Before I could clock in and top my car, I was handed three past due orders on the spot. I stopped first at Ganyard and made a dollar, then sped over to Zahn St. A Spanish man answered the door and almost immediately handed me over a fist of money before a voice in the back had halted him. I flunked out of my second course of Spanish so I don't know it very well, but I did manage to pluck out a few words in the failed translation.
'No', 'food' and 'first'.
Suddenly, the man beamed at me with a suspicious look tinged with confusion, the way we might look at a dwarven RV salesman, or a wedding singer. He inspected that strange, small flat box in my hands which contained an item that was clearly unobvious. Then in reckless abandonment, he snatched it from me and threw the lid open. This inspired a loud transgressive disagreement throughout the whole family sitting in the living room that carried over for quite some time. In two different languages! One of them, I swear, was speaking Lithuanian!
The first man finally fisted to me a wad of coin and cash and tried to shoe me off the porch. Suddenly a woman appeared behind him wearing a shower cap. She seemed older and much more mature than the rest of them.
“What was the total?” she asked me in plain English. I told her. She asked for the money back. She counted it out and handed it back, minus the three dollar tip that I would have gotten. The vocal excitement was revived by all the women and children scattered about the room. Finally, this adorable little girl came up to the door and handed me a quarter. I squatted down to thank her when a large, slovenly canine wandered up to me.
“Her name is Pickles.” said the little girl.
“Pickles? Why Pickles?”
The little girl smiled, exhibiting her six teeth, while pondering this question. “Cause she’s...cause she’s...”
Pickles brushed past the girl and leaped over me, rocking me back to my derriere as it dashed down the porch steps, through the yard and into the street.
“I’m so sorry!” I rushed to my feet. “I’ll get her!”
I set off after the dog calling its name.
By the time I was in position to take a look around, Pickles had already made it to the end of the block. So the dog can actually run. Pickles one, Me zero.
The dog quickly suspended her mission to rotate around and try to detect the direction of the noise. She noticed me waving my arms and calling out to her.
Oh. Just you.
The moment Pickles’ jaunt through the neighborhood resumed, it had occurred to me that I had left my car running in a poor neighborhood. So I ran back and put the car in reverse and almost hit the gas, before I pulled it back to park and cut the engine. I was committed. I would put that creature back in its home so all would be right.
I sprinted down streets, leaped over bushes, slipped on the ice, scrabbled through the snow, fell once, and kept getting snow falling from trees down my shirt. And I was only two blocks from my vehicle. As I huffed up and down the streets screaming ‘pickles’, porch lights came spotting on, tourist-teasing misdirections of where the dog was headed. But I spotted that golden canine from two closed in streets down. In sheer rapture, she melodically scampered about, judiciously choosing between the poles that lit the streets. Then ritually, she would gracefully kick her legs about and absquatulate to the next.
How did it sound coming out of my mouth? It sure tasted funny, like a slimy off note in a ceremonial moment. How did I look when the goofy plural noun was continually reborn from the frozen sandwich of my shivering lips? I could just imagine all of the families trying to wind down before the comfort of their television sets. To be broken up and frightened by the sound of the overexcited yowls coming from a mad man out there in preposterous uniform, storming the streets and demonstrating his lunacy.
What was his obsession with aged vinegar saturated cucumbers?
At one point I had caught up to her and managed to wrestle my arms around her, but she tussled and rolled about, slithering out of my bear hug. The dog then wandered into a forested area. This was hopeless. Brushing myself off, reeling in embarrassing defeat, I started back for the car which curiously was only fifty yards away. I had been chasing this mangy fleabag around in circles! I caught my breath before looking over at the other order on my passenger seat. What normally would have been an early delivery, was now already five minutes late. It was a known problem customer. Half the time she'd send the driver back with another pizza. The box was talking to me. Open me. Take a slice. Run that dog down.
I pondered it for a moment, snuffling out the aroma of its pepperonis. Pickles suddenly dashed across the front of the car and headed into the neighbor's backyard. I was already out of my car, legs apart, palms up, eyes bugged, breathing hard in some kind of April O' Neil action stance. I peeled a hot slice from the box and ran about holding it high into the frigid air.
But the inventive effort was a complete failure. While screaming and waving that hunk of cheese in the air, it dawned on me that this was not working and perhaps I've gone completely mad. All I could do now was curse myself for how far I'd gotten from the car again. After trudging through the miserable frozen white coat on the yards of these poor families, I hung my head in shame before the one I let down most.
Breathing hard, I made my report.
"I did everything I.... could. I'm sure she'll...be back. I have to get back to the shop. You guys have a nice....whew... evening."
The family began laughing hysterically. None of it made any sense until my mind allowed me to believe what my vision showed me next. Pickles was in the living room shaking snow from itself, whimpering and jumping around, playing with the children. The man at the door unsympathetically studied me, the defeated snow covered pizza delivery boy with this blatant look of exasperation and utter confusion. The laughter ushered me off of the doorstep and back into the snow as the door behind me slammed closed. I examined the slice of pizza in my hand, and then at the windshield of a Cadillac parked in front of me. I sighed and carefully put the slice back into the box.
I was going to get me the beating of a lifetime from my boss unless I thought of something. I could just go back and tell them they need to remake the pizza because we made another mistake on an order. But problem customers get special attention. That would never fly. I had to tell the truth and there would be piquing mockery to withstand, and hell to pay.