by BP | Score: 8150
Or was it a show. At his age these things tended to run together like driverless cars during a solar flare.
Geronimo Juarez sat in the same booth he had sat in everyday since he began working for city hall. It had taken Sal three weeks to let him in early--Sal enjoyed the quiet, contemplative mood of the early morning hours before his pizzeria was overrun with overstimulated children--but like a student awaiting acceptance outside a martial arts monastery, Geronimo persisted until his sensie, noting the young pupils humility and desire to learn, nodded solemnly and opened the grand monastery doors, admitting him into his sacred dojo.
Sal was sure that was how it worked. He'd seen it in a show once. Or was it a movie?
Geronimo paid very little attention to the little green men. Ever since accepting a clerking job at the local Grievance Court, life had seemed even more drab and meaningless than before. What difference would a cadre of little green men matter in the face of unwavering human hostility?
For their part, the little green men waddled up to the counter, their tight blue space suits glimmering the incandescent light of Sal's pride and joy: his brand new--self designed!--overheard menu.
The aliens' eyes rolled like slow, gray marbles as they scanned the items.
Sal slapped the freshly cooked pie onto the counter and began carving it up with his steak knife.
He had used a pizza cutter years ago, but after an unfortunate accident left a teenage employee down a number of fingers, he swore the things off. Too much damn fun, he declared. Kids get to rolling those things around and they start confusing them for toys.
In Sal's defense, no child would ever consider a big, shiny knife a toy.
"What can I do for you?" Sal asked, leaning over the counter at his newest customers. Technically Planet Pizza didn't open for another half hour, but even Sal wasn't fool enough to pass up this business opportunity. The first ever intergalactic clientele.
The aliens, having recovered from the sight of Sal, looked amongst each other, jibbering in their strange, alien language, before finally coming to some agreement.
Stepping forward, the leader of the aliens--Sal assumed he was the leader, though, in truth, he had a difficult time distinguishing between them--raised one of his arms--hey, Sal thought, they have two arms, just like us!--and pointed one of his three fingers at the coffee maker.
With a grunt, Sal pushed himself away from the counter, retrieved a cup--out of habit he had grabbed a lunch, then, thinking about it, traded it for a small. There was always a time for up selling, but at the moment he thought it more prudent to play it safe--filled it with a steaming stream of coffee, then leaned over the counter again and asked, "How do you take it?"
Another flutter of gibberish. More animated this time. One of the aliens broke off from the group and, after walking in circles for a moment, began drawing something on the scuffed up red carpet mat Sal had put down when he first bought the place twenty-three years ago.
"Hey, hey, hey," Sal shouted. "That's not permanent is it?"
Gibbering. To Sal it seemed they were arguing with each which filled him with a sense of gratitude. The group was sticking up for him and his place of business. That showed respect. He liked that.
Looking up from his coffee, Geronimo cleared his throat. "Excuse me. I don't want to ask for too much, but could you guys--err--folks keep it down a bit. This is the only quiet I get all day."
Another round of gibbering, which, Sal noticed, seemed markedly quieter. Even the reckless drawer seemed to get the message.
They really are an accommodating lot, Sal thought. Much better than the monster that came in around lunchtime. Once they moved to full remote learning, Sal recalled, thinking specifically of his two nephews, that's when things went off the rails. That was when kids lost all respect.
The discussion over, the leader--Sal thought it was the leader, in the commotion he had lost track of which was which--stepped forward once again. He appeared to be holding something in his hand. Small and rectangular it looked almost like an old TV remote he'd heard his grandparents mention seeing in a museum once. The thought that it could be some kind of horrible ray gun meant to melt Sal down to green goop flashed through his mind, but before he could act on his fears, the alien clicked a button and a long slow, "Mmmmooooo!!" emerged from the device.
"Milk. Got it."
The aliens made themselves quite comfortable after receiving their coffee. It took a while, but after struggling into one of the booths, they managed to communicate to Sal that they would like a cup of coffee each--that was, a single PURCHASED cup of coffee, divided into five different cups--as well as a slice of pizza each--that was, five individually PURCHASED pizza slices.
Order restored. Customers served. Sal went back to preparing for the day. It would be another ten minutes or so before the breakfast crowd arrived. He didn't get many, but about ten years back, noticing that all the unique coffee shops ( as well as the local bodegas) had all been replaced by chains, he decided the market had a hole in it and he was uniquely suited to fill it.
The aliens chatted on. Geronimo, having ordered his second cup and first slice, continued his mental preparations for his day ahead. This included long, savory bites of his pizza, washed down by coffee cut with a little whiskey.
The door burst open and Gretchen Scarramagio