As I squeezed the plastic bottle mustard escaped with a slurpy gurgle then dribbled a wavy yellow stream onto the hot dog cradled in my right hand. I stared absentmindedly as the yellow covered the hot dog overflowed onto the bun and finally smothered my fingers. “Damn” I cursed, and only then did I stop squeezing.
Irritated, I looked down at the red and white table cloth covering the picnic table and grabbed a handful of loose paper towels with my free hand, quickly winding the towels around the dripping yellow mess.
With my hands entombed in flowered paper I walked to the garbage container mumbling under my breath an apology for the mess I’d made, tossed the hot dog and headed back for another.
“Going to give it another try?” asked the vendor. “You bet,” I said “but make it two dogs this time with extra sour-kraut and yellow mustard.” The vendor deftly assembled my order and as he squeezed the salty yellow mustard on top I detected a glint in his eye.
I slid down against a big maple and took a huge bite from one of the hot dogs, my cheeks grimaced, my lips pulled back in exaggeration as the tangy mustard filled my mouth. Anyone watching would have seen my shoulders lift toward my ears and my whole body briefly shake, this is what I’d hoped for, a nostalgic reaction to the river of mustard painting the inside of my mouth and sliding down my throat.
Speaking in low tones I summoned a childhood moment, a memory of my leaning hard against a seawall and awakening one summer not all that far away. Breakfast that morning was a hot dog overflowing with mustard. Curiously the oceans crashing roar mixed with the cries of the gulls came flooding back sitting under the maple. I Licked the last of the mustard from my lips.
From beneath my brown sweater I uncurled my white stiletto fingers exposing them to the sun hovering a few hours past sunrise and inhaled deeply ocean air filled with spritz. I looked around and seeing no one I genuflected toward the morning and laid my fingers atop a thin layer of moisture glistening on the concrete seawall.
“This is my altar, I am the priest celebrating my awakening” I said for anyone to hear. And then leaned into the wall’s coldness, my face knotted in furrows as a brief shiver moved up my arms. Gazing far across the Atlantic as gulls rode morning currents and my eyes followed their effortless play while rhythmically I sagged into and then away from the damp seawall.
Suddenly my memory dissolved, I was interrupted by a hand on my shoulder. “Where are you?” Tina asked while tightening her grip. “I was just remembering the morning after our first night together,” I responded without turning to look. “Want to eat?” she asked, “How about a couple of hot dogs” I said as I reached up to grab her hand…