(As I explained in yesterday's post I had to write a new first chapter for my novel "The Pizza Diaries" I value any feedback especially about the Characters. Would you like to read a 280+ page book based on this character? If not any specifics would help.)
Chapter 1: The Root of Affection
Brian didn’t like the look on Bernie’s face when he hung up the phone. After working at the Pizza Joint for 3 years Brian knew from the night manager’s expression that he was about to give him bad news. He had been hoping to start cleaning up the carryout/delivery restaurant for the night as it had slowed down enough for Bernie to let the two insiders and one of the delivery drivers go home for the night. He knew from the look on Bernie’s face that his plans for getting out early weren’t going to happen.
“I’ve got a delivery for you.” Bernie forced a smile as he hit the finish button on the computer making the labels for the pizzas print out.
“Strange customer or out of our delivery area?” Brian asked automatically doing the insider job of placing the labels on the pizza boxes. He knew from the expression of the younger man that it was one of the two.
“Both.” Bernie said as he walked over to slap out the dough for the pizzas, “It’s out to the Brandon Estate. The place is owned by Edwin Brandon, the brother of the former mayor, he still has a lot of power on the City Council so when he orders we kind of have to go. You know how it is with small town politics.”
“Any relation to Reggie Brandon?” Brian asked hesitantly after hearing the last name.
“I believe it’s his Uncle. Chief of Police Reggie Brandon was the old mayor’s son.” Bernie said, “Is that a problem?”
“No, It was a long time ago I’m sure he’s forgotten it by now.” Brian said not wanting Bernie to connect the dots and learn about the incident that happened before he left town years ago.
“That’s good, his uncle lives a few miles outside of town and orders pizzas from time to time, I’m surprised you haven’t had to go out there yet.” Bernie continued as he put the sauce on the pizzas, “The other drivers say he’s a bit strange, and if his instructions aren’t carried out to the letter he doesn’t tip. This time he wants you to go all the way back to the greenhouse rather than the main house, who the hell knows how far back that is. So when you add the two together it’s a bit of a time waster, but if we don’t deliver he tells Chief Brandon and Brandon starts pulling over our drivers out of spite.”
“You’d think the City Police would be like Sheriff and Troopers and like the Delivery Drivers.” Brian commented, “Just think of all the drunks with munchies we keep off the streets.”
“Chief Brandon doesn’t look at it like that.” Bernie told him, “To him we’re just one more group he can kick around. That guy must have been seriously tormented in school or something to get his kicks off abusing his power against delivery drivers.”
“Yeah, he was for a year.” Brian told Bernie as he got in position to place the pepperonis on the pizza. Bernie would have been in 3th or 4th grade when Reggie and Brian were seniors in high school, so he wouldn’t have heard about what happened during their senior year seventeen years ago.
“You went to school with him?” Bernie asked throwing the cheese on the pizza and sliding it over to Brian.
“Yep.” Brian said without elaborating as he put the pepperonis on the customer’s pizza.
“But you’re not going to talk about it, right?” Bernie asked knowingly as he started slapping out the crust for the next Pizza.
“Well I could but it makes me look like a total dick.” Brian told him finishing up the pizza and putting it in the oven before Bernie could ask more questions.
“You couldn’t have been that evil before you started here.” Bernie told him putting the toppings on the second pizza. “With all the stuff you won’t talk about someone would think you were a evil mastermind before giving up your criminal empire to deliver pizzas.”
“It wasn’t that exciting, more like a vengeful administrator than a fully accredited evil mastermind, most of the time anyway.” Brian joked in order to avoid his best friend’s probing, “but it’s better to stand in silence and let people think you’re a fool than open your mouth and prove it.”
“Okay, suit yourself.” Bernie smiled then got back to business, “You should be back right around closing time. I’ll have Kyle stay late and clean up for you.”
“Thanks, tell him I’ll make it up to him.” Brian told him even though it was unnecessary the delivery drivers always backed each other up.
The customer lived pretty far out of town and even taking some of the shortcuts that he had learned over the past three years of delivering pizzas it still took Brian 20 minutes to get out to the large mansion.
“An exquisite pre-war mansion with definite curb appeal.” Brian couldn’t help evaluating in his old real estate vulture mode when he pulled up the circular driveway and stopped in front of the wrap around porch, which had an elegant second story balcony.
In the dark it was hard to evaluate the property, but Brian’s trained eye could make out how the windows had low profile storm windows over the old lead glass windows and he had spotted the large cable and telephone lines on the pole outside the mansion. It had decent Internet inside that would make quite literally a million dollar difference on the value of a mansion like this.
If the inside were as well maintained as the outside the place could easily flip for over $10 million. If Brian were still in the game he’d run a soft hit on the owners credit to see if it was possible to force him to sell. He had worked deals that size in the past, but not often.
Brian put aside all his old real estate thoughts and looked around for the greenhouse. He spotted a lit path going to the back of the house and saw the greenhouse a few hundred feet behind the main house. The outside was well lit, but oddly all the inside lights were out. It didn’t feel quite right but Brian thought about all the trouble this family could cause for the Pizza Joint and headed down the path anyway. When he got to the greenhouse he knocked on the glass door and tried to look in but could only see vague shapes.
“Come right in, boy.” Brian heard a voice come from inside the glass structure.
Normally Brian would just yell, “Pizza” and wait for the customer to come out, but tonight his mind was on how Bernie told him the customer was very strict about drivers following instructions, so he went into the dark building. He walked about 5 paces when the lights came on blinding him.
“Dinner Audrey.” He heard the man yell.
Brian looked to his right to see an enormous orchid with a stem over 6 feet tall, the flower bulb on top was larger than Brian’s head.
Brian was too shocked to move as the orchid wrapped a root around his shoulders and the enormous flower bulb shot towards his head. The bulb slowed at the last minute to gently rub against Brian’s cheek. He could have sworn the plant was purring.
Brian used his free hand to reach up and softly stroke the flower. It responded by wiggling back and forth and rubbing up against Brian. It was definitely purring now although Brian couldn’t see where the purr was coming from.
“Well, That didn’t go as planned.” The owner of the greenhouse said.
“You figured the plant would eat me, didn’t you?” Brian asked.
“Well um,” The owner stared at the ground, “She likes meat.”
“You’ve been too afraid of her to get close enough to know she loves attention?” He asked as he slowly stroked the attention-starved plant, the old real estate agent in him noticed that there was a phone right next to Audrey, a plus for an outbuilding.
“I thought she’d swallow me whole.” The owner confessed, “I was planning on using a stray cat or dog to test, but I couldn’t do that to a poor defenseless animal.”
“So you thought you’d try a delivery driver first.” Brain grinned as he stroked Audrey’s bulb.
“I figured no one would miss a pizza boy.” The old man said, “I mean they are easy to replace.”
“She’s too loving to do that.” He turned to address the purring plant, “Aren’t you?”
“Look this was just a…” The owner started.
“The pizza is $15.85 and under the circumstances I think a good tip is order, don’t you?” Brian told him pulling out the pizza.
“Okay,” The owner said sheepishly, “Here’s forty is that good enough?”
“Yeah,” Brian said disentangling himself from Audrey’s loving roots, “That’s fine, Just give her a good petting from time to time.”
“You’d better appreciate this, boy.” The old man growled, “I warn you if you mention this to anyone I can make your life a living hell.”
“Maybe.” Brian said as he handed him the Pizza and took his money, being careful to avoid Audrey’s affectionate roots. “But my life has been shot to hell so many times that I could be hell’s tour guide.”
As he was walking back to his car Brian could hear the man saying, “Sorry Audrey I didn’t know you liked to be petted, there, there…Audrey your roots have me awful tight… Audrey what are you doing?? Audrey stop that…”
Brian stopped on the path and briefly debated turning around to see if everything was all right, but he figured if Audrey had decided to eat the man it served him right. Not paying attention to a sweet plant like that, also he hated the fact that he was leaving Kyle to clean up for him so he needed to get back to the Pizza Joint.
By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts