Category Archives: Sitcom

Freedom Lane Special: Crisis Acting 101

Regularly scheduled programming will not be seen tonight, so we can bring you this special presentation of Freedom Lane.


“I can’t believe this is happening again,” Rose said, watching the news with her wife and life partner, Helen. “How many mass shootings have to happen before we reach the tipping point and descend into total chaos?”

“I remember the good old days,” Helen said. “People didn’t go into crowds of people and children to gun them down just for a bit of attention. They’d keep their insanity deep inside where it belonged, hanging themselves in their parents’ basements, dying alone as God intended.”

“I’ve been around over seventy years,” Rose said, “and I don’t remember a scarier time to be alive.”

“I think nine-eleven could give this a run for its money,” Helen said. “Those are all actors anyway, you know. The government has a whole stable to crisis actors, ready to cry on cue.”

“That’s a horrid thing to say,” Rose replied. “People are dead. I’m going to ban right wing radio and TV shows in this home if you keep saying things like that.”

“I’m not mocking their memory,” Helen said, “but the liberal media has an agenda, and it’s to get enough people sad to take away the guns to keep us from overthrowing them. They use these crisis actors to grease the wheels of politics to shove their agenda down everyone’s throats.”

“Yo,” Da’Quarius, Rose and Helen’s adopted son, said, coming into the den. “You guys still watchin’ da’ news?”

“Yeah,” Rose said. “I’m ready to shut this off. I don’t know how much more I can stomach.”

“Look!” Helen shouted, pointing at the screen. “Da’Quarius is on TV!”

“No he isn’t,” Rose said, rolling her eyes. “You always thinking every African American kid with a shaved head and glasses is Da’Quarius.”

“Shit,” Da’Quarius said, looking at the screen. “Dat is me! Turn it up, biddy.”

“I dunno how dis keeps happenin’,” the Da’Quarius on TV said. The runner under his name said he was in the mall when the shooter had opened fire. “Someone needs to step up an’ stop dis from happenin’!”

“What were you doing in Alabama?” Helen asked.

“I wasn’t in Alabama!” Da’Quarius said. “Dat footage is from when Flounder an’ I saw a bunch’a coyotes runnin’ through da’ neighborhood. Da’ news asked us ‘bout da’ coyotes!”

“I’m scared for my life,” Flounder said from the TV. “You never know where or when they’ll come for us.”

“He’s talkin’ ‘bout some mo’ fuckin’ coyotes!” Da’Quarius shouted.

“Oh my,” Rose said, watching the TV with a look of disbelief on her face. “How’d this happen?”

“You know how it happened,” Helen said. “Da’Quarius and his friend are crisis actors, and they have been this whole time.”

The news made way for commercials, and Da’Quarius looked toward Helen. “Da’ fuck you just say ‘bout me, biddy?!”


Freedom Lane

Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow

Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness

Season 13 Special: Crisis Acting 101


Tony walked out of the kitchen of Paulie’s Pizza on State Street. “You’re gonna wanna tape this!” he said, holding an uncooked pizza on a peel.

“What the hell is that?!” Alice, the head of Paulie’s waitstaff, asked.

“I’m going to put Paulie’s Pizza on the map!” Tony said. “This is a recipe of my own design: Tide Pod Pizza.”

Alice looked at the pizza Tony was floating in front of her face. It was covered in sauce, cheese, and a dozen or so Tide Pods. “You’re actually going to cook that?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Tony replied. “People are eating these things all over the internet. Why can’t we get famous off this too?”

“This is stupid,” Alice replied. “Is anyone else dumb enough to help you?”

“I don’t know,” Tony replied. “Sal, probably.”

Sal walked out from the kitchen, towering over Tony by an extra foot. “I will not let you put that in the oven,” he said.

“And why not?” Tony asked.

“I brought that brick oven up here from Pennsylvania,” Sal replied. “It was made by the Amish community, and it is one of a kind.”

“So?” Tony asked.

“I will not let you put laundry detergent inside of it,” Sal replied.

“Fine,” Tony said. “I’ll just get Paulie and make him make you let me cook my Tide Pod Pizza.”

Sal turned and went back toward the kitchen with no further argument.

“You’re an idiot,” Alice said, walking away as well.

“What I say?” Tony asked.


“What can you find?” Da’Quarius asked, standing in Flounder’s bedroom above his father’s dry-cleaning business and laundromat. Flounder sat in front of his computer, looking up information on the latest news story that claimed they had witnessed a shooting in a state they had never visited.

“You’re all over the internet right now,” Flounder said. “It’s mostly from right wing conspiracy sites and people on Twitter.”

“Mo’ fuckers,” Da’Quarius said. “What are dey sayin’?”

“They have footage found of you at the New Haven riots,” Flounder replied. “They’re saying you were hired for some sound clips.”

“Shit,” Da’Quarius said.

“They have pictures and videos of us from when we got back from space too,” Flounder said, scrolling through pictures, videos and memes. “They’re saying that was all fake; that we never went up to space.”

“Bastards don’t know what they’re talkin’ ‘bout,” Da’Quarius said. “Are they shit talkin’ you too?”

“Yeah,” Flounder said. “They’re saying I’m the Asian kid from the Spider-Man movie.”

Da’Quarius looked over Flounder’s shoulder. “So I’m a crisis actor according to dem?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Flounder said. “You’re apparently hired by some lib-tards to spread anti-gun and anti-conservative propaganda.”

“Don’t say ‘lib-tard,’” Da’Quarius said. “Dat’s somethin’ Helen got from some radio douchebag. She called me a crisis actor too.”

“Everyone on here is saying you are,” Flounder said.

“What da’ fuck am I supposed to do?!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “How’d our interview ‘bout da’ damn coyotes get mixed up with da’ shootin’ in Alabama?”

“I found this company called Crisis Media LLC,” Flounder replied. “It looks like they might have bought the footage from the local New Haven news and sold it to be repurposed.”

“Mo’ fucker,” Da’Quarius said. “Dey local?”

“They have offices all over the place,” Flounder said, clicking around on his computer, “including New Haven.”

Da’Quarius stood, thinking. “OK,” he said. “Print out da’ address. We’re gonna pay dese mo’ fuckers a visit.”


“Hey, Boss,” Tony said, entering Paulie’s office. “I gotta ask you something.”

“Go ahead,” Paulie said, looking up from his paperwork.

“I want to add a new pie to the menu,” Tony said.

“No way,” Paulie said. “I let you make that banana pizza nonsense a couple weeks back, and the place reeked like a banana farm for days.”

“This is different!” Tony pleaded. “This is going to make us famous on the internet, Paulie. The internet!”

“Alright,” Paulie sighed. “Let’s hear your idea, if only to shoot you down so I can get back to work.”

“OK,” Tony said. “You know those Tide Pod things the kids are eating?”

“No,” Paulie said. “You aren’t putting detergent on pizza!”

“You don’t even know what I’m going to ask about them!” Tony said.

“Tell me, then,” Paulie said, “are you going to put them on my pizza?”

“Well,” Tony said. “Yeah.”

“What would the point of putting soap on pizza be?” Paulie asked.

“It’s for the internet,” Tony said.

“I got that part when you said it before,” Paulie said. “Explain to me, in detail, why you think my pizzeria should put these soap thingies on the pies.”

“We put the whole thing on the internet,” Tony said. “We put together the pizza, put the Tide Pods on it, and let someone eat it. We film the whole thing, put it on the internet, get a billion hits, and make Paulie’s Pizza famous.”

Paulie listened. “No,” he said. “Don’t let me catch you making that nonsense in my place.”

“But -”

“I said no,” Paulie said. “I’m saying it calmly now, hoping you get the point to get the hell out of my office before I say is not so calmly. Capeesh?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Tony said. “Whatever.” He waved a hand toward Paulie and left the office.

Paulie said for a moment, trying to get his focus back to do his paperwork. “Friggin’ stunad,” he muttered. Then, something dawned on him, and he stood and walked toward the kitchen. “OH! DON’T TELL ME YOU ALREADY MADE THE FRIGGIN’ PIE!”


Da’Quarius and Flounder walked through the lobby of a building on Orange Street. They found the listing for the offices on a tall felt board behind shiny glass. “There they are,” Flounder said, pointing. “Seventeenth Floor.”

“Cool,” Da’Quarius said. “Let’s go find dese mo’ fuckers an’ ask ‘em a few questions.”

“Can’t I just wait down here?” Flounder asked. “I get nosebleeds if I got more than four stories up in a building.”

“Don’t be a bitch ‘bout dis,” Da’Quarius said. “We both need answers. I know you don’t want people thinkin’ you’re lyin’, and dat you’re da’ Chinese guy from Spider-Man! ‘Sides, I bet you can keep your nosebleeds under control if you concentrate an’ shit. It’s all in yo’ head.”

“OK,” Flounder said, taking a deep breath. “I’m OK.”

The elevator door opened on the seventeenth floor, and Flounder rushed out, pinching his nose, a line of blood on his shirt. “Where’s the bathroom!?” he asked in a nasally voice to the secretary sitting twenty feet from the elevators.

“To your left,” the secretary said, her lip curled up in a sneer.

“Dank you!” Flounder said, running to his right, then turning left.

Da’Quarius approached the secretary, who was sitting under a placard that said: “Crisis Media.” “Y’all mo’ fuckers hidin’ in plain sight an’ shit, huh?”

“Excuse me?” the secretary asked.

“I need to talk da’ mo’ fucker in charge,” Da’Quarius replied.

“What is this regarding?” the secretary asked.

“I wanna know why you got me on da’ news, talkin’ ‘bout shit I didn’t see in a state I ain’t never been in,” Da’Quarius replied.

The secretary looked over Da’Quarius, from top to bottom. She hesitated a moment, then picked up a phone and dialed a number from memory. “We have a code four-two-echo,” she said. She hung the phone up and looked back at Da’Quarius, putting on a warm smile. “Someone will be with your shortly.”

“Fuckin’ right,” Da’Quarius said. “Umma be right here, readin’ a magazine.”


“What the frig is this?!” Paulie shouted, finding Tony with the uncooked Tide Pod pizza still on the peel. “I can’t believe you made that! What a waste of food!”

“Don’t worry about it, boss,” Tony said. “I’ll take the pods off and throw on some mushrooms and give it to Alice to serve to table two.”

“I’m not giving that to my customers,” Alice said.

“Oh,” Tony said. “My pizza not good enough for your precious customers in the seating area now?”

“We’re too busy for this,” Paulie said. “You’re not serving one of my customers a pizza that had laundry soap on it. Get rid of that abortion and make table two a new pizza with mushrooms. So help me God, if I find out you’re trying to get one of my customers to eat that thing, I’ll put your balls on a pizza and serve that to table two!”

The pizzeria had quieted as everyone strained their ears to hear Paulie’s rant.

“I need to get some air,” Paulie said, walking away. “I want that gone by the time I get back.” He left with the jingle of the bells over the door.

“Don’t worry, folks,” Tony said, addressing the patrons. “He’s not going to put anyone’s balls on any pizza. I only have one, and that’s barely enough for half a small.”

“Dammit, Tony,” Alice said. “Just make me the mushroom pizza for table two and stop talking about your balls.”

“Ball,” Tony corrected.

Alice rolled her eyes and went back to her tables.

“What I say this time?” Tony asked himself. He grabbed an empty box from the rack and slip the uncooked Tide Pod pizza into it. “If I can’t cook this here, I’ll find somewhere I can.” He put the pizza under the counter and turned around, facing Sal.

“I better not find out you cooked that after I go home for the night,” Sal said.

“What’s everyone’s problem tonight?” Tony asked. “Must be a full moon or something, I swear.”


A man walked past the secretary’s desk, toward Da’Quarius, who had been waiting patiently. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and had short, black hair. He wore a black suit and gray tie. “Good afternoon,” he said. “I’m Marshall. I’m told you wanted to talk to someone here.”

“Damn right I do,” Da’Quarius said, tossing his magazine to the floor. “I wanna know why you’re usin’ old footage of me to make people think I’m talkin’ ‘bout guns an’ shit.”

“I see,” Marshall replied. “Want to take a walk with me and tell me your concerns?”

“Sure,” Da’Quarius said, standing. “I got some time ‘fore Flounder gets his nosebleed under control.”

“Follow me,” Marshall said. He pressed his name badge to a pad, and the door unlocked. He went inside, and Da’Quarius followed. They walked passed rows of cubicles and offices. At the end of the hall was a sound studio and bigger officers.

“This is Crisis Media,” Marshall said, turning to face Da’Quarius. “We have offices and studios all over the country. We create and distribute media clips to be used during times of crisis, allowing the victims, survivors, and families to rest easy while the media circus focuses its gaze elsewhere.”

“Well it ain’t workin’, is it?” Da’Quarius asked. “I’ve been watchin’ what’s goin’ on. Da’ real survivors are being harassed like dey’re a bunch of phonies an’ shit. Dey’ve been getting’ death threats and bein’ called liars. Dey can’t all be your actors.”

Marshall sighed. “No,” he said. “That’s the unfortunate nature of what we do and how we function as a society. As the number of tragedies rise, the amount of crisis media required rises with it. When we first started, we were able to use actors sparingly, and only a small number of people would catch on, and we can dismiss them as crazy conspiracy theorists. We’re forced to use the same actors more often than we should, and it means more people have been catching on to what we’re doing here.”

“So you send yo’ trolls out to da’ internet to make it all look fake,” Da’Quarius said.

“Exactly,” Marshall said. “Our newest division is Troll Control, where we try our hardest to debunk those who are trying to debunk us.”

“But you used me,” Da’Quarius said, “an’ dey put e’rything else I did into question.”

“We made a mistake, using your video,” Marshall replied. “Come with me.”

Marshall walked on, and Da’Quarius followed. “What mistake?” he asked.

“You’ve been in the media’s eye before,” Marshall said, not slowing his gait. “You were on stage during the New Haven riots, and you had that unfortunate trip to outer space. You’ve led an interesting life.”

“And dat’s only since I moved in with Rose an’ Helen,” Da’Quarius added.

“You’re smart,” Marshall said. “You would have to be to put the pieces together and find us.”

“You ain’t exactly hidin’ dat well,” Da’Quarius said.

“They won’t find us in plain sight,” Marshall said. He came to another. “I’m going to show you something, now. I’m not showing you this because I have to. I’m showing you this because I want you to join our team.”

“Say what?” Da’Quarius asked.

“You have a flair for this, I can tell,” Marshall said. “We need young people like you. With a little make up and a wig, we can put you into any crisis we need to. We can fly you anywhere in the country that needs an extra nudge. You can work behind the scenes when you’re not in front of the camera. Your work with us won’t interfere with your education. We can have you temporarily enrolled in which ever school we need to. With the morbid climate in America today, this can be a very lucrative arrangement for both of us, Da’Quarius.”

“An’ what if I say no?” Da’Quarius asked. “What if I turn around an’ tell everyone what you’re up to here?”

“Then we’ll make sure nobody ever believes a word you say ever again,” Marshall replied. “We have the means to do so. We’ll make everyone you’ve ever known or will know think you’re a raging lunatic if they only Google your name.”

“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “Dat’s a little harsh.”

“But I’m hoping you’ll decide to join us instead,” Marshall said, offering a wide grin. “I’m thinking that you will.”

“An’ all I have to do is sell you my soul, right?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Do you really think we’re no good?” Marshall asked. “I’ve already told you that we help the communities who have faced tragedies, and now we’re helping the left and right come together to reform gun control and accessibility of guns to the mentally ill. We’re not liberal or conservative. We only serve the American people.”

“You gonna show me what’s behind dat door or not?” Da’Quarius asked.

Marshall’s grin widened. “But of course,” he said. He used his badge on the pad, and the door’s locked clicked open. He turned the handle and pushed it open, allowing Da’Quarius to step in ahead of him.


It was a quiet day at Daq’s Bodega, located on State Street across the street from Paulie’s Pizza. The bodega’s owners, Antonio and Manny Garcia, sat behind the counter, talking about current events.

“I did so bang that stripper!” Antonio exclaimed. “I brought her right to the park across the street from the club!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Manny said. “All I know is she was back on stage a minute after you left.”

“What girl do you think I’m talking about?” Antonio asked.

“The blonde Russian chick,” Manny replied.

“Dude,” Antonio said. “There’s like four of them there!”

The door opened, and Tony came in from outside, carrying a pizza box. “What’s up, guys,” he said. “Check out what I got for ya!”

“Did we order a pizza?” Manny asked. “I could go for one, but I don’t remember ordering one.”

“I don’t think so,” Antonio said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m gonna eat it. I just don’t remember making the call.”

“You didn’t order this,” Tony said, putting the box on the counter and opening it. “Behold: The Tide Pod pizza.”

“You put Tide Pods on pizza?” Antonio asked. “What the fuck dude?”

“You didn’t’ even cook it!” Manny added.

“Paulie won’t let me,” Tony said. “That’s why I need you guys. We can cook it here and put it on the internet and get famous.”

“Cool,” Manny said. “Pop that in the microwave and let’s get this thing going.”

“You can’t microwave raw pizza dough,” Tony said. “Don’t you know how pizza is made?”

“If I knew that,” Manny replied, “why the hell would we need you?”

“He needs an oven,” Antonio said. “We don’t have one.”

“How do you not have an oven?” Tony asked.

“How to you walk into places with uncooked pizza like you have lunch for them or something?” Antonio asked in return.

“Yeah!” Manny said. “That’s fucked up, dude. Get the fuck out!”

“What?” Tony asked.

“You heard my bro,” Antonio said. “Get the fuck out until you have a pizza that’s cooked and not covered in soap.”

“Yeah!” Manny said. “What do we look like, Mr. Bubbles and his brother, Mr. Bubbles?!”

The Garcia brothers stared at Tony until he took his pizza and left.

“Dude,” Manny said. “Were we too hard on Tony just now?”

“A little,” Antonio replied. “But it’s the only way he’ll learn.”


“Crisis media has been around since Obama’s days in office,” Marshall explained, showing Da’Quarius their many screens of data. “We distribute our media to every major news organization, and we send our actors all over the country.”

“Dis is crazy,” Da’Quarius said, looking around.

Marshall took a seat and looked over Da’Quarius. “I want you as part of our team,” he said. “I won’t mince words. We’re government-funded, and our mission statement covers us for generations to come. As long as there’s unrest in this country, we’ll be there.”

“Can I think it over?” Da’Quarius asked.

“Sure thing,” Marshall said. He reached in his pocket and took out a business card. “Call me or stop by when you’ve made a decision.” He handed Da’Quarius the card.

“Thanks,” Da’Quarius said, taking the card.

“Just don’t take too long,” Marshall said. “And let your Asian friend who bled all over my restroom know he’s more than welcome too.”

“Cool,” Da’Quarius said, getting up. “Can I ask you one mo’ question?”

“Shoot,” Marshall replied.

“Y’all got any dirt on aliens an’ shit?” Da’Quarius asked.

Marshall smiled.

A few minutes later, Da’Quarius left the building, and he found Flounder waiting outside. He had wads of toilet paper stuffed up both his nostrils to stop them from bleeding. “You’re back!” he said. “What happened up there?”

“Dude,” Da’Quarius said. “Dis goes deep.”

“How deep?” Flounder asked.

“I’ll tell you what I know, and what I think I know,” Da’Quarius replied. “First, let me tell you the lines of bullshit dat Marshall mo’ fucker just tried to feed me.”

Marshall watched from his window as Da’Quarius and Flounder walked away, heading East toward the bus stop. Someone walked behind him, staring in the same direction. “Hi, Martin,” Marshall said. “Were you listening?”

“I was,” Martin said. He was old, thin, had gray hair, and a set of small, rectangular glasses, slightly tinted. “You were right about one thing. He’s smart.”

“That he is,” Marshall said. “You think he saw through us?”

“What do you think?” Martin asked in return.

“He most definitely did,” Marshall replied. “Is this going to be a problem?”

“No, it most certainly won’t,” Martin said. He turned away from the window and walked away. “That boy and his chubby friend won’t cause any trouble for us. You have my word.”

“Good,” Marshall said. Once Martin had left the area, he turned away from the window and went back to his desk to get some work done.

Deep state conspiracies don’t run themselves.


“We’re not cooking that friggin’ pizza!” Helen snapped at Tony, who was standing in their den, holding an open pizza box. “What the hell makes you think we’d want to?!”

“Paulie wouldn’t let me cook it at his place,” Tony replied. “I figured Da’Quarius would want to help.”

“Da’Quarius is with his friend Flounder,” Rose said.

“And that still doesn’t answer my friggin’ question!” Helen snapped. “Just get the hell out of my house, you stunad!”

Tony closed the top of the pizza box, but Dutchie jumped on him, trying to get it to fall on the floor. “No!” he shouted. “There’s tide on there!”

“Dutchie, down!” Rose shouted, getting un and rushing over. “Stop it!”

Tony struggled to get the pizza box closed amid Dutchie and Rose’s wrestling. Helen watched, a look of amusement on her face, but it was cut short when the phone rang. “Hell,” Helen muttered. “I bet you need me to get that, too.”

“Will you please?” Rose asked, holding Dutchie by the collar. “For God’s sake, Tony, get that food out of here!”

“Isn’t this dog trained?!” Tony shouted, closing the box.

Helen sighed, picking up the phone. “This better be good,” she said.

“Helen!” Da’Quarius said from the receiver. “Just da’ biddy I was lookin’ for.”

“What do you want, kid?” Helen asked. “I’m busy.”

“I’m gonna hang out with Flounder for a while,” Da’Quarius replied.

“OK,” Helen said. “Anything else?”

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius replied. “We’re goin’ to beach to chase da’ seagulls.”

“OK,” Helen said. “Bye.” She hung up and walked back to her seat. Tony had gone, and Dutchie had calmed down. He was lying by the door, panting from all he excitement.

“Who was on the phone?” Rose asked.

“It was the kid,” Helen replied.

“Oh,” Rose said. “What did he need?”

“He’s on the run from the government and going underground,” Helen replied.

Rose stared at Helen. “He said what?!”


Da’Quarius put his backpack on. He was standing in the basement of Kwok’s Dry Cleaning and Landromat on Foster Street. “Ready?” he asked Flounder.

“I guess,” Flounder said. He was standing with his mother, who was crying. She had given him a bag of food for the trip since their bugout bags only had the essentials in them.

“Good thing yo’ dad had these tunnels set up,” Da’Quarius said, trying to distract himself from Flounder’s mother, who was a reluctant to let her son go underground while they were on Crisis Media’s radar. “I’m glad his human traffickin’ scheme didn’t pan out, but they’re handy as fuck. We don’t gotta worry ‘bout da’ cars followin’ us anymore.”

“I told you the bugout bags were a good idea after that fiasco with NASA,” Mr. Kwok, Flounder’s father said, standing off to the side, watching them with his arms crossed. “You two are always getting in so much trouble!”

“Thanks for havin’ my back in any case,” Da’Quarius said. “I appreciate it.”

“No problem,” Mr. Kwok said. “Just clear your names and get back here. Do your mothers know you’re going off the grid?”

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Helen an’ I have a code.”

“Good,” Mr. Kwok said. “Go do what you need to do.”

Flounder’s mother fussed over him some more, crying in Korean. “Come on, Mom!” Flounder said. “You’re embarrassing me!”

Mr. Kwok took Flounder’s mother by the arm and pulled her away. He took a breath and looked over Da’Quarius and Flounder one last time. “Look at you too,” he said with pride written all over his face. “I remember when I first went underground in North Korea. This brings me back.”

“Awesome,” Da’Quarius said, opening the hatch to the tunnels. “Come on, Flounder. We got work to do.” He climbed into the tunnel, followed by Flounder.

“Godspeed, my son,” Mr. Kwok said, closing the hatch behind them.


Tony walked from Rose and Helen’s toward Paulie’s Pizza and his apartment above. He still carried the box with the uncooked Tide Pod pizza inside, not knowing where he’d have to go in order to find someone who’d cook it, eat it, and let him film it.

He came across the small dog park, only two blocks from Paulie’s. There was a trash bin along the side, and he stared at it, wondering if it was better to just toss the pizza out and go back to Paulie’s, admitting that making the Tide Pod pizza was a waste of time.

Or he could keep walking, trying to find someone who appreciated his culinary and comedic skills. He then thought of Da’Quarius’s Korean friend, the one named after the fish. He saw him at the laundromat on Foster Street sometimes, and Tony decided at one point that he must live there. He was Korean after all. The Korean kid’s father was always involved in weird schemes too, if Da’Quarius was right.

And Rose had said Da’Quarius was with them.

With a smirk on his face, Tony turned and walked toward Foster Street.


Da’Quarius and Flounder emerged from a sewer in the woods, opening the gate. Flounder pushed it back into place, closing it with a click. His father had designed it only to open from the other side. “I’m glad we’re out of there,” he said. “There were way too much rats after me.”

“It’s cuz yo’ moms put too many egg rolls in dat bag,” Da’Quarius said. “Dey wouldn’t have attacked you if you didn’t have ‘em. Da’ point of da’ bugout bag is to get ‘em an’ bug da’ fuck out. I can’t believe you stopped to have yo’ moms make you some food.”

“I can’t help it,” Flounder said. “She worries. Besides, the rats got all the egg rolls anyway.”

Da’Quarius walked on. “Shit,” he muttered. “What are we supposed to do now?”

“What do you mean?” Flounder asked in return. “You don’t have a plan?”

“No,” Da’Quarius replied. “I ain’t got shit. We cain’t go back to our lives with dese mo’ fuckers trackin’ us and usin’ our faces an’ shit.”

Flounder took a small AM radio from his pocket and turned it on to the news station. “There’s another active shooter on the loose,” the radio anchor said. “This time, a mall in Wisconsin is the intended target.”

“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “Another one?!”

“This is great!” Flounder said.

“Dis is not great!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “Two gunmen in two days ain’t somethin’ we should be excited ‘bout. You’re soundin’ like da’ assholes at Crisis Media.”

“That’s my point,” Flounder said. “They’ll be distracted trying to get their actors ready for this latest shooting. If we’re going to get in, now’s the time.”

“I already told you,” Da’Quarius said. “I got nuttin’; no plan!”

“I have something,” Flounder said.

“Yeah?” Da’Quarius asked. “Wha’chu got?”

Flounder reached in his pocket and pulled out a name badge from Crisis Media. “Someone left this on the bathroom sink,” he said. “I grabbed it while I tried to get the blood to stop pouring from my nose. We can get back inside.”

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Den what?”

“I can hack their system,” Flounder said. “I’ll distract them long enough and broadcast every secret they have.”

“That’ll be good,” Da’Quarius said, “if only you can make it to da’ top floor without’cho nose hemorrhagin’ an’ shit.”

“I got that covered too,” Flounder said. He reached in his other pocket and brought out two tampons, still in their wrappings.

“Dude,” Da’Quarius said. “What da’ fuck is wrong wit’chu?”

“What?” Flounder asked. “They go up my nose!”

Da’Quarius sighed. “I know, Flounder. I know.”


“Yo,” Tony said, walking into Kwok’s Dry Cleaner’s and Laundromat. “What’s up, Mr. Kwok?”

“I didn’t order any pizza!” Mr. Kwok snapped.

“I’m looking for Da’Quarius and his Korean friend,” Tony said. “They’re going to help me cook this Tide Pod pizza and find some schmo who’s willing to eat it for the internet.”

“His Korean friend?” Mr. Kwok asked.

“Yeah,” Tony replied. “The fish kid.”

“Oh,” Mr. Kwok said. “You mean Qim.”

“No,” Tony said. “He’s named after a fish.”

“What do you want?” Mr. Kwok asked.

“I already told you,” Tony said. “I need the kids to help me cook this Tide Pod -”

“They aren’t here!” Mr. Kwok said. “They’re off the grid!”

“Off the Grid?” Tony asked. “Make less sense, I dare you.”

Mr. Kwok sighed. “They’re going to the Crisis Media building,” he said, “but don’t tell anyone. They’re off the grid.”

“The Crisis Media building?” Tony asked, his eyes turned upward in thought. “I know where that is. They’ve ordered from Paulie’s before.”

“They’re off the grid!” Mr. Kwok shouted, slamming a fist on the table.

“Then why do you keep telling me if they’re off the damn grid?!” Tony retorted. “You’re a friggin’ bonehead, Kwok.”

“Get out!” Mr. Kwok exclaimed, pointing toward the door.”

“Fine,” Tony muttered, leaving the laundromat. “I’ll go find those kids myself then.”


The panic about the Crisis Media offices allowed Da’Quarius and Flounder to slip in unnoticed. The secretary who was at the front desk was even busy, shouting into her phone. They walked right past her, using Flounder’s stolen keycard to gain entry. “You look ridiculous,” Da’Quarius whispered to Flounder, who was following close behind with tampons up his nose.

“It’s the only way,” Flounder said. “Find me an empty cubicle, and I can work.”

“Here’s one,” Da’Quarius said. “Go to work.”

“OK,” Flounder said, sitting in front of the computer and booting it up. “You know what to do.”

Da’Quarius did know what to do. He made his way toward the back where Marshall had brought him on his first visit. He used Flounder’s keycard, and he was happy to find that it worked on this door too, allowing him access to the back room. He walked through the room full of monitors and cameras he made his way to the small studio in the back and opened the door, standing in front of the camera. “Ready,” he said.

The red light above the camera went on, indicating that Flounder had hacked their system and was broadcasting. Marshall banged on the door from the outside, and Da’Quarius smiled.


“Yo,” Tony said, approaching the secretary’s desk. “I’m looking for -”

“We’re in crisis mode here,” the secretary said, putting her hand over the mouthpiece of her phone. “We don’t really have time for pizza.”

“That’s not -”

“Just find whoever ordered it,” the secretary said, clicking a button on the desk, buzzing the door open.

Tony looked at her for only a moment before walking past her and into the offices of Crisis Media. “Bitch,” he muttered as he passed.


Marshall had the door opened. “Get out,” he said. “You don’t know what you’re doing in here. Are you going to record a little PSA for your friends? If you haven’t noticed, we have a crisis on our hands, and I’ve cut the satellite feeds to this building. Our actors will be filming on site.”

“You got a problem too, bitch,” Da’Quarius said. “I know what’cho doin’ here.”

“I’ve already told you what we’re doing here,” Marshall said. “We’re recording and distributing crisis media for the masses, selling it to the highest political bidder.”

“No you ain’t,” Da’Quarius said. “You have no actors, an’ you have nuttin’. Dis business you have is all bullshit.”

“You know nothing,” Marshall said.

“You don’t meet da’ demands of da’ people,” Da’Quarius said. “You create ‘em.”

“Fine,” Marshall replied. “You want the truth? We don’t work in conspiracy theories, we create them. We take money from lobbyists, politicians, whoever. We take from the highest bidder, and the left is paying, so we give them sob stories from victims and whatnot.”

“I’m sure da’ right’s wallets are open too,” Da’Quarius said.

“That’s right,” Marshall said, a crazy look in his eyes. “The Republicans pay us to make the real-life victims look like actors. We create fake stories for social media, doctored photos for conspiracy Twitter accounts we control, and do everything we can to make their small corner of the internet believe that nothing is as it seems.”

“You’re double dippin’,” Da’Quarius said.

“You’re damn right we are!” Marshall snapped. “We’ll take money from anti-gun lobbyists and the fucking NRA. You think we care whose agenda get pushed? We don’t care as long as it MAKES US RICH!”

“But you fucked up,” Da’Quarius said, smirking. “I just broadcasted yo’ little confession.”

“You moron,” Marshall said with a smile of his own. “I already told you we cut our satellite feeds to this building.”

“But you didn’t cut off da’ wifi, you dumb-ass fuck,” Da’Quarius replied. “Flounder just broadcasted yo’ ass all over da’ ‘net.”

“You little bastard,” Marshall said, pulling a gun from inside his jacket. “I’m going to kill -”

“Hey,” Tony said, walking to the doorway. “Special delivery, asshole!”

“Who the fuck -”

Tony tossed the open pizza box at Marshall, and the raw pizza dough wrapped around his head. He screamed, grasping at the dough, dropping his gun. “OH MY GOD! Why are there Tide Pods in here?!”

“Come on, Kid!” Tony said. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Thanks,” Tony,” Da’Quarius said, leaving the production booth. He put it foot out as Marshall tried to peel the dough from his face and tripped him. He fell to the floor in a heap.

Flounder came running up to them. “That was amazing,” Flounder said. “The feed got a ton of hits already!”

“Why do you got vag-sticks up your nose?” Tony asked.

“Don’t ask,” Da’Quarius said. “Let’s get da’ fuck outta here.”


Helen and Rose were watching the news a week later with Da’Quarius. “Oh my,” Rose said. “Another shooting? At least nobody was killed this time.”

“And here come the crisis actors,” Helen said as the woman on TV described what had happened. “More fake news, fake people, and fake outrage.”

“Naw, biddy,” Da’Quarius said. “Da crisis media thing got shut down. Dis all real.”

“We need better gun control,” Rose said, shaking her head and staring at the TV. “How many times does this have to happen?”

“Bah!” Helen said. “They’ll never take our damn guns! Friggin’ lib-turds always use these mental cases as an excuse to pass their cockamamie gun laws!”

“That’s not the point!” Rose exclaimed.

“It’s always the point!” Helen retorted.

“Gotdammit,” Da’Quarius said, crossing his arms. “I coulda stayed home instead of goin’ underground an’ takin’ down dat damn Crisis Media company.”

The End

Freedom Lane: Da’Quarius Sees a Gyno

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

Freedom Lane: Tony Loses his Left Nut

“Tonight’s my last night with lefty,” Tony said, sitting across from Alice, the head of Paulie’s Pizza’s waitstaff. “I just want him to go out with a bang.”
“I told you, Tony,” Alice said. “I’m seeing someone now. I can’t do this ‘friends with benefits’ thing you keep going on about. I know you’re anxious about your surgery and the cancer, but I’m not entertaining this notion that you need to get laid one last time before your operation.”
Tony snorted. “I know I talk a big game,” he said, “but the fact is I’m scared for righty. Will he be alright once lefty is gone? Will he be able to work as well as two once he’s alone?”
Alice sighed. “Fine,” she said. “One time, but I don’t want you thinking we’re back together. And you can’t tell anyone, especially not Rocco!”
“Rocco?” Tony asked. “Why would he care?”
“He just has a big mouth,” Alice said quickly. “So let’s get this over with.”
“Wait,” Tony said, pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket. “It’s one now, and I’m seeing Claudette at two. I have a date at seven with this Korean broad from the dry cleaners at seven tonight too. Can we hook up at four-thirty? That should give me enough time to recharge after Claudette, and I’d be able to do the same for Ming or Ling or whatever laundromat chick’s name is.”
“You really are an asshole,” Alice said, sneering.
“So four-thirty?” Tony asked. “This may be your last chance to ride the Tony carousel. What if the cancer removal goes wrong.”
Alice sighed again. “Fine,” she said. “Four-thirty. Whatever. I’ll be at your apartment.”
“Great,” Tony said, jotting some notes down. “I’ll see you then.”
Freedom Lane
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 12, Episode 5: Tony Loses His Left Nut
“I’m so glad you decided to have dinner with us tonight,” Rose said, sitting across from Tony in her dining room.
“Me too,” Tony said, scooping a large portion of spaghetti onto his plate. “You broads know how to cook!”
“Oh,” Paulie said. “Don’t talk to her that way.”
“What he say?” Helen asked.
“Nothing,” Paulie said. “But aren’t you supposed to refrain from eating before your operation.”
“I don’t know,” Tony replied. “They may have told me to avoid something or other. There was something about sex too, but I’ve gotten laid twice already today, and I got one more date after dinner.”
“Oh lord,” Helen groaned. “He’s going to end up reproducing before his neutering after all.”
“He is not being neutered,” Rose said. “He is only having one removed, and he can still reproduce.” The looked at Tony, who was smiling while he sucked up a mouthful of spaghetti. “Although maybe you should consider a vasectomy while you’re under the knife.”
“No need,” Tony said. “I never pop my pudding while it’s still in the container.”
Da’Quarius pushed his plate away form himself. “I knew it was only a matter of time,” he said.
“But I can’t wait for this to be over,” Tony said. “Even though I’m losing a nut, I feel as if I’m gaining a new perspective on life.”
“Good for you,” Rose said. “Most people don’t see the forest for the trees.”
“What?” Tony asked. “I’m losing a nut, not going camping!”
“There it is,” Helen said.
“Well I can’t wait to stop hearing about it,” Paulie said. “You’d think Tony was meeting the pope with the way he’s been going on about this operation of his.”
“You think dis is over after tomorrow?” Da’Quarius asked. “You got da’ rest of yo’ life to hear ‘bout Tony’s missin’ nut over an’ over again.”
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “I’m going to have to fire him, aren’t I?”
“No way,” Tony said. “You think you want an unemployed cancer survivor on your conscience?”
“I guess not,” Paulie replied.
“Well I’m gonna have to shovel this down and jet,” Tony said, twirling his fork in his pile of spaghetti to maximize how much he would be able to shove into his mouth at once. I got this hot date with this chubby Korean from the laundromat, and I still need to scrub down there thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap.”
“OK,” Helen said, pushing her plate away. “I’m done too. That was too much, even for me.”
Tony drove toward Happy Laundromat on Willow Street after leaving the spaghetti dinner on Freedom Lane. He saw flashing red and blue lights, and he was disappointed when he saw they were coming from the Happy Laundromat.
Tony got out of his car and walked across the street. Two cops were ushering a large, bald man with no shirt toward a waiting cruiser, handcuffed. Luckily for Tony, his cop buddy, Rocco Priolo, was directing people away from the scene of whatever crime had been committed.
“Hey, Rocco,” Tony said. “What’s going on?”
“This guy had a dispute with his girlfriend and kicked over a washer,” Rocco said. “Said she was seeing another guy tonight, and he flipped. She’s inside now mopping up.”
Tony glanced inside, and he saw his date, Jei, mopping up the soapy water near the overturned washing machine. “Damn,” he said. “She told me her marriage was open.”
“That was you she was going to see?” Rocco asked. “You better get out of here before you get dragged in. Don’t you have your surgery tomorrow?”
“Yeah I do,” Tony replied, “but I was looking forward to one last night with the little guy before he loses half his possessions.”
“You got it rough, buddy,” Rocco said. “Maybe you should head home and get some rest though.”
“Screw that,” Tony said. “Maybe I’ll hit up Alice. She might want to go for a second round today.”
“Alice?” Rocco asked. “You were with her earlier?”
“Yeah,” Tony said. “She was my four-thirty. Don’t tell her I told you. She thinks you have a big mouth, by the way.”
“I have a big mouth?” Rocco asked. “Really?”
“Her words, bro,” Tony said. “Now if you excuse me, I need to go find some strange.”
“Yeah,” Rocco said, staring off. “You do that.”
Tony ended up at a bar called Weatherby’s Place, and he ordered a beer. He stayed where he was, sipping from his bottle and looking around. He knew Alice hung out here on her nights off, and he wasn’t surprised when he spotted her, talking to a couple of girlfriends at the opposite corner of the bar. He smiled and walked over to her.
“Is heaven missing an angel?” Tony asked, coming up behind her. “Because it’s open season on ‘em, and I got a big shotgun.”
Alice turned around. “What are you doing?!” she snapped, pushing Tony back to keep him away from her friends, who were all watching now. “Are you drinking? You have surgery tomorrow.”
“I’ll only have a couple,” Tony said, taking another swig. “I bet I won’t even have a hangover.”
“You’re such an ass,” Alice said. “I’ve never seen you in here. What are you doing?”
“Looking for you,” Tony replied. “My seven-thirty cancelled on me.”
“Really?” Alice asked.
“Not really ‘cancelled’,” Tony replied. “It was more of her mopping up her laundromat after her husband flipped over a washer when he heard she was going out with me.”
“You sure can pick em,” Alice said. “I’m going to go back to my friends now.”
“Wait,” Tony said. “Since I’m free, I’m wondering if you want to go for a second round.”
“Are you serious?” Alice asked. “I barely wanted to go the first time.”
“I don’t recall you complaining,” Tony said. “Come on. This might be your last chance again. You’re lucky. You get two last chances in one day.”
Alice was about to respond, but someone else caught her eye. Rocco was coming toward them, still in uniform. “Oh shit,” she said.
“Hey Rocco,” Tony said.
”Hey Tony,” Rocco replied. He turned toward Alice. “I have a big mouth? Really?”
”You told him!” Alice snapped, turning toward Tony.
”What the hell, Rocco!” Tony exclaimed. “I told you that in the strictest of bro confidences.”
“Me and Rocco are dating,” Alice said, rolling her eyes. “Why did you think I didn’t want you telling him?”
“I don’t know,” Tony said. “I thought it was a little weird actually, but all women are dense.”
“How could you cheat on me with Tony,” Rocco said. “He’s my friend.”
“Aren’t you mad at him?” Alice asked. “Go ahead and punch him.”
“Bros before hos,” Tony said.
“Tony didn’t know,” Rocco said. “You didn’t want him to know about us, and now I know why.”
“I didn’t want him to know because he’d act out about it,” Alice said.
“Hey,” Tony said. “Don’t make this argument about me.”
“Go home, Tony,” Rocco said. “You have surgery tomorrow.”
“Fine,” Tony said. “Don’t let me interrupt your bar-side couple’s counseling. Jeez.”
Tony left while Alice and Rocco continued to argue with a large audience.
It was getting late, and Tony was tired, despite his want to get laid one last time before his testicle removal in the morning. “Fuck it,” he said, walking into his empty apartment, located above Paulie’s Pizza. “I guess I’ll have one more go with it myself.”
Tony went to the closet by his bathroom and came out with a bottle of lotion and a box of tissues. He walked over to his couch and pulled a cardboard box from the left side, full of videos. He flipped through them and pulled one out with the image of two women standing on either side of a rider lawnmower. He took the disc out of the case, put it in the DVD player, and turned on the TV. He started undoing his belt when there was a knock at his door.
“Shit,” Tony muttered, getting up. He went do the door and opened it, finding Da’Quarius standing there. “What do you want, kid?”
“I wanna make sure you’re ready for tomorrow,” Da’Quarius said. “You’ve been actin’ like a moron.”
Tony sighed. “Everyone seems to be saying that today,” he said. “That’s just how I am though, kid. Why should I be any different when I have a different number of balls?”
“I think you’re good,” Da’Quarius said, walking through Tony’s apartment. “Me comin’ here spares you to have Paulie do it. I didn’t think you could stand him yelling at’chu any more.”
“I get where he’s coming from though,” Tony said. “He just wants to make sure I’m -”
“WHAT DA’ FUCK IS DIS⁈” Da’Quarius exclaimed, walking into Tony’s den to find a porn on with a fox of tissues and lotion on the couch. “WERE YOU JERKIN’ OFF IN HERE?!”
“I hadn’t started yet,” Tony replied, “so stop freaking out.”
“Mo’ fucker,” Da’Quarius said, walking away from the couch. “I ain’t sittin’ on dat couch ever again! Are you even s’pose to be jerkin’ off da’ night before you have nut surgery?”
“I don’t know,” Tony replied. “I figured it would be better if I emptied it for them, but I had nobody to help me out with that. The friggin’ Korean broad I was supposed to nail bailed on me, and then Alice and Rocco got into a fight.”
“I don’t even wanna know what kind of freaky shit you were gonna do with Rocco an’ Alice,” Da’Quarius said. “You’ve been acting nutty all night, doe. I’d be more worried if I was about to get one of my boys cut off, an’ you’re goin’ ‘round like nuttin’ gonna happen.”
“The fact is that I’m scared shitless,” Tony said. “I figured if I act like it wasn’t a big deal it wouldn’t be. Why do you think I tried to get this chick off Craigslist to spend the night with me? I don’t want to be alone.”
“You were lookin’ for chicks off Craigslist?” Da’Quarius asked. “I thought you were better than dat.”
Tony shrugged. “Since when?”
“Look,” Da’Quarius said. “If it helps, I’ll chill here tonight, an’ dis way you don’t have to be alone.”
“Alright,” Tony said. “I’d like that, actually. You can sleep on the couch if you want.”
“No fuckin’ way,” Da’Quarius said. “Just point me to whatever piece of floor you’re positive you haven’t jerked off on.”
At six-thirty the next morning, Paulie let himself into Tony’s apartment. He found Da’Quarius sitting on a kitchen chair, sleeping, his head lying on his arms on the table. Paulie gently shook him by the shoulder.
“Da’ fuck you want?” Da’Quarius groaned, slowly raising his head.
“Time to get up, kid,” Paulie said. “You got school today.”
“Fuck,” Da’Quarius said, getting up. “Today’s gonna suck. Should I wish Tony good luck with his nut?”
“I’ll let him know,” Paulie said. “Rose is waiting outside to drive you home so you can shower. Thanks for keeping Tony under control for us.”
“No problem,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m lucky I got here when I did. Another minute an’ he’d be beatin’ his meat like it slept with his bitch.”
“Get outta here,” Paulie said. “Don’t keep that sister-in-law of mine waiting.”
“Sure,” Da’Quarius said, walking toward the door. “Good luck with Tony.”
Da’Quarius left, leaving Paulie alone in the living area of Tony’s apartment. He walked over to the bedroom and knocked on the door. “You up, Tony?”
“I’m up,” Tony replied. “What are you doing here? What happened to the kid?”
“I’m driving you to the hospital,” Paulie replied. “Da’Quarius had to go to school, and he can’t drive yet anyway.”
“Oh, right,” Tony said. “I didn’t think about how I was supposed to get to the hospital.”
“Lucky for you there’s those of us who keep track of these things for you,” Paulie said. “How long will it take you to get ready?”
“Not long,” Tony replied. “Let me just scrub ‘em with this anti-bacterial soap. I want to make sure they’re nice and clean in case I get a lady doctor in there.”
“Madon,” Paulie said, turning away. “I’ll wait while you scrub.”
Paulie pulled up to the main doors of the hospital. “Here we are,” he said. “You ready?”
“I’m as ready as I’m gonna get,” Tony said. He let out a long breath. “This may be the end of an era if something goes wrong. There’s a lot of ladies out there, and I don’ t know if I’ll be able to satisfy them all with just one nut.”
“You’re fifty-five,” Paulie said. “Maybe it’s time you slowed down a bit anyway.”
“You’re sixty-four and still scoring,” Tony said. “What’s the point if I can’t even keep up with you?”
“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” Paulie said. “There’s guys who lose both, so consider yourself lucky you found out before it had to come to that.”
“Yeah,” Tony replied. “Even with one nut I can score twice as much as you.”
“Get in there!” Paulie snapped. “You friggin’ gagootz!”
“Wait,” Tony said. “Do you know how long I’m going to be in the hospital for?”
“No,” paulie replied. “That sounds like something they would have told you.”
Tony shrugged. “Someone probably said it at some point.”
Paulie laughed. “I’ll ask when they let me visit,” he said. “I’ll see you once they’re done.”
“Thanks,” Tony said, opening his door. “I really mean it, Paulie. You’ve always been like a brother to me.”
“Stop that before you start blubbering,” Paulie said. “I already told you that you’ll be fine.”
“OK,” Tony said, getting out of the car. “I’ll see you later.”
Tony was prepped and on a gurney, waiting patiently in the middle of an operating suite. “We’re just about ready,” the doctor said, holding the tube that would gas Tony to sleep. “Do you have any last minute questions or concerns?”
“Yeah,” Tony said. “Why do I close my left eye when I drink from a straw?”
The doctor stared at him. “Are you being serious right now?”
“Yeah,” Tony replied. “Is there something wrong with my brain?”
The doctor looked toward the nurse and back to Tony. “You know you’re having a testicle removed, right? I feel like you might not understand what’s going on.”
“I know what you’re up to,” Tony replied. “Why else would have I have had by balls drained for you?”
“I’m putting him under,” the doctor said with a sigh, strapping the mask to Tony’s face. “Count backwards from a hundred for me, please.”
“Hey,” Tony said, muffled under the mask. “So you’re OK with the straw thing? That’s not anything else I need to worry about, is it?”
“Why won’t he just go under?!” the doctor exclaimed.
Tony’s eyes opened slowly, the light giving him a headache. “Holy shit,” he groaned.
“Sleeping beauty is finally up,” Paulie said.
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “He was out all day, too.”
“Guys,” Tony said, his voice slow. “Nobody told me having a nut removed was going to hurt so bad. If feels like I got the worst case of blue-balls in my entire life.”
“You came through like a champ,” Paulie said. “They only removed the one, so you can still be you.”
“Good,” Tony said. “I guess I didn’t need to have that sperm froze. By the way, don’t open the container in the freezer labeled ‘Tony’s Juice’.”
“You have your spunk frozen in my restaurant?” Paulie asked, his eyes narrowing. “What the hell is wrong with you?!”
“Give him a break,” Da’Quarius said. “He just lost a boy.”
“I’m still tired,” Tony said. “I’m gonna catch a few more zees.”
“Oh!” Paulie snapped. “Don’t think you’re not answering for that!”
“He’s out cold,” Da’Quarius said. “Yellin’ at him ain’t gonna do a thing.”
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “Friggin’ stunad.”
The End

Freedom Lane – Two Girls One Mower

“Look,” Helen said, standing in the kitchen, arguing with Rose. “You’ve paraded a whole cast of houseguests in this home yourself, so don’t get all uppity.”
“Don’t act like you haven’t done this before,” Rose said. “What about the elderly porn star and your former cellmate? And now the latter’s niece is staying with us?”
“You forgot da’ time Helen let a clown stay here,” Da’Quarius added.
Rose shuddered and went pale. “Never bring that up.”
“It’s only temporary,” Helen said. “Besides, I owe Bea from when we kicked her out. It’s just a girl in her twenties. It was one of your guests that seduced Da’Quarius and took his virginity that time.”
“But it was one of yours that gave him chlamydia,” Rose retorted.
“Both dose statements are inaccurate an’ outta context an’ shit,” Da’Quarius said. “I don’t remember da’ first, an’ dat old porn star was wearin’ my underwear.”
“Nevertheless,” Rose continued, “I don’t know if Bea’s niece staying here is a good idea.”
“I know it doesn’t seem ideal,” Helen said. “But I can’t turn my back on one of Bea’s kin. I know her and I didn’t finish things well, but she wouldn’t ask me for a solid if it wasn’t serious. Besides, it’s only until she can get a job and find an apartment on her own.”
“So this will only be until she can find a job?” Rose asked.
“Yes,” Helen said. “And I’ll even help her look. I’ll make sure she takes the first opportunity that comes her way.”
“The very first opportunity?” Rose repeated, raising an eyebrow.
“The very first one,” Helen repeated.
Freedom Lane 
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 11 Finale: Two Girls One Mower
“So you’re problem is solved,” Helen said, walking in the house, followed by their neighbors from across the street and one house up, Antonio and Manny Garcia. “I spoke with Eileen about your plight, and she’s more than happy to take the job. This is her right here, by the way. Eileen, meet your new bosses, the Garcia brothers.”
“What?” Rose asked, coming in from the kitchen. “You found her a job already. How did you…” She looked from Eileen to the the trio who had just come in. “Good lord. You are not letting her do porn.”
“We agreed,” Helen said. “Eileen was to take the very first opportunity that came around. I was looking through the employment ads, and I found one by our very good friends from across the street. Eileen is all for it, and these two are more than happy with her… qualifications. Also, I get to direct her first movie!”
“It was Helen’s idea after all,” Antonio said, smiling. 
“Yeah,” Manny added. “She gave us the idea the first day we met you guys: Two Girls, One Mower.”
“What’s the plot of the film?” Eileen asked, standing up.
“It’s a porno, dear,” Rose said, rolling her eyes. “I wouldn’t worry much about plot.”
“I’m betting Eileen is a natural,” Helen added. “She’s going ride that mower and that other chick like there’s no tomorrow. I have so many ideas for this chick, you have no idea.”
There was the stomping of feet as Da’Quarius raced downstairs from his bedroom, his feet thundering on the steps. “Okay,” he said. “Start dis conversation over.”
The phone of Paulie’s Pizza on State Street rang on a Friday afternoon. Tony came from the back and answered it, getting his pad and pencil ready to take an order. “Paulie’s Pizza,” he said.
“Yeah,” the voice on the other end, an annoyed male, said. “Do you assholes know what ‘no tomatoes’ means?”
“What?” Tony retorted. “How about you come down here and ask me that, you friggin’ wise guy?”
“I asked for no tomatoes on my grinder,” the man on the phone replied. “There’s huge slices of tomatoes on this thing. Can you even listen to a simple request with all the pizza sauce in your ears?”
“How about this,” Tony said, “let me know where you are, and I’ll come pick them up. Then you can call me an asshole to my face and see what that gets you.”
“Hang up that damn phone!” Paulie snapped, storming form his office. “Do you think I can’t hear you from in there?!”
Tony hung the phone up. “It’s another one of these prank callers,” he said. “That’s the third one this week. I’m getting sick of their shit.”
“Then stop buying into it,” Paulie said. “It’s those damn college kids. They get off on smoking dope and harassing pizza places. It’s been that way since I opened thirty-five years ago. I don’t know why there’s a bug up your ass about it now.”
“I don’t know,” Tony said. “They’re just annoying is all, and they seem to be coming in more often since we’ve re-opened.”
The door opened, and Da’Quarius walked in. “What’s up, Unca Paulie,” he said, smiling. “Tony.”
“Don’t let me find out it’s you!” Tony exclaimed, pointing a finger toward Da’Quarius. “I don’t give a shit, kid. I’ll toss you off the roof if I find out it’s you calling here!”
“Da’ fuck you talkin’ ‘bout?” Da’Quarius said. “I ain’t callin’ yo’ ass.”
“Get back to work!” Paulie snapped to Tony. He turned to Da’Quarius. “What brings you here on a Friday afternoon?”
“I’m meetin’ a group from school for what my teacher calls a ‘social experiment’,” Da’Quarius replied. “Rose don’t want me ‘round while Helen is directing a porno across da’ street anyway.”
A car horn honked, and Da’Quarius turned and looked out the window. “Shit. My ride’s here early. Catch ya later, Unca Paulie.”
“Alright, kid,” Paulie said as Da’Quarius headed for the door. “Have fun.”
Da’Quarius was out in the afternoon sun when something struck Paulie. “Hey!” he called. “What did you say my sister’s doing?!”
“What on earth are you doing?” Helen asked Rose, who has a huge piece of poster board on the dining room table, making a sign with a sharpie.
“I’m protesting your porno,” Rose replied. “Ive stood by too long while those two made and peddled smut in the neighborhood in which I grew up. I don’t even know why I sat here and let them do it.”
“Because this is America,” Helen said. “Those two clowns have every right to peddle as much smut they want. I don’t understand much about computers or internets; but I know its full of fuck-movies, and that’s protected by our constitution.”
Rose sighed.
“Besides,” Helen continued, “you’re just jealous that they’re letting me direct.” 
“I’m jealous?!” Rose exclaimed. “Don’t be ridiculous. If anything, I’m a little upset that you’d take on this project without considering how I’d feel about it.”
“I assumed you’d be thrilled!” Helen retorted. “It’s not like you and I have never watched an adult movie together.”
“Helen…” Rose said, blushing vividly.
“Remember the days of the VHS rental places?” Helen asked, smiling. “Every tenth rental was free. We had two free rentals a month, Rose.”
Rose giggled. “Stop it,” she said.
“What?” Helen said. “You and I had fun. We must have rented every girl-on-girl movie that place had, twice. Remember ‘Strap-On Susie’? That was a favorite of yours. I wonder what Susie’s up to nowadays. Think she’s still strapping one on and ramming it home?”
Rose laughed, but her smile faded. “I know what you’re doing,” she said. “You’re just distracting me long enough so you can formulate a way to tell me that I can’t protest pornography because I’ve watched it. It’s not that I dislike porno in general, it’s that I don’t want it across the street from my family and my teenage son.”
Helen scoffed. “Fine,” she said. “Protest then. I’ll be filming two girls humping each other on a rider-mower while you’re holding up your clever sign in the hot sun. Maybe I’ll buy you a lemonade when I’m done with my directorial debut.”
“Is dat really what dis is ‘bout?” Da’Quarius asked as his social studies teacher, Mr. Hessman, drove his Camry through the streets of downtown New Haven. He was joined in the car with his Korean friend, Flounder, who was alone in the backseat. 
“I told you,” Hessman replied, “this is a social experiment. You’ll get an A-plus as a test grade, both of you. You’re doing fine, but Flounder really needs to get his average up.”
“My dad has me cleaning clothes every night until mom comes home,” Flounder said, looking at the floor.
“What happened to yo’ moms?” Da’Quarius asked. “Is e’rythin’ okay at home?”
“Regardless of your excuse,” Hessman continued, “you’ve slipped to a C-minus in my class. Da’Quarius, if you want to help Flounder out, you’ll take part in this experiment.”
“Fine,” Da’Quarius said. “Just so you know, Hess: you a dirty-ass mo’ fucker.”
“Noted,” Hessman replied.
“Tell us one more time wha’chu want us doin’,” Da’Quarius said. “I wanna make sure we got it before we start.”
“Okay,” Hessman said. “I’m going to find a corner full of hookers. I’m going to slow down just enough to get their attention. When they start looking around, you, Da’Quarius, will blast them with the paintball gun.”
“Got it,” Da’Quarius said, shifting the paintball gun that was sitting on his lap.
“Flounder,” Hessman continued. “You’re going to film the whole thing. Make sure you get the looks on their faces. I’ll only stay a moment go get their reaction before driving away.”
“Then we’ll write an essay on all this?” Flounder asked.
“No!” Hessman snapped. “Then I upload this to Twitter and watch me follower count soar. Don’t you dare write any of this down.”
“It’s a lil’ too early fo’ hookers,” Da’Quarius said. “You gonna be driving ‘ a while.”
“I figured I’d get you some burgers first,” Hessman replied. “How’s Five Guys sound?”
“Sounds good to me,” Da’Quarius replied. “I know Flounder’s good with dat. Right, Flounder?”
“I miss mom,” Flounder said, looking toward the floor.
Helen walked toward the back to the Garcia’s house. “Shit,” Helen said, looking around.
“What?” Antonio asked.
“I don’t know,” Helen sighed. “I expected more I guess. I thought you’d have beds all over with women diddling themselves, lesbians running around with dildos, the works.”
“We have some cam rooms upstairs,” Antonio said. “But a lot of the girls work from home.”
They finally made their way to a room with a large green screen. In the middle was a rider mower, and Eileen was already sitting in the seat, joking around with another woman with black hair and tattoos.
“This is going to be good,” Helen said, licking her lips. “How’d you get the mower in the house anyway?”
“We’re almost ready,” Manny said, coming up to Antonio and Helen. “This is going to be epic.”
“I have a suggestion,” Helen said.
“Shoot,” Manny replied. “You’re the director after all.”
Helen looked over the scene, her finger tapping on her chin. “This isn’t hispanic enough,” she said. “Do you have any sombreros for the ladies?”
“On it,” Manny said, running off.
“Paulie’s Pizza,” Tony said, picking up the phone near the register. “Oh yeah? How about you cut yourself instead. Start with your friggin’ head!”
“Oh!” Paulie said, nearly stampeding to Tony. “We got a pizzeria full of customers in front of you. Who are you threatening now?”
Tony held the phone to his chest. “It’s some mook who claims our provolone was too sharp and they cut themselves.”
Paulie smiled. “Just hang up,” he said. “They’re just kids. They’re going to keep calling to get a rise out of you. Don’t let me hear you yelling in here again.” He walked back to his office, chuckling at the joke about the sharp provolone.
“Look,” Tony said softly, putting the phone back to his lips. “Go cut your friggin’ muddah.” He hung the phone up.
“There they are,” Hessman said, driving his car past a group of hookers just on the outskirts of downtown New Haven. “I’m going to circle the block, slow down, and get their attention. Then you blast them, Daq. You film it, Flounder.”
“We got it,” Da’Quarius said. “Let’s do dis.”
“Ready, Flounder?” Hessman asked.
“Sure,” Flounder said, turning on the camera and getting it ready. “I could just hack your profile and get you as many twitter followers as you want, you know.”
“Those aren’t real followers,” Hessman muttered, driving around the block. “They need to be authentic or I might as well be tweeting to the wall.”
“What’s yo’ Twitter handle anyway?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Never you mind,” Hessman said. “Part of your A-Plus is you don’t ask questions.”
“Fine,” Da’Quarius said. “Just get me near da’ hookers so I can blast ‘em.”
“They’re coming up,” Hessman said, pulling up to the corner where the three hookers were congregating. Da’Quarius unrolled his window, getting their attention. Flounder recorded from the back, silent, too scared to breathe. The hookers approached, hoping for a willing john with a fat wallet. Instead, they were met by Da’Quarius popping up with a paintball gun.
“BREAK YO’SELF, HOS!” Da’Quarius shouted, opening fire. His aim was true, and he pelted the ladies of the evening with neon green paint. All three of them were hit, and were shouting obscenities. 
“HEY!” someone exclaimed from a hundred feet away. Da’Quarius turned to see their pimp, a tall black man in a black coat and a matching fedora, approaching.
“Hess!” Da’Quarius shouted. “Get da’ fuck outta here!”
Hessman didn’t have to be told twice. He slammed his foot on the gas, peeled rubber, and drove away from the entire scene.
Rose stood outside the Garcias’ house, holding her sign. She had put out a plea to Facebook, and a few others had shown up in support. A woman with black hair carried a large crucifix and approached Rose. “It’s disgusting what they’re doing to our neighborhood,” she said. “Their house should be burnt to the ground.”
“Manny and Antonio are actually both very nice,” Rose said. “I just don’t agree with what they’re doing.”
“There’s nothing nice about peddling smut,” the woman said. “When Jesus returns, all smut peddlers, fornicators, homosexuals, and democrats will burn and rot.”
“Wow,” Rose said to herself as the woman walked away. “Glad she didn’t ask anything about me.”
“What you’re doing is great,” a man said, coming up to Rose. “I can’t wait to have them evicted from our neighborhood.”
“Oh,” Rose said. “I don’t want to see them kicked out. I just want them to not shoot their movies here.”
“Pornographers are disgusting people,” the man said, his scowl becoming more prominent. “I don’t even consider them human beings. It doesn’t help that they’re Mexican too.”
“They’re actually Puerto Rican,” Rose corrected.
“Same difference,” the man said. He walked off, shouting about the horrors of sex as an elderly couple walked their dogs past their house.
“Jeez,” Rose muttered. “I’m not really in good company out here, am I?”
“Now we’re cooking with gas,” Helen said as Eileen and Julie put on their sombreros.
“This seems a little racist now,” Antonio said.
“You’re the two who hired white women for my hispanic porn,” Helen retorted, giving him the stink-eye.
“Eileen was your actress,” Antonio said.
“Fine,” Helen said. “Now I see Eileen straddling the mower as Julie comes into the shot and says -”
“We have a problem,” Manny interrupted, looking at his phone.
“What?” Antonio asked.
“There’s apparently a protest going on outside our house,” Manny said. “A bunch of religious nuts and shit.”
“That’s not all,” Helen said. “Rose is there too.”
“Why would Rose protest us?” Manny asked. “I thought she liked us.”
“She bakes us cookies!” Antonio said, looking as if he were slapped in the face.
“She’s acting out of jealousy,” Helen said. She put on her green army helmet. “But she has no idea what she’s started.”
“When did you bring that helmet in?” Antonio asked.
“Think we lost him?” Hessman asked, speeding down the streets of New Haven.
Founder looked out the beck window. “No,” he said, his voice panicked. “He’s following us in a black car. Why’d you make me do this?!”
“Nobody forced you!” Hessman snapped. “Either of you!”
“I’m not sayin’ a thing,” Da’Quarius said.
“You’re right,” Hessman said, turning a corner quickly without signaling. “You’re awfully calm about it while Flounder is almost pissing himself back there.”
Da’Quarius shrugged. “Dis almost seems normal at dis point.”
“I have no idea how I’m going to lose this pimp,” Hessman said.
“Might as well pull over and let him cut you,” Da’Quarius suggested. “Get it over with while we’re still near da’ hospital.”
“That’s a little too dark,” Hessman said. “Besides, you’re the one who shot the hookers.”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said, “but I bet he’s more apt to cut da’ adult chaperone den da’ kids in da’ car.”
Hessman sighed. “You’re probably right. How we looking back there, Flounder?”
“I didn’t pee myself,” Flounder replied.
“I mean the pimp,” Hessman said. “Is he still behind us?”
“Yeah,” Flounder said. “He’s still there.”
“Shit,” Hessman said. “I’m going to try to get out of downtown so I can move a little faster. Maybe if I head toward Westville I can lose him in the neighborhoods.”
“I dunno,” Da’Quarius said. “He’s just gonna have less obstacles between him an’ us.”
“Alright,” Hessman said. “Let’s go down some one-way streets the wrong way and give him the slip.”
Flounder groaned in the back.
“Do it,” Da’Quarius said.
“You’re way too excited about this,” Hessman said.
Paulie sat in front of the computer of his office, going over his numbers and the following week’s orders. His head was aching from a long day, and he just wanted to duck out and head home. He was hoping to finish up soon and let Tony close up. That was when he heard the shouting.
“How about I put that large sausage up your sister’s ass!” Tony shouted. 
“Madon,” Paulie groaned, getting up. He stormed out of his office and found Tony by the counter. “Hang up the friggin’ phone!”
Tony did as he was told, putting the phone down. “You wouldn’t believe these assholes,” he said. “They’re calling here now, asking for a large sausage. When I ask where they want it delivered to, they tell me my mother’s ass.”
Alice, Paulie’s head waitress, stormed in from the seating area. “Can you please stop yelling obscenities?” she asked. “The customers in there can hear you, and they’re complaining.”
“You don’t understand how it is!” Tony exclaimed. “These mooks have been calling all night!”
“I already told you,” Paulie said. “They’re calling because you keep flipping the hell out. Just hang up, and they’ll stop.”
“I tried,” Tony said. “They’re tying up the phone with this nonsense too.”
Paulie sighed. “Alice,” he said, turning toward the waitress, “would it be possible for you to start taking orders over the phone too on top of managing the waitstaff?”
Alice looked a little surprised. “You mean come into the main area?” she asked. “Like the big leagues?”
“I’m going to assume that was not sarcasm,” Paulie replied.
“No,” Alice said. “It wasn’t. I can handle the phone while you’re busy.”
“No way,” Tony said, waving his arms. “I take the calls when you’re busy. That’s how it’s always been.”
“You’re disrespecting my place and my name,” Paulie said, pointing a finger toward Tony. “People don’t come in here to hear you screaming over the phone to some kids playing telephone tough guys. You’re off the phone, Tony. Alice, you’re on.”
“Fongool,” Tony muttered, heading back toward the kitchen.
“I won’t let you down, boss,” Alice said.
“I hope not,” Paulie said, heading back toward his office. “Now let me finish my work in peace, for the love of all that is holy, please.”
The phone rang and Alice picked it up, pulling a pen and pad toward herself. “Paulie’s Pizza,” she said. She listened. Tony crept back from the kitchen.
Alice put the phone near her chest, blocking the receiver. “The want to know where the other guy is,” she said. “They want grinders. Two meatballs and a sausage, delivered directly to your own ass.”
“Hey,” Tony said in a surly tone, walking back toward the kitchen after a quick shrug. “You wanted to talk to these assholes. Enjoy the big leagues, babe.”
Alice put the phone back to her mouth. “Eat shit and die slowly, you fuckin’ morons,” she said, hanging up.
“Fornication on film is not part of God’s plan!” a man shouted, motioning toward the Garcia brother’s home. “All fornication should only take place on the marital bed of two straight adults!”
The small crowd, now numbering more than ten people, nodded and murmured in agreement. All except Rose, who felt more and more embarrassed as the protest she had started went on. She thought about sneaking back home and hoping Manny and Antonio would never find out she had something to do about it. Maybe Helen would forget that Rose had planned this after all. She was due for her senility to give her a memory lapse.
“GET LOST!” Helen said, coming from the front door, wearing her green army hat and brandishing a baseball bat. “This is a legitimate business these fine young boys are running! Nobody is doing anything they don’t want to to do!”
“Good lord!” the man with the megaphone said. “Is that the lady who curses during church?!”
“She defiles Bingo too!” an older woman shouted. “She cheats!”
“You just suck at it!” Helen snapped. “Rose, tell your posse to get out of here!”
The small group all turned to look at Rose, who was standing near the sidewalk, embarrassed by the group and Helen at the same time. The time she was brave enough to lead a group of stranded people through the woods to safety seemed a long time ago.
“She’s with you?” the man with the megaphone asked.
“She is!” the old Bingo lady added. “They’re together, a couple of the gays!”
“Oh!” Helen exclaimed. “Don’t throw around accusations like that unless you want me to slap you around!”
“Come on!” megaphone man shouted. “Planned Parenthood is only a few blocks away on Whitney. Let’s go protest there while our hate is still righteous.”
The crowd all agreed, and they started making their way to their cars.
“Well?” Helen asked. “Are you happy now?”
Rose looked at Helen, tears swimming in her eyes. “No.”
 “He’s still there,” Flounder said as Hessman sped around a corner.
“I see him,” Hessman said, looking in his rearview mirror.
“I told you not to leave downtown,” Da’Quarius said.
“But there are less police out this way,” Hessman retorted.
Da’Quarius laughed. “I think da’ police would be yo’ friend right ‘bout now.”
Hessman huffed, turning another corner, followed by the black sedan.
“Oh shit!” Da’Quarius exclaimed, so suddenly he almost made Hessman drive over a curb. 
“What?” Hessman asked.
Da’Quarius was already clicking away on his phone. “Umma call Rocco.”
“Who’s Rocco?” Hessman asked.
“Tony’s buddy,” Da’Quarius replied. “He’s a cop, an’ he helps us out of jams all da’ time.”
“Who’s Tony?” Hessman asked.
“Rocco,” Da’Quarius said, putting the call on speaker. “It’s Da’Quarius. I got a little problem.”
“What is it?” Rocco asked.
“Some pimp is chasin’ us right now,” Da’Quarius said. “We kinda shot up his girls with paintballs.”
There was a long sigh from Rocco. “What the hell would even possess you to do something like that?”
“It’s a social experiment,” Da’Quarius replied. “I think it’s goin’ well. Right, Hess?”
“Can you help us out?!” Hess called, keeping his eyes on the road. “We’re near Edgewood and Forest Road.”
“You’re on your own tonight,” Rocco said. “I’m not working right now. Call nine-one-one.”
“But they’ll send da’ real police,” Da’Quarius said.
“I am the real police!” Rocco snapped. “I’m just off duty. I gotta go. Good luck.”
“Rocco!” Da’Quarius shouted as Rocco hung up. “Damn. I thought we were cool, mo’ fucker.”
“I got an idea,” Hessman said. He cut the wheel suddenly, knocking over some trashcans with the front of his car. He drove down an empty driveway, through a fence, coming out on another street via someone else’s yard. He made a quick right and another left, speeding away. He pulled down a dark street and parked swiftly, losing his passenger side mirror against a tree. He killed the engine and the lights.
“Holy shit,” Da’Quarius said. “Dat was hardcore as fuck.”
“Quiet,” Hessman said, lowering himself in his seat. “Get down.”
They all lowered themselves, not saying a word. They heard cars passing on a perpendicular street, but there was no way to tell if it was the pissed off pimp. After a few minutes, Hessman raised his head and looked around. “I think we actually lost him.”
“Better chill for a few more minutes,” Da’Quarius said. “Just to be safe.”
“Good idea,” Hessman said, finally calming down. “I haven’t felt that alive in years. I love that fuckin’ adrenaline rush!”
“You real fucked up, Hess,” Da’Quarius said. “How you doin’ Flounder? You’ve been quiet back there for a minute.”
“Is it okay if I step outside to puke?” Flounder asked.
“Flounder,” Hessman replied, “ I’d prefer it if you did.”
Flounder left the car, closing the door behind him. He went behind a tree and retched.
“I think I owe you two an ice cream” Hessman said.
“Fuck yeah you do,” Da’Quarius said.
“Well,” Hessman said, taking his phone from his pocket. “Let me call the wife and let her know I’ll be home in an hour or so.”
“So talk,” Helen said, staring at a silent Rose, standing outside the Garcia brother’s home. “Isn’t this what you wanted? Did you want to be here with the scumbag underbelly of the christian community?”
“It was horrible!” Rose said suddenly, the tears finally coming. “These people were so awful. I’d rather associate with what you’re doing inside that house than the people against it outside.”
Helen nodded, the smallest smug smile on her face.
“Oh stop,” Rose said. “You know how these church nuts are. I try to stop one porno movie, and they come out, crying about fornicators, the evil of homosexuality, and killing fetuses. Hell, I think one of them told me all liberals are going to burn in hell.”
“I won’t argue the last part,” Helen said, taking off her helmet, “but I do think you’d be in good company inside. I want you to be part of this, Rose.”
“You do?” Rose asked.
“Why wouldn’t I?”  Helen asked in return. “I would have asked you from the get-go, but you were so against Eileen doing it.”
Rose sighed. “I’m sorry I overreacted,” she said.  “Maybe I was a little jealous of you taking Eileen under your wing and introducing her to the world of pornography.”
“Listen,” Helen said. “This thing is harder than I thought. I could really use a creative consultant on my team.”
“Really?” Rose asked.
“Yeah,” Helen replied. “I got these girls in sombreros right now, but something still feels off.”
“Well I’d love to lend you a hand if you really need one,” Rose said, wiping a tear and smiling.
“I really do,” Helen said. She put out her arm. “Ready to go make these two girls fuck each other on film for money with me?”
“There’s nothing I’d like more,” Rose said, taking Helen’s arm.
Paulie left his office with his coat on. “Tony!” he called.
“Yeah, boss,” Tony replied, coming from the back.
“I need to head home a little early,” Paulie said. “I got a headache the size of a friggin’ wrecking ball. I need you to close up for me tonight.”
“I got it, boss,” Tony said.
“Thanks,” Paulie said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“See you later,” Tony said. 
Paulie walked toward the door when someone came in, walking past him and going right to the counter. “Who’s the guy who’s been answering the phone all night?” he asked.
“Madon,” Paulie muttered. “If I had just left two minutes earlier…”
“What’s up?” Tony asked, giving him a curt nod. “You that mook having fun on the phone all night? Want to have a discussion outside?”
“Tony,” Paulie said, coming back to the counter, his headache threatening to tear his head a new asshole.
“I’m an intern from the Morning BJ Show on WPRW,” the guy said. “I have some paperwork for you to sign.”
“What the hell are you talking about?’ Tony asked. “And why aren’t you going outside?”
“They’re release forms,” the intern replied. “We’ve been recording the phone calls. You’re hilarious. We want to play them on the radio on Monday morning.”
“Wow,” Tony said, beaming. “Where do I sign?”
“Right on the dotted line,” the intern said, taking a contract out and holding it out. “Print your name and date it as well.”
“Absolutely not,” Paulie said, walking between the two. “This is my place of business, and I won’t have it disrespected on that perverted radio show.”
“It’s all in fun,” the intern said.
“No,” Paulie said.
“We worked all day and night calling here,” the intern said, looking genuinely upset.
“I noticed,” Paulie said. “Do you have any idea how much of my business you’ve disrupted with this friggin’ nonsense?”
“Come on,” the intern said, waving his arms. “My bosses are going to be pissed if I wasted all that time making those calls and can’t get a consent form signed.”
Alice came from the seating area to see the argument. The intern spotted her, a smile creeping up his face.
“I need one from you too,” the intern said, taking out another contract and holding it out to Alice. “You’re the woman who called me a fuckin’ moron, right? That was gold.”
“Really, Alice?” Paulie asked, looking at her. “I thought you’d be better than Tony with these mooks. I expected better from you.”
Alice looked down in embarrassment.
“Just sign,” the intern said. “I won’t even use the name of this place on air. It’s really standard -”
The intern was cutoff by Paulie grabbing the papers from his hands and tearing them up. “I’ve had enough of this shit tonight to last me a friggin’ lifetime,” he said, turning the release forms into useless shreds of paper and confetti. “Fuck your radio show, and fuck you. Get the fuck out of here before I drag you out by your hair.”
Those who were left at Paulie’s were giving the owner their full attention. The intern looked angry and offended by Paulie’s actions. “You son of a bitch,” he said, seething. “How dare you lecture me about your business and trash-talk mine.”
“I today to get the fuck out of my pizzeria,” Paulie said, pointing toward the door. “Now.”
The intern had no notion of leaving in peace. He shoved Paulie, hitting him in the chest with both arms. Paulie staggered back a step, laughed once, lunged, grabbed the intern by the hair, and dragged him toward the front door. The intern screamed for help as Paulie opened the door with his other hand and dragged him outside.
“Holy shit,” Alice said, as the chimes above the door rang as it closed, muffling the screams of the radio show intern. “Has Paulie gone off the rails like this before?”
Tony leapt over the counter, sprinting toward the door. “I ain’t missing this for anything!” 
Alice watched him go as Tony sent outside and the rest of the patrons crowded the windows to watch. She could hear Paulie yelling, but she couldn’t understand the stream of obscenities as Paulie beat up the intern who had shoved him. “Fuck it,” she said, walking toward the door. “I’m not missing this either.”
Da’Quarius, Hessman, and Flounder sat in the State Street Diner, waiting for their sundaes. “You sure you’re okay to eat again?” Hessman asked.
“Yeah,” Flounder said. “I lost most of what I had at Five Guys already.”
“I’m just glad dat’s all over,” Da’Quarius said. “Doe your car looks like shit now.”
Hessman shrugged. “I got a guy who owns a body shop,” he said. “Nothing a couple of hundred bucks can’t fix. It’s worth it for the exposure I’ll get from that video. But I’m glad that’s all over too.”
Da’Quarius looked toward the entrance as it opened. “Oh fuck,” he said. “It ain’t over yet.”
Hessman turned to see the pimp they pissed off walking toward them, still wearing his fedora and fur coat. “Did you think I wouldn’t recognize yo’ fucked up car?” he asked, standing at the end of the table, staring down at the trio.
Flounder gulped, a long fart emanating from his bottom.
“You wanna go take care of that?” the pimp asked.
Flounder nodded slowly.
“Then go, mo’ fucker,” the pimp said. “Wet some doo-doo paper and clean dat fat ass up.”
Flounder scrambled up, running toward the restroom, holding his bottom, leaving a stench in his path.
The pimp sat across from Hessman, staring at him. “That was funny,” he said, not hint of a smile on his face, “having this kid here shoot my girls with paint.”
“It was a goof,” Hessman said, talking quickly. “A joke. I didn’t mean to offend or upset you. I’ll make it right. Whatever you want. Just say it.”
The pimp laughed. “I’m fuckin’ wit’chu, honky,” he said. “I actually do think it was funny as shit. I just wanted to catch up wit’chu an’ tell you dat I want in.”
“What are you talking about?” Hessman asked. “You’re not going to cut me?”
“Do you wanna get cut?” the pimp asked.
“No,” Hessman replied, the beads of sweat on his forehead becoming more prominent.
“Then I ain’t gonna cut’cho ass,” the pimp said. “You just need to add my info on yo’ video before you post it online. You are posting it, right.”
“Yeah,” Hessman said, nodding at the same time. “Unless it’s a problem.”
“Mo’ fucker,” the pimp said, leaning back. “I just told you it ain’t no problem. Now go get the waitress an’ order me some meatloaf an’ fried onions.”
“Sure,” Hessman said, getting up and nearly tripping over his own feet. He sprinted toward the waitress on the other end of the diner to give him the pimp’s order.
“An’ a Diet Pepsi with no ice!” the pimp shouted.
The pimp turned to Da’Quarius next. “Dat was some good shootin’,” he said. “You ever do a drive-by before.”
“Dat was my first,” Da’Quarius said. “I never seen Hessman panic like dat. You really scared his ass.”
“What’s he doin’ wit’chu kids,” the pimp asked. “He ain’t tryin’ to touch you an’ shit, is he?”
“Nah,” Da’Quaruis said. “Hess ain’t like dat. He’s our teacher, and he uses some of da’ kids to do his biddin’ sometimes.”
“Dat’s kinda fucked up,” the pimp said.
Da’Quarius shrugged. “E’rythin’s a little fucked up,” he said. “I don’t have enough time to explain, nigga.”
“You seem like a cool kid,” the pimp said. “To do this shit fo’ yo’ teacher. Maybe we should keep in touch. You ever think of learnin’ da’ pimp game?”
“I’ve thought ‘bout just dabblin’ a bit,” Da’Quarius said. “I think my moms an’ unca would get pissed if I became a full fledged pimp. They’re all white. You know how it is.”
The pimp laughed. “We’ll maybe we’ll run into each other,” he said. He reached in his pocket and handed Da’Quarius a card like a businessman. “Call me for all yo’ prostitute needs an’ otherwise. I have a wide range of businesses.”
Da’Quarius read the card. “Yo’ name is Lobsterclaw?”
“Yup,” the pimp replied. “Lobsterclaw’s da’ name, an’ pimpin’s da’ game.”
Da’Quarius stared at Lobsterclaw. “Dat’s a cool as fuck name,” he said. “Used to be my middle name ‘til I changed it.”
“Word,” Lobsterclaw said, smiling. “Remember my motto: pimpin’ is easy unless you a dumb fuck.”
“Cool,” Da’Quarius said. “You’re alright, Lobsterclaw.”
Hessman returned. “She’s putting your order in now,” he said.
“Good,” Lobstersclaw said. “You owe me thirty bucks to replace da’ bitches’ clothes, by the way.”
Da’Quarius returned home to find Rose and Helen just settling in for the night. “Sorry I’m late,” he said. “Hessman took us out for ice cream after his little social experiment, an’ you guys weren’t answerin’ da’ phone.”
“It’s alright,” Rose said, a look of happiness on her face. “We’re just getting in ourselves.”
“How did the da’ tapin’ go?” Da’Quarius asked. “Rose looks happy, so I’m bettin’ she stopped it from happenin’.”
“On the contrary,” Rose said, “it turns out Helen needed a creative consultant.”
“And Rose was more than happy to agree,” Helen said, putting her hand on Rose’s arm. The two looked at each other, smiling. “The movie came out beautifully too. If pornos could win Oscars ours would win.”
“How was your project?” Rose asked, reluctantly turning away from Helen. “Did it go well?”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “I shot up some hookers, but I think I made friends with a pimp.”
“Well,” Rose said, getting up and walking toward the stairs. “I’m going to head to bed if you’re going to make up far-fetched stories. Don’t forget to take Dutchie for a walk before you come up. Goodnight.”
“Get some sleep, kid,” Helen said, following Rose. “Oh, and take that dog for an extra long walk. I think being a creative consultant on a porno made Rose a little… Frisky. Goodnight.”
“Damn biddies,” Da’Quarius muttered, getting his dog’s leash from the coat tree, causing the dog to go crazy at the prospect of a nighttime walk around the neighborhood. “Dey’re makin’ porn ‘cross da’ street, but what I’m doin’ seems far-fetched.”


The End

Freedom Lane – Salud

“Oh,” Paulie said, coming out of his office in Paulie’s Pizza on State Street, dressed in a button-down shirt and khakis. “You sure you’re okay watching the place on your own tonight?”


“It’s fine,” Tony replied, waving a hand. He took a sip from a red mug of coffee. “I’ve closed plenty of times. Go enjoy your date.”


“Alright,” Paulie said. “I just wanted to make sure you weren’t up all last night again.”


“I wasn’t up that late,” Tony replied with a shrug. “I was watching reruns of Cheers. Remember that show?”


“I can’t watch that,” Paulie said. “All that fighting between Sam and Diane gives me agita.”


“It’s a good show,” Tony said. “I sometimes think of this place as our own Cheers. A lot goes on here, night to night.”


“You’re a stunad,” Paulie said.


“You’re going to miss everything while you’re out,” Tony said. “Every night here holds new stories.”


“I don’t have time for this,” Paulie said. “I’m gonna be late.” He walked out the door into the early New Haven evening.


“Salud,” Tony said, raising his mug to Paulie as he left.





Freedom Lane 


Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow

Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness


Season 11, Episode 5: Salud




Tony sang to himself as he wiped down the main counters. “Sometimes you wanna go where everyone knows who you are,” he crooned. “Like some downtown Boston bar. Bum bum bum.”


“Hey, Tony,” Alice said, coming in to start her shift as head of Paulie’s waitstaff.


“Hey there, sweetheart,” Tony replied, moving in to hug Alice.


“Whoa,” Alice said. “That’s what I want to talk about.”


“What?” Tony asked. “Too much cologne?”


“No,” Alice said. “But it is a bit much. I wanted to make sure you know what happened last night was a one time thing, and I don’t want it to affect us working together. Okay?”


“Oh,” Tony said, looking a little hurt. “Sure. No problem. I knew that anyway. I was hoping you wouldn’t get attached. This is actually a big relief to me.”


“Really?” Alice asked. “Because you’re rambling.”


“What?” Tony asked in return. “Me? Ramble? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m as cool as a cucumber. So we slept together. So what, I say. Didn’t mean anything to me. Right?”


“Alright,” Alice said. “As long as we’re on the same page.”


Tony handed Alice her apron. “Two waitresses called out tonight,” he said. “So we’ll be short.”


“What?!” Alice snapped. “We’re going to be jammed up all night!”


“I don’t know what to tell you,” Tony said, shrugging. “This sounds like a problem for the head of the waitstaff. That was you last time I checked.”


Alice huffed and went off to start her shift. He took a bottle of water from under the counter and took a sip, following her with his eyes. Sal came out of the kitchen, walking up behind Tony.


“Tony,” Sal said, his voice deep and monotone.


“Whoa!” Tony exclaimed, dropping his water. “Don’t sneak up on me like that!”


“Sorry,” Sal said. “Did Alice come in yet?”


“She’s here,” Tony replied. “I wouldn’t bark up her tree, though, if you know what I mean.” He rolled his eyes and left, heading toward Paulie’s office.


Alice came in from the seating area, her hair pulled back and her apron on. “Hi, Sal,” she said, getting her pad and pen and putting it in her apron pocket. “How are you?”


“My ex-wife is coming by today,” Sal replied.


“Oh,” Alice said. “I didn’t know you were ever married.” 


“It wasn’t a good marriage,” Sal said with a small shrug. “She’s driving up from Pennsylvania to bring me some things I left behind.”


“Okay,” Alice said. She looked around to make sure Tony wasn’t out of the office. “If you’re worried about her finding out about you and me… don’t.”


“Thank you,” Sal said. “I just don’t want things to be awkward when she comes. She’s a little… vindictive.”


“Think nothing of it, Sal,” Alice said, smiling. “I know what we did was a one time thing.”


“Sorry,” Sal said. “I just can’t be in a relationship right now.”


“Say no more,” Alice said, waving a hand. “I get it.”


Alice and Sal looked at each other for a bit longer. The door opened, and a customer walked in. Alice broke the stare with Sal to greet the customers. “Welcome to Paulie’s Pizza.”




Tony had finished taking an order over the phone. He put the paper on the spindle behind him for Sal and kitchen staff to cook, wrap, and get to Pimple Puss, Paulie’s delivery boy. The door opened, and a police officer walked in.


“Rocco!” Tony shouted, smiling. “How’s it hanging?”


“Straight down the middle and swinging,” Rocco said, sitting at a booth near the front. “They got me running a speed trap down the street, so I decided to take a walk and see what’s doin’ here .”


“You on break?” Tony asked.


“Nah,” Rocco said. “I’m just sick of sitting there. I have my bulletproof vest propped up in the seat so it looks like I’m in the cruiser.”


“Nobody is going to realize it’s headless?” Tony asked.


“What are you?” Rocco asked. “Ichabod Crane all of a sudden?”


“I have no idea what that means,” Tony replied.


“It means get me some grub!” Rocco said, slamming a fist on the table, laughing. “How about a chicken parm grinder?”


“You got it,” Tony said. He turned toward the kitchen. “Sal! Get me a chicken parm, stat!”


“Don’t rush it,” Rocco said. “You think I want to go back to zapping that laser at cars? My nuts are bound to shrivel up from that thing.”


“Hi, Rocco,” Alice said, coming into the main area. “I thought I heard you come in.”


Rocco smiled. “Good evening Alice,” he said. “I hope all is well.”


“And what if it’s not?” Alice asked. “You gonna arrest anyone who messes with me?”


“I might,” Rocco said. “Just let me know who it is.”


“Oh!” Tony exclaimed, coming from behind the counter. “This don’t look like waiting on tables to me!”


“So you can flirt with him, but I can’t?” Alice asked.


“Get back to work!” Tony said, waving a hand. “And I wasn’t flirting.”


Alice rolled her eyes. “Bye bye, officer Priolo.”


“Bye bye, waitress Alice,” Rocco said. Alice giggled as she left.


“I wish you wouldn’t rile her all up like that,” Tony said, sitting across from Rocco.


“What’s your problem?” Rocco asked. “I thought you and her were broken up for good.”


“I thought so,” Tony replied. He leaned over the table a bit and lowered his voice. “She came up to my place after we locked up last night. She ended up staying until around two in the morning. She’s every bit as wild as I remember.”


“So you guys are back together,” Rocco said. “That’s good. You were really messed up when you broke up.”


“Here’s the thing,” Tony said. “I thought we were. She had even told me how much she missed me. But when she came in today, she told me it was a one time thing. She doesn’t want what happened making things messy at work.”


“I can understand that,” Rocco said. “I nailed one of our dispatchers once, and it got real messy, especially when her husband found out.”


The door opened before Tony could say something else. A woman walked in, tall with long, curly, black hair. She held a box in her arms. Tony got up to take her order. “Is Salvatore here?” she asked.


“He’s working in the back,” Tony said. “I can get him if it’s important.”


“It is,” the woman said. “Let him know his wife is here.”




“Hello, Janice,” Sal said, coming from the kitchen area and sitting in a booth across from his ex-wife. The box she brought was on her right, sitting on the chair. “You didn’t have to drive all the way here.”


“I don’t trust the mail,” Janice said. “I wanted to be sure you got this.”


“Don’t play these games,” Sal said. “Why are you here?”


“I want you back, okay?” Janice said, crossing her arms across her chest. “Is that what you want to hear?”


“No,” Sal replied. “We were terrible together.”


“That’s what made it interesting,” Janice said.


“I’ve started a new life here,” Sal said, standing up, “and I’d like for you to leave it.”


Sal left and went back to the kitchen, not even bothering to ask what she had brought up from Pennsylvania. She put her head down, trying not to cry. A moment later, Tony sat across from her.


“Hey,” Tony said. “You were married to Sal, right?”


Janice nodded, still fighting the tears.


“So you probably helped him in that pizza restaurant down there,” Tony said.


“I worked there as a teenager,” Janice said in a mousy voice. “It’s how me and Salvatore met.”


“So you have experience waiting tables,” Tony continued.


“I guess,” Janice replied. “Why are you talking to me?”


“Because I’m desperate,” Tony said. “We’re short waitresses tonight. Can I pay you under the table to wait tables for a few hours, just during the dinner rush? I’m sure Sal will appreciate it too, you know.”


“He will?” Janice asked.


“Yeah he will,” Tony replied. “Go see Alice and get an apron. We’ll settle up at the end of the night.”


“Okay,” Janice said. She got up and walked off toward the main area, in search of Alice.


“That was really fucked up of you,” Rocco said from his seat in the other booth, half his chicken parm grinder still in front of him.


“At least it gets Alice off my ass about being short waitresses,” Tony replied. “Shut up and eat your friggin’ sandwich.”




Tony went through the seating area, finding Alice standing in front of a table taking order. “I’ll get that pitcher of Coke for you right away,” she said, smiling as she finished up. She turned around and nearly walked into Tony.


“Get out of here!” Alice snapped. “I’m trying to work, and we’re jamming tonight.”


“Relax,” Tony said. “I just came in to tell you that I helped you out. I found you a replacement waitress for the night?”


“You did?” Alice asked. “Where is she?”


“She’s tying an apron around her waist right now,” Tony said. “So did your guy do good or what?”


“Thank you,” Alice said, pushing Tony away with the palm of her hand, “but you are not my guy. I have no guy, alright? I don’t need one!” She walked off toward the kitchen area.


“Broads,” Tony muttered. He turned slightly to see the table of customers looking at him. “You know she’ll come around.”


“Is she coming back with our soda?” the customer asked.




Sal came out of the kitchen, walking behind the counter with a large cup. He walked over to the soda machine and filled it with ice. He then moved it over and started filling it with water. He looked around while he did, spotting someone who should have left.


“What are you still doing here, Janice?” he asked his ex-wife. “And why are you wearing that apron?”


“I’m working here,” Janice said. “Your boss said he needed an extra waitress and offered me a job for the night. I figured it would give us a chance to talk while we work.”


“This is a terrible idea,” Sal said.


“Remember the old days?” Janice asked. “You and me working in Buchananshire Pizza, stealing kisses when it was slow, dancing by the dumpsters on our breaks?”


“Oh!” Tony said, coming from the seating area. “I know you’re new here, sweetheart, but you need to get in there. It’s prime time!”


“Okay,” Janice replied. She turned back to Sal. “Bye for now.” She walked toward the seating area.


“Why did you hire her?” Sal asked.


“Relax,” Tony said. “It’s only for one night. Besides, I’m not asking you to sleep with her or anything.”


“Smooth,” Rocco remarked from his booth.


“Aren’t you supposed to be catching speeders or something?” Tony asked, turning toward him.


“Yeah,” Rocco said with a shrug. “So?”


“You should have asked me first,” Sal said. “I would have told you not to do it. You have no idea what that woman did to me.”


“She seems sweet enough,” Tony said.


“She may seem sweet,” Sal said, “but deep down lurks an evil from which there is no escape. I still see her face in my nightmares sometimes.”


“What she do?” Tony asked. “She cut off your dick or something?”


Sal sighed. “You’re playing with fire here, Tony,” he said, walking back into the kitchen. “Don’t blame me if you get burned.”


“Wow,” Rocco said. “How ominous.”


“I’ll show you something ominous,” Tony said. “Why don’t you and me go around back for a minute.”


Rocco put his hand on the butt of his gun. “You sure you wanna do that?”




“You seem to catch on quick,” Alice said to Janice, crossing paths near the pickup window. “Thanks for helping us out, by the way.”


“It’s no problem,” Janice replied. “The owner was in a jam, and I figured I could lend a hand.”


“Wait,” Alice said. “You think Tony…” She snorted with laughter.


“It’s alright,” Janice said. “I really don’t mind. It helps me get closer to Salvatore anyway.”


“Sal?” Alice asked. “You have a crush on him or something?”


“You can say that,” Janice said. “You can also say that we used to be married.”


“Like, to each other?” Alice asked.


“Yeah,” Janice replied. “What else would I mean.”


“I don’t know,” Alice said. “I just never knew Sal was married until today.”


“Look,” Janice said, moving closer to Alice. “I’m just going to warn you once. If I ever find out you’ve ever been physical with my Salvatore, I’ll cut your tits off.”


Alice watched Janice walk off, taking a pizza from the counter and walking it toward one of the tables.


“Tony!” Alice called, walking back into the main area where Tony was just hanging up the phone.


“What’s up?” Tony asked, putting the ticket in the kitchen area.


“Where’d you find Janice?” Alice asked.


“She just came in here,” Tony replied. “She wanted to see Sal, but she ended up with a job. She used to be a waitress with him back in Pennsylvania. Funny how everything worked out.”


“They use to be married,” Alice said. “Do you have any idea how awkward that is for everyone?”


“No,” Tony replied. “I just figured it would be awkward for the two of them. The rest of us should be fine.”


Alice sighed. “She threatened to cut my tits off.”


Tony stared at Alice for a moment, his eyes moving toward her breasts.


“What are you doing?” Alice asked, crossing her arms across her chest.


“I’m taking mental pictures of them while I still can,” Tony replied.


“You’re such a dick,” Alice said.


“I’m kidding,” Tony said. “I’ll talk to her, straighten her out. Sound good?”


“Fine,” Alice said. “But I just hope you talked to Sal about her being here.”


“Don’t worry,” Tony said. “I did.”


“Good,” Alice said, heading back to work.


Rocco cleared his throat. “I think she meant you should have talked to Sal before hiring his ex-wife,” he said, “not after.”


“Then she should have been more specific,” Tony said. “What am I, supposed to be a mind reader?”




Sal brought a pizza on its service tray to the window facing the seating area. Janice came to pick up. “Hi, honey,” she said. “I’ve missed you.”


“You put in this order ten minutes ago,” Sal replied.


“So,” Janice said. “Every minute apart is torture now that I’m back in your life.”


“This is one night only,” Sal said. “Don’t forget that.”


Janice gave Sal a dirty look and walked away. Alice was there a moment later with her pad. “I got an order for a large pepperoni pie,” she said. She waited a moment, watching Janice walk to the other side of the seating area. “I’m sorry we haven’t been able to talk all night. Are you okay with your ex working here?”


“Not particularly,” Sal replied, “but she’s here, and Tony assures me it’s only for tonight.”


“Why did you agree to this if you had a problem with it?” Alice asked.


“I didn’t really have a choice,” Sal said. “She was already working when I found out.”


“What?” Alice asked. “That lying rat bastard. Come on. We’re going to have a chat with him right now.”


Alice marched back to the main area through the entrance. Sal came as well, using the kitchen exit. “We don’t need to do this,” Sal said. 


“Yes we do,” Alice said. “Tony, why did you tell me Sal was okay with Janice working here?”


“I never said that,” Tony said. “You asked me if I talked to him about it, and I did.”


“It was after she had agreed to waitress for the night,” Rocco chimed in. “That’s what we call in the law enforcement community a ‘technicality’.”


“But out, Rocco,” Tony said.


“Hey,” Rocco said. “I’m on your side!”


“Why don’t you use that pea-sized brain sometimes,” Alice said. “Why was it a good idea that Sal have to work with his ex?”


Tony shrugged. “I work with mine,” he said. “I know it’s hard at first, but maybe the two would come to be civil, maybe even friends. It worked for you and me after all.”


Alice looked taken aback, words failed to come from her mouth.


“You were with Tony?” Sal asked. “You told me there was nothing between the two of you when we were together the other night.”


“Wait,” Tony said. “You were with Sal the other night? Then what was it when we were together last night? Am I sloppy seconds or something?”


“You slept with Tony last night?” Sal asked. “After what you and I did?”


“I told you what I’d do if I caught you to together,” Janice said, coming into the room. She dropped her tray of dirty dishes and charged Alice, holding a plate over her head to bludgeon her foe. Alice flinched, ready to have her head and face smashed by the plate when Janice was forced to the ground by Rocco, who had gotten behind her in a flash. The plate smashed into the ground, shattering into a hundred or so pieces. Her wrists were tied behind her back.


“Aren’t you going to read her her rights?” Tony asked.


“No need,” Rocco replied. “She hit the ground pretty hard. She’s out cold.”


“Look, guys…” Alice said.


“Don’t explain yourself,” Tony said, spreading his hands. “Sal and I are just two more notches on your bedpost, right?”


“I always swore not to get involved with anyone from work again,” Sal said, “and now I remember why.”


“Amen, bro,” Tony said.


Alice looked hurt.


“You gonna be okay?” Tony asked Sal.


“Yeah,” Sal said, nodding. “I just thought her and I had something special.”


“Me too,” Tony said. “Looks like she toyed with both of our emotions pretty bad.”


Tony brought Sal in for a hug, patting his back. Sal returned it, sniffling into Tony’s shoulder. Rocco tried to drag Janice to her feet, shaking her to get her to wake up from her probable concussion.


The door opened and Paulie walked in. He stopped dead and looked at the scene. Tony and Sal broke their embrace, Alice ran off toward the restroom, crying, and Rocco was picking up a bloody-faced Janice, who was looking around in a daze.


“What the frig happen here?!” Paulie exclaimed. “I can’t take one night off, I swear.”




Alice was wiping down the tables in the main area when the door opened. The bells above chimed. “I’m sorry,” she said, not looking up. “We’re closed.”


“I just came to see how you’re holding up,” Rocco said, walking up to her.


“What do you care?” Alice asked, going back to her task. “You left before the real fireworks started. Tony and Sal spent the rest of the night trash-talking me, comparing notes, and being complete asses. Sal forgave him soon enough once they had me as a common enemy. And Paulie lectured me on starting love triangles with his employees. They’re so lucky I need this job.”


“I know I may be out of line here,” Rocco said, “but I think you just need a real man to take you out and show you a good time.”


“Do you know one?” Alice asked, setting her rag at the table and looking at Rocco.


“Nope,” Rocco said, “but I can take you out in lieu of one.”


“Even after what you saw tonight?” Alice asked.


“You need to get your head out of this place,” Rocco replied. “Look at what messing around with the guys at work did to Sal and Janice. He’s miserable, and she’s in lockup for attempted assault.”


“What about Tony?” Alice asked.


“What about him?” Rocco asked in return. “I’m only asking for one date. We’ll worry about Tony if if becomes serious. How’s that sound?”


“I like that,” Alice said.


Rocco left a card on the table. “My cell number is on there,” he said. “Text me your next day off.”


“Okay,” Alice said.


Rocco smiled and left.


“Who was that?” Tony said, coming from the back.


“A customer,” Alice said, locking the door. “I told him we’re closed.” She walked by the table to pocketed Rocco’s card.


“Good,” Tony said, turning the lights off. They were the only two left in the restaurant. “About tonight… I’m sorry.”


“Me too,” Alice said. She kissed Tony on the cheek. “Good night.” She went to the back to get her things. She came out a minute later and went to the front door, unlocking it. 


“Goodnight,” Tony said as Alice let. He followed to the door, locking it again. He stood there for a moment, deep in thought. He nodded and walked toward the back, going to the stairwell that led to his apartment upstair, lightly singing.



“You wanna go where people know,” he sang, “their bullshit is all the same. You wanna go where nobody wants to know your name. Bum bum bum bum bum. Bum.”




The End

Freedom Lane – The Ebonic Plague

“The New Haven Board of Education is rolling out a new program to help stamp out Ebonics usage in school,” the bubbly news anchor said, standing outside a public school, smiling and holding her microphone. “The controversial program has come under heat from the African American community as being racist.”
The scene shifted, showing a black professor, addressing a small crowd from his podium. The name “Cole Boatwright” was displayed on the screen under him. “They’re trying to stifle our voice,” he said to murmurs of agreement from his audience. “Ebonics is a language, our language. It should be taught in schools, not silenced!”
The anchor was back, smiling once again. “Despite the community’s pleas and protests to stop the program,” she continued, “programs are expected to start in some schools as early as Monday.”
“Dis some bullshit!” Da’Quarius shouted at the TV.
“Calm down,” Helen said. “If you come to this country, you should learn the damn language the normal people speak.”
“I was born here!” Da’Quarius snapped. “Dammit, biddy. I was born in da’ same city as you!”
“That’s enough shouting,” Rose said. “Now I don’t agree with the severity of all this, but you could probably benefit from some speech coaching.”
“Oh shit,” Helen muttered. “Rose is being racist again! I love it when that happens.”
“I am not being racist,” Rose said. “I’m just saying that maybe some of the more… ethnic school children could benefit from learning how to speak properly at a job interview or wherever.”
“Both biddies turned on me,” Da’Quarius said, crossing his arms.
“Hey,” Helen said. “I’m with you, kid. Nobody’s gonna tell us how to talk in our own damn city!”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Fight da’ power!”
Rose sighed. “This isn’t going to end well at all.”
Freedom Lane 
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 11, Episode 4: The Ebonic Plague
“Starting today,” Mr. Hessman said, addressing his sixth grad social studies class, “some of you will be joining our new speech class, abolishing Ebonics in our prestigious school.”
The class stared at Hessman, not taking his bait to get him going on another of his signature rants. Luckily for them, he didn’t need such prompting.
“I, for one,” Mr. Hessman continued, “don’t think my students should be judged on the way they speak. Ebonics is the language of the streets, and god forbid someone curtails their accent to make another not feel uncomfortable. In a minute, they’ll be calling those selected by this school to the special class, eradicating their voices, turning them into the sheep and followers they want for this white-washed society.”
The intercom above the door buzzed, and Principal Johnston’s voice filled every room in the school. “The following students are to report to the assembly room,” he said. “Da’Quarius Masters.”
The students waited for more names, but none came. The intercom clicked off with a buzz of static, and the room was silent. Every set of eyes was on Da’Quarius.
“Well ain’t dis a mo’ fucker.”
Liz Tyson, Miss Tyson to her students, sat in her new classroom in Haven Hills School. She was chubby, had short brown hair, and wrapped in a blue-green shawl. She thought she’d have a full class of students, but only one sat in the back row of the class, a bald boy with yellow glasses named Da’Quarius; a name that told her breaking his usage of Ebonics was going to be a challenge.
“Good morning,” Miss Tyson said. “My name is Miss Tyson.”
Da’Quarius sat with his arms crossed, a look of annoyance on his face. “’Sup?”
“Do you want to sit closer?” Miss Tyson asked. “It looks like it’s just the two of us today.”
Da’Quarius huffed and picked up his things, moving toward the front of the class. He sat in the front row, directly across from Missy Tyson, once again crossing his arm.
“What do you expect to get from this class?” Miss Tyson asked.
“Lemme set one thing straight,” Da’Quarius said. “You an’ I ain’t fuckin’. I don’t care how many times da’ white teacher seduces da’ black kid on da’ news. It just ain’t happenin’ here. So you can get dat notion outta yo’ head right now.”
Miss Tyson sighed. “I wasn’t expecting anything like that to happen,” she said. “I just want to teach you proper English.”
Da’Quarius huffed again. “Proper English? Lemme ask you somethin’. What if some kid comes from England an’ talks with an accent? I bet dat’s okay. But I talk with an accent, and you wanna make me talk more white.”
“It’s not about talking ‘more white’,” Miss Tyson retorted. “It’s about being able to speak well enough to go to college, get a job, and keep up with others in the workplace. Your quality of life will be much better if you don’t sound like a walking stereotypical joke.”
Da’Quarius looked over Miss Tyson. “So bein’ black is a joke now?”
“Look,” Miss Tyson said, taking off her glasses and pinching the top of her nose. “What the hell do you want to hear?”
“How’d your first day of speech lessons go?” Rose asked, passing over a casserole dish full of broiled chicken over the dining room table toward Da’Quarius.
“How do you think?” Da’Quarius asked. “I’m one of da’ only black kids in dat school, an’ I’m da’ only one dey picked to toss in. I’m sittin’ with dis white bitch every gotdamn day, hearin’ ‘bout how I talk is a fuckin’ joke an’ shit.”
“I wish you wouldn’t use that language at the dinner table,” Rose said.
“Oh,” Helen said, taking her chicken and placing the dish back in the center of the table. “So you’re going to chime on the way he talks too? I told you, it’s just street talk. He’ll grow out of it.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Rose said. “I was talking about the swear words.”
“OK,” Helen said. “Kid, don’t friggin’ swear at the table.”
Rose sighed while Da’Quarius chuckled. “It’ll be good for you,” Rose said. “I hope you see that in the end. I’m sure your student advisor thinks so too.”
“You mean Hess?” Da’Quarius said. “I think you’ve pegged him wrong on dis.”
“What do you mean?” Rose asked.
“Aight,” Mr. Hessman said, standing up from his desk. “Get’chu some paper, you jive-ass mamma jammas. We’s ‘bout to have a quiz up in here.”
The class murmured, looking at each other as they took their notebooks out, except for Da’Quarius, who couldn’t hide his smile.
“Okay, turkeys,” Mr. Hessman said. “Listen up, cuz I’m only gonna give yo da’ ‘structions once. Ya feel me?”
The class all got their pencils ready, nervous looks on their faces.
“YOU DID WHAT?!” Principal Johnston roared, turning read as he roared at Hessman.
“I’m giving the students a small taste of the language of the streets,” Hessman replied. “Do you have an issue with that?”
“You know how the Board of Ed is right now with this Ebonics nonsense,” Johnston replied. “They’ll have my ass if they find out you taught a class talking like that.”
“I thought it was good,” Da’Quarius said from his seat in the corner. “E’ryone gets to see what we’re ‘bout to lose, even if yo’ jive talk is dated.”
“Bingo,” Hessman said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve conversed in jive, Da’Quarius, but im glad you appreciated it at least.”
“Why’s he even here?” Johnston asked. “He’s not the one in trouble for once.”
“I’m his student advisor,” Hessman replied. “And this time I needed a student to advise me, so it made sense to flip the script. He’s also the only one who passed my quiz today. He got an A-plus on it if you must know.”
“He’s the only one who can understand you when you talk like that!” Johnston exclaimed.
“Like what?” Da’Quarius asked. “Like a nigga?”
Johnston turned red. “Get out,” he said quietly. “Both of you, get out before I suspend you both.”
“You heard him, Daq,” Hessman said. “Let’s get you to speech class.”
“Shit,” Da’Quarius muttered. “I was hopin’ to get outta dat class.”
Miss Tyson aimed her wooden pointer at the dry erase board. There were words written all over it. She pointed to “this”, waiting for Da’Quarius to repeat it.
“Dis,” Da’Quarius said.
“This,” Miss Tyson said. “The ‘T’ and the ‘H’ do not make a ‘D’ sound. Try another.” She moved the pointer.
“No,” Missy Tyson said. “‘that’. 
“Dat’s what I said!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “Dat!”
Miss Tyson sighed. “Let’s try something else,” she said. She uncapped the marker and wrote a new word on the board. “Thick.”
Da’Quarius stared at her, calculating. “Dick.”
“No!” Miss Tyson snapped, dropping her pointer on the ground. “You’re doing this on purpose!”
“No I ain’t!” Da’Quarius retorted.
“I’ve heard you make the ‘T-H’ sound correctly before,” Miss Tyson said. “You’re choosing to say ‘dis’ and ‘dat’ instead of ‘this’ and ‘that’. You are more than capable of making the sounds needed to say these words.”
“Dis is how I talk!” Da’Quarius shouted. “Wha’chu want me to do? Learn a whole new language so you can get yo’ paycheck an’ bounce? I ain’t goin’ down like dat.”
Miss Tyson looked down and shook her head as the bell rang. Da’Quarius picked up his backpack and left without another word. She looked up and followed him with her eyes. “Why won’t this kid even try?”
“Who’s up next?” Miss Reynolds, and ancient English teacher, asked her sixth grade class. “We haven’t heard from Da’Quarius yet. Come up and give your report.”
Da’Quarius walked to the front of the class, holding his oral book report. He cleared his threat and began his assessment of Watership Down by Richard Adams. “So dis book ‘bout a bunch of bunny rabbits, but don’t let dat fool you. It all starts when one of da lil’ bunnies sees da’ future, and dey all doomed to be kilt. Den -”
“Let me stop you for a minute,” Miss Reynolds interrupted. “What are you doing?”
“My oral report on Watership Down,” Da’Quarius replied. “It gets better. Da’ bunnies go to war just to get laid in da’ third part. Fo’ real, yo.”
“I mean the matter of which you speak,” Miss Reynolds said. “Weren’t you among the students taking the classes to stomp out those disgusting ebonics?”
“It’s only been a week,” Da’Quarius said. “’Sides, you ain’t gonna tell me how I can an’ can’t speak. Dis is America, an’ dis is my voice.”
“I suppose not,” Miss Reynolds said. “I am, on the other hand, your teacher, and I can grade you as I see fit. I believe your report, the parts I was able to understand, earned you a D.”
“Dat’s bullshit!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “I didn’t even get to finish! You let Todd go on for like twenty minutes on that stupid red fern book. We know da’ dog dyin’ made you cry, Todd. Shut the hell up about it!”
“Sit down,” Miss Reynolds said. “Or the D will turn into an F.”
“Umma take my ‘D’ an’ ‘F’ yo’ face with it, bitch,” Da’Quarius muttered, moving back toward his seat.
“What was that?” Miss Reynolds asked.
“You prob’ly wouldn’t have understood,” Da’Quarius replied. “Bein’ ebonics an’ all. Just know dat dis won’t go unpunished.”
“Indeed,” Miss Reynold said, smirking. “I don’t suppose it won’t.”
“The teachers in this school are actively giving students bad grades because of their accents!” Professor of African American Studies, Cole Boatwright shouted, standing outside the front steps of Haven Hills school. “I’ve been inundated with stories from every school, hearing how these teachers are treating ebonics as something that needs to be stomped out instead of nurtured. Maybe ‘white-washed’ is a better word. I speak for many when I say that this type of behavior toward black students will not be tolerated!”
“He speaks awfully well for a black guy,” Helen said, muting  the evening news. “I wonder if he sees the irony of speaking so well, defending children’s right to speak like slobs.”
“You were all for us speakin’ da’ language of da’ streets,” Da’Quarius said. “Now you’re callin’ out dis mo’ fucker.”
“I’m calling him out because he’s making the rest of you look bad,” Helen said. “If he wanted to support your cause he’d use the language of the people, not this high-born professor talk.”
“Please stop arguing,” Rose said. “Da’Quarius, I got an email from your speech teacher. She thinks you’re not even trying to learn.”
“Dat ho dimed me out?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Also,” Rose continued, “your English teacher is concerned about an outburst you had during class that resulted in you getting a D on an oral report.”
“Reynolds dimin’ on me too?” Da’Quarius asked. “My whole school is full of snitches. I bet Reynolds didn’t mention how da’ whole thing started cuz she was bein’ racist an’ shit.”
“Shank them in the shower,” Helen said. “They’ll learn.”
“We don’t shower with our teachers,” Da’Quarius said.
“Regardless of snitches and this professor on television,” Rose continued, “I want you to put an effort. I know you don’t like this teacher or the class, but she won’t go away until she sees that you can do what she’s asking. Trust me. You’re better off just putting in the time and the lip service.”
“Alright,” Da’Quarius said, getting up. “I’ll see what I can do. I ain’t guaranteeing nuttin’, doe.”
“Thank you,” Rose said.
Da’Quarius went up toward his room. Helen waited until he was gone before commenting. “This whole thing is going to die down soon anyway.”
“Probably,” Rose agreed. “But Da’Quarius may just learn something in the end.”
Da’Quarius walked into Miss Tyson’s speech class. “You ready fo’ another round?”
Miss Tyson sighed. “I think I’ve had enough of the arguing and fighting,” she said. “Teaching one student proper English shouldn’t be this hard.”
“Dat’s da’ spirit!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “You mind if I play on my phone until class ends? I’m in a twitter feud with Corey Feldman. Mo’ fucker thinks he should still be alive.”
“I just want to know one thing,” Miss Tyson said, sitting near Da’Quarius. “Why don’t you want to learn this stuff? Why is the whole world against this cause.”
Da’Quarius turned and put his phone down. “It’s not dat I’m against you,” he said. “What you an’ da’ schools are asking is fo’ us to be less black. Nobody seems to see dat.”
“That’s not what I’m asking,” Miss Tyson said. “As much as you want to call ebonics an accent or its own language, it’s not, and it will never be recognized that way. It will always be perceived as gibberish. It’s fine for where you’re at now, but you’ll never be taken seriously as an adult if you keep speaking this way.”
“What if I’m a football player?” Da’Quarius asked.
“You know what I mean,” Miss Tyson said, smirking a bit. “I just worry about you and kids like you. You can be over-qualified for a job, and be turned away because of the way you talk. You have it hard enough with the racism that won’t seem to die in this country.”
Da’Quarius sighed. “I’m going to tell you something,” he said, “but it has to stay in this classroom.”
“Sure,” Miss Tyson replied. “What a second. You said that perfectly fine.”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Do you really think I don’t know how to talk this way? They made us take these classes in the orphanage. They thought white parents would adopt us if we talked like them.”
“Oh my,” Miss Tyson said. “They really said that to the kids there?”
Da’Quarius shrugged. “It’s the truth. What you’re saying is the truth too. I wouldn’t talk like that on a job interview or anything. I know some people who would, but I know better than that.”
“Then why do it at all?” Miss Tyson asked.
“It’s about my identity,” Da’Quarius said. “Look at my regular class. I’m the only black kid in there. I’m one of maybe four in this school. I’m the only black kid in my family too. I can conform and talk like everyone else, but I don’t want lose that part of myself. I came from the ghetto, where they talk in what white propel call ebonics. Maybe it’s just my tribute to them.”
Miss Tyson nodded, at a loss for words. She was about to say something when the door opened and Principal Johnston walked in. “That’s it,” he said, waving his arms. “Class dismissed.”
“Wha’chu talkin’ ‘bout?” Da’Quarius asked, lapsing back into his normal way of speaking.
“That professor and his protesters got the whole program shut down,” Principal Johnston said. “Why am I even talking to you about this?”
“I dunno,” Da’Quarius said. “Maybe we friends now.”
Principal Johnston glowered.
“Finish up this last class and get him to his study hall, Miss Tyson,” Principal Johnston said. “This whole failed experiment is over.”
“The board of education has come to a good decision today,” Professor Boatwright said, speaking into his normal microphone on the news at noon. “No longer will our voices be stifled.”
Helen muted the TV. “I’ll be glad when his voice is stifled. What a blowhard.”
“I thought you were all for ebonics and the ‘language of the streets’,” Rose said.
“People can talk how they want,” Helen said. “This is America after all.”
“Then what’s your problem with Boatwright?” Rose asked.
“I’m just sick of hearing all of this,” Helen said. “Promise me you won’t ride the kid about learning to speak properly when he gets home.”
Rose sighed. “I guess I can’t now, not if it’s labeled as racist and his school isn’t teaching it. I just hope he uses common sense when he’s older and picks up some good habits from us.”
“That’s the spirit,” Helen said. “You gonna make some sandwiches now or what?”
“I guess this is it for us,” Miss Tyson said, walking Da’Quarius down the hall toward his study hall. “All I can say is that it was… educational.”
“It was,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m sorry I gave you such a hard time. I’m not a fan of being told to change who I am to accommodate others.”
“I get it,” Miss Tyson said. “I never looked at it from your perspective. I’ll remember our talk next time I teach one of these classes.”
“The schools aren’t gonna let you teach,” Da’Quarius said. “What are you gonna do now?”
“There’s other things I can teach,” Miss Tyson said. “Don’t you worry about me.”
“This is it,” Da’Quarius said, stopping outside the door to Mr. Hessman’s room. “So this is goodbye?”
“Maybe,” Miss Tyson said. “We may run into each other again.”
“Look,” Da’Quarius said. “I meant what I said when we first met: we ain’t fuckin’.”
Miss Tyson laughed. “See you later, Da’Quarius. You better get in there.”
“Later, teach,” Da’Quarius said. He opened the door to Hessman’s classroom and entered. “’Sup mo’ fuckers?! Guess who’s back in da’ hizzle?! It’s da’ Dee to da’ Quizzy! Outta my way, Todd, you big-ass bitch!”
Miss Tyson laughed as the door closed. She lingered for a moment before turning around to leave Haven Hall and her one, solitary student.


The End

A League of Tony’s Own; A Freedom Lane Special

Paulie came out of his office of Paulie’s Pizza on State Street, with Da’Quarius, who was carrying a large box for his uncle. “They’re here!” he called to the group of young girls, around six and seven years old, in the main area of his pizzeria. They cheered as their parents looked on, some taking picture and some just texting on their phones. Da’Quarius set the box on the table and opened it up, taking the first item out.
“The honor is all mine,” Paulie said, taking the red softball jersey from his nephew and holding it up. “Paulie’s Pizza” was written across the back in large, white letters above the number one. The front read “East Rock Girls’ Softball” with the league’s logo on it. “Thank you for being the first ever Paulie’s Pizza team!”
“And thank Luca DiGenovese for goin’ outta business and abandonin’ da’ league,” Da’Quarius muttered.
The girls cheered, and the head coach of the Paulie’s Pizza softball team, Coach Ray, passed out the shirts assigned by numbers. The girls all put them on over their regular clothes. 
“Why can’t I talk?” Helen asked her wife and life partner Rose, sitting well away from the festivities in a booth in the corner, continuing an argument that had started all the way back at home, in a little house on Freedom Lane.
“Because I know you,” Rose sighed. “You’re just going to tell them that playing softball is going to turn them into a bunch of lesbians.”
“Isn’t that what happened to you?”  Helen asked.
Rose sighed again. “Yes, I used to play when I was younger, through high-school even, but that’s not what made me a lesbian.”
“Well then what did it?” Helen asked.
Rose replied with another sigh.
“I used to play little league when I was a kid,” Tony said, talking to Alice, the head of Paulie’s waitstaff, and Sal, one of the chefs. “ I hate to brag, but I was pretty damn good. I could have gone pro with it, too.”
“Why didn’t you?” Sal asked in his usual deep voice.
“They don’t let you play little league when you grow up, Sal,” Tony said.
Alice rolled her eyes and walked away.
“But I’d love to do something with baseball again,” Tony continued. “I begged Paulie to let me sign up to help coach, but he said that was a job for the parents. And he’s the one to told me to pull out all those years. I could’ve had a daughter in the league with one of those sexy, thick softball moms.”
Now it was Sal’s turn to roll his eyes and walk away.
Paulie passed out the polo shirts to the coaches, and took a red one out for himself, throwing it on over his clothes like the little girls had done. He smiled widely at his team as they laughed at him. “I’m sure you’re all going to knock them dead out there!” he exclaimed.
“I just want to say a few words,” Helen said, walking next to Paulie.
“No she doesn’t,” Rose said, coming right behind her and leading her away. “Sorry, Paulie.”
Paulie raised his glass of water in a mock toast. “Here’s to the girls of East Rock Softball and Paulie’s Pizza, the finest team to ever grace the field!” Everyone raised their own glasses of soda or water, returning the gesture. Paulie’s smile widened. For the moment, everything felt perfect, but such moments only felt perfect because they were fleeting.
Freedom Lane: A League of Tony’s Own
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Tony and Sal came in early on a Saturday per Paulie’s request to start cooking pizzas for opening day of East Rock Girl’s Softball. Paulie was very proud of the team bearing his name, and he had offered to provide pizza for the girls for both the opening and final games of the season.
“Come on, Sal,” Tony said, yawning, wearing his usual wife-beater and old jeans. “We got a lot of pies to make.”
Sal nodded, being a man of few words. He started kneading and tossing the dough.
“And not too spicy,” Tony said. “We don’t need those girls blowing steam from their ears.”
Sal stopped and gave Tony a look that could have been dirty, but his expression doesn’t change much.
“Or their anuses,” Tony added.
Paulie came in a moment later. “Good,” he said, seeing Tony and Sal already working hard. “I was hoping to find you both here. I’ll lend a hand.”
“Sounds good,” Tony said, making way for Paulie. “I already told Sal not to put spicy peppers on the pizzas.”
“Sal,” Paulie said, shaking his head. “They’re little girls. Plain cheese only.”
Sal gave Paulie the same look Tony had gotten before going back to work on the pizzas. It took most of the morning, but they had the complete order cooked and boxed.
Paulie checked the clock on the wall. “Right on time,” he said. “Pimple Puss is probably there by now setting up the table and putting out the sodas. Bring the pizza and pass it out. Remember: you’re representing Paulie’s Pizza.”
“What?” Tony asked. “Why do I have to go?!”
“You’re going with Sal,” Paulie said. “We discussed this.”
“We did?” Tony asked, looking toward Sal. Sal nodded. “I figured you’d want to be there after that big speech to the kids last week, Mister Softball.”
“I have a business to run,” Paulie said. “I’ll be working through the Saturday lunch rush by myself if it helps ease your pain.”
“Fine,” Tony said. “I’ll enjoy the fresh air and sunshine anyway. See you later, boss.”
“And remember,” Paulie said. “You represent Paulie’s Pizza. No nonsense. And you’re going to wear something over that undershirt of yours.”
Tony groaned. “People wear these in public all the time. Also, what the hell do you think is going to happen?”
“Sal,” Paulie said. “Make sure Tony keeps his shirt on and doesn’t get into any nonsense.”
“Okay,” Sal replied, nodding once.
“Seriously,” Tony said, throwing his hands up. “It’s softball with first and second graders. What the hell is going to happen?”
Coach Ray lay on the ground, mumbling as he stared blankly into the sky. He had been pitching to one of the girls, and she had swung hard, letting go of the bat as she did. He didn’t duck in time, and the end of the bat had connected to his forehead.
“Whoa,” Tony said as EMT’s rushed toward the fallen coach. “Did you see that, Sal?”
Sal nodded, watching with morbid fascination.
“I can’t believe the coaches pitch to these kids,” Tony continued. “These little broads are friggin’ dangerous!”
The EMT’s got Coach Ray on the stretcher and wheeled him off the field as the girls of Paulie’s Pizza cried. The two assistant coaches talked softly with the coaches of the other team.
“Son of a bitch,” Tony said. “They’re gonna forfeit. I can’t let Paulie’s Pizza get its first loss on opening day thanks to a friggin’ forfeit.”
“Tony,” Sal said. “Paulie said no nonsense.”
“Tell me,” Tony said, turning to Sal. “Is saving the day nonsense, or is it heroic?”
Sal shrugged. “There is nothing I can do to stop you, is there?”
“These kids need a coach,” Tony said, ignoring Sal. He pulled off his shirt, exposing his wife-beater and started walking toward the field.
“Wait!” Sal said, an uncharacteristic exclamation. “At least put the shirt back on!”
“Don’t you dare forfeit!” Tony snapped, interrupting the meeting between both teams’ coaches.
“Who the hell are you?!” the coach of the Canner’s Restaurant team asked.
“Don’t you work for Paulie’s Pizza?” an assistant coach of Paulie’s team asked.
“Yeah,” Tony replied, “and as a representative of Paulie Ventriglio, owner of Paulie’s Pizza and sponsor of this team, I insist you do not forfeit the game.”
The assistant coach stared at Tony for a moment. “They just took Ray off the field in a stretcher. The girls are really upset. We’re calling the game. This is just a clinic anyway. We don’t even keep score.”
Tony groaned. “Don’t start with that new-age non-scoring bullshit either,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of changes going on here.”
“What the hell is he talking about?” the Canner’s coach asked, addressing the assistant coach.
“Look at me,” Tony said. “I’m the coach now.”
“Excuse me?” the assistance coach asked.
“Give me the ball,” Tony said. “We’re playing this friggin’ game to its end.”
“Tony,” Paulie said, fuming after Tony and Sal had returned. “I asked one thing: no nonsense. Why are you now the coach of Paulie’s Pizza’s girls’ softball team?”
“You actually asked two things, since you’re keeping score,” Tony said. “You made me wear a shirt too, boss.”
“Did you keep the shirt on?” Paulie asked.
“What’s this?” Tony asked in return. “The friggin’ inquisition?”
“Sal,” Paulie said, turning away from Tony. “Please tell me what happened at that field today.”
Tony spoke before Sal could open his mouth. “It was -”
“I ASKED SAL!” Paulie shouted.
Tony backed away, holding his hands up, palms toward Paulie. Alice, along with some of the waitstaff and kitchen workers came out to hear. They usually did once Paulie started shouting.
“Tony saved the day,” Sal said. “They were going to call the whole thing off, but Tony stepped in and took over for Coach Ray after he was injured. He pitched, gave pointers, and helped the kids the whole time. The assistant coaches even thanked him and asked him to coach their Tuesday night game in Coach Ray’s stead.”
“I don’t believe it,” Paulie said. “He didn’t screw me over?”
“Far from it,” Sal said. “Though I am concerned about Coach Ray’s condition.”
“Told you!” Tony shouted, a look of victory on his face. “I’m a great friggin’ coach! And you know Sal can’t tell a lie! He might start to dissolve if he did.”
Sal shrugged, moving into the kitchen area, evidently done with the whole exchange.
“Tony,” Paulie said, sitting in a booth, motioning for Tony to sit across from him, causing the kitchen crew and waitstaff to return to their normal duties, somewhat dissatisfied that Paulie hadn’t given Tony a full-blown reaming. “If you do this, you do it the right way. You can’t half-ass something like this. You owe it to those little girls to be a decent coach if you choose to be one.”
“Sure,” Tony said, his usual smart-ass expression long gone. “I used to play little league, and I took it very seriously. We even won the game today.”
“You did?” Paulie asked. “I didn’t think they kept score in a clinic league for the younger girls.”
“They do now,” Tony replied.
“Wow,” Paulie said. “I guess times must be changing for the better. The girls should learn how to win and lose gracefully after all.”
“That’s exactly what I said!” Tony said, pounding a hand on the table. “It’s great when you and I are in agreement.”
Paulie sighed. “Just promise me you’ll do right by these girls.”
“I will,” Tony said. He got up and went toward the kitchen. “I better get to work now.”
“Sure,” Paulie said, pensive.
Tony went toward the kitchen when Paulie sat up suddenly. “Oh!” he shouted, getting Tony’s attention. “AND NO BANGING THE SOFTBALL MOMS!”
“WHAT?!” Tony shouted, rushing back from the kitchen. “You’re not the boss of my dick!”
“The hell I’m not!” Paulie retorted.
The waitstaff and kitchen crew returned.
Tony stood, wearing a wife-beater with “Coche Tony” written across it in magic marker, hands on his hips. He watched the softball moms bringing their children to the field. “If you build it,” he said to himself. “They will come.”
“Is dat why you asked me to come help you out?” Da’Quarius asked. “So I can watch you stare at da’ kids’ moms? You don’t need me here to be a creepy-ass mo’ fucker.”
“It’s not the only reason,” Tony replied.
“You know you spelled ‘coach’ wrong, right?” Da’Quarius asked. “But I’m startin’ to think you’re doin’ dat shit on purpose.”
“Look,” Tony said. “You gonna help me or what?”
“I came all da’ way here, didn’t I?” Da’Quarius asked. “You already got two other dudes helpin’ you coach. What do you need me for?”
“There’s a wig and dress in my car,” Tony replied. “I need you to put them on and play for my team.”
Da’Quarius stared at Tony. “Are you serious?”
“We won the last game, but these girls are sloppy,” Tony said. “I need to get the edge.”
“OK,” Da’Quarius sighed. “One: I ain’t doin’ it. Two: I’d be too old to do it if I wanted to. Three: I ain’t doin’ it. Four: Why da’ fuck you buy a dress? None of da’ girls are wearing dresses.”
“Is number five ‘I ain’t doin’ it’?” Tony asked, chuckling.
“There is no five,” Da’Quarius said. “Four was enough numbers. Unless you actually need me to help, umma go home.”
“Fine,” Tony said. “Get outta here if you’re not gonna be a team player.”
“Not a team player?!” Da’Quarius snapped. “Mo’ fucker, I’ve been playin’ basketball on a mostly-white team, carrying ‘em to one whole win dis season. Dey finished with zero last year!”
“Just go,” Tony said. “Who needs help from a loser like you anyway? One game? Shit. I’m going to make these girls unbeatable. Get lost with your one win, kid.”
Da’Quarius grunted something under his breath and walked away.
“Shit,” Tony muttered. “Kid acts like he never saw ‘Ladybugs’ before. This whole kid in drag thing worked for Rodney Dangerfield and that kid from The Never Ending Story who offed himself.”
“Fuckin’ Tony,” Da’Quarius said, walking down Freedom Lane toward the home he shared with his adoptive mothers, Rose and Helen. He kicked an empty soda can with his boot, sending it into the street. “Dis some bullshit!”
“What’s up, Daq?” Antonio Garcia said from his driveway. Him and his brother, Manny, were washing their Honda Civics. “Something pissing you off?”
“Nuttin’,” Da’Quarius said. “Just Tony bein’ Tony I guess. I had to walk home cuz I refused to wear da’ dress he bought me, an’ he’s runnin’ his mouth ‘bout shit he don’t know shit ‘bout.”
“Back up a bit,” Manny said, coming to stand next to his brother, wiping his hands. “Tony has been making you wear dresses for him? God, I hope that’s not true.”
“He’s coachin’ dis girls’ softball team,” Da’Quarius said. “But he’s bein’ stupid, askin’ me to dress like a girl to help him win an’ shit. He cain’t even get it through his head dat dey don’t keep score in clinic leagues. What the fuck does it matter?”
“Like in Ladybugs,” Manny said. “I gotta see if that’s on Netflix.”
“Wait,” Antonio said. “Tony is coaching a softball team?”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Did you listen to anythin’ I just said?”
“How old are the girls?” Manny asked.
“I dunno,” Da’Quarius said. “Six or seven or eight.”
The Garcia brothers looked at each other. “That bastard,” Manny said.
“What I miss?” Da’Quarius asked.
“He knows how much we love baseball!” Antonio said. “Why didn’t he let us in on this?!”
“It’s coaching little girls for da’ Paulie’s Pizza team,” Da’Quarius said. “Tony’s da’ only dumb-ass without a daughter dere.”
“It’s the principle of it is all,” Manny said. “Come on, Antonio. I got a plan to get back at Tony.”
“I’m all ears, bro,” Antonio said, following Manny into their house.
“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “I didn’t think dis softball stuff could get any dumber, but I think it’s ‘bout to be taken to a whole new level.”
“Come on!” Tony shouted, as a little girl named Bailey ran the bases during his third game as coach. “Head to third!”
The girls of his opponents team, playing for a business called “R&R Utility Solutions”, scrambled to get the ball. One girl picked it up and hurled it toward first, completely missing her teammate. 
Tony laughed. “You teaching these girls any fundamentals?” he asked. “We’re about to cream your asses like a can of corn.”
“Hey!” the coach of the other team, who was doubling as catcher, shouted, walking toward Tony.  “We’re not sore winners in this league!”
“Tell me about being a ‘sore winner’ when you actually win a game,” Tony said, chuckling.
The coach walked up to Tony. “Look, buddy,” he said. “I know you’re filling in for Ray, and we all appreciate you stepping up, but there’s a reason we do this without taking scores and this age. We only use ‘winners and losers’ when we’re at the point where we want to tell teach the girls how act when they do win or lose.”
“Not in this league apparently,” Tony said. “They don’t even keep score.”
The other coach groaned. “They do keep score when they’re older and have learned how to play on their own, without their coaches pitching to them. So please, let’s teach them how to behave and practice good sportsmanship.”
“Said the loser,” Tony muttered.
“That’s it!” the R&R coach said, throwing his hands up. “We’re done here. I refuse to play against you or your team.”
“Forfeit!” Tony exclaimed, throwing his arms in the air. “Oh, the two greatest words in the english language: forfeit. We win, girls! Beat them so bad they went running home to their mommies!”
The girls of Paulie’s Pizza cheered, throwing their mitts in the air in celebration.
“You’re doing these girls a huge disservice,” the R&R coach said, turning back toward Tony.
“I thought you were leaving,” Tony mocked, his team still going on with their loud celebration. “Or did you want to take a walk to the parking lot and settle this?”
“What?” the R&R coach asked, a look of genuine confusion on his face. “There’s little girls here. My own daughter is here, and you’re challenging me to a fight?”
“I didn’t think so,” Tony said. “Good night, coach dick-stain. See you in the finals.” He turned and left.
“There’s no finals in a clinic league!” the coach retorted. “Dumbass.”
“WE WON!” Tony shouted, throwing his hands in the air.
Tony was getting ready to leave after Paulie’s Pizza’s creaming of R&R Utility Solutions. He had congratulated the girls once again on their win. Afterward the assistant coaches came over to him. “Tony,” Ralph said. “We need to talk.”
“Yeah?” Tony asked. “Good win today, right?”
“No,” Rick, the other assistant coach, replied. “Jack was right.”
“Who the hell is Jack?” Tony asked.
“The coach from R&R,” Rick replied.
“Oh,” Tony said. “You mean Coach dick-stain?”
“Coach Jack,” Ralph corrected. “Rick and I have been getting messages from the other coaches. Some of the other teams are refusing to play against us too.”
“Good deal,” Tony said. “More forfeits. More victories.”
“I’m sure Jack is going to go to the East Rock officials,” Rick said. “We’ll likely get kicked out of the league if the other teams refuse to play us.”
“They can’t kick us out!” Tony said. “This is the first year Paulie’s Pizza has had a team!”
“Well if there’s no other teams who can play us…” Ralph said, trailing off. Something caught his eye: another team approaching with orange jerseys.
“Well, well well,” Antonio Garcia said, walking up to Tony and the two other coaches with his brother. “Look who we have here, bro.”
“It’s Tony,” Manny said. “We were coming to see him, remember?”
“Shut up,” Antonio replied. “We’re supposed to be trash-talking him, remember?”
“Oh yeah,” Manny said. “Well, well, well. Look who we have here.”
“I already said that!” Antonio snapped.
“I lost place!” Manny shouted. “Let’s start over.”
“OK,” Antonio said. “Well, well, well…”
“Hey, guys,” Tony said. “What are you doing here?”
“Girls,” Antonio said. “About face!”
The girls stood perfectly still.
“That means turn around!” Antonio snapped.
The girls all turned. In big, black letters on their back was the term “GarciaTube” above their numbers. Antonio and Manny beamed with pride at their very own girls’ softball team.
“GarciaTube?” Ralph asked. “Is there a team in this league for that?”
“No,” Ralph replied. “Isn’t that a porn site?”
“Porn and webcam site,” Manny said proudly. “Watch porn much, pervert?”
“It’s your site,” Ralph mumbled. 
“You cut us out of this deal, Tony,” Antonio said. “Now we’re in, and we’re taking you down.”
“What deal?” Tony asked.
“There he is!” Coach Jack said, pointing a finger toward Tony. “He’s still here!”
“Who’s this asshole?!” Manny asked.
“That’s my rival coach,” Tony said. “I don’t know who this mook is with him though.”
“That’s Gene Gorodetsky!” Ralph said. “He’s the head of the ERGS league!”
“What’s that?” Tony asked.
“The softball league you coach for!” Ralph replied. “Dammit, I miss Coach Ray.”
“Is what I’m hearing true?” Gorodetsky asked, crossing his arms and glaring at Tony.
“That Coach Jack-Ass needs an attitude adjustment?” Tony asked. “You’re right.”
“See!” Coach Jack roared. “He talks like that in front of the girls too!”
“Calm down,” Gorodetsky said, “the both of you. I will not have my coaches fighting like this. Why don’t you two shake hands and pretend that… What team is that?”
“This is the GarciaTube team,” Antonio said.
“GarciaTube?” Gorodetsky asked. “Isn’t that a porn site?”
“He’s heard of us, bro,” Manny said, chuckling, addressing his brother. He turned toward Gorodetsky. “Watch porn much?”
“Where did all these girls come from?” Gorodetsky asked.
“They’re the daughters, nieces, and sisters of our actresses or cam girls,” Antonio said.
“A couple of them might be Antonio’s kids,” Manny added.
“Dude!” Antonio snapped. “Shut the fuck up! They’ve never proven that!”
“Why are you here?” Gorodetsky asked.
“We’re challenging Paulie’s Pizza to a grudge match!” Manny declared.
“And we accept!” Tony exclaimed.
“No!” Gorodetsky shouted, waving his arms. “Absolutely no unsanctioned games with unsanctioned teams. These girls are six and seven years old for God’s sake. This is anarchy!”
“This guy would get along with Paulie,” Tony muttered.
“You won’t let us play in your precious league because we’re Puerto Rican?” Manny asked. “That’s discrimination.”
“YOU CAN’T PLAY BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT A TEAM IN THIS LEAGUE!” Gorodetsky bellowed. “I’ve run this league for fourteen years, and I’ve never, ever, witnessed this kind of blatant audacity!”
“Fine, mister vocabulary,” Antonio said, waving a hand absently at Gorodetsky. “We’ll go, but this grudge is not forgotten.”
“Yeah,” Manny added. “We’ll forgive, but we won’t forget.”
“Bro,” Antonio replied. “We’re not forgiving them.”
“So we’re not forgiving, but we’re forgetting?” Manny asked.
“Are you stoned, bro?” Antonio asked.
“Dude,” Manny replied.
“Come on,” Antonio said. “Let’s just go and pretend we ended on what I said.”
“Alright,” Manny said. “What was it again?”
“Den what happened?” Da’Quarius asked, sitting at the outdoor table in his backyard. Tony had stopped by after the game to let him know what he had missed, asking him to speak privately outside.
“Antonio and Manny just argued for a few more minutes about what the last thing Antonio said was,” Tony replied.
“I mean with da’ softball commissioner or whatever,” Da’Quarius said. “What did he say ‘bout all dis?”
“He was pissed,” Tony said. “What a friggin’ baby. He won’t let us cream the hell out of those Garcias and their makeshift team of porn offspring, and I’ve been warned about the other teams not wanting to play us.”
“You know what you gotta do, right?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Yeah,” Tony said. “I gotta step down as coach, let the girls play without me, get Antonio and Manny to back off, and make sure Paulie’s team doesn’t get kicked out of the league.”
“Hell no!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “You gotta have yo’ grudge match, den you do da’ other stuff. You think Paulie wants his team rollin’ over like a bad dog?”
“Good dogs roll over,” Tony said. “For treats and belly rubs.”
“Fuck belly rubs!” Da’Quarius said, slamming a fist onto the table. “Kick their asses. You know you’re a great coach.”
“I am,” Tony said, standing up. “And it’s time they all saw what I can do with these rag-tag little girls. This league is gonna be sucking me off!”
“Calm down with dat ‘suckin’ me off’ shit,” Da’Quarius said. “It’s still a league of little girls.”
“You go tell those two mooks across the street that they got their match,” Tony said. “Saturday. Noon.”
“I’m on it,” Da’Quarius said. He left his yard and walked purposely toward the Garcia brothers’ home. “Try an’ make me wear a dress, insult me, an’ make me walk home,” he muttered. “You messin’ with da’ wrong mo’ fucker, mo’ fucker.”
“Yo,” Da’Quarius said, coming into Paulie’s on Saturday for his shift.
“Hey,” Tony said, looking up from the counter. “We on with the GarciaTube team at noon?”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “You better bring the best out of your team too. Antonio an’ Manny ain’t fuckin’ around.”
“Neither are we,” Tony said. The sound of the toilet flushing came from Paulie’s private chamber. “Clam up. I don’t want Paulie to know who we’re playing. He might not understand that this is the only way to get the girls to play until the league comes around.”
“Okay,” Da’Quarius said, smiling. “I definitely won’t tell him who you’re playin’ against.”
“Good deal,” Tony said. “Thanks, kid.”
“Hey there, Da’Quarius,” Paulie said, coming from the restroom. “You ready to work?”
“Sho am,” Da’Quarius said, rolling up his sleeves. “Let’s do dis.”
Tony had left later in the morning to fulfill his coaching duties. Paulie was okay with it since he was coaching the Paulie’s Pizza team after all, making Tony promise he’d return as soon as he could after the game.
“You all set, kid?” Paulie asked. “You can get some lunch and head home if you’d like.”
“I got a better idea,” Da’Quarius said. “How ‘bout we head over to the field an’ watch yo’ team in action.”
“I can’t,” Paulie said. “I got the lunch rush coming on, and I’m already down one guy.”
“Come on,” Da’Quarius said. “It’s just for an hour or so. You got Alice and Sal here to pick up the slack.”
“Yeah,” Alice said, unknowingly playing devil’s advocate. “You’re so proud of this team, and you haven’t seen them play one game yet. Besides, I can handle the counter and Sal can handle the cooking. Go take some time for yourself. You work so hard.”
“Well…” Paulie said, thinking it over. “Okay. I’d like to see Tony coaching these kids too while he’s still filling in. I’m proud of what he’s done. Usually he’d just find a way to screw it all up.”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said, smiling. “I cain’t wait to see Tony in his element.”
“Okay,” Paulie said. “You’ve convinced me. Lets go.”
Paulie’s Pizza took the field, the girls all wearing their red jerseys and looking serious. Tony watched with pride, arms crossed against his “Coche Tony” tee-shirt. “Good hustle, girls,” Tony said. “Remember all we’ve learned. This is a huge game.”
Assistant Coach Rick sighed, standing next to Tony. “You really think this is a good idea?” he asked.
“I don’t know either,” Ralph, the other assistant coach said. “Gorodetsky is going to have our asses in a sling if he finds out about this.”
“Stop being a couple of betas,” Tony said. “I can handle that prick if he comes by. He’s not kicking us out of the league just for playing. It’s those other coaches fault for refusing to play us. They should all be ashamed.”
Ralph and Rick gave each other a worried look before running into the outfield to get the girls in the right positions.
“I’d wish you a good game,” Antonio said, coming up to Tony, “but we both know you won’t have one.”
“Hey, Tony,” Manny said. “Check out the chicks in our stands.”
Tony looked over, shielding the light with his hand above his head. “Holy shit,” he said. “Those chicks are friggin’ stunning!”
“We even brought the better softball moms,” Manny said. “Have fun over here with your curvy moms.”
“Hey,” Tony said with a quick shrug. “I like ‘em with a little more padding. It’s better than nailing a sack a bones.”
A woman gave the trio a scathing look from a folding chair. 
“What?” Tony asked. “That was a compliment.”
“See you on the field,” Antonio said. “We’re up at bat first. I hope you got a good pitcher.”
“Idiots,” Tony said. “This is coach-pitch softball. One of you ding-dongs has to do it.”
Antonio and Manny looked at Tony for a moment and then had a two-man huddle. They came out a moment later, smiling. “Thanks,” Antonio said. “We just decided we’re going to give them some nice, easy, underhand pitches. Those bases will be loaded in no time.”
“Dude!” Manny snapped. “Don’t tell him our strategy!”
“Doesn’t matter,” Antonio said. “We’re going to run this game.”
The Garcia brothers laughed as they went back toward their own dugout.
“Geez,” Tony said. “I hope I didn’t sound like that when I was learning the moronic rules to this league.”
The bases were quickly loaded. Antonio held the ball in his hand, watching Bess, a young girl on the GarciaTube team, stand at home plate, her bat ready, Manny behind her acting as catcher. Antonio gave his brother a wink and threw another easy pitch. Bess swung, connecting with the ball, sending it toward second base.
“RUN HOME!” Antonio at the girl at third, who had been kicking the dirt when the hit happened. “GO!”
The girl ran toward Manny and home plate while Paulie’s Pizza’s girls all ran for the ball, abandoning their positions.
“NO!” Tony shouted. “We talked about this! Stay on your friggin’ bases!”
“SCORE!” Manny shouted as the little girl jumped and stomped on the plate. “Antonio is probably your dad!”
“Dude!” Antonio snapped. “I told you to shut up about that shit!”
“They don’t have the ball!” Manny shouted.
Antonio turned to see at least four girls going for the ball in the outfield. “Fuck it!” he exclaimed. “EVERYONE RUN HOME!”
All the girls screamed and ran the bases. One of the girls from Paulie’s Pizza got the ball and started chasing after the others, trying to tag them.
“What the hell am I watching?” Paulie asked, standing near the home team’s bleachers. “I thought he had this coaching gig under control. Why’s he shouting at the girls like they’re wild animals? And is that those Garcia brothers? I don’t remember them sponsoring a team.”
“Dis is some shit,” Da’Quarius said, trying hard to hide his smile. “How da’ hell did Tony end up playing against a team sponsored by a porn site?”
“What?” Paulie asked. He read one of the orange jerseys. “GarciaTube? There’s no way the league would have allowed this.”
“I’m sure Tony has an explanation,” Da’Quarius said. “You should ask him.”
“I should ask him now before the commissioner steps in,” Paulie said.
But Gene Gorodetsky was already there, no doubt summoned by one of the parents or assistant coaches. He put a whistle in his mouth and blew it loudly, getting everyone’s attention. 
“Dude!” Manny snapped. “We’re trying to play softball here!”
“What is going on here?” Paulie asked, coming up to the ERSG commissioner. 
“Oh shit,” Tony said. “Paulie’s here.”
“You’re the owner of Paulie’s Pizza?” Gorodetsky asked.
“I am,” Paulie replied, “but I have no idea -”
“Get your team off my field!” Gorodetsky said, waving an arm through the air. “You’re banned from this organization!”
“Hey!” Antonio shouted. “We were ahead when they got banned! We win!”
“You leave before I call the police!” Gorodetsky shouted. “I already told you you’re not a team here!”
“Because we have a boy on our team?!” Manny exclaimed. “Now you’re anti-trans?!”
“He hasn’t even gotten up to bat yet!” Antonio added.
My girls haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!” Tony argued.
“That’s it!” Gorodetsky said, taking his phone from his pocket. “I’m calling the police!”
“Shit,” Manny said, running away. “Let’s go.”
“Later!” Antonio called, running off with his brother.
Gorodetsky gave one last scathing look to everyone and walked away. “Never in fourteen years,” he muttered angrily.
“Boss,” Tony said.
Paulie just walked away.
“Come on!” Tony shouted, running after Paulie in the parking lot. “Can I at least explain and apologize?”
“No!” Paulie snapped, turning around. “You know what this meant to me, what it meant for my business! You promised me you wouldn’t fuck around with my business anymore, and then you go pull some shit like this! Don’t even walk back into my pizzeria unless you’ve somehow made all this right.”
“But I live there!” Tony called as Paulie walked back toward his car.
“I don’t give a shit!” Paulie shouted. “The worst part is what you did to those girls. They were supposed to learn the fundamentals of the game and learn about the comradery of being on a team, learning how to win and lose as a team, pick yourself up as team, together, and you took that away from them. To hell with this. You don’t get it anyway.” He kept walking, getting in his car and driving away.
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said, walking up to where Tony stood. “I didn’t think he’d get dat pissed. He even forgot he drove me here.”
“Wait,” Tony said, turning to Da’Quarius. “You brought him here? You set me up!”
“Not intentionally,” Da’Quarius said. “I just wanted you to get embarrassed fo’ talkin’ all dat shit to me. I didn’t want you guys to break up.”
“Shit,” Tony said. “You even talked me into this friggin’ stupid game. You’re a vengeful shit, you know that? What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I’m sorry!” Da’Quarius snapped. “But you needed to be taken down a peg. You were actin’ like a real asshole.”
Tony sighed. “I really fucked up, didn’t I?”
“Yeah you did,” Da’Quarius said. “For what it’s worth: I’m sorry I set you up.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Tony said. “You’re right. I deserved it.”
“So wha’chu gonna do ‘bout Paulie?” Da’Quarius asked.
Tony thought for a moment. “There’s only one thing I can do,” he said. “I need to talk to that asshole commissioner into letting bygones be bygones.”
“Good idea,” Da’Quarius said. “You should start by not callin’ him an asshole.”
“So I spoke to that commissioner,” Tony said, sitting across from Paulie in his office a day later. “He reinstated Paulie’s Pizza as long as I agreed to be banned from ever coaching in the ERGS ever again.”
“Is that all you had to do?” Paulie asked.
“No,” Tony said. “I told him all that stuff you said when you were flipping out. You know: that stuff about being on a team, winning and losing on a team, picking yourself up as a team. Then I told him how you and I and the rest of the crew here work as a team, and how I lost sight of that.”
“Oh,” Paulie said, softening up. “Well I’m glad something I said sunk in.”
“There’s one last thing I agreed to,” Tony said. “But I need a favor to do it.”
Paulie sighed. “What is it?”
Da’Quarius went up to the Paulie’s Pizza stand at the fields where the team with the same name on their red jerseys were playing their final game of the season. The sign said the pizza was free for all ERGS players and their guests. “Wow,” Da’Quarius said, walking up to the booth. “Paulie really went far to keep his name on dose jerseys.”
“This was my idea, kid,” Tony said. “And it’s all on me. This cost me a month’s worth of pay, but at least the girls of Paulie’s Pizza will be able to play and learn to win as a team.”
“ARE YOU FRIGGIN’ BLIND?!” a young girl in red shouted at the umpire of her game. “I WAS SAFE, YOU ASSHOLE!”
“I’m glad Coach Ray is back too,” Tony said. “He’s going to have a handful getting my bad habits out of that team.”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius agreed, watching the little girl kick dirt as Coach Ray dragGED her toward the dugout. “I wouldn’t want his job right now.”
“Me neither kid,” Tony said, chuckling. “Me neither.”


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