I was thinking about changing the oil in my car, but then I noticed that I didn’t have enough time to before I started my first day as a delivery boy at Pizza Hut. It’s important to show up early – not on time – for your first day at work. That’s one of my rules for starting a new job. It’s not mine personally, but it’s one that my family has taught me, it’s the Borchardt family way. It’s that fairly common spiel that most kids hear growing up about all the qualities and rules that people with their last name have, and how it sets them apart from everybody else, but everyone else hears it too. I get to hear it from the first of every year until the last day of each year. It you visit you might even get to hear my parents say it too. Just don’t bring your video camera because the members of my family will do just about anything to stay out of pictures and off of film, doing some things that can be threatening to me and anyone else around as well. Enough about that though, my boss Mike called me up the day before and chuckled – he’s a chuckler – and said that he needed me to come in early so that he could inspect my car. I looked at my car, and I knew that it probably wouldn’t pass inspection. There is a family of cats that is using my back seat as a birthing grounds, and as for the front seats, I’m lucky if the raccoons that live there will unlock the doors and let me in. The front seats have holes in them and there are two springs sticking out of the passenger side seat, which incidentally makes a really good cup holder. If I stack them right I can fit six cans of soda inside of it at a time. The greatest asset my car has is that it glows – It really does! It’s not because it’s nuclear powered or anything like that, but I painted it glow-in-the-dark so that I can see when I drive at night. My friends said that they really liked the way that my right back tire pops off when I push the button to open my trunk, how the trunk opens when I use the left blinker, or how my car squirts wiper fluid when I honk the horn, but if you ask me, I think that the car’s most outstanding feature is the fact that it runs off of twelve double a batteries.
Because my car is so iffy, I leave two hours early for work, even though I only live twenty minutes away, and it was a good thing that I did too, because the raccoons kept pressing the trunk release button on the way there, so I had to go and chase down my tire a few times, and it was only my experience with this type of thing that allowed me to avoid getting into accidents. I know how people react to a car sliding at them giving off sparks; I know the inner working of peoples’ minds when they feel things like fear, surprise, and confusion. I finally arrived at work and my boss looked at the smoking moving wreck that is my car and said, “Looks like you could use an upgrade,” and I just know that he’s going to fire me, and I start to mutter excuses and things that could make up for the despicable state of my car. Could use an upgrade, indeed. He knows nothing about the bond between me and my car; even if the raccoons cause some mischief every now and again, and no one, you see, can understand the inner workings of my car.
My boss pulled a car topper out from behind his back and says, “You might want to take a step back.” He steps up to my car and puts the topper on the top of it, and the hood pops open. Then there is a sound similar to an air drill, and everything about my car changes. The hood slams shut, but not before I hear a loud revving come from underneath it, and the white paint turns red as if the car was bleeding. I look inside to see if the raccoons are okay and the hole filled cloth car seats have changed into slick leather seats, and the raccoons are giving me the thumbs up, their arms sticking out of their brand new Pizza Hut shirts and hats. “You look surprised that I was prepared for this. This isn’t my first rodeo. Now you need to make sure that you always pull the keys out when you aren’t in the car.” I tell him that the keys kind of don’t come out of the ignition. “They do now.” He pulls a hat out from behind his back and puts it onto my head. My shoulder length hair suddenly shortens and I feel my finger nails shorten. I feel my grizzled beard trim up into a neatly kept goatee and my ears even eject all of their ear wax out onto the pavement. My tee-shirt and jeans change from red and blue into black with a red stripe on the side. I’m pretty sure I see a rainbow shoot past my eyes and I hear fireworks go off in the distance. “There, now you look like a Pizza Hut employee, time you start working like one. Here’s your first delivery, but make sure to look out for Dominos drivers while you’re out there. Things can get interesting if you end up crossing their path.”
He goes on to tell me about some of the terrible things that have been done to Pizza Hut employees by Domino’s drivers, and some of the things that have been done to the Domino’s drivers by the Pizza Hut drivers. Take, for example, Guillermo, with his Cuban accent and his light brown skin. He’s no more a pushover than the raccoons in my car are, if you treat them wrong they will do their best to give you rabies, even though are quite incapable of this. He told me about the time that he snuck over to Dominos and poured three buckets worth of pizza sauce into each of Domino’s Driver’s cars, and filled them the rest of the way with old bread sticks. He wants me to know about this because it is for this reason that we always have to look out for the Domino’s Drivers, and he doesn’t want me to become a casualty like the driver that I am replacing. He’s amazed at the fact that my car runs in the condition it was in and wants to know firsthand how I manage to stay on the road with such mischievous raccoons. Everywhere I go those raccoons are the center of attention. “Look at that! Look, there are raccoons in there! Shoot them, get your gun, I think one of them is flipping me off!”
My boss hoped that by telling me all of this I might manage to do my job well, and in the end get some positive attention for himself, because with the string of driver accidents that have occurred, he has only managed to get some negative attention on himself. At least with me working for him he is certain that I can handle anything the Domino’s drivers can dish out, and that is a step in the right direction. If it helps out Pizza Hut, I’d be willing to drive a Domino’s driver or two off of the road, or let the air out of their tires. I’d do almost anything because, I’ve fallen upon some hardships recently, and my first duty is to make rent by the end of the month. I’ve donated plasma, sold a few kittens, searched through bags of garbage for change: I do unspeakable things to make rent, but you’ll never hear me talk about it. I don’t want to draw any attention to myself just in case the police are still looking for me after the missing siren incident. Word gets around that I’m desperate for money and out of work, and before you know it my front door will be kicked down and my apartment will be filled with SWAT teams and police officers will be camping in my living room, and I don’t have enough cups to serve that many people. No, I want to attract as little notice as possible. You won’t see me waving my arms from the inside of a dumpster, or shaking vending machines, because that would only draw attention to me. Oh, I see my neighbors doing things like that all of the time, but it’s loud and obvious, and one day they will learn their lesson about employing a bit of stealth. They’re just as desperate for money as I am, but I, I know far too well that the cost of flamboyancy is a trip to the local prison.
When I got into my new car for the first time, my raccoons were already working their way through the first piece of pizza and in a panic I looked in the pizza box placed on the seat next to me and saw to my amazement that the pizza was still whole, which I learned later that because of the amazing properties of this new car, as long as the pizza was in the car I could eat as many pieces as I wanted and a piece would never be missing. We don’t risk anything when it comes to our customers, because customer satisfaction is our number one concern. After that night was over I learned that there is a cost to this amazing ability, and it comes out of our pay checks, but I don’t dwell on this matter because I have tried to get the raccoons to stop eating my food before, and the results aren’t pretty. I left the parking lot for the time being, a holographic map hovering over the windshield showing me the best route to take to get to the customers house, and I think, who knows, maybe I won’t run into any Domino’s drivers on my first trip. I am not that fortunate however, and two Domino’s cars pull out behind me. Is this dangerous? Usually. I’ve had enough experience lately, and I still have my raccoons of course, and they are a lot smarter than they look. The Domino’s Driver in the front runs into my bumper, causing my car to spin one hundred and eighty degrees, and I quickly shift the car into reverse and begin to back down the street. One of the raccoons rolls down the window and the other throws a piece of pizza out the window and it lands cheese side down on the front car’s windshield. The driver quickly turns his wipers on, but all that accomplishes is the pizza slice being batted back and forth across his windshield, leaving grease, cheese, sauce and pepperonis all over his windshield. He veers off to the right and crashes into a light pole, leaving me with only one Domino’s driver chasing. I spin my car around so that I’m driving the right way again and the raccoons crawl onto my lap and push the trunk button again, and two liters of soda bounce out of my refrigerated trunk and explode all over the pavement like water balloons, making a soda slick causing the other driver to spin out and crash into an oncoming car…
“Oh give me a break,” my roommate Joe said, throwing a t-shirt into his hamper of clean laundry. “Leave my son alone before I puke on you myself. It’s not enough that you have him watching those silly animes you watch, now you have to fill his head with garbage that you make up.”
Repositioning his son on my lap so that he won’t tip off, I remind him that not all of it is made up.
“No, but there isn’t enough truth in what you are saying to fill up a sticky note,” Joe says, “It is only because you want to look like a hero to him, and you told enough lies when you told him about the time that went hand fishing on the beach and ended up riding a dolphin or whatever the impossible feat of the day was. Go on, let him go play. Then I want you to run to the kitchen and get started on supper. Let Kaylin know you are doing it while you’re at it. If she’s not changing Kaemon’s diaper she’s probably crocheting on the couch. If you don’t get your rear moving you’ll be sleeping in the box again tonight.”
It’s not that Joe isn’t patient with me. According to Kaylin, Joe had a level he could put up with, and I had surpassed that level years ago when I told him I was originally from Texas. I wanted a life that was as exciting as I could make it sound rather than the truth. In order for me to be able to rest at ease, I needed people to think that I had ridden my dog to school every day.
“You’re a liar,” Joe said on occasion. “That’s why your life seems so boring. I knew people like you back in high school and you know what? They ended up in trouble. All alone too.”
No matter what I could come up with – my job, my car, the people I met – it never was amazing enough to entertain. Sometime during my life a mistake had been made. The stories I made up were completely rejected, but I never stopped trying to tell a great story to everybody I meet until some big producer with his cigar in his mouth would knock on my front door. “Hey, kid,” he would say blowing out a smoke ring in triumph, “you’re the big break I’ve been waiting for.”
“Never going to happen,” Joe said. “If a big shot producer was going to come looking for someone, it wouldn’t be someone who can’t keep his story straight if he’s from Texas, China, or some island in the ocean no one has heard about. If you’re upset about it, imagine how I feel. It would mean that maybe you’d get out of the apartment once in a while and actually be able to pay rent.”
Regardless of the discouragement heaped upon me I still spent hours every day in front of the local TV station telling stories to kids after school in the hopes that someone in the television business would hear my stories and want me to write the next prime time sensation.
“Sell any ideas today?” Joe would ask everyday when I walked in the front door.
“You don’t know anybody who’s looking for a good story?” I asked him. “Someone desperate enough to use an amature?”
“If I did, I would have let you know by now.”
My brother Joe may sound harsh, but he’s just jealous of my obvious talent when it comes to spinning a yarn. I’ll make my big break someday, but until then I have to settle for cooking meals and taking out the trash.