In Search of Pizza

It was 2012 and we were sitting in a pagoda at camp. It was late, I think, because that’s when we had free time. I was with a few friends, and we weren’t talking about much of anything, because we were tired from the long day in the middle of the long summer. We were hungry. And someone mentioned pizza.

I don’t know how the phrase “In Search of Pizza” entered the conversation, but it did, and it was very suddenly stuck in all our heads in that weird way phrases sometimes can be. They work their way in to your mind and won’t let go until you force them out on to paper.

Somehow, we decided we were going to each write a story. The story could be about whatever we wanted. There was no length requirement either. The only rule was that it had to be titled “In Search of Pizza.”

Summer time promises are hard to keep, and I think my friend Brandon was the only one who ended up sending his out, but my version, in all it’s horrible dialogued and over adjectived glory has been saved on my google drive for years.

So I thought I’d share a bit of it. This is the beginning. It’s long—much too long. I was just beginning to really write, and my style was only starting to form, though my flair for the verbose is very clear.

Try not to laugh too much:

“The searching is a metaphor, numbnuts”
“A metaphor for what?”
“It doesn’t matter. Metaphors are important.”
“No one cares about metaphors, fartface”
“Tell that to Moby Dick!”
“What the fuck kind of name is Moby Dick?”
Kate sighed to herself as she continued to wipe down the counter of Lombardi’s, the local pizza joint where she worked after school. The two boys continued arguing as Kate tried her hardest to drown them out. Listening to the middle schoolers talk made Kate feel oddly nostalgic. It’s not that she missed middle school. No one misses middle school. Kids who are in the hospital sick for months at a time missing class don’t miss middle school.
She was disrupted from her thoughts by the jingling of the chimes over the shop doors. In walked a man that Kate would recognize anywhere.
“Chip, I haven’t seen you around here in ages.”
“That’s cause I haven’t been around in ages, Kate, darling.” Replied the old man, as he took a seat at the counter directly across from where Kate had been dusting. He wrinkled his nose as he grabbed a menu from the rack on the wall.
“You know why this menu never changes, Kate? Cause there is no need to mess with perfection.” he sighed, peacefully as he leafed through the pages.
Chip hadn’t been to Lombardi’s in a very long time. Or, at least, what seemed like a very long time to the teenager working behind the counter. Time is relative, and her really long time was no time at all to the older man. A quarter of Kate’s life was probably not even 1/8th of Chips. Probably. Kate needed to take in to account her horrible math skills and lack of knowledge of Chip’s real age.
“So, where you been old man?” Kate asked as she began to make Chip’s pizza.
“Well first off, young lady, I haven’t even placed my order…”
“Stop pretending like you are debating. I know what you are ordering. You know what you are ordering. Let’s not play this game.” She paused as Chip laughed. It was a nice laugh. Low and deep and comforting in the same way it’s comforting to hear a song you loved as a kid or a story your parents read you when you were little. “One old-fashioned, extra cheese coming right up.”
Making pizzas was almost therapeutic for Kate. The motions came so routine. Knead the dough. Spread the sauce. Sprinkle the cheese. Her movements had almost an air of elegance, they were so practiced. Chip watched her move, as he continued to thumb through the menu.
“Some things don’t need to change. Why would they? I’ve spent a lot of time searching for the best piece of pie in this city, but I always end up back here. You don’t try to make it too complicated. Simple is good. Simple is easy. Simple is cheese, and crust and sauce and just the right amount of grease. And simple is perfect for me.” He sighed contently as Kate put the pizza in to the oven.
She turned back to face him as she wiped the crumbs from her hands.
“Sometimes I think you talk just to talk.”
“Girl, you know that’s true.”
They were jolted back to reality by the sound of the jukebox in the corner of the restaurant. “I’ve got sunshine…. on a cloudy day” crooned The Temptations.
“I had forgotten we even had a jukebox” laughed Kate. “No one uses that old thing anymore. I’m surprised those kids could even find a song they recognized”
“Stop pretending like you are so old and wise, girl. You’ve got what? Six years on them? Six years is nothing! Six years isn’t even enough time to perfect a pizza recipe. Trust me. I know. I get to say that right? That’s a privilege that comes with being an old guy.” Chip held Kate’s gaze. “Old people don’t get many privileges. I’m gonna claim the ones I got.”
Kate was used to Chip’s rants, but not so used to him talking about his age. The fact that Chip was firmly over the hill was not a secret—but it wasn’t discussed. There was no need to discuss such obvious and depressing things.
She turned to look at the man. True, his hair was very much gone and he had some liver spots decorating the area of his neck, but he was active and vivacious and the opposite of everything Kate had ever been told about old age.
Chip’s age may have showed itself physically, but that wasn’t what Kate saw when she looked at him. She saw the man who had helped her with her History homework freshmen year, as he ate pizza and she refilled soda glasses. She saw the man who took pictures of her and her date as she left for the senior prom. He hadn’t known much about working the camera, and each picture had a tiny bit of thumb in the upper right corner. She still smiled when she looked at them.
“Chip, old man,” Kate said with a smile “You still haven’t told me where you’ve been. I feel like I haven’t seen you around here in forever.” Kate had worked at Lombardi’s for a long time. Depending on your point of view, it was to her benefit or disadvantage that the fact that her parents owned the shop meant they didn’t so much have to abide by child labor laws when it came to their child. Kate would give you a different opinion on this fact depending on the day.
“I’ve been all over, girl. Some good places, some bad places. But none of them have pizza as good as the pizza right here.” He sighed, content, as he bit in to one of the slices that Kate had placed in front of him. The cheese strung between his lips and the slice as he chewed, content.
“The fun thing about getting old is that no one cares what you do anymore. I can sit at every counter in every pizza store in this weird little town and sit down and order a slice. Once a day, twice a day. No one cares. Being old means I can go a little crazy.”
Kate loved listening to Chip talk. She liked the way he pronounced his O’s and the way that his pitch went up dramatically when he got excited. She liked that he had lots to say, and that he could just keep talking and she could just keep listening.
“I’ve been on an adventure, girl, a grand little adventure. I’m not saying I’m gonna be the star of some action movie. I’m no Harrison Ford, but my adventures are weird and wonderful and just what I need. I’m an old man, gotta get my adventuring in when I still can. Old man adventures aren’t as fun as young man adventures, but they sure are more fun than dead man adventures.”
“My adventure, like all good things in life, comes back to pizza. You can be just about anywhere and find pizza. I like that kind of consistency, it’s comforting.

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