The afternoon sun shone through the windows of Paulie’s Pizza on State Street. Paulie, the owner, came out of his office near lunch time. His nephew Da’Quarius was sweeping the floors during his weekly shift, and Tony was finishing up their lunches. “Guess who I just talked to,” he said. “My cousin Vinny.”
“Vinny the fixer?!” Tony said, coming around the counter with their sandwiches. “I haven’t talked to him in forever.”
“Vinny da’ fixer?” Da’Quarius asked. “How’d he earn dat name?”
“He fixes things,” Paulie said, pulling his plate toward hisself.
“Like he’s a mechanic?” Da’Quarius asked.
“No,” Paulie said. “Tony can explain it better I think.”
“He’ll fix your problems,” Tony said. “You got some mook after you for money he thinks you owe him: Vinny fixes him. You got an ex that won’t stop showing up in the middle of the night: Vinny fixes them. You got some Puerto Rican named Hector looking for you because he claims you knocked up his sister -“
“Well said,” Paulie said.
“Dat sounds so cool,” Da’Quarius said. “Goin’ ‘round an’ solvin’ people’s problems by beatin’ ‘em up an’ shit.”
“Oh, you think it sounds easy,” Tony said. “Don’t get me started on how far he has to go to solve some of these problems. Don’t get me wrong, he gets paid good. Real good. In fact -“
“You’ve explained enough,” Paulie said. “I don’t need you putting ideas in the kid’s head.”
“What ideas?” Da’Quarius said. “Dat I should be like Vinny da’ fixer an’ fix people’s problems? Dat’s a great idea! Thanks, Paulie!”
“Madon,” Paulie said.
“What did Vinny want anyway?” Tony asked.
“He wanted to make sure you’re here,” Paulie said. “He wants to talk to you about some guy who claims you’re stalking his wife.”
“Shit,” Tony said. “Friggin’ broad.”
“Tony ’bout to get fixed!” Da’Quarius said, a look of glee on his face.
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 9, Episode 1: Perverted Justice
Rose walked to the exit of the supermarket with Helen behind her. She had her bags of groceries ready to be packed into her car and brought home. She was stopped on her way out by an eleven year old boy with some home-made flyers. He had black hair that was gelled back. He was tall and skinny. “Hi,” the boy said. “Can I have a moment of your time?”
“Sure,” Rose said, smiling.
“Don’t do it,” Helen said. “Damn solicitors start young. Give him a dollar now, and he’ll be begging to blow men outside of bars for nickels by the time he’s twenty-five.”
“Hush,” Rose said gently. “I’m sure he’s harmless.”
“My name is Scott Vick,” the boy said, “and I’m asking for donations to help me stay in ballet school. I have to pay month by month, and my father can’t afford the payments. My studio’s recital is coming up, and I want to be able to participate.”
“Oh my,” Rose said. “So your mother isn’t around?”
“No,” Scott said, looking down. His mother seemed to be a sore subject, and Rose knew better than to press the issue.
“What’s the matter?” Helen asked. “Did she run away to spare herself the visions of her fruity son prancing around in pantyhose?”
“Helen!” Rose snapped. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s alright,” Scott said. “I’m used to hearing stuff like that from my father. He’s not very supportive of my love of ballet.”
Rose looked into the face of the boy standing in front of her. He started to pull the pamphlet away, but she reached forward and took it. “I’ll pay for your next month,” she said, smiling.
“Madon,” Helen groaned from behind her. “Here we friggin’ go.”
“So here’s what we do,” Da’Quarius said, sitting at the lunch table across from his Korean friend, Flounder. “I’m gonna be a ‘fixer’. We’ll find kids with problems, fix ’em, an’ we get paid.”
Flounder raised his hand.
“Don’t raise yo’ hand!” Da’Quarius snapped. “We ain’t in class. Just ask me. Damn!”
“Sorry,” Flounder said, lowering his hand. “What problems are we going to fix?”
“Anything,” Da’Quarius said. “Bully problems, crazy ex-boyfriends, I dunno. Anything dat needs fixin’.”
“Alright,” Flounder said. “I’ll get the word out.”
By the end of the day, Flounder was able to pass Da’Quarius a note. A boy a year behind named Randy Summers was being bullied by someone from Da’Quarius’s class. As soon as the bell rang, Da’Quarius decided it was time to fix him.
“Hey, Todd!” Da’Quarius shouted, following Todd toward the buses. Todd turned and glared at Da’Quarius. The two had been at odds a few times in the past.
“What do you want?” Todd asked. “I thought we were square. I don’t mess with you, and you don’t mess with me.”
“You mean I don’t beat’cho ass in da’ cafeteria again,” Da’Quarius said.
“What do you want?” Todd repeated, eager to be done with the conversation.
“I want you to leave Randy alone,” Da’Quarius said. “Stop pickin’ on smaller kids, you dickless cracka.”
“What do you care about Randy?” Todd asked. “He’s just a kid.”
“Exactly,” Da’Quarius said. “You ain’t a bully; you a bitch-ass honky. If I hear you’re fuckin’ with Randy again, umma punch yo’ lights out. Understand?”
“Sure,” Todd said, trying to look as if he wasn’t scared. “Whatever.”
“Gotdamn right,” Da’Quarius said as Todd got onto his bus. “Consider yo’self fixed, mo’ fucker.”
Rose hummed away as she got her purse ready to go out later the following night.
“I still don’t understand why you have to go,” Helen said, muting the TV to nag Rose. “You already paid for a month of that little asshole’s lessons. Why do you have to go watch too?”
“I want to see my investment in action,” Rose said. “He has no family to support him. He needs someone to cheer him on. Besides, I know what it’s like being raised by a parent who looks down on you for your sexuality.”
“What?” Helen asked. “When did he say he was queer?”
“He didn’t have to admit it for me to know,” Rose said, “and I didn’t use the word ‘queer’.”
“Sure,” Helen said. “Assume the kid’s light in the ballet slippers just because he wears ballet slippers.”
“Helen,” Rose said. “You’re the last person -“
Rose was interrupted by the barking of Dutchie, Da’Quarius’s pitbull terrier. He head his master coming home and decided to give him a proper greeting.
“Yo,” Da’Quarius said. “Wha’chu biddies up to today?”
“Da’Quarius!” Rose said, beaming. “I wanted to talk to you. I’m going to a local dance studio in support of a male ballet dancer tonight.”
Da’Quarius looked past Rose to Helen, who simply shrugged.
“OK,” Da’Quarius said. “What’s dat got to do with me?”
“I want you to come with me,” Rose said. “I think it would be good for you to think about signing up too.”
“What?!” Da’Quarius said. “Why would I want to join dance classes?”
“Don’t you see?” asked Helen, standing up and standing next to Rose. “You’re black, and black kids have the best rhythm, making them the best dancers.”
“Come on, biddy,” Da’Quarius said.
“You can be the little black boy,” Helen said, “tap-dancing around all those well-off white girls.”
“You cold,” Da’Quarius said.
“Don’t look at me,” Helen said. “Rose is the one with these ideas in her head.”
“Stop it,” Rose said. She turned to Da’Quarius. “You know that’s not it. I just thought it’d be good for you.”
Da’Quarius gave Rose an odd look. “I gotta take Dutchie fo’ a walk,” he said, attaching Dutchie’s leash to his harness and walking back out the front door.
“Wait,” Rose said, rushing out the door to catch up. “I can’t tell if you’re joking!”
“Ha!” Helen said, changing the channel. “I love it when you’re inadvertently the bigot one for a change.”
“Any new clientele?” Da’Quarius asked Flounder on the bus the next morning.
“Just one,” Flounder said. Word had spread quickly about Da’Quarius’s fixing business. He had been plunking down white bullies and shaking down kids who owed debts of some kind for days.
“You’ll make a good pimp someday,” Da’Quarius said. “Wha’chu got for me?”
“This one is big,” Flounder said. “I don’t know if we’d be able to handle it.”
“Come on,” Da’Quarius said. “If someone needs fixin’, den I’m da’ man.”
Flounder couldn’t get the details out of his mouth without stuttering, so he reached in his bag and pulled out a piece of paper. He handed it to Da’Quarius and watched him intently.
Da’Quarius read silently as the bus drove onward toward Haven Hills school. He finally got to the end. “Holy shit,” he said, handing the paper back to Flounder. “Is dis serious?”
Flounder nodded, a worried look on his face. “Are you gonna take the job?” he asked.
Da’Quarius didn’t have an answer.
Da’Quarius sat down in an empty classroom. Mr. Hessman, a teacher who greatly admired Da’Quarius, had given him and Flounder a pass to do this in lieu of attending his class that day. They were joined by Ben Curtis; the twelve year old boy who had reached out to Flounder to have Da’Quarius fix a problem for him.
“Is dis serious?” Da’Quarius asked, repeating his question from the bus ride early that day. Flounder sat next to him, keeping his silence as he normally did when nervous.
“Yes,” Ben said. He was small and chubby, topped with curly brown hair.
“And dis guy is yo’ uncle?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Yes,” Ben repeated. “He always comes by our house on the weekends, and he always gets me alone. Then he touches…” Bed had put his face in his hands.
“It’s OK,” Da’Quarius said, trying his best to by sympathetic. “You don’t need to give me da’ details. What do you want me to do ’bout him?”
“I just want him to stop and go away,” Ben said, composing himself. “That’s all.”
“Why don’t you tell your parents?” Flounder asked, breaking his silence.
“I tried,” Ben said, looking as if he would start crying again at any moment. “They think I’m lying. Uncle Jim has them convinced I’m making stuff up for the attention because I’m an only child, but I know he does it to other kids.”
“What other kids?” Da’Quarius asked.
“He finds them on the internet,” Ben replied. “He tricks them into going into a public place where they feel safe, and then he gets them into his car. He’s never been caught though. He thinks his system is safe.”
“Uncle Jim sounds like a slick mo’ fucker,” Da’Quarius said. “I’ll take your case and fix him for you.”
Ben looked up, a look of gratitude on his face. “Thank you,” he said. “I can’t pay now, but -“
“Just hit me up when you can,” Da’Quarius said. “Let’s take care of dat kid-touchin’ uncle of yours first.”
Rose watched Scott’s practice for the second time that week. He moved like liquid as the dance studio’s boom box filled the room with music. The ninety minute lesson flew by, and she clapped when it was finally over. This got her a lot of odd looks from the parents of the other dancers, but she didn’t care.
“You are wonderful!” Rose said as Scott walked from the studio with a towel around his shoulders. “I can’t wait for your recital. I’ve already bought tickets for me and my family.”
“Oh,” Scott said, a sullen look coming onto his face. “That’s next week.”
“What’s wrong?” Rose asked. “You’re a great dancer. There’s no way you should be nervous about it!”
“It’s not that,” Scott said. “I’ll be doing the numbers with the rest of the class, but I was really looking forward to doing a duet with Monica.”
“Monica?” Rose asked. She turned to see the girl from his class he was talking about. She was an inch or two shorter than him and had shoulder-length black hair, which was now in a pony tail. “She’s a good dancer too. Why aren’t you doing the duet?”
“I didn’t raise enough money,” Scott said. “We get the class numbers as part of our monthly tuition, but any solos or duets have to be paid for by our parents. Monica and I have been practicing in our spare time and everything. My father won’t give me a dime, and it’s all because I’m -“
“I’ll pay for your duet,” Rose said, smiling.
“Really?!” Scott said, nearly jumping with his hands folded in front of himself. “You really don’t mind. It’s more than I could ever ask you for!”
“It’s no problem,” Rose said, smiling. “How do I go about doing it?”
“You just have to write a check with the woman at the front desk and let her know who it’s for,” Scott said walking toward the desk nearly dragging Rose by her left hand. “Come on. I’ll bring you right there.”
“You did what?!” Helen exclaimed when Rose told her about her sponsoring of Scott’s duet over dinner. “We’re on a fixed income! How could you just throw money away like that!”
“Oh, it wasn’t that much,” Rose said, waving a hand. “I’m thinking of buying a page in their program too to encourage him to follow his ballet dreams.”
“Madon,” Helen groaned. “We’re going to be in the poor house, and it’s all because you’re giving some little shit charity because you think he might be gay.”
“That’s not why I’m doing this,” Rose said quickly. “I mean, yeah, it is, but that’s not the point. Scott never had encouragement from any adult figures in his life. He needs to know there are good people out there.”
“Yeah,” Helen scoffed. “How’s the saying go? ‘There’s a good person born every minute’?”
“I really wish I could talk Da’Quarius into coming,” Rose said. “Then he might see the merit in ballet dancing.”
“Bah!” Helen said, waving a hand. “You just think all blacks can dance.”
“That is not true!” Rose said.
“Where’s that kid anyway?” Helen asked.
“He’s having dinner with a friend,” Rose replied. “He said he has some work for school.”
“Good,” Helen said. “Damn kid needs to keep studying and keep out of trouble. There are a lot of sickos out there.”
“Alright,” Da’Quarius said, punching the keys on the keyboard of Flounder’s computer. “Manny Garcia taught me how to mask yo’ IP, so it looks like we’re in Stockholm right now. How do we find Uncle Jim?”
“Ben gave me a list of sites and forums he uses,” Flounder said.
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said, taking the piece of paper from Flounder. “This kid’s done his research. He really wants his uncle busted. How do we find him on dese sites?”
“He goes by the name ‘UncleGranpa69er’,” Flounder replied. “Gross.”
“Da’ fuck is Uncle Grandpa mean?” Da’Quarius asked.
“It’s a show on Cartoon Network,” Flounder said. “He’s like your uncle and your grandpa, so he’s Uncle Grandpa.”
“Sounds stupid,” Da’Quarius said. “Sounds like yo’ mother did some weird-ass, complicated incest stuff, somehow makin’ you have an Uncle Grandpa.”
“My mom never did that stuff!” Flounder said.
Da’Quarius cracked his knuckles. “Let’s find us a child molester.”
Da’Quarius and Flounder took turns for the better part of an hour and a half trying to find Ben’s Uncle Jim on message boards, forums, and live chat rooms. They were about to give up and try for another night when he finally popped on.
“There he is!” Flounder exclaimed as he entered an anime porn chat room. “UncleGrandpa69er!”
“Lemme see,” Da’Quarius said. Flounder got up from his chair and let Da’Quarius take over. “Time to set dis mo’ fucker up for some fixin’!”
“What are you saying?” Flounder asked.
“I’m just saying I’m a thirteen year old boy from New Haven,” Da’Quarius said. “If he takes the bait, he’ll try and private chat with me. Look! Took this disgustin’ fuck no time at all!”
Da’Quarius started chatting about anime porn, getting information from Flounder, who was researching topics on his cell phone while Da’Quarius chatted. After ten minutes, Uncle Jim finally popped the question.
“He wants to meet at da’ comic book store to talk anime in person,” Da’Quarius said. “Told you. He ain’t wastin’ any time. Cocky bastard.”
“What are you going to do?” Flounder asked.
“We’re gonna do what we set out to do,” Da’Quarius said, typing away. “We’re gonna set dis bitch up and fix him up a dose of perverted justice.”
DaQuarius entered his house later than usual. Because it took so long to entrap Uncle Jim, Da’Quarius ended up home well past his curfew. He hoped Helen and Rose went to bed unaware of his absence, but Helen was waiting on the couch.
“What are you doing home so late?” Helen asked. “It’s a school night.”
“It’s a good thing I was doin’ schoolwork, den,” Da’Quarius said.
“Bullshit,” Helen said. “You’re up to something. You’re trying to sass me to get me mad so I’ll stop interrogating you.”
“Oh yeah?” Da’Quarius asked. “Where’s yo’ proof, biddy?”
“Better watch it kid,” Helen said, smiling. “I’ll let Rose give you your punishment this time.”
“What?” Da’Quarius asked, smiling. “Rose’s punishments are nuttin’ compared to your’s.”
“Not this time,” Helen said. “She has something more diabolical than anything I’ve ever come up with.”
“With which I’ve come up,” Rose said, entering the den with her arms crossed.
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “You only correct Helen’s grammar when you really mad.”
“I was just telling Helen how you need more structure,” Rose said. “Maybe signing you up for dance lessons will be for the best after all.”
“No,” Da’Quarius said. “You wouldn’t!”
“I don’t even think that’s a punishment,” Rose said, “but you seem to be resisting it for some reason.”
“I don’t dance!” Da’Quarius exclaimed.
“Sure you do,” Helen said. “All black kids dance. That’s all Rose is trying to say.”
“That is not what I’m trying to say,” Rose said.
“Your’e saying you want him to dance like a regular person,” Helen said. “He needs to give up this ass-shaking and air-humping.”
“Da’Quarius is a regular person!” Rose said. “I just want him to have some discipline.”
“I have discipline oozin’ from my shorts,” Da’Quarius said. “I just lost track of time with Flounder.”
“Sure,” Rose said, unconvinced. “Just know that you are both coming with me to Scott’s recital on Sunday.”
“What?!” Helen exclaimed. “Why me too?!”
“I want Da’Quarius to see that you won’t make fun of him for joining,” Rose said.
“I’m not joining,” Da’Quarius interjected.
“And I’d make fun of him relentlessly,” Helen added.
“Well you’re both going regardless,” Rose said with a nod. “And that’s final.” She nodded once more after a moment of silence from the two and walked with her head held high toward the stairs.
It was Friday night, and Da’Quarius hid by the parking lot of the comic book store with Flounder. Uncle Jim wanted to meet somewhere public before he laid his trap. “Dis pervert better get here soon,” he said. “Rose and Helen are gonna have a bird if I’m home late again.”
“How long will this take?” Flounder asked.
“I dunno,” Da’Quarius replied. “Last time a Tony an’ me did dis, we did it late, so I snuck outta bed after da’ biddies went to sleep.”
“You’ve done this before?” Flounder asked in awe.
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “We roughed up dat bastard dat was cuttin’ black kids’ dicks off. Tony and I issued some street justice, an’ his punk ass went to jail. I shoulda gotten Tony in on dis one. At least I wouldn’t have to take da’ bus home.”
Flounder looked like he was going to say something else, but Da’Quarius silenced him with his hand up. “Dat’s him,” he said. Uncle Jim walked up. He was beginning to go bald and had a thin mustache. He wore a light jacket and dark blue jeans.
“He definitely looks like he touches kids,” Da’Quarius said. “He’s sloppy as fuck. How come he hasn’t been busted yet?”
“What do I do?” Flounder asked.
“Hang back,” Da’Quarius said. “Call in an anonymous tip to the police if things get too fucked. If I’m lucky, I’ll he able to blackmail him with a recording and kick his ass fo’ good measure.” Da’Quarius clicked the button on his phone to start recording before putting it in his shirt pocket.
“I’m starting to think this was a bad idea,” Flounder said.
“I said hang back,” Daquarius said. “I don’t wanna fuck dis up.”
“Hi,” Jim said in a soft voice. “You must be Rufus.”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Dat’s me. Rufus.”
Flounder watched from afar as Jim walked off with Da’Quarius. He saw Jim’s arm briefly brush up against Da’Quarius’s, and he pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed nine-one-one.
“Hello?” Flounder said. “Is this the police? I have an emergency! My friend is being molested at the comic book store!”
Da’Quarius was led back into his house after midnight by Rose and Helen, who had just picked him up from the police station. “I am so furious with you right now,” Rose said.
“You’re mad?” Da’Quarius said. “Flounder’s da’ one who called da’ cops before dat pervert said anything incriminatin’.”
“How could you do that?!” Rose shouted. “Child molesters are dangerous people! How can you think what you’re doing was safe?!”
“People like him need to be taken care of,” Da’Quarius said. “The system is broken.”
“You shouldn’t have been caught,” Helen said.
“That’s not the lesson I want to instill right now,” Rose said. “He shouldn’t have been trying to catch a predator on his own.”
“Dat guy on TV used to catch ‘em once a week,” Da’Quarius said.
“I’ve had enough of your sass!” Helen said. “You’re going to join dance school! We warned you the other night!”
“No!” Da’Quarius exclaimed.
“That’s not really a punishment,” Rose said, “but you will be joining. You need more structure in your life.”
“I’m not joining no dance school,” Da’Quarius said, sitting down with his arms crossed.
“I guess you are,” Rose said, “because you just used a double negative, meaning you are joining. Congratulations.”
Da’Quarius threw his hands up and stormed upstairs.
“Damn,” Helen said as Da’Quarius slammed his door. “You used grammar against him. Can’t believe you had to play that card.”
“Sometimes you gotta be tough, Helen,” Rose said.
Da’Quarius had been grounded until the day of the recital, and he wished he was still grounded as Rose led him and Helen into the recital hall. They had come early, and the place was already half-full.
“Let’s sit in that area where there’s not a whole lotta people,” Helen said, spotting a nearly empty area to the far left.
“Why don’t you want to sit with other people?” Rose asked.
“Do you really want Helen sittin’ near others?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Good point,” Rose said. “You guys find some seats. I’m going backstage to check on Scott.”
Da’Quarius walked to Helen to the area where there weren’t many people, found some spots that were out of the way, and sat down. “I don’t really gotta do dis too,” Da’Quarius said, “do I?”
Helen shrugged. “Depends,” she said. “You done sneaking around with this perverted justice nonsense?”
“So you wanna keep pedophiles like dat guy on da’ street?” Da’Quarius said.
“No,” Helen replied, “but the whole system is fucked. Back in my day you’d take a guy like that to a garbage dump and lock him in an old refrigerator.”
“How long did you keep ’em in dere?” Da’Quarius asked.
“What do you mean ‘how long’?” Helen asked. She cackled as the seats around them began to fill.
Rose walked around the backstage area, looking for Scott. She finally found him getting ready among a group of girls in the eleven year old group. They giggled and ran off as he walked toward Rose. “Thank you so much,” he said, grasping her hand with both of his. “You’ve done so much for me.”
“You’re welcome,” Rose said, blushing. “I’m just happy I can make this happen for you.”
“I can’t wait to be dancing in front of everyone,” Scott said. “I might get to compete in competitions if I do well during the recital. Can you imagine it? Competitive dancing!”
“Really?” Rose asked. “That sounds amazing. Is that something your studio does?”
“Yeah,” Scott said. His smile faded a bit. “But there’s expenses for costumes and travel and everything else. I’ll be asking for donations in front of stores if I want to compete.”
Rose watched Scott, her heart welling with pity. She was proud he had come so far, but she also felt guilty that he wasn’t able to go further. “You know I’ll do what I can,” Rose said.
“You’ve already done a lot for me,” Scott said.
“Hush,” Rose said. “Even if I can’t pay outright for everything, I can start fundraisers or bake sales or raffles. I’m going to make sure you get everything you need to keep up the dancing.”
“Thank you so much, Rose,” Scott said with a wide smile. “I need to run now. The show’s starting, and I’m in the big opening number.”
“Oh,” Rose said. “When’s your duet?”
“Not until later in the show,” Scott said, running off. “Thank you again, Rose!”
Rose swelled with pride once again as Scott ran off to dance in the studio’s opening number.
Music filled the auditorium, and the show was starting. Helen didn’t even twitch when the young dancers came out. Da’Quarius had his phone on his lap, flicking at the screen as he played games or texted with his friends.
“You sure you don’t want to watch?” Helen said.
“Nah,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m good.”
“You sure?” Helen said, shifting in her seat. “You’re might be on that stage the next time they do one of these.”
Da’Quarius turned his phone off. “Is dat how you plan on passing the time?” he asked, “bustin’ my nuts about havin’ to sign up fo’ dis dumbass class?”
“Oh look,” Helen said, looking on the stage. “Here you come!”
Da’Quaruis looked to the stage as a chubby black boy with a small afro tap-danced his way to the center of the stage wearing a red, white, and blue sparkly outfit. He had a huge smile as he tapped away with a girl on each side of him.
“Dat ain’t me, biddy,” Da’Quarius said.
“That’s not what Rose thinks,” Helen said. “She thinks you’re that Webster look-alike up there, tapping his plump, little, black ass off.”
A couple turned to look at Helen before moving to another section.
“Who’s Webster?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Some little moulie from TV in the eighties,” Helen said. “Poor kid had Gary Coleman disease, so a bunch of Hollywood Jews chucked him into a sitcom. I wondered what ever happened to him.”
“What’s Gary Coleman disease?” Da’Quarius asked as the opening number ended and the next act began.
“It’s where you get to be ten years old,” Helen said, “then you stop growing. You just look like a kid for the rest of your life and you’re never taken seriously, no matter how many drugs you take or however many hookers you bang.”
A few more people moved their seats.
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “Sounds rough.”
“Not as rough as sitting through this shit show,” Helen said. “How much longer do we have of this?”
Da’Quarius flipped through the program. “Seeing as this is the second act,” he said, running his finger along the long list of the acts from the studio’s various classes, “I have to guess two or three hours.”
“Oh no,” Helen said. “I’ve died and gone straight to Hell.”
Scott finished the first number he had with his whole class, and he returned to the backstage area to find Rose waiting for him “You’re still here?” he asked, drinking from his water bottle.
“I’m here for the whole show,” Rose said. “Ready for your duet with Monica?”
“Oh yeah,” Scott said. “We’ve been looking forward to it.”
“What will you be dancing to?” Rose asked.
“A song by Lana del Rey,” Scott replied. “It’s called ‘Cola’. We chose it ourselves.”
“How wonderful,” Rose said. “I can’t wait!”
“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable sitting in the audience?” Scott asked. “I’ll be back out for part of the next act too.”
“I suppose I can support you from out there,” Rose said. “I’ll come see you later then.”
“Thanks,” Scott said, running off for his next costume change in the boys’ area. Rose walked out to the auditorium and stood to watch, too excited to sit down. When the next act started, Scott was back onstage, dancing with his class of girls.
“That boy is something else, isn’t he?” a voice said next to Rose.
“He is,” Rose said, prouder of Scott than she had been earlier.
“That’s my son,” the man said.
Rose turned to look at man standing next to her. He had slicked back hair that was thin in the front and middle, a large, protruding gut, and he wore a stained tee shirt and old jeans. It was exactly how she would have pictured Scott’s father by what little he had said about him. She had an immediate dislike for him.
“It’s so nice to see a father support his son during ballet,” Rose said. “Most fathers I would probably be upset about their son doing something like this. They’d think their sons were… You know… A little light in the slippers.”
Scott’s father laughed. “No way,” he said. “Not my boy. This whole thing was my idea. I told him to do it. If the girls thinks he’s gay, then they’ll work extra hard to make him straight again. He’s only eleven, but he pulls down more poon than I did during my high school years, and I played football for God’s sake!”
“But it’s so expensive,” Rose said, the disgust for Scott’s father growing leaps and bounds. “How do you pay for all this?”
“That’s the beauty,” Scott’s father said, laughing. “He takes care of it all himself. He scammed some lady into paying for it. Kid’s a natural. I can’t wait for him to start working for me at my car dealership. I just wished his mother were here to see this.”
“I’m sorry,” Rose said, sympathy causing some of her disgust to dissipate. “How long ago did she pass?”
“What?” Scott’s father said. ”My wife ain’t dead. She’s just a bitch and wanted to stay home.”
Rose looked at Scott’s father as he watched his son’s act on stage end. She fought back every urge she had to slap him and do the same to his con-artist son. Instead, she pushed her anger aside and went backstage to find Scott between acts.
“Look at that little girl’s teeth,” Helen said, watching the latest act on stage. “They’re huge! I hope she grows into them someday.”
Da’Quarius laughed. Helen had succeeded in making everyone around them leave, and they were alone in their section now. After a few boring minutes where Helen may have finally ran out of comments, a man sat down a row in front of them and five seats over. He was apparently oblivious to where he had just sat.
“Holy shit,” Da’Quarius whispered close to Helen’s hearing aid. “Dat’s Uncle Jim!”
“You have an uncle I don’t know about?” Helen said.
“No,” Da’Quarius said. “Da’ child molester I tried to bust da’ other night. He’s right dere!”
“Oh,” Helen said, her interest drawn to the man sitting in the row ahead.
“Look at him,” Da’Quarius said, continuing to whisper. “He just put his jacket on his lap and his hand under his jacket. He’s jerking off to da’ girls on stage. Dis mo’ fucker don’t even give a fuck. How has he never gotten busted?! I can see his hand movin’ up an’ down under da’ jacket.”
“You wanna see some perverted justice, kid?” Helen asked. “Watch this.”
Helen pulled something from her purse Da’Quarius didn’t see. She walked behind Uncle Jim, moving silently. Da’Quarius looked around to make sure nobody was watching, but everyone’s attention was on the stage. Anyone who would’ve seen what Helen was about to do was long gone.
Helen moved quickly, getting a small piece of rope around Uncle Jim’s neck. Her face was contorted in rage as she pulled tightly, cutting off his windpipe. He struggled for a moment before slouching in his chair.
“See,” Helen said, sitting next to Da’Quarius as if she did nothing. “The trick is to get them as soon as they’re done exhaling. They’ll go under quicker that way.”
Da’Quarius looked in horror of the figure of Uncle Jim, his head lying on his shoulder.
“Fuckin’ kid touchers,” Helen said. “Every one of them makes me sick.”
“Scott,” Rose said, finding Scott backstage again. She had gotten many dirty looks from annoyed mothers who were getting their kids ready for their next acts, but she didn’t care. She just wanted to tell off Scott for using her the way he did.
“Rose,” Scott said, taken aback by her third appearance backstage. “I need to get ready. My duet is next.”
“I wanted to tell you -“
“Thank you again, Rose,” Scott said, pulling on the last part of his costume. “I know it was a lot of money, but you have no idea how much this means to me. You’ve taught me something. This is a turning point for me. No more scams, no more using people. I’ll tell you everything later, but I need to go dance like I’ve never danced before.”
Rose walked back out, past Scott’s father, and over to Helen and Da’Quarius. She passed a man sleeping in the row in front of them. “Some people,” she said. “He can’t even stay awake for his kid’s performance.”
“Back already?” Helen asked.
“I want to see Scott’s performance,” Rose said. “I know his means weren’t exactly honest, but I think he’ll be alright after a long talk.”
“Scammed you good, Rose?” Helen said.
“But he’s turning over a new leaf,” Rose said. “Why are you so quiet, Da’Quarius?”
Da’Quarius only shrugged.
“Oh, I see what’s bothering you,” Rose said. “I won’t force you to take dance lessons if you don’t want to. I can see it’s not for you. I just hope you’ll consider it in the future.”
“Thanks,” Da’Quarius said, brightening up. The current act ended. “Your kid on next?”
“Here he comes,” Rose said, settling down.
The lights went out as Scott and Monica came onstage, waiting still for their queue. The music started, and they began to dance against each other. The voice of Lana del Rey filled the auditorium.
“My pussy tastes like Pepsi-Cola
My eyes are wide like cherry pies
I got sweet taste for men who’re older
It’s always been so it’s no surprise”
“Holy shit!” Helen said. “Did I just hear what I thought I heard?”
Rose looked around the audience to see the shocked looks on other people’s faces. Evidently they all heard the same lyrics Helen had. She turned to the stage to see Scott and Monica dancing and miming sexual acts on the stage.
“I don’t know who this Lana del Rey is,” Rose said, “but her music is filthy.”
“You going to wait for your protege?” Helen asked. “He’ll be done grabbing those milk duds in a few minutes probably.”
“No,” Rose said. “We can go.”
“Don’t have to say dat twice,” Da’Quarius said, getting up and rushing toward the exit. Helen got up slower, gave Rose a small, understanding smile, and walked out with her. They passed a couple of the dance instructors rushing toward the stage. “I’m going to ban that little conman for life!” one whispered harshly as Lana del Rey shouted and finished her song.
“My pussy tastes like Pepsi-Cola!“
New Haven Police Officer Rocco Priolo walked through the nearly empty auditorium after his precinct got a call from a woman who was watching a ballet show. There was a man he needed to rouse from sleeping.
“Hey,” Rocco said, shaking the man’s shoulder. “Time to get up.”
Jim woke suddenly, not knowing where he was. “What’s going on?”
“You’re under arrest,” Rocco said.
“For what?” Jim asked.
“For falling asleep during a ballet recital,” Rocco said.
“That’s not a crime,” Jim said.
“You fell asleep while jerking off to it,” Rocco said.
Jim looked down. He had covered himself with his jacket, but it had slipped off. His penis was hanging liwmp in his hand. “Oh shit,” he said.
“Come on,” Rocco said. Pulling Jim up and cuffing him. “Hey. I know you. Didn’t we pick you up with the kid by the comic book store?”
“Nothing happened,” Jim said quickly.
“No,” Rocco said, “but I know a friend of a friend who’s looking to talk to you about that. He goes by the name ‘Vinny the Fixer’.”