Frank threw the pizza dough into the air. As it swirled around his knuckle, he looked across the restaurant crowd. No one noticed. Once a while back, before Mahalia Pizza Palace started delivering, children would stare at his dough throwing with wonder. Now the seats were filled nightly with half-buzzed soldiers laughing at one another’s memories as Frank quietly filled the delivery line requests. He pulled another dough, mashed it round, slapped it on the make table, one or two runs through the roller and then, whoosh, back into the air. Flour drifted on to Frank’s shirt. A cup of sauce twirled, cheese, toppings, and the oven door slams behind another pie. Less than forty-five seconds from dough pan to oven…No one noticed.

“Mosby?” a soldier said. Frank looked up. A tall man, about 40, with his shirt tucked tight was standing at the counter. His short hair was turning gray. Though his voice sounded jovial, his eyes were dark and tired.
“Mosby? Frank Mosby? Right? We went to school together.”
“Oh yeah. Alan Shaw, right? The one in the paper last week.”
Alan Shaw looked away when Mosby mentioned the paper.
“Yeah. That’s me.”
“The man, the myth, the big hero.” Frank wiped his hand on his pants. When he extended for a friendly shake, Shaw looked away again.
“Yeah. A hero. So, what’s been going on? You own this place by now?”
Mosby dropped his hand.
“Naw. Still just a pizza maker. I hit twenty-one years last month.”
“Wow. Must be nice.”
“It’s a job. Can I get you something? We’ve got new Subs…the Roast Beef is my favorite.”
Alan Shaw picked up a menu. He looked over it but Mosby could tell the Hero’s mind was elsewhere.
“Not much has changed in Mahalia has it. But then, sometimes it seems completely different, ya’ know?” Shaw said.
“Just Mahalia. That’s all. Nothing happens. Nothing really changes. Is that your car out there. I read in the paper you got an Orange Corvette from the VFW in Davenport.”
“Yeah. That’s mine alright.”
“And they gave it to you free?”
“Free. Sure. No money at all. Just do the mission and presto, you get a car.”
Mosby looked at the car, not paying attention to Shaw.
“I’d love to have something like that.”
“You got everything you need Mosby.”
“What?”
“I’m not going to order. I’m just mostly riding around looking at Mahalia. Seeing what’s changed, what’s the same. I’m glad you’re still working here.”
“Ok.” Mosby’s face reddened.
“Naw, really. It’s nice to know some people figured it out early.”
Mosby pulled another dough from the pan.
Without being able to stop, he said,
“I can make a pizza in less than 45 seconds.”
“I murdered twelve people in less than thirty.”
“What? Oh, you mean over there? You didn’t murder anyone man. The paper said you saved six guys and kept a bomb from exploding at some school.”
Shaw’s face was tight. His blue eyes, that remained dark and tired, now seemed meaner.
Shaw suddenly spoke, a fake smile painted on his tanned face.
“I gotta go Mosby. It was great seeing you.”
“You don’t want the Roast Beef?”
Shaw laughed softly.
“Naw. I don’t want the Roast Beef. Take care Frank. Take care.”

Frank pulled another dough as soldiers slurred flirtations at the waitresses. The waitresses played along; laughing, smiling but knowing that it was a zero sum game. Nothing would change. In Mahalia, there were no Officers or Gentlemen, just soldiers doing their two weeks a year and trying to live as if there were no wives & kids at home. Laughter competed with the juke box which was losing to even louder talk. Frank began the closing list. He turned off one of the back lights in an empty part of the restaurant. The last table of soldiers paid their bill, left a bigger than needed tip for the waitress and moved out. Frank locked the door behind them, doing his best to smile.

He thought about Alan Shaw as he scrubbed the cooling pizza oven. They graduated school together. Frank remembered the day clearly. It was the highlight of his life. For reasons he couldn’t understand, or refused to face, Frank had never moved from his house. Friends had gone to college, joined the military, or simply disappeared down 460, never to return. Frank kept making pizzas. Neither of his parents pushed him to move on. His teachers encouraged him to be happy. Pizza making made him happy. But still, on certain nights when the restaurant filled with soldiers, or worse, laughing happy families; Frank would watch and wonder. When he turned 40, the what ifs began to boil up more often, leaving him embarrassed and regretful.

Frank poured himself a to go cup of soda before leaving. The owner called to make sure Frank was making the deposit and to find out the amount. A few of the waitresses told Frank he should push for more money since he made deposits. Frank refused.
“What do I do if he fires me? If he just says, ‘Well, I don’t need you here at all!'”
The waitresses would tell him to not worry. It won’t happen, and if it did, he’d find another job, easy.
“Naw.” Frank would counter. “This is Mahalia. Not much changes.”

He drove through town. The town lights faded into black trees along the familiar road. Frank drove past the Country Club and passed the farmhouses whose distant lights seemed as stars twinkling in the forests. Frank often wondered what happened in those farmhouses with their private roads and signs. Why does someone name a piece of land? He thought. Frank turned on to Stingy Lane, a country road leading to his house. It was late, almost 11 pm on a Tuesday night. His headlights caught a flash of orange down a logging road.

Frank thought the orange car contained kids sneaking a beer or making out. In the time it took him to hit the high beams, he realized it was Alan Shaw’s vehicle. Why would a 40-year-old Hero park down a logging road? Surely, he had money for a motel or his date would have her own place? Frank slowed down as he deliberated the scenario. He pulled to the side of the road and began to work his car around in the middle of the deserted road. As he approached the logging road’s entrance, his mind raced with sudden fears.
The man just wants time alone.
Besides, it’s not like you two are really, good friends.
Who do you think you are Frank? You’re just a pizza maker.

Something Frank never knew came upon him as he pulled into the logging road. His heart stilled, his breathing relaxed. Alan’s car was about twenty-five feet down the road and around a slight corner. Frank saw no exhaust fumes. No lights were on. The car was silent and dark. He noticed the side view mirrors seemed smashed. When looking more intently at them, Frank decided they had exploded.
He cut his engine but left the lights on.

Exiting his car, Frank smelled something odd. Something he didn’t recognize. He watched his breath as it slipped into the cold air. He came upon Alan’s car and saw the side view mirror was dangling by a few wires. He looked into car window and saw the rear view mirror was also dangling. The front windshield was shattered like those Frank saw on cop shows. A bullet had come in through the window and shattered the glass. But Frank saw little glass on the bucket seats. Most of the glass was on the hood. As if the bullet came from within.

“What are you doing?” Alan asked from the dark tree line.
“Shit. You scared me… I saw your car and thought maybe I broke down, I mean, you broke down or something…”
“A brand new fucking car. Break down? What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know.” Frank said.
“You need to leave.” Frank could see Alan as he walked towards the cars. His clothes were disheveled and his eyes were red.
“What happened to your mirrors?
“Leave.”
“What happened to your mirrors?
“I shot ’em out.”
“What?”
“Just leave Mosby. Take your goddamn pizza making self back home and just leave.”
Mosby turned towards his car. Then stopped.
“Why?” Frank said without turning around.
Alan screamed.
“I said leave goddamnit!”
The stillness Mosby felt when pulling in came upon him again. It was unnamed but the pizza maker sensed that it was how courage felt. Maybe.
“Because you don’t wanna look at yourself anymore?”
Alan Shaw sat down.
“Just leave the Hero and his stupid fuckin’ car.”

Mosby turned and walked towards Alan. In the light of his car, Frank saw Alan’s driver’s license and Marine I.D. on the ground.
The face cut out of both.
“You wanna kill yourself.” Frank said. The calmness of his voice made Frank feel as if he were listening to someone speak, instead of speaking.
“Just leave Frank.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Why can’t you?”
“I don’t know.”
Alan looked up at him.
“But I just can’t.” Frank said. He sat down next to Alan.
Alan jumped up. He pointed his pistol at Frank.
“I said to leave!”
Frank sat still. He looked at the gun’s barrel.
“Go ahead.” He said.
“What?”
“Go ahead. Pull the trigger. You call yourself a murderer, right? That’s why you can’t stand to see you…because you call yourself a murderer. Go ahead then. Murder.”
“Get your crazy shit out of here Frank! Swear to God, get out of here.”
“Murder me.” Frank said. The words as foreign to him as sex.
Alan jerked the pistol and shot the Corvette’s front tire.
Frank shuttered but remained seated.
“So you can shoot. Good. Now, if you’re such a murderer, just murder me and everything will be back to normal. I got nothing to live for, and neither do you. Kill me, then blow you’re own sorry fuckin’ head off and everything will be normal.”
“You’re crazy Frank.”
“I’m not waving a gun around shooting a free Corvette.”
Alan flashed a smile despite himself.
“Leave Frank. I know what you’re trying to do. Just leave. I killed those people. Reasons don’t matter. I can’t face the things I did anymore.”
“And I can’t face the things I never did. In a way, we’re even. Murder me so there are no more questions.”
Alan pointed the pistol at Frank.
“I’m telling you Mosby…get the hell out of here.”
“How could you murder me if I left?”
Frank looked down at the moist cold ground. He picked up a leaf and twirled it with two fingers.
“You don’t understand, Frank. No one does.”
“You’re right. I don’t understand. No one does. No one understands any of us. Why don’t we all just become killers and shot up everyone we see? They don’t understand us anyway.”
“See. You just don’t fuckin’ understand shit Frank. You don’t understand what’s it like to kill another person. Another living, breathing person.”
“You’re right. And you no longer understand what it’s like to have not killed another person. Somebody could probably help you remember though.”
“All they see is a Hero. A jar head who did his job.”
“All you see is a Murderer. So go ahead. Murder.”
Alan dropped down under a weight he couldn’t see.
Frank continued to twirl the leaf. Part of him didn’t believe any of this was happening. It seemed a bad dream. Perhaps he’d wrecked on the way home and all this was an illusion?

Alan put the pistol on the ground, facing Frank.
The two men looked at one another in the light of Frank’s car.
Alan’s face was streaked red. His lips quivered in the frigid breeze.
“You got a blanket in your free car?” Frank asked.
Alan smiled.
“No. I don’t think they come with blankets.”
Frank stood.
“I think I got two. Mother uses them at the football games.”
“I don’t need a blanket.” Alan said.
“I’ll get them both. In case it’s a long night.”
“Leave pizza maker.” Alan said as Frank walked by.
“I can’t do that.” said Frank.

Frank popped the trunk as the gunshot echoed through the woods.
He slammed it closed and saw Alan standing next to the corvette, a hole in the driver’s door.
“You only got one bullet left now.” Frank said as he handed Alan a blanket.
“I know.”
Frank shivered and pulled the blanket around his shoulder.
He knew it was going to be a long night.

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