Freedom Lane – Salud

“Oh,” Paulie said, coming out of his office in Paulie’s Pizza on State Street, dressed in a button-down shirt and khakis. “You sure you’re okay watching the place on your own tonight?”
 
“It’s fine,” Tony replied, waving a hand. He took a sip from a red mug of coffee. “I’ve closed plenty of times. Go enjoy your date.”
 
“Alright,” Paulie said. “I just wanted to make sure you weren’t up all last night again.”
 
“I wasn’t up that late,” Tony replied with a shrug. “I was watching reruns of Cheers. Remember that show?”
 
“I can’t watch that,” Paulie said. “All that fighting between Sam and Diane gives me agita.”
 
“It’s a good show,” Tony said. “I sometimes think of this place as our own Cheers. A lot goes on here, night to night.”
 
“You’re a stunad,” Paulie said.
 
“You’re going to miss everything while you’re out,” Tony said. “Every night here holds new stories.”
 
“I don’t have time for this,” Paulie said. “I’m gonna be late.” He walked out the door into the early New Haven evening.
 
“Salud,” Tony said, raising his mug to Paulie as he left.
 
 
***
 
Freedom Lane 
 
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
 
Season 11, Episode 5: Salud
 
***
 
Tony sang to himself as he wiped down the main counters. “Sometimes you wanna go where everyone knows who you are,” he crooned. “Like some downtown Boston bar. Bum bum bum.”
 
“Hey, Tony,” Alice said, coming in to start her shift as head of Paulie’s waitstaff.
 
“Hey there, sweetheart,” Tony replied, moving in to hug Alice.
 
“Whoa,” Alice said. “That’s what I want to talk about.”
 
“What?” Tony asked. “Too much cologne?”
 
“No,” Alice said. “But it is a bit much. I wanted to make sure you know what happened last night was a one time thing, and I don’t want it to affect us working together. Okay?”
 
“Oh,” Tony said, looking a little hurt. “Sure. No problem. I knew that anyway. I was hoping you wouldn’t get attached. This is actually a big relief to me.”
 
“Really?” Alice asked. “Because you’re rambling.”
 
“What?” Tony asked in return. “Me? Ramble? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m as cool as a cucumber. So we slept together. So what, I say. Didn’t mean anything to me. Right?”
 
“Alright,” Alice said. “As long as we’re on the same page.”
 
Tony handed Alice her apron. “Two waitresses called out tonight,” he said. “So we’ll be short.”
 
“What?!” Alice snapped. “We’re going to be jammed up all night!”
 
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Tony said, shrugging. “This sounds like a problem for the head of the waitstaff. That was you last time I checked.”
 
Alice huffed and went off to start her shift. He took a bottle of water from under the counter and took a sip, following her with his eyes. Sal came out of the kitchen, walking up behind Tony.
 
“Tony,” Sal said, his voice deep and monotone.
 
“Whoa!” Tony exclaimed, dropping his water. “Don’t sneak up on me like that!”
 
“Sorry,” Sal said. “Did Alice come in yet?”
 
“She’s here,” Tony replied. “I wouldn’t bark up her tree, though, if you know what I mean.” He rolled his eyes and left, heading toward Paulie’s office.
 
Alice came in from the seating area, her hair pulled back and her apron on. “Hi, Sal,” she said, getting her pad and pen and putting it in her apron pocket. “How are you?”
 
“My ex-wife is coming by today,” Sal replied.
 
“Oh,” Alice said. “I didn’t know you were ever married.” 
 
“It wasn’t a good marriage,” Sal said with a small shrug. “She’s driving up from Pennsylvania to bring me some things I left behind.”
 
“Okay,” Alice said. She looked around to make sure Tony wasn’t out of the office. “If you’re worried about her finding out about you and me… don’t.”
 
“Thank you,” Sal said. “I just don’t want things to be awkward when she comes. She’s a little… vindictive.”
 
“Think nothing of it, Sal,” Alice said, smiling. “I know what we did was a one time thing.”
 
“Sorry,” Sal said. “I just can’t be in a relationship right now.”
 
“Say no more,” Alice said, waving a hand. “I get it.”
 
Alice and Sal looked at each other for a bit longer. The door opened, and a customer walked in. Alice broke the stare with Sal to greet the customers. “Welcome to Paulie’s Pizza.”
 
***
 
Tony had finished taking an order over the phone. He put the paper on the spindle behind him for Sal and kitchen staff to cook, wrap, and get to Pimple Puss, Paulie’s delivery boy. The door opened, and a police officer walked in.
 
“Rocco!” Tony shouted, smiling. “How’s it hanging?”
 
“Straight down the middle and swinging,” Rocco said, sitting at a booth near the front. “They got me running a speed trap down the street, so I decided to take a walk and see what’s doin’ here .”
 
“You on break?” Tony asked.
 
“Nah,” Rocco said. “I’m just sick of sitting there. I have my bulletproof vest propped up in the seat so it looks like I’m in the cruiser.”
 
“Nobody is going to realize it’s headless?” Tony asked.
 
“What are you?” Rocco asked. “Ichabod Crane all of a sudden?”
 
“I have no idea what that means,” Tony replied.
 
“It means get me some grub!” Rocco said, slamming a fist on the table, laughing. “How about a chicken parm grinder?”
 
“You got it,” Tony said. He turned toward the kitchen. “Sal! Get me a chicken parm, stat!”
 
“Don’t rush it,” Rocco said. “You think I want to go back to zapping that laser at cars? My nuts are bound to shrivel up from that thing.”
 
“Hi, Rocco,” Alice said, coming into the main area. “I thought I heard you come in.”
 
Rocco smiled. “Good evening Alice,” he said. “I hope all is well.”
 
“And what if it’s not?” Alice asked. “You gonna arrest anyone who messes with me?”
 
“I might,” Rocco said. “Just let me know who it is.”
 
“Oh!” Tony exclaimed, coming from behind the counter. “This don’t look like waiting on tables to me!”
 
“So you can flirt with him, but I can’t?” Alice asked.
 
“Get back to work!” Tony said, waving a hand. “And I wasn’t flirting.”
 
Alice rolled her eyes. “Bye bye, officer Priolo.”
 
“Bye bye, waitress Alice,” Rocco said. Alice giggled as she left.
 
“I wish you wouldn’t rile her all up like that,” Tony said, sitting across from Rocco.
 
“What’s your problem?” Rocco asked. “I thought you and her were broken up for good.”
 
“I thought so,” Tony replied. He leaned over the table a bit and lowered his voice. “She came up to my place after we locked up last night. She ended up staying until around two in the morning. She’s every bit as wild as I remember.”
 
“So you guys are back together,” Rocco said. “That’s good. You were really messed up when you broke up.”
 
“Here’s the thing,” Tony said. “I thought we were. She had even told me how much she missed me. But when she came in today, she told me it was a one time thing. She doesn’t want what happened making things messy at work.”
 
“I can understand that,” Rocco said. “I nailed one of our dispatchers once, and it got real messy, especially when her husband found out.”
 
The door opened before Tony could say something else. A woman walked in, tall with long, curly, black hair. She held a box in her arms. Tony got up to take her order. “Is Salvatore here?” she asked.
 
“He’s working in the back,” Tony said. “I can get him if it’s important.”
 
“It is,” the woman said. “Let him know his wife is here.”
 
***
 
“Hello, Janice,” Sal said, coming from the kitchen area and sitting in a booth across from his ex-wife. The box she brought was on her right, sitting on the chair. “You didn’t have to drive all the way here.”
 
“I don’t trust the mail,” Janice said. “I wanted to be sure you got this.”
 
“Don’t play these games,” Sal said. “Why are you here?”
 
“I want you back, okay?” Janice said, crossing her arms across her chest. “Is that what you want to hear?”
 
“No,” Sal replied. “We were terrible together.”
 
“That’s what made it interesting,” Janice said.
 
“I’ve started a new life here,” Sal said, standing up, “and I’d like for you to leave it.”
 
Sal left and went back to the kitchen, not even bothering to ask what she had brought up from Pennsylvania. She put her head down, trying not to cry. A moment later, Tony sat across from her.
 
“Hey,” Tony said. “You were married to Sal, right?”
 
Janice nodded, still fighting the tears.
 
“So you probably helped him in that pizza restaurant down there,” Tony said.
 
“I worked there as a teenager,” Janice said in a mousy voice. “It’s how me and Salvatore met.”
 
“So you have experience waiting tables,” Tony continued.
 
“I guess,” Janice replied. “Why are you talking to me?”
 
“Because I’m desperate,” Tony said. “We’re short waitresses tonight. Can I pay you under the table to wait tables for a few hours, just during the dinner rush? I’m sure Sal will appreciate it too, you know.”
 
“He will?” Janice asked.
 
“Yeah he will,” Tony replied. “Go see Alice and get an apron. We’ll settle up at the end of the night.”
 
“Okay,” Janice said. She got up and walked off toward the main area, in search of Alice.
 
“That was really fucked up of you,” Rocco said from his seat in the other booth, half his chicken parm grinder still in front of him.
 
“At least it gets Alice off my ass about being short waitresses,” Tony replied. “Shut up and eat your friggin’ sandwich.”
 
***
 
Tony went through the seating area, finding Alice standing in front of a table taking order. “I’ll get that pitcher of Coke for you right away,” she said, smiling as she finished up. She turned around and nearly walked into Tony.
 
“Get out of here!” Alice snapped. “I’m trying to work, and we’re jamming tonight.”
 
“Relax,” Tony said. “I just came in to tell you that I helped you out. I found you a replacement waitress for the night?”
 
“You did?” Alice asked. “Where is she?”
 
“She’s tying an apron around her waist right now,” Tony said. “So did your guy do good or what?”
 
“Thank you,” Alice said, pushing Tony away with the palm of her hand, “but you are not my guy. I have no guy, alright? I don’t need one!” She walked off toward the kitchen area.
 
“Broads,” Tony muttered. He turned slightly to see the table of customers looking at him. “You know she’ll come around.”
 
“Is she coming back with our soda?” the customer asked.
 
***
 
Sal came out of the kitchen, walking behind the counter with a large cup. He walked over to the soda machine and filled it with ice. He then moved it over and started filling it with water. He looked around while he did, spotting someone who should have left.
 
“What are you still doing here, Janice?” he asked his ex-wife. “And why are you wearing that apron?”
 
“I’m working here,” Janice said. “Your boss said he needed an extra waitress and offered me a job for the night. I figured it would give us a chance to talk while we work.”
 
“This is a terrible idea,” Sal said.
 
“Remember the old days?” Janice asked. “You and me working in Buchananshire Pizza, stealing kisses when it was slow, dancing by the dumpsters on our breaks?”
 
“Oh!” Tony said, coming from the seating area. “I know you’re new here, sweetheart, but you need to get in there. It’s prime time!”
 
“Okay,” Janice replied. She turned back to Sal. “Bye for now.” She walked toward the seating area.
 
“Why did you hire her?” Sal asked.
 
“Relax,” Tony said. “It’s only for one night. Besides, I’m not asking you to sleep with her or anything.”
 
“Smooth,” Rocco remarked from his booth.
 
“Aren’t you supposed to be catching speeders or something?” Tony asked, turning toward him.
 
“Yeah,” Rocco said with a shrug. “So?”
 
“You should have asked me first,” Sal said. “I would have told you not to do it. You have no idea what that woman did to me.”
 
“She seems sweet enough,” Tony said.
 
“She may seem sweet,” Sal said, “but deep down lurks an evil from which there is no escape. I still see her face in my nightmares sometimes.”
 
“What she do?” Tony asked. “She cut off your dick or something?”
 
Sal sighed. “You’re playing with fire here, Tony,” he said, walking back into the kitchen. “Don’t blame me if you get burned.”
 
“Wow,” Rocco said. “How ominous.”
 
“I’ll show you something ominous,” Tony said. “Why don’t you and me go around back for a minute.”
 
Rocco put his hand on the butt of his gun. “You sure you wanna do that?”
 
***
 
“You seem to catch on quick,” Alice said to Janice, crossing paths near the pickup window. “Thanks for helping us out, by the way.”
 
“It’s no problem,” Janice replied. “The owner was in a jam, and I figured I could lend a hand.”
 
“Wait,” Alice said. “You think Tony…” She snorted with laughter.
 
“It’s alright,” Janice said. “I really don’t mind. It helps me get closer to Salvatore anyway.”
 
“Sal?” Alice asked. “You have a crush on him or something?”
 
“You can say that,” Janice said. “You can also say that we used to be married.”
 
“Like, to each other?” Alice asked.
 
“Yeah,” Janice replied. “What else would I mean.”
 
“I don’t know,” Alice said. “I just never knew Sal was married until today.”
 
“Look,” Janice said, moving closer to Alice. “I’m just going to warn you once. If I ever find out you’ve ever been physical with my Salvatore, I’ll cut your tits off.”
 
Alice watched Janice walk off, taking a pizza from the counter and walking it toward one of the tables.
 
“Tony!” Alice called, walking back into the main area where Tony was just hanging up the phone.
 
“What’s up?” Tony asked, putting the ticket in the kitchen area.
 
“Where’d you find Janice?” Alice asked.
 
“She just came in here,” Tony replied. “She wanted to see Sal, but she ended up with a job. She used to be a waitress with him back in Pennsylvania. Funny how everything worked out.”
 
“They use to be married,” Alice said. “Do you have any idea how awkward that is for everyone?”
 
“No,” Tony replied. “I just figured it would be awkward for the two of them. The rest of us should be fine.”
 
Alice sighed. “She threatened to cut my tits off.”
 
Tony stared at Alice for a moment, his eyes moving toward her breasts.
 
“What are you doing?” Alice asked, crossing her arms across her chest.
 
“I’m taking mental pictures of them while I still can,” Tony replied.
 
“You’re such a dick,” Alice said.
 
“I’m kidding,” Tony said. “I’ll talk to her, straighten her out. Sound good?”
 
“Fine,” Alice said. “But I just hope you talked to Sal about her being here.”
 
“Don’t worry,” Tony said. “I did.”
 
“Good,” Alice said, heading back to work.
 
Rocco cleared his throat. “I think she meant you should have talked to Sal before hiring his ex-wife,” he said, “not after.”
 
“Then she should have been more specific,” Tony said. “What am I, supposed to be a mind reader?”
 
***
 
Sal brought a pizza on its service tray to the window facing the seating area. Janice came to pick up. “Hi, honey,” she said. “I’ve missed you.”
 
“You put in this order ten minutes ago,” Sal replied.
 
“So,” Janice said. “Every minute apart is torture now that I’m back in your life.”
 
“This is one night only,” Sal said. “Don’t forget that.”
 
Janice gave Sal a dirty look and walked away. Alice was there a moment later with her pad. “I got an order for a large pepperoni pie,” she said. She waited a moment, watching Janice walk to the other side of the seating area. “I’m sorry we haven’t been able to talk all night. Are you okay with your ex working here?”
 
“Not particularly,” Sal replied, “but she’s here, and Tony assures me it’s only for tonight.”
 
“Why did you agree to this if you had a problem with it?” Alice asked.
 
“I didn’t really have a choice,” Sal said. “She was already working when I found out.”
 
“What?” Alice asked. “That lying rat bastard. Come on. We’re going to have a chat with him right now.”
 
Alice marched back to the main area through the entrance. Sal came as well, using the kitchen exit. “We don’t need to do this,” Sal said. 
 
“Yes we do,” Alice said. “Tony, why did you tell me Sal was okay with Janice working here?”
 
“I never said that,” Tony said. “You asked me if I talked to him about it, and I did.”
 
“It was after she had agreed to waitress for the night,” Rocco chimed in. “That’s what we call in the law enforcement community a ‘technicality’.”
 
“But out, Rocco,” Tony said.
 
“Hey,” Rocco said. “I’m on your side!”
 
“Why don’t you use that pea-sized brain sometimes,” Alice said. “Why was it a good idea that Sal have to work with his ex?”
 
Tony shrugged. “I work with mine,” he said. “I know it’s hard at first, but maybe the two would come to be civil, maybe even friends. It worked for you and me after all.”
 
Alice looked taken aback, words failed to come from her mouth.
 
“You were with Tony?” Sal asked. “You told me there was nothing between the two of you when we were together the other night.”
 
“Wait,” Tony said. “You were with Sal the other night? Then what was it when we were together last night? Am I sloppy seconds or something?”
 
“You slept with Tony last night?” Sal asked. “After what you and I did?”
 
“I told you what I’d do if I caught you to together,” Janice said, coming into the room. She dropped her tray of dirty dishes and charged Alice, holding a plate over her head to bludgeon her foe. Alice flinched, ready to have her head and face smashed by the plate when Janice was forced to the ground by Rocco, who had gotten behind her in a flash. The plate smashed into the ground, shattering into a hundred or so pieces. Her wrists were tied behind her back.
 
“Aren’t you going to read her her rights?” Tony asked.
 
“No need,” Rocco replied. “She hit the ground pretty hard. She’s out cold.”
 
“Look, guys…” Alice said.
 
“Don’t explain yourself,” Tony said, spreading his hands. “Sal and I are just two more notches on your bedpost, right?”
 
“I always swore not to get involved with anyone from work again,” Sal said, “and now I remember why.”
 
“Amen, bro,” Tony said.
 
Alice looked hurt.
 
“You gonna be okay?” Tony asked Sal.
 
“Yeah,” Sal said, nodding. “I just thought her and I had something special.”
 
“Me too,” Tony said. “Looks like she toyed with both of our emotions pretty bad.”
 
Tony brought Sal in for a hug, patting his back. Sal returned it, sniffling into Tony’s shoulder. Rocco tried to drag Janice to her feet, shaking her to get her to wake up from her probable concussion.
 
The door opened and Paulie walked in. He stopped dead and looked at the scene. Tony and Sal broke their embrace, Alice ran off toward the restroom, crying, and Rocco was picking up a bloody-faced Janice, who was looking around in a daze.
 
“What the frig happen here?!” Paulie exclaimed. “I can’t take one night off, I swear.”
 
***
 
Alice was wiping down the tables in the main area when the door opened. The bells above chimed. “I’m sorry,” she said, not looking up. “We’re closed.”
 
“I just came to see how you’re holding up,” Rocco said, walking up to her.
 
“What do you care?” Alice asked, going back to her task. “You left before the real fireworks started. Tony and Sal spent the rest of the night trash-talking me, comparing notes, and being complete asses. Sal forgave him soon enough once they had me as a common enemy. And Paulie lectured me on starting love triangles with his employees. They’re so lucky I need this job.”
 
“I know I may be out of line here,” Rocco said, “but I think you just need a real man to take you out and show you a good time.”
 
“Do you know one?” Alice asked, setting her rag at the table and looking at Rocco.
 
“Nope,” Rocco said, “but I can take you out in lieu of one.”
 
“Even after what you saw tonight?” Alice asked.
 
“You need to get your head out of this place,” Rocco replied. “Look at what messing around with the guys at work did to Sal and Janice. He’s miserable, and she’s in lockup for attempted assault.”
 
“What about Tony?” Alice asked.
 
“What about him?” Rocco asked in return. “I’m only asking for one date. We’ll worry about Tony if if becomes serious. How’s that sound?”
 
“I like that,” Alice said.
 
Rocco left a card on the table. “My cell number is on there,” he said. “Text me your next day off.”
 
“Okay,” Alice said.
 
Rocco smiled and left.
 
“Who was that?” Tony said, coming from the back.
 
“A customer,” Alice said, locking the door. “I told him we’re closed.” She walked by the table to pocketed Rocco’s card.
 
“Good,” Tony said, turning the lights off. They were the only two left in the restaurant. “About tonight… I’m sorry.”
 
“Me too,” Alice said. She kissed Tony on the cheek. “Good night.” She went to the back to get her things. She came out a minute later and went to the front door, unlocking it. 
 
“Goodnight,” Tony said as Alice let. He followed to the door, locking it again. He stood there for a moment, deep in thought. He nodded and walked toward the back, going to the stairwell that led to his apartment upstair, lightly singing.
 

 

“You wanna go where people know,” he sang, “their bullshit is all the same. You wanna go where nobody wants to know your name. Bum bum bum bum bum. Bum.”
 
 
 
The End
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