Pronghorn, Chapter 44: Still Running

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa Pemewan and Manny Davis returned to the restaurant, and Asa put the pizza bag back in place while Manny cashed in the order. Asa picked up an already-bagged order, noting what the ticket inside said and looking at the map to find its location. The delivery would be a bit shorter than the last one, because it was closer, just across from Pronghorn Community College. Asa noted as much to Manny, eliciting a “Damn. ‘Nother no-tipper, probably.”

As they got back into Manny’s car, Asa asked “Why do you say so?”

“Probably a resident college kid. College kids’re broke. Broke folk don’t tip so much. Pain in the ass, really.”

“Ah.” Asa thought back to his own college days, both undergraduate and graduate. Many times, he had ordered pizza, had it sent to his dorm room or the apartments he had shared with people. He could not recall whether or not he had given the delivery people a little more than they asked for for the pizzas and wings and sodas he had bought, and the inability to remember shamed him. I suppose I have it coming, then, if I don’t get any tips. Not that I am today, anyway.

The drive was brief, as Asa had expected. Turning into the apartment complex whence the order had come was a bit more of a challenge, though; cars came just quickly enough in succession that Manny could not safely cross the oncoming lanes. The wealth of profanity that escaped his lips betrayed his ongoing frustration with them–and with the line of traffic that began to stack behind him. “Damned problem with signs. No regularity.”

Horns began to honk behind the car, and Manny saw a gap approach. “Hold on” he said, and he whipped his car across the lane of oncoming traffic. A cacophony of horns followed him, but he brought the car into the parking lot safely, slowing sharply to find the building. “This one’s good. Signs for what apartments’re where’re clear. It ain’t always so. Got another one, other side of town, can’t hardly see the address, let along the apartment numbers. Ah, here,” said Manny, and he stopped the car, turned on the hazard lights, and parked. “We’ll only be a minute, Newbie, so we’ll leave the car here–flashers on, keys in pocket. Don’t want the damned thing stolen.”

Asa nodded and levered himself out of the car, following Manny up a flight of rickety stairs to the assigned apartment. “You do it” said Manny, urging Asa forward.

Asa took a deep breath, glanced at the door to find no doorbell, and knocked.

From within, “Who is it?”

Asa replied “Pizza delivery.”

“Just a second. Need my pants.”

A minute passed, then another, and the door opened. A shirtless man holding up the waist of a pair of pants too big for him looked out at Asa and asked “What was the total?” From behind him came a reek of something burning, smoke and skunk. Asa looked at the ticket and said “$18.77.”

“Cool. Just a second.” The shirtless man turned away, rummaging around on what looked to be a nearby table, and as he did, Asa could see that all he was wearing was the oversized pants. But the man turned back to Asa quickly, a picture of Grant extended. “Yeah, keep it man.”

Asa handed over the pizza, his eyes wide and mouth open. Manny put in “Thank you, sir, and have a nice day!” He also guided Asa away from the door, starting him back to the car.

Once inside it, Manny turned to Asa and asked “The hell was that?”

“He gave me a $50 for a $20 order.”

“Yes? That’s a good thing!”

“But he was stoned, Manny. He didn’t know what he was doing.”

“Ain’t your problem, Newbie. Your job is to get the order out and bring the money back.” The car started and started moving. “Idiots off their nut wanna give you more than they owe, that’s on them. You ain’t their protector.”

“I know, but I feel bad.”

“Then donate the tip to charity. But don’t stand there looking like an idiot until you do. It’s bad for business.”

“Wait, I’m keeping the tip?”

“You made the delivery. Feels nice, doesn’t it, having money all of a sudden. Hell, that’d cover your tab at the bar tonight.”

“I hadn’t planned on going to a bar tonight.”

“Heh.” Manny turned through the roundabout in front of the college. “Not a surprise, somehow.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Newbie, I don’t know if it’s first-day jitters or what, but you seem like you’ve got a stick wedged up and turned sideways. You need to relax, or you’re gonna give yourself an aneurysm. And if you do it in my car, it’ll piss me off.”

“I’ll try not to have an aneurysm in your car, Manny. And maybe I’m a bit uptight. Even so, I can’t afford to go out tonight. Hell, I don’t know that I can afford to go out anytime in the next month. I’m not on a job because I want to have to work, you know; I’ve got bills and debts and such to last for years.”

“Yeah? So do the rest of us. We still go out.”

“Also, I’ve done bars. I can’t hear a damned thing in them, and if I’m going to sit and drink and not talk to anybody, I’m going to do it where I’ve got a toilet I can trust not to give me crab lice.”

Manny was silent for a moment. “I give you the last bit. Having a good pisser’s good. Which reminds me, there’s a chore-board in the back of the store. We all get one. Newbie usually has to clean the toilets. Just so you know.”

They turned back into the restaurant’s parking lot.

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