National Weather Service
The hazardous weather outlook is for areas of northwestern, central and southeastern West Virginia. A bank of fast-moving storms is moving through the area, this afternoon into late tonight.
Locally, modern to heavy rain will continue through the morning. Rainfall of 3 to 4 inches expected with locally heavy amounts up to 6 or 7 inches possible.
With downpours, flooding is likely with rapid stream rise, small stream flooding, roadway flooding and ponding of low-lying areas.
Use caution while driving and do not attempt to cross flooded areas and seek higher ground if you live in low-lying areas or near streams.
It began to rain right after Dre came out of the CVS. His Grandma didn’t think to ask what was in the white plastic bag, but only waited until he was buckled in before speeding off.
The fever was upon her.
Once they got to the Pizza Hut, she pointed across the bridge at the lonely convenience store and gas station on the other side.
“I’ll be right over there,” she said.
It was less than a hundred yards away. He could walk it, but she told him to give her a call when he was finished with his pizza and finished with his very non-gambling video games.
Dre figured she was telling him to call her in about an hour to come pick him up, but he wasn’t sure it would take that long.
He opened the door and she smiled and told him, “Have fun.”
Dre waved his hand like this was fine, like this was normal, like his grandma wasn’t on the cusp of having a very serious problem.
She didn’t even wait until he was in the door before the car lurched backwards and then eased back out onto the two-lane in the direction of the Shopaminit.
Only a handful of cars were on the lot. Most of them weren’t near the door and probably belonged to the employees. He counted three vehicles, among them an old Chevy van, a Toyota truck and a beat-up Ford Focus that appeared to be held together with duct tape and bungee cords.
He went inside. The place was dark and reeked of tomato sauce. A blonde woman at the counter, not very old, asked him if he was picking up.
“No,” he said. “My grandma told me to come in here and get something to eat.”
Just to head off any questions about whether he’d come to dine and dash, Dre held up a twenty-dollar bill.
“She’s going to be back in a few minutes,” he said. “She had an errand to run and this was the closest place.”
None of what he said was entirely untrue. The woman shrugged. The twenty had convinced her.
“Just grab a seat and I’ll come and get your order in a minute,” she said.
Trying hard not to jingle as he walked, Dre went to a booth on the far end of the restaurant, near the restrooms, the video games and the jukebox.
Half a minute later, his server came to the table with a menu, told him her name was Jenny and asked if he wanted anything to drink.
“Do you have orange?” He asked.
“We sure do,” Jenny replied. “Do you know what you want to order, or will you need a minute?”
Dre gave her his best serious, little kid face and said, “This is kind of new to me. I’m supposed to get a personal pan, but I’ve never ordered my own pizza!”
Jenny laughed and said she’d go get his drink.
“You take your time.”
Dre nodded enthusiastically. He was laying it on a little thick, but that seemed to be just fine with the server. She was eating up his naïve, little kid act.
Under normal circumstances, Dre would order the supreme. He loved black olives and red onions, along with all the ham, pepperoni and sausage, but he that was weird for someone his age. Most of the kids he went to school with were straight pepperoni and cheese or cheese only pizza-diners.
“A kid that eats mushrooms,” his Dad said once. “How’d we end up with that?”
Dre liked it all and hoped to one day try anchovies on pizza. People were always saying how awful they were, but the funny thing was, he’d eaten at just about every pizza joint in the county. Nobody served anchovies. They weren’t on the menu.
His mama said she’d never been to a pizza place that carried them, which made Dre wonder where the lack of love came from?
One day, he’d find out. Today, however, he was on a mission.
When Jenny came back with his drink, he asked her if she could help him.
“I should probably just get pepperoni,” he said. “That’s what I have at school. We always get pepperoni.”
“But?” the young, blonde server asked.
“I kind of want to try pineapple and ham. I really like pineapple. I love ham and I saw a TV show where some kids were eating ham and pineapple pizza.”
She nodded and said, “Hawaiian pizza.”
“Is it any good?” Dre asked her.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I love Hawaiian pizza and if you don’t like it, we can make you another.”
“That’s really nice,” he said. “Yes, I would like the Hawaiian pizza.”
“I’ll put it in,” she said and off she went.
Dre sipped his drink. The orange was too sweet, like always, but it was a kid’s drink.
He looked around. The place hadn’t changed, except for the video games. Grandma said “Missile Command” and “Gal-something.” It was Galaxian, which would be fun to try –somewhere else.
The last time he’d been in this Pizza Hut, the restaurant had an old “Pac-Man” machine and “Dig Dug.” He’s stood on a chair to see the screen and work the controller.
The jukebox looked the same, though. It was old, and nobody had updated the music in years. There was no rap music in the catalog. The only artists of color were an all-male group called “Boyz to Men,” somebody named “Seal,” and Darius Rucker, who was with a band called “Hootie and the Blowfish.”
Dre had wondered which one he was supposed to be.
From his booth, he couldn’t hear much past the canned music being pumped in. It only changed when someone paid for a song on the jukebox, but he could see Jenny and the other people working behind the counter.
He counted three people –one for each car outside.
Jenny worked the front of the place, sat people at tables and took orders. She also took phone calls for the restaurant.
There was a white guy, about Jenny’s age, with a messy shirt and a wispy, brown beard. Dre guessed he made the pizzas, washed dishes and probably swept up.
Then there was the guy in the clean, brown shirt. He was also white, had a mustache and mostly, just wandered around in back.
Dre couldn’t see that he did anything, which meant he was a manager.
Dre needed to get past him.
But not right yet.
While he waited for his pizza, Dre put the bottle of glue in his pocket and laid the colored pencils on the table. To while away the time and to soothe any suspicions, he drew and colored on the back of his paper mat while working his way to the bottom of his soda.
When Jenny came back with his pizza, the plastic cup was empty, and he’d drawn a picture of a winged horse.
“That’s really good,” she said.
“Thanks,” he said and handed it to her. “I make lots of these. You can have this one.”
She seemed genuinely touched by the gesture.
Dre looked down at his pizza.
“That looks really good,” he said. “I’m glad I ordered the Hawaiian pizza.”
“I hope you like it,” she said and started to turn away.
“Ma’am,” he said a little nervously. “You’ve been so nice, but can I ask you for a favor? It’s kind of a big favor.”
Jenny nodded. “Sure, honey. What’s up?”
“I need to go to the bathroom,” he said, looking toward the men’s room. “I saw someone go in there a minute ago and I really need to go. Could I use the employee bathroom? If it’s too much of a problem, I can try to wait, but I drank too much orange.”
The server laughed.
“OK,” she said. “We can do that. I’ll take you back.”
“Thank-you,” Dre said, scooting out of his booth. “You saved my life.”
She smiled and waved it off. “It’s no big deal. I’m glad you asked.”
“You’re really nice,” he told her and meant it. “I’m sorry to be so much trouble,” he added, which he didn’t really mean.
Dre kept his eyes down and followed her through the flimsy kitchen door.
“Hey, Ryan,” she shouted out. “The men’s room is full. I’m taking a kid to use our bathroom.”
“Fine, fine,” he said. “I’m going to take pizza and make a delivery. I flipped a coin. I’m putting Tim in charge. You have to listen to what he says.”
“I rule,” Tim shouted from across the kitchen.
“You suck,” Jenny said and then whispered to Dre, “I’m sorry. Tim doesn’t really suck. I’m just joking.”
He shrugged. Dre could care less.
She took him to a scuffed, white door in the rear of the store.
“Just go ahead. I’ll wait here, unless I get a customer at the counter. If I’m not here when you come back out, just wait for me, OK?”
Dre nodded solemnly, then he went in.
It was everything he remembered –a small toilet, a grubby sink with a mirror above it and a well-worn plunger in the corner.
The floor could use a mop and there was a metal cabinet embedded in the green tiled wall. This was the restaurant breaker box.
He really did have to go, but after he was finished, Dre took out a bottle of Krazy Glue from his pocket, removed the cap, unsealed the bottle and emptied it into the latch of the breaker box. Then he did it again, making sure to get it in deep.
It would take a crowbar to open that thing now.
After he was finished, Dre wrapped the two bottles in toilet paper and flushed them. Then he washed his hands, left the bathroom and let Jenny walk him back to his seat, where he ate his pizza.
When he was done, Jenny asked him what he thought.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It was the best pizza I’ve ever had!”
When it was time to settle up, he paid his bill and left an oversized tip. His server took it without saying a word. Then he retired to the video games. He dropped a quarter in each machine and played them. Then he put twenty dollars in quarters into the old jukebox.
Twenty-five cents bought one song. Fifty cents bought three. A dollar bought seven songs.
Dre punched in H-14, “Hold My Hand” by Hootie and the Blowfish. He punched it in 140 times. The song came blaring over the restaurant sound system, but before Darius Rucker got to the chorus, Dre was out the door, walking through the rain to go find his grandma.