Joey attended Sabrina’s pickleball tournament with Vinny, Robin, Finch, and Finch’s roommate Gord. Sabrina had invited Robin to come herself and Joey got the impression he was too afraid of her to decline. And Joey had invited Finch and Gord at church the Sunday before. Gord claimed to be very interested in pickelball. Finch had merely grunted, which Joey took as acceptance. Finch seemed to communicate mostly through eyebrow movements and grunting. It was largely impossible to understand, so Joey just interpreted it however he wanted to. That was why Finch now owned a cat Joey had named Eartha.
Vinny picked up Joey and Robin in their nona’s Mercury Sable. Then they drove to Finch and Gord’s building to get them as well. Robin looked stunned and also slightly horrified to find Finch and his roommate waiting outside for them. It only got worse when Finch had to cram himself into the middle seat in the back between Robin and Gord. Robin looked a little like he might never be the same again. He was clearly going through some kind of crisis. Joey took a photo of them with his phone.
“Memories,” he said in explanation when Robin turned to him in horror instead. Finch grunted. Gord wriggled his arm out from where Finch’s shoulder had had it pinned to the back of the seat and reached forward to high five Joey. Joey really liked Gord. He had only met him a handful of times, first at church and then later at Finch’s surprise birthday party. Gord sang Abba songs a lot of the time, but he also sang The Eagels often and he knew most of the words to “Spirit In the Sky”. He dressed almost exclusively in clothes from the 1970s. He also made hilarious observations about everybody participating in the tournament, starting with Sabrina’s pickle ball partner.
“He looks like Adam Lambert,” Gord commented as they took their seats in the bleachers. “But if Adam Lambert was a fat woman.”
“He’s her new partner,” Joey explained. “It used to be our Uncle Sal, but they asked him to leave the league and also the Evergreen Seniors Pickleball Association because he kept whipping wiffle balls at eighty year old women.”
“Fucking hell of a backhanded serve, though,” Vinny cut in, lighting a cigarette. The lady sitting on the opposite side of him paused in her conversation to glare at him, but Vinny either didn’t notice or didn’t care.
“How often do you two come to these things?” Robin asked from the other end of the row. He was trapped at the end between Finch and a stranger that Gord had declared looked like Don Cherry on vacation. Joey wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but he loved it all the same.
“She plays every weekend,” Joey answered. “It’s highly competitive.”
What he didn’t say was that she had demanded both Vinny and Joey attend every single one of her matches because all of the other players brought their family members and she didn’t want to show up alone. It was a hard request to deny, partially because she was frightening and Joey had been on the receiving end of her fists of steel on more than one occasion, but also because she had taken her older sister’s marriage pretty hard and was having trouble adjusting. She and Sylvia had been inseparable, but now Sylvia spent all of her time with her husband Marco and Sabrina was lonely. She would never admit that to any living creature though. Joey had surmised it from her willingness to spend countless hours with Vinny even though she said he was a fuckfaced jack-weasel.
Besides, it was possible Joey’s intentions weren’t entirely altruistic. His supplier Billy Cheng came to the pickle ball matches so that they could do drop offs. Billy Cheng was more commonly known as Mad Dog B.C. Berzerker, which was a very long nickname to apply to a person. It was, in fact, the exact opposite of a nickname’s purpose. It inevitably got shortened to MDBC Berzerker, which in turn got changed to Beezy Berzerker, M.D., a nickname that was just as long as Mad Dog B.C. Berzerker and actually made less sense. Beezy Berzerker, M.D. wore Adidas Yeezy Boosts every day, even though it was winter and there was snow on the ground. He also wore an orange parka with a matching orange tuque so he looked like a pylon. Joey thought it was an incredibly conspicuous look for a person selling large quantities of illegal narcotics. Beezy Berzerker, M.D. maintained that it was so conspicuous, it was inconspicuous. Joey wasn’t so sure that was actually the case, especially at a pickleball tournament where most of the competitors were senior citizens.
The pickleball tournament was being held in an immense, pristinely white gym that backed onto the crisp, snow-covered field of a currently unused golf course. It boasted itself as the only pickleball gymnasium in the city, which seemed to be an obvious declaration to Joey, who assumed pickleball was not nearly as popular as this particular group of people seemed to think it was. There were bleachers set up at the ends of each court and they were surprisingly full. Granted, they were full of friends and family of the players, the majority of whom were over the ripe age of sixty-five. Joey and his crew were by far the youngest and they were drawing quite a bit of attention, almost as much as Beezy Berzerker, M.D. in his orange parka and matching hat.
Even though Joey didn’t quite believe that being overt would lead to being covert, he had rolled with it. Every single person he’d brought with him was startlingly noticeable. Robin was tall and willowy and clearly going through some kind of personal crisis that had led to him developing an eye twitch. Beside him, Finch was beyond threatening, a dark smudge in an all-white room; white walls, white floors, white seats, white hair, white people. Gord had a mustache and a vintage Rolling Stones t-shirt with a gigantic tongue on the front. He was also humming Blue Rodeo songs under his breath. Vinny was between Gord and Joey in a grey Adidas tracksuit. And Joey himself had taken off his parka to reveal his white tank top and his gold chain. He had a black eye from a few days ago that had turned a nice yellow shade.
And then Beezy Berserker, M.D. came to join them, sitting down on Joey’s free side. Joey could practically hear Robin’s eyes widen even from several seats away.
“Beezy,” Joey nodded, not looking over so as not to draw even more attention.
“Succi,” Beezy replied. He had dropped a backpack by his feet when he’d sat down, which he now nudged in Joey’s direction. Joey pushed the money over to him underneath his discarded parka. Beezy slipped it into the front pocket of his jeans. The movies always made large sums of money seem like they occupied vast expanses of space when in fact Joey had paperclipped ten hundred dollar bills together to pass over. He’d had to go to an actual bank teller to get them. The tellers at his normal bank branch had begun to recognize him, which meant that he’d have to start going to different branches to take out large sums of money.
Beezy stood to leave after waiting a few minutes, clapping appropriately at a few of Sabrina’s spectacular points. He didn’t even take a full step away from Joey and his crew before sitting back down in the same spot.
“Shit,” he cursed under his breath. “Fucking shit.”
“What?” Joey hissed in response. This wasn’t the plan. The plan was for Beezy to take the money and leave, only to return the next time Joey needed to make a deal.
“Rondheim is here,” Beezy explained, using the same whispered voice as Joey. Vinny turned to join the conversation, clearly having overheard. Next to him, Gord was chanting Sabrina’s name over and over again in a show of support, effectively blocking both Finch and Robin from the conversation, which was for the best.
Rondheim was a giant of a man and a competitor of Joey’s. Actually, in all fairness to Rondheim, it didn’t seem wholly accurate to put them on the same playing field. Rondheim sold vast quantities of drugs all over the city. He had people working for him, people that weren’t his dumbass cousin, who also sold ugly jewelry legitimately and stolen electronics illegitimately. Rondheim was very successful. He was also very territorial and he never liked Joey, not since Joey had hit on his girlfriend at a Bar Mitzvah for a mutual acquaintance’s son.
Joey chanced a look and saw Rondheim scouring the crowd, a couple of his enormous henchmen standing behind him with their beefy arms folded over their chests. Joey reckoned each of them was about triple his size. At that point, it didn’t matter how threatening Finch’s eyebrows were; they were pretty much fucked unless they somehow found a way to escape Rondheim and his men before they reached them.
“Jesus fuck, look at the size of those motherfuckers,” Vinny hissed. “The one on the left looks like a failed science experiment, like someone tried to crossbreed a human with a fucking bull.”
He wasn’t wrong.
“We should go,” Joey said unnecessarily, as if both Beezy and Vinny weren’t thinking the exact same thing.
“Where the fuck are we going to go?” Beezy demanded.
“Vinny has a car,” Joey shrugged, trying to come off far less terrified than he actually was. There was a group of tittering elderly women blocking them from Rondheim’s view, but the minute they finally managed to haul the one with the collapsible walker out of her seat and wandered off to get the damn hotdogs they’d been shouting about for minutes, Joey and his friends would be in plain view.
“How are we going to get to the fucking car?” Vinny asked incredulously. By this point, the other three had clearly realized something was wrong. Robin was glaring at them suspiciously and Gord had stopped singing. Finch was also glaring, but he glared constantly so it was hard to tell if it was any different than how he’d normally react.
“Well, we’re going to have to run real fucking fast,” Joey said matter-of-factly, before turning to the other three. “Go, shitheads!”
He was whisper-yelling, but he still managed to offend the elderly couple sitting directly behind them.
“What?” Gord asked, obviously thrown.
“What the hell is going on?” Robin demanded accusatorily.
“Doesn’t matter,” Joey answered instantly, urging them into movement with a wave of his hands. “Run, dickhead! Run!”
Gord apparently didn’t need any more convincing than that because he stood and started to move in the direction Joey had pointed, grabbing Finch along the way. Robin got up as well at that point, leaving Vinny, Joey, and Beezy to take up the rear. Rondheim had definitely seen them at that point. Everybody in the stands was staring at them as they bolted down the steps, dodging senior citizens. Vinny literally hurtled over a woman in a visor. Joey supposed that was why he always wore tracksuits.
By the time they approached the parking lot, Joey could hear Romdheim shouting at them. He and his lackeys may have been enormous, they would definitely dominate in a fight, but Joey and his lean friends had agility and aerodynamics on their side. They managed to climb into the car before Rondheim reached them, Beezy diving on top of Finch, Gord, and Robin in the backseat. Vinny peeled out of the parking lot before Gord even had his door closed, but not before Rondheim hurled a rock at the back windshield big enough to create an immense spiderweb of a crack. Nona would be none too pleased about that.
“I guess this is why all of you are wearing running shoes,” Gord heaved from the backseat, finally getting his door closed. “If I had known I was going to be fleeing for my goddamn life from a pickleball tournament, I would’ve worn running shoes as well. Jesus H. Christ.”
“Who the hell was that? Who the hell is this?” Robin demanded, gesturing at where Beezy was sprawled across his lap.
“Oh, hey, I’m Billy,” Beezy replied. “But you can call me Mad Dog B.C. Berzerker or Beezy Berzerker, M.D.”
“I’m not going to call you any of that,” Robin returned.
“Well, his real name is Billy. You should probably at least call him that,” Vinny offered unhelpfully.
“For fuck’s sake,” Robin muttered under his breath.
“Sabrina’s going to be so pissed that we ditched,” Joey said to Vinny after a while of driving. Beezy had settled in the backseat so that his foot wasn’t directly next to Gord’s head.
“Oh, she’s going to hit us for sure,” Vinny agreed. Joey wasn’t looking forward to it.