The following episode of Freedom Lane is dedicated to Vanessa and Chad.
Da’Quarius sat in front of the computer monitor in his home on Freedom Lane. He was finishing up his homework when his stomach growled. “Shit,” he said. “All that schoolwork’s makin’ me hungry. You wanna sneak downstairs for somethin’ to eat?”
Dutchie, Da’Quarius’s brown pitbull terrier lifted his head for a moment, then put it back down.
“OK,” Da’Quarius replied. “But you gonna be runnin’ down dere once you here dat fridge open.” He looked at the clock, and saw that it was ten after eight. “Da biddies are probably gettin’ ready fo’ bed, so umma be quiet. Don’t start acting like an asshole and blow my spot up.”
Dutchie just looked at his master from his spot on their shared bed.
“Good boy,” Da’Quarius said, getting up. he walked down the hallway, going down the stairs, toward the den. Rose and Helen were gone, so he relaxed a bit. He was sure he’d be able to get himself a snack either way, but it would be easier to sneak it than to explain why he needed it. Helen was always looking for an excuse to bust his chops.
Da’Quarius made it into the kitchen and opened the fridge slowly. He pulled out some cold cuts, got the loaf of bread from the bread box, and made himself a quick sandwich. When he was all done, he packed the food back into the fridge and started walking back through the den with his prize, being as sneaky as he was on the way in. He froze when he saw Rose and Helen in conversation on the couch. He was lucky. They hadn’t noticed him walking behind them with his nighttime snack, so he walked slowly, tip-toeing toward the stairs.
“I just don’t understand why I can’t see Chet,” Helen said.
“I’m not saying you can’t visit Chet,” Rose replied. “I only said today was really busy, it wasn’t such a good idea.”
“Fine,” Helen said, “but you let Chet know I’m coming down to see him soon.”
“When I talk to him, I’ll let him know,” Rose added. “But for now, can we drop the subject?”
“Why?” Helen asked. “You don’t want the kid hearing us and finding out about Chet?”
“Stop it,” Rose said. “If you keep this up I’m going to bed without you.”
“OK,” Helen said. “I’ll stop, but I at least want a phone call from him tonight.”
Rose sighed. “I mean it.”
“I said OK,” Helen sighed.
Da’Quarius made his way to his bedroom, and his mothers weren’t aware of his presence. He sat in front of his computer, the small plate with his sandwich on his lap. His dog was now in front of him, sitting, staring at the plate with all the intensity he could muster, but Da’Quarius was dazed.
“Who da’ fuck is Chet?!”
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 12, Episode 2: The Thing About Chet
“So I submitted this poem I wrote to some magazine a month or so back,” Tony said, sitting across from Da’Quarius in Paulie’s Pizza on State Street. It was Saturday, and Da’Quarius had come in to work for a few hours.
“You writin’ poetry now?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Guess what?” Tony asked, his face lighting up. “They loved it and put it in their magazine! I’m a published author!”
“Wait a second,” Da’Quarius said. “We ain’t dealin’ wit’cho nut cancer right now?”
“I’m getting that taken care of,” Tony said, waving a hand. “They’re going to cut my left nut off next week sometime.”
“I feel like you should be more focused on dis,” Da’Quarius said. “I’d be like ‘fuck poetry’ if one of my boys went bad and had to come off.”
“That’s why God gave us two,” Tony said. “About this poem…”
“Oh!” Paulie said, leaving his bathroom with the newspaper tucked under his arm. “What’s this, happy hour at the coffee shop?”
“I’m just telling the kid about my poem,” Tony replied.
“Again with the poem?!” Paulie snapped. “I’ve been hearing about this thing since yesterday.”
“Want to hear it?” Tony asked.
“Hold up,” Da’Quarius said. “Paulie, can I talk to you in private?”
“Sure, kid,” Paulie replied. “You OK?”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius replied. “Can we just talk in your office?”
“OK,” Paulie said, walking toward his office with Da’Quarius in tow. They both entered, and Da’Quarius shut the door behind him. “What do you need, kid?”
“I need to ask you somethin’ ‘bout Rose an’ Helen,” Da’Quarius said. “It sounds weird, but somethin’ I heard da’ other night has been botherin’ me.”
“Ask away,” Paulie said.
“Who’s Chet?” Da’Quarius asked.
Paulie looked at Da’Quarius for a moment, his eyes growing wide. “No,” Paulie said, waving his hands and getting back up. “I am not talking about Chet.”
“So you know who he is!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “You gotta tell me.”
“I don’t have to tell you squat!” Paulie said. “I need to get to work here. If you want to stay, then drop this Chet business and forget you even heard that name. Madon.” He left the office.
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “I gotta find dis mo’ fucker. I bet he’s doin’ hard time fo’ some hardcore-ass shit.”
“I got this killer first line,” Tony told Da’Quarius. “’A thousand lies couldn’t make you sound pretty’.”
“What’s da’ name of dis poem?” Da’Quarius asked.
“’Ugly Love’,” Tony replied. “You want to hear more?”
“Nah,” Da’Quarius said. “I think I’m good.”
“You’ll read it,” Tony said. “You’ll read all of them when my book comes out.”
“What’chu talkin’ ‘bout?” Da’Quarius asked. “I thought you said dis was a magazine thing.”
“It started that way,” Tony said, “but the magazine people also publish books, and they want to publish my book of poems. I already have the manuscript.”
Tony came from around the counter with a notebook. He handed it to Da’Quarius. “Here you go, kid.”
“Holy shit,” Da’Quarius said. “You went from ‘I wrote a poem’ to ‘I wrote a book’ in like a half hour.”
“Life’s too short when you’re about to lose a nut,” Tony said. “Let me know what you think. You’re the first to read it.”
Da’Quarius read the title Tony had written on the front of the spiral notebook: “Musings… by Tony”. “You ain’t gonna use your last name?” He asked.
“No,” Tony said. “I’m mysterious, like Madonna or Cher or Ghandi.”
“Why are there three periods after ‘Musings’?” Da’Quarius asked.
“That’s where the reader pauses to muse,” Tony replied. “It’s poetic as shit.”
“I thought dese were yo’ musin’s,” Da’Quarius said.
Tony stared blankly at Da’Quarius.
Da’Quarius flipped through the book, skimming over the content. “Dese poems are all insultin’ women,” he said. “Who da’ fuck would publish dis?”
Tony shrugged. “Ugly Love won the contest, so I just stuck with that theme,” he said.
“Some of these stanzas are really fucked up, doe,” Da’Quarius said. “But in a good way kinda.”
“Thanks,” Tony said. “What’s a stanza, professor?”
Da’Quarius looked up from the book and toward Tony. “It’s a… Wait a second. How do you not know what a stanza is after writin’ a whole book of poetry?”
Tony shrugged again. “How do you know what it is?”
“I write rap lyrics,” Da’Quarius replied. “It’s like poetry to a beat.”
“Whatever,” Tony said, taking his notebook back. “Don’t get your fingerprints all over this. I need to send it to my publisher.” He turned to go back to work.
“Hold up,” Da’Quarius said. “Lemme ask you somethin’.”
“Shoot,” Tony said.
“Do you know who Chet is?” Da’Quarius asked.
“No idea,” Tony replied. “He some famous poet I’m supposed to know about?”
“No,” Da’Quarius sighed. “Prob’ly not anyway.”
Da’Quarius came home after his shift at Paulie’s, and he saw that Rose and Helen weren’t home. Dutchie was doing his normal jumping around, and Da’Quarius took him for a walk. When he returned, Helen was on the couch, reading the TV Guide.
“I wondered where that dog went,” Helen said. “I was hoping he learned to let himself out and joined the circus.”
“Hey,” Da’Quarius said, sitting on the couch near Helen. “Is dere anythin’ I don’t known about this family?”
“A shit load,” Helen replied, turning the page and not looking up. “Why?”
“I don’t know,” Da’Quarius said. “I just figured I’m a part of it now, and if there were any other family members out there connected to you and Rose, I should know about them.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Helen asked. “Just stop with the foreplay and ram it in already.”
“Gotdam, biddy,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m only thirteen!”
“It’s just an expression!” Helen snapped. “Just make your damn point!”
“I just want to know to know who Chet is!” Da’Quarius retorted. His hand went to his mouth. He was trying to be subtle, but Helen had annoyed him to the point of blurting it out.
Helen was silent for a moment. “So you finally found out about Chet, did you?” she asked. “I guess it was a matter of time.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Da’Quarius said. “I overhead you an’ Rose talkin’ ‘bout him da’ other night. I just never knew you guys had another son before me.”
“Forget that name,” Helen said. “Don’t ever let me hear your utter it this house it ever again.”
“I just wanna know what he did to make Rose not let you see or talk to him,” Da’Quarius said. “Is he in prison?”
“I won’t ask again,” Helen said. “Do not ask say that name, and you sure as shit better not say it in front of Rose. I’ll put you through the goddam roof. You understand me, kid?”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “I understand.”
“Good,” Helen said. “Now get lost. My show is about to come on.”
“Damn,” Da’Quarius muttered, heading up the stairs. “I gotta find out who dis Chet mo’ fucker is.”
“Here’s the hook,” Tony said, sitting across from and older man wearing a suit. “Musings… by Tony was written one hundred percent while I sat on the toilet.”
“What the hell are you doing now?” Paulie asked, coming from his office. “Why aren’t your working?”
“It’s slow,” Tony replied. “Besides, Ken drove all the way here from New York to talk about my new book.”
“What book?” Paulie asked.
“My musings,” Tony said. “I wrote a whole book of poetry.”
“Since yesterday?” Paulie asked.
“Yeah,” Tony said. “Writing poetry is really easy.”
“Is this all your material?” Ken asked, flipping though Tony’s manuscript.
“Of course,” Tony said. “It’s in my handwriting, isn’t it?”
“This is wonderful,” Ken said. “It’s a fresh take on poetry as a whole. I’ve never seen a poet go from insulting women to writing inspiring prose in the same stanza before.”
“There’s that word Da’Quarius used again,” Tony said.
”Mind if I take this back to my bosses?” Ken asked.
“Sure,” Tony said, smiling. “Let me know when the contract is ready.”
“Will do,” Ken said, shaking Tony’s hand. He waved to Paulie. “Nice meeting you.” He left through the front door with a jingle of the bells.
“Insulting women and inspirational thoughts?” Paulie asked.
“Why do you think I left my last name off that thing,” Tony replied. “I don’t need any crazy broads tracking me down for what’s in that book.”
“Then don’t publish it, you stunad!” Paulie exclaimed.
“Suck my diseased left nut!” Tony retorted.
“Don’t do that!” Paulie shouted. “Don’t you dare throw your cancer in my face!”
“Then don’t insult my craft!” Tony yelled.
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “Your craft is making pizza! Now get back in that damn kitchen and start crafting, you gagootz!”
“Geez,” Tony muttered, walking back toward the kitchen. “Way to suppress the arts, Hitler.”
Da’Quarius walked through the park on Sunday morning, Dutchie on his leash, looking around. Flounder, Da’Quarius’s Korean-American friend, was sitting on a swing, waiting.
“Wha’chu find?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Chet Masters doesn’t exist,” Flounder replied. “I searched all over the ‘net, light and dark. All I found was an Austrian kids’ show, Chet Master’s Neighborhood, from the eighties. It looked like a ripoff of Mister Rogers.”
“Dat’s all?” Da’Quarius asked.
“I searched for Helen’s maiden name too,” Flounder replied. “But all I came up with for Chet Ventriglio was a character from a Cheers fan fiction. It wasn’t even that great. It took place after Shelley Long left the show.”
“An’ no police records from our neighborhood with anyone named Chet?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Sorry, Daq,” Flounder replied. “I searched all night. No relatives, aliases, or known acquaintances named Chet exist in Helen and Rose’s life, according to the ‘net anyway. But Helen has done some… things.” He shuddered.
“Helen did somethin’ off da’ records,” Da’Quarius said. “I heard ‘em talkin’ ‘bout Chet, Paulie made it clear dere’s someone named Chet he won’t talk ‘bout, and Helen got all crazy when I asked her about him.”
“You still haven’t asked Rose,” Flounder suggested.
Da’Quarius stared off. “I need to drop dis,” he said. “Whoever dis Chet is bothers Rose. Maybe da’ others don’t want me to know ‘cuz dey’re protectin’ her. She won’t let Helen see or talk to him. I’ve become obsessed, Flounder, an’ I need to stop.”
“OK,” Flounder said. “Can I go home now? My babysitter said I can only be out of the house for a half hour.”
Paulie looked up from cleaning the counter before he opened to see Tony standing in the main area, wearing tiny sunglasses, a hunter green turtle neck, and a beret. He was looking around as if he’d never been in there before.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re wearing,” Paulie said, “but you better lose that get-up and get your ass back here to help me work today. I’ve had enough of this poet nonsense.”
“In a minute,” Tony said, waving a hand. “Ken is coming back to bring the contract for my book.”
“Already?” Paulie asked. “These mooks really want this.”
“Oh yeah,” Tony said. “You can’t contain this genius. I already started on a sequel.”
“Anything good?” Paulie asked.
“I start one poem with the line: ‘I’m gonna name my dead nut after you’,” Tony replied. “That’s good, right?”
“I don’t know why I bother asking you anything about anything,” Paulie said, rolling his eyes and turning away. As soon as he was gone, the front door opened, and Ken came in, carrying his briefcase. He sat in the booth near Tony and opened it up.
“Must be my contract,” Tony said, sitting across from him. “How heavy is it?”
“I’m not giving you a contract,” Ken said, removing Tony’s notebook manuscript and putting it on the table between them. “I’m giving this garbage heap back to you.”
“Oh!” Tony snapped. “Yesterday this thing was gold, and now it’s garbage?! What gives, you stuck-up mook?”
“We researched the content,” Ken replied. “We didn’t realize you were into plagiarism.”
“I don’t even know what that means,” Tony said, crossing his arms.
“It means,” Ken continued, “that you didn’t write all of the material for your book. We found a lot of it on the internet. It seems the only thing you were good at creating is insults toward women.”
“So I took some of the inspirational stuff from Facebook posts,” Tony said. “Big friggin’ whoop! Anything on there is in the public domain anyway!”
“We’re done,” Ken said, locking his briefcase and rising. “Thank you for wasting our time.” He turned toward the door.
“Hey,” Tony said, rising as well. Ken turned to look at him. “I’m going to name my dead nut after you!”
Da’Quarius walked into his house, letting Dutchie greedily lap up the water in his bowl after the long walk to the park and back. He walked toward the kitchen to get himself a drink and a snack when he heard Helen and Rose talking. He knew he shouldn’t eavesdrop, but he couldn’t help it.
“How’s Chet today?” Helen asked.
Da’Quarius’s heart picked up its tempo. Had Rose actually spoken with Chet that morning? Was he finally going to find out who he was?
“Chet’s actually doing quite well,” Rose replied. “Do you want to talk to him on the phone?”
“Can’t I just see him in person?” Helen whined.
“But it’s so cute when you call him,” Rose said.
Helen huffed. This was it. She was going to call Chet. Da’Quarius stood perfectly still.
“Hello?” Helen asked. Da’Quarius didn’t hear her pick up the kitchen phone, but he supposed it was easy to miss in his excitement. “Hi Chet, it’s me, your mommy. Do you miss me? I miss you too. What’s that? You want to see me? Well, maybe if the warden lets you out on good behavior…”
Da’Quarius nearly fainted. Rose and Helen really did have a son in prison, and Helen seemed pretty attached.
“I suppose he could come out,” Rose said. “But only for a bit. We don’t know when Da’Quarius will be home.”
Da’Quarius was more confused than ever. Did Rose know how to get special visitation rights for Chet?
“OK,” Helen said. “Let’s go now then.”
Da’Quarius realized they were coming toward the den, but he had nowhere to hide. They came through the door and were both taken aback by him standing there. “Oh hell,” Helen groaned. “I didn’t even hear you come in.”
“Look,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m sorry, but I heard yo’ conversation.”
“Oh,” Rose said. “About that…”
“I don’t care dat you have another son you never told me ‘bout,” Da’Quarius continued. “I don’t even care dat he’s in prison. But if yo’ gonna go see him, I wanna meet him too. We brothas after all, right?”
“What in God’s name are you talking about?” Helen asked.
“I’m lost too,” Rose said. “Who went to prison?”
“Chet,” Da’Quarius replied. “It’s OK. I’m not mad you kept him from me.”
“Oh dear,” Rose said. “Chet isn’t what you think he is. He’s…”
“Rose’s bush,” Helen finished.
“What?!” Da’Quarius exclaimed.
“I named Rose’s bush ‘Chet’ back when we were dating,” Helen exclaimed. “The name really stuck on the fuzzy bastard too.”
“Helen!” Rose said, blushing.
“Dat explains why Paulie wouldn’t talk ‘bout it,” Da’Quarius said.
“It’s a cute thing couples do,” Helen said. “One day, you’ll meet the right girl, you’ll name each other’s privates, and you’ll pretend to call them on the phone and talk to them when you’re horny.”
“Now, Da’Quarius,” Rose said. “I don’t want you thinking of the two of us any differently because of this. It’s a normal little quirk two people in love do.”
“I just said that,” Helen muttered.
“I only have one question,” Da’Quarius said. “Why does Rose’s bush have a guy’s name?”
Helen and Rose look at each other for a moment and then back at Da’Quarius.
“Go to your room,” Helen said.