Chapter 4

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My parents' restaurant was a short walk from our neighborhood. The town seemed to have a thriving main street, with colorful old-world replica wooden shopfronts and a community hall advertising a charity pancake breakfast that Saturday. Midway down the street, right next to a Swedish pottery store, sat the pizzeria, with a big orange banner reading "New owners: Opening again soon" tacked up over the front window.

"Here it is," Mom said. "What do you think?"

"I think it looks like a restaurant."

"Don't be a smart ass to your mother." Dad motioned me towards the front door.

"Can I be a smart ass to you?"

"You know the drill. Only on Tuesdays and today is..."

"Wednesday. Just my luck."

Dornzeria couldn't decide what European country it wanted to claim as its aesthetic. I would have thought Italy, and it did have the red and white checkered oil cloth table coverings. A faded map of the Italian peninsula graced one of the walls, but to the left of it was a photograph of the King and Queen of Denmark. An old menu revealed that in addition to pizza and spumoni ice cream, customers could partake in Swedish meatballs.

I picked up a salt dispenser in the shape of the Eiffel Tower from one of the tables and turned it over in my hand. One if its legs was chipped. "Half the stuff in this place needs to become acquainted with the local dump, beginning with that cherub statue on the counter next to the cashier station."

My dad, who was at the station booting up the computer, gave the statue a pat on its little ceramic head. "What's wrong with it? I thought it was cute."

"Creepy cute maybe... if it was the only one. But instead, it's like a gateway cherub to the hardcore cherubs." I motioned to the hall opposite us, which led to the bathrooms. One of its walls had a built-in shelf with at least fifty of them in various states of undress. "Look, you two made me come here. If you can't take my criticism, I can go. I'm only trying to help and lowering the kitsch factor a notch or two can only help."

"Customers liked this kitsch. You're the one that talked about sticking with the brand."

"It's not the same thing. Anyone with a fear of dead-eyed dolls is not going to come within twenty feet of this place."

I was about to lecture them on the value of painting walls a color that wouldn't induce seizures, when the bell attached to the front door clanged. A girl about my age held her hand to the glass door, head pressed against it so she could see in. Before mom reached the door, the girl locked eyes with me. She gave me a nod.

Apparently, my parents were expecting her. "Mazie." Mom brought her over to make introductions. "This is Kayla. She used to work here."

"I still work here, actually. You're going to rehire me."

Impressed by her pluck, I shook her hand.

"Okay," Kayla scanned the restaurant, "we have our work cut out for us. Mr. Orting was nice, but he had no sense of style."

"See?" I nudged my mom.

"Um, Kayla..." Mom wrung her hands. "Are we going to have that job interview now or..."

"Oh, we are." Kayla plopped herself down at a nearby table and brought out a pen and notebook from her messenger bag. "Have a seat Mr. and Mrs. Rivera. A few questions should be enough for me to decide if you'll make decent employers or not."

I snorted. Having to be here all day suddenly seemed worthwhile. Eyes wide, my parents slid into the chairs opposite Kayla.

"I'll level with you: I've got other prospects. The dollar store is hiring, for instance. But I know this job and I know this restaurant. So, first question. Why'd you buy this dump?"

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