John knew that the cracking pain in his chest was the onset of a heart attack. He was only going to the Heart Clinic to verify his self-diagnosis. He had been working at Glen’s Hot Dogs for fifteen years, eating hot dogs breakfast lunch and dinner, and he knew the day would come when he would have to pay the piper.
The Heart Clinic was located in a small building that was once a Mexican restaurant. The décor remained. There were cactus shaped lamps, murals of large-breasted Aztec women, and the receptionists often complained of the overbearing lingering scent of cilantro.
The doctor looked over the paperwork, laughed, and said, “It’s not pretty. You should quit working at the hot dog stand and start working at a vegetable stand.”
John took the doctor’s joke seriously and gave up hot dogs and found work at a Choi’s Korean produce stand. It became a daily battle to resist the temptation of returning to hot dogs. One night when it became too much he ran to Glen’s, but cancelled his order and sighed while pacifying himself with a dozen ketchup and mustard packets.
Within a year John slimmed down and he felt and looked much better.
One of John’s sisters noticed and said, “Damn Johnny, if you wasn’t my brother.”
Even Choi at the produce stand said, “When I first hire you, you disgust, now you very handsome.”
John loved the newfound attention, but after a stressful week where his dryer died, a toothache began, and he witnessed an old man run over by a car, he went on a three-day bender, eating nothing but hot dogs.
He worked slowly the next morning and Choi yelled at him to speed up. Choi drove him to work all afternoon until John fell over after lifting an abnormally large watermelon. The ambulance arrived and the paramedics watched as Choi stepped over John’s body to sell a bag of mangoes to an elderly woman. They revived John, but only for a short time. He lay dying in the hospital with his sisters bedside, and in and out of consciousness he told of his first memory, his first hot dog.
It was at a minor-league baseball game with his father. It was an overcast day in the springtime. He was four maybe. His father bought them a couple of hot dogs. They ate as his father explained the game to him.
John’s sisters smiled at him, but knew his memory was an impossibility. Their father had left the family when John was a newborn. They watched as John smiled and told details of the afternoon, of the look of the field, of the kindness of his father and of the taste of the hot dog until he passed away.