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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Carl Perkins was always being told he talked too much. Maybe it was time he changed.

Carl Perkins stepped out of the dark Salford night and into the glaring white fluorescent light of the pizza shop. His mouth watered as the leaned on the counter, eyeing all the photos beside the wall-mounted menu. There was just so much to choose from. In his slightly drunk condition, he was tempted to order a couple of items. Maybe a massive pizza and a tray of donner meat on the side. And chips, of course. The three guys behind the counter wore plain white t-shirts and faded grey-white aprons. The sign above the menu, next to a drawing of a pizza, said Tony’s. Carl wondered which one of them was Tony. Maybe Tony was the owner, and was at home living off the profits. Maybe there was no Tony. Perhaps it was just a name they decided on. His thoughts were interrupted as he noticed the selection of calzones listed on the menu. Calzone with donner meat? He drummed his hands on the counter in front of him, in anticipation. The guys behind the counter spoke to each other in a language Carl struggled to understand. His natural curiosity, chattiness and the amount he’d had to drink got the better of him.

‘What would you like?’ asked one of the men.

‘Where are you from?’ said Carl.

‘Italia. Are you ready to order?’

‘Oh wow, where in Italy? I went to Florence, once. It was amazing.’

‘What would you like to eat? Mangia?’ he waved a hand towards his mouth.

Carl nodded, his cheeks reddening. As usual he was talking too much and making an idiot of himself.

‘The Napoli Calzone, please. And a tray of donner meat. And some chips. And a bottle of Cola.’

Carl pronounced the word Napoli almost like Nap-holy.

‘It’s Napoli.’ The guy snapped, saying it as though, Na-polly.

Carl shrugged and waved his hands by way of apology. As the guy sprinkled the pizza base with all kinds of wonderful toppings, Carl tried again to engage him in conversation.

‘So, where are you from, in Italy, then?’

‘Napoli.’ The guy said and turned away to slid the pizza in the oven behind him.

The staff behind the counter busied themselves with preparing their orders. They tipped chipped potatoes into the deep-fat fryers, flipped sizzling burgers on the grill and slid pizzas in and out the ovens. They wrapped orders that were ready in plain paper and stacked into plastic bags. Carl studied them, feeling as though he was looking into a private world. Each of them seemed to know exactly what they were doing, and they seemed to anticipate each other’s movements too. One guy held open a plastic carrier bag at the exact second the other turned with a bundle of wrapped food. Carl was about to comment that they were the food equivalent of cocktail bar staff, but nobody caught his eye. He sensed they were deliberately avoid eye-contact with the drunk guy leaning on the counter.

Carl said nothing. He knew he talked too much. He was, he’d been told in the past, like an excitable puppy. He knew he was a chatterbox, a gas-bag. He liked a natter and would talk to anyone about any topic. And when he had a drink, he opened up even more. He would talk to anyone who would listen, and often those who would not. He chewed the ear off taxi drivers all the way home after nights out in town. Whereas most people barked their address at taxi drivers and then either stared out the window, or fell asleep on the ride home, Carl would greet the driver almost as if he was an old friend. Most of the time he was ignored or at best grunted at in reply.

While he waited for his order to be ready, the rain and wind shook and rattled the large pane of glass and shook the door in its frame. Brill, Carl thought. He lived a good ten minutes’ walk away. He would be drenched by the time he got home. It looked wild out there. Lost in thought, and letting the staff crack on with their cooking, Carl watched the storm raging outside. It was like something from a film. It was the kind of evening that, in Hollywood, brought either murderers, monsters or stomping dinosaurs out to play.

The door whooshed open and, almost blown in by the storm, a man entered. He wore a leather jacket and a swagger. He shook his coat sleeves and swore to himself in a language Carl assumed was Italian. He carried a thick, foil-lined, food bag that was empty. He tossed the bag on the counter.  He didn’t even look at Carl, but chatted with the shop workers in Italian. Carl listened on, enjoying the Continental language despite not being able to understand a word. The delivery guy had an easy confidence about him that Carl immediately envied. It would, he thought, be so cool to come from Sorrento and not Salford. The guy chatted away in a husky voice, his hands waving as though he was conducting an orchestra.

The delivery guy finally waved to the lads behind the counter, Buona notte, he called. Carl guessed that meant good night. The delivery guy headed for the door. Carl’s food was handed to him in a plastic bag. Carl nodded and said, Grazie, hoping for a reaction from the guy. The shop guy merely rolled his eyes and turned away. Without another word, Carl took the bag and left.

As he stepped outside, the raging wind and rain almost pushed him back inside the shop. Clutching his food bag to his chest, Carl started trudging along the pavement. With the wind and rain shoving against him, it could take him an hour to walk home.

‘Hey! Hey, you!’ called a voice.

Carl turned to find he was framed in the glare of car headlights. He raised a hand to shield his eyes.

‘You want a lift?’ called the thick accented voice.

Carl nodded, so the delivery guy was taking pity on him.

‘Yes, yes please.’ Cal replied.

Andiamo. Come on.’

Carl dashed through the rain and climbed in the passenger side.

‘Thanks a lot, mate.’ said Carl, rain water dripping off his chin.

The guy nodded, and pulled out into the night-time traffic.

‘I live on Pleasant Crescent, where the steel works used to be.’

The guy nodded again.

‘How long have you lived in Manchester?’ asked Carl.

‘Almost two years.’

‘Do you like it here?’

‘Do you always ask so many questions?’

‘Sorry, I’m drunk.’ Carl shrugged. ‘I talk too much when I’ve had a beer.’

The guy said nothing. For a long moment the Italian crooner on the car stereo was the only sound.

‘You do talk too much.’ The driver said.

Carl simply nodded.

‘Let me give you some advice. Stai zitto. Be quiet. Let people wonder what you are thinking.’

Carl had to admit the guy may have had a point. Most of the time while he was rambling on with himself on some topic or other, he sensed the person he was talking to wasn’t listening to him. Maybe he should keep his mouth shut.

‘Don’t be the open book. La faccia. Be cool. If you act a certain way, people will treat you a certain way. If you talk and talk and talk, nobody will listen to a word you say. If you don’t say too much, if you are quiet, then when you do speak, everyone will pay attention.’


‘Trust me. Try it. The next time you are about to talk and talk and talk, just stop and think. Let other people do the talking. Wait for them to come to you. And they will, believe me.’

There was something captivating, almost seductive about what he was saying. The guy with the Italian swagger, la faccia, was telling him he too, could be this cool. Maybe he had a point.

Before Carl could ask him to explain further, or discuss the merits of being the strong, silent type, he pulled over to the kerb. Carl glanced out the window. They had arrived. He was home.

‘Thanks a lot for the lift, mate. And cheers for the advice.’

The guy held out a hand. As they exchanged a firm handshake he spoke.

‘No worries. And remember, stai zitto.’

‘Yeah, mate. Got it.’

Buono fortuna.’


Carl grabbed a bottle of beer from the fridge and went through to the living room. As he dined on his calzone and strips of delicious donner meat, he thought about what the driver had said. Perhaps he had something. He was well known for being a chatterbox, he always had been. He could be relied upon to fill any gap in conversation with inane chatter. Any silence, uncomfortable or otherwise, would be crammed with his waffle. Maybe he should change. Maybe he should stai zitto like the guy said. He reached and pulled a cheesy slice of calzone from the box. He took a swig of lager. He raised the bottle, cheers! A nice end to a strange evening.

The next night, Carl called for a pint in a bar on his way home from work. He was still mulling over what the driver had said. Should he adopt a cooler, more aloof persona? Would he actually have better relationships with family and friends if he stopped trying so hard? Leaning on the bar, deep in thought, he replayed conversations and embarrassing incidents of recent years. He sipped his pint of lager and went over things.

A woman approached the bar. She wore glasses and had shoulder-length brown hair. She placed her handbag on the bar in front of her and ordered a large glass of white wine. As the barman was pouring her drink, she glanced around. She made eye contact with Carl, giving him a warm smile.

‘Hiya.’ she said.

Carl repeated stai zitto to himself and managed a cool hey.

‘Are you drinking alone?’ she asked.

Carl nodded.

‘Poor thing. My friends are running late. They always leave it until the last minute to ring for a taxi. I always tell them, you need to book it in advance, but they never listen. And so, here I am, far too early as usual.’

Carl was about to launch into a tirade about modern taxi companies and the pitfalls of the taxi apps when he stopped himself. Nobody’s interested, he reminded himself. Let’s see how the cool act works, he thought. He wouldn’t scare her away by rambling on with himself.

‘Yeah, right.’ Carl mumbled.

She took a sip of her wine and shrugged.

‘Sorry, I am wittering on. My friends always tell me I talk too much. Steph, they say, you’ll never get a feller if you keep chewing their ear off.’

Carl laughed. He took a gulp of lager to steady his nerves.

‘Steph, I’m Carl. Can I keep you company until your friends get here?’

Submitted: July 05, 2021

© Copyright 2021 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



Very cool, understated; a little bit shaggy dog. A great little story.

Tue, July 6th, 2021 7:19am


Thanks a lot for your comment. Appreciated

Tue, July 6th, 2021 3:02am

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