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Journal of No. 118

December 7th, 2009

"The Grains of Paradise" by James Street @ 01:43 pm

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Some time ago, I mentioned this short story that I couldn't find anywhere, remembered from a long ago schoolbook. More recently, an anonymous poster added that he or she also remembered the story. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I had tracked the story down to an issue of the Saturday Evening Post from the 50's. That was going to run me $20-$30. So instead I found the very textbook for sale for $0.76. I ordered it. A week passes. No book. I happen to check my credit card info, and I see my money's been refunded. I ask. Apparently, they got the book and found it in an unsale-able condition. Another setback in my lifelong quest to find this story again. But, another copy of the textbook was available from another seller for the princely sum of $2.10, and now I have it in my hands. To sum up: I googled, I bought, I conquered.

The story is not quite how I remembered it. Nor is it particularly awesome on a re-read, but it does have its moments. I wonder if I read it when I was living in Wisconsin and homesick for California and Mexican food, and that's what made it more memorable. Apart from Taco Bell and a Mexican restaurant that closed after three months, there wasn't an avocado or tortilla within twenty miles of me [the story offers glosses and pronunciation for both of those exotic words] Anyway, for everyone, all two of us, who remembered this story fondly from a schoolbook 30 years ago and can't find it, I offer a copyright-violating treat:

I do not like stories that suggest one thing and mean another and so, right off, I want you to know that the grains of paradise are the seeds of little hot peppers, very hot; and that this is a story about some fiery little peppers and some people in the village of Feliz, which is down in Mexico's state of Tabasco and nine hundred miles from nowhere.

The hotel was on a corner when I was there years ago, and across the way was a church which was surrounded by a gray wall, and the wall was shared by bougainvillea, buzzards and unmeasured time. It was mid-afternoon when I got out of the bus at the hotel. The bus was painted purple and yellow, and bore the name of Rosaura, painted in red. I am sure it was the name of the driver's sweetheart. In Feliz, everything was personalized.

Oh fuck this shit. Maybe I'll scan it later.

ETA: See scanned version here.
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Date:May 18th, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC)

Grains of Paradise

I had read this story in high school in 1972. For some reason it stuck in my mind. I have traveled to Mexico numerous times since then to scuba dive and that story was always in the back of my mind whenever we traveled to small towns and dined in the little "off the beaten path" spots. I have asked many friends if they remember reading that short story and no one remembered it so I was thrilled to see that it has obsessed someone else. Thank you for the information. Good work!

Date:December 26th, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)

Re: Grains of Paradise

I too remember this story! In fact, I named my food blog after it. www.thegrainsofparadise.blogspot.com. I can't really remember when I came across it but I was in grade school too. I'm 34 now and for some reason thought it was the coolest short story ever ( That and "The Veldt" by Ray Radbury ) Random huh?.... Aloha from Hawaii.

Journal of No. 118