hold the mushrooms
Every Saturday, around sundown, the pizza deliveryman is called to run an order out to the nuclear power plant on a hill at the edge of town. He finds it ironic that they never want mushrooms on their pizzas. He has established a friendly rapport with the guard who lets him in through the front gate. The guard is grey-haired and grandfatherly. They always chat in the doorway of the guardhouse--sounds of a radio talk show murmuring in the light--while the guard finishes smoking his cigarette. The deliveryman doesn't smoke, so he nods and politely chuckles at the guard's words and stares out at the valley lights glittering in the shadows of the sunset. The guard snuffs out his cigarette and leads the deliveryman and his armload of pizzas down a walkway and up to a big metal door. The guard swipes a card through an electronic reader. The door opens. The deliveryman enters alone. He is always surprised that there is never anyone waiting to meet him. There is a long, bare hallway lit by fluorescent tubes that hum or click and sometimes flicker in the ceiling. Even the sound of the deliveryman's breath seems to reverberate down the hallway. Finally a technician appears from a doorway at the far end of the hall. It's always the same man, and he always seems surprised to see the deliveryman. The technician's shoes squeak as comes down the hall to meet the deliverman and pay for the order. The deliveryman is tempted to joke about how the technicians don't like mushrooms. But he does not mention it, because they usually tip generously. He chats again with the guard outside before leaving through the main gate. He takes his time driving down the road and back into the glittering valley of the sunset. It's all very pretty to him, and the radio sounds almost magical at that hour. He knows he is lucky. His brother-in-law also works at the pizza place. But he works the graveyard shift and always gets called out to the coroner's office on Saturday nights. His brother-in-law says that the people at the coroner's office are friendly and make lots of inappropriate jokes. They also tip generously. But there is something spooky about the coroner's office late at night when the fog comes in. And even the radio broadcasts sound foggy. The deliveryman is safe and warm in bed by that hour, quietly masturbating under the covers after his wife has again denied him sex.