Parmesan Man | By Marco Randazzo
“Good morning sir. Good to see you again. The usual today?”
The Parmesan Man pulled out the chair from underneath the tan granite bar top that reflected the light beaming from the ceiling. The man sat down looking above the beer taps at the 65” TV that displayed four screens playing different programs. I waited with my hand on the handle of the red ale beer tap, Parmesan Man’s favorite beer. My eyes waited for his response.
Parmesan Man lifted his grey, black brimmed, fedora hat off his grey, balding head. Placing it on the bar top, dandruff sprinkled out of the inside of the hat and on to the bar. His dark burgundy button up shirt was unbuttoned from the top, a little more skin showing than necessary. His gold watch shimmered as he placed both his hands on the granite counter and folded them, intertwining his old, wrinkly, crusty, uncut fingers. A loud grunt left his parted lips, his way of saying “yes” to the original question I asked.
I pulled my hand down and watched as the red fluid filled the cold glass. The liquid splashed and bubbles rose to the top, flowing over the rim. The malty, fruity aroma filled the air and touched my nose. I threw a coaster in front of him and placed the beer down. “How’s your day been?” I said as I entered in his routine food order of a salad with a thousand-island dressing and hot Tortilla soup. Another grunt was directed in my direction as the Parmesan Man went to grab the pile of newspaper at the end of the bar. He sorted through it and pulled out the comics of the day, grinning and showing his dark yellow teeth.
The food arrived. He started with the house salad and stuck his fork in the bowl of lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots. The prongs pierced through a few pieces of green and red leaves, the strands of carrots held, forced in between each prong. Parmesan Man opened his mouth and piled the vegetables in, chewing with his mouth open. Strings of saliva hung from both lips, stretching, as he opened and closed his mouth. Once the plate was empty, thousand-island dressing dried along the corner of his mouth as he pulled the steaming bowl of Tortilla Soup toward him. The plate stopped once it hit the front of his protruding belly that rested on the edge of the bar top.
The Parmesan Man earned his name for one reason: his love for the cheese. I placed the parmesan shaker next to his bowl of soup. “I’m going to need more parmesan,” he said without looking at the container. He unscrewed the cap of the parmesan shaker and dumped the entire amount of cheese into the hot bowl of soup. I grabbed another shaker from the cabinet behind the bar and placed it in front of him, removing the empty one from his reach. The Parmesan Man grabbed a black linen and placed it on the bar top in front of him. He unscrewed the second parmesan shaker and dumped a pile onto the black linen–the white cheese sitting in contrast to the black linen. The Parmesan Man outstretched his right forefinger and licked the tip, then proceeded to dab his wet finger into the pile of cheese and back into his mouth, rubbing the cheese on and around his gums. Then grabbing the spoon, the Parmesan Man mixed his soup and slurped it down. Parmesan man finished his meal, but continued to watch TV and dab his cheesy finger in and out of the pile. He smiled.
The hour passed slowly before the Parmesan Man gathered his things and proceeded out the front door. His pile of cheese was nothing but flakes now stuck to the moist surface of the black linen. Other guests watched in horror as the man walked passed them, keeping his finger directly in his mouth, grazing the inside of his cheek. I smiled and reached for the bill making sure to avoid the cheesy war zone that lay in front of me. The mysterious Parmesan Man was gone, leaving only a fifty-cent tip and two empty shakers of parmesan cheese.
Marco Randazzo is part of the Dual Degree Program at Chapman University. He is working toward an MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction). He went to the University of California, Irvine and hopes to eventually obtain his PhD and continue teaching at the university level.