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"Slow Burn" by Mar Ovsheid

The Combustión Lenta chile is a little bomb I swallowed when I was 23 and still absolutely positive I’d live forever, or at the very least that my insides could take the heat. Most people think the ‘pickled purple pepper’ is a gimmick. Biting into their tortas, they expect a burn that goes on a long time. That’s not how this spicy trip works. You feel nothing and enjoy your almuerzo and your body quietly counts backwards from a million.

The pepper might kick in eight years later when you’re on the altar. Beldir was the first of our old friend group graced by the chile’s tidings.

“You may kiss the bride.”

He did, and a searing heat blitzed across his palate and clamped his teeth into his beloved’s bottom lip. It started gushing blood and she smacked him, reflexively— Jerin is like that, to this day. We laugh about it now, but Beldir’s lucky she didn’t call the whole thing off, then and there. What a shame it would be for the bygone contents of plastic jars to sabotage a marriage.

The chile intercepted Parta at work, mid-presentation.

“This new integration will improve the streamlining of our—” Ka-thud! The heat nailed him right between the eyes. Parta shoved printouts into his mouth and hopscotched around the room. Life imitates family-friendly rom-coms, from time to time. That said, he’s lucky his employer gave him some time off to recover. Imagine losing a job over forgotten lunchtime concoctions.

Ridiban was on a plane, and nearly punched out a window to get cold air down her esophagus. The oxygen mask a flight attendant forced onto her, along with some restraints, was a better choice. Poor Ridiban spent some time in airport jail. Long lost flavors can visit nightmares upon your freshly painted life.

As for me, I’m beginning to think I’m genetically immune to the Combustión Lenta, like how some people hate cilantro, or asparagus doesn’t make their pee stink. All my friends are telling me to be careful, lay low— but I won’t drag my feet, living in fear of a vague pain that might never come. I’ll be scuba diving next month with the kids. Should the consequences tag my shoulder while I’m leagues under the sea, I can handle the heat. It’d be too ridiculous to meet an early grave because of a past packed full of pickling.

Mar Ovsheid is a spoilsport who doesn't like to run or drive. She's had poetry and fiction published on-and-offline under a variety of names (real and made-up) since 2013 in publications such as DoveTales/Writing for Peace, Spark: A Creative Anthology and Roi Fainéant Press. So, you might've met before, but it's alright if you both forget. Mar works as a housekeeper and has her high school diploma. She’s visible at @mar_ovsheid on Instagram.

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