Banana Sandwich Excerpt

You can’t order a pizza by banana phone. It can’t be done. Pick up any banana and put it to your ear and you get dial tone. Simple as that. Just doesn’t work. Now if you want to call Jupiter, a banana phone is your ticket. I knew a guy once who lined his hat with aluminum foil to stop the outer space transmissions from reaching his brain. Which is just crap. Everyone knows aluminum foil isn’t going to do the trick. You got to use something like Adamantium, which you can’t use anyway because it’s a made-up comic book metal bonded to Wolverine’s skeleton. Which brings me back to the banana phone, because Wolverine kind of looks like a banana if you think about it. I mean, his costume is yellow, right? And bananas are yellow, except for when they over-ripen. Then, they are black.  And the only thing aluminum foil is going to block are the government transmissions—and those are boring anyway. They tell you to do stuff like mow the lawn, wash dishes, buy more stuff, rinse your mouth with fluoride fortified mouthwash. It’s the outer space transmissions that are interesting. Once, I received instructions on how to build a warp drive for my van. And the line of work I’m in, that comes in real handy.

I used to work for this upscale pizza shop. They tried to be all fancy with artichoke and broccoli toppings. Those whole wheat and gluten free crusts. I quit because they always gave me crap about my piercings. Or maybe I was fired. Yeah, that’s how it went down really. I was fired. So I went to work for this other pizza shop, but we don’t do much except sit on the store steps smoking blunts and ordering delivery from Domino’s. Jordan brought in a bunch of bananas one night too. He picked one up and put it to his ear and tried to order Domino’s. But like I said, it can’t be done because all you get is dial tone. What is truly annoying is when you go to the Wal-Mart in the middle of the night, and you’re going through the produce section. Inevitably, there is that person wearing a bath towel as a dress and still in hair curlers, his butt crack hanging out like clothes on a line. They have that whole display stand of bananas. Normally, the bananas are still green. Those don’t work. The yellow ones work fine, and when five or six bunches of yellow bananas all start ringing at the same time, you don’t know which one to answer first. Sometimes, I put a banana to each ear and carry on a couple of conversations at one time, which is easier to do than you might think.

This is how it all started too. I was in the Wal-Mart examining cumquats because who the heck buys cumquats? Why does the Wal-Mart even have cumquats? It’s the Nineties, and I don’t know anyone who eats cumquats except total health nut freaks. I’m certainly not a health nut freak. Give me a good juicy medium rare steak any day. Baked potato with cheddar cheese, chives, and tons of sour cream: that is a meal. Not some deformed looking orange. I’m standing in the middle of the Wal-Mart produce section examining the cumquats, but in actual reality I’m avoiding as much eye contact with the guy wearing the towel. Then the bananas started ringing. I looked around searching for a hidden camera. I remember that show by Peter Funt in the Eighties, Candid Camera. I asked the towel-dress guy if he heard the bananas ringing. He didn’t say anything to me. I asked again and he said No.

I heard them. All of them. I didn’t know which one to pick up. I answered one, because what are you going to do, right? Hello, I said, and they all stopped ringing. Carol? This is Jupiter.

I think maybe Jordan was teasing me when he tried to order Domino’s from a banana phone. I like Jordan like chocolate syrup on vanilla ice cream, but sometimes, he can be an ass.

###

I live in a van. Not down by the river, except when I want to. It’s not what you think. I used to live in an apartment, but I got kicked out on a barking dog complaint. So I have this van. One of those oversized cruisers from the early Eighties with the extended roof-top, or whatever you want to call that. Airstream, I think. Maybe. But it’s got a nice little wood burning stove, a fold out sofa bed. I have a small lot where I park and hook into city services. I don’t have to go there. If I don’t like my view, I park somewhere else. Sometimes I park underneath Jordan’s apartment window. I know where he lives because I followed him home from work one night. He has a girlfriend. I saw her leave his apartment. She is tall and skinny and blonde. I hate blondes.

I told Jordan if he ever wanted, I’d blow him. One night, we were in the back of the pizza shop taking the garbage out. He asked if I was serious. I grabbed a hold of his belt, unzipped him and took him out. I didn’t get down on my knees literally because the asphalt would have hurt, but I squatted just the right height. I put him in my mouth, and he tasted like a warm salted green apple. Like I was floating in the Dead Sea and had swallowed the water while my whole body floated, weightless against the salt. I think he enjoyed it too, because he grabbed a hold tight of a light pole post for balance, and his knees buckled. I never had a dog. I disliked my neighbor, and so in the middle of the night I’d sneak into his back lawn, get down into the grass on all fours, and bark. It’s not really as weird as it sounds. The cops came. They were going to arrest my neighbor or whatever, but they found me instead. I was only trying to get him to move because he was kind of crazy.

I had this TV once. A small twelve inch. I had it when I used to watch my shows. Young and the Restless, Guiding Light, The Bold and the Beautiful. I was getting super addicted and had to get rid of the TV, but it was hard to give up that little TV. It didn’t work all the time because, well I don’t know why really. I’d turn it on, and get fuzz. If I messed with all the extra dials below the display, you know those dials for vertical and horizontal and the different color dials if you want to add more green tint or more red tint. If I fiddled with those dials, and I had to use one of those small straight edge screwdrivers made for computers, I could get in the police band. Or, even more interesting, I’d receive telephone calls from my neighbors. Occasionally, I’d pick up phone calls from as far away as the next state over and HAM radio signals from China. It was trippy when the picture started to come in with those extra bandwidths. Once, I saw a teenage girl pacing back and forth in her driveway with her wireless phone up to her ear, and she talked about how she had to go back inside because there was this cop that kept circling the block. I realized the cop was harassing her. Trying to scare her, which is absolute bull shit because it’s not like we have a curfew or anything like that. It’s America, man, not some damned police state, home of the free and brave and flag still waiving high—except when people die, then the flag is half-mast, but whatever that song says you know—power to the people, right? So as a reminder, I have an American flag sticker on the back of my van. I might have to take the sticker off because a couple times Jordan came out of his apartment and looked at my van a bit longer than he should have. Like he recognized it or something. I have tinted windows, so he can’t see me inside, but that American flag sticker is pretty distinctive, and I think that’s how he knows it’s me sitting outside his apartment. I don’t know why that should bother him. Me being there, he can come down and knock on my door anytime and get off whenever he wants. I showed him my boobs once at work. Lifted my shirt right up. Hey Jordan, you like these? He didn’t say anything. No response at all, which really surprised me because I have some nice tits. Probably better looking than his girlfriend’s, because she is so skinny. Nothing to her. Like a green bean rail with too thick red lipstick. I hate that bitch. I don’t even wear a bra, because all the science says bras are no good, and probably some man came up with the idea to bunch up every woman’s boobs into tight little bundles hoisted high on their chests. Jordan’s girlfriend, she has such tiny boobs. Like zits, which rhymes with tits, so she needs that bra so people can actually see if she has any boobs or not.

###

She is all blonde perky and tall. Sabrina is her name. And I know, what an absolute valley girl name, right? Like gag me with a green candy bar valley girl.

###

My probation officer said I had to start keeping my van in the trailer park. That I couldn’t be driving the van around willy nilly. I told him that was my job though—to drive around willy nilly delivering pizzas. My car topper lights up at night like a beacon of hope for the hungry masses. He said, Carol, we’ve been through this. Your job is fine. If you have to go to the grocery store or any other normal errand, that’s fine. Otherwise, your van is parked at lot twenty-six in the Sunny Dale Park. My probation officer is old and fat. He is like in his fifties or something. He smokes a lot and smells like a bar. Smells like a man cheating on his wife, like a man that gets off anyhow he can. And I guess his dick is okay. It’s kind of round, wrinkly stocky. He tastes like apple cider vinegar—sweet, but tangy, a bit spoiled.

I’m kind of a connoisseur of penises. Sometimes when I’m poor and need the money and go up to the house with the pizza hot bag in hand, and if the guy who comes to the door is really good looking, if I can tell what kind of man he is by the bulge through his jeans, if he hangs to the left and not the right, because the guys who hang to the right always seem to taste bitter, I’ll ask if they want a ten dollar blow job. On a Friday, Saturday night I can make a hundred, hundred-fifty doing this, and it’s not like I absolutely hate it. I have a lot of regular customers. A lot of customers who call the pizza shop and request me for their delivery. And even if I don’t do it, I get excellent tippage because there is the hope of me doing it. They all want me to stay happy. They all want me to keep on keepin’ on blowing them.

Female pizza delivery personnel get better tips normally anyway. There’s this big huge study done by Stanford I read that says so. Also, African-Americans never tip unless their girlfriends are standing right behind them because they want to impress her. Once they get married though, that tip disappears no matter how much the wife frowns or makes faces or says to the guy You should tip her for coming out. Why? he says. It’s her job, right? Not like the women tip when their guys are gone either; he’s just their excuse. Mexicans tip amazing. They are some of the poorest people around and maybe they have five families crammed into a one bedroom house with no backyard, their front steps right smack against the busiest street in town, but they tip every single time as much as ninety percent of the ticket. You got to love the Mexicans. Senior citizens tip fifty cents. Or if you are lucky, seventy-five cents. I used to think they didn’t know any better because they’re old. I’ve been doing this pizza gig for a while now and have come to realize they do know better, they just use their oldness to their advantage. Make you think they don’t know any better because back in their day and age, fifty cents was a decent tip. Seventy-five, awesome. But they know, so don’t ever let them fool you. Rich people are the worse. You pull up to their big fucking mansion and have to walk up all of those steps to their front door which they never use except for pizza delivery. They unlock like a million gazillion locks because you can hear them all clicking behind the steel door that’s painted to look like fancy wood décor. Some of them ask for exact change back. The bastards. Middle class families are good tippers. They know the value of a dollar. They know you are working your ass off for lousy under minimum wage. They know the store’s only reimbursing you a quarter or so for your gas, and you still have to fill your tank at the end of the night and have to figure out a way to eat and keep the lot rent paid.

Carol, what about your pills? You’ve been taking your medication? My probation officer sits there on his wheeled office chair. He punches random information into a computer that’s still strictly DOS based. I have a sweet laptop. Runs Windows 3.11.

Carol?

I shake my head. I hate those pills like I hate blondes. My probation officer personally drove me to see my psychologist or psychiatrist, or whichever one it is that prescribes medication. One of them, you lie on this couch and talk crap about your life. The other one gives you prescriptions for drugs that you retrieve at the Wal-Mart pharmacy, but I don’t know that psycho-babble terminology. So whichever one it is that can prescribe you the meds, the psychiatrist, psychologist—that’s who my probation officer drove me to see. My can of drugs sits hidden in my glove compartment underneath fast food joint napkins. I take the bottle out once in a while and hold it between my index finger and thumb. I stare at it. The pills are supposed to make me better, but I’m already awesome the way things are, and I hate the way they make me feel. Sluggish and unfeeling. Numb to the world. They’re tiny little white pills not quite round not quite oval with sharp pointy tips. He is sitting there, my probation officer, his stomach overlapping. I push his belly fat out of the way. No, Carol. He rolls away from me in his chair. We can’t do this anymore. My supervisor is going to find out.

I have his belt undone and his pants unzipped and he lays all splayed out, already with a hard on. I take my tongue the length of his shaft and look up at him, smiling. He might be old and fat and taste bad, but he’s a lot of fun. He doth protest too much.

He pushes me away this time though. He stands. His pants fall down around his ankles, and he pulls them up, and tightens his belt. This has been too wrong for too long, he says.

Is it your wife? I ask.

We have to get you the help you need.

Yeah, it’s his wife. He gets like this every few months—all sentimental about his falling apart marriage that’s been falling apart for years. I’m a free spirit and will never ever get married. Never have kids. Can never even imagine being pregnant. Having another living human inside me, squirming around, kicking me from the inside. I was at the Wal-Mart in 1980 when the stores started popping up all over the countryside like dandelions, and if we had known what exactly they were up to, we would have sprayed those Wal-Marts down with herbicide. I think I was ten. I was with my mom. She was getting something like tampons or something. But this pregnant lady was leaning against her grocery kart really hard. And I mean she was very pregnant wearing this summer dress with pink and green and yellow flower print. She grabbed a hold of the bottom of her stomach, and then all of this water came out between her legs onto the floor. An ambulance was called and everything and what an absolute crappy way to propagate the species. I will never forget that and I will never get pregnant.

I was at the Wal-Mart today after my regularly scheduled appointment with my probation officer. I bought a couple of bananas. I don’t really like bananas. They taste bland and starchy, which if you think about it, is a really boring taste for such a bright, colorful fruit. I didn’t buy them to eat. My bottle of pills sat on my kitchenette counter inside my van staring at me. I didn’t want to take them. I didn’t want to feel numb. I called Jupiter to find out what I should do.

###

Don’t think I don’t know my science. I know Jupiter is this gas giant out in the solar system. I know no one can live there. It’s impossible. Mostly methane and hydrogen about ready to explode any day into a black hole sun like in that movie Space Odyssey 2001. But I also listen to this late night talk show driving around at two in the morning delivering the drunk-rush their pizzas. So I know all about the grays with their big heads, which makes absolutely no sense biologically because with such skinny necks they’d be nodding off all the time. Then there are the Reptilians and Arcadians. I know the Travis Walton story like I know the blood vessels popping out on the back of my hand. They talk about government conspiracies and tell me about the latest Bigfoot sighting. You know the whole income tax situation is against the Constitution too? They had to amend the thing just to make stealing your money legal.

We’re open until two-thirty in the morning. I won’t tell you the name of the pizza shop I work for because our pizza sucks, and we’re the only pizza shop in town open that late. So we’re the only place the alcoholics can get their food from. If I tell you the name, that’ll be libel, and I could get sued for that shit. But you know that 1950s Claymation cartoon with that green looking dude and a pony for a best friend? Yeah, that’s the pizza shop I work for. The owner keeps threatening to stay open until four a.m., but that’s stupid. Sings out desperation for sales. He should just make better pizza and that’d solve half his problems. The other half would be a new crew. People who don’t sit out on the front steps smoking blunts. Staying open later though, that’d be kind of a good thing for me. I wouldn’t have to sit in that trailer park so much. A ton of poor people live there. I don’t have anything against poor people, but it’s white trash too. People who use the term educamated and warshed instead of washed. Crick instead of creek. Children run around bare foot on stone gravel, shirtless and dirty. They ride broken tricycles entirely unsupervised while men in big fat diesel trucks speed through. It’s a wonder no one gets killed. And someone spray painted obscenities on my van the other day, and that cost a pretty penny to get cleaned. They all hate me, every single last one of my neighbors. Sometimes the kids come up to talk to me. But not for long because their moms, who have no money for a decent meal for their kids but have bigger than diesel truck TVs jammed into their trailers, they stick their heads out their trailer doors, curlers still in their hair, still in their bathrobes—summer teeth, you know some are there, some are not—and they scream at their kids to get away from me. Like I’m some kind of freak.

I love my little van. I was in the library the other day because after you get kicked out of your apartment last minute like that, the library is a good place to go. Plus, I read a ton. Important shit too—National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, The National Enquirer. But other things. I like Milton a lot, Paradise Lost, and Langston Hughes is the bomb. Ever read Magnolia Flowers? The quiet fading out of life In a corner full of ugliness. I went lookin’ for magnolia flowers But I didn’t find ‘em. I went lookin’ for magnolia flowers in the dusk…  That’s beautiful right there, and no one can tell me any different at all. There was this magazine Mother Jones or Mother Earth or something like that, and they had an issue on tiny houses, and I thought how freaking cool. So I got the van and removed all the chairs except the driver’s seat. This guy custom fit it for the wood burning stove, and if you go visit an RV accessory store, you find all kinds of cool stuff like the little kitchenette and fold out sofa. I kept the glove compartment for my driver’s license, insurance, and registration. I keep my ACT test score from when I was a senior in high school in the glove compartment too. I got a thirty-six. First time out of the box and that is the highest you can get on the ACT. My mom was all proud and she was like, You got to go to college. College college college is all I heard for days. And I tried it for a while, but I was so bored just like I was bored in high school and bored with anything that had to do with school. Which is weird because I have these crazy equations swimming around inside my head. I can see how the entire universe is connected. This simple string of numbers explains everything. The Unified Field Theory is what I think the legitimate scientists call it, and the answer really is forty-two. Not really, but that number makes for a nice metaphor I think, especially if you read anything at all by Douglass Adams. So I built the warp drive for my van. I mean, I got the instructions from Jupiter, but if I wasn’t smart, I wouldn’t have been able to build that thing. I would have blown up half a city block just trying.

The people on Jupiter, they’re even smarter. Not that they are people. They’re aliens. I guess to them though, they’d be people and we’d be aliens which is really incredibly trippy to think about. But they don’t abduct people or mutilate cattle or design crop circles or anything stupid like that. They have this international space station—or would it be intergalactic, probably intergalactic because they’re all from different planets—and they float right underneath the cloud layer on Jupiter. So of course they don’t live there. They watch us. Study us. Wait for us to make our own first leap into outer space. Ever since we went to the moon in the Sixties, they have been underneath the cloud surface of Jupiter, and we have been a continual disappointment for them ever since. They thought we would have at least gotten to Mars. I’m glad they’re there, even though if I were them I would have just totally given up by now and left a long, long time ago. It’s 1992 and that last moon expedition was in 1974? That’s eighteen years of waiting for nothing.

I’m waiting on them right now. I have the two bananas in my kitchenette, and one of them has got to ring. In between the bananas sits the tiny white pill. It is almost five a.m., and I’ve been awake this whole night. If I moved my curtains aside, I would probably be able see the sun cracking over the horizon right now. The bananas are still silent, and I wish the pizza shop was open until four in the morning already. I could just drive and listen to my music, listen to the pointless talk radio babble, deliver pizzas and not have to make any kind of decision. But there is no one here to tell me what to do. Maybe if I took the pill Jordan would like me better, but if being normal is like sitting around in a bathrobe watching a big screen TV while yelling at your kids that are in desperate need of some food and a bath, I don’t think I want anything to do with it.

###

I take the pill. I swallow without water. It tastes chalky.

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