Chuck-ee Sleaze’s Pizza Barn

If it’s one thing we learn, it’s that “The Netherworld” is stranger, than we can imagine. Whatever your “trick perspective” down the checkered hallways of say, “the 6th dimension”– you’d have to say life on earth—or otherwise– is pretty miserable on the whole.

Take that shade in the Greek underworld of Hades, who had to push a boulder up between two slopes in perpetuity, only to watch it come crashing back down. No beginning, nor surcease—those struggling limbs that quake under its load– like, for your best strike at the service economy with tax credits and social security quarters. Lo’, burning ankles of exhaustion through this pitch-black, hellish moat; hip-deep in purgatory, angels falling and dying with swords on this warfare for heaven.

And you hate your job.

I’m not one to tell you “it would be any different”, just as a tough economy and solar flare-spots prove to be the hobgoblin of the self-employed contractor, the small businessman as Beetlejuice “feels the pinch” on the other side of Saturn, or a bizarre binary-star elsewhere.

His shack, yonder the ole’ graveyard model of hilly, star-lit darkness of some life, once-lived like an itinerant salesman and self-fashioned “cable-guy” as sure as the snakes wave from his noggin like a can of trick-peanuts. Himself in “the spooking-business” on the ole’ hale-bale circuit of beat-up old trucks on blocks as the lit-sign points to the ground like a demented BBQ shack across the river.

No dreads about the working-world. . . . . as he squats over a trash-fire, roasting bats and scaring-up whatever onion-weed that he can find like a vagrant. Funny thing about being dead and unemployed—the weekends don’t matter quite so much. Except you have a lot of time to rot, and think about what you’d do differently—cast in a culvert and left to squat there amid broken tombstones in aggravation.

So much for the party years. . . . . they were good when they lasted.

“Ah, yeah. Let’s see– the job-listings”.

What’s a guy to do, when you look like you’ve been sleeping in the suit you were buried-in, suffer from bad breath, no computer-skills, and scattered-references—when you can’t bill yourself as a consultant, anymore. Why, work with children obviously. The most responsible of society. Well, more, like a stagehand job as an alligator-wrestler and jabbing, jabbering bumpkin and boisterous blue-collar buddy under “entry-level” positions. In every life, some rain must fall.

“Let’s see—I could work for the highway-department, scraping roadkill off the back-top of four-lane traffic. . . . . I could work as a security guard. . . . .

“Hey, what’s this?”

“Chuck-ee Cheeze’s hiring floor staff. Inquire within”.

He’d know it anywhere, never far away from a Wherenberg Cineplex and vast, open parking lots where you’d find a K-Mart or an Outback steak-house, inevitably. That designated area for kiddish malarkey—pizza barn and entertainment emporium to all shrieking, knee-high fantasy.

Yes, as the building rises-up with porous-rock and lurid strip-mall lights by the ole’ curbside like desolation and riff-raff and crushed paper-cups , sheer carnival-trash and plasticine dinosaurs.

And namely– what does this outfit have to do with Beetlejuice?

Well, plenty.

He will don the outfit like a ball-park mascot, walking around in a clumsy felt-costume and waving to the teeny ones under a propeller beanie, vest, and linen, striped pantaloons like something a few cuts below “Ronald McDonald” leading kids, hand-in-hand in joyful spendthrifting.

Yes, a tubby sort of rat with buck-toothed incisors and the bottomless black-felt of sowed-on eyes as Chuck-ee-Cheez proper, was a sort of oversized kid with a sly expression, leaning over the logo with folded-arms like a dirty rodent, and happy sort of gloved-mascot like Mickey Mouse but more sociopathic. There would be an image of it, rollerblading with kid-friendly pads in another take, with a more benevolent expression like a good shepherd, tending its young, corrupted flock.

And he got the job, as his fellow convict in wage-slavery waited in the back area by the “Employees Only” sign. It was an immigrant from Eastern Europe, a young college-age female smoking a cigarette and herself, looking sleepy-eyed and absent-minded. Her demeanor bespoke of Russian circuses, dancing-bears, children’s parade-pageants amid Uzis and Kalashnikov’s in the bottomless whirling-snows.

It was like day-care, as she had to play the part as the security-guard for the “under 5 ft. crowd” as it was always fights, waiting in line—runny noses— stolen tokens, shrieking pandemonium as you had to get away, sometimes. Couldn’t the staff get off their aching-feet?

Beetlejuice grumbled, holding the small of his back.

“Go get ‘em tiger”, and she swatted him on his rat’s behind and flicked away her cigarette as he emerged, waving. LET THE NIGHTMARE BEGIN!

The room was like a lurid movie-lobby with dark, embroidered carpet, filled with the overwhelming smell of pizza as kids scurried-around everywhere—and the adults, retired behind the tables and letting the little brats “let off steam” with fist-fulls of tokens. Lots of leather-jackets and purses, somewhere between daycare and a bottle of beer as their eyes surveyed the scene, without interest.

You traded hard cash for the little brass coins, like money literally “thrown-down a rat-hole” as the little ones went on benders– $5, $10 bills—and the token-machines spat-out tender with a clatter in the receptacle-dish.

Clink, clink, clink.

No refunds, on those tokens. Oh, the cackling, bird-like cries—as they’re like angels, without wings!

The specialty of the place was the animatronic diner theater for birthday boys and birthday girls and their invited-guests., where puppets danced from rods, rolled-out on the mechanical, computer-controlled stage like an attraction at Disneyland.

And also, it was an excuse to push video-arcade machines as the original founder had once been the leader of Atari. All those grasping-hands, and greasy, sauce-licked joysticks, pushing and shoving in line as it revealed “the baser appetites” of this said, “angels” as there was a regular break-down of snot and tears, almost every twenty minutes where greedy entertainment clashed with disappointment like an overturned birthday-cake, for all the trauma.

Parents weren’t any more mature, as a couple of fights had broken-out over the last month with brou-ha-ha’s that emptied into the parking-lot through the swinging doors, a human cat-fight of scratching, shrieking, and purses spun aloft like clubs. The police had to be called on several occasions.


 

Beetlejuice padded-around in his oversized feet, working the floor like a good-will ambassador.

“I want my photo taken with Chuck-ee!”, from a squealing young girl in pig-tails, missing her two front teeth, bearing her gross gummy-mouth that was shiny with braces.

Raised camera-phones, a whole crush of parents and kids rising from the tables as they fought to see him under the lurid-lights.

“Hold-it now, not to close. Whoa, stand-back I need some air!”

Kids were hopping around him and a flash-bulb went off in his face, leaving him dazed—reeling. Enough was enough, and he fluttered his hands behind him as he made the ole’ getaway from heaps of human garage, snotty-noses and grasping fists. Waving, as always—toward the front and dragging his tail, behind him.

All of a sudden, he was stopped with a jerk, a tug. Children were pulling on his tail, begging him to stay with jibbering, excited shrieks. The sound of tearing stiches—couldn’t he be spared?

Up and down, a whipping motion as they grabbed at him.

He took the appendage in his hand, flinging it loose—and walked-off in his plump, costumed-bulk.

Toward the arcade machines, as a vigorous fight was breaking-out between two 13 year-old’s slapping at each other, and at the video-game they were playing. Probably, the elder brothers dragged-along for some junior birthday party as it was a hip-way to kill time, white boys in basketball jerseys and backwards caps.

A full fight was breaking-out, and now it was up to Beetlejuice to play the role of floor-security. He spoke with a muffled voice, through the velvet mouthpiece of his costume with the nearly-invisible netting.

“Hey, you. Cut that out!”.

The delinquents jerked-back, face-to-face with a six foot mouse and looking like all, anxious peach-fuzz at this flung-up development.

A tension held in the air.

“Let’s get-along, or you’ll be gone” he said.

But not before a tow-headed boy decided to stomp-on Beetlejuice’s pleated Chucky-foot. And there, the little imp grinned-up , his eyes squeezed into slits like pure-evil.

The delinquents spun-off, jerking the controls with a stiff-hit—one malingering, and the other walking-away as that was practically, the cue for a bunch of kids diving-down and grabbing-around his legs, giggling.

And there he was, “the poor mascot’s burden” as he struggled to pitch his legs forward.
Up ahead, chaos—as kids in the ball-pit were throwing plastic, multi-colored projectiles around the floor like a spirited “splic” of colliding plastic as the balls rolled over the floor in an upheaval, a veritable mess.

“Hey, you damn brat!” pointing his finger like a pro-wrestler. “I’m beginning to lose patience, here”.

A boy spread himself-out on his hands and knees, behind Beetlejuice like a human pony as another one shoved him backwards. And there he sprawled, rolling back as his legs shot-up in the air and kids started attacking him with their little clenched-fists, shrieking with “the game”.

Meanwhile, Cousin Hugo was looking-on, more inattentive than bemused (– as was his usual face). He knocked-back a Pepsi, watching the action sullenly and looking “vaguely-dangerous” with his white corpse-paint and pointed-cap, his lips curled into a painted-smile, cherry-red.

Call it “family-night benefits” as he was taking good, righteous advantage of his cousin’s employee discount on pizza & gluttony, bubbly Pepsi and free ambience in this kiddie-barn.

“Hey, look at the birthday clown!” a parent, pointing Hugo out to his young son.

Soon, he was surrounded, thick with children.

“Hey, cut that out! Get away from me, you little bastards!” as he hissed through his teeth. He was not “a happy clown”– and let them know-it.

All of a sudden, his cap was gone—a kid ran off with it, giggling.

Hugo whipped his head around, and began sputtering profanity.

The empty-pause of appalled parents, like a sucking storm-burst of negative energy.

Murmuring all around.

“How dare you, buster!” A purse swung and whacked-him in the head as adults were just as insufferable, too—when you came to think of it. The mother was flailing-away, “a real ghetto momma” as Hugo was hunched-up, trying to guard his face in the pushing and shoving.

Eventually, even the table was knocked-over and Hugo was sent sprawling. Crowned with a pan of gooey, scorching sauce, cheese, and grease as he curled his lip—about all he could do in a cold puddle of Pepsi and kicking high-heels.


 

Meanwhile, Beetlejuice was behind the prize-counter, as children held-up chains of tickets that you exchanged for bargain-rate goodies. The machines spat-out tickets as a reward, based on your skill-level, say—at the skee-ball ramp or basketball-toss, giving you 3, 4, maybe 6 at a time.

Why, three-thousand tickets would get you a “Chuck-ee Cheeze” lunch-box as no one saved-up, for those. It was forever, the cheap-splurge of impulsive fork-overs, plastic spiders dancing around on creepy-crawly legs as it would require “hundreds of visits” to win anything, good.

The kids mewled and wailed “at the proceeds”, just cheap “gumball-machine barf” as Beetlejuice otherwise, didn’t know what to tell them.

Oh, well. Wave, and work-the-floor. Thanks for coming, kids!

Some tot ran-up and kicked Beetlejuice in the leg. And he found himself hopping-around on one foot, in pain. Another swift-kick, and he was hopping on the other-leg, as aggravated as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, if he could get his hands on the little brats—

But not before tripping over a baby-stroller, now down with his hands splayed across the floor with a mouth full of lint.

And kids were jumping on him, not before one grabbed ahold of his ears and tore-off the Chuck-ee head, throwing it around like a bauble, a beach-ball—A TROPHY.

Some parent held it over their head, in triumph like The Stanley Cup

“Show-time! It’s show-time!” The usherette from Eastern Europe interceded, on his bedeviled, poor behalf. She pointed the way, and the kids ran-off. A ten-minute count-down until the birthday show, would begin. More like half-an-hour, as they could await by the velvet rope and sign for all she cared as poor Beetlejuice was not having a good night. . . . .


 

Later, he found himself sitting on the commode in the men’s bathroom, fussin’ and cussin’ as he rubbed his ankles through the suit. Passersby’s would see his costumed feet and outpouring of obscenity, under the stall and find it to be “a mighty surreal experience”.

Sitting, there– Beetlejuice fastened back-on the head and then stood in front of the mirrors, holding the lapels of his vest like a kind of drunkard’s illusion. It clearly caught some, “off-guard” as a foreign janitor backed-up against the wall, and fled the restroom like he had seen pink, dancing elephants come-down to earth. You didn’t see that, every day.

“Right this way. . . . . show-time, show-time” and the usherette let the kids, through the line in a phalanx of sucked-thumbs and untucked shirts. The room opened-up, to reveal long, rectangular tables where a few parties, went-on concurrently like factions on either aisle, set-up with birthday cakes and presents.

The lights dimmed, and the announcements came-on over a creaky address system. There, even as mayhem broke-out and kids threw napkins and blew straw-wrappers at the animatronic bear in plaid jammers that laid-out the ground-rules. No dancing on the stage, with the puppets. “Stay in your seats”, that sort of thing.

“Some in the audience, may become frightened” as the bear rolled its eyes around in its head. “Retreat out the exitzzzzzzzzz”. And there, the prerecorded tape slowed-down, and spit-out a fast, tape-recorder voice like a sheer, plastic squeal as sparks exploded, and acrid smoke rose with a spackle.

A spot-light lit-on, one of hellfire and the curtain pulled-back, as the house-band rolled-out like Muppets–, and there Beetlejuice as Chuck-ee, shaking his fist as the kids laughed hysterically.

He was slopped, with warm soda in a watery-slap. . . . . and boy, was that costume getting grungy. Maybe the flea-bitten suit had seen better days, as Beetlejuice began to remove it—piling around his legs, in a sad hump—and then it was just a skinny man, with the Chuck-ee-head. He dangled off the suit from one leg, and held the head under his arm—a yellow-splurge impression of mossy, graveyard teeth.

Next, he lobbed the head off the stage—it landed on the table and looked like a grisly, severed trophy as some kids laughed and others screamed in delight.

And there he was in full-glory, taking out a strawboater hat and a cane as he nodded with a salutary grin, like a song & dance man.

A microphone materialized, growing out of the stage like a thorny, bleeding mushroom-rose.

“What do we have here, tonight—kidz?”

His eyes were gelid and creepy, yet filled with sparks.

“It’s show-time”.

He turned around, gave the band of puppets “a kick”, and the music began to start-up as he danced a soft-shoe, back-and-forth. Now that’s entertainment.

He twirled around the cane, and began singing lyrics:

“You got more, than you want here/ghouls and ghosts, show some fear/coming here to haunt you/as we got loads of it, please-come, do”.

The verse continued.

“Forget about Chuckee-the-mouse, because the ghost with the most is taking over the house- YOWWW!”

He waved out his fingers, reciting a kind of babble-tongued gibberish while fluttering the pinkie-flash of his hands with hummingbird speed. His eyed rolled-around in his head, until he thrust out the cane, in front of him as the kids laughed at the ookey-talk like silly jibber-jabber.

Call-and-shout time.

“What’s that name?”

Silence. They didn’t take his lead.

“I said, what’s my name?”

Quiet stirrings. He almost had him in the palm of his hand, and was working them now

“I’ll give you a hint. . . . . Bee-tol–”.

He said it again, a slow intonation.

“Bee-tolll”.

He mimed, drinking from a glass and waved his free hand as means of encouragement.

“C’mon, what is it. What do you drink, mughghgh”. Sipping and guzzling-sounds.

“You drink-it from a box-carton. . . . . if I was talking, fruit—“

“Joooose” a quarter of the audience, murmured.

“Apple”—

“Joooose” the audience responded.

“Grape—“

“Joooose”. Now they were getting into it.

“Put ‘em together, and what do you got?” He said it again.

“Put ‘em together, and what do you got?”

“Joooose” the kids answered.

“Beetle—“

“Jooooose”

“Beetle—“

“Joooose “

“Put ‘em together, what’s that spell?”

“Beetlejoooose!”

“What’s my name?!”

“Beetlejoooose!”

He held out his hands in magnificent flourish, at that one.

Now he looked around, crafty-like and blew on the tips of his fingers like a red-hot saw. For a beat. He held up his hands to his ears.

“Who’s your friend? C’mon, say it one more time”

“Beetlejoooose!”

You know that rule, say his name “three times” to turn on the juice and see what shakes loose. He whirled around on a heel, and pointed to the back-up band.

“Hit-it!”

The robots danced with a rotten sound of caterwauling breakdown, “off-key”. They began dancing faster and faster through their clanking mechanical works, as smoke rose like foul stage-magic. Such intensity, the room was swirling with supernatural energies to the sound of unhinged voices, speaking-backward as the audience held its breath. Thunderous feed-back collected, as if gearing-up with incredible energy, and then—

The puppets broke-loose with an explosion of smoke, now revealed to be a death-rock band with long spikes of dyed-black hair hanging down their forehead like a spike. It was a heavy metal concert!

The kids had morphed into devils, in red-suits and goatees—pumping pitch-forks up in the air like the little demons they were, straight from hell’s mouth.One rockin’ parlour of sin, here in south St. Louis county. All that writing made me hungry, as I think I’ll take a burger, instead—flame-broiled.

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Chuck-ee Sleaze’s Pizza Barn

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