Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Phantom Hot Dog Stand

        After a few long hours of driving, Russ was ready to get out of his car and stretch his legs.  He glanced at his gas gage which was teetering on empty and located the nearest gas station off the interstate exit.  He rolled down his window to enjoy the cool desert breeze that ruffled his hair as he directed his car off to the ramp.
  The gas station looked like a lighted oasis in the middle of what seemed like no where.  The florescent lights were a beacon for travelers in need of cigarettes, beer or gasoline.  Russ was only in need of the latter and he pulled up to the gas pump.  As he put the car into park his stomach growled loudly, proclaiming his body’s need for fuel too.  The candy bar he’d eaten twenty miles ago sure hadn’t gone far and his only alternative was a turkey sandwich which sat in the passenger seat that his mom had gave him as he had left home that morning.  For some reason his mom couldn’t remember that he hated turkey and the sight of the sandwich nearly made him lose his appetite.  He really didn’t want to eat anything at the gas station, the greasy food had probably been rotating on the warmer all day.
  Just as he was exiting his vehicle to move toward the gas pump a light came on from across the road.  The light shone from a hot dog stand which had set up shop for the night.  Surprisingly within seconds the smell of freshly cooked hot dogs wafted to Russ' nose which made his stomach growl with anticipation.  He decided not to ignore his biological need any longer and crossed the road to the stand.
Marty’s Hot Dog Haven was sitting in a sandy lot all by itself in the midst of ruts from truck tires and dry desert bushes.  The little silver cart’s umbrella was lit brightly, the stripes appearing like a circus tent of hot dog goodness.  The radio sitting on the cart was blaring country music and the hefty man behind the cart jiggled to the music.
“Hello there, hungry fellow,” the man said through his thick, black mustache.  The man’s shirt matched his umbrella and he wore a stark white apron that stood out boldly in the desert darkness.  “Been traveling all day?  Need a tasty ballpark hot dog to satisfy your every culinary want and desire?  Here,” he shoved a fresh hot dog in Russ' direction.  He took the naked hot dog and looked at the man questioningly.
“Oh, you’re the kinda guy who wants all the fixin’s, huh?”  He grabbed the hot dog, slammed it into a paper tray and smothered it with chili and topped it with shredded cheese.          
       "Oh yeah, looks perfect doesn’t it?  Makes me want to cry,”  He poked a plastic fork into it and held it toward his customer.
“How much will it be for this one?” Russ asked.
“Oh, that one’s on the house!” The man smiled.  Russ looked at the man curiously and he cautiously took his first bite.  When the simple food hit his tongue it bursted with flavor and he downed the entire hot dog in three bites.
“That was the best hot dog I’ve ever eaten in my life!” Russ' eyes bulged with surprise.
“I know, it’s like heaven on a bun... without the dying part.  I almost want to spank it!” The man turned up the country music and began to jiggle some more, his large stomach kept swaying long after he had stopped dancing.  The man’s strange demeanor made Russ uncomfortable but he was willing to overlook the man’s oddness to taste another heaven-sent hot dog.  
“Could I get another one?  How much would it be for a plain one?”
“$2.50,” the man popped another one onto a bun and handed it to him.  Russ counted his money, handed the man the cash and put a dollar tip in the jar sitting on the stand. 
“Thank you, thank you!”  the man exclaimed cheerfully as Russ topped his meal with ketchup and relish before walking away.  “Wait!” the man cried suddenly to Russ' back.  Russ turned, raised his eyebrow, and waited for the man to continue, “Do you have everything you need?”
“Yeah...” he continued to walk away feeling slightly strange about the round man behind the cart.  Russ took another bite and dripped relish in a large glob on the front of his shirt.  He turned around to grab a napkin off the hot dog cart and the cart and the man had vanished. 
“What the hell?” he glanced around while chewing the delicious hot dog.  He was standing in an empty sandy lot in front of the gas station.  He couldn’t even hear the horrible country music the man had been blaring.  Perplexed and slightly freaked out he gobbled the rest of the hot dog, filled up his gas tank and turned out onto the road.  As he passed the sandy lot, the stand had appeared again and the fat man was waving at him as he proceeded to jiggle dance.  Another glance in his rear view mirror as he pulled onto the freeway revealed the hot dog cart was once again missing and Russ couldn’t drive away fast enough. 

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