Freedom Lane: Da’Quarius Sees a Gyno

 
“I hate doctors,” Helen said, crossing her arms at her kitchen table in her home on Freedom Lane in New Haven during breakfast. She had a plate of toast and scrambled eggs in front of her, cooked by her wife and life partner, Rose, who had she same breakfast in front of her, across he table from Helen. “They’re just a bunch of quacks in white coats.”
 
“You’re still going,” Rose said. “You’re lucky Doctor Wen can see you on such short notice, and on a Saturday to boot. That rash isn’t getting any better, and it’s about time we made a gynecologist appointment for you anyway. It’s been a while.”
 
Da’Quarius, Rose and Helen’s adopted son, pushed his bowl of cereal away from himself. “I ain’t dat hungry no more.”
 
“You’ll eat every last bite!” Helen snapped. “Do you think cereal grows on trees? Wait… Where does cereal come from?”
 
“Ireland, accordin’ to da’ box,” Da’Quarius said. “I think dat’s where leprechauns are from anyway.”
 
“The actual cereal part comes from grain,” Rose said, “but the marshmallows are sugar and gelatin. It’s basically ground up animal bones made to taste sweet.”
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Cuz dat’s gonna make me wanna finish it.”
 
“I should start buying you healthier cereal anyway,” Rise sighed.
 
“So that’s all settled,” Helen said. “The kid’s eating disgusting nonsense, and it’s almost time for my shows.”
 
“You’re not getting out of going to the doctor that easily,” Rose said. “A few sentences isn’t enough to make me forget.”
 
“Well shit,” Helen said. “I’m fresh out of ideas that don’t involve arson or maiming the dog so he has to go to the vet. I guess I’ll go to the doctor if I really have to.”
 
“Good,” Rose said, sipping her tea. “Now was that so bad?”
 
Da’Quarius watched Helen from the corner of his eye. “Your best stay away from Dutchie, biddy.”
 
 
***
 
Freedom Lane 
 
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
 
Season 12 Finale : Da’Quarius Sees a Gynecologist
 
***
 
Tony walked down from his apartment into the main area of Paulie’s Pizza on State Street. “It’s good to be back to work,” he said. The place was empty. Not even Paulie was there. He lived in the apartment above, so he was able to come and go as he pleased.
 
“Yep,” Tony said, walking behind he counter and looking over the pizzeria. “I may only have one nut now, bit I’m still the best me I can be.”
 
“You only have one nut?” someone asked. Tony turned and thew a jab, connecting with someone’s jaw. The body fell to the floor behind the counter with a thud. 
 
“Holy shit,” Tony said, looking over the unconscious body. It was Carlos, the head of Paulie’s kitchen staff. “Why the hell did you sneak up on me like that?”
 
Paulie came in, locking the door behind him since they still had a few hours before opening. “Hey, Tony,” he said. “You actually beat me in today.”
 
“Yeah,” Tony sad, hoping Paulie would head to his office or bathroom before coming behind the counter. “Imagine that.”
 
“Maybe that nut you lost was the one making you lazy,” Paulie suggested. “You haven’t seen Carlos, have you? He was supposed to meet me here to go over the yearly deep-cleaning of the kitchen he’s going to take care of during the week.”
 
“I haven’t seen him, boss,” Tony said, moving himself over Carlos as if it would stop Paulie from fining out he was knocked out behind the counter. “Some people just aren’t reliable I guess.”
 
“I always thought Carlos was,” Paulie said. “It’s funny. He’s usually more reliable than you.”
 
“Go figure,” Tony said.
 
“I’m going to be in my office,” Paulie said. “Have Carlos see me the second he gets here.”
 
“Sure thing, boss,” Tony said. He looked down at Carlos as Paulie went to his office and closed the door behind him. “What am I supposed to do with you now?”
 
***
 
“I still don’t see why I gotta come here,” Da’Quarius said, dropping into the seat of the waiting room of Helen’s doctor’s office. “Dis some bullshit right here. Ya’ll could’ve left me home an’ picked me up later.”
 
“We need to go clothes shopping,” Rose said. “We’re not going all the way home to get you. You can wait here for an hour. It won’t kill you.”
 
“You don’t know that,” Helen muttered, sitting next to Da’Quarius.
 
Rose sighed and went up to the window to let the doctor’s receptionist know Helen was there for her appointment.
 
“Check her out,” Helen said, elbowing Da’Quarius in the arm and motioning to a picture on the wall.
 
“Who’s dat?” Da’Quarius asked, looking at the large photo of a young asian woman, her black hair short and pulled back, a white jacket around her, a confident smile on her face.
 
“That’s Doctor Wen,” Helen said. “She’s the one going down on me today.”
 
Da’Quarius shivered. “Can you just say she’s seein’ you or somethin’?” he said. “Why you gotta make e’rythin’ gross an’ shit?”
 
“She’s cute, right?” Helen asked. “If I’m gonna have someone nosing around my lady parts it might as well be this one.”
 
“You gotta stop,” Da’Quarius said. “I don’t wanna think ‘bout dat fine woman doin’ anythin’ to any part of you, biddy.”
 
Rose came and sat on the other side of Helen. “What are you two whispering about over here?” she asked.
 
“Nothing,” Helen replied. “I was just asking the kid if he was going to do any reading while we were here.”
 
Da’Quarius looked at the table and noticed the pile of educational material, all focused on vaginas. “It might make sense to learn a thing or two,” he said.
 
The door opened, and Doctor Wen came out. “I’m ready for you, Helen,” she said.
 
“I’m sure she is,” Helen whispered to Da’Quarius. She got up and walked past her through the sliding door.
 
“We’ll be back soon,” Rose said, getting up next. She also walked past Doctor Wen. 
 
Da’Quarius didn’t mean to stare too long, and Doctor Wen had caught him. She offered him a wide smile. “I’ll be back soon too, handsome,” she said. “Just wait for me, OK?”
 
“OK,” was all Da’Quarius was able to get out.
 
Doctor Wen giggled and closed the door behind her.
 
“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m startin’ to wish I needed to see da’ gynecologist too.”
 
***
 
Tony dragged Carlos as best he could, bringing him toward the broom closet. “Sorry about this,” he said, putting him down for a moment so he could open the door. “I don’t need Paulie knowing I knocked you out, and I’m sure you and I can work something out for me to make this right.”
 
Carlos was in the broom closet a moment later, sitting upright, his head against the wall. He began to snore.
 
“At least your breathing,” Tony said, closing the door. He walked back toward the kitchen and almost jumped when he found Paulie already there.
 
“Still no Carlos?” Paulie asked.
 
“Nope,” Tony replied. “I told you I’ll let you know when he comes in.”
 
“Madon,” Paulie said. “figures the one day he’s late is the same day I need him early. I’m going to have to have a chat with him when he comes in.”
 
“I wouldn’t be too harsh on him,” Tony said. “He’s only human after all, and he has a pretty good track record.”
 
“But he knows how important getting this deep clean done is,” Paulie said. “I’m going to have to think on this. I’ll be in the usual place for that.”
 
“Got it,” Tony said. “The toilet. I’ll see you in twenty minutes.”
 
***
 
Forty-five minutes after Helen and Rose went into the doctor’s office, Doctor Wen came out, walking over to Da’Quarius. “Your mothers are just finishing up and checking out,” she said.
 
“OK,” Da’Quarius said, putting down the detailed diagram of the vagina he had been reading. 
 
“You like what you see there?” Doctor Wen asked.
 
“My phone battery died,” Da’Quarius said. “I needed somethin’ to read.”
 
“Have you ever seen the real thing?” Doctor Wen asked.
 
Da’Quarius was frozen. He couldn’t seem to find the answer to the question.
 
“I’m just kidding,” Doctor Wen said with a small giggle. “It’s pussy doctor humor.”
 
“You’re kind of a fucked up doctor,” Da’Quarius said.
 
“So I’ve been told,” Doctor Wen said, walking closer. “I’m also a fan of B.B.C.”
 
“What?!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “You can’t just come right out an’ say some crazy-ass shit like dat, talkin’ ‘bout B.B.C. an’ shit!”
 
Doctor Wen put her finger to her lips and tilted her head toward the receptionist. “Text me,” Doctor Wen said, handing a card to Da’Quarius. “Let’s keep it our little secret though, OK?”
 
“Sure, Doctor Wen,” Da’Quarius said, looking at the card with the number written on the back in red pen.
 
“Call me Claire,” Doctor Wen said. 
 
Helen and Rose came out a moment later. Doctor Wen wished them a good day and went back toward her office. “Sorry that took so long,” Rose said. “You ready to go?”
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius replied, stashing the card in his pocket. “We gonna get me some clothes an’ go home now?”
 
“We need to make one stop,” Rose said.
 
“Yeah,” Helen added. “I’m gonna need to get me some prescription twat cream for my twat!”
 
Da’Quarius turned and walked toward the exit. “Dammit, biddy!” 
 
***
 
“I’m here!” Da’Quarius called out, coming into Paulie’s Pizza, Rose’s car driving off.
 
“Better late than never,” Tony muttered from behind the counter. “A lot of that going around today.”
 
“I had to go with Helen an’ Rose to da’ doctor,” Da’Quarius said. “Den Rose wanted to buy me some school shit. Unca Paulie knows. Where’s he at anyway?”
 
“He’s busy being all pissed off in his office,” Tony replied. “Carlos didn’t show up for his deep cleaning seminar today or something.”
 
“It’s probably better,” Da’Quarius said. “I need some help with something, and I might be better off askin’ you.”
 
“Shoot,” Tony said, coming from around the counter. “I can be a sage-like presence like Paulie.”
 
“It’s about dis chick,” Da’Quarius said. “She’s cute and wants it bad. Da’ only problem is dat she’s older.”
 
“How much older?” Tony asked. “Seventeen?”
 
“I dunno,” Da’Quarius said. “Late twenties or early thirties.”
 
“Holy shit,” Tony said. “And you said she’s cute?”
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said, “but she’s Helen’s junk doctor.”
 
“I don’t see the problem,” Tony replied. “Just don’t be a beta male.”
 
“What da’ fuck is a beta male?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
“There are two types of men,” Tony said, holding up two fingers to demonstrate the exact number. “Alpha males and beta males. An alpha male, like myself, would just pounce on the opportunity to be with this doctor broad, not giving a fuck about what I leave in my wake. A beta male would just wuss out, asking his uncle what to do about some cute chick who likes him instead of doing something about it.”
 
“Mo’ fucker,” Da’Quarius said, “did you just call me a beta male?”
 
Tony shrugged. “Depends. You gonna act like a beta, or are you gonna alpha up?”
 
Paulie came out of his office. “Oh,” he said. “What the hell kind of nonsense are you filling the kid’s head with? I caught the end of your little routine from my office, you stunad.”
 
“Just life lessons,” Tony replied. “You find Carlos yet?”
 
“That friggin’ mook,” Paulie said. “I can’t believe that he’s still not here.”
 
“Well I’m here finally,” Da’Quarius said. “Wha’chu need me to do?”
 
“It’s close to lunch,” Paulie said. “Why don’t you mop the floors and we’ll call it a day.”
 
“Cool,” Da’Quarius said. “Lemme go get a mop.”
 
Da’Quarius went off toward the broom closet, where all of Paulie’s cleaning supplies are kept. Tony stood near the counter for a few moments before he realized what was going to be waiting for Da’Quarius when he opened the door. “Oh crap.”
 
“I found Carlos!” Da’Quarius called. “Mo’ fucker been sleepin’ in da’ closet. He out cold too.”
 
“Move aside,” Paulie said, splashing a cup of water on Carlos’s face. “Wake the hell up!”
 
Carlos stirred and opened his eyes. “What’s happening?”
 
“You’re napping on my time is what’s happening,” Paulie said. “What the frig has gotten into you?”
 
“I don’t know,” Carlos replied. “Last thing I remember I was getting the kitchen ready for inspection. I don’t even remember falling asleep.”
 
“Well, we have a lot to go over,” Paulie said, “and we lost a few hours while you were napping. Let’s go over what needs to get done. Grab your pad and pencil.”
 
“Umma head home,” Da’Quarius said. “You guys are gonna be busy in a minute.”
 
“Sure, kid,” Paulie said. “I’ll see you later.”
 
“Remember,” Tony said as Da’Quarius passed, “don’t be a beta male.”
 
Paulie lectured Carlos some more about how much work needed to be done and how much time was lost due to his closet napping. Tony watched and shook his head. “The nerve of some people,” he said.
 
***
 
Da’Quarius sat in his bedroom after coming home and taking Dutchie for a long walk. He was watching TV, but he wasn’t paying attention. He held the card he had gotten from Doctor Wen, Claire, in his hand, trying to decide whether or not if was a good idea to send a text.
 
“Fuck it,” he said, picking his cellphone up from his bed. “Tony’s right. I don’t wanna be a fuckin’ beta.”
 
Dutchie, still exhausted from his long walk, looked up at his master putting the number into his phone for a moment before resting his head once more.
 
“Hey,” Da’Quarius texted. “It’s Daq. We met in your office today.”
 
Da’Quarius waited, holding his phone in his hands, his heart beating fast and his stomach turning over itself. After what felt like an eternity, his phone buzzed with a ding. “Hey, honey,” the text from Claire read, followed by a winking emoji. “I was hoping I would hear from you. Your wanna come over?”
 
Da’Quarius nearly dropped his phone. “Yeah,” he replied. “Where you at?”
 
“I’m home,” Claire replied. “Can you get to Hamden? I have a place on Shepard.”
 
“I don’t know where that is,” Da’Quarius replied, typing quickly. “I’m in New Haven near East Rock.”
 
“I’ll pick you up,” Claire replied. “Give me an hour so I can shower. Send me an address.”
 
“Gotdamn,” Da’Quarius said aloud, typing in an address a few blocks away so Rose and Helen would see him getting into a car with their gynecologist. “This chick moves quick. Tony was right ‘bout da’ whole alpha thing.”
 
***
 
“I’m going to head out for a while,” Paulie said, leaving his office once the lunch rush was over, putting a jacket on. “Can I leave you in charge for a while, Tony?”
 
“You know it,” Tony said. “Alice and Sal due to come in at five?”
 
“Yeah,” Paulie said. He walked closer and lowered his voice. “And make sure Carlos is doing what’s on his list. I’m a little wary of him after what happened this morning.”
 
“Got it,” Tony whispered in return. “I’ll keep my eye on him for you.”
 
“Thanks,” Paulie said. He turned to leave. “I’ll hopefully be back before the dinner rush.”
 
“Later,” Tony said.
 
“We need to talk,” a voice said.
 
Tony turned around sharply, nearly throwing a punch like he did that morning. “Shit!” he exclaimed. “You need to stop sneaking up on me like that!”
 
“I know what you did,” Carlos said. His face was a mask of anger.
 
“You do?” Tony asked. “I thought you had amnesia all day.”
 
“I’m not a cartoon character,” Carlos replied. “I don’t lose my memory after a sucker punch.”
 
“But you go down like a sack of oranges,” Tony said. “You might want to have that glass jaw checked out.”
 
“You owe me for not ratting you out,” Carlos said.
 
“Why didn’t you rat me out anyway?” Tony asked.
 
“We both know what would happen,” Carlos replied. “Paulie would yell at you, offer me a quick apology, and then you and him would be friends again by the end of the day. It happens just about every other week. Must be an Italian thing.”
 
“So I don’t have to do anything,” Tony said. “Just rat me out and let nature take its course.”
 
“But it’s so much worse now,” Carlow said. “You lied about it all day, letting me take the blame for napping in the closet when it was all your fault. What’s Paulie, mister ‘do the right thing’, gonna say when he finds out how far you let this go, letting him scold me instead of you.”
 
“You’re a little bastard,” Tony said. “What do you want?”
 
“I know what I don’t want,” Carlos said. “I don’t want to have to do the deep cleaning this year.”
 
“Shit,” Tony said. “You’re a stone cold alpha, Carlos.”
 
Carlos stared at Tony. “What?”
 
***
 
Da’Quarius sat in Claire’s car, silent as she drove him back to her house. He had waited on the corner of Freedom Lane and Livingston, far enough away to not be seen by his mothers, and she had shown up just when she said she would.
 
“You don’t have to be nervous,” Claire said, resting her hand on Da’Quarius’s leg. “I won’t bite unless you want me to.”
 
“Sorry,” Da’Quarius said. “I’ll get over it. I just don’t wan’t Rose an’ Helen to find out ‘bout dis.”
 
“Don’t worry about them,” Claire said. “I won’t tell them if you won’t. I’ll get you home whenever you need to be there.”
 
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “How many teenagers have you picked up before?”
 
Claire giggled. “Not too many,” she replied. She pulled into her driveway, opened the garage, and put the car into park. She turned and looked at Da’Quarius. “Are you going to come inside, or are you just going to sit in my car?”
 
“I’m comin’,” Da’Quarius said.
 
“And please don’t worry,” Claire said. “Your mothers will never find out.”
 
***
 
“Da’Quarius got into a car with who?!” Rose exclaimed.
 
“That’s what I’m asking,” Paulie said, standing in the living room of Rose and Helen’s home. “I was driving home when I saw the kid a few blocks from your house. Some woman pulled over and Da’Quarius got in.”
 
“He told his he was going to walk to the library to study,” Rose said, sitting down next to Helen. “Why would he lie to us?”
 
“Did you see who he went with?” Helen asked.
 
“I didn’t get too good of a look,” Paulie said, “but it looked like an Asian woman.”
 
“Nice,” Helen said. “The kid’s got good taste.”
 
“That’s not funny,” Rose said. “Wait a second… How do we know it wasn’t Flounder’s mother?”
 
“Who?” Helen asked.
 
“Da’Quarius’s friend,” Rose said. “The Korean boy he hangs out with.”
 
“I don’t know,” Paulie said. “She seemed kind of young.”
 
“Does Flounder have an older sister?” Rose asked.
 
“How the hell should I know?” Helen replied. “I don’t even know who this fish kid is!”
 
“You’ve met him a dozen times,” Rose said. “I’m going to call his father.”
 
“You have their number?” Paulie asked.
 
Rose walked toward the kitchen and took the yellow pages out from under a small table with their house phone on it. “Flounder’s father owns Kwok’s Dry Cleaning and Laundromat,” she said. “I’ll just call there.”
 
“Why do you know all this?” Helen asked. “Are you writing a biography on this gook kid’s family or something?”
 
“Does it matter?” Paulie said. “We just want to make sure Da’Quarius is safe.”
 
“He’s fine,” Helen said, waving a hand. “I’d only be worried if some middle-aged guy in sweatpants picked him up.”
 
“That’s dark,” Paulie said.
 
“Hello, Mister Kwok,” Rose said into the phone. “I was wondering if Da’Quarius was with Flounder.”
 
Rose paused, listening.
 
“Your son,” Rose said. “Yes. You know our son, Da’Quaruis, right?”
 
“This sounds like a fun conversation,” Helen muttered.
 
“Is he with your son?” Rose asked, raising her voice. “Did your wife or daughter pick him up?”
 
Rose listened for a half a minute before hanging up.
 
“What happened?” Paulie asked.
 
“He started yelling at his son, but he started doing it in Korean once he got really angry,” Rose said. “So Da’Quarius isn’t with him. Where could he be?”
 
“I told you,” Helen said. “The kid is fine. Not one hair on his head will be damaged or demoralized.”
 
“He’s bald,” Paulie said.
 
***
 
Da’Quarius sat on the couch of Claire’s house, looking around. It was immaculately clean and well-decorated. Everything seemed new. “Here you go,” Claire said. She set a coaster down on the cocktail table and put a glass with ice and Coke on top of it. 
 
“Thanks,” Da’Quarius said, taking a sip. 
 
Claire sat next to him, putting her hand on his knee. “Please don’t be nervous,” she said.
 
“I’m not,” Da’Quarius said.
 
“OK,” Claire said. She leaned over and kissed Da’Quarius. He didn’t do anything at first, and then he kissed her back. 
 
“There,” Claire said, pulling away. “Feeling better yet?”
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said, opening his eyes. “Get da’ fuck back over here and finish what you started.”
 
“Yes sir,” Claire said, leaning back into Da’Quarius.
 
***
 
“So that’s your story?” Tony asked. “You’re going to tell Paulie that you’re doing the cleaning overnight?”
 
“That’s right,” Carlos replied. “I got a good list of what you can do overnight, and it better get done.”
 
“Fine,” Tony said. “I know how to clean. Just give me the damn list already.”
 
Carlos handed Tony the piece of notebook paper. “Tonight you’ll be cleaning under the dishwashers and sinks.”
 
“Mopping,” Tony said with a quick shrug. “OK.”
 
“No,” Carlos said, smiling. “That’s scrubbing on your hands and knees, amigo. No mop. You need to get all the grime and grease from between the tiles.”
 
“Come on,” Tony said. “He’s not going to check between the cracks.”
 
“You bet he is,” Carlos said. “All the supplies are in the closet. You better not disappoint.”
 
“Yeah, yeah,” Tony said. “I’ll scrub the floor alright. Scrub them real good.”
 
“Yeah,” Carlos said. “That’s the point.”
 
“Real good,” Tony added, nodding.
 
Carlos watched Tony nod, the smile spreading across his face. “You’re a moron.”
 
***
 
Da’Quarius entered his home, Dutchie jumping around him in a usual frenzy. He found his mothers and uncle sitting on the couch, all watching him. “Hold up,” he said. “Umma take Dutchie fo’ a walk, and den you can tell me why Paulie is here on a Saturday night.”
 
“He’s good,” Rose said. “We just let him out in the backyard. Sit down.”
 
“Oh shit,” Da’Quarius said. “What I do now?”
 
“We’re not going to beat around the bush here, kid,” Paulie said. “I saw you get into a car with some woman.”
 
Da’Quarius paused for a moment, thinking of a quick lie. “Dat must’ve been some other kid,” he said. “You think we all look alike or somethin’?”
 
“Don’t play that race card with me,” Paulie said. “I know it was you.”
 
“If you were at the library for a school project,” Rose said, looking hurt, “why did you leave your backpack home?”
 
“Oh shit,” Da’Quarius said. “Is dat where I left it?”
 
Helen stood up, walking over to Da’Quarius. “You just lied to my baby brother and my woman,” she said. “Lie to me and I’ll slap the taste out of your mouth. Who’s car did you get into?”
 
Da’Quarius sighed. He looked away from Helen. It was no use. They had him. “Dat was Claire,” he said.
 
“Claire who?” Helen asked.
 
“Doctor Wen,” Da’Quarius replied.
 
“My pussy doctor?!” Helen said.
 
“Oh!” Paulie exclaimed. “Can you not call her that?”
 
“That’s her,” Da’Quarius said.
 
“Nice,” Helen said, smiling. “Good pull, kid.”
 
“Do not encourage this,” Rose said, standing up. “He is thirteen, and she’s in her thirties. What are you doing hanging out with Doctor Wen anyway?”
 
“What do you think?” Helen asked. “A fine asian doctor like that and a young black buck. Do the math.”
 
“Helen!” Rose said. “Don’t even suggest… Is this true, Da’Quarius?”
 
Da’Quarius looked into Rose’s face. He knew it was going to hurt, but she deserved the truth. “Yeah,” he said, looking away as soon as he said it. “She’s right.”
 
“Damn,” Helen said. “Can I smell your fingers?”
 
“I’m out of here!” Paulie said, getting up. “Kid, you and I are gonna have a long talk, capeesh? But not tonight. I gotta get back to the pizzeria.”
 
“Whatever,” Da’Quarius said, crossing his arms.
 
“And you better knock that attitude out,” Paulie said, pointing toward him as he threw his jacket on. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He left to go back to work.
 
“Do you have anything else you want to say for yourself?” Rose asked.
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Who I’m datin’ is none of your business.”
 
“Oh, it’s not?” Rose asked. “Let me tell you something. You’re a minor in my home. I am your guardian. What you did was very stupid, and it is my business. And as far as ‘dating’ goes; you’re not dating anyone, least of all a woman in her thirties.”
 
“Especially not my pussy doctor!” Helen added.
 
“Helen, please,” Rose said. “Can I just… Please.”
 
“Sure,” Helen said, siting back down. “Pretend I’m not here.”
 
“I’m goin’ to my room,” Da’Quarius said, getting up.
 
“Good idea,” Rose said. “And stay in there until tomorrow!”
 
“Fine!” Da’Quarius snapped. He made his way into his room and slammed the door. Rose sat on the couch, exasperated from the night.
 
“What the hell are we going to do with him?” Rose asked.
 
“I don’t know,” Helen replied, “but I’m not switching pussy doctors because of this.”
 
***
 
“Look,” Tony was telling Sal, one of Paulie’s chefs, just behind the counter of Paulie’s Pizza. “All I’m saying is that you don’t need to wear a rubber if you’re the same blood type.”
 
Paulie walked in from outside, the chimes above the door ringing. “Nobody better bother me tonight,” he said, walking toward the counter, taking off his coat. “First person to annoy me is going through a friggin’ window, and you better not even ask me what’s gotten me so steamed.”
 
“Carlos wanted to see you,” Tony said. “Something about the deep cleaning.”
 
Paulie growled, walking toward the kitchen. “What do you need, Carlos?” he asked.
 
Carlos stopped putting away the dishes and turned toward Paulie. “I just wanted to let you know I’m going to do the cleaning overnight this week. It’ll probably be easier that way.”
 
“Sure,” Paulie said. “Do what you need to do. Just get it done, please.”
 
“Thanks,” Carlos said as Paulie left to go to the restroom by his office.
 
“Damn,” Tony said, watching from the doorway. “I was hoping he’d be pissed enough to call the whole thing off.”
 
“You’re not getting out of this,” Carlos said.
 
Tony shrugged and went back to work in the kitchen.
 
***
 
Da’Quarius sat on his bed, fiddling with his phone. He had his door closed and the music on the computer turned up. He was still heated from his argument with Rose and the others, and he just wanted to be left alone. Well, not completely alone. He unlocked his phone and sent a text to Claire. “Wut r u up to?” he texted.
 
He waited, but there was no reply. After a couple of minutes he gave up, tossing his phone to the other end of the bed. “Fuck her,” he said.
 
Da’Quarius stared at his ceiling for a bit. He gave up on that as well, reaching across his bed and grabbing his phone, checking it even though he hadn’t heard it ding. He signed back in and went back to the text. He typed anther text to Claire. This time saying: “Wut happened? U don’t wanna talk to me??”
 
He sent the message and quickly typed in one more: “Kidding. LOL.”
 
This time he got a return message. “I need some space, Daq,” it read. “I’ll text you some time, OK?”
 
Da’Quarius swore under his breath. Before he could decide whether or not to send another message, there was a knock on his door. A moment later Helen came in. “At least it ain’t Rose,” he muttered.
 
“Shut up,” Helen said. “She doesn’t know I’m up here. I understand your plight, kid. You were thinking with your little head instead of the big one. I do it all the time too.”
 
“You don’t have a little head,” Da’Quarius said.
 
“He’s on the inside,” Helen said, walking over to Da’Quarius’s bed, settling down on it with a grunt. “But we need to talk about something. Rose has her own way of keeping you away from this broad, and I have my own. You’re not going to like it.”
 
“Wha’chu got, biddy?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
“Just remember how you met Doctor Wen,” Helen replied. “She’s my doctor, my pussy doctor. Remember how I asked to smell your fingers earlier? Well you should have smelled hers. She was nearly wrist deep in me after all.”
 
“Gotdamn,” Da’Quarius said. “You cold as fuck.”
 
“Remember that next time you’re inside her,” Helen said. “Because she was inside of me first.”
 
Helen patted Da’Quarius’s leg and walked back into the hall, closing the door behind her.
 
“Fuckin’ biddy,” Da’Quarius muttered. “She can even take da’ fun outta bangin’ a cute asian doctor.”
 
***
 
Paulie walked into his pizzeria on Sunday morning. He found Carlos in the main area. His head was down on his chest. “Not another nap,” he said, tapping Carlos awake with his newspaper.
 
“Sorry,” Carlos said, getting up. “I was just taking a little break.”
 
“Don’t worry about it,” Paulie said. “Doing the overnight gig is tough. As long as you got something done it’s not a problem. How’d it go.”
 
“I got a good start,” Carlos said, getting up.
 
“Let’s take a look,” Paulie said. “I’m curious to see how much you got done.”
 
“Me too,” Carlos said under his breath, following Paulie toward the kitchen.
 
“What in God’s name happened?” Paulie asked. Carlos came up behind him, speechless. There was soap streaked all over the floor, pools of water everywhere, and a bucket with a dead rat floating in gray water. “What did you do to my kitchen?”
 
“Holy shit,” Tony said, coming up behind Paulie. “Is that what all that banging around I heard all night was about?”
 
“Get this cleaned up before we open,” Paulie said. “I don’t know why I agreed to this. You’re obviously too loopy to clean when you should be sleeping. That’s strike two, Carlos.” He walked toward his office and closed the door.
 
“What the hell is this?!” Carlos snapped at Tony.
 
Tony chuckled. “You said yourself I won’t be in too much trouble with Paulie no matter what I do,” he said. “But how is he going to feel when he finds out you blackmailed me and lied to him? I’d love to hear that conversation. Enjoy cleaning all that shit up. It’ll look weird if I do it after all.” He walked off, to the area to start prepping the food stations for the day.
 
“Shit,” Carlos muttered. “How the hell does he always come out on top?”
 
“Because you’re a beta!” Tony called.
 
***
 
Da’Quarius got up and had a quiet breakfast, eating his bowl of cereal and not engaging Rose and Helen in any conversation. He didn’t know which would be worse: Rose’s disappointment and scolding or Helen’s constant reminder that his girlfriend was also her Gynecologist.
 
“Don’t forget my brother wants to talk to you today,” Helen said.
 
“I know,” Da’Quarius replied. “I’m going to head there now before he opens.”
 
“Have him call here the moment you get there,” Rose said.
 
“Why?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
“So we know you didn’t have Doctor Wen pick you up,” Rose replied. “I’m going to trust you to do as you say, but it will be the last time if you lie to me about where you are again. You understand?”
 
“I get’chu,” Da’Quarius said, putting his cereal bowl in the sink and heading back to his room. He grabbed his phone and headed out the door, ready to make his four block or so walk down to Paulie’s Pizza. He saw he had four text messages on his phone from Claire. He got excited until he read the texts as he walked down the street. “Mo’ fucker.”
 
***
 
Da’Quarius walked into Paulie’s Pizza. “Hey,” Tony said, motioning him over. “You gotta check this out.”
 
Da’Quarius walked toward Tony, who ushered him into the kitchen area. Carlos was on his hands and knees, cleaning the floor with a wire brush. “What am I looking at?” he asked.
 
“This place is trashed,” Tony said, chuckling, “and this mook is stuck cleaning it.”
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Dat’s his job. You’re fucked up, Tony.”
 
“Whatever,” Tony said. “What are you doing here anyway?”
 
“I gotta talk to Unca Paulie,” Da’Quarius replied. “He in his office?”
 
“Either there or the toilet,” Tony replied. “It’s fifty-fifty really.”
 
Da’Quarius didn’t say any more. As much fun as Tony usually was, he wasn’t in the mood for the usual back-and-forth they’d normally partake in. He left, entering Paulie’s office, finding him at his desk, on his phone.
 
“He just walked in,” Paulie said. “Don’t worry. I’ll let you know when he’s on his way home.”
 
“Dat Rose?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
“That’s Rose,” Paulie said, hanging up the phone.
 
“She doesn’t trust me right now,” Da’Quarius said.
 
“Can you blame her after what you did?” Paulie asked.
 
“I guess not,” Da’Quarius said. He sat in the seat across from Paulie, feeling like he was in the principal’s office and not having a chat with his uncle. “I fucked up, Unca Paulie.”
 
“Don’t I know it,” Paulie said. “So I guess I can spare you that particular part of my lecture.”
 
“I guess,” Da’Quarius said.
 
“Look,” Paulie said. “People are sick nowadays, twisted even. Back when I was your age, this thing happened all the time, but now everybody is screwed up. You’ll likely end up mutilated in some sicko’s basement if you keep going down this road.”
 
“Is dis da’ lecture you really wanna give me?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
“I thought about it,” Paulie said. “I can give you the same speech Rose is going to give you, or I can tell you the honest truth. If I were you, I’d have gotten in that car too, but I know now, in my old age, that nothing good would ever come of it.”
 
“You’re right,” Da’Quarius said. “She texted me dis mornin’ an’ dumped my ass. It’s over.”
 
“Ouch,” Paulie said. “She did it by text, huh?”
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Did bitches have the balls to to dump you to your face when you were young?”
 
“I wouldn’t know,” Paulie replied. “I’ve never been dumped. That’s a question for Tony.”
 
Da’Quarius laughed. “What am I gonna do ‘bout Rose?” he asked.
 
“You can start with a simple apology if you mean it,” Paulie replied. “Remember she took you into her home. She’s not your mother because she has to be. She’s your mother because she wants to be. So you know she also wants you to be safe and sound. That’s something you shouldn’t forget easily.”
 
“I won’t,” Da’Quarius said. “I should get home and tell her.”
 
“Yes, you should,” Paulie said. “I’ll call her and let her know you’re on your way.”
 
“Thanks,” Da’Quarius said. “By the way, what the hell is going on with Carlos an’ Tony?”
 
“I’m taking a hard out on that one,” Paulie said. “I don’t even want to friggin’ know.”
 
***
 
Da’Quarius returned home, finding Rose and Helen in the living room. “He’s back,” Helen said. “I’m getting hungry. I can go for a little Chinese. You want a little Chinese, Rose? How about you, kid? You craving a little Chinese?”
 
“Doctor Wen is Japanese,” Rose said.
 
“You sure?” Helen asked.
 
“Either way,” Rose said, “stop taunting Da’Quarius.”
 
“It’s OK,” Da’Quarius said. “I just want to say I’m sorry for da’ way I was actin’ and for what I did. I known you’re just lookin’ out for me, and I was bein’ stupid.”
 
“Wow,” Helen said. “Paulie must have laid the mother of guilt trips on you.”
 
“He just told me you guys chose to my mothers,” Da’Quarius said. “Rose did anyway, and I have no right to disrespect you when you’re just tryin’ to set my stubborn-ass straight.”
 
“Thank you for the apology,” Rose said.
 
“Where’s mine?” Helen asked.
 
“I’ll apologize to you when you stop makin’ ‘smell my finger’ jokes,” Da’Quarius replied.
 
“So never,” Helen said. “I’m OK with that.”
 
“I have an idea,” Rose said. “Why don’t we go out to lunch together?”
 
“Got a hankering for a little Chinese?” Helen asked.
 
“Stop,” Rose said. “Please.”
 
“I actually do want Chinese food now,” Helen said. “Can we go to Dragon Garden?”
 
“Sure,” Rose said. “I guess that’s alright.”
 
“I can get down with dat,” Da’Quarius agreed.
 
Da’Quarius held the door for Rose and Helen as they left. His phone buzzed in his pocket before he could follow. He had a text from Claire. “I’m sorry,” it read. “Can I see you today?”
 
Da’Quarius stared at the screen for a moment. He wasn’t sure what to type, but something came to him. He smiled as he replied. “I’m good, but Helen says she wants a private exam if you’re free.”
 
“You coming?!” Helen called.
 
“Yeah!” Da’Quarius shouted. He closed and locked the door behind him.
 
 
The End

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