“Thank ya fer callin’ Tommy’s Pizza. This is Luke. How may I help ya?” This is the script. There’s breathing on the other end of the line and the crashing of a car chase on TV. “Tommy’s Pizza, can I help ya?”
“Uhhh… Hey… Ummm… Is this Tommy’s?” Seriously, I told you twice after you dialed the number and you have to ask?
“No, this is Wild Bill’s Narcotic Discount Barn. Would ya like ta hear tonight’s specials?” I reply sarcastically in a poor impression of Larry the Cable Guy.
“Specials?” Uhhh… On What?”
“Buy three tenths of meth ‘n I’ll throw in da fourth fer free. We also have a deal on an eight-ball of coke if yer interested.” In the silence are gears grinding in his brain.
“Oh… Sorry… Musta called da wrong number.” So it goes at Tommy’s Pizza. Of course he called back and we went through some other nonsense. But, it’s all in fun and the customers know it. It’s part of the charm.
Tommy’s is some of the best pizza in town. A collection of cinder blocks and fake wood paneling held together with grease up on 5th Avenue. There’s a little stage in back for music acts on the weekends and a bar littered with the regular drunks. The banter is usually light until some intoxicated farmer starts talking politics. I work here from time-to-time. Usually just taking orders on busy nights. Getting cash and food under-the-table. You know, where you stick all your unwanted gum.
“Tommy’s Pizza. How can I help ya?” Warning: I will say this a thousand times tonight.
“Hi…” says a shy voice. “Is this being recorded?”
“This? You mean da call?” I started to chuckle. “No one is recordin’ da call.”
“At least not da owner. He’s too cheap ta buy, well, anythin.’ Can’t guarantee anythin’ with da CIA n’ all.” Privacy is obsolete, right?
“I got that covered. Okay…” and then proceeds with his standard order seemingly putting a lot of thought into his decisions, “… That will be all.”
“Yer order comes outta $35.79 n’ will be delivered in ‘bout 35-40 minutes.”
“Perfect!” he says losing his shyness. “And, remember, we never talked. Okay?”
“Okay...” I imagine myself in a dark Gitmo interrogation room getting tortured. As I’m being waterboarded naked I would scream, “I’LL NEVER GIVE UP DA INGREDIENTS HE ORDERED! NEVER!” I tell the delivery guy about the spy and he says, “Yeah, dat guy calls all da time. I have ta leave da pizza on da porch ‘n he pays through da mail slot.”
Anabelle throws open the door to the kitchen mumbling obscenities. Her eyes are bloodshot with deep purple bags. The left arm just hangs limp. In the other hand is a large energy drink with probably enough caffeine to make her heart explode. Anabelle punches in and slithers up to me, “Where’s da boss?” and I tell her he’s running a quick errand. “Lemme know when he’s back. I’m takin’ inventory.”
An hour passes and the owner is back. Anabelle’s nowhere to be found. I give up and go into the fridge to get some toppings. Lying on the floor, next to the food rack, is Anabelle wearing three delivery boy coats and covering her legs and face with aprons. I lightly kick her and she groans. “The boss is back.” She stirs around a bit.
“He won’t be back here fer a bit. Lemme sleep some more.” Eventually, Anabelle wobbles out to the bar, throws some Jager in another energy drink, and starts to flirt with a couple of guys.
An oversized black luxury SUV comes to a screeching halt at the front door. That jackass realtor from the billboards comes in wearing a fancy suit and doesn’t take his glasses off inside. He’s twirling his keys and already looking annoyed. “Can I help ya?” I ask without it really being a question.
“You can try.” Anyone who says that social class doesn’t exist in America never worked in food service. “I wanna medium Italian Special. Does that come with a free two-liter n’ breadsticks?”
“Sorry, there’s no deal on da specials.”
“Really? You’ve gotta be kiddin.’ Your competition has that deal.” I guess you must feel like a real dumbass for coming here instead.
“I apologize. Would ya like ta order a two-liter n’ breadsticks?”
“No. I wanna talk with yer manager.” You want to waste his time too?
“Sorry,” sticking to the script for how to handle assholes, “he’s not available. Is there an issue?”
“I wanna free two-liter n’ breadsticks.” Does the squeaky wheel get the grease?
“May I ask who offers that deal?”
“Yeah, it’s Angelo’s Pizza. Why?” Bullshit.
“Just a moment, sir.” I look up a number and make a call.
“Finally, some decent service ‘round here. You shoulda called yer manager immediately.” Thanks for the advice, douchebag.
“Hello,” I put the phone on speaker. It’s strange how a speakerphone can call the attention of everyone in a room. “This is Angelo’s. What would ya like ta order?”
“Hey, this is Luke over at Tommy’s Pizza. Quick questions fer ya.” Pause for effect, “Do ya have a deal with a free two-liter n’ breadsticks?”
“Uhh… No.” Where’s the record scratch?
“Have ya ever had that deal ta yer knowledge?”
“Nope.” Let the record show the defendant perjured himself. I rest my case.
“Thanks, you’ve been very helpful.” hanging up the phone with a shit grin, “Okay, sir. Would ya like ta order a two-liter n’ breadsticks or will da medium pizza be all?”
“Ahh… Well…” is the snickering around the restaurant distracting? “That will be it.”
“Okay, that comes outta $16.42. Ya can take a seat at a table or da bar. Should be up in ‘bout 10-15 minutes.” I hand off the order to a kitchen staff member and let them know to make it a “jerkoff surprise.” What’s in a jerkoff surprise? Depends on who’s the cook and who’s the customer. But, generally it’s some kind of piss olive oil, jism dressing, a spit glaze, or shit sausage. Maybe someone will get creative. So, be nice to your wait staff.
Anabelle is on a sugar high. Bugged out eyes and spastic movements. She looks around to see if anyone notices her. I do, but she doesn’t notice me. She throws something on the floor. She takes a picture. I watch her do this three or four times and ask, “Whatcha doin’?”
“Shhhh…” looking around all nervous and racing up to me. “Be quiet.”
“Okay,” I whisper, “what da hell are ya doin’?”
“I’m gittin’ blackmail.”
“Ya never know. I keep a ‘shit file’ on all da places I work. All da fraud n’ corruption goes inta that file. If they try ta pull shit on me, I have blackmail.”
“So, what are ya collectin’ now?”
“Oh, this is yer usual restaurant stuff: reusing dirty dishes, rodent shit, servin’ rotten meat, and so on.” acting as if this is something everyone does on the worksite.
“Do ya have a lot on Tommy?”
“Are ya kiddin’? I could own this place,” she presses her body against my side, “sexual harassment, servin’ minors, under reportin’ income, bribin’ county officials, insurance fraud, and…” she takes a few steps back and raises her camera, “Smile…” *Click* “I don’t believe da IRS knows yer on da payroll.” Anabelle, you are my best friend.
The owner comes out of his office and slowly observes the dining room. A few tables of teenagers and rummies at the bar. He looks at the kitchen staff. Talking and leaning against counters. He stares at Anabelle and smirks. Then he looks at me, “Luke, wanna head out early?”
“It’s yer call.” I reply. The owner opens the register and tosses me a wad of cash.
“Grab a large pizza n’ whatever before ya leave,” he starts to make his way back to the office. Without turning around, “and take Anabelle with ya.”
“No problem. Thanks!” and I head into the kitchen. I grab a large crust, spread some sauce, and a little extra cheese (mozzarella with a bit of feta). A little olive oil. Cover with flyers (pepperoni), Alpo (sausage), slime (green peppers), onions (stinkers), and banana peppers (monkeys). One more light layer of cheese to hold everything in place and throw it onto the conveyor belt oven.
While that’s cooking, I grab the phone. “Hello,” Eleanor answers. She’s been driving me nuts lately. Calling me about nothing. Coming up with dumb projects. Telling all these stories with no point or ending.
“Tommy’s Pizza. How can I help ya?”
“What would ya like ta order?” I repeat. I can keep a straight face through almost anything.
“I didn’t call ya.”
“Listen ma’am,” she hates being called “ma’am,” “we’re busy. What would ya like ta eat?” I look over at Anabelle. What’s she sprinkling on my pizza? Whatever…
“I don’t want anythin.’ It’s after 11.”
“Then, why did ya call?” Have ya been drinkin,’ ma’am?”
“I don’t ‘preciate prank calls, ma’am. Ya know we have caller ID.”
“What? Oh… Hmph…” and then Eleanor hangs up.
Pizza’s done! I box it up and see a vulture pie (a pizza not worthy of being served) on the counter with screamers (mushrooms) and carp (anchovies). God, that’s gross, but I grab it anyway. I have an idea. Anabelle clocks out and we start for home on a clear, brisk night.
Anabelle is staying at a relative’s near my place. Eleanor’s is on the way, which is a rundown bungalow. The yard is splattered with whirligigs, ornaments, and feral cats. Anabelle knocks on the door since they don’t know each other. Eleanor looks out the window in her pajamas, flips on the lights, and nervously opens the door. “Thank ya fer orderin’ Tommy’s International Special. This pizza features a thick wood-fired pesto crust, Lambda olive oil, heirloom tomato sauce, Matsutake mushrooms, and Cantabria anchovies. This combination…” and is finally interrupted.
“I didn’t order this!” and slams the door. Somehow, you could feel her irritation from her turning off the porch lights.
“MA’AM! MA’AM!” Anabelle is too good of an actress for her own good. “I’LL JUST LEAVE DA PIZZA ON DA DOORMAT! OKAY? THE BILL IS $435.43! DON’T WORRY, WE CAN MAIL AN INVOICE! OKAY? THAAAAAANK YOOOOOOU!” She skips down the front steps and down the sidewalk where I was discreetly hidden. “Whatcha wanna do now?”
“Now? I’m goin’ home.” My muscles ache from landscaping in the morning and slinging pizza at night.
“Yer boring.” she pouts, “I’m not goin’ home. Later.” She turns around and skips east on Williams Street whistling The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Into the unknown.
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