as well. His high-pitched screech of pain sent birds into the sky. Flounder’s face contorted as he twisted as second time. Dapreet’s scream became more high-pitched right before he passed out from the pain.

“Got-damn!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “A double twist?! Remind me not to fuck wit’chu, Flounder.”

Flounder stood up and dusted off his pants. “What now?” he asked.

“Now we leave,” Da’Quarius said. “We go home and wait to find out if we expelled from camp.”

“Cool,” Flounder said. “Fuck this place. Hey, kids, go to the rec center and hang out, the counselors are there.”

“Y’all fought like crazy too,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m proud as fuck right now.”

“Those kids were pretty cool,” Flounder said.

Da’Quarius laughed. “Yeah,” he said. “You gonna make a fine counselor here.”

“You think I can be a counselor still?” Flounder asked as they walked away. “What about Dapreet?”

“He won’t show his face here again,” Da’Quarius said. “He’s been shit-talkin’ you all summer to dose kids, and he just got his ass kicked by you. He’d be an idiot to think they’d respect him as a counselor next year. Not after you double-twisted his nuts!”

“I seriously feel bad about that actually,” Flounder said. “I thought I felt something break.”

“Good thing his father’s a dick doctor,” Da’Quarius said. “He’ll be able to hook him up with a brand new nut-sack in no time.”

The two laughed as they washed the blood from their faces and shoved paper towels up their noses to hide the bleeding. They skipped the end-of-summer party with the counselors and went straight for the gates to wait for the bus back to New Haven. They were joined by Esmerelda shortly after, who wanted to hear all about the fight.

For Da’Quarius and Flounder, summer had ended on a painful, yet satisfying, high note.

***

The sun was closing in on the horizon, and Helen’s iced tea was empty. She sat up with a heave, and Rose looked over from her book. “Heading in?” Rose asked.

“Yeah,” Helen said. “I fell asleep, and I feel like I’ve been in the microwave too long. Besides, that kid’ll be home soon from his last day at camp.”

“Right,” Rose said. “We should get started on dinner.”

Helen stopped with her hand on the door handle. “Hey,” she said. “Let the kid get a pizza.”

“What?” Rose asked.

“We’ll have Paulie send up a pie,” Helen said. “That way we don’t have to cook tonight.”

“And what are we going to do?” Rose asked.

“I know what I’m going to do,” Helen said. “I’m going to take a piss, make a fresh pitcher of lemonade, and sit out here until the sun goes down. Hell, Da’Quarius can join us if he wants once he’s home. He might have an interesting story or two from camp. What do you think? Care to join me? You still have half that book left.”

“That sounds lovely,” Rose said, smiling. “What brought this on?”

“I don’t know,” Helen said. “I just don’t want to miss the end of summer I guess.”

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