Saturday, February 14, 1987

Red Pepper


The red pepper I sprinkled on my brother's tongue glowed like rare earth and the tears rolled down his cheeks. I thought it was funny, how much water he drank to quench the fire. I traded him my pennies and nickels for his small thin dimes with wings explaining the nickels and pennies were bigger and fatter than his old dimes. Silver winged Mercury caught my greedy eye and I extolled the virtues of copper Lincolns, Buffaloes, and Indians. We traded wooden nickels from the general store.

Living on the edge of nostalgia !living in a house with wood heat, and the copper tub with its veridian streaks simmering on the stove for dishes laundry and our baths. Sometimes Grandma would lug steaming tubs to the real bathtub on the back porch with claw feet. One hot summer day we filled it with cold water from the spring but my cousin Bill pooped in it. We all jumped out screaming and he just sat in the cool white water not knowing what the fuss was all about.

The kerosine stove glug-gluging from the amber-pink wine jug with a biting odor, as I lay between the green enamel stove legs shaped in that classic turn-of-the-century harp curve. And the new yolk sunshine plastic bowl melted from the heat of the burner but the buckwheat pancakes my grandmother made filled the need in my stomach more solid than stone. I had no idea it wasn't to last, that I'd spend most nights awake, wondering where she'd gone to and the beginnings of invisible threads tugging at me during these countable rotations of the earth.

Hot Vienna Bread every Sunday, the bacon and eggs that always made me sick, but I ate them anyway—and reading the Funnies, rituals of childhood. After years of not buying the paper, I buy it each Sunday because there is a mortal comfort in that small insignificant action. I eat bacon and eggs that still make me feel sick and at the end of the week, the piles of newspapers, starters for the morning fire to keep us warm throughout the winter.

The first time I saw snow falling on these coastal hills—a white blanket transformed the known world into a place almost familiar, like visiting home in dreams where things aren't quite as you remember them. That’s how you tell the difference between the real and the unseen. My red robe bled against all that white !and, cold gnawing at my bare feet giving them a taste, a forerunner of the deaths to come.

And those winged dimes what happened to them? Did we spend them on candy or raccoon tails at the general store, or did their thin silver trails slip into cracks only to be rendered visible under the light of the moon that appears so infrequently in dreams?




I have no idea when this was written early 1980s. Sometime during the dot-matrix days. That makes it as late as 1989.


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