CHURCH, The Television Show
“What’s up Mehca!” Noodle spoke into the handset of his once ringing phone.
“Hey bun, I’m just getting out of class. Want me to stop by on my way home?”
“My life wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t!”
“It’s going to take fifteen minutes to get there from Freedom Community College because of the traffic. Okay?”
“Okay. I’ll be here,” Noodle confirmed.
At home, The Barracuda answered his own phone.
“‘Cuda, ‘Cuda. I followed that girl you told me about to the Freedom College. She’s getting in her car now! What do you want me to do? What do you want me to do?” The voice from the other end panted.
“I’ll tell you what to do. Just relax. You sound as if you’re about to have an orgasm.”
“‘Cuda. What do you want me to do, she’s leaving now!”
“This is what you’re going to do: You’re going to rear end her. Not too hard, bump her just enough so that she has to pull over. And call me back when it’s done…”
The voice on the other side was silent.
“What’s that ‘Cuda?”
“MugTooth, do not exchange papers with her. If there is any damage tell her that you’ll mail cash.”
“Okay ‘Cuda. But I don’t have any money with me. You still owe me a grand from the last thing.”
“MugTooth, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Come into the club and I’ll take it off your tab.”
“Jesus Mehca, you said fifteen minutes!” Noodle exclaimed when his friend finally arrived.
“I know. I can’t even stay. I have to take my car to get an estimate. I was in The Big Rotary when a car drove across all four lanes of traffic and slammed right into me! I was like, ‘are you kidding me!'”
“Mehca, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, but will you come to look at the damage?”
“Sure. Did you get his insurance information?”
“No. He was some crazy guy who begged to pay in cash. I got his license info. He was nuts about it…like really nervous.”
“Mehca, you should have taken his insurance information! Make sure he sends you that cash!”
“I will. I’m going to leave to get an estimate right now.”
“Will you drop me off at The Sandwich Shop? I have to meet my Uncle for dinner.”
“I can do that. Do you want to smoke a little weed before we go?”
“Yes. I need that. The Uncle is always asking me so many questions about work. He kills my dreams.”
“Haha Noodle, you’re crazy!”
“I know. Hey Mehca…”
“I think someone stole my recycling bin last night. I put it out with my trash, and in the morning it was gone.”
“You’ve gotta be a real creep to steal someone’s recycling bin.”
“I know! Especially because they’re free from the DPW!”
“Is this the place?” Mehca asked as she pulled-up next The Sandwich Shop.
“Yeah, stop here. Thanks for the ride! I love you kiddo!”
“Have fun bun.”
“Definitely maybe, but probably not,” Noodle winked.
“Howww’s it going?” Noodle’s Uncle asked in the same drawn out way that he always did.
“It’s the same,” Noodle answered.
“Howww’s MetroNorth Main Streets?”
“Good, we’ve just hit our sponsorship quota for the year, so I can move on from fundraising and start organizing the local restaurants.”
“Whhhhhat d’you have t’do for that?”
“Network. Spread hope. Build people up,” Noodle winked.
“Didddd The Tenant pay you rent?”
“Not yet. He’s late. But don’t worry, I’ll get it for you. Sometimes it’s best to give people time; I don’t want to stress him out.”
“Here ‘ya go,” The Uncle passed. “I cut out another article about the train, slated to be built in MetroNorth.”
“Thanks, I guess,” Noodle smiled and put the article in his bag. “The City’s been waiting for that train to come from the Federal Government for thirty-five years!”
The waitress arrived to take their orders.
“I’ll have a ham sandwich,” Noodle recalled. He never ordered anything different.
At the gym, Noodle secured his bag in a locker with a small TSA-approved luggage lock.
”Cuda, Noodle’s at the gym,’ The Creep’s brother, The Trainer, texted.
‘Here’s what I want you to do,’ The Barracuda ordered. ‘Break into his locker. I’ll give you three hundred dollars if you find anything in there about US.’
The luggage lock was easy to pry open. The bent metal made it a little harder to close.
After his workout Noodle stopped at Southern Kitchen to eat again. Noodle was thin, even though he never stopped eating. He was trying to bulk up before shipping off to Army Boot Camp.
‘OMG I can’t wait to come see you,’ Angel Brolié wrote in a text message.
‘Are you sure that you can come?’ Noodle wrote back.
‘I’m going to make love to you all day and night. I cannot wait to see you!’
‘I’ll check online for a plane ticket tonight!’
The next time Noodle was at work everyone wanted to get into The Club for free. They came at him by the dozen claiming to have important friends.
“You have to let us in, my friends have a table!” One customer yelled.
“Don’t you know who I am? I know The Italian,” another customer threatened. “You’re embarrassing me in front of my wife.”
“Call The Manager. Call The Manager. He’ll let me in for free. Call The Manager,” a third patron demanded.
But Noodle followed DJ’s orders – no one could come inside unless they had a ticket.
“Come back Barracuda,” Noodle called over the radio.
“God Noodle, what is it now?” The Barracuda groaned.
“Can you come downstairs to see a man named MugTooth? He claims he’s your brother…he doesn’t look a thing like you!”
“Brother from another mother! Let him up!”
On Tuesday afternoon, Noodle met with DJ and The Manager.
“Manager, I remember you saying: ‘Just say the word and we’ll get you out of the lobby’. Well it’s time, I’m going crazy down there!”
“Thank you Manager! Also, I need a few weeks off to execute a contract that I’ve signed.”
“What kind of contract?” DJ asked.
“A painting contract,” Noodle answered.
“Why do you have to do that?”
“Because I can’t pay my bills on the salary I earn here. I make three times my hourly rate painting, and I can get twice as many hours per day, and twice as many days per week. That’s twelve times what you pay me here at The Club!”
“What do you think,” The Manager asked DJ.
“I’d still come in on the weekends. And I can complete the contract while only missing four shifts,” Noodle pleaded.
“I just don’t understand what you do,” DJ stated.
“What are you talking about?”
“I don’t know what you do. Tell me what you do.”
“I work here every night that you’re open. I volunteer at a neighborhood non-profit. I manage a small portfolio of rental real estate. I write. I’m in process to join the United States Army as a Warrant Officer. And when I see a flower along my trip, I stop to pick it.”
“But why are you so happy all of the time?”
“I don’t know. Ignorance is bliss I guess,” Noodle smiled.
The Manager flashed DJ Big Eyes.
“You can have time off to paint,” DJ agreed. “Where’s your contract?”
“South Coast,” Noodle answered.
“Yeah, but where?”
“DJ, what do you want from me?” Noodle reacted, “The freaking physical address?”
“Sure, give me that,” DJ smiled.
“I’m painting in Rockton,” Noodle lied. He didn’t think the location of his contract had any relevance to management at The Club.
Noodle hung around after the meeting and cleaned before opening. But not a lot of people showed up for the concert anyway.
“Noodle, what do you think about this event?” The Hostess asked.
“It doesn’t seem like anyone in The City was interested in coming.”
“It’s because The Marketer still thinks he’s in Miami,” The Hostess winked.
The lights came on, the concert was over, and a couple of middle aged men approached Noodle.
“What about those ceiling tiles missing over the toilet in the men’s room?” One of the men asked.
“I don’t know,” Noodle shrugged. “They might have broken from a leak or something.”
“In this day and age of Terrorism! I’m surprised that something like that would be allowed to go on,” the other man said.
Noodle gave them The Perplexed Look. Mentally, he couldn’t make the connection between broken ceiling tiles and terrorism.
“Manager,” Noodle called after those customers had left. “This guy just appeared, talking about terrorism inside the club. What’s with that?”
The Manager turned to The Supervisor and flashed Big Eyes. Then they both disappeared.
“DJ,” The Manager said. “It’s been six months; it’s time to make things happen before these kids figure out what’s really going on.”
“Okay,” DJ planned, “Let’s play Doughboy. Have one of your gay friends come onto him and see what happens.”
“What about Noodle?”
“We’ll tell The Barracuda that Noodled Narc’ed on Washington right before his arrest.”
“That’s not a great idea.”
“Start calling him The Assassin. Say he was planted here by The Federal Government to pick off Gang members one-by-one.”
“Sounds good, I’ll start spreading The Rumor.”
Noodle read the graffiti scrolled across the wall inside the train station under The Technology School: ‘Ignorance is Bliss,’ is read.
That was scratched out, ‘Yeah if you’re stupid,’ was written below it.
Noodle had been painting the back of Iron Shields house for a week. He thought he’d gotten the job through his Uncle. His Uncle thought that the job was a solicitation from Iron Shield. Iron Shield thought the idea was his wife’s, and his wife didn’t recall that someone told her to put down her paint brush and pay someone to do the job.
That’s the art of manipulation, to separate force so far from result that no where in-between is a connection visible.
Noodle knocked at The Iron Shield’s door, Thursday, just before dusk.
“Sir, I’m going to pack-up and head back to MetroNorth tonight to work at Majesty over the weekend. I’ll see you again on Monday.”
“Your Uncle told me that you’re working there, how is that?”
“It used to be The Roxbury, but they’ve really reinvented the place. The pay is crap, and sometimes it can be pretty sketchy, but it’s a nightclub so what would you expect?”
Iron Shield stared.
“I mean, the concerts we host are cool. They’re run by a Gotham City promotion company called The Balcony and that’s a real professional production at least.”
That night, The Club hosted two French sisters who played gypsy style electronic rock that drifted between unsociable and witchcraft. It was the concert that BeFly to passed out flyers to promote.
“So where does The Balcony Girl live?” The creep asked.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Noodle answered.
“Yes you do. That girl you sent out to hand out these concert flyers.”
“What’s her name?” The Creep got creepier.
“Just Be. Creep, that’s all I know!” Noodle blasted.
“Okay, you can relax; you don’t need to freak out. I’m just trying to make conversation,” The Creep said as his eyes glazed over with all of the lies he’d ever told in his life.
“Creep,” Noodle said as he felt around his coat pocket. “Creep, I just bought this coat a month ago and for a few weeks there’s been this thing stitched under the liner of the pocket. I think it’s a tracker or something.”
“Oh yeah? Let me see,” The Creep offered without surprise in his voice. “There’s definitely something in there,” he said.
Then Noodle’s phone rang.
“Noodle, what the fuck?!”
“What’s wrong Roommate?”
“Your Tenant’s passed out on the porch –we found him unconscious. After we woke him up, he told The Boyfriend that he was going to punch him!”
“He’s probably fine.”
“Well, he says that he’s locked out. Do you have an extra set of keys?”
“Yeah,” Noodle answered. “That’s what mixing booze with prescription pills will do to a person. But whatever, it’s over now. Call me back if you can’t find the keys,” Noodle said before he hung up.
Fifteen minutes later, Noodle got another call.
“What’s up Tenant? I’m trying to work. Did you get into your apartment?”
“The Roommate unlocked it. I’m just calling to tell you that everything’s fhhhhine,” he spoke through slurred words. “Way to overreact.”
“Tenant, they said that you were passed out on the floor of the porch, I think that they were trying to help you. I’m glad that everything’s okay.”
On Sunday night Noodle packed his bag and brought it to Majesty. They hosted The Latin Music awards. Noodle lived in a Latin American neighborhood but these customers were from a whole different class – they called themselves expats instead of immigrants. In a big world, subtle distinctions have wild effects.
“These are some of the whitest brown people I’ve ever seen!” The SquishHead joked, himself the son of Latin immigrants.
“I’m going to let that comment slide SquishHead, because you’re talking about your own identity. But don’t say stuff like that, it sounds bad!”
There was one group that stood out because they were all wearing uniforms; U.S. Army National Guard Air Wing uniforms. These were Noodle’s people!
“Why do you think all these military pilots are here tonight?” Noodle asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “You should go talk to them.”
Noodle was waiting to be in The Army. He wished that The Army would send a bus to his house to drive him straight down to Fort Benjamin.
“Supervisor,” The Barracuda called over the radio, “Come to the kitchen.”
“There was a bottle of vodka sitting on the floor and it’s gone missing,” The Barracuda feigned when The Supervisor arrived, “And you must investigate this theft!”
“What happened?” The Manager asked.
“Somebody here has stolen a bottle of liquor!” The Barracuda set up.
“Are you sure?” The Manager questioned. “I don’t think anyone would do that.”
“Yes I’m sure. Are you calling me a liar?”
“What should we do?” The Supervisor asked.
“I bet it was Noodle!” The Barracuda professed. “We should search his bag!”
“It wasn’t Noodle,” The Manager answered.
“Listen, Noodle comes into work carrying a giant duffle bag that could fit a body. And now it is stuffed full! Captain Angry, I want you to go in the employee coat room and bring out Noodle’s bag. Then, I want you to open it up and search it.”
“I don’t think you should do that,” The Manager said.
Captain Angry looked confused, torn between superiors. He looked toward The Supervisor.
“Do what ‘Cuda says!” The Supervisor exclaimed. “Get Noodle’s bag!”
Captain Angry did as he was ordered. He brought out the duffle bag out and placed it on the table; and the Barracuda made him remove Noodle’s belongings one-by-one:
A change of clothes
A to-do list
Then The Barracuda made Captain Angry read Noodle’s to-do list aloud, item by item, and they all had a good laugh.
The Barracuda got exactly what he wanted; he was able to go through Noodle’s property without ever touching a thing.
“Never mind,” The Barracuda said. “The bar-back just texted me that he found the bottle of vodka upstairs. Someone must have already brought it up there.”
When their shift was over, Noodle grabbed his big red duffle bag and headed out to catch the train toward South Coast.
“Hey Noodle!” Captain Angry shouted. “It looks like you’re about to take a trip!”