Having eaten all the pickled herring we can manage during our time in Norway, we’re in Peppe’s Pizza, an “American style” restaurant a bit off the beaten track in downtown Bergen.
In the end, the “American style” here refers only to crust types: thin crust is “Californian style,” medium crust is “New York stye,” and a slightly thicker crust is “Chicago style.” None of these appear to have much in common with pizzas I’ve eaten in any of those places (when’s the last time you were in an American pizza parlor with sirloin steak as a topping of choice?), but I’m starving for pizza, and Peppe’s looks more promising than, say, the dingy little stand selling burgers, kebabs, and frozen pizzas down the street.
As we’re finishing up, in walk the three best performers we’ve seen in the MS Ryndam’s Showroom at Sea over the past two weeks: sassy sea-borne songstress Siobhan Phillips, the distractingly handsome British-born magician Matthew J. Dowden, and Andy Buenger, an instrumentalist who can play more notes per minute on the marimba than the human ear is equipped to hear.
They take the booth behind us, giving me an opportunity to eavesdrop on what sorts of things a cruise ship’s top-shelf talent discusses on their off-day over faux-Chicago style pizza.
“…mother of pearl and gold leaf and everything,” Matthew is saying. “It’s from 1884.”
Whatever he’s describing, it doesn’t impress Shiobhan, who is perusing the menu. “None of these pizza descriptions mentions cheese,” she muses. “Do you think they include cheese?”
“Surely,” Andy says.
“I mean, it says the ham and pepperoni has ham and pepperoni, but it doesn’t explicitly say it has cheese.” Shiobhan stops and stares at the German. “Andy, do you dye your hair?”
Andy blinks. “Yes.”
“And put bits of color on the spiky ends of it?”
“I thought so,” Shiobhan says. “I mean, it’s not that it looks dyed or anything, it’s just that now that I know how old you really are, I thought that it must be dyed. I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with dyed hair. My Dad used to dye his.”
The waitress arrives. Andy orders a medium Meat Lover’s pizza.
“I’m sorry,” the waitress says. “That one only comes in a large and small.”
“How large?” Andy asks.
“A large is more than enough for two. Maybe three.”
“Ooo, I have a question,” Shiobhan asks. “Does the ham and pepperoni actually come with cheese?”
The waitress frowns. “All pizzas come with cheese.”
“But I mean, I just noticed that, while the menu says the ham and pepperoni has ham and pepperoni on it, it does’t actually say it has cheese on it.”
“All the pizzas come with cheese,” the waitress repeats.
“Then I’ll have a medium,” Shiobhan says.
The waitress shakes her head. “The ham and pepperoni only comes in small and large.”
Shiobhan cackles at this. “Small, then.” She raises her hand and uses her thumb and forefinger to show just how small she’s talking about. “A wee one.”
Matthew, who’s been ignoring most of this, looks up and places his order. As he speaks, the words coming out of his mouth actually condense into liquid butter and spatter on the tabletop, creating warm, velvety pools of British Accent (TM). “I’ll have this one,” Matthew says. “And does mine only come in one size, as well?” he asks.
“One size only,” the waitress confirms. She’s staring down at Matthew — not his eyes, exactly, but his open collar, which reveals an expanse of his smooth, hairless chest. Her cheeks are a bit redder now, and she briefly bites her lower lip. “Large.”
“I guess I’m a large then,” Matthew says.
The waitress hangs on those words just a little too long, then scurries off to the kitchen, biting the back of her hand.
“Oh, look at us,” Shiobhan says. “Small, medium, and large, all at one table!”
After this, no one says anything for a very long time. After several more minutes of silence, we gather our coats and get ready to go.
As we do, Shiobhan shifts around in the booth and stares out the window. “This just occurred to me,” she says. “Does any one actually remember how to get back to the ship?”