John Takes Both | Teen Ink

John Takes Both MAG

By Anonymous

     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 Jul. 3 2018 at 4:12 pm
wuadbwabdu BRONZE, Wenatchee, Washington
3 articles 0 photos 54 comments

Favorite Quote:
If your reading this your too late - Drake

Like many of the people who commented, I respect your opinion. However, I disagree. It was an extremely suspenseful story and one of my favorites.

on May. 22 2018 at 8:36 pm
Artistic_Geek_Roo_10 SILVER, Albuquerque, New Mexico
6 articles 0 photos 28 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Happiness can be found in the darkest of places, but only if one remembers to turn on the light."
Albus Dumbledore

Wow. I'm amazed at your writing ability!

i love this !

This is great. Excellent. I love it.

literaC BRONZE said...
on Sep. 1 2017 at 9:27 pm
literaC BRONZE, Goshen, Indiana
2 articles 0 photos 18 comments
This was very well done! Your writing flows as smoothly as many professionally published stories I've read, and the plot is engaging and easy to follow. I guessed what was going to happen at the end, but that obviously doesn't change the quality :) Excellent job!

MESI said...
on Aug. 10 2017 at 2:12 am
Amazing peace of work. Had me completely transfixed!

on Jun. 4 2017 at 10:00 pm
Daylightwonders SILVER, Hiram, Georgia
5 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I have taken the road less traveled by, and it has made all the difference"

Absolute gold

on Feb. 14 2017 at 8:55 pm
WolfWhisperer0911, Austin, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 629 comments
Maybe you should talk about the perspective of a jew that lives in poland and has to escape the evil clutches of Hitler and his racial polices. The jew maybe went to the Allied Power nations to escape and till he got America that is when he started to feel safe and stayed down while supporting war effort till the end of the world war II. You could also maybe do one about a scrawny boy who joined the war by joining on the Battleship Texas? I'm running out of ideas and I hope you find some help with these.

on Jan. 23 2017 at 2:51 pm
TheEvergreen SILVER, Birmingham, Alabama
8 articles 0 photos 64 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Never laugh at live dragons." -JRR Tolkien

Very insightful! To have a character like this is almost refreshing, and definitely heartwarming. A good message :)

Paakhi SILVER said...
on Jun. 17 2016 at 12:18 pm
Paakhi SILVER, Dubai, Other
7 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I'll build a castle out of all the bricks you throw at me."

Amazing post!

on May. 4 2016 at 3:47 pm
dont.cry.little.girl. SILVER, Ooltewah, Tennessee
7 articles 0 photos 45 comments
Brilliant work! Wonderful, creative ending. I was skeptical about the wording of the beginning, but fell in love with the character development and the underlying meaning. Well done.

on Dec. 2 2015 at 12:15 pm
SomeoneOnTheInterWeb BRONZE, Warsaw, Indiana
4 articles 0 photos 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
Writing is my drug, so let me get high

Amazing! One of my favorite on the site!

on Nov. 10 2015 at 6:57 pm
writer-violist DIAMOND, Jenks, Oklahoma
63 articles 4 photos 84 comments

Favorite Quote:
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Awesome! :)

Cam_is_Away said...
on Jul. 23 2015 at 5:51 pm
Cam_is_Away, Non, California
0 articles 0 photos 116 comments
A new favorite. Fantastic job

on Apr. 26 2015 at 1:21 am
wanderingminds BRONZE, Harvard, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
She needed a hero, so that's what she became.

This story was perfect. Amazing work!

ellwist SILVER said...
on Apr. 4 2015 at 6:04 am
ellwist SILVER, Surabaya, Other
6 articles 2 photos 85 comments

Favorite Quote:
"They only let you be this happy when they're preparing to take something from you." -Khaled Hosseini, the Kite Runner.

Absolutely flawless.

on Feb. 19 2015 at 2:54 pm
RedPhoenix SILVER, Boone, North Carolina
8 articles 0 photos 18 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

~Teddy Roosevelt

This is epic. Great job!

on Jan. 28 2015 at 3:47 pm
RedHadan BRONZE, New York, New York
3 articles 0 photos 53 comments

Favorite Quote:
Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find her way by moonlight, and her punishment is that she sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

really good! I like the concept.

on Jan. 28 2015 at 3:46 pm
RedHadan BRONZE, New York, New York
3 articles 0 photos 53 comments

Favorite Quote:
Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find her way by moonlight, and her punishment is that she sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

and how is this relevant?

on Jun. 22 2014 at 12:04 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."

Actually no...Odysseus! Is that because John is on a quest for his own version of success? Does it represent something else?