Pizza Girl

Pizza Girl

by Jean Kyoung Frazier

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Overview

"Fresh, funny, bittersweet...This book delivers humor, humanity and hubris."—New York Times Book Review

Named an NPR, Marie Claire, and Teen Vogue best book of the year and a most anticipated book of 2020 by Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Time, People, BuzzFeed, Bustle, and more

In the tradition of audacious and wryly funny novels like The Idiot and Convenience Store Woman comes the wildly original coming-of-age story of a pregnant pizza delivery girl who becomes obsessed with one of her customers.


Eighteen years old, pregnant, and working as a pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles, our charmingly dysfunctional heroine is deeply lost and in complete denial about it all. She's grieving the death of her father (whom she has more in common with than she'd like to admit), avoiding her supportive mom and loving boyfriend, and flagrantly ignoring her future.

Her world is further upended when she becomes obsessed with Jenny, a stay-at-home mother new to the neighborhood, who comes to depend on weekly deliveries of pickled-covered pizzas for her son's happiness. As one woman looks toward motherhood and the other toward middle age, the relationship between the two begins to blur in strange, complicated, and ultimately heartbreaking ways.

Bold, tender, propulsive, and unexpected in countless ways, Jean Kyoung Frazier's Pizza Girl is a moving and funny portrait of a flawed, unforgettable young woman as she tries to find her place in the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385545723
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/09/2020
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 73,997
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

JEAN KYOUNG FRAZIER lives in Los Angeles. Pizza Girl is her debut novel.

Read an Excerpt

1

 

Her name was Jenny Hauser and every Wednesday I put pickles on her pizza.

 

The first time she called in it’d been mid-­June, the summer of 2011. I’d been at Eddie’s a little over a month. My uniform polo was green and orange and scratchy at the pits, people would loudly thank me and then tip me a dollar, at the end of shifts my hair reeked of garlic. Every hour I thought about quitting, but I was eighteen, didn’t know how to do much of anything, eleven weeks pregnant.

 

At least it got me out of the house.

 

The morning she’d called, Mom hugged me four times, Billy five, all before I’d pulled on my socks and poured milk over my cereal. They hurled “I love yous” against my back as I fast-­walked out the front door. Some days, I wanted to turn around and hug them back. On others, I wanted to punch them straight in the face, run away to Thailand, Hawaii, Myrtle Beach, somewhere with sun and ocean.

 

 

I thank God that Darryl’s boyfriend fucked a Walgreens checkout girl.

 

If Darryl’s boyfriend had been kind, loyal, kept his dick in his pants, I wouldn’t have answered the phone that day. Darryl could make small talk with a tree, had a laugh that made shoulders relax—he manned the counter and answered the phones, I just waited for addresses and drove the warm boxes to their homes.

 

But Darryl’s boyfriend was having a quarter-­life crisis. Ketchup no longer tasted right, law school was starting to give him headaches, at night he lay awake next to the man he loved and counted sheep, 202, 203, 204, tried not to ask the question that had ruined his favorite condiment, spoiled his dreams, replaced sleep with sheep—is this it? One day, he walked into a Walgreens to buy a pack of gum and was greeted by a smile and a pair of D cups. The next day, Darryl spent most of his shift curbside, yelling into his phone. The front door was wide open, and I tried not to listen, but failed.

 

“On our first date you told me that even the word ‘pussy’ made you feel like you needed a shower.”

 

It was the slowest part of the day. A quarter past three. Too late for lunch, too early for dinner, pizza was heavy for a mid-­afternoon snack. The place was empty except for me and the three cooks. They waved hello and goodbye and not much else. I couldn’t tell if they didn’t speak English or if they just didn’t want to speak to me.

 

“You know you’ve ruined Walgreens for me, right? I’m going to have to drive ten extra minutes now and go to the CVS to get my Twizzlers. God damn it, you know that I can’t get through a day without my fucking Twizzlers.”

 

I was sitting on an empty table, turning paper napkins into birds and stars and listening to my iPod at a volume that allowed me to think, but not too deeply. I couldn’t remember the name of the boy I used to share Cheetos with in first grade. I wondered if I had ever used every drop of a pen’s ink. All shades of blue made my chest warm.

 

Our boss, Peter, napped around this time. Every day, at 3:00 p.m. without fail, he’d close his office door and ask us to please, please not fuck anything up. We never fucked anything up. We also didn’t get much done. I stared at a large puddle of orange soda on the floor and made a paper-­napkin man to sit among the birds and the stars.

 

“Oh God, tell me you wore a condom.”

 

The phone rang then. I was about to call for Darryl. He started shouting about abortion.

 

I’d be lying if I said I don’t look back on this moment and feel its weight. I could’ve just let it ring—no one would’ve known. I didn’t. I hopped off the table, walked to the counter, picked up the phone, and heard her voice for the first time.

 

“So—have you ever had the kind of week where every afternoon seems to last for hours?” Her voice was heavy, quivering, the sound of genuine desperation. Before I could reply, the woman kept talking. “Like, you’ll water your plants, fold your laundry, make your kid a snack, vacuum the rug, read a couple articles, watch some TV, call your mom, wash your face, maybe do some ab exercises to get the blood pumping, and then you’ll check the clock and thirteen minutes have passed. You know?”

 

I opened my mouth, but she kept on going.

 

“And it’s only Wednesday! I’m insane, I know. I’m insane. But do you know what I mean?”

 

I waited a few beats to make sure she was done. Her breathing was loud and labored.

 

“Um, yeah,” I said. “I guess.”

 

“Yes! So—you’ll help me?”

 

I frowned, started ripping up an old receipt. “I think you may have the wrong number.”

 

“Is this Eddie’s?”

 

“Oh, yeah. It is.”

 

“Then this is exactly the right number. You’re the only person who can help me.”

 

I remember shivering, wanting to wrap this woman in a blanket and make her a hot chocolate, fuck up anyone that even looked at her funny. “Okay, what can I do?”

 

“I need a large pepperoni-­and-­pickles pizza or my son will not eat.”

 

“I can put in an order for a large pepperoni pizza. We don’t have pickles as a topping, though.”

 

“I know you don’t. Nowhere out here does,” she said. “You’re the sixth place I’ve called.”

 

“So what are you asking?” I rubbed my lower back. It had been aching inexplicably the past couple of weeks. I figured it was the baby’s fault.

 

“We just moved here a month ago from North Dakota. My husband got an amazing job offer and we love it here, all the palm trees, but our son, Adam, hates Los Angeles. He misses home, his friends, he doesn’t get along with his new baseball coach.” She sighed.

 

She continued: “He’s on a hunger strike. A couple days ago he came up to me and said, ‘Mommy, I’m not eating a damn thing until we go back to Bismarck.’ Can you believe that? Who has ever said that? Who likes Bismarck? And that potty mouth! Seven years old and already talking like a fucking sailor. How does that happen?”

 

I wasn’t even sure if she was talking to me anymore. I looked at the clock and saw that I’d been on the phone for over five minutes. It was the longest conversation I’d had with someone other than Mom or Billy in weeks. Darryl too, I guess, but that felt like it didn’t count.

 

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I just still don’t understand how I can help with this.”

 

“There was this pizza place back home that used to make the best pepperoni-­and-­pickles pizza. I swear, I’ve tried doing it myself, just ordering a regular old pepperoni pizza and putting the pickles on after. He said it wasn’t right, and when I asked him what wasn’t right about it, he just kept saying, ‘It’s not right,’ over and over, louder and louder, and wouldn’t stop until I yelled over him, ‘Okay, you’re right! It’s not right!’ ” She paused. “I just thought maybe if I could get him that pizza, something that reminded him of home, this silly hunger strike could end and he could start to love Los Angeles.”

 

There was a long pause. I would’ve thought she’d hung up if not for that loud, labored breathing.

 

When she spoke again, her voice was softer. I thought of birds with broken wings, glass vases so beautiful and fragile I was afraid to look at them for too long. “It just feels like I’ve been failing a lot lately,” she said. “I can’t even get dinner right.”

 

I thought of a night two years ago. Dad was still alive and living with us. The Bears game had just started. He wasn’t drunk yet, but by halftime he’d have finished at least a six-­pack. Some nights, I was the best thing that ever happened to him, his pride, his joy; he talked often of buying us plane tickets to New York City and taking me to the top of the Empire State Building. On other nights, I was a dumb bitch, a waste of space; sometimes he’d throw his empties at me. I didn’t want to find out what type of night it was. My window opened out onto the roof. I climbed out of it to sit and smoke, try to find stars in the sky. I was about to light up when I looked down and saw Mom’s car pull into the driveway.

 

I watched as she took the key from the ignition, killed the lights. I waited for her to come inside. She didn’t. She sat in the driver’s seat, just sat. Five minutes went by and she was still sitting, staring out the windshield. I wondered what she was staring at, if she actually was staring at anything, or if she was just thinking, or maybe trying not to think, just having a moment when nothing moved or mattered—I wished that she was at least listening to music. She sat and stared another ten minutes before going inside.

 

There was a supermarket not far from Eddie’s. Pickles were cheap. “What’s your address?” I asked.

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