My left hand shakes the last of three pizzas for the trip. “So what, it wobbles? You dead?”
“You dropped four last week and I wrote you up. If one more falls,” says Phil, in a joking — but not joking — kind of way. “I’m pulling a Donald Trump. You’re fired.” He stalls for delivery. “You’re fired — bitch boy.”
“It’s in the bag already.”
My stinky Reeboks pop open the door. “Twelve Minutes, No Sodas.”
“Buckle up, drive safe,” chant three bitch boys in blood red shirts to my blood red back.
This was a horrible day to be threatened about dropping pizzas. I had just worked out at LA Fitness in the morning, after years of not doing so, going along with a sudden desire to rekindle some of the athletic physique of my high school years. I now know I am a feeble person. My arms feel like overcooked spaghetti.
The left arm doesn’t wobble, or shake too much, at first, solely supporting a stack of two ten-piece wings, a mushroom, a pepperoni, and a works pizza, crammed together in the hot bag, while I fish for my keys with my right hand and unlock the Sentra. A good start to the “run”.
Thirty seconds of the engine failing and that routine part of every run is over. I sigh approaching exhilarating speeds of fifteen to thirty five miles per hour across school-laden neighborhoods of La Jolla.
“Push yourself, and things have a way of working out,” I repeat the trainer’s words from earlier. I think he pushed me too hard. I can feel my arms vanishing, that feeling where your arm is there, but you feel as if there is nothing attached to you. “You need to grow,” I struggle to say to the pitching mounds of bicep, walking ahead in a rapid gait. “You need to be mountains by summer.”
I’m already at the first of two houses.
I knock with my right knuckles on the door after switching arms with the food. I want to shout, carrying the load with my left, that arm now shaking like a rising plane, “Hurry the hell up!”
The door opens and I am asked if the store takes checks. I want to say “no”. I am forced to nod and try not to let the suffering show. I could set things down, but then I would have to pick it all up again. After a long minute of thinking about it, the lady who answered now decides she’d rather pay in cash, but can’t find her purse. She asks the kids. The dog. The parrot. Me. I shake my head because I haven’t seen it either. She’s talking to me. Why the hell is she talking to me? My sun-bright face is as red as my shirt and she’s talking to me.
“Busy night tonight?”
“Found it,” she wails.
“Can I get two change?” she asks, looking past me as she places a twenty in my right hand. “You know what…” As she speaks, I look back to see my smashed up Sentra, whose tail end is taped up and folded, red spray paint tricking people into thinking I have tail lights. “Why don’t you just keep it. Looks like you NEED it,” came her pity, replete with emphatic delivery.
I turn; my left hand — supporting all but the one works handed to this lady — rises and ebbs. Now my left arm might break. With some shifting around, I prepare to hand her the second pizza and the wings.
“You know what?” her recycled words halt my movement. “This works is cold. I’m going to have to call your store. Wait here.”
My arms are killing me. I’m holding five boxes of food in the most awkward way. Arms going in different directions like one of those multi-limbed God statues. I have no tribal roots in my blood of any kind, but have seen enough documentaries to know my shifting feet invite rain.
“I can’t,” I cry.
The hot bag hits the ground.
The pies fly out like kids I see at schools nearly every day around three in the afternoon.
Ryan Gregory Thomas is a film student, fiction writer, life-long resident of San Diego, and votes democrat.