I’m on a roll with other writing today, but so as not to entirely neglect the blog this weekend, I thought I’d post a wee little short-short story that I found in my computer files. It’s a true story, actually, that I wrote about my brother for his birthday, and it chronicles one crazy night we and our other two brothers had in the Windy City.
Context: ‘Keo Dog’ is a nickname his buddies gave him back in high school, and the setting is none other than the legendary Wiener Circle.
KEO DOG, with relish and a side of cheese fries
It was a brisk April day, an overcast day, a Windy City, too-cold-to-even-really-want-to-speak-at-the-Cubs-game day. But who really needs to speak at a Cubs game anyway, other than to heckle the home team? One man, at least, did speak. This was a man who was never at a loss for words. And he spoke of wondrous things indeed. He spoke of a remote dwelling that burned fiery reds and yellows into the monochromatic greyness of our arctic environment. He spoke of the abundance of culinary delights to be found there, and of the distinctive language the indigenous peoples uttered there by night. Our frozen eyes teared up at the thought of this urban oasis; it can’t be real, we thought. Believe, he told us.
In fact, throughout the entire duration of the day, he continued to speak of this local legend, how it was no legend, for he had been there, he had seen it, and, most significantly, he had heard it. When the time is right, he promised us, I will show you. Our southbound pilgrimage brought us progressively deeper into the realm of inebriation, dulling our senses and warming our extremities; but his focus remained keen, and his belly burned for one thing only. For a moment my confidence in him faltered as he slipped into a margarita-induced coma TWICE while engaged in conversation with me, but I realize now that, as he nodded off into oblivion, slumping ever so slowly forward toward the tabletop, he was only reawakening within himself the vision of the dream to come but a few more blocks southward. It’s the greatest, he said, You’ve got to experience it yourself, he said.
His demeanor became all the more energized and self-assured as he continually described the surreal and foul obscenities that flew in the wind of the wee hours there…Everyone does it, he said, Even the venue elder and those in his employ; in fact, you may not even obtain what you seek there unless you join in the custom. While there was one innocent doubter among the group and another who appeared more preoccupied with parking-meter hurtles and leaving assorted personal possessions strewn about the city, this man stayed his course, and, oh yes, his goal would reach fruition. As the warm light blanketed our faces and beckoned us inside, we heard the filthy vulgarities abound, and the man’s eyes glowed like smoldering coals as he cackled with wicked delight at the offensive display.
This was it—the threshold of hell, and far too late to turn back to the refuge of Clark Street. With a confident stride, he stepped to the counter, paused a moment to consider the luminescent options of temptation hovering before him, and, as we huddled in eager, almost nervous anticipation of what crude, ritualistic phrases would spew forth from his throat in the tongue of the after-hours natives…his lips parted…and…in a meek, gentle voice, he sweetly articulated:
i’ll have a char dog, please??