Electricity crackling, a bolt of energy shot through the cable and exposed the cheese and sauce covered bread to thousands of volts at once. Annabel watched it all with a gleeful grin on her face. Once thirty seconds had passed, she shut off the power and examined the bread. Her smile fell. It had been charred into a crisp slice of black. She grabbed her laptop and typed the results, “Trial 12-Failure”. She glanced over to the cupboard, which had been emptied. After scraping the ash and cinders into a garbage bag, the song of an animatronic singing trout alerted her to the front door being opened. Xander pushed through with two large paper bags brimming with tomatoes, flour, grated cheese, peppers, mushrooms, and onions. “That was the last of our food money for the week,” they commented as they stuffed the bags in the pantry.
“Maybe channeling the energy directly into the subject is not the best option,” Annabel hypothesized, “Perhaps some sort of heating system that will bake the pizza with the energy?”
Xander stepped over to observe the cooking system, “We have enough for three more attempts. Let’s tone down the voltage and use some convection tubes to evenly distribute it.” Annabel nodded and took a few steps to grab a coil of tubing. Unfortunately, she bumped into one of the many piles of equipment they had in the apartment and sent it crashing down. Xander winced when they heard a box of test tubes shatter. While Annabel excitedly adjusted the system, Xander heard a knock on the door. Stepping around a tower of microscope equipment that towered up to the ceiling, they opened the door to see who it was. Mayor, the apartment complex’s landlord, stood there in a pair of overalls and holding a plunger. “Is there something wrong with our plumbing?” Xander asked, jumping to conclusions.
She shook her head, “Samuel says his air vents have been spitting out black smoke that smells like burnt cheese. Would you mind waiting to do…..,” she looked in and frowned at the strange cooking contraption set up, “Whatever that is until he goes to work.”
Xander smiled, “We’re baking a pizza.”
Looking at them strangely, Mayor rubber the back of her neck with her non-plunger hand, “You know you can use your oven for that, right?”
Xander blinked, “Oven?” Mayor politely entered the apartment and walked over to the kitchen. She eyed some of the box stacks warily and figured out what was wrong. Annabel had required space for a bookcase and, never needing to use it, chose to block off access to the oven for the case. “Here,” Mayor budged the oven over just enough for it to be open,” There you go!”
“What do we do with this?” Xander asked, staring blankly at the oven.
“You can bake the pizza! No need to use…..whatever that thing is.”
“Oh,” Xander fiddled with the oven buttons as Mayor left. She had been headed to the nearby Apartment 404 when she had stopped to handle Samuel’s complaint. She walked a few doors over and knocked. Jasper opened the door, his coat half-on. “Are you here for the toilet?”
Mayor nodded, “You heading out?”
“Should I stay?”
“The opposite in fact. You don’t want to see this.”
“I told you that I’m not afraid of dead rats! Raven just thought it would be funny to tell you that.”
“It’s still disgusting.” She entered and took the fastest path to the bathroom. Another family of rats had drowned in Jasper’s toilet’s tank. She was going to have to plunger them out so vultures wouldn’t start flying through his window again. While she got to work, Jasper walked out and closed the door behind him. “For the sixth god-forsaken time,” he muttered to himself, referencing the toilet incident. He stopped outside the elevator and pressed the down button. He wasn’t about to walk down four flights of stairs in his new shoes. The sole was still stiff and he wouldn’t get far before his feet ached. It didn’t take long for his ride to arrive and stepped inside. He nearly fell flat on his back when the rug Mayor had put in slid out from under his feet. She always forgot that the eleveator floor was ridiculously frictionless. Before the doors could close, someone else dashed in. Byron entered in the nick of time, barely avoiding the doors.
“Barely made it,” he chuckled. Jasper didn’t respond. They stood awkwardly for a few moments before Byron spoke up, “So about that date-”
Jasper interrupted, “What date?”
“Oh! I forgot to ask! Do you want to go on a date some time?”
Jasper sighed and shook his head, “Byron, how many times have you asked me out?”
Byron tugged his sleeve down to reveal a series of tally marks drawn in black sharpie. He quickly counted them up, “28. Well, 29 as of now.”
“And when did I say I would say yes?”
“The thirtieth time I asked.”
“And why is that?”
“Because if I’ve asked you out thirty times then I must be having terrible luck elsewhere.”
“So you’ll have to ask one more time before Insay yes.” The doors opened in the lobby and Jasper stepped out. He nodded a goodbye and started to walk away as the doors closed. But before they could close fully, Byron stuck his hand in the way. They bounced off his fingers and returned to the open position. “Jasper,” he asked, a cunning smirk on his face, “Do you want to go out sometime?”
“You said you’d say yes.”
“Fine. Voodoopunks club?” Jasper huffed.
“No. Somewhere nicer. Let’s say 6 next Thursday at that one Italian restaurant. You know the place.”
“Then figure it out.” Byron let the doors closed and continued down to the basement, for god knows why. “That was….less than smooth,” Jasper commented.
A couple floors above, in Room 333, the little Meme was staring at a marble statue that towered over her. She had spent the last few minutes chewing the box that had held it open. It wasn’t exactly nice looking. The statue was about the size of a four year old child. Even odder, it depicted a chicken riding on the back of a pig. Both animals wore saddles, and a miniture garden gnome held the chicken’s reins. Meme was….confused, to say the least. Her wife, Rebecca, stepped in and noticed the statue. “Oh dear, what is that?” she recoiled at the sight of it.
“I don’t know,” Meme couldn’t tear her eyes away.
“So it’s a gnome riding a chicken, and that chicken is riding a pig,” Rebecca was frozen in place.
“And all of them have the face of Adam Sandler.” It was true. All three-gnome, chicken, and pig-had the face of the infamous actor.
“They’re also all wearing farm boots.” That was also true.
“Can you maybe….put a blanket over it or something,” Meme was awestruck tv at how hideous it was. Rebecca stepped to the side, not taking her eyes off the statue. She carefully lifted a blanket and set it over the head of the gnome. Unfortunately, the Adam Sandler eyes of the pig were still visible. Rebecca grimaced and quickly hid them under a second blanket. Before they could discuss what to actually do about the statue, Jane (the two’s daughter) stumbled in. “What’s that?” she asked mindlessly as she searched for her earbuds. Rebecca dramatically unveiled the statue, making Jane shriek, “The pig!”
“Yes,” Meme made sure to validate her daughter’s terror.
“The Adam Sandler faces!”
“YES THE FARM BOOTS!” Jane shut down the never ending exchange. “Okay,” she rationalized, “We just need to figure out who this was for. We need to get rid of it as soon as possible.”
“Wait a second,” Meme skittered forward, “I need to see it one more time.”
“No,” Rebecca begged her wife.
“Yes,” Meme flew under the blanket and shuddered. It was hideous.
Across the street from the apartment complex, Byron ran a club known as the Voodoopunk Club. It was a fairly simple set up, with a bar on the far side, tables to the right, and a dance area on the left. It was rarely busy before noon, so Byron sat in the break room in the back filling out financial forms on his laptop. After a few minutes, he realized that he hadn’t actually done anything and that his mind was elsewhere. For the sake of the story, Jacqueline entered, only a little bit drunk for once. She noticed Byron staring at his computer and decided to talk to him. “Byron, sir. Why are you in a blue mood?”
He glanced up, “Just thinking.”
“Of course not. About finances.” Jacqueline hijacked the laptop and read aloud the writing on his open spreadsheet, “Jasper, Jasper, Jasper, Jasper, Jasper. Is this all you write? Not even anything about him? Literally just his name?”
Byron blushed, “It’s not like I’m going to write poetry on official company spreadsheets.”
“You know you can just copy and paste it elsewhere, right?”
“That’s not the point.” He grabbed the computer back and quickly erased the repetition of Jasper’s name. “I’ve just got better stuff to worry about.”
“Like your date?”
“Yeah! I-“ he paused, “How did you know about that?”
“Yasser told me that the second you got here you ran to your office and started squealing about it. He put a cup to the wall to listen.”
“That’s not creepy at all.”
“What are you worrying about?”
“I’ve never…..never really been on a date before.”
“You’re kidding,” Jacqueline couldn’t help but giggle a little.
“Well, just be yourself or whatever they always say. I’m not a motivational speaker.”
“Yeah, you’re a bartender who should be doing your job.” Jacqueline took the hint and quickly dumped her stuff on the table. She grabbed an apron, wrapped it around her waist, and headed out to relieve whoever was currently working the bar. Byron, on the other hand, stayed and stroked his slight stubble. What do you do for a date?
Back in Apartment 333, Meme and Rebecca day silently and somewhat traumatized as they waited for Jane’s return. Most of the blankets and sheets in the home had been used to cover up the statues, but the three pairs of Adam Sandler eyes bored through the layers, no matter how many. Meme was only about the size of a guinea pig, and she worried that if the statue came to life that it would be able to easily crush her. The gnome would laugh hideously as the pig viciously stomped her underfoot. The farm boots would be greased with the oil that ran Meme. Rebecca would try to help but would be frozen in horror. But obviously that would never happen. At last, following an eternity of sitting in fear, Jane returned. “I put up the picture I took of the statue and wrote our apartment number on it. Hopefully whoever actually bought it will come to get it.”
“No,” Rebecca half-shouted as she stood with a jolt, “We can’t let this beast continue to exist.” She dashed to the kitchen and returned with a meat cleaver. “Mom, stop!” Jane rushed to restrain her. In the process, however, she bumped the statue and sent the blankets cascading, revealing it’s true form. Jane recoiled in fear and slammed into Rebecca. The meat cleaver soared over her head and embedded itself in the wall. Meme panicked and began ramming herself into the statue in a futile attempt to topple it. Rebecca thrashed about in an attempt to reach it while her daughter restrained her. Amidst the chaos, the door to the apartment opened and a certain purple-suited man poked his head in. “Hello, neighbors!” called Raven from Apartment 100. He casually strolled in and hefted the statue from the table. The three women stopped to stare at him. “Why on earth did you get that?” Rebecca yelled.
Raven chuckled, “Lloyd’s afraid of dark animals, gnomes, boots, and Adam Sandler. I thought I’d solve all his problems at once.” With that he left. The two mothers and daughters looked around and sighed. Was that a Deus ex Machina? How should I know? I’m not a real writer.
Having spent most of their day wasting time and money on foregone pizza making. Xander and Annabel day around the lit oven quietly. Annabel was typing away on her laptop and Xander was busy untangling some yarn for a sweater they were knitting to give to Jane. At last, the oven dinged. Annabel spring up and swiftly pulled out the pizza with the only oven mitt in the house. She ignored Xander’s warnings and quickly bit into a slice, “It’s really good!” she teared up a bit.
Xander cut a slice and blew on it, “Well, I guess we made pizza.”
“This wasn’t worth all our food money, was it?”