Freedom Lane – Daq’s Bodega
There’s a street in New Haven called Freedom Lane, nestled in the East Rock neighborhood, an area that’s peaceful, quiet, and full of the nicest people in the city.
“WHERE THE HOLY MOTHER OF CRAP IS MY LOTTO TICKET!” Helen Masters shouted, throwing the cushions from the couch in her den. She was seventy-nine years old, despite her ferocity.
“Did you even buy one?” Rose, Helen’s wife and life partner, asked. She was the younger of the pair at seventy-four.
“You know I bought one!” Helen snapped. She had moved to the bookshelf by the entryway to the dining room, opening books and looking inside.
“Your ticket is not in one my books,” Rose said.
“Eat, Pray, Love?” Helen said, looking at one of the covers. “You’re gonna need to shit too.” She tossed the book back on the shelf.
“You’re putting them all out of order!” Rose said. “Come on, Helen. If you had a lotto ticket it would have been on the refrigerator.”
“Good idea,” Helen said, walking toward the kitchen. “I’m going to turn that whole room inside out.”
Rose groaned. “Helen!” she said, following her wife.
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 13, Episode 1: Daq’s Bodega
“Yo,” Da’Quarius said, coming into Paulie’s Pizza on State Street on a sunny Saturday morning. “I know I’m early, but Helen’s tearin’ da’ kitchen apart, lookin’ fo’ a lotto ticket. I figured I should leave before she blamed me.”
“Was it a winning ticket?” Paulie, Da’Quarius’s uncle and owner of the pizzeria that beared his name, asked.
“I don’t think so,” Da’Quarius replied. “I just think she lost it. What’s going on across the street?”
“They’ve finally gutted that old building,” Paulie said. “We’re going to have new neighbors soon. Good thing too. I was tired of looking at that eyesore.”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “It’s been a while since we set dat -”
Da’Quarius was interrupted by the look on his uncle’s face.
“Oh yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “I know nuttin’ ‘bout dat fire. I wasn’t even here dat day.”
“Good,” Paulie said. “I just hope we don’t get another terrorist like last time. I still have nightmares about that mook in prison who used to own that place.”
“Don’t worry ‘bout him,” Da’Quarius said. “He ain’t never gettin’ out an’ buggin’ us again.”
“Hey, guys,” Tony, Paulie’s oldest friend and employee, said, coming down the stairs from his apartment above the pizzeria. He was in his usual ensemble of a white tank top and old jeans. “You see the place going up across the street, Daq?”
“We were just talking about it,” Paulie said.
“Remember when we torched the old place?” Tony asked, smiling at Da’Quarius. “That terrorist mook got sent away for it too!”
“Will you shaddup!” Paulie exclaimed. “That never happened, remember?!”
“How can I remember it if it never happened?” Tony asked.
“Madon,” Paulie groaned, walking toward his office. “What did I do to deserve this stunad in my life?!”
“An’ he didn’t go to prison for da’ fire,” Da’Quarius said. “He went away because da’ fire department found proof of him bein’ a terrorist after dey put da’ fire out.”
“Oh!” Paulie said, coming back from his office. “What part of ‘none of that happened’ makes you two want to keep talking about it⁈”
“Sorry, boss,” Tony said, shrugging. “Didn’t know you’d be so upset. We’re just summing up over here.”
“Well cut it out,” Paulie said. “Give the construction guys five percent off, by the way. I want them to keep on coming in.”
“Five percent,” Tony said. “You got it.”
The door opened up, the bells above it ringing. Manny and Antonio Garcia, Da’Quarius’s neighbors from across the street on Freedom Lane, came in. “What’s going on?” Antonio asked, slapping Da’Quarius’s hand.
“I’m just chillin’,” Da’Quarius replied.
“You guys are a little early,” Tony said. “We’re just setting up, so it’s gonna be a while before I can get you guys a pizza.”
“We can wait,” Manny said, “but it’ll be a large with pepperoni and olives when you can.”
“You got it,” Tony said.
“We’re actually here to talk to Paulie,” Antonio said.
“What’s up?” Paulie asked. “You two need women advice or something?”
“Dude,” Manny said. “We run a porn and webcam site. You really think we need advice on women?”
“Sorry if I offended you,” Paulie said. “What do you need then?”
“Business advice,” Antonio replied. “We’re opening a bodega.”
“Oh yeah?” Paulie asked. “You got a location yet?”
“Yeah,” Antonio said. “Across the street from here.”
“So let me get this straight,” Paulie said, sitting across from the Garcia brothers with Da’Quarius next to him. “You two decided out of nowhere that you wanted to open a bodega in New Haven?”
“Yup,” Antonio replied.
“Did the inhalation of marijuana have anything to do with this decision?” Paulie asked.
“Maybe,” Manny said. “I was too high to remember if it did or not, though.”
“We make all of our business decisions with a joint or two,” Antonio added.
“Smart,” Da’Quarius said, nodding.
“No, it’s not!” Paulie said. “Starting a business is a major deal, and you shouldn’t take it lightly while smoking refer.”
Manny tittered. “He just called weed ‘refer.’”
“Are you two high right now?” Paulie asked.
Manny and Antonio looked at each other and then back to Paulie, both grinning widely.
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “Why do you two stunads want to open a bodega anyway?”
“Our accountant advised to diversify our assets,” Antonio replied.
“He told us to set up some kind of shop for tax purposes,” Manny added. “And we always liked this bodega we used to go to in Jersey when we were kids, so we decided to build one here.”
“And we’re going to name it after Daq,” Antonio said.
“Really?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Yeah,” Manny replied. “Consider it our thanks for helping us with that thing that time.”
“Dat thing never happened dat time,” Da’Quarius said, “but thanks.”
“So now you remember when things don’t happen,” Paulie muttered, rolling his eyes.
“We’re calling it ‘Daq’s Bodega,’” Antonio said, “and it’s opening next week!”
“We’ll have everything,” Manny said. “Snacks, cigs, vape juice, lotto. We even got some gag shit, like fake lotto tickets that call you an asshole after you think you’ve won.”
“What’s vape juice?” Tony said, coming from the kitchen with the Garcias’ pizza.
“You’ve never vaped?” Antonio asked. “Everyone is doing it!”
“Not e’eryone,” Da’Quarius said. “Seems like only assholes do it. So it might be up yo’ alley, Tony.”
“Don’t get him started,” Paulie said. “He has an addictive personality, this one.”
“I do not!” Tony said. “Maybe I’ll come by once you’ve opened and drink some of this vape juice of yours. Sounds good to me.”
The following week, Daq’s Bodega opened on State Street, across from Paulie’s Pizza. The first one in the door was Tony, looking around. “Wow,” he said. “You guys really do have everything here.”
“Welcome!” Manny said, spreading his arms. “The bodega is opened, and we have lots of snacks and shit!”
“Paulie kept telling me not to try this vape stuff,” Tony said, “so naturally I want to try it. Hook me up with a bottle. I’m thirsty.”
“What?” Antonio asked. “You still think you drink it?”
“It’s juice,” Tony said. “Don’t tell me I have to inject it into my anus like steroids or something. My cousin juiced like that back in eighty-seven, and his nuts shriveled up like raisins. He ended up in jail after the ‘roid rage made him throw his grandmother through a window. She beat him over the head with her umbrella when she got up.”
“You inhale the vapor,” Antonio said, coming from behind the counter.
“Shit,” Tony said. “I can’t do that before work. Paulie will kill me if I came in stoned.”
“Vaping isn’t drugs or smoking,” Manny said. “It’s just vapor. It’s like breathing fog.”
“Yummy, flavored fog,” Antonio added.
“You guys are into some weird-ass shit,” Tony said, “but I’m game. Gimme some fuckin’ fog.”
“Let’s get you set up,” Manny said, bringing out a box full of vaporizers. “These are the pens we sell. You pop the juice cartridge in, and you’re good to go. The beauty of it is you can vape anywhere. The no-smoking laws don’t apply to vaping.”
“Awesome,” Tony said, picking up a pen and looking at it. “I don’t smoke, but doing it in a restaurant is badass. I’ll take this one.”
“Excellent,” Manny said. “We got some plantain flavored juice that’s pretty great.”
“What’s a plantain?” Tony asked.
“Dude,” Antonio said. “We’ve been all about plantains lately.”
“Where’s that damn ticket?” Helen muttered, lowering herself to the floor to peer under the refrigerator. “I’m going to rip my twat hair out if they call my numbers and I lost the friggin’ ticket!”
“It’s been over a week,” Rose said. “You would have found it by now if you were going to, and that drawing is over anyway. Why don’t we just get a ticket for the next drawing.”
Helen got up with a groan and a sigh, looking Rose in the face.
“I know,” Rose said. “We can go see the Garcia boys’ new shop across from Paulie’s, the one they named after Da’Quarius.”
Helen looked over at Da’Quarius’s pitbull terrier, Dutchie, who was watching her intently with his tail wagging. “Look at this mutt,” she said, “thinking I dropped a scrap of food. Filthy little… Hey! You ate my ticket didn’t you!”
Dutchie turned and ran off, knowing that Helen was going to come after him next.
“You better not have shat out my numbers on someone’s front lawn!” Helen shouted, shaking her fist in Dutchie’s direction.
“Let’s just go get you another ticket,” Rose said, grabbing her car keys from the kitchen counter. “This is getting ridiculous.”
“Fine,” Helen said. “Let’s go get another lottery ticket because I’m being so ridiculous.”
“Thank you,” Rose said, walking toward the front door.
“So I told her it wasn’t a problem,” Tony said, standing in front of a table full of three middle-aged women. He took his vape pen from his jeans pocket and took a long pull from it, exhaling a cloud of plantain-scented fog. “I could easily jump her car after I jumped her bones.”
The women at the table laughed as Paulie came from the kitchen area. “Get back here, Tony!” he exclaimed. “We’re getting slammed with orders, and… Whoa! Why’s it smell like a friggin’ banana farm out here?!”
“That’s just my vape cloud,” Tony said, taking another pull from his pen.
“You can’t smoke that in here!” Paulie shouted, waving his hand in front of his face to dissipate Tony’s cloud. “Get outta here with that stupid thing!”
“It’s not smoking,” Tony said, a smug smile on his face. “It’s called ‘vaping,’ and there’s no law against doing it indoors.”
“Is that what those two mooks across the street were babbling about?” Paulie asked. “I don’t care what it’s called and what the law says about it. It’s stinking up the place, and I don’t want you blowing that shit around in here.”
“Fine,” Tony said, jamming the vape pen back into his pocket. “I’m going on my break then.” He walked outside, taking the pen back out and sucked in more vapor, looking at Paulie through the glass door.
“GO DOWN A BLOCK AND DO THAT SHIT!” Paulie shouted, waving a hand. “Friggin’ stunad.” He turned see the three women at the booth, who were looking at him. “Enjoying your lunch, ladies?”
The door to Daq’s Bodega opened, and Helen and Rose came inside. “Hey!” Manny shouted, looking up from his phone. “How are you guys doing?”
“We’re doing well,” Rose replied. “How’s the shop?”
“It’s good,” Manny replied. “Antonio had to go do some GarciaTube stuff, so I’m on my own for the day. Still fun though.”
“Why’s it smell like fruit punch and assholes in here?” Helen asked.
“That’s our vape,” Manny replied. “I had some customers in here earlier who wanted to try some new flavors we’ve been getting.”
“I don’t know what any of that means,” Helen said. “I need my numbers.”
“Like your phone number?” Manny asked. “I think you would know that better than me. I just keep everyone’s numbers in my phone.”
“Give me a lotto ticket for tonight’s drawing, numb nuts!” Helen snapped. “You’re going to give me a migraine.”
“Coming right up,” Manny said, using the lotto machine next to his register. “Shit. Antonio has the password to get into this thing. He said it was one of the dog’s names. Which one did he use again?”
Helen sighed. “Great idea coming here, Rose,” she said.
“Oh, hush,” Rose said. “I’m sure he’ll figure it out.”
“You guys can shop for snacks while you wait if you like,” Manny said. “We have coconut and plantain flavored chips.”
“Why in God’s name would I want that?” Helen asked.
“They go great with the vape,” Manny said.
Before Helen could complain about the social intercourse again, the door opened, and Tony came inside. “Friggin’ Paulie!” he snapped. “Oh. Hi Helen. Hi Rose.”
“Hi, Tony,” Rose said. “Everything OK over there?”
Helen sighed. “Do you have to address every idiot on the planet today?”
“No,” Tony replied, ignoring Helen’s comment. “Paulie won’t let me vape in his pizzeria. Said it smells like a banana farm in there.”
“Am I having a stroke, or are these guys just talking nonsense?” Helen asked.
“It’s nonsense, dear,” Rose said. “You’re OK.”
“Good,” Helen said. “Hey, chico, you about ready with that lotto ticket?”
“Soon,” Manny promised. “I’m trying the dog names from our extended family. After that I’ll try the names of the dead ones.”
“I need some vape juice when you’re all set,” Tony said. “If you have pizza flavored juice Paulie might not mind the smell.”
“I’m out,” Helen said, throwing her hands up and walking toward the door. “I’ll be outside watching the squirrels hump. You can wait for the lotto ticket if you want, but I can’t stand in here any longer.”
“I don’t have that, but it’d be awesome,” Manny said. “I have an idea. How about you start making plantain pizza. That way the place will smell like plantains, and you can vape all you want.”
“Oh my God,” Tony said. “You’re a genius! Give me some plantains and some more vape juice!”
“You got it,” Manny said. “I just need to figure out the password here for Rose. Hey! I remember now. We made the password Daq’s dog since we named the bodega after him. What’s the dog’s name?”
“How did you make it the password if you don’t know the name?” Rose asked.
“Antonio might have known,” Manny said.
“It’s Dutchie,” Rose said.
Manny typed in the name. “Nope,” he said. “Not it.”
“Sorry,” Rose said, “but I need to go. Just give me a five-dollar scratch ticket to hold Helen over.”
“OK,” Manny said, ripping a ticket off the roll and handing it to Rose.
“Thanks,” Rose said, handing Manny a five-dollar bill and heading toward the door. “Good luck with the store.”
“Bye, Rose!” Manny called, waving from the register.
“Bye!” Rose shouted back, leaving the shop.
“Oh shit!” Manny said. “I just remembered! The password is the parakeet’s name! It’s ‘Budgie!’ Shit. How do you spell that?”
“So, where’s the plantains in here?” Tony asked.
“Oh!” Paulie said, coming out of the bathroom. “Why’s it reek like bananas in here? Are you puffing on that stupid thing again?”
“Nope,” Tony said. “It’s our newest special: plantain pizza! Want to try a slice?”
“Why did you cook that nonsense?” Paulie asked. “Nobody in their right mind would eat that shit. Where’d you get all that stuff to make that pizza anyway?” Paulie asked.
“Across the street,” Tony said. “They have everything in that bodega. That place is great!”
“I’m getting tired of your love affair with that place,” Paulie said. “That disgusting pizza is the last one you’re going to make, capeesh?”
“Tony,” Alice, Paulie’s head waitress, said, rushing in from the seating area. “I have more orders for that banana pizza you made. Think you can whip up three large pies?”
“I don’t know,” Tony said, turning toward Paulie. “Didn’t you hear they’ve been banned from this establishment?”
Paulie sighed. “Make the pizzas, but that’s it,” he said, walking toward his office. “You and those friggin’ mooks across the street, acting like a bunch of friggin’ kids with no brains.”
Tony took his vape pen from his pocket and took a huge pull from it, exhaling his plantain-scented cloud. “Three plantain pies, coming up,” he said.
“I think you broke Paulie,” Alice said, “and you look stupid with that thing in your mouth.”
“That’s not what your dad said,” Tony said, taking another pull.
Alice rolled her eyes and walked away. “Think about what you just said,” she muttered.
Tony thought about it. “Shit.”
Helen sat in her recliner, her TV tray in front of her. Rose had given her a scratch ticket in exchange for the lotto ticket she wasn’t able to find or replace. “Friggin’ thing,” she said. “You got a penny?”
“Here,” Rose said, putting a quarter on the table, walking past her. “Have fun.”
“Sure will,” Helen muttered, taking the quarter. “I’m already up twenty-four cents. What a roller coaster of excitement.”
“I’ll get you a lotto ticket!” Rose called from kitchen. “Just scratch that one for now!”
“Fine,” Helen said, scratching away at the ticket. “Everyone knows these things are a rip-off. All I get is gray powder all over my damn table.” Helen took the ticket, now cleanly scratched off, and put it close to her face to read it.
“Did you win anything?!” Rose called.
“Hold on!” Helen shouted. She read the numbers, squinting to make sure she was doing it right. “Five hundred?”
“What?” Rose asked, coming back into the den.
“I won five hundred dollars,” Helen said. “We need to get back to that shop and collect my winnings!”
“How about I just go pick it up for you?” Rose said, reaching for the ticket.
“No!” Helen snapped, holding the ticket close to her chest. “This is mine! I’m going to go get my money if I have to walk there myself!”
“Fine,” Rose said. “Let me use the bathroom and we’ll head back down there.”
“Hurry up!” Helen shouted as Rose walked away. “I’ll start walking if you take more than three minutes!”
Da’Quarius and Flounder walked into Daq’s Bodega. Antonio was at the register, ringing up a couple of kids who were buying coconut chips and fruit punch soda. “Hey, Daq,” Antonio said, making change for his customers. “What’s going on?”
“Nuttin’,” Da’Quarius said. “We’re just chillin’, seein’ how yo’ store’s makin’ out.”
“It’s great,” Antonio said. “Manny is in the back with some stuff. He’ll be out in a minute.”
“Dat’s cool,” Da’Quarius said, watching the customers leaving from the corner of his eye. “We had fun at school, learning’ ‘bout Paul Revere an’ shit…”
The customers left, the door closing behind him.
“We got da’ shit,” Da’Quarius said. “Show him, Flounder.”
Flounder put his backpack on the counter and unzipped it.
“Hold up,” Antonio said. He turned toward the door behind him. “MANNY!”
“Yo,” Manny said, coming from the back room. He saw Da’Quarius and Flounder near the counter. “Oh shit. You got ‘em?!”
“Curtesy of Flounder’s dad,” Da’Quarius said.
“You didn’t get them from us,” Flounder said. “He made me tell you that.”
“This isn’t our first illegal deleivery, bro,” Manny said. “Show me the goods.”
Flounder reached in his backpack and pulled out two cases. “Forty-eight in each one,” he said. “Ninety-six total.”
“Holy shit,” Manny said, reaching forward. “I dreamed of this day, but I never thought I’d see them.”
“What’s your obsession with those things anyway?” Antonio asked.
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “I never even heard of a Kinder Surprise before. It’s just a chocolate egg with toys inside from what I see.”
“You can get them in England, but they’re illegal in America,” Manny said. “We’re too stupid on this side of the world to eat them without choking to death apparently. But now Daq’s Bodega has them for sale at ten bucks a pop!”
“Ten bucks!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “Those must be some tasty-ass eggs.”
“It’s all about supply and demand,” Manny said, “and I got the supply, bro.”
“Just keep them under the counter,” Antonio said. “I don’t want to get pinched for selling illegal easter contraband.”
“They’re not just for easter!” Manny exclaimed. “And I can’t sell them if they’re hidden away!”
“I don’t care,” Antonio said. “They’re still illegal, right?!”
The door opened, and Manny hastily stashed the cases of Kinder Surprise eggs under the counter. Helen and Rose walked in. “Hi guys,” Rose said. “We’re back.”
“And you two owe me some money!” Helen shouted, holding her scratch ticket up. She slammed it on the counter in front of the Garcia brothers. “That’ll be five hundred bucks.”
“Sweet,” Antonio said. “Congrats.”
“Can it,” Helen said. “Give me my money.”
“Hi Helen,” Da’Quarius said. “Nice to see you too.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Helen said, waving a hand. “I’ll see you at home later, I’m sure.”
“Let me hook you up here,” Manny said, going to the lotto counter. “You’re our first big winner too!”
“Make it quick,” Helen sighed. “I got shit to do.”
Manny clicked buttons on the keyboard. “What’s the password to this thing again?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Antonio said. “Didn’t you set it up?”
Helen looked at them for a moment, then screamed.
Paulie cleaned up the counter with Tony, who was wiping down the kitchen area. “I’m calling it,” Paulie said. “Close It up, Tony.”
“Closin’ it up, boss,” Tony replied, walking toward the door. “Closin’ it up, Alice!”
“Close it up, Tony!” Alice called in return from the seating area. “Closin’ it up, Sal!”
“OK,” Sal grunted from the kitchen.
“He really needs to get on board with this,” Tony said, shutting the outside light off and flipping over the “open” sign. Before he could lock the door, Antonio and Manny Garcia charged through it.
“We need help,” Manny said. “Where’s Paulie?”
“Oh,” Tony said. “All of a sudden I’m not good enough for you two? What’s up with that?”
“It’s a business question,” Antonio said. “He runs this place, right?”
Tony scoffed. “Whatever,” he said. “Paulie’s in his office, but he’s mad at you two for that whole plantain pizza thing.”
“Why’s he mad at us?!” Manny exclaimed. “You’re the one cooking them!”
“It was good, though,” Antonio said.
“Yeah,” Manny added. “Thanks for keepin’ ‘em coming all day.”
“What’s going on out here?!” Paulie shouted, coming from his office. “I thought we were closing up here!”
“Paulie, thank God,” Antonio said. “We need some advice, business owner to business owner.”
“You can’t just waltz in here when I’m trying to close and start this shit,” Paulie said. “I need to go home at some point, you know.”
“We can come back when you’re open tomorrow if you want,” Manny said.
Paulie thought about for a moment. “No,” he said. “I don’t need you in here while I’m full of customers.” He sat down at the closest booth. “What do you guys need?”
“This business is tough,” Antonio said, sitting across from Paulie, followed by his brother. “We work all day and night, and we have to take care of the shop and our porn site.”
“Why don’t you hire someone to run the store for you?” Paulie asked. “I see people going in and out all day, so you must be making some kind of a profit.”
“That’s where we’re stuck,” Manny said. “The porn chicks are easy, because they just have to come by and do stuff in front of the cams and get lost when they’re done. We love the shop, but we’re in over our heads.”
“Plus some fat kid choked on the toy inside a Kinder Surprise egg,” Antonio said. “I told him not to eat it in one bite.”
“I have no idea what that is,” Paulie said.
“It’s a good thing I thought fast,” Manny added. “I punched him as hard as I could in the gut, and it came flying out of him.”
“Look,” Paulie sighed. “I don’t know why, but I like you two kids. I want you to succeed. I’ll help you out, but I need to be quick about it, seeing as we’re closed, and I’d like to have a small bit of rest and relaxation before I go to bed.”
“Quick tips,” Antonio said. “I love it. Shoot.”
Two hours later, Tony, Sal, and Alice looked in on Paulie, still giving the Garcia brothers tips on running their bodega. “Is he really still talking?” Alice asked.
“I don’t think he’s taken a breath in the last ninety minutes,” Tony said.
“It is not polite to watch,” Sal said.
“Well I guess we can go then,” Tony said. “I don’t want to interrupt Paulie when he’s on a roll. I’ll probably get my head bitten off for my act of kindness.”
“Good idea,” Sal said. “We can sneak out the back.”
“Alright,” Alice said. “We’ll see you tomorrow, Tony.”
“Later,” Tony said, sneaking up the stairs toward his apartment while the others left and Paulie went on about the importance of supply and demand.
“How’s my two favorite business owners?” Helen asked, walking into Daq’s Bodega, her arms out.
“That’s kind of messed up,” Antonio said. “Isn’t Paulie your brother?”
“He is,” Helen said, “but he’s never paid me five hundred bucks for eating there.”
“Helen!” Manny said, coming from the backroom. “What’s up? Need a lotto ticket? I wrote the password to the machine down right on the front of it so I don’t forget.”
“Not today, boys,” Helen replied. “I just wanted to come by and see how you were doing.”
“Yeah?” Antonio asked. “You want to buy something? We got lots of stuff here.”
“Nope,” Helen said. “I just want to hang out. I love the vibe of this place.”
Rose came in a moment later. “I barely had the car parked when you got out,” she said. “Did you find what you needed?”
“All I need,” Helen sad, “is to spend time with my buddies from across the street.”
“Wait a second,” Manny said. “I thought Helen is the mean one.”
“She is,” Antonio said. “This can’t be good.”
“Don’t worry, fellas,” Helen said. She looked at Rose and lowered her voice. “I took a little extra glaucoma medicine today.”
“What did you just whisper?” Rose asked.
“I said you need new hearing aid batteries!” Helen snapped.
“I don’t wear a hearing aid,” Rose said.
“Maybe you should if you want to eavesdrop,” Helen said. Manny and Antonio snickered.
Rose sighed. “How long are we going to have to stay in here?” she asked. “I thought you just wanted another lotto ticket.”
“Go if you need to,” Helen said. “Pick me up in a few hours.”
“They don’t want you loitering here all day,” Rose said. “Right, boys?”
“Always honor your regulars,” Manny said. “That’s one of Paulie’s rules of business.”
“Fine,” Rose said. “I’ll come back later.” She left, walking back to her car.
Helen looked around the store. “So,” she said. “What zany plans you guys cooking up today?”
“Nothing really,” Antonio said. “Just working.”
“Ok,” Helen said, walking around the store, looking at various items on the shelves. Antonio and Manny looked at each other.
“Madon,” Paulie groaned, sitting at one of the booths in his pizzeria, his hand on his head. “Why did I let those two mooks keep me here so damn late?”
“You like to hear yourself talk,” Tony replied, sitting across from Paulie.
“That was rhetorical, you gagootz,” Paulie said.
“You know what your problem is?” Tony asked, taking his vape pen from his pocket and taking a long pull from it. “You just -”
“What the hell are you doing?!” Paulie exclaimed.
“What?” Tony asked, a cloud of scented vapor in front of him. “Oh shit, you mean the vape?”
“I’ve had enough of these friggin’ clouds!” Pauile shouted, slamming his fist on the table. “You’re addicted to that shit, and I don’t want you to come back into my place of business until you’ve gotten it out of your system!”
“It’s not addictive,” Tony said, taking another pull.
“You’re still doing it!” Paulie shouted. “GET OUTTA HERE!”
“Fine!” Tony snapped, turning toward the door. “You’re not the only place looking for a man of my many talents.”
“I thought you were hiring!” Tony said, his arms out.
“We are,” Antonio replied, “but we need someone who’s going to be dedicated.”
“I’m not dedicated?!” Tony said. “I worked at Paulie’s for most of my life!”
“Dude,” Manny said. “You just quit there like two minutes ago because he won’t let you vape in there. You just told us the story.”
“I didn’t quit,” Tony said. “He kicked me out. It happens like once a year, twice at most.”
“See,” Antonio said. “You’ll be back at Paulie’s before you know it, and where will that leave us?”
“I don’t see any other applicants knocking your door down,” Helen said, reading a motorcycle magazine by the rack. “I remember when these mags had girly pictures in them.”
“You want a porn mag?” Manny asked. “We got plenty behind the counter here.”
“Nah,” Helen said. “I like the topless chicks who pose with their man’s bike. I want to imagine her riding bitch while I tear-ass down dome desert highway. She thinks I’m going to eventually take her back to her husband and kids, but that’s not my style. I’ll have my way with her, ditch her at some rest stop, and let either the coyotes or highway perverts take her.”
“And you need to see them topless for that fantasy?” Tony asked.
“Who asked you anyway?” Helen said, closing the magazine and tossing it back onto the rack. “If I ran this place, I’d have you clean the shitters and do all the heavy lifting. I’d pay you shit wages until you go crawling back across the street to my baby brother. It’s too bad these two aren’t smart enough to concoct a plan that good.”
“Hey,” Antonio said. “Let’s do that!”
“Good idea, bro,” Manny said. “Get to work on those shitters, Tony!”
“How come Helen gets to work here and read magazines all day?” Tony asked.
“She doesn’t work here,” Manny replied. “She’s a customer.”
“Yeah,” Helen said. “I bought a scratch ticket here once!”
Rose came in the bodega with Da’Quarius. “OK, Helen,” she said. “It’s time to come home.”
“I don’t wanna!” Helen shouted, crossing her arms. “I like it here. These two don’t judge me!”
“Neither does anyone at home,” Rose said. “Come on. It’s almost dinner time.”
“Dammit,” Helen muttered. She turned toward Manny and Antonio. “Tomorrow night we’ll have dinner here. Make sure you get a TV so I can watch my game shows too.” She left, walking toward Rose’s car.
“I’m sorry about her,” Rose said. “I’ll try to find a way to get her to stay home. She’s just so attached to this place since she won that money.”
“I like her,” Antonio said, “but she hasn’t spent a lot time here since she won that money. I figured she’d give us some business.”
“She’s scared a lot of our customers away too,” Manny added. “That’s probably bad for business. I don’t know. I’ll go ask Paulie after he closes.”
“I think I know a way to get her to ditch this place,” Da’Quarius said, walking toward the counter. “How about we get her another scratch ticket.”
“That’s what started this mess,” Rose sighed.
“No,” Da’Quarius said, pulling one from a rack by the counter. “One of these.”
Rose looked at the ticket Da’Quarius had pulled. “A trick lotto ticket?” she asked. “She’ll be furious.”
“Exactly,” Da’Quarius said.
“What the heck,” Rose said, shrugging. “Ring us up, Antonio.”
“I’ll do it,” Tony said, walking around the counter.
“You’re cleaning the shitters!” Antonio snapped. “Don’t make me write you up on your first day!”
“That’s it,” Tony said, coming back into Paulie’s Pizza. “I quit!”
“That’s too bad,” Paulie said. “I was hoping you’d kick that pipe before losing your job.”
“I mean my job across the street,” Tony said.
“You mean you got a job at that friggin’ bodega and quit over the course of the last hour?” Paulie asked. “I don’t know if I should be impressed or ashamed anymore.”
“All they want me to do it clean the place,” Tony said. “It’s degrading.”
“It’s a bodega,” Paulie said. “What the hell did you think you’d be doing over there?”
“Well I’m done,” Tony said. “Thanks for giving me my job back.”
“Oh,” Paulie said. “Let me see that pipe of yours.”
Tony sighed, taking his vape pen out and handing it to Paulie. “There,” he said. “It’s yours.”
“Good,” Paulie said. “This is your first step on the road to recovery from your addiction.”
“Roads don’t have steps,” Tony said. “You’d ruin your car’s shocks if they did.”
“I don’t mean it that way!” Paulie shouted. “You walk down a road! Walking is a series of steps, you friggin’ stunad! Get back in that friggin’ kitchen!”
“Geeze,” Tony said. “What I say?”
“I wonder how my two friends at the bodega are doing,” Helen said, finishing up her dinner. “Can you drive me there for a little bit?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Rose said. “Maybe relaxing and digesting your dinner is best.”
“I can digest there,” Helen said. “What’s your problem with those two anyway?”
“Oh yeah,” Da’Quarius said, reaching in his pocket. “You left too fast before. Dey wanted you to have a lotto ticket, on da’ house.”
“How nice,” Helen said, taking the ticket from Da’Quarius. “Let’s see if they gave me another big winner.”
Helen scratched the ticket as Da’Quarius and Rose shared a look. They had no idea how she was going react to the gag, but they hoped it was just enough to break her want to spend every moment possible in the bodega.
“Wait,” Helen said, staring at the ticket. She pulled her glasses from her breast pocket and stared at the ticket, her lip trembling.
“What is it?” Rose asked. “Everything OK?”
“I won,” Helen said in a soft voice. “I won a hundred thousand dollars.”
She stared at her ticket for a moment, absorbing the information. “FUCK THIS HOUSE!” she exclaimed, kicking her chair over. She flipped her plate over next. “FUCK THIS PLATE!”
“Helen!” Rose said, her hand on her chest.
“FUCK THIS DOG!” Helen continued, Dutchie running around and barking at her. She took the cushions off the couch and threw them all over the room. “FUCK THIS COUCH! I’LL REPLACE ALL THIS SHIT! I GOT THE MONEY!”
“Biddy!” Da’Quarius shouted.
“What⁈” Helen said. “You think I can’t replace you too?! I’ll get a new black kid!”
“Where you gettin’ dat money?” Da’Quarius asked. “Manny an’ Antonio don’t got it!”
“I’ll get my money, don’t you worry about it,” Helen said. “I know you’re just waiting for me to kick off so you can get your slice of my inheritance, but I’m spending every dime before I die! You’re not getting a dime, you little conman!”
“Helen,” Rose said.
“Where’s da’ money at?!” Da’Quarius retorted.
“I’ll get my money!” Helen said. “It say so right on the back of the…” She read the back of the card, which informed her that she had just been fooled. “Those two little bastards gave you this scratch ticket for me?”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Why?”
“They think this is some kind of game?” Helen asked, staring off. “Those little stoners are probably laughing their asses off at me right now. They fucked with the wrong person. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but I’m going to make them pay for humiliating me like this.”
“See,” Da’Quarius told Rose. “No more bodega for Helen.”
Rose sighed. “I just hope she doesn’t do anything too crazy. Hopefully she’ll forget after a post-dessert sugar crash.”
“What are you two conspiring about?” Helen asked.
“Nothing,” Rose said. “You want some dessert?”
“Yeah I want dessert,” Helen said. “What are we having?”