Tuesday, July 23, 2013


One day, a nuclear power plant blew up, and a nearby wiener factory was bathed in radiation.  One of the wieners sprouted arms and legs and escaped into the wild.  As he traveled, unsure of what he was or where he was going, he saw a series of billboards advertising “Johnny’s Hot Dogs”, a regional frankfurter brand whose logo included a dancing wiener with arms and legs.  “That’s me,” the wiener thought.  “I am Johnny Hot Dog.” 

As the days passed, Johnny grew to a height of five feet, and he felt a need to wear clothes like the wiener on the billboards did.  Finding a clothesline with clothes on it, he took the ones that looked as though they would fit him.  His new outfit included an Irish touring cap, a red-and-gold bowling shirt, shorts, and a pair of golfing shoes.  Johnny did not know at this time that stealing was wrong, though he would later discover this widely-held belief and adopt it as part of his own philosophy.  In the meantime, however, he felt only a certain pride in his new appearance and a readiness to join the society that he had hitherto observed only from a distance. 

At last came the big day when Johnny felt he was ready to enter the world of people.  He emerged from the woods across the road from a rural gas station called “Buddy’s Gas-n-Gulp.”  He saw people putting something in their cars with a large hose.  He saw people going into the building and then coming out with food and drink, and various souvenirs such as rubber fishing worms and cardboard fans with religious depictions on them.  He noticed that some of the people entered one of two doors at the rear of the building, and that they always looked more relieved coming out than they did going in. 

He wanted to experience what they did in those rooms, so he looked both ways, crossed the road, and made his way unobserved to the back of the gas station.  On one door was a picture of a woman wearing a dress.  On the other door was a picture of a man wearing pants.  Johnny felt this second picture was more similar to the way he himself was dressed, so he entered the second door. 

Inside he found a little room with a mirror and a sink and some strange chairs that were hollow and smooth and had water in them.  Johnny was drawn to the mirror, where he was able to see himself for the first time.  Since leaving the wiener factory, he had not only grown taller but had also developed facial features.  He had big, round eyes, a pointed nose, and a large mouth with nice white teeth.  He smiled like the wiener on the Johnny’s Hot Dogs billboards, and it looked very nice in the mirror.  He would use this expression when he came in contact with his first people. 

Leaving the room with the funny chairs, Johnny circled around to the front of the building and walked under the shady overhang.  A little girl came out the front door with a handful of rubber fishing worms and spotted him standing there.  He smiled very nicely.  She stopped and looked at him uncertainly for a moment, then smiled back.  “What are you?” she asked.

“I am Johnny Hot Dog,” he replied pleasantly.  “I would like to join the society of people now.”

The little girl tilted her head curiously.  “You’re a giant hot dog, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” said Johnny.  “Compared to the average size of other hot dogs, I am a giant hot dog.  May I please enter your society?”

“I guess,” said the little girl.  “Would you like a rubber fishing worm?”

Johnny beheld the gift she was offering and nodded.  “Yes, thank you,” he said as he reached out and took it.  “This is my first possession as a member of the human race.  This is my rubber fishing worm.  Now people will see me and say, ‘He has a rubber fishing worm.  He must be a genuine member of society like us.’  And I will say, ‘Yes, this rubber fishing worm was given to me by – ‘  Umm, may I ask you your name?”

“Sure.  My name is Lily Millie,” she said.  “Lily is my first name and Millie is my last name, even though it sounds like a middle name.  Usually when people ask me my name and I tell them it’s Lily Millie, they ask, ‘Lily Millie what?’  And I say ‘Lily Millie period.’”

“That’s very nice,” said Johnny.  “So, I will tell people that this rubber fishing worm was given to me by Lily Millie, period, and I will be accepted into society because I have this possession that came from Buddy’s Gas-n-Gulp and was given to me by another member of society.”

Lily smiled politely and nodded, although she had no idea what Johnny Hot Dog was talking about.  She was mystified by the sight of this giant, talking wiener who wore clothes and yearned for acceptance.  She didn’t understand why he was so happy to have been given a rubber fishing worm.  But the whole idea seemed relatively harmless, so she merely went along with it without any further attempt to fathom its incongruities.  She did, however, have to go to the bathroom very bad, so she said “Excuse me” and hurriedly rounded the corner. 

Johnny felt wonderful that his first contact had gone so smoothly.  “That was a pleasant exchange,” he thought.  “She was very friendly, and I appreciate this gift very much.  And I’ll bet that Lily Millie is even now entering the little room that has a picture of a person wearing a dress on the door.  She is probably going to look in the mirror to see what her face looks like.”

Just then, a large man with a big belly drove up and got out of his car.  He was gruff and unfriendly-looking, although his clothes were clean and fancy compared to Johnny’s.  He looked at the giant wiener and frowned.  “Do you work here?” he asked.

“Why, no,” said Johnny.  “I do not work here.  I have just now begun my life in this society, and have yet to acquire any sort of employment.”  He held his rubber fishing worm in full view so that the man would be sure to see it.

The man eyed Johnny from head to toe and raised his eyebrows.  “Well,” he said, “my prediction is that you are going to fail miserably in this society.  You will find that people aren’t all that thrilled to see a giant wiener walking among them -- I’m not exactly jumping for joy over it -- and nobody’s going to want to hire you to work for them, because you are a giant wiener and that’s two strikes right there.”

“Two strikes right there?” Johnny repeated.  “That doesn’t sound good.  Would it help if I looked like you instead of like a giant wiener?”

The man laughed.  “It hasn’t helped me much, giant wiener.  In fact, I’m just about ready to run away from the very society that you seem so anxious to join.  Where did you come from anyway?”

Johnny pointed to the woods across the road.  “I came from there.”

“Well,” said the man, “that’s a good place to come from, and it’s also a good place to go.  I think I’m going to go there and live, and become a wild man.  I hereby renounce society and all of its trappings, and from now on I will be like a caveman without any worries or fears or obligations except for those that a caveman would have.”  With that, the man began to take his clothes off.  Johnny watched with interest as the man shucked off his tie, coat, pants, shirt, shoes, and socks.  Then the man handed his car keys to Johnny.  “You can have my car,” he said, suddenly more happy and friendly.  “And whatever you want from that pile of clothes.  And my wallet and my identity, if you think that’s what you really want.”

Johnny took the keys and looked at the car.  “Thank you for this thing,” he said gratefully, “although I don’t know how to operate it.  Thanks as well for the clothes.  I will put them in my new car and wear them later, when the clothes I am wearing now wear out.  I hope you will be happy in your new life as a wild man, or caveman, or whatever you decide to become when you go into the woods to live.”

By this time the man was already crossing the road toward the woods.  “Goodbye, giant wiener,” he said over his shoulder.  “If you want my advice, you should go and join the circus.  That is the only place I can think of where they would be happy to see a giant wiener walk through the door looking for work.”  He disappeared into the woods without a trace.

Johnny smiled and considered this valuable advice.  “That man was nice,” he thought.  “His words made me feel hopeful for my future in this society.”  He turned and entered the gas station, listening to the car keys as they jingled in his hand.  There was a counter with a man sitting behind it, reading a magazine that had cars on the front. 

“Hello,” said Johnny.  “I am Johnny Hot Dog.  Could you please tell me where the circus is?”

The man looked up from his magazine and gasped.  “You’re a giant wiener!” he said nervously.

“Yes,” said Johnny.  “I have been told by a very helpful man that the only place where I might find work would be the circus, so I would like to find the circus as soon as possible.”  As he spoke, Johnny held the rubber fishing worm so that the man could easily see it.

“Well, that makes sense to me,” said the man.  “Hmmm…seems I recall there being a circus over in Siler City right now.  That’s ten miles down the road, that way.”  He pointed to his right.  “It’s a small circus, but it’s a circus.”

“Thank you,” said Johnny.  “Can you also tell me how to operate a car?  The very helpful man gave me his, along with his clothes, his wallet, and his identity, before he went into the woods to live as a wild man or a caveman.”

“Well,” the man said, thinking, “you put one of those keys in the ignition – you should be able to figure out what that is by looking at it – and you turn it until the car starts.  Then you move the lever on the steering wheel until the little arrow points to the D, which stands for ‘drive.’  You push on the right floor pedal to make the car go forward, the left one to slow it down.  If you want to go in reverse, you make the little arrow point to the R.  And to park the car like it is now, you point the little arrow at the P.”

“That is very useful information,” said Johnny.  “I believe that I can now operate the car sufficiently to get me to Siler City, where the circus is.  I am very grateful to you.”  He wondered what he could do to repay the man, and then he remembered his rubber fishing worm.  “Here,” he said, putting the worm on the countertop.  “Please accept this in return for your help.  It is my first possession as a member of this society, and it was given to me by Lily Millie, period.” 

The man held the rubber fishing worm between his fingers.  “Yeah, this is one of mine,” he said.  “It’s a Rod Ranger lure.  Fifty cents for a bag of ten.”

“Rod Ranger,” Johnny repeated.  “I like that name.  I will use it when the one I have now wears out.”

“Names don’t wear out,” said the man.  “But you can change yours anytime you want, I guess.  What about the man’s name?  The man who gave you the car and the wallet?”

Johnny hadn’t thought of this until now.  He opened the wallet and looked at the various cards and photographs that spilled out in their plastic sleeves.  “The name that appears inside this wallet is Lester Storch.  Perhaps I can be Johnny Hot Dog until the day I decide to change my name, and on that day I can become Lester Storch.  Or Rod Ranger.  It is nice to have such a choice.”

“I guess so,” said the man.  “I’ve always been pretty happy with my name and I’ve never had any reason to change it.”

“Are you Buddy?” Johnny asked.  “If so, you should probably stay Buddy, or else you will have to change your sign.”

“Yeah, I’m Buddy.  That name suits me well enough.”

“Well, Buddy,” said Johnny, “I thank you for your assistance.  I will now drive my new car to Siler City and look for the circus.  Goodbye.”

“Bye,” said Buddy as he watched Johnny exit the station and get into his car.  Several moments later the motor ground to life and roared loudly.  Then the car lurched forward and crashed through all three gas pumps and one of the poles that supported the overhang.  It creaked loudly, then collapsed in a cloud of dust as Johnny Hot Dog sped away haphazardly down the road toward Siler City and a new life in the circus. 

As the countryside blurred by on either side, Johnny Hot Dog reflected upon the day’s events.  In his short time as a member of society he had made three friends -- Lily Millie, Lester Storch, and Buddy – and they had all been very nice and very helpful to him.  He looked forward to meeting more people, especially these circus people who would, according to Lester Storch, accept him and offer him work.  Then he would really be a genuine member of the human race, and he would be the luckiest giant wiener in the whole wide world.  This thought made him so happy that he immediately composed a song which would later become his theme song in the circus, and he sang it loudly as he drove.

“I am Johnny Hot Dog, Johnny Hot Dog is my name
I go to join the circus, in hopes of gaining fame
I’ll dance and sing and yodel, and hop around and prance
I’ll make the children happy, until they laugh and dance. 

“I am Johnny Hot Dog, until that fateful day
When I become Rod Ranger, and Rod Ranger I will stay
Unless I suddenly decide that I am Lester Storch
And live in Lester Storch’s house, and whittle on his porch.

“I am Johnny Hot Dog, a fact that’s true and firm
Since Lily Millie, period, gave me a fishing worm
And Lester Storch bestowed on me his clothes and name and car
And Buddy told me where the circus was, and just how far.

“I am Johnny Hot Dog, a happy giant wiener
My future could not be more bright, or my anticipation keener
I hope that I don’t crash this car, into a truck or train
Or come down with amnesia, or go totally insane.

“I am Johnny Hot Dog, the circus is my fate
I’ll travel with the elephants and clowns to every state.
I’ll be the only giant wiener you can pay to see
I’ll hand out rubber fishing worms, and happy I will be.”


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