The Dogs Been Grilling for 24 Hours

Farlo hobbled around the car, Tina followed him. He opened Joey’s door before Joey thought to lock it. Farlo bent over and leaned in going eyeball to eyeball with Joey. “We can do this hard way or we can do this really, really hard way. What way do you want it?”

“Can you accept the voluntary way?” said Joey hoping Farlo didn’t whack him.

“We got two minutes and counting. We won’t have this chance for a week. Are you coming voluntarily or am I going to drag your sorry butt across the parking lot?”

“I said I was volunteering. You make too many snap judgments,” said Joey. He unbuckled his seat belt. He slid out of his seat and stood up outside the car.

Joey said, “I’m going, but under protest. I intend to file a grievance with Filo whenever I meet him.”

“You’re not cleared to meet him. Let’s go. It’s go time,” snapped Farlo half hobbling with his cane, half jogging. Tina walked along side Farlo. Joey walked alongside Tina.

They reached the entrance door to the 7-Eleven. Farlo held up his hand for Joey to stop. He stared inside. The clerk nervously stood behind the counter. The taller of the two men was in the back of the 7-Eleven near the cold beer. The shorter of the two was surveying the candy and gum section.

Joey said, “You think they’re going to rob this place? Call 911 and let’s get out of here.”

Farlo looked at Joey, and said, “Turn around.”

Joey did as Farlo asked.

“Just as I thought, no backbone,” said Farlo then he checked his Apple 3 watch. “We’ve got 45 seconds. Then we’re going in. You follow me. I know you don’t have my back. Tina does.”

“Who has my back?” asked Joey.

At that moment, two pickups, a motorcycle, a beat-up Chevy Malibu, and a college kid on a skateboard came into the parking lot. Farlo turned and took it all in. He looked at Joey, “The numbers are against us. If we don’t move now, we don’t have a chance. Listen up kid, this is your first test, you pass it, I’ll make a note on your weekly evaluation I text to Filo.”

Before Joey could say, “Who’s Filo?” Farlo pushed open the door and headed toward the back. The clerk dived to the floor behind the counter. Tina was on Farlo’s heels. Joey was thinking about diving over the counter and joining the clerk. Farlo reached the back aisle when the 7-Eleven door opened for another customer. He turned to his right, he exclaimed, “I made it. We’re first in line. The dogs have been grilling for twenty-four hours.” Tina barked.

The tall guy fell in line behind Joey, the short guy fell in line behind the tall guy. The first pickup driver fell in line behind the short guy. The second pickup driver fell in line behind the first pickup driver. The skateboard college kid fell in the line behind the second pickup truck driver. As for the beat-up Chevy Malibu driver, he headed to the men’s room.

The tall guy said, “I didn’t know you were in town, Farlo. What are you doing here?”

Farlo turned around, three dogs in one hand, each one in a soft hot bun. Two of dogs with relish and mustard, The third with mustard only, Filo gave the other two to Tina, who finished them within seven point four seconds. A good time, not her personal best. She wanted to enjoy the taste.

Filo looked at the tall “Son of a gun, I didn’t recognize you, Flakes. You lost weight.How they hanging?”

“Thanks for noticing. I’m down ten pounds on my all dog diet.”

Joey stared at Farlo, then he stared at Flakes. Then he stared at the little guy. Farlo turned toward Joey, “Get three dogs for Tina, none for you. You haven’t earned them.”

“What? This is not fair. I love 7-Eleven grilled for 24-hours hotdogs. They got the perfect combination of wrinkles, nitrates, chemicals, and meat waste products. They’re always sold out when I try to get one.”

“Tough noogies,” said Farlo.

Flakes said, “The punk’s got a lot to learn, Farlo.”

The short guy came around with his Snicker’s candy bar, “Hey Farlo, waz happening?”

“Bones, what’s shakin?” said Farlo.

“A little bit of this, a lot of dat. Who’s da baby?”

Farlo said, “He’s my reclamation project, his name is Joey.”

“What a minute. I’m not a baby. I’m not a punk. I’m a dude.”

“Dat’s a baby’s name. You don’t got no street name? How you gonna have street cred? How you gonna run with the big dog here?” said Bones.

“I don’t need street cred. I already got it,” said Joey.

“The only thing you probably got is a GI Joe you hide under your pillow,” said Flakes. Flakes and Bones high fived.

“Do not,” said Joey.

Farlo said, “No, he doesn’t have a GI Joe. He has a stuffed bear on his pillow.”

A fist bump, a high five, and several minutes of laughter later, Farlo said, “You boys take care of the job Filo sent you on? It was a rough one.”

“Filo’s the man, Farlo. I don’t know what he doesn’t know. What I want to know is how does a guy his age have all the women chasing after him. You know da answer?”

“I do, Bones, but it’s classified. You and Flakes got a class five security clearance, you need a class twenty. There are only two people who got it,” said Farlo.

“Who? And, BTW, the name is Joe-mo,” said Joey.

“Dat da best you can do? They gonna eat you up when Farlo has you fly solo,” said Bones.

“I’m working on it,” said Joey.

Farlo said, “The two people with security clearance twenty? Filo and me.”

“Who’s Filo? When do I get to meet him? Can I see the company manual? I want to read the grievance process,” said Joey or Joe-mo.

Farlo shook his head, took a bite of hotdog, fed the rest to Tina. He fist bumped Bones and Flakes. Then he said, “Joey, take the hotdog out of your pocket and give it to Tina.”

Who’s Filo? Who does Farlo work for? Is it a secret government agency? What kind of job did Flakes and Bones do?

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You Think I’m Stupid

Joey sat behind the wheel of his beat up, dinged up, dented up, bald tires, and cracked windshield eighteen-year-old Honda with 300,000 miles on it. Farlo sat next to him. Tina lied on the back seat. The car was parked on the edge of the lot of a 7-Eleven.

Farlo sipped his Starbucks’ coffee. Joey glared at him. “When do I get coffee?”

“When I think you’re clean.”

“I’ve been clean for ten days.”

Farlo said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. You ever hear that quote?”

Joey said, “You think I’m stupid. Of course, I heard it.”

“Who said it?” demanded Farlo.

“You got the quote wrong. You didn’t even quote it right.”

Farlo moved his head slightly to the left to glance at Joey, “If I find any hallucinogens in the house I’ll hang you upside down with a rope around your feet from the oak tree in back and let Tina use you for attack practice.”

“I said I was clean I never tried that stuff. But the quote is and I’m certain I’m right, “One large step for a small woman and an even bigger step for a tall woman. Marcy Bloomberg said it on E! I’m sure that’s it. So, you’re wrong.”

Farlo twisted in his seat, “If we weren’t on the job, I’d smack you across your head and knock some stuff around, you are one sorry case.”

“You wanna bet who’s right, or are you chicken? What are you saying, I don’t hear you. I see your lips moving,” said Joey.

In a flash, Farlo’s left are shot out straight and caught Joey by the neck. Farlo’s thumb pressed into Joey’s windpipe, his fingers squeezed on the back of Joey’s neck. Joey gagged, “You’re killing me. Stop.”

“I’m not killing you. I’m giving you tough love. That’s what the manual calls it. Now admit you made it up.”

“I didn’t. Ouch. Yes, yes, I made it up,” coughed Joey.

Farlo released his head. Tina, now on her haunches on the backseat, her head rested on the top of Farlo’s seat.

Farlo said, “Repeat after me. I will not bullshit Farlo ever again.” He tightened his grip on Joey’s throat.

“I will not bullshit Farlo ever again,” said Joey. He sounded like a cat tossing up a hairball.

Farlo released his grip. He turned his attention back to the 7-Eleven.

“What manual are you talking about?” asked Joey rubbing his throat with his left hand.

“The one Filo wrote,” said Farlo.

Farlo took the top of his coffee and blew the aroma towards Joey.

“That’s cruel. You don’t have to worry about a heart attack, because you don’t have one,” said Joey.

Farlo put the cover back on his coffee, took a sip and stared into the 7-Eleven. A nondescript white van pulled into the parking lot. It didn’t have a front license plate. It drove slowly around the lot and pulled in front of the 7-Eleven.

“You see that?” asked Farlo.

“What?” asked Joey.

“The van. What are you doing, fantasizing about the date you’ll never have because no woman in right mind will ever date you.”

“I’m not choosy, she doesn’t have to be in her right mind,” said Joey.

“Look, it doesn’t have a license plate, front or back,” said Farlo.

“So? Maybe their test driving it from the dealership,” said Joey.

Two men got out of the van. One from the driver’s side, the other from the passenger side. The driver, a five foot four-inch slim guy was wearing s dark hoodie with the hood pulled up over his head. The other man, six-inches taller, was heavy. He looked like he was in training to be a sumo wrestler. He wore a black stocking hat pulled down tight and stopping at the edge of eyebrows. The shorter said something to the taller man and pointed at Joey’s car. They stared at it, mumbled something between them, turned and went in the 7-Eleven.

Joey’s eyes were closed. He was massaging his neck and throat. Farlo punched Joey on the bicep, “It’s go time. Follow my lead.”

Joey rubbed his bicep. “Hey, that hurts. Can’t you say, ‘Joey, it’s go time.’ No you can’t you have to use brute force. What’s go time? What are we doing? Are you going to rob the 7-Eleven? I’m not going.”

What is happening at the 7-Eleven? What is go-time? Did Joey learn his lesson? Who is Filo?

Where’s Your Father?

“Suck it up, kid, you’ve just started,” barked Farlo sounding like a drill instructor.

Joey lied sprawled out on the grass in the back of his house. “I can’t move. I ache all over. Can I have a beer?”

“You’ve only done two pushups. You’ve got sit ups, burpees, jumping jacks, and cardio.”

“I quit. I don’t want to get in shape. I want my beer and cereal. I wanna go to work. I want you to leave. I want everything back to the way it used to be,” complained Joey.

Farlo turned his head toward Tina, “Joey has lots of things he wants. You think he’s going to get them?”

Tina barked twice. “Tina smarter than you, Joey. She said it won’t happen.” Farlo bent over and picked up small rocks and began throwing them at Joey.

“Hey, cut it out,” hollered Joey.

“Start exercising. You’ve got love handles. Your belly hangs an inch over your belt. You’re getting a double chin. I’ll put ten dollars you’ve had hemorrhoids in the past six weeks,” now start moving your lazy butt before I start kicking it.

“Ouch, I said cut it out. This kills, three. Fo .. fo .. four. Fi .. fi .. five. I did it. I did it. I did five. I met my goal,” a note of triumph in Joey’s voice.

“Congratulations,” the words from Farlo’s deadpan voice. He added, “My five-year-old granddaughter can do twenty. Roll over, time for sit ups.”

So it went for the next hour. Joey starting an exercise. Joey quitting. Joey hollering “ouch” when rocks hit him. Joey overjoyed when he hit the day’s goal. Farlo popping his balloon.

Forty-five minutes later Joey finished his oatmeal, fruit, and juice. “I’m still hungry. I need real food. Not this fast food stuff.”

“That’s all you earned. Now we’re going to work on your psychological profile. If I had a stamp, I’d stamp the sheet LOSER. Filo gets a feather up his you know what when I do that. He told me it’s counterproductive.”

“I already like Filo,” said Joey.

Farlo waved his hand as if he was smacking away Joey’s remark, “Don’t get carried away. He also told me if I had to, I could take drastic action with you. I don’t need preapproval.”

“What’s that?” asked Joey.

“You don’t want to know. If I told you, you’d soil yourself.”

“Huh?”

“First question, where is your father?”

Joey squirmed. He looked out the window. Then he turned back to Farlo, “In the state prison. He’s doing hard time.”

“For what?”

“Dealing, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, pimping, possession, selling stolen goods, and blackmail.”

“You want to end up like him, kid? Or, do you want to make something of yourself? You got a choice, you can be a bum or a blessing.”

“He never forgot me on Christmas when he wasn’t in the pen,” said Joey defensively.

“Next question, “Where’s your mom?”

“Women’s prison for the next twenty to thirty. She might get paroled after fifteen with good behavior,” said Joey.

“For what?”

“Forgery. Intimidation. Posing as a TSA agent. Dealing. Possession. Assault with intent to maim and kill, but she had a reason for the last one. She caught her girlfriend with her boyfriend.”

“You mean she was cheating on your father.”

“Okay, she’s not perfect,” said Joey.

Farlo took out his wallet, he handed Joey two twenties and a sheet of paper, “You’re going to the store and getting only the items on this list. Tina is going with you. She has creds as a therapy dog. If you try to run away, you’ll lose the use of your leg. Bring me back the change and the receipt.”

“You don’t trust me, do you.”

“That’s right. Now move out.”

“I do not work for you,” Joey said, his voice rising in anger.

“Tina!” said Farlo.

Tina growled.

Joey said, “Okay. Okay. I’m going. Tell Tina to chill. Do you have a muzzle? Where’s her leash?”

“She doesn’t need either one,” snapped Farlo.

“Can I get a pack of gum?” asked Joey in a conciliatory tone.

Farlo lifted his cane and gripped the end of it in one hand as if it were a club.

“I’m going. I’m going. Relax.”

Will Joey make a break for it? Will Tina stop him? Who’s Filo

Two More Gigs and You’re Grounded

Joey went into the bathroom. He kicked a towel out of the way. Took a step and kicked another towel out of the way. Took another step and crushed a beer can with his foot. He wasn’t wearing shoes. “Ouch, son of a …”

From outside the room, “You swear it’s a gig. Five gigs and you’re grounded.” Said Farlo. Then a bark, backing up Farlo.

“I’m not a kid. I can swear if I want to,” hollered Joey.

“Poor attitude. This will show up on your weekly evaluation,” said Farlo. Again a bark.

“Get out or I’ll call the cops,” stammered Joey.

“With what? I’m scrolling through your cell phone. I’m deleting your photos and videos. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“They’re all over 18,” said Joey.

“Poor self-esteem to go along with a poor attitude. You may be my toughest assignment,” the sandpapery voiced Farlo said. Then, the barked agreement.

Joey stared into a stained toilet. He closed the lid, sat down on it, and stared at the concentric circles of rings in the bathtub. He turned his head to the right and looked at the small window. For a fleeting moment, he wondered if he could squeeze through and escape.

Farlo interrupted his thoughts, “You’ve got five minutes to clean the bathroom or I’m busting down the door and coming in to kick your ass,” said Farlo.

Joey hollered back, “Hey, that’s a swear. How come you can swear and I can’t?”

“I’m a grown up,” said Farlo.

“How am I supposed to clean the bathroom when I don’t have any stuff to clean it?” said Joey.

“Use your brain, it’s the thing inside your skull. You’ve got four minutes,” Said Farlo, then he banged the door with his cane. Tina growled.

 

Joey got up off the toilet seat. Flushed the toilet and lifted the lid to see if it was clean. No luck. “Damn, damn, damn,” said Joey.

“Two gigs,” said Farlo.

“Not fair,” replied Joey.

“I know,” said Farlo. Tina barked in agreement.

Three minutes later, Joey opened the bathroom door and stood face to face with Farlo. Tina sitting beside him. “Get out of my way,” said Joey.

“It’s inspection time. Go stand by the toilet while I inspect your work,” ordered Farlo.

“No. No. No.” said Joey.

“That’s your third gig, two more and you’re grounded,” said Farlo.

“Who’s gonna make me?” demanded Joey.

Farlo tapped his cane two quick times on the floor. Tina Sprang up. Her front paws resting on Joey’s chest. Her teeth bared.

Joey hollered, “Don’t let her bite me. My face. My face. It’s my treasure. I’ll stand by the toilet.”

Farlo tapped once. Tina sat on her haunches. Her eyes on Joey. Joey turned and walked across the towel and beer can less floor and stood in front of the toilet. Farlo puffed up his chest and walked into the bathroom as if he were General Patton. He stopped at the sink, wiped a finger in the sink bowl, brought the finger up to his face and shook his head. He looked at the towel rack. Shook his head, “The towel is uneven.”

Farlo opened the medicine cabinet. He saw hemorrhoid cream, aspirin, Tums, a condom, and three outdated prescriptions. Farlo shook his head in disapproval. He walked to Joey and stood in front of him. “Step aside and lift the lid.”

Joey took a half step to his left and lifted the toilet lid.

“You call that clean? It’s disgusting.”

“It’s the best I could do.”

“No, it’s not the best you can do,” said Farlo matter-of-factly.

Joey almost swore, but he didn’t want to be grounded.

What is happening? Who sent Farlo? What does Farlo want with Joey? Come by tomorrow.

Has She Had Her Rabies Shot?

The front door opened, Joey jumped back and shouted, “Get her out of here. It will not work. It will not work. Leave and take her with you.”

“You’re overreacting, Joey,” said the old guy.

Tina, a large German shepherd trotted in, walked up to Joey, now frightened and braced against a wall, and sniffed him. She sat in front of him. Her eyes on Joey’s eyes.

“Make her go away. I don’t like dogs. Has she had her rabies shot?” Joey nervously asked.
Joey gently moved his left foot six inches to the left and his back slid six inches with the foot.

Tina growled. Joey brought his foot back.

The old guy walked up and stood beside Tina. He patted her on the head with his left hand. He patted Tina’s head, “Good girl. Don’t let him leave.” The old guy reached into one of his cargo pants’ pockets and pulled out a treat. He fed it to Tina who wagged her tail and greedily looked for another treat.

“How long do I have stand against the wall?” Joey asked.

The old guy ignored Joey’s comment. Instead, he said, “I need to make proper introductions. Tina, this is Joey. He’s lazy. He’s in a dead-end job. No woman will date him; and who can blame them? What’s worse, he doesn’t know what day it is?”

“I do to,” said Joey.

“Yah, what day is it?” asked the old guy.

“It’s, it’s, it’s not Saturday or Sunday, I don’t work weekends. I worked yesterday so it can’t be Monday.”

“You have a four in one chance,” said the old guy.

“This is stupid,” said Joey.

Tina growled.

“Sorry,” said Joey.

“Sorry what?” said the old guy.

Joey thought for a moment. “Sorry Tina?” said Joey.

“That’s better. What day is it?”

“Hey, it’s a trick question. Can I Google it?”

“I see you have a sense of humor, pathetic as it is,” said the old guy.

“I was serious,” said Joey. Then he added. “I really have to go to the bathroom.”

“Tina, he doesn’t know what day it is. Now he wants to go to the bathroom that probably smells worse than a Porta Potty that hasn’t been emptied in two weeks.”

“I was going to clean it over the weekend, whenever that happens.”

“Joey, life as you knew it is over. It’s a new day. Consider me your mentor. Consider Tina your guardian. Now my formal introductions, Joey, this is Tina, a trained killer. Once she accepts you, she’ll be your friend for life. As for me, call me Farlo.”

“I don’t need a mentor. I don’t need a guardian. Why are you here? Do you have a last name? Who are you? I really, really have to go,” said Joey squirming against the wall, his white face now turning a light shade of green.

“Farlo’s the name, straightening out losers is my game. You’re on the top of my list. You can go wee wee or tinkle, whatever. When you finish, start cleaning up. You don’t eat until the house passes inspection. Farlo lifted his can and knocked the bowl of cereal and beer out of Joey’s hand to the floor.

“Look what you did. You’re making a mess,” said Joey.

Who is Farlo and where did he come from? What’s his game and why did he choose Joey?

Your House is a Dump

The old guy stood in the living room. He looked over at the sofa. An opened pizza box rested on one of the cushions. A half empty bag of chips sat next to the pizza box. He shook his head. He looked at the floor. A dozen empty beer cans were scattered around. He turned to Joey and said, “Your house is a dump.”

“You haven’t seen the kitchen, it’s worse,” said Joey hoping the hold guy would take off.

The old guy maneuvered his way around the beer cans. He turned his cane upside side and swung at a can as it were a golf ball. The can lift off the floor and hit Joey in the stomach.”

“Hey, watch it,” said Joey.

“The next one is coming at your head,” said the old guy.

Joey hustled in front of the old guy and kicked two cans out of the way.”

“You don’t like my crib, you can leave. There’s the door,” said Joey extending his arm and pointing to partially open door.

“No, I not leaving. You are going to clean this up, or …”

Joey interrupted him, “Or what?”

The old man put his left hand to his jaw, thought about what he was going to say. The he said, “I don’t like violence as a first response. So, instead of teaching you a lesson. I have my friend who will be living with me make sure you clean this place.”

Joey looked around. He didn’t see anyone. “What friend.”

“She’ll be living with me. Don’t worry, we’ll share the same room,” said the old guy.

No woman tells me what to do. So, forget about it. I like this place just the way it is,” said Joey with an edge of anger in his voice.

“When is the last time you had a girlfriend, kid? Let’s see you’re almost thirty-four, going nowhere. I’ll guess the senior prom.

“I’m not a kid. That’s what you think. I’m a chick magnet when I go out.”

“I got ten dollars you can’t call a woman and get a date for tonight,” said the old man.

“Can,” said Joey.

“Where’s your ten?” said the old guy.

“I’m saving my money,” said Joey.

“You’re broke and payday isn’t for another four days. I’d call you a loser, but I don’t want to insult losers, kid,” said the old guy.

“I’m not a kid. That does it. Get out,” Joey took a step toward the old guy.

The old guy pivoted forty-five degrees and hollered, “Tina, come on in.”

Who is Tina? Will she straighten Joey out? Who is the old guy? And, why did he come to Joey’s house? Come by tomorrow to find out.

Changes Ahead For Scorpios

Joey Ginarco’s iPhone alarm went off. His room was still dark. He stuck his right hand out feeling around for his iPhone. He accidentally brushed it onto the floor. Joey cursed and turned toward the small table he picked up at garage sale for 75 cents and reached for the lamp. He knocked it over.

“Damn, damn, and triple damn,” Joey shouted.

He opened his eyes. He twisted his body a bit to the side and pushed with his feet. He was making progress. His head hung over the side of the bed. He reached down with his right arm and felt around for his iPhone. He felt the charging cord. Good. Joey grabbed hold of it with his hand. He reeled in the the charging cord the way a fisherman reels in a small mouth bass. He took hold of the iPhone with his left hand. The alarm was driving him nuts. With his right hand, he hit the snooze button. Then he turned on the iPhone’s flashlight and searched for his lamp. It was laying on a pile of his clothes. Right on top of his boxers. The boxers with baseballs, footballs, and basketballs all over them. Under his boxers were the same clothes he worn the day before and the day before that. He reached his right arm over the edge of the bed and reached for the lamp. It was just beyond his reach. He scooted another three inches forward. He stretched his arm out and his fingertips felt the base of the lamp. Joey pushed back with his right foot scooting him closer, and closer until …

“Damn, damn, and triple damn,” Joey shouted. He fell off the bed landing on his shoulder. It hurt like hell.

Joey held the lamp with no lamp shade. What’d he expect for 25 cents at the garage sale. He turned the lamp on. The lamp turned on, it didn’t short out. It was the first thing that went right for him this morning.  He stood the lamp on it’s base and reached for his t-shirt. The T-shirt with a huge hamburger with cheese dripping over the sides and the meat too great for the bun to contain. On the other side of his T-Shirt was emblazoned, Tommy’s Tough, But His Hamburgers Are Tender. He pulled the armpits up to his nose and sniff. It had an odor, but not overwhelming to Joey. It passed the sniff test. He clothes were clean enough to wear another day.

Joey rose from the floor, iPhone in hand, set the lamp on the table, and walked to the bathroom. He turned on the radio. The sultry voice of Amy Brown greeted him, “Hey Scorpios, today is your day. You’re going to meet someone who is going to change your life. Keep your eyes open.”

Joey’s first thought, “I hope it’s you Amy.”

Joey’s shoulder was still sore. Not sore enough to go to work at the warehouse, but it was sore enough to call in sick. He deserved a sick day after all. That’s what Joey did, he called in sick, said he had a fever of one oh two.

Joey showered, cleaned up, put on the clothes laying on the floor. He sat on the side of his bed and pulled one athletic white sock on his right foot, then he pulled the other sock on the left foot. He looked at his feet, The big toe on his left foot stuck out through a hole in his sock. He slipped on a pair of Nike’s dirty enough that the N for Nike was only partially visible. He left the shoes untied and walked into the kitchen. He walked over to the sink to get a glass of water. All of his glasses were dirty and in the sink embedded with four days’ worth of dirty dishes. He gave a thought to putting them all in the trash and buying paper plates. It was a big decision, he had to think about it. He opened the cabinet door to the left of the sink and pulled out a box of Frosted Flakes. Since there were no clean bowls, he reached into a drawer and looked for a spoon. There were no clean spoons. He walked over to the sink, moved plates, glasses, and pans around, and found the cereal bowl he used two days ago. He ran water in it and set it on the counter. He found a spoon, wiped it off on his shirt and carried the cereal, bowl and spoon to his table.

Joey sat down, poured Frosted Flakes into his bowl, then stopped. He needed milk. He needed coffee. Why does life have to be so complicated he thought. He pushed his chair back, stood and walked over to the fridge. He opened it, he saw two bottles of beer. An opened jar of dill pickles. A wedge of cheese with blue stuff growing on it. And a piece of pizza. He couldn’t remember when he put the pizza in the fridge. No milk. He grabbed a bottle of beer.

He’d get his coffee later at the coffee shop.

He walked back to the table, sat down, opened the beer and poured some onto his cereal and some into his mouth. He his chest and belched. Joey dug his spoon into his cereal and took his first bite. He liked the taste. He made a mental note to write to Kellogg’s and tell them to push beer with cereal for a new taste. He might make some money. Before he took his second bite, the doorbell rang. And rang. And rang. Whoever was ringing the doorbell wouldn’t stop ringing it.

Joey carried his bowl of beer and cereal and spoon to the front door. He opened it, and standing in front of him stood a small stalky, fireplug looking guy with a gray burr cut. His cube shaped head was topped by a short crew cut. Age spots sprinkled across the man’s face. To Joey the guy looked ready for the mortuary, at least 80, maybe older.  Joey looked at the guy’s faded black and silver muscle shirt, a tattoo of a clenched fist on his right bicep, a long nasty scar on his left bicep. The pockets on his cargo pants bulged.

The old man leaned a bit on a wooden cane held in his right hand. He stared at Joey through black plastic rimmed glasses. “Well?” he said.

“Well, what? I don’t have any money,” said Joey taking another bite of his beer and cereal.

“I’m renting a room in your house. I want to see it first,” said the old guy.

“I not renting a room, what are you talking about?” asked Joey.

The old guy dug into on of his cargo pants pockets, fished around, and pulled out and torn paper with newsprint. “Says here you do. Now move aside and we’ll talk about it,” the old said motion Joey with his cane.

Joey, even without perfect posture stood a bit over six feet. He looked down at the five feet five inch man, “If you don’t leave, I’m going to kick you in the ass and toss you out in the street. Beat it.”

The old guy took a half step toward Joey and said, “You want this across your head?”

The old guy waved his wooden can at Joey. Joey instinctively stepped back. The old guy stepped into Joey’s living room.

Joey thought about it.  He could charge the old guy. Make him clean the house. He might be better than having a dog. Joey said, “Okay, but leave my beer alone.”

Who is this guy? What is going to say to Joey? Is it Joey’s lucky day?

 

Have You Had Your Flute Shot?

La Flor’s eating the omelet LC prepared for her. LC is working on leftover pizza heated in the microwave. Lil Carlo is having a difficult time chewing his Pop Tart with his uppers and lowers sitting on a plate on the table. Me? I wish a cable network would pick up this reality show and add to my cash flow. Instead, a knock on the door. At this hour? Who could it be? The answer comes quickly, too quickly. Ready on to find out.

“Open up, it’s da police. I mean da cops? I means do use have donuts?”

I walked to the front door. I didn’t bother to ask for ID. I know who it is. It’s O’Leary. The donut eating, crappy coffee chuggy, portly Irish defective. Oops, I mean detective.

“Hey, O’Leary, what’s up?” I said.

Before O’Leary can step foot in the door. I heard LC’s voice from the breakfast bar, “How they hanging O’Leary?”

I hollered back, “LC, it’s a family blog! Knock it off?”

“Get a life, Ray,” said a protective La Flor.

Those two are deep into each other. I didn’t see it coming. It was the Francine Peony  that fused their emotions and lit a five alarm fire.

O’Leary hollers to LC, “I’ll let use know after I has a jelly donuts. I’m going off my diet. Life’s too short not to enjoy da finer tings of life.”

A jelly donut is a finer thing of life? Go figure.

O’Leary and I walked to the kitchen, dining room area, which fused together in what used to be my cozy, just the right size open space home. I said, “What was so tough about the glazed donut diet?”

“Use don’t wants to know. But I will tells use anyhow.”

He’s right, I don’t want to know.

“Foist, use wouldn’t tink so, but the glaze on the glazed donuts increased my appeals to the opposite sex I was fighting them off wit both hands. At foist, I taught it was my poisonality (this is how O’Leary talks, no grammar police, por favor).”

“It wasn’t?” I said to move the conversation along. We reached the breakfast bar.

“I gots admit, I has a poisonality women that attracts women.”

He’s delusional.

Before O’Leary continued, he saw Lil Carlo, known to O’Leary as Dr. Funguli, “Good morning Doc. Use making a house call?”

Lil Carlo looks at O’Leary. He slipped his teeth in, and said, “It’s da flute season. I’m here to give flute shots. Use had yours?”

O’Leary said, “No tanks, I gots my flute shot wit a piccolo booster last month.”

Are they all nuts?

LC got off his bar stool went to the counter and brought over a tray of assorted donuts for O’Leary. LC said, “I gots use the finest donut buffet Joey can make.”

“O’Leary’s eyes glazed over, just like the donuts. Whatever his next thought was, it left him. He pulled two breakfast bar stools together and sat on them. Yes, he need two stools, one for each cheek. O’Leary took a strawberry powdered sugar donut in his right and a cream filled, powdered sugar donut in his left. He alternated bites.

Over at the table, Lil Carlo was playing with his gun. His teeth were back out.

La Flor quit eating her breakfast. A mild look of nausea on her face.

“What’s wrong, La Flor?” I whispered.

La Flor whispered back, “O’Leary is making me sick. Look at the strawberry jelly dripping out of his mouth. He rubbed his hair with the powdered sugar all over his hands, now he’s gray. We’ve got to do something.”

“What?” I asked.

“I don’t know. You’re the blog writer,” said La Flor.

At that moment door crashed against the wall, my reinforced hinges snapped off. I heard a large ka thump on the floor. It could mean only one thing …

“Hey, Ray. It’s me, Big Carmen.

“Daddy!” shouted LC

“The second most handsome man on the planet,” exclaimed La Flor.

“Boss,” said Lil Carlo.

“Doc, you works for Big Carmen?” said O’Leary.

Lil Carlo said, “I’m da official company physician.. Today I’m giving physics. Use wants one?”

“No tanks, Dr. Funguli,” said O’Leary stuffing another filled donut into his mouth.

“I’ve come wit exciting news,” said Big Carmen.

I can hardly wait to hear it. What bank are they going to knock over? What warehouse are they going to hit?

Everyone but O’Leary who was busy eating looked at Big Carmen, “Tomorrow, not tonight, we is all heading to Sicily for a family reunion and extended vacation,  while the heat blows over if use knows whats I mean.”

O’Leary’s ears perked up, “Use guys are so lucky. Dis hot spell is a killer. Makes sures use guys takes sunscreen.”

“I’ll sends use a postcard O’Leary from da boss of bosses,” said LC.

“Gives him my best, he must own a big pizza chain,” said O’Leary.

“Use could say dat,” said Big Carmen.

La Flor turned to LC, “Take me shopping my handsome stallion.”

The next day La Flor, LC, Big Carmen, Carmela, TT, and Lil Carlo all boarded a private jet and took off for Rome for a connection to Sicily. La Flor asked me to leave her alone for a few weeks – will do. A new and exciting story begins tomorrow.

 

 

Have Hemorrhoids – Need Treatment?

I hardly slept. La Flor and LC went off to bed excitedly talking about the next caper. O’Leary is tracking down the perps who demolished Francine Peony’s home. La Flor told O’Leary Francine did it for the insurance. The crazy part, I’ve never seen La Flor happier. She’s in love with LC. LC is in love with her. She loves Big Carmen, LC’s father and head of the mob. And, I have a 70 year old hit man, short, skinny, big beak, ears that can lift him off his feet if the wind gusts over 30 mph taking up residence in my house until the heat blows over. What’s wrong? Plenty. Let’s find out.

“Hey Ray, where’s breakfast?” demanded Lil Carlo.

Lil Carlo has his shirt off, he’s wearing a tank top t-shirt. I see a tattoo of a nude woman on his skinny left bicep. He’s got his unfastened shoulder holster draping over his shoulders. His gun isn’t in his holster, it’s in his hand.

“You want a bagel? Oatmeal?”

“You got Fruit Loops?”

“No.”

“How about Pop Tarts?”

“No.”

“What kinda joint is dis? Any respectable joint gots Pop Tarts. It’s got Fruit Loops. It’s got real butter. It’s got whipped cream. It’s got gelato. You got gelato?”

“No.”

“What’s wrong wit use? Use is gonna have to change use act, if use wanna stay on my good side, said Lil Carlo staring down the barrel of his gun.

“What’s your good side?” I asked.

“Dis side over here,” he said pointing to his left side with his gun.

“I’ll remember that. How do you stay so thin, eating that kind of food?”

“It’s my metabolism. I can eat anyting if use put marinara sauce and cheese on it but kale and Brussels sprouts.”

The lovers make their entrance, AKA La Flor and LC, “Where’s breakfast, Ray?” asked La Flor.

“I jus asked him da same question. He got no good answers for me, or for anybody else as far as that goes. I got to say, my trigger fingers gets itchy when my blood sugar gets low.”

I took a 20 out and handed it LC, make an emergency run for me, LC. Get Lil Carlo whatever he wants. Pick up something for La Flor and you.”

LC brushes my hand aside. “Keep the Jackson. My beautiful, tough, and edgy dynamo will gets food for use and the company we expects to drops by now and then,” said LC.

“That’s generous, LC,” I said with a sense of gratitude.

“Not to mention it. We’re not paying for it. We’ll appropriate it from the Logan’s chain warehouse.”

“You’re going to steal it?” I said, my sense of gratitude evaporated.

“No. Rocco works there to supplement his income. I’ll call him and tell him to have it ready to go,” said LC.

“Rocco’s stealing it,” I said.

“Wrongo, Ray. Sorry for using Spanish. Rocco is packaging it for redistribution and we’s the re-distributors. Chow (that’s how he said it instead of ciao).”

As La Flor and LC are walking out O’Leary is walking in. I hear him say, “Can use make it three dozen glazed, I’m on a diet?”

O’Leary walks into the living room. He stops when he sees Lil Carlo and his gun. “Dr. Funguli what are use doing with a gun?”

Lil Carlo appears confused for moment, then catches up. “Tanks for noticing. Dis is not a gun. It only looks like a gun. It’s the latest thing to put suppositories where they supposed to go. It’ll hold six suppositories at once. If da hemorrhoids are real bad, it’ll shoot all six up at once. You got hemorrhoids need treatment? I can help?

“No tanks, I still have cream in the medicine cabinet,” said O’Leary.

I break this conversation, “What’s up with the investigation of the explosion at Peony’s house?” I asked.

Before he can answer, La Flor and LC walk in. LC’s carrying four boxes. La Flor is holding his hand guiding him. She doesn’t do boxes or bags. LC sets the boxes down, “Here’s use Fruit Loops and Pop Tarts, Lil, I means Dr. Funguli. Here’s three boxes of glazed, O’Leary. Here’s a case of veggie burgers, Ray-mo. As for us, we gots our coffee and breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks. It’s nice how they donated them to us. The barista said we was the 73rd customer the day. So’s we the lucky ones.”

I don’t want to ask. I don’t want to know.

“Man, dees glazed are da bomb,” said O’Leary.

“It’s all in da glaze,” said Lil Carlo or Dr. Funguli.

“I stooped by to tells use, Peony cracked and signed a confession this morning,” said O’Leary.

“She did?” I said.

“Yah. It happened after her new lawyer, Joey “the mistrial” Bugali talked to her.

LC bumps me with his elbow, “He’s Big Carmen’s lawyer.”

O’Leary continued, “It’s not going to court. Mickey “The Calzone” Donati got her to agree not to ask for insurance and she promised to invite him to her next party.

“I knew she was guilty. I knew it. I knew it,” said La Flor.

“Use was right, beautiful, tough, and edgy kid,” said O’Leary trying unsuccessful to sound like a noir PI. Then he added, “I gots to run. Chow mein.” Did he mean ciao?

La Flor motions us all to the table, “I’m only going to say this softly, so listen up. It’s on for tonight. Be ready to go at 11.”

“Huh?”

What’s on for 11 tonight? She’s excited? LC’s excited. Lil Carlo is gnawing a Pop Tart with his false teeth. Come back tomorrow to find out.

Open Up, It’s The Police

Lil Carlo sits in the passenger seat, he’s Big Carmen’s 70 year old hit man. The one with long nose and big ears. He sells beats to supplement his senior income. The two in the backseat, La Flor and LC, are passionately engaged. Me? I’m scared to death. I’m an accomplice before and after the fact. The Feds will be all over this case. LC used an explosive to bust open the door to Francine Peony’s mansion. I hope she’s in good hands, because she is going to need insurance. The night didn’t end when we left the scene of the crime. Keep reading to see what happened.

I hear La Flor talking to LC in the backseat as we pull into the driveway, “This kind of excitement turns me so on. We’ve got to do again. Can you get more explosives?”

Lil Carlo adjusts his hearing aid, “Mind repeating that?”

La Flor and LC ignore him, they’re back at it. It’s a family blog, I won’t go into details.

Ten minutes later we’re back, sitting in the living room.

“Want me to call you a handsome cab, Lil Carlo?” I said. Hey, I’m trying to make a joke and cut the tension.

“No tanks. Use got an extra bedroom? I’m gonna lay low until the heat blows over.”

“You moving in?” I said.

“Only temporarily until it ain’t temporary. Know what I mean?”

Unfortunately, I do.

“I’m starvin. I gots to eats to keep my energy tonight,” said LC.

“Ray, make LC a steak. All you did was stand around. You were no help,” said La Flor.

“I don’t eat steak. Remember I’m a vegetarian,” I said.

“You need help. I can find you a support group. I suppose you want to save the dolphins, the whales, stray dogs and cats, and guppies. You veggies are all alike,” said La Flor.

“What’s wrong with that? They’re veggie burgers in the freezer. Four frozen quinoa burritos. Left over Pad Thai with tofu, and 12 Quest power bars.”

“Make LC a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pronto. I don’t want him to go out on me,” said La Flor.

Before I can turn toward the kitchen, I hear the squealing of tires, the slamming of a car door, and fist banging on my front door.

“Open up, it’s the police.”

“Somebody let O’Leary in. Lil Carlo, take off your latex gloves,” I said.

Lil Carlo put his right hand up to his mouth to pull his latex glove off with his teeth. He gave a good pull. The glove is still affixed to his hand. His teeth, uppers and lowers, affixed to his glove. His upper and lower lips are curled around his toothless gums.

I’th gonna kilth tha denthis,” Lil Carlo muttered.

O’Leary’s first words from the doorway, “I’m starvin, Marvin. Use got any donuts?”

I’m partially prepared, “There are two boxes of Sara Lee frozen pastries in the freezer. LC, do you mind putting them in the microwave for O’Leary?”

“If I can share?” said LC.

“Why are coming by so late?” I asked. I hoped he didn’t give me an answer I didn’t want to hear.

“Did use hear the implosion? It couldn’t happened more than ten minutes after I left for Joey’s. The chief was all over me until I gave him my to go bag from Joey’s. One bite and he understood. That’s why I’m starvin, Marvin.”

“It happened at Francine’s mansion?” asked La Flor with a look and voice of innocence.

“Wrecked the house. Glad no one was home. You almost done microwaving them?” said O’Leary.

“I just found them. They was hiding under leftover rice cauliflower,” said LC.

“Never mind microwaving. I’ll eat mine frozen,” said O’Leary hitching up his belt under the overlay of his belly.

“What was the cause? Any ideas?” the sweet demure La Flor asked.

“Das why I stooped by (yes, he said stooped instead of stopped). Use guys hear anyting,” said O’Leary.

Before anyone could answer, he noticed Lil Carlo and the latex gloves he was wearing. “I don’t tinks we ever met? Why are use wearing latex gloves? You’re not latex sensitive, are you?”

Lil Carlo got his teeth back in before O’Leary saw him. Lil Carlo may be 70 years old with a dirty, worn old guy’s golfing cap, but he is quick as a whip. Lil Carlo said, “My name is Dr. Funguli. I just finished giving Ray his procto. Would you like one? No charge for the police.”

O’Leary blanched turning from his normal pink cherubic face to white as a winter’s snow. “No, no tanks, but tanks for the office.”

LC carrying Sara Lee from the kitchen to the living room said, “I never had one, and I ain’t gonna ever has one, if use know what I mean.”

LC hands a box labled, All Butter Pound Cake to O’Leary. “Dis is for starters. When use finishes, the second course is the whole Banana Crème pie.”

“Use is the best friend a cop can have,” O’Leary said almost teary eyed overcome with emotion.

La Flor butted in, “I’m a trained PI, O’Leary. I have two leads for you to check out. I’m pretty sure either one will pan out for you and you’ll get a commendation.”

Okay, La Flor’s running some kind of game. I can’t quite figure it out.”

“I heards of use reputation, beautiful, tough and edgy world-class PI,” said O’Leary with mouthful of pound cake. His cheeks puffed out like a squirrel carrying nuts. I wondered if O’Leary was storing food for later.

“First, O’Leary, Francine Peony is not what she appears to be,” said La Flor.

“Use means she’s not a woman, with that cleavage?” said O’Leary.

“It’s not as good as mine. And, you can tell she’s not real. I’m only going to say this once, Francine blew up her own mansion for the insurance,” said La Flor.

I want to scream, ‘You can’t say that,’ but I feel Lil Carlo’s gun pressed against my spine.

LC says, “May I, beautiful, tough, and edgy woman turned on by excitement.”

“Take it home you tough as a tiger, strong as an ox and handsome as Adonis hunk of male,” said La Flor. It sounded as if she were growling.

“Here’s da utter ting, did use notice a whiff of gas when we was speaking wit use about Joey’s donuts ?”

“No. Do you tink a gas line exploded?” said O’Leary.

“If the dame didn’t do it. The gas line did it,” those da only two or four choices use gots,” said LC.

O’Leary grabbed hold of the remains of his two boxes and said, “I gotta go. I’m gonna bust this case wide open.”

La Flor went up to O’Leary and grabbed him by his jacket lapels, “Grill her until she snaps. Don’t let up. She’ll crack. I’ve seen the type. Tough on the outside, mush on the inside. Slap her around if she gets fresh. She’ll wise up.”

“Tanks for the tips,” said O’Leary rushing out of the house.

“La Flor, that was wrong, so wrong,” I said.

“I know she’s bad, Ray. I’m convinced she’s guilty.”

“Reality check. It was us.”

“Minor details. LC carry me off,” said La Flor.

Me? I’m sitting at the living room table staring at Lil Carlo trying to get his latex gloves off. Want to see where this story is heading? Come by tomorrow.