Freedom Lane: Richie the Banger

“There ain’t dick on TV,” Helen said, flicking through the channels.

“Oh,” Paulie said, sitting on the couch. “Don’t talk like that in front of the kid!”

“Why not?” Da’Quarius asked. “I don’t wanna see any dick on the TV anyway!”

The phone rang, and Rose stood. “Who can that be calling this late on a Sunday night?”

“Don’t answer it,” Helen said. “It’s the burglars. They want to make sure we’re here.”

“If it was burglars,” Paulie said, “They’d call to make sure you weren’t here.”

“Same difference,” Helen said. She finally settled on a channel. “Here we go. Clint Eastwood dressed as a cowboy. You can’t go wrong.”

“You won’t hear me complain,” Paulie said, putting his hands behind his head.

“So dis Eastwood dude,” Da’Quarius said, “is he always a cowboy, or does he do anything else with his life?”

“He does other kinds of movies,” Paulie replied. “He just found a niche in these cowboy movies. When something sticks, you stick with it, right?”

“Shut up,” Helen said. “He’s about to start shooting.”

Rose came back into the room and sat on the couch.

“Who was on the phone?” Helen asked. “Burglars?”

“It wasn’t burglars,” Rose replied. She took a long breath and took her time exhaling. “It was Rich DiMartino.”

Helen picked up the remote and turned off the TV.

“C’mon!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “I was actually startin’ to like dat movie!”

“Madon,” Paulie muttered. “Grab your stuff kid. You’re sleeping over my house tonight.”

“Why do I gotta sleep at your place?” Who the hell is Rich whatever?”

“DiMartino,” Helen said, her lip curled in a sneer. “Also known as: Richie the Banger.”

Da’Quarius looked from Helen to Rose. “Richie da’ what?!”

****

Freedom Lane

Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness

Season 13, Episode 4: Richie the Banger

****

Da’Quarius rode in the passenger seat of Paulie’s Cadillac, driving the four blocks toward Paulie’s house on Willow Street. “I still don’t see why I gotta leave,” Da’Quarius said. “It’s not like I never heard Rose an’ Helen fight before.”

“You haven’t been around for what goes on about Rose, Helen, and Richie the Banger,” Paulie said. “It’s not fun, kid. Trust me on this.”

“Why do you an’ Helen call him dat?” Da’Quarius said.

“You don’t want to know,” Paulie replied.

“Yeah I do,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m bein’ put out of my own home because of dis banger dude, and I don’t even know why he a banger. What he do, and what’s it have to do with… Oh shit.”

“Yup,” Paulie said, nodding. “Richie was Rose’s friend in high school. He was the only guy she was ever… intimate with. That’s why Helen and I call him ‘the banger.’ ”

“Dat’s disgusting,” Da’Quarius said. “Is Helen dat jealous of da’ guy, doe? She knows Rose don’t like men now, right?”

“She knows,” Paulie said. “She’s just a little insecure, knowing Rose was with a guy, even if it was just the one time. They remained friends after everything though, and they still get together every once in a while, when he’s back in town. Rose does it away from the house because of Helen’s jealousy, but Helen lets her do it, not wanting to cage Rose up.”

“Dis some deep-ass shit,” Da’Quarius said. “What are dey gonna do?”

“I don’t know,” Paulie replied. “I hope it won’t be too dramatic.”

***

“Don’t leave me!” Helen begged. “I’d get on my knees, but I won’t be able to get back up!”

“I’m only going away for two days,” Rose told Helen. She was at the door with her suitcase. Paulie is going to stay here, and you have Da’Quarius. You won’t be alone.”

“Screw those two!” Helen snapped.

“It’s nice to be appreciated,” Paulie said from the couch. “You think it’s nice to be appreciated, kid?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Da’Quarius said. “It was nice of me to give up my entire weekend to chill with Helen, doe.”

“Oh, stop,” Rose said, walking to the couch. She lowered her voice as she got close to Paulie and Da’Quarius. “You know I need you to keep Helen from becoming her own worst enemy. The last thing I need is her swearing vengeance on Rich for doing nothing more than having a little chat.”

“A little chat?” Da’Quarius asked. “You’re gonna be gone two days.”

“What did the kid say?” Helen asked.

“We’ll be OK,” Paulie said. “Even if we have to sleep in shifts, we’ll take care of Helen for you.”

“I can hear you,” Helen said. “Stop talking about me.”

“I’m just making sure everyone is OK before I go,” Rose said. “Paulie and Da’Quarius will be here. You won’t even notice I’m gone.”

“Yes I will,” Helen said.

Rose smiled, giving Helen a kiss. “I’ll be back in two days,” she said. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Helen said.

“Bye-bye,” Rose said, leaving with her suitcase in hand.

“Bye,” Helen said, closing the door.

“Aw shit,” Da’Quarius said. “I know this part. This is where Helen gets her weapons.”

“We need to stay sharp, kid,” Paulie said. “I don’t know how bad it will get, but we can’t let her do something crazy.”

Helen walked over to her recliner, ignoring Paulie and Da’Quarius. She sat down and put her head in her hands. She looked up a moment later toward her baby brother and adopted son. “I can’t believe she’s gone!” she said.

Da’Quarius and Paulie looked at Helen and then each other.

***

Rose got out of her car and stretched. Her and Rich had opted to meet at a restaurant and have dinner. They decided to stay at a bed and breakfast just up the highway from New Haven, in separate rooms of course. The restaurant was just down the block from where they were staying. It was a seafood place called Paul’s Fish & Chips. She made a mental note to tell Paulie about it the coincidence.

“Rich!” Rose exclaimed, finding her old friend standing outside, wearing a button-down shirt and khakis. He was just as she remembered him, except a little grayer. He was tall, well groomed, and had a bushy mustache. He smiled widely as he gave Rose a hug.

“It’s so good to see you again, Rose,” Rich said. “How long has it been this time?

“Five years almost,” Rose replied. “How’s Albany been?”

“Cold,” Richie replied. “Let’s go grab a table, and we can catch up.”

“Sure,” Rose said, following Rich into Paul’s.

***

Paulie came in with dinner: three meatball grinders he had Tony make. He had his misgivings about leaving Da’Quarius alone with Helen, but he had relented to save them from having to cook dinner. “How is she?” he asked Da’Quarius.

“She’s OK,” Da’Quarius replied. “She’s just actin’ all depressed an’ shit. I kind of wish she’d get mad an’ smash up da’ house. Is dat bad?”

“No,” Paulie sighed. “It’s not bad. This isn’t like her. Maybe we can cheer her up over dinner. Go get some plates, and I’ll set up the table. Get Helen too. Where is she?”

“She’s outside in da’ yard with Dutchie, just watchin’ da’ sky,” Da’Quarius said.

“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “I’ve never seen her like this. It might be a trick.”

Da’Quarius shrugged. “Maybe. I’ll go get her.” He left, and Paulie brought the grinders to the dining room table. Da’Quarius returned with some plates, followed by Helen, who shuffled to the table with the aid of her cane.

“Meatball parm grinders?” Helen asked. “Rose loves meatball parm grinders.”

“Stop it,” Paulie said, unwrapping one of the foil-wrapped sandwiches for Helen. “Rose isn’t gone forever. She’s just visiting with a friend, and she’ll be back before you know it.”

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “You can have a grinder with her da’ day after tomorrow.”

Helen huffed. “If she comes back,” she muttered.

“I told you to stop that,” Paulie said, handing a plate with the unwrapped grinder on it across from his sister. “Rose gave no indication whatsoever about that. Why would you even think it?”

“Are you shittin’ me?” Helen asked. “Why do you think she meets him away from this house?”

“Because she doesn’t want you to go nuts,” Paulie said. “I think you can understand that.”

“Maybe,” Helen said. “She’s talking about me at the very least.”

“That’s not true,” Paulie said. “She’s just catching up is all.”

***

“How’s Helen?” Rich asked. “You and her still good?”

“Yes,” Rose said. They had eaten dinner and were now back at the bed and breakfast. They were sitting in the den area, talking about their lives since the last time they met. “Helen keeps me on my toes.”

“It’s too bad I can’t meet her,” Rich said. “All these years, and I haven’t met your wife once.”

“That’s a little hard,” Rose replied. “She gets jealous easily, and I don’t want her to do anything too rash if you stayed over our house instead of a hotel.”

“That’s silly,” Rich said. “She has nothing to be jealous about, right?”

“No,” Rose replied. “Of course not. But her and I have a son now.”

“That’s great,” Rich said. “How did that happen?”

“The City of New Haven lost our adoption paperwork for twenty-something years,” Rose said. “When they finally found it, they brought Da’Quarius to us. He’s lived with us ever since.”

“That story is a little far-fetched,” Rich said.

“Well, that’s how it happened,” Rose said with a shrug. “I don’t know what else to tell you. Sometimes life gets a little far-fetched.”

“Yes, it does,” Rich said, nodding at Rose. “Yes, it most certainly does.”

“Yeah,” Rose said, looking away.

“Tell me about this son of yours,” Rich said.

***

Da’Quarius retched over the toilet, vomiting what was left of his dinner.

“You OK, kid?” Paulie asked from the hallway. “You’ve been heaving an awful lot in there.”

“Gotdammit, Unca Paulie!” Da’Quarius said, staying in his kneeling position in front of the toilet. “What da’ fuck did Tony put in da’ subs?!”

“Oh!” Paulie snapped. “Don’t accuse Tony of this! Are you saying the food in my establishment is what’s making you sick? I take offense to that, kid!”

Da’Quarius gagged, keeping his vomiting at bay. “Fuck,” he said. “Dis sucks!”

“Helen and I didn’t get sick,” Paulie said, “so it can’t be the food from my place.”

“Dammit, Unca Paulie,” Da’Quarius said. “Stop gloatin’. I’m sick!”

“What else did you eat today?”  Paulie asked.

“I dunno,” Da’Quarius said. “I had lunch at da’ Garcias’ house. They made some rotisserie chicken an’ –”

Paulie turned away as Da’Quarius’s sentence was ended with another stream of vomit. He left his nephew, knowing that he’d feel better once everything was out of his system. He wanted to make sure his big sister was OK before they all turned in for the night. “How are you doing, sis?” he asked, finding Helen watching TV in her recliner.

“How the blood-filled snot do you think I am?” Helen asked. “Rose is spending the night with Richie the friggin’ Banger!”

“They’re not spending it together,” Paulie said. “They’re in separate rooms, and you know it. Will you tell me what the hell is really going on? The kid is gone, puking up everything he ate in the last twelve hours, so you don’t have to worry about him overhearing it.”

“I don’t want to tell you,” Helen replied, crossing her arms and looking away.

“I’ll bring up Shronda,” Paulie said.

Helen turned toward Paulie. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Oh, you remember my dearly departed fiancé, Shronda,” Paulie said.

“Bastard,” Helen muttered.

“Her and I had a great thing going,” Paulie said. “We had a trust, her and I, much like the trust you and Rose show each other. I know if I spent a night with an old friend, even and ex, Shronda wouldn’t feel the least bit worried, having complete faith in me. I wish she was here today, so she could tell you that you have nothing to worry about, but she’s gone, taken from me in our youth.”

“Stop it, you callous stunad,” Helen said. “Why would you talk about her like that?”

“Because she’d think it was funny,” Paulie said. “Now tell me what’s going on, so I don’t have to bring her up again.”

Helen sighed. “Fine,” she said. “She’s not just with a friend, Paulie. She’s with an ex-boyfriend, the only man she was ever with in her entire life. How can I compare to that? I’m not a man. I don’t have the man parts she may or may not long for.”

“Rose doesn’t want man parts,” Paulie said. “She wants your parts, as disgusting as it is for me to say it. You’ve had at least one guy that I know of. Do you still want it?”

“God, no,” Helen replied. “Don’t be crass.”

“You said it all out loud,” Paulie said. “Now do you see how ridiculous you’re being?”

“I guess,” Helen said, “but you didn’t have to use such a dirty trick to get me to say it.”

Paulie laughed. “It’s easier than beating it out of you.”

“Not from where I’m sitting,” Helen said.

“Wha’chu guys talkin’ ‘bout?” Da’Quarius asked, coming downstairs from the bathroom.

Helen turned toward him. “We’re talking about Rose and my aversion to male genitalia,” she replied.

Da’Quarius stopped for a moment before turning and running back upstairs toward the bathroom.

“Ha!”  Helen laughed. “It’s going to be fun making him puke for the rest of the night!”

“I think we may need to take him to the hospital,” Paulie said.

“He’ll be OK,” Helen said. “I’m still a little worried about that Richie.”

“Don’t be,” Paulie said. “Richie has to be a good guy if he’s Rose’s friend.”

***

“You ever think about the past?” Rich asked, holding his glass of wine.

“When you get to your seventies it’s hard not to,” Rose replied. “But I have no regrets, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Kind of,” Rich said. “I never married or started a family. It’s kind of sad, isn’t it?”

“Everyone leads different lives,” Rose replied. “You don’t have to regret the things you didn’t do. Look at me. I didn’t start a family with Helen until recently, but I didn’t regret not doing it in the past. Things worked out for me, and they’ll work out for you too.”

“Right,” Rich sighed. He took another sip from his glass.

“Do you want to tell me what’s really bothering you?” Rose asked. “Is everything OK?”

“Yeah,” Rich replied. “No. I guess not. Rose, you ever think about you and me?”

“You mean our friendship?” Rose asked in return.

“No,” Rich replied. “I mean you and me.”

You and I,” Rose corrected.

Rich laughed. “You’ve always corrected my grammar,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about you, Rose.”

“Thanks,” Rose said.

“Rose,” Rich said. “I don’t love you as a friend. I’m in love with you. I always have been. That’s why I was never able to find someone to marry and settle down with. I’ve always compared every woman I’ve ever met to you, and none of them have ever been able to live up to what you could have been for me.”

Rose didn’t know what to say to Rich. He had just poured his heart out after three-quarters of a glass of wine, and nearly fifty years of friendship had boiled down to something she had not expected.

“Say something,” Rich said.

“I don’t think we can be friends anymore,” Rose said.

“Stop it,” Rich said, reaching out and taking Rose’s hand. “I know you feel it too. Why keep me strung along all these years if you didn’t?”

“Because we’re friends!” Rose snapped. “Rich, I’m gay. I’ve always been gay. What happened between us when we were younger happened, I don’t regret it, but it doesn’t make me anything other than what I am. Besides, I’m in love with Helen.”

Rich scoffed. “Helen,” he said. “The woman you’re always complaining about. She’s crazy, an ex-con, and she’s always causing some kind of trouble. She’s so bad, you can’t even introduce me to the woman you’ve been with for over thirty years.”

“Helen may not be perfect,” Rose said, “but neither am I. Nobody is. I’m sorry you’ve been holding a torch for me all these years, I really am, but this isn’t going to happen.”

“I waited too long I guess,” Rich said, draining his glass.

“It would have never happened,” Rose said. “I’m sorry if that hurts, but it’s my honest answer.” She gave a short laugh.

“Why’s that funny?” Rich asked.

“It’s Helen again,” Rose replied. “She was right about you, and she had never met you.”

“It’s because she’s paranoid,” Rich said.

Rose sighed. “Maybe so,” she said. “But you proved her right regardless, Rich.” She stood. “I think it’s time for bed now. Goodnight.”

***

“Day two,” Helen said, sitting at the kitchen table for breakfast in the morning. “I can’t sleep without Rose.”

“I couldn’t sleep cuz I was pukin’,” Da’Quarius said. He walked to the toaster and put some bread in the top. “Umma just eat some dry toast.”

“Nobody feels bad for you, kid,” Helen said.

Paulie walked into the kitchen. “Good morning,” he said. “Everyone sleep well?”

“No,” Helen and Da’Quarius both said.

“That’s too bad,” Paulie said. “I’m going to make some coffee.”

“Sanka’s in the fridge,” Helen said. “Make me one too.”

“How are you feeling today,” Paulie asked. “Still upset?”

“Not as much,” Helen said. “Rose isn’t going anywhere, and I accept that. It just goes to show you that her and I –”

The door opened, and Dutchie went nuts as Rose came home. She walked to the kitchen where she found her family. “Hi guys,” she said.

“What are you doing here a day early?” Paulie asked.

“Oh, I think one night away was enough,” Rose said.

“Welcome home,” Paulie said. “We all missed you. Right, Helen?”

Helen pushed her chair back and stood. She turned and looked at Rose. “So life with Richie the Banger isn’t so great, is it?” she asked.

Rose sighed. “Still mad at me for leaving then?”

“Hell yes I am!” Helen said.

Da’Quarius and Paulie exchanged a look.

“Well I’m home now, so you can stop,” Rose said.

“How do I know you stayed pure?!” Helen snapped. “Get ready for a thorough inspection, starting with your hymen!”

Da’Quarius turned and dashed to the sink, vomiting once he was there.

“Oh yeah,” Helen said. “The kid got sick, by the way.”

The End

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