5:31 p.m. – The pizza is fresh from the oven and The Superintendent (six) and The Conductor (eight) sit facing each other discussing toppings. It’s pepperoni for The Conductor, but The Superintendent doesn’t like tomato sauce or melted cheese so it’s not pizza on his plate but “cheesy bread” with the cheese meticulously removed by his mother.
His palette may be conservative, but The Superintendent is not shy in his entrepreneurship.
“We should open a pizza restaurant,” he tells his brother.
6:03 p.m. – They are huddled with crayons and paper on the living room floor. Large corporations pay boutique agencies millions but don’t get this level of creative branding. “Papa Fettuccini’s” will be family-friendly with quality food at reasonable prices. The logo takes shape in Crayola Mahogany and Electric Lime. The menu is drawn up in magic marker.
The flagship will be the “Texas Pizza,” a large pie with cheese, bacon, pepperoni, hamburger, and a crust stuffed with parmesan cheese and more bacon.
“I’d like one right now,” I say, and I mean it.
“Sorry Dad,” says The Conductor. “You’ll have to wait ‘til I’m out of college.”
6:47 p.m. – The crayons and paper are supplemented by Lincoln Logs, and a mockup of the first store is unveiled. They peer at it while lying on their bellies on the living room floor, propped up on their elbows with their feet in the air.
I see them against a hazy orange sky early in the morning. They are wearing blazers and hard hats, their chinos are breaking over muddy work boots, and tubes of plans are under their arms. The Superintendent’s index finger taps a blueprint unrolled on the hood of a pickup truck while The Conductor gestures toward a crane several stories over their heads. Someone snaps a photograph. Framed prints will sit on each of their desks for the rest of their professional lives.
The Conductor says, “It’s going to be a sit-down place but there will also be a drive through. It’s going to be very fancy.”
7:06 p.m. – A steady stream of Matchbox cars parades in front of the Lincoln Log drive-through window. The grand opening was a smashing success, with free slices of Texas Pizza and garlic bread (no cheese). Now the word is out, and everybody who wants pizza wants Papa Fettuccini’s.
While the Monday Night Football pregame show commences in the background, new locations are announced in rapid succession – Buffalo! Pittsburgh! Denver! Kansas City! Green Bay!
In the movie, here will be the montage with the spinning newspapers and magazine covers with their photos on them, headlines announcing “Fettuccini Bros Serve Up Pizza Perfection.”
There are big houses and Ferraris and a Gulfstream G650 (Papa One) and The Superintendent lands a recurring guest spot on CNBC where he counters the hyper stock analyst with sober insights like, “Don’t get so excited about the dip in oil, Jim, we’ve had three straight quarters of GDP growth.”
7:28 p.m. – What goes up must come down.
“For a limited time only there’s a free chocolate-chip-cookie dessert pizza when you buy a Texas Pizza and garlic bread,” The Superintendent declares.
The Conductor’s head snaps around and he glares at his brother.
“That’s not even on the menu,” he says. “Everybody has a chocolate-chip-cookie dessert pizza. We need something different.”
But The Superintendent loves those chocolate-chip-cookie dessert pizzas, and even though it’s made them both millionaires the Texas Pizza was his brother’s idea and he’s always resented it. Desserts are his, and he won’t cave on this one.
“People like dessert pizzas,” The Superintendent says. “We’d do just fine if that’s all we sold.”
7:32 p.m. – The Conductor has retreated to the couch to watch football, while The Superintendent starts over with the paper and crayons though his heart is not in it.
Here’s another montage with spinning newspapers, only this time the headlines end in question marks:
“Can The Superintendent Have His Cookie and Eat It To?”
“Courts to Decide Pieces of Texas-Sized Pie?”
“Who Wins in Fettuccini Bros Split?”
In the end, nobody wins.
People like dessert pizzas – that’s true – but a dessert-only pizza place doesn’t support a Gulfstream lifestyle. The Superintendent turns more and more to his media appearances and before long he’s just another talking head, one of five or six on the screen, his face boxed in the upper right with the words “Los Angeles” under his chin while the others shout over him.
The Conductor, distracted and no longer balanced by his brother’s sober insights, clings to “we need something different” and leads Papa Fettuccini’s through a disastrous rebranding campaign. The Texas Pizza becomes “artisan” with a red-wine and balsamic glaze that turns the crust purple. Without a strong dessert lineup for support, sales tumble.
7:41 p.m. – The original store is bulldozed. Mom wants to run the vacuum but the football game is on so a deal is struck to get it done during a commercial. Somberly the Fettuccini Bros pile the Lincoln Logs into the tin, wordlessly acknowledging the end of an empire.
High in his office on the West Coast, The Superintendent wipes a tear from his eye and with a trembling finger touches the photo on his desk, the one of him and his brother at the construction site.
In Manhattan, The Conductor is doing the same. His reverie is broken when his telephone rings.
“Hey,” says The Superintendent.
“Hey,” replies The Conductor.
“You wanna go run trains?”