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One More Helping

By Nickie Jamison

Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

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Copyright 2017 Nickie Jamison

ISBN 9781634864824

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Cover Design: Written Ink Designs |

Image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License.

All rights reserved.

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

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For my readers xoxo.

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One More Helping

By Nickie Jamison

The dough stuck to Dante’s fingers, so he added more flour, kneading and shaping the last bit into a boule before transferring it to the empty metal mixing bowl on the counter in front of him. He clapped flour from his hands and wiped his fingers on a clean towel. Pizza 3.14 was a family business, one Papi DeLuca started in 1963. The old man baked pizza pies in the brick oven in his backyard and used Nona DeLuca’s secret sauce recipe, fresh homemade mozzarella, and the vegetables that grew in terracotta pots on the screened in back porch at their old house.

Dante covered the boule of dough with a cloth napkin and smiled to himself. He’d been making dough for the pizzas almost every day since he was six-years-old. What had started as punishment for eating half of the Roma tomatoes from Nona’s little terracotta garden had turned Dante into the best pizza chef in the entire state. He and Pizza 3.14 had been featured on an early episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on Food Network and there was an entire wall devoted to celebrities that had eaten at the family-owned-and-operated-hole-in-the-wall Italian joint run by the DeLucas. Dante’s favorite photos were the one of Papi sharing a pie with Frank and Nancy Sinatra and the picture of Dante and Guy Fieri hand-tossing pizza crusts. Then there was the large trophy case that Uncle Vito had built beside the bar so the first thing customers would see when they came in was the awards the restaurant had won for the past fifty years, framed newspaper articles, and food critic reviews.

The restaurant was where Dante’s heart lived, literally and figuratively. After high school, Dante and his cousin Juno—short for Vito, Junior—had spent the summer and part of fall renovating the two floors above the restaurant and turning them into apartments. The two had grown up together, more like brothers than cousins, and definitely best friends. Dante still lived on the top floor of the building, but Juno got his girlfriend knocked-up, so he joined the navy and was stationed in Pensacola, Florida. Juno had never married the girlfriend, but he wanted to “make it on his own” like somehow working for the family wasn’t good enough. At least Juno still called on occasion. With no one to occupy the second floor of the building, Dante’s Pop used it as offices and storage.

“Morning, kiddo.” Dante’s Pop, Lorenzo, tapped on the Plexiglas shield that separated the kitchen from the dining room. Part of the restaurant’s appeal was that the pizza station and the brick oven were visible from anywhere in the place. Fresh made dough and hand-tossing was slowly becoming a lost craft thanks to the big box pizza chains.

“Hey, Pop,” said Dante. He reached up and tightened the knot of the red bandana he wore over his mop of black curls. The thing served a dual purpose, keeping his curly black hair out of the food and sweat out of his eyes. He hadn’t started warming the brick oven yet, but, when he did, the kitchen got hot fast. “What’s up?”

There was a running family joke that Dante was what Pop looked like thirty-some odd years ago and that looking like Pop was what Dante had to look forward to. Both of them dwarfed most everyone else, built like linebackers and standing a towering 6’4”—although gravity and a bad back and knees had shaved a couple of inches off of Pop. The old man’s hair started going salt and pepper in his early thirties and, at sixty, there wasn’t much of the pepper left. Dante found his first couple of gray hairs when he was nineteen and thanks to Revlon Color Stay no one was the wiser. The men shared the Mediterranean-blue eye color, long lashes, and the heavy eyebrows and Roman noses of Italians from whatever area great-grandma referred to as the old country. Having someone remark on how much Dante resembled his old man wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, given the number of DeLuca family photos that hung in frames around the restaurant. That was the vibe Papi and Nona wanted when they opened the place. Don’t need to be related to feel like part of the family.

“Need to make room in the safe. Can you run the deposit pouches to the bank? I’ve got a kid showing up to interview for Nicky’s spot.”

Dante’s cousin, Nicky, was leaving for school the next week, putting the staff down by one busser. “Joe doesn’t want the extra shifts?” Dante asked.

“Please,” Pop scoffed. “Joe’s a slacker. He takes more smoke breaks than a chimney. It’s early, bank shouldn’t take too long.” He glanced at his watch.

Dante sighed. “Fine.” He didn’t want to leave the dough to rise for too long, more than an hour and the yeast would start to give a slight sour taste to the cooked crusts, but Dante also didn’t want to incur the wrath of Pop’s Italian temper. He hung his apron on the peg by the kitchen door and took the deposit slips from his pop’s outstretched hand.

“Grab me a coffee and some of Cyn’s madeleines on your way back,” said Pop.

Dante rolled his eyes. Cyn’s full name was Cynthia and she owned the bakery around the corner. Pop had a crush on her, but he’d never ask her out or anything, convinced he was too old for romance.

“Thanks, loser,” said Georgina, Dante’s younger sister, when he opened the door for her as she was searching for her keys in the depths of the gargantuan tote-bag-purse-thing she hauled everywhere with her. “Where you off to?”

“Wanna go to the bank and get Pop coffee and cookies?” Dante waved the three bank bags at her.

“Daddy should get his own cookies and a date. I mean, Mom has been dead for what? Fifteen years?” Georgina pushed past her brother like she was still that gangly little twerp, all limbs and no coordination. She wasn’t skinny in the slightest, but she wasn’t heavy either, just short. The top of Georgina’s head was about the same distance from the ground at Dante’s arm pits, but he hadn’t seen her wear any shoes that didn’t have some sort of heel since the day Pop let her start buying her own clothes.

“I don’t push him on it, George.” Dante chewed on his bottom lip for a second. Georgina had only been seven when Ma passed, but Dante had been a senior in high school. He had more memories of his mother and he and Pop handled the loss the same way, throwing all their energy into Pizza 3.14 because working was easier than dealing with the emptiness Ma’s sudden death left in the family.

“Can’t go to the bank.” Georgina pulled her cellphone from her bag and shoved it into the back pocket of her black skinny jeans. She whipped her unruly dark curls into messy top-knot and applied Chapstick to her lips. “Daddy wants me to help with interviews.”


Georgina stuck her tongue out at Dante. “I’m a good judge of character.”

Dante snorted. “Considering all your ex-boyfriends, I don’t think so.”

“Least I have ex-boyfriends.” Georgina glared at him.

“If I’m not back in a half hour, put the dough in the fridge.” Dante shoved the deposit bags into his backpack. He let the restaurant’s back door slam behind him.

His little sister was a pain sometimes. The bank was only three and a half blocks away and the weather was fair. Dante forewent taking his motorcycle and decided to walk. The time would help him calm down some. It wasn’t that he hadn’t had dates. As he walked, Dante mentally calculated how long it had been since he’d last been serious about a guy. Three years. Yeah, he’d had plenty of hookups, but Grindr wasn’t exactly the best way to meet someone looking for the level of serious Dante wanted. For most of his life getting married and having a family hadn’t been an option, but the SCOTUS ruling made the future he didn’t know he so desperately wanted possible.

Dante was luckier than most LGBTQ people he knew. He had friends that had been completely disowned by their loved ones, or worse. Dante’s coming out story was probably the most boring and embarrassing one on the planet. When he was fourteen, Ma found the one issue of Blueboy that Dante owned stuffed in the back of his sock drawer while she was putting away laundry. His parents gave him the talk, which wasn’t as much of a talk as it was a lecture about safe sex and the dangers of STDs. Ma read everything from a pamphlet she got at the health department while Pop sat there and occasionally nodded in agreement. Dante stopped them both when they started stumbling through an explanation of the mechanics of anal intercourse and that was mostly due to Dante never wanting to imagine his parents doing it.

Pop was right about the bank. There wasn’t even a line and it took all of five minutes to make the deposit. Dante stopped off at the bakery and got a coffee for himself along with Pop’s and a half dozen of Cyn’s madeleines. Dante was halfway out of the bakery door when he saw the guy staring at his cellphone and barreling straight for Dante.

There was no time to warn the human torpedo or to get out of the way and the stranger collided with Dante going full speed. Both men went down in a tangle of limbs and a flurry of madeleines. It all seemed to happen in slow-motion and Dante couldn’t do anything to stop gravity form taking them both down to the pavement. Thankfully, the hot coffee hit the ground before hitting anything else.

“I’m sorry. Are you okay?” The stranger scrambled to his feet and extended a hand to Dante.

Dante looked up. The halo of early morning sunlight in the guy’s blond waves…must be what angels look like. The stranger was dressed in a white shirt and tie, khaki pants, and a pair of chucks. He had the slightest bit of stubble at the bottom of his chin, like he’d missed a spot shaving. Dante couldn’t decide if that was intentional, but it made him look young, no older than twenty-five, maybe. The stranger held Dante’s gaze; hazel eyes—more green and gold than brown—endless. “I’m real good.” Dante took the man’s hand.

“Good,” said the stranger. He helped Dante off the ground and picked up the empty cups. He looked down at his cellphone. “Shit. I’m late.” The guy rummaged around in his pocket and pulled out his wallet and a pen. “Here. Buy yourself another coffee.” He held a ten out for Dante.

“Thanks, but you don’t need to do that,” said Dante, brushing dirt from the front of his pants.

“But I want to,” the guy said.

“Got a piece of paper?” What the fuck are you doing?

“What for?”

“Give me your number. If you really want to get me a cuppa, let’s make a date out of it,” said Dante.

The guy looked at the ground around him, as though he could make a piece of paper materialize from thin air. His face lit up when he remembered he was holding ten bucks. He scrawled something across the top of the bill with the pen. “I’m late,” he said again, thrusting the ten in Dante’s hand. “Call me.” The stranger turned and bolted down the block.

Dante looked at the money. At the top was written Izz and a phone number. He shoved the bill into his pocket and went back into the bakery. “Hey Cynthia, had a little mishap with the coffee and cookies.”

“I saw. Who was that guy?” Cyn asked from behind the counter.

“My future husband,” said Dante, fingering the ten in his pocket. “Can I get another coffee and some of those madeleines.” He pointed to the tray of cookies in the glass case.

“Sure thing.”

Dante groaned. “Shit. All I got is this ten.” He showed Cyn the bill with Izz’s telephone number written on it. “Never mind.” Dante turned to go.

“It’s okay. Refills are on the house,” said Cyn as she filled two disposable cups with fresh coffee and tossed half a dozen madeleines into a crisp paper bag.

Dante walked back to Pizza 3.14, careful not to run into anyone else. He used his foot to open the door and put the coffee and cookies on the counter long enough to retrieve the empty deposit bags from his backpack and put them on the shelf under the cash register before heading upstairs to Pop’s office. A quick check of the pizza kitchen as he passed it on the way to the stairs made him sigh in frustration. Georgina hadn’t put a single boule in the fridge and the first few he’d made had risen enough that the edges were hanging over the bowls. Dante veered away from the staircase and set the coffee down on the closest empty table.

He was muttering curses to himself and cutting away excess dough, storing it in lidded containers when Georgina came down the stairs.

“Mmm, coffee,” she said, picking them up off the table.

“One of those is mine,” said Dante, glaring at his sister.

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