By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
Cousin Carl began his theological training at age 3. Having spent the morning helping my Mama make cookies and sweeping all of the front porch that his feet could reach from the swing, by noon Carl was eager for some of her homemade cooking for dinner.
When he saw my dad put Louisiana Hot Sauce on purple-hull peas and take a hearty bite, Carl insisted that he wanted some, too.
Daddy tried mightily and persistently to explain that, no, that stuff was too hot for little tongues. Of course, whether it be peppersauce, black coffee or gossip, children throughout history have rated “it’s only for grownups” right down there at the bottom of the believability barrel with “under a cabbage leaf” and “because I said so.”
Try as they would, neither of my parents could get Carl to change his mind. Not even promises of dessert deflected his desire. With each passing second, that vermilion fluid came more and more to encapsulate for the boy all that was desirable in the world – something not only mouthwatering but doubtless mind-expanding and maybe even muscle-building as well.
Why else would the grownups deny it to him?
Daddy eventually decided a taste of peppersauce would be educational for the boy. To ease Carl’s eagerness without warping him too severely, Daddy laboriously held the bottle just so, dripping the tiniest drop he could force from it onto a single pea so as not to make the rest of the serving inedible if the experiment went as expected.
That’s where Carl’s theological training began.
Just as with Mother Eve and Father Adam before him, Carl’s fascination with the forbidden fruit (yes, peppers are fruits) came to dominate his world.
Just as back there in Eden, he took one taste and instantly rued his choice.
And just as quickly as Adam and Eve had, Carl deflected the blame, giving Daddy the dirtiest look ever conjured by a 3-year-old’s facial contortions. Wordlessly, his eyes accused his uncle of sadism, attempted murder and just plain being the meanest uncle on the ridge.
After a bit of reflection, though, Carl understood good and evil, the Fall of Man and the end of innocence. It was clear to the boy that hot sauce was brewed in the pit of hell, a concoction of the devil himself.
The fallenness of this world that Carl discovered in that drop of liquid fire has, just as Daddy feared, warped Carl’s sense what’s good and right and trustworthy.
Despite all urgings otherwise, he just will not give peas a chance.
Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at firstname.lastname@example.org.