Flash Fiction Story 017: "Hot Dog"

Some of the main ingredients in hot dogs include types of meat trimmings, appetizingly named meat slurry, and (seriously) pink slime. Pretty disgusting, right?

But, God, did I want one. I decided it was mainly the mustard I craved, and that human society would look down on me if I just ate the yellow elixir directly from the bottle.

Only, it was 3 AM. That wouldn’t be a problem if I lived in a town with some degree of civilization, like Chicago or New York, or Tallahassee. They line the streets with pink slime in towns like those. But I live in a less-than-civilized place, so I had to come up with something else. I didn’t have any hot dogs in the house, so the brief fantasy of a hot dog from a gas station flitted through my mind, but I also didn’t want to die, right?

The craving would not subside, though, so… The gastrointestinal system can bounce back pretty quickly from blunt force trauma, right? Doesn’t matter at this point; I still found myself in the car headed for the nearest gas station. I’m only human, right? As human as someone who needs low-grade sausage before sunrise, but human nonetheless. 

The bell above the door of the EZMART announced my arrival. If there was a smell that was the perfect cross-section between industrial cleaner and mildew that didn’t know how to quit, it made up the majority of the air around me. I marched up to the grilling rollers and took in the sight of my long-sought reward. Some were fully cooked, and even a few bubbled with grease indicating they were on the verge of bursting through their cases.

Pretty tasty, right? 

The two that had been rotating the longest, those were the ones I needed. The more leathery, the better, right? I reached for the nearby tongs, only to be interrupted by a hand, clad in black leather.

“You know they put something called pink slime in those things?”

I turned away from my snack and beheld my interruption. It wasn’t until later that I made the comparison between his fingers and hot dogs that had spent too much time on the roller, but the similarities were undeniable. The figure was dressed entirely in blackened hot dog skins—I was pretty hungry, right?—right up to a wide-brimmed hat.

“Right… Yeah, but sometimes, you just gotta have what you want.” Wanting to move on with my appetite and my life, I turned away from the figure and back to my selection. Pretty weird what you’ll see at the EZMART, right?

The figure placed a hand on my shoulder. With a strength I wasn’t expecting, they turned me around and put a small circular object that looked like a roll of film. “I’ve already been made. Make sure Station Delta disposes of this in the prescribed manner.”

Before I could ask about the identity of the figure, their object, or more details about Station Delta (the capital letters feel right, right?), the figure disappeared out the front door. Ding! The entire time, the clerk behind the counter continued to contemplate a 4 inch black and white TV frying the voyages of the starship Enterprise into his brain. He never looked up once. I didn’t blame him; it was a pretty good episode.

Hot dogs in tow, I left the store and made the walk back to my car. With enough of a balancing act to perhaps qualify me for a starring routine with Ringling Bros., I ventured to unlock my car and open the door, all the while ensuring I didn’t lose the mustardy joy I had procured. When it became clear that no human could do all these things at once, I placed my snack on the hood of my car. The odds of me remembering to grab them before I drove off were slim.

They made quick work of ambushing me; quicker than I had expected any human to ever move. This wasn’t the same figure from before. This newcomer wore a tuxedo that looked like it had been put in an oven instead of the dryer. Shards of black fabric dangled from his frame, and yet the bow tie remained perfectly in place. If I live to be 100, I’ll still never understand how those things work.

“Who are you working for?” he asked. Before I could answer—and to be fair to him, my answer would have been a resounding “huh?”—he swept me off my feet, Daniel Caruso style.

My heart skipped a beat as I hit the floor. The attack didn’t hurt—or at least, it wouldn’t hurt until morning—but instead I was more worried about my damned hot dogs.

The figure in the destroyed tuxedo loomed over me. “Where is Agent 11?! Where is the microfiche?”

The true pain of my fall clarified into sharp relief as I realized that while I could still—minimally—breathe, I was not so much with the talking. The figure frisked me on the ground and retrieved the roll of film. Still not satisfied with my rasping lack of speech, he looked at me once more. “How did you break our code exchange?”

Regaining just the slighted bit of speech I wheezed, “I just like hot dogs.”

With the sounds of sirens echoing through the night, the tuxedo man ran back out into the night. I returned home, and on the way I heard a radio report about a nationwide hunt for a rogue CIA agent being hunted by the authorities. That probably had nothing to do with me, right? I pushed the thought out of my head as I took a bite of my damned hot dog. You’d think it would be kind of disappointing after all that, right? You’d be wrong.

 Art by Eris O'Reilly

Art by Eris O'Reilly