The Great Chili Cookoff of 1998

Teresa sang softly to herself as she dumped and stirred, dumped and stirred. Today was going to be the greatest day of her life: the day she won The Great Chili Cookoff. This was her year. She could practically taste it–or was that some chili powder that she’d inhaled trickling down the back of her throat? Never mind.

It was nearly four o’clock in the morning. So far, Teresa had managed to keep quiet enough in the kitchen that she remained undisturbed.

And then she dropped the lid to her pressure cooker.

It hit the floor with a solid bang, and then rolled around on its edge a few times, adding to the din. She cringed, and turned to look down the hall. Sure enough, she saw a thin sliver of light pop on beneath the master bedroom door. About three seconds after that, the baby let out a wail. Teresa sighed.

She scooped up the lid and set it gently on the dining room table on her way to the baby’s room. Halfway there, she remembered that she’d left the stove on, and crisp black bits would not win her the title at The Great Chili Cookoff. The baby let out a more piercing wail, and Teresa cringed anew at the sound of the master bedroom door creaking open. Don was not going to be happy.

She tried to fix it, lightheartedly smiling and waving him back into the bedroom. “I got him, honey, sorry for waking you up. Go finish sleeping. Love you!”

Don gave her the stinkeye and kept coming. “I’ll handle the baby, Terry, you go finish that damn chili that you’ve been obsessing over for the past six years. Jesus Christ, if I never eat another bowl of chili, I could die a happy man.” He continued mumbling to himself about chili this and chili that as he opened the door to the baby’s room and then closed it behind him.

Teresa’s face fell, but she returned to the kitchen and turned the stove back on. “This is my year, I just know it. That’ll show you, Don. That’ll show everyone!”

A quick stir moved the black burnt bits from the bottom of the pan to the top, and Teresa sank to the floor in tears.

This year wasn’t going to be her year, after all.

Don came out of the baby’s room and knelt next to his wife, tenderly wrapping his arms around her. “Don’t worry, hon, there’s always next year. You’ll win it yet. I know you will.”

In his room, the baby began his wail anew.

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