The Heat of Pepper Oil on His Fingers

The Heat of Pepper Oil on His Fingers
by Matthew Stigler 

“And your body is the harp of your soul,
And it is yours to bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds.”
—Kahlil Gibran, “On Pleasure”

The garden their mother cultivated, on the days she could stand to kneel among the weeds, was a pepper garden. Green bell, chipotles, jalapenos, pink and black kernels. The boys, Kyle, Cliff, and Chiron would help her when she asked. They watered where she told them to water, pressing thumbs over spouts to create pressure, the backed-up spray massaging sensitive stubby ends. Their mother called them toe-thumbs, a gift from their father, not like her elegant digits, the fingers of a pianist set to cracking bones. Each thumb was stumpy and wide, the nails reaching up not even a quarter of an inch. In the cafeteria, at school, where they ate pepper sandwiches, the boys would show them off to disgusted faces who delighted to see such deformities. The boys would say it was just like their father’s, and then they would explain his absence: went out on the roads late at night to grab milk then “dead in a ditch off I-20.” When they were old enough to do such things, the boys would use this story on their lovers to get them to weep a little, and then their lovers would move their legs aside and they would worm their father’s thumbs between their lovers’ legs, searching.

Matthew Stigler is a graduate student at Texas Tech University working towards a master's degree in English with a focus in creative writing. This is his first publication.