Maria sat with her legs crossed tight enough to amputate a man’s hand if it found itself anywhere near them. She didn’t know much English, she carried all her money in cash, and she didn’t have her husband next to her. All she had was three children waiting in her suburban, pining for mushroom pizza.
There was only one other costumer in the lobby with her. He was the oil rig type. The ones with callused hands and tired eyes. Looks like he got electrocuted he’s so charred, but really it’s the grease, sweat, sweat, and sweat coating his person. Octavio, Maria’s husband, used to look like that Monday to Friday. Saturdays and Sundays, Octavio would just be sweaty. Maria saw the beads of sweat on the man’s forehead form to the size of pinheads.
It was hot, she guessed. Maria didn’t know how long she’s been there in the pizza shop. Maybe ten minutes. The cashier said eight minutes, or at least that’s what she thought he said. Regardless, the cashier was nowhere to be found. He was probably making all the ruckus in the back. Pans and pans and pans dinging against each other. It shouldn’t be too long for her pizzas.
She went through the transaction in her head.
“Hello, welcome to Dan’s Pan Pizza, how can I help you today?” the cashier asked her.
“Can I have, uh, two pizza pepperoni?” she replied.
“Yes, of course! Anything else for you today?”
“Eh, yes. One pizza…” she hesitated. What was the word for mushrooms, she thought. She remembers Octavio used to order all the time when they went out. He knew a bit of English. It started with an M. An M. An M. Maria had no idea. “Eh, ongos?” It’s the word for mushroom in Spanish. “You have ongos?”
“Pardon? I’m not quite understanding.”
Maria let out a whimper. “Ongos. Please? You have?” God, she wished Ocatavio was here. he would know the O word. The cashier stood behind the counter in confusion. He raised his brow in sympathy. Maria caught on and avoided eye contact by digging in her purse. “pepperoni es okay,” she finally said in defeat. The cashier exhaled.
“Okay anything else for you today?”
“Yes,” Maria replied shuffling for her purse for 20s. She never looked up. The cashier stood there for a bit before finally giving her her total.
“Okay, it’s going to be $13.20, ma’am.” Maria gave her a 20. She then sat down and crossed her legs.
Maria came back from her daydream. She was looking directly at the sweaty man’s feet. Maria looked up, and the sweaty man gave her a kind smile. She gave one back.
“One mushroom pizza!” the cashier called out with a box in his hand. Mushroom! That’s the word she was looking for! The sweaty man got up from his seat with a grunt. He took the box from the cashier with both hands and a smile. He walked out the shop, leaving Maria by herself, waiting for her pizzas.
Not soon after, the same cashier came out. He called, “Two pepperoni pizzas!” He was looking directly at Maria. But she ordered three. But she was already embarrassed as it was. But she wanted three. But she got two. But she didn’t know how to ask for a third. But she knew the word for ongos now. But she had kids waiting on her. So, she grabbed her two pizzas from the cashier and exited.
In her van, her kids were going wild at the sight of pizza. She opened the passenger door first and handed her son, Junior, the pizzas. She then got in the driver’s seat herself as her kids bounced in their seats. Junior asked her mom, “Dondé está del ongo?” (Where is the one with mushrooms?)
She replied, “Se fue con el señor de aya,” (It left with that man over there) pointing at the sweaty man climb into his truck. Junior let out a sigh and settled for a slice of pepperoni. The other two kids cried for the mushroom pizza.
Maria did too.