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"Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" • Smashing Pumpkins (by Glenn Orgias)


The convenience store was blindingly fluorescent. The counter man stood behind a bullet proof sheet of plexiglass. Roland asked for a pack of Camels and put a fifty on the counter. 


The counter man looked at the fifty. It’s ripped, he said.


Huh? said Roland.


Not legal tender, he said.


Come on, man.


The counter man shook his head.


It’s out of this store’s ATM.


The counter man shrugged. 


Roland took an involuntary step sideways. You got a nice smile, he said.


The counter man frowned.


Like my brother, said Roland, he has a great smile, if you ever bothered smiling.


The counter man slid the fifty back. Take a hike, kid.


Roland reached to take the fifty, but instead he put his hand over the counter man’s hairy hand. Try a smile, he said.


The counter man jerked his hand away. Get your drunk ass out of here, he said. And he took a baseball bat and started walking around the counter.


Roland grabbed the fifty and stumbled backwards, nearly eating shit as he tripped out the doorway.

 


Pizza Haven was empty, also highly fluorescent. No one behind the counter. Hello, said Roland, but the sound echoed.


Two cops came in. Big Cop, little cop.


Can we order? said the little cop.


Roland shrugged his jacket off and stood behind the counter in his Pizza Haven uniform. Yes, he said.


The cops looked at the menu.


The Big Cop had a straight moustache and a thick neck, he was a bigger version of skinny Roland. The little cop ordered a large, half-veggie, half-ham-lover’s.


I’ll have anchovies on the veggie half, said the Big Cop, and pineapple.


The little cop made an ugly sound in his throat.


Roland made the pizza, smiling. I thought my brother was the only one who likes anchovies and pineapple, he said. I was gonna spit on your pizza, but now I’m gonna make it nice.


The cops didn’t smile. The Big Cop put his lamb leg forearm on the counter. How you doing, kid? he said. You been drinking?


Roland looked down. Dumb joke, he said quietly, sprinkling cheese. Sorry. 

 


When the cops left, Roland found Tommy sitting on the lid of the toilet, drinking whisky. Tommy handed Roland the whisky bottle. 


Did you get cigarettes? said Tommy.


No, said Roland. My fifty was ripped.


What?


You’re supposed to be out front.


I can’t, said Tommy. She’s gonna come in with her new boyfriend, I know it. She’s everywhere I look. When you lose someone why do you fucking see them everywhere?


Roland looked down.


Tommy frowned.  Oh man, sorry, I didn’t—


It’s fine, said Roland. He handed the whisky back. I wish I could see him again.



Roland made seventeen more pizzas. He was mopping the floor when the counter man came in and looked at the menu without looking at Roland. The man now wore a Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness T-shirt. He looked tired. A large Hawaiian, he said, and put a ripped twenty down.


Roland came around the counter.


Oh for fuck’s sake, said the man.


But Roland took the ripped bill. It’s okay, he said. I’ll tape it up. He gave the man change.


The man glared.


I’mma make you a nice Hawaiian, said Roland. You look hungry.


The man watched.


Roland was going to joke about did the man want some spit on his pizza, but he refrained. He made a nice pizza, liberal with pineapple. He cooked it, sliced it, and boxed it. My brother just died, he said, putting the box on the counter. That’s all.


The man looked at him.


Roland started working the floor with the mop.


The counter man watched, he took the pizza box. I should’ve taken your fifty, he said, probably. Just been having a bad day, he said.


Roland nodded.


The man held out his hand.


Roland shook the man’s hand. On the man’s t-shirt a melancholic angel was emerging from a star. It had been his brother’s favourite T-shirt too. Roland wasn’t going to say anything, but he wanted to hug the man, because he wanted to say goodbye to Anthony, because he never got to say goodbye, he never got to hold him. 


I’ll see ya, said Roland.


The man nodded.


At closing, Tommy came out. Want me to do anything?


Roland was leaning against the glass doors. Out on the street a trick of the light was producing vapour trails behind the people walking by.



Glenn Orgias is a writer and surfer from Sydney. His shark attack memoir, Man In A Grey Suit, was published by Viking in 2012, you can find out more about his writing at www.glennorgias.com.





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