Chapter 4 – Sicilian Love Song
Night two and I walked into the pizza place to laughter. There was a man standing at the counter. He was tall, but wearing a very nice shirt and tie. He and T were laughing like they were old friends.
“Hey Sammy. I want you to meet my new delivery driver. We’re going to wear the tires out on his piece of shit delivering all these fugging pizzas.”
“Hey kid.” The man spoke with a terrible lisp. As T and Sammy kept talking. He was slurring most of the ends of his sentences. “I remember that day” became “I remember shaay.” It was hard to understand. But T seemed to understand completely.
“Hey T, make me a Sicilian, would ya?” He also rocked back and forth on his toes. Like a bear on hot asphalt. I began to think he had a little bit of a mental issue. But T and Sammy continued their conversation while T went to the back to make a Sicilian. I looked over the menu and it wasn’t on there. But this seemed to be more an art of improvisation than true adherence to the menu.
I cracked open my books and began to read in the corner near the back of the counter. On the wall behind me was a small frame with the dollar I gave T last night. In Sharpie marker was written on it, “PAULIE’S PIZZA 1988”
Sammy took the pizza and ate the whole thing right in front of me. It looked absolutely disgusting. There were anchovies, mushrooms, and about a pound of oregano on it. And it also was dripping in olive oil. It smelled awful.
Between 4:00 and 6:30, the phone didn’t ring once. But we did have one walk-in. Wheezy. I told him about the smell at school and he had to see for himself.
“Are you going to order something or am I going to have to call the police?” I smacked him on his back and gave him a glare. “T, meet Wheezy, my former best friend.”
“Nice to fuggin’ meet ya.” T was in the middle of trying more recipes so he gave Wheezy and I each a slice of what he called the “Super Meat” which consisted of way too much of the meats we had. Pepperoni, sausage, hamburger and Canadian bacon. So much so that the grease soaked right through the crust.
It didn’t much matter. We ate it because we were 16 and it was free pizza. It’s like an evolutionary thing. Like we’d be kicked out of the club if we declined.
So there was T and Sammy shooting the shit at one table, and Wheezy and I shooting it at another table.
Finally the phone rang. Frannie answered it and waved me over. “A delivery!” She howled in a high pitched yalp.
I sheepishly answered the phone and took down the address. “I’m not sure if that’s in our delivery area,” and before I could get the next work out Frannie was waving furiously at me to say “YES, YES IT IS IN OUR DELIVERY AREA.” I totaled up the pizza total and took the name. Tony Gramboa. As soon as I hung up the phone, both T and Frannie began to howl!!
“Don’t EVER fuggin tell someone it’s out of our delivery area. We’ll make you drive to fuggin Utah!” T chuckled and howled.
“Yeah k-k-k-k-kid. You drive where ever this f-f-f-f-ugging man tells you, right?” Sammy, even while sitting, managed to rock back and forth like he was rocking his Sicilian pizza slice to bed.
I gave T the order and he ran to the kitchen to make the pizza. He was giggling and mumbling under his breath. “Tony Gramboa. Tony Mudda Fuggin Gramboa.”
I went to our foldable map to begin plotting my course to the Gramboa’s house. It was in an older part of the Northland well within our delivery area, given that it now extends from Utah to Maine.
The pizzas were done, and they were carefully handed to me. “Don’t fuggin spill them, kid,” T warned. “This one here is a special delivery.”
Being as how this is delivery number two for me, and the first one was to my mother. Yeah, I get it.
The 10 minute drive to the old part of town was pretty nice. The truck handles pretty well once you get it moving and every once in a while, you can look down and see the road zooming by from the hole in the floorboard. The AM-only radio was cranked on one of the few music stations still on AM that didn’t exclusively play Merle Haggard.
I pulled into the Gramboa’s circle drive. There was one of those stone statues of a cherub holding some sort of bowl. Out of the bowl was flowing water into the dish below. It stood incredibly high. Taller than the truck for sure. And that was in the center of the circle drive. Not being an expert at managing my parking skills, I damn near hit it.
I parked the orange torpedo and walked the pizzas up to a large door flanked by columns and ferns. You could tell these weren’t the plastic ones you’d pick up at K-Mart. No, I’m pretty sure these were alive.
There wasn’t a doorbell, only one of those heavy brass knockers on the door – so I carefully balanced two pizzas with one hand and gave the door a whack with the hammer of the knocker. It was loud and booming.
I heard a large dog barking and then footsteps as a lovely dark haired girl my age came to the door. “We’re eating pizza?” she grumbled and stomped off towards the inside of the house. “MAAHHHHMMM!! The delivery guy is heeerrrrreee.”
In my wildest dreams, I’d never thought I’d be in such a nice house. It wasn’t Beverly Hills nice or anything that you’d see on Dallas or anything. But it was sure nice for this part of town, that’s for sure.
An older gentleman, still wearing a suit, which was strange for seven o’clock at night, walked to the entryway. “Here, kid. Let’s get you paid.” And he pulled out a money clip filled with $20’s.
“It’s $17.30, sir.”
The man unfurled a $20 bill from a wad of cash bigger than two packs of cigarettes and told me to keep it. It was my first tip not from my mother. I thanked him and nearly tripped over the doorway on the way out. The man seemed unfazed and grabbed the pizza box closing the door swiftly behind him.
Over the next week, I’d deliver to about a dozen of those houses and I made some pretty good money. Over fifty bucks.
At the end of each night, T would count down his register. He started every day with $100 in spare change and dollars. So anything over $100 should equal what we made. After a sale, he just let me make my own tip change and I never counted the drawer wrong. This being my first job, it didn’t seem right to do a sloppy job with the money.
Whatever was left over, he handed me in cash. There was no payday. There was no checkbook. Just cash. It’s not like I made stripper money or anything, but walking out of there with $30 in fives and ones was pretty cool some nights. I could go across the street and fill up my tank – usually for about $5, and then get some candy or a soda.
T didn’t seem the least bit concerned that he left a 16 year old kid around $100-$200 dollars. Well, $200 was being generous because the record for number of pizzas in a night at this point was four. And that’s because I bought one to take home to study for finals as an all-nighter.
After the first few days there, I’d made nearly $100 – all sitting in a Topps baseball box in my room. And I had already seen one of the most beautiful houses in Kansas City.