Joining The Conversation
Alex Mussawir


The women at the salon school run full speed through the parking lot every morning. They run full speed so they will not be late and they are always almost late.

I watch them run while finishing a cigarette outside of the pizza shop which is next to the salon school.

I unlock the door to the pizza shop. I turn the lights on. I turn the TV to CNN.

The show is called CNN Newsroom and Carol Costello is the anchor. Carol Costello introduces each guest by saying “Now joining the conversation is…” and then says the person’s name. Carol Costello’s tactic is to get people to argue about things and then cut the segment right before the people start to say what they actually mean.

I take the risen dough from the cooler and cut it into smaller pieces. I roll the smaller pieces into smaller balls. I do this for two hours. Sometimes if I roll a dough ball perfectly it is smooth and looks kind of like a butt cheek. A dough ball also makes a similar noise to a butt cheek when you slap it.I am washing the dishes when my manager comes in.

He says “What’s up Frames?” to me.

Sometimes he calls me Frames, or Frames Janco, instead of my actual name which is his weird way of making fun of me.

He started doing it after a girl from the bookstore came in and recognized me from a poetry reading.

After she left my manager patted me on the back and said “Poetry reading? Wow you really are a renaissance man.”

I told him not to call me a renaissance man. He said “No, you definitely are. Like James Franco.”

I looked at my manager disapprovingly by tightening the muscles in my face.

“Oh look at this!” he said in a loud voice while turning his head away from me and pointing, “It’s Frames Janco!”

I stood there quietly while my manager walked away saying “Fuck yeah – Frames Janco,” to himself while doing a small fist pump.

During the lunch rush a long string of orders come through. I look around and it seems like everyone is trying their hardest. I am holding a pepperoni and thinking ‘try harder’ but feel unable to try any harder.

I am looking at Carol Costello.

The camera pans in on Carol and she says “Now joining the conversation is twenty year old pizza shop employee Frames Janco, who is preoccupied with his own death.”

I appear on the right side of the television, in a separate window from Carol.

The volume on the television is quiet and I can’t really tell what we are talking about. Carol Costello looks bored while interviewing me.

She thinks I am a bad guest for her show.

I look away from the television. I look at my manager. He is staring at me. His mouth is open and sweat is dripping from his forehead and onto his shirt. I realize I am still holding the same pepperoni. I think my aim is probably good enough that I could throw the pepperoni at him and it would land inside of his mouth. And, if I really threw it, I think he would probably open his mouth wider, perhaps even reposition his head so that the pepperoni would make it and we would both feel accomplished.

He says “Frames, what the hell are you doing?”My manager looks genuinely upset with me for paying attention to the TV instead of making pizza but instead of responding to him I just place pepperonis onto the pizza as fast as I can while saying “Okay okay okay okay okay okay okay.”