Halloween and the Delivery Boy at the Go-Go Bar by Mark James Andrews
I was delivering pizzas for Dino at Roma’s on Halloween Night. Driving my Dodge and wishing the radio worked. My job was to feed the hungry. I wanted them to be filled, to be satisfied. That’s about it. Tonight I was the Catcher in the Rye on the look-out for the little beggars stepping off curbs into oncoming traffic.
The parade of angels and demons, soldiers and hippies, ghosts, witches and vampires into the pizzeria was mundane to me. Like Santa Claus. Like the Easter bunny. Skeletons? Bat Man?
Dino had baked waffle cookies, pizzelles, to give out. 3 platters stacked high. Word got out and they were gone in 20 minutes.
“Fuckathis. We give out pennies now.”
Finally a spark. Something. I had a run of five pies to The Duke, the neighborhood go-go bar. The caller was Mack. Each pie ordered was different and not the sort to be coming out of our neighborhood. Mack’s orders were precise and unique in his demands for toppings and arrangements. Plain pizza with heavy sauce, extra oregano and no cheese. Number 2 with extra pepperoni, anchovies on half, artichokes on half…
Dino prepared the pizzas for The Duke with loving care, boxed them up, stacked them high and stapled the ticket to the top box with a flourish. He handed them off.
“You gonna get some spicy tip on this one. You gonna go over there and sneeze in the bush. You gonna come back with a cobra snake down there. You gonna get bit by the snapping turtle.”
Dino’s laughing exploded into a monster fit of coughing. His beady brown eyes were tearing up. He quickly lit up a Kent. He smoked them religiously because they had “the micronite filter.” So he wouldn’t get “the cancer.”
I got over to The Duke, plopped the pizzas up on the bar and took a stool. They had a blonde up on the stand dancing to Sly & The Family Stone blasting out of some tinny speakers. Dance to the Music. The crowd of old greasers were hollering and clapping. The Duke pulled out all the stops. A paisley headband harnessed the blonde’s hair. She had a peace sign painted on her cheek. Beads were draping her tits. Cut off levi’s with stringy thread covered her mound of Venus. The crowd loved her. The whole stage covered with green.
Johnny Sideburns who was pouring a tray of shots with well whiskey finally made his way down the bar to me. Snickering all the way.
“Nice hair girlie but we ain’t hiring. Got a whole stable of dancers.”
“Got a pizza order for Mack. Is that you? Or are you the sorcerer’s apprentice?”
He chewed on that one for a second.
“No Mack here, punk.”
“Somebody called over to Roma’s with this order. Said he was Mack from The Duke.”
“Oh. You mean Smack, fuckhead. He’s in back. Follow me. Careful you don’t get your ass grabbed on the stroll over.”
Sideburns opened the door for me to an area that was part stockroom, part lounge lizard recreation room. Smack was sitting on a couch with Angela Davis with her classic blow-out Afro and Janis Joplin in full hippie regalia. Smack was working a con and charade for guys working the auto plants who voted for Nixon. Halloween night and he was providing a safe night out for good American men who had fantasies.
Smack had just lit Angela’s cigarette and turned to me.
“Just put the shit down on the table, buddy. The money’s there. Take it all. But it better be good this time or I’m gonna kick your ass. You call yourselves Roma? You fucked up my order last time like some kind of Pollock operation. Any mistakes and I’m gonna fuck you up.”
“Hey, I’m just the delivery boy in this. The cook puts it all together and he’s good. Don’t shoot the messenger.”
Just like that Smack had me by the throat and up against a wall of beer cases. He pushed the button on his blade and had it up on the side of my head. Flicking my ear lobe lightly.
“I put the pressure on you and you put the pressure on the cook and it all comes out right. I could have this here ear right now, Vincent Van, and you wouldn’t be listening to no Woodstock no more.”
Smack’s grip tightened and his face was up against mine. He needed a shave. He would always need a shave. His breath smelled like Bazooka bubblegum. A Jefferson Airplane tune came on in the barroom. White Rabbit.
“C’mon, Smackie. He’s nothing but a fresh kid. C’mon back here.”
Then Smack was all over Janis on the couch. Doing his routine with the throat grip and the soft touch with the hard steel again. Janis didn’t flinch like she had been down that road before.
“Bitch, don’t talk shit. Now get over there and suck little Vincent Van’s dick and be quick about it.”
Janis moved about as fast as Smack. Down on her knees and pulling down my Levi’s up against the beer case wall in a flash. She just started in when Smack yanked her back by the hair and got her up on her feet.
“Bitch, go get Westside Wally out in the club and bring him back here. He just got back from ‘Nam and you’re gonna give HIM a blowjob.”
Next thing I know, I’m getting the bum’s rush out. Yanked by my hair by both Smack and Sideburns. My feet barely hit the floor of the backroom and through the club area on the way but then I did crash hard flying out the entry door over the sidewalk and caving in the passenger side of my Dodge parked at the curb when I hit.
I got back to Dino at Roma’s and he had shut down the ovens and was counting the till. He had the kitchen TV on full blast. It was always ON. This time the late night movie was flickering in black and white, a Western with a lot of gun smoke. He glanced at it while he worked. He was comfortable now drinking his homemade red wine and had a glass poured for me. Halloween was over. It was a tradition he was still trying to figure out.
“We had a good night tonight, my friend. We make a little money together. We laugh at all the funny kids who come in and you had a good time at The Duke. No? Tell me. Talk to me. You never talk too much.”
We went over my receipt tickets for the night. He counted out my pay and handed over a thick wad of bills but it had a lot of singles in it. His eyes got serious and he smiled sadly.
“Your girlfriend going to be at your place tonight? She’s a nice. Good. But you never seem happy. All the time long face. You say something yesterday when I ask if you watch that funny show. You say you don’t watch the TV. You say you don’t HAVE the TV. I fix that.”
Dino went over to a row of shelving and pulled out an old cardboard box and out of that a small portable TV. It was old style but meant to look futuristic in red and tan plastic with a telescoping antennae. Gino plugged it in and turned it on. He played with the dials and antennae working on the picture. He changed channels turning a knob back and forth. Clicking up. Clicking down. He turned the volume knob up and down. He peered at me, shrugging his shoulders, questioning.
“Look you need this. You take it home and watch. You need something to keep going. Watching the TV is a good thing in a time like this. You take it. You will see.”
Mark James Andrews has worked as a gravedigger, inspector at a defunct auto plant, and a librarian. He is the author of Burning Trash (Pudding House). His poems, stories, and reviews have appeared in many print and online venues, most recently or upcoming in Short, Fast, and Deadly, Gutter Eloquence and Lummox Anthology. He lives and writes just outside the Detroit city limits most of the time.