On the Hit List
They say you can trace a monumental event in your life back to an exact point in time. And I would say that is true. For example, my uncle said that moment for him was in 1987. He was sitting in a grimy pub when the song “Hungry Eyes” began playing from a semi-functional jukebox. According to his telling, at that instant he locked eyes with the most gorgeous woman he’d ever seen. Truth be told, my uncle must have been half-blind because I’m not too sure how the most beautiful woman he’d ever laid eyes on transformed into the woman I would later know as Aunt Carol. Or maybe his eyes were just famished.
Anyway, back to those shining moments that stick out like a jammed finger after a four-on-four Shirts vs. Skins basketball session with the boys at the local Y. As I said, we all have (or will have) that moment, but I never would have thought mine is the phrase, “I’d like the Philly Cheese Steak, heavy on the bread.”
All I ever wanted was a fair shake at life, but I usually end up with an arm bar. I’m just an unlucky guy, and I’m alright with that I guess. Sometimes you just have to deal with what gets tossed your way, even though it can be a tough road. For me every superstitious fear can’t hold a candle to what follows me around. Or maybe my good friends are just bad influences – but as a general rule, I count on the bad and expect the worst.
So let’s back up for a second. My name is Ellis DeAngelo. Or as my friends call me, Ellis D’ – more easily pronounced, ‘LSD’. I know it’s stupid, and I have stupid friends, but they make the rocking – or rotten – world go round.* (Queen says fat-bottomed women do, but I digress.) I’m basically your average Joe, except like I said my name is Ellis. I’m a self-proclaimed karaoke master, I love books and video games, and I consider myself a history and big-time movie buff. I like most genres too: adventure, mystery, sci-fi, comedy, drama, dramedy, and every other hybrid wannabe mashup. I do, however, skip on romances quite often. The point is: if it’s action-packed, I most definitely saw it; if it made a killing at the box office, I 100% made it to the theater; if it was nominated for 3+ categories at the Oscars, I’ve probably never heard of it. And that is just the way it goes.
Anyway, as I was saying before I got sidetracked, I’m 19 years old and working on a business degree at Duke University while putting myself through college with little help from my parents.* (Not because they don’t love me; finances are the issue here.) Shortly after starting my freshman year, I began working at Sammy & Sam’s Sub Shop to help fund my degree.
This is where I met the proprietor of this lovely establishment.* (This is not a lovely establishment, unless it’s Opposite Day.) So after meeting the unscrupulous owner, a fellow by the name of Sam Nesbo, it will occur to me about three months later that he wants me dead.* (Literally dead.)
So there I am, creating the most delicious tuna sub and slicing up a block of Swiss cheese when the phone for Sammy and Sam’s Sub Shop rings. To make things easier, in the future I will refer to it as ‘SSSS’. No, strike that, way too many S’s. Okay, whatever, it will be called ‘The Sub Shop’ instead. There, that sounds better. As per usual, I pick up the phone and say, “Sammy and Sam’s Sub Shop.”* (Shit. Okay. I promise that’s the last time, I swear.)
I hear a gruff voice speaking to me through what sounds like a mouth full of Jasmine rice and a Big Mac, “I’d like the Philly Cheese Steak, heavy on the bread.”
This is the weirdest request I’ve heard, aside from an old lady last month who wanted seared ahi tuna and fried eggplant. I know it doesn’t seem like that long ago, but remember I just started working at this nice restaurant.* (It’s really a shithole, and to me it feels like it has been ages.)
Before I continue, I feel a pressing need to explain the comments in parentheses that are scattered through the telling of this tale. These are my most precious thoughts, monologues, internal musings, foreshadowings, or simple statements of fact – or loosely based on facts – in general. I also happen to have these moments quite frequently because I get distracted very easily. That’s just how my mind works. It’s everywhere generally and nowhere in particular, and since I am telling the story you get to experience everything in all its glory; what I’m thinking, when I’m thinking it. One doctor said I had ADHD or something along those lines, but I wasn’t really paying attention to him … which reminds me, I need new headphones for my iPod.
Anyway, where was I? Oh right – as I was saying, if you feel these little tidbits of information are boring, or you just don’t like reading too many words, or perhaps you feel they are an invasion of my privacy, then please feel free to skip over them as soon as you see the first parentheses – or is it parenthesi when singular? You know what, it doesn’t matter. You just do what you do. I won’t judge.
So let’s get back to the story.
As I consider hanging the phone up and pretending the man with the gravelly voice dialed the wrong number, I am reminded that I answered indicating it was indeed The Sub Shop. Then I contemplate disconnecting by making sounds with my mouth that the call is about to drop. I do neither. I’m in college – remember? – I need this job.
I press the phone against my shirt, which appears to have a pink stain on it from a tomato or one of the deli meats. Then I think back and it dawns on me that it was the pink lemonade I had at lunch from Taco Bell. I know what you might be thinking, and yes, I could get free food here, but I also know how I handle the food here.
“Hey, Sam, some guy wants a Philly Cheese Steak … ”
Before I can finish he’s yelling at me like he always does. “What are you? Some kinda schmuck? Make ‘em a Philly Cheese Steak ya’ dumb bastard.”
I ignore his insults due to a thick skin I’ve developed over the years. Who are you kidding, Ellis? It stings right down to my core. I’m not dumb. I’m going to college for Christ’s sake, but all the same I bury it deep down and hope it doesn’t affect my adulthood.
“He says he wants it heavy on the bread.” I pause. “Whatever the hell that means.”
The fat body of Sam Nesbo moves from the back office faster than I thought his chunky ass could move, snatches the phone from my hands, and fixes me with a quick stare down.
“Hey, Tony!” he bellows, but each word is drawn out for at least two seconds apiece.
I shrug, happy to be relieved of the strange call and go back to the masterpiece of a pastrami sandwich I was making. Dammit. I stare at the sub. I was supposed to be making a tuna on rye. I must have gotten distracted again. I really hate this job, but nothing else is close to the campus – which is good for me because of my dorm room. And then there are the hot chicks that roll in every minute, on the minute, during the lunch hour. This also happens to be good for me. If I forgot to mention it, I’m a bachelor.
Right now I’m stoked because Liz Jenkins from my Biology 201 class came in today and we made plans to watch some snowboarding documentary called The Art of Flight. I’ve never seen it, but I’m sure I’ll love it.* (Snowboarding is kinda my thing.)
Liz is super-hot – at least that’s what I’ll be telling everyone later. But in all seriousness she’s a 7 in my book, maybe even edging toward an 8 if she wore just a touch less mascara. Remember ladies, don’t over-apply; you can go from cute to scary real quick if not careful.
So Nesbo is still yammering on the phone with strange order guy, and it might just be me, but for some reason he is starting to sound more and more Sicilian by the minute. I’m not really interested in that, though; my eyes are looking at the clock. If Sam doesn’t conclude his conversation in two minutes, I get to punch out and head to my dorm to shower without making the Philly.
Then it happens. The receiver is down and that fat fuck is coming right over to me. And I know exactly where my next conversation is going.
Twenty-three minutes later I’m making my way as dangerously as I can manage, maneuvering through the parked cars on Interstate 40, when a particularly nasty slide makes me lose control of my vehicle, and I almost crash into the center divider. If I had collided, the forces of nature would have commanded that both the east and westbound traffic come to an even worse halt than they already are. It’s simple science.
However, remembering everything I had seen from The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, with calm effectiveness I pull myself from the skid and miss the concrete wall separating the rip-roaring traffic.* (The movement looks very uncool in my Datsun that has billowing steam emitting from the radiator, I’m actually shrieking like a schoolgirl, and as a secondary reminder, traffic is not really flowing.)
This second event that happens is the ‘why’ component of how the precursory phone call from earlier changed my life. The Philly Cheese Steak which was ‘heavy on the bread’ scoots right out of the brown bag and onto the passenger floorboard. I’m just pulling off the freeway, because I think I see a cop trying to catch me and I really don’t need more of a delay in my schedule right now. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I couldn’t lose anyone if I tried to make a getaway; the black cloud of smoke that shoots from the muffler marks my route pretty clear, like a jet leaves a contrail.
When I regain my breathing and bearings, I make sure I’m in a safe area and reach over to grab the fallen sandwich. Nesbo had wrapped and taped the thing up well, so no juice had stained my seat or carpeting. To be fair, though, it would not have changed the aesthetics much.
I grab the cheese steak and this is when that earlier feeling of amissness* solidifies in my left testicle. (I don’t think amissness is a real word, but I’m sticking with it; mainly because I don’t like to be corrected.) Okay, as I’m holding the sandwich, I notice it doesn’t feel like a sandwich. And I should know because I handle them almost every afternoon. What it does feel like is a one-foot-long brick. My earlier feeling that Nesbo – the cheap bastard – had been gracious by adding extra meat for his friend Tony evaporates. Now, I must explain: I did not sustain any head injuries, but I did have a very close brush with death just seconds prior, which must have affected my better judgment. With foolish catlike curiosity, I open the nicely wrapped cheese steak.
I shouldn’t really have to divulge what I find, but for the slower people reading my memoirs, I will spell it out: it was eight stacks of one hundred dollar bills.