April 16, 2022
The grungy, working class appeal of a South Boston neighborhood. Just days away from the Boston Marathon, but there’s nothing special about today. It’s gloomy, overcast, and the people are going about their business. In the distance, some dog won’t shut the fuck up.
A blue car pulls up to the curb before coming to a stop. The driver, a bearded young man with sharp blue eyes, claps his hands together and gestures toward a brick house slightly raised above the nearby sidewalk.
“That’s it,” says Pat Cassidy of the Saturday Night Specials. “That, my friend, is casa d’nana.”
The passenger – a slightly older man with dark black hair – leans forward, squinting in the mid-day sun to get a clear look.
“You sure you need me to come in?” asks Brock Newbludd.
“Buddy,” Cassidy responds, “you’ve to be there for this. We’re headed into WAR in this survivor deal and we need every advantage we can get.”
“Yeah – sure. It’s just…” Brock’s hand raises up to rub the back of his neck uncomfortably. “I’m not sure your family likes me all that much.”
“What? Why would you think that?”
Brock puts on a “you know damn well why” look before responding. “Siobhan brought me to Christmas. I was pumped to meet the family. But… well, they were pretty cold, man. You saw, you were there. I didn’t walk away from that with warm fuzzy feelings. It’s tough when your girlfriend’s family doesn’t seem excited that you’re dating.”
As Brock is speaking, Pat’s face morphs from confused to amused.
“Newbludd, my friend,” Cassidy says, grinning, “that wasn’t personal. My family are a bunch of dickheads, dude. Father? Dickhead? Brothers? Dickheads? Shithead nephews? Dickheads. That’s just their natural state of being. I think they actually liked you a bunch.”
“Oh, bullshit,” says an unconvinced Brock. “You’re just saying that.”
“Nah, I’m 100% serious here. You got to understand, you’re not in the midwest anymore. This is the northeast. We’re pricks, man. We don’t go for all the friendly stuff. The fact that a fight didn’t break out when Uncle Donnell got drunk should be enough to tell you Christmas went well. Now, let’s get our big boy pants on and go visit Nana. Besides…”
Cassidy reaches over to slap his tag partner on the shoulder. “You’re a hit with the elderly. Ask Siobhan to break down our social media bullshit with you someday. You’re all over Facebook.”
“What I’m saying is old people love you. Besides,” Cassidy looks back to the house. “She’s like eight million years old. She’ll probably have no clue who you are. Let’s do this.”
Both of our heroes exit the vehicle, with Cassidy in particular taking a second to really breathe in his hometown. He beats his chest twice before opening his arms wide. “MY PEOPLE!”
Nobody in the immediate area feels it necessary to respond to him. Both Saturday Night Specials make their way through the creaky iron gate before walking up the concrete steps to the front of Cassidy’s Nana’s door. Despite the fact that it’s April, a Christmas wreath hangs in the center. Smiling, Pat rings the doorbell. Brock shifts uncomfortably, but Cassidy makes a “don’t worry, we got this” motion. He rings the doorbell again as both stand in anticipation.
Finally, the white door swings open. In front of SNS stands Nana Cassidy: a short, frowning, gray-haired woman in a pink bathrobe and slippers with a lit cigarette in her right hand. She stares angrily at the two large men standing in front of her. When she speaks, it’s gruff and hoarse.
“Get lost,” Nana Cassidy growls. “I don’t want whatever the hell it is that you’re selling.”
She goes to shut the door, but a firm Pat Cassidy hand stops her momentum. Her eyes suddenly are full of fire.
“Don’t make me get my gun!! I’ve killed men half as tough as you!!”
“Nan!” barks Cassidy. “It’s me! It’s Paddy, Nan!”
The venom drains from Nana’s eyes – but only slightly. She’s still suspicious. “You mean Charlene’s boy?”
Pat beams. “That’s right! You know me! How are ya!?”
Nana’s guard does not come down. “What do you want? You get a good report card and you’re looking for cash?”
Behind Cassidy, Brock Newbludd stifles a laugh. Pat looks bewildered. “Nan… I’m twenty-seven years old.”
Nana Cassidy looks her grandson up and down. “Coulda fooled me. Who’s your little buddy here?”
Brock steps in front of his partner, clearing his throat and extending his hand. “Brock Newbludd, mam. Pleasure to meet you. I’m not only Pat’s tag team partner and co-business owner, but I’m dating your granddaughter Siobhan. I’d like you to know my intentions are pure and we’re very much in love.”
Brock’s extended hand hangs in the air uncomfortably. Behind him, Pat massages his forehead in second hand embarrassment. Nana Cassidy looks completely through Brock, speaking over his shoulder to her grandson. “This clown always like this?”
Brock frowns and pulls his hand back. Cassidy decides it’s time to get down to business.
“Look, Nan… as warm and welcoming as you are, this isn’t actually a social call. It’s about business. We… we need to learn your ways of… the puzzle.”
Brock turns to his fellow Saturday Night Special with a flabbergasted look on his face, mouthing silently: “the ways of the puzzle?” Cassidy’s raised hand says it all without any words: “don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.”
Nana’s eyes narrow. She sticks her head out of the door for the first time. Looks left. Looks right.
“Come in. Now.”
And with that, The Saturday Night Specials are inside Nana’s sanctuary. The door slams behind them. The Christmas wreath falls to the ground.
If a house could somehow LOOK like the smell of cigarettes, this is the one. It’s got all the staples of an old person house: the yellow wallpaper. The ancient carpeting. The displayed china. Tons of kitch on the walls. The PRIME tag team is following this little old lady as she leads them to a backroom. The door opens, she flips a switch… and Brock’s eyes go wide. Pat elbows him in the ribs with the satisfaction of someone who told ya so.
Adoring the room on every wall, framed as if they were the Mona Lisa… are dozens of completed puzzles. Nana, for the first time on this adventure, drops the aggressive act and is beaming. She motions to the nearest puzzle: it’s men storming the beaches of Normandy during World War II.
“That one took me under a week,” she croaks. “It would have broken a lesser woman. And this…”
She points to a huge, poster sized puzzle of Frank Sinatra. Ol’ blue eyes has never looked better than in puzzle form on this old bag’s ugly wallpaper.
“That’s my favorite,” Nana says. Is she swooning?
“Alright,” says Pat, clapping his hands together once in anticipation. “Here’s the deal, Nan. Me and Newbludd here are in a competition.”
“What kind of competition?”
“Yeah, but see… we wanna become the champs, see? Well, we already ARE the champs, but in DEFIANCE not PRIME. We’d like to be double champs, right? Like we’re gonna take over the world.”
Nana is rapidly losing interest. She folds her arms. “I don’t know anything about no belts.”
“But you know a lot about puzzles,” says Brock. “We need to get really good at puzzles really fast. If we’re gonna win the belts, we have to climb this ladder and then slide down and then put puzzles together.”
Nana’s blank stare. She looks to Brock. She looks to Pat. She leans in… looking somewhat concerned. “Are you two on the devil’s lettuce right now?”
The Saturday Specials look at each other. Shrug. “Not to the best of my knowledge,” responds Pat.
“Fine.” Nana breaks out into a smile. “You boys wanna learn about puzzles? I can teach you about puzzles… but not here. We’ve got a bridge game down at The Legion tonight. Me and the crew… we can show you about puzzles. Provided…”
A wide, wrinkly grin. “You buy the drinks at the game tonight.”
Another glance between The Saturday Night Specials. They appear to communicate via telepathy before Pat fires his Nana a thumbs up. “Deal.”
Nana turns and walks out the door, cackling to herself. Pat shrugs in response to his partner. “Come on… it’s a bunch of old folks. How much could they drink?”
Thirteen Hours Later….
Brock Newbludd opens his eyes. For a brief second, his heart skips a beat as he believes he may have gone blind… but then his vision begins to clear. As the haze lifts, he also lifts his head from the wooden table on which it was resting. Scanning the room, the first thing he sees is Pat: not resting his head on the table, but full on passed out and sprawled out on the grungy wood floor. As he continues to scan the room, he realizes where he is.
American Legion Post 76.
The bridge game.
Wait… what happened?
“Dude,” he kicks Cassidy’s downed form. Pat’s head, eyes glazed over, suddenly pops up.
“I’ll fuck em up!” he cries… second before realizing where he is. He turns to look at Brock. “Sorry. I was dreaming we were in the cage with Fuse and Garland. I was shoving… wait.” Cassidy blinks. Looks around. Realizes that they are sitting in the dark in an empty bar with the lights off – the only glow coming from a jukebox hanging on a wall to the left of them. Confusion. “What the fuck happened?”
“I think… I think your Nana and her friends fucking drugged us.” He reaches into his pocket… coming up empty handed.
That statement hangs in the air for a second. Pat, who also checked his pants pockets and found nothing, seems to be considering. Finally, he sighs. Shrugs. And then… smiles.
Brock squints his eyes, looking at his partner in confusion. “That’s an interesting reaction to the news that we got taken for a ride by a group of senior citizens.”
“Man… Nana is really getting soft in her old age. She didn’t even kill us!” he says with a grin. “She’s really turned a corner, man.”
Brock sits in the chair, rubbing his tired eyes with his right hand. “So much for learning about puzzles.”
“I don’t think we should sweat it,” Cassidy says, also taking a seat. “I have a Plan B. In the meantime…”
Cassidy gestures around… reminding his tag partner that they are, in fact, locked inside a bar. Brock considers this fact. “What time you think they open this place up?”
“I’d say we’ve got… at least five hours.”
The Saturday Night Specials break into identical smiles.
“Let’s do this.”