Freedom Lane

Freedom Lane – Just a Gigolo

The sun had just set, and Paulie’s Pizza on State Street had its usual crowd of customers. Tony was working on this particular Friday night, keeping up with the orders and having the kitchen staff work extra hard to keep them filled. Then he saw his boss and oldest friend, walking through, wearing a suit.

“Whoa!” Tony called, coming from behind the counter, wiping his hands with his towel. “Look at mister suave over here! Where are you headed all decked out like you’re at your own funeral?”

“I’m heading out with Diane,” Paulie replied. “She’s meeting me here.”

“Diane?! No wonder you gotta meet her here. You don’t want to pick her up at her house and get busted by her husband! Ralph’s a fat asshole, but he’ll kick your ass.”

“Ralph knows we’re going out!” Paulie exclaimed. “I’ve told you a hundred times that Diane and I are just friends. Ralph has been fixing the toilets here as long as you’ve been breaking them.”

“Yeah, yeah. Ralph’ll fix the toilets and you fix his wife.”

“I’m not fixin’ anyone’s wife!”

Tony huffed. “Does Ralph even know you used to date Diane back in the day?”

“That was almost twenty years ago. I bet Diane barely remembers it!”

“And why are you taking Diane out anyway?” Tony asked, crossing his arms with an air of feigned snobbishness.

“Well…” Paulie started, looking away. “You know Diane is a professor at Yale, right? Well, this party is for alumni, and she’d rather go with someone who can hold a conversation for more than five minutes without making a black joke or talking about toilets that spew shit into the air.”

“Right,” Tony nodded. “You’re just a gigolo then, aren’t you?”

Paulie took a step toward Tony. “I am a not a gigolo.”

Tony put his hands up. “I call ‘em like I see ‘em. Don’t let me ruin your good time. She’s rented you for the night, fair and square.”

Paulie watched Tony go back into the kitchen. “Madon,” he muttered. “I am a friggin’ gigolo.”

****

Freedom Lane

Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow

Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness

Season 15, Episode 2: Just a Gigolo

****

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The doorbell rang at the Masters’ home on Freedom Lane. Rose walked to it and opened it. “Hello, Speedy,” she said, greeting the short, chubby, Asian delivery boy from the Chinese food restaurant.

“I have your food, Miss Masters,” Speedy replied with a wide smile. His hands shook as he passed Rose the bag.

“Thank you so much,” Rose said. “Why don’t you come right in and set it on the table for us.”

“OK.” Speedy walked through the den carrying the big bag of Chinese food, walking past a silent Helen, who was in her recliner, watching him shake from the corner of her eye.

“I can’t believe you let him in our house and treat him like he’s your buddy or something,” Helen said under her breath.

Rose sighed. “Relax. He’s a good boy, and he’s a little… simple, and he reminds me of my Uncle Charlie who had Parkinson’s Disease. This makes his night, and you know it.”

“Ah. So that’s what it is.”

Rose turned toward Helen. “What?”

“Nothing.”

Speedy came back from the kitchen. “All set, Miss Masters.”

Rose handed Speedy a small wad of cash. “Thank you so much. We’ll see you soon, OK?”

“Really?” There was a giggle in Speedy’s voice. “You’d like that?”

Rose smiled back. “Sure. We always enjoy when you visit us.”

Helen got up with a grunt. “Especially when you bring us extra egg rolls.”

Speedy chuckled. “I’ll see you guys later.”

“OK.” Rose walked with Speedy to the door and let him out. “Goodnight.”

Helen huffed and walked toward the dining room.

“What?” Rose asked.

“Nothing. Just sounds like he’ll be back.”

“Well, next time we order from Dragon Palace.”

Helen huffed one more time. “Sure. I’ll yell for the kid. You plate our food.”

***

Diane walked into Paulie’s Pizza wearing a black dress. She was tall with dark hair and in her late forties. She found Paulie standing by the counter, and she smiled at him. “Look at you, Paul. You really clean up nice, don’t you?”

Paulie smiled. “You too, but you always look nice. You don’t work slinging dough all day, do you?”

Diane laughed. “Certainly not. You ready to head to the dinner party?”

“Yo,” Tony said, coming from the kitchen area, giving Diane a quick nod. “How’s Ralph?”

“Tony!” Paulie snapped. “Is that any way to greet someone?”

“What?” Tony asked. “I’m just wondering about her husband. You know, Ralph, the friendly plumber. How is Ralph, Diane?”

Diane looked at Tony. “Ralph’s fine. He’s home watching his wrestling tapes. He doesn’t like these dinner parties, so Paul’s only accompanying me as a friend.”

“Whoa,” Tony said. “I don’t need your life story!”

“Get back to work, you friggin’ stunad!” Paulie snapped, waving a hand. “Nobody needs your bullshit out here!”

Tony waved a hand and went back to the kitchen. “Sure, shut me up before I ask the hard questions. I got a pizzeria to run, you know. Have fun on your date.”

Paulie groaned as Tony left. Diane took his arm and led him to the door. “My car is right outside, Paul. Let me help you forget about that guy. We’ll have a few drinks, tell some tasteful jokes, and have a lovely evening.”

“Alright,” Paulie replied. “I can use that right about now.”

***

“I told you,” Helen said, holding half an eggroll, pointing it at Da’Quarius while she spoke. “I only rode a roller coaster once in my entire life. The thing got stuck, and I went around the loop-da-loop a hundred times at a hundred miles an hour. It screwed me all up! I farted out my nose for a month afterward.”

Da’Quarius was in awe. “Damn, Biddy. Where’d you poop from?”

Rose put her fork and knife down. “Aside from why what Helen said is both mechanically and anatomically incorrect, can we not talk about farts or poop for one meal?”

“Fine.” Helen took a bite from her egg roll. “The kid was the one who brought up roller coasters. I’m just having a conversation.”

Rose sighed, about to say something else, but she was interrupted by the doorbell. “Who could that be? Are we expecting Paulie?”

“Paulie said he’s goin’ out to some fancy dinner party,” Da’Quarius replied.

Helen waved a hand toward Da’Quarius. “Go get the door, kid. Tell whoever’s there to fuck off and let the old ladies enjoy their dinner in peace.”

Da’Quarius got up and walked to the door. He opened it up to find Speedy outside again, holding a paper bag. “What up, Speedy? Did you forget to bring us somethin’?”

“No,” Speedy replied. “I came over for dinner.”

“Hold on a sec. I gotta get Rose real quick.” Da’Quarius shut the door and walked over to the table. “Dat’s Speedy outside.”

“What happened?” Helen asked. “You forget to tip the little charity case, Rose?”

Rose got up and walked toward the door. “No. Did he say what he needs?”

“He says he’s here for dinner,” Da’Quarius explained. “Did you invite him over?”

Rose looked puzzled, but she opened the door. Speedy smiled when he saw her. “Hi, Miss Masters. I’m here for dinner, just like you said.”

“I said that?”

Speedy nodded. “You said you love when I visit, and you’d see me later. So, here I am!”

Rose looked into the smiling, shaking face of Speedy, and her heart melted. “OK. Come right in.”

***

Paulie walked around the dinner party with Diane. They were having cocktails in a large sitting room before dinner was to be served. The furniture was all dark wood, and a book case with hundreds of old and large books covered the far wall. A servant approached them, his hands behind his back. “Can I get you something to drink?”

“I’ll have a champagne,” Diane replied.

The waiter nodded. “Very good, ma’am. Anything for you, sir?”

Paulie thought for a moment. “Bring me a martini.”

“I’ll bring those right out.”

“A martini?” Diane asked. “Do you put a suit on and think you’re James Bond?”

“It’s the fanciest thing I could think of on the fly,” Paulie replied. “I’m not a big champagne drinker.”

“That’s OK. Ralph always drinks beer, and he never wants it in a glass. Even if we’re at a fancy dinner party, he’s only content walking around and holding a can of Budweiser, like he’s flaunting the fact that he’s being forced to dress nice and be away from the precious couch.”

“Some guys don’t like all this nonsense. I don’t think Tony can even spell champagne. Come to think of it, I don’t think he knows how to pronounce it either.”

Diane laughed, and the servant returned, handing them each their drink. “Let me know if there’s anything else you need.”

“Thank you.” Paulie reached in his pocket for tip money, but Diane stopped him.

“We’re at a dinner party, not a restaurant.”

Paulie sighed. “Sorry. The level of fancy in this party is way out of my league. I’ve never been to someone’s house and had their butlers waiting on me.”

“You’re doing fine so far, Paul.” Diane put her hand on Paulie’s shoulder, reassuring him. “I’m having a great time, too. For someone who was nervous about getting all dolled up, you sure are pulling off the sophisticated man act well.”

“What can I say? I guess this Paul character you got me playing knows how to schmooze these rich mooks after all.”

Diane smiled and took Paulie’s hand. “Come on. Let’s go mingle.”

***

Speedy sat down at the dining room table, taking the chair next to Da’Quarius, across from Helen. Rose took her original seat diagonally from him. Helen and Da’Quarius shared a look in the silent room. Rose cleared her throat and made her little announcement. “Speedy is going to be joining us for dinner tonight.”

“I can see that,” Helen said.

Speedy opened his paper bag and took out a sandwich in a plastic baggie. He put it to his mouth with a shaking hand and ate it, grinning at the others while they ate their huge plates of the food he had delivered.

Helen smiled back at Speedy. “Look at him, smiling like he’s dining with the Asian pope.”

“Helen!” Rose exclaimed. “There is no Asian pope!”

Helen looked at Rose. “There’s not? Who’s that fat Chinese guy who always has a bird on his head?”

“Snoopy?” Da’Quarius asked.

Rose sighed. “That’s Buddha! Stop talking like that in front of Speedy!”

“He’s in my house, and I’ll talk how I want!” Helen snapped. “You don’t mind, do you, Speedy?”

“Nope!” Speedy said through a mouthful of food. He swallowed. “I don’t have a drink. Can I please have some soda?”

“Sure,” Rose said. “I’ll get you a glass. Da’Quarius, let Speedy have some of your soda.”

“OK,” Da’Quarius said, passing Speedy the bottle of cola. He took it in both hands, shaking wildly. Da’Quarius was about to take it back when Helen put up a hand, shaking her head.

Rose came back in with a cup of ice and placed it on the table in front of Speedy. “Here you go.” Da’Quarius moved away.

“Thank you.” Speedy unscrewed the cap from the soda bottle, and it sprayed like a geyser, soaking the table cloth, Speedy’s food, and Speedy himself. “Oh no!”

“Oh, Speedy!” Rose exclaimed, getting up. “I’m gonna get you a… Are you alright Helen?”

Helen’s face was buried in her hand. She was trying her hardest not to laugh, but she was failing. “I got soda in me eye!” she exclaimed, gasping for air. “It hurts so bad!”

Rose walked toward the kitchen. “I’m going to get a roll of paper towels. Da’Quarius, find something Speedy can wear.”

“Wait,” Helen whispered to Da’Quarius before he could go. “Get one of my old nightgowns. They should fit him just fine.”

Da’Quarius shook his head. “You cold, biddy.” He left, heading toward the stairs.

Helen looked toward Speedy, who was sitting there, soaked. “So, Speedy… This your first time drinking soda?”

***

Paulie held the attention of the two couples standing in front of him. Diane was at his side, looking at him with adoration. “I mean, I’m no fan of all this new technology and the nonsense on these little screens,” he said. “Whatever happened to people putting these little gizmos away and having a face-to-face with someone for a change?”

One of Paulie’s listeners laughed. “I made a mint investing in the technology in those little gizmos.”

Paulie looked at him and raised his martini glass. “Then you’re a smarter man than me. I’d rather toss them all in a ditch, that’s why I make pizza and not money!”

Everyone laughed and dispersed. Diane looked at Paulie, smiling widely. “You’re so great with these pompous windbags. You don’t let their snide attitude get to you. Ralph would be dragging someone outside if they made a comment about his career choices, but you wear it with such confidence.”

“Oh. Don’t tell me I’m just some lowly pizza man!”

Diane shook her head. “You’re so much more than that, Paul. I’m so glad I get to see it, too.”

Someone else walked up to them. “That’s Buddy Cartwright,” Diane whispered. “He teaches political science.”

“Settle a bet for me,” Buddy said, not even so much as offering a greeting.

Paulie nodded. “Shoot.”

“Didn’t you run for mayor of New Haven and drop out of the race?”

Paulie sighed. “Politics didn’t suit me. One can say I wasn’t corrupt enough for civil service.”

The man turned away and went back toward his little group. “I told you it was him! It’s the pizza man who tried to run for mayor!”

Diane shook her head. “At least he didn’t use the word ‘lowly’.”

“Wonderful crowd,” Paulie muttered. “They make me want to hurt myself.”

“It’s almost dinnertime,’ Diane said, “so please don’t hurt yourself until after that. I’m having a wonderful time, and that’s what counts. Right?”

Paulie smiled. “Right. I may not be as white collar as these mooks, but at least I don’t have a kid name like ‘Buddy’.”

“Oh yeah. ‘Paulie’ is reserved for the most mature of adults.”

“Oh. I’ll give you that one if the phrase ‘pizza man’ doesn’t come out of your mouth tonight.”

“Dinner’s will be served momentarily,” a servant announced. The guests all made their way toward the dining area, but Diane stayed back, grasping Paulie’s arm.

“What’s the matter?” Paulie asked. “Is everything OK?”

“No,” Diane said. “I think I had too much champagne.”

“Do you need to sit down for a bit? We don’t have to go in right away.”

“It’s not that.” Diane looked into Paulie’s face. “I’m going to do something I swore to myself I wouldn’t, and I’m going to blame the booze.” She leaned in and kissed Paulie, who pulled back a second after their lips met.

“Whoa!” Paulie exclaimed. “You’re a married woman, Diane!”

“I know.” Diane put her face in her hand and backed up. “Come on, Paulie. I see how you’ve been looking at me all night, and you’ve seen how I’m looking at you.”

“What about Ralph?”

“What about him? He doesn’t want to come to these things. He never wants to do anything but sit around with a beer, watching wrestling and scratching his balls. His idea of going out is a trip to Wendy’s.”

Paulie sighed. “I know this feels good, but I can’t do this to Ralph. He’s a good guy and a decent plumber.”

Diane sighed. “Sorry. Will you still have dinner?”

“Sure,” Paulie replied. “I put up with these assholes all night. I might as well get a free meal out of it.”

***

Speedy sat on the couch, wearing one of Helen’s old night robes. It was covered in flowers of faded blue and pink. Rose had put his clothes in a shopping bag and placed it by the door. A curious Dutchie walked by and sniffed it.

“You have to tell him to leave,” Da’Quarius whispered to Rose. He was in the dining room with her and Helen, talking about their guest who had settled in after the eventful dinner. “He ain’t gonna do it ‘less you tell him.”

“He’s been here for over an hour now,” Helen added. “It was funny, you inviting him over to goof on him; and it was funny as hell, but he has to go. He’s not sleeping over.”

Rose sighed. “I didn’t invite him over to goof on him, Helen. I really feel bad for the guy. I hope I can let him down gently.”

“If not,” Helen said, “I’ll throw him out on his ass. I’m not missing my shows because of him. You have five minutes.”

Rose looked at Da’Quarius who shrugged. “He gotta go sometime, right?”

Rose knew it was her responsibility to tell Speedy it was time to go. She just hoped there was an easy, painless way to do it. “Speedy? Don’t you have to get back to work?”

“They gave me the night off,” Speedy replied, looking up at Rose. “I told them you invited me over, and they were happy I finally made some friends.”

Rose groaned, her heart breaking. She looked back at Helen and Da’Quarius who both motioned at her to get him out of there. “Look, Speedy, I know you’re having a good time, but you have to go now.”

Speedy looked as though Rose had slapped him in the face. “What? I have to leave? But it’s only seven-thirty!”

“Is that all? It feels much, much later than that.”

“Can’t I stay just a little longer? I won’t be a bother, I swear.”

Rose crossed her arms. It was time to be tough with Speedy. It was time for him to go. They needed to get on with their lives. She spoke slowly and annunciated the words, so he’d understand. “No, Speedy. You can’t stay here. It’s time for you to go.”

Speedy nodded and stood up. He walked to the door with his shaking head held low. He took one more look over his shoulder and sniffed before leaving into the chilly evening.

“Holy shit,” Helen said. “That was cold.”

“What?” Rose asked, turning and looking at Helen. “But you said…”

“I told you to ask him to leave,” Helen continued. “What you did was just… Holy shit. He’s going to cry himself to sleep. He’s gonna look like a sprinkler head doing it too if he can’t get those shakes under control.”

Rose looked toward the door and sighed and looked back toward Helen. “The little shit wouldn’t leave! I’m all for being nice, but come on, Speedy! Get a clue.”

“Damn, you are cold,” Da’Quarius said. “Sent Speedy out into the night in Helen’s bathrobe an’ e’rything.”

Helen sat in her recliner, shaking her head. “Poor guy. He has Parkinson’s for God’s sake!”

Da’Quarius nodded. “An’ all he wanted was a friend.”

Rose groaned, sitting down. “I can’t win with you two.”

Da’Quarius came over to the couch and sat next to Rose. “You know Speedy left his bag of soiled clothes, right? He gonna be back for them.”

Rose looked over at the bag that sat by the front door. “Just leave it on the front porch. He’ll see it.”

***

Paulie left the large home in Woodbridge soon after dinner. It had been an eventful night, and he just wanted to get home and put his feet up. But things don’t always work out that way.

“Hey!” Buddy shouted, smoking a cigarette next to the front door. “It’s pizza man for mayor!”

Paulie gave Buddy a quick chuckle, then he threw a left jab, hitting him in the jaw. Buddy’s head snapped back, and his body wavered for a moment before falling backward into the bushes. A moment later, Diane came outside, putting her shawl around her bare shoulders.

“Are you ready to head home?” she asked.

“Sure thing,” Paulie said, offering his arm. “It wasn’t a bad night, some things considered.”

“I’m sorry, Paul. About what I said…”

Paulie waved a hand. “Don’t mention it. What happens at the snobby dinner party, stays there.”

Diane smiled. “I wonder what happened to Buddy. His wife was inside looking for him. Did you see him on your way out?”

Paulie smiled. “Nope. I sure didn’t.”

***

“I told you!” Tony exclaimed, way too gleeful to hear what had happened at the dinner party. “Didn’t I tell you?!”

“You didn’t tell me squat!” Paulie retorted. “All you did was call me a male prostitute.”

“Still… Diane!” Tony whistled. “She’s not bad, Paulie, especially for you!”

“I’m going to take that as a compliment and get out of here. I really need to ice my knuckles.”

Tony laughed. “You do that, Rocky. I’m gonna close up in a few.”

Paulie and Tony said their goodnights, and Tony was left alone. He started cleaning up when he noticed he still had a customer in the main area. He walked over to the table. “Hey, you alright?”

Speedy looked up at Tony from his plate of half-eaten pizza, his head shaking. “My sandwich got ruined, so I ate this pizza.”

“Sandwiches are for kids. You made the right choice.” Tony sat in the booth across from Speedy. “I know this is none of my business, but you shouldn’t feel so down in the dumps. What’s bothering you?”

“I have no friends!” Speedy sobbed.

Tony sighed. “You’ll always have one here at Paulie’s Pizza.”

Speedy wiped the tears from his cheek. “Really?”

“Really. I gotta clean this place up, but you take your time. Let me know if you need anything.” Tony got up and walked back toward the counter.

“I need a friend,” Speedy muttered.

Tony turned around. “What?”

“Nothing,” Speedy replied, smiling widely.

The End

****

Edited by Mel Westcott

****

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