Category Archives: Freedom Lane

Freedom Lane – Da’Quarius Needs to Read

It was a sunny Saturday morning on Freedom Lane in New Haven. There was nothing out of the ordinary that morning. There were no wacky adventures, no compelling twists, no excitement of any kind.

“Do you want?” Rose asked, walking up to the table with a plate containing a stack of toast.

“None of that sweet stuff for me,” Helen said, stirring her Metamucil.

“I’ll take some jelly,” Da’Quarius said, grabbing a couple of pieces of toast and dropping them on the table next to his bowl of cereal.

Rose sighed and got a plate from the cupboard, putting in front of Da’Quarius. He moved the toast to the plate as Rose got a jar of strawberry jelly from the refrigerator. “It’s so nice to have a day where nothing needs to be done,” she said. “Don’t you agree, Da’Quarius?”

“Oh shit!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “I got a book report to do!”

“And screaming like a ninny about it is the best way to go about getting it done, apparently,” Helen added, sipping her Metamucil.

****

Freedom Lane

Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow

Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness

Season 14, Episode 5: Da’Quarius Needs to Read

****

“What’s your book about?” Rose asked, finding Da’Quarius in the den after breakfast, reading on the couch.

“It’s ‘bout a boy on his farm,” Da’Quarius said. “He’s raisin’ a puppy an’ shit.”

“The dog dies,” Helen said, coming into the den behind Rose.

“Dammit, biddy!” Da’Quarius shouted, closing his book. “How am I s’posed to read dis when you comin’ in an’ spoilin’ da’ endin’ an’ shit.”

“She’s never read it,” Rose said.

“Every book with a dog in it ends with the dog dying.” Helen sat in her recliner. “Old Yeller and Lassie both died.”

“Lassie didn’t die,” Rose said. “You never even read the book the show was based on.”

“Lassie was a book?” Helen asked. “I always thought he was some dog who helped that little shit get out of the well.”

“Lassie was based on a book,” Rose muttered. “And she was a girl.”

“No he wasn’t,” Helen said. “Lassie was definitely a boy.”

“Lassie was a female dog,” Rose said. “Her name was Lassie. That literally means she’s a girl.”

“Call her a bitch,” Helen said.

“No,” Rose said.

“You’re saying Lassie was a bitch,” Helen said. “Say it.”

Rose sighed. “Yes,” she said. “Technically, Lassie was a bitch.”

Helen cackled with laughter, and Da’Quarius got up with his book. “I gotta go,” he said.

“Where are you going?” Rose asked.

“I dunno,” Da’Quarius replied. “Maybe I can read at Paulie’s or head to the library or somethin’. I need some quiet to read so I can write da’ report tomorrow.”

“Go to the library,” Helen said. “Tell that piece of shit librarian I said hi.”

“How do you know the librarian?” Rose asked.

“Joan Potter?” Helen asked. “She’s an old friend, but she’s as cold as a nun’s nasty.”

“What’s that even mean?!” Rose said. “Where do you come up with these sayings?”

“Later, biddies,” Da’Quarius said, putting on his Vagabond Saints hat and leaving.

“That kid and the shit he gets himself into,” Helen said, shaking her head.

“He’s only reading,” Rose answered.

“That goddamn, mother-fucking kid,” Helen said, finishing her Metamucil in one long pull.

“Oh, Helen,” Rose groaned. “What is with you today?”

“Take me upstairs and find out,” Helen said, leaning forward and leering at Rose.

***

It was a normal late Saturday morning at Paulie’s Pizza. The pizzeria’s owner, Paulie, and his friend and associate, Tony, were getting the place ready for the day. Da’Quarius came in, toting his book in his left hand. “Da’Quarius!” Paulie greeted. “What are you doing here? I thought I told you to take the morning off.”

“I need somewhere to read dis book,” Da’Quarius replied. “Da’ biddies ain’t givin’ me a moment of quiet. Can I try an’ get some done here while it’s not busy?”

“Sure, kid,” Paulie said, “but I’m putting Tony in charge for most of the day.”

“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “What are you doin’ dat you gotta put Tony in charge on a Saturday an’ shit?”

“Don’t worry about it, kid.” Paulie checked his watch. “Shit. I gotta go. Hey, Tony!”

“Yeah, boss?” Tony said, coming from the back, wiping his hands on his apron.

“The kid is gonna read here for a bit,” Paulie replied. “Leave him alone and let him do it.”

“You tell him about your community service?” Tony asked.

“You got community service, Unca Paulie?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Yeah.” Tony answered for Paulie. “He’s embarrassed after busting my balls about my community service, and now he has it for slapping around a couple of kids at the supermarket.”

“I don’t want this discussed!” Paulie snapped.

Da’Quarius sighed, closing his book. “Alright,” he said. “I know I’m s’posed to be readin’, but I gotta hear dis first.”

“It’s nothing!” Paulie snapped. “These two mooks were harassing a retarded bagboy at the Stop N’ Shop, and I had some words with them. They didn’t like it, and I slapped one of them in the back of the head. Their parents were there, and all hell broke loose. What kind of teenager hangs out with their parents at the supermarket anyway? And what kind of parent lets their kid talk to a retarded bagboy that way?!”

“He’s a knight in retarded armor,” Tony said, beaming.

“I told you not to use that word!” Paulie shouted, pointing in Tony’s face.

“You used it twice!” Tony retorted.

“Not in the same way you did!” Paulie exclaimed.

“You used to call my cousin that back in the day too,” Tony added, “so don’t act all high and mighty now, you hypocrite!”

“I gotta go,” Paulie groaned. “I don’t have time for this nonsense. Stay here as long as you like, kid.”

“Thanks,” Da’Quarius said, settling in and opening his book again.

***

Da’Quarius was able to read for an entire three minutes before Tony came charging out of the kitchen again. “Hey, kid,” he said. “What gives with the reading.”

“I have to write a report on dis book tomorrow,” Da’Quarius said.

“What’s it about?” Tony asked.

“So far it’s ‘bout a boy an’ his dog,” Da’Quarius replied, “but I dunno what else happens since nobody will let me read it.”

“I bet you ten bucks the dog dies in the end,” Tony said.

“Dammit, Tony,” Da’Quarius said. “I really gotta read dis.”

“Fine,” Tony said, “but I don’t get it. Why read it when you can probably just see the movie? It seems like a waste of a day to have your face buried in a book when you’d only need a couple of hours to stare at the screen. A book’s just a written list of stuff you can watch on TV anyway.”

“Not e’ryone likes screens all da’ damn time,” Da’Quarius muttered. “I really need to read dis, doe.”

“OK,” Tony said, walking back into the kitchen. “Then read, you little mook. No one’s stopping you.”

Da’Quarius sighed and focused on his reading again, restarting the page he was on. He almost got halfway down the page before Tony returned from the kitchen. “Remember that Chris Rock bit?” he asked. “Books are like kryptonite to n-words.”

“Gotdammit!” Da’Quarius snapped.

“What?” Tony asked. “He’s the one who said it. I censored the bad word! You’re as bad as Paulie not letting me say ‘retard’ and then repeating it. I’m sure you’re gonna go say the n-word all the live long friggin’ day long. ”

“I’m outta here,” Da’Quarius said. “Maybe I can sit and read at the library.”

“What?” Tony asked. “Like one of those homeless mooks?”

“No,” Da’Quarius said, walking toward the door. “Like a guy who needs to read a fuckin’ book without some asshole makin’ commentary an’ shit.” He left with a jingle of the bells.

“What I say?” Tony asked. “Friggin’ kid got anger problems or something.”

***

It was a quiet Saturday in the East Rock Library, and especially quiet in a small corner by the mystery section where a couple of comfy chairs were set up with a round table and a potted plant between them. In one of the chairs sat Da’Quarius, who was reading about a simple farm boy and his trusty dog. It was finally quiet, and he was finally able to immerse himself into the world of blue skies, green pastures, and a country living.

“What do you think you’re doing!?” a voice croaked from the thriller section. Da’Quarius looked up, almost expecting to see Helen screeching at him, but it was the librarian; and an old woman with red-dyed hair named Mrs. Potter.

“I’m just readin’,” Da’Quarius said, looking up from his book. “Why does e’ryone seem to have a problem with dat today?”

“Well you can’t do it here,” Mrs. Potter replied. “Get on your feet and move out of here.”

“Look at ‘em over dere!” Da’Quarius said, motioning toward a group of kids sitting around a table, playing on their phones. “Why are dey OK here, an’ I’m not? Is it cuz dey white?”

“No,” Mrs. Potter said. “It’s because they have library cards.”

“I got a library card,” Da’Quarius said, standing up. He took his card out of his pocket and showed Mrs. Potter. “Got my smilin’ black face on it an’ e’rythin’.”

“I know why you’re here,” Mrs. Potter said. “The minute I turn my back, someone will be in the other chair, passing tiny bags of green bits to each other.”

“Dat’s racist as fuck,” Da’Quarius said.

“Watch your mouth in this library, or you can leave!” Mrs. Potter yelled. “If you want to stay you need to move out of that corner!”

“Whatever,” Da’Quarius muttered, getting up. “I’ll clear da’ seat for a white boy if dat’s what you want, you racist old bitch.”

“What was that?!” Mrs. Potter snapped.

“Nuttin’,” Da’Quarius said, walking back toward the main part of the library, looking for an empty table so he could sit and read. He spotted someone scraping gum from the bottom of the tables, and he was surprised to see who it was. “Unca Paulie?”

“Oh,” Paulie said, turning and looking up. “What’s up, kid?”

“I was ‘bout to ask you da’ same thing,” Da’Quarius replied.

“I’m doing my community service,” Paulie said. “I’ll be spending the next few Saturdays helping out around the library.”

“Dat sucks,” Da’Quarius said.

“It beats picking up litter around the freeway,” Paulie said. “It’s peaceful and quiet in here at least. Did you come here to finish reading?”

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius replied. “Tony was bein’ a pain in da’ ass, so I left to come here instead.”

“Sounds like something Tony would do,” Paulie said.

“Get back to work, library slave!” Mrs. Potter said, wagging a wrinkly finger at him.

“I’m working!” Paulie snapped, going back to work, scraping the gum off the bottom of the table.

“She just used da’ word ‘slave’ in front of me, an’ you’re gonna let dat go?” Da’Quarius asked. “Damn, dis racist old library biddy makes me sick!”

“Take a break from that gum and kick that kid out of here!” Mrs. Potter said.

“He didn’t do anything but point out what you said,” Paulie said, standing up to face the librarian. “You can’t kick him out for that. This is America.”

“Do you want me to sign the paper saying you work here or not?” Mrs. Potter asked, crossing her arms.

“Sorry, kid,” Paulie said. “You gotta go.”

“Dis some bullshit!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “You really gonna play me like dis?! What happened to dis bein’ America an’ shit?!”

“I gotta do it,” Paulie whispered, leading Da’Quarius toward the door by his arm. “I can get in a lot of trouble if I don’t do my hours, ya dig?”

“Sure,” Da’Quarius said. “Umma remember dis, doe, you throwin’ yo’ little black nephew out on da’ street!”

“I’ll make it up to you, kid,” Paulie said. He raised his voice. “And stay out!” He shut the door, leaving Da’Quarius outside.

“Mo’ fucker,” Da’Quarius muttered. “I ain’t never getting’ dis book read.”

***

Da’Quarius sat on a park bench, book open on his lap. He turned the page when a voice spoke from behind him. “Hey, Daq,” Flounder said. “What are you doing?”

“I’m trying to read dis book to do my gotdamn report,” Da’Quarius said, “but e’ryone keeps makin’ sure I can’t read more than a page an hour.”

“For Mrs. Kotter’s class?” Flounder asked. “I finished mine two weeks ago.”

“Great,” Da’Quarius said, staring at the book. “Well I have to finish mine, so -”

“I read that book about the guy who lived in the church,” Flounder continued. “It was good, but there was a lot of subtle anti-Jew stuff in there. I still put it in my report, though. We were supposed identify the symbolism and all that.”

“Dude,” Da’Quarius said. “Can’t you take a hint?”

“Was I not supposed to add the Jew stuff in my report?” Flounder asked. “Do I need to rewrite it? Oh my God… Am I gonna get in trouble like Rosanne Barr?!”

“No,” Da’Quarius said. “I mean I gotta read dis mo’ fuckin’ book!”

“Oh,” Flounder said. “Doesn’t the dog die in the end?”

“Gotdamn!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “I ain’t even a quarter way into this!”

“Sorry,” Flounder said. “Wanna hang out?”

“No,” Da’Quarius said. “I already told you I need to fuckin’ read dis fuckin’ book.”

“OK,” Flounder said. “There’s no need to curse.”

“I’ll see you Monday,” Da’Quarius said.

“Later,” Flounder said. He left Da’Quarius in peace.

Da’Quarius went back to the top of the page to try to get back into his rhythm. He was just about where he was before Flounder showed up when another voice spoke from behind him.

“What are you doing in this park?” Mrs. Potter, the librarian, asked.

“Da’ fuck you care?” Da’Quarius asked in return. “I ain’t at da’ library. What are you even doin’ here?”

“I’m on my break,” Mrs. Potter replied. “Are you selling drugs here now that I kicked you out of my library? I have half a mind to call the police.”

“Shit,” Da’Quarius said, closing his book and getting off the bench. “You’re a horrible old lady.”

“Get lost,” Mrs. Potter said. “You damn delinquent.”

“Fuck you!” Da’Quarius called, flipping Mrs. Potter the bird as he walked toward his house. “Umma wipe my ass with my library card, you old bitch!”

***

Da’Quarius walked into his home on Freedom Lane. Helen was sitting on the couch. When she noticed Da’Quarius had come inside, she picked up the remote and muted the TV. “Hey,” she said. “You’re right on time. They’re going to start a Manacane marathon in a half hour. What’s better than one movie about hurricane that sucks up a bunch of manatees and dumps them all over Florida? Four movies about hurricanes that suck up a bunch of manatees and dumps them all over Florida! It’s eight entire hours of Manacane goodness!”

“I gotta read, biddy,” Da’Quarius said. “No matter where I went, I couldn’t read. I’m gonna sit in my room, turn off all my shit, and read my book.”

“But, kid,” Helen said, “it’s a Manacane marathon! When can you ever claim to have seen all four Manacane movies like it was one long movie?! It never happens!”

“That movie is worse than the one with all the snakes on the plane,” Rose said, passing through the den.

“What was the name of that movie?” Helen asked. “It had the black guy in it.”

“Morgan Freeman?” Rose asked in return.

“The other one,” Helen said.

“Samuel L. Jackson?” Rose asked.

“That’s the one!” Helen said.

“I gotta read,” Da’Quarius said, heading to his room.

“He sure is dedicated,” Rose said.

“Yeah,” Helen said, watching Da’Quarius climb the stairs. “Maybe I can help him out.”

***

Da’Quarius sat in his room, focusing on his reading, absorbing the letters and words on the page. He turned the page and started once again from the top. “Hey, kid,” Helen said, walking through the doorway. “You sure you don’t want to watch Manacane with me? You know you love shit-talking the TV during these stupid movies.”

“Dammit, biddy,” Da’Quarius said. “I gotta write a report tomorrow, so I gotta read dis book today! Why can’t anyone understand dat?!”

“Look,” Helen said. “I’m going to tell you how to do these damn reports. Read the first twenty pages, the last twenty pages, and the middle twenty-five pages, in that order. You’ll know enough to do the damn report. And if that doesn’t work, then ask Rose. She’s probably read it. She’s read everything.”

“Really?” Da’Quarius asked. “Dat works?”

“Sure,” Helen said. “The teacher just wants to know you read the damn book. You really think your teacher is going to analyze your whole damn report? All non-standardized testing is based on how the teacher feels about you. As long as you’re kissing ass, you’ll get at least a B minus.”

“Good deal,” Da’Quarius said. “I read da’ twenty first pages, da’ twenty last, and da’ middle twenty-five.”

“That’s right,” Helen replied. “Hurry up and you’ll only miss the beginning of the first movie.”

Da’Quarius opened the book and flipped through to the end. “Damn,” he said. “Da’ dog really does die.”

***

Da’Quarius came downstairs, joining Helen and Rose in the den. “Whattup, biddies?” he said.

“Oh,” Rose said. “Did you finish your reading?”

“Hell yeah,” Da’Quarius said, offering Helen a secret wink. “All set.”

“Good,” Rose said, smiling. “I read that too, you know. I didn’t want to say anything and make you think I’d give you any information about the book for your report.”

“It’s cool,” Da’Quarius said. “Maybe we can talk durin’ da’ movie.”

“Sure,” Rose said. “How did you feel about the dog dying in the end?”

“The dog dies?!” Helen exclaimed. “Madon! You read the most morbid books.”

The End

***

Edited by Katherine Marshall

***

Want the new Freedom Lane tee shirt??? You can order it here.

Freedom Lane: P***y Phlegm

Da’Quarius walked home from Paulie’s Pizza on a Saturday afternoon. He took a longer way, avoiding what looked like a rear-ending on his normal route home. He passed a house with the garage door open despite the cold and listened to the loud rock music coming from within. He stopped and looked inside, and saw the band playing. There were three of them; one on guitar, one on bass, and one on the drums.

The lead guitarist, a teenager with blonde hair and a leather jacket started screeching into the microphone as the band played hard and fast. Da’Quarius couldn’t understand a word that was coming out of his mouth. “Gotdamn,” he said. “Mo’ fucker can’t even screech!”

The band finished their song, and the singer noticed Da’Quarius watching. “Hey, kid,” he said. “Like what you hear?”

“You’re alright, I guess,” Da’Quarius said. “Yo’ singin’ is weak as fuck, doe.”

“Dude!” the singer yelled. “You’re welcome to give it a try if you think you can do it better.”

Da’Quarius shrugged. “OK,” he said. “What do you call yourselves anyway?”

The singer cracked his neck and smiled. “We’re Pussy Phlegm.”

****

Freedom Lane

Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow

Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness

Season 14, Episode 3: Pussy Phlegm

****

“How could you say something like that?!” Rose questioned, scolding Helen, her wife and life partner.

“What?” Helen asked. “It’s just the dog. He doesn’t know any English.”

Dutchie, Da’Quarius’ Pitbull terrier sat, staring at Helen with his tail wagging.

“I don’t care if you said it to the dog,” Rose said. “Why would you call him a… that word?”

“Look,” Helen shrugged. “I have a really, really good reason for saying what I said. It’s really, really funny.”

“I don’t see anything funny about using that word, even to taunt a dog. Rose crossed her arms. “What if our son heard you say something like that?”

“They call each other that all the time!” Helen snapped. “Have you heard the music that kid listens to? It’s every other word, for God’s sake. Maybe we should look into him playing that ghetto shit in my house and how it drilled that word into my head to begin with. Have you thought of that?”

Rose sighed. “I don’t want to hear anything like that in this home again,” she said. “Not even to the dog. OK?”

“OK,” Helen groaned. “I won’t make any racial slurs to the dog if it’s such a big deal to you.”

“Thank you,” Rose smiled. She left through the kitchen.

Helen looked at Dutchie, who was still watching her with a happy look on his face. “I can’t believe you got me in trouble,” she said. “You little moulie.”

“Helen!” Rose exclaimed from the kitchen.

“What?” Helen asked. “I didn’t say the other word!”

***

Da’Quarius handed the microphone back to Gregg, the lead guitarist and leader of the band called ‘Pussy Phlegm’. “Dat’s how you scream,” he said.

“Oh my God,” Steve, the portly drummer said. “He’s amazing.”

“He’s just a kid!” Gregg yelled.

“But he can wail,” Tom, the lanky, long-haired bass player said. “No offense, Gregg, but you were only filling in until we found a decent singer, right?”

“Yeah, but…” Gregg pouted. “This kid…”

“Wait a second,” Da’Quarius said. “I don’t wanna join yo’ band. I was just walkin’ home.”

“You gotta,” Steve urged, coming from behind the drums. “We’re opening for Shih-Tzu Dynasty in a few days at Froggy’s House, and we need a singer.”

“Da’ fuck is Froggy’s House?” Da’Quarius asked.

“It’s the best spot for rock music in downtown New Haven,” Steve nodded. “Your singing was great, and those lyrics were awesome!”

“I just screamed a bunch of garbage,” Da’Quarius said. “You can’t tell me dats all der is to rock music.”

“It is in this sub-genre,” Steve shrugged.

“I don’t even like dis kinda music!” Da’Quarius said. “I gotta go home anyway.”

“It’s a paid gig,” Tom said. “We split the money four ways.”

“You get paid to do dis?!” Da’Quarius asked, a smile in his voice. “An’ here I thought you were playin’ in yo’ moms garage.”

“We are,” Gregg said. “Look, I’m not a huge fan of change, but the guys are right. We need a singer, and you got the talent. So, if you want to practice with us and come to the gig, you’re more than welcome.”

Da’Quarius thought for a moment. “Sure,” he said. “I guess I can do one gig as long as I can bring my homie Tony to the show. He’ll have a blast.”

“Do we have to pay him?” Gregg asked.

“Shit no, ain’t gotta pay his ass,” Da’Quarius said. “Dis mo’ fucker somehow lives without da’ need fo’ shit like dat. It’s pretty amazin’.”

“Then he can come along,” Gregg said. “Welcome to the band, kid.”

“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “If I’m gonna be in dis Pussy Phlegm band, y’all mo’ fuckers can call me ‘Snot Rocket’.”

***

“I can’t believe you keep making those slurs at the dog,” Rose said.

“Why is this an issue?” Helen asked. “The dog is brown.”

“That’s not the point!” Rose snapped. “The point is, those words are hurtful, especially to Da’Quarius.”

“But the dog won’t tell Da’Quarius that I called him a -”

“I don’t want to hear you say it again,” Rose interrupted.

“What are you gonna do?” Helen shrugged. “I’m an old lady, and we say mildly racist things sometimes. Political correctness has ruined our society.”

“I think you need a lesson in political correctness,” Rose said. “I’m going to find a group for us to attend. I’m sure it won’t hurt.”

“No!” Helen shouted. “Don’t make me sit with a bunch of pinko hippy jerk-offs who talk about how words hurt and other ridiculous notions!”

Rose went to the dining room table and opened her laptop, ignoring Helen. “I’m sure I can find something on Facebook,” she said. “I wish Da’Quarius was here to help me.”

“Where is that kid,” Helen asked. “Shouldn’t he have been home by now? I’m getting awfully worried. Maybe he’s hurt or worse…”

“Don’t try to distract me,” Rose said. “I’m sure whatever Da’Quarius is up to is nice and wholesome.”

***

“So, you’ll take payment in pussy den?” Da’Quarius asked, standing in Paulie’s Pizza on State Street, talking to Tony.

“You know I will,” Tony smiled.

“An’ you realize da’ band isn’t providin’ it for you, right?” Da’Quarius asked.

“I can get my own,” Tony said. “Free admission. A bunch of twenty-something year old girls at a rock show, and a bar? I think I’ll do fine. And you just need me to move some shit around for you guys?”

“Just set da’ band up and help us pack,” Da’Quarius said.

“Nice,” Tony said. “The roadies always get the best chicks at the end of the night. Did I ever tell you how I used to be a roadie for Madonna back in the eighties?”

“No,” Da’Quarius said. “Probably cuz it didn’t happen.”

“It did so!” Tony exclaimed.

“Whatever,” Da’Quarius chuckled. “If yo’ gonna be at da’ show, you best call me ‘Snot Rocket’ an’ shit.”

“Holy shit, kid,” Tony said. “That name is badass!”

“What are you two going on about out here?” Paulie asked, coming out of his office.

“The kid’s in a band,” Tony said. “He came by to get some sage-like advice from me.”

“You’ve never been in a band,” Paulie muttered. “What do you know about it?”

“I didn’t ask him for advice,” Da’Quarius said. “I just wanted him to help set up.”

Paulie laughed. “Did he tell you he used to be a roadie for Madonna?” he asked. “He’s always telling people that one. Never happened.”

“It did happen!” Tony said. “I even nailed her after one of the shows!”

“I remember when you said you were her roadie,” Paulie said. “You were on vacation with your cousin, Vinny the retard!”

“Oh,” Da’Quarius said. “Not cool, Unca Paulie.”

“That was his name!” Paulie said. “It was OK to call people stuff like that back then. You should have heard what Helen called our dog.”

“That’s just what I told you!” Tony argued. “I totally banged Madonna!”

“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “I gotta get ready for da’ show. You guys can settle dis shit on your own.”

***

Rose walked into the teen center, followed by Helen. “Don’t cause any trouble this time,” she said. “Every time we come in here we end up getting kicked out.”

“I told you we’ve been banned for life,” Helen said. “Just last week Harold was in here looking for twinks, and they’re not going to forget that you and I were with him.”

“They’ll forgive us as long as they see we’re here for a good reason,” Rose said.

“What are you two doing here?” a woman asked, approaching them. It was the same one who had called the police on Harold and Helen the week before. “If you don’t leave I’m calling the police.”

“Told you,” Helen said. “We’ll get going.”

“We’re not here to cause trouble,” Rose said. “My wife needs to learn why it’s wrong to use racial slurs in today’s society.”

Helen rolled her eyes. “And visiting a bunch of gay teens is the best way to do that.”

“I’ve asked around about you two,” the woman said. “You’ve been in here in the past. Didn’t one of our counselors live with you? From what they tell me it didn’t end well.”

“She was a bad egg,” Rose said. “I won’t even repeat what she did to our son.”

“Are we banned for life?” Helen asked.

“I’d say so, yes,” the woman replied.

“Too bad.” Helen turned toward the door. “Come on, Rose. They don’t like our kind here. Our country is in a sad state when two old women can’t even hang out with a bunch of gay teens.”

Rose sighed and left with Helen. “That was surprising,” she said. “I don’t know what to do with you now.”

“Don’t worry about it, dear,” Helen said. “I don’t know what to do with myself half the time either.”

***

Da’Quarius came down from his room, dressed in a torn black tee-shirt and an old pair of jeans that he wore to do housework. He’d painted his face white with some paint Gregg had given him. Dutchie took one look at him and went running toward the kitchen. “Good deal,” he said, nodding. “I must look good.”

The door opened, and Helen and Rose came inside. “I just don’t see why you need to do anything,” Helen said. “All I did was call the dog a… WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?!”

“It’s just me, biddy,” Da’Quarius said. “Don’t have a heart attack.”

“Why are you like that?” Rose asked.

“Yeah,” Helen said. “Is this a new trend: white-face? Because I find it offensive.”

“This is what you find offensive?” Rose asked, turning toward Helen. “Calling the dog those names isn’t offensive to you, but this is?”
“What did you call my dog?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Don’t change the subject,” Helen said. “Why are you painted like a mime rapist?”

“I’m not painted like a mime rapist,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m in a rock band, and we got a show tonight at Froggy’s House.”

“I don’t know this Froggy character, and I don’t want you going to his house dressed like that,” Helen said.

“Froggy’s House is da’ venue,” Da’Quarius said. “It’s an all-ages club downtown.”

“Are any adults going to this show?” Rose asked.

“Tony is taking me,” Da’Quarius said. “He’s close enough to an adult, right?” A horn blared from outside. “That’s him now. I gotta jet, ‘less you guys gotta problem.”

“I suppose it’s OK,” Rose said. “As long as Tony’s there.”

“Thanks,” Da’Quarius said. “I’ll be home by ten.”

“Good night,” Helen said. “Remember that mimes aren’t allowed to scream if you drag them into any alleys.”

“Helen!” Rose exclaimed.

“What?” Helen asked. “Now I can’t insult mimes?”

Rose closed the door, watching Da’Quarius get into Tony’s car from the window. “You know, that show of his might be fun,” she said. “We should go to support our son, and it might be good for you to see a band of mixed races on stage.”

“I think you’re getting a little loopy,” Helen said.

“Come on,” Rose said, grabbing her coat. “Let’s head over to Froggy’s House and see our son on stage.” She opened the door and went outside.

Dutchie came in and went to his bed to lie down. “This is still your fault,” she muttered to the dog. “You little spook bastard.”

“Helen!” Rose snapped. “I’m standing right here!”

***

Tony put the last amp on the stage. “All set,” he said. “When do the women get here?”

“The doors open at seven,” Gregg said. “I don’t expect much of a crowd though. We don’t normally draw one.”

“I don’t see why you don’t with a name like Pussy Phlegm,” Tony muttered. “I’m gonna go to the adult area and get a drink.”

“Stick with the top-shelf stuff,” Steve the drummer said. “They got busted with fruit flies in the cheap stuff a while back.”

“Noted,” Tony said. “Later, Pussy Junk.”

“Phlegm!” Gregg shouted after him. “What’s up with this guy?”

“He works for free,” Da’Quarius said. “Don’t knock him.”

“Did you hear him going on about doing this for Madonna?” Tom asked. “There’s no way that’s true, right?”

“He might have some mental issues,” Gregg said. “The guy’s pathological or something.”

“He’s just Tony,” Da’Quarius said. “Give it a rest and get ready for the show.”

Tony walked up to the bar and nodded to the waitress. “Gimme a beer,” he said. “Bottled.”

The waitress came over and put the bottle on the counter in front of him. “That’s four bucks,” she said.

Tony put a five on the counter. “Keep it,” he said.

“Thank you, big spender,” the waitress said, taking the five dollars. “It’s sweet, you helping those kids. Is one of them your kid?”

“You think I’m old enough to have a teenager?” Tony asked.

The waitress shrugged. “You could have started young.”

Tony laughed. “I don’t have any of my own,” he said. “The white kid is my buddy’s nephew.”

“Three of them are white,” the waitress said.

“I mean the one who’s painted white,” Tony said. “The black one.”

“Oh,” the waitress said. “You should have just said so.”

“I could have,” Tony said. “But I don’t want to sound racist.”

***

Rose and Helen entered Froggy’s House, just in time to see Pussy Phlegm, with their adopted son as the new front man, getting ready to start the show. “I wish he had told me the name of the band he was in,” Rose said, reading the flyer she had gotten by the door. “This puts an image in my mind that didn’t need to be there.”

“And yet this is supposed to give me a lesson in racism,” Helen said. “Three white kids in a band and one black kid painted white. How’s this supposed to help me?”

Rose looked around. “You might be right,” she said. “Da’Quarius might actually be the only person of color here.”

“Ha!” Helen said. “You just called him colored! I win!”

People turned to stare at Helen, but she ignored them.

“I did not say ‘colored’,” Rose said. “I said ‘person of color’. It’s a politically correct term. And we’re not winning or losing here. I just want you to stop being insensitive toward our son’s race.”

“Fine,” Helen said, throwing her hands up. “If it stops you from taking me to places like this, I’ll stop calling the dog the n-word. If you’ll excuse me, I have to take a shit before the concert starts.”

The same people turned to watch Helen make her way to the restroom. “Sorry about her,” Rose said. “She doesn’t get out of the house much.”

***

“Ready, guys?” Gregg asked.

“I’m ready,” Da’Quarius said. The crowd that had gathered was small, and it was expected to grow as people came to see Shih-Tzu Dynasty, the band they were opening for. “Let’s get dis party started.”

“Wait,” Steve said. “Did you learn all the lyrics?”

“Mo’ fucker,” Da’Quarius said, “you know I’m just makin’ it all up, right?”

“Alright,” Gregg said. “We’ll play and you sing.”

“I know da’ deal,” Da’Quarius said. He walked up to the mic and took it in both his hands. “Good night e’ryone!”

The small crowd cheered.

“I’m Da’Quarius Masters, and dis is PUSSY PHLEGM!”

The band played, and Da’Quarius started screaming. He stopped the screaming and started shouting lyrics into the mic.

“Why’d I bon ya? Yo’ pussy leakin’ like it got pneumonia!

“Now my dick smell like it’s squirtin’ ammonia!”

“Oh dear,” Rose said from the back of Froggy’s House with Helen. “Those are some raunchy lyrics.”

“I can’t understand him,” Helen said. “Did he use the n-word?”

Holy shit!” Da’Quarius continued, wailing away. “What the fuck did I do to my dick?!”

“It’s down there lookin’ pretty sick!”

“Yeah!” Tony shouted, slamming his beer bottle to the ground. “Let’s fuckin’ mosh, you little shits!”

Da’Quarius continued his singing. “It’s not getting’ any better, an’ I cain’t believe her again!

“But I’m in love with all dat pussy phlegm!”

“Alright,” Rose said. “I think it’s time to go. I’ve seen enough.”

“I can’t use slurs,” Helen said, “but it’s OK for the kid to keep spouting that filth on stage?”

“Yes,” Rose said. “No. I don’t know. Let’s just go and forget this whole day.”

“Good idea,” Helen said, walking with Rose to the exit. “This one is taking forever to friggin’ end.”

“BREAK YOURSELF!” Tony shouted, running into the small crowd. He swung his arms, hitting everyone around him. “What’s the matter?! You pansies never been in a mosh pit?!”

“Tony!” Da’Quarius shouted as the band faltered and stopped. “Cut dat shit out!”

“PUSSY PHLEGM!” Tony shouted as he pushed a girl into her friends and ran off to cause more damage.

***

“That’s a new one on me,” Gregg said as the Froggy’s House security and management came out to subdue Tony and talk to the crowd. “I’ve never been part of a show that was shut down due to some nut in the audience.”

“Dat’s Tony,” Da’Quarius said. “He got a little carried away, but he’ll be cool next time.”

“Next time?!” Steve shouted, walking from behind his drums. “There’s not going to be a next time.”

“What’s dat s’posed to mean?” Da’Quarius asked.

“It means Tony is out,” Gregg said. “We can lug our own stuff if he’s going to pull that shit. Froggy’s has a no moshing policy, and we’ll get banned if we bring him back.”

“You can’t just kick him out for dat,” Da’Quarius said. “He didn’t know dis club has pussy-ass rules like dat.”

“It’s all-ages,” Gregg said. “A grown-ass man can’t be in here pushing kids around. He’s out.”

“If he’s out, den I’m out,” Da’Quarius said.

“He’s just the roadie,” Tom said. “And he’s creepy.”

“And those stories!” Steve added.

“Fuck it,” Da’Quarius said. “You guys are a bunch of assholes anyway.”

“Daq!” Gregg called. “Snot Rocket!”

“Fuck you,” Da’Quarius said, flipping off the band as he walked to the exit. “Good luck with yo’ weak-ass shrieking, bitch.”

Gregg watched Da’Quarius leave. “Fuck off then!” he shouted. “We don’t need you! We never did! We’re Pussy Phlegm, dammit! I’m the singer! ME! Fuck the fuck off!!”

“Dude,” Steve said. “You suck.”

“Yeah,” Tom agreed. “You’re too controlling too.”

“Fuck this band,” Steve said. “I quit.”

“Me too,” Tom said. “I’m out.”

“Fuck,” Gregg said. “I’m just gonna off myself.”

“Do it,” Steve said.

“Yeah,” Tom added. “You’re all talk, no action.”

***

Helen and Rose settled in after coming home from Froggy’s House. Da’Quarius came in moments after. “You’re home early,” Rose said. “I didn’t expect you until ten.”

“I quit,” Da’Quarius said. “Those guys are a bunch of assholes.”

“I’m glad you’re home,” Rose said. “And I’m kind of glad you won’t be going out in that make-up or yelling those words again.”

“Me too,” Da’Quarius said. “I think I scared a lot of white folks with dat shit.”

“We’re getting ready for bed,” Rose said. “Why don’t you take Dutchie out and we’ll all get ready.”

“OK,” Da’Quarius said as Rose went into the kitchen. He hooked Dutchie’s leash to his collar. “Come on, Dutchie. Let’s go for a walk, lil’ nigga.”

“OH!” Helen said, standing up. “Rose! Tell me you heard that!”

“Calm down, Helen!” Rose called from the kitchen. “I’ll bring you your tea!”

Helen sat back down with her arms crossed. “I guess it’s OK when he says it. Friggin’ kid and his friggin’ dog.”

The End

***

Want the new Freedom Lane tee shirt? Get it here:

Freedom Lane tee by Budgie Bigelow

Freedom Lane – Rose the Cam Girl

Rose walked through the home of the Garcia brothers, across the street from her own Freedom Lane home. “I can’t believe I’ve never seen your whole house,” she said. “It’s lovely, despite you using it for that adult website of yours.”

“Thanks,” Antonio said. “We don’t do most of our work here. Just the cam girl stuff and sometimes a movie in the basement. Otherwise it’s pretty much like a convent.”

“OK,” Rose said. “I don’t want to be a bother, but I really have to get home before Helen starts to worry. Can I just borrow that cup of flour?”

“Sure,” Antonio said. “I think we keep it in the kitchen. I’ll run ahead and get it.”

“Thanks,” Rose said. She looked around the hall again, admiring the work they had put into the home since they’d bought it. She checked out one of the rooms, one that Antonio said was reserved for whatever a “cam girl” was. She noticed the computer on the desk was on, and text kept popping up on the screen.

“Take off your shirt?” she said, reading aloud what was on the screen. “Who are they talking to?”

“You!” the text on the screen said. “Show me your wrinkly boobs!”

“You can hear me?” Rose asked.

“Yes!!” the text read. “Get on the bed and show me your feet!”

“Oh dear,” Rose said. “Let me tell you something. You do not talk to a lady that way! I don’t know who you are or what your mothers taught you, but you do not ask to see a woman’s breasts like that. I’d call you pigs, but I’d be giving pigs a bad name. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Rethink your life choices!”

Rose left and almost ran into Antonio, who was holding a Tupperware container of flour. “There you are,” he said. “Here’s the flour.”

“Thanks,” Rose said, taking the container. “Bye-bye.” She left through the front door without looking back.

“Was that Rose?” Manny, Antonio’s brother, asked, coming out of one of the other rooms.

“Yeah,” Antonio replied. “She just left after borrowing some flour.”

“She ended up on cam just now,” Manny said. “The guys in the room are going crazy!”

“Really?” Antonio asked. “They aren’t pissed, are they?”

“No,” Manny smiled. “They loved it. They’re all messaging our bots to get Rose back in the room to tell them off again.”

Antonio walked to the window and looked at the house across the street. “Shit,” he said. “What are the chances we can get her to come work for us?”

****

Freedom Lane

Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow

Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness

Season 14, Episode 3: Rose the Cam Girl

****

“Can you believe this shit?!” Tony yelled, pacing through the main area of Paulie’s Pizza. “Community service. I didn’t do nothing!”

“Tell it to the judge,” Paulie groaned from the booth, where he was reading the morning’s paper. “I remember the story. You and the kid broke into a country club and got dragged out. I wouldn’t qualify that as doing nothing. Besides, it’s not like you’ve never done community service before.”

“I’ll need a couple days off,” Tony said.

“I’m not paying you for them,” Paulie replied.

“Come on!” Tony exclaimed. “When will I be done paying my debt to society!?”

“Stop being so over dramatic,” Paulie said. “You better not act that way when my new girlfriend gets here.”

“You got a new girlfriend?” Tony asked. “When were you gonna tell me?”

“I wait until she wants to see my place, making meeting you unavoidable,” Paulie replied.

The bells jingled as the door opened, and a woman came in. She was middle-aged, chubby, and had dark mocha-colored skin. She smiled when she saw Paulie.

“Oh,” Tony said, nodding. “This must be your mystery girl. You sure do have a type, boss.”

****

“We need to go in there with a plan,” Antonio said, standing on Rose and Helen’s porch. “We can’t just start asking Rose to come work for us. She’ll tell us to fuck off.”

“Rose doesn’t talk like that,” Manny responded.

“You know what I mean, bro,” Antonio said. “We need this. Do you have any idea how much money those perverts who are into getting shamed are willing to pay to have her lecture them again?”

“Dude,” Manny said. “I’m the one who told you, you asshole!”

The door opened, and Rose was on the other side. “Oh,” she said. “I didn’t know you two were out here. I just wanted to check the mail.”

“May we come in?” Antonio asked.

“Sure,” Rose said. “Come on in. Do you want some iced tea?”

“No thanks,” Antonio replied.

“Shut up,” Manny snapped. “Iced tea kicks ass!”

“I’ll get some,” Rose nodded. “I’ll be right back.”

“Oh look,” Helen mumbled, not looking away from the TV. “It’s the numb-nut brothers. To what do we owe the displeasure of your visit?”

“We’re here to see Rose,” Antonio said.

“Well then,” Helen said, looking away from the TV. “Maybe you shouldn’t have put her to work serving the two of you drinks then.”

“See!” Antonio said. “That’s why I said no. Of course iced tea kicks ass, but we’re here for business.”

“Do I need to be here for this nonsense?” Helen asked.

“Not really,” Antonio replied.

“Good,” Helen stood from her favorite recliner. “I’m gonna go take a shit. I hope you’re gone when I come back down.”

“Bye, Helen,” Manny waved. “See you later!”

“Kiss my ass,” Helen muttered, making her way toward the bathroom.

***

“Don’t be a stunad,” Paulie said, standing. He left the booth and met his girlfriend in the aisle. “Hi. Let me introduce you to Tony. This is Tony. Tony, this is Denise.”

“Nice to meet you,” Tony said, shaking Denise’s hand. “I’m Paulie’s business partner.”

“He is not,” Paulie said. “He likes to think he is, though.”

Denise laughed. “Paulie’s told me a lot about you, believe it or not,” she said. “He said you two have been friends for a long time.”

“I like pizza.” Tony shrugged. “This arrangement makes sense. What do you do?”

“I’m the director for Grand Soups,” Denise smiled. “We just opened a new soup kitchen on Grand Ave.”

“A soup kitchen you say,” Tony said, sitting down. “Maybe you can help me out with my little community service program.”

“Actually, Tony,” Paulie said. “We were hoping to have a little lunch.”

“That’s OK,” Tony replied. “You go ahead and make it while I talk to Denise.”

***

Rose returned a moment later, carrying a pitcher of iced tea and three glasses. “Here we go,” she said, setting it on the table. “Now what brings you two here?”

“We want you to be a cam girl,” Manny said.

“Dude!” Antonio said. “I told you to play it cool!”

“I’m always cool!” Manny said.

“What are you two talking about?” Rose asked. “I’m lost.”

“Remember when you walked into the cam room yesterday?” Antonio asked. “You started talking to some of our users, remember?”

“Right,” Rose said. “I’m sorry about that. Did I upset any of your customers?”

“Not really,” Manny said. “They loved you!”

“What?” Rose asked.

“What my brother is trying to say,” Antonio said, “is that we want you to work on cam for our site.”

“No,” Rose said, shaking her head. “I’m not doing that.”

“We’re not asking you to get naked or flash your beave,” Manny said. “The guys went crazy on you telling them off. They get off on women berating them, and there was something about you doing it that really got their rocks off.”

“That’s disgusting,” Rose said, walking to the front door. “I appreciate the offer, but I’m not interested.”

Antonio stood. “But…”

“Please go,” Rose said.

Antonio and Manny shared a defeated look and walked outside. Rose closed the door behind them. “Dammit!” Antonio snapped. “I knew we should have been more subtle.”

“Bro,” Manny said, walking back toward their house. “Subtle don’t count with hand grenades.”

Antonio followed. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean!?”

***

“Don’t you dare ruin things with Denise for me,” Paulie said, following Tony toward the kitchen.

“What?” Tony asked. “She’s only helping me get my community service hours out of the way, and you agreed to give me the time off. It’s a Wednesday anyway, and we’re slow. What’s your problem?”

“You taking the time off to work in a soup kitchen isn’t my problem,” Paulie said. “It’s you spending time with my girlfriend without me there as a buffer.”

Tony snorted. “Don’t be jealous,” he said. “I’m only feeding some bums. It’s not like it’s a date or anything.”

“Just don’t try to give her that smarmy charm of yours,” Paulie said.

“I can’t help it if I’m charming,” Tony replied. “It’s just how I am.”

“I just don’t want to have a long conversation with Denise about you being a creep at this soup kitchen,” Paulie said. “I also don’t want that conversation, should it happen, to end with her dumping me for associating with someone who’d be a creep at a soup kitchen.”

“Relax,” Tony said. “You always use long sentences when you’re in the wrong.”

“That’s not true,” Paulie said. “I’m so rarely in the wrong we’ve never established a pattern.”

“I’m just going to make soup,” Tony said, putting on his jacket. “The sooner I get these hours out of the way, the better. I promise I won’t tell too many embarrassing stories to your new soup kitchen girlfriend.”

“She’s just my girlfriend,” Paulie said. “You can leave the soup kitchen out her title.”

“Sure,” Tony said, opening the door. “I’ll tell your girlfriend you said hi when I see her at the soup kitchen.”

Paulie watched Tony leave. “My ass,” he said. “It’ll be a cold day in hell before I let you screw this up for me.”

***

Rose was getting dinner ready when the doorbell rang. “Da’Quarius!” she called. “Can you see who’s at the door?”

“Sure,” Da’Quarius yelled back, jogging to the door. He opened it, finding Manny and Antonio standing on the front porch. Manny was holding a gift basket. “Wha’chu guys want?”

“We want to talk to Rose,” Antonio replied.

“You guys don’t ever learn,” Da’Quarius said, shaking his head. “I heard wha’chu been tryin’ to do, an’ you ain’t never gettin’ her to do it.”

“What if we offered money?” Manny asked.

“Were you gonna make her do dat shit for free?!” Da’Quarius asked in return.

“We brought her a gift basket,” Manny said.

“I’ll get her,” Da’Quarius said, “but she ain’t doin’ it. Hey, Rose! It’s for you!”

Rose came out from the kitchen, wiping her hands with a dish towel. “Oh no,” she said. “Not you two again. You can just go right back to your own house!”

“See,” Manny said. “If you only did that on cam -”

“I said no already,” Rose said.

“Wait!” Antonio said. “What smells so good. Is that dinner?”

Rose sighed.

“We haven’t eaten all day,” Antonio added. “A home-cooked meal would really hit the spot.”

“Can we stay for dinner?” Manny asked, pushing out his bottom lip. “Please?”

“You just want to stay to convince me to do your stupid computer show,” Rose said, crossing her arms.

“No,” Antonio said. “We really want to have dinner with you, Daq, and Helen.”

Something dawned on Rose. “OK,” she said, smiling. “You can have dinner with us. We can even talk about your proposal.”

“Alright!” Antonio said.

“Oh, Helen!” Rose crooned, turning away from the Garcia brothers. “Guess who’s joining us for dinner?”

***

Tony walked through the soup kitchen, looking around to get familiar with his temporary surroundings. “It’s pretty standard back here,” Denise said. “We make the soup and bring it out front.”

“Cool,” Tony said. “Where’s the pizza oven?”

“What?” Denise asked.

“You want me to cook these bums up some pizza, right?” Tony replied. “It is my area of expertise after all.”

“We don’t have a pizza oven,” Denise said, trying to decide if Tony was joking or not. “We make soup, and we have plenty of people to cook today. What I really need is someone to pass out the soup and bread.”

“Oh,” Tony said. “Sure. I mean, if you don’t want to put my cooking skills to use, I guess I could put some bowls in front of some bums.”

“Please don’t call them bums,” Denise said.

“OK,” Tony said. “Do they prefer ‘money impaired’ instead?”

Denise laughed. “I love your sense of humor, but please don’t make those jokes when you’re on the floor.”

“What jokes?” Tony asked.

Before Denise could respond, Paulie came into the kitchen from the front area. “There you two are!”

“Paulie,” Denise said. “What are you doing here?”

“I was moved by Tony’s want to help out,” Paulie said, “so I decided to slap on an apron and help too.”

“I don’t want to help,” Tony said. “I just need your girlfriend to sign my paper for my community service.”

“Well it’s great that you’re here,” Denise said. “I could use another volunteer.”

“Great.” Paulie rubbed his hands together. “Where do you want me to set up?”

“Don’t bother,” Tony said. “These dummies don’t even have a pizza oven.”

“What?” Paulie asked. “Why would they? I can make a decent soup.”

“I’ve never seen you make soup before,” Tony said. “It’s not like liquid pizza or something.”

“Shaddup!” Paulie snapped. “I know more than pizza, you stunad!”

“I actually need volunteers on the floor today,” Denise said. “Can you grab a ladle and help Tony pass out the soup?”

“Yeah,” Paulie said. “If you don’t want me to use my culinary expertise I can.”

Denise gave Paulie a polite laugh. “OK,” she said. “Get an apron on, and I’ll show you two your station for the night. Hurry up. The dinner rush is about to start.”

“Hey,” Tony said, following Denise. “I get credit for Paulie’s time worked too, right? He doesn’t really need to be here.”

Paulie sighed and followed.

***

The platters were passed around as Rose, Helen, Da’Quarius, Manny, and Antonio all made their plates. “There’s not enough food,” Helen said. “Why’d you invite these two guacamole brains to dinner?”

“It would have been rude not to,” Rose said, scooping some mashed potatoes onto her plate.

“Uh-huh,” Da’Quarius muttered, pulling his plate in front of him and picking up his fork. “Cuz dere can’t be any other reason.”

“What did he say?” Helen asked.

“Nothing,” Rose replied. “So, tell me, boys, what was it you wanted me to do for you?”

“Dere it is,” Da’Quarius said.

“We want you to be a cam girl,” Manny said through a mouthful of food. “You already know that.”

“Oh right,” Rose said, feigning forgetfulness. “What does this job entail exactly?”

“It’s simple,” Antonio replied. “You get in one of our cam rooms, get on cam, and scold the perverts when they start asking you to do sex stuff.”

“What?” Helen said. “What the hell are you babbling on about? Rose isn’t going to talk to any perverts for you. Deal with your own shit.”

“No,” Rose said, putting a hand on Helen’s. “They want to make the perverts say these things to me.”

Helen put her fork down and looked at the Garcia brothers. “Does she have that right?”

“Yeah,” Manny said, smiling widely. “The users come in through our site and will interact with her.”

Helen took a breath. “And you think my woman would do something like that?”

Da’Quarius had a look of glee on his face as he looked from Helen to the Garcia brothers.

“We were hoping she would,” Antonio answered.

“And why,” Helen said, pushing off the table and getting to her feet, “do you think my Rose would do something as degrading and disgusting as what you’re suggesting?”

“Because we’d pay her for it,” Manny said.

The look on Helen’s face softened. “Oh,” she said, sitting down. “Hell. If Rose won’t do it, I will.” She picked some chicken up with her fork and popped it in her mouth.

Antonio and Manny looked at each other, smiles forming on both of their faces. “Helen,” they said together.

Rose groaned, shaking her head as she looked downward.

“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “I was hopin’ she’d at least throw a plate at’chu guys.”

***

“Soup’s up!” Tony said, placing the bowls onto the trays of the homeless people in line. “There’s no need for shoving! We got soup for days!”

“Calm down,” Paulie said. “These people are destitute. They don’t need your commentary.”

“I love the enthusiasm,” Denise said, coming from the kitchen with a bag of bread. “Keep it up, Tony!”

“Thanks!” Tony said, taking another bowl from Paulie.

“How are you doing?” Denise asked Paulie.

“I’m good,” Paulie replied. “Though my shoulder is getting sore from ladling all this soup. There’s no way all these people are homeless. I’m guessing some of them just want a free meal.” He earned himself a few dirty looks from those in line.

“Here,’ Denise said, moving Paulie with her hands on her shoulders. “Let’s switch you and Tony for a little bit. You ready for the big leagues, Tony?”

“You know it!” Tony exclaimed. “I was born to pour soup!”

Denise giggled. “Good,” she said. “I’ll check back on you two in a bit.”

Paulie grumbled, handing out bowls of soup. “Thanks for the free meal, mack,” one of the homeless men said, taking a bowl from Paulie while giving him a stink-eye that reminded him of his sister.

“Come and get it!” Tony exclaimed, giving the bowl a long pour from his ladle.

“Cut that out!” Paulie snapped. “Do you have to be such a goofball?!”

“What’s your problem?” Tony asked, handing Paulie the bowl of soup. “How can you be such a grump when you’re feeding the hungry?”

“I just don’t want you acting like some kind of gagootz,” Paulie said. “Is that so hard to believe?”

“You’re not my boss at the soup kitchen,” Tony said.

“The hell I’m not!” Paulie said, taking another bowl and dropping it onto a tray, letting the soup fall from its rim. “This is why I went into management.” He gave another bowl of soup with a similar result.

“Watch it!” the homeless man said, stepping back as Paulie almost dropped the soup on him. “Asshole.”

Paulie sighed. “This stinks,” he said, turning toward Tony. “Move your ass. I’m ladling again.”

“No way,” Tony said. “I thought your arm hurt or something.”

“I’m over it,” Paulie said. “Give me the ladle.”

“No,” Tony said. “This is my job now, and I like it.”

“Stop being an asshole and give me the goddam ladle!” Paulie exclaimed.

“Hey!” a homeless man shouted. “I want my soup!”

“You’ll get your soup when I’m good and ready to ladle it into the damn bowl, you friggin’ bum!” Paulie exclaimed.

“Paulie!” Denise said, watching from the kitchen door with her arms crossed. “What the hell are you doing?!”

Paulie looked from her to Tony, who was shaking his head at him. He sighed. He walked toward the kitchen taking off his apron. “Can I see you tomorrow night?” he asked, handing it Denise.

“Don’t count on it,” Denise said.

“Alright,” Paulie said. “Have fun, Tony!”

“Sure thing, boss,” Tony said. “Well, since I have to do both jobs now…” He picked up the huge pot of soup and waddled it over to the counter Paulie had manned for less than a few minutes.

“Tony, no!” Denise shouted.

Tony lost his footing, dropping the pot of soup, sending into the chests of three people waiting in line. They started shouting. “Oops,” he said. “Occupational hazard, I guess.”

“Get out!” Denise shouted, pointing toward the door.

“Wait,” Tony said, reaching in his pocket. “I need you to sign this paper. I already wrote I was here for thirty hours if that’s OK. I hope you dumping Paulie doesn’t mean you can’t hook me up, right?”

Denise stared at Tony with her arms cross. “Just get the fuck out of here.”

“OK,” Tony said. “You can sign it after my shift tomorrow then.”

***

Helen sat in front of the computer in the Garcia brother’s house. “OK,” she said. “How’s this work?”

“We told you!” Antonio said from outside of the room. “People will start saying things, and you respond.”

“OK,” Helen said. She waited a moment and picked up the mouse, holding it to her ear. “Hello? Is anyone there?”

“They’re messages on the computer screen!” Manny shouted.

Helen squinted at the screen. “Hell,” she said. “I can’t read all that. It keeps moving!”

“Just say something!” Antonio shouted.

Helen stared at the screen. “This is boring,” she said. She lifted her leg and farted, filling the silent room with the sound. “Ha! You guys here that?! Crack a window for me.”

Antonio rushed in the room and shut off the computer. “Holy shit!” he yelled, pulling his shirt over his nose. “That fuckin’ reeks!”

“I didn’t tell you to come in here!” Helen said. “What are you doing?”

“We’re done,” Antonio replied. “Chat’s over. Everyone left.”

“All in a day’s work,” Helen said, grabbing her cane and standing. “When do I get paid?”

The End

***

Edited by Katherine J Marshall

***

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Freedom Lane – Tony and the Country Club

It was Friday night, and Tony was spending it walking through Star-Mart, wearing his white tee-shirt and torn jeans, filling his basket with soap and shampoo. He turned down the aisle to make his way to check out when someone called his name. “Tony!”

“Who wants to know?” Tony asked, turning around. He saw someone he didn’t recognize. “Shit. Don’t tell me I nailed your wife or something.”

“What?” the man asked. “It’s me, Ira. Ira Friedman!”

“Holy shit!” Tony said. “I used to mess with you so bad when we were in school. What are you up to? You still pissing your pants at recess?”

“I’m fifty-five,” Ira replied.

“That’s not a ‘no’,” Tony said.

“I’m a lawyer now,” Ira said. “What are you up to?”

“I work at my buddy’s pizzeria,” Tony replied. “It’s pretty popular. You may have heard of it; Paulie’s Pizza. It’s down on State Street.”

“Sorry,” Ira said. “I haven’t.”

“Too bad,” Tony said, shrugging. “I guess we can’t all do what we love.”

“I need to run,” Ira said. “It was nice catching up with you.”

“Where’s the fire?” Tony asked.

“I’m on the board of my country club,” Ira said.

“Oh yeah?” Tony asked. “Which one?”

“I’m at McKinley Greens in Woodbridge,” Ira said. “I didn’t know you frequented country clubs.”

“I don’t,” Tony said. “I know that one. I always wanted to go inside. How about you set me up and give me the grand tour someday?”

“You?” Ira laughed. “You used to put ketchup in my hair at lunch, and you think I’d bring you, a pizza man, into my country club as a guest?”

“Jeez,” Tony said, rolling his eyes. “You were mister polite a minute ago.”

“I’m sorry,” Ira said, turning away. “They can’t just let anyone in McKinley Greens. A pizza man, too! Oh, wait until I tell the others!”

Tony watched as Ira walked off. “You friggin’ mook,” he said. “I’m gonna get into that snotty club of yours. Watch and see if I don’t.”

****

Freedom Lane

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

Season 14, Episode 2: Tony and the Country Club

****

“So you bullied dis guy when he was a kid,” Da’Quarius said after hearing Tony’s tale of his shopping trip at Star-Mart the night before. “An’ now you wanna break into his country club just to prove you can get inside?”

“I wasn’t a bully,” Tony said. “Everyone messed with him. He was a little snot then, and he’s a big snot now.”

“So you bullied him,” Da’Quarius said.

“I wasn’t a bully!” Tony shouted, slamming a fist on the counter.

“Oh!’ Paulie said, exiting the bathroom, the paper tucked under his arm. “Cut the friggin’ shouting and slamming out before I bully you both!”

“Can you tell Tony he was a bully?” Da’Quarius asked. “He don’t believe me.”

“Who’d you ever bully?” Paulie asked. “You were a little squirt until you hit puberty in your twenties. You probably had your head dunked in the toilet every day when you were in school.”

“You didn’t know me!” Tony shouted. “I ran with a tough crowd. We were dunking kids in the toilets and dropping girls’ pants in the hallways.”

“OK,” Da’Quarius muttered. “You was both bullies, den.”

“Who were you talking about anyway?” Paulie asked.

“Ira Friedman,” Tony replied.

“Da’ lawyer from da’ TV?” Da’Quarius asked.

“What?” Tony asked. “Is he famous or something?”

“He’s always on TV,” Da’Quarius said. “He’s all like ‘I’ll sue for you!’ an’ shit.”

“He’s that sue-happy shyster?!” Paulie asked. “You keep away from that guy. He’ll sue anyone for anything. Don’t you bring any lawsuit onto my doorstep!”

“I can’t stay away,” Tony said. “I vowed vengeance, and I swear I’ll get into that country club!”

“Fine,” Paulie said. “Just don’t come crying to me when he takes you for everything you got.”

“Joke’s on him, then,” Tony said. “I got next to squat to my name.”

“You can get in dat place easily,” Da’Quarius said.

“I’m out,” Paulie said, walking toward his office. “I want nothing to do with this.” He went inside and closed the door.

“Go on, kid,” Tony said.

“Step one,” Da’Quarius said. “Make a pizza.”

***

The doorbell rang, and Helen opened her eyes, waking from the pleasant nap she had been taking in her favorite chair. “Who the hell is that?!” she snapped. Rose put her book down and got up, walking toward the door.

“Hello?” she asked, opening it. “Harold. What are you doing -”

Harold Fuchs shoved past Rose, making a beeline for Helen. “Don’t start any trouble with me,” he said in his usual nasally voice.

Helen sighed and stood. “You came into my house, numb-dick,” she said. “You’ve already got it unless you want to tell me why you’d risk death for trespassing.”

“I need your help,” Harold said, looking away. “I wish I didn’t, but Lee is too weak-willed to do what needs to be done.”

“I heard that,” Lee lisped, following his husband. “Hi, Rose. Sorry for Harold. He got out of the car and barged in before I could stop him.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Rose said. “Helen is pretty much the same. Do you want some tea while these two… talk?”

“Sure,” Lee said. “That will be lovely.”

“Go have your tea party,” Harold said, waving a hand.

“Did Lee bring his own doilies?” Helen asked.

“Let’s just get down to it,” Harold said. “We need to take down the mayor.”

Helen laughed, almost cackling. “The friggin’ mayor?!” she exclaimed. “You really do have a nut loose, don’t you?”

“Hear me out, you witch,” Harold said. “He’s planning on proposing major construction in our neighborhood, and he’s naming a new street off of State after Sandra Springer.”

Helen stopped laughing. “Do not use that name in my home.”

“That’s going to be the street’s name,” Harold said. “Sandra Springer Way. It’s right near your brother’s place, too.”

“Shit,” Helen said, sitting back down. “Looks like we’re going to have to kill the mayor.”

***

“I got a pizza,” Tony walked out of the kitchen area carrying a box. “Now what?”

“Just bring it to da’ club an’ tell ‘em you deliverin’ it,” Da’Quarius replied. “You couldn’t figure dat part out?”

“It’s genius,” Tony said. “Hey, boss!”

“What?” Paulie asked, coming out of his office.

“I’m making a delivery,” Tony replied. “Cover for me for a few.”

“The hell you’re making a delivery!” Paulie shouted. “Who the hell told you to start taking delivery orders in the middle of the friggin’ day?!”

Tony looked over at Da’Quarius. “Don’t look at me!” he shouted. “You a grown-ass man. You make your own damn decisions.”

Paulie sighed. “You’re both going now!” he said. “I won’t have customers complaining I didn’t make good on a delivery because my employee has half a brain. Just do it and get back here, OK?”

“Sure, boss,” Tony said. “If you insist.”

“And don’t make an executive decision like that again!” Paulie shouted as Tony and Da’Quarius left.

“That was slick,” Tony said. “He insisted we go to the country club and everything!”

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said, rolling his eyes. “But he’s gonna be pissed when it takes you over an hour to make one delivery.”

“An hour?” Tony asked. “Once I get in that country club, I ain’t leaving!”

***

“I didn’t say we were going to kill the mayor!” Harold shouted. “We just need to discredit him enough to end this nonsense about the new street!”

Helen thought. “Yeah,” she said. “I hate to admit it, but you’re probably right about the assassination. You don’t have any ideas on how to go about this?”

“That’s why I’m here,” Harold said. “You’re the con, and you’re good at these things. I’m just a citizen.”

“No,” Helen said. “You’re just a sneaky conman who never got caught. I remember that little business of yours, and I know why you’re pissed about Sandra Springer.”

“Sandra Springer?” Rose asked, coming out of the kitchen, carrying a cup of tea. “You mean the female police officer who took down the organized crime ring? She was kind of a hero of mine when I was a police dispatcher.”

“She also ended Harold’s shady business,” Helen said, not taking her eyes off of her adversary. “She also put a huge chunk of my friends and relatives into the slammer, too, even before the feds started picking them off. Luckily for Harold, he got away. How did that happen again?”

“Always have a scapegoat,” Harold said. “That’s how you stay out of prison. But you didn’t know that, did you, Helen?”

“We are not doing anything illegal,” Lee said, coming out of the kitchen with his own cup of tea.

“And nobody is going to become the scapegoat for anything,” Rose added.

“You three are really tying my hands here,” Helen said. “But I have an idea. What’s the one thing no politician can come back from?”

“Being gay?” Harold asked.

“Bingo,” Helen replied. “We just have to make everyone think the mayor is gay.”

“Oh, lord,” Rose said. “Do I have to remind you two that you are both gay, or should I not even bother?”

“Quiet, honey,” Helen said, waving a hand. “I think I have a plan. Get in the car. We need to find us some twinks.”

Harold smiled. “I can do that.”

***

“Act cool,” Tony said, walking up to the main door of the country club.

“Mo’ fucker,” Da’Quarius said, “I’m always cool. You da’ one who’s always causin’ shit.”

“Quiet,” Tony said. He walked through the front doors with no problem, carrying the pizza in front of himself. He looked around the place. “This was easier than I thought. I could have just shown up and came in.”

“Just cuz da’ door was unlocked don’t mean we ain’t trespassin’,” Da’Quarius said. “Here come da’ golf cops now. Dey sensed my blackness.”

“Excuse me,” one of the security guards asked, a muscular guy in his early forties. “Can I help you?”

“Yeah,” Tony said. “I gotta pizza here for McKinley Greens. Am I in the right place?”

“Someone ordered a pizza?” the security guard asked. “We have a full kitchen staff. Who ordered it?”

Tony was silent for a moment. “They didn’t say,” he said. “So I’ll just wander around until I find them.”

“Why don’t you come with us?” the other security guard asked, who looked more or less the same as his counterpart.

“I’m really OK, boys,” Tony said. “Tell ‘em, kid.”

“Dude,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m too black to be messin’ ‘round here. I shoulda stayed in da’ car.”

“You told me you were cool!” Tony snapped.

“Come with us,” the security guard said.

“RUN!” Tony shouted, throwing the pizza box at the two guards, the pizza flying out and landing all over them and the floor. Tony ran past them, and Da’Quarius followed.

“Yo!” Da’Quarius said, racing after Tony. “Da’ Exit’s da’ other way!”

“I told you I’m not leaving that easily,” Tony grunted as he ran. “I’m gonna experience all this place has to offer.”

“You better be a ninja or some shit,” Da’Quarius said. “Cuz we gonna get kicked out or worse if you ain’t.”

***

Helen walked into the LGBT center along with Harold, followed by Rose and Lee. “Welcome,” she said, “to twink paradise”.

“These are kids,” Rose said, scolding Helen.

“Even better,” Helen said, stopping and looking around. “The mayor will be in more hot water when we photograph him hanging around with a bunch of teenage twinks.”

“How do you know about this place?” Lee asked.

“It’s not a secret that we have an LGBT center,” Rose said. “Helen came here for a weekend for community service. It didn’t really end well.”

“Enough with the history lesson,” Helen said. “Come on, Harold. Let’s find us some twinks.”

“I don’t think this is going to end well either,” Lee said with a sigh.

Helen and Harold walked around, sizing up everyone they passed. “How’s this one?” Harold asked, nodding to a boy sitting on a couch. He had noticed Harold watching him, and he looked uncomfortable with the attention.

“Too skittish,” Helen said. “He’d run off like a rabbit before he could be any good to us. How’s this one by the table?”

“The colored one?” Harold asked.

“Harold!” Lee shouted. “You can’t say that!”

“I can’t say the other word either, according to you,” Harold muttered.

“Can I help you?” someone asked, approaching. She was older than the others and had the air of authority about her.

“We’re just visiting,” Helen said, waving a hand. “Carry on.”

“You can’t just come in here unless you have a reason to be here,” the woman said. “Unless you have a reason you’re going to have to leave.”

“We’re shopping for twinks,” Harold said. “So leave us be.”

“You’re a moron,” Helen groaned. “Figured a practiced fruit like you would know a thing or two about picking up teenage boys.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?!” Harold snapped.

“Take it at face value,” Helen retorted.

“I’m calling the police,” the woman said, taking her cellphone out of her pocket.

“We should go,” Rose said, tugging at Helen’s arm. “You don’t need another strike.”

“Hell no I don’t,” Helen said, letting Rose lead her to the door. “You coming, Harold?”

“No!” Harold shouted, stomping his foot. Lee was trying to tug him away, but he refused to move. “I came here for some twinks, and I’m not leaving without twinks!”

“It’s your funeral,” Helen said. “Come on, Rose. Let’s leave these two to their perversions and get home.”

“We can’t just leave them here,” Rose said. “I drove them.”

Helen sighed. “Alright. Let’s go help Lee lay on the senile old homo bit to save Harold from the police.”

***

Tony placed a golf ball on a tee. “This is gonna be sweet,” he said.

“Hurry up and hit it already,” Da’Quarius said. “It’s cold as fuck out here.”

“Golf is a game of patience,” Tony said. “It takes concentration and quiet.”

“How da’ fuck do you know?” Da’Quarius asked. “You don’t even play golf.”

“I do today,” Tony said. He picked up the single club he had taken from a closet inside the country club after he lost security. He swung, hitting the ball as hard as he could. It went flying through the air, toward the green. “Now that’s a hit!”

“OK,” Da’Quarius said. “Now you gonna get a cart and go after it?”

“No way,” Tony said. “I just want to hit the balls. I don’t want to go chasing after them like some kind of demented asshole.”

“I told you you don’t know shit about golf,” Da’Quarius said.

“I’m going to hit another one,” Tony said, reaching in his pocket for another tee and ball.

“Fuck dat,” Da’Quarius said. “Umma do one. Gimme da’ club.”

“You had your chance!” Tony said. “You should have thought to take a pocket of balls and tees and a club. Now you’re gonna sit there and whine because I’m having so much fun and you’re not.”

“Let me hit one ball,” Da’Quarius said. “You dragged me all da’ way da’ hell out here. Least you can do is share yo’ club.”

“Fine,” Tony said. “Here’s the club, you baby.”

Da’Quarius snatched the club from Tony and stood in front of the tee. He took little time to measure his shot and whacked the ball. It flew in the same direction as Tony’s landing on the other side of it, rolling toward the green. “Fuck yeah!” he exclaimed. “I got farther than you, bitch!”

“I’ll show you,” Tony said, taking another ball and tee out of his pocket. He was about to place it on the ground when he was interrupted.

“Hey!” The security guard shouted from the deck of the country club. “I found them!”

“Oh shit,” Tony said, dropping his ball and tee and running. Da’Quarius did the same, dropping the club.

“You ready to head home now?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Fuck no,” Tony said. “I want to try the food here, then we can go.”

“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “We gonna spend da’ night in jail.”

***

“I am never teaming up with you again!” Harold said, being led to a chair near the entrance of the police station. “I can’t believe that went so badly.”

“Who taught you how to lie?” Helen asked, being led to a chair next to Harold’s. “You don’t go in there telling them exactly why you’re there. That was your fault, and you got me dragged in here with you.”

“Bah!” Harold said, waving a hand. “I’m not done. I’m getting this street taken down before it even goes up.”

“Well good luck with that,” Helen said. “I’m out. I’ve had enough of your shit. Officer, I’m ready to talk.”

“Right this way,” the officer said, leading Helen off into an office.

“Where did Helen go?” Rose said, coming into the area with Lee.

“She’s gone,” Harold said. “Hopefully they’re delousing her before they chuck her ass in a cell.”

“Harold!” Lee snapped. “This is as much your fault as it was hers.”

“She’s the one who brought us there to gather some twinks!”

“Doesn’t matter,” Rose said. “We talked them into letting the two of you go. Once Helen’s out we can leave.”

“LET ME GO!” Tony shouted, being dragged in by two police officers. “I wasn’t trespassing, dammit! The door was unlocked!”

“Tony?” Rose asked.

“Rose!” Tony exclaimed. “Call Paulie. Tell him he needs to come down here and explain to them I was just delivering a pizza! He needs to bail me out.”

“Hey, Rose,” Da’Quarius said, walking in. “What are you doin’ here?”

“I was about to ask you the same thing,” Rose said, looking down at Da’Quarius with her hands on her hips.

“I helped Tony on his delivery,” Da’Quarius said. “Only he decided to walk around, an’ security grabbed him while he was cooking himself a steak in da’ kitchen.”

“And you had nothing to do with it?” Rose asked.

“I’m just an innocent minor,” Da’Quarius said. “I told them I had no idea Tony was gonna act like an asshole, an’ I tried to stop him.”

“Don’t say anything else, kid!” Tony shouted.

“What’s with all the shouting?” Helen said, coming from the officer’s office. “Da’Quarius? What did you do?!”

“You da’ one in da’ office, biddy,” Da’Quarius replied. “What you do?”

“Never you mind,” Helen said. “Come on, Rose. Let’s head home.”

“What about Lee and Harold?” Rose asked.

“They might be here a while,” Helen said. She walked toward the exit with Rose and Da’Quarius as an officer came out to see Harold.

“Mister Fuchs,” the officer said. “Do you mind telling me about the porno you’re filming with the kids from the teen center?”

“Always have a scapegoat,” Helen muttered as she left. “I told that wrinkly fruit that the moment he asked for my help.”

“Oh, Helen,” Rose said.

“Maybe you should’ve told Tony dat too,” Da’Quarius said.

“I know my rights!” Tony shouted. “You call Ira Friedman and tell him I got a good lawsuit for him to file!”

The End

****

Edited by Katherine J Marshall

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

****

Read more

Freedom Lane – Helen VS Kim Redding

“Out of my way!” Helen shouted, shoving Da’Quarius as she came into the living room from the kitchen.

“Watch it, biddy!’ Da’Quarius snapped. “What the hell is yo’ problem?”

“The five o’clock news is coming on!” Helen shouted, settling into her recliner.

“You watch da’ news all damn day,” Da’Quarius said. “What makes da’ shit dat goes on at five so special?”

“Helen has a crush on the new anchor,” Rose said, coming from the kitchen. “Her name’s Kim Redding, and she’s had her eye on her.”

“I have not,” Helen said. “Hot damn, here she comes!”

Da’Quarius sat on the couch and watched the opening credits for the news, showing the various anchors and crew members. Finally, the announcer introduced Kim Redding, a tall brunet in a red power dress. “Gotdamn!” he exclaimed. “I don’t blame you, Helen.”

“Back off,” Helen muttered. “She’s mine.”

Rose sighed. “Sure,” she said. “You used to be in love with the weather girl on channel four until she married the sports guy. After that you were threatening to send her dead squirrels in the mail.”

“This is different,” Helen said, looking at the TV. “Kim Redding is a goddess, a pure entity in a world of blackness. She even lives in the East Rock neighborhood, like us! I will never, ever say anything negative about that woman for as long as I live.”

Rose cleared her throat.

“She’s nothing compared to you, though, dear,” Helen said.

Rose laughed. “It’s OK,” she said. “I know it’s just a little infatuation.”

“Quiet,” Da’Quarius said. “I wanna watch her describe da’ active shooter in Vermont!”

“My lord,” Helen said. “She is a thing of beauty.”

****

Freedom Lane

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

Season 13 Finale: Helen VS Kim Redding

*****

Da’Quarius came inside from walking his dog, carrying a pile of mail in his left hand. “Mail’s here!” he called. “Nuttin’ for me as usual.”

“Be grateful,” Helen said. “All we get is bills and junk.”

“Yesterday you got a postcard form yo’ cousin,” Da’Quarius said.

“I already said ‘junk,’ ” Helen said. “Leave it for Rose. She always goes through the mail.”

“OK,” Da’Quarius said, depositing the pile onto the coffee table. “Umma go take a shit real quick.”

“Thanks for the announcement,” Helen muttered. The moment Da’Quarius was gone, she noticed Dutchie, his brown pitbull terrier, move to the table and snatch an envelope. “Oh no you don’t!” She got out of her seat and walked toward the dog, grabbing a magazine off the table and rolling it up. She held it like a club. “Drop it, mongrel!”

Dutchie moved away, envelope in his mouth.

“What I say?!” Helen shouted, throwing the magazine at him. She missed, but it caused Dutchie to drop the envelope. He ran upstairs for the solace of his master.

“Friggin’ mutt,” Helen muttered. She grunted as she bent down to pick up the envelope. “This thing is covered in slobber now.” Not wanting the drool to ruin whatever was inside, she opened the enveloped, and she was surprised to see a check inside. She pulled her glasses on from the chain around her neck so she could read the details. “Nixon’s ghost!”

“What do you have there?” Rose asked, coming in from the kitchen. “Oh, did the mail come?”

“The city of New Haven sent us a check,” Helen said. “It’s from the child welfare department.”

“Give me that,” Rose said, reaching out. “I’ll take care of it.”

Helen moved the check so Rose couldn’t snatch it. “How long have we been getting these?” she asked.

“Just give it to me, please,” Rose said.

“They’re paying us to keep the kid, aren’t they?” Helen asked. “Why haven’t you told me?”

“The money is supposed to go toward feeing and clothing Da’Quarius,” Rose said. “I didn’t want it spent on nonsense.”

“This changes everything,” Helen said, looking at the check.

“No, it doesn’t,” Rose said. “The money does go towards what Da’Quarius needs. We aren’t taking the money, we aren’t gambling with it, and we aren’t investing it in some weird scheme. It’s going right into our checking account, so we can continue to feed and clothe our son.”

“I’m not taking the money away from the kid,” Helen said. “I’m getting more of it.”

Rose crossed her arms across her chest. “Now how do you plan on… No.”

“Yes,” Helen said, a smile creeping onto her face. “I’m adopting another kid.”

***

“Are you sure you don’t mind helping?” Antonio Garcia asked as Da’Quarius helped him bring some recording equipment into their house, which was across the street. “It’s been tough with us running GarciaTube and the bodega at the same time. We still haven’t gotten a staff hired.”

“I don’t mind,” Da’Quarius said. “Rose an’ Helen are arguin’ ‘bout somethin’, an’ I didn’t wanna be around for it. Besides, you guys are always hookin’ me up with shit anyway.”

“Manny got some new bootleg X-Box games at the bodega,” Antonio said. “You can borrow a few for the help.”

“Cool,” Da’Quarius said. “Where’s this shit goin’ anyway?”

“Bring it right to the basement,” Antonio said. “We’re shooting a lesbo porn tonight, and we need to have the room looking like a psychiatrist’s office.”

“You guys do some freaky shit,” Da’Quarius said.

“Hi, Daq,” a voice said from the sidewalk. Da’Quarius turned to see his friend, Esmerelda Perez de la Hoya, standing there. “I came to see what d’jou were up to today.”

“I’m just helping Antonio real quick,” Da’Quarius said. “You wanna help too? I’m gonna get some X-Box games to play when I’m done.”

“I guess,” Esmerelda replied. “What are we doing?”

“Just grab something and follow me to the basement,” Da’Quarius said. “We’ll get dis done quick and hang out.”

“Cool,” Esmerelda said, grabbing a cardboard box from the back of Antonio’s car and following Da’Quarius and Antonio, who each had a side of a leather chair that looked like it was actually from a generic psychiatrist’s office. They made their way into the basement through the cellar door in the back of the house.

“Help me get this to the wall,” Antonio said. “Just put the box anywhere for now.”

Esmerelda looked around. She saw a table and walked toward it, but she tripped on a wire, spilling the contents of the box. Condoms, lube, and dildos spilled out onto the floor. “Mardre di dios!” she exclaimed. “What is all this stuff for?”

“You don’t know what da’ Garcia brothers do over here?” Da’Quarius asked, setting down the chair. He walked over the Esmerelda and picked up the contents of the dropped box. “Dey own a porn site.”

“And they make the movies in the basement?” Esmerelda asked.

“Sometimes,” Antonio said. “But don’t tell anyone, OK?”

“You help them?” Esmerelda asked.

“Sometimes,” Da’Quarius replied. “Don’t tell anyone.”

Esmerelda looked around like she didn’t want to be in the house anymore. “I’m going to go,” she said.

“You can go too,” Antonio said. “Thanks for the help.”

“No problem,” Da’Quarius said. “Text Manny and tell him I’m on my way. Yo, Ez! Wanna go down to da’ bodega with me?!”

***

“This is insane,” Rose said, following Helen as she went through drawers looking for various paperwork that would aid her in adopting another child. “We are not adopting again. We were lucky to get Da’Quarius, and that took over twenty-five years for them to give him to us, remember?”

“Bah!” Helen said. “We’ll go down first thing on Monday and pick up a new one. I’m sure Da’Quarius will get along fine with his new brother or sister. He can even teach it a thing or two.”

“We aren’t talking about dogs,” Rose said. “There are human children, and you should treat them as such.”

“I know we’re not talking about dogs,” Helen said. “The city pound doesn’t pay you to keep stray mutts in your house, do they?”

Rose sighed. “No, they don’t,” she said. “But that’s not the point. Raising a child is a big deal, not something you can just decide to do on a whim.”

“I remember this speech,” Helen said. “Didn’t I say the exact same thing when you went and adopted the kid?”

“No, you didn’t,” Rose said. “You said a lot of racist things and tried to call the police on him numerous times.”

“I guess you and I remember it differently,” Helen said. “Where’s that woman’s number, that woman who gave us the kid, Jolly something, right? Remember her? She’s fat, black, nappy, and chubby.”

“That’s a terrible description,” Rose replied, “and I’m not giving you her name.”

“Why not?” Helen asked. “We both know she’s as crooked as a brit’s teeth. If anyone can get us a kid, it’s her.”

“We don’t need the money badly enough to get another kid,” Rose said. “This is lunacy.”

“Hot damn,” Helen said, finding an address book in a drawer and pulling a business card out. “Jolene Jolie, City of New Haven, Child Welfare Division. I guess I’ll call and see if she’s been fired yet.”

“This is a bad idea,” Rose said as Helen walked toward the kitchen phone.

***

Da’Quarius skimmed through the X-Box games near the counter of Daq’s Bodega with Esmerelda by his side, looking over his shoulder. “You guys need some newer games,” he said.

“Just take what you want,” Manny said from the counter. “You want some snacks too?”

“Sure,” Da’Quarius said.

“Good,” Manny said. “They’re not comped too, you know.”

“Mo’ fucker,” Da’Quarius muttered. “I think I’m gonna take da’ new Madden if I can find it. You wanna come by and play?”

“Da’Quarius,” Esmerelda said. “Something has been bothering me.”

“What’s dat?” Da’Quarius asked.

“The Garcia brothers,” Esmerelda said. “They make porno.”

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “So?”

“And you help them,” Esmerelda said.

“No,” Da’Quarius said. “Well, yeah, sometimes. It’s not like I’m in da’ movies or on set. OK, one time I held da’ boom mic, but dey made me wear a blindfold.”

“But they named this bodega after d’jou,” Esmerelda said. “D’jou have to be doing a lot more for them than just helping them move some furniture.”

“Wait a second,” Da’Quarius said. “Did you not know da’ Garcia brothers run a porn site? Remember da’ time we built a snowman just to have dem hire a guy to fuck it for their site?”

“I thought it was just a prank for a meme,” Esmerelda replied. “I just want to make sure d’jou’re not getting into anything too major with them.”

“It’s not a big deal,” Da’Quarius said. He pulled a game from the bin. “Umma get this one. Come one, Ez, let’s get some gaming snacks and go.”

Da’Quarius went to the aisle with the snacks, leaving Esmerelda, who stayed where she was, thinking.

***

“This is ridiculous,” Rose said, walking with Helen through the New Haven Department of Child Welfare offices on Monday morning. “I can’t believe you talked me into this.”

“Believe it, sister,” Helen said. “Now where’s this Jolie broad?”

“Helen?” Jolene Jolie said, stepping out of her office. “I got your message. You didn’t have to come down here.”

“I think I did,” Helen said, walking past her and into her small office. “Step into my office.”

“It’s my office,” Jolene said, following Helen in with Rose.

“Look,” Helen said, standing in front of the desk by the window. “We need a kid, and we need it fast.”

“I can’t do that,” Jolene said.

“You gave us Da’Quarius through nefarious means,” Helen said. “So you can give us another black kid through the same means.”

Jolene looked to Rose who simply shrugged.

“Who’s available to go home today?” Helen asked. “I’d like another bald one like Da’Quarius. It will save us on shampoo.”

“I don’t think you want to open this can of worms,” Jolene said. “Getting you Da’Quarius and keeping him in your care was me pulling a lot of strings I shouldn’t have tugged on. Giving you a second kid is using those strings to swing like Tarzan over all the higher ups in my department.”

“Say it plainly or keep your donut hole shut,” Helen said.

Jolene signed. “Getting you a second child will bring heat on all of us,” she said. “I don’t want to lose my job, and you don’t want to lose Da’Quarius. I think we need to drop this issue and drop it now.”

“I came all the way down here for nothing then?” Helen asked.

“I never told you to come here,” Jolene said.

“And I told you not to,” Rose added.

Helen grunted. “I guess I’m getting teamed up on today,” she said. “I should just leave before you-”

“Thank you again, Miss Jolie,” a woman said, peeking into the office, a young black child by her side. Helen recognized her right away.

“Well toss my salad,” Helen said. “You’re Kim Redding, from the news.”

“Yes,” Kim Redding said. “I am.”

“What are you doing here?” Helen asked. “Are you doing a story about crooked employees who work for the city of New Haven?”

Jolene cleared her throat.

“No,” Kim replied. “I’ve adopted a child. This is DeAndre, my new son.”

“You adopted a…” Helen said, looking from Kim to DeAndre. “This is how it is, huh? A celebrity is allowed to adopt, and I, a common peasant, cannot? This is an outrage!”

“Oh Hell,” Rose said, looking down and shaking her head.

***

Esmerelda sat at her kitchen table. She had her notebook and algebra book in front of her, but she wasn’t concentrating. Lee, one of her adoptive fathers, came in. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Is that math?”

“Yeah,” Esmerelda said, realizing there was homework in front of her after all.

“I didn’t learn math well,” Lee said, looking over Esmerelda’s shoulder. “Good thing I’m pretty.”

“OK,” Esmerelda said, tapping the paper with the eraser on her pencil.

“Is something wrong, dear?” Lee asked.

“It’s nothing,” Esmerelda replied.

“Come on,” Lee said. “I wasn’t born yesterday. I was actually born seventy-something years ago if you can believe it with my youthful features.”

“It’s really nothing,” Esmerelda said. “Just that… Well… Something is bothering me.”

“I knew it,” Lee said, pulling a chair out and sitting down across from Esmerelda. “You can tell me what’s on your mind, and I won’t judge you.”

“I don’t really know how to say it,” Esmerelda said. “Is someone who works with pornographers a bad person?”

Lee thought for a moment, mulling over what Esmerelda had just told him. “What I’m going to say may startle you a bit, so I want you to be prepared,” he said.

“OK,” Esmerelda said.

“I’ll respect you no matter what,” Lee said, “but you’re a little young to be going into the porn business. I actually think it’s illegal for you to be filmed performing sexual acts.”

“What?!” Esmerelda snapped. “I’m not making porn!”

“Then why are you so concerned?” Lee asked.

“It’s Da’Quarius,” Esmerelda said.

“That’s probably up his alley,” Lee said. “He’s still too young, but there’s always a need for more black bucks. I’m sure he’ll make a killing once he’s eighteen or old enough to pass for ‘barely legal’ anyway. I’d love to see him burst into the gay porn scene.”

“He’s not doing porn either,” Esmerelda said. “He’s just doing some odd jobs for a couple of guys running a porn site.”

“Then why bring it up at all?” Lee asked. “I’m about to just give you some milk and cookies and send you to your room for the night.”

“Whatever,” Esmerelda said, looking away. “Thanks, I guess.”

“You’re welcome,” Lee said, smiling and getting up. “You finish your homework and wash on up, now.”

“OK,” Esmerelda said, looking at her paper.

“There you go,” Lee said to himself, going into his den. “And some people think this parenting thing is so hard.”

***

“It’s time for a family meeting!” Helen said, coming out of the kitchen, grasping a notebook in her hands.

“What?” Da’Quarius asked, shutting off the TV and turning to look. “I thought you were ignoring us all day.”

“No,” Rose sighed. “She’s been plotting something since we left the Child Welfare offices.”

“For real?” Da’Quarius asked. “What were you doin’ dere? You ain’t tryin’ to send my ass back, are you?”

“No,” Helen said, waving a hand as she made her way to the dining room table. “We’re just trying to get another kid to get some money out of them like we get for you.”

“You biddies get money for me livin’ here?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Please don’t tell me there’s some kind of drawn-out plan in that notebook,” Rose said, sitting across from Helen with Da’Quarius to her right.

“Here’s the plan,” Helen said, placing her notebook on the table and opening it. “Da’Quarius will find out where Kim Redding lives. That’s step one.”

“On it,” Da’Quarius said. “I’ll google da’ fuck outta dat ho.”

“No, you’re not,” Rose said. “This is getting crazy.”

“Step two,” Helen continued. “We plaster her house with flyers for Paulie’s Pizza, and we have Paulie call us when she shows up, wanting a pizza. The phone call is step three.”

“Is Paulie even willing to do this?” Rose asked.

“Did you ask him?” Da’Quarius asked.

“He doesn’t have to be asked,” Helen replied. “Paulie should be calling his big sister out of general politeness if a local celebrity piece of ass steps foot into his pizzeria.”

“Good point,” Da’Quarius said.

“Oh lord,” Rose groaned.

“Kids love pizza too,” Helen said. “That kid of hers will be with her, and we’ll take him. That’s step five.”

“What was step four?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Weren’t you paying attention?” Helen asked in return.

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius replied. “Dat’s how I know you skipped step four, biddy.”

“I’m looking at my paper,” Helen said. “It’s a five-step plan.”

“Dat’s great,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m just sayin’ you skipped step four.”

“Can we just move on?” Rose asked.

“Fine,” Helen said. “Step six: we tell the child welfare people we’re raising the kid, and the checks start rolling in.”

“I’d like to make a point here,” Da’Quarius said.

“Go ahead,” Helen said.

“If you guys are gettin’ checks cuz I’m here an’ shit,” Da’Quarius said, “shouldn’t I be getting’ da’ money?”

“You raise a valid point, kid,” Helen said, nodding. “Assuming you help raise your future little brother, you are entitled to a third of what he brings in.”

“Fuck dat!” Da’Quarius said. “I want a third of what dat kid brings in plus all of my money!”

“How about a third of what the kid brings in,” Helen said, “and I don’t pop you in the mouth for trying to strongarm me during my friggin’ child heist!”

“OK,” Rose said, getting up. “I’ve had enough. One: you are not kidnapping Kim Redding’s adopted son. Two: if you did kidnap the child, there’s no way they’d send us any money for it, seeing as you’ve kidnapped him. Three: what you’re doing right now is called conspiracy to kidnap, and it is a crime.”

“You’ve had your say,” Helen said, “but notice my plan has five parts. Your little speech only has three.”

“Technically you had four,” Da’Quarius said, “unless you count da’ sixth one. If you did, den you’ll have five.”

“And I know you’re having fun with Helen, Da’Quarius,” Rose said, “but I’m going to insist you stop encouraging her.”

“Damn,” Da’Quarius said, getting up. “I’m thirteen an’ she’s like eighty. She should know better than my black ass, right?”

“I am not eighty!” Helen snapped. “I’m only seventy-nine.”

“I’m going to bed,” Rose said. “Hopefully you’ll wake up with some better sense.” She left and went upstairs without further argument.

“You still want me to look up dat bitch’s address?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Friggin’ right I do,” Helen said. “Get it to me in the morning, and that government kid money will soon be ours.”

“But seriously, biddy,” Da’Quarius said. “I want some of my money.”

“Then go talk to Rose,” Helen said, waving a hand. “She’s the one who using you for cash. I’m trying to get a kid of my own!”

***

“Look,” Tony said, coming from the kitchen of Paulie’s Pizza into the main seating are where Paulie was sitting in a booth. “All I’m saying is that Katy Perry made that ‘I Kissed a Girl’ song a long friggin’ time ago. If she hasn’t eaten any pussy yet, then it’s all bullshit.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about, or why you’re still going on about this,” Paulie said. “What do you care about who kisses who or eats whatever. Just live your life and they’ll live theirs.”

“It’s a matter of principle!” Tony said, his right hand almost flying off his wrist as he visibly made his point. “If you’re going to be a tease about some lesbo shit, at least have the balls to write a song down the line about the first time you munched another chick’s box!”

“Alright,” Paulie said. “I am officially done with you for the day. You’re out of words. You can no longer speak.”

Tony’s face was a mask of confusion. “But…”

“That’s a word!” Paulie said. “I just told you you’re out!”

The door opened, and Da’Quarius came inside. “Hey, guys,” he said. “You don’t mind if I hang out, do you? Esmerelda wanted to meet after school.”

“No problem,” Paulie said.

“Hey!” Tony said. “Let me ask the kid about this!”

“No!” Paulie shouted. “You’re done, capeesh?! What part of ‘out of words for the day’ do you not get?”

“Aw shit,” Da’Quarius said. “Tony got cut off from talkin’ again? It must have been good too.”

“He’s being disgusting,” Paulie said. “Do you and your friend want something to eat?”

“Sure,” Da’Quarius said. “I’ll take a medium pepperoni and mushroom.”

“Get it cooked up,” Paulie said, addressing Tony. “But do it in silence.”

Paulie turned away and Tony gave him an Italian salute before going to make the pizza for Da’Quarius.

“Before I forget,” Da’Quarius said. “Helen wants me to get a bunch of flyers if you got ‘em.”

“Sure thing,” Paulie said. “Wait… Why does Helen need these?”

“She’s tryin’ to get Kim Redding to come in here,” Da’Quarius replied.

“That stacked broad from the news?” Paulie asked. “I’d love that! I’ll have to get a leash for Tony, though. Why does Helen want her in here?”

“Do you really want to know?” Da’Quarius asked in return.

Paulie thought for a moment. “I think that’s one of those things I’m better off not knowing.”

The door opened with a jingle of the bells attached to the top corner, and Esmerelda came inside. “Hey, Daq,” she said, spotting him and coming over to his booth.

“What’s up, Ez?” Da’Quarius asked. “I ordered us a pizza. Tony is cooking it now.”

“OK,” Esmerelda said, sitting down. “Can we talk?”

“Sure,” Da’Quarius said. “What’s going on? You OK?”

“I’m OK,” Esmerelda replied. “I just wanted to talk to d’jou about d’jour involvement with the Garcia brothers and their porn site.”

“Dis again?” Da’Quarius asked. “I already told you I just help ‘em our every not an’ den. I’m actually helping ‘em make da’ movies.”

“I know I don’t have any say in how d’jou live d’jour life,” Esmerelda said, “but I don’t want to see d’jou end up on the wrong path because d’jou end up too engrained with those two and their business.”

“Dis ain’t somethin’ dat’s gonna be a problem,” Da’Quarius said. “I ain’t gonna end up doin’ porn or anytin’ like dat. I just help ‘em out from time to time, an’ dey hook me up with X-Box games or shit from their bodega. So don’t worry ‘bout it.”

“OK,” Esmerelda said. “Just promise me d’jou’ll distance yourself from them if they want d’jou to do anything other than odd jobs. I don’t want to see d’jou damage your soul for those two.”

“I ain’t damagin’ my soul,” Da’Quarius said. “Just drop it please.”

“I’m just worried,” Esmerelda said.

“Well don’t,” Da’Quarius said. “I know what I’m doin’.”

Tony came to the table and set their pizza between them. He looked at Da’Quarius with an intensity in his eyes.

Da’Quarius looked back toward Paulie’s office. “He can’t here you,” he said. “Tell me what you wanted to tell me before real quick.”

“It’s about that Katy Perry chick and the ‘I Kissed a Girl’ song,” Tony said, keeping his voice low. “Isn’t about time she took it to the next level, if you catch my drift.”

“Madre,” Esmerelda groaned, taking a piece of the pizza and transferring it to her plate.

“Dat again?” Da’Quarius asked. “I don’t get why e’ryone makes a big deal out of this chick kissin’ another chick; but Kanye and Lil’ Wayne are always makin’ out, an’ nobody says a damn thing.”

“You’re missing the point,” Tony said.

“Are you talking again?!” Paulie said, storming back in from his office.

“NO!” Tony said, running back toward the kitchen.

“YOU GET IN THAT FRIGGIN’ KITCHEN AND YOU STAY THERE!” Paulie shouted. “Friggin’ stunad thinks I’m playing over here!”

***

“OK,” Da’Quarius said, walking up to Kim Redding’s house with Helen. “Dis is her house. I can’t believe she only lives a few blocks away from us an’ shit.”

“Believe it, kid,” Helen replied, stopping and supporting herself with her cane. “It’s a small friggin’ world. You ready to put up those flyers?”

“Ready,” Da’Quarius. He held the stack of flyers he had gotten from Paulie and a roll of packaging tape. “Where should I start? Da’ telephone pole?”

“No,” Helen replied. “We’re not trying to be subtle here. We want them to drool at the prospect of getting pizza. Put them on her porch. All of them.”

“OK, biddy,” Da’Quarius said, walking toward the porch. “You da’ boss.”

Helen watched with pride as Da’Quarius taped every flyer all over Kim Redding’s porch. When he was putting up the last one, the door opened. “Abort!” Helen shouted. Da’Quarius leapt over the edge of the porch and caught up with Helen, who was already shuffling down the street. He didn’t even look back to see Kim Redding leaving her house with her adopted son, DaAndre, finding her porch covered with ads for Paulie’s Pizza.

***

Paulie came out of the back of his pizzeria and to the counter, to where he had customers waiting. He found himself face to face with Kim Redding, from the news. “Oh my,” Paulie said. “You’re Kim Redding, from the news. Welcome to Paulie’s: home of me, Paulie. Also pizza.”

“Your pizzeria is charming,” Kim said, looking around.

“And who’s this with you?” Paulie asked, looking down at the boy with Kim.

“This is my son, DeAndre,” Kim replied.

“Anything you and your son want is on the house this time,” Paulie said. “As long as I can get a photo to prove you’ve been in here, that is. Tony! Come take my picture with Kim Redding!”

Tony came running out of the back, the clanging of his platter and utensils hitting the floor heralding his appearance. “You’re – ”

“You’re still not allowed to talk!” Paulie snapped. He took his phone out of his pocket and handed it to Tony. “Take my picture and maybe I’ll let you say hello if you promise not to bring up that pop singer nonsense again.”

“Actually,” Kim said, stepping away from the advancing Paulie. “I want to know why my house is covered in your flyers.”

“Your house?” Paulie asked. “Covered in my flyers?”

“Yes,” Kim replied. “That is what I said. Somebody taped them all over my front porch.”

“Oh,” Paulie said. “I don’t know anything about that. How about that pizza for you and your son here?”

“Who’s those women in the picture on the wall there?” Kim asked, spotting the picture on the wall of Paulie and his family.

“Dammit, Tony!” Paulie said, turning. “Were you motioning toward that photo?!”

Tony shrugged.

“Those are the two women from the New Haven child welfare offices,” Kim said, walking closer to the picture, “and I swear I saw a bald kid like that running away from my house earlier today.”

“I bet you think they all look the same,” Tony said.

“OH!” Paulie shouted. “You’re not supposed to be talking!”

“Where can I find them?” Kim asked, turning back toward Paulie.

“I have no idea,” Paulie said.

“I know who might,” Kim said, taking her cell phone out of her pocket and flicking through it. She put it to her ear. “Hello, Miss Jolie? It’s Kim Redding. I was wondering if you could help me find someone.” She left the pizzeria, holding DeAndre’s hand.

“What a nut job,” Tony said. “Who brings a kid to a pizzeria and doesn’t even buy him a slice?”

“Tony,” Paulie said. “Will you shut the frig up!?”

***

“Hot damn!” Helen said. “That was Paulie on the phone. Kim Redding is on her way here now!”

“And why is she on her way here now?” Rose asked.

“She stopped by Paulie’s after the kid and I plastered the flyers all over her porch,” Halen replied.

“You did that?!” Rose said, getting up. “Is that why you and Da’Quarius went on that walk? I should have known you didn’t think it was a lovely day!”

“Oh hell, Rose,” Helen muttered. “I should have just told the kid. Where is he?”

“He’s helping the Garcia brothers across the street,” Rose replied.

“Dammit,” Helen said. “There goes plan B.”

“What was plan B?” Rose asked.

“Our black kid, Da’Quarius, takes the place of her black kid,” Helen said, “then we keep her black kid, and our black kid sneaks out of Kim Redding’s house, comes home, and we collect twice as much black kid money!”

“That’s awfully racist,” Rose said.

“No it’s not,” Helen said. “She barely knows her knew kid after such a short amount of time. It took me months to remember what Da’Quarius looked like and be able to pick him out of a crowd. I still can’t most times.”

The doorbell rang, and Rose and Helen both turned to look at the door. “Hell,” Helen said. “Let me see if I can think of a plan C.”

***

“I hope dis is it,” Da’Quarius said, lifting a box from the Garcia brother’s backyard. “I don’t know why you guys keep makin’ movies here an’ shit. You gotta redecorate every time.”

“It’s a hobby,” Antonio said. “The money maker is the site and the cams.”

“An’ da’ bodega?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Oh yeah,” Antonio said. “I get forgetting we have one now.”

“Daq,” someone said from behind Da’Quarius. He turned to find Esmerelda standing there, her hands folded in front of her.

“Hey, Ez,” Da’Quarius said. “I thought you didn’t like what I was doing with these guys.”

“I’m sorry I pried,” Esmerelda said. “I trust you, and I know d’jou’re not going to end up as a black buck in barely legal gay movies.”

“What’s dat last part?” Da’Quarius asked.

“I’m saying that it’s OK if d’jou help out Antonio and Manny,” Esmerelda said. “I don’t think you’ll be damaging your soul.”

“Damn right,” Da’Quarius said, nodding. “An’ I’m sorry I got mad at’chu. You were just lookin’ out for me. For what it’s worth, dese two guys are a couple of nuts anyway, but I know not to let shit go too far.”

“Speaking of which,” Esmerelda said. “I heard a lot of shouting coming from d’jour house. Is everything OK there?”

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “It’s just Rose yelling at Helen over that Kim Redding lady. Helen is going to give up soon. Nuttin’ is gonna happen.”

***

“Why would you put all these flyers around my house!” Kim shouted, holding a torn flyer for Paulie’s Pizza. “Are you crazy?! Are you a stalker?!”

“Calm down,” Helen said. “I just thought you and your new son would like some pizza is all. Do you not like pizza? Are you one of those gluten-free nuts?”

“You’re stalking me!” Kim said. “You’ve been following me since we met at the child welfare offices, haven’t you?”

“No,” Helen said. “Don’t be ridiculous. “You don’t have to follow anyone around in this day and age. My son was able to find you just fine using only his phone. Imagine what I’d have to do if I was his age? I’d have to follow you home from work, write down your whole routine, make contact with your friends and relatives under a false identity, root through your trash…”

“What my wife is trying to say,” Rose interrupted, “is that she’s very sorry for the little prank she played. She’s old, and her mind sometimes plays tricks on her.”

“The hell it does!” Helen snapped. “I’m as sharp as a tack!”

Kim sighed. She looked at Rose. “I don’t want to make a big deal out of this,” she said. “I’m just getting DeAndre settled into his new home, and I don’t want any craziness during this process. You’ve adopted too, it seems. Can’t you understand what it’s like?”

“I know exactly what it’s like,” Rose said. “Helen really disrupted Da’Quarius when he was trying to settle in too.”

“I wasn’t expecting that kind of empathy,” Kim said, giving Rose and odd look, “but thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Rose said. “I’ll have a talk with Helen, and let her know… Where’d Helen go?”

Kim looked around. “Where’s DeAndre?”

“Hello, Jolly?” Helen said, on the phone in the kitchen. “I adopted a second black kid, so I’ll need more money. What do you mean where’d I get him? He was in my home, so he’s legally mine!”

“Helen,” Rose said, entering the kitchen. “We need to talk.”

“Did she just kidnap my son?!” Kim said, following Rose.

***

“Da’Quarius!” Helen shouted, standing just outside the front door. “Where the hell are you?!”

“Shit,” Da’Quarius said, coming from the back of the Garcia’s house. “Wonder why she’s shoutin’ like dat.”

“DA’QUARIUS!”

“Maybe she’s hurt?” Esmerelda suggested.

“GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE RIGHT THE HELL NOW!”

“Nah,” Da’Quarius replied. “She wants something.”

“KIM REDDING IS HERE!”

“Oh shit,” Da’Quarius said. “You gotta come over and see dis. Helen has been tryin’ to kidnap dis lady’s kid.”

“OK,” Esmerelda said, walking with Da’Quarius across the street. “Now that I think bout it, d’jou working for the Garcia brothers doesn’t seem that bad compared to living with Helen.”

“How is it livin’ with Harold an’ Lee?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Kind of fucked up,” Esmerelda replied.

“There you are!” Helen said as Da’Quarius and Esmerelda came up the walkway. “We don’t have much time to lose. I just got busted trying to sign up the kid for financial benefits. Another minute and the checks would have been rolling in.”

“What’s she talking about?” Esmerelda asked.

“She found out New Haven gives her an’ Rose money to raise me,” Da’Quarius replied, “an’ she’s tryin’ to get ‘em to give her money for another kid.”

“They get money for raising you?” Esmerelda asked. “Do the putas get money too?”

“Probably,” Helen said. “Those dusty, old sodomites wouldn’t take you in for nothing.”

“So, what’s going on with Kim Redding?” Da’Quarius asked.

“She’s here!” Helen said. “She figured out where we live, and she came to tell on me. Like I said before: I was able to get the kid, but they heard me on the phone with child welfare. Now, Rose is trying to talk her out of calling the police right now.”

“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “I should’ve stayed home. I miss all da’ fun!”

“But we can still win this!” Helen said. “Here’s plan D: we go back to plan B where we switch you out for her kid, and then you come home during in the cover of night.”

“So it’s just plan B?” Da’Quarius asked.

“No,” Helen replied, scowling. “It’s plan D. Plan B is long gone. The alphabet doesn’t go backwards.”

The door opened, and Rose came out with Kim Redding and DeAndre. “Miss Redding is going home,” Rose said. “Please just let her go.”

“I hope you get the help you need,” Kim said, placing a hand on Rose’s shoulder. “I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.”

“Jesus,” Helen said. “What the hell did you tell her?!”

“I told her enough,” Rose replied. “Miss Redding agrees to let this whole thing go if you agree to never bother her again.”

“It saves me from getting a restraining order,” Kim added. “I’m sure that’s something you know plenty about.”

“Live life, get retraining orders,” Helen said with a shrug.

“Word,” Da’Quarius added.

“Well,” Kim said with a sigh. “Have a good life.”

“You too,” Helen said. She watched Kim leave with her son. “Class act, that one.”

“This ends now,” Rose said. “I’m not joking. You’re lucky she didn’t call the police.”

“Fine,” Helen said. “It ends now. It’s a lost cause anyway. She got attached to that black kid of hers like a gorilla and a kitten. Who am I to break up a fucked up connection like that?”

Rose shook her head and went inside. “Come on in,” she said. “Let’s just forget this whole thing ever happened.”

Helen turned to look at Da’Quarius and Esmerelda. “OK,” she said. “Let’s do plan E.”

“Can’t, Helen,” Da’Quarius said. “I gotta stop encouragin’ you an’ shit. Come on, Ez. Let’s go play some Madden.”

“Sure,” Esmerelda said, walking with Da’Quarius into his house.

“Damn,” Helen said, turning to go inside too. “Whole damn world’s against me.”

***

“In other news,” Kim Redding said, smiling into the camera. “This week, I became a mother. I adopted my new son – ”

“Why’d you shut the TV off!?” Paulie snapped, sitting in the booth of Paulie’s Pizza. “Kim Redding was on!”

“I’ve had enough of that chick,” Tony said, tossing the remove to the counter. “Did you know I used to date her?”

“No,” Paulie said. “It was a fact that slipped your mind when she was standing in here and the two of you made no indication to have even met.”

“Whatever,” Tony said. “She never ever farted, and you know what I say about that. Never trust a broad who doesn’t fart after a good meal.”

“That’s it!” Paulie said, slamming his fist on the table, getting up. “You’re done for the day again. No more talking.”

“Boss!” Paulie exclaimed. “It’s only five-thirty!”

“You’re done!” Paulie said, leaving and heading toward the bathroom. “No more talking until tomorrow!”

Tony watched as the bathroom door closed. He opened his mouth to make some quip, but he closed it, heading back toward the kitchen in silence.

The End

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