Freedom Lane: Mastication Destination

“Order up!” Paulie shouted after taking his latest order. It was Saturday night, and Paulie’s Pizza was packed. Tony and Sal were keeping up in the kitchen, but just barely. To his surprise, Paulie saw someone who had already stopped in that night, a tall, bald guy with dark skin and glasses. He remembered since he reminded Paulie of his nephew, Da’Quarius. “Hello again,” he said. “Everything was OK with your order?”

“Oh yeah,” the customer said. “I’m here to pick up for Susan Collier.”

“Susan Collier?” Paulie asked, looking over the orders that were ready for pick up. “Three pies, already paid for. That’s an awful lot of pizza for your second trip. You throwing a party or something?”

“It’s not for me,” the customer said. “I work for Mastication Destination.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Paulie said, handing the pizzas over.

“I just deliver the food,” the customer answered. “I’ll see you later.”

Paulie watched the customer, who wasn’t really a customer at all, leave through the front door with a jingle of the bells. “You on of a bitch,” he muttered.

“Excuse me?” the woman who was next in line asked.

“Nothing,” Paulie replied. “What can I get you, doll?”

****

Freedom Lane

Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness

Season 13, Episode 3: Mastication Destination

****

“Then he says he works for some food delivery company,” Paulie said, sitting at his sister, Helen’s dining room table, joined by her wife, Rose, and their adopted son, Da’Quarius. He had finished telling the tale from the night before, serving someone who was being paid to deliver the pizza to their home. “Can you believe the nerve?!”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Rose said, adding a small scoop of mashed potatoes to her plate. “You still get the business, right?”

“It’s the principle of it all!” Paulie said, his hands waving in the air. “Who are these people, and what is this company? Who the frig do they think they are, making money from my pizzeria?”

“I have to agree with Rose,” Helen added, waving her fork at Paulie for good measure. “They’re buying pizza, right? You don’t even have to pay your delivery boy to haul it over too. That’s a win-win.”

“Pimple Puss has been delivering for me for years,” Paulie said. “Do you want this outfit to put him out of a job?”

“It saves you money,” Helen said, rolling her eyes. “The kid’s like twelve. He’ll find another job.”

“He’s nineteen,” Paulie said. “I think. You find anything out, kid?”

“I found ‘em,” Da’Quarius said, looking at his phone screen. “Mastication Destination. You download da’ app, and you can have ‘em deliver from just about anywhere. Dey’ll even get’cho ass McDonald’s if you’re too lazy to go to da’ drive through.”

“Put the phone away,” Rose told Da’Quarius. She turned to Paulie. “I just don’t see your obsession with this service.”

“It just bugs me is all,” Paulie said. “I don’t like someone else making money off my business.”

“They’re not exactly stealing from you,” Rose said.

“It’s actually cool,” Da’Quarius said. “Dey don’t even have employees. It’s just regular-ass people with da’ app on their phone.”

“Bunch of mooks,” Paulie muttered. “I’ll show ‘em.”

“Paulie,” Rose said. “You have that look in your eye.”

“What look?” Paulie asked.

“The same look Helen gets before she goes off on some crazy scheme,” Rose replied.

“Hey!” Helen said. “I don’t have a look!”

“Sure, you do, biddy,” Da’Quarius said. “You look like you’re holdin’ in a fart, an’ you ‘bout to pop.”

“Da’Quarius!” Rose scolded.

“What?” Da’Quarius asked. “Say I’m wrong!”

***

The week passed, and Paulie hadn’t seen the driver in at all. It was Saturday afternoon, and he kept waiting for the same guy from Mastication Destination to come so he could exact his revenge. “This is bullshit,” he said. “When I want him to come, he doesn’t show up.”

“It’s like a pot of boiling water,” Tony said, coming from the kitchen, wiping his hands on his apron. “You can’t set your watch to it.”

“That’s not how the saying goes,” Paulie said. He stared at the door for a moment. “Hey. I got an idea. Download that app to your phone, then call the guy here for a pizza. Then I’ll download the app, and I’ll have another guy come for the same order.”

“What’s the point of that?” Tony asked. “I live right upstairs. I don’t need to pay for some delivery guy to carry a pizza up a few dozen stairs. Who am I, President Trump?!”

“Come on,” Paulie said. “Get the app on your phone. It’s called Mastication Destination.”

“Whoa!” Tony exclaimed. “I’m not downloading some jerk off app on my phone! I don’t need the government tracking my habits. That’s why I stopped going to the porn sites and went back to DVDs.”

“You stunad!” Paulie shouted. “I said ‘mastication’! It means to chew stuff.”

“Oh,” Tony said. “You sure?”

“I’m sure,” Paulie said. “Just bring up the app so we can start a turf war with these mooks already.”

“How’s that work?” Tony asked, flicking on his phone’s screen.

“Da’Quarius told me this site uses regular people to deliver the food,” Paulie replied. “So, if the guys come in here, looking to deliver the same food to the same customer, they’re bound to fight over who gets the fare. Get it?”

“Not really,” Tony said, “but I got the app on my phone now. Give me your credit card number.”

***

Da’Quarius came into Paulie’s Pizza. “Sorry I’m late,” he said. “Helen an’ Rose can’t give Dutchie his baths, an’ he rolled ‘round in a pile of shit dis mornin’.”

“No problem,” Paulie said. “I got some stuff for you to do if you can make yourself scarce when the customers show up.”

“OK,” Da’Quarius said. “Anythin’ good goin’ on today?”

“Is that them?!” Tony said, rushing in from the kitchen. He saw Da’Quarius standing in the main area. “Oh. It’s only the kid.”

“Nice to see you too, mo’ fucker,” Da’Quarius said. “What are you all excited for anyway?”

“We’re pranking those masturbation guys,” Tony replied.

“What masturbation guys?” Da’Quarius asked. “Dat bum guy jerkin’ off out back again?”

“He means the Mastication Destination drivers,” Paulie said with an eye roll. “We’re getting them into a turf war. I’m just waiting for them to show up and pick up this pizza.”

“Oh shit,” Tony said, heading back toward the kitchen. “I forgot to make the pie!”

“There is no pie!” Paulie shouted. “It was a fake order!”

“But ain’t da’ driver guy expectin’ a pizza?” Da’Quarius asked. “How dey s’posed to fight with no pizza?”

Paulie looked at Da’Quarius for a moment. “Tony!” he shouted, turning toward the kitchen. “Hurry up with that pie!”

The chime above the door rang out again as the Mastication Destination delivery guy came in. “Yo,” he said, nodding to Da’Quarius as he passed and walked toward the counter. Paulie came out of the kitchen, trying not to smile.

“What can I do for you?” Paulie asked.

“Pizza for Tony Baloney,” the delivery guy asked.

“It’s not ‘Baloney,’” Tony said, coming out from the kitchen. “It’s Baloni. Bah-Lon-Ee.”

“Get back in the kitchen!” Paulie snapped. “Get that pizza boxed up!” He turned back to the delivery guy. “It’ll be right out.”

The chimes rang again, and someone else came in, approaching the counter. He was tall, white, and had sandy hair. “What can I do for you?” Paulie asked.

“I’m here to pick up,” the newest customer said. “Order for Tony Baloney.”

“Oh!” Tony said, coming from the kitchen again. “I just told this guy –”

“GET BACK IN THAT KITCHEN!” Paulie shouted.

“Wait,” the first customer said. “You here with Mastication Destination?”

“Yeah,” the other replied. “Why?”

“I’m here for that order,” the first driver said.

“No you’re not,” the second said. “I came all the way over here. You ain’t takin’ this from me.”

“Fellas,” Paulie said. “What the devil is going on here?”

Da’Quarius sighed, shaking his head. “Umma just sit an’ watch dis shit,” he said.

***

“Alright,” the first delivery guy from Mastication Destination, whose name was O’Dell, said. “I was here first, so this order is mine.”

“I don’t think so,” the second delivery guy, named Max, retorted. “They sent me here, so I’m taking that pizza.”

“Look,” Paulie said. “I don’t have a dog in this fight; but I’m not giving out two orders for one customer, so you better straighten this nonsense out right the frig now.”

“I was here first,” O’Dell said, crossing his arms and staring at Max.

“Well I’m not losing the customer,” Max said. “What are you going to do?”

O’Dell uncrossed his arms. “What do you think I’m gonna do?” he asked.

Tony came out of the kitchen and dropped the pizza box on the customer. “Pie ready for Baloni. That’s Bah-Lon-”

“Thanks, Tony,” Paulie said. “It’s the moment of truth, guys. Who’s taking this pie?”

Both of the delivery guys reached for it, then backed off. “I’m taking that pizza,” Max said.

“No, you’re not,” O’Dell said. “I was here first, and I’m not leaving my customer waiting. I’ll report you.”

“You’ll snitch me out?” Max said. “I didn’t peg you for a rat.”

“Don’t poach my customers,” O’Dell said. “What did you do, hack my account or something?”

“No!” Max snapped. “I’m not a hacker. I got the call just like you did. Want to see my phone?”

“Yeah,” O’Dell said. “I do, actually.”

“Fine,” Max said, taking his phone out. He opened it and showed O’Dell. “See? Delivery for Tony Baloney at Paulie’s Pizza.”

Tony came out from the kitchen. “It’s –”

“Don’t get involved!” Paulie snapped, pushing him back. “These two need to settle this.”

“It’s on my phone too,” O’Dell said, showing Max his phone screen. “Mastication Destination screwed up. I’ll take the pizza, and you can file a complaint with them.”

“No way,” Max said. “I’m not falling for that. They’ll just say it’s a glitch, and I’m out my tip money.”

“You two shouldn’t be making tip money off my customers anyway,” Paulie said.

“Stay out of this, old man!” Max snapped.

“Excuse me?” Paulie asked.

“You can’t talk to him like that!” O’Dell said, shoving Max. “This is his place of business, and you’ll respect it!”

“Yeah!” Paulie added. “As a matter of fact, get the fuck out!”

“Aw shit,” Da’Quarius said, shifting in his seat. “Shit’s ‘bout to get good.”

“I’m taking that pizza,” Max said.

“The hell you are!” Paulie said. “I believe I told you to get the fuck out! I don’t need some smarmy delivery guy coming in here and poaching my customers for tip money. I don’t need your services and didn’t ask for them!”

“And you’re on my turf!” O’Dell said. “This is my neighborhood, and I’m taking that pizza!”

Max shoved Paulie and grabbed the pizza. O’Dell lunged for it, knocking it out of his hands. The two were on throwing punches next, brawling as Paulie got out of the way. O’Dell grabbed Max by the arm and swung him, flinging him into the side of one of the booths, knocking it over. Max got up and punched O’Dell in the gut and pushed him over, breaking a table.

“Oh!” Paulie shouted. “You to assholes are destroying my place!”

“And the pizza’s on the floor!” Tony shouted, coming back from the kitchen, wiping his hands on his apron. “I’m going to have to make another, you friggin’ animals!”

“Well,” Da’Quarius said, moving over to Paulie and watching the fight. “At least yo’ plan worked.”

“Yeah,” Paulie said, watching the fight. “It worked too well I think.”

***

The fight had ended with Paulie and Tony intervening. Tony had O’Dell in a headlock, and Paulie had Max in a full nelson. “You two are both outta here!” Paulie said, dragging Max to the door. “Get the door kid, I’m tossing this bum back to the street.”

“And I’m tossing this turtle back to the sewer!” Tony said, bringing O’Dell.

“What?” Da’Quarius asked. “Why’s he a turtle?”

“He just is!” Tony replied. “Just open the damn door.”

Da’Quarius maneuvered himself to the door and opened it. Paulie and Tony were ready to drag the delivery guys outside, but someone stood in their way. “What the Hell going on?!” New Haven Police Office Rocco Priolo exclaimed.

“Hey Rocco,” Tony said. “Let me toss this mook out, and I’ll make you some lunch.”

“How about you let him go?” Rocco suggested. “You too, Paulie.”

“Shit,” Paulie muttered, letting up on Max, who stood at attention rubbing the back of his neck.

Tony did the same with O’Dell. “You didn’t see anything, right?”

“Of course I saw!” Rocco retorted. “You can’t suggest I didn’t see anything when the men you two had head-locked are standing right here!”

“I gotta jet,” Da’Quarius said. “I wasn’t here, right?”

“Again,” Rocco said, “they’re standing right here, and I still haven’t been told what’s going on.”

“These two were dragging me out after ripping me off!” Max spat. “They refused to give me my pizza for my customer, and then they got physical.”

“What?” Paulie said. “You’re the one who attacked this other guy. Tony and I were just breaking up the fight, Rocco.”

“You weren’t just breaking up the fight,” O’Dell said. “You two were dragging us outside by our heads. And I’m the one who was ripped off!”

“No you weren’t!” Max shouted.

“This is what I’m dealing with!” Paulie said, his arms waving around. “These two idiots came in from that food delivery app, and they’re arguing over a damn pizza. They start fighting, and Tony and I are forced to break it up. I want these two out of my place of business and my pizzeria off that damn app!”

“It’s always something here,” Rocco sighed. “What are you talking about?”

“We work for Mastication Destination,” O’Dell said. “They sent this asshole and me the same customer, but I was here first. He thinks I should step aside and give him the pizza because he’s white.”

“I never said that!” Max shouted. “When did I ever bring race into it?”

“Oh, because I’m black you think you can just step in and take my customer?” O’Dell said.

“That reminds me,” Tony said, turning away. “I gotta remake that pizza.”

“Don’t go too far,” Rocco said.

“Tell him, kid,” O’Dell said. “Tell the cop about the racial comments.”

“Don’t drag me into dis shit,” Da’Quarius said. “You know he didn’t say anythin’ racist!”

“You’re supposed to have my back, little dude!” O’Dell said.

“I’ve heard enough,” Rocco said. “Is there any way we can settle this where I don’t bring you all downtown?”

***

Paulie joined Tony in the kitchen. He had just put the new pizza in the oven. “Of all the times for your buddy to come in for a free lunch,” he said. “Why’d he have to choose now?”

“Sure,” Tony said, rolling his eyes. “Whenever you need a cop for some scheme or another it’s always: ‘Tony, call your buddy Rocco,’ but then when he just pops in to say hi and have a slice, you’re like: ‘Tony, get Rocco out of here!’”

“OK,” Paulie said. “I’m sorry, but you see how screwed we are here, right?”

“What?” Tony asked. “We throw people out all the time. Show him the camera footage, and we’re all set.”

“That camera isn’t plugged in, Tony,” Paulie said. “It’s just a decoy. You know that.”

“I do?” Tony asked. “It’s probably a good thing you don’t see what goes on here after hours.”

“What goes on here after hours?” Paulie asked.

“It sucks that Rocco’s here, though,” Tony said. “Right?”

“If he finds out the fight started because of us,” Paulie said, “we’re screwed.”

“Oh yeah,” Tony said. “I forgot we ordered this pizza for me. I should have put some olives on it or something. Why’d I make it plain?”

“Focus,” Paulie said, slapping his hands together. “We have to get those two to leave peacefully. We can’t have them make a big stink just to have it come out that we set them up.”

“It’s just a prank,” Tony said. “Can you really get in trouble with the cops over that?”

“I don’t know,” Paulie said, “but I don’t want to find out.”

***

“So tell me what you saw,” Rocco asked Da’Quarius. “And you two be silent.”

“It all happened so fast!” Da’Quarius said. “Here I am, mindin’ my own business, waitin’ fo’ my Uncle Paulie to get finish with O’Dell so he can have some lunch with me. All of a sudden, Max comes in an’ says O’Dell’s pizza is his. Da’ next thing I know, dese two are punchin’ an’ pushin’ an’ shit, an’ I had to get away from ‘em. Now I don’t know who stole whose pizza, but I think you need to kick both of ‘em outta here and get’choself a nice grinder an’ a coke. Know what I’m sayin’?”

“That’s bribery!” Max shouted.

“I told you to shut up!” Rocco exclaimed, pointing in Max’s direction. “I’m getting a little tired of this. I’m supposed to be on my lunch break right now!”

“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Office Priolo gets cranky when he’s hungry too, bitch!”

“I didn’t ask for your commentary!” Rocco said, turning his finger toward Da’Quarius.

“Sorry,” Da’Quarius said, putting his hands up. “Pretty sure you just proved my point, doe.”

Paulie and Tony came from the back. Tony was carrying the new Pizza, freshly boxed. “OK,” Paulie said. “Can we just figure this out and get on with our day?”

“I certainly hope we can,” Rocco added.

“I sincerely apologize for trying to drag you out of here,” Paulie continued. “I don’t know which one of you should take the pizza, but I just want this to be over with.”

Max sighed. “Give it to him,” he said. “I wasted too much damn time here.”

“Stay outta my ‘hood,” O’Dell said.

“Watch it,” Rocco warned.

Max huffed once and left into the early afternoon sunshine of State Street.

“Good,” Rocco said. “Now that we’ve solved that, can I get some lunch?”

“Sure,” Paulie said. “Tony, get Officer Priolo whatever he needs.”

“Wait a second,” O’Dell said, reading his phone screen. “This says I have to deliver the pizza here.”

“Oh yeah,” Tony said, taking the pizza back from O’Dell. “Boss, is it OK if I take my lunch real quick?”

Tony took the pizza to a booth in the corner and sat with Rocco, where they opened the box started eating. O’Dell stared at Paulie. “Really?” he asked.

“Oh,” Paulie said, reaching for his wallet. “My friend forgot to tip you. I’m sorry. He has no manners. Here you are.” He handed O’Dell a fifty-dollar bill.

O’Dell held the fifty, still looking at Paulie.

“This whole thing was a misunderstanding, OK?” Paulie asked. “No reason to make a big deal about it.”

“Oh yeah?” O’Dell asked. “And what kid of ‘big deal’ can I make out of this?”

Paulie sighed and handed O’Dell another fifty. “How’s that?”

“Pleasure doing business with you,” O’Dell said, pocketing his hundred dollars. “See you around.”

“Madon,” Paulie said. He noticed Da’Quarius watching him, shaking his head. “What do you want to hear?”

“Nuttin’,” Da’Quarius said. “Dis is why you need to leave da’ schemin’ to Tony an’ me.”

Paulie sighed. “I know, kid.”

“Hey, boss,” Tony called from the booth. “Can you grab us a pitcher of coke?”

“Sure,” Paulie muttered, walking back to the counter. “Whatever you guys need.”

The End

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