CHURCH, The Television Show
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This isn’t about you; it’s about Aliens, all they have done for US, and all we have done to ruin it. Trust this isn’t about you; any likeness is intended purely for fictional purposes, and not a living soul on earth knows who you really are. This isn’t about you; this isn’t war, this is new religion. War is why we are all so poor in the first place- let’s all share in the riches of Peace, and learn to coexist with each other and the animals, the air and water and trees. Anger will only make you look guilty so remember that this isn’t about you, it’s about THEM, and all they have done for us. So stay happy, stay calm, and please enjoy the show.
Dedicated to Ethan Collins, who taught me that nothing we believe is true. Truth is just what most of us believe.
Dedicated to N.A., who gave all he had before YOU killed him.
When it gets dark enough, look to see the stars.
“Art is writing about reality in such a way that you don’t piss anyone off!”
“The essential guide for anyone joining the Army, or Organized Crime for that matter.”
- The Journalist
“When you die, you’re going to wish that you were more promiscuous!”
- The Manager
Church, The Television Show
After The Hit on Patsy, The Gang all but disappeared from Majesty. The bartenders threw out their T-shirts and got new uniforms. Management got a whole new security staff. For a while, it felt like The Club was about the music again.
“It’s better here now, you know what I mean?” The Manager said to Noodle.
“You always say that, but I never know what you mean!” Noodle smiled.
“No more suits,” The Manager sighed and walked away.
Noodle started to get to know all new people; he memorized a whole list of new names. Black Hercules was one of them. The event of his first night was masked Mexican wrestling.
“What are you doing working here?” Black Hercules asked Noodle. “You’re too thin!”
“Yeah, but I have eyes like a hawk brother.”
“Have you ever been stabbed?”
“No,” Noodle shook his head.
“I’ve been stabbed,” Black Hercules said then rolled up his shirt to show the scar. “It wasn’t that bad.”
“So what are you doing here?”
“I have a beautiful daughter to pay for, whose mother is crazy! You’ve got to be careful who you ride up into! Hey, do you know if I can get paid in cash?”
“I don’t know. Ask The Supervisor. If there was ever a place to make that happen, this might be it.”
“What about a Red Bull, can I take one of those from the back?”
Black Hercules was asking a lot of questions. It made Noodle nervous.
“We’re not supposed to,” Noodle answered. “Guys do it anyway. But if you want to play it safe just ask a bartender for one. They’ll probably give it to you, and then it’ll be on them.”
Another new guy, The SquishHead, talked a lot. But there wasn’t much work to do during these one-off events anyway.
“What are you doing here?” Noodle asked.
“I’m from Southern City,” The SquishHead foretold. “My cousin was murdered; I came back to The City to put him to rest.”
“I’m sorry man, that’s really sad.”
“Our family’s a wreck. I loved him, but he was really wrapped up in the streets. I’m not like that, I’m a cook!”
“Good! Because the streets will mess you up.”
“Trust me, I’m not like that,” The SquishHead said.
And then there was The Meat Packer.
“Is that a good job?” Noodle asked. “I’ve never met a meat packer.”
“To tell you the truth, the job sucks. But I take as much meat as I want for free. I eat well, my friends eat well, and I can sell what I steal for cash.”
“How old are you?”
“Nineteen…Hey, you wanna hit the bars with me and The Supervisor after work?”
“I don’t drink, but I’ll go out. How are you going to get into the bars if you’re only nineteen?”
“The Supervisor gets us in! He knows everyone in The City. The bars are all connected, you know what I mean?
“I’ve heard that.”
“Why don’t you drink? Are you like a virgin or something?”
Noodle laughed. “Not nearly. I used to drink. I don’t anymore.”
“Because it’s bad for you! It damages your liver, which in turn causes a lot of health problems. It’ll happen so slowly you’ll never even know it’s the culprit for your vision loss, hair loss, and muscle weakness. When I was I writer I drank a half to a full bottle of scotch, everyday, for a year – it was a good fit for the job. But my body was crying: Chest pain, femoral artery pain, I looked like shit, and I was weak. Alcohol breaks down protein fibers in your body and makes your muscles atrophy. So I stopped drinking so much.”
“But you still drink a little?” The Meat Packer searched for camaraderie.
“No. I started training for the Army. Working to build muscle only to break it down by drinking is counterproductive – so I just sort of naturally lost my taste for alcohol. It’s not even a temptation anymore. I still have a drink quarterly – and now that I’ve lost my tolerance, one drink is all I need to get where I need to be.”
“You’re weird. Do you do any other drugs?”
“I don’t put needles into my body. I’ve tried everything else once to gain experience. You have to be careful what you put in your body, because, in the end that’s all you have.”
“Ever tried acid?”
“Sure, break on through to the other side…right? But I took a good look at those people from the past that are permanently fucked up from it, the people who are still trippin’, and I moved on. Mushrooms are from the earth, you should stick with those.”
“Mushrooms don’t really get me high,” The Meat Packer said.
“Haha,” Noodle laughed. “I once took an ounce of mushrooms in Hamsterdam. It got me high. I saw the devil. But please, please don’t take an once over here – they’re dried– it weighs out differently. Plus it’s regulated in Hamsterdam, which makes it a little safer.”
“I’ve heard that,” Noodle smiled.
On Friday Noodle was back in the lobby taking tickets for Dance Night. The Prince walked through with a half dozen girls.
“Prince, I need your tickets!” Noodle exclaimed.
“Don’t you know who I am?”
“I know who you are. But I report to The Manager, and he says you need to give me something.”
“What do you want? Money!” The Prince scoffed.
“No!” Noodle rejected. “I need your business card or something so I can account for all the people who come through the door – including complimentary admissions.”
“Whatever kid, here’s my card.”
And later, a girl came in looking for The Prince.
“Is here?” She asked.
“He’s upstairs,” Noodle let her pass.
She turned back, “Aren’t you The Maid’s brother?”
“No, she’s my cousin. But how would know that? You don’t even know my name!”
“Whatever,” the girl said and went upstairs. Two minutes later, she exited the building and Noodle got the feeling she was just there to spy.
The Prince owned a lot of bars, all over the State; on Monday he treated The Barracuda to a night out in Inland City. Drinking at your own establishments sours employee morale, so they got wasted at a friend of the families place. A few Local Boys came in to have a couple beers of their own.
Inland City was known for its sharp edges, and it wasn’t long before these neighborhood kids got into an argument with a couple of guys that they didn’t recognize; it wasn’t long before The Local Boys started a brawl with someone like The Prince.
“Don’t you know who I am?” The Prince yelled. “Fuck yourselves!”
The local boys didn’t like what he said, this was their town. So one of them picked up a bottle and shattered it over his face. Outnumbered, The Barracuda ran The Prince back to their bar to get cleaned up.
The Local Boys really didn’t know who The Prince was, and they made the unfortunate mistake to bar hop to his establishment. .
“Grab those kids!” The Prince pointed out to security. “Those kids are the ones who scarred my face!”
Bar security grabbed The Local Boys and dragged them down to the basement. They pinned the offender against the wall and started throwing punches to break his ribs.
The Prince came forward carrying a long handled hammer. He swung it at the boy’s knees, shattering both knee caps. All the while, a detailed cop stood by, quietly supervising the violence.
At that point his friends wrestled their way free, knocked over the security pinning their friend to the wall, and dragged him to the alley outside. They carried him down the street to a fire station in search of medical attention. But it was late at night and the house was asleep. So they pounded at the door.
The Gang gave chase, detailed cop and all. They were closing in on The Local Boys, who had no place else to run.
Suddenly the doors to the firehouse rose, and there stood a line of heroes shoulder to shoulder holding their axes, pike poles, and halligens ready to fight back against The Gang.
The Prince had no choice but to turn back and let the Local Boys go free. That night, there was almost a war in the middle of the street.
On Saturday night it rained, so Noodle took the train to work.
The SquishHead stood at the bottom of stairs, looking up, as Noodle descend to the platform.
“What’s up Noodle!”
“Aren’t you that new guy from work?” Noodle asked. It sure felt like The SquishHead was waiting for him, like he was stalking him.
“Yeah, I’m The SquishHead from Southern City, don’t you remember me?”
“I’ve been to Southern City once,” Noodle admitted. “That place is sketchy.”
“Southern City is awesome!” The SquishHead countered. “I participated in a gnarly swingers ring there. Why do you think it’s sketch?”
“I don’t really talk about it. Plus, the story’s pretty long.”
“Oh come on, I’d love to hear it. You can trust me. I told you before, I’m not like that; I’m all about the love, man!”
Noodle looked around the train to see if anyone else was listening. “Well…” he thought about whether he should trust The SquishHead. “Okay,” Noodle whispered. “But, DO NOT repeat this story!”
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody. I’m not like that.”
“I used to live in Desert City,” Noodle started. “When I moved, I left my car behind. My roommate said he’d sell it for me, I would have given him a percentage, but I guess it wasn’t working out because after a few months he stopped answering my calls. So I had to fly all the way back to Desert City to pick it up.”
“Yeah, keep going,” The SquishHead coaxed.
… Back in Desert City Noodle pulled his car out of the friend’s garage and started driving along the country’s southern most interstate. He drove day and night, stopping only for food and gas. He drove all the way until Oil State, where he was forced to pull over because the roads were closed; they were closed because they were full of snow!
He didn’t have money for a hotel room, so Noodle slept in his car. In the morning, the radio newsman said that the interstates could be closed for days. But the snow wasn’t deep, and Noodle was experienced in icy conditions. So he passed around the barricade warnings. He shouldn’t have done that, the Karma Police would catch him, but he had no other direction to turn.
Noodle drove straight through Oil State, and others, until he got to Southern City. It had been several days, and Noodle needed a shower and a meal. So he pulled over for food. He waited in the parking lot for a spot on his right, and watched a man get into a truck to his left.
The guy to Noodle’s left put the truck in reverse and backed up full speed, right into the side of Noodles car. The car that Noodle had just flown across the country to get!
The damage was terrible, but the man was nice, and he fed Noodle inside a restaurant that he said he owned – which was good, because Noodle was really hungry.
“Here’s my number,” he said after Noodle had eaten. “And here’s the Yellow Pages. Get an estimate, if it’s okay with you, I’d like pay for the damages in cash.”
So Noodle booked a hotel room at a classy National Chain, and then drove for more than an hour to find a garage that would give him an estimate. He’d arrived in Southern City hoping to get some rest; by the time he returned with the estimate it was past dark and he hadn’t got any. He called the restaurant owner and relayed the price for repairs.
“It’s going to be that much?!”
“Yeah! The whole door is caved in.”
“Wells, in thats case, I’ll jus put it through mah inshurance.” The Restaurant owner said with a heavy slur, like he was drunk.
So, after all, Noodle wanted to get drunk too. He asked The Hotel staff where to go. They told him to walk a couple miles north of downtown.
As soon as Noodle was clear of the door, one of the hotel staff pulled out his cell phone and texted an associate: One leaving, tourist, blue shirt, headed uptown. Noodle had no idea that he had been marked. …
“But I heard that you don’t drink,” The SquishHead interrupted.
“Back then I did,” Noodle answered.
“Okay, I just wanted to make sure. Tell me the rest of your story.”
… As Noodle rounded the block, a homeless man tucked into the threshold of a doorway asked if he could have a cigarette. Noodle took one out of his pack and gave it to the gentleman. As he was walking away, The Associate ran over from across the street.
“Hey, can I bum a cigarette?” The guy asked.
Noodle reluctantly gave him a cigarette, too.
“Where are you walking?” The Associate asked.
“Hey, I’m going that way also. I’ll walk you there.”
“No thanks, I know where I’m going.”
“Well don’t be rude. I’m just trying to be friendly!”
The guy kept walking next to Noodle, telling him jokes, making him laugh. He had a smart sense of humor.
“Hey,” The Associate stopped. “You said you wanted a drink. Uptown is still a ways away, but there’s a liquor store right here,” he pointed.
Noodle bought some rum and coke, and to be kind, he bought his friend a bottle of Hennessey.
“Ahh,” The Associate exhaled refreshment. “Now doesn’t that make you feel better about your car?”
“Yeah, the booze helps me forget. But what I really need is something to help me fall asleep; something that won’t leave me feeling hung-over in the morning. A joint would be much better than this bottle of liquor.”
“I know where you can buy a joint,” The Associate said.
“Really? That would be great! Is it close by?”
“It’s not far.”
So The Associate started him on a journey that lasted for miles. Several times, Noodle wanted to turn back; but The Associate kept on saying that they just needed to go one more block. Each time they reached the next block, The Associate pointed one more ahead.
“Where are you from?” The Associate asked.
“Hey, I got cousins up there!”
Then, The Associate pointed out a girl walking across the street. “Yo- CareBear!” He called. “That’s the hook-up right there Noodle,” he said.
But CareBear kept walking right on by.
“Wait here. Imma talk to this guy over there, and we’ll wait to see if she comes back around.”
Noodle sat a landscaping ledge. He lit a cigarette. ‘This is a hell of a lot of work to go through just to get one small joint,’ he thought.
“What are you doing hanging out with The Associate?” A guy smoking a cigarette next to Noodle asked. He didn’t know it, but this guy was a Southern City police informant.
“I don’t know. The Associate’s not bad. He’s kind of funny,” Noodle answered.
When The Associate returned, he said they’d walk a couple more blocks to meet CareBear in the park.
“I don’t know,” Noodle tried to change course. “This is taking a really long time. I think I’m just going to head back to The Hotel.”
“You’re just not having enough fun, son! Stop sipping on your rum and chug the rest of it down. It’ll give you the energy you need to keep going. Don’t give up now. You’re at the finish line, son!”
So Noodle walked a couple more blocks to the edge of the park where CareBear was waiting. The rum had just started to pump through his veins.
“Give her your money, and she’ll come back with your stuff.”
“Hell no,” Noodle answered. He’d been hustled once before in WindCity when he was fourteen. “Trade on the spot.”
“She can’t. She has to go get it for you. Look,” The Associate said and handed CareBear some cash. “I’m getting something too. You can trust her.”
Noodle handed over fifteen bucks and followed The Associate into the park where they waited for CareBear to return.
CareBear walked around the building to send her runner, a boy no older than ten, up to a stash spot to grab the Associate’s bag of crack. All the while, CareBear sought out Mr. Silver Tooth.
“The Associate’s wit a white boy. Some purdy faced kid. Too smart to be coming round here looking for a joint. He’s a Narc. Rob’m. I want his phone.” CareBear said to Mr. Silver Tooth.
In the park, The Associate anxiously awaited CareBear’s return. He paced back and forth. He started talking shit; he was having doubts.
After more than fifteen minutes, it didn’t look like CareBear was coming back at all. Then, The Associate spotted Mr. Silver Tooth in the distance.
“Hey, you know where CareBear is? You know CareBear right? Where’s CareBear? I’ve been here waiting for my stuff just like she told me to, but she’s not coming back!”
Mr. Silver Tooth didn’t say a word.
“Wait here,” The Associate called back to Noodle. “We’re going up this hill to talk. Wait. Here!” The Associate ordered.
Noodle’s phone rang. “I don’t know…I’m driving cross country. My car got hit as soon as I pulled into Southern City. Everything’s a mess; I’m just trying to find a joint so I can get some sleep. I should head back to The Hotel, I probably already got robbed,” Noodle said then walked up the hill toward Mr. Silver Tooth and The Associate. “Hey, if I don’t call you back in fifteen minutes call out the dogs,” Noodle said before hanging up the phone.
“I told you to wait down there!” The Associate yelled. “We have to talk in private.”
“Whatever,” Noodle replied, “I’m gonna go home.”
“Wait. This guy has your joint. Meet Mr. Silver Tooth.”
“What are you some kind of cop?” Mr. Silver Tooth asked.
“Then why were you talking about calling out the dogs?”
“Just ’cause I’m not a cop, doesn’t mean I don’t have friends. People are waiting for me.”
“Do you know where you are?” Mr. Silver Tooth threatened.
“I don’t know. I’m with this guy, The Associate walked me here,” Noodle answered.
“What guy?” Mr. Silver Tooth challenged.
Noodle looked around; The Associate was gone. He spotted him at the bottom of the hill, running away as fast as he could!
Mr. Silver Tooth had a square face, a blue hat, and a mouth full of metal. He looked pretty mean. “Let me use your cell phone, I’ll call for your joint.”
“Alright, call this number. They’ll deliver it to us.”
Noodle called the number, but the line connected to a busy signal. “There’s no answer,” he said.
Mr. Silver Tooth pointed across the way to a parking lot where street lights flickered. “Let’s walk to that van over there. See that white van? That’s where they sell the joints from.”
“Hell no. I’m not walking over there with you!”
“That van’s full of cops. They’re watching up right now.”
“You’re crazy!” Noodle exclaimed. “You just told me they sell joints from that van.”
“What are you a cop? I knew you a cop!”
“I’m not a cop dude!” Noodle exclaimed. He lifted up his shirt over his chest and spun around three hundred and sixty degrees. “See buddy, I don’t have a wire or anything. I’m not a cop!”
“Give me some money and I’ll go get you your joint.”
“I already gave that lady all my money. Go get my joint from her!”
“You have to call that number I gave you. You dialed it wrong. Let me see who you called.”
Noodle flashed the screen of his phone. Mr. Silver Tooth reached out, took Noodle’s arm, and grabbed the phone from his hand. Mr. Silver Tooth put the phone right in his pocket.
“What are you doing? Give me back my phone!”
“I don’t know why you’d want it anyway. It’s crappy. You could buy a new one of those for twenty bucks at the store, and I’m just going to cancel service as soon as I get back to my hotel room. I’ve got five bucks left; I’ll give you five dollars in exchange for that phone. Mister, I really just want my contacts.”
Mr. Silver Tooth put his hand into the front of his coat like he was going to pull a gun. He withdrew his hand with his thumb and index finger extended. “Do you know where the fuck you are?”
There wasn’t another soul around. The dark park was surrounded by buildings. It felt like the whole area was a constructed by someone powerful who then filled it with people they wanted to sequester. It wasn’t organic; someone made a project out of building everything all at once.
Here, the people were forgotten. A place tucked beyond society, here was the place to get robbed.
Mr. Silver Tooth again reached his hand across his breast and into his coat like he was ready to pull something out. “I’m gonna ask you one last time, do you know where the fuck you are?!”
Noodle figured it out; where he was wasn’t the place to be. He crept away slowly, keeping eye contact, certain not to get shot in the back. When he was at a safe distance Noodle turned around and jogged beyond the edges of the project’s confines. …
“I had no idea where they’d taken me. It was only by the grace of God that I started walking in the right direction. About a block away, there were three guys huddled in front of a garage door, who turned to look at me. Then, I thought they were just a bunch of bums. But now I’m thinking that they were a trio of Narcs tracking me, because there was only one way in, and one way out of that park!”
“That’s fucked up!” The SquishHead said.
“It gets better,” Noodle replied, and then rushed to finish the story. …
… Four or five blocks later, another bum ran up on Noodle.
“Hey, can I bum a cigarette?”
“I just got robbed being nice, giving cigarettes away! You can’t have a cigarette; I’ve had it with this place!”
“Fuck the crack heads,” the bum quipped and then stepped into the street, “They ruin it for everyone else in this city!” Then he stuck his hand into the air like he was hailing a cab.
A police car pulled out of nowhere and swerved to the side of the road. “What seems to be the problem?” The officer shouted across the passenger’s seat.
“This guy just got robbed!” The bum informed.
“Is that so?” The police officer asked.
“Yeah,” Noodle answered. “Some guy with a metal mouth took my cell phone, but I’m only trying to find a way back to my hotel.”
“Where are you staying?” He asked.
“The National Chain.”
“I see…The National Chain! Okay, get into the car,” the officer ordered.
Noodle got into the back of the cruiser, thinking that the officer, since he no longer had a phone or any money for a cab, was going to give him a courtesy ride home. Instead, the cop slammed the gas, switched on his strobes, and started racing around Southern City.
When the officer got close to the project where Noodle got robbed, he’d turn back in the opposite direction. He was careful not to go inside.
Every time they passed a black person, the cop stopped his car and shined a spot light on them. Whoop Whoop – he’d cycle his siren.
“Turn around!” He commanded over the loud speaker.
“Is that the guy?” He asked Noodle over and over again.
“It’s not him,” Noodle advised, “I don’t think we should be out here stopping all these people just because they’re black. Those last two seemed like a couple of lovers out for a summer stroll.”
Then CareBear walked by.
“The guys who robbed me were talking to that girl,” Noodle explained.
“Yeah,” the officer sighed. “CareBear runs all the dope in this city!”
“What? If you know, why aren’t you out taking care of that?”
Then the police scanner went crazy, like the whole city was on fire. The cop floored the gas, the engine screamed, and the police car accelerated up a hill like there was a rocket pack attached to its trunk. At the top of the hill, the cruiser lifted off the ground and flew through the air. It cleared an entire intersection! When the car landed, the cop swerved to a stop.
The whole block was awash in blue strobes. There were at least half a dozen patrol cars, twice as many police, and a patty wagon.
“Is that the guy?” The cop asked.
“You know what, that is The Associate,” Noodle answered.
“You said you gave him a bunch of cigarettes, right?”
“We caught him trying to run. What kind of cigarettes do you smoke?”
So the cops went up to the crack head and pulled out his pack of cigarettes. They pulled a pack of Newports, inside there were a bunch of Marlboros. They took the cigarettes and sealed them in a plastic bag.
A female cop held the bag high in the air. “This cigarette’s gonna put The Associate away for life!” She yelled.
… “That’s fucked up,” The SquishHead said.
“No kidding. It was like I walked right into the middle of some secret war. Like all those Narcs I passed were just waiting for me to get robbed so The Police would have something to pin on their enemies.”
“That’s exactly why they need to legalize marijuana!”
“Look SquishHead, I hate that story, so never tell anybody. Got it?”
“I won’t tell anybody,” The SquishHead agreed. “I’m not like that!”