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Friday, August 2, 2002

A Pizza Man

Red Dixon

II.

The drive is the thing and Red is thinking whizzing down the soft Stockton roads, the soft Manteca roads he's watching the road and watching the people and cheap pepperoni's good enough for the Mexicans and good enough for the white trash with their dirt driveways and barefoot little kids and it's good enough for Dixon on the oven top hours old.

He takes off his shoes just to feel the pedal better because it's so hot here on Harding down by Kragen and the adult book store with the holiday themed displays.
Driving without shoes is illegal, Red has been told.

Back in Manteca on a colder night he takes half an hour to find the trailer parked in the pumpkin patch do they really need guards or is the guy just fulfilling his Linus? but he pays cash and a wink and a tight little green bud joint and Red thanks the night sky that Jason took this call and he declines an invitation to come inside but there's not much left by the time he pulls into the Round Table lot and the pizzas on the oven are already late so he jumps out jumps back in and drives drives drives and he apologizes and still gets a few bucks at most of the doors on the newer south side of town with couples and kids who've never heard of a grizzly old guy looks like wavy gravy sleeps on a jackolantern farm and tips in weed.

In Stockton again, another cold night this one and there's a little sign by the delivery rack and Red doesn't get it because it says to be really careful and don't we avoid the areas blacked out on the map and what's out there besides those crackheads living in long-condemned downtown high-rise hotels?

He reads the little print and it tells him about a pizza-delivering kid a few blocks away from the Waterloo store over in the tree-named streets whose pizzas, pizza bags, shoes, shirt, pants, keys, and car ended up with three hoods from 14 to 17 and their guns and he walked back to his HQ in Hanes.

Reminds Red of the stories Joe will tell Joe now locked up in San Joaquin County Jail for breaking in a pastor's daughter who wrote just a little too much in her diary the kind of diary a lot of 17-year-old girls must keep but who knew certainly not Joe and now her dad is in the same jail and they both have private cells after he fell off the wagon and drove his wife mad with his cries over the rape of innocence and would have been killed in county because Joe is one mean mother the stories about the insides of the south Sacramento homes where working-class moms and dads cooked meth in little glass pipes yellowed with use and kicked in the walls with all their fighting but everything looked OK when they walked up the porch in their work clothes but the kids were in their bathrooms masturbating with Elle and Vogue and calling pizza men into courts and cutting off the exit.

Only guy ever got hurt tried to use the bat he had stuffed under his seat, Joe said. And hey, they let most guys off with their clothes and cars.

Red is always getting invited in and he usually goes in even though for some reason he thinks he shouldn't and once he downed a Budweiser in 10 seconds flat like that was something and he always gets out alive and never gets invited in when it's clear the assorted Hispanics are working a deal that's got to involve several kilos, black tar or the white stuff.

There is some movie the guys are always talking about, a movie where a hottie asks the pizza man in, but it never happens to them instead they see things like dads slamming their little daughters into the wall when they rush to the door or Jon calls the cops because the guy is beating his wife and Jon can't stand her screams so they talk about it over a clove cigarette or a few Camel Reds and spit in people's pies and cross addresses off the map.

They tell Red odd stories about pizza men staying at their parties until the store manager comes back to get their cars but these guys don't even have a party just a game on the tube and Red drives off without a tip and marks that house in his head as one where the delivery gets in at an hour and not under.

There's this guy off Wawona gets his small mushroom and pepperoni after 20 minutes and he might complain the one or two times it comes a bit later but he always, always pays $20 for his $14.57 tab and they all know it.

There is something in the way Red and the rest live, with $20 in cash and change at the start of the shift and a BP next door where all fuel up with gas and corn dogs and they always spend just a little bit ahead of basic needs like people with real jobs use their credit cards.

Within weeks of realizing that the only problem with driving high is that sickly sweet smell, Jon and Red have a system of litter and butts in the tray that fools all but the other tokers out there, the guys who ask "Where's the bag?" and don't mean the one with the pizzas in it but they aren't going to cause any trouble because their wives know they smoke but they don't know how much or about the strange grin they get when talking about dope with teenage delivery guys.

Jason is in the back, rolling out the pies, and if you call him "man" when you first meet him you get on his good side and he tells you without a smirk about how sniffing the gas out of bubbles in fresh dough makes you high and all learn the secrets of never actually making a pizza because it's the drivers managers make clean the grease trap and mop the floor at the end of the night while they count out the receipts and half the $30 or so Red brings in for tips is already spent on something like the three St. Ides flavored malt liquor 32s he's got sitting in plastic bags behind the driver's seat.

If Red gets off at nine that's plenty of time to party although that usually means meeting at the goth Wiccan's house where he and Jon used to buy dope from her older brother and now smoke hers for free because her and her pale-faced butch girlfriend really like Michelle and there is a towel stretched under the door to keep all the smoke inside while they puff until there is no point except that it's good stuff and their tastebuds are still alive.

Something strange about a dirty car and slacks that aren't washed each day gives Red more tips even on the poor side of town even when most of the dirt is on the inside and his left middle finger is calloused and smoke stained and it's not from using a pencil like his college linguistics professor makes out when he compares Red's hands in some kind of crazy example about how even equals aren't really the same.

Red always brings pizzas to parties and he never gets caught and tonight he's off to see cousin-by-marriage then nothing-by-divorce Josh over by the old Spreckles towers where a Christmas tree always goes up in lights and most of the people out here are guys and the two girls are from right down the street but it doesn't feel like a cock party because all these guys are het to the point of absurdity and are letting two Dalmatians hump in the kitchen because at least somebody's getting something while two of these construction workers tear through hunks of seedless on TV dinner trays and start to roll and Jason likes to inhale anything and he's giving Red a whiff of Dust Off from the tattoo-shop corner of the house but it goes right out Dixon's ears because he got too high on the three-mile drive over to feel anything new and all he can think about is why the girl at the barstool kitchen counter has such short fingernails and about the one-armed guy two blocks over who always orders the same things and always gives $2 back when he takes his change over the short white iron gate.

Day shift is sort of a blast and sort of not because the light is so strong and Red has to close his eyes a lot if he's stoned and driving out way west almost to Interstate 5 where all the mules are trucking the weed from Baja to Redding and 10 pies are going to the Hershey's factory which means a $5 tip plus 50 cents for each box and maybe a few candy bars from some secretary's stash to munch on when the munchies strike and Dixon never gains weight though all he eats is junk because he's always on the move and he never stops running down those lanes those sidewalks those dark alleys.

Red Dixon PizzaManDixon@aol.com