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Story by Anne Marie Jackson (Read author interview) September 15, 2005

The first day when he found me asleep on the soft grass under the arbour, he brought me an orange Santa Fe Grande wrapped in newspaper that spoke of drought. He was insistent. He shook me free from my dreams of rain, then handed me the pepper. I took it in one bite, for I had not eaten in many days. He offered me bread, but I shook my head and went back to sleep.

The next day he brought guajillos in a white basket. He put the basket on my knees where I sat gazing into the distance, imagining iced peaks beyond. The guajillos were long and red with suggestions of rich brown under the skin. He offered me lemons. I shook my head and ate the guajillos three at a time. He crouched beside me under the tree, watching. Beads of sweat gathered above his lip. When the basket was empty, I went back to sleep.

On the third day there was a cloud on the rim of the world, just visible to my sharp eye. He stood at the gate. When he saw I was awake, he brought me a bowl of chiltepins, the devil’s peas – tiny hellraisers. He offered me a jug of milk, but I shook my head. I popped each pea, found its inner vein with my tongue, set the fire free and felt a gentle tingling. He watched, holding my bare feet in his hands, his face red and wet, sweat running under his collar. When the chiltepins were gone, he drank the milk. I went back to sleep.

Clouds loitered overhead on the fourth day, lazy and pregnant with suggestion. He came to me wearing rubber gloves, bearing a perfect chocolate habanero: a volcano in disguise. I took it in my bare hands. He gasped as I lifted the habanero to my open mouth and set the tip against my tongue. When I bit into it, I sensed hallelujahs expanding inside me until they stretched from the broken ends of my hair to the tips of my painted toenails.

He deals in dynamite and conflagration. Cascabella. Ancho. Guajillo. Jalapeño. Chipotle. Manzano. Aji. Santaka. Kumataka. Habanero. He tests me every day. He is a completist.

About the Author

When Anne Marie Jackson is not admiring the lush sideburns of her Cornish fisherman boyfriend, she likes to write stories about Moldovans, Russians, and things like peppers. Her stories have appeared in Gator Springs Gazette, Edifice Wrecked, Aesthetica and Mytholog.

This story appeared in Issue Ten of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Ten

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