Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Remnant: Pizza crusts

Jarrell dropped off Merle and his bike at O-dark-thirty.

Danno wasn’t feeling well so Jarrell made his way downtown alone. As Danno predicted, Jarrell found the mayor in front of City Hall. Mayor Wagner was getting an earful from a woman.

Catching Jarrell out of the corner of his eye, the Mayor signaled with his finger to wait until the woman was finished chewing on him.

Jarrell tried not to listen but it was impossible to miss the woman’s complaint. The only coffee that was available was instant coffee.

Mayor Wagner politely pointed out that the bus ran to Lansing every day and she could look for her preferences there or if she didn’t want to ride the bus she could drink tea or water or instant coffee, whichever she preferred.

The Mayor looked over at Jarrell as the woman stomped away, clearly dissatisfied with the resolution she got from the mayor.

“Jarrell Williams. I heard you were back in town” the mayor exclaimed.

“I am surprised you remember my name?” Jarrell said.

“I go to the high school graduation and have yearbooks going back twenty years. You young bucks keep me hopping. I need to do something to keep track of you” the Mayor said.

“What is on your mind?” Wagner asked.

“I am looking for work” Jarrell admitted.

Peering at Williams carefully, Wagner asked “Do you live inside city limits?”

“No. Is that going to be a problem?” Jarrell asked.

“Not for me. It might be for you” Mayor Wagner said. “I take care of city residents first. I take care of folks who live near Eaton Rapids with what is left over.”

“So, exactly where do you live?” Mayor Wagner asked.

“Out on Mills Highway, out past the cemetery” Jarrell said. Actually, it was farther out than that but if living closer scored more points….

The Mayor nodded.

“Here is the deal. I need people to haul food. You can pick up some deliveries after the in-town folks meet their quotas.” Mayor Wagner said.

“I have four places baking bread, the submarine place, the two pizza places and the grocery store. I can use a few more delivery people at Elsie’s Pizza. Tell them I sent you” the Mayor said and then the Mayor turned to the next supplicant.

Jarrell trudged the half mile south to Elsie’s Pizza and checked in with the middle-aged woman with the clip-board.

Town’s people kept trickling in as quickly as the food was produced. The people placed it into sleds and dragged it east. The two inches of fresh snow made for easy pulling.

By the time a half-hour had passed, Jarrell could see he was in for a long, cold wait. Everybody distributing food in Eaton Rapids seemed to have their role in the process timed to the minute.

Noticing that the middle-aged woman had brains enough to stand on the leeward side of the building, Jarrell decided to join her. Clearly, she ran this part of the universe and it was in his best interest to be on her best side...if she had one.

It turned out Leslie was a cheerful sort. Cold weather agreed with her and she was tickled to have somebody to chat with.

“Yup, all we are delivering are pizza crusts. Folks are glad to get them too.” Leslie informed Jarrell.

“Are you sure I will get work today?” Jarrell asked. Things weren’t looking too promising.

“Well, considering the fact that I had to deliver a half-dozen routes nearly every evening, I would guess it is a pretty safe bet that I will have something for you” Leslie said.

Then, remembering something, she dug out a hand-held radio and buzzed somebody. “Hey, Jarrell showed up. Thanks for remembering. ‘Preciate it.”

“That was the Mayor” Leslie told him. “We all have the same problem. He has does ‘clean-up’ for the folks who don’t show up for their shift at the submarine sandwich shop. He could have hung on to you but he sent you my way.”

“Saying ‘Thanks’ is the spoon-full-of-sugar that makes this job do-able” Leslie said.

Leslie’s kids were older than he was but he sort of remembered them from high school.

He was stunned to learn how old she was. She was significantly older than Krystal but Leslie still had flawless, cherub-like skin...right down to the rosy cheeks.

“Clean living and working steady will do that for you, kid” Leslie teased him.

“Why pizza crusts?” Jarrell asked.

“Bread is the staff of life. The grocery store makes the dough for all four bakeries but they cannot keep up with baking the bread. The ovens in the pizza joints are set-up to make pizzas. The sandwich place makes buns” Leslie said.

“Bread is bread, no matter what the shape” she concluded.

Jarrell spent eight hours next to Leslie, stomping his feet to stay warm, fidgeting.

Compared to being a project manager at a Fortune 500 company, everything seemed to move in slow-motion.

Finally, the stream of people to deliver food to residents petered out.

Jarrell took three deliveries and Leslie took three.

It was six in the evening before he got on his bike. He had enough pizza crusts strapped down on his bike rack to feed the family for a couple of days but he would be back tomorrow.

He didn’t intend to deliver pizza crusts for-the-duration.

 

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