The Pizza Rebellion
By Mike Smolarek
It was Tuesday. I knew it was Tuesday because Tuesday is payday and I'd just gotten paid. That was the only good thing about Tuesdays in summer at La Roman's Kitchen. It was hotter than hell in the summer, and I was trying to beat the heat by staying away from the flaming hot ovens. I was spinning on the stool behind the front counter, scraping my legs on the uncovered, rough, wooden edges. The register was off; the clock read 5:16 in the PM. The humming of the fish tank filter and the complete lack of business lulled me to a near slumbering state. Under the counter, I noticed the stacks of brown-paper bags begging to be used. The green order pads rested on the counter with black ink pens next to them, loaded and ready for action. Out the window I watched a red Nissan whiz by on Rand Road. Across the street, kids were playing baseball in the field next to the apartment building. I rested my head on the counter, thinking of ways to spend my hardly earned money. I heard a ring and went to answer the phone, but only a dial tone greeted me. The three amigos in the back of the store fooled me with the Spanish music though the speakers. Bob sat next to me, silently reading his tennis magazine. His six-foot-two frame dominates over my five-foot-five body. I smelled the smoke from Jerry's Winston Lights and wished that Bob and I weren't the only ones that didn't smoke in La Roman's. I guess I could give old Jerry a break, because kids in his days didn't know better about smoking like we do. Actually, all kids pretty much don't know better about anything. Honestly, I'm surprised he hasn't died yet, with all the smoking and eating he does. The annoying bell signaling the entrance of a patron disturbed my rest. I rose and moved over to the counter and looked up.
There in front of me was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I was in awe; I couldn't move or speak. Her golden blond hair shone into my eyes. The freckles on her cheeks highlighted her fair skin. I looked deep into her bluejean-blue eyes, and she smiled as she walked to the counter. Well, she didn't walk, she sort of sauntered over, moving slowly side to side. As she did, her shoulder length hair swung in unison with her silver hoop earrings. She was wearing brown curly-lace shoes with no socks. White shorts covered her thighs tightly and a white V-neck sweater rested on her shoulders. Her appearance was in direct contrast to my black shirt, black shoes, black shorts, and black hair appearance that I wore with pride.
"Can I help you?" I asked, and I really meant it.
"Is my pizza ready?" she inquired in a smoothing voice.
"Your last name, please?" I asked.
"Anderson," she said in a quirky happy tone.
"Bobby, go get Anderson for me." I was Bob's elder and had worked at La Roman's longer so he happily obliged. I needed time to talk to this beautiful girl. Bob took off to get the pizza from the top of the oven where it stayed warm while I was thinking of something to say. I had plenty of time too, because he had to dodge freezers, deep fat fryers, and broasters on the way to the pizza.
"It's really warm in here," she said. "How to you stand it?"
"It's not too bad," I said, trying to be Joe Macho. I turned around to check Bobby's progress. He had the pizza and was making his way back to the front counter.
"How are you doing tonight?" I asked.
"Okay, " she replied.
Bob was almost at the counter now. He must have been thinking about what I was thinking about because suddenly his feet stopped working and tripped over them. He looked like an America's Funniest Home Video's $10,000 prizewinner. As he fell to the sandy white tile floor, the pizza soared higher into the hot July air, bounced on the wooden counter and slid towards her. Now was my chance to impress her with my uncanny ability to save a sliding pizza from certain death, something I've practiced before but never done with a live pizza in front of the most beautiful girl on Earth. It was a high-pressure situation; if this were a movie, this next part would be in slow motion. My arms reached out for the brown corrugated cardboard pizza box. She stepped back out of the way to avoid a nasty collision and a nastier stain. My fat fingered hands gripped the warm protective box. The pizza slowed to a halt, teetering on the edge of the counter. I thought victory was wine, but I was proven wrong. When pulling the pizza from its precarious place on the edge, I accidentally knocked over the "Hugs Not Drugs By A Blow Pop For Charity For Only Twenty Five Cents" display and is swayed over the edge. The next second a loud crash broke the silence of the slow motion and blow pop chips scattered every where. My face slowly grew red.
"Oops," I said. She wasn't amused, probably hit by some of the blow pop shrapnel. She slowly opened the pizza box, checking to see if the cargo was damaged during delivery.
"Nice save," she said, and this time she was smiling. A beautiful La Roman's twelve-inch sausage and onion pizza rested comfortable and undisturbed in the box. My face was still red but now not out of embarrassment.
"Lucky, I guess," I said. Bob handed her ticket and I told her the total.
"That's six fifty ni--." My voice had cracked on nine and my face was red again.
She handed me a crisp ten-dollar bill that smelled like it was printed five minutes ago, and our hands made contact. It sent a chill up my spine twenty times more numbing that when I had my first sip of wine on Thanksgiving when I was eight. I pushed 6-5-9 on the register and then total. But, the register was still off. I felt really dumb now and whispered, "Whoops." This time I turned the ignition key on the register and tired again. The register rang and clinked and opened and I counted out her change: three singles, a quarter, a dime, a nickel, and a penny.
"There's your change Ms. Anderson," I said. "Have a nice night."
"Oh, that's not my last name. That's my boyfriend's name," she said to my horror. "Thanks for saving the pizza. My boyfriend would have killed me if splattered. He probably would have killed you if some got on me." She turned and left, and the last I saw of her was her blond hair waving goodbye to me.
"Smooth as ever," said Bob. "Damn, you're good."
"Shut up," I yelled. I crumbled up the ticket and tossed it into the garbage.
"Doesn't like suck?" Bob said.
"Yup," I said.
"Hey guys, guess what this moron just did?" Bob said as he went to tell all of my unfortunate accident. I looked back at the garbage can and saw the piece of crumbled paper resting on top of a pop can. "Why not?" I said as I picked it up. "Maybe I'll use it later." I put the ticket into my pocket.
"Hey, who's gonna pay for those blow pops?" Jerry yelled. "And who's gonna clean up that mess?"