The smell of hot oil and steaming meat product crawled up his nostrils, took firm hold of his nose hairs and hung there, waving back and forth with each inhalation and exhalation, refusing to relinguish their sickly hold. Ward didn’t know what was worse: the smell or the sight of the hot dog, a questionable freak of both food preperation and preservation. It sizzled loudly and occassionally burped quietly. It’s surface was slick and smooth, it’s only blemish a small, green dot barely discernable beneath the skin much like skin cancer waiting to pop.
Ward held his breath, paused, and looked up to see the people arranged around him, each one wearing a face of amused repulsion. No, thought Ward, the worst was the spectacle itself, a bet gone awry, one bad swing that put both his golf ball and his confidence into the tall grass, one to be retrieved as a drop and one extra stroke and the other unrecoverable.
Ward looked down again and placed his hand around the bun. It had already started to lose its moisture and harden on the outside even as the inside grew increasingly soggy from the cheese that had deevolved into a pale slick during the microwaving process. No, he corrected himself, eating this was going to be the worst. He brought it forward, his mouth not opening until the very last moment. He inserted a good quarter of the bun and the dog’s length beyond the threshold of his lips, heard the little twitters of laugter and gasps of astonishment from the gathered audience, rethought his tact, pulled back slightly and committed himself to the ends only. There was a shot of hot wet to the back of the throat, warm meat on the tongue, and then chewy bun lodged in his molars.
Chad G put his hands into the air in triumph but was unable to laugh because up until the moment that terrible shot shook Ward’s confidence he had been positioned to be sitting at this very table, staring down the same confectionary nightmare. He had all but resigned himself to the fact and had been steeling himself for the inevitable when Ward’s shocked yelp and a spray of hacked tall grass changed the game altogether. Chad B, the other Chad, the original Chad, the impartial scorekeeper, tall, intelligent and alarmingly handsome at all times, nodded approvingly, acknowledging Ward’s honourable eating of the hot dog. Paul, tallest of the bunch, filled himself up on Ward’s misery with great delight. Bryce stood quietly to one side and did his best to look suave and sophisticated. Zack, the last of the fellows who had tested his mettle at the First Workplace Hot Dog Challenge was absent. No one knew, but he was at his desk, quietly giving thanks to whatever god or saint was the patron of stupid ass bets.
At the other end of the lunch room, well away from Ward and the gathered crowd, the vending machine from which the hot dog was spawned hummed happily.