I am in the process of moving from an apartment unit to a small ranch house in Syracuse. As such, I’ve been going through plastic totes, digging up old manuscripts. And this has inspired me to search through my digital archives, the literary treasure (or trash) I have collected over the years and stored on my computer and external hard drives.
I decided I would start posting some previously published short stories. Pull them up on the computer, do a quick edit in Word and re-release them on my blog. I’ll try to post one every Sunday for a number of weeks.
This first one is a flash fiction piece entitled “Slices.” It was published by Emerge Literary Journal in the summer of 2013. Although the story is set in Toledo, Ohio, a Famous Ray’s Pizza shop in a sunbaked shopping plaza on Bell Road in Phoenix, Arizona, served as the inspiration. I used to go there for slices when I resided in the Valley of the Sun from 1998 until 2006. The owners were transplanted New Yorkers, and I loved seeing Yankee pennants and New York-themed photos scattered throughout.
Famous Ray’s Pizza in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Jackie Mercandetti.
Fiction is not my primary genre, and I don’t know if this is a good short story or not. However, what I love about the story is that the character of Hilde came to me with her authentic voice, demanding to be released. I did not write this story, but merely served as a portal for Hilde to come into existence.
Hilde wears her jeans low on her hips, letting her love handles fold over. She doesn’t care. She knows what men want. She knows they don’t need slim hips and flat tummies to get off.
And she’s willing to let them use her body for a few minutes at a time. But they have to pay; they all pay. She doesn’t give away shit for free.
She’s eating a slice of mushroom pizza at Ralph’s Italian Pizzeria on Reynolds Road in Toledo, Ohio. She’s sipping a Coke and staring at a black and white photo of Al’s great-grandparents hanging above the counter. The place is called Ralph’s, but Al is the owner; his father was Ralph.
Hilde needs to finish eating and pick up her son Carson at school. He’s in second grade. She comes to the pizzeria every day after working at her house, which is located just down the road off Airport Highway. She looks forward to eating slices of pizza after she finishes for the day, like it’s a reward for spending all the time on her back, letting men do what they need to do.
She likes the satisfaction of eating food paid for with money earned through her body. She knows God didn’t give her much, but she has smarts and her body works in all the right places. And the men find her. She doesn’t need to advertise on Craigslist or in the back pages of weekly newspapers.
She earns enough to have a nice house and provide for her son. She’s happy. She can’t complain. She’d rather fuck every day than be one of those snotty bitches carting kids to daycare in a Lexus, putting on makeup at a stoplight and teasing their hair so their pervert boss may give them a promotion.
She watches as Al shoves a Sicilian pizza into the oven. The phone rings and he answers it. At this time of day, he starts getting early dinner orders.
“Who?” he barks into the receiver. “Who you looking for? Hilde … no she ain’t here and don’t call back.” He hangs up the phone and steps out from the counter. He points at Hilde with his thick right index finger.
“Goddammit, Hilde, what did I tell you? I don’t care what you do with your life or how you make your money, but don’t give your clients my number. I mean it.”
Hilde takes another sip of her Coke. “Yes, Al, sorry, Al, you’re right, Al.”
“I fuckin’ mean it. I’m not running a whorehouse.”
“All right. I get it. But I didn’t give out your number.”
“Don’t you have a cell phone for Christ’s sake?”
“Yeah, but word gets around that I stop here after …”
“Yeah,” Al says as he walks back behind the counter. “They want another kind of pie.”
“Don’t be gross, Al.”
“Just don’t let it happen again.”
“Well, I can’t help it if people call looking for me.”
“Yes you can. Stop making it so obvious. If it happens again, I won’t serve you.”
“Come on, Al, don’t be like that. We’re buds aren’t we?”
“No we’re not. Look I have no problem with you, just don’t make things hard on me.”
“I gotta go,” Hilde says. She takes the last bite of her crust, opens the top of her soda cup and swallows some crushed ice. She wipes the crumbs she made off the table and onto her paper plate, and then stands up and tosses the plate and her soda into the garbage. She walks to the door and with her back to the counter says, “I’ll see you, Al. Watch that blood pressure.”
“Watch your ass,” Al says. “It’s getting big enough.”
Hilde opens the door and looks back at Al. “Yup, and I like it. It means more money for me and more slices for you to sell.”
“Get the fuck outta here,” Al says. He shakes his head and smiles at her.
“See you tomorrow,” Hilde says and goes outside.
Al turns to his sister, Ann Marie, who is standing behind the counter and making trays of antipasto. “Can you get over that girl? She comes in for two slices every day after she finishes screwing guys for money.”
Ann Marie lifts her head from the prosciutto, provolone cheese and assorted olives spread out on the tray and says, “Well, a girl’s gotta eat, doesn’t she?”