PIZZA FUnCK by Alexander Jones

The sun beats down on the cracked pavement of the Pizza Hut parking lot, and a haze of dirty humidity hangs in the air. Some of the light comes in through the drive thru window and falls directly on me. Waves of distortion roil in the shadows from the heat coming off the pizza oven.

The heat keeps away customers, at least.

Behind our garbage corral is a nest of skunks, fattened off the Pizza Hut trash. I watch one fat skunk in the grass, lazily slinking around the concrete enclosure. It looks hot, panting like a dog. Too hot to be quick, too fat to be stealthy. I don’t mind the skunks, and my boss is too cheap to call an exterminator. They lend extra noxious flavor to what would otherwise be just a normal, smelly, fly infested garbage repository.

“I just had an idea,” I say later to the only person working with me, Buddy.

“Yeah?” he looks up from stuffing a crust.

“More of a thought, actually.” I turn from the drive thru window and retrieve my cigarette from the ashtray above the cash register.

“Oh.” Buddy laboriously applies sauce with a ladle, frowning in concentration as he spreads it evenly.

“You know how it’s summer now, so it’s winter in Argentina?” I ask.

Buddy shrugs vacantly.

I drag smoke from the cigarette. It’s my last. “Anywhere south of the equator, the seasons and some other stuff get reversed. Like, water swirls down the drain in the backwards direction and stuff.”

“Like in the toilet?”

He follows me, so far. “Yeah. Anywhere south of the equator.”

“I went to Virginia once, with my cousin.”

“Further south than that, Buddy.”

Judiciously distributing cheese and mushrooms onto the pie, lips pursing, Buddy shrugs. “Like where?”

“Colombia. Like Ana, the waitress.”

“Ana lives on Court Street.”

“Before she was from Court Street, she was from Colombia, which is in South America, where the toilets flush backwards.”

“You said that already.” Buddy slides the pizza onto the conveyor belt at the rear of the oven.

I look down at my cigarette and see it burn to the filter. I throw it out the drive thru window in disgust, and look back at my boss’s desk. A pack of Newports he left there this morning. My disgust mounts as I take one and light it.

“Anyway, so some things are backwards south of the equator.” I inhale menthol and frown, wondering why I’m bothering, trying to recall why I’d started talking about the Southern Hemisphere in the first place. “Well anyway, I wonder if you’d get up on the opposite side of the bed, in South America.”

“Maybe.”

“I mean, if some things switch sides because they’re in different part of the planet, why not that, right?”

“Why not what?”

I crush that Newport out, only half-smoked. “Nothing. Forget it.”

A minute later he says “If you wanna know if Colombios get up on the wrong side of the bed, why don’t you call Ana?”

I wander into the cold pantry to see if there’s enough of everything we needed, but I know there is. I like the cold and a moment alone.

“Let’s smoke,” Buddy says, when I emerge. He cuts the pizza into several oblong shapes and boxes it.

Crouching behind the drive thru menu, Buddy and I smoke a joint he rolled earlier. I don’t cough. My head starts to ache, half- way through. But I smoke anyway.

The neon Pizza Hut sign is off because it’s still daytime, but its garish colors bother me anyway. The Help Wanted sign in our window has faded with age. I pass the joint back to Buddy a final time. If someone worked here, maybe they could write a new sign.

The phone doesn’t ring and no one comes, so we both mill around the parking lot. Buddy stares at the swaying tall grass between us and the gas station next door. I have another Newport and Buddy takes one, too.

Overhead, the sun beats down and both of us sweat. I smoke the nasty cigarette and feel the smoke settling on my humid, steamy body. A bead of sweat stains the cigarette filter.

“Hot.”

“Wet.”

At the height of this, stoned, smoking our stolen cigarettes and sweating, a car roars through our parking lot from the far entrance.

A convertible with three sexy girls, dressed for the beach. The one in the back seat has a bare leg draped over the retracted soft top. I smile at the tanned firmness of her thigh as they circle around us. Glimpsing cleavage, I imagine cupping one of her soft breasts, not quite visible below her bikini top. For a second, watching them smile and wave with a lighthearted touch of understandable condescension, I believe they’ll stop.

Laughing, the driver guns her engine and they pull out our other entrance, just ahead of the red light they’ve cut through our lot to avoid.

“I hate that shit.”

Buddy slowly nods, and with gravity says, “This sucks.”


Sniff! Sniff! “You been taking my cigarettes?” my boss asks me later that night, on his nightly surprise visit.

“No.”

“How bout him?” My boss jerks a thumb at Buddy.

I shrug.

Sniff! My boss wipes at the snot leaking from his nose as he looks at the nearly empty pack of cigarettes. He snuffles again. “Then where’d all my cigarettes go?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you shouldn’t leave them out in a public place, if you’re worried.”

“There’s only the two of you back here.” He snuffles with such intensity that I imagine his head imploding, shrinking down to the size of a baseball, with the greasy ponytail remaining full sized. I smile.

“This isn’t funny.” He drinks from a sports bottle he filled at our beer tap before. “Which one of youse is always smoking my cigarettes?”

“Gremlins,” Buddy calls out.

I shrug.

My boss slams his beer down on the table, spilling it on next week’s schedule. His snot is now mixed with blood. This concerns me, since the only time he ever gets angry and paranoid is when he snorts until he bleeds.

“Fuck!” he yells, pounding the desk with his fist, face turning red. He repeats himself, “Fuck,” only this time in defeat.

My boss drains the sports bottle with a single swallow and belches. The shit making its way down his chin is now mostly blood, and I wonder when he’ll notice. I try to ignore it dripping to the floor as he walks off and nearly falls. His eye balls are no longer working in concert.

“Sorry I yelled,” he says sincerely.

“No problem,” Buddy shouts from the dish room.

Walking to the door, he turns at the last second. “Need anything?” he snuffles his nostrils again.

I smile as blood slicks onto his shirtfront. “Got a cigarette?”

He throws me the remains of that same pack.

“See you tomorrow,” and he’s gone.

###

Later, Buddy slips on a pool of gray dishwater collected on the tile floor, slips and busts his ass, so I let him vacuum and clean the outer part of the restaurant while I finish out the back. Wash the dishes, throw away the unused dough my boss can’t recycle, change the trashes, clean the oven and mop.

Then I slip on the gray dishwater. Lying there, feeling the pain shoot through my back like an electric spider web, I try hard not to think of the soggy pizza residue clinging to the back of my neck and my hair. It hurts, and I feel bad for thinking Buddy was a baby when he complained earlier. Only now, I have to do the harder work, and my back is a live wire any time I either stand up straight or bend it.

I mop slowly, trying to use my shoulder and arm instead of my lower back for the motion. I conserve my strength for dumping the trash, so I don’t bother to mop around the oven. Maybe my boss will yell.

Grunting from an impending spasm, I drag two of the trash cans outside and toward the garbage corral. Going back inside for the third one, I see Buddy drinking beer directly from the tap. I grab the third garbage can.

When I turn to drag it outside, I see the skunk.

It approaches the doorway slowly, sniffing along, waddling as it walks, tail dragging behind it. My breath hitches in my throat and a belt of fear tightens around my stomach. The skunk inspects the doorframe.

I can’t run, trapped between the dishwasher, a stack of clean dishes and the dough heater. I step forward, toward it, moving very slowly, trying hard not think about the slippery floor I beneath me. The mop nook is in reach, and I grasp a spare broom handle.

The skunk waddles inside.

A bead of sweat rolls the entire length of my head and off the end of my nose; I hear it spatter on the ground. My hands feel clammy around the lacquered wood staff.

Out front Buddy knocks over a bucket filled with silverware.

This startles me, but I don’t flinch or wheel my head; I don’t take my eyes off the animal. Now three feet from me, it jerks, hisses, rearing up to spray when it hears the metallic crash.

I take in a deep breath, and after a tense second or two, the skunk lowers itself to resume sniffing the floor tiles.

I swing the broom handle low like a golf club, propelling the skunk backwards.

“Fuck you!” I scream at the top of my lungs, swinging underhand again, launching the skunk several feet in the air. “Fuck!” I scream, coming over hand this time, driving the skunk to the ground.

“Fuck!” I scream, hitting it. “Fuck!” I hit again. “Fuck!” I hit the skunk so hard the broom handle snaps with this final impact.

Blood rushing, heart pounding, I fall to my knees in front of it, gasping for air.

“Wow,” Buddy says, coming outside a bit later. “You killed it.”

“Yeah.”

“Here,” he says, handing me a lit joint. I take it and get to my feet. I lean from side to side. My back feels better. I blow a cloud of smoke toward the Pizza Hut sign bathing me in red neon light. I bend and touch my toes. Never better.

“Fuck it,” I say, handing Buddy the joint. “Everything’s finished?”

“Yup. Everything.”

“Bullshit. Wash the silverware you dropped?”

“I won’t tell if you won’t.”

I hit the joint when he gives it to me. “I gotta do something with this fucking skunk.”


Alexander Jones has published short stories in Bastion Magazine and FarCryZine; his poetry has appeared in Juice Magazine. He has a BA in English/Creative Writing, and has tutored others learning to write. He’s grateful to have a cool day job.