Hot Dogs on Everything
High school students and anybody who was drunk made up the majority of Julio's clientele. He put chopped up hot dog wieners on everything—pizzas, souvlaki, subs, hamburger steak, fish and chips. A popular menu item, particularly after midnight, was the Cannibal Dog: a jumbo hot dog garnished with mustard, ketchup, coleslaw, and chopped up hot dog wieners.
When Julio dreamed up the idea, Veronica said it would fail for sure. Veronica had a BA in Economics. Julio liked to joke that his wife could argue convincingly for either side of the Gold Standard vs. Silver Standard debate, but the register was somehow always short at least two bucks every night at closing. This kind of teasing made the crease come out on Veronica's chin as she tried to suppress her smile. She'd look down at her shoes and bite her thumbnail, a few curly strands of hair hanging tantalizingly in front of her forehead. "Just chop your wieners, big man. Big genius."
Veronica wore short skirts behind the cash register. When things got slow mid-afternoons, a slip of one of Julio's dishpan hands up amidst her curves, crooks, dips and hooks made up for the long hours, the tired nights. Hot dogs on everything was going to put their daughter, Hillary, through college.
Seth Kordich ran the Smiling Grub Stop down the road. Hot dogs on everything was killing his business. Over swigs from his vodka bottle, Seth considered cutting his milkshake prices in half, toyed briefly with the idea of ground beef and fried onions on everything, but finally settled on saving his restaurant with the business end of a baseball bat.
Seth polio-limped into Julio and Veronica's place slurring and screaming, brandishing his bat. He smashed the salt and pepper shakers, sugar distributors and ketchup bottles on the tables, ignoring terrified customers rushing past him out the door. Veronica grabbed the fire extinguisher behind the counter and ran at Seth, foam spraying. Julio followed close behind with his hot dog cleaver. Seth took a wild swing at the pair and connected with the side of Veronica's skull. Julio hacked him down where he stood.
Veronica forgot the finer points of Keynes and Galbraith but, in time, thanks to Hillary's diligence and patience, re-learned the workings of the cash register. Most nights she balanced, but there was precious little to count as even hot dogs on everything could not prevail against the stain of disrepute that hovered over the restaurant. Though local sentiment was practically unanimous in considering Julio's actions justified, nobody wanted to eat at what the teenagers had taken to calling "Death Diner".
Five years later, Hillary took out her first in a series of student loans and commenced undergraduate studies in Sociology at a college three hours away by bus. Near the end of her first semester she happened upon a misplaced wallet between desks in one of the larger lecture halls. Inside she found ninety dollars. She treated herself and her roommates to pizza, beer and cigarettes and felt easy and free for a few days, anyway.