Freedom Lane – The Red Unicorn Con
“This fair is so lovely,” Rose said, arm-in-arm with her wife and life partner Helen, walking through the fair set up in the parking lot of Da’Quarius’s school: Haven Hall. “It was so nice for the school to do all this to raise money for orphans.”
“Bah!” Helen scoffed. “What have orphans done for me lately?”
“Our adopted son was an orphan before we took him in,” Rose said. “Don’t tell me you forgot already.”
“Oh,” Helen said. “Are you suggesting I think two white women in their seventies somehow birthed a black teenage boy?”
Rose sighed. “Oh look,” she said. “There’s Da’Quarius now!”
Rose led Helen over to the wooden booth where Da’Quarius was volunteering. He had metal milk jugs stacked, three in a pyramid shape, and a bucket of softballs. “Step right up, biddies,” he said as he saw his mothers. “Think you can knock down the cans? One dollar gets you one ball.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Helen asked, giving Da’Quarius the stink-eye.
“Da’ fuck dat look for?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Look at that red unicorn,” Rose said, pointing at the prize hanging from the wall. “That’s so cute!”
Helen sighed, reaching in her pocket. She slapped the dollar in front of Da’Quarius. “Gimme a ball so I can wreck your cans,” she said.
Da’Quarius handed her one of the the softballs. “Fire away,” he said.
Helen chucked the ball with all the strength she could muster. She hit one of the pyramids of cans, knocking down the top and one of the ones on the bottom. The third stayed where it always had been.
“Sorry,” Da’Quarius said, setting the cans back up. “Better luck next time.”
Helen’s glare worsened. “Why you little con-man…”
“It’s okay,” Rose said. “It’s all for charity. Do you want to split a fried dough?”
“Go on ahead, dear,” Helen said, not breaking her gaze with Da’Quarius. “I think I’m going to have rematch.”
“Alright,” Rose said, giving Helen a peck on the cheek. “Have fun.”
Helen waited for Rose to leave. “You’re going to give me that unicorn, kid,” she said.
Da’Quarius returned Helen’s gaze. “One ball: one dollar. Step right da’ fuck on up.”
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 11, Episode 3: The Red Unicorn Con
“Where are you taking me?” Paulie asked, sitting in the passenger’s seat of Tony’s car. Paulie had given them both the night off as penance for screwing up Tony’s party the weekend before, resulting in his own loss of revenue.
“You told me it was up to me tonight,” Tony replied. “It’s just a little party. Should be fun.”
“Alright,” Paulie said. “I’m game. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was at a party.”
“So you don’t remember the one at Paulie’s Pizza that you ruined last week?” Tony asked.
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “Do I remind you of your screw-ups this much?”
“Yes,” Tony replied. “But mostly because there’s a lot of them.”
“Fine,” Paulie said. “I’ll put up with the ball-busting a little longer.”
“Good,” Tony said. “We’re here.”
Tony pulled up to a large house in the western part of New Haven. There were already several cars out front. Paulie got out and looked around. “Nice digs,” he said. “How do you even know these people?”
“I know people other than you,” Tony said.
“That’s not what I said,” Paulie retorted.
“Just come on inside,” Tony said. “I guarantee you’ll have fun.”
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “Why do I have the feeling it’ll be the opposite of fun?”
Helen threw the softball, once again knocking over two of the three just required to win a prize. “Dammit!” she snapped. “This friggin’ game is rigged!”
A man walked up with his daughter. “Daddy!” the little girl exclaimed. “Win me a prize!”
“I’ll try,” the father said, handing Da’Quarius a dollar. He took the ball and hurled it at the pyramid of cans, knocking all three down.
“Yay!” the little girl cheered. “I want the froggy!”
“You got it,” Da’Quarius said, handing the little girl her prize from a box off to the side.
“Why’s there an asbestos warning on that box?” the father asked.
“Oh,” Da’Quarius replied. “Dat’s just a box. The stuffed animals were made locally in a New Haven dry cleaners.”
“Okay,” the father said, looking at Da’Quarius out of the corner of his eye. He walked off with his daughter.
“Damn Flounder,” Da’Quarius muttered. “I told him to black out dat warnin’.”
“Let’s get back to business,” Helen said. “Give me that friggin’ unicorn.”
“You gotta win it,” Da’Quarius said. “One ball: one dollar.”
“Look,” Helen said, leaning on the stand. “I’ve already paid for ten balls. How about I give you another ten, making it an even twenty? Then you can just give me the red unicorn. I go on my way. Rose is happy. What do you have to lose, kid?”
“I can’t let’chu cheat,” Da’Quarius said. “You’re raisin’ me better than dat.”
“No I’m not,” Helen retorted. “That’s nonsense, and you know it. Why don’t you tell me why you’re busting my balls?”
“Fine,” Da’Quarius said. “You’re right. Dey’re givin’ away a hundred dollar gift card to GameStop to whoever raises da’ most money. So step right up, fork over da’ dough, and play da’ game, biddy.”
Helen scowled at Da’Quarius. She reached in her pocket and pulled out another dollar, slapping it on the counter. “Gimme that friggin’ ball, you little con-man.”
Da’Quarius handed Helen a pink and yellow softball. She hurled it toward the cans with all of her might, knocking over just two of the cans as she had done before.
“Oh,” Da’Quarius said. “Tough luck. I thought you had it that time. Do you want to try again? One ball: one dollar.”
Helen glared at Da’Quarius, seething. She slapped another dollar down. “Spare me the routine and just give me the friggin’ ball.”
Tony sauntered through the party, greeting the people as he went. Paulie followed, amazed at how Tony was carrying on.
“Julia,” Tony said, smiling. “I’m glad you’re here. Am I finally going to find out if the drapes match the toilet seat?”
Julia blushed and gave Tony a light slap on the cheek. Tony chuckled and continued walking around.
“What gives?” Paulie asked. “I don’t recognize a single one of these mooks, but you seem to know everyone.”
“What?” Tony asked. “You don’t think I have friends outside of our small circle? You think I don’t get out of that apartment above your pizzeria every now and then?”
“No,” Paulie replied. “I don’t.”
“Well I do,” Tony said. “I’ve been making new friends for a while now, and I figured I’d introduce you. Don’t make me regret it, Paulie.”
Paulie sighed. “Sorry. I just picture you doing really weird stuff in your free time. I never imagined you’d have a whole group of normal friends. I keep expecting something weird to happen, but it looks like that’s not going to happen.”
“Nope,” Tony said. “These are perfectly normal friends of mine.”
“Hey, Tony,” a woman said, coming up to them. She was easily fifty, wearing thigh-high fishnets and a black bra and panty set along with a black and purple cape that dragged on the floor behind her. “Who’s your friend?”
“This is Paulie,” Tony replied. “Paulie, this is Claire. Claire’s husband is the one throwing the party.”
“Um…” Paulie said, trying hard to look only into Claire’s eyes. “Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise,” Claire said, a naughty smile on her face. “I hope we can chat later on. I’d really like to get to know you better.” She gave Paulie a wink before continuing to mingle.
“Look at you,” Tony said. “First time meeting the group, and you get a shot at Claire. Women always flock to you.”
“Tony,” Paulie said softly, watching Claire. “You brought me to a friggin’ swinger party?”
“I don’t know if anyone calls them ‘swingers’ anymore,” Tony said. “I’m going to get my clothes off in a bit if you’re settled in.”
Paulie sighed. “We need to talk.”
Helen threw a ball, knocking over two out of the three cans. “FUCK YOUR ASSHOLE!” she shouted. A mother and daughter turned and went the other way.
“Stop shoutin’ an’ swearin’,” Da’Quarius said. “You’re gonna scare away my marks.”
“I’ve spent over twenty dollars,” Helen said, her voice almost a guttural growl. “Just give me the red unicorn.”
“Da’ game don’t work like dat,” Da’Quarius said.
Helen slapped a five down on the counter this time. “Five balls,” she growled. “One of those stacks has to be the winning stack.”
Da’Quarius took the five and put five balls on the counter. Helen picked them up, hurling them one at a time at the five stacks of cans, nailing each of them. When she was done, each one still had one can standing.
“Are you shitting me?!” Helen exclaimed. “Every single one?!”
“Like I said,” Da’Quarius said smugly, “dat’s da’ way da’ game goes, biddy.”
Helen was about to retort, but Rose came up next to her. “I see you’re still playing,” she said. “You haven’t spent too much money, have you?”
“It’s for a good cause,” Helen replied through gritted teeth.
“Well I’m sure that red unicorn wants to go home with us,” Rose said, offering Da’Quarius a wink. “You going to try a bit more for it?”
“Yeah,” Helen breathed. “I’m going to try a bit more.”
“Alright,” Rose said. “I’m going to walk around I’ll be back soon.” She walked away, disappearing into the crowd.
Helen took a long breath and exhaled slowly. “Kid,” she said, “I’m leaving here with that unicorn.”
“One ball,” Da’Quarius said, returning her glare, “one dollar.”
“So you got caught up with a group of swingers,” Paulie said. “But you don’t have a clue what you’re doing.”
“Like I never get laid?” Tony asked. “You’re the only one of the two of us having sex regularly? Come on, Paulie.”
“Will you stop it with that third degree shit?” Paulie said. “That’s not what I’m saying, you friggin’ stunad. I’ve been to these types of parties before. I used to go all the time in the eighties. There’s an etiquette that has to be observed, and running around in your underwear is not it.”
“That’s never stopped me before,” Tony said, shrugging.
“Listen,” Paulie said, rubbing his temples. “This isn’t a run of the mill orgy. These aren’t sexual deviants. They’re swingers. They’re a different breed than what you’re used to is all I’m saying. Sure, you’ll end up having sex with a relative stranger, but it won’t be cheap and meaningless and perverted. You get what I’m saying?”
“You lost me after that sex with a stranger part,” Tony said. “That’s really why I’m here.”
“No,” Paulie said. “You told me these were your new friends. Well, these kind of friends have sex with each other or let you have sex with their wives. Stick with this crowd and you’ll attend one of these a month if you’re lucky, and you’ll have a new partner at each one.”
“Wow,” Tony said. “You really do know your shit.”
“But you have to be cool about it,” Paulie added. “Or you won’t be invited back. These types of people frown on guys who act like horny amateurs.”
Tony nodded, taking in Paulie’s lesson.
“What a second,” Paulie said. “I thought you’ve been to one of these before.”
“I have,” Tony said.
“Then why were you invited back?” Paulie asked. “No offense, but I figured you would have done something.”
“No,” Tony said. “Maybe I’m just a professional banger.”
“Hi, Tony,” a woman said, walking by. “I hope you didn’t wear the fur underwear this time.”
“Nope,” Tony replied. “Just the regular kind. I learned my lesson.”
The woman smiled and walked away.
“Fur underwear?” Paulie asked.
“What?” Tony asked. “I thought it might get cold.”
Helen stood in front of Da’Quarius’s booth. “Give me that unicorn,” she said.
“You give me that ‘one ball: one dollar’ shit again, and I’ll slap those glasses off your face,” Helen said. A man walking his kid toward the booth turned and walked he opposite way.
“You gotta win it,” Da’Quarius said. “What kind of lesson would I be teachin’ you if I just give you da’ unicorn?”
“I’m pushing eighty years old,” Helen said. “If I haven’t learned my lesson yet, there’s a slim chance I’m going to learn it anyway. Now give me the friggin’ unicorn before I piss my pants.”
Another woman with two kids turned and walked away from the booth. Da’Quarius watched them go.
“Come on,” Helen said. “I’ve probably spent close to fifty bucks on this stupid game, trying to win a stupid red unicorn for a woman who doesn’t even play with stuffed animals.”
“Den why you tryin’ to win it?” Da’Quarius asked.
Helen sighed. “Don’t make me say it.”
“Go ahead an’ say it,” Da’Quarius said.
“That woman means the world to me,” Helen said. “I haven’t always been the best person, you know that. I also haven’t been the best provider either, especially early on when we were together. She put me up through thick and thin, never asking for anything in return other than my company. If there’s anything I can get for her, anything, then I owe it to myself to do it, even a chintzy little stuffed unicorn that will lose its spot on top of her dresser the minute she decides to neaten up our bedroom. So please help me out, Da’Quarius. Help me get the woman who adores me a little something to ease my internal torment.”
Da’Quarius looked into the serious face of Helen. He clapped slowly. “Bravo. You almost had me. One ball: one dollar.”
“DAMMIT!” Helen snapped. Two more people walked away, giving the booth a wide berth.
“Look,” Da’Quarius said. “Dis has been fun an’ all, but you gotta stop swearin’. You’re scarin’ my customers away.”
Helen looked around, spotting those who have walked away. “You really are an amateur after all, kid.”
“What?” Da’Quarius asked.
Helen smiled. “You know nothing about the con game. Never give away an ace.”
“So you came with Tony?” Claire asked, sitting next to Paulie on the love seat, leaning close to him, tracing shapes on his leg.
“Yeah,” Paulie said. “He brought me here. I had no idea he had such a… diverse group of friends.”
“Tony was a good find for us,” Claire said. “He found some of our members through a dating site, and they invited him. He’s very open-minded and a fantastic lover from what I hear, despite his crass demeanor.”
Paulie turned to Clair. “So you and him haven’t…”
“No,” Claire said with a small laugh. “But he’s on my short list. Have you and him every had the same woman before?”
“Not intentionally,” Paulie replied. “But there has been a couple of times where it has happened. When you fish from the same pond, you sometimes hook the same fish.”
“I see,” Claire said. “You know, you can have me if you want.”
“I figured,” Paulie said.
“There’s something I’ve been dying to try,” Claire added, a sly smile creeping up her face.
“Oh yeah?” Paulie asked. “What’s that?”
Claire moved closer to whisper into Paulie’s ear, her hand moving to his thigh as she did. Her lips were less than an inch from his ear. They started to move, about to form words when Tony sat in the chair across from them.
“What are you two up to?” Tony asked, drinking a glass of wine, nearly chugging it. “You guys look cozy.”
Claire moved away from Paulie, smiling at Tony. “Well I should see if my darling husband needs any help around the house,” she said, standing up. She turned toward Paulie. “Make sure you find me later.”
“Will do,” Paulie said. He watched her leave, following her with his eyes. He then turned to Tony, who was doing the same. “What the frig is wrong with you?!”
“What?” Tony asked. “I just wanted to say hi.”
Helen stood near Da’Quarius’s booth, leaning against it, a smug look on her face.
“What are you doin’?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Wait,” Helen replied.
A woman and her son walked up to the booth. “Do you want to try and win a prize?” she asked.
“Shit,” Helen said. The woman turned to look at her. “Shitty shit.”
“Come on,” the mother said, dragging her son away. “Let’s play that game with the ducks.”
“Really?” Da’Quarius asked. “Dat’s how you gonna play me?”
Helen shrugged. “You can always give me that red unicorn.”
Da’Quarius glared at her. “One ball: one dollar.”
“Suit yourself,” Helen said. “Hairy nuts.”
Another man dragged his daughter away.
A couple turned on their heel to leave.
“Anus bleach?” Da’Quarius asked. “Really?”
Another couple gave her the widest of berths as they passed Helen and the booth.
“How much money do you think you just lost there?” Helen asked. “Want to stop the bleeding? Give me what I want.”
“Fine!” Da’Quarius snapped. He grabbed the red unicorn from the wall. “You stone cold, doe. I hope Rose likes it.”
“Thank you,” Helen said, smiling. “See you at home.” She left to look for Rose.
“Shit,” Da’Quarius muttered. “I better win dat damn gift card.”
“Come with me,” Claire said, leading Paulie through the party by his hand. “I have a surprise for you.”
“Oh yeah?” Paulie said. “I like surprises. Usually.”
“I think you’ll like this one,” Claire said. “But not as much as I’m going to like it.”
Paulie chuckled as Claire opened the door to the master bedroom. She led him in, but he stopped dead before he got to the bed. “What hell is this?!”
“I was going to ask you the same thing!” Tony said, blocking his crotch with a small pillow.
“Enough of the dramatics,” Claire said, dropping her robe behind her. “You told me you’ve shared women before.”
“Yeah,” Paulie said, “but not at the same time!”
“I don’t know, Paulie,” Tony said, looking over Claire. “As long we don’t look at each other’s dongs, we should be fine. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.”
“I’m out of here!” Paulie snapped, walking toward the door. “Now I remember why I stopped coming to these friggin’ swinger parties!”
“Wow,” Tony said as Paulie stormed down the stairs. “I don’t know where he’s going, but I drove him here.”
“Rose!” Helen exclaimed, shuffling toward her. “I got it.”
“Oh,” Rose said, smiling. “You finally beat that game.”
“Yeah,” Helen said. “Sorry it took so long. That kid is running a solid con over there, but I finally beat it.”
“Good for you,” Rose said. She looked around and saw a little girl holding a balloon, watching the Ferris wheel. Rose handed her the toy. “Here you go. Do you like it?”
“Yeah,” the little girl said, hugging the stuffed unicorn. “It’s pretty.”
“Good,” Rose said, giving her a smile.
“What do you say?” the girl’s mother asked.
“Thank you,” the little girl replied.
“Don’t thank me,” Rose said. “Thank Helen. She’s the one who won it. Come on. It’s time to head home I think.”
Rose turned and walked toward the parking lot.
“Thank you,” the little girl said, staring at Helen.
“Go bleach our anus, you little shit,” Helen said, storming off and following Rose.
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