I wrote this for a humor anthology that never got done.
Gina, holding her breath, watched as the wild pizza rippled toward the trap.
“Quiet,” Lui hissed. “Don’t spook it. We need it all the way in the box.”
It acted suspicious, moving slowly between the spiny, stunted trees. She couldn’t tell what kind it was yet, but she really hoped it wasn’t another black olive. No one had managed to find an olive breed that didn’t squirt foul smelling brine when they got mad or scared. The pizza fluttered along, closer and closer. It stopped flat, studying the box, then eased part of its crust in. Gina exhaled as quietly as she could, then inhaled. She caught a bit of spicy red scent as the breeze puffed across the trap. Now half the pizza lay in the box, and she eased her finger back, taking the slack out of the trigger. The last bit of crust flopped into the box.
“Snap!” She pulled the trigger and the top of the flat box dropped. Lui jumped forward and slapped two seals on the front edge, locking it. As long as the box remained shut and no light got in, the pizza would stay quiet. Bog help you if one saw daylight before you could chill it, though.
“Did you see what kind it is?” Gina asked, sitting up. She brushed some bugs off and shifted her cap around so the bill faced forward again. Two of her braids had worked loose from the bundle tie and she pushed them back out of her face.
“Looks like a common pepperoni, but good sized with an intact crust.”
She got to her knees, then stood and helped Lui pick up the box, careful to keep it level as they carried it to the truck. A dozen flat boxes filled special slots in the truck’s cargo section, and they slid the newest arrival into a space near the bottom. She sniffed and made a face. One of the pizzas had greased.
“I’ll clean up this time,” Lui offered. “Go set up another trap while we’ve still got a few hours of daylight left, please. Try one near that trail where we saw the cheese and sauce markings.”
“Will do.” Gina inspected the trigger gun, picked up a fresh box, got a container of bait from the cooler, and went north from the clearing where they’d parked. Now that mating season had passed, pizzas in this area tended to avoid open areas except at twilight, so Luigi “Godfather” Carbonara had parked in the open, sprinkling a little cheese and crumbs around the tires so the pizzas would think a calzone had been there and would stay out of the clearing.
Gina sniffed the wind, then walked north to the place they’d spotted the sign. They’d been planning to trap there, but stumbled onto the trail of a mock-pepperoni and tracked it back to its nest. Vegan pizzas commanded good prices from the breeders – without animal proteins, they reproduced slowly, much slower than demand grew. Gina made certain not to step on any of the bits of dough and cheese under the bushes. They didn’t want to deter the pizzas from coming to this area. It was, after all, prime breeding cover.
Gina found the spot and set the box down. She shifted it until the shadow dapples broke up the straight lines of the trap’s edges. The brown blended into the soil, so she didn’t bother with the camouflage drape. Gina opened the fresh tub of bait, a fragrant blend of ranch dressing and bits of crust, and set it in the back of the box by the hinge. Then she triple checked the tranquilizer tips on the stabilizer mounted to the trap’s lid. When it dropped, the four darts hit the pizza in a soft area, injecting the calming blend into the tomato stream, while the stabilizer held the pizza down so it couldn’t flap up and hurt itself against the lid. No one paid decent money for lid-bruised pizzas, and it they’d shed some of their toppings? Gina sighed a little, remembering the month they’d run out of stabilizers. She’d almost starved.
Last of all Gina set the trap. She reeled a tiny wire, fine as a hair, out from the trigger and spool. A thin strip of clear plastic back by the hinge held the trap open, and she ran the end of the wire through a hole in the strip, then attached the break-away. When she pulled the trigger, the pressure on the break-away made it fail just after the hold-open slid out of its dents, letting her pull the wire out as the lid dropped. Gina found her watch spot, took up most of the slack in the wire, and sat down to wait.
Anyone could hunt pizzas, but trapping required patience most people lacked. Gina’s brothers still hunted for themselves, but she’d decided she preferred selling pizzas for breeding stock. She’d apprenticed with Lui and started from the bottom, folding traps and cleaning up the grease catchers, then worked her way up to assistant trapper. She watched, listening.
A breadstick slithered past, sniffing at the trap before moving on. Gina relaxed. Breadsticks in this area tended to avoid ranch bait, but marinara? She hid a shiver as she remembered finding Toni’s remains. He’d been using marinara, trying to catch an extra-large carnivore’s delight, when a big calzone showed up instead. He’d beaten it off, but the marinara spill brought what must have been hundreds of breadsticks out of hiding. Toni’d set his trap over an underground nest, poor bastard. Gina’d had nightmares for a week, and still didn’t like working with marinara unless she had backup. The harpoon gun she carried wouldn’t help in a breadstick swarm.
She heard another rustle, then the “plop-thump, plop-thump, plop-thump” of a calzone on the trail. Oh damn, she thought. Go away, shoo. The fat calzone lumped by, half-rolling from edge to edge. It had a healthy brown sheen, and in another few months might be worth stalking, but not now. This time of year they still had not recovered from mating and breeding, and what looked like fat was marinara and vegetables. The calzone kept going. Was it chasing the bread stick? Probably not, since the cheese bushes and hamplants still had plenty of buds on them.
Lui eased up beside her and settled onto the ground. “Anything?”
“Breadstick and that calzone, boss.”
He grunted and handed her a diet soda. She wanted a beer, but you never, ever went into pizza grounds with beer on your breath. The beggers would swarm you. “Saw a bit of sausage and Canadian bacon near the east edge of our clearing. Wasn’t there when we arrived.”
“Two, you think, or a combo?”
“Probably small combo. Haven’t seen a trace of pineapple around here, although you never know. Mutations happen.” He drained his water bottle and pulled out a pair of binoculars, slowly scanning the area for movement. “Something coming. Fast.”
Gina wiggled lower into the dirt and eased the tension up on the trigger reel. Lui somehow managed to get almost as flat as a pizza himself, a gift Gina wished she had. They heard the “flap-flop, flap-flop” of a quick-moving pizza and exchanged worried looks. Sure enough, a full-grown combo pizza, its cheese-filled crust puffed in a full threat display, galumpfed up the trail, half-rolling as it rippled along. It paused, then dove into the trap! Gina snapped the trigger and Lui jumped up to seal the box.
“Holy shit! Get a harpoon!” Lui hauled the box back with him, face red with the strain. Gina reached around and pulled the harpoon gun off her back. She tapped the end to make sure the barb was still seated and got onto one knee, aiming up the trail.
She almost dropped it when the biggest carnivore’s delight she’d ever seen appeared. A half dozen little cheese and a cheese-n-olive sailed past, rolling on their crusts in terror. Gina aimed for the carnivore’s delight’s pepperoni, but the pizza was moving so fast that she had to take her chances. “Bang!”
Marinara gushed but the thing kept coming as Gina reloaded. Another shot rang out from beside her as Lui fired. The carnivore’s delight wobbled, then flopped down. They waited until the last dusty twitch stopped, then eased out of cover and went to inspect their kill. Lui whistled. “Damn, he’s a big one. Thin crust, too, the most dangerous kind.” He stood up from his crouch. “I’ll halve it so we can pack it out. No point in wasting one like this.”
“No, sir.” Gina went back to check on their captive. It had settled down nicely. As she reloaded, she started to wonder. Something she’d read about the big meaty ones, something different. What was it? She reeled in the wire and stowed the trigger and reel onto the bag on her belt.
A hideous flapping sound and a muffled scream pulled her into a run. A second carnivore’s delight, even larger than the male, covered Lui. She couldn’t shoot it without spearing her boss, and sausage in wounds could be deadly. Gina didn’t stop to think. She drew her hunting cutter and grabbed the edge of the crust, hauling the beast off Lui’s head as she dragged the cutter down the thing’s guts. The wheel didn’t work as well off the ground, but the pain and gush of marinara distracted the beast, letting her boss get free. Gina struck again, aiming for the big pepperoni, but the pizza bucked, protecting the vulnerable spot with a layer of hamburger and some mushrooms.
A stab of pain in her hand told her that the pizza had bitten her. “Hold on!” Lui waved his crust shears, then grabbed the edge and forced the big blades onto the shimmying dough. “Snap” and a blob of cheese appeared. “Snap” and more marinara gushed onto the ground. Enough of the pizza now lay on the ground for Gina’s cutter to do some good and she wedged the bastard. After four slices fell free, it shuddered once and stopped moving.
“Sweet—Saint—Pascuale—“ her boss panted. “That was close.” Gina just nodded. “Go get some sacks. We’ll bag these, then carry the other one back. I think we’re done for the day.”
“No argument here, boss,” she agreed. Back at the truck, Gina washed her hand with water and a little bit of lite beer. It stung but she didn’t see any sign of sausage or bell pepper in the wound. She got the sacks and some carry straps, and returned to the trail.
By the time she got there, Lui’d had to start tossing bits of marinara-soaked crust into the brush to keep the breadsticks away. The trappers bagged the remains of the two carnivore’s delights, then carried the trapped combo to the truck and slid it into the rack. The remains of the other two pizzas went into the cab with them.
“Ya done good, Gina,” Lui sighed as he slid into the passenger’s seat.
Gina finished retying her long black cornrow-braids back out of the way. “Thanks, boss.” They’d done pretty darn well indeed.
(C) 2016, 2019 All Rights Reserved
Edited to add: For those coming from Peter Grant’s place, welcome and thanks for dropping by! If you like humor, I recommend the Familiar Tales stories. For hunting adventures, the Shikhari books are a good start. Military sci fi? The Cat Among Dragon books might be to your liking.