Pepper by Terry Wilson


“Is Pepper home?” I asked my niece Cathy about her daughter, my grand-niece. “I have gifts!”

“She’s upstairs,” Cathy said. “Go surprise her!”

We were visiting Buffalo for eight days, and I was currently with my older sister, Margaret, who is grandma to all the kids we were visiting. We’d just been to the cemetery to place flowers on my Mom’s grave—my sister seems to know everyone in the graveyard and makes me visit them all.

“Pepper?” I yelled up the stairs. “It’s Aunt Terry!” I started up.

“Wait!” a little voice called from the second floor. “I can’t find my bra!”

Bra? I thought. She’s only nine! “OK,” I called up. “Tell me when you’re ready!”

A minute later she yelled, “Ready!” And I met her in her room.

“I just put two tee-shirts on cause I couldn’t find it,” she said. “It’s just a training bra, anyway.” She stood there smiling, her hair in blonde springs around her face, her body stocky and strong.

“Are you still nine?” I asked.

“I’ll be ten in six weeks!” she said. “Do you have those Monster High dolls for us this time?”

I looked around her room. There were dolls of all shapes and sizes on every shelf I could see. Stuffed animals on the bed too, and a chair that could only be described as a Princess Throne with a pink veil all around it. Pepper played on a hockey team though—maybe she didn’t spend much time in her Princess chair anymore.

“Your Mom says you have too many dolls already,” I said. “This time I got you all gift cards….” Her mouth turned down. “And I bought you earrings and some lip gloss too; you’ll see.”

“Yes, I AM almost a teenager,” she said, tossing her hair. “Now which of my perfumes do you want to try?”

I had to go in the hallway while she grabbed three awful smelling potions.

“Just stand there; now walk through it,” she instructed me. “I’ll show you.”

She sprayed a cloud of horrible green liquid in the air and then glided through.

“Now strut,” she said, “strut. Strike a pose.” She stopped and turned while holding her chin in her left hand and smiling. “Face the camera.”

I coughed.

“Who taught you that?” I asked.

“Three people,” she said. “Me, myself, and I.”

“Let me try the purple one,” I said.

“Ode to Paree?” she asked. She sprayed that one and I walked through it.

“Now strut,” she said. “Strike a pose.” I did as instructed.

“I like that one,” I croaked, choking on the fumes.

“We’ll have to go to Paris together,” she said. That one is also my favorite.”

“What’s next?” I asked.

“Well, you should learn this new dance,” she said. Her hips swayed back and forth so I tried it. Not that hard except if I kept it up, I would need a chiropractor.

“What’s this move called?” I asked.

“Flossing!” she said and giggled.

Seriously, if I had this girl around, I would not need antidepressants.


Terry Wilson teaches Exploring Creative Writing (English 120) which begins Aug. 22. In this class, students work on memoir, fiction, and other types of creative non-fiction, as well as poetry. Terry’s students have been published in The Santa Fe Literary Review, the Santa Fe Reporter, Pasatiempo, The SUN, and they have also won many awards in the SFCC Student Writing Competition. Terry’s class is fun, supportive, and helps students break their writing blocks! (There are still a few openings.)

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

5 thoughts on “Pepper by Terry Wilson

  1. Enjoyed this piece. It subtly triggers advice to those of us in the older generations – keep company with younger folks who are so into living as opposed to dying.

  2. As an aunt myself to 8 nieces and nephews and 13 (!) great-nieces and nephews, I can totally relate. But, as always, Terry’s take on these interactions is not only entertaining, but sweet. I always enjoy her writing!

  3. I really enjoyed the way Terry captured the essence of a young woman on the bittersweet cusp of growing up–and so deftly shown by the child’s room full of dolls, stuffed animals, and the Princess chair with its sharp counterpoint of the perfume clouds and training bra, while Terry gamely tries to keep up! Such a beautiful and poignant slice of life…

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