The $1,200 Burger


So who in our family just paid $1,200 for the perfect hamburger? The answer will surprise you.
Nope, it wasn’t yours truly. It was The Wife.
See, I told you it would be a surprise. So pull up a chair. Tuck a napkin under your chin. This is one juicy story you’re gonna want to sink your teeth into.

First, I have to admit something that may get me kicked out of the Man Club. The Wife and me, we’ve been grill-less for the last eight years.

Shocking, I know, but when we sold our house we also sold our grill. Eight years ago we moved to a quiet, little town.
Unfortunately zombies invaded three years ago, and town hasn’t been little nor quiet since. But that’s a story for another time. Lucky for us, though, zombies don’t eat hamburgers.

Each night, after checking the house for any stray zombies, I’ve emptied my pockets, tossing change, and lint balls, into a large plastic jug anticipating one day buying a new grill. When full, I trudge the treasure jar to the basement for storage and I replace it with an empty one.
I know you are thinking that storing all that money in the basement is not a good idea with slow-walking zombies skulking around. No worries, the jugs have been well guarded by an ever-increasing army of long-legged spider crickets. Zombies are afraid of long-legged spider crickets. Or so I’ve been lead to believe.

Last Monday, The Wife said, “Why don’t you cash in all that change and buy a new grill? We can have hamburgers out on the back deck this weekend.”
As I normally do, I agreed with The Wife. So early Tuesday morning, I headed down to the dusty basement. After a well-fought battle with hordes of spider crickets, I retrieved five jars of coins. Next stop was to the bank for someone to count all that money; I certainly wasn’t gonna do it. Too busy watching out for zombies.

I left the bank with $1,200 in my pocket, as well as a whole bunch of lint balls. Seems exchange rate for lint balls has hit an all-time low. You can’t even give that stuff away anymore.
Next stop, giant hardware store with the orange roof and our new grill. In the last eight years grill technology certainly has improved. Now they’re called convection grills and cook just like an oven in your kitchen. Cost almost as much, too.

Our new grill has 50,000 BTUs, four burners and infrared searing. Don’t really know what BTUs are, but we got 50,000 of them. All encased in a stainless steel frame with wheels. Assembly required.
The cashier wouldn’t take my lint balls as payment, so I had to part with much of the jar money. Afterwards a forklift retrieved and set a huge box at my feet. Those silly folks actually though I was going to take time away from all-important zombie watching to spend an entire afternoon and half the night putting together our new hamburger-maker.

More jar money was exchanged and the forklift took the huge box back to be assembled. This gave me additional time to shop for essential grill accessories.
Grilling tools and long-handled utensils had to be bought. After all, how would one flip the perfect hamburger without long-handled utensils? A meat thermometer with digital readout in four languages was also an essential purchase. How else would I know when the burgers were done? No, much to my surprise, one of the languages wasn’t Southern.

The giant tongs purchased served a dual purpose. They would be good for gripping and flipping giant hamburgers, and also fighting off any stray long-legged crickets escaping from the basement looking for a meal of hamburger scraps.

And let’s not forget about the all-weather cover with the fancy red and black logo. Can’t have our new grill standing out in the rain, now can we? Besides, it will also provide protection from all those zombies drooling over it. Ever tried cleaning up zombie drool? That’s stuff almost impossible to get out of carpets. Can’t imagine what it would do to the finish of a shiny new grill.

The weekend finally arrived, and along with it the delivery of our new grill. That night, The Wife enjoyed the best $1,200 hamburger she ever eaten. When asked why I didn’t assemble the grill myself I answered, “It had 50,000 BTUs. That would’ve taken all night to put those together.”
The Wife simply shook her head and smiled, then asked for another hamburger.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]