The Pizza Poet | By: Alexander Shaumyan | | Category: Short Story - Comic Bookmark and Share

The Pizza Poet

   It's him.
The pizza poet. A thin young chap with a pizza delivery man's hat, ready
to take your order. The pizza poet. The existential mozzarella man with
a melancholy expression of loneliness and despair. "What is your order,
sir?" his face seems to say reluctantly to the public. He is wearing a
pair of gray corduroys, a black turtleneck sweater, a black scarf and,
of course, that stupid looking hat, worn by so many pizza delivery men.
His feet are concealed by a pair of old construction work boots which he
inherited from his grandfather.

    The pizza poet
is making another house call. There is an old lady, living in the suburbs,
and she want to order a poem about her cats. "I want a poem about my cats
Ruthy and Ricky," she says to the pizza poet as he smokes a cigarette.
The woman looks like she is going to die soon but she wants to immortalize
her cats. And the pizza poet is the perfect man for the job. He knows how
to please old ladies. "Yes, I see," he says, trying to appear very enthusiastic.
"Ruthy and Ricky…H'm, would you like some mice with that?" "Of course,
of course," says the old lady. She is wearing one of those summer dresses,
which you can find on sale at most department stores. She looks like she
is half out of her mind. But what do we really know about people? So mice
it will be! The pizza poet writes the order on his note pad. What else?
What else does she want? Maybe she wants a kitty litter box. Yes, of course,
that too! And don't forget Ruthy's white fur and Ricky's black. And the
vet's name. Dr. Murray Bernstein. The pizza poet will write it all down
on his pad. And then he will collect the money. It will be $1 per line.
The lady wants thirty lines. "Thirty dollars, please," says the pizza poet
apologetically. He feels like he's robbing the poor old lady but he has
to do it. He has to survive. So he will write a few lines about the lousy
cats to keep her happy. "I love the way that Ruth and Ricky purr,/each
time I come to pet the bastards' fur…
" he thinks to himself with
a smirk. "I'll just change the word bastards to some other word and I'm
in business. Ha, ha, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha…! I'm just a fake and you'll always
know it,/that's why they always call me a bloody pizza poet!
" The pizza
poet takes the money and leaves the old lady's home with tears in his eyes.
He detests the human race for making him do it, but that's his job. To
take orders from the public. "Life is suffering," he says with a Kierkegaardian
expression on his face. "That's it. I'm just a prisoner in my existential
cesspool. Ay! Ay! Ay-ay-ay!"

    The pizza poet
is walking along the empty city streets. He knows that he has to return
to his lousy apartment and start working on the cat poem. It's due tomorrow.
For Ruthy's birthday. He wants to scream. "YOU LOUSY BASTARDS! HOW COULD
But he owes his landlord a lot of money, so he has to write the bloody
poem. "Scotch! I need a bottle of Scotch! I can't do this shit without
really getting shitfaced!" The pizza poet walks into one of the nearest
package stores and picks up a pint of Scotch whiskey.

He gets another half-pint of bourbon
in case it's not enough to get him through the night.

    He goes back to
his shabby apartment, opens the Scotch and begins to drink. Gulp, gulp,
gulp… Suddenly a lot of ideas begin to pour into his head and he starts
writing. Ode to Ruthy and Ricky. So it goes:

Ode to Ruthy and Ricky

I love the way that Ruth and
Ricky purr

Each time I come to pet the pranksters'

    The poem continues
describing their adeptness at catching mice, their visits to the vet, their
magnificent owner, their kitty litter box, which is always fresh and clean,
and so on--in a sickly cheerful and elevated tone, not unlike the one that's
used in a TV commercial. So there you have it. Thirty lines. The old lady
will be happy.

    The pizza poet
is drunk by now and nothing seems to matter anymore. He is free. That is
until the booze wears off. Then back to the nightmarish, Kafkaesque reality.
Back to the old order taking. "OH MY GOD!" he screams. He grabs his head
with both of his arms and begins to roll on the carpet of the small room

    He begins to cry
and yell, as the neighbors knock on the wall. "SHUT UP! WE'RE TRYING TO
GET SOME SLEEP HERE!" The pizza poet puts on his gray raincoat and gets
out of his apartment. It's mid-October and the cold October wind blows
in his face, as he walks along the streets in the night. He finished his
Scotch and now he opens the bourbon. O the evil night! O the night of prostitutes
and broken windows! O the night of the homeless and forgotten! O the starry
night indifferent

to the suffering dogs! O the Dostoyevskian
night! O the night of nightmares in neon light display windows!...

    The pizza poet
passes an old man, rummaging for something to eat in the garbage. He passes
a prostitute in black high-heeled shoes and a black leather miniskirt.
He walks by, oblivious to the whole world. "BLOODY BASTARDS!" He sees a
young couple, making out in a fancy red sports car, which makes him feel
even more desperate. He remembers the time when he was seventeen and some
girl took a fancy to his poetry. But it's over now. She married a soccer
player and the most popular guy in school. "BLOODY BASTARDS! I'LL SHOW
YOU!" He breaks into a hysterical laughter and jumps up and down, pointing
his middle finger at the sky. Suddenly he collapses on the grass of a sidewalk,
totally exhausted and totally drunk. And in a few seconds he's dead asleep.



* * * * *

    The next morning
the pizza poet wakes up with a hangover, not remembering what had happened
to him. He finds two empty bottles next to him and a small pile of dog
and looks around. He could have been arrested for sleeping on the lawn,
but apparently the cops were not driving in the area during the night.
to the apartment, takes the poem out of his typewriter and goes out again.
He gets into his old VW bug and delivers the poem. He's a few minutes late.
Ruthy is already wearing her birthday bow tie, waiting for her favorite
cat food to be opened. The lady is thrilled to death about the poem and
gives the pizza poet two more dollars for a job well done.

    So now he has
to wait for another order. The bloody landlord took all that he has for
the month's rent and he is broke again. And where else could he find another
old lady who would pay him $1 per line? "BASTARDS! BASTARDS! BASTARDS!"
he screams. He has tried suicide before but was unsuccessful. And he is
too much of a coward to use a gun. And he's been writing too many letters
to his mother, asking her for money. Ever since his parents divorced, his
mother has been receiving only $400 a month from her ex-husband, who works
as a banker. "BASTARDS! BLOODY BASTARDS!" He gets very excited and runs
his car into a tree. "OH SHIT!" He gets out of a car and finds it totally
smashed. It's smoking with a strange smoke, followed by an explosion. "SHIT!!!
SHIT!!! SHIT!!!"

    The pizza poet
walks along the streets once again. It's all hopeless, he thinks, just
like in a Kafka story. No money, no job, no woman. Just that cruel, empty
feeling in the pit of his stomach. It's over. Gonzo. History. Kaput. He
might as well forget that dream of a small villa somewhere in Southern
Italy. Ay! Ay-ay-ay! Play it again, maestro! Play your sad songs of the
weeping willow in Massachusetts! Life is just a cruel joke, played upon
innocent people, tyrannized by the government. And the existentialists
revel in this pain. Bloody Sartre! Bloody Camus! The autumn air is full
of their angst and their tobacco smoke.

But look! Suddenly he sees an old
friend Joe, who works delivering pizza in the neighborhood. "Hey pizza
poet!" Joe yells, "How's your poetry coming? Have you taken any orders

    "Oh shit, Joe,
don't remind me! I'm feeling quite lousy and I'm going out of my mind.
My car's totaled, I'm out of money and I have no love life. I think I'm
turning into some kind of nihilist."

    "Relax, pizza
poet. Just take it easy. I think there is a way out. Look at me. Do you
think I'm in love with my goddamn job?! Delivering pizza all day for peanuts.
All I ever wanted in my life was to be a musician. Look, pizza poet, I've
got a great idea. You see my pizza delivery car here. I could deliver my
pizzas and you could write your poems. A poem in thirty minutes. Quick
service for all kinds of poetry. Romantic, social, political, religious,
you name it. Trust me. Just put an ad in the paper, and I'll help you get
Think of the possibilities, pizza poet. In a short time we could make enough
money to get out of this hell hole!"

    "Great idea, Joe!
We'll show those bastards!" the pizza poet smiles sneeringly, excited by
the prospect that he'll be free at last. "I'll start working on it right
away. O Joe, you're my savior! What would I do without you?!" he says,
running back to the apartment. In a few minutes the advertisement is completed:


your sausage and

iambic pentameters right here!
Romance with a crispy crust

or pepperoni with a social conscience
in 30 minutes. Prices

are reasonable and payable on
delivery. Extra cheese or extra

lines on request. Call us at
777-5533 (ask for Joe).


    The advertisement
appears in the local paper and the pizza poet and his partner Joe are now
in business, awaiting a call from their first customer. They are sitting
at Lou's pizzeria. Lou is a fat Italian owner of the place, who's been
sending Joe on pizza runs for the last three years. He doesn't suspect
that Joe has organized a pizza poetry business in his restaurant but Joe's
services have always been dirt-cheap, so he never complained about his

    The phone rings
and it's a call from the first customer. "Joe, get your ass over here!"
the owner shouts.

    "I'm coming, I'm
coming," says Joe, rushing to the phone.

    "So you are the
pizza poets," says a woman's voice.

    "Yes, we are Joe
and Raoul. What can we do for you, ma'am?"

    "I would like
a medium pizza with sausage and mushrooms and a get-well poem for my very 
sick mother."

    "How many lines
would you like, ma'am?"

    "Oh, I don't know.
A dozen or so, I guess."

    "Anything you
might want in a poem?"

    "Oh, just use
your imagination."

    "A poem and a
pizza coming right up. That will take about thirty minutes."

    Joe calls Raoul,
the pizza poet. "All right, Raoul. Get your ass in gear. We need a get-well
poem for someone's sick mother, about a dozen lines or so. Make it snappy!"
He goes to the owner and tells him that he needs a medium pizza with sausage
and mushrooms. While they are waiting for the pizza, the pizza poet takes
out his pen and paper and begins to write:

Get well, my dear mother,

You mean so much to me,

Like a sister to a brother,

Like honey to a bee…

    "All right, all right,
I'm all done," the pizza poet says to his partner after about fifteen minutes.
And they are off on their first pizza poetry run. They deliver the poem
and the pizza to the woman and she pays them for the cost of the pizza
plus the additional twenty dollars for the poem. "Not bad, not bad at all,"
says Joe to his partner. "Now we have to wait for more customers."

    Their next customer
is an insurance company, selling life insurance to young people under thirty.
They also have an extensive medical coverage, which they want to be included
in the poem. In addition, they want a large pizza with anchovies and extra
cheese. "Bloody bastards!" yells the pizza poet, "Joe, how could you do
this to me?! I'm a bloody poet, not an insurance salesman!"

    "C'mon, asshole.
We want to get out of this hell hole! Start writing!" Joe says to his partner.

    "All right, you
bastard. But I'm warning you. I can't take this anymore. I AM A POET. Maybe
the world knows me as the pizza poet who fills the orders of the public,

    "To hell with
your soul, Raoul. We need the money."

    So the pizza poet
is off, writing a poem for the insurance company:

My friends, I give you my assurance

That everybody needs insurance…

    So it went. The pizza
poet and his partner received more and more orders from various people,
organizations, companies, corporations, and even the underworld—all wanting
to be heard. And there were the Moonies, the Hare Krishnas, peace activists,
ecologists, scientologists, astrologers, the Proctology Association, the
Ku Klux Klan, the CIA, the FBI, Communists, the Black Panthers, the Retarded
Relief Organization, nasal researchers, saviors of the whales, the New
Church of Jesus and Gurdjiev, the Young Cosmonauts, a rape crisis center,
the Rockers for Jesus, dentists, the Gynecological Liberation Army, THE
STARVING WORLD, INC., etc., etc.

    Everybody wants
a poem. Everybody needs the pizza poet. And everybody wants it fast. Come
on, pizza poet! Write us a few lines! And we want it on our table in thirty
minutes. And don't forget the pepperoni and the extra cheese. And we need
some Coca-Cola, too. So the pizza poet wrote and wrote and in time he became
very rich. And now he's living in a small villa by the sea somewhere in
Southern Italy. And he changed his name. And he wrote a poem called The
World Is Full of Bastards
. And the IRS officials are looking for him
because he owes a lot of money to the government.




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