As a child there was always an excitement opening the door for the pizza deliveryman. It was a chance to be the grown up, handle the money, impress the adult with the right amount of tip. Pizza Money, the third place winner of this year’s nonfiction contest, judged by Cheryl Strayed, is about just that—a search for money to pay for a delivered pizza. But it is about, as you will discover, much more than simply that. I am excited to share it with you today in a LUMINA blog exclusive.
– Geoff Bendeck, Nonfiction Editor
My pizza will be here in forty-five minutes to an hour and the total comes to…
I make the sign of the cross. Twice. Three times.
$11.50, the pizza man says.
That’s two dollars more than last time, but all I say is, Okay, thanks, in my best grown up voice, and all he says is, Plus tip.
He hangs up, I hang up. I check the microwave clock. 12:23 p.m.
It’s not that we don’t have food in the house, we do—I’ve been snacking on Peanut Butter Twix all morning—but I want something hot; only a small cheese; only $11.50, plus tip. By the time it gets here, and I eat the whole thing, and maybe read some Baby-Sitters Club, Nonna, my grandmother, will be back from work, and Nonno, my grandfather, will be sitting in his chair by the front door, smoking cigarettes in his sleep. Mom’s nurse has Saturdays off, but Mom doesn’t, and neither do I. Now I just have to find the money.
We live in a red brick ranch that Nonno paid cash for when Mom and Dad got divorced. Cash, he’d said. He acted like he wanted me to congratulate him, but when I did he shook his finger at me and said it was none of my business. He’s used to telling people off; he owns a couple of apartment buildings where no one pays rent on time. He and Nonna don’t live with Mom and me, but they’re here in the mornings before school and after Nonna gets off work—she’s a seamstress at a suit store, and sometimes I go with Nonno to pick her up at the mall. Her boss calls her “Maggie,” because, as Nonna says, he’s a “Cazuna Americano,” and can’t pronounce Marguerite. Neither can I, but luckily, she’s my grandmother. $11.50, plus tip, hiding in two bedrooms, the kitchen, living room, and bathroom. If things get bad, I’ll have to look in the garage too. But I’ll go hungry before I go anywhere near the basement. I keep the door locked, and I tell myself we don’t even have a basement when I hear funny sounds down there.