Pizza-making

26 May

The day I get hired at Amy’s Pizza in Spring Arbor, Michigan, the owner, Amy, and I sit across from each-other at a small square table covered with a red and white checkered tablecloth. One skinny yellow flower sticks out of a vase in the middle.

Amy sizes me up. She takes in my prep look—the khakis and vest, the ponytail and messenger bag, the general bookishness, and I see the thought flickering through her eyes: she’s unsuitable to the task of making pizza. Wasn’t I, after all, one of those rich private school kids from the University down the street?

“Sure you’ll have time for this?” she asks.

I nod, butterflies racing through my stomach. I’d already applied to basically every establishment in tiny Spring Arbor: the pizza shop across from the University, the grocery store, the gas station, but not McDonalds. Never McDonalds. And campus jobs? Yeah right—like there were any. This was my one callback, my golden chance at once again seeing cash in my depleted wallet.

She looks down at the unofficial-looking piece of paper splayed across the checkers and then back up at me.

“When can you start?”

The next day, in fact. After my first shift ends, I run all the way to my 1:30 psychology class, landing breathlessly in my seat just as the professor begins chastising us about our grades on the last quiz.

“Where were you?” whispers Gelina in the seat next to mine. I’m always the early one with my notepad out and pen ready. I watch as her eyes move over the sauce on my hands and flour on my shirt.

“Making pizza.”

“Really?”

“Yep,” I say, patting away the flour smudges.

She looks impressed and somewhat startled, like maybe I told her I was building bombs, or something.

“Just got the job yesterday.”

That first day I learned to knead dough on an expansive wooden table. Using my palms I pushed around a ball of dough until it became soft and pliable enough to roll into a pizza-shaped circle. Whenever the ball would get too sticky, I sprinkle flour onto the table. All this is in a small room. Working beside me is the pizza master. I don’t know her name, just that she’s been making pizzas for a very long time. She doesn’t talk. She just stares down in fixed concentration at the smooth ball in front of her. Amy seems to hold her in high regard, and I sneak stares at her to figure out exactly how to do what I’m supposed to be doing.

“No, like this.”

Amy picks up my sorry-looking dough, which hasn’t yet morphed into softness, and begins rapid movements on it that look like circular CPR. Will it live?

“See how I did that? Now you try.”

I mimic her movement as she explains the dish-washing process.

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