Pizza Guy and Pizza Boy

Submitted into Contest #129 in response to: Write about a skier who accidentally strays off-piste.... view prompt

2 comments

Funny

I'm going to hot dog when I damn well please. This is what the lunatic businessman thought as he drifted away from his party, wooshing through the fresh white powder, into a thicket of trees representing something he'll always deny to be aware of: the unknown. An oilman, a marketeer, a real sunuvabitch, Kris Drimsuke knew it at all, or so he thought. After making Exxon Mobil millions upon millions of dollars with his penchant for taking advantage of the natural gas market, he was due for a vacation; the last one he went on was to Dallas, a literal skip and a hop away from his home base in Houston, where he ambled up and down his carpeted stairs in bare feet as he fielded inquiries and phone calls from starved energy providers. "Please release some gas to us," they cried. He did, but it always cost them, often more than they were excited to pay. With global warming damaging the Earth at an ever-accelerating pace, energy was scarce and growing more so and Drimsuke took advantage of this global catastrophe for profit. Now it was time to enjoy some of his winnings.

He'd never skied before but he figured, "Ah, what the hell, how hard could it be?" And after correcting the instructor, whom he'd internally deemed Pizza Boy, for the 13th time, the young man, in his 20s with long hair and orange and yellow goggles, finally relented. "Yeah, looks like you got it, bro. You should be good. But you gotta pizza going downhill." Pizza, Drimsuke thought, what a childish phrase to toss at learned adults. On the next downward stroll, Drimsuke decided to fly. Why crawl when he was ready to run? But trees enveloped him quickly and as he tried to veer to the right, left, up and down, to somehow collapse the ends of his two skis toward one another to form the needed pizza formation, he realized, perhaps this time, he'd messed up. Eventually, the man fell to his side and crashed into a tree trunk. A shallow husk of what used to be a towering goliath of foliage providing cover and protection for the area's wildlife. Now it was dead, bark barely clinging to the central body and fraying. Drimsuke was lucky not to break his legs, though he didn't believe in luck. As he detached his boots from the fiery red skis, he stood in awe of the dead stump. He stared at it and turned his head from upright to on its side, like a puppy staring at an owner eating a bag of Doritos. While there was no other tree as large as the deceased, he was surrounded by smaller, less imposing wooden figures, and because of their collective quantity, he could through the thicket and back to the piste.

He marched the way he came, attempting to follow the path of hot dog'd skis, but as he began his venture the wind picked up, rendering the tracks invisible. After about 50 feet, he couldn't decipher the difference between the snow at his feet to the snow 10 feet to his left or right. "I know where I'm going," he thought defiantly, marching onward with his head down. Eventually, he ran into markings resembling boot prints and he eagerly, happily, followed them, remarking internally how he knew he was right to continue pressing forward. After a lap or so around the wilderness, Drimsuke realized he was lost. The stump he'd crashed into served as a reminder of his inability to read his surroundings. He didn't know where he was. He didn't know how to escape. He didn't know how to ski.

***

Jacob noticed one fewer person in his party 15 minutes ago but figured he's simply miscounted. It was hard to shepherd humans on the snow when barking instructions and ensuring you don't run into, or through, other parties on the mountain. Jacob was tired. He ran out of edibles a week ago and hasn't slept well since. The anxiety of being in charge of adults strained him because the pay wasn't worth the responsibility of keeping people alive. This was his last season on the mountain, and likely his last month in Salt Lake. He was planning to move to Los Angeles to pursue his passion of screenwriting. He'd thought running out of edibles would spur him on and help him finish (OK begin!) the screenplay he'd half outlined last summer but now he thought they might actually help him be creative; the truth is he didn't think they helped or hurt. He lacked grit. That's what his father said, anyway. And while Jacob probably agreed, his dad would definitely die if he attempted a black diamond trail, whereas Jacob completes them on a weekly basis. To him, that was a win.

When Jacob and his party arrived at the lodge to conclude the class, he realized again he was a person short. He counted eight twice, knowing he should have nine. "The pizza guy." He knew the man was alone but asked the others in the group if they were his friends or relatives. Of course, they all said no. Pizza Guy was a loner, probably one of these rich-asshole types who struggled to keep people in his life because of his need to be in control of every little aspect. Jacob wished he had the ability to keep control of his own day-to-day, but figured a little chaos with loved ones and friends was better than structure and order completely alone. As he raced back to the ski lift, he struggled to remember when Pizza Guy first could have veered off the path. Jacob knew the mountain better than some of the paramedics who raced around these parts. He was in control of this snowy wonderland and operated it like a puppeteer fiddling with strings. As for old Pizza Guy, Jacob would have bet anything that the guy was absolutely losing it.

***

"I'm losing it," Drimsuke thought as he circled the boot print path for what had to have been the 40th time. He thought about quitting, sitting on the stump, leaning on the deceased piece of nature and waiting for the frostbite to cripple his extremities. The wind began to pinch his face; his ears were numb and his fingers felt as hard as legos his mother used to buy him when he was a child. He considered yelling for help but didn't want to waste his energy. "No one would hear me anyway," he thought. Instead, he continued walking, searching, hoping and praying to find a route out of the woods. He wondered if he'd experience a moment of clarity, a vision, one you'd see carefully crafted in a film about a man who had it all but was missing a piece of himself right up until catastrophe struck. It never came. Drimsuke was enraged, at himself for booking the vacation, at himself again for veering off the piste and at the instructor, Pizza Boy, for not noticing he'd broken the rules and left the group. He can hear the man's whiney voice now in his head, "We can have fun out on the mountain but we have to do it together, ok? That's the one rule. Don't leave the pack."

YOU WERE THE LEADER OF THE PACK PIZZA BOY, AND YOU LET ME LEAVE AND NOW I'M GOING TO DIE BY THIS FORSAKEN TREE TRUNK. Drimsuke rarely lost his temper in his day-to-day operations. Sure, there were moments he'd lost money and got in hot water with his boss, though they were few and far between. Success was frequent and failure was rare. Drimsuke thought of his situation and wondered how his death would be received. Would he be missed? Would anyone notice? Would whoever they hired to fill his vacancy fill the coffers as effectively as he? Would anyone actually remember how he acted or what his mannerisms were? Was he just a number on a spreadsheet? He supposed these were the questions you fielded to the universe while lost in the wilderness, left to die. He hoped someone would find him but the odds were diminishing now that the sun began to giveaway to the moon. "Alas, I didn't like skiing anyway." He sat, giving into his finality.

***

Jacob exited the ski lift and zoomed to the area where he first remembered his exchange with Pizza Guy. He drifted near the trees shouting phrases like, "Hello!" and "Anyone home?!" Jacob wasn't the best with words. He'd also never rescued anyone, as most people tend to stay with groups during their first time on the mountain. It's why he didn't teach intermediates. Before long, Jacob began to lose hope himself but knew he could always call on the rescue crew to do a simple search and suss the guy out of the trees. He didn't want to venture into the unknown and get lost himself because then he for sure wouldn't finish his screenplay and sell it to a movie studio. And then he wouldn't eventually direct a direct-to-video movie and become a nominee for a Razzie. These weren't exactly the goals he dreamed up for himself but he figured imagining these kinds of accomplishments would at least land him in a realistic fantasy.

In the corner of his eye, Jacob located a tiny black blot through the trees. Being a ski instructor meant you needed a few attributes: 1. Be an expert-level skier; 2. Have decent people skills; 3. Have excellent eyesight. Though he wasn't 100 percent sure it was a person, Jacob figured he'd shout toward the black spot as he approached it in hopes of a reply. "Pizza Guy?!" he shouted as he raced toward the pines. "Pizza Guy!" he said with more authority, hoping it would rattle the man awake if he'd fallen unconscious. "Pizza-" Jacob shouted, before hearing back, "BOY!" Jacob knew it was the man. Pizza Guy was alive, yelling and probably pissed that Jacob had left him in the cold for nearly an hour. Though worse things occurred on the mountain every day, Jacob knew this man was going to act as if his world was shattered and as he zig-zagged through the trees and toward the stump he braced himself for a beratement.

"Pizza Boy, you found me," the man said through shivers.

"Pizza Guy, you're saved," he retorted, lowering his gloved hands in an attempt to pull the man back to his feet. The two stood eye to eye and could let the worry of the day escape them. Jacob knew the way out and instructed Pizza Guy to put his skis on and follow him out of the forest slowly. As he edged his way toward the piste and away from the stump, Pizza Guy looked back one more time at the chair nature provided him. He didn't enjoy a vision or a visit from a spirit but he learned something on the mountain. Always pizza when the instructor says or you're going to have a bad time.

Drimsuke reported Jacob for leaving him behind. He was fired before he could quit. He never finished the screenplay. He's in law school now, hoping to practice environmental law.

January 19, 2022 04:30

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2 comments

Ernie Olson
01:49 Jan 27, 2022

Good character development...everyone know people like Pizza Boy and Pizza Guy. F.Y.I.; I was asked by Reedsy to read your story. The tale you describe is interesting, certainly believable...for the most part, but your narration is choppy. There are leaps in logic, and unbelievable sections...like marching through snow, under trees, in ski-boots. Only if the snow is frozen, still, why take off your skis? Another problem I had was the length of your paragraphs. It slowed the pace to a crawl, and gave the impression that 'this is never going t...

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Trent Johnson
18:39 Jan 27, 2022

Thanks for reading Ernie, appreciate the comments!

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