Freedom Lane: Nuts in the Attic

Helen sat in her favorite chair in the den of her home on Freedom Lane. She had a tiny screwdriver and her hearing aid in front of her. It hadn’t been working right, so she was fiddling with it. She popped in the new battery and closed it up, placing it in her ear. She turned on the TV, satisfied with her work. 
“That’s better,” she said, watching Doctor Fatshit talk to some extremely fat woman about why she eats the way she eats. Helen heard something else and muted the TV.
“What the hell is that noise?” she asked the empty den. “I swore I heard a scratching. I probably screwed up my hearing aid.”
Helen shrugged, turning the sound back on while Doctor Fatshit was explaining how traumatic events can trigger eating disorders. Helen muted the TV again. “I know I heard it that time,” she said.
“Rose?!” Helen shouted. “Kid?!”
There was no answer. Rose was outside gardening, and it was too early for Da’Quarius to be home from school. The scratching noise returned, and Dutchie, Da’Quarius’s pitbull terrier, lifted his head from his doggy bed, his ears perked up.
“So you hear it too,” Helen said. “It’s coming from upstairs. Let’s go see what it is.”
Helen shuffled up the stairs, followed by Dutchie. The scratching was louder in the upstairs hallway, and right above her head. Dutchie gave a growl. “I hear ‘em,” Helen said. “Let’s see what we’re dealing with here.”
Helen reached up, groaning at the ache in her back, pulling the cord on the ceiling door to the attic. It came open, and she pulled down the stepladder. “Don’t tell Rose I did this,” she mentioned to the dog as she mounted the steps.
The attic was full of dusty boxes of old holiday decorations along the walls along and plastic bins full of sheets and blankets. Helen looked around, putting her hand on the ground as she hoisted herself up. Acorns scattered, spilling onto the insulation that covered the floor.
“What the hell are these nuts doing up here?” Helen asked herself. Her question was answered a moment later, as two squirrels ran past, heading toward the circular window near the front of the house. “YOU BASTARDS!”
Helen climbed back down the stairs and found a patient Dutchie, who was staring up into the attic. He gave a short whine. “Your kind was bred for this shit,” Helen said, pulling on the dog’s collar. “You get up there and get those fuckers.”
Helen led Dutchie to the ladder, but he refused to climb. “You stupid mongrel,” Helen said. “Get up that damn ladder!” She wrestled with Dutchie, trying to haul him up by his mid-section. She paused to catch her breath and found Da’Quarius home from school, watching her.
“Wha’chu doin’ with my dog?” Da’Quarius asked. Dutchie, glad to see his master finally home, slipped through Helen’s grip and jumped around, wagging his tail.
“I’ve got nuts in the attic,” Helen replied.
Da’Quarius stared at Helen for a moment, shook his head, then silently took his dog downstairs.
“What?!” Helen shouted.
Freedom Lane 
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 10, Episode 2: Nuts in the Attic
Da’Quarius sat at the kitchen table, papers spread out on top. Paulie came in through the back door. “Hey, D,” he said. “What are you up to there? Looks like a hell of a report.”
“Dis ain’t no report,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m glad you stopped by. I’m doin’ dis fo’ you.”
“What?” Paulie asked, looking over the notes. “Is this for my remodeled pizzeria? What do you have in mind?”
“No,” Da’Quarius said. “Dis ain’t fo’ dat. Dis is my final revenge for Luca.”
Paulie groaned. Luca DiGenovese was his enemy and rival restauranteur. “Drop it,” Paulie said. “I want nothing to do with Luca. I almost lost my business, and there’s no reason to start off with another feud with him with the new place.”
“But he was tryin’ -”
“I don’t care,” Paulie said, taking Da’Quarius’s various papers off the table and stuffing them into the trash can in the corner. “I want absolutely nothing to do with that creep. Capeesh?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Just remember I tried when he shows his fat ass at yo’ new place, tryin’ to fuck yo’ shit up.”
“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind,” Paulie said. “And don’t you dare breathe a word of this to Tony.”
“I won’t,” Da’Quarius said. “Wha’chu doin’ here tonight anyway?”
“Rose called me earlier,” Paulie said. “She wanted me to see about some squirrels in the house.”
“Oh yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Helen is declarin’ an all out war on ‘em.”
“Come on,” Paulie said, walking toward the door leading to the den. “I’m sure she’s annoyed, but I think ‘all out war’ is probably an exaggeration, even for my sis.”
“I’m gonna nuke those little rat-fucks like Hiroshima!” Helen exclaimed, pacing the around her couch wearing her green army helmet and and carrying her crowbar. “Make no mistake, the war on squirrels has never been more real. You don’t come into my house, leaving acorns strewn about like you’re at some maple tree orgy.”
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “They’re just tree-rats. You just need to get them out and fix the window. They’ll move on.”
“It’s the middle of winter,” Rose said. “They’ll die outside.”
“We have no need for hippy nonsense right now,” Helen said, putting a hand on Rose’s shoulder. “Thank god you’re one of the pretty ones.”
“Thank you,” Rose said, “but can’t we just leave them until spring?”
Helen scoffed. “No, my dear,” she said. “They can face the elements as nature intended.”
“I got a have-a-heart trap at home,” Paulie said. “I’ll send Tony over first thing tomorrow. There’s not much for him to do while everything is being installed at the pizzeria, and he’s going stir crazy in my house. All of my wooden spoons have faces drawn on them, and I don’t even want to think about why.”
“So you’ll trap them,” Rose said. “Then what?”
“We’ll let them out somewhere they’ll be able to thrive,” Paulie said. “They’re resourceful rodents. They’ll be alright.”
“You can try to trap them,” Helen said, patting her hand with he crowbar, “if you can get to them before I find and disembowel them with my teeth.”
“Oh, Helen,” Rose said, putting her shaking head in her hand.
Da’Quarius sat at the lunch table, eating his sandwich across from his friend, Flounder. “What do you have today?” he asked.
“Ham an’ cheese,” Da’Quarius replied.
“How’d that thing go you were working on?” Flounder asked. “Did you avenge your uncle?”
“Fuck no,” Da’Quarius said, slamming his sandwich on the table. “Unca Paulie won’t let me do shit! He doesn’t wanna be involved, and I cain’t even ask Tony. Dis some bullshit.”
“Wait,” Flounder said. “Did he say you can’t do it, or does he just not want to be involved?”
Da’Quarius thought back tot he conversation with his uncle the night before. “He just said he wants nothin’ to do with Luca. Shit, Flounder. You just found a loophole!”
“I did?” Flounder asked. “What are you going to do now?”
“I dunno,” Da’Quarius said. “Maybe I’ll get a pipe and kneecap dat mo’ fucker when he’s walkin’ to his car.”
“That’s not good enough,” Flounder said.
“’Scuse me?!” Da’Quarius said. “Do you have a better idea?”
“Yeah,” Flounder said. “I think I do.”
“I don’t know why Paulie wants me to help you,” Tony said, following Rose and Helen to their second floor, carrying the steel cage trap Paulie had lent him. “He knows I’m scared shitless of squirrels.”
“Why is that?” Rose asked.
“When I was nine or ten,” Tony said, “one climbed up my pant leg and tried to bite my acorns off.”
“That was had to be forty-five years ago,” Rose said. “How could you let a phobia stick with you this long?”
“Clowns,” Helen muttered.
Rose looked around, darting her head back and forth. She settled her hand on her chest when she realized there were no clowns in her upstairs hallway. “Don’t do that,” she scolded.
“Sorry,” Helen said. “I couldn’t resist.” She reached up and pulled down the stepladder leading to the attic. “Up you go.”
Tony looked up into the darkness. “Are they up there now?” he asked.
“Stop being such a pussy,” Helen said. “Just climb up there, set the trap, and put some dog food in there to lure them in.” She handed Tony a ziplock baggie of Dutchie’s food.
“They won’t even notice you,” Rose said.
Tony gulped. “OK,” he said. “I’m going up.”
Tony climbed the stepladder, slowly. He got into the attic and put the cage on the ground, opening it. He took the baggie of dog food, opening it to put in the cage. “THEY’RE UP HERE!”
Helen and Rose looked up through the trap door as Tony thrashed on the attic floor. “Cut that out!” Helen shouted. “I’m going to beat you senseless if you come through my ceiling!”
“Just stand still, and they’ll leave you alone!” Rose called, a worried look on her face.
Tony finally got enough control over himself to climb down the ladder, landing hard on the floor between Helen and Rose. “Close the door!” he panted.
Helen closed it. “Did you get the food in the trap with all that commotion?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Tony said, sweat pouring down his face. “You told me there were only two. I counted four that I could see!”
“What happened?” Rose asked. “Did they attack you?”
“No,” Tony said. “They were running along the beams.”
“I thought a shark got you by the sound of it,” Helen said.
“Please don’t make me go back,” Tony said.
“Fine,” Helen said. “Get out of here.”
Tony didn’t have to be told twice. He ran down the stairs and straight out the front door. 
“There’s four now,” Helen said, looking toward the attic. “I bet they’re having their bushy-tailed orgy right this second. Da’Quarius will have to take the trap up and down until we get them all now that Tony is out.”
“I’m calling a professional,” Rose said. “This is too much.”
“Give me twenty-four hours,” Helen said. “If they aren’t gone by this time tomorrow, you can hire your exterminator.”
“Why not just let me call someone?” Rose sighed.
“Because I never admit defeat,” Helen said. “Not to gangs of butch bitches on the inside, and definitely not to a bunch of furry homos.”
Rose sighed again. “Alright,” she sad. “I’ll give you until tomorrow.”
Helen smiled.
Da’Quarius sat in Flounder’s room after school, silently watching Flounder furiously click away at his keyboard. Da’Quarius wanted to know what he was doing, but he decided to let him work, unhindered by questions. “OK,” Flounder finally said. “Done.”
“Done with what?” Da’Quarius said. “I have no idea wha’chu doin’.”
“Sorry,” Flounder said, looking embarrassed. “I was writing a program to automatically produce Yelp accounts, pull random negative reviews from all over the internet, and post them about Luca’s restaurant, Anthony Conegliano’s. It will probably crash or get purged from the ‘net in less than five days, but it will hopefully do some damage before then.”
“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “How da’ fuck do you know how to do all dat?”
Flounder turned a shade of red darker than a Korean should be able to turn. “My dad had me trained to use computers,” he said. “He was hoping I’d be able to one day hack into the penta… never mind.”
Da’Quarius looked over Flounder’s shoulder. “Dis is great,” he said. “I cain’t wait for step two.”
“What’s step two?” Flounder asked.
Da’Quarius looked at him for a moment. “I dunno,” he said.
“Wait,” Flounder said, running to his closet, He came out with a plate of spaghetti, a dead mouse on top. “I made this too. I’m going to have it posted to his Facebook once an hour.”
“Damn!” Da’Quarius said, stepping back from the plate. “Why didn’t you just take a picture an’ throw dat out!”
Flounder looked at the plate and then to Da’Quarius. “Oh,” he said. “I guess we can do that now, right?”
Luca was getting ready to close up his restaurant. He sat in front of his computer, his huge gut pushing the front of the desk. He clicked into Yelp to see if there were any new reviews, and there were. “What the hell?” he asked, looking at the monitor. There were four new one-star reviews. He clicked one.
“Quality is very poor,” Luca read. “We tried a variety of brands, and we’ve never had issues. This water tastes really bad, and there’s a distinct taste of something metallic. Water isn’t supposed to have any taste.”
Luca sat back, thinking about what he had just read. He got up and walked the length of his restaurant, stopping in front of his barmaid. “Give me a glass of water,” he said.
The barmaid did as asked, pouring Luca a class of the filtered water that’s served to his customers. He looked in the glass before taking a drink. “I don’t taste anything metallic.”
“Why would you?” the barmaid asked.
“I don’t know,” Luca said. “I read the weirdest review I’ve ever seen.”
A couple got up in the middle of a meal a dozen feet away, leaving their napkins on their half-finished meals and walked toward the door. “Hey,” Luca said, moving in front of them. “Is everything alright?”
“No,” the man said. “I was just on your Facebook page, and people are posting their meals.”
”So?” Luca asked.
The woman signed and swiped her phone open. “Does this look familiar?” she asked.
Luca looked at the picture on the phone, a dead mouse lying in a bed of spaghetti, some wrapped around its neck like a noodle noose.
“What the hell is going on with this shit?” he asked.
Da’Quarius sat at his desk before bedtime. He refreshed the Yelp page for Anthony Conegliano’s, reading the latest the latest review Flounder’s program had posted. “Damn,” he said. “Dis sounds like a bad review for da’ Lego Batman movie.”
He turned when he heard someone walking down the hall. He saw Helen, shuffling, carrying a metal gas can. “Wha’chu doin’, Helen?” he asked. 
“I’m going to smoke those little bastards out of the attic,” Helen replied. “Don’t you dare wake up Rose.”
“You gonna burn da’ house down,” Da’Quarius said. 
“Bah,” Helen said, waving her hand toward him. “I have a metal bucket. I know what I’m doing.” She continued her trek toward the trap door leading to attic.
“She gonna burn da’ house down,” Da’Quarius said. “I ain’t dealin’ with any more fire.” He picked up his phone to give the fire department a heads up.
“Closing it up!” Paulie called. It was late, and he and Tony were moving the new tables and booths around.
“You sure, boss?” Tony asked. “I can go all night.”
“You just don’t want me to send you back to my sister’s house,” Paulie said.
“You didn’t see them!” Tony said. “They were monstrous.”
“Well you can work here while I got stuff for us to do,” Paulie said. “Otherwise, you need to get a hobby, something other than painting faces on my wooden spoons.”
The door opened, and someone walked in. “Oh!” Paulie called. “We’re not open yet. Didn’t you see all the signs?!”
“Hey, Paulie,” Luca said, walking between the booths. “The place is looking good.”
“Luca,” Paulie said. “You wanted to come in before the grand reopening just to be told to get the fuck out?”
“I’m not here to argue or cause any trouble,” Luca said. “I wanted to let you know that I’m going to be closing Anthony Conegliano’s.”
“What?” Paulie said. “Why?”
“I’m giving up,” Luca said. “I’ve been toying with retirement for a while now, that’s why I was looking to expand with a partnership with you over the years. The prospect of multiple businesses running themselves while I sit back and collect the money is my dream.”
“You tried to enter partnerships through nefarious means,” Paulie said. “Your dream sucks.”
“But it’s mine,” Luca said with a shrug. “But after what happened here, I decided to sell and live off what I have, which isn’t bad at all. I don’t want to die in my restaurant, Paulie. I don’t know how you still have the energy for this, but I admire you for it.”
“Thank you,” Paulie said. “That might be the only nice thing that came out of that puss of yours.”
“It’s a new world,” Luca continued. “It used to be a word of mouth business. Some guy enjoys his meal, and he told a friend. That friend came in and tried the food, and I’d have a new customer. Now, a guy hears about your place, and he hops on his phone and looks it up, finding that some asshole is posting reviews about water and a friggin’ Batman cartoon and posting pictures of dead mice in spaghetti.”
“You lost me halfway through,” Paulie said.
“I don’t understand people any more,” Luca said. “I’m out. I just wanted to congratulate you being able to dust yourself off and move on. I wouldn’t be able to do it if i were you.”
Luca looked like he wanted to say more, but he left. Tony came up behind Paulie. “That was weird,” he said.
“He’s such a prick,” Paulie said. 
“Why?” Tony asked. 
“I can’t believe he ended this with an iota of self respect,” Paulie said. “What an asshole.”
“In the future,” the fireman said, walking out with Helen’s gas can and scorched bucket. “Call a professional before you try to catch the squirrels yourself.”
“Go fuck a dalmatian,” Helen muttered.
The fireman sighed. “Make sure she takes her meds,” he said, nodding toward Rose.
Rose looked away. She had just told them Helen had forgotten her meds, her go-to lie when Helen has the authorities called on her. “Thank you,” she said.
The fireman left. “Who the hell snitched on me?!” Helen shouted.
“Da’ neighbors probably saw da’ smoke,” Da’Quarius said. “Does nosey jerks are always looking over here.”
“Well I hope they like a big pile of dog shit in their mailbox,” Helen said.
“No,” Rose said. “No more. I’m calling an exterminator first thing in the morning. You could have burned our house down. What were you thinking?! What just happened to Paulie’s?!”
Helen looked away. “Friggin’ squirrels,” she muttered. She crossed her arms and sulked.
“Go get the trap,” Rose said, addressing Da’Quarius. “It’s not working anyway.”
Da’Quarius walked past Rose and Helen, climbing the stepladder to the attic. “Holy shit,” he said when he got to the top.
“What is it?” Rose asked.
“Da’ trap,” Da’Quarius said. “Helen caught four squirrels in it.”
“See,” Helen said. “They know what I’m capable of, and they want out. I think you owe me an apology, Rose.”
Rose sighed. “Goodnight,” she said walking toward her bedroom. “Get rid of those squirrels, Da’Quarius.”
“What am I supposed to do with ‘em,” Da’Quarius said. “Oh. I know where to put ‘em.”
Da’Quarius sat in Paulie’s Pizza with Flounder, sitting near Paulie and Tony. “You like what we’ve done with the new area?” Paulie asked.
“I like it,” Da’Quarius said. “You’re gonna blow Luca’s place outta da’ water.”
“Why are you bringing that stunad up?” Paulie asked.
“I wasn’t gonna say anything,” Da’Quarius said, “but Flounder wrote a program to flood him with dumb-ass reviews.”
Flounder flinched. “Please don’t hit me,” he said.
“What?” Paulie said, looking at him. “I’m not going to hit you.”
“So you’re not mad?” Flounder asked.
“I wouldn’t hit you if I was,” Paulie said. “What the hell goes on in your home, kid?”
Flounder looked away.
“So that’s what Luca was talking about,” Tony said. “Remember when he was rambling about not keeping up with the internet?”
“Oh yeah,” Paulie said. “You finally pushed that asshole out of State Street. Good job, kid. How about I name a sandwich after you when we open?”
“Really?” Flounder asked. 
“Yeah,” Paulie said. “Whatever you want, kid. It’s your sandwich.”
Flounder thought for moment. “Make it a meatball parm and seasoned fries grinder,” he said. 
“Sounds gross,” Paulie said, “but I’m a man of my word. That is now, and forever be ‘The Flounder’.”
Flounder smiled. “Thank you,” he said.
“But there’s no fish in it,” Tony said. “People are going to think it’s a fish sandwich.”
“THAT’S HIS NAME, YOU STUNAD!” Paulie shouted.
“Wait,” Da’Quarius said. “If Luca is closing, den we didn’t need to move to phase two after all.”
“What was phase two?” Paulie asked.
Luca looked over his half-filled restaurant. People were still coming in, despite the ridiculous negative reviews online. “I’m going to miss this place,” he said, smiling.
A woman screamed, running toward the exit. Two more jumped up and ran off. The whole place was emptying out, and Luca went toward the main area to see what the commotion was about.
Four squirrels were jumping all over the place, their tails shaking as they chased out his patrons. 
“I hate this fucking place,” Luca said.


The End

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