HOT DOG

The arrangements for the barbecue were decadently flamboyant. The host was a popular Hollywood-actoresque guy with sparkling teeth, sparkling eyes and a sparkling smile. Even the water he drank was sparkling. He was talented in some things (showing off, for instance) and not so talented in others (being modest).

He also happened to have a mean streak in him. So when he invited the nerdy outsider of the school, everyone was very astonished indeed (including the outsider).

"Don't worry, I'll make him come in useful," was all the highly esteemed host would reveal to the guests (excluding the outsider).

The day of the barbecue found fifty people assembled in the expansive (not to mention expensive) garden of the host's superb mansion. His parents were safely removed out of the way, spending the day with some friends. His rather apparent lack of modesty concerning his beautiful home was overlooked, because, after all, he was the embodiment of all that was currently "in". Even his dog, a small conceited canine, was in the height of fashion.

The nerdy outsider was happy to be invited to a party of such extraordinary dimensions and was therefore a trifle taken aback to be greeted with strange smiles which effortlessly combined the artificial with the superficial.

He was even more astonished when, towards dinnertime, the estimable host approached him with the enigmatic remark:

"You are going to sing for your supper. It would be nice if you did it…literally."

He thrust a microphone into the outsider's hand and swaggered back. Another person – a boy who was a great believer in reflected glory – grabbed his arm and guided him to a small wooden platform with a stand and a microphone on it.

"Sing," he said, smirking and withdrawing to watch the fun.

Everyone was waiting, staring at the outsider as he stood motionlessly on the wooden platform. He opened and closed his mouth, but not the tiniest sound wave escaped.

To crown it all, the host's dog decided to snap at the outsider's ankle. This unexpected action only added to crushing humiliation; the audience clapped jeeringly, flinging abundant insults at the outsider, who quickly sought refuge near the grill, and offering copious amounts of praise to the growling attacker.

"Maybe you could clean up the grill?" the host asked vaguely, cordially pressing a sponge into the outsider's hand.

"Certainly," the latter said, staring at his feet at which the diminutive quadruped was still snarling.

In the meantime, the others, stuffed with food, decided to take a siesta. It had been a rather early dinner (six o'clock), and there was still plenty of sunlight. Some people cooled off in the pool, others lay down on deckchairs, and the host indulged in the tactile analysis of a girl who resembled a clothes rack. No one bothered about the outsider, who was busy with the grill. A bird took on the role of a minstrel, singing with all its might; a cricket chirped merrily, and a small crisp click, probably from someone stepping on a branch or stick, contributed wonderfully to a most comfortable atmosphere. Even the dog was completely quiet, probably overwhelmed by the heat.

Everything was wonderful until people noticed a funny smell after an hour. The host and his playmate wrinkled their noses, as did more and more of the other guests. A few people came up with interesting theories, such as finding out who had lost control over his or her bowels. However, on perceiving that the unusual odour was accompanied by thin wisps of smoke, they turned their heads towards the grill. The outsider was standing over there, and, noticing that people were glaring at him, he calmly went to the platform and took the microphone. He walked back to his post.

The stench from the grill was sickening.

"Would anyone like a hot dog?" the outsider asked politely, holding the microphone daintily in one hand and stirring the meat casually with the other, humming. "Or some mutt…on?" he added more deliberately after a few moments.

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