Hey, Joe

February 12, 2012 at 10:30 PM | Posted in Fiction | 3 Comments
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This week’s challenge was to make an unlikable character the protagonist. I think I can handle that. To read more, go spend some time over here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Unlikable Protagonist
But also, while you’re here, go read my story from the challenge from two weeks ago, where we had to do a story in present tense. I really like that story, but no one read it. Such is life.
The Baby Boomer

The customer won’t shut up.  Fuck.  I smile and nod and kind of lead him towards the desk, and hand him a pen.  “Why don’t you get started on this, and I’ll make sure they get everything ready?”
The asshole was probably still talking after I left.  The shit I have to put up with to make an obscene profit–
Outside the break room I find Denny.  “Hey, Lenny—“
He turned to me and rolled his eyes like a bitch.  I tossed him the keys.  “Prep this Merc, pronto.  Joey made a sale.”
He grabbed a clipboard and walked off disgusted.  What the hell is his problem?  I spied Sarah in the break room.  I’m gonna hit that ass, and soon.  I walked up behind her and gave her a small dose of Joey’s charm.  “Hey, sweetheart—“
“Oh, Jesus!  Joe!  Get your hands off my ass.  And quit sneaking up behind me; that shit is irritating.”  She walked off in a huff.  Must be on her period.
After that sale, I’m done for the day.  “Joey is outta here.”  Joey doesn’t ask permission, not from the owner’s son.  I slide into my Jaguar and get ready to roll.  Rolling in a Jag takes preparation.  Driving gloves—check.  Expensive sunglasses—check.  Loud-ass tunes—check.  Perfect hair—double check.  Fuck, I look good.
I don’t look behind me; behind me is for losers.  Some dickhead honks his horn at me.  Do you not know what a Jag is, you pick-up-driving Neanderthal?

I’m a partner in a Jewelry store.  The location is shitty but we see a lot of traffic.  Mostly niggas buying gold for their bitches.  I got my fiancé a job there, because I wanted someone to watch out for my shifty Arab partner. “Hey, baby.”
Right away she starts in on me.  What the fuck?  I didn’t really pay attention to what she was saying, because I was looking at her tits.  Besides, I don’t actually have to solve any problems, I just have to pretend to listen.  She doesn’t like when I solve her problems for her, the ungrateful bitch.  You’d think that giving her a job would have been worth a blowjob.  I swear I don’t understand bitches.
After she finishes her little tirade, I expect that she’ll feel better.   It’s usually slow in the middle of the afternoon.  We could lock the door and go in the back for a quickie.
“Didn’t you hear a goddamn word I said?  This neighborhood is fucking dangerous, and I’m not working here anymore!”
Oh, shit.  I heard that part.  Maybe she had a point, but if she loved me, she’d take one for the team and stick it out.  One for all, all for me.  I might still be able to talk her into going in the back room and bending over the desk for me.  Bitches like to be complimented, so I whispered in her ear. “You’re so pretty when you’re angry.”
She pushed me away hard.  “Just get the fuck out of here.  Go.  Come back tomorrow when Rashid is here.”
“Oh, that reminds me—did that Arab leave a deposit in the safe?”
“He’s Pakistani, Joe.  No, he took it to the bank.” I stood there, trying to figure out how to out-maneuver that crafty African bastard.  “Joe!”
“What?”
“Get. The.  Fuck.  Out.”
“Fine.  I’ll see you later, sweetheart.”  I gave her a kiss on the forehead.
I’m back on the street, and I’m rollin’.  Everybody else be hatin’.  Especially this cunt in a minivan in front of me.  There’s traffic all over, but she is in front, slowing me down.  I can’t get in the other lane, and she won’t switch lanes to let me move ahead.  What the hell is her problem?  We go down a couple miles and what seems like a hundred fucking intersections.  I flash my lights every so often, but she doesn’t take the hint.  I honk a few times.  I think she’s ignoring me.
Joey is not ignored.  Not by bitches in minivans.  The light changes, and I can see there is big space in front of her. She is going about 25.  I can’t take it anymore.  Maybe she needs a reminder.
Ever so gently, I tap the back of her van with my front bumper.
That got her attention.  She looks at me in the mirror.  You look good like that, honey, with your mouth hanging open.  I tap her again.
I have to slam on my brakes as she hits hers hard and pulls over to the shoulder.  Finally.  I slide right on by, through a yellow light.  Maybe a little orange around the edges.

Later that night, I’m at home watching Sportscenter and drinking some Dewars.  Joey likes top shelf.  There’s a knock on my door.  I look through the window.  Cops.  Uh-oh—did that bitch call the cops on me after I asked her nicely to move out of my way?
“Hello, officers.”
“Sir, are you Joe Cannoli?”
“Yeah, that’s me.  Joey Cannoli.”
“Are you one of the owners of Shiny Gold and Jewelry?”
A sigh of relief.  I wasn’t busted.  Wait.  Shit, did I get robbed?  I bet it was an inside job.  That slimy Arab fuck Rashid.  Man—I hope my insurance is paid up.  “Yeah, that’s me.  I own it.  Did something happen?  Was there a robbery?”  This was looking better and better.  I could cash out, get out of that business, ditch my partner and my pathetic excuse for fiancé.
“Sir, yes, there was a robbery.  Two armed men came in, shot the clerk, and took everything.”
“Wait-shot the clerk?“  Ha.  That bastard Rashid is dead.
“I’m sorry, sir.  She was dead before police arrived.”
I didn’t hear the rest.  It wasn’t Rashid.  It was Jenny.  My Jenny.  My Jenny is gone.  Oh my God.  Now what am I going to do?
I bet I can parlay this into some sympathy sex.

Out With The Old

March 30, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I haven’t been writing as much about Pizzarama, where I’ve been working lately.  Maybe I’m jaded?
Twenty-five years, dozens of stores, hundreds of employees, and thousands upon thousands of deliveries is bound to do that to a person.  I remember a time when I was innocent, fresh, and naive…
I don’t think I can relate to that guy anymore.

And I’ll go ahead and say it, because I don’t care anymore:  The place I work at is Pizza Hut.  When I worked at Domino’s, I named it.  When I worked at Scooter’s, I named it.  When I worked at Domino’s again, I named it–
Which caused some problems because I was doing things that weren’t exactly Cricket.  Thusly burned, I called Jimmy John’s “The Three Jakes.”  But Imo’s was Imo’s, and Steak n Shake was Steak n Shake–and they well still be.  I thought I might want an alias to protect me on this internet thing.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so cavalier, but I’m not doing anything wrong.
How about, “I’m not doing anything illegal, and most of what I do that is morally questionable is not a threat to the job”?  Better?
In the meantime, I subconsciously didn’t want to get too attached to anyone here, because Things Always Change.  However, I didn’t have much of a choice–some of them drew me in.
Of course, there’s The Dude, an ever-present fixture in my life and the reason I took the job at this particular location.  Meet our management team:
Tom is a young guy, quiet and stoic.  He seems to be laid back–like a hippie dressed as a businessman.  That’s the vibe I get.
Ryan is the other assistant.  Slightly older than Tom, but still so young.  And yet he has thinning hair.  He cares more about the job than Tom does.  Frequently they are both shocked at the ridiculous things that come out of my mouth.  Then again, that describes most people, I guess.
Rob is the manager.  Whoops.  Rob was the manager.  Rob got fired a couple of weeks ago, a victim of arbitrary grading or his own ineffectiveness, your choice.
I liked Rob–hell, I like all of them–but they way they manage stirs a deep primal desire in me.  A heat, a wrath, a bent to knock everyone over and take charge and show them how it’s supposed to be done.
But then my shift ends and I get over it.
So now we have a new manager, an older woman–older than me, even–named Julie.  I’ve met her exactly once, when I was coming in early (to make a good impression) and she was leaving early (even though it was a Saturday night and snowing in late March.
“Hi.  Who are you?” she says, looking at my chest where my nametag should be.
I put out my hand.  “Hi.  I’m Bryan.  Who are you?” I asked, already knowing the answer.  I looked at her chest, too, to let her know I knew what she was doing.  Not a sexual thing.  Not yet, anyway–but it is a weapon in my arsenal, if need be.
“Do you have a nametag?”  Before I could answer, she said, “And tuck your shirt in.”
I’ve been working there since June of last year, and I’ve never tucked my shirt in.  The cynical among you or those who have met me might think it’s because my belly prohibits it.  But actually, I have a long torso, and the shirts are always too short.  Really.  I could show you–
Never mind.
While I tucked in my shirt, she made me a new nametag with rainbow colored letters.  I guess we are inclusive now.  Then she left.  I untucked my shirt.
It’s what the store needs, and what these people need.  Someone to lead.  Rob–again, a nice guy–would rarely tell or ask someone to do something.  Jesus, you have to take charge.  Don’t be afraid to tell me to do something.
Don’t be afraid to tell the young punks working here to do something, either.  Because if you don’t, they won’t do a damn thing.  Us older folks–the drivers–we know our jobs and we get on it and we are proactive.  The kids need to be directed constantly, at least until they get the idea.
So hopefully Jules will be a good manager for the store and the crew.  It’s what they need.  Because these guys–

Temelko is our token Old Belgian guy.  He works the most hours of any driver.  He speaks the broken English very brokenly.  I’m starting to be able to make out some words.  We had a five minute conversation about a month ago of which I did not understand a single thing he said.  I sure hope I didn’t agree to something I’ll regret later.
John is a mid-twenties guy with a ponytail.  He’s quiet and good-looking.  I mean, good-looking enough to be gay.  He’s also an artist; we’ve had a few conversations about his interests, and that’s when he wouldn’t shut up.  He does computer animation, something I wish I had the patience for.
Nick is this guy–man, I don’t like him.  I mean, he’s okay.  He tries to be a smart-ass, but he’s not clever enough.  He runs shifts on occasion so he’s technically a member of management, which he uses as an excuse to fuck with people.  You know the kind of guy that’s only average in intelligence, but thinks he’s much smarter?  That’s him.
Don is the old guy.  He’s a carpenter by trade, and in this economy, delivering pizza.  He helped me tear the wall out in my kitchen and put a back door in.  Recently, he and his wife split up and he moved back in with his dad.  Yeah, he’s old.  And his dad is quite a bit older, I imagine.
When I say old, I mean he’s in his mid-fifties.  What the hell does that make me?
Don, The Dude and I are the Three Amigos, complete with pelvic thrust.  Because we are so…hip.
There are some other drivers in and out, part timers that I never quite caught the name of.  We also have Sean–Blond Sean from Scooter’s and Angelina’s fame.  He is also Rob’s ex-brother-in-law, but they are still friends.  (That’s why Rob hired him.)  Sean is an odd duck.  I thought he was a geeky, nerdy guy.  And I think he is.  He’s a nerdy guy trying desperately to hide it and be cool.  Or maybe he just turned over a new leave after he got divorced, which I can relate to.
Amber is our star pizza maker, and the hardest working person in the store.  She is about 20, a tall, gangly, clumsy looking girl.  She is just so quiet–until you engage her.  Then she won’t shut up.  I know way too much about her dysfunctional family.  She’s like the Marilyn in The Munsters, if the Munsters were all white-trash co-dependent addicts with poor decision-making skills.
Jarvis is this teenage slick dude.  He is cool, cocky, and confident.  I’m sure he gets laid way more than a teenage boy should.  He comes from money, and it shows–not just in the car he drives.  He has a sense of entitlement, and it shows in the way that he things the minimum effort he puts forth is a tremendous inconvenience to him and we should all be more appreciative.
[We’re busy.  People hustling everywhere, doing things.  The phone is ringing and ringing.  Again, we’re all busy.  He announces sarcastically to everyone, “Don’t worry about the phone.  I’ll get the phone.  I got it.”  Whatever he had been doing before was not time-critical to the rush.  Maybe he was folding a box or something.  “I’ll get the phone.”  I said, “Thanks for letting us know you’re finally going to do your job.”  That jibe cut him a little deep; he didn;t talk to me for about a week after that.]
And we have this other inside boy named Shane.  I–
Ugh.  I swear, some teen boys should be raised in a pasture with a high fence.  Electrified.  He’s a punk, through and through.  Sense of entitlement?  Check.  Doesn’t understand dick about anything?  Check?  Overly preoccupied with trying to look cool?  Check?  Unable to learn anything because he already knows it?  Double-check.
He has this car–I’m sure it’s a parent’s or something like that.  I hope, anyway.  Any adult who would give this retard a car should be locked up.  He’s always bragging about his car and how fast it is and how he can outrace anyone.  I don’t want to be that young and stupid again, if I ever was.
I’m leaving on a run about the time he got off work one night.  He hops in his car, revs it up, and keeps revving it up.  If it’s a stick, he’s using up the clutch.  If it’s an automatic, he’s even stupider.  I pull out, and I head down the line.  He pulls out real fast in front of me, causing me to brake.  Then he revs it some more and squeals the tires as he takes off.
I get to the light, and then he appears again.  Where did he come from?  Where did he go?  Who gives a shit?  He’s sitting at the light revving the engine.  He’s in the left turn lane, and I’m in the lane to go straight.  His light goes green, and he revs it and takes off, squealing the tires some more.
I know this is the old man in me, but he’s a fucking dumb ass.  Tires costs money.  A clutch costs money.  Gas costs money.  If he was paying for it, he wouldn’t be doing that to “his” car.
Honestly, I don’t even want to get to know him, because I don’t want to feel bad when he rolls his car and wraps it around a pole and dies.  He’ll do it all with a dumb expression on his face, the expression people have when they don’t understand the correlation between their actions and the consequences thereof.
We have Kelli, this girl.  This 20 year-old (“I’ll be 21 in two months!”) chick who started as a server during the day and then started to drive.  She’s short, she’s fat, and she loud and in everybody’s business.  She is so concerned that people are talking about her that she inserts herself into every conversation, and eavesdrops on everyone.  Christ, she bugs me.  Part of it, I can tell, is that if she gets a little attention she craves more.  She desperately wants to get laid.  I told Don that he’s going to end up fucking her.
“Christ!  Say it ain’t so!  Do I have to?”
Then, of course, we have my sweetheart, Courtney.  Courtney just had a birthday.  She just turned…17.  Wow.  She says I remind her of her dad.  So I have a year to turn that daddy complex into something viable.
Juuuuust kidding.  She’s a sweet girl, and one of my favorites there.  We talk, I gave her a ride home once (perfectly innocent!), and we have fun at work.

So that’s the people I work with.  And the people make all the difference.  Pizza is pizza.  Hell, pizza is as pizza does.  Pizza is the same, or different, or both, anywhere you go.  But the people are what make it interesting, and determine whether or not you want to go to work each day.
Although something else may be a determining factor as well:  Gas prices.  I swear to God, lately I feel like I’m losing money going to work.  I’m going to need to find another part time job, just because I can’t afford to work at this one.
Maybe the next job will be something not driving.

About A Girl

March 20, 2011 at 4:36 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I don’t remember if I posted this or not.  For continuity’s sake I will.  This happened about May of 2008, right before Scooter’s closed.

Christ in a fucking sidecar.  That’s the only way to start this.  Let me tell you about my weekend.
I worked Friday night at the restaurant for Scott, the owner, and my usual Saturday night.  He had to work his church’s (actually his wife’s church) parish picnic, working the grill for their food.  The same amount of business that 5 people can’t handle without getting bogged down he or I can do easily–if they would just get the fuck out of the way.
So I agreed to work.  Friday night is a bit much for the new young-fuck Matt to handle by himself.  I get there, and Megan, a cute little 20 year old driver, is trying to convince me I should let her off that night, there is a concert she wanted to go to that she had asked Scott off for but he had never given her an answer.
I thought about it a bit.  That would leave me with three drivers–kinda tight, but it should be manageable; the nice weather should make it a little slower.
I said, “Okay, sure…But I need you to wear those shorts the next time you work.”
She bubbled.  “Okay.  I can do that for you.”  She smiled and sashayed off.
I love college-aged chicks.  Firm, tight bodies, perfectly shaped asses.  Perky tits.  Naivete.  And inexperience in realizing what, exactly, constitutes sexual harassment.
“That’s what I like about high school girls.  I keep getting older, and they stay the same age.  Oh yes, they do.”
Meanwhile, before I even get there, Matt is working, and he’s called me twice already wondering when I’ll be there.  Fuck, shithead.  I get off work at 4:00.  The 24 miles in traffic takes close to an hour.  I’m scheduled at five.  I’ll be there at five.  He wants to leave.  He always has some lame kind of excuse, problems with the car, car got impounded, car on the side of the road, or he has to go do something for his mother.
I’m starting to realize, after these events transpired, that I’m probably being take for a ride; I think his actual excuse is the drugs that he needs to go take.
But when I get there, I don’t let him go.  He wants to skate without doing the two most important and time-consuming pieces of prep:  weighing out the tips, and pounding out the burgers.  This may not mean anything to you, but what it means to me is that on a Friday night, the busiest night of the week, I was going to have to do this shit on the fly.
Nuh-uh.
“Matt, you need to finish this shit.”  He stays an extra hour, at the most, and gets it done while bitching.  The place is still completely trashed, dishes piled high, prep tables piled and covered with crap, trash and boxes piled up, grinders and slicers filthy from use and chunks of meat and cheese and other foodstuffs scattered about wildly.  But I can deal; we’ll have three drivers.
But my third driver, Jody, never shows up.  Matt is a friend of hers, so he goes over to her house.  She calls and says she’s on her way, then calls back about half hour later and says she’s not coming in.
Many of the details I’m a little sketchy on, and most of what I’ve heard I tend not to believe, because it comes from primary sources trying to paint themselves in the bestest light.
The long and short of it is this:
Matt goes over, says he tried to get her up, says she was wasted or hung over or both, and says Jody punched him repeatedly.  He left.
My Friday night was one of the worst ever.  Mota’s wife Becca was working and she was a hero, the champion, of keeping it together for me.
Saturday, Everyone comes in who is supposed to.  Matt worked during the day, and left before Jody showed up.  Then, after they are all working, Matt shows up–with Jody’s…girlfriend.
This has become the fucking OC, or some other retarded modern teen night time soap opera.  Jody likes this girl, Janna.  But she cheated on Janna–with Matt.  To get back at her, Janna cheated on Jody.  With Matt.
Now Matt apparently likes Janna (good head goes a long way), but is friends still (supposedly) with Jody.  Matt continues to recount stories of how Jody–a little firecracker–keeps hitting him and inflicting other violence on him, for no reason.  “Why does she keep hitting me, Bubba?”
I had enough of this.  I had been close to boiling over all night, having this story inflicted on me.  I had heard all sides of it, including the stuff that he didn’t think I knew.
“WHY?  WHY IS SHE HITTING YOU?  WHY?  IT’S ABOUT THE FUCKING GIRL, RETARD!  IT’S ABOUT THE GODDAMN GIRL!  ALL OF THIS IS ABOUT THE GIRL!  YOU LIKE HER, SHE LIKES HER!  IT’S FUCKING JEALOUSY!  ARE YOU COMPLETELY FUCKING STUPID?  IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT THE FUCKING GIRL!  CHRIST!  MORON!”
The kid is completely irrational.  First, he’s in denial about it being about this stupid love trapezoid, or triangle, or octagon.  Pick your favorite polygonal icon.
Then he gets mad, and yells at me about how I don’t understand.  Of course I don’t understand.  I don’t understand how he can be this stupid.  If it’s NOT about this, then what exactly is it about?  Ask yourself that question, shithead.  He had left, by the way, gotten drunk or high or something, and then came back up to the store.  I had to keep the two separated.  Meanwhile, the mousey little Janna acts like an innocent victim in all this.  I’ve actually come to believe that she is a passive-aggressive manipulative cunt:  She knows what is going on.  She wants to have her dick and her pussy too.
I believe Matt may know as well, but if he acts like he doesn’t get it, he can get more sympathy, more ear time.
Lots of ridiculous things happen, and I don’t care to recount all of them.  Matt leaves because I make him, but he takes the girl with him.  He completely misunderstood.  “You told me to get the girls out of here.”
“No, dipshit.  I told YOU to leave.  I will get the rest of them out of here.”  He completely fails to realize that he is part of the problem as well.  But then he comes back–again, like a fucking herpes flair up, and this time he is lamenting his sad life, and talks endlessly of driving his truck very fast into a wall.
At this point I’m willing to point one out for him.  People who talk about suicide like this don’t mean it; it’s a cry for attention.  “Woe is me; I’ve nailed two hot chicks but I can’t seem to get that elusive threesome lined up.  Woe is me!”  Hard for me to muster any sympathy.
Although, his mother kicked him out of the house (again), he gets in trouble with the law repeatedly, having his car impounded once or twice, tickets and so forth, and he needs to pay for a lawyer.  His mother may be an alcoholic, I’m not sure.  He’s 18, his life is in turmoil, he has no one, no place, nothing…
But, he’s fucking moron.  He’s completely stupid.  He’s made bad decisions, and he’s made them poorly, and executed them in the most ridiculous manner possible.  I completely resent the fact that he is trying to cling to me like I am his father figure.  I don’t need this.  I have–

My own shit to deal with.  In addition, I have an 18 year old son of my own that I hardly get to see.  I don’t need this pathetic reject as a surrogate.  My son is smart, drug-free, moral, and a good decision maker.  Artistic and talented.  He has a future.  And he’s not a complete fucking drag to be around.

Plus all of this is happening late at night when I’m trying to get the place cleaned up and get out of there.  Matt’s out of it, drunk and drugged up and binging on self-pity, so he has no recollection of time.  He merely sees a group of people that he can suck the life force out of.
I had to go outside, and get between him and Jody.  The girl in question merely stands by, no expression on her face, not understanding, like Matt, that this is all about her.  Only Jody gets it, and that’s why she has become violent.  I make Matt leave.  I tell Jody to go check out, clock out, and leave.
Finally, it’s over.  Or is it?  After they have all left and we are doing the real closing work, trying to get done and get out, Matt comes back.  He has no place to go, no place to sleep.  He wants to sleep in the store.  No, that will not happen.
Mota makes the mistake of offering him a place to sleep.  Fine, you do that.  Then Mota and his wife ask if we want to come over to their house, party a little–
No.
Are you sure?  We have a pool, and a firepit–
Not a chance.
Is it because Matt is going over?
Bingo.  I’m done with the pity party.  Any conversation is going to be monopolized by his constant woe-is-me desire for attention.  He drains me.  I just want to go home.
Detroit came up to work to see me that night, by the way, and I’m glad she did.  For one, she may not have believed everything if she hadn’t witnessed it herself.  For two, she thanked Megan for wearing the shorts that night–I needed that kind of thing (of course I told her.  She knows me so well.  “You are such a pervert,” she said.  Hey, if they’re over 18, technically, I’m not a pervert.)
For three, she knew and understood exactly the stress that I had had inflicted on me that night, and said, “I will [take care of you] tonight when we get home.”
God, I love this woman.

Is This The Real Life?

November 20, 2010 at 9:49 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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Is this just fantasy?

I went over to the FHA Department to pick up some files to work on.  I have my own shit, but I try to help them when I can.  Janet gave me a tub of files, and as I walked around the corner I was following Kim.  Crystal was behind me, and she stopped at a file cabinet.  Crystal is a cute black girl.  She has long hair with big curls, not the standard tight weave.  I was only acquainted with her, but we have chatted a bit.
Crystal calls to Kim.  “Before you run off–Kim–what should I do with these files here?”
Feeling sassy, Kim turns to her and says, “Bend over and I’ll show you where you can put those files.”  Then Kim laughed and turned and kept walking away.
Crystal–a sassy little tart herself–turned around on hearing Kim, and slowly bent over, and then she slowly, seductively shook her ass.
And she had a nice ass, too.  It might even be considered small for a black girl.  For a white girl, it was full and firm and round, and not too big.  It was shaped nicely.  I wanted to jump right behind her and smack that ass.  Instead, I just stared right at it.
Crystal straightened up and turned around, and was startled to see me standing there.  She smiled and blushed purple as she said, “Oh–I–Uh, I thought Kim was standing there…”
I said simply, “No, she isn’t.  But thank you.”

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