“It’s not ‘kick you in the face’ spicy”, she says before turning towards me. “What does that even mean?” She adds. Still, I can’t take my eyes off of the dollar signs on that big red sign. It reads “$$Hot Pepper-Eating Contest! $$” The man calls out again, “These peppers are Kick-You-in-the-Face Spicy! Can you handle the flames??!” Before I can stop myself, I find that my feet are moving on their own. One goes in front of the other until I hear that same familiar voice again but much closer. “Hey kid! Hoping to make some extra cash?” I hesitate but then nod and sit down at my end of the table. He seems to laugh and shake his head as if he feels sorry for me. My opponent is seated at the other end of the plastic white table.

A drop of sweat rolls down his bald head and along the side of his broad face. His frame is so wide that the chair seems to have vanished behind him. He must be at least 6’8”. I spot a few bits of pepper between his clenched teeth when his lips part to grimace at me. The announcer returns with two peppers. “The rules are as follows: You and your opponent will each take your own pepper and eat it. The refusal to chew will result in a loss. You each have been given a glass of milk which you are not to drink unless you wish to forfeit, which will result in a loss. The peppers will get progressively spicier from one round to the next until one of you fails. Place your bets!”

The crowd murmurs amongst themselves as the large man slams a fistful of cash on the table. “Oh and I almost forgot to tell the poor kid!” The audience chuckles before the announcer continues. “When you lose, your opponent may choose to either kick or punch you in the face. Good luck!”