CHURCH, The Television Show
After he got out of The Music Man’s car, Noodle reached into his pocket for his house keys. They weren’t there. He took off his coat and frantically checked all his pockets, but he couldn’t find them anywhere. And his cell phone had run out of battery.
Noodle lay down on his front porch in the freezing winter cold. He lay there for two hours until the sun came up.
Then he remembered The Manager’s twenty dollar bill. It was more than enough to make a pay phone call, wake a friend at dawn, and ask them to deliver his spare keys.
At seven in the morning, he finally made it to bed to sleep.
When Noodle awoke, he texted The Manager.
‘Thanks for that twenty bucks, it totally saved me from being homeless!’
On the train to work Noodle thought he caught men watching him; street gangs holding down the last few seats of the subway car.
They recognized him, but he didn’t know who they were.
` When he got to work he placed The Manager’s twenty dollar bill on the desk and slid it across the table top.
The Manager slid it back. “Keep it,” he said.
Noodle pushed it back once more. “You have no idea what this twenty dollars did for me…its value was much more than the number printed on its face.”
“I got your text. It saved you from being homeless?”
“Yeah! I must have lost my keys. I couldn’t get into my house, my phone was out of batteries, and I was freezing!”
“Keep the twenty dollars.”
“I didn’t earn it, I can’t accept it.”
“Fine Noodle, have it your way,” The Manager said and took back the money.
“Remember the other day you were talking my ear off about how fun snowboarding is?”
“Yeah, I remember that.”
“It sounded like you were inviting me, but when all this is over, when this rain dries up, let’s rent two really fast bikes and put a whole lot of dry pavement behind us!”
“Okay. But before that, are you going to come to The Company Christmas party?”
“I don’t know, I’ll think about it,” Noodle said. As he left the office, he cut through coat check and ran into The Roommate.
“Hey doll, are you going to that Company Christmas party?”
“I don’t think so; I don’t hang out with anybody from work.”
“The boyfriend and I don’t drink or do drugs. I only talk to The Manager,” she answered.
On Monday, Noodle had dinner with The Uncle at The Sandwich Shop.
“Did The Tenant give you rent?”
“I got it, but you know what? I lost my keys, and the money is locked inside my file cabinets.”
“Do you know where you lost them?”
“If I knew where, then they wouldn’t be lost! But the last place I had them was inside my jacket in Majesty’s employee coat room.”
“You should look there.”
“I did. They must have fallen out somewhere else. Although sometimes I get the feeling that someone could have taken them.”
“Who would do that?”
“I’m not saying it happened, it’s a possibility. When we’re done eating will you give me a lift to the HomeStore? I’ll buy new sets of locks in case someone tries to use what I lost.”
When Noodle got home he put the new locksets on the kitchen table and grabbed a screw driver to disassemble his file cabinets. He removed the desktop and reached inside the aluminum cabinets to access the fasteners holding the rail actuated by cylindrical locks. After all of the screws had been removed the metal pieces slid apart and the drawers opened absent of the locking mechanism.
“Here’s your revenue for the month,” Noodle said. “I have no idea how I’m going to get new locks for these cabinets – this situation has really compromised my security!”
The next evening Noodle went to Southern Kitchen for a chicken dinner. He also wanted to pick up a gram of marijuana to relax. But he didn’t want anyone to follow him there; he was tired of being pursued.
He valued his privacy, he endeavored to protect it; Noodle dug up clothes from deep inside his closet that he had never even seen before.
He put pants on that he had never worn and covered himself in a black, puffy down jacket that he didn’t even like. He pulled the oversized hood over his head until the only thing showing through was the tip of his nose and a small bit of eyes.
Adorned in clothes he had never before worn, he could be sure that there were no trackers stitched in the seams of his wardrobe.
And there were no descriptions that could have identified this bundle as Noodle Church. When he looked in the mirror there was no skin he recognized as his own.
He stepped into the blistering cold and walked a mile to The Southern Kitchen in complete anonymity.
‘Come over my house, I’m just chilling,’ Tomcat answered his text.
Tomcat made his living selling small potatoes in The Neighborhood he’d grown up in. It wasn’t a big deal, in his day the product was decriminalized. He was the perfect medium boiled man for this job.
At ten p.m., below twenty degrees, it was unusual for anyone to be walking outside on the street, but Noodle passed two people. Along the way, he realized he’d walked several blocks too far. So he texted Tomcat again for directions and turned around.
On his way back, it seemed like there were even more people on the street; an older couple across from him, and another behind him walking their dog. When he stopped, they stopped; and they diverted their eyes from his direction.
Noodle got the feeling that he was being followed to Tomcat’s house. But that would be crazy! He’d never even worn those clothes before; he didn’t recognize himself; so how on earth would anyone know who he was?
He again passed Tomcat’s street, this time in the opposite direction, and stopped. The people behind him stopped. The people in front of him stopped. The people across from him stopped and waited for his next move.
Noodle considered the ballet around him to be unusual – but he wasn’t crazy – there was no way anybody could be tracking him.
“I told you I live a block from The Diamond Club. Don’t you know where that is?” Tomcat asked while taking a hold of Noodle’s hand.
“I don’t know what that is.”
“You’ve never heard of the Diamond Club before!”
“Nope, is that a jewelry store or something?” Noodle asked. “Tomcat, I’ve been wondering, how are you protected?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, there’s a hundred years of history in The Metropolis of neighborhoods fighting in the street. And you literally work in the streets.”
“It’s not like that anymore.”
“Well, there’s forty years history of Gang rivalry between MetroNorth’s Seamus McCafferty and Old Town.”
“Yeah, but that’s over.”
“It doesn’t seem over in The City. I meet people who say they control everything, who say they are protected, people who seem like they’d like to control a guy like you. Who are you with?”
“Nobody, I’m Independent!”
“Well they’re asking me strange questions at work like where I live, who I date, where I eat, and who owns my house; like they’re trying to break inside my life. I feel like they’re trying to dig up dirt or something.”
“Do you have something to hide?”
“No. I’ve never said anything about them – and I’ve never stolen from them. But people who act friendly toward seem like their mining information to use down the road. It puts me off if my employer’s not looking out for me. I’ve seen a lot of people get hurt there, and I’m careful not to do anything wrong.”
“What’s the worst they could do?”
“Steal your love; fucked your girlfriend, steal your dreams, and take your happiness?”
“If she went and fucked someone else – that’s on her. Good ridden.”
“What if they raped her?”
“If they did that, I’d kill them.”
“Sure, if you could find out who had done it. But that wouldn’t fix what was done, and you’d still have to get away with murder, which is impossible if you’re being tracked everywhere you go.”
“I’m sure it’s not that bad. I don’t know who you work for – so I don’t know what they’re capable of.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve never worn any of these clothes before; I didn’t want to lead anyone to your house. I wanted to remain unrecognizable.”
“Who do you work for again?”
“I didn’t say!” Noodle answered.
“Tomcat! Tomcat! Come downstairs so I can talk to you,” a voice called up the stairs.
“I gotta go Noodle,” Tomcat said. “Be safe out there!”