Fancy Ketchup.

by Serge Bielanko

It is a difficult thing to drive down the road in your car next to a bag of McDonald's without shoving at least one wad of hot salty fries into your mouth. Some people could do it, no doubt. Civil people. People on their way home with dinner. In the evening. Patience in traffic /NPR people maybe.

But not me.

Oh nonononono.

The young kid handing me my large drink through the window gets his 'Thanks alot!' filtered through a mini blond Medusa's Head of potato hanging half-out of my face. By the time I swerve out of the lot and onto the main road, I am a thousand calories more powerful than I was five minutes ago. I roll the Honda through Sugarhouse dropping fries inside me; up 7th East with warm salt on my lips; and turn in at the dog park which, from personal experience, I know is a good place to kill a bag of McDonald's on a weekday afternoon without getting hassled by hobos or squirrels or The Man: all of whom are attracted by the scent of Mickey D's. Seriously.

I park and leave her running and put the bag of food on the fake leathery armrest between the two front seats and grab my drink and turn on the AC: and then I'm ready so I get out of the car, shut the door, open the back door and climb in next to Violet. She grins at my move to her row. I grin too.

Then, we have our lunch together. Fancy Ketchup, I say to her as I read it off the little packet. This ain't some cheap crap, Doll-Face. This is the good stuff. The FANCY stuff. I tear the ends off some fries and rub 'em in the ketchup smeared across the cheeseburger wrapper sitting in my lap. When I hold them up at Violet's lips, she opens wide.

"Mmmmmmmmm", I say. To let her know that's what people like us say every time we take a damn bite. We've been practicing this way more than ABC or anything.

"Mmmmmmmm", she says, with gusto. Then she adds on her own thing which sounds like: Eck-a-bubble-bubbleblooo-meppa-meppa-eeeeeee. I don't know what it means. No one could. But it sounds exciting, so I just go with it.

We eat fries and cheeseburgers and fancy ketchup together, side by side. A lunch date. It's so nice. Still, I invite vipers. And I drop the bomb.

"Daddy's gonna take you to the Doctor next, ok? We gotta get some needles today." I say that shit with a pouty face, as if that is going to help her come to grips with this little afternoon twist I'm unraveling.

My daughter just looks over/up at me with dried-ketchup-cheeks and smiles. She doesn't get it at all, I can tell.


I hate this needle shit.

I break off a little nub of cheeseburger and gently rub it on her lips. She opens up and eats it.

Mmmmmmmmmmm, she says, without prompting from me.

I just wanna drive home and skip the needles and the tears and just forget the whole damn thing. We could stop and get more McDonald's, I tell myself.


There are three and they are fast. One. Explosion of crying. Two. Gagging, little crimson head sagging like a melted wax face. Three. The rampaging tears of someone desperately wondering why.

Sting! Sting! Sting!

And then they are done. The doctor is lightning fast; skills galore. She knows that the pricks will melt into one another if the timing is just right. The back-alley Villain jumping my daughter is thrown off a little by the quickness of the Super Hero. Right there in my arms, under my face, I watch as Violet gets so upset so fast, that her horror actually rolls over on its bad self and sort of dies in the face of all its evil plans.

Violet cries really really hard for maybe a minute, then she bites into her Binky and looks deep into my eyes. Some sobs still trickle out of her. The doctor is long gone. She is probably ten needles into the future by now. We are simply ghosts to her.

I kiss Violet's forehead.

Alone in the room, I use my finger and some spit and rub the ketchup specks off of her cheeks and chin as she calms down and does her little best to forget whatever the hell just happened.