CHURCH, The Television Show
Noodle got sicker. Green mucous flowed through his nose. Sweat poured from his skin. Fever raped his body. He pee’d brown urine and pooped brown water.
He stayed in bed for three days. He was delirious. He’d lost ten pounds
On the morning of the fourth day he awoke to the sound of a helicopter flying low over-head. It was a heavy helicopter and it was flying so close to the ground, and so directly over his tiny property, that it shook the entire house. The vortices vibrated through his roof, down the walls, across the floors, and trembled through his body.
The helicopter woke him up; and then it was gone. Noodle lamented being sick, his firefighter physical abilities test was only three days away and it was improbable to reschedule.
Noodle need to get to work. He dressed in sweats and a Majesty t-shirt, and crawled into The Club.
“What the fuck Noodle!” The Supervisor exclaimed.
“Do I really look that bad?”
“It’s not that, it’s your bar shirt. The Manager would kill you if he saw you wearing that!”
“I brought a change of clothes. Supervisor, I’m sick. I just threw on whatever it would take to get here on time.”
“Noodle!” The Supervisor warned, “The Patsy was wearing that t-shirt when they dumped him. Take that shirt off before The Manager sees you. Take it somewhere and burn it!”
“I didn’t know! I’ll go change. Tell The Manager that I’m looking for him though.”
“What, do you need to paint again?” The Supervisor laughed.
“Painting’s not really that fun, but I guess the grass is always greener on…”
“No news is good news!” The Supervisor interrupted to mix the metaphors.
“Anyway,” Noodle sighed. “I’m going to change. Tell The Manager that I’m here, okay?”
When Noodle returned, The Manager was hanging out with his girlfriend.
“What’s up Assassin!” He greeted with wide eyes.
“Eh,” Noodle sighed. “I can’t figure out why everyone keeps calling me that!”
“I know,” The Manager agreed. “It’s like I can’t figure out why everyone keeps saying that I have an Asian Fetish. It’s not that I only date Asians, it’s that white girls don’t date me.”
“So, it’s not that I kill people…it’s just that people look at me and think, ‘that guy is going to murder someone’?”
“Here’s looking at you kiddo,” The Manager smiled.
“If I could only figure out why! I’m such a happy guy.” Noodle smiled too. “Nobody should be killing anybody; they should share a joint with a friend and chill out already!”
“So Noodle Church, what can I do for you today?”
“Well, I got really sick last weekend. I’m here to work, but I have the firefighter physical abilities test on Saturday morning. I’d like to leave by midnight on Friday so I can get a good night’s rest.”
“God, I love you, which makes this second part so much harder.”
“Shoot. Give me what you got.”
“It’s just that I’m almost thirty and I’d like to know where my life is headed. I make plans, but it’s like they never come true!”
“I’m a planner too. What’s getting in your way?”
“The Supervisor’s got me stuck back in the lobby.”
“Did you know that I grew up with him? He’s this boy who would always come along and tear down anything that I built. Like, if I built a giant Lego fort, as soon as I was finished he’d run out of nowhere and kick it over before I’d even had the chance to show off my accomplishment.”
“I’m sorry to hear that he destroyed what you made.”
“Don’t be. I was bigger than him then. I’d just turn around and kick his ass. But it’s not like that anymore. He’s the size of both of us put together. Sometimes the world just boils down to the size of your guns.”
“What a shitty world. I want to live where people build things.”
“I know Noodle. I do too. But until someone makes that place, you’ll have to stick it out down in the lobby.”
“Alright Manager. But can’t you get me a little more money? In six months, I’ve earned a grand total of five thousand dollars! On door revenue of 1.2 million! While the bartenders make fifty dollars an hour and even coat check takes home a couple hundred bucks a night. If you need me in the lobby so badly, why you can’t pay me to be there?”
“It’s not that. Noodle, there are other reasons we have you down there…you know what I mean?”
“I never know what you mean! I’m catching a lot of colds. Touching a thousand hands every night has got to be some kind of occupational hazard.”
“Noodle, never forget: Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”
“Boy Manager, I really hope you’re right about that!”
“Do me a favor Noodle, write me a letter, I’ll get you that raise,” The Manager rallied.
At The Manager’s request, The Supervisor got into the habit of pulling Noodle upstairs once everyone had been admitted; usually just after midnight.
A fight broke out between two groups of Asians. It stretched across an entire side of The Nightclub. Beefcakes throwing long, running punches through the air. The fighters were fluid. The brawl had movement. It was the most beautiful ballet Noodle had ever seen – and there was blood.
Until The Supervisor, and his gang, came running over to break it up. They landed punches to stun the assailants.
But one Asian just wouldn’t stop. He kept swinging back.
The Supervisor knocked him to the ground and four guys dragged him by the collar, kicking and screaming, through the kitchen and down to the basement. Who knows what they did to them down there.
“Hey Noodle…you know…what I love about Asians?” The Supervisor panted between breaths, bent over with his hands over on his knees.
“No, what’s that?”
“The thing that I love about Asians is that no matter what happens they will never, ever tell The Police!”
“I didn’t know that, Noodle replied. Hey Supervisor,”
“I have to go now. The Manager said that I could leave early so I can get some sleep before my firefighter physical test tomorrow.”
“Okay, good job. Get out of here,” The Supervisor allowed. His praise always came after a great fight.
“I put another guy to sleep tonight,” Doughboy bragged. “That’s my tenth one. I’m trying to get a dirty dozen before they fire me!”
When Noodle woke up the morning his fever was gone, but he knew it wasn’t going to be a good day.
He taped a paper map to the gas tank of his motorcycle and rode an hour west to the test.
For the first event Noodle climbed five hundred stairs in five minutes with a heavy pack strapped to his back.
He quickly felt fatigued, and when he got off the stair machine he was nauseous. Those stairs resurrected his fever, and he tried to keep the vertigo room from spinning round his pounding head.
But Noodle wouldn’t give up. He ran through the hose pull, the maze, and the ladder raise.
By the time he got to the ceiling pull, Noodle was exhausted. He was barely standing.
He had to pull a fifty pound weight up and down ten times, and then shoot a ceiling hook up above to raise a trap door ten times. The entire exercise repeated five times within two and a half minutes. It was a sprint. And when it was over, Noodle collapsed to his knees and took several moments to gather his conscious.
“The secretary will give you your results out front,” the test proctor told Noodle.
“You passed five out of the seven events,” the secretary said. “You failed two. The good news is that overall, you qualify to become a firefighter.”
“That’s fine,” Noodle said while inhaling deeply, still struggling to catch his breath.
“How did you get here?”
“I rode my motorcycle.”
“You really don’t look very good.”
“I’ve been sick.”
“Would you let me take your blood pressure?”
“Sure,” Noodle answered and sat down to roll up his sleeve.
“Will you me a favor?” The secretary asked while she inflated the blood pressure cuff. “Please, please do not ride your motorcycle home right away! You really don’t look good. Sit outside and rest for a while.”
He went outside and sat next to his bike. He rested for half an hour.
Eventually, Noodle started his bike and headed home. When he reached Waterline Center he slowed down to absorb the irregularities of the car in front of him, which was speeding up and slowing down. The old woman in front of him, hitting the breaks abruptly, was driving a small electric car.
Meanwhile, the car in front of him continued to slow down. And he saw why: Another car, pulling out of a parking lot, was playing chicken with oncoming traffic.
Every time the old woman slowed down to let the car pull out, it stopped. And every time she sped up to pass, this car crept into her path.
Noodle downshifted once more, and let his bike coast. He glanced at the Waterline Fire Station, the architecture of arched glass doors, and the fire engines behind them. He pictured all of the heroic people waiting upstairs for the next alarm.
Then the man from the parking lot swerved into the street and cut the old woman off. She slammed on her breaks and suddenly stopped.
Noodle squeezed his fingers around the front brake lever but couldn’t get his foot to fully engage the rear brake before his front tire slammed into the old woman’s bumper.
In slow motion, his weight shifted forward and his arms buckled to absorb the impact of the collision.
His rear tire lifted off the ground and it rotated through the air until his motorcycle stood vertically on its front tire. The face of Noodle’s helmet came within an inch of the rear windshield of the woman’s car.
When the motorcycle came crashing down Noodle leapt off. He landed squarely on his feet, but the bike tumbled over and nicked his ankle.
For the moment Noodle was stunned, and he didn’t even attempt to pick the thing back up.
A young boy came over. “Mister, mister,” he cried, “There’s gasoline leaking all over the street!”
Kind folks called 911, even as Noodle urged them not to, and forced Noodle to sit on the curb. From there, he stared across the street and watched those giant overhead doors he’d been marveling at moments earlier, rise.
A whole bunch of heroes dressed in red, white, and blue came from those archways with duffle bags, and walked across the street.
The police came too, and everyone made Noodle retell his story so that they could hear it firsthand. But the repetition didn’t represent reality; they all had their own preconceptions.
“I’m fine,” Noodle kept repeating. “My ankle’s sore, that’s all. It’s not a problem. I don’t need to go to the hospital.”
“Can he ride the motorcycle?” A cop asked.
“No, the front fork is bent in half.”
“I think you should go to the hospital for an x-ray, in case something’s broken. You won’t have to pay for the ambulance ride- your insurance will cover everything.”
Unfortunately, the insurance didn’t cover the ambulance and the police cited Noodle for following too closely. Bureaucracy didn’t solve the problem.
‘Supervisor, I’m in the hospital’ Noodle texted. ‘I’m not sure if I’ll be able to work tonight.’
Then Noodle called Mehca. “Hey doll, you’re a nurse. I’ve crashed my motorcycle and I’m not exactly sure where they’ve taken me…if I find out the name of this hospital, can you pick me up?”
“I’d like to, but I can’t today,” she answered.
So Noodle found a bus, and limped all the way home.
He tore the bandages from his leg, showered, dressed, and took a cab to Majesty.
“My god Noodle, are you okay?” His friends at The Club asked.
“It wasn’t bad…,” he described.
“Noodle, how was your firefighter test?” The Barracuda asked in his actor’s voice.
“It was miserable,” Noodle answered. “I was really sick.”
“Isn’t that too bad,” The Barracuda feigned. “I hope your leg gets better,” he winked and ran downstairs. “Noodle failed his fire test!” The Barracuda bragged to The Prince. “There goes that dream! And get this, he crashed his bike again!”
“It was an accident!” The Prince exclaimed.