CHAPTER 3 – That’s Amore
It was only about three blocks to my house, but by the time I got home, Wheezy and Lumpy were already there.
My house was a sort of a central point in everyone’s activities. The evenings normally began at my house and went from there. Sometimes, it never got past the basement where we would watch recordings of David Letterman or watch TV. Other times, we’d go to the mall or do other idiot teenager stuff. Hang outside the arcade “scopin’ chicks.” Hit up Musicland for the latest cassetsingles. Watch the mall balloons in the courtyard.
The three of us were relatively good at finding shenanigans. But that’s mostly because of the idle time that teenagers had. That all ends today.
Today as I walked into my room, however, Wheezy and Lumpy immediately noticed that I looked different.
“Did you fuck a goat? What’s with the look on your face?”
“Boys, I am part of the business world now. You’re going to need to start treating me with some respect.”
“Respect? How about you respect me that bag of Doritos over there,” Lumpy said while lighting up a Marlboro cigarette. He had just started and I didn’t really like it. But there’s no law against smoking cigarettes, so I passed the ashtray and the Doritos to him sitting on my bed.
“You guys aren’t bringing me down today. I got a job. Delivering pizzas. I’m going to be rich.”
I explained that the place was Paulie’s Pizza and they all needed to order from me on Tuesday night so the owner kept me on.
“When’s your schedule?”
“I don’t know.”
“How much are you getting paid? Is it by the pizza? Do you just make a dollar a pizza or something?”
“I don’t know that either. Maybe if I sell enough pizzas, though, they’ll make me the owner.”
“Fuck you. You ain’t owning anything. Have you even tried their pizza?”
“No. Not yet. But I’m sure it’s great.”
“Not better than Dominos or Pizza Hut.”
“Screw you guys.”
As the cigarette smoke began to fill the room, we sat and watched a VHS tape of Friday’s David Letterman. It was a good one. They did Stupid Pet Tricks and a bird carried a golf ball across the studio.
I couldn’t concentrate, however, because I was waiting for Tuesday to get here.
School the next two days was unbearable. Not just because I hated classes. Oh sure, I loved high school — I just hated the school part of high school. I could stare at short skirts and shoot the shit all day. But term papers and “turn to chapter six” was worthless. Who is going to ever use the Pythago… Pythonica… Pygoraium… Who would ever use geometry anyway?
But this week, I knuckled down. I was a businessman now. I needed to learn a few things if I was to do well in my new job. It didn’t matter how good Linda Barton’s perfume smelled. I was going to concentrate and get it done. Man… was that lilac? Did she change her shampoo?
Tuesday was the worst, though. I had a test in Social Studies and I hadn’t studied. It was on some shit like the Incas. Didn’t even know why we needed to study Chinese history anyway. So, I did what any 16 year old would do in such a situation. I borrowed my buddy’s notes and put them on the floor very neatly. That way, as I was hunched over, I’d look down at my shoes and find the answers.
Genius, right? Besides, who could concentrate on studying on the eve of my business career starting?
With the test out of the way, I blasted out of school and drove straight to the Paulie’s. There was a fresh GRAND OPENING sign in the window. I parked right in front with the squeal of my disc brakes and walked in.
“Welcome to Paulie’s Pizza. How can I help you?” T uttered behind the counter. He had a huge smile on his face as if I was his very first customer. The dining room, if you could call it that, consisted of three small tables each with four chairs. The tables had equal amounts of parmesan and spices as well as a handful of napkins on each table.
“Um. Yeah. I’m here to start working as your delivery driver. Remember the other day?”
“Oh yes. That’s right. We needed a delivery driver! HEY FRANNIE – our delivery driver is here!”
Frannie came out of the kitchen and gave me a huge hug. It was weird, I’ve got to admit it. She was super short so her boobs pressed against my stomach in a really strange way. “Welcome! I’ll get you a delivery shirt!”
I changed into my delivery shirt – a white Fruit-Of-The-Loom with a giant PAULIE’S PIZZA on the back. T said that they had just opened about an hour earlier. You could already smell the overpowering pizza smell starting to battle the paint fumes. The front door was open as well with a box fan pumping air out of the small restaurant. The result was kind of a lead paint slash baking bread smell that was… unique.
But the first half hour was extremely quiet mostly. T was posted up at the register. He was sitting on a back counter and you can tell that counter was buckling already under his weight. But he also had his leg propped up on a bar stool that said WHEEL HOUSE BAR on the top of it.
I sat in the corner and thumbed through a couple of newspapers that were sitting on the counter. One was from today and one was from last week. As new jobs go – with my vast experience – this one was pretty… quiet.
Very softly, woven between the silence and the light noise of a car passing by, you could hear a CD player in the back of the kitchen. It was playing Tony Bennett. I’d only seen Tony Bennett on Johnny Carson, and didn’t know any of his songs except one. Every time it replayed – which was about every 30 minutes, I’d catch the opening notes of “That’s Amore” and then go back to listening to the silence.
But that silence was finally broken by the phone – there were two phones actually. One in the kitchen and one in the dining room. Both rang simultaneously. T picked it up and almost chuckled as he said with a huge grin on his face, “Paulie’s Pizza! How can I help you?”
The voice at the other end was high-pitched and you can hear it squawking. T nodded and then reached to hand me the phone. “It’s a delivery. Here’s a note pad. Write down their order and their address.”
This was my moment. I was off the bench already in the first inning. I put the phone up to my ear and immediately heard my mother’s voice. “Hi baby! I would like to order a pizza from you! Actually, Ed, yeah. Let’s make it two!”
I was mortified, but also realized that I had a job to do. So I wrote down their orders. One pepperoni and one sausage with mushroom. Both larges. No. I didn’t need to write down the address. I thanked my “customer” and said it’d be about 15 minutes – to which T nodded to me that it’d be more like 20.
As I hung up the phone, T went to the kitchen and Frannie was draped over him as he began the process of making the first pizzas in Paulie’s Pizza history. I watched him toss the dough up several times from the dining room and he prepared both pizzas and threw them on the conveyor belt oven.
There are few things that smell like baking pizza. I’d imagine it’s something close to sex with marshmallows. But nothing would really ever compare. Even though it was to my mom and dad, I was still excited to go out on my first delivery. T chuckled. “Now, do you know where you’re going?”
Frannie said she was so excited to sell their first pizza. The total came to $22.50 but T said to just take $20 being as how it’s my parents and it’s their first pizza.
I boxed them both up with newly folded boxes with a PAULIE’S PIZZA logo and folded them. Took them to the cab of my truck and backed out slowly with the grinding noise of someone who was only days into learning how to drive a stick shift.
When I pulled up, luckly I had managed not to spill the pizza all over the floorboard of my car. I rang the doorbell and my mother praised my arrival like she had just watched her baby take her first steps.
“Oh honey. Come in. Did you have any problem finding the place?” Mom was known for her dry wit. That’s not to mistake it for true humor.
“T said it was $22.50, but to take $20 from you.”
“Oh heavens no. Here’s $25, and you can keep the change.” A tip? I hadn’t even thought of a tip. But that’s great as the truck was pretty close to empty. Two bucks could keep me going for a few days for sure.
“Thanks mom. Love you. And T and Frannie say thank you. You were their first customer.”
“Oh really? Well here. Give this to the owner. He’ll know what to do with it.”
Mom dug in her purse and pulled out a crisp $1 bill. “Now don’t take that as a tip. You give it right to the owner.”
With the proper exchange of currency completed, I drove the six blocks back to the pizza place expecting a dozen more orders. At $2 tip a delivery, I could easily make a hundred bucks a night. Maybe $200.
I drove back and T showed me how to put the money in the register. $22.50 for the pizzas, and to take out the $2.50 for a tip. “Now you keep that and use it for gas money or fugging money. Okay?” He laughed as if I didn’t really get the joke but he did.
“Yes sir!” I really liked the way he talked. He had a really odd accent like you’d see in a movie. And every other word was fuck or fucking. But it came out “fug” or “fugging.” It was incredible to hear him.
You could hear him clanging pots and pans in the back cursing like a sailor. I was going to like this place.
After the first delivery, there weren’t any more that came in. T suggested that I get my homework out and work on it while we were waiting “to get totally up and running.” So I did. I worked on Social Studies and re-read the chapter of the test I failed today – knowing that the teacher easily busted me and would make me take the test again. I mean, that’s teacher shit 101 – look for the crib notes on the floor. Rookie mistake.
But mostly, I just smelled pizza. T made about 10 of them during the course of the night and made me try a slice of just about all of them. I wouldn’t touch the anchovy one with a 10 foot pole. But there was something about the sauce that to this day, I’ve never tasted before. It was sweet yet thick at the same time. Delicious.
Just before 9:00, I helped T sweep up the dining room that hadn’t been used all night except to shuttle pizza slices to me back and forth. But I wanted to be useful. I really hadn’t done anything and I was hoping I wouldn’t be fired on my first night.
“Kid, come here.” T motioned me over to the counter. He took a $10 bill from the register. “That’s for tonight. You’ll be back tomorrow?”
“Um. Yes. But I didn’t…”
“It’s fine. You did great tonight. We’ll start catching fire really soon. Don’t fuggin’ worry about it. Now go do good in school tomorrow.”
I walked out and T locked the door behind me, started fishing for my keys and remembered something. I had to bang on the door to get T’s attention. “Hey T? My mom said to give you this. She said you’d know what to do with it.”
T took the $1 bill and seemed a little irritated that he had to walk back from the kitchen, but took the dollar with a nod.
He uncrumpled the bill, and held it up to the air. Then he smiled, walked back into the restaurant and I headed home.
Night one I made $12.50. Cash. I could get used to living like this.
Next Week: Chapter 4 – Sicilian Love Song