Chapter 13:

A Jug of Milk


Plates clinked as I laid them in front of Imani and Sofía on the dining table, each plate topped with their chosen part of the chicken, and a few of the potato bites. Imani chose a leg, Sofía, a breast, and I chose a thigh. In the center, I prepared a large bowl of salad with tongs to grab as needed. Everything felt like the kind of service you’d get at a restaurant, and I was very proud, looking back at the two of them for their amazed reactions as they looked down at their plates.

“It smells amazing!” Sofía praised with her hands at ready for the fork and knife.

Imani couldn't wait to dig in, shoving the chicken leg in her mouth and taking a sizeable bite for a four-year-old, almost to a concerning degree.

"It's spicy now, so keep that in mind!"

"No need to warm me." Sofia cuts a piece and takes a bite. "It tastes pretty mild."


"I meant the spice, not the flavor. The flavor is amazing!"

"Sho good!" Imani briefly spoke as she chewed, but resumed politely eating shortly after.

"Good to hear." I took a seat beside Imani and placed my plate down.

Reluctant to take a bite, I poked at my food and hovered my hands around the thigh. My spice tolerance was in the negatives, and any attempt to bring the food near me was met with a quick halt, followed by placing the food down. Whilst Imani was fully indulged with her food, Sofia couldn't help but notice my inability to take a bite.

Sofia smirked. “Is it really that strong?”

“Well… It’s not the strongest I’ve tried, but It’s up there.”

“You haven’t even tried it.”

“I’m saying it’s the strongest I’ve tried smelling.”

“The smell is different to the actual taste. You can do it!”

“I can handle this.” I eat a potato bite.

“You have to try the chicken. It’s the best part of your cooking.”

“I’ll pat it down with a napkin.”

I reach for a napkin from the napkin holder near the center of the table.

“No, don’t do that!” Sofía snatched the napkin from my hand. “¡Estas tan agringado! You’ll ruin it!”

“I’d rather ruin it and be able to eat it than never try it at all.”

“You’d be missing out on the best part of your own cooking! Look.”

Sofía took her fork and dug into the chicken breast and to my amazement, and with great validation of my cooking skills, it sliced through with ease. A sight like that was mouth-watering and gave me second thoughts about trying my own food, but it wasn’t long till I’d be presented the chance, as she poked the piece of chicken with her fork and brought it up to my face.

“Come on, try it!” She demanded with the food closing in on my lips. “It’s only a small bite.”

“I have my own piece!”

“Yea, but you’ll be here all day just trying to bring it near your face. So let me help you.”

The piece of chicken pressed against my lips and the spice flared up my nose. Such a strong stinging smell could wake me up and have me run laps around a football field.

I tried to negotiate with Sofía, but I inadvertently opened the gateway to my mouth in the process, letting her stick the fork inside, and exposing my poor tastebuds to the surface of the sun.

At first, it wasn’t so bad, the chicken was juicy.

“This is great. Not that spicy.” I said with confidence, swallowing the chicken. "I could take another bi-"

The food hit the back of mouth, and the spice unleashed it’s wrath on my senses.

“Ooo it’s got little kick!” I exhaled deeply and tried to fight my urge to splash the cup of water in my face.

“Drink some water!”

I wasn’t sure what was on my face, but I am certain I looked like a mess. My nose started to run, my eyes were watering, my face was sweating. It was absolute chaos, and so I took turns drinking water from a glass and wiping my face with a napkin.

“Papa why are you crying?” Imani put her chicken down with concern.

“The food is powerful!”

“Is it poisoned?” Imani stiffened up with fear.

“It’s poisonous to me!”

“Spit it out!”

“Too late!” I take a deep breath and concentrate on suppressing the spice.

I reach for my cup and lift it to take another sip of water, but there was no water to be had, and it became apparent that my lifeline support had run dry. My dead was inevitable.

“Milk!” Sofía stands up and moves to the fridge.


“Yea, it helps with the spice! I see it used a lot in those hot-wing challenge videos. I’ve never tried it, but it might work.”

Sofía pulls out an entire gallon of milk and hoists it over to the table. When it lands beside me, the weight shakes the tableware into a ripple of metallic and glass plinking.

“Are you sure?” I look up to Sofía.

“It’s worth a shot.” Sofía twists off the cap and pours the milk into my glass.

“If you say so…” I take the glass and have a sip, sloshing the milk in my mouth, then swallowing.

My expectations were low. Whatever the internet has taught Sofia, can't always be trusted. For all I know, this could have led to an even worse experience, and I could imagine my grave with the words, 'Died of too much spice,' carved into it. But like all things about Sofia, this was another great discovery. The milk had calmed the heat, and my mouth felt alive again, although only for a brief moment. The heat was there, but it had weakened, so to completely save me, I had to keep drinking, and just like that, I had downed an entire glass of milk.

Exhaling with satisfaction, I placed the glass down. "That worked. I'm saved. Thank you."

"Well if you need to drink that much for just one little bite, you'll finish this gallon of milk before you eat half of your thigh." Sofia poured me another glass. "Maybe take it easy. Otherwise, you'll be drinking milk for dinner with a side of chicken."

"Sorry. I’ll try not to.”

Sofía sat back down and dinner continued as normal, with only the eyesore of a milk jug on the table to remind each of us how pathetic I am with spicy food.

“Sofía. What do you do for work?”

“Oh! This might sound a little strange, but I’m the head of marketing for this up and coming streaming service.”

“Head of marketing!” 

“It’s not as crazy as it sounds. It’s a small service with a very small team. I work remotely.”

“Still, that sounds pretty cool. What does this streaming service do?”

“We allow for people to broadcast themselves live over the internet with whatever they please. We call them streamers, and there’s a wide variety of them.”

“Right. I got no clue what you’re talking about.”

“Ever heard of podcasts? Radio talk shows? Think of that, but with stuff like gameplay or art, and people can do it solo or in a group.”


“You’re such a boomer Carmine.”

“Is that an insult?”

“I guess it means you’re old fashioned in zoomer speak.”


“How old are you?”


“Wow! You’re pretty young for a father.”

“For being a mother, you look pretty young yourself. How old are you?”

“Oh! You think I’m young?” Having been flattered, she gestured her hand as if to tell me to stop. “I’d like for you to take a guess. Just how old do you think I am, Carmine?”

“Now you’re putting me on the spot!”

That was a difficult question, and with her putting down her fork and knife to anticipate my answer, the pressure was on. She could be any age beyond adult for all I know! Well she isn’t elderly that’s for sure, and she said my age was young, so she can’t be my age or younger. Twenty-six? No that feels wrong, she looks younger, but it can’t be! It’s impossible she’s in her thirties. If I said she was, that’d be so rude. There’s no right answer, I feel horrible no matter which I choose. Twenty-seven? No. Twenty-eight? No! It can’t be twenty-six, so I’ll have to settle with twenty-seven.

“Well?” Sofía traced her finger along the rim of her glass.

In a rush I shot out my answer. “Twenty-six? No, I meant twenty-seven!”

Sofía made a buzzer noise. “Wrong! Try again.”

“Twelve!” Imani randomly answered.

Again Sofía buzzed.

“Twenty-eight?” I cautiously answered.

“Wrong again! Your punishment is to eat a piece of chicken without any milk.”

“There was a punishment? And why do I have only two tries?”

“A game is a game, you will be punished for getting it wrong. Be grateful you had two tries to begin with.”

“Fine, but what is your age anyways?”



Sofía became dramatically mopey. “Yea I know. I’m old. Going to hit thirty next year.”

“You’re not old! Twenty-nine is still young. You even look younger than me.”

“Really?” Sofía cleared her throat. “I think the heat is starting to get to me now.”

The words just slipped out without any thought, and once I realized what I was saying, it was already too late. My face has felt many burning sensations in these recent moments, but my stammering embarrassment has got to be the worst punishment of all. Even though we’ve exchanged such a special moment earlier, I still can’t help but feel shy to compliment.

“Done!” Imani proudly presented her finished plate. “Thanks for the food!”

“Good job Imani!” I reached over to pat her on the head, ignoring what just occurred.

“Can I go watch more frogs?”

“Yes. You don’t have to ask.”

Imani scurried off to the sofa to continue watching the show since the TV still had it on.

“I’m glad she likes it.” Sofía watched Imani climb up on the sofa.

I poke at the piece of chicken I’m supposed to be eating without milk. “Of course she would. It’s a cute show.”

“You think it’s cute? I didn’t expect you to say that.”

“What? I can call things cute. I do it all the time. How could I not when Imani is the cutest thing in the world?”

“I think you being scared of the no milk punishment the cutest thing in the world.”

A harmless heart attack ruptured my chest and knocked my brain out of commission the very instant I registered what was said. Either it’s this chicken or Sofia’s nonchalant flirting, whichever the case, one of them is is too spicy and is giving me heartburn.

“I’m not scared!” I stab the piece of chicken with my fork.

“Then go on. Eat it.”

“I will!” I say bringing the chicken to my mouth. “But once I’m done with this, we need to have a talk.”

Maybe it’s too sudden, but that moment on the sofa has been bugging me, and now feels like a good chance before the day is over.

“Right…” Sofía looked away while supporting her head with her arm.

Steward McOy