St. Pepe’s

Collage by Bryan Gahagan

Monday, 2:30pm A recap.
[Static Noise]

Shadowy men in unmarked vans stole zombies off the street in Portland last night…
A senator retweeted a picture of him and a newly dead zombie, but get this, it was the wrong dead zombie, people are pissed…

America’s zombies are marching again for the thirtieth straight night, the national guard is being sent in to the top 20 American cities…
Only Saudi Arabia and Russia are allowing Americans into their countries after a UN resolution to limit American zombies…

The president tweets an ad for baked beans and say all the zombie problems are a hoax designed to abolish the suburbs…

[Static Noise]

Jim liked to spice-up the boring news by inserting zombies into every story. The boss kept the news on

all-day so he could listen to it non-stop from his office, but the TV was up near the order counter so Jim could’t see it from the prep-station, but heard it loud and depressing. Jim often felt like complaining about the bummer of the news to the boss, but every time he went to the boss’ office, the boss seemed like he was about to cry, was crying or just finished crying, so Jim let it drop. Although he did ask his boss once if he could wear headphones. Man, Tool cranking in his ears all day would make his job perfect. But his boss said no, the customers would see it. Everything’s take-out now, so what’s the point? Who cares if they see it? And now having to wear a mask all day. Jim hated that, but keep the boss mildly happy and he’d never be fired, Jim thought. By the end of the day, every day, the mask was covered in pizza sauce, so the mask came off and stayed off two feet out the door.

But, Go along to get-along was always Jim’s approach to life. He’d had this pizza making job for, what, almost ten years now and he felt comfortable. His boss stayed in his office all day and he stayed at the prep station making pies. That’s the way it was. Mask or no.

Only four pies by 2:30, usually it’d be 10 or more by this time. Used to be, he’d take a long hit off The Hot Sauce after every five pies as reward, now it was

every two. St. Pepe’s burn was the only physical sensation that Jim really craved. Well, that and masterbation. The coolness of the liquid hitting his tongue, the slow burn, then the fire builds to climax on his tongue and burns down his throat, clearing out every passageway, throat and nose, eyes water and the brain implodes in a short burst of fireworks. Guaranteed every time. Better and cheaper than drugs or alcohol. Thirty seconds of pure, alive sensation. Swallowing at the right time is the key. Ha, that what she said, Jim said out loud to no one.

Jim was in a good mood, no real reason really for a Monday. He’d lost big in the weekend LAN party, turtling is never the best strategy. But his 3:00pm restroom masterbation run was, while not the best in terms of quality, was definitely top twenty in terms of speed, two-thirty-five, prep station and back. Yes. Not bad, but he wished Uncle Speedo’s still had an open dining room. For the thrill factor.

3:50 and time for the 4:20 Seafood Special NO ANCHOVY pizza rush. Chad the delivery driver ran a small-time weed business under The Boss’ nose. ‘No Anchovy’ was the code for weed. Speedos didn’t even offer anchovies and only potheads ordered the seafood pizza. So, the boss either knew and didn’t care or was too dumb to know, either a possibility. Chad gave Jim and the counter-girl, Debbie forty

bucks at the end of the week as a cut. Even Chad’s business was down, people weren’t spending in quarantine, even stoners, Chad said. Chad drove the hour down from Gatlinberg for three seafood specials a night? Even Debbie, short, brunette, big boobs for her size, always talking about her boyfriend—Fred or was it Frank, something F—even Debbie asked Chad if the drive down was worth the ‘market costs’ as she said.

“Is the grass paying the cash for ass. Nobody rides for free,” Debbie said. She dropped out of community college second semester and was always using words like ‘valuation’ and ‘market costs.’ And always threatening to quit, but doesn’t because ‘The Market is soft.’ That’s what she said.

Jim thought Chad lived in his car because he smoked more product than he sold, but he wasn’t sure. He always smelled like weed and Jim never felt like driving the hour up to see his apartment, although Jim had a free standing invitation. Plus, Jim didn’t have a car, so there’s that. He only lived four bocks from Speedos AND there was a Taco Bell on the walk home, how sweet was that? Every night he’d walk home, order the 7-layer burrito with extra hot sauce— that was a joke, more like ‘weak sauce’, Jim would say almost daily to the counter person. He’d then walk home, eating the burrito on the way, say ‘Hi’ to his two roommates, John and Jason—Triple J in the

house!—then lock himself in his room, stripping naked, pointing a small fan at his crotch as he sat on the floor playing online video games until 2am when he finally went to bed. Monday Night, Call of Duty. Tuesday, Battlefield. Wednesday, Halo. Thursday, League of Legends. And Friday, out with his friend Tony for whatever Tony wanted to do. The weekends were for quality time with new games. This weekend, The new Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Mortal Kombat 11. Oh, and Rick and Morty, lots of Rick and Morty. This Friday with Tony, The strip club, HOTS.

Jim never tipped and only drank the two-drink minimum.The strippers stopped coming over to Jim on his third visit. It was all about Tony. Tony, Jim’s friend since sixth grade, did everything Jim couldn’t. “Fuck the zombies, Fuck the Panda Mike. Fuck the zombies. Fuck the Panda Mike.” Tony yelled as he shoved ones into Shelia’s G-String.
Shelia once came into Speedos and talked to Jim. She had three under-5 kids, a stalker ex and a BA in Theater.
“Put a mask on,” Shelia snapped at Tony as she pivoted and walked off. Later that night, Jim masterbated twice in succession, once to the image of Shelia’s sharp pivot and the second, longer jerk to the fantasy of being her stalker ex, watching her watch TV from her bushes. Bushes, Ha, then uuuuughhhhh. Triggers are a weird animal.

The next Monday. Noon. The recap.
[Static Noise]

Zombies are disappearing off streets in thirty different cities….
A zombie nun set herself on fire at The Lincoln Monument protesting the governments response to the pandemic and the treatment of other zombies by the police…

The president uses the N-word multiple times in a speech, declares zombies enemies of the state… Another milestone, five million cases, 200,000 dead… Zombie Elon Musk leaves for the moon…

[Static Noise]

Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, bacon, Italian sausage, hamburger, pepperoni, Canadian Bacon…Next…cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, vegetable, vegetable, vegetable, vegetable, vegetable. That’s two.

Time for the Service of St. Pepes. The ritual. Reach under table, left hand right hand. sip of water, swish, swish, swish. Hold up plastic bottle up to neon light.

Squint and genuflect. Head back, mouth agape. Left hand right hand, long squeeze. Tongue slack, cup- like. wait ten seconds for heat.

Wait ten seconds for heat. Wait ten seconds for heat. That’s 30 seconds. What the fuck. Swallow, nothing.

Jim repeats the ritual. Swallow, nothing. And a third time. Swallow, nothing.

What-to-do, what-to-do, what-to-do.

Jim decided to take his masterbation run early. Need the ritual. Close bathroom door, check handsome self in mirror, soap balanced on wrist, close stall, lock, carefully, pants to ground, sit, strategically arrange toilet paper, Focus on point in ceiling. And stroke. Stroke and alternate. Stroke and alternate. Repeat until finished. Two minutes. Three minutes. Relax and focus. Shelia’s pivot. Favorite porn. Listen for door. That one blowjob in High School. Shelia’s pivot. Sexy pivot on those high heels, go Shelia, go go Shelia, Go Shelia’s three kids. No, No, No, No kids. Four minutes. Cmon, faster harder stronger, iron pipes, where’s the trigger? The Sarge’s voice, “C’mon we never leave a man behind, pick it up, finish the job.” Five minutes. Hands off, loosen the wrists, start over, think of the explosions, St. Pepe’s explosions. Six minutes, dammit. dammit, nothing, nothing nothing, ow, ow,

ow, ow. Stop, you’re done, Jim thought. No trigger pulled. At 32, this was the first time in his life, Jim didn’t finish.

At 2;30, Jim screwed his courage up to go into the boss’ office.

“Hey, hi, we’re out of St. Pepe’s for the fireball,” Jim kept shifting from foot to foot like he had to pee.
“No more Pepe’s.” The boss seemed annoyed, he was focused on what looked like a letter.

“What?”
“Yea, we really went through the stuff, it was kinda expensive, plus China stopped making it, something about the pandemic.” The boss was furiously circling words on the letter with a ball-point pen.
“But. But the customers, the customers, they loved it.” Jim was practically pee bouncing.
“Well they’ll learn to love Tabasco, like everywhere else. I mean, the factory closed, what are ya gonna do?” The Boss’ pen ripped the paper.
“Well, where would we get it?”
“What are you? Their biggest fan? The president of The St. Pepe’s fan club. I stocked up on the stuff three months ago near the beginning of the pandemic, pretty smart, huh, but they still went under. I think they had an outbreak at the factory. Distributer said they folded two months ago. You’re living in a world without St. Pepe’s now. Get back to

work.” The boss had folded his paper up into a tiny square and was systematically ripping the paper into tinier squares.

Jim thought about quitting. Who needs this bullshit? I’ve given my life to this place and this is how he repays me?, Jim thought. But then Jim remembered the time he jokingly mentioned quitting to The Boss after the dough mixer broke, The Boss jumped all over the idea, saying do it, he could hire a kid at half the price he was paying him. So, quitting meant starting back at the bottom of the heap. No thanks. As crappy as the job was, it was his job.

Debbie was complaining about Chad. He didn’t come in. At 4, she called him and he was apparently home sick, said he was self-quarantining. Debbie was pissed, said how come she couldn’t stay home and quarantine? Why was he so lucky? Fortunately, the weekend driver, Caleb came in to fill the shift. A lot of unhappy stoners today, just getting the Seafood Supreme, Jim thought.

On the walk home, Jim stopped in Taco Bell to get his 7-layer burrito, but learned Taco Bell discontinued The 7-layer burrito because of of an Ecuadorian bean shortage. Pandemic. Jim got the 5 dollar Chalupa. “You want weak sauce with that?” The counter kid took a special joy in saying.

On Tuesday morning, Jim called all the places, he could think would have St. Pepe’s. Mexican restaurants, grocery stores, weird grocery stores, gas stations, bowling alleys, other pizza places, bars, anywhere that sold food. No, nothing.

On Wednesday morning, Jim walked to all the places he thought might be lying to him. No, nothing.
On Thursday morning, he took a bus to all the place he thought might be lying to him. No, nothing.

On Friday morning, internet searches, lots and lots of inter-netting. He found a bottle on e-bay, but it was 3,000 dollars. Who has 3,000 dollars?

Friday night, Tony wanted to go to the woods and smoke weed. Jim didn’t smoke weed because three puffs and he was sound asleep, every time. But he did need to spill. After Tony got good and mellow, Jim told him about his St. Pepe’s, um, need and even about his masterbation runs at work.

“That’s fucked up. You’re fucked up,” Tony kept saying. He then launched into the whole ‘Everything’s a hoax or conspiracy’ rant. You name it, it’s a hoax or, worse, a conspiracy: The pandemic, the president, Democrats, Republicans, 5G Cell towers, the secret service, multinational child pedophilia rings, the show Paw Patrol, BLM, CIA, KKK, FBI, Antifa, Maya Angelou, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, every president ever. And on and on and on. Jim dozed off from the second

hand smoke and woke up in his bed, naked. Jim rage slept all weekend.
The Last Monday of the Story. 5:30pm
The recap.

[Static noise]

Hundreds of zombies dead after run-ins with the police in ten cities…
A zombie Senator is shot in a school shooting, Congress mulls gun control…

Pictures surface of The President making out with a 13-year-old, He said it was consensual….
The ‘Fuck This Shit’ movement gains traction as 10,000 zombies willingly give themselves the disease…

Zombie Elon Musk dies in space… [Static Noise]

The neon static of the overhead lights was giving Jim a headache. He was still tired from the weekend.
A text from Tony: “I’ve got good news, I’ll be over in 10 minutes, make me a Seafood Supreme, no anchovies”

“Chad’s gone.” Jim texted.
“Then cancel that pie.” Tony responded.
Tony finally showed up at 7:30, He had a bottle of St. Pepe’s. It was only half-full and kinda old looking, but there was St. Pepe, a sombrero, priest frock, peppers for a crucifix and holding out fire like a communion wafer, winking. The real stuff.
“Yea, my ex Susie bought the stuff a long time ago and it was in the back of the cabinet, guess she forgot it. I hate hot sauce, but was looking for canned beans and found it. Did you know there’s a world- wide bean shortage,” Air Quotes, “This fucking pandemic.”
Jim grabbed the glass bottle out of Tony’s hand. “Whoa there, Kemosabe, there’s an old stoner saying…Wait. Wait. Anticipate. Do the Pepe after work, an-tic-i-pation, Jim, anticipation.”
Tony was right. Let’s take this ritual to the next level, Jim thought. After work.

Three minutes after Tony left, Jim took a masterbation run. That blowjob Jim got in High….done. Two strokes, done. Well, it has been four days, that’s the second longest dry spell since he was fifteen and spent a week at his grandma’s house.

Tonight. After work.

Jim locked his bedroom door. Stripped naked, turned the main lights off and turned on his desk lamp. He cleaned off the floor in front of his bed and placed six tea light candles in a circle on the floor. He bought them at the 24-hour grocery store on that was on the way home. He turned his TV on and put in a Mexican wrestling tape, sound down. Jim sat inside the circle of tea light candles and lit them one by one, slowly, putting the match out the way a priest sways inscense until all six were lit. He placed the St. Pepe’s bottle on the desk in front of the TV and sat Indian style. Genuflex, grab weiner, genuflex again.

Ohmmmmmmmmm, fiery hot Pepe’s, Ohmmmmmmmmmmmm, fiery hot Pepe’s. Six times, one for each candle.

Jim now had a boner he didn’t have to touch.
Jim cradled the bottle like baby Jesus and held it up to the light and it was like St. Pepe filled with blood in the light. He slowly unscrewed the cap. There was crusted sauce around the top he had to remove with a pen from his desk. With the bottle, shoulder, shoulder, forehead, stomach. And up above his head. He opened his mouth, the anticipation, cupped his tongue, held the bottle up, now tilted the St. Pepe’s down over his mouth.

Nothing, no hot goodness. Wait ten seconds. Nothing. Tap the bottom of the bottle, nothing. Then, with his right fist, he hit the bottle on it’s base hard enough to force the bottle into one of his upper teeth, chipping it, as the remanning 12 ounces of sauce dislodged and shot over his tongue, down his throat. No burn until five seconds later when a fire lit in his gut triggering his gag reflex. Up came the sauce, burning its way up his throat as he threw up the half- digested chalupa from earlier and the 12 ounces of sauce, onto two of the candles and a trail down his stomach into his pubes. A second have brought up more sauce and stomach bile. A third heave was all stomach bile as he fell backward almost tipping over the candle behind him, but instead threw up all over his chest. The fourth heave was dry ending with coughing.

And more coughing.

And when he was done throwing up, more coughing. More wet coughing. And more coughing.
More coughing. A different sicker coughing. Dammit.

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