Her Grace of Pigeons and Pizza
By: Anne Boleyn
Date: 1st Oct 2021
“Nigh on five-hundred years,” said Anne.“History’s longest losing streak. Thank God I was dead for most of it. One major loss following a sword through the neck in 1536 and two weeks ago another to Druscilla White in 2021. My failure has become the stuff of legend, and if I’m ever to move forward with my life, that legend must come to a closs. Alas, corrective measures demand careful planning and the potential for new alliances, mutually beneficial to all parties. And so, I seek to parley.”
Anne leaned over the counter, a difficult task given its height in relation to hers. Her heels came off the ground as she encroached upon the cashier, a gaunt lad of sweat-soaked brow and cheese covered apron. Her words seeped slowly into his brain, his brow furrowing, but even with his mouth hanging open, no words would come.
The queen seized upon his inaction, retaking control of the conversation, curls shaking loose from her purple-black and lavender-white mountain of hair, an attempt to increase her height for the sake of diplomatic domination. “Apologies, my boy. Perhaps I was unclear. Parley means to discuss, palaver, conversate. Not an area in which your talents lie, it would seem. Bring my inquiry to the attention of your liege lord, perhaps your guildmaster. My offer comes with a limit, but will no doubt prove bountiful for the both us.”
“Uhhhhhh?” he asked, mouth ever unclosing. “Like the manager?”
A pale index finger, sheathed in a glove of black lace, jabbed at his heart. “The manager!” Anne said, clapping her hands together. “Summon your manager, forthwith. And get me one slice of your… pepperoni, I believe it’s called.”
Minutes passed and the queen claimed a faded yellow corner booth, providing space enough for the other pizzeria customers to give her a wide berth. Outside, a school of pigeons perched and paced and fluttered dutifully, waiting as their marquess ate, kept longfully separated by glass. Lacy gloves were bunched up to the right of her plate, unstained by grease. The hem of her dress was not so unblemished. As soon as she sat down, greasy pepperoni in tow, she noticed the emptiness of the table’s napkin holder. To rise in search of sanitary charity would be a display of weakness she could not afford.
She paced her eating even, to silence the grumbling of her belly and to emphasize the fact that she was keeping busy while the manager rushed to attend her. When he finally shuffled out from the back, he was less gaunt and more sweaty than the cashier. The thinning hair of his head seemed to have found a new home beneath his nose in a bushy, untrimmed mustache that surely combed whatever he ate.
Anne tore a single pepperoni free from her slice, eying the trail of gleaming cheese that came with it. “Such a meat,” she said, sliding the pepperoni between her lips. “I can certainly understand why American Yorkshire is plagued by pizzatariums. But, manners, I didn’t get your name.”
A weariness crept over the manager’s face. Anne could relate. “Rossi,” he said.
“Rossi, excellent,” Anne smirked, extending her un-pizza-ed right hand to him for a handshake, to show that she hid no weapons within reach of her dominant hand. “Italian? I do hope we can look past any papal differences so that we might find some common ground. I confess, your establishment has enthralled me. I saw the name ‘Cheesus Crust’ and was drawn here, like a doomed sailor to the Sirenum scopuli. Fortunately, you don’t seem to employ flesh-eating bird-women.” Anne laughed, motioning to the open seat across from her.
Rossi slid cautiously into the booth. The pigeon congregation at the window only grew larger, so he kept to the outside of the seat, offering an easier retreat back into the pizzeria, following any Hitchcockian avian attack en masse. When he began to speak, a particularly disheveled bird pecked at the window. The sweat of his brow trickled past his mustache. Anne regained his attention with a clap of her hands.
The clap echoed throughout the restaurant. The customers had all filed out, after seeming to rush through their meals. The cashier retreated into the kitchen. Outside, the pigeons watched. Anne’s hands steepled. “You have me at something of a disadvantage, Mr. Rossi. I am in the process of…” Her hands unsteepled, a single index finger scratching at her chin as she considered her words. “Shall we say, reestablishing myself. My distant relatives back in perfidious Albion have been shamefully unforthcoming in my due affluence, which leaves me with little more than my wits and my fists. Naturally, I must sustain myself during this personal restoration, but as I am suffering from a notable lack of capital, I must barter. What do I have to barter with? Why, my notoriety, of course. My name is Anne Boleyn.”
A beak hit the window and Rossi jumped. Anne’s eyes stayed on him. “Sounds familiar. You a theater person?”
Anne’s shoulders slumped. “Theater of violence, certainly. Fight!NYC, though that’s a relatively new career path. More famously, English royalty, up until the decapitation.”
Rossi slid further from the window, until most of one cheek was out of the booth. He watched the pigeons as much as he watched Anne. “That’s…”
Her sigh was loud and high and dramatic. “I’m aware of how it sounds. But allow me to lend you some perspective. According to my claim, I could be the beheaded ex-wife of Henry the VIII. Or I could be lying. Ooooooooooooooooor, I could be classically, undeniably, certifiably batshit-bonkers insane. Whatever the truth is, think of me as a delightful New York eccentric who just so happens to frequent your establishment. People will eat it up, just like they will your pizza when they drop in hoping for an Anne sighting, all the while tweeting and instagramming and hashtagging. All that business, all that publicity, all that prestige. No doubt you’re wondering what I want. Don’t worry, darling. I have no use of your immortal soul. In fact, I’m willing to make this agreement for a pittance.”
She held a hand up, and the pecking stopped, the pigeons watching the negotiation in eerie silence. With her other hand, she invisibly painted the words through the stuffy, cheesy air. “Free pizza. For life.” Rossi was allowed several seconds to consider the offer, the spoken advantages and the implied disadvantages. Anne’s eyes never left his. Finally, her lips curled into a smile and she extended a hand. “A trifle, really.”
Another peck shook Rossi from his paralysis. His own wet hand engulfed Anne’s, and they shook on it. Only then did he realize the sweaty outline he left in the booth. “Just…” he squeaked, watching the window. “Keep the birds out. Please.”
“Certainly,” Anne said with a disarming laugh. After their handshake, she nibbled through the rest of her pizza, before gnawing on the crust. When Rossi stood, she held her empty, greasy plate up to him. “Another slice, please.”
A whiteboard was illuminated with white candles, wax dripping as the flames danced. On the board, in red marker, there was a number.
The camera pulled back, to reveal rows of mannequin heads flanking the board. Their hair and makeup were crooked, twisted, overdone. More than one wore a backwards wig, hair covering their faces. One head blinked, cracking its neck, and stepped away from the row. It was Anne’s very own, still thankfully attached to her body. Grabbing a blond bouffanted head, she gestured to the whiteboard.
“One-hundred, seventy-seven thousand, two-hundred and sixty-nine days. Not that life was going swimmingly before that, but since it’s the date of my ever-infamous head-lopping I thought it would serve as the best reference point for my streak. My losing streak.”
Anne tossed the head over her shoulder, sending it crashing into one row, where the rest toppled to the floor like Jenga blocks.
“That’s how many days will have passed as of October 2nd, the date of Venom #10 and my match with one Joe Montuori. Flattered as I am to be challenging for a title so early in my career, my utter lack of accolades, lackolades if you will, makes my pride prickle. Am I being gifted a grand opportunity, or am I a sacrificial lamb, splayed out on the butcher’s block so that Mr. Montuori might cut my beating heart out and offer it to whatever gods motivate him. Perhaps I’m being a tad melodramatic. An opportunity, however it may present itself, is to be seized. But I’d be lying if I said My Majesty wasn’t struggling with a centuries old chip on my shoulder. Go nearly five-hundred years without a solid W, and crankiness tends to set in. My head hurts, my neck throbs, and my fingers tingle. An apothecary might recommend saffron, but personally, I’m inclined to punch someone until I can feel my hands again and then keep punching until I can’t. Frustrate must be vented, but must also serve a purpose. My priorities. Win the Queens Championship? A worthwhile goal, but even the possibility of my first championship is overshadowed by a more basic end.”
She snatched another head from the shelf, this one an approximation of flapper fashion. Planting a kiss on the forehead, and pitched it at the whiteboard, which spun to reveal the other side. Two words were written.
Following the spin, Anne rolled her eyes.
“Basic priorities, but even a queen has her basic bitch moments. Being a loser for this long is like being cursed. Either you let it end you, or with a little help from your local druid, you pass the curse along to someone else and watch it eat them from within until they’re nothing but a withered husk. Pretend to mourn their death, then celebrate with a flagon of wine and a slice of lamprey pie. Because in the end, better them than you.”
“Normally I would wish for a spirited contest, Mr. Montuori. Both of us giving our best and all that sportsmanlike codswallop. But I’ve been at my worst for far too long, and if I’m going to end my streak, then I have to start taking heads.”
She took another head from the rack, this one in her own likeness, with less erratic makeup and better hair. Her eyes, full of envy and sadness, drifted over its features.
“But don’t worry, Joe. It’s over before you know it.”