CHURCH, The Television Show
The Club paid hip-hop artist Heart Throb to host his concert after party at Majesty, and Noodle stood blocking the stage to make sure no one ran up on the artist while he sang. Three beautiful girls interfered with Noodle’s ability to do his job.
“Can we go on the stage and sit at those tables?” One of the girls asked.
“Nope,” Noodle shook his head.
“Please,” the leader their tribe seduced while grazing her hand down his arm.
“I’d love to let you. Especially you,” Noodle smiled, “But I have to follow orders.”
“No one’s going to care if you let us up there,” she said with her mouth pressed so close to his face that her breath warmed his ear.
“I can’t let you go on the stage.”
The Beauty was unaccustomed to rejection.
“I know The Owner,” she challenged. “I wait on him at Feathers in Norton.”
“I can’t let you on the stage. I like you. But it’s my job to say no.”
“What’s The Owner’s name? I want to make sure it’s the same guy were talking about, so I can say that I was at his club the next time I wait on him.”
“I don’t think he’d want me talking about him.”
“Come on baby, what’s the owner’s name?”
“There are a lot of owners,” Noodle deferred.
“Really, there are a lot of owners?”
“Yeah,” Noodle sighed thinking that he was off the hook.
“Just tell me the owner’s name and we’ll leave you alone,” the girl coaxed while reaching her hand around his waist.
“I’m not sure I want you to leave me alone,” Noodle admitted.
“Please,” The Beauty whispered. “I already know him; he requests me to wait his table every time. I just want to know his name so I can make sure that it’s him. I’m not going to do anything with it. He’s not going to care.”
“I can’t…I’m not going to tell you.”
“Tell me,” the siren rang. “You can tell me,” she whispered, “Tell me his name…”
Noodle cracked. He couldn’t resist his biology. It was an evolutionary condition.
“The Italian. His name’s The Italian!” Noodle exploded.
As soon as Noodle revealed his secret, and The Beauty had captured her treasure, her affection disappeared. Once the girl had gotten what she wanted she took her attention away and Noodle was left alone, abandoned.
When the show was over, the seductress told The Owner of Noodle’s weakness. Beautiful girls will ruin your life.
The SquishHead continued the onslaught.
“Hey Noodle, were you ever married?”
“Nope,” Noodle answered.
“Come on, yes you were! Why have I heard that you were married?”
“I don’t know why you would have heard that.”
“What was your ex-wife like? Was she a bitch?”
“I don’t have an ex-wife!” Noodle claimed.
“Till death do us part, does that ring a bell?” The SquishHead pushed.
It rang a bell, and the bell resonated in Noodle’s head.
“Those are wedding vows, but I swear: I was never married!”
“Okay. I was just asking,” The SquishHead downplayed.
Noodle ate a late dinner at Southern Kitchen. The night had left him so hungry that he ordered half the menu. He sat in the far corner, in the dark, with his back to the wall so that he could keep his eyes affixed on all of the exits.
Noodle quietly enjoyed his dinner while he read a draft of the novel that he’d been perpetually editing.
“Why does that guy always come in and eat alone?” A man asked his wife.
“He’s in The Gang!” Noodle heard the woman answer loud enough for him to overhear.
Noodle lifted his head and smiled. He was not in The Gang. The Club wasn’t that bad. There hadn’t been any suits inside for quite some time.
“Do you want to take the rest of your dinner with you?” The waitress asked. “I can put it in a box.”
“No,” Noodle answered and looked around uncomfortably, “I walked here.”
“Well I’ll give you a bag.”
“Bags freak me out! I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“I know. You have places to be. You don’t like to carry things around.”
She was right. Noodle Church needed to be free.
Whereas regular people dress up as freaks for Halloween, the freaks dress as themselves. So Noodle dressed as a pilot – Shoes, flight suit, aviators, and a noise cancelling headset with boom microphone.
He snorted a touch of whatever that crystalline substance was he’d gotten at the door and when he was on the train the florescent lights glowed so brilliantly that bright colors looked faded. Space took on an expansive dimension.
His ears rang serenity.
Two bartenders were standing outside smoking a cigarette. They looked at Noodle then back at each other.
“He’s got a tiny head,” one said to the other.
But they couldn’t have been talking about Noodle. That would have been crazy! So he shook their hands and went upstairs.
“Noodle, go downstairs and work the lobby, I need you to take tickets tonight,” The Supervisor said.
“But…” Noodle stopped, unable to expend the energy for a battle he’d lose anyway. He pulled his head from the clouds to focus on the ticket taking operation. Only did he remember the cosmos when the people touched him and he felt their joy breeze through his body.
“What the hell are you doing over here man; the whole lobby’s backing up,” he asked Mr. Too Cool.
The Promoter ignored him as he ran from one side of the table to the other grasping at stacks of guest lists that were flying from his hands. Words gushed from his mouth with the torrent of a river. He was frantic, erratic, and trying hard to suck the mucus leaking from his nose.
“It’s fine,” sniffle. ‘Everything’s fine,” snort-snort, sniffle-sniffle.
Noodle relinquished the lobby to a watchman and went upstairs to look after all the people fashioned into their fantasies.
When the lights came on, it took a while for those people to recall where they were, and where they lived on earth. But eventually, The Club emptied.
“Noodle, come with me to the door,” The Supervisor called.
On the way, they ran into a drunken Aladdin arguing with Princess Jasmine. She didn’t want to go home with him, they argued with words so slurred it was hard to determine why.
As Princess Jasmine turned away to dash back to her father’s castle, Aladdin reached out and grabbed her arm.
She broke free; and he stumbled backward, trying to keep his feet below his falling body.
The Supervisor ran up on him. “You’re going to touch a girl!” He shouted with blind rage.
“She…the…girlfriend…catch,” Aladdin stuttered.
“You don’t touch girls!” The Supervisor fired and then pushed the street rat back. He stumbled over a table, and fell on his pride.
Then The Supervisor wound up and threw a stack of plastic cups clear across the lobby. That made Noodle nervous.
In November, The Club began hosting special events for the holiday season. The staff was asked to look particularly pressed for the Three WiseMen’s event: The Winter Ball.
Before the club opened, The Roommate met with The Manager.
“The Ballerina’s trafficking E.”
“Sweet! How’d you find that out?”
“I overheard her talking to Noodle.”
“Do you know how she does it?”
“You’re going to tell me.”
“I feel bad.”
“Because she’s really nice.”
The Manager shook his head, “Everyone’s nice to their friends. It’s not like they want her. They want the cookers. Do you know how they make that stuff?”
“No. But Noodle thinks that his home is a fortress of privacy!”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Then tell me how she does it.”
“She flies out to Casino Town once a month and brings it back on a commercial flight inside medical equipment.”
“Sweet, that’s all I needed to know.”
“I still feel bad.”
As soon as she was gone The Manager reached for his secret phone in the rafters and relayed the intelligence The Roommate stole from Noodle’s apartment, from her own home, to The Spook.
It was healthy for The Spook to let information like that trickle down to other Federal Agencies. It made him a leader of wolves.
The DEA flagged The Ballerina’s travel and Narcs stalked her every move. Eventually, they’d track her movements to Casino Town and onto The Distributer, who they followed to a stash house, which they put under surveillance to catch the product drops and traced the delivery van back to The Producers.
They shut down a chemical cooking operation worth tens of millions of dollars; it was barley a ding to The Black Market economy.
And instead of retaliating against the regulators, The Black Market Barons attacked their own.
“Noodle,” The Supervisor called. “I need you in the lobby.”
“Really, again? I can’t believe it!”
“Is it a problem?”
“No, I’m cool. If anything, I’m happy my services are in such high demand. I just wish that someone would follow through on what they say.”
“That you don’t need me in the lobby because any of your guys could do it!”
“That’s not true. We need you. I need someone I can trust.”
“Then you need to pay me for that added trust brother!”
Noodle went into the office to get a stamp and radio, tickets, and a counter as a group of Marines organized boxes to collect toys for kids.
It cost one hundred dollars to get into the private fundraiser. More than a thousand people came out to play.
The WiseMen were easy to recognize, they wore suits.
The box office was set up to sell tickets.
The will-call table was staffed by their own girls.
The crowd was connected. Tons of people arrived in fur coats carrying large bags of children’s toys.
Noodle took care to make sure that everyone paid admission to the charity. But several patrons who wanted to get in for free asked for The WiseMen directly.
“Who is this kid?”
“He’s a rat. He’ll be calling you all night when your people want to get in at the door. Watch, you’ll see.”
“I just want to enjoy the night. We do this once a year!”
“Want revenge? Here’s what to do. Go down to the lobby and take a drink order. I have something to put in it that will make him sick. If he makes you miserable, you should return the favor.”
While he was in the lobby taking those drink orders, a second WiseMan was upstairs taking product orders and collecting car keys. He then passed his list to a third WiseMan who collected their customers’ charitable donations while an associate in the parking garage deposited a Christmas present into the trunk of each donor’s car.
No product came into the club, the cash was protected by charity, no customers had any product on their person, and a search warrant was needed before a cop opened anyone’s trunk.
The WiseMen reinvested this money into their car service, and they grew to be wealthy, legitimate business men.
“This is going to be a white Christmas!” One of the customers exclaimed as he ran past Noodle.
A poster listed the event as a cancer benefit, six photos under the heading ‘place a photo of your loved ones lost to the disease.’
Something didn’t feel right. Something reeked. Everyone was way too high to be mourning love.