CHURCH, The Television Show
Noodle stood at the bottom of his street, waiting for the bus to get to work.
Two guys walked by. They were in their mid-twenties and wore jeans, boots, and grey hooded-sweatshirts.
Right in front of Noodle, one turned to the other and said, “Word on the street is that he took too much acid and now he thinks he’s a glass of orange juice!”
Noodle got the feeling that they were talking about him, especially because he had just told his story about taking a lot of mushrooms in Hamsterdam to The Meat Packer the night before. But how would they know what he said to The Meat Packer? That would be crazy!
Noodle laughed because he never took too much acid. Noodle was still training for the Army and he was in the best shape of his life.
When he got to work he ran into The Meat Packer.
“Last night you invited me to the bar. When we were out, you said that you’d pull the car around and call me when you were in front. But you never called, and when I went outside you were gone. You ditched me!”
“It wasn’t me,” The Meat Packer answered. “It was The Supervisor,” he ratted. “He got in my car and said: ‘Just drive.’ He said to leave you behind.”
“Whatever, it was a shitty move, but I didn’t want to go to the bar that much anyway.”
Later, while Noodle was guarding the concert performers’ dressing room, The Manager approached. It was rare to get The Manager’s attention.
“Noodle, do you watch TV?”
“Nah, I don’t even own one. I’m poor. But I do watch stuff on iTV sometimes; it streams free over the internet.”
“Check out White Trash Boys. It’s funny because everyone on the show sits around doing drugs, fucking up their lives. It’s like that here. It’s like you can walk around and point, ‘he’s on drugs, he’s on drugs, she’s on drugs, he’s on drugs.’ It’s funny because it’s like here, but it’s set it Mountain State. That makes it okay to laugh at.”
“Okay. I’ll watch,” Noodle agreed.
After work, Noodle sat reading the latest edition of Crime Magazine. Some guy was explaining, from prison, that he sold millions of dollars worth of drugs each week in The City- drugs that were driven in from Gotham.
He explained that they were able to make millions of dollars because the whole city was organized. The Dealers and Gangsters worked their disputes out through a chain of command –if they didn’t, they’d be out of business. It was a lot more productive than running around shooting each other. He claimed that he ran The City.
“Can I take a look at this magazine?” The Big Mouth asked. “This guy is a joke. He didn’t run The City!”
“I wasn’t alive,” Noodle answered. “But he must have run something because he’s got life without parole. Anyway, that was decades ago!”
Noodle went home before The Big Mouth was finished reading, and Crime Magazine got left at The Club.
“SquishHead,” The Barracuda called from his office. “Come in here. What were you able to get out of Noodle? He never talks to anybody!”
“Oh, I got something!” The SquishHead bragged. “It turns out that he got robbed in Southern City Projects and the cops went after the guy.”
“That’s gold SquishHead, that’s fucking gold! I’ll tell you what, as a reward for your loyalty I’m going to help find your cousin’s killer. I’m going to pass it up to The Italian – we’ll find the guy – but you have to take care of the rest yourself.”
“I’m ready,” The SquishHead answered. “I’ll fucking kill him.”
“Run after Noodle and ask to share a cab. See what else you can get me on that little bitch – I need to make some money, money, money!”
“That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”
On the cab ride home The SquishHead kept asking Noodle questions. But Noodle didn’t answer with much information.
“Why are you asking me so much stuff?”
“Because we’re friends!” The SquishHead hustled. “I’m making conversation, that’s what friends do! Have you ever seen that show Spartacus?”
“Yeah, I watch it every week. I have story about that show.”
“Tell me your story!”
“Nah. I’m saving it for someone I trust. I’m hoping to find a really nice girl and whisper it in her ear.”
The cab stopped, and Noodle got out two blocks from home. Noodle never told anyone where he lived.
On the following Friday night The Barracuda approached The Roommate.
“Roommate,” he said. “You’re going to start working in the lobby.”
“Why?” She asked.
“To make friends with Noodle. He’s cool and The SquishHead told me that he lives alone. Don’t you live with your parents? See if you can move in with him.”
So the Roommate started working in the lobby. She was awesome. She wasn’t like The Niece – she was smart. And she was quiet; she never said anything unless it was really important. Noodle liked that about her. She was an artist and beautiful to boot.
Noodle waited a few weeks, until he couldn’t hold his feelings inside anymore.
“Roommate, I have something I need to tell you…” He was about to tell her that he loved her, but she must have sensed what was coming.
“I have a boyfriend,” The Roommate interrupted long before Noodle let on to what he was about to say.
He loved her even more for saving him the embarrassment. He respected her discipline. She was different than everyone else; she was different because she was a spy.
Noodle got a text message from The Supervisor. “Can you come in and work over-night? We need someone to watch Majesty while they film a movie down the street.”
Noodle accepted. He stayed up watching to make sure the actors on break from filming weren’t swinging from the rafters. But they were all well behaved. And Noodle wasn’t a saint – so when the kids were out filming he smoked a bit of pot. Not so much to get high, just enough to sit still.
Soon after, The Detective came in, and startled Noodle.
“Is there a problem officer?”
“No problem, I need you to accept this for The Manager.”
“What is it? And why are you coming in so late? We’re technically closed; I don’t know if I should sign this for you.”
“Don’t worry, I wouldn’t do that to The Manager. He knows what’s coming. It’s a summons to court.”
So Noodle signed: Noodle Church.
“CHURCH! I know your cousin. She went to high school with my daughter,” The Detective said. He was there to spy.
“What a small world,” Noodle smiled.
The next day Noodle stood in front of his house with a cigarette, when a man walked over from across the street.
“I just bought the house across from you,” The Neighbor said. “I moved here from Mountain State.”
“Cool,” Noodle said.
“I know The Italian,” The Neighbor continued. “He owns your club. Now we have this corner to US.”
“What do you mean, to US?” Noodle asked, nearly expecting him to answer: ‘For The Gang.’
The neighbor paused to choose his words carefully. “Ah…for the white people,” he said.
“I heard you own your house,” The Neighbor continued to pry.
“Nope,” Noodle answered. “At best you could say that I own part of it.”
“How does that work?”
“My family has lived in MetroNorth for more that eighty years.”
“So tell me which part of it you own.”
“Like I said, I don’t own it, it’s my family’s. But you’re freaking me out,” Noodle said and walked away. At least this time he could clearly tell: The Neighbor was a spy!
Noodle didn’t mind working in the lobby now that The Roommate was downstairs helping him. She was fun.
“My parents are driving me crazy!” She cried.
“Did you move back in with them after college?”
“Yeah. I can’t take it there. It stresses me out too much.”
“I have a spare bedroom in my apartment. If you want, you could live with me.”
“Really! How much?” She asked.
“Five hundred dollars, including utilities.”
“Okay! I’ll come to look at it next week.”
The Roommate stopped by, and she liked the place; she decided to move in. Soon after she came with her parents and her stuff.
“Thank you for letting The Roommate move in with you!” Her parents expressed gratitude.
“Your daughter’s a really good person. Don’t worry about a thing, my apartment is like a fortress; no one comes in here. I’ll take really good care of her. I’ll protect your daughter.”
Noodle gave The Roommate a key, and left the place so she’d feel more comfortable with her parents there. When he got back, they were gone.
“My parents really liked your paintings. You’re like some kind of artist!”
That creeped Noodle out because the paintings were in his bedroom. But it would be crazy, he thought, if he didn’t trust his roommate!
“Roommate do me a favor, don’t tell anyone from work that you live with me, okay?”
“Just don’t. You have to be careful who you trust at The Club, okay?”
“Okay I won’t,” she lied. People like The Barracuda already knew.
“Can I let my bunny run around? I don’t want to keep him in the cage to suffer.”
“That’s sweet. Let him out.”
“Do you want a ride to work tonight?”
“I’d like that. You’re such a good roommate!”
When they got to work, The Barracuda pulled The Roomate aside.
“What’s Noodle saying about US?”
“He doesn’t talk a lot. He really likes The Manager.”
“Who comes over his house? Who are his friends?” The Barracuda pressed.
“Nobody’s been over since I moved in. He leaves to hang out in Mavis Square.”
“Hey Supervisor,” The Barracuda called. “You need to invite Noodle over your place after work. We have to get him to sleep with one of our girls so we can find out about this Spartacus thing.”
Noodle went over to The Supervisor’s apartment. He hung out, but he didn’t talk a lot.
“I broke a kid’s ribs tonight,” The DoughBoy confessed. “It was awesome.”
The SquishHead’s cousin, who looked like Eva Mendes, turned to look at Noodle then back at The Supervisor and said, “I want the job!”
The Supervisor shook his head: ‘NO.’
Noodle got the feeling that this girl wanted The Supervisor’s permission to date him. But that would have been crazy!
The next day Noodle was walking back toward Majesty with coffees from SpaceCurrency alongside The Meat Packer.
“What do you think of the Russian Doll?” The Meat Packer asked.
“Oh my god she’s beautiful. A true work of art!”
“I bet she’s crazy in bed, you should get with her.”
“I wouldn’t have a chance. Anytime I try to talk to her, she doesn’t even respond.”
“Maybe it’s just a language thing,” The Meat Packer suggested. He said it like he knew for certain.
“Or maybe she’s just not into me,” Noodle shrugged.
Barracuda sent out a mass text to his associates. ‘Can’t we get anything on Noodle? He must have no friends, because he doesn’t talk to anyone! $100 bucks to the first person who can get him wasted and see what he really has to say about US!’
So The Nice Guy invited Noodle to his house. Nice Guy was bald, and blind, but still very good-looking.
The Gang had poisoned The Nice Guy in college, after he casually let a secret slip. Nice Guy was stuck in The Gang for life, and because he was nice, he made and excellent spy.
“Why don’t you drink?” The Nice guy asked Noodle.
“I used to enjoy getting drunk. I stopped because it was becoming unhealthy. I started drinking at fourteen; it started to hurt after I turned twenty-four – my body just wouldn’t accept it anymore. It was screaming at me to stop.”
“Yeah, but you can drink once in a while. There is a thing called moderation.”
“I go to the gym now, and it feels really good. Alcohol just doesn’t feel good. At this point, I have control over my life – who I see, what I do, where I live – I don’t need alcohol to escape.”
“Then why are you drinking right now?”
“It’s great for memory loss. There’s some stuff about Majesty I’m trying dearly to forget.”
“Oh yeah, like what? You can tell me. I won’t tell anybody else!”
“I don’t want to talk, I just want to forget. There’s something not right about that place. It’s like- we have the best job in the world – working around great music and beautiful people. Yet everyone’s unhappy and for some reason they’ve all stopped talking to each other. Something is stressing the people out.”
“Believe me…I know.”
“Then why are you working there?”
“I was from Mountain State. I came in with The Prince. I used to be in a fraternity, so I have brothers, do you know what I mean?”
“I used to be a volunteer firefighter. We were like brothers.”
“Do you hang out with anybody else from work?”
“Sometimes. Everyone there is sort of closed off. Do you?”
“Nah. I work at another bar in Inland City. I hung out with The Ballerina once.”
“She’s cool. I like her,” Noodle said and poured the remainder of scotch down his throat as if it were water. Then he went back to the bottle for more.
“Noodle, you really do know how to drink! Everyone at work thinks you’re no fun!”
“Haha,” Noodle laughed.
“But you can’t have anymore. I’m going to hide this bottle!”
“Then I’m going to ride home so I can pass out in my bed.”
“No! You’re going to sleep it off on my couch,” Nice Guy said. “Give me your keys, I’m not going to let you ride!”
Noodle woke up late the next day. He went to the gym, showered, and dressed in his three piece suit for work.
“I’ll give you three hundred dollars for my wife and I to get in,” a huge black man offered.
“Nah dude, I don’t take money here. Just go pay cover and they’ll give you a couple of tickets. It will only cost you forty dollars and you can spend the other two-hundred and sixty upstairs.”
“Wow, thank you!”
“You should have taken that money,” The Roommate said over Noodle’s shoulder.
“It’s easier for me to be honest. Plus, I’m scared of our boss!”
On Monday Noodle went to dinner with his Uncle. They met every second Monday, and usually ate at The Sandwich Store. They always had the same waitress. Sometimes The Uncle asked about work. But Noodle never talked, really, about anything at all.
On the Fourth of July, Noodle took The Roommate and her boyfriend to watch The City’s fireworks from the elevated State Highway which ran through his neighborhood to cut it in two. They had a perfect view of the red, and white, and blue explosives burning bright in the night sky. Independence.
“It’s good to be free,” Noodle sighed.
The Roommate laughed. She knew more than him; she knew it wasn’t true. The Roommate laughed because a poor guy like Noodle Church could never be free!