Budgie’s Journal #106 – WIP Wednesday 13: Whatever I’m Working on… Ant-Head Mostly

I almost forgot that today is Wednesday with the long weekend coming up. I guess I can spare you the same update from last week even though I’m working on the same projects. 

I’m gearing up to the final chapters of Ant-Head: A Love Story. Ant-Head is the tale of Joe Plume, fan fiction writer. He lives a life full of loneliness and sitcoms until a woman from his past named Tammy shows up and shakes everything up on him.

This is set to be a novella, and the first draft will probably be done in the coming weeks. This is a really enjoyable and relatable story, the romance being far out of the norm for me, but the comedy is that dark humor I’m used to writing. I’m thinking a lot of people will enjoy this book and it’s antagonist.

I’m also working on Freedom Lane (which I know is late again). Tonight’s episode features a confederate statue, kneeling during anthems, and Nazi punching. It’s all inspired by real events (duh), and I strongly suggest you read it when I post it later tonight.

The rest of season 12 is great too, and the final three episodes are on their way. Tony deals with his cancer, Helen rekindles an old passion, and Da’Quarius finds forbidden love. It’s a roller coaster, but Freedom Lane always is.

My other books are coming along too. I’m in Sci-fi Hell (book one anyway) is close to the last part, and The Whore Ghosts of the Admirisl Inn is somewhere around 50%. I’ll keep updating as progress is made.

And my quality of life is improving, the WIP that it is as well. I’m writing like a writer possessed, and that’s a good thing considering it all went to pieces not too long ago. Luckily I’ve bounced back, and I’m sure you’ll notice in my work, here and otherwise.

That’s it… If I don’t update again have a great Thanksgiving!

-Budgie Bigelow
11/22/17

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Budgie’s Journal #95 – Beta Readers: Good or Bad?

I can’t across a blog article yesterday that laid out why using beta readers is a bad thing. I read it, and they made some good points. But I disagree that this process is inherently bad. I use beta readers, and I plan to keep doing so.

Those who have followed me for a while know I support the idea of having someone read your work before you do your final edits and ultimately release your book upon the world. But I don’t think the article was wrong. It just needed some balance, so I’m here to do that. You’re lucky to have me in your lives.

The article assumed a writer would send their manuscript to up to ten readers, changing the story solely based on the notes returned. This, I agree, is idiotic. For starters, that’s way too many people. You should have a few people you trust to do this. Let me say that word again: TRUST. If you’re sending it to random bozos from Twitter or whatever you’re going to get shitty notes in return. Trust your reader!

For myself, I’ll send one person a manuscript if they have time to read and want to help. This is a friend, a fellow writer, someone not afraid to hurt my feelings. They’ll give me notes back. I’ll know what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to be fleshed out or have more backstory added.

This brings me to my next point. The article I found (or it may have been some of the commenters on this blog) suggested that you’re taking away from your own story, making it your beta reader’s story by altering it. I don’t agree with this either. What you should get is creative critism. And just because your reader doesn’t like something means you have to change it. They shouldn’t be rewriting your story anyway. You have the wrong people reading for you if this is what you’re getting back, and your resolve to write is weak if you’d change your own voice based on these readers’ notes. The notes are a guide, not your manuscript bible.
Here’s an example of a recent beta read I had:

I’m working on a book for next year called The Whore Ghosts of the Admiral Inn. This book deals a lot with the supernatural, spirits, and exorcism. I know a good deal about this from my research and social intercourse, but I’m by no means an expert. So I asked someone who’s more in-the-know than me to read what I have so far and give me some notes.

And that’s what I got. She gave me more insight into the spirit world, telling me which prayers should be used, which rituals should be done, and delved deeper into the characters interactions with the spirit world than I had.

I wasn’t told how to write the book. I wasn’t told to remove content or to rewrite entire scenes. I was given sound advice, and it gave me ideas I may not have come up with on my own. Also, my story will better reflect how these situations are handled in the real world.

Ultimately, my story will be that much stronger, and it will remain my story.

So that’s my two cents. There’s a good and bad way to do anything. Sending your book to ten writers and changing your voice to match another’s is amateur stuff. Using someone else’s knowledge or advice to make your own voice stronger and more concise is the right way to do it. But that’s just me. Then again; this is my blog.

-Budgie Bigelow
10/12/17

Budgie’s Journal #94 – Getting Back on Track

I hit a bit of a hiccup recently. I haven’t posted much of anything here in the last week or so, and my latest book release was delayed. Sometimes the non-fiction world gets in the way of the stories. This, unfortunately, can be the way of life.

I also needed to take a step back with Blood Drive, my aforementioned book that missed its release yesterday. There were a few issues, and I’m hoping to have them resolved and the book released soon. I have a new editor at my disposal, and I’m making good use of her nitpicking skills on the final draft. Thank you Janet, if you’re reading this.

So I’ll spare you all the WIP Wednesday stuff. Just know I’ll be plugging away at Blood Drive, working on my second draft of Dusk Vol. 2, and working on my books for next year.

Oh, and there will be a twelth season of Freedom Lane coming up too. Keep your eyes peeled for it.

That’s all I have for now. Keep reading and thanks for your patience!

-Budgie Bigelow 
10/11/17

Budgie’s Journal #76 – Content

You’re leaving, taking a break from everything. Only you’re not. What matters is what follows you from the cool cities to the hot beaches, from hot beaches to calm lakes, from calm lakes to home again, where you started.

If you can’t force yourself to let go, then you’ll never be rid of what you so desperately need to get away from.

It will follow because you held its hand since the beginning, comforted it on the long journey, and allowed it to rest between the sheets of your bed.

It doesn’t have to wait for your return. You never truly abandoned it.

And you and your lover won’t ever be content if you don’t see what it’s doing to you both. You’ve become comfortable with your little ball of negative energy. It’s yours to nurture and other’s responsibility to carry the burden of what it does to you.

But you think you’re content. The need outweighs reality.

Budgie Bigelow
9/1/17

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