Author’s Note—The Head and Neck Consultation Suite is a bad health memoir. It’s a memoir of the boy that I was—a stricken boy, a boy with all the odds against him. Odds which, you will soon learn, the boy—the man—overcame.
I didn’t have any friends. My lunches were bad. At lunch I opened my bag and saw soggy sandwiches. I never had juice, either. Just milk.
On hot dog day at school I endured the indignity of asking the hot dog lady for nitrate-free hot dogs, the hot dogs my mother prescribed. Asking for hot dogs with no nitrates was standard in my family, and the hot dog lady always said yes. But did she actually give me special hot dogs? Hot dogs that were different from the normal ones? I don’t know what she gave me. But I doubt it. I doubt that the hot dogs she gave me were special. I can see that now.
Of course, you see the grand irony—nitrate-free hot dogs were designed for health.
Well. Not in my case. And no friends either.
To be allowed a hot dog once a week. To ask for the special hot dog. To believe that nitrate-free hot dogs were normal. To trust the smiling mothers who pronged the dogs from the steam baths. Who set them between the white buns. Who offered me ketchup, napkins. To trust these mothers to deliver the hot dog my own mother had described that morning, before I left.
“Order the right hot dog, son,” she said.
Mother, did I ever try.
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.