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Smelling Salts - a Pepper Hot Sauce Story

Smelling Salts by Christopher Garlington

It's the touch football that brings me back every year. That and the smoked turkey, roasted and simmered in the over for hours then finished on the stove in a haze of Marlboro and Camel Lights.

The spread every year is exactly the same: like a bad trailer park version of a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving special. There's the turkey; the canned cranberry sauce still wiggling in the shape of a can, mashed potatos as bland as wallpaper paste, cheap rolls, canned green beans, canned yams with marshmallows and a gelatinous globbish thing called Waldorf salad.

But the draw, the thing that keeps the wntire family and friends and hangers on coming back is the touch football. Touch is an understatement.

In '96 I hit my brother in the shoulder, spun him into my mom's buick and broke his collar bone. It slowed him down a little but he still managed to take me down in the third, preventing a winning touchdown and giving me a concussion on the driveway. In double 0, my wife stiff-armed Mary Sikes, our neighbor of the green gelatinous glob, and broke her nose.

This year I'm hunched behind my sister-in-law waiting for the snap. The air is clean, all the trailers were washed last week so they gleam in the crisp November sun. I can smell the Marlboro turkey on the stove. My nephew is already off the field with a jammed index finger and there's been a shoulder thumping match between distant cousins. Life is good. I yell hut and there's the snatch.

My fat brother J.J. roars through the line, slamming a brave teen niece to the ground and fixing his wild pig eyes on me. I see my cousin Little David break out into the open and I lob a perfect spiral into his deft hands. Touchdown imminent. But out of nowhere my little sister clothelines the guy and takes him down. He hits his head on the garden gnome and we all hear the sickening crack of skull on rock.

"He won't wake up Jimmy! What are we gonna do? He won't wake up!"

"Oh my god! Call 911!"

I check his eyes, they're rolled back tight. He's breathing ok but he's twitching and looks kind of green. This man needs a jumpstart. I know what to do. I run back to my jeep, grab my bottle of 357 Mad Dog (it makes Thanksgiving taste right).

"Good Lord, Jimmy is that safe?"

"It's ok," I say. "I'm a professional."

I carefully remove the top and bend down by little David. I hold the bottle under his nose. For a second nothign happens, then he snorts, breathes deep and turns crimson. He leaps to his feet in a fighting stance, mucus shoots out his nose and his eyes squeeze shut, tears running down his face. We all step back wondering what he's going to do when he grins, grabs the ball, knocks us all out of the way and scores the winning point.

Smelling Salts smellingsalts