The big man took my $20 bill, set it on the cash register keypad, stared at it for a second, then shook himself alert.
“You wanted that wrapped, right?” he said.
I said yes.
“Sorry,” he said, counting $16 in change. “I’m losing my mind from all these Valentine’s Day orders coming in.”
Then the big man sort of wandered off to see how my slice was doing in the oven.
Love had come to Pie-Eyed Pizzeria where Ogden meets Milwaukee meets Chicago. It came in the form of four teens at a table covered with red wrapping paper and a giant white teddy bear. It came in the form of couples gently stroking each others’ arms as they ate slices of pepperoni pie. And it came in the form of the Christmas ornaments still hanging above the counter and the garlands of evergreen adorning the awning outside.
February is a weird month for decorations.
“So people asking you to spell, ‘I Love You Becky’ in sausage?” I asked when the big man returned.
He nodded, his ponytail bouncing a touch beneath the brim of his backwards baseball cap.
“Oh yeah, there’s a lot of that,” he said. “And it’s all a surprise. ‘Can you write this on the box?’ ‘Can you keep it a secret?’ ‘She doesn’t know about it.’ It’ll be a few more minutes.”
The last part was about my slice.
“We’ve gotten a lot of attention on Facebook for our Valentine’s pies,” he said, tap tapping the glass between me and the slices with a fingernail.
There was a flier taped to the glass showing two pizzas shaped like hearts. A small was $10; a large, $15. Those are pretty good prices. I would order a heart pie for that.
The big man rubbed his unshaven face with both hands to wake himself up a little. He got me my slice, piping hot as always, and gave the friendly farewell.
Then he turned back to his kitchen. Happy Valentine’s Day. Time to make a bunch of pizza.