I take the pizza box out of the bag. I hand it to Man #3. He opens up the box. He looks at me suspiciously. He ordered pepperoni and pineapple and if it isn’t just how he likes it, he’ll blame me. I know the type.
Man #3 seems satisfied. I smile. I even got the pizza to him early this time. He digs into his pockets.
“How much is it, again?” he asks.
“13 bucks,” I reply.
He takes out $15 and puts it in my hand.
“Keep the change.”
He walks inside. I go back to my car. $2 tip, not too bad. I look at my next delivery. It’s at 433 Banner Street, which I’ve never heard of. Great.
I take out my map. There’s no Banner Street in town. The waitress must have messed up the order again. I sigh. She always does this. The pizza’s getting cold.
I call the recipient’s number.
“Hello?” woman #2 answers.
“Hey, this is Sheriff’s Pizza Rodeo,” I talk quickly, “We can’t seem to find your address. 433 Banner Street, is it?”
“Um, no,” she says in a tone that implies I’m an idiot for thinking it.
“What is it, then?”
“Bana Street. B-A-N-A. It’s not that hard.”
“Alright, I’ll be there in just a second!”
I speed off. Traffic lights get in my way. The car ahead of me goes 10 miles under the speed limit. Eventually, I find my way to Bana Street. I open my bag to check on the pizzas. It’s already cold.
I park in the woman’s driveway. I put my cap on, to show off my Sheriff’s Pizza Rodeo logo. I knock on the door, dreading woman #2’s arrival.
She answers. She’s an older woman with deep frown lines. She scowls at me from behind her glasses. It’s like my existence alone is insulting to her.
“Hey,” I say as warmly as I can, “Two pepperoni pizzas, right here!”
“Yeah, sorry about that. Heavy traffic and I had the wrong address.”
“I’m aware. Here, come on inside.”
Woman #2 walks back inside. I hesitate. Delivery boys are strictly forbidden from walking into a customer’s house. Wanting to stay on the woman’s good side, I walk inside anyway.
She yanks the two boxes of pizza out of my hands and opens them. She looks pissed. She looks at me, then back at the pizza. She groans melodramatically.
“It’s cold,” she says, “and you’re late. I’m going to be calling your manager about this.”
I stop, trying to think of something to say.
“I’m really sorry about the lateness, m’am. I did everything I could.”
“Yeah, I’m sure. I’m sure.”
“I swear, I’m so sorry, I–”
“What’s done is done. How much money is this, again?”
I sigh. She doesn’t care. To her, I’m not a person trying to do his job. I’m a machine. If the machine makes a mistake, you throw it in the trash.
“20 bucks, since you called in with that coupon.”
She hands me a $20 bill. No tip. She hurries me out of the door. I drive back to the pizza place. I’m overcome with dread. I’m on shaky ground as it is and my boss hates me. He can’t wait to fire me. But I can’t afford to lose this job. I can barely pay my rent.
Sure enough, I’m fired that night.
The boss says I’m not cut for this kind of work, says how it’s all about customer service and I fail at that. He completely excuses the waitress (who’s his girlfriend) for giving me the wrong address. I walk out.
A month later, I’m living off of unemployment. I’m in the grocery store, buying whatever I can with my EBT card. I go to the fruit aisle and look through the tomatoes.
Then, I hear a familiar female voice behind me.
“Excuse me, young man. Can you hand me one of those tomatoes up on the top, if you don’t mind?”
It’s woman #2, from the day I got fired. She doesn’t recognize me. But now, her voice is warm. Friendly. She smiles at me as if I were her favorite grandson. I hand her a tomato.
“Thank you, dear.”
She smiles before she walks away. As far as she’s concerned, the young man in the grocery store was a human being. That pizza boy from a month back, on the other hand? He was just a cash register.
About the Author
Nicholas Conley is a writer and artist from California, though he has previously resided in Arizona, New Hampshire and North Carolina. Nicholas has had his work published in such places as NVH Magazine, Gravediggings, Microhorror and Associated Content. In addition, his short story “A Boy and His Bicycle” is slated to appear in the upcoming Dark Moon Anthology: Zombies. More information, if desired, can be found on his website, www.nicholasconley.com.