Notes and Disclaimers: all characters owned by large corportate entities, not me. No profit garnered ever. Thanks to Katemonkey for helpful beta magic.




NUMBER 269: RUINED THE CHEESE AND NON-AMERICAN FOOTBALL PARTIES BY BUTTING IN



"I'm not really into football," Darnell said. He used to like to have his cheese while watching football when he was Harry Monroe but that was something he'd had to leave behind. Not the cheese, but watching football. He'd thought about watching other sports with a good cheese platter, but Joy hated basketball, baseball and figure skating.

Catalina stared at him. "I didn't mean football. You call it soccer." Then she said a long sentence in Spanish and Darnell nodded like it made sense. It sounded angry and ever since Catalina said she'd killed someone, Darnell had taken to nodding and smiling when she said something in Spanish. Always agree with a killer, his mama said.

"Soccer comes on early in the morning," Darnell said. "We're not open then."

"You could open for me, right?" She smiled and leaned over the counter. "I really want to see this game. My nephew might get to officiate. He's a referee."

Darnell thought. If he didn't tell Joy it was for Catalina, he could leave a little early. And he didn't want to get killed. "Sure," he said. Then he had another thought. "Maybe we could have a nice cheese platter."

That was how it started. Darnell's love for cheese and football combined with Catalina's love for her version of football and her nephew the referee. Catalina taught Darnell about the rules of non-American football and some nasty Spanish phrases and Darnell taught Catalina about cheese and pirating satellite signals. There was nothing like a good cheese platter and a frenzied athletic match-up.

Everything was going just fine until Earl decided to butt in.

*

Earl was working on his list. Number 223: Taped over Joy's favorite episode of Days of Our Lives (when Sami's wedding was interrupted) with a Becker marathon. The problem was when Earl did some research, every wedding Sami Brady had ever had had been interrupted. Earl didn't know if it was the one where she ended up getting arrested for murder, the one where it was revealed Sami had been turned into a man for a few months, or the one she called off because of all her blackmailing. Sami Brady was Joy's favorite character in her stories. He came to talk to Darnell to see if he remembered which one it was.

Unfortunately he picked an early morning when Darnell and Catalina were watching the non-American football and enjoying a cheese platter of jarlsberg, emmenthaler, and gorgonzola. "I like this better than the sharp cheddar," Catalina was saying as Earl walked in.

"Hey, Crabman," he said, his eyes narrowing as he surveyed the empty Crabshack, the jury-rigged satellite TV and the round plate of stinky cheese. It was a suspicious Hey, Crabman, Darnell could tell. He had to be on the edge since he was in the witness protection program.

"Hey, Earl," Darnell said. "Want some cheese?"

"No," Earl said. "Thanks." He was still staring with his narrow narrow eyes. It was a little frightening. "Hey, Catalina."

Catalina whirled around and glared at Earl. She was very scary and Darnell covered Mr. Turtle with his hands in case there was any peripheral fallout from Catalina's anger. Mr. Turtle wasn't that taken with cheese or non-American football but he liked exploring the bar counter when there weren't people around. Catalina said, "Earl Hickey, turn around and walk out right now. And if you say anything about this, I will cut you like a goat in the wrong place at the festival of Goat Slaughtering."

"Hey," Earl said, wisely backing up. "I'm just looking for the Crabman. Why are you two hiding out here where no one knows you're here and eating stinky cheese and what's that on the TV?"

"Catalina's nephew is the referee," Darnell said. "And the cheese was her idea, too. She likes cheese, not me."

Catalina looked at Darnell for a moment and then nodded vigorously. "I love dairy products. Every single one of them, including cottage cheese. I don't think it looks like decayed and rotting white brains."

Earl looked even more suspicious since no one actually liked cottage cheese in Darnell's experience. "You're just watching TV in here? How do you get that channel?"

Darrel started to explain how he was pirating the satellite signal from the SkySports broadcast but when he got to the three syllable words, Earl was clearly not paying attention.

Catalina waved her hands and said, "Earl, get out. The Crabshack isn't open for another hour. Come back then."

"Can't I watch it, too?" Earl sat down and stared at the screen. "Randy's washing his underthings and you won't let us dry them on the balcony anymore so they're spread out all over the room. That's why I decided to get started on my list early this morning. Frankly, it stinks worse than that cheese over there."

Catalina looked at Darnell and shrugged. Earl wasn't bad company, usually. During the commercials, Darnell explained which of Sami's weddings Joy had liked the most and agreed to use his satellite-thieving skills to find a marathon on SoapNet so Joy could get her episode back.

At first it worked out okay, having Earl as the third in their cheese and non-American football party. One week he brought Randy and that was okay, too. But what had been a secret quiet time between Darnell and Catalina quickly turned into some kind of party. Randy invited his ex-girlfriend, the cat lady, and Earl kept bringing his list people over. Catalina decided to invite two of her stripper friends who also liked non-American football. Darnell had to buy more cheese and take requests and couldn't bring Mr. Turtle anymore because everything was too crowded. Darnell worried when he had to buy a lot of cheese.

The really scary part was that pretty much the only person in town who didn't know about the early morning cheese and non-American football parties was Joy. Darnell really worried when Joy didn't know about something.

Back when it was just the two of them, Darnell had told Catalina that he kinda liked having a break from Joy, just for a little while. "Who wouldn't want a break from that crazy bitch?" Catalina said.

Darnell had just wanted an hour or two of his own. Like Virginia Woolf wrote about the need for solitude and a room of one's own, even though she meant women and writing and he meant quiet and cheese. Joy thought cheese began with the kind you unpeeled from plastic in individual slices and ended with the kind you got from a spraycan.

Naturally, Joy found out. And of course, it was from Mr. Turtle.

*

There were thirty people at the Crabshack and five kinds of cheese on three platters when Joy burst in the door, dragging Dodge and Earl, Jr., with her. Dodge was holding Mr. Turtle. "What in the hell is going on here?" she screamed.

Everyone except for Catalina and Darnell stepped back three feet, with someone even tripping over a chair. Darnell'd have to clean that up later. "It's cheese and non-American football party time," Randy blurted. Then he covered his face like Joy couldn't see him that way. Dodge and Earl, Jr thought that worked, too.

"Dodge here says that Mr. Turtle was acting all excited when the television had a commercial for that English guy who married the Spice Girl and I said no way Mr. Turtle gave a damn about some stupid sport like soccer. But then I hear from Earl, Jr that actually, Mr. Turtle used to go to little soccer parties with his daddy, DARNELL." She marched over to the counter and looked at the cheese platter. "How long have you been doing this?"

"About six weeks," Darnell said. "You don't like cheese, Joy. Or non-American football. I didn't think you'd have fun."

"You. Didn't think I'd have fun." She glared at Catalina. "Well, not with this WHORE here. Or any of these losers," she said, gesturing at the other twenty-eight people in the Crabshack. A lot of them were sneaking out the back door, anyway. Joy had that effect on people. "I can't believe you didn't tell me."

"I guess I should have," Darnell said.

"Doesn't matter now," Catalina said, not looking away from the screen. "It's the last game of the season."

"No, it's not. The Super Bowl isn't for a whole month, dumbass."

"There's no Super Bowl in English Premiere Football, ignorant slut."

Earl ambled over and tried to make things better. "Now, Joy, you don't need to get angry - -"

Joy spun around and punched him in the stomach. "Shut up, Earl. It's not your husband having the affair!"

Darnell blinked. "Baby, I'm not having an affair."

"Aren't you? With this Mexicano whore and her cheese and her soccer?" Joy sniffled. "I will fight for my man, you understand that?"

"Nothing's going on," Catalina said, still watching the TV. "He loves you, the crazy idiot."

"I surely do," Darnell said. He stepped out from behind the counter and said, "I'm sorry, Joy, I never meant to make you feel left out or worried. I just really like cheese. But not more than you, Baby."

"Really?" Joy sniffled again.

"Really truly." He kissed her while the kids cheered and Earl regained consciousness. He heard Catalina say, "Stupid," but she was probably right so he couldn't really object.

*

Darnell was watching cartoons with Dodge and Earl, Jr, when Earl came over with a plastic covered cheese platter. "I think I ruined your cheese parties, Crabman."

"It's okay, Earl. I shouldn't be eating so much cheese anyway."

"Well, I got this platter for you to introduce Joy to a wider variety of dairy products. And I got legal satellite installed at the motel in our room so Catalina doesn't have to miss her nephew next season."

It was a really nice platter. "Thank you, Earl."

It turned out Joy could enjoy other cheeses and Dodge and Earl, Jr, too. Mr. Turtle still wouldn't try any but you couldn't have everything. And Catalina kept him updated about what was happening with Arsenal and Man U. Darnell passed it on to Mr. Turtle and that he perked up for.

THE END


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