Freedom Lane: Miss Cake

There is a little house in New Haven on a street called Freedom Lane, but our story doesn’t begin there. It begins in a little classroom in a school called Haven Hills, where Mr. Hessman is teaching his sixth-grade social studies class, using his time to educate his students about the current issues in the world.

“If Russia could tip the scales of an American election using social media,” he said, “what’s to stop them from coming into your homes and raping your parents?!”

The students gave him their complete attention. They knew better than to interrupt him when he was on a roll like this. “I mean, really,” Mr. Hessman continued. “We’re talking a full-blown invasion happening in the fall of twenty-sixteen, only in the form of cyber-soldiers instead of actual ones. How do you fight electrons from coming in and out of the country?!”

“Hess!” one of his students interrupted. It was Da’Quarius Masters, his personal favorite. “What da’ hell are you talkin’ ‘bout?”

“I’m talking about the downfall of our country!” Hess replied, slamming his fist on his desk and standing, “and it’s happening at the rate of one tweet at a time!”

“Hess!” Da’Quarius shouted.

“What?” Mr. Hessman replied. “You want to teach this class?”

“Are we takin’ our test tomorrow on dat economics bullshit you been teachin’ da’ last two weeks?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Yeah,” Mr. Hessman said. “That’s tomorrow.”

“Den why da’ hell you goin’ on an’ on ‘bout Russian Twitter hackers again fo’ da’ millionth time?!”

“Because this is what’s important now!” Mrs. Hessman shouted. He looked around the room, and the students weren’t paying the slightest bit of attention to him like he originally thought. They thought he was off his nut, and Da’Quarius wasn’t helping with his questioning. He stepped onto his desk and stood, giving himself an extra three feet of height.

“Da’ hell you doin’?!” Da’Quarius snapped.

Mr. Hessman looked around. He finally had the full attention of his class. He smiled. “This is important,” he said. “Russian hackers are -”

He was interrupted by his own momentum, as he lost his footing on his desk and fell to the ground. Da’Quarius got up along with the other students and looked down at his unconscious body. “Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “I bet we don’t gotta take dat test now.”

****

Freedom Lane

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

Season 14, Episode 1: Miss Cake

****

Da’Quarius was addressing his family through a mouthful of mashed potatoes. “Hess is gonna be out fo’ weeks,” he said. “Da’ sub didn’t even give us da’ test.”

“Are you talking about the lib-turd who’s always butting into your business?” Helen, Da’Quarius’s seventy-nine-year-old adoptive mother, asked.

“He’s my student advisor,” Da’Quarius replied.

“Why was he on the desk anyway?” Da’Quarius’s other adoptive mother, the seventy-three-year-old Rose asked.

“He was yellin’ ‘bout Russian hackers on Facebook an’ Twitter riggin’ da’ election,” Da’Quarius said. “No one was payin’ attention, so he jumped on da’ desk to yell from higher up.”

“Friggin’ lib-turd snowflakes,” Helen muttered. “Too bad he didn’t fall into his safe space.”

“No more Fox News for you,” Rose said. “I told you not to say those things.”

“Bah,” Helen said, waving a hand. “Words hurt snowflakes.”

“What’s going to happen to Mr. Hessman?” Rose asked, ignoring Helen’s anti-liberal commentary.

“Me an’ Flounder are gonna go visit,” Da’Quarius said. “We’ll find out tomorrow after school.”

“Good,” Rose said. “You two are good kids.”

“Just don’t let that lib-turd give you any crazy leftist ideas,” Helen said.

“Helen!” Rose snapped. “Stop saying that word!”

“What word?” Helen asked. “Lib-turd?”

***

Da’Quarius went into his homeroom, Mr. Hessman’s classroom, and sat in his usual seat. He waited for whoever was going to be taking over the class to come in and give the morning announcement and make sure they stood for the pledge of allegiance. He’d then leave the room until later that day, when he’d return for social studies.

Principal Johnston came in, leading a woman who could only be Mr. Hessman’s replacement while he recovered from his fall. She was tall, shapely, had milky white skin, and short, dark hair. Da’Quarius couldn’t look away. His eyes were fixated on the woman. She was older than him, but not what he’d consider “old”, not by a long shot. She saw him watching, and her cherry-red lips parted in a smile. Da’Quarius felt his heart miss a beat before jumping around.

“Mr. Hessman may be out for an extended period of time,” Principal Johnston said. “You will have a substitute teacher until he’s fit for duty. I expect you to show her the same amount of respect you’d show Mr. Hessman. Her name is Miss Cake.”

There was some snickering at the name, and Da’Quarius made a mental note of whose ass may need kicking for poking fun at such a mesmerizing beauty. She waved to the class, giving away her nervousness. Da’Quarius smiled, unable to help himself, and waved back.

“Hi,” Miss Cake said, looking around the classroom. “I’m looking forward to getting to know you while I take over Mr. Hessman’s homeroom duties and help anyone who fell under him as student advisor.”

“Also teaching his social studies classes,” Principal Johnston added.

“Yes,” Miss Cake said. “That too. It can’t all be fun, right?” She offered her new homeroom a wink.

Da’Quarius laughed. A few of the other boys in class did too. The morning announcements started as Principal Johnston left, and Da’Quarius was reluctant to rise for the Pledge of Allegiance.

***

Rose sorted through the mail the following day. She found something that looked odd and opened it. “Oh my,” she said, reading the letter that was inside.

“What?” Helen asked from her recliner. “Another bill?”

“No,” Rose replied. “Remember when we signed Da’Quarius up to be a foreign exchange student last summer?”

“No,’ Helen said. “Why would I sign off on something like that? Sounds expensive.”

“It’s not expensive,” Rose said. “We send Da’Quarius abroad, and then we get someone who’s abroad.”

“I wish someone would send me a broad,” Helen said, cackling. “Why are they sending you that letter anyway?”

“It’s a letter apologizing,” Rose replied. “Da’Quarius didn’t get accepted into their program, but they sent us an exchange student anyway; a boy from France named Benoit Christophe.”

“They sent us some fruity French brat, and they won’t even take our kid?” Helen asked. “I don’t want some ten-year-old, cheese-eating wino in a beret hanging out here! You send him right back to where he came from!”

“Oh, Helen,” Rose said, sitting on the couch and putting her hand on her wife’s knee. “I know we weren’t expecting young Benoit to come visit, but we should make the best of it. Think of how good this can be for Da’Quarius, having someone from another culture stay in our home.”

“He has people from another culture in his home,” Helen said. “Us!”

“Please, Helen,” Rose said.

“Why are you so bent on this?” Helen asked.

“I always wanted to do this when I was a kid, but my parents thought it was a waste of time,” Rose said. “We can really show Benoit a real American experience.”

Helen sighed. “Fine,” she said. “You’re going to owe me, though.”

“Thank you,” Rose said. The doorbell rang. “That would be Benoit now.”

“You mean he was walking up our walkway?!” Helen snapped, standing. “They could have given us more than a two-minute notice!”

Rose took Helen’s hand and led her to the door. “Come on,” she said. “We should greet our temporary son together.”

Helen grunted as Rose reached the door and opened it. Dutchie, the family dog, jumped and barked at the prospect of company. On the other side was a tall adult male, complete with a beard, standing and looking into the house. He removed his sunglasses and observed Rose and Helen. “Hello,” he said through a thick, French accent. “I am Benoit. I will be staying with you as part of ze exchange program.”

“Good lord,” Helen said. “They sent us one of the big ones! And they made him ugly to boot!”

***

Da’Quarius walked into Mr. Hessman’s hospital room, joined by his friend, Flounder. They found their social studies teacher in his bed, a cast around his pelvic area. “Hey, Hess,” Da’Quarius said. “How you doin’?”

“As good as I can be,” Mr. Hessman replied. “The doctor’s keep telling me I’m lucky I’m not crippled, but I think they’re just patting themselves on the back a little too much on that one.”

“So, you’ll get better?” Flounder asked. It was clear from the look on his face that he was close to tears.

“Sure I will,” Mr. Hessman replied. “I’ll probably be back before you know it. I’ll just have to get around with a cane for a while.”

“For how long?” Flounder asked.

“Until I trade it in for a walker,” Mr. Hessman replied. “Can we please talk about something else?”

“Sure,” Da’Quarius said. “We met your replacement today.”

“Oh?” Mr. Hessman asked. “How are they?”

“You mean Miss Poop-Butt?” Flounder asked, scowling.

“Really?” Da’Quarius asked, turning on his friend. “What da’ hell, dude?!”

“Come on, Flounder,” Mr. Hessman said. “What are you, seven years old?”

Flounder shrugged. “I just don’t like her.”

“Well she’s cool as fuck,” Da’Quarius said. “I don’t know what Flounder’s beef is, but nobody else thinks dat.”

“Look,” Mr. Hessman said. “I really appreciate you two coming to see me, but I’m close to passing out here. They got me drugged up to my eyeballs.”

“Sounds cool,” Da’Quarius said.

“I’ll see you on the other side of this trip,” Mr. Hessman said, closing his eyes.

“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “He got da’ good shit.”

“Come on,” Flounder motioned toward the door. “Let’s get out of here. Hospitals creep me out.”

“E’rythin’ creeps you out,” Da’Quarius said. “Remember da’ time you pissed yourself on da’ field trip to da’ aquarium?”

***

“I hope you like ziti and meatballs,” Rose said. “We have plenty left over from the other night, and I have it warming in the oven now.”

“I enjoy ze ethnic food of your country,” Benoit said.

“Ethnic?” Helen asked. “What the hell are you talking about, Froggy?”

“I told you not to call him that,” Rose said. “I’m going to check on dinner.”

Benoit watched Rose leave, waiting for her to be out of ear shot. Once she was, he moved closer to Helen. “You can call me whatever you like, Helen,” he said.

“That’s good,” Helen replied. “I wasn’t going to stop anyway, Froggy.”

“Zis is not easy for me to say, being a guest in your home,” Benoit said, “but I find you irresistible. I must have you sexually.”

Helen cackled. “That ain’t happenin’, you poodle-fucker,” she said. “There are not enough words in the English language to convey how much it ain’t happening.”

The door opened, and Da’Quarius came in. “I’m home!” he called, calming an excited Dutchie. “I saw Hess in da’ hospital, and he’s doin’… Who dis?”

“This,” Helen said, “is Froggy the Frenchman. He’s our new son.”

“Da’ fuck?!” Da’Quarius snapped. “You get a discount on dis one or somethin’?”

“Don’t listen to Helen,” Rose said, coming from the kitchen, carrying a pan of ziti toward the dining room table. “This is Benoit. He’s a foreign exchange student. He’ll be staying with us for a bit.”

Da’Quarius looked over to Benoit and back toward Rose. “I ain’t sharin’ my room with him!”

“Nobody’s asking you to,” Helen said, making her way to the dining room table. “Benoit is sleeping in the dog’s bed.”

“He isn’t sleeping in the dog’s bed,” Rose said. “We can fold out the couch for him.”

“Ze couch will be fine,” Benoit said, sitting at the table. “Do you have any wine to go with zis meal?”

“No,” Rose said, scooping food onto his plate. “We don’t normally drink it. Maybe we can pick up a bottle or two for the house while you’re staying with us.”

“Zat would be lovely,” Benoit said, offering Rose a smile.

“It’s bad enough we’re feeding it,” Helen said, handing Rose her plate. “If we give it booze it’ll never leave, the little Frenchie pervert.”

“Don’t talk about him like that,” Rose said. “He’s not an ‘it’, and he’s not a pervert.”

“You don’t know that,” Helen said. “You have no idea what he whispered to me earlier. I have half a mind to call the police!”

“Uh-oh,” Da’Quarius said. “Biddy must be goin’ nutty if she callin’ da’ cops an’ shit.”

“Nobody is calling the police,” Rose said. “I’m sure whatever you think Benoit said was misinterpreted due to his accent.”

“So now I’m friggin’ stupid?!” Helen snapped, slamming a fist on the table.

“Nobody is calling you stupid, Helen,” Rose sighed. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.”

“No,” Helen said, waving a hand. “It was a fine idea, having a perverted little frog we’ve never met live in our home. Ignore my dire misgivings and sage-like words of warning. Feed him and get him nice and comfortable, Florence Nightingale.”

“Will you stop being so facetious?!” Rose snapped.

“Can someone fill me in on what’s goin’ on here?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Benoit is our foreign exchange student,” Rose replied.

“I got dat part,” Da’Quarius said. “Wait a sec… Don’t dat mean I gotta be in his country, den?”

Helen sighed. “Is there a way I can get rid of you both?”

***

Da’Quarius sat in Miss Cake’s social studies class for last period, watching his new favorite teacher tell them about the economics of the last few decades and how they shaped the foundation of today’s economic climate. “Who knows the answer?” she asked, turning from the board in front of the room. “Da’Quarius?”

Da’Quarius was caught off guard. He was too busy admiring the view to fully absorb what she was talking about. He froze, trying to come up with something to say. “Seven?” he asked.

The class laughed. If his skin weren’t so dark, they may have seen him blush. “Um,” he said, looking over the board to get some semblance of what she was asking. “Eight?”

The class laughed again, and the bell rang. “I guess you’re saved by the bell, Mr. Masters,” Miss Cake said. “Read the next two chapters for homework, and we’ll discuss in our groups tomorrow.”

“I hate groups,” Flounder said, finding Da’Quarius as he hastily put his book and notebook into his backpack. “Nobody ever wants to listen to me.”

“Da’Quarius,” Miss Cake said. “Can I see you for a moment?”

Flounder sighed, shaking his head. “The witch wants to hex you,” he muttered.

“Shut da’ fuck up,” Da’Quarius whispered. “I’ll catch you later.” He let Flounder leave into the crowded hall and walked up to Miss Cake’s desk. “Wha’chu need, Miss Cake?” he asked.

“I noticed you’ve been distracted in class,” Miss Cake replied. “From Mr. Hessman’s notes it sounds like you’ve excelled in his class, but I haven’t seen that kind of work from you.”

“It’s weird not havin’ Hess here,” Da’Quarius lied. “I’ll get used to it.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” Miss Cake said, offering a smile. “You seem like a good kid, and smart too. I want to see good things from you in the near future, OK?”

“OK,” Da’Quarius replied.

“Good,” Miss Cake said. “Now run along. I don’t want you to miss your bus.”

“Right,” Da’Quarius said. He left the class and found Flounder, on his way out.

“Hey,” Flounder said. “She yell at you for looking at her butt?”

“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “You noticed dat?”

“Everyone did,” Flounder said. “Why anyone would look at that butt is beyond me.”

“You got a lot to say ‘bout Miss Cake,” Da’Quarius said. “I like her, doe.”

“I know,” Flounder said. “You have a way with older women, I guess.”

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “You think I have a shot?”

“I don’t know,” Flounder said. “But you better make your move soon. Mr. Hessman won’t be out forever.”

Da’Quarius stopped walking. “You’re right,” he said. “I don’t have much time.”

***

“How do you know you don’t like men?” Benoit asked Helen while Rose was doing her gardening. “Maybe your tastes changed with your age, or maybe you haven’t had ze right one.”

“Oh, shove it up your wine-hole, you Jacque-off,” Helen said. “You’re not even good at smooth-talking for a French man-whore. Wait till Rose catches you pitching that woo at me, you cheese-munching bastard.”

Benoit laughed. “Your rejection of my advances just makes me want you more,” he said. “I’m going to go out and buy us a nice bottle of wine. What do you say to you and me toasting our beautiful new friendship tonight after Rose goes to bed?”

“How about you dump the whole thing down your gullet and shove the empty bottle up your ass for good measure?” Helen retorted, standing. “I need to take a shit.”

“Au revoir, mon amour,” Benoit said, watching Helen walk away.

“Ah fongool, stunad,” Helen said, flipping off Benoit with her back turned to him.

Da’Quarius came home from school, and he looked surprised to see Benoit, still inhabiting his house. “Hey,” he said. “Where’s Rose an’ Helen?”

“Rose is doing her gardening,” Benoit replied, “and Helen is… how you say… dropping ze log.”

“Now dat I got you alone,” Da’Quarius said, “I wanted to ask you somethin’. What’s your deal? I know you ain’t a student, and you ain’t even pretendin’ you are. So why are you here actin’ like you studyin’ an’ shit?”

“I do not understand what you are asking,” Benoit replied.

“Sure,” Da’Quarius said, rolling his eyes. “I ask da’ hard questions, an’ you don’t know English all of a sudden.”

“Is something troubling you, young Da’Quarius?” Benoit asked. “I know that look all too well. You are experiencing ze women problems, no? I am quite well versed in ze ways of ze women.”

“Oh yeah?” Da’Quarius said. “You ever have any advice about older women?”

Benoit smiled. “Zat, young Da’Quarius, is something in which I am very well versed,” he said. “Is ze target of your affections a female teacher of yours?”

“How did you know?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Zis is America,” Benoit replied. “If there is one thing zat is rampant in zis country other zan all ze mass shootings, it is your teachers’ wanting to sleep with ze black students.”

“Damn,” Da’Quarius replied. “Is that what the rest of the world thinks of us?”

Benoit shrugged. “Ze secret to wooing an older woman is to promise to give her something no other man can do,” he said. “Women see younger men as inexperienced and unable to please zem physically and otherwise. You have to be persistent. An older woman likes a man who does not take no for an answer.”

“You sound like a date rapist,” Da’Quarius said. “An’ I know how to treat an older woman. I used to date Helen’s gynecologist.”

“I do not know zat term,” Benoit said. “I am wooing an older woman now, and she will succumb to my charm eventually. She is like the sun at dawn, bringing her rays of light to the dark morning.”

“I just dropped a growler the size of a battleship,” Helen said, coming back into the den. “I’d give the bathroom a wide berth for the next decade or so. Hey, Pepe Le Fuck, you better not be filling my son’s head with your pansy-ass frog nonsense.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Benoit said, winking at Da’Quarius. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head out to get a bottle or two of ze wine.”

“Hurry back,” Helen groaned, sitting in her recliner. She looked at Da’Quarius as Benoit left. “I’m serious, kid. Do not listen to a single word that stunad said.”

“No,” Da’Quarius said, thinking. “Not a word.”

***

Da’Quarius sat with Flounder during lunchtime. “I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout wha’chu said da’ other day,” he said.

“What?” Flounder asked. “You mean when I told you about my dad selling bootleg puppies?”

“No,” Da’Quarius replied. “Wait… What’s a bootleg puppy?”

Flounder shrugged.

“I’m talkin’ ‘bout Miss Cake,” Da’Quarius said. “You said Hess won’t be out forever, but I need more time with her. So, I want you to help me make sure Hess takes some more time off.”

“But I don’t want Miss Cake here,” Flounder said. “Why would I help you keep her?”

“Cuz friends help each other,” Da’Quarius replied. “You know I won’t say shit ‘bout da’ bootleg puppies, so just help me keep Hess out of school for a couple more weeks.”

Flounder thought for a moment. “I have an idea,” he said, “but it’s a little risky.”

“My dude,” Da’Quarius said, “you just have to tell me what da’ idea is and where to go.”

***

Helen, Rose, and Benoit walked into Paulie’s Pizza on State street. “So, here’s Helen’s brother’s place of business,” Rose said. “He makes pizza. Do you have pizza in France?”

“Oui,” Benoit replied. “We have a lot of pizza places.”

“You haven’t had decent pizza until you’ve had it in New Haven,” Helen said. “My baby brother makes the best pie in the city, too.”

“Helen!” Paulie exclaimed, coming from the kitchen. “Hi, Rose. Are you guys here for lunch?”

“Yes,” Rose said. “We want to introduce you to our foreign exchange student from France, Benoit.”

“Bonjour,” Benoit said.

“This is your exchange student?” Paulie asked. “He’s a little old to be a student of anything.”

“I beg your pardon,” Benoit said. “I’ll have you know zat I am still a student, and my enrollment in this program is perfectly normal.”

“Ah ha,” Paulie said, rubbing his chin. “This doesn’t add up.”

“It’s fine,” Rose said. “We’re learning a lot from him.”

“Yeah,” Helen said. “I’m learning that Frenchmen don’t shower much, if at all.”

“I have showered!” Benoit retorted.

“Once,” Helen said. “You’ve been at our house almost a week, and I think you only washed your underwear and hung it over the tub that one time. That don’t count as showering, Pepe.”

Paulie rolled his eyes. “This isn’t going to end well,” he said. “In any case, what can I get you?”

“It does not matter,” Benoit said. “Your food is simple peasant food for simple peasants, prepared by simple peasants.”

“I won’t kick you out of here out of respect for my sister and her wife,” Paulie said.

“We won’t be disrespected,” Helen said. “Kick the little tadpole out of here.”

“Oh shit!” Tony said, rushing from the kitchen. “Do it!”

“Fine,” Paulie said. “I’m sorry, Rose, but this guy has to leave.”

“And come back to my house?!” Helen said, putting a hand on her chest.

“It’s your house,” Paulie said, “but I’m warning you to kick this snobby French bastard out on his green ass!”

“How dare you, connard!” Benoit shouted. “I will not be talked to zis way!”

“Ah fongool!” Paulie shouted, coming around the counter. “Don’t come into my place and tell me how to talk!”

Benoit started yelling in French, while Paulie’s language deteriorated into a stream of Italian curses. The others watched as Paulie and Benoit argued in the middle of the pizzeria, unable to understand either of them.

“I’m starting to think this was a bad idea,” Rose said.

“I told you not to feed him,” Helen said. “Good luck getting rid of him now.”

***

“There he is,” Flounder said, spotting Hessman in the park, riding his motorized scooter around with his wife. “Were you able to switch out the control pads?”

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. He was holding the radio control Flounder had made. It looked like it went to a radio-controlled car at some point, but it now controlled Mr. Hessman’s scooter if Flounder was right. “I swapped them out when I visited his house. He was happy to have a visitor too. Guy has cabin fever an’ shit.”

“Turn it on and give it a shot,” Flounder said.

Da’Quarius turned on the control and pushed the forward button. The scooter jolted forward a little, and Mr. Hessman looked like he had a bout of whiplash as it moved. “Damn!” Da’Quarius said. “Dis thing really does work!”

“Told you!” Flounder said. “Now drive him into the water fountain. I want to see if he can do a flip into the water if you hit the edge hard enough.”

“You’re fucked up,” Da’Quarius said. “I thought you liked Hess!”

“I do,” Flounder said. “I just think it’ll be funny. You’re the one who wants him to get injured again to spend more time with Miss Cake.”

“You’re right,” Da’Quarius said, lowering the remote as Mr. Hessman tried to figure out why his scooter wasn’t moving after the initial jolt. “I shouldn’t fuck with Hess like this. He can get hurt really –”

A spark shot out of the control, and Hessman’s scooter sped forward, knocking his wife over. His screams filled the park as he zigged and zagged out of control. “Dammit, Flounder!” Da’Quarius snapped. “What just happened?!”

“Something must have shorted out!” Flounder yelled, taking the control. “I shouldn’t have soldered it so late at night.”

“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “Hess is gonna die!”

Hessman’s scooter veered back onto the sidewalk, sending him hurtling toward a dog walker, who had a dozen or so dogs on leashes. He became tangled in the leashes. They jammed up the wheels of his scooter, sending him over the handlebars and into the pack of dogs. They panicked, unable to get away from the human who had frightened them, and they started attacking.

“Shit,” Flounder said, throwing his smoldering controller in a trash bin. “We need to get out of here!”

“Fuck yeah we do!” Da’Quarius said, running toward the park exit with Flounder right behind him.

***

Rose walked from the kitchen and through the den, carrying a glass of water. “I’m going to read for a little bit and turn in,” she told Helen, who was in her recliner. “I’ll see you up there?”

“I’m coming,” Helen replied. “I’m just going to finish my show, and I’ll be right up.”

“OK,” Rose said. “See you up there. Goodnight, Benoit.”

“Bonne nuit,” Benoit replied. He watched Rose ascend the stairs, making sure she was gone before turning to Helen. “Is tonight ze night, mon amour?”

“Fuck off,” Helen muttered. “Just let me watch the last five minutes of my show in peace.”

“I can entertain you more than ze television ever could, Helen,” Benoit said. “Why don’t you shut it off, and I can make you feel young again?”

Helen sighed. “If we do this,” she said, “will you stop bugging me?”

“There will be no need, mademoiselle,” Benoit replied. “Once you’ve had me, it will be you persuing me.”

“Fine,” She said, “but not tonight. I want to be ready for you. How’s Friday?”

“I will be ready on Friday,” Benoit replied. “You will not regret it.”

“Great,” Helen said. “Now shut your escargot hole. I only have a friggin’ minute left thanks to you.”

***

Da’Quarius was getting ready to leave his social studies classroom when Miss Cake walked up to him. “Da’Quarius,” she said. “I’ve been meaning to have you see me. Do you have a minute?”

“Sure,” Da’Quarius said. He suddenly didn’t care if he’d miss his bus or not. “I got a minute.” He sat across from Miss Cake’s desk, taking the spot he normally took when Mr. Hessman wanted to talk to him one-on-one.

“It’s a shame what happened to Mr. Hessman,” Miss Cake said, somehow reading Da’Quarius’ mind, knowing that he was thinking of his teacher.

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius replied, wondering if she knew he had something to do with the extension of his time off. “Dat was fucked up ‘bout da’ dogs too.”

“I can’t imagine what happened,” Miss Cake said. “I heard he lost a testicle and everything.”

Da’Quarius nodded. Was she setting a trap?

“You two were close, right?” Miss Cake asked. “I don’t mean to pry, but some of his notes here make it sound like he trusted you with more than classwork.”

“Shit,” Da’Quarius muttered. He made a mental note to scold Hessman on leaving evidence lying around. “It was mostly student advisory stuff,” he said. “Nuttin’ dat bad.”

“Oh,” Miss Cake said. “That’s too bad. I could really use someone who doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty and can keep a secret.”

Da’Quarius felt his heart leap. “I might be able to help,” he said. “Depends on wha’chu need, doe.”

Miss Cake gave Da’Quarius a half smile, but a half was all she needed to light up her whole face. “I have a little hobby I use to make some spare money,” she said. “Teaching doesn’t pay much, and substituting pays even less. I collect animal bones, and I sell them online. I paint and decorate them first, of course.”

“Of course,” Da’Quarius agreed.

“Someone turned me onto a group of collectors of human bones,” Miss Cake continued. “They pay well for them, finished and decorated, and they pay top dollar for children’s bones or rarities.”

“Oh,” Da’Quarius said.

Miss Cake didn’t notice the look on Da’Quarius’s face, and she kept going. “There’s a graveyard not too far from your neighborhood. I was wondering if you’d meet me there Friday night and help me dig up the grave of a two-headed girl who died when she was twelve. The skeleton will make tens of thousands of dollars, and I’ll give you a fair cut. What do you say?”

Da’Quarius thought about his answer. Sure, he had done things for Hessman that weren’t exactly ethical or even legal, but Miss Cake was talking about grave robbing from his own neighborhood. He had never done anything like that, and he didn’t know if just being asked by the breathtaking Miss Cake was enough to get him to dig up the corpse of a deformed girl.

Miss Caked leaned over the desk, and her breast popped out of her shirt, revealing her nipple. “Oops,” she said, fixing it. “Sorry about that. I think I shrunk this shirt in the wash.”

“I’ll do it!” Da’Quarius said.

“Good,” Miss Cake said, showing a toothy grin. “I’ll see you there Friday night.”

***

Benoit walked through the den on Friday night, wearing only his robe. It was late, and Rose and Helen had gone to bed. Only Helen had come down a half hour later as promised, wearing her night gown and sleeping cap. “Zere you are, mon amour,” Benoit crooned. “I have been waiting for you.”

“Give me a minute,” Helen said, holding up a hand.

“But I have waited so long to have you,” Benoit said.

“You can wait a little longer then,” Helen said. “You want tonight to be special, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Benoit replied.

“Good,” Helen said. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” She left through the kitchen, leaving Benoit alone. He started taking off his robe when he noticed Da’Quarius, trying to sneak out the front door.

“I won’t tell if you don’t,” Benoit said.

Da’Quarius nodded once and slipped out into the night. Benoit didn’t hesitate. He stripped off the robe and stood in the nude, waiting for Helen to return. He sat down, one leg on the floor and the other on the couch. He took a rose from the table and clenched it between his teeth. Helen returned a moment later, but she had returned with Rose.

“What the hell is going on?!” Rose exclaimed.

“Rose,” Benoit said, grabbing his robe to cover his crotch. “I did not know you’d be coming.”

“He’s trying to seduce us!” Helen shouted.

“I can see that,” Rose said. She giggled. “Who’s he fooling with that micro penis too?!”

“Ha!” Helen cackled.

“Zat is not fair!” Benoit said.

“Don’t go flashing that little thing around then,” Helen said.

“Get out of my home!” Rose shouted, pointing toward the door.

“Can’t I wait until ze morning?” Benoit asked. “We can talk about zis over breakfast. I will make you ze most wonderful crepe suzette you have ever eaten.”

“Get out now,” Rose said. “I don’t want you here one more minute!”

“That’s right, Frenchy McFuckboy,” Helen said. “You heard my woman.”

“But Rose…” Benoit pleaded.

“Out!” Rose shouted. “Go sleep nude at the train station for all I care.”

Benoit tossed what little belongings he had back into his suitcase while Rose watched, tapping her foot. Helen stood by her side, hand on her shoulder. When he was done he looked at them. “Can I just get dressed first?” he asked.

“If you’re not out of here in ten seconds,” Rose replied, “I’m calling the police.”

Benoit nodded and left, closing the door with a click behind him.

“Can you believe that guy?” Helen asked. “Who the hell does he think he is?”

Rose sighed. “I didn’t peg Benoit for a pervert,” she said. “I guess I learned something about his culture tonight.”

“Guess so,” Helen said. “You know, watching you kick him out of here like that made me a little frisky. Just because Benoit can’t get any doesn’t mean I can’t.”

Rose giggled. “OK,” she said. “But we’ll have to be quiet. I don’t want to wake Da’Quarius.”

“Bah!” Helen said. “If he slept through that, he’s out like the dead.”

***

Da’Quarius and Miss Cake dug in the silent graveyard. Miss Cake had provided shovels and a thermos of hot chocolate for their late-night expedition. “This is going to be so awesome!” Miss Cake said. “I don’t remember the last time I’ve been this excited!”

“Cool,” Da’Quarius said. He didn’t know what to talk about. All he knew was he was happy to be spending time with Miss Cake, even if it was while digging up the coffin of a dead girl.

“Can I ask you something?” Miss Cake asked.

“Sure,” Da’Quarius said, his heart leaping. He was sure she was about to ask about their student-teacher relationship, and he knew exactly what he’d tell her.

“Do you know Manny Garcia?” Miss Cake asked, biting her lip slightly.

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius replied. “He lives across da’ street from me. Why?”

“Forgive me,” Miss Cake said, “but I found out you live on his street from your student records. He and I are dating, but I’m not sure about him. I mean the sex is great, but he’s a little weird.”

“Weird like diggin’ up graves for da’ bones?” Da’Quarius asked. He was crushed, but he wasn’t going to let her see that he was.

“I told him about this hobby, and he refused to help,” Miss Cake said. “He did give me a whole shopping bag full of bones, but it was after he and his brother ate an entire platter of chicken wings. It was disgusting.”

“Bones are bones,” Da’Quarius said.

“I just don’t know about him,” Miss Cake sighed, putting the end of her shovel in the ground and leaning on it. “My period is a week late too, and I’m starting to worry.”

Da’Quarius hit something solid with his shovel, and he was glad he didn’t have to keep talking about Manny and Miss Cake’s missed period. “We hit it,” he said.

“They gave the poor girl a shallow grave,” Miss Cake said. “How tragic.”

The two finished getting the small coffin out of its not-so-eternal resting spot and put it on the ground next to the mound of dirt they had dug out. “Here we go,” Miss Cake said, a look of wanton anticipation on her face. She opened the coffin with a creek that filled the night and peered inside. “Where the hell is it?!”

Da’Quarius reached in the coffin and pulled out a yellowed piece of paper. “‘Dear Mel,’” he read, “‘I got to her before you. She’ll be resting peacefully on my mantel if you want to come visit.’”

“Wow,” Miss Cake said.

“Who da’ fuck is Mel?” Da’Quarius asked.

“I have no idea,” Miss Cake said. “I guess I wasn’t the only one who wanted the skeleton.”

Da’Quarius was about to say something else when a car came toward them, swerving between the gravestones. It stopped, and Manny Garcia stepped out. “Makenzie!” he shouted, taking Miss Cake in his arms. “I knew I’d find you here!”

“Only because I told you I’d be here,” Miss Cake said. “I thought digging up bones creeped you out.”

“It did,” Manny said, “but I realize there’s a bone I’m interested in giving you after all. Hi, Daq!”

“Hey, Manny,” Da’Quarius said.

“Remember that fetish you have about getting nailed in a graveyard?” Manny asked, turning back toward Miss Cake. “Think we can make that happen right now?”

“Oh, Manny,” Miss Cake said. The two started making out as if Da’Quarius wasn’t even there.

“Don’t mind me,” Da’Quarius said. “I wanted to walk home in da’ middle of da’ night anyway. Go ahead an’ fuck in da’ graveyard.” He walked toward the exit, hoping like hell he’d never fall for an older woman again. When he got to the sidewalk, he spotted Benoit walking past wearing only his robe, carrying his suitcase.

“Da’Quarius!” Benoit said. “Thank God. Can you help me find somewhere to stay?”

“You’re on your own, Benoit,” Da’Quarius said, walking in the direction of his home. “I don’t know how you got kicked out, but I’m not getting’ in trouble for helpin’ yo ass out.”

“Da’Quarius!” Benoit called.

“Your advice on older women sucks, by the way,” Da’Quarius said, “you big-ass French bitch. Next time I’m listenin’ to Flounder.”

***

Mr. Hessman walked into the church’s meeting room with use of his new cane. It was going to get some getting used to, but he thought he’d able to manage. The last couple of weeks were hell on his body, but he was feeling better. There was just something he couldn’t get over on his own.

“Welcome,” the host said as Hessman entered the support group’s designated meeting place. “My name is Tony, and I have one nut.”

“We know each other,” Hessman said, grunting as he sat down. “I’m Da’Quarius’s teacher.”

“You don’t have to keep saying that,” an old man said. “We all know why you’re here.”

“Let’s all introduce ourselves for our newest member,” Tony said. “As you know: I’m Tony, and I have one nut. I lost it through nut cancer. Harold, why don’t you introduce yourself?”

“No,” Harold said. “I’m only here because Lee made me come. I have no interest in talking to anyone.”

“OK,” Tony said. “How about you, newbie?”

“I’m Charles Hessman,” Hessman said. “I lost my testicle when I was mauled by a pack of dogs.”

Harold laughed. “What?!” he exclaimed. “A pack of dogs ate your giblet?!”

“Don’t laugh!” Tony shouted. “This is a judgement free zone. Don’t be mad because you lost your right raisin when it got caught in a lounge chair on your cruise.”

“Who told you that?!” Harold snapped. “Was it Lee?! I’ll kill him!”

“Calm down,” Tony said. “How about we go around the room. Luca, do you want to tell us about your lost nut?”

“No,” Luca, an obese, bald guy replied. “I’m not ready yet.”

“Why the hell did I bother starting this group?!” Tony exclaimed, kicking his chair backward. “Am I the only one comfortable with my one nut?! I know some of you must be OK talking!”

“I’m done,” Mr. Hessman said, standing. “I think I’ll be OK with this after all.”

The End

****

Edited by Katherine J Marshall

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