John Takes Both | Teen Ink

John Takes Both MAG

By Zachary B., Rockwall, TX

     Sounds of constant traffic and busy sidewalks roared throughout the park. To any other man this would be the worst environment for thinking, but for John, the rainbow of noises was the perfect escape.

“Sir, would you like ketchup or mustard?”

John wasn’t an average man. He was average to the extent that he put his pants on one leg at a time, but with John, the problem wasn’t putting on his pants. To any other person, John would have been categorized in the “one heck of a lucky kid” group. John was the son of two entrepreneurs. So naturally, he had been raised to become somewhat of a Renaissance man. He had attended the best schools and was instructed by the best tutors. He had had the best coaches for every sport and had always been the star player. All of the choices John’s parents had made had earned him success, success in everyone else’s eyes, at least.

“Sir, I ain’t got all day. The question ain’t that hard. Ketchup or mustard?”

“Oh, I apologize,” said John, “I’ll take both, please.”

Walking away from the stand with his covered hot dog, John had to once again face reality. The noise of the street still remained but it had lost its effect when answering the question, “Ketchup or mustard?”

John had just graduated from college, first in his class, of course. Job offers were flying at him like Pottery Barn catalogs came in the mail. He had gotten offers from law firms, publishing companies, and other large companies. John had interviewed with many of the high-paying jobs, but when he was offered the job, his stomach would turn and he would reject it.

Finishing his hot dog, John began to get nervous about the interview. He wasn’t nervous because he was afraid of getting the job, but because he was afraid that once again his stomach would turn.

A few hours later, after long interviewing and stomach turning, he was once again sitting on a park bench by the hot dog stand. It was the same stand where he had felt satisfaction from answering the simple question about a hot dog topping, and the same bench where he could drift away lulled by the street noise.

When John was a kid he often felt like something was wrong with him. In his parents’ eyes, he was a prodigy. Adults had always called him a genius and told him how he was going to be very successful. Whenever John would win at sports, he felt like people felt better for him than he did for himself. John had always been interested in other people, not himself. At one point in his childhood, his parents noticed his lack of smiles and hired the famous therapist Odys Seus to help him. John had hated his sessions with Dr. Seus because he couldn’t stand talking about himself.

“Watchu all dressed up for? Not often I see a successful-looking guy like yourself getting a hot dog.”

Somewhat annoyed that someone else wanted to hear about him and his “success,” John hesitated. “Well, I just had an interview with Lynyrd Publishing.”

“Lynyrd Publishing!” the man exclaimed. “That’s the biggest publishing company in the city! How’d ya do?”

“I got the job ...” replied John, “but I turned it down.”

“Turned it down? Why on earth would you do that?”

John thought about the question. Why did I turn it down? According to other people, it was an amazing job. “I guess it just wasn’t for me. Well, I’m on my way to another interview now. Thanks for the hot dog,” said John.

“It’s what I do,” chuckled the vendor.

John finished his hot dog and felt ready to take on life. The hot dog was his excalibur. He soon reached the building. There he stood at the foot of his last hope: Richards law firm. Though it was last, it definitely wasn’t the least. Richards was like the owl and all the other law firms were mice. So, of course, it was also the interview that John had been afraid of the most. He saw that he wasn’t the only person admiring the building. A few others stood next to him. Whether they were sightseeing or wishing they could be part of that firm, John knew they weren’t in the same boat as he was.

He walked into the building and felt even more frightened when he noticed eerie, black-marble walls. He could see his reflection in each of the black tiles and realized how nervous he looked. John rode the elevator to the top floor and waited.

“Sir, we’re ready for you,” said the over-exuberant secretary.

John entered the office and met eyes with his interviewer. She stood and looked him up and down like a hawk staring at its prey. She wore all black that covered almost all of her body. It seemed as though the only visible parts, besides her face, were her heels that hung out of her small shoes, as if they were her only weakness. She walked toward John and gave him a handshake like a robot. John could tell that she was the more masculine of the two of them. She was a devil, offering him worldly goods.

The interview was John’s last chance to be successful. Because of that and the frightening, robot-like interviewer, John could barely breathe. From his point of view, the interview went horribly, but like everyone else, the interviewer thought he did a successful job and welcomed him to the team.

John closed his eyes and waited for his stomach to turn. He opened his eyes, saw that the black marble was as dark as the inside of his eyeballs, then closed his eyes again.

“Are you all right?” asked the robot-woman.

John said nothing.

The woman noticed he was sweating, so she pulled up the blinds and opened the window.

At that moment, John opened his eyes and saw the light bouncing against the black marble walls, as if a message from God, and John saw hope. His stomach didn’t turn but the light pouring through the window gave him the answer he needed.

John stood up. Confident.

“Sorry, but I can’t take this job.”

“What?!” she exclaimed. “Are you serious? Do you know how many people would like to have a job here? You will never be more successful anywhere else! You’re crazy!”

Slightly frightened by the screaming robot-lady, John quietly replied, “Sorry, ma’am, but I’m going to go get a hot dog now.”

Thirty years later at a park bench near a hot dog stand, two boys laughed and waited for their hot dogs.

“Shouldn’t you kids be in school?” asked John.

The boys laughed, “Yeah, right. Like we need be go there.”

“Well, if you don’t go to school, what will you do for a living?”

“Who knows, old guy? I’m pretty sure we’ll be more successful than a hot-dog guy, that’s for sure.”

The boys paid for the hot dogs and walked away laughing like two hyenas.

John stared at the kids and chuckled to himself. He no longer had to hear people be interested in him. Now he was just the hot-dog guy, taking an interest in others by talking to his customers. John was married with two kids and a grandson. He was the most successful man he knew.

John had found success in what may seem like the most unexpected place. Every day he looked back on the moment he realized what success was to him. The day when he was asked, “Ketchup or mustard?”

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This article has 52 comments.

on Jun. 22 2014 at 12:01 pm
conman873 BRONZE, Dallas, Texas
2 articles 1 photo 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you don't like someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Now you are a mile away from them and have their shoes."

GREAT ending! And Dr. Seus?! I love it!

freeday15 GOLD said...
on Mar. 26 2014 at 5:49 pm
freeday15 GOLD, Paramus, New Jersey
18 articles 0 photos 62 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Love is Blind" i truly believe in this it is in all of my pieces, and if u read between the lines then u will find it there...

Wow! I honestly was not expecting that... at all! It really grabbed my attention. I love this piece, it's brilliant work.

on Feb. 10 2014 at 6:40 pm
SmallIdeas BRONZE, Boothwyn, Pennsylvania
4 articles 0 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.
Elbert Hubbard

OK, I really need ideas dor a WWII play/movie and if anyone here has one, could they please post it as a comment on one of my articles? I know it might seem random to put/read, but I can't think of anything. I promise that if I choose your idea, or even if you submit an idea, I will let you know, and I will read it. If I like yours, I'll put your name on the credits, and I'll send the link to you (or I'll try anyways). Please, thank you, and I hope you have ideas!!!!!!!!

on Jul. 27 2013 at 1:35 pm
Alex_Durham GOLD, Vineland, New Jersey
14 articles 1 photo 234 comments

Favorite Quote:
Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Terrific job! This hooked me right from the beginning. John is one of the most likable characters I've ever read.

on Feb. 26 2013 at 9:52 pm
CDHLegend BRONZE, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
4 articles 0 photos 14 comments
This may be the best story I have ever heard in my life Thank you

on Feb. 26 2013 at 1:53 pm
satellite23 GOLD, Cincinnati, Ohio
14 articles 0 photos 100 comments

Favorite Quote:
Prove it.

Outstanding! Absolutley amazing!!!! I loved the character of John. Such an ordinary name for such an ordinary guy! And I loved the silimes, hyenas and magazines. It was beautfully written. Well done!

on Apr. 29 2012 at 12:34 am
_ella_herondale BRONZE, San Diego, California
4 articles 2 photos 224 comments

Favorite Quote:
"...If the Thames that ran beside them...recalled a night where the moon shone as brightly as a shilling on the same boy and girl... and thought to themselves, 'at last, the wheel comes full circle,' they kept their silence."

Wow! I love the whole denouncing materialistic needs and all. It was reallllyyy good in that it really defined success and what it meant to John. Awesome awesome job! Ps- love the whol hot dog vendor thing!!

on Apr. 2 2012 at 2:23 pm
Zuccini75 BRONZE, Chantilly, Virginia
1 article 0 photos 48 comments

Favorite Quote:
"It is better to keep your mouth shut and let people wonder, than telling them yourself."

That was good, and I realize something-

to some extent you do need money to be happy, but having a family that loves you is WAY more important

on Nov. 22 2011 at 8:22 pm
Anonymous_7 SILVER, Branson, Missouri
6 articles 0 photos 119 comments

Favorite Quote:
-The only time you can get away with murder is when writing a book!

Love the story. Yes! money isnt everything! The dialogue was a little choppy/stiff but other than that, great job! Keep up the good work.

on May. 18 2011 at 7:51 pm
radicalhonesty GOLD, Alpharetta, Georgia
12 articles 2 photos 65 comments

Favorite Quote:
There is no situation, facet, or aspect of life that cannot be improved with pizza. -Daria

now i want hotdogs :)

i agree how you dont need money to be happy, and family is important

and i hate to be the negative one, but realistically that wasn't the smart thing to do hotdog guys don't make that much money

but it is just a story and it is a wonderful message

great job:)

LastChapter said...
on Oct. 19 2010 at 8:42 pm
LastChapter, Hempstead, New York
0 articles 0 photos 215 comments

Favorite Quote:
(couldn't think of anything better at the time) "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."-Dr.Martin Luther King Jr.

i agree. in the beginning, i was thinking to myself what the heck was wrong with this john guy, turning down amazing job offers and hating it when people told him how great his life could be. but then, slowly, i realized why he didn't want to become just another robot. he wanted to live a happy life, not a successful one. and sometimes, there is a difference.

on Sep. 5 2010 at 12:16 pm
meganwagner21 PLATINUM, Old Bridge, New Jersey
42 articles 0 photos 139 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Sometimes good things have to fall apart so better things can fall together." -Marilyn Monroe
"Nobody can go back and make a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." -Maria Robinson

nice thought. u don need money to be happy. like

Shinx BRONZE said...
on Jul. 20 2010 at 1:35 am
Shinx BRONZE, Peoria, Illinois
2 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Do what you can today, because you might not make it to tomorrow"

I like potatoes

on Jun. 27 2010 at 10:32 pm
Hi-5_Girl BRONZE, Moosic, Pennsylvania
4 articles 3 photos 18 comments
Alrighty then, I don't want to be redundant but I agree pretty much with everything said here about John's choices and success not having a text bok definition and so on. But beyond that, I love the relaxed style and the way you organized it so that we saw what others saw, and what John saw in the same moment. Bravo!

on Apr. 11 2010 at 9:23 am
kikigirl101 SILVER, Somewhere In, Connecticut
5 articles 0 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If music is the food of love then play on" - William Shakespeare

It was a great story, I loved John he was a very realistic and well rounded character. I loved the ending, it shows that success isn't always what brings joy in life but that simplicity and love bring true happiness.

mkgirl395 GOLD said...
on Mar. 20 2010 at 2:28 pm
mkgirl395 GOLD, Coppell, Texas
10 articles 0 photos 51 comments

Favorite Quote:
"My friend, let's not think of tomorrow, but let's enjoy this fleeting moment of life."
-Omar Kyyam

That was so refreshing, yet it had some weight to it as well! The best thing about this article is that it transforms the reader. At the beginning I kept finding myself like the rest of the world (the outside) but I slowly moved to the inside, John's perspective. I also love that John was just another victim of monotony in the perfect life, but he broke through. That's the best I've ever read on TI.

on Dec. 20 2009 at 10:03 pm
AzureGal BRONZE, Malacca, Florida
1 article 0 photos 14 comments
Such a nice story!! and such a happy ending =)

Please post more!!

AmnyR BRONZE said...
on Sep. 7 2009 at 6:22 pm
AmnyR BRONZE, Clifton, Texas
4 articles 0 photos 134 comments

Favorite Quote:
To the world, you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the whole world. ~unknown

great article, John was a great character. he was so vauge and so real at the same time.

on Jul. 22 2009 at 7:45 pm
Rebecca Phifer SILVER, North Augusta, South Carolina
6 articles 0 photos 9 comments
It is interesting how he seems to tell the kids to go to school to be successful but that is exactly what made him unhappy. It is almost as if, he still thinks worldly success is important, and even though he gave it up, he still values it because that was what he was taught to value by society. Since society drilled this into his head, he can't be completely happy without it and is now drilling it into others heads, that seem to want to give it up also.

on Jul. 8 2009 at 8:07 pm
amandapanda BRONZE, Durango, Colorado
3 articles 0 photos 6 comments
I really enjoyed the ending because it brings John back to where he really feels comfortable. He steps outside of his comfort zone and then the ending is very satisfying because he re-enters it, in a different form. Good job!