The perfect hamburger: just add rain

It was a cloudy day in the farm valley and it had been raining since I had awakened. There was a magical air to the day, despite the dismal weather outside. I was a wee lad, and it was my birthday and nothing could ruin my, “King for a day”.

I rushed out of bed, grabbed some favorite toys and bounded my way down the stairs. I slowed my pace and composed myself, as best that I could in footy-pajamas and tie-down holster, for my grand entrance into the kitchen. There, as always, were my loyal subjects. My mother, grandmother, grandfather, and older brother (I was still pondering about how to demote him to serf status) were energetically shouting, “Happy Birthday!”

The kitchen was warm and I could smell the sweet, vanilla fragrance of a cake baking in the oven. I took my rightful place at the table next to my trusted advisor, grandpa. As I gorged on my favorite sugar coated, gum-cutting cereal, my dutiful advisor asked the question I had been waiting for all year, “What do you want to do for your birthday?” With quick response and the worldly wisdom of a five year old, I replied, “Go up to the mountain and have a picnic!”

My mother spoke up and said that maybe we should wait for the weekend when it had stopped raining. Who let this person of reason interject at my council table? Was this not my birthday? Will no one intervene for the sake of the king?

Without skipping a beat, my loyal and trusted advisor made his case. “Why not have a picnic? After all, it was a birthday that only comes once a year. Besides, all he usually does is play in the stream, anyway.”

I like this guy! I knew he had swayed the vote in my favor. For his heroic deeds, let him choose any toy from my treasure room! With my mother’s smile of consent, the kitchen erupted into a flurry of activity. The pans were drawn, the macaroni salad was prepared, the hamburgers were assembled, the condiments packed and last but not least, the cake was frosted (with the watchful eye of the king to acquire the last licking rights).

My loyal subjects had made me proud. I had enough sugar packed into me to make hummingbirds weep. There was a royal umbrella procession to the station wagon. Which the king and soon to be serf brother, in a courageous dash, made every puddle all the way to the carriage. We were off to the royal retreat in the mountains.

Upon arriving, I sprinted to the stream wearing my canvas and plastic “fish head” sneakers to begin my scientific observations. Of course, out of view of my mother, the treads were thrown off and the hunt for things that moved began.

My advisor, grandpa, made quick work setting up the split-tail station wagon to prepare for grilling. The ladies of the court were jammed into the back vinyl, bench seat as not to get wet. Still they deftly prepared the feast for the eminent arrival of the “crawfish” king.

After quite a while in the pouring rain, I returned to the encampment. I had convinced my self that my “fish-belly white” prune fingers could only increase my grip on a hamburger.

My advisor greeted me and made the announcement for the picnic to begin. As he searched for the lighter, he realized that one was not packed. What? Had I placed too much responsibility on my subjects? No. Just then my grandfather took out his bandana, opened the gas cap and stuck in one of the ends. He then proceeded to the front of the car and opened the hood. With his trusted penknife he sparked the battery, which in turn ignited his bandana. Moving ever so quickly to the rear, he threw the torch upon the coals. Success and kudos for entertainment value!

That burger was one incredible burger. Clutched in my newly “enhanced grip” (Warning: for vegetarians reading this, divert your eyes now), the juice flowed down my face and arms. (Okay, it’s safe to read now). After the burger was devoured (whoops, sorry vegans forgot to warn you) along with all the sides, I wore proudly the evidence of a great feast. I had a glistening patina of hamburger grease, the paint-like streaks of ketchup on my cheeks, and a patterned, random stucco of mayonnaise and cake. Could it get any better than this?

After cleaning up, I was wrapped in a dry towel and a warm hug. My last thoughts were of my dad, in a world away in some place called Vietnam, as I fell into a contented sleep.

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