The Red-Headed Pizza
Frank Thomas Smith
Romano, the red-headed pizza-parlor man, has already made at least a hundred pizzas this afternoon. Customers love his pizzas because of the technique he learned in Italy and his artistic touches. In Romano's opinion, a well-made pizza is a work of art. But today he has so much work that he makes one pizza after another almost automatically: cheese, napolitana, onion, salami etc., large, small and medium.
"One large cheese!" the waiter calls.
"Always the same," Romano sighs.
When he finishes shaping the dough and putting on the cheese and tomato sauce, he stops a moment, smiles, and instead of putting the olives any which way, he carefully places two of them at the same height. Then he puts another a bit lower between the first two. He cuts a piece of red pepper and places it below the third olive forming a smile on the face he has drawn on the pizza. Finally, he puts on two pieces of red pepper for the ears and a generous spoonful of tomato sauce over the forehead. He observes his work, laughs out loud and says, "Welcome, red-headed pizza," and places it in the oven with the long-handled, wooden shovel that pizza-makers use.
When the pizza is done, he takes it out of the oven and sees that it looks more than ever like a human face because the oven's heat has given it a lively color.
"I won't sell it," he says to himself. "It's too pretty. Maybe I'll eat it myself when we close." And he places it on the top of the oven to keep it warm.
The red-headed pizza hears what Romano says and is proud of his creator's praise. She is impatient for closing time.
At about one-thirty, when the pizza-parlor is full of customers, a fat man complains in a loud voice to the waiter: "Where's my pizza? I ordered it an hour ago!"
The waiter knows that the fat man didn't order the pizza an hour ago, but it could well have been a half-hour. Therefore he rushes to the counter to see what happened to the order. He sees the red-headed pizza and thinks it's the fat man's. And if not it doesn't matter, because if it's another customer's Romano -- who is very busy preparing new pizzas -- can make another. The waiter takes the red-headed pizza, puts it on his tray and goes to the fat man's table.
The red-headed pizza was dozing when the waiter removed her from her warm spot on the oven. When she realizes that she is being carried through the air on a tray away from Romano, she has a fright. And imagine her terror when she is placed in front of the fat man who looks at her with little pig's eyes, licks his lips and picks up knife and fork ready to cut.
With a great effort, the red-headed pizza jumps off the plate before the waiter's bulging eyes and rolls to the edge of the table, hesitates a moment at seeing the floor so far below, decides to risk it and rolls over the edge, landing on the floor without damage.
"What happened?" the fat man cries, looking at his empty plate.
"Stop!" the waiter yells at the pizza, who is rolling away from the table. "Come back here this minute!"
But the red-headed pizza, on seeing that the path to Romano is blocked by the waiter, decides to go out onto the street. The fat man runs after her shouting, "Stop! Stop! I want to eat you."
"You'll never eat me, Fatso," the red-headed pizza answers. The only one who can eat me is my creator, Romano.
She passes a German shepherd who wakes up with a start upon smelling her pass. "Bow-wo-wow!" he barks, meaning: "Stop! Stop! I want to eat you."
"You'll never eat me, you mangy mutt," the red-headed pizza answers. "The only one who can eat me is my creator, Romano."
Nevertheless, the German shepherd runs behind the pizza barking: "Bow-wo-wow!"
The red-headed pizza crosses the street against a red light causing several cars to brake suddenly. A policeman who is resting in a café drinking coffee and reading a newspaper hears the screech of brakes and steps out of the café to see what's happening. When he sees the red-headed pizza, the fat man and the German shepherd crossing the street against the red light, he takes out his whistle and blows until his face is blue.
"Stop!" he yells. "It's forbidden to cross the street when the light is red!"
The red-headed pizza reaches the other side of the street and continues rolling between the people's legs. The policeman realizes that he's hungry and that the pizza wold be a good excuse to return to the police station an hour early and share it with his buddies.
"Stop!" he shouts, "I want to eat you in the police station."
But the red-headed pizza keeps rolling on and answers the policeman: "The cops will never eat me. The only one who can eat me is my creator, Romano.
And she rolls on and on down the street followed by the fat man, the dog and the policeman, until she arrives at the outskirts of town. There she almost crashes into a red-headed girl who is fixing a flat tire on her bicycle.
"Hi, delicious red-headed pizza," the girl says. "Why are you rolling down the street like that? You're going to get cold."
The red-headed pizza looks back and sees that the fat man, the dog and the policeman are getting closer. "Will you help me?" she asks the girl.
"Of course," the girl answers. "What's wrong?"
"You've got to hide me, or the fat man, the dog and the policeman will eat me."
"Poor pizza," the girl says. "Wait, let me think." She puts a finger on her nose, as she always does when trying to solve a problem. "I know," she exclaims. "Quick, get beneath my bike as though you were a wheel.
The red-headed pizza rolls below the front end of the bike and the girl tightens a nut till she is firmly attached.
"Did you see a red-headed pizza pass through here?" the fat man, puffing, asks the girl.
"Where is the red-headed pizza?" the policeman yells between blasts on his whistle.
"Bow-wo-wow," the German shepherd barks with its tongue hanging out.
"She went that way," the girl says, pointing to the woods.
The fat man, the dog and the policeman run into the woods, each one hoping to catch the red-headed pizza and eat her by himself.
"I think you're safe now," the girls says. "But you can't stay here because they might come back."
"I want to return to the pizza parlor where I was born," the red-headed pizza says. "The problem is that every person or animal I meet wants to eat me." And looking up at the girl's pretty face, asks: "Do you want to eat me, too?"
"To tell the truth, I do," the girl admits. "You look delicious and I'm hungry. "But if you don't want me to eat you, I won't."
"Look, " the red-headed pizza says thankfully, "you're my friend, so you can eat me with my creator, Romano."
"Oh!" the girl cries, "How lucky I am:"
"Yes," the red-headed pizza agrees, "but how are we going to get to the pizza parlor of my birth?"
"On my bike, of course. Is it far?"
"Pretty far. But let's go!"
The girl sits on the bike and pedals down the street with the red-headed pizza acting as the front wheel. Several times the red-headed pizza thinks she's going to break, but with a great act of will she keeps firm until they reach the pizza parlor. The door is closed because all the lunch customers have left. It is three o'clock in the afternoon.
The girl gets off the bike and knocks on the door. Within, Romano has just discovered that his red-headed pizza isn't on the oven and he asks the waiter what happened. When he realizes that the pizza has escaped in order to avoid being eaten by the fat man, he is sad. It had never been his intention to let anyone but himself eat the red-headed pizza.
He walks slowly to the door against which someone is knocking. He is surprised to see the girl outside and thinks, "I have never seen such a pretty girl before."
"Are you the pizza-maker?" she asks, also surprised. She hadn't expected to meet such a handsome young man with eyes so intense that they seem to penetrate her like forks.
"Yes," he confirms. "I'm Romano."
"And you? What is your name?"
"I am Romana."
"Romana y Romano," she says. "How funny!"
Romana unscrews the red-headed pizza from her bicycle and gives it to Romano, who receives it joyfully. "My dear red-headed pizza!" he cries.
On seeing her creator with her olive-eyes, the red-headed pizza smiles with her pepper-mouth and says: "At last I'm home."
Romano puts the red-headed pizza in the oven to heat up. When it's ready, he takes it out with the long wooden shovel and he and Romana eat it with so much relish that they fall in love in the act. They marry shortly afterwards and have a family of seven children -- four girls and three boys, all redheads. They always remember the red-headed pizza and they tell their children the story of how they met because of her.
They also tell everyone how delicious she was.
© Frank Thomas Smith