Saturday, 18 June 2022

'Chiltepin' by Lynn Mundell

When Uncle gives you the hottest pepper from his collection of potted chilis, he doesn’t see a pepper. He sees the tiny crimson circle of the faraway Japanese flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima when he was 19.

When you accept the pepper from Uncle, you don’t see a pepper. You see a strawberry Jujube, a red chocolate Sixlet, a cherry Dot. You see the movie concession stand, feel the big velvet seats, hear the kids all singing “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.”

When the fieriest pepper in the solar system enters your mouth, it isn’t a fruit or a candy. It is Venus, the planet that melts metal. Evaporates water. Suffocates. The one completely foreign to Earth, its closest neighbor.

When Uncle looks at you, he sees you’re screaming like you’ve been shot. He sees the discarded pepper like a drop of blood in the dirt. When you look at Uncle, you see someone with a garden of weapons. You see an enemy posing as an ally.

First published in Bending Genres, Issue 26.

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