Freedom Lane: Chico Suave

Helen waited in line at the checkout counter of the supermarket. Rose had ran back into the store to get the box of cereal for Da’Quarius she had forgotten. Helen sighed. “She does this every time.”
 
There was a guy ahead of her in line, trying to pay with a check. The machine wasn’t taking it. “I’m sorry,” the cashier said. “Do you have another way to pay?”
 
Helen groaned. “I’m almost eighty,” she said, “and even I know you don’t hold up a checkout line with a damn check in this day and age.”
 
“Excuse me,” the man said. “I don’t have my debit card at the moment, and I have yet to go to the bank to get cash.”
 
“Listen,” Helen said, approaching and leaning on the register. “You’re holding me up enough already, so can the chit-chat, void your transaction, and come back when you have something to pay for groceries with.”
 
“You, madam,” the man said, “are deplorable. I will not wish you a good day, as I normally would. I only wish for you see the foley of your attitude.” He folded his check, put it in his pocket and left. 
 
“I’m sorry mister Goldberg!” the cashier called.
 
Helen watched the man leave. “Oh shit,” she said.
 
“What?” Rose asked, finally returning with the box of cereal. “”What happened?”
 
“I’ve just been cursed,” Helen said, a look of horror on her face.
 
“Cursed?” Rose asked, putting the box of cereal on the conveyor belt.
 
“Cursed,” Helen repeated, nodding. “I will suffer the curse of the jew.”
 
***
 
Freedom Lane 
 
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
 
Season 10, Episode 6: Chico Suave
 
***
 
“Come on!” Da’Quarius shouted, jumping down the last two steps and putting on his Vagabond Saints hat from the coat tree. “I wanna be dere for Paulie’s grand re-opening!”
 
“I already told you,” Helen said, sitting in her recliner with her arms crossed. “I’m not going.”
 
“You have to go,” Da’Quarius said. “He even has a celebrity comin’: dat guy from da’ radio show you like.”
 
“I never liked that Chico,” Rose said, coming to the coat tree and putting her coat on. “His show was always too raunchy for me. And you’re coming, Helen. Think of how devastated Paulie will be if you miss his big day.”
 
“You know that I’ve been cursed by the jew,” Helen said. “For the last week, I’ve been bumped, bitten, lost, and all around fucked over, ever since that jew from the supermarket cursed me.”
 
“Will you please stop saying stuff like that,” Rose said. “You sound really anti-Semitic.”
 
“Please come,” Da’Quarius said. “You know you’ll regret it.”
 
“I refuse to bring this curse to Paulie’s,” Helen said. “I will not step foot into his place until it’s been lifted.”
 
“How do we lift it?” Da’Quarius asked. “Is dere a way?”
 
Rose sighed.
 
“There is a way,” Helen said, “but I can’t share it with you two. I have to go on a quest, all the way to Jew Haven.”
 
“Where’s dat?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
Rose sighed again. “She’s talking about Westville,” she said, “the western part of New Haven. There’s a large Jewish community there.”
 
“The Garcia brothers’ hispanic voodoo failed to lift the curse,” Helen said. “There’s only one more option: to go to Jew Haven and lift it myself.”
 
“If I drive you there, can you be done with this?” Rose asked. “I won’t ask any questions. I just don’t want you to miss Paulie’s big day. But please stop calling it by that name.”
 
“It is decided,” Helen said, rising from her seat. “You run along to Paulie’s, kid. Rose will drive me to Jew Haven to lift my curse.”
 
“Are you OK with that?” Rose asked Da’Quarius.
 
Da’Quarius shrugged. “Whatever gets Helen through da’ doors,” he said. “Umma run ahead. I don’t wanna miss anything.”
 
“Good,” Rose said. “With luck, we’ll see you at Paulie’s soon.”
 
***
 
Robert “Chico” Hurley walked into Paulie’s Pizza, carrying a milk crate of eight-by-ten photos of himself in front of a radio microphone. He had never visited before the fire, but the place looked fantastic. He saw his old friend, Paulie Ventriglio, talking to his small staff. He saw Chico walking toward him, and he broke away.
 
“Robert!” Paulie said, extending his hand. “How’ve you been.”
 
“I’ve been better,” Chico said honestly. “And it’s ‘Chico’ now.”
 
“Oh yeah,” Paulie said. “Mister big time radio star changed his name.”
 
“Look,” Chico said, lowering his voice. “Thank you for answering my message; it’s been a long time since high school. This means a lot to me that you’d let me be here for your big day.”
 
“It’s nothing,” Paulie said. “We’re helping each other here. I get to have a local celebrity at my grand re-opening after all.”
 
Local celebrity,” Chico scoffed. “I’ve had a hard time finding work since the station cancelled The Chico and BJ Morning Show and let me go.”
 
“Friggin’ corporate mooks,” Paulie said. “They wouldn’t know a good radio host if one was under their desk. I haven’t listened to the show since you got canned.”
 
Chico laughed. “The Morning BJ Show not doing it for you?” he asked. 
 
“My friend still listens,” Paulie said. “He said it’s mostly garbage talk. He loves it.”
 
The door opened again, and a black kid in a black hat and yellow glasses came in. “What up, Unca Paulie?” he asked.
 
“This is my nephew, Da’Quarius,” Paulie said proudly. “Where’s Rose and Helen?”
 
“Dere’s a problem,” Da’Quarius said. “Helen is still goin’ on ‘bout da jew’s curse, and Rose took her to Westville to try an’ get it lifted.”
 
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “Are they going to make it?”
 
“Rose is hopin’ to get her here later today,” Da’Quarius said, “but Helen won’t tell us how she plans on liftin’ da’ curse.”
 
“I’m sorry,” Chico said. “Did your say she’s been cursed by a jew?”
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Dat’s what she thinks anyway.”
 
Chico looked at Da’Quarius, then to Paulie. When he saw they weren’t laughing, he decided they were actually telling the truth. “Well, OK,” he said. “Where can I set up my stuff?”
 
***
 
“Yo,” a man in a white tee shirt said, approaching Chico’s table as he set up the stack of photos. “You that radio guy?”
 
“I’m Chico,” he replied. “Did you want an autograph?”
 
“Are they free to Paulie’s employees?” the man asked.
 
“Sure,” Chico sighed. “Why not?”
 
“Then make it out to ‘Tony’,” he said. “Do you remember me? I used to call in during Pissed Off Fridays?”
 
“A lot of people called in on Fridays,” Chico said, signing the photo. “Everyone has something to be pissed about.”
 
“I used to get on all the time,” Tony said, “complaining about my boss hogging the shitter all day.”
 
“Oh my God!” Chico said. “That was Paulie? That’s this place?! I need to call BJ. He’d love to hear… never mind.”
 
“Hey,” Tony said. “I want to let you know; them canning you was bullshit. That prank was the funniest friggin’ -”
 
“Oh!” Paulie said, storming toward them. “Why aren’t you in the kitchen?!”
 
“You got two of us back there now,” Tony said. “Why don’t you go bust Sal’s balls?”
 
“Because Sal’s actually working,” Paulie said, “despite it being his first day here and his trainer, you, being absent in the kitchen.”
 
“Sorry,” Tony said, rolling his eyes. “I figured you’d want to put the whole day on your pizza-slinging personal Jesus Christ back there.”
 
“Do not take the lord’s name in vain!” Paulie snapped, pointing directly into Tony’s face. “If you’re so bitter and jealous, why don’t you get back there and show Salvatore how we sling dough in New Haven.”
 
“Fine,” Tony said, snatching his autographed photo from Chico. “I’ll show Amish boy how we do things in the city.”
 
“Sorry about him,” Paulie said as Tony walked back toward the kitchen. “I figured we can use some extra help due to this place being bigger, but he acts like I’m trying to replace him.”
 
“No problem,” Chico said. Some people started walking toward his table.
 
“I’ll leave you to your fans,” Paulie said. “I’ll send the waitress over for lunch in a bit. It’s on me.”
 
“Thanks,” Chico said, settling in to meet his adoring fans.
 
***
 
Rose drove down Whalley Avenue, through Westville. “Any idea where we’re stopping?” she asked.
 
“I’ll know when I see it,” Helen said, staring out the window. “These places are way too nice. I need a place more off the main drag.”
 
“You want me to turn down some side streets?” Rose asked.
 
“Don’t stray too far,” Helen said.
 
Rose turned down a street, driving slow so Helen can possibly spot for whatever she needed. “Any idea how long it will be?” she asked. “I know Paulie is probably waiting for you.”
 
“Soon,” Helen said. “I can feel it.”
 
Rose turned back onto a main road, driving past apartment buildings and condos. She passed a few storefronts as they approached the intersection of Fountain Street and Whalley.
 
“There!” Helen shouted. 
 
Rose nearly drove off the road. “Here?” she asked, turning on her blinker and parking.
 
“Yeah,” Helen said. “This is the place.”
 
Rose looked out of her windshield. “This is a pawn shop,” she said.
 
“It is,” Helen said, opening her door. “You wait in here. Be ready to move.”
 
“What are you going to do in there?” Rose asked.
 
“I can’t say,” Helen said. “If you know, then it won’t lift my curse.”
 
“Alright,” Rose said. “I’ll be right here.”
 
“Good girl,” Helen said. She left the car, slamming the door in her wake.
 
Rose watched her go into the pawn shop, wondering what Helen had in mind, hoping it wasn’t anything too sinister.
 
***
 
Chico greeted his fans and signed autographs, collecting ten dollars a photo. Some were genuinely glad to meet him after he was unceremoniously fired months ago, and some people just wanted to know why he did what he did. He dismissed the latter quickly.
 
“Hello,” the waitress said, smiling. “Paulie sent me over. What can I get for you for lunch?”
 
“Hi,” Chico said, returning the cute waitress’s smile. He read the name off her tag. “What do you recommend, Alice?”
 
“The pizza here is great, obviously,” Alice said. “They have a new sandwich called The Flounder too. It’s a meatball parmigiana full of seasoned fries. It sounds weird, but it’s really good. If you’re not on a diet, I suggest the Dee-Quizzy.”
 
“What’s on that last one?” Chico asked. 
 
“They take a chicken cutlet,” Alice said, “and they -”
 
“Hey!” Tony said, returning from the back. He nearly shoved his way through the short line of waiting fans. “What are you doing? I can’t bother mister radio star, but it’s alright for you to stand here and flirt?”
 
“I’m taking his lunch order, you moron,” Alice retorted. “You better get back into the kitchen before Paulie catches you goofing off again.”
 
“Oh!” Paulie shouted, coming toward them again.
 
“Too late,” Alice said.
 
“Get your ass back in the kitchen!” Paulie shouted, waving a hand in the air.
 
“I’m going!” Tony shouted back, waving his own hand. “I’m just managing your waitstaff for you.”
 
“I don’t need your help with the waitstaff,” Paulie said. “I need you cooking. This is our first day back, you stunad!”
 
Tony went back to the kitchen as he did before, and Paulie returned to behind the counter.
 
“So,” Alice said, turning back to Chico. “Have you decided?”
 
***
 
Art Glassman had worked at Fountain Pawn since he inherited the business form his father. He had experienced his share of odd customers, but luckily never anything he couldn’t handle. He thought nothing of the chubby old lady who was now browsing the counters, absently touching his wares.
 
“Can I help you?” Art asked as the woman approached.
 
“Oh,” the woman said. “I’m sorry. I was lost in my thoughts.”
 
“That’s no problem.” Art said, offering a smile under his gray mustache. “Are you looking for anything in particular.”
 
“I’m shopping for a gift for my son’s birthday,” the woman said. “He loves jewelry, but I think it makes him a little…” she shook her wrist.
 
“Ah,” Art said, nodding politely. “I think I have some necklaces he might like.”
 
“No,” the woman said quickly. “He has tons. He doesn’t have one bracelet, though.”
 
“I have a few he might like,” Art said. He reached under the counter and pulled out four different bracelets and put them on a fabric sheet. The woman looked them over.
 
“I like this one,” she said, pointing at the the silver bracelet on the left. 
 
“Very nice,” Art said, picking it up. “Do you want a closer look?”
 
“I’d actually like to see what it looks like worn,” the woman said.
 
“I can’t let you wear it,” Art said. “Sorry. Store police.”
 
“I figured,” the woman said. “Can you wear it. I’d like to see it on your left wrist.”
 
Art pulled back his sleeve to humor the old woman, who he suspected was about to leave without buying a thing after all this. The old ladies who wandered in often wasted him time.
 
“Oh,” the woman said. “You’ll have to take off your watch.”
 
Art smiled, undoing his gold watch, also his father’s. He placed it gently on the same cloth as the bracelets. He put the silver bracelet on in its place. “Is this good,” Art asked.
 
The woman got close, breathing hot breath directly into his face. He reeled back from it, opting for the fresh air to the side. “How is that,” he asked.
 
“Good,” the woman said. “I’m going to go and come back with my wallet. My son keeps my money for me.”
 
Art sighed, nodding. He knew the time spent with the woman would end up with no sale. “I hope to see you later,” he said, taking off the bracelet.
 
“I’m sure you do,” the woman said, leaving.
 
Art huffed, packing up the bracelets, shaking his head. “Bitch,” he muttered, locking the cabinet. He turned to walk away, but something felt off. He felt his wrist and then looked at the counter. His watch was gone.
 
“Shit!” He snapped, running around the counter and heading toward the door.
 
***
 
Chico stood up and stretched his back between fans. He was exhausted from signing his name so much. It was beginning to get a little humiliating, but he needed the money. There wasn’t much work for an unemployed morning radio guy in his sixties.
 
“Chico,” someone said.
 
Chico turned back toward his table to sign another in a long line of autographs, earning himself another ten dollars. He was shocked by who had shown up. “BJ,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
 
There stood Chico’s former on-air partner, BJ, taller, fatter, and hairier than Chico ever was or ever would be. “I heard you were going to be here,” he said. “I live in the neighborhood, and I eat here all the time. I did before they burned down, I mean.”
 
“Really?” Chico said. “I went to high school with the owner.”
 
“Small world,” BJ said. The two looked at each other for a moment, unspeaking, the space between them endless.
 
“Look,” BJ said, “about what they did to you…”
 
“You should have stood up to management for me,” Chico said. “And I’m not talking about when we stood up to them on the air at their own insistence because Howard Stern was doing it.”
 
“How could I have?” BJ asked. “That prank you pulled… It was horrible.”
 
Chico scoffed. “They always wanted us to push the envelope,” he said.
 
“What did he do anyway?” Da’Quarius asked, walking toward the table. “I keep hearin’ ‘bout dis prank, but I haven’t heard what it was.”
 
“Who’s this?” BJ asked.
 
“Paulie’s nephew,” Chico replied. “There’s a whole cast of characters around here. Don’t ask.”
 
“Well, Paulie’s nephew,” BJ said. “Chico thought it would be funny to turn the music on low for a full half hour, making our listeners turn their radios up. Then, he turned it way up, playing car crash sound effects.”
 
Da’Quarius doubled over with laugher. “Holy shit!” he shouted, holding his stomach. “Dat’s fuckin’ great!”
 
“There were thirty-seven car accidents,” Chico said, “scattered across the state. Every one of them jumped on a class action lawsuit against the radio station. Three people died.”
 
“Oh,” Da’Quarius said, his laughter subsiding. “Dat’s kinda fucked up, Chico.”
 
Chico sighed. “I guess I shouldn’t hold a grudge,” he said. “I skirted the manslaughter charges, but I’m still responsible for three deaths.”
 
“Chico,” BJ said. “I know we can’t work together anymore, but I’d still like to be your friend.”
 
“I’d like that,” Chico said. “I missed bullshitting with you every morning.”
 
“Me too,” BJ sad. “The broad who replaced you is a shrill bitch too. I piss in her coffee mug.”
 
Chico laughed, and BJ joined in. They smiled at each other.
 
“Shit,” Da’Quarius said, walking away. “Umma go see if Paulie needs help before you guys start makin’ out an’ shit.”
 
They followed Da’Quarius with his eyes as he retired to the back. “Hey,” BJ said. “I got some eight-by-tens in my trunk. Mind a little company?”
 
“Not at all,” Chico replied. “We’ll draw a better crown with a reunion signing after all.”
 
***
 
Helen swung the door to Paulie’s Pizza inward. “The cures has been lifted!” she exclaimed, holding up a gold watch. Chico and BJ stopped their joyful conversation, watching her walk between the booths. Everyone in the pizzeria watched for a moment before going back to their meals and conversations.
 
“How’d you do it?” Da’Quaruis said, coming out from the back.
 
“She can’t tell,” Rose said.
 
“I stole a gold watch from a jew,” Helen said, smiling. “Curse is broken.”
 
“Wouldn’t doing that make you double-cursed?” Paulie asked. Rose shot him a dirty look.
 
“Nope,” Helen said, spinning the watch on her finger. “Reparations have been made.”
 
A family turned to watch Helen for a moment, a look of confusion on their faces.
 
“Let’s go sit and eat,” Rose said, leading Helen.
 
“Hot damn!” Helen said. “You rebuilt my favorite booth!”
 
“I had to have it for you, sis,” Paulie said.
 
“The place looks fantastic,” Rose said, looking into the new area with the tables and chairs.
 
“Thank you,” Paulie said. Alice came next to him, holding a pen and pad. “Oh, this is Alice, my new head waitress. She’ll be taking your order.”
 
“Fancy,” Helen said. “I’ll have my usual. Paulie knows how to make it.”
 
“The usual,” Alice said, writing it down. “What is that?”
 
“Well,” Paulie said, “my big sis has the same thing every time she -”
 
“Whatever she’s telling you is bullshit!” Tony shouted, rushing from the back. “Also whatever Sal tells you is bullshit too!”
 
Paulie sighed. “Can someone tell me what’s going on here?” he asked.
 
“Tony’s been getting upset every time I talk to a guy,” Alice said. “I don’t know what’s going on with him and Sal.”
 
“Nothing,” Sal said in his deep voice, coming from behind Paulie and making him jump. “I think we’re getting along very well.”
 
“I’m sure you’ll make something up,” Tony said.
 
“I’m ending this right now,” Paulie said, turning to face the three of them. “Tony, you are not to harass Alice in any way.”
 
Tony screwed up his face in though. “But what if -”
 
“Any way!” Paulie exclaimed. “Alice, you are not flirt with guys purposely when you know Tony can see.”
 
Alice looked taken aback. “But -”
 
“Do you deny you did it?” Paulie asked.
 
“No,” Alice said, looking away.
 
“Sal,” Paulie said, getting Sal’s attention. “You’re good. Tony, get along with Sal.”
 
Tony nodded, begrudgingly.
 
“Also,” Paulie added. “You are not to hit on any other members of the waitstaff.”
 
Tony looked offended. “But -”
 
“Period!” Paulie said. “This is a new era for Paulie’s Pizza, and we’re all going to get along here. Capeesh?”
 
Tony, Alice, and Sal all nodded and went back to work.
 
“Oh!” Paulie called after them, getting his customers’ attention as well. “And you’re allowed to sleep with one another either!”
 
“Madon,” Helen said. “You’re going to have your hands full with these stunads. The place looks great though.”
 
Paulie looked like he was going to be mad, but he started laughing. Then, the others joined in. “Dat waitress never took our order,” Da’Quarius said.
 
 
 
The End 
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