- Peppers and Bets, and: Bite
Peppers and Bets
I want to hear that story again, the one you always told, about peppers and bets, men gathered in a bar choked with cigar smoke. It was 1946, your father’s clam stand. You drove loads of littlenecks, would grab a bottle of beer after you unloaded, listen to the men.
One day in July, this guy, Jimmy Beans, didn’t know Mike, didn’t know that he grew the hottest peppers in western New York, that he could eat fire. So Jimmy wagered his Cadillac that Mike couldn’t eat a bushel of these green devils fried in olive oil. People warned him, but Jimmy wore an Italian horn, slicked his hair with Brylcreem. The guys in the back kept frying and Mike kept eating. The air stung everyone’s eyes.
I would listen to you tell this story to guests as Mom cleared the table and you peeled a peach, slowly, with a small knife until the skin fell in a single coil. You’d give me the soft spiral and I’d try to reshape it back into a peach. Swirling dessert wine, a piece of the fruit’s flesh at the bottom [End Page 180] of the glass, you’d take sips until Mike drove away in a new Cadillac, and you drained what was left, handed me the wine-soaked slice.
She will lose her baby teeth. The wiggle, the suction, new windows in her head. Playing tooth fairy, I will take them from under her pillow. Then what? Her first words passed through them. I brushed and flossed them better than my own, passed nipples and spoons between them. The magic in losing teeth is what happens next. They’re flushed. Wrapped in tissue and tossed. Buried behind a swing set. Or, are they kept in a small box, taken out and rearranged into their familiar slant? [End Page 181]
Cathy Carlisi is chief creative officer at BrightHouse, a branding consultancy in Atlanta that promotes positive public and environmental impact. She is also a painter and has exhibited work throughout the southeast United States. Her poetry has appeared in Southern Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, West Branch, Atlanta Review, and others.