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The Chili Chronicles: Blood & Peppers

By Tim Steil

I swear to God the story you are about to hear is true, I would change my name if I had innocence to protect. If I could make this shit up I would be in LA with a 26-episode development deal right now.

My daughter likes chili, and with snowy days soon to come, I figured this would be a good time to make a big batch, freeze it up in little bags, and have it on hand for lunches etc. So I went down to the local Polish deli/produce center, and came back with some fresh ground pork, a few cans of beans and various tomato products, fresh poblano and jalapeno peppers, onions - everything you need for some righteous eats.

As the pork was getting nice and brown in a skillet, I got out my big stock pot and started putting in the beans, tomatoes, garlic and whatever. The garbage was a little full to begin with, so by the time it had six or seven empty cans in there it was time to swap it out for a new bag. I yanked it out, did the old mash it down, tied off the corners and stuck a new bag in thing. Unfortunately, one corner of the bag had ripped right at the top. No biggie, really, just had to be careful when I walked it out to the alley. Then I looked down, and saw a little red spot on the floor.

Goddamit, I thought to myself, some of the tomato sauce spilled out of that can. I better clean that up right away because my wife just washed this floor yesterday and she'll have my nuts if that stain is there when she gets home. So I walked over to the counter and grabbed a paper towel to wipe it up. I walked back to the garbage bag and looked down; now there were two red spots. Not only that, there is an entire trail of red spots between the counter and where I stood.

I just couldn't suss it out. I looked between the counter and where I stood and just couldn't figure how the hell the tomato sauce could have gone that far. I am literally baffled by the mechanics of it all. So whatever, I bent down to wipe it up, and realized that the paper towel in my hand was completely soaked through with my own blood - to the point that, within the 15 seconds or so, it dripped all over the garbage bag and created a puddle of blood on the floor about as round as a basketball.

At this point, I realized I was bleeding, but just couldn't figure it out how or why. I felt no cut or pain, but sure as smoke there was my big ol' hand just oozing blood everywhere . If it came any faster I would have been spurting. So I ran into the bathroom and started running my hand under water but it just kept bleeding like a stuck pig. The sink looked like it was filling with tomato soup. I put Band-Aids on the cuts, but they bled so fast the adhesive wouldn't hold. I finally gave up and ran back to the kitchen (leaving a huge trail of blood with my footprints in it) and took a roll of paper towels and wrapped them six to eight times around my hand. Then I called my wife.

You won't believe this, I told her. It looks like a frickin' crime scene around here. I explained that I must have knicked the back of my hand on one of the can tops or something. Total conversation was maybe 30 to 45 seconds. She just said to put some Neosporin on it, etc. (If I had called and told her I had just found out I had ass cancer and I was going to die before noon tomorrow, she would have said, Well, put some Neosporin on it.) I hung up the phone and looked down to see that now about eight layers of paper towels are soaked completely through in blood, and the blood has also soaked through my jeans, my long johns, onto my leg and, ultimately, onto a new leather couch.

So I went back to kitchen rinsed my hand in the sink again, dried it off as best I could, wrapped it in paper towels, and thank the Lord 20 minutes later the bleeding stopped and I was able to get some Band-Aids to stay. Total damage was just ridiculous. Pinky, ring and middle finger had little tiny cuts across them, none of which could have been more than 1/8 of an inch long. Not deep by any measure of the word, and I still couldn't even feel anything like a cut. I mopped up all the blood off the floor as best I could, scrubbed out the sink, and figured okay, well that was interesting in a not pleasant way.

But wait, there's more.

So now I figured I would go ahead and get the rest of the huge batch of chili in order. So I started chopping up the peppers. My kid likes my chili, but she isn't really a fire-eater, so I always take out the ribs and seeds of whatever peppers I add. I split them in half and scrape out the stuff into the garbage, and I swear, like that magic bullet in Dallas, one goddamn jalapeno seed completely missed my glasses, and went directly into my left eye. This of course was not fun. My eye burned and watered and, as I made loud noises and a big fist, my right hand started bleeding again.

In good time the eye suffering went away, and it was time to go pick up the kids from school. So I drove up there, and right as I got into a parking spot I had to sneeze. There is no such thing as one sneeze for me. I'm usually good for at least six big ones, the kind Calvin always thought if he held his breath for, he could actually blow his shoes off. So I sneezed, and afterwards I wiped my eyes and had to stick a finger up a nostril to rearrange some things. It was just a bit later that I realized I had never washed all the hot pepper oils off my left hand.

So I walked over into the parking lot to get the kids. Both my eyes were watering, my left nostril was leaking, and my clothes had big blood stains all over them. I went to the the spot I always stand where the kids always find me, and I heard a voice say, "Hello Mr. Steil." It was Mr. Kelly, the school principal. Then I felt a clap on my back and turned around to see the father of one of my son's friends. The man is a Chicago homicide detective. He just sort of looked me up and down, and made a sound.

It was somewhere between a chortle and a snort, but in any case I guessed it indicated that he figured I was having a bad day.

So the kids came out and all I could really muster at that point was a "Just get in the goddamned car willya!"

About halfway home something dawned on me. I had to piss.

Now, when I say I had to piss, what I really mean to say is, I had to piss at that very instant. Badly. Not tomorrow, not in a minute, but right frickin' now. I flashed back to my mom, who used to keep a coffee can in the back seat of her Buick for just such an occasion. I'm honking down Central Avenue looking for the nearest forest preserve so I can run behind a tree or something. I finally realized I would just have to man up and get my ass home, which I did. All them big puddles of melted snow I had to drive by to get there didn't help.

So I got into the driveway and went flying into the house and bathroom. I am literally jogging in place going "ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh" trying to get my zipper down with my right hand, which is still a little gimpy and started bleeding again from flexing the knuckles. So I went lefty, and when I finally got my fly open I unleashed a stream that I am surprised didn't take out the wall.

After I finished I was on my second shake when I became acutely aware of two things:

1. The oils from the peppers were still all over my left hand.

2. What was currently in my left hand.

The chili turned out pretty good, and I learned I can actually dance.

-

Tim Steil lives in Jefferson Park and had a bowl of that chili for breakfast the next morning. If you have a tale to tell about your chili, let us know.



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Posted on December 14, 2009


MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
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BOOKS - Foxconned.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Don't Let Your Pet OD.


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