This is my submission for this month’s Muse Wars, Round Two. It’s a short story link-up for all those who enjoy doing a bit of creative writing, or those who would like to. Take the image supplied below, add one thousand-ish words, shake and pour. For when the muse has run away.
Micheal was just the loveliest man.
That was the general consensus of the residents of this small, white collar suburb. Glensdale, as it was named by some unimaginative town planner on it’s inception in the mid–seventies, was completely unremarkable. It boasted a primary school, community hall and playground. It’s well–maintained roads were safe for children to ride push bikes until the first street light came on. Mothers with young children chatted on park benches, rocking prams with one hand and balancing decaf coffees in reusable thermos cups in the other. Middle aged couples in polyester tracksuits took mid afternoon power walks, small dogs with leads attached to diamanté collars pumping tiny legs in an effort to keep up.
Really, the only remotely remarkable thing about Glensdale was that it was so blandly unremarkable. A seamless forty minutes drive from the CBD. Crime rates were so low, with the exception of an occasional car window being smashed for the change in it’s ashtray, certainly by perpetrated teenagers drifted in from other suburbs; that they were almost completely non–existent. It wasn’t the sort of suburb where you bought your first home– not as prices as exorbitant as those in Glendale, definitely lot– but it’s possible that your second home, or maybe your investment property, would be there.
Five streets back from the main road that served as the official boundary of the suburb sat Glensdale Shopping Complex, squat and tired and grey. Five of the eights shops were empty, and had been for years, faded For Lease signs gathering dust in their windows. The remaining three housed Hair Beware, the only hairdresser in an eight kilometer radius, the overpriced Glensdale Convenience Store stocked with multicolored, mass–produced tat… and The Family Pizza Place.
The Family Pizza Place was run by Michael, who, of course, was just the loveliest man. Michael knew all his customers by name, and if he spotted a new face, he made it his business to know them, too.
Michael’s parents were hard working accountants who didn’t believe in coddling children and decided a babysitter was no longer a financial necessity when their only child was ten years of age. They’d moved him here the month after he turned eleven and Michael had been working, in one fashion or another, at The Family Pizza Place since two months after they first rolled their moving van into Glensdale. Too young to be legally paid be on the books; Michael worked every afternoon, four days a week, for five dollars an hour. At thirteen years old he began chopping and prepping ingredients. At fifteen he graduated to the front counter, and as soon as he had a license to drive he was doing deliveries.
No one– his parents least of all– really understood why he loved this small, hot, slightly grubby suburban pizza. But they certainly weren’t surprised that, when the Pizza Place’s owner announced his plans to sell the business and retire for good, Michael used his twelve years of hard earned savings to fund a small deposit on a much larger loan his parents took out on his behalf.
And they watched as he built the shabby business into something actually slightly profitable. The pizzas and pastas were as delicious as they always had been. It was Michael’s particular brand of customer service that had people, not only in Glensdale but also it’s surrounding suburbs, phoning for pizza on a regular basis.
Michael knew the names of his customer’s kids, girlfriend’s, grandparents and dogs. He remembered which families ordered their supreme pizzas without mushrooms and which ones requested extra olives. He would send a free ice cream cake round with a pizza delivery if he knew there was a birthday party going on. Local teenage boys watched their pizzas magically upgrade from a small pan to a full meal deal if Michael spotted them at one of the four small dine–in tables, attempting to entertain a date on a budget. And for wedding anniversaries, he made love heart shaped crusts.
It wasn’t the shop, Michael would explain whenever he was asked, always good natured in his reply. “It’s not the shop,” he’d say, a bizarre pride beaming from his words, “it’s the people. It’s the families. It’s this suburb, the life and soul of it.”
And he grins like a Chesire Cat, as if we were referring to the Moulin Rouge in Paris rather than a tiny suburban takeaway that always smelt like olives and feta and rank mozzarella.
Michael watched over his customers as though they were members of his own family. He proudly witnessed gawky boys grow into married men. He watched families kaleidoscope from swollen stomachs to teething toddlers to energetic children. And he cared deeply for every one of them.
Which was why he found it so very distressing, and took it so extremely personally, when he discovered the truth about Mr Marelli.
The Marelli’s were regular customers at The Family Pizza Place. They’d been ordering ham and pineapple on thick, supreme on thick and plain cheese on classic crust for themselves and their three kids for as about as long as Michael could remember– since he himself was in his late teens, surely.
Michael always felt his discretion was one of his grossly underrated strong points… you didn’t get to the point of knowing everything there was to know about everyone you knew, without also knowing when to keep your mouth shut.
So Michael kept his silence, folded him broad arms and meaty lips tight, even as it became clearer that something here just wasn’t right. He watched, patiently, as Mr Marelli’s regular order changed.
It was now peri peri on thin, minimal cheese, no breads, no drinks.
And a pretty blonde woman, who was most definitely not the Mrs Marelli Michael was familiar with, was always by his side, heels clicking and hair swishing, purring into this married man’s ear.
And what began as once a fortnight soon became two or three days a week. What Michael had been able to ignore at first became something far more serious. Michael could see Mrs Marelli knew all about her husband’s not–so–clandestine affair… it was marked all over her face every time she came into the shop with her children to pick up two pizzas– one ham and pineapple, one cheese for the kids.
The funeral for the blonde woman was held exactly one week later. Michael didn’t care to know if Mr Marelli attended. But he waited patiently by the phone for their order to come in.
Three pizzas. Garlic bread. A drink. Mr Manelli, looking a bit thin and smiling wanly as he came to pick it up. But he had his wife– the one Michael was familiar with– and his three children by his side.
Things were as they should be, Michael thought, humming to himself as the Marel
li’s bundled their children and pizza out into the cold night air. As they should be, indeed.
Michael knew everything about every one of his customers… the delivery address for the blond woman included. And really, his customers were like his family.
And Michael was just the loveliest man.
Want this linky on your blog, too? Grab the link from here…