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.
 
“Dat.”
 
“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.
 
“Salud!”
 
 
***
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.
 
“THROW IT TO A BASE!” Tony shouted. “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! THEY’RE GOING TO GET A GRAND FRIGGIN’ SLAM!”
 
***
 
“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!”
 
“YOU’RE DONE!” Gorodetsky shouted. “THERE IS NO GAME SCHEDULED FOR THIS FIELD, AND THERE IS NO GARCIATUBE TEAM. I TOLD YOU THIS GAME IS NOT SANCTIONED, AND I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS!”
 
“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.”
 
 

 

THE END

Freedom Lane – The Red Unicorn Con

“This fair is so lovely,” Rose said, arm-in-arm with her wife and life partner Helen, walking through the fair set up in the parking lot of Da’Quarius’s school: Haven Hall. “It was so nice for the school to do all this to raise money for orphans.”
 
“Bah!” Helen scoffed. “What have orphans done for me lately?”
 
“Our adopted son was an orphan before we took him in,” Rose said. “Don’t tell me you forgot already.”
 
“Oh,” Helen said. “Are you suggesting I think two white women in their seventies somehow birthed a black teenage boy?”
 
Rose sighed. “Oh look,” she said. “There’s Da’Quarius now!”
 
Rose led Helen over to the wooden booth where Da’Quarius was volunteering. He had metal milk jugs stacked, three in a pyramid shape, and a bucket of softballs. “Step right up, biddies,” he said as he saw his mothers. “Think you can knock down the cans? One dollar gets you one ball.”
 
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Helen asked, giving Da’Quarius the stink-eye.
 
“Da’ fuck dat look for?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
“Look at that red unicorn,” Rose said, pointing at the prize hanging from the wall. “That’s so cute!”
 
Helen sighed, reaching in her pocket. She slapped the dollar in front of Da’Quarius. “Gimme a ball so I can wreck your cans,” she said.
 
Da’Quarius handed her one of the the softballs. “Fire away,” he said.
 
Helen chucked the ball with all the strength she could muster. She hit one of the pyramids of cans, knocking down the top and one of the ones on the bottom. The third stayed where it always had been.
 
“Sorry,” Da’Quarius said, setting the cans back up. “Better luck next time.”
 
Helen’s glare worsened. “Why you little con-man…”
 
“It’s okay,” Rose said. “It’s all for charity. Do you want to split a fried dough?”
 
“Go on ahead, dear,” Helen said, not breaking her gaze with Da’Quarius. “I think I’m going to have rematch.”
 
“Alright,” Rose said, giving Helen a peck on the cheek. “Have fun.”
 
Helen waited for Rose to leave. “You’re going to give me that unicorn, kid,” she said.
 
Da’Quarius returned Helen’s gaze. “One ball: one dollar. Step right da’ fuck on up.”
 
 
***
 
Freedom Lane 
 
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
 
Season 11, Episode 3: The Red Unicorn Con
 
***
 
“Where are you taking me?” Paulie asked, sitting in the passenger’s seat of Tony’s car. Paulie had given them both the night off as penance for screwing up Tony’s party the weekend before, resulting in his own loss of revenue.
 
“You told me it was up to me tonight,” Tony replied. “It’s just a little party. Should be fun.”
 
“Alright,” Paulie said. “I’m game. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was at a party.”
 
“So you don’t remember the one at Paulie’s Pizza that you ruined last week?” Tony asked.
 
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “Do I remind you of your screw-ups this much?”
 
“Yes,” Tony replied. “But mostly because there’s a lot of them.”
 
“Fine,” Paulie said. “I’ll put up with the ball-busting a little longer.”
 
“Good,” Tony said. “We’re here.”
 
Tony pulled up to a large house in the western part of New Haven. There were already several cars out front. Paulie got out and looked around. “Nice digs,” he said. “How do you even know these people?”
 
“I know people other than you,” Tony said.
 
“That’s not what I said,” Paulie retorted.
 
“Just come on inside,” Tony said. “I guarantee you’ll have fun.”
 
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “Why do I have the feeling it’ll be the opposite of fun?”
 
***
 
Helen threw the softball, once again knocking over two of the three just required to win a prize. “Dammit!” she snapped. “This friggin’ game is rigged!”
 
A man walked up with his daughter. “Daddy!” the little girl exclaimed. “Win me a prize!”
 
“I’ll try,” the father said, handing Da’Quarius a dollar. He took the ball and hurled it at the pyramid of cans, knocking all three down.
 
“Yay!” the little girl cheered. “I want the froggy!”
 
“You got it,” Da’Quarius said, handing the little girl her prize from a box off to the side.
 
“Why’s there an asbestos warning on that box?” the father asked.
 
“Oh,” Da’Quarius replied. “Dat’s just a box. The stuffed animals were made locally in a New Haven dry cleaners.”
 
“Okay,” the father said, looking at Da’Quarius out of the corner of his eye. He walked off with his daughter.
 
“Damn Flounder,” Da’Quarius muttered. “I told him to black out dat warnin’.”
 
“Let’s get back to business,” Helen said. “Give me that friggin’ unicorn.”
 
“You gotta win it,” Da’Quarius said. “One ball: one dollar.”
 
“Look,” Helen said, leaning on the stand. “I’ve already paid for ten balls. How about I give you another ten, making it an even twenty? Then you can just give me the red unicorn. I go on my way. Rose is happy. What do you have to lose, kid?”
 
“I can’t let’chu cheat,” Da’Quarius said. “You’re raisin’ me better than dat.”
 
“No I’m not,” Helen retorted. “That’s nonsense, and you know it. Why don’t you tell me why you’re busting my balls?”
 
“Fine,” Da’Quarius said. “You’re right. Dey’re givin’ away a hundred dollar gift card to GameStop to whoever raises da’ most money. So step right up, fork over da’ dough, and play da’ game, biddy.”
 
Helen scowled at Da’Quarius. She reached in her pocket and pulled out another dollar, slapping it on the counter. “Gimme that friggin’ ball, you little con-man.”
 
Da’Quarius handed Helen a pink and yellow softball. She hurled it toward the cans with all of her might, knocking over just two of the cans as she had done before.
 
“Oh,” Da’Quarius said. “Tough luck. I thought you had it that time. Do you want to try again? One ball: one dollar.”
 
Helen glared at Da’Quarius, seething. She slapped another dollar down. “Spare me the routine and just give me the friggin’ ball.”
 
***
 
Tony sauntered through the party, greeting the people as he went. Paulie followed, amazed at how Tony was carrying on.
 
“Julia,” Tony said, smiling. “I’m glad you’re here. Am I finally going to find out if the drapes match the toilet seat?”
 
Julia blushed and gave Tony a light slap on the cheek. Tony chuckled and continued walking around.
 
“What gives?” Paulie asked. “I don’t recognize a single one of these mooks, but you seem to know everyone.”
 
“What?” Tony asked. “You don’t think I have friends outside of our small circle? You think I don’t get out of that apartment above your pizzeria every now and then?”
 
“No,” Paulie replied. “I don’t.”
 
“Well I do,” Tony said. “I’ve been making new friends for a while now, and I figured I’d introduce you. Don’t make me regret it, Paulie.”
 
Paulie sighed. “Sorry. I just picture you doing really weird stuff in your free time. I never imagined you’d have a whole group of normal friends. I keep expecting something weird to happen, but it looks like that’s not going to happen.”
 
“Nope,” Tony said. “These are perfectly normal friends of mine.”
 
“Hey, Tony,” a woman said, coming up to them. She was easily fifty, wearing thigh-high fishnets and a black bra and panty set along with a black and purple cape that dragged on the floor behind her. “Who’s your friend?”
 
“This is Paulie,” Tony replied. “Paulie, this is Claire. Claire’s husband is the one throwing the party.”
 
“Um…” Paulie said, trying hard to look only into Claire’s eyes. “Nice to meet you.”
 
“Likewise,” Claire said, a naughty smile on her face. “I hope we can chat later on. I’d really like to get to know you better.” She gave Paulie a wink before continuing to mingle.
 
“Look at you,” Tony said. “First time meeting the group, and you get a shot at Claire. Women always flock to you.”
 
“Tony,” Paulie said softly, watching Claire. “You brought me to a friggin’ swinger party?”
 
“I don’t know if anyone calls them ‘swingers’ anymore,” Tony said. “I’m going to get my clothes off in a bit if you’re settled in.”
 
Paulie sighed. “We need to talk.”
 
***
 
Helen threw a ball, knocking over two out of the three cans. “FUCK YOUR ASSHOLE!” she shouted. A mother and daughter turned and went the other way.
 
“Stop shoutin’ an’ swearin’,” Da’Quarius said. “You’re gonna scare away my marks.”
 
“I’ve spent over twenty dollars,” Helen said, her voice almost a guttural growl. “Just give me the red unicorn.”
 
“Da’ game don’t work like dat,” Da’Quarius said.
 
Helen slapped a five down on the counter this time. “Five balls,” she growled. “One of those stacks has to be the winning stack.”
 
Da’Quarius took the five and put five balls on the counter. Helen picked them up, hurling them one at a time at the five stacks of cans, nailing each of them. When she was done, each one still had one can standing.
 
“Are you shitting me?!” Helen exclaimed. “Every single one?!”
 
“Like I said,” Da’Quarius said smugly, “dat’s da’ way da’ game goes, biddy.”
 
Helen was about to retort, but Rose came up next to her. “I see you’re still playing,” she said. “You haven’t spent too much money, have you?”
 
“It’s for a good cause,” Helen replied through gritted teeth.
 
“Well I’m sure that red unicorn wants to go home with us,” Rose said, offering Da’Quarius a wink. “You going to try a bit more for it?”
 
“Yeah,” Helen breathed. “I’m going to try a bit more.”
 
“Alright,” Rose said. “I’m going to walk around I’ll be back soon.” She walked away, disappearing into the crowd.
 
Helen took a long breath and exhaled slowly. “Kid,” she said, “I’m leaving here with that unicorn.”
 
“One ball,” Da’Quarius said, returning her glare, “one dollar.”
 
***
 
“So you got caught up with a group of swingers,” Paulie said. “But you don’t have a clue what you’re doing.”
 
“Like I never get laid?” Tony asked. “You’re the only one of the two of us having sex regularly? Come on, Paulie.”
 
“Will you stop it with that third degree shit?” Paulie said. “That’s not what I’m saying, you friggin’ stunad. I’ve been to these types of parties before. I used to go all the time in the eighties. There’s an etiquette that has to be observed, and running around in your underwear is not it.”
 
“That’s never stopped me before,” Tony said, shrugging.
 
“Listen,” Paulie said, rubbing his temples. “This isn’t a run of the mill orgy. These aren’t sexual deviants. They’re swingers. They’re a different breed than what you’re used to is all I’m saying. Sure, you’ll end up having sex with a relative stranger, but it won’t be cheap and meaningless and perverted. You get what I’m saying?”
 
“You lost me after that sex with a stranger part,” Tony said. “That’s really why I’m here.”
 
“No,” Paulie said. “You told me these were your new friends. Well, these kind of friends have sex with each other or let you have sex with their wives. Stick with this crowd and you’ll attend one of these a month if you’re lucky, and you’ll have a new partner at each one.”
 
“Wow,” Tony said. “You really do know your shit.”
 
“But you have to be cool about it,” Paulie added. “Or you won’t be invited back. These types of people frown on guys who act like horny amateurs.”
 
Tony nodded, taking in Paulie’s lesson.
 
“What a second,” Paulie said. “I thought you’ve been to one of these before.”
 
“I have,” Tony said.
 
“Then why were you invited back?” Paulie asked. “No offense, but I figured you would have done something.”
 
“No,” Tony said. “Maybe I’m just a professional banger.”
 
“Hi, Tony,” a woman said, walking by. “I hope you didn’t wear the fur underwear this time.”
 
“Nope,” Tony replied. “Just the regular kind. I learned my lesson.”
 
The woman smiled and walked away.
 
“Fur underwear?” Paulie asked.
 
“What?” Tony asked. “I thought it might get cold.”
 
***
 
Helen stood in front of Da’Quarius’s booth. “Give me that unicorn,” she said.
 
“One ball…”
 
“You give me that ‘one ball: one dollar’ shit again, and I’ll slap those glasses off your face,” Helen said. A man walking his kid toward the booth turned and walked he opposite way.
 
“You gotta win it,” Da’Quarius said. “What kind of lesson would I be teachin’ you if I just give you da’ unicorn?”
 
“I’m pushing eighty years old,” Helen said. “If I haven’t learned my lesson yet, there’s a slim chance I’m going to learn it anyway. Now give me the friggin’ unicorn before I piss my pants.”
 
Another woman with two kids turned and walked away from the booth. Da’Quarius watched them go.
 
“Come on,” Helen said. “I’ve probably spent close to fifty bucks on this stupid game, trying to win a stupid red unicorn for a woman who doesn’t even play with stuffed animals.”
 
“Den why you tryin’ to win it?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
Helen sighed. “Don’t make me say it.”
 
“Go ahead an’ say it,” Da’Quarius said.
 
“That woman means the world to me,” Helen said. “I haven’t always been the best person, you know that. I also haven’t been the best provider either, especially early on when we were together. She put me up through thick and thin, never asking for anything in return other than my company. If there’s anything I can get for her, anything, then I owe it to myself to do it, even a chintzy little stuffed unicorn that will lose its spot on top of her dresser the minute she decides to neaten up our bedroom. So please help me out, Da’Quarius. Help me get the woman who adores me a little something to ease my internal torment.”
 
Da’Quarius looked into the serious face of Helen. He clapped slowly. “Bravo. You almost had me. One ball: one dollar.”
 
“DAMMIT!” Helen snapped. Two more people walked away, giving the booth a wide berth.
 
“Look,” Da’Quarius said. “Dis has been fun an’ all, but you gotta stop swearin’. You’re scarin’ my customers away.”
 
Helen looked around, spotting those who have walked away. “You really are an amateur after all, kid.”
 
“What?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
Helen smiled. “You know nothing about the con game. Never give away an ace.”
 
***
 
“So you came with Tony?” Claire asked, sitting next to Paulie on the love seat, leaning close to him, tracing shapes on his leg.
 
“Yeah,” Paulie said. “He brought me here. I had no idea he had such a… diverse group of friends.”
 
“Tony was a good find for us,” Claire said. “He found some of our members through a dating site, and they invited him. He’s very open-minded and a fantastic lover from what I hear, despite his crass demeanor.”
 
Paulie turned to Clair. “So you and him haven’t…”
 
“No,” Claire said with a small laugh. “But he’s on my short list. Have you and him every had the same woman before?”
 
“Not intentionally,” Paulie replied. “But there has been a couple of times where it has happened. When you fish from the same pond, you sometimes hook the same fish.”
 
“I see,” Claire said. “You know, you can have me if you want.”
 
“I figured,” Paulie said.
 
“There’s something I’ve been dying to try,” Claire added, a sly smile creeping up her face.
 
“Oh yeah?” Paulie asked. “What’s that?”
 
Claire moved closer to whisper into Paulie’s ear, her hand moving to his thigh as she did. Her lips were less than an inch from his ear. They started to move, about to form words when Tony sat in the chair across from them.
 
“What are you two up to?” Tony asked, drinking a glass of wine, nearly chugging it. “You guys look cozy.”
 
Claire moved away from Paulie, smiling at Tony. “Well I should see if my darling husband needs any help around the house,” she said, standing up. She turned toward Paulie. “Make sure you find me later.”
 
“Will do,” Paulie said. He watched her leave, following her with his eyes. He then turned to Tony, who was doing the same. “What the frig is wrong with you?!”
 
“What?” Tony asked. “I just wanted to say hi.”
 
***
 
Helen stood near Da’Quarius’s booth, leaning against it, a smug look on her face. 
 
“What are you doin’?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
“Wait,” Helen replied. 
 
A woman and her son walked up to the booth. “Do you want to try and win a prize?” she asked.
 
“Shit,” Helen said. The woman turned to look at her. “Shitty shit.”
 
“Come on,” the mother said, dragging her son away. “Let’s play that game with the ducks.”
 
“Really?” Da’Quarius asked. “Dat’s how you gonna play me?”
 
Helen shrugged. “You can always give me that red unicorn.”
 
Da’Quarius glared at her. “One ball: one dollar.”
 
“Suit yourself,” Helen said. “Hairy nuts.”
 
Another man dragged his daughter away.
 
“Anus bleach.”
 
A couple turned on their heel to leave.
 
“Anus bleach?” Da’Quarius asked. “Really?”
 
“Vaginal secretion.”
 
Another couple gave her the widest of berths as they passed Helen and the booth.
 
“How much money do you think you just lost there?” Helen asked. “Want to stop the bleeding? Give me what I want.”
 
“Fine!” Da’Quarius snapped. He grabbed the red unicorn from the wall. “You stone cold, doe. I hope Rose likes it.”
 
“Thank you,” Helen said, smiling. “See you at home.” She left to look for Rose.
 
“Shit,” Da’Quarius muttered. “I better win dat damn gift card.”
 
***
 
“Come with me,” Claire said, leading Paulie through the party by his hand. “I have a surprise for you.”
 
“Oh yeah?” Paulie said. “I like surprises. Usually.”
 
“I think you’ll like this one,” Claire said. “But not as much as I’m going to like it.”
 
Paulie chuckled as Claire opened the door to the master bedroom. She led him in, but he stopped dead before he got to the bed. “What hell is this?!”
 
“I was going to ask you the same thing!” Tony said, blocking his crotch with a small pillow.
 
“Enough of the dramatics,” Claire said, dropping her robe behind her. “You told me you’ve shared women before.”
 
“Yeah,” Paulie said, “but not at the same time!”
 
“I don’t know, Paulie,” Tony said, looking over Claire. “As long we don’t look at each other’s dongs, we should be fine. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.”
 
“I’m out of here!” Paulie snapped, walking toward the door. “Now I remember why I stopped coming to these friggin’ swinger parties!”
 
“Wow,” Tony said as Paulie stormed down the stairs. “I don’t know where he’s going, but I drove him here.”
 
***
 
“Rose!” Helen exclaimed, shuffling toward her. “I got it.”
 
“Oh,” Rose said, smiling. “You finally beat that game.”
 
“Yeah,” Helen said. “Sorry it took so long. That kid is running a solid con over there, but I finally beat it.”
 
“Good for you,” Rose said. She looked around and saw a little girl holding a balloon, watching the Ferris wheel. Rose handed her the toy. “Here you go. Do you like it?”
 
“Yeah,” the little girl said, hugging the stuffed unicorn. “It’s pretty.”
 
“Good,” Rose said, giving her a smile.
 
“What do you say?” the girl’s mother asked.
 
“Thank you,” the little girl replied.
 
“Don’t thank me,” Rose said. “Thank Helen. She’s the one who won it. Come on. It’s time to head home I think.”
 
Rose turned and walked toward the parking lot.
 
“Thank you,” the little girl said, staring at Helen.
 
“Go bleach our anus, you little shit,” Helen said, storming off and following Rose.
 
 
The End

Want more Freedom Lane?
Check out Freedom Lane da’ Move 2 in Space.
Now available form Amazon by clicking HERE

Freedom Lane da’ Movie 2 in Space – Trailer

Every once in a great while, a movie comes along so huge it can only mean one thing: it’s Freedom Lane da’ Movie 2 in Space. Join the elderly Helen and Rose Masters, their adopted teenage son Da’Quarius, and his pizzeria-owning Uncle Paulie as they embark on their greatest adventure to date.
 
Rose is holding a letter in her shaking hands. “This says Da’Quarius has to go back.”
 
“Where?” Helen asks. “Back to Africa?”
 
“Dammit, biddy!” Da’Quarius snaps, jumping from his place on the couch. “You know I ain’t never been to Africa!”
 
“No,” Rose says, shaking her head. “Back to the orphanage.”
 
“Who says he has to go back?” Helen asks.
 
“President Trump,” Rose replies, tears streaming down her face.
 
How far will one family go in order to keep themselves together when faced with the greatest challenge of their lives?
 
“You need to stay calm,” Helen says, walking through the White House by Rose’s side. “I don’t need your inner hippy coming to the surface, causing you to throw a tampon at our commander in chief.”
 
“I don’t use tampons anymore, so stop bringing them up,” Rose says. “And he’s not my damn President!”
 
“That’s just what I’m talking about,” Helen mutters.
 
Da’Quarius and Paulie are waiting outside the White House. “I wonder what’s taking them so long,” Paulie says. A moment later, two police cruisers pull up, lights flashing. Rose is dragged out.
 
“LET ME GO SO I CAN KICK TRUMP’S SPRAY-TANNED ASS!” she shouts.
 
Helen is dragged out right behind her. “IF YOU HURT ONE HAIR ON MY WOMAN’S HEAD, I’LL BEAT YOU ALL TO DEATH!”
 
Now, one family faces separation as the consequences of their actions.
 
Helen and I have to turn ourselves in to spend an entire month in prison,” Rose tells Paulie, sitting in the kitchen of her Freedom Lane home. “I don’t want Da’Quarius to know and worry about us. I want you to chaperone his trip to Space Camp while Helen and I are away in case he somehow finds out.”
 
“Sure,” Paulie says, putting his hand on top of Roses. “I can entrust my pizzeria to Tony for the next month. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
 
“No way!” Tony exclaims, having heard from Paulie everything that has been going on. “I’m going to this space camp with you. Look at the pamphlet! It says ‘blast off to adventure’ right on the front.”
 
“This isn’t a friggin’ adventure!” Paulie shouts, his hands flailing.
 
Paulie, Tony, Da’Quarius, and a handful of kids from camp literally blast off to adventure when they’re accidentally rocketed into space.
 
Da’Quarius and Paulie are in the cockpit of a space shuttle. Sparks and smoke are coming from some of the circuits. “What the frig are we supposed to do now?!” Paulie shouts. 
 
“Suit up an’ strap yo’ ass in,” Da’Quarius says. “We goin’ to space.”
 
Paulie and Da’Quarius, along with four other kids and Tony, float onto a space station, looking around. “Anyone know where the shitter is?” Tony asks. “I got a growler that’s been trying to force its way out since Florida.”
 
This July, loyalty and courage are put to the test as an unlikely group has to band together in order to figure out just how to get home from aboard a space station owned by the one person they should never, ever attempt to cross.
 
The entire group comes into a large, circular room with a desk bolted to the floor. In the center, a logo with the name “TRUMP-1” is painted.
 
“We’re definitely fucked,” Da’Quarius said.
 
Freedom Lane da’ Movie 2 in Space. Coming this July from Budgie Bigelow and BluntSharpness.
 
“That’s awesome,” Manny Garcia says, standing inside Paulie’s Pizza. “Can you even imagine that?”
 
“I know, right!” Antonio, Manny’s brother says. “It’s like one of those space camp movies from the eighties.”
 
“Which one?” Manny asks.
 
“Space Camp!” Antonio replies.
 
“Oh yeah,” Manny says. “I gotta see if Netflix has that.”
 
 
Freedom Lane da’ Movie 2 in Space
Coming July sixth for Amazon Kindle or Kindle Appā€¼

Freela_2_cover.jpg
 

Freedom Lane: A Riot of the Heart

Tonight’s regularly scheduled programming will not be seen tonight so we can bring you this special presentation of Freedom Lane.
 
 
***
 
“We are sick and tired of being oppressed by the police of this city!” Tyrone Pitt said to the crowd that had gathered outside of Paulie’s Pizza on State Street in New Haven. The crowd cheered at his words. It had been a little less than twenty four hours since the New Haven Riots started, but they planned on going forward with it for as long as it took for the City of New Haven to get the message. “This looting is their fault! Looting is our voice! They want to keep us silent?! NO MORE!” Tyrone raised his hands as the crowd went nuts. Smoke was billowing into the sky from a distant fire.
 
“And what sparked all of this?” Tyrone asked, lowering his voice to build suspense throughout the crowd. “The police threatening a young boy with violence.” The crowd booed and hissed. “An officer of the law threatening a young boy with a weapon if he didn’t move along. A twelve year old boy who was carrying no weapon, and had no way of defending himself!”
 
The crowd went into a frenzy once again.
 
“I have that boy here today,” Tyrone said. The crowd went silent. “He’s frightened and fears for his life, but he has decided to speak out!”
 
The news stations all went live. This epic speech was about to be broadcast throughout the country. Al Sharpton was in attendance. All of the cameras were positioned towards Tyrone and the soon to be revealed boy of whom he spoke.
 
“There’s nothing else I can say,” Tyrone said. “I want you to hear about this travesty from the boy who lived through it: Da’Quarius Lobsterclaw Sherman!”
 
Da’Quarius stepped up from behind Tyrone and stood in front of the microphone. The entire crowd was eager to hear him speak for the first time since the riots started.
 
***
 
Freedom Lane:
A Riot of the Heart
 
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
 
***
 
Twenty-four hours earlier:
 
“Yo, Da’Quarius!” Tony called from behind the counter of Paulie’s Pizza. It was early Saturday afternoon, and Da’Quarius was cleaning the tables and booths per his usual Saturday at Paulie’s.
 
“Wha’chu need,” Da’Quarius asked.
 
“You know my friend Rocco Priolo?” Tony asked. “He comes in here sometimes.”
 
“Da cop?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
“That’s the guy,” Tony said. “He’s directing traffic for those clowns at the power company down by Humphrey Street. Can you bring him his lunch?”
 
“Where’s dat driver dat Unca Paulie hired?” Da’Quarius asked. “Wha’chu call him again?”
 
“Pimple-Puss,” Tony said. “He don’t come in until four. It’s only a few blocks away. You can keep whatever tip he gives you.”
 
“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “Count my little black ass in. It’s ’bout time I made some dough outta dis place.”
 
Tony handed Da’Quarius the bag with the food inside. “Here ya go,” he said. “Bust his balls a bit for me as well.”
 
“You got it,” Da’Quarius said. “One sub and some ball busting coming up!”
 
Da’Quarius left Paulie’s Pizza and entered the bright Saturday afternoon sunlight. He turned left, and noticed someone sitting on the bench.
 
“Hey,” Da’Quarius said. “Aren’t you dat girl does two gay dudes adopted. Esmerelda?”
 
“Djou remembered my name?” Esmerelda said.
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Why not?”
 
Esmerelda shrugged. She was wearing a black tank top and short white pants. He long hair was tied back in a large, squirrelly pony tail. “So djou work in the pizza place?” she asked. “Those old ladies who raise djou let djou do that?”
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “It’s my Unca’s place. Why wouldn’t dey?”
 
Esmerelda shrugged again. “Harold and Lee don’t let me do much,” she said.
 
“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “Well you escaped for da afternoon. I gotta deliver dis sandwich down the road. You wanna come wit me?”
 
Esmerelda looked surprised. She didn’t say anything at first. She just stared at Da’Quaruis. “Si,” she finally said. “I mean yes. I’d love to go.”
 
Da’Quarius and Esmerelda walked west down State Street. They didn’t say much to each other as they walked side by side. Every now and then Da’Quarius noticed she was looking at him, but whenever he turned around she was watching the sidewalk in front of her. The power company trucks were easy enough to spot once they got close to Humphrey Street. He found Tony’s friend, Rocco, leaning up against a mailbox playing with his phone while cars went honky by him.
 
“You Rocco?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
“Officer Priolo,” Rocco corrected.
 
“Whateva,” Da’Quarius said. “Tony sent me wit’cho lunch.”
 
“That bozo is sending kids to do his work?” Rocco asked. “Tell him I said to get off his lazy ass and carry it himself next time.”
 
“He said he busy at yo’ mamma’s house,” Da’Quarius said, handing Rocco the bag. Esmerelda stood giggling next to him.
 
“Watch it, kid,” Rocco said, smiling. “Cops in this town don’t take kindly to that kind of talk.”
 
“Wha’chu gonna do?” Da’Quarius asked, enjoying making Esmerelda giggle again. “I bet’chu can’t even use yo nightstick until you wipe da donut glaze off it.”
 
“I can use it just fine,” Rocco said, still smiling. He pulled the nightstick out of his holster and wagged it playfully towards Da’Quarius. “I’m going to use this on Tony next time I see him for sending you down here to bust my chops.”
 
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “Dat thing still smells like Tony’s asshole from da last time you used it on him?”
 
Rocco started laughing along with Esmerelda and Da’Quarius. He opened his mouth to make one last retort, but he was cut off before the first syllable could come out of his mouth.
 
“OH MY GOD!” a woman shouted from her porch. “DAT COP’S ‘BOUT BEAT DAT KID!”
 
Everyone in earshot suddenly turned to look.
 
***
 
“ROSE!” Helen shouted from the living room. “Get in here! It’s happening!”
 
Rose Masters entered the living room of the home she shared with her wife and life partner Helen. “What is it, Helen?” she asked, apprehensively. “What’s happening?”
 
“The end of days!” Helen said. “They’re rising up! They’re taking over!”
 
“Who?!” Rose said, getting frustrated. “Have you taken your meds today?”
 
“Just look at the damn TV!” Helen snapped.
 
Rose turned to look at the TV. Helen had on the local channel that played her stories (she watched at the same time on the weekends regardless of what happened to be on). The news had cut into the program to bring reports of rioting and looting in New Haven.
 
“Oh dear,” Rose said, slowly sitting next to Helen.
 
“I told you!” Helen said. “This is it. First it’s New Haven. Then they’ll spread. Daddy was right all along!”
 
“Calm down,” Rose said. “That’s incredibly offensive!”
 
“Look at what’s happening!” Helen said, motioning towards the TV. “It started down on State ST, and now they are going crazy all over downtown! Rioting. Looting. It’s chaos in the streets!”
 
“Da’Quarius,” Rose suddenly said. “Oh my God. I hope he’s safe!” 
 
“Don’t worry about him,” Helen said. “Knowing him, this is probably all that little shit’s fault!”
 
***
 
“Holy shit!” Paulie exclaimed as he opened and quickly slammed the door shut of Paulie’s Pizza.
 
“What the hell is going on out there?!” Tony asked.
 
“They’re rioting!” Paulie said. “The whole city is going crazy. They’re flipping cars over. Smashing windows. Stealing from businesses. I just watched them flip a car over! It looks like World War Friggin’ Three out there! Madon!”
 
“What happened?” Tony asked. “They just started going crazy?”
 
“Some idiot cop threatened a black kid,” Paulie said, sitting down heavily. “After that, they all started going nuts.”
 
“What?” Tony asked. “Where?”
 
“Right down the road!” Paulie said. “Near Humphrey Street.”
 
“Humphrey Street?” Tony echoed. 
 
Paulie looked around the pizzaria. “Where’s the kid?” he asked.
 
Tony’s brain took a few seconds to put the pieces into place. “Oh shit,” he said.
 
Just then, Da’Quaruis came rushing in with a girl. “You better lock dis door!” he shouted.
 
Paulie got up and locked the door and the dead bolt. “Tony, go downstairs and get the boards we put up for storms. You help him out, D. We’re going to board up this place and wait this out.”
 
Tony went down the narrow staircase into the basement, followed by Da’Quarius. Paulie turned to the nervous girl that his nephew brought with him. “What’s your name?” he asked.
 
“Esmerelda Perez de la Hoya,” she said.
 
“That’s pretty,” Paulie said. “We’ll keep you safe here. I promise. Do you want to call your parents and let them know you’re safe?.”
 
Esmerelda shook her head. “No,” she said. “They probably don’t even know I went out. They don’t really care about me.”
 
“That’s not true,” Paulie said. “I’m sure they care very much about you. They’re probably worried sick.”
 
***
 
Harold and Lee Fuchs sat on their couch huddled together, watching the drama unfold on the news.
 
“This is horrible,” Lee said.
 
“I know,” Harold replied. “Is Esmerelda here?”
 
“Yeah,” Lee said. “Probably playing with her dolls in her room or something.”
 
“Good,” Harold said, sipping his earl gray tea. “That’s good.”
 
***
 
Helen peeked through the drawn curtains of her home on Freedom Lane. She was now wearing a green army helmet and carrying a crowbar. Rose didn’t know where she got the helmet or the crowbar and was too afraid to ask.
 
“I don’t see them yet,” Helen said. “But they’ll come. You’ll see, Rose.”
 
Rose watched the phone. Helen forbade her from making any calls. She was getting very nervous about her adoptive son, Da’Quarius, and brother-in-law, Paulie. She hadn’t heard from them since the riot started.
 
“Helen,” Rose said softly. “Come and sit down. I’m worried about Da’Quarius.”
 
“He’s fine,” Helen said, repeating what she’s told Rose a hundred times. “He’ll probably be home with a new TV any minute now.”
 
Rose continued to watch the events unfold on TV. The story of the New Haven riots had spread from just the local channels to the mainstream media. It was now on all the major networks. Rose flipped from a local New Haven channel to CNN when the phone on the coffee table finally rang. She turned to pick it up.
 
“Don’t touch that phone,” Helen said, turning from the window. Her helmet became askew.
 
“It could be Da’Quarius or Paulie!” Rose said.
 
“And if it’s not?” Helen asked, walking towards Rose. “They’ll know we’re home.”
 
“Who?”
 
“Them! Those mobs outside!” Helen motioned towards the window. Rose watched as a squirrel ran by.
 
“This is crazy!” Rose said. She moved her hand towards the phone. Helen moved faster than she had in years, smashing the phone with her crowbar. Rose snatched her hand back. “HELEN!” 
 
“We are at war!” Helen said. 
 
“But Da’Quarius -“
 
“Is fine,” Helen said. “Trust me.”
 
A worried Rose nodded once.
 
“Good,” Helen said. “I love you, you know.” She took her post by the window back up.
 
***
 
“No answer at Rose and Helens,” Paulie said once the windows were all boarded up. “I hope they’re OK.”
 
“Dey alright,” Da’Quarius said. “Helen will scare ’em right off. She pulled a gun on a couple of my friends once.”
 
“She’s a tough old bird,” Paulie said. “I still wish I knew more about what’s going on out there.”
 
“If only Rocco didn’t pull that damn nightstick out,” Da’Quarius said.
 
“Wait,” Paulie said. “Rocco Priolo? You buddy did this, Tony?”
 
Tony didn’t say anything.
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius answered. “Mo’ fucker was just kiddin’, doe. He only took it out at me as a joke! Esmerelda will back me up. She was dere!”
 
“Wait again,” Paulie said. “You were the kid that started all of this nonsense?”
 
“In fairness, Rocco is da one that pulled out the nightstick,” Da’Quarius said.
 
“Why in the name of everything that is holy is your stunad cop friend taking his nightstick out on the kid in the middle of broad friggin’ daylight?!” Paulie exclaimed, turning on Tony.
 
“Don’t blame me!” Tony said. “I wasn’t even there! I just sent the kid to bring him a sandwich. How was I supposed to know that this shit would happen?”
 
“Fongool!” Paulie said, waving his hand in the air. “What a mess.”
 
“It wasn’t even Rocco’s fault!” Da’Quarius said. “If dat fat ol’ bitch on the porch hadn’t screamed nobody woulda gotten all upset.”
 
“What are we gonna do now?” Esmerelda asked, breaking the tension in the room.  “We live on pizza and sleep under tables until everything calms down?”
 
“We can use my apartment to shower and change and stuff,” Tony said.
 
“How we gonna get there? Da’Quarius asked.
 
“It’s right upstairs,” Tony said.
 
“You live at Paulie’s Pizza?” Da’Quarius asked.
 
“No,” Tony said. “I live in the apartment that is upstairs from Paulie’s Pizza.”
 
“The apartment is attached to the pizza restaurant,” Esmerelda pointed out.
 
“It’s an apartment with its own address,” Tony said.
 
“But the sign out front says ‘Paulie’s Pizza,” Da’Quarius said. “Not Paulie’s Pizza an’ Tony’s shitty apartment.”
 
“You won’t be runnin’ your mouth when you want a hot shower in the morning, you little wise ass,” Tony said.
 
“Enough!” Paulie said. “Thank you, Tony. We appreciate that. We should at least go up to the roof and see if things have calmed down.” The four went up to the roof where there were some chairs set up and a small table. “What’s going on up here?” Paulie asked.
 
“I entertain sometimes,” Tony said with a shrug. “Rooftop drinks the only part of living upstairs from a pizzeria that gets the chicks wet.”
 
“Oh!” Paulie said. “Not in front of the kids.”
 
“It’s OK,” Da’Quarius said. “We know he means dat dey get rained on.”
 
“You want me to toss you off this roof?” Tony asked.
 
“Just what we need to calm da riot,” Da’Quarius said. “A white guy tossing a black kid off a roof. Tony, you’re a genius.”
 
“Shaddup!” Paulie said, looking out into the city. They could see smoke rising from burning cars. They heard the screams and breaking glass. Shouts were coming from the cops in riot gear as they tried to get the crowds to disperse.
 
“Madre di dios,” Esmerelda said, stepping next to Da’Quarius and putting her hand on top of his. “This city is tearing itself apart.” 
 
“Bound to happen,” Paulie said, sullenly. “This city was just looking for an excuse.”
 
Da’Quarius looked towards Paulie, and, for the first time, he felt sorry for his part in unintentionally starting the riots.
 
***
 
Rose watched TV in the dark as Helen slept in her easy chair by the window. She had only left the window to use the bathroom. Rose made her a sandwich for dinner and brought it to her so she could watch the riots from the comfort of her seat. So far, none of the crowds had ventured down Freedom Lane, but Helen was adamant that they would soon be in their neighborhood.
 
“We’re coming live from Downtown New Haven,” the reporter from CNN said. “Earlier today, a police officer threatened a young boy, and the people of the city decided that they’d had enough. Here’s what some of the residents had to say.”
 
The scene cut to a large, black woman standing in front of the damaged store front. “This isn’t about violence or looting,” she said as a man ran down the street balancing six blu-ray players on top of each other. “We’re fed up of white cops treating the black community differently. What did that boy do to that cop to warrant such a threat?”
 
The scene changed to a man standing in front of a broken up gas station. “I seen the whole thing!” he said. “Dat boy was only walkin’ down the street when the cop pulled out his nightstick and told him he had to leave. All the kid do was axe why, and den da cop started swingin’ at his head! The boy was lucky enough to get away!”
 
“There you have it,” the reporter said. “More to come from New Haven after -“
 
Rose flipped the channel over to Fox News.
 
“The streets of New Haven are in chaos as the people rage against a white policeman who pulled  his nightstick on a black boy,” a male reporter said from an office over looking the dark streets of New Haven. “Reports are now coming in that the boy was threatening the cop with violence. There are even eye witnesses calling in to tell us that the boy in question was part of a small mob of hooligans that were throwing rocks at the police officer.”
 
The scene changed to a rather fat, white man standing in front of his house while his wife watered her flowers. “I saw it!” the man said. “That boy came running outta nowhere with a brick in his hand! That boy was lucky all he got was a scolding. If I were that cop I would have whacked him silly! He was well within his rights to give that kid a -“
 
Rose clicked through the channels randomly. She stopped on a black, female reporter addressing her audience from her news desk. “The reverend Al Sharpton plans to be in New Haven by the morning,” she said. “He said he plans on helping the citizens of New Haven against the threat of racism from the white police and the community that supports this behavior. He also stated -“
 
Rose shut off the TV. She got up and walked to the window. She looked out into the dark street. There was still no sign of the rioting on Freedom Lane, but she knew Da’Quarius was out there somewhere. Probably scared out of his mind. She prayed that he was unharmed. “Come home to us,” she said, pressing her hand against the cool window. “Please. Come home safe and unharmed.”
 
Helen let out a fart that made Rose jump. “The kid’s probably stolen a house by now,” she said, drifting back to sleep.
 
***
 
“The actions of the New Haven Police are deplorable!” Al Sharpton shouted at the crowd that had gathered in the New Haven green to see him speak. Paulie, Da’Quarius, Tony, and Esmerelda watched on TV from Tony’s couch in his small apartment. They had slept in various locations around the apartment, and Paulie got up every two hours or so to check on the Pizzeria downstairs, especially when he thought he heard some rioters or looters running by.
 
“We will not sit by and let the police threaten our children with violence!” Al Sharpton shouted at the crowd. “We will not allow such a travesty!”
 
“Bullshit,” Paulie said. “This stunad is always trying to stir up trouble!”
 
“That was reverend Al Sharpton from the New Haven green,” the news announcer said. “He’s reacting to the photo of the young boy that was threatened yesterday afternoon.”
 
“Oh shit,” Da’Quarius said.
 
The screen changed to a photo of Humphrey Street. The camera got the back of Rocco holding his nightstick towards Da’Quarius and Esmerelda. Da’Quarius’ face was clear in the photo.
 
“We’re on TV!” Esmerelda shouted.
 
“Reverend Sharpton’s words this morning marked the beginning of another day of riots,” the reporter continued. “The end may not come soon for the riots that are ravaging this once peaceful city.”
 
Paulie turned the TV off. “This ain’t good,” he said. “You better lay low for a little while.”
 
“Yeah,” Tony said. “No inciting riots!”
 
“Ah fongool!” Paulie exclaimed. “I mean hide out, you stunad!”
 
“I didn’t rob a liquor store!” Da’Quarius said. “I can’t hide from dis! I’m all ova the TV!”
 
“I’m gonna go check on the front door downstairs,” Paulie said. “Then I’m gonna go to my private office for a bit.” Paulie left to the staircase downstairs.
 
“Private office?” Esmerelda asked.
 
“He’s gonna take a shit,” Tony said. He left without explanation for the roof.
 
“This is really weird,” Esmerelda said. “I’m really sorry, Da’Quarius.”
 
“It’s OK,” Da’Quarius said. “Not your fault.”
 
“I know,” Esmerelda said. “I wish there was a way to make it right.”
 
“Make it right,” Da’Quarius said. “Dat’s it! I can make this right. Now dat my face is out there I have to!”
 
“Where are djou -” Esmerelda said as Da’Quarius left. She was transfixed for a moment by what she saw, then she chased after him.
 
***
 
Helen watched TV while Rose showered. It was hard to pull Rose away from the TV, but Helen promised to stopped staring out the window while she cleaned herself up. She had the channel her stories usually aired on hoping they would stop with all the news coverage and put them on (even thought it was Sunday), and she was shocked to see what came up on the TV.
 
“Once again, here’s the photo of the boy who was threatened by the police yesterday afternoon,” the TV announcer said. “There’s no word on whether or not he’s made any kind of statement, and the New Haven Police haven’t released the name of the police officer or the boy the threatened.”
 
“It can’t be,” Helen said, squinting her eyes to see. “That could be any kid. All of these little punks look the same.”
 
Helen removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes. She put her glasses back on and leaned closer to the TV. There was no mistaking it. “You little shit,” she whispered. “I knew it was you!”
 
Suddenly, Helen heard Rose coming down the stairs. Helen switched the TV off quickly.
 
“What happened?” Rose said. “I thought you were watching the news.”
 
“TV’s out,”  Helen said. “Damn hooligans knocked out the cable.”
 
“That was rotten of them,” Rose said. “I’ll go get the radio. I’m still worried about Da’Quarius out there.”
 
“You and the rest of New Haven,” Helen muttered under her breath.
 
***
 
Paulie walked back upstairs to Ton’y apartment and was surprised to be by himself. “Oh!” he shouted. “Where is everyone?!”
 
“I’m comin’!” Tony shouted. He came in from the door that led to the roof. “What are you shouting for?”
 
“Where the hell are the kids?!” Paulie said. “You shoulda been watching them!”
 
“What am I?” Tony said. “A glorified baby sitter?!”
 
“Puttana d’ Eva!” Paulie said, wrenching at his hair with his hands. “There’s a freakin’ riot goin’ on! You can’t keep an eye on two kids?!”
 
“What about you?” Tony asked. “You left me to watch your nephew and his girlfriend to take a twenty minute dump? What a great role model.”
 
“Shut that hole in your face!” Paulie said. “I’m going after them.”
 
“You can’t!” Tony said.
 
“The hell I can’t!” Paulie said. “My sister will kill me if anything happened to him! Lock the door behind me. I’m gonna find that kid and drag his ass home by his dreadlocks.”
 
“You sure about this?” Tony said. “That kid ain’t exactly innocent, if you catch me.”
 
“He’s just a kid,” Paulie said. “Who knows what hell he’s going through out there.”
 
***
 
Da’Quarius shoved the homeless man into the street with his boot. He had come running up on Esmerelda, so Da’Quarius gave him a shot in the balls via his Timberland.
 
“Where are we going?” Esmerelda asked, glancing over her shoulder at the bum clutching his groin and moaning in the street.
 
“I didn’t ask you to come wit me,” Da’Quarius responded. “You should go home to Bert an’ Ernie now.”
 
“I want to stay with you,” Esmerelda said.
 
“OK,” Da’Quarius said. “But umma make dis right.”
 
“Djou said that before,” Esmerelda said. “What does that mean?”
 
“Look at what’s goin’ on,” Da’Quarius said. “Tear gas. Fires. Looting. All cuz some idiot thinks some white cop was going to beat a black kid. It ain’t right.”
 
“But aren’t the police shitty to djour people?” Esmerelda asked.
 
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Dis be a long time comin’. I just don’t wanna be the poster child for it.”
 
Esmerelda nodded, and the pair walked in silence for a bit. Finally, Da’Quarius found what he was looking for.
 
“Hey!” Da’Quarius shouted at the news van parked near Humphrey Street. “You bitches wanna git me on TV or what?”
 
***
 
“Outta my way!” Paulie shouted. “I gotta find my nephew!”
 
“You in da wrong neighborhood,” some said to Paulie’s left.
 
“I was raised in this neighborhood!” Paulie said. “I just want to find my nephew and bring him home.”
 
“Dis ain’t about your nephew, bitch,” another man said. “Dis about the black man!”
 
“My nephew’s black, stunad!” Paulie said.
 
“Bullshit,” the voice said.
 
“He is!” Paulie said. He reached in his pocket and pulled out the photo he grabbed from his office. It was of him and Da’Quarius making pizza in his pizzeria. 
 
“Dat’s the kid who was getting threatened by the cop!” the man said, grabbing the picture.
 
“Give that back!” Paulie said, snatching the photo. “I need to find him!”
 
“Is that kid really your nephew?” someone asked.
 
“Yeah,” Paulie said. “Have you seen him?”
 
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Didn’t you hear? He’s making a big speech outside that pizza place on State Street.”
 
“Madon,” Paulie said. “What pizza place?”
 
“Paulie’s.”
 
***
 
“You ready for this?” Tyrone asked. Da’Quarius had ran into Tyrone after hooking up with the news team drinking coffee outside of their van. When Tyrone saw Da’Quarius talking to them, him and his boys ‘looted’ the van and cameras. They quickly went to work setting up the spot in front of Paulie’s Pizza per Da’Quarius’ request.
 
“I’m ready,” Da’Quarius said. “Da people have to know what happened.”
 
“True dat!” Tyrone said. “I’ll get the crowed warmed up. I was on the debate team back in high school. I’ll introduce you, and you can tell the crowd what that cop did to you.”
 
“OK,” Da’Quarius said. 
 
“YO MUTHA FUCKER!” Tryone shouted. “GIT CAMERA TWO POINTED AT THE GOTDAMN PODIUM!”
 
“Djou sure you want to do this?” Esmerelda asked.
 
“I gotta,” Da’Quarius said. “Dis will keep on going until dey know.”
 
Esmerelda leaned over and kissed Da’Quarius on the cheek. “Good luck,” she said.
 
“Luck?” Da’Quarius said. “Mutha fucker, I got the truth.”
 
***
 
Paulie fought through the crowd as Tyrone Pitt shouted about oppression and violence. The crowd was rabid and was ready to see more destruction and mayhem. Paulie knew from the atmosphere that is this went wrong the rioting would go on for days. The City of New Haven might just end up burnt to the ground.
 
“I want you to hear about this travesty from the boy who lived through it,” Tyrone said as Paulie approached the front of the crowd. “Da’Quarius Lobsterclaw Sherman!”
 
***
 
The crowd went eerily silent as Da’Quarius stood in front of the microphone. Tyrone’s boys pointed the cameras at him. They were oddly adept to working the equipment and raising the satellite dish of the news van. Still, Da’Quarius wondered if anyone other than the crowd would hear him. He noticed that Al Sharpton was at the back of the crowd having makeup applied by an assistant, and he suddenly knew that the world would hear.
 
“My name is Da’Quarius Lobsterclaw Sherman,” Da’Quarius said. The crowd cheered. “Yesterday, I was walking down the street to bring a police officer his lunch. He pulled his nightstick out and showed it to me. He had no ill intent. It was a joke.”
 
Da’Quarius stopped to let this sink in to the crowd. There were a lot of murmurs. “Mutha fucka, you know what’s at stake?” Tyrone whispered. Da’Quarius looked to see Al Sharpton muttering with a look of shock and betrayal on his face.
 
“Y’all a bunch of ignorant mo’ fuckers!” Da’Quarius said. “Ya’ll jus’ lookin’ for an excuse to act like a bunch of assholes! You wanna destroy your own neighborhood and blame the police, then go right ahead. Jus’ don’t try and sayin’ you doin’ it for me, cuz I think you’re all dead wrong.
 
“Dat cop is a friend of a friend. I was bringin’ him his lunch, an’ we was jokin’ around. Some bitch starts yellin’ dat he’s threatening me, and the rest of you start smashing shit up and flipping cars over. What da fuck is wrong wit y’all!
 
“An’ you, Sharpton,” Da’Quarius said, pointing towards Al Sharpton. Sharpton pointed to himself and mouthed the word ‘me?’.
 
“Yeah you,” Da’Quarius said. “Da loud-mouthed bitch with da stupid-ass hair! Stop exploiting your own people! You make me ashamed to be black a lot more than any white cop ever could! Get your shit and get da fuck outta my city!”
 
The crowd began to clap and cheer a bit as Al Sharpton turned towards his limo, but a group of rioters had successfully turned it upside down. The crowds cheering increased as he rushed down the street with his entourage of makeup artists and PR people.
 
“An’ the rest of you go home!” Da’Quarius continued. He saw Tyrone from the corner of his eye with his head bowed. He knew Da’Quarius was right. “You did enough damage to prove your dumb-ass point. You wanna riot tomorrow or next week; you can go right ahead. Jus’ don’t do it cuz of me. I’ll be home wit my family.
 
PEACE!”
 
Da’Quarius kicked the mic stand over and joined his uncle Paulie in front of the crowd. The two left the area with cheers.
 
***
 
“I’m glad that ordeal is over with,” Rose said, passing the mashed potatoes around the table. It was Sunday night, and Rose decided it best to have her family over for dinner. Helen, Da’Quarius, Paulie, Tony, and Esmerelda all thought it was a good idea as well.
 
“I’ll be fine if I never see another riot in my honor again,” Da’Quarius said.
 
“Amen,” Paulie said. “Pass the salt.”
 
Tony passed the salt over to Paulie. “That was quite a speech kid,” he said. “I was watching from the roof.”
 
“Too bad we missed it,” Rose said. “Our cable went out for the day.”
 
Helen coughed and gave a queer look around the table.
 
“Why’d you make them do it outside of Paulie’s,” Tony asked. “That was nuts.”
 
“Shit,” Da’Quarius said. “Everyone saw dat shit on TV. Your restaurant gonna be nuts tomorrow!”
 
Everyone at the table laughed. Esmerelda looked over to Da’Quarius. “I’m jus’ glad everything turned out OK,” she said. “Djou did great.”
 
“Esmerelda,” Rose said, softly. “You sure you don’t want to invite Harold and Lee? There’s plenty of food. They must be worried sick if they haven’t seen or heard from you since Saturday afternoon.”
 
“They’re fine,” Helen said. “They’re too busy trying to fart out the mice to notice.”
 
“Helen!” Rose said, her hand darting to her mouth and her fork clanging on her plate. The entire table burst into laughter.
 
***
 
Lee Fuchs turned the TV off. “You ready for bed?” he asked.
 
“Yeah,” Harold said yawning. He got up and sat in the chair that would lift him upstairs. “Race you up?”
 
“I’d like to see you beat me in that thing,” Lee said, smiling. 
 
“Loser swallows,” Harold said, nasally.
 
“Harold!” Lee exclaimed. “Esmerelda will hear you!”
 
Harold looked confused. “Who?”
 
 
 
The End