“The next time you want to stick a cock in your mouth, make it a gun instead!”

Those were the first words I ever heard Jackie say. She was fighting with her sister in the middle of the dining area. I put down my slice of pizza and just watched her. Jackie’s stumpy body dripped with sweat and grease, but in a sexy way. She had a sinewy effect about her, and her hair was stretched into a tight bun, causing her eyebrows to sit high on her forehead. My heart skipped a beat as I got up from my booth and approached her for an employment application.

Later that week, Jackie became my boss at The House of Pizza, a filthy shack just off State Street in downtown Ukiah. Nestled along highway 101 like a pearl on a strand, Ukiah is one of Northern California’s most faded jewels. The House of Pizza sat near the center of town, its perpetually damp walls adorned with outdated holiday décor and badly painted window displays of weekday lunch specials.

I came into work one day and Jackie was already fuming. “What happened?” I asked, expecting the worst.

“That asshole Tim, you wouldn’t believe what he did.” Jackie was scrubbing a crusty fry basket; she was the only person who ever cleaned those things. “Some customer wanted his leftovers in a take-out box so I brought him one, and when I opened it, cockroaches scurried out. The customer totally freaked and demanded to talk to Tim.” She was obviously anxious to report the story. “As soon as the customer left, Tim screamed at me for ten minutes. ‘Always check the boxes before you give it to a customer’.” Jackie did a great impression of Tim.

“That was his solution, to check the boxes first?” I asked, while putting on a dirty apron. “What did you tell him?”

“I told him it’s his fault for not fumigating this dump, and he went nuts. You see that big stain over there?” Jackie pointed to a wall in the dining area, directly above the jukebox. “Tim threw a full cup of Coke at that wall and it went everywhere.” She made an explosion sound and mimed the effect with her hands. “There were at least a dozen customers here and most of them just walked out.” Jackie was starting to scream. “Who can blame them?” A defiant wisp of hair escaped her bun and bounced around her ear until she tucked it away.

“I guess I’ll go clean it up.” I offered and headed towards the stained wall.

“Forget that. There’s no way any of us are cleaning up after Tim’s tantrums anymore. Just because he owns the place doesn’t mean he can act like a total psycho. Besides, there’s a bigger problem in the men’s room.” Jackie motioned me towards the bathroom hall. I walked into her, hoping to initiate some kind of flirty contact, but she just stared at me with blank, authoritative eyes.

“No way.” I answered. “I can imagine what’s in there and I’m not cleaning it.”

“You’re such a fucking baby.” She rushed past me and marched back into the kitchen. “When Rob gets back from deliveries, you get him to clean it.” Jackie threw the half scrubbed fry basket back into the grease bin just as the phone rang.

“House of Pizza.” She answered. “Excuse me, sir?” A shocked expression crossed her face. “Sir, please stop yelling.” Shock gave way to rage, yet her voice remained calm. “You ordered your pizza an hour ago? Hold on, let me check.” Jackie quickly flipped through the order pad. “I’m sorry sir, but I don’t see any order slip for your pizza. Are you sure you called House of Pizza?” Jackie’s face contorted even more. “Okay then, we’ll get right on that.” She slammed down the phone and screamed, “I don’t need this today.”

A small clan of hippie-burnout regulars in the far corner of the restaurant turned from the fuzzy TV screen and looked at Jackie. One particularly grizzled derelict asked, “Anything we can help you with, Jackie.”

“Nothing I can’t handle, Virgil.” Jackie shouted. Despite her renown temper, Jackie had a high tolerance for the TV burnouts in the corner.

“What was that phone call all about?” I asked.

“Some asshole says he ordered a pizza an hour ago, but I’ve been here all day and we haven’t had a call in hours.” She seethed.

As if on cue, the phone rang again and Jackie’s eyes blazed with rage. “That better not be the same guy.” She whisper-warned before picking up the phone. “House of Pi...” I could almost hear the yelling coming from the other end of the phone. “Sir, I told you not one minute ago that there was some confusion with your order.” She paused while the customer ranted. “I understand, sir. Yes sir. We’re making it now and will deliver it soon. Yes, of course, no charge.”

Jackie slammed down the phone and growled, “Fuck this guy.” She stood motionless for a few seconds, thinking of what to do next. When inspiration finally hit, she sprinted to the tiny employee radio player and twisted the dial to the local country station. The Oak Ridge Boys squeaked out of the thin speakers, as Jackie grabbed a dirty soup pot and a pasta strainer from the kitchen sink and marched out into the dining area.

“What are you doing?” I shouted above the music, somewhat afraid of her answer. She turned around and smiled, then disappeared down the dark hallway where the bathrooms were located. I headed to the back of the kitchen and hummed along with the blaring music, “Tonight I'm gonna meet her at the Hungry House Café...”

Just then, Rob returned from his deliveries. “Where’s Jackie?” he asked, obviously stoned. In addition to money, Rob also accepted weed for delivered pizzas.

I turned down the music. “She’s in the bathroom, doing god knows what.” When I explained the phone call and the pasta strainer, a look of genuine interest crossed over his face. Unlike me, Rob was very open about his attraction to Jackie, often to the point of harassment.

“I better go see what’s up.” He said, but before he could get to the bathrooms, Jackie reemerged from the darkened hallway. She was holding the soup pot as far from her face as possible.

“Oh, hi Rob. I left a pasta strainer in the men’s toilet. Will you get it for me?” Without any questions, Rob complied.

“Pasta strainer in the toilet? What the hell did you do?” I asked, not caring if the few, scattered customers could hear me. The burnouts turned their attention from the TV again and looked at Jackie with bemusement.

“Well, for one thing, I took care of that problem in the men’s room.” She said defiantly. “But damn, this really stinks.” Jackie finally reached the kitchen and slammed the soup pot down on one of the stovetops. The smell filled the kitchen almost immediately and I knew what she had done.

“You filled that pot with shit?” I asked. “Go put it back.” She wasn’t listening so I tried to bargain. “For Christ’s sake, put it back and I’ll clean the bathrooms!”

“Too late, man.” Jackie said, a little too casually. “That fucker will never yell at me again, not after this.” She took a ladle full of pizza sauce and poured it into the soup pot. Rob returned from the bathroom with the pasta strainer and brought it to Jackie.

“Another poop pizza?” He asked, as if this was a common occurrence.

“Oh yeah, this guy was the worst.” She said, with scary disdain. “If anyone ever deserved one of these, it’s this guy.” She walked to the radio and turned it back up; the little speakers buckled from the volume.

I looked into the soup pot. The sauce had mixed with the crap, creating a lumpy, reddish-brown gravy. “Oh god, this is way too gross for me.” I said, and choked back a few dangerous gags. Jackie and Rob looked at me with suspicious disappointment as I walked back into the dining area. Except for the burnouts, the restaurant was now completely empty. I passed by the meager arcade just as the faulty pinball machine spontaneously awarded yet another free game, but I wasn’t in the mood to play it.

The smell was starting to fade so I headed back towards the kitchen just as Rob was hitting on Jackie. I stood out of sight, in order to hear.

“I had another dream about you last night.” Rob admitted to Jackie, while she masked the true nature of the pie with layers of crushed garlic.

“I don’t want to hear it.” She answered, barely listening.

“We were standing right here.” He continued, unaffected by her lack of interest. “We were making a pizza together and then I lifted up my shirt and you ran your hands up my chest and then you peeled off my nipples and put them on the pizza as extra pepperoni.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Jackie protested, her voice easily piercing the distorted music. Rob giggled and asserted the dream was genuine. I walked out of hiding and approached Rob.

“Pepperoni nipples.” I summarized. “That’s sexy.”

“Fuck you, eavesdropper.” Rob stated, and stood behind Jackie. She finished smearing the “sauce” over the crust and was sprinkling cheese. Rob leaned over and spit repeatedly onto the pizza.

“I can’t believe you guys are doing this.” I said meekly. “It’s one of the most disgusting and depressing things I’ve ever seen.”

“You need to shut the hell up.” Jackie warned, and I did. She turned to Rob. “Hey, do we still have any of those old roach traps?”

“Oh yeah, they’re mostly in Tim’s office.” Rob answered, and quickly shuffled off to collect the traps. I watched Jackie as she carefully placed the ordered toppings on the pizza, and then covered everything with a heavy blanket of pungent seasonings.

Rob returned with several faded and dusty cockroach traps. He eagerly opened them up and emptied the contents onto the counter. A dozen dead roaches fell out, each one landing on their backs; their stiff, brittle legs stuck straight into the air. With a malicious glee, Jackie grabbed a cleaver and started to chop the roaches into little pieces. She then scooped up the insect parts and sprinkled them over the entire pie. After some final cheese and seasonings, Jackie stepped away from the counter.

“I think this is good enough.” She said, satisfied with the pizza’s level of disgust. I walked over and looked at the pie. On the surface, it appeared to look normal, maybe a little darker than usual. The stench of over seasoning wafted up to my nose, accompanied by a sharp sting of fear.

“This pizza could really make that customer sick.” I asserted. “We could actually hurt him with this thing and get in trouble.”

Jackie scoffed, “Don’t worry, big baby.” She slid the pie onto a wide pizza spatula and turned towards the oven. “Just remember...” She motioned with her eyes to a sign above the oven. It was a taped piece of paper with the words, “600 Degrees Will Kill Anything” crudely scrawled on it. Tim put it up there one day as a declaration against the expense of sanitation. Why pay out minimum wage to wash germs away when they’ll die just as well in an oven?

Jackie slipped the pizza into the oven and wiped her hands off on her apron. The pie immediately filled the restaurant with its mixed stench of crap and oregano. The burnouts began to inquire. Jackie reminded them Saved By The Bell would be on again soon and they quickly lost interest.

When the poop pizza was fully cooked, Rob offered to deliver it, but Jackie insisted on doing it herself. She boxed up the pie, smiled at us and assured she would be back shortly. As she left, Rob watched her drive away and then turned to me and admitted, “God, I want her.”

I joined him, looking out the window and wistfully added, “Yeah, I know what you mean.”


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