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Pizza Mess

By John Addyman  |

I was eating a piece of pizza, hot from the box. I had a big napkin in my lap because I knew I’d need it.

One of my fifth-grade students was watching me eat. He was paying particular attention to how I got the pizza slice — which was soft and very hot — into my mouth. He was very curious.

“Is it hard to eat with a mustache?” he asked me.

“Does that give you trouble?”

I looked down in my lap: melted cheese and tomato sauce had hit the napkin. I felt around my mustache and a little bit of the rest of my beard: more cheese and sauce.

My young student noticed.

“You have stuff stuck in your beard and mustache,” he pointed out — a little joyfully, I thought.

I felt around again. I did have a little piece of pepperoni languishing in my beard. My student made a move at me like he would be only too happy to pick the pepperoni out of my beard, extending a reaching hand toward me.

“No,” I said, stopping him in mid-reach. That’s all I needed — to have him walking around school the rest of the day telling everyone about how he saved his teacher from being incredibly gross for the rest of the day.

“Leave my flavor-saver alone,” I told him gently.

“Your what?”

“My flavor-saver: that’s what a mustache is for, saving flavors for later in the day.”

That was too strange for him and away he went. He had noted with complete satisfaction and erudition that adults are in fact a bit odd; especially old guys.

I told the story to my wife after dinner that night.

“Well, he’s right,” she said. “Look at yourself.”

And then she made a face like, “See?”

So I looked. Sure enough, some of the night’s dinner — chili and a nice salad — was ensconced on my tummy. Predominantly. I peeked at the floor. Yep, there was a piece of lettuce under my chair.

“I should be using my napkin,” I told my dear wife.

“Yes, you should.”

“It’s right here to the left of my dinner plate.” I pointed to it.

“Yes, that’s where I put it.”

“That was thoughtful of you.” I have found that the longer you’re married, the more important it is to be humble, whether you’re right or you’re wrong.

“You’re welcome,” she said. “You’d be even more welcome if you’d actually use the napkin occasionally. When I do the laundry, I put all your shirts in one pile because I know I’ll have to stain-treat them because they have food all down the front.”

“I’m even more thankful,” I told my wife. “What’s wrong with me for doing this all the time?”

She gave me a wifely answer.

“You’re a slob, John.”

And she left the table. I stared at my napkin, which was still sitting next to where my plate had been.

This slob thing — I guess I came to it with good training. When I was a little lad, my mother was the queen of the tuna casserole and she loved throwing lots of peas into the casseroles. I loved the tuna and the sauce and the pasta. I hated the peas.

My mother, of course, knew this. I didn’t have to tell her.

“I hate the peas,” I’d share with her anyway.

“Eat your peas,” she’d tell me.

As I finished the tuna casserole — I think we ate that often enough that my chromosomes have been altered — I had expertly and carefully culled each pea from the good stuff and circled my plate oh-so-neatly with them, like a ring of round green things.

“Eat your peas,” my mom would tell me.

“They’re not my peas,” I’d argue.

My mom would call my dad and I’d manage to get the peas down without hurling.

But my resolve stiffened.

The next time — which must have been no more than two days later — I picked out the peas and put them under the rim of my dinner plate.

“Peas are all gone!” I said with a big proud smile. My mom glanced at the plate from the kitchen 10 feet away and nodded agreement. So she wouldn’t have to collect my plate (I was the last one at the table — those peas), I brought it to her … and scooped all the peas off the tabletop into my paper napkin.

This worked for a couple of weeks until one day I got home and my mom was waiting for me at the door with something in her hand.

“Look what I found in the laundry hamper,” she said.

She opened her hand and there it was — a paper napkin full of old peas. I suddenly realized I’d forgotten to ditch the last batch of dinner peas in the kitchen garbage and they had been in my school pants overnight.


“Tsk-Tsk-Tsk,” she tsked, waving a guilt finger at me.

“Oh, by the way, we’re having something special for dinner tonight,” she told me.

A lot of possibilities flashed through my head.

“Yes, we’re having a special pea casserole. A one-pot, one-person dish — just for you-know-who.”

When I came to the dinner table, my mom sat on one side of me and my dad sat on the other side. In front of me was something white with a lot of little green things in it. A lot.

It was horrible.