“Fame you’ll be famous, as famous as can be, with everyone watching you win on TV, Except when they don’t because sometimes they won’t..”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
You May Already Be A Weiner
Doyle Nash knew life would be tough when he decided he would make a career as an actor, that he would have to take every opportunity to make a buck – but this was too much. He stood naked in the rusty metal shed behind the hotdog and custard shop – Jerome’s Hot & Cold – facing Jerome, the owner. There wasn’t much space and they were way too close to each other for Doyle’s comfort.
“Hey, I don’t see why I couldn’t at least keep my underwear on,” said Doyle.
“Costume’s too tight, once you’re in you’ll be glad you went commando. Here, put these on, that’ll make you feel better.”
It didn’t. The shabby looking yellow tights were too loose, had lost their elastic, and made of some cheap fabric that started to itch something awful as soon as Doyle pulled them up around his waist.
“Okay, now. Let’s get you in,” Jerome said. He reached up to the top of a mottled tan curve, like a leaky canoe leaning up against the wall. There was a ragged clatter as he pulled a rusty zipper down to the ground.
“Step in, and I’ll zip you up.”
Doyle pressed his face into the zippered opening and Jerome gave him a shove from behind.
“There, now, lift your legs up through those holes… your arms go in there.”
Doyle fought back panic, blinded by the mass of the costume, until his face popped out through an oval in the front. He felt Jerome strap some elastic band tight behind his head until his eyes bugged. He stepped up into the leg holes and his arms wriggled through some sort of tubes. There was the groan of a zipper from behind and the costume closed around him.
“Okay, back up now, lift it, it’s got some weight but it’s not as heavy as it seems. Now turn, let’s get you out of the shed and see how you look.” Jerome managed to shove Doyle and the costume outside where he stood up fully.
Doyle was encased within a long red cylinder – a hot dog, with his face poking out a hole near the top. His legs emerged at an odd angle, forcing him to waddle around. Around his back was a giant fiberglass and foam bun and his arms flailed out from between the two parts.
“Hey this is really uncomfortable!” Doyle cried. The curve of the hotdog kept him hunched over, already his back was beginning to throb. He tried to reach the zipper in the back of the bun, but his hands couldn’t come close.
“I can’t reach the zipper! I’m trapped in here!”
“That’s the idea,” said Jerome. “That way you have to stand out here and get customers into my store. Otherwise you’d bolt. Here’s your sign.”
The sign said, Jerome’s Hold and Cold on one side, and Hot Dogs and Frozen Custard on the other. Doyle took it and stabbed the air with it.
“Hey, I just thought of something. What if I have to take a piss?”
“There, on the front.”
Doyle looked down and found a rectangular patch Velcroed into the front of the hot dog.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. I don’t think it’s in the right spot.”
“It’s close enough. Figure it out. Now get out there and start walking up and down. I’m paying you to drum up business, not to goof around.”
“I’m not sure I can do this. I’m an actor, sure, but this….”
“Don’t worry, you’ll do better than the last pair.”
“Yeah I had a custard costume too. This couple – Matilda and her boyfriend Hubert – they seemed awfully happy to do this. Too happy as it turned out.”
“Turns out they were really, really into costumes. You know what I mean? On their second day, as soon as I turned my back, they sneaked off down the alley, into that blind spot behind the closed Chinese restaurant. You wouldn’t believe what I caught them at down there.”
“Oh, God…” Doyle stared with despair at the Velcro flap on the front of the hot dog.
“Yeah,” Jerome said, “Ruined a perfectly good custard costume too, tore it to shreds. Now, you’re on your own.”
Despondent and morose, Jerome waddled out to the sidewalk and started to figure out how to best hold the sign.
“Hey look at the hot dog!” shouted a crude voice from across the street. “Yeah, lookit… Haw Haw!”
Doyle looked over and saw two men wearing stained canvas shoes, tattered knee-length shorts and filthy olive drab military surplus jackets, rolling back and forth on the sidewalk in front of a butcher’s supply company, pointing and laughing at him. Both had long, dirty hair matted into irregular dreadlocks.
“Damn gutterpunks,” Jerome said, “Watch out for them two – they’re over there selling crack again. They’ll rob you or anything that moves if they think they can get away with it. Scared Hubert and Matilda half to death.”
“What the hell can I do about it?”
“Well for one thing, take your wallet here.” Jerome retrieved it from the pile of clothes in the shed, “And keep it on you, I’ve seen those two snooping around the shed before.”
Doyle held the wallet in his hand, “Where can I keep this?”
“Oh, there’s a pocket built into the costume, right under your left arm, between the dog and the bun.”
Doyle felt for the pocket and shoved his wallet inside, being careful to turn so that the two gutterpunks couldn’t see. As his hand slid inside he felt a couple of objects already there, one hard and irregular, the other a soft rectangle. Hubert, in his haste and excitement, must have left some stuff behind. Doyle thought it best to wait until Jerome was inside before he checked it out.
So Doyle started waddling up and down the sidewalk in front of the joint, waving his sign in as non-threatening a manner as he could. Still, it seemed like he was scaring more people, especially the children that might enjoy some frozen custard, than he was attracting.
Every time he passed the two gutterpunks across the street they would shout obscenities at him. They seemed to have a series of rude hot dog jokes already prepared – Doyle guessed that they had worked these out at Hubert and previous walking dogs. He imagined they were disappointed that there wasn’t a female in a custard costume any more.
After a couple of hours, Doyle was trying to decide if the costume or the boredom was the worst part of the job when he remembered the items he felt in the pocket. At one end of his walk, he leaned his sign against the building and turned to hide himself. Fishing his hand in, he withdrew a good-sized ziplock full of what looked like poor-quality weed and a small, cheap, twenty two caliber revolver – the kind they call a Saturday Night Special. It felt so tiny in his hands, but he checked and confirmed it was loaded.
He supposed that Hubert was afraid of the gutterpunks and decided to pack some protection. As far as the weed – Doyle decided that the next day he might bring a pipe and look for that hidden blind alley where Hubert and Matilda had their ill-fated tryst.
He stuffed everything back into the pocket and began his monotonous back and forth, trying to think of something, anything, other than where he was and what he was doing.
Doyle’s reverie was interrupted by the squeal of tires and a loud thud. Looking up he saw that a big black Tahoe had run up on the curb across the street and slammed to a stop.
The two gutterpunks immediately started running down the sidewalk. The passenger door opened and a huge man wearing a crisp leather jacket slid out and using the door as protection and a gun rest, leveled a mean looking submachine gun and fired a burst at the retreating gutterpunks. Doyle saw the two tumble to the ground in a spray of blood and ricocheting bullets.
Stunned by the murder he just witnessed, Doyle stood stock still until the man turned and looked right at him. He began to swivel his gun and Doyle realized the guy didn’t want any witnesses, no matter how silly they were dressed. He turned to see Jerome quickly locking the front door of the Hot & Cold from the inside and sliding down under a booth.
His instincts told him to run, but the costume would only allow a waddle. He began to totter and weave when the burst of fire hit him. It felt like a giant hand shoving him in the back as he jerked forward and fell into the parking lot.
Doyle cursed his bad luck as he waited for the pain of the machine gun bullets. It didn’t come. He realized that the fiberglass shell of the hot dog bun and the thick foam underneath must be, at least somewhat, bulletproof. As he rolled he saw the man still coming, running across the street, with his gun raised. Doyle’s hand reached into the pocket for the little twenty two and as he spun onto his back, raised his arm and fired.
A tiny handgun may be no match for a submachine gun, but the bullets are still deadly. Doyle saw a red circle appear on the man’s forehead as he pitched forward, falling right on top of Doyle, now stuck on his back like a turtle. The machine gun rattled to the ground.
Looking back to the street, Doyle saw, to his horror, the driver’s side door opening. He heaved the dead man off his chest, grabbed the machine gun, and used it to lever himself up to his knees. Then, grunting with all his strength against the weight of the ungainly costume, he rose to one knee, then stood.
Doyle barely had time to turn away before the fusillade from the driver blasted into the armor of his costume’s bun. Absorbing the shock, he crabbed sideways and shot the submachine gun into the side of the Tahoe.
That suppressed the driver’s fire for a second and Doyle tried to waddle his way to safety but another burst came and buried itself into his bun.
Suddenly a wave of anger came over Doyle and he turned again and fired. Instead of a short burst, though, he kept shooting. Letting out a hideous roar of fury, fear, and humiliation he tottered as fast as he could toward the Tahoe, spraying bullets.
The sight of a machine gun firing giant hot dog, complete with armored bun, running at him and screaming was too much for the driver. He turned and tried to flee as Doyle gunned him down. Without mercy.
His anger spent, Doyle saw the blue lights of the police as they sped down the street toward him. The machine gun clattered as he dropped it in the street. The cops screeched to a stop and leapt out, guns drawn.
“Put your hands on top of your… hot dog!”
Doyle complied. The cops tried to cuff him behind his back, then gave up and put his hands in front,
“Wait, wait, he’s innocent.” It was Jerome coming out of the Hot & Cold. “It was self-defense. Hey! We better unzip him. Uh, I’ll fetch his clothes.”
“Now you come out,” said Doyle.
Doyle noticed two bystanders huddled behind a low brick wall down the street. They were both standing there, phones held in front of them, filming.
“Oh, great. This is going to go big on YouTube now, isn’t it.” he said to the cops.
“Serious publicity,” said Jerome as he fetched the sign and waved it in front of the filming bystanders.
Doyle sat on his couch and remoted to one of the true crime channels. At first he wasn’t going to watch the show, but the more he thought about it, he decided he couldn’t really miss the thing.
Sure enough, they had everything wrong. The worst thing was the actor in the show was zipped into a giant peanut suit.
“A peanut! I wish. A peanut would be a piece of cake.”
Of course he had tried out for the part on the show, to play himself. The producers had given him an audition. Doyle figured it was only a courtesy. In the end they said he “Just wasn’t right for the part.”
That was when Doyle decided the acting thing wasn’t going to work out. When he can’t even get a job playing himself, well, it was time to pack it in.
He had taken a job as a salesman in his father’s car dealership. It seemed to make his dad happy. He shook his head at how he had ended up. He had always hated those salesmen and couldn’t believe how they had to run around in those cheap suits all day.