I saw the hotdog sign, RED HOTS, and parked my bike. I bolted across Kimball with the 4 seconds left in the crosswalk sign and felt my jeans for bills and change.
More than anything, I love snapping into sport peppers. If terrible things happen to the planet and I, and if many greater pleasures are lost, I might be sustained, spiritually, on Chicago style dogs. One a week with sport peppers and celery salt and a pop.
While I sipped my cherry coke I saw a line forming behind me, people leaving the blue line and pursuing hot dogs. The elderly couple who ran the place assembled my dog in their mini-kitchen while I dreamed of food in the hypothetical. The vinegar sting of hot sauce aired from a Frank’s bottle beside me. The oil roared my fries to a salty gold.
When one owner handed me my plastic basket, I asked, “Sport peppers?” She said “Yeah, they’re in there,” without judgment. She could tell.
For my fries, I grabbed ketchup. The pros say that ketchup debases the hot dog with the high fructose ingredients—the sugar—but I like a little ketchup. Not a lot of ketchup, which it worries me when I see a person use a lot of ketchup, but a red line the width of a piece of twine down the center. I’m into ketchup for ingredient number two: vinegar.
As I was cutting my ketchup line like this I looked around. People have said to me before—“Do not put that ketchup on your hot dog.” People say “That’s blasphemy” or some low-ball hyperbole like that. I see it as one of those stand-in moments. Like, “OK, it starts with the ketchup. What other shitty ideas you have for me to apply, huh?”
Having taken it for many years, unsolicited advice and passive orders, I put the line of ketchup on my dog and look around at strangers who, for my emotion, for my need to bait these fools into evaluating my hot dog choices, I cannot tell are happily ignoring me. It is saturday, 2pm. It is snack time. They are enjoying a small lunch and I am waiting for the any and all to say something about my ketchup use.
I take my first bite while scanning the room. I’m barely chewing and immediately I swallow my bite. I swallow too early and begin gagging. I squint my eyes and breathe through my nose in tiny puffs. My eyes water. A teenage boy across the room watches me gag, I wave it off. Please look away. I think I’ll make it out of this one, is what I’m communicating. Using muscles I've just discovered, the hot dog is nudged to my stomach.
Good thing for those muscles, I was thinking afterward, drinking my pop. There are so many things I still have to learn.