THE HOTDOG QUERY

There’s a steaming pile of bacon on the plate in front of me.

Saturday mornings are simply… wondrous.

It was a strange week though.

I set a chair out for the cable guy on Tuesday. You know, in case he wanted to, like, sit down. Or something. I didn’t make cookies though. I mean, that would be creepy. It’s been a while since the ol’ inner sanctum has had a visitor, and it’s walls are lined with drawings that are strange, bizarre and outlandish.

I did offer him coffee.

His eyes widened as they arched across the walls and the ceiling, following the trails of paper, laminate, paint and ink.

“Is this for school or something?” he asks while looking at the walls.

I stare, suddenly wrong footed.

Bit of a curveball.

“School? Oh, ah, no. It’s actually a game I’m working on. Three, actually. A trilogy.”

While speaking I’m gesturing to different places, sort of… randomly.

At the moment, I’m thinking that… I don’t know how to summarize projects once they get grow up and start to walk around the house like they own it. I wouldn’t know where to start, what he’d find interesting, or at what point I’d be boring him.

I know there’s a lot, though. Much of it seems… disconnected, I expect. Some things would seem recognizable as a sword, a face, or a vehicle… but much of it is very rough.

He points in the center of one wall: “I like the graphics and stuff.”

“Thanks, man. I really appreciate it.”

And I mean it.

I’ve also never been entirely comfortable with direct observation of my work. Were it possible, I would much prefer that people had the freedom to look, consider, and voice their feelings without worrying they’ll offend or displease me.

I would rather you go get drunk, then leave me a voicemail describing what you liked, loved, or loathed.

While at the library, two cops approached me, then asked if I had a skateboard.

I stared, utterly baffled: “A… skateboard?”

I grinned then, at the absurdness of the moment. I’m well into my 30s, and… I mean, a skateboard…? Do I… look like I would.. skateboard? Really?

They seemed to sense the humor in the scenario as well, and explained that they were looking for someone who “matched my description”, but that it must be someone else. They went on their way, and wished me a good day as I nodded back and chuckled.

Apparently Tony Hawk still skateboards, though, according to Wikipedia.

Anyway.

Have you heard of Panera’s new loyalty program where you pay a monthly fee of $8 for coffee the whole month? I’m not a big fan of Panera, personally, but fuck… I have to say I admire the ingenuity. You’re telling me I can pay $8 and drive up for coffee any time I want? That’s… well, super convenient, I admit. I really kind of hope that picks up with other chains.

Near the middle of the week I got a hilarious voicemail from a recruiter asking if I’d be interested in a position as a “Graphics Overlord Engineer.”

I laughed until my throat was hoarse.

Yes, yes… I’m sure it was a mistake, and he’s not familiar with my line of work, and I’m not looking, but it made me chuckle, and it made me want a placard on my desk with that exact title.

There are several owls who roost close to where I live. At first I would hear their hoots, and wonder what tree, or group of trees they were in. I’ve looked, a few times, but I’ve never seen them. At this point, I’ve begun to identify with them, to an extent. In the morning their hoots are more mellow and sleepy, and by mid-day they’re often more expansive, long, and joyful. At night, they grow more morose and quiet.

I’ve been eating a lot of these weird “Egg Thins” lately. They’re made from cauliflower, if you can believe that.

I like them because I can grab a hand full of them, then shove them all in my mouth at once like a giant eating a bunch of trampoline tarps. It feels like a lot of food, but it isn’t.

Early in the week I scraped six and a half corn tortillas into the trash. They’d been near the top of the wrapper, and were crushed into what looked like shards of corn textured glass shards. At first I’d been content to count them, haphazardly, into equal portions, so I’d know how many I’d eaten. Then, something snapped.

“This is fucking absurd.”

“I’m not doing this.”

And away they went. Perfectly good food, right down the chute, because I couldn’t be bothered to spend any more time reassembling them like some sort of paleontologist in a lab.

On Saturday mornings I wake up whenever I feel like it. I’ll watch an episode of Mad Men usually, with the windows wide open and the light streaming onto the wood floors. Fuck it’s great. Quality coffee, too, plays it’s role.

In contrast, mind you, to a Friday night.

Friday night I always have a goal, and endeavor, or something I want to achieve. When I’m finished I’ll often reward myself with a short jaunt to the gas station for a candy bar for a job well done.

But this Friday… oh man.

In the long hours of the night, wayward souls emerge.

I was making my way past the heated rollers of fried food at a nearby gas station when someone behind me said: “Hey buddy.”

I paused, then, expecting… something. Trouble, perhaps, or simply someone asking for change.

I say nothing, but my eyes harden as I turn. I know, without looking, what expression I’m wearing.

The man who called out to me is… well, young, actually. Far younger than me. He’s wearing black dress pants, a black button up shirt, gray felt shoes, and the tips of his hair are frosted blond. He mumbles something I can’t understand as he approaches.

Resigning myself to the moment, I simply say: “What?”

He draws near. Far too near.

“Where. Are. The. Hot. Dogs.”

I notice he’s wearing… braces.

I stare.

What the fuck.

Is this a gay come-on? Is that code? Some lingo I’m unfamiliar with?

I am decidedly heterosexual. There is no crack to exploit, and no spark to ignite: I’m just wired that way.

I’m wearing a red T-shirt. I think the hue is called “clay red”. I wouldn’t expect… that… it would signify anything…? Or am I wrong there too?

If his question isn’t a… sexual advance… then it’s certainly an odd question to ask, given that we’re literally two feet away from the heating rollers I mentioned.

The food item he’s asking about is literally inches away.

“Uh, it looks like they’re right there”, I say, while gesturing at the fried food.

I walk away.

Strange encounters aren’t unusual. In big cities you’re accustomed to being asked for change, for favors, and occasionally: for directions.

Being asked where the hot dogs are though… that’s a new one.

I can’t shake a suspicious feeling though, and as I’m choosing my candy bar I notice the strange guy is, actually, getting a hot dog of the rollers.

Maybe I was… wrong, to judge him? Wrong for being paranoid and suspicious?

Maybe. Maybe.

I go to pay, and another customer is already paying for something. The cashier gestures to the right side of the register, indicating he can ring me up simultaneously.

Cool. Awesome. I swipe my card.

The first man walks away, and I see the strange guy from before walk to the left side of the register.

That same suspicious feeling returns.

I finish paying, then I walk outside, open the door to my car, and sit down.

I was going to check my E-mail, but maybe, I think, it’s better to be on the safe side and to lock the doors before doing so?

That’s what my Dad would advocate. Never grow over-confident. Never allow anyone to gain an advantage over you through inattention or carelessness. The guy may have looked like a pushover, but lock those doors anyway, because even a wimp can cut your throat if he gets the drop on you while you’re looking at your phone and distracted.

Speaking of distracted…

Looking back at the gas station, I notice the strange guy emerging.

Maybe he’ll just get in a car and leave? He’s dressed for a job of some sort, right? So maybe he’s just… slow? Maybe he’s retarded? Have I been cruel, and dismissive against someone mentally handicapped?

My doubts are dispelled quickly, then, when he approaches my car and attempts to open the door.

In that moment, I’m thankful for my foresight, because the door is locked and there’s no way he’s getting inside.

Now, given the circumstances, I’m thinking: “Oh man, what a fucking nutcase.”

My car is low enough to the ground that I can’t see his face, or what expression he’s wearing. He’s still standing there. I chuckle to myself, and before I pull away I snap a quick picture from where I’m sitting. Can’t hurt to be careful, in case this guy decides to throw himself under my tires or something and I need proof he was acting batshit-fucking-crazy.

As I back away, I see he’s still standing there.

Against all sense and reason, he gives me a classic what-the-fuck-shrug with his shoulders… as if it’s my behavior that’s been strange.

I laugh to myself as I pull out onto the adjacent street.

My Dad has always been a man to urge caution, prudence, and a healthy amount of suspicion. I’m glad something of his disposition rose to the surface and helped me avoid what could have been a weird goddamned scenario. If I hadn’t locked the doors, and hotdog guy had gotten in, I’d have been forced into a confrontation involving motherfucking sideways fighting in order to get him out.

So, as I mentioned earlier, a quiet Saturday morning was most welcome.

The birds are chirping, the owls are hooting happily, and Illustrator is open on my laptop. Pete Campbell nearly avoided being fired, and I’ve only drank about… a fourth of the coffee pot.

Life is good.

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