Your regularly scheduled program will not be seen tonight, so we can bring you this special presentation of Freedom Lane.
Tony approached Paulie, who was overseeing the final stage of Paulie’s Pizza’s remodeling. “Hey, boss,” he said. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Sure,” Paulie said, setting aside the prints he was reviewing. “What’s up?”
“You don’t need me here right now,” Tony said, “not until just before you open, right?”
Paulie sighed. “Are you feeling useless?” he asked. “I can find something for you. How about you work with Sal on that new pizza oven?”
“I wasn’t worried about being useless,” Tony said.
“Oh,” Paulie said. He shrugged. “I guess having nothing to do suits you.”
“I was asking for a bit of time off,” Tony said. “Something’s come up, and I can be back in two weeks to help you open this place.”
“Sure,” Paulie said. “You rarely take a vacation. Is everything alright? This sounds important.”
“It is,” Tony said. “I’m flying to Vegas to head to a porno convention. Kenny Kums will be there, and I want to find out why him and I look exactly alike. It’s time I got answers.”
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “Good luck with your little adventure. Don’t miss my re-opening, or I’ll kick your ass along with this Kenny Kums mook for good measure.”
Freedom Lane: The Search for Kenny Kums
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Tony walked through McCarran Airport. He stopped near a large window and stretched his back. He was glad to be off the plane, looking at the hot afternoon in front of him. He turned to go to the baggage claim when he ran into someone. “Oof!” Tony said, righting himself. He helped the man off the ground he had nearly tackled. “Sorry. I always get a little loopy after a plane ride.”
“Are you alright, Lee?” another old man, almost bald and hunched, asked in a nasally voice.
“I’m fine, Harold,” Lee lisped, getting up. He smiled toward Tony. “He’s a strong one.”
“Keep in in your pants,” Harold said. “That was the plane ride from hell, and I need to change my pad.”
Lee shushed Harold. “We’ll get you to a bathroom,” he said. “Just calm down while we’re out here.”
“Hey,” Tony said. “You’re those gay mooks!”
Harold and Lee turned to look at Tony. “Excuse me?” Harold asked.
“You know,” Tony said. “Those two gay mooks who are always bugging my friend’s sister, Helen. I work at Paulie’s. It’s me, Tony!”
Lee and Harold gasped. “I fly to the other side of the country,” Harold said, “and I’m still reminded that old prune lives on.”
“Don’t worry,” Lee said, grasping Harold’s arm and dragging him away. “Las Vegas is a huge place. I’m sure we won’t see him again. Come on, let’s go get your pad changed before we pick up our bags.”
“What crawled up their butts?” Tony asked, watching the pair walk away. “Besides each other, I mean.”
Tony stared from the window of the curtesy shuttle, taking him straight to the Excalibur hotel & casino. There was Elvis music on the radio, and he watched the large, obscenely built casinos as he passed. “I can walk around this place for a month and never see everything,” he said.
The cab driver just grunted, apparently no longer thrilled by his job or its locale. Tony sat back, noticing little cards sticking out of the pocket of the seat in front of him. He reached in, pulling out the cards with pictures of women and phone numbers. “Holy shit,” Tony said. “Who the frig are these broads?!”
The driver looked in his review mirror at Tony. “Those are escorts,” the driver said.
“You mean hookers?” Tony asked.
“Escorts,” the driver corrected. “My sister is a working girl, and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t call her a hooker.”
“Sorry,” Tony said, flipping through the three cards he had. “Hey, you got any of these cards with her number on it? I’ll tell her you sent me.”
The driver hit the brakes, bringing his cab to a screeching halt. He opened the door and exited, opening the door to the back. “Get out,” he grunted. “Now!”
“Hey,” Tony said, shrinking back as the driver tried to reach in and pull him out. “It was a compliment, you crazy bastard! I didn’t even call her a hooker!”
The driver screamed, coming into the back of the cab, spittle flying from his mouth. Tony opened the other door and got out, running across the street as other cars screeched their tires so they wouldn’t kill him. The driver shouted, unable to get across the street to the fleeing Tony.
“Dammit,” Tony said, ducking into a souvenir shop and hiding behind a rack of sweatshirts. “I thought Vegas was classy. I could’ve gotten this treatment back in New Haven!”
Harold and Lee stood in front of he counter of their hotel, waiting to get their key car. “Have you two visited here often?” the woman, her name tag naming her “Belinda”, asked, making small talk why she clicked away on her keyboard.
“Oh, yes,” Lee said, beaming at the chance to talk about their past trips. “Harold and I come once ever couple of years for a few weeks of rest and relaxation. Isn’t that right, Harold.”
Harold grunted, watching the people coming in. He wasn’t big on conversations with strangers (or just about anyone).
“We were here when Sinatra died,” Lee said.
“Yeah,” Harold said, still staring off. “They shut off all the lights in his honor. What a load of crap that all was.”
“Well,” Belinda said, swiping their room key. “You’re all set. Enjoy your stay.”
“Thank you,” Lee said. He turned to walk toward the elevators when he walked into someone. He fell to the ground on his bottom.
“Let me help you up,” the man he ran into said. It was the same guy form the airport.
“You?!” Harold snapped. “Why did you follow us here?!”
“I didn’t follow you anywhere,” Tony said, helping Lee up. “I’m staying here too. Small world, huh?”
“It’s a lovely hotel,” Lee said. “Don’t forget to check out the pool area.”
“Can we get up to our room so we can shower and change our clothes?” Harold asked.
“Why do you need to shower?” Tony asked. “Didn’t you just say there’s a pool?”
Harold groaned. “Remind me to go nowhere near the pool if this guy is around,” he said.
Tony stayed in his hotel room long enough to use the toilet, shave, and get ready to go. His suitcase was mostly full of wife-beaters, but he wore a light-blue collared shirt instead. If he was going to meet Kenny Kums, he wanted to make a good impression. He threw on some aftershave in case there were any porn chicks at the convention who’d want to take him back to their hotels.
Tony walked through the casino toward the exit, and he noticed Harold and Lee sitting side-by-side at a row of Golden Girls penny slot machines. “Hey,” Tony said. “You guys having a good time?”
“Is that Helen’s nephew or whoever again?” Harold asked, pulling the lever of his machine, causing the digital reels to spin.
“Ignore him,” Lee said, pulling his own. “We’re on a roll.”
Harold did just that, pulling his lever again, making Dorothy and Blanche blur as they spun around, giving Tony no more of his time.
“Well,” Tony said. “I’m off to find Kenny Kums.”
“Who’s that?” Lee asked.
“Don’t engage him,” Harold groaned.
“He’s this porn star who looks exactly like me,” Tony said. “I’m finally going to find him.”
“Good for you,” Lee said. “Good luck.”
“Thanks,” Tony said, continuing his trek toward the casino exit. He left and jogged into a cab and gave him the address of the convention to the driver (luckily not the same one from earlier), and he was on his way. The sun was setting, and the lights of Vegas were going to soon be lit.
Tony paid his entrance fee and wandered around the convention, keeping an eye out for his mirror image, the porn star Kenny Kums. He was distracted often, checking out the talent and trying to see if any if his favorites were in attendance.
“Hey,” a pimple-faced guy said, stopping in front of Tony. “You’re him.”
“I’m who now?” Tony asked.
“You’re Kenny Kums,” Pimple-Face said. “I’m a huge fan of that Power Rangers porn parody you did.”
“Oh,” Tony said. “Sorry to disappoint, kid, but I ain’t Kenny Kums. I just look like him. Im actually looking for him to find out if we’re related or something.”
“That’s amazing,” Pimple-Face said. “I know where his table is. He’s scheduled to be here soon. He’s never, ever made a public appearance before. Want me to take you there?”
“Sure,” Tony replied. “Lead the way.”
Tony followed the eager-to-please Kenny Kums fan across the convention. He saw the hottest women he had ever seen chatting it up with their fans and signing autographs. “Figures,” he said. “All this talent strewn about, and I’m following a mook with adult acne.”
Lee spun his reels at the same time Harold did. The Golden Girls turned into blurs on the screen before settling. They both lost. “This has to be fixed,” Harold groaned. “I hate this digital garbage.”
“Do you want to go play a table game?” Lee asked.
“I hate people more,” Harold said.
A waitress came by, carrying a tray of assorted drinks. “Can I get your gentlemen anything?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Harold said, yanking the lever downward, “a tall glass of ‘shut the fuck up’. Do you know how to make that, or do I need to explain?”
“Excuse me?” the waitress asked.
Lee sighed. “He’s asking you to get lost, darling,” he said. “I can’t blame him. You’re a jinx.”
The waitress left in a huff as Lee and Harold yanked their levers down again.
“I actually could use a tonic,” Harold said.
“I’m sure she’ll come back around,” Lee said.
They pulled their levers.
“Here we are,” Tony’s new pimple-faced friend said. They stopped in front of a wooden folding table with a single chair behind it. Next to it was an easel with the name “KENNY KUMS” across the top and various pictures from Kenny’s films.
“I don’t see him, though,” Pimple-face said. “I guess he’s late.”
“I can wait,” Tony said, crossing his arms. “I didn’t come all the way out here not to find out why him and I look the same.”
“Good luck,” Pimple-face said, slapping Tony lightly on the shoulder. “I’m gonna get my sister’s dildo autographed for her birthday.”
Tony gave a short laugh. “Nothing but friggin’ perverts around here,” he said.
Tony waited, looking around every now and then for the porn star who shared his face, but he was a no show. “Hey Kenny!” someone exclaimed. Tony turned to see if he had finally arrived, but he realized it was him who was being addressed. He was ready to give the same story he gave Pimple-face, but he was cutoff before he could talk.
“I thought you weren’t coming,” a fat load of a guy said. “Why are you over here? Aren’t you going to sign autographs?”
“No,” Tony said. “I’m not -”
“Come on,” the woman behind the fat load cried. “We came all the way out from Illinois. You’re our favorite. Please!”
“Yeah,” fat load said. “Please take my money for a signed photo!”
The small crowd cheered in agreement.
Tony looked over at the table, and he saw a stack of pictures already there. He glanced at the empty chair, the one Kenny Kums was refusing to grace with his hairy ass, which wasn’t unlike Tony’s own. “Fine,” he muttered. “If Kenny Kums ain’t coming, then I’m gonna at least take his fans’ money.”
Tony went around to the chair and sat down. “Alright, perverts!” he exclaimed. “Who wants a photo of a porno mook with a name written on it?!”
Harold and Lee pulled the levers on their machines, watching the Golden Girls spin around. They had been at it for hours, and had lost track of the time and how many times they’d been up and down money. “Hey, fellas,” Tony said, walking back in. “Still at it?”
“He’s back,” Harold said with a sigh. “Why won’t he leave us alone?”
“You’re at the same machines I spotted you at before I left,” Tony said. “That was like ten hours ago. It’s after three in the morning, ya mooks. Don’t you sleep?”
“Look around,” Lee said, his bloodshot eyes glued to the digital reels. “Does this place look empty to you?”
Tony turned and looked at an old woman sucking down oxygen as she spun her own reels. The lights flashed and the machine chimed, mimicking the sound of coins dropping. The woman didn’t seem phased by whatever she had just won.
“Well I’ll have you know I won big,” Tony said, proudly.
“I wasn’t aware we asked,” Harold muttered.
“Did you meet your brother then?” Lee asked.
“Why are you addressing him again?” Harold said, pulling his lever.
“Come on,” Lee said, finally letting go of his own lever. “We’ve been at these machines for twice the length of the flight. I think I need a little mental stimulation.”
Harold sighed, pulling his lever.
“He’s not my brother,” Tony said. “I don’t think he is anyway. He might be, even though my mother says he’s not.”
“Well, did you meet him?” Lee asked.
“No,” Tony said. “But I did take his seat at the convention, and I signed his name to a few hundred autographs. I fucked up and signed my own name for about an hour, but I stopped after a few people got pissed about it.”
“You don’t think that’s stealing?” Lee asked.
“Hey,” Tony said, shrugging. “He ditched me along with all of his fans. It’s no more than he deserves.”
“I’m done,” Harold said, pressing the button to cash out. “If I have to look at Bea Arthur’s sour puss any more, I’ll go even more impotent.”
“Good idea,” Lee said, cashing out his own machine. “I’ve just about broke even. How’d you do?”
“I’m down a hundred,” Harold said. “To hell with the Golden Girls. We’ll hit the Supermarket Sweep machines tomorrow.”
”Mind if I give it a go?” Tony said.
“Be my uninvited guest,” Harold said.
Tony sat in Harold’s seat, pulled out the wad of cash he made impersonating Kenny Kums, peeled off a twenty, inserted it into the machine, and hit the “BET ALL LINES” button. The machine displayed three Bea Arthurs, and the amount shot up into the hundreds. “Whoa!” Tony shouted. “The rich get richer! Does my money come directly from Bea Arthur’s gash, or what?”
“His first spin?” Lee said, staring in disbelief. “Harold…”
Harold turned away and walked toward the elevator. “Asshole is lucky I don’t have a gun.”
Tony walked the strip the following day, sleeping until eleven in the morning. He had no idea where to go next. He knew Kenny lived in Vegas somewhere, but he had no idea where. Even if there were houses, he didn’t know how to find them. There was no listed address for Kenny Kums.
Tony sat on a bench near Caesars Palace, his head in his hands. He had made some quite a bit money; so he’d be able to have a nice vacation, but he felt it would be a waste if he never got the chance to confront Kenny Kums.
The porno convention was over, Kenny Kums hadn’t shown up, and Tony couldn’t see anything except dead ends.
“Hey, buddy,” an overweight Hispanic said, clicking some cards together. He held them out to Tony, and he took them: two cards with pictures of escorts on both sides.
Tony looked them over, contemplating calling one of the numbers. “Hey,” he said. “I wonder if anyone ever collects these like baseball cards. I’ll trade ya a Monica for a Karla…”
Tony stared at the card, interrupting his own monologue. He read the name of the nude blonde on the card again; her full name.
Tony pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed the number.
Harold and Lee sat by the pool under their umbrella, safe from the desert sun. The waitress had just dropped off two fresh iced teas. Harold lay with his eyes closed while Lee read a paperback. “This is what I sorely needed,” Harold said. “It’s nice to relax, warm my cold bones, and not be bothered by -”
“Hey, fellas,” Tony said, walking toward their table in his swim trunks, dripping from his dip in the pool. “You decided to let the machines cool down?”
“Who is that?” Harold asked, refusing to open his eyes.
“It’s him,” Lee replied, “the guy from the slots last night and the airport before that; Tony.”
“I don’t know any Tony,” Harold said.
“Is he still mad?” Tony asked, “Or does he really not remember me?”
“It could be either one,” Lee replied.
“Well I’m all clean now,” Tony said. “The chlorine should kill the germs from the porno convention last night, and I’m all set for my date with the hooker.”
A family who had just come into the pool area turned and left after overhearing.
“Oops,” Tony said. “I mean ‘escort’. I forget how sensitive people are about that in this city.”
Lee gave tony a disgusted look. “Have fun.”
“Lee,” Harold said. “If you don’t stop talking to him, he’ll never leave us alone!”
“He remembers you,” Lee said with a shrug.
There was a knock on Tony’s hotel room door, and he walked up to it and opened it, now wearing just his wife-beater and jeans. “Hey,” he said. “You must be Karla. Come on in.”
Karla walked into the room. She was wearing a black teeshirt and jean shorts. “Your must be Tony,” she said, looking around the room. “You ready for our date?”
“Yeah,” Tony said. “I just want to ask -”
“Wait,” Karla said, holding up a hand. “You said you had cash. I need it up front, or I’m out of here.”
“I just want to ask you a question,” Tony said. “I’m not paying for that.”
Karla gave Tony one of the dirtiest looks he had ever gotten from a woman (and he had received tons). “Look,” she said, “I didn’t come all the way here for nothing. You can talk, ask questions, sing a fuckin’ song, or whatever else you can think of, but you’re not doing shit until I get paid up front.”
“Fine,” Tony said. He pulled one of them hundred dollar bills he received from his winnings the night before and handed it to Karla. “Now can you answer my question?”
“Shoot,” Karla said, holding the bill up to the light.
“Are you related to Kenny Kums?” he asked.
Karla gave Tony an odd look, the hundred dollars already stuffed into her pocket. “Who?” she asked.
“Don’t play stupid,” Tony said. “I know he’s hiding for some odd reason, but I only want to talk to him. Are you his sister or wife?”
“Did you just call me stupid?” Karla asked.
“No,” Tony said.
“Yes you did,” Karla said, approaching. “You just called me stupid.”
“Are your related to Kenny Kums?!” Tony exclaimed. “The porn star?!”
“It’s a fake name, you asshole!” Karla shouted. “Do you really think that’s a real last name? Are you fuckin’ retarded or just a loser?”
“OK,” Tony said. “I’m going to need my hundred bucks back now.”
“No refunds, dickless,” Karla said. “I’m gonna go.”
Tony blocked the door. “You’re not going anywhere,” he said.
Karla laughed, but only for a second. Her jab hit Tony in the nose, and his head rocked back. Tony wiped the blood from his nose with the back of his hand and looked at it. “You chicks always talk about equal rights,” he said, “but you’ll end up getting equal lefts too.”
Tony swung, but Karla ducked it, hitting Tony with another quick jab. She then kicked him in the nuts and pushed him over. She stepped over him to get to the door, but Tony grabbed her by the leg, dragging her down to the floor.
“I don’t hit women,” Tony said, “unless they swing first.”
“Is this what you like?” Karla sneered as Tony pinned her down. “The rough stuff will cost you another couple hundred.”
“You think I still want you?!” Tony said. “Well, I do.”
Karla kicked Tony off, sending him into the wall. She got up and kneed him in the face for good measure. “Too bad,” she said. “If you ever call me again, I’ll come back with a knife.”
“Bitch!” Tony snapped as the door closed. He got up, holding his nuts. He was right back where he was with his search for Kenny Kums, and now his nuts hurt and he had wasted a hundred bucks in the process. He fell back on the bed and fell asleep waiting for the pain in his face and crotch to subside.
Harold and Lee were having brunch at a buffet, each sitting with a full plate in front of them. Lee nibbled on some strawberries while Harold dunked his sausage in maple syrup. Lee was about to remark on how nice it was to have a quiet breakfast together when someone sat down across from them.
“Yo,” Tony sad, sitting hard in the seat. He dropped his own plate on the table, covered in eggs, pancakes, bacon, and fried chicken. “These buffets are great, huh?”
“He’s here again, Lee,” Harold said, staring at his plate. “Why’s he here again?”
“What happened to your face?” Lee asked, looking over Tony.
“I guess I’ll just go ignored,” Harold sighed.
“I got into it last night,” Tony said. “Damn hookers don’t like being ordered around.”
“A hooker did that to you⁈” Lee exclaimed. A passing waitress shot them a dirty look before walking away.
“Escort,” Tony corrected. “I thought we covered that yesterday.”
“Regardless,” Lee said, “why did she do this to you?”
“I’m thinking of getting a hotel room somewhere else,” Harold said, cutting up another sausage. “How does The Bellagio sound, Lee?”
“She didn’t like me grilling her about her relative,” Tony said. “It was that or when I blocked the door and refused to let her leave my hotel room.”
Lee signed. “So another dead end?” he asked.
“I may just book myself a room there,” Harold said. “You can stay here with your new boyfriend.”
“I may just head home at this point,” Tony said.
“Who’s stopping you?” Harold asked.
“I mean,” Tony continued. “I just don’t know how to find this guy.”
“Can’t you ask around?” Lee said. “Is there anyone in the business you can ask?”
Tony thought for a moment. “I do know a couple of guys,” he said. “I can try to contact them through their website. They might know how to find them.”
Tony picked up his fork and knife and started cutting into his breakfast. “Let’s eat!” he said, forking up a chunk of fried chicken with some of his pancakes.
“I’ve lost my appetite,” Harold said, pushing is plate away.
“It’s all you can eat!” Tony said, food flying from his mouth. “Get your money’s worth, bro!”
Tony sat in the seat of a local internet cafe. He had paid in advance in cash to use the computers. It was off the beaten path, so he’d hoped there was less of a chance of porno sites being blocked. There was a printout sign on the wall that read “DO NOT VISIT PORNOGRAPHIC WEBSITES”. Tony laughed once and typed “GarciaTube.com” into his web browser.
Tony clicked around the site, looking for contact information on the site’s owners: Antonio and Manny Garcia. He had known them through Paulie’s nephew, who lived across the street from them. They were also regulars at Paulie’s, and he had done a few odd jobs for them in the past.
“Screw this,” Tony said, giving up on looking for a way to get in touch with the Garcia brothers. He clicked on one of the web cams.
The girl in the web cam room was already in her lingerie, entertaining the men who had already been there. “Come on, boys,” she said. “Spend those tokens if you want to see more.”
“Go get the Garcias!” Tony typed. She read some of the messages coming in and looked confused. “I’m willing to put on a good show if you’re willing to spend a few more tokens on me.”
“Don’t ignore me!” Tony typed. Some of the others in the chat room were now telling him to shut up. “Go get Manny or Antonio and shut your face!”
The girl huffed and left the room. The others present exploded in angry outbursts at Tony, but he ignored them. He waited only a minute, and Antonio Garcia came onto the screen. “What the fuck are you doing?!” he exclaimed. “I’ll have you booted and banned, you fuckin’ troll!”
“It’s Tony!” Tony typed. “I need your help!”
Antonio sighed. “Hold on,” he said. “I’ll invite your into a private room.”
Antonio left and the girl came back to the screen, apologizing to her digital audience. Another minute passed, and Tony was invited to a private room. He clicked “OK”, and he was staring at Antonio in another bedroom.
“Hi,” Tony typed.
“I can see and hear you,” Antonio said. “You’re on cam too, bro.”
“Oh,” Tony said. “That makes things easier.”
“What’s up?” Antonio asked. “It better be good if you’re interrupting one of my cam shows with it.”
“I’ll get you a free pie when Paulie’s opens back up,” Tony said.
Antonio brightened up. Free pizza always did it with him and his brother. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
“I need you to find the address of Kenny Kums,” Tony said. “I know from his bio on his website that he lives out here in Vegas, but I don’t know where. He was a no-show at his own autograph signing, and this hooker wasn’t his sister like I thought. I nearly had to beat her to get rid of her?”
A woman sitting near him turned to look, shook her head, and went back to her typing.
“I meant escort,” Tony said. “They’re really sensitive about that out here.”
“You said his name is Kenny Kums?” Antonio said, typing as he said it. He read whatever was on the screen while Tony waited. “It says here he was signing autographs at the convention last night.”
“Yeah,” Tony said. “That was me. We kind of look exactly alike.”
“I see that,” Antonio said. “I’m reading the information on him now. You guys could be twins!”
“Can you tell me where he lives?” Tony asked.
“No,” Antonio said. “This is weird. His bio does say he lives in Las Vegas, but every one of his movies was filmed on the East Coast. The Las Vegas thing is a lie. Porn stars often lie about being from the West.”
“So he might not have even come out here,” Tony said. “Great. I came all the way out here, and he’s really closer to where I was.”
“Are you sure you want to find this guy?” Antonio asked. “He seems like a joke.”
“What do you mean?” Tony asked.
“It’s kind of like those bad horror movies,” Antonio said. “People like ‘em cuz they’re bad. This guy is making the ‘b-movie’ version of porn. People are into it cuz they’re fans of bad movies.”
Tony thought back to the type of fans he met while at the convention. There were more guys than girls, and they all seemed to be nerds, and not just the perverted kind.
“Fuck it,” Tony said. “Even if I don’t find the mook, at least I had some fun out here.”
“There you go,” Antonio said. “Enjoy yourself. Maybe you’ll come across this dude if you keep your ear to the ground. Try some titty bars or something.”
“Thanks for the help,” Tony said. “You’re really good at this stuff.”
“Don’t sound so surprised,” Antonio said. “I am a professional and -”
Antonio was smacked in the face by a purple dildo. His brother, Manny, stood behind him. “Have some tokens!” he shouted, roaring with laughter. “How many for you to wipe your ass with that thing?!”
“You jerk!” Antonio said, turning, holding his bleeding mouth. “You knocked my fuckin tooth out!”
“Oh shit,” Manny said. “My bad.”
“You’re taking me to the dentist right now!” Antonio shouted. “I’m getting that gold tooth I always wanted, and you’re paying for it!”
“You’re getting the one with the pot leave engraved on it?” Manny asked.
“You fuckin’ know it,” Antonio replied. “Let’s go.”
“You’re a couple of nuts,” Tony said, clicking out of the chat window. “Now let me see if that broad got enough tokens…”
“We are not going to The Bellagio,” Lee said as Harold started to pack his bag.
“I’m done with this place,” Harold said. “Every time we turn around, that guy is here.”
“He’s harmless,” Lee said. “He’s probably homesick, and he finds some kind of comfort in knowing there’s two others from New Haven out here.”
“It’s perverse is what it is!” Harold snapped. “He’s been following us around for the last two days, telling us about his perverted dealings with porno actors and prostitutes!”
“He has not,” Lee said. “We’re at the same hotel, and we’ve just crossed paths a few times. We probably won’t see him any more.”
Harold huffed, tossing his clothes into the suitcase.
“Come on,” Lee said, taking Harold’s clothes back out of the suitcase. “Come down to the casino with me, and you’ll see. We probably won’t see Tony again for this entire trip.”
“Alright,” Harold sighed. “Let’s hit the slots.”
“That’s the spirit,” Lee said, walking toward their door and opening it. “There’s a Golden Girls machine with your name on it.”
“Hey,” Tony said, walking by the room. “I didn’t know we were on the same floor. I’m like three rooms away from you guys. What you do think about -”
Lee slammed the door. “How about we wait ten minutes?” he asked.
Harold crossed his arms and sat on the bed.
Tony walked through the casino and went outside. He walked down the strip, looking for something to do that could lead him to Kenny Kums. He was positive it was hopeless. Then, fate shouted in his direction.
“Kenny fucking Kums!”
Tony turned, and saw a short, middle-aged man with curly hair standing ten feet from him. “I’m not him, pal,” he said.
“Look,” the man said. “Someone who looks like Kenny sat at his table at my convention the other night. My money says it’s you, seeing as he’s dropped off the face of the earth. Speaking of my money, whoever was at that table left without giving me my cut of the money earned.”
“Oh yeah, Frodo?” Tony asked. “You gonna take it from me?”
“No,” the man said, “but my associates are.” He whistled, and two car doors opened. Two large, black men stepped out, cracking their knuckles.
“Shit,” Tony said, running off. Most of his cash was in his room safe, and he didn’t want them dragging him back there to take it all along with his Golden Girls winnings.
Tony ran through the traffic as he did on his first day in Vegas, nimbly avoiding death by vehicular manslaughter. His pursuers did the same, keeping an uncomfortable distance as Tony made his way to the other side of the street. He nearly shoved into some guys handing out escort cards, and he ran past, making his way into a taxi.
“Get me out of here,” Tony said. “Get me to the Excalibur. No… Better make it the Luxor. I’ll have to sneak in through there.”
Tony ducked as the taxi moved. His pursuers ran past, unaware that he was in the cab.
“Rough day?” The cabbie asked.
“Buddy,” Tony said. “You don’t know the half…”
The cabbie was watching him intently from the mirror. “I was hoping I’d find you again,” he said.
“I don’t want any trouble,” Tony said. “I’m sorry about the last time. I know your sister has a respectable job as an escort. I bet she’s nothing like this bitch I met the other day, Karla Kums.”
“Karla Kums is my sister,” the cabbie said. “Wait… Are you the asshole that took a swing at her?”
Tony looked in the cabbie’s rage-fills eyes in the rearview mirror. “I gotta go,” he said, jumping out of the taxi and running away.
Harold walked through the Excalibur casino. “This was such a nice idea,” he said. “I can’t wait to be playing the slots and enjoying a cold iced tea, free from that…”
Tony was running through the casino toward them, sweat pouring from his head.
“Oh no,” Lee groaned.
“Can’t talk,” Tony said, running past them. “I’ll catch up later!”
Lee and Harold watched as he ran toward the elevators.
“Good riddance,” Harold said. “Now help me find a good machine.”
Tony slammed the door of his room and put up the deadbolt. “Fuck Vegas!” he spat, sitting on his bed. “I’m staying in here until it’s time to go home.”
“You shouldn’t talk to yourself,” someone said. Tony turned to see his himself sitting in a chair by round table, wearing a fur coat and dark aviator sunglasses. But it couldn’t have been him, because he was him.
“Kenny Kums?” Tony asked. “How’d you get in here?”
Kenny laughed and took off his sunglasses, haphazardly dropping them on the table. “You’ve been looking for me,” he said.
“And you’ve been avoiding me,” Tony added. “What gives?”
“I just wanted to give you a taste of the life, Tony,” Kenny said, standing up. “How’d you like it?”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Tony said. “I only sat at your table because you weren’t there.”
“Wasn’t I?” Kenny asked.
“No,” Tony replied. “You wasn’t.”
“How’d you like the rest of your trip?” Kenny asked. “I’m talking about the Vegas life: the money, the escorts, the adventure.”
“Have you been following me?” Tony asked. “What’s your deal anyway? You some kind of sick freak that gets off on being a confusing jerk?”
“I’m you, Tony,” Kenny said.
“I’m a little bit country,” Tony said.
“I’m a little bit rock n’ roll.”
“Dammit!” Kenny shouted. “You’re such a… Fuck it. You ever see Fight Club?”
“Yeah,” Tony replied. “So?”
“How are you not getting this?” Kenny asked. “Remember how it ends?”
Tony stared at Kenny, realization finally hitting him. “No,” Tony said.
“You got it,” Kenny said.
“You stole the friggin’ ending to Fight Club?!” Tony asked.
“It’s where I got the idea,” Kenny admitted with a shrug.
“I love that movie,” Tony said.
“I know,” Kenny added.
Tony stared at Kenny, unblinking. “So let me get this straight,” he said. “You exist in my brain, and you’ve been using my body to make campy porn movies, set up the elaborate plot to get me to Vegas, and got me to willingly be you at the convention? That makes no sense!”
“I almost died in the fire when you almost died in the fire last year,” Kenny said. “I only want to live for real. You won’t go away. We’ll be one whole person as Kenny Kums.
“I wanted you to see what life could be like. You don’t have to be Tony Baloni, pizza-man any more. You can be Kenny Kums, manly porn star. You’ve seen the money, girls, and adventure that can be had out here. All you have to do is let go and become me. You can do this, Tony. You can be Kenny Kums.”
Tony stared at the figment of his fucked up imagination. “I’m leaving,” he said.
“And go where?” Kenny asked as Tony walked toward the door. “I know these guys who are after you, and I know how to get them off your back. I can get you into bed with that hooker, and she’d end up paying you. You can have the money and sex and the celebrity. All you have to give up is your droll life back east.”
“They’re called escorts, you stunad,” Tony said. “You got a little cum in the brain or something, fuck-boy?”
Kenny’s face stretched into a mask of rage. “You will become me,” he said.
“Oh shit,” Tony said. He bolted out the door and ran down the hall.
Harold and Lee sat at their slot machines pulling the levers and staring at the digital reels as they spun around, turning the faces of the Golden Girls turn to blurs. Harold’s machine chimed away as he won, showing three pictures of the whole cast. “Jackpot!” Harold said, beaming.
Lee looked over and smiled. “See,” he said. “Our luck was bound to -”
The machine lurched, almost falling over, but righting itself. The power blinked off and then back on, but the screen was blank, rebooting. When it came back online, Harold had a zero balance.
“What the Hell is it now?!” Harold exclaimed.
Tony ran from the opposite side of the machine. “Sorry,” he said. “He’s trying to kill me. Friggin’ Kenny Kums is trying to kill me!” He ran away, knocking over a waitress with a tray of drinks in the process.
“I hope he gets you!” Harold shouted.
Tony ran between machines and old ladies. Casino security guards were now watching him, talking into their radios. “You can’t outrun me,” Kenny said, sitting on top of a slot machine. Tony turned and ran the opposite way, nearly colliding with a blackjack table. “I’m still here,” Kenny said, sitting at the table.
Tony ran away again. Security was closing in on him, so he headed toward the exit. He nearly tripped over the velvet rope nearing the lobby. “Need a hand?” Kenny said, holding out a hand as Tony tried to right himself.
Freed from the rope, Tony ran again, right into casino security. “Let me go!” he shouted. “He’s after me! I need to get away from him!”
“There’s nobody after you,” another security guard said.
“You can’t see him!” Tony exclaimed. “He wants my body! He’ll kill me for it!”
Tony saw Kenny waving at him from across the lobby.
“Get him in the back,” one of the security guards said. Tony was dragged off.
Tony sat in a room with no windows. They had left him alone after dragging him away from the lobby, but he had company. “So now we can talk about this,” Kenny said.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Tony said.
Kenny leaned across the table. “It’s not all that bad,” he said. “Get paid to fuck, lounge by the pool, get paid to fuck some more, hang out at the casino, fuck for fun, get paid to fuck. I can go on. What’s back in New Haven for you? It’s nothing like you can have out here. Just say the word, and you can be Kenny Kums full-time.”
Tony drummed his fingers on the table. “Sure wish these security guys would come back,” he said. “I’m all alone in here after all.”
“You can’t ignore me,” Kenny said. “You’re avoiding answering. Are you afraid that you want to be me more than you want to be you.”
“I’ll give you a straight answer,” Tony said, “but you have to go away after I give it to you.”
“You have my word,” Kenny said. “If you can convince me that you don’t want this life, then I will leave.”
“And never come back?” Tony added.
“And never come back,” Kenny repeated.
“Your life sounds great,” Tony said, “but I’m fifty-five, which makes you fifty-five. How long can you make cheesy pornos and expect to keep selling? Besides, I got no trouble getting laid on my own.”
“You’re still not convincing me,” Kenny said. “Make your nut, and you’ll retire out here like a champ.”
“I’m not leaving Paulie either,” Tony said. “He’s always been good to me, and he’s going to need me when his new place opens.”
“But he’s phasing you out,” Kenny said. “He hired this goon, Salvatore, to do your job, and he’s hired your ex to wait tables. Will he really need you after he re-opens?”
“Did you pay any attention while you were locked away in my brain?” Tony asked. “Him and I have been though more than you can even imagine. There’s no way Paulie would ever ditch me. I owe him more than I let on, and I’ll always be loyal to him as long as he’ll have me. Besides, I still have my friends and family too. I can’t ditch Da’Quarius either. I still have a thing or two to teach him.”
“So that’s it?” Kenny asked. “You’re going to stay Tony, knowing all you can have here?”
“Yeah,” Tony said. “So you can fuck off now.”
The door opened, and Kenny was gone. A security guard came in and sat across from him. “You caused a lot of trouble, running around like that,” he said.
“Sorry,” Tony said. “I haven’t slept for days. I guess my mind was playing tricks on me.”
Harold and Lee took their seats on their plane to head back to Connecticut, taking up the window and middle seats. Lee let out a satisfied sigh. “I love getting away every now and again,” he said. “It makes you appreciate what we have at home a little more every time.”
Harold looked out the window. “Vegas is always so noisy,” he said. “I can’t wait to have a bit of quiet, starting with this flight.”
Someone else plopped down, taking the aisle seat to Lee’s left. “Hey,” Tony said, his carry-on bag sitting on his lap. “I guess we’re going to be plane buddies too.”
Harold sighed and put his blindfold over his eyes. “Do me a favor, Lee darling,” he said.
“What do you need?” Lee asked.
“Don’t wake me if terrorists flies us into a building,” Harold said, crossing his arms and lying back.
“I’m back, boss!” Tony called, walking into Paulie’s Pizza, still being renovated by Paulie’s contractors. “The place has come along nicely.”
“Welcome back!” Paulie said. “I hope all went well.”
“Yeah,” Tony said. “You’re not going to believe -”
“Sorry,” Paulie said, walking past Tony. “I got a million things to do right now. You’ll have to tell me about your trip later. Get that suitcase out of here too. I don’t need one of these mooks tripping over it and suing me.”
Tony watched as Paulie walked toward the kitchen area, shouting at one of his contractors. “Shit,” he said. “I could’ve been a friggin’ porn star.”