Pie or Die
by Jerry Guarino
Tony was sautéing onion,
peppers and mushrooms slowly while considering
how his life had changed. What was once important
now seemed trivial. He wondered why he thought
chasing money would make him happy. What have I
done that matters?
Tonys transformation to a better life had
Tony, what are you cooking? said his
A little veal with sauce and vegetables
dear he replied.
Tony stirred the red sauce into the pan. No,
linguine he said, Im hungry.
Cooking is meaningful. Creating food seems a
noble and honest activity. To watch Tony cook,
you might not realize he had made a small fortune
in the business world climbing over numerous
competitors and colleagues on his way to the top.
But his competitive nature had nearly ruined his
health with the long hours, rich foods, alcohol,
business trip affairs and liaisons so connected
to his career.
Tony didnt give thoughts to making money
anymore. He didnt worry about dressing to
impress, preferring casual jogging pants and
cotton sweaters. There was nothing he had to do
or even wanted to do. He was depressed. Tony was
only 48. With a wife twelve years his junior and
the children heading off to college, he was
suddenly a man without a purpose.
Even though Tony was bored with his new life, he
was relieved to leave behind the stress,
corruption, sexual scandals and financial
improprieties. He now had a chance to start over.
Angela, what do you think I should do?
Angela paused a moment. Have you thought
about taking cooking lessons, gourmet cooking
with one of those fancy schools?
Tony smiled. How about in Italy or France,
after the kids start college this fall?
Your choice, but I would prefer France dear
Angela said. Something to think about. Ill
check it out.
After lunch, Tony wandered down to town, a
seaside upper class haven for those with money
and visitors curious about those with money.
There were also the disaffected youth. Those lost
boys and girls too old to be in school and too
young to care. Most young people were self-absorbed
with their looks, dating and partying.
Whether they were working or in school, their
world was confined to the present. They spent a
majority of their time on smart phones in their
virtual reality. Personal communications has been
replaced by texting, emails and videos.
A small shop on the boardwalk was vacant with a For
Lease sign. He checked the neighboring
stores. T-shirts, beach clothing, coffee
franchises and frozen yogurt shops. The nearest
pizza was 30 yards in either direction. Doesnt
seem like much, but this spot was right near the
entrance to the beach from the parking lot,
generating quite a bit of walking traffic. So
Tony decided to open a pizza shop and get some of
these disaffected youth to work in it, even run
Soon there was a line of 16 to 21 year olds
waiting for work. I know youre thinking he
named the store Tonys, but he
thought Pie or Die had a more youthful
appeal. Instead of Sinatra and Pavarotti, the
music inside reflected this new generation of the
kids who worked there.
It was a diverse group of employees, working
class kids without work. He hired someone to
teach them how to make pizza, run deliveries and
manage cash with customers. He hired younger kids
to hand out coupons to people on the beach and
place them on car windshields. Most importantly,
he let the kids run the business, offering advice
when needed. Within a month, Pie or Die
was doing steady business from noon until
midnight and just before the summer season.
Timing couldnt be better.
Because Tony gave his staff a lot of freedom,
they worked hard. Weeks went by without any
incidents. Rapid growth led to some turnover.
There wasnt time to do background checks on
applicants. Students on summer break looking to
work part-time meant more employees working fewer
Unknown to Tony, some of these temporary workers
were skimming money. A few were using drugs in
the back and several were making out when they
were supposed to be delivering pies. His
successful new business was evolving into a
microcosm of his old life. Even in a small pizza
shop on the beach, corruption and scandal had
Stopping in before closing to check on inventory,
Tony watched as the night crew cleaned up. Jenny,
a waitress, made a final count and handed Tony
the money. Here you go Tony. $575.00 for
the last few hours.
Thanks Jenny, hey you better get home.
Jenny put up her apron. Its not a
Tony showed concern. Walking at this time
of night. No, you better let me give you a ride.
Jenny smiled and nodded, following Tony to his
Jenny gave him directions down the beach road to
a clearing, over a mile away. Pull over
here, by that palm tree.
Tony noticed the bungalows common to the area,
usually shared by students.
OK, here you go, he said.
Jenny smiled, took his hand and leaned over to
whisper in his ear.
Really, what about your roommates?
Jenny whispered again theyre in L.A.
for a concert, wont be home until real
Tony joined Jenny inside, the sound of waves
coming from the beach and a smell of Jasmine
incense inside. After an hour Tony left, Jenny
happily concluding her night as she had planned.
Tony felt alive and happy again, planning on
continuing this affair.
Back in the store, there was a new rumor. Did
you hear about Jenny, said one of the girls.
Her dad is buying her a BMW for her 17th
Really said one of the guys, she
sure looks a lot older than that.
Arriving home, Tonys wife Angela greeted
him at the door. So you finally found a
hobby! and gave Tony a warm, passionate
Yes dear and they went up to the