Toothpicks and Scabs: A Very Gross Story

When I was tagged for a Leibster Award, I had to answer a question about the grossest thing I do. Gabe and I strained our brains but couldn’t come up with anything that was truly awful. Slightly icky, maybe, but not downright EEYYEEEWMonths later, Noelle inadvertently helped me with that. She’d come over for some occasion and she was super early so I put her to work vacuuming. Noelle was serious about the job; she had the cushions off the couch and everything. While she worked, she kept making this weird noise. Finally she flat-out asked, “Why are there so many toothpicks in your living room?”
Oh. There is my grossest thing ever.
Ok, so, it’s like this – remember how one of our goals this year was to stop eating in front of the tv and eat at the table like civilized humans, instead? Before that happened, we ate on the couch. Like heathens. And I was laaaazy. See, I have these jacked-up teeth that poke out in all directions and I get food stuck in them all the time. Well, I’d be sitting on the couch watching tv and I’d need a toothpick to get the dinner out of my fangs. I’d go get one and then have to remember to get up and throw it away and it just got to the point where it was easier not to throw it away because I was very busy watching tv. My solution was to cram the toothpick – used and full of giant pieces of tooth food – into the cushions, usually under a pillow along the edging of a seat cushion. The great thing about this was the next time I needed a toothpick, I just dug around a bit in the cushion next to me and I’d come up with 3 and didn’t have to get up to get a new one. Awesome, right? Gabe thought this practice was vile and yet he did nothing about it because we were too busy watching the tv for anyone to care that I was digging 4-time used toothpicks from the couch to stick in my mouth. NICE!
Oh, wait, it gets better. So the cats think toothpicks are mortal enemies and they’d fish them out at night and kill them, leaving their broken corpses in hiding spaces because that is what you do with dead bodies. The cats chewed on the toothpicks that had been used to excavate morsels from my mouth on numerous occasions and that’s how you know that we are a classy family.
I told Noelle all of this while she was holding out this small, beaten-up bouquet of toothpicks. She passed out and died right there. No, actually, she shrieked, “WHY? WHY??? THAT’S SO GROSS!” Little B was there, too, and was equally horrified though not as shrieky about it but perhaps also a little less forgiving.  I will never live this down. Ever. To be fair, though, I probably don’t deserve to. I mean, that is really gross.

As you may or may not know, Noelle and I recently had a Remembering Party; she came over to drink wine and discuss our white trash childhood. One topic was the gross things we have done. The toothpicks were first on the list, of course, and I was happy to tell her that the toothpick regime had ceased because we don’t eat on the couch anymore. We eat at the table and the toothpicks are right there and the trashcan is right there and I’ve become quite civilized. She was relieved and then it was her turn to share her grossest (former) habit.

When we were around 3, 4, and 8, Mom would put Noelle, Chris and me in the bathtub all together. I don’t think it was for water conservation so much as getting three of the four kids out of her hair for an hour. Anyway, you know what dirty little kids look like in the summer and how they’re covered in scabs. Well, Noelle loved those scabs. She’d sit patiently in the warm bath water, waiting for the edges of her scabs to turn that white color because they’ve detached from the skin. Then she’d slowly, patiently peel them off even if it made her bleed a bit. This only works with scabs that are a week, or so, old by the way. Anyhow, she’d remove a little dried-blood treasure and would pop it into her mouth, chewing on it like gum only with her front teeth. Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw.

This is Noelle, around 3 years old, the scab-eating age. She is holding Fluffy and a little basket because I posed her like that. In front of curtains. I obviously paid too much attention to those Nolan Mills people who took my school picture every year.

This is Noelle, around 3 years old, the scab-eating age. She is holding Fluffy and a little basket because I posed her like that. In front of curtains. I obviously paid too much attention to those Nolan Mills people who took my school picture every year.

Chris and I were usually too busy being horrible to each other to really notice Noelle’s proclivity, though we knew she was doing it. We just had bigger things to worry about…like drowning each other or making each other eat soap or getting bubbles up each others  noses. You know, important stuff.

This is Chris. He's probably 4 in this picture. He's 13 months older than Noelle. Note how I also posed him in front of the curtains. Mom gave me a Kodak Instamatic and this is how I wasted my film.

This is Chris. He’s probably 4 in this picture. He’s 13 months older than Noelle. Note how I also posed him in front of the curtains. Mom gave me a Kodak Instamatic and this is how I wasted my film.

Here’s a fun aside: Once bathtime was over, as announced by a yelling mom from the other side of the bathroom door — and really? What moron parent lets three little kids play unsupervised in the tub? (I asked Mom that very question on Easter. Apparently, she always left the door open but we got out of the tub to shut and lock it; at first she’d pick the lock but she eventually just gave up and let us gamble with our lives because she had a baby to care for or some such nonsense) Actually, you know what? I don’t think our mom understood Childhood Physics. There’s some law that states that even if there are only 3 inches of water in the bottom of the bathtub, it’s going to wind up on the floor. All of it. It seems like it would have been a lot more work to clean up all that water every few days than to watch the little ones bathe for half an hour. But who knows. I’m not a parent so I don’t have to deal with these crazy decisions. — Anyway, once the bath was done, we’d drain the tub and soap up our backsides. I don’t mean just our butts, I mean our entire backsides, from shoulder blade to kneepit. Then we’d lay ourselves down, one at a time, against the sloping back of the tub and let our feet go and we’d zip down the length of the tub all the way to the faucet. I know we banged ourselves up during this activity; I remember hitting my tailbone a few times on the way down the backrest and I know Chris and Noelle both whacked into the faucet with their heads. We must have been freakishly small kids, short and skinny, if the tub held all three of us and allowed us that much length to get up a good speed from back to front without bowling into each other. And how we survived without blood is beyond me, though a little blood on Noelle would have made her happy because it would have promised a future scab.
Oh, right. The scabs. So when she was done chewing her scab, she’d put it in the corner of the tub where the two walls meet. After a while, there’d be a pile of chewed-on scabs turning all tub-slimy. They’d be a weird gray color and once they were noticeable enough, she hid them behind the bottle of Suave strawberry shampoo (oh, geez, do you remember that stuff? It smelled like unicorn dreams. It doesn’t smell like that anymore but back then? It could have been the blood of Strawberry Shortcake (the doll, not the dessert)) and I think this goes to show that our mother was not the most diligent when it came to housekeeping. Or she was afraid of cleaning the bathroom because who wants to run into a mound of chewed-on tub-slimed scabs?
I can only assume Noelle learned her trick from the neighborhood squirrels because this stash became her winter cache. There was a definite dearth of scabbiness in the months of November through March but that was no problem for my little sister! She could just rummage through her crusty pyramid, pull out one that looked chewy yet crispy, and pop it right into her mouth; she would chew happily all winter long while Chris and I sank boats and made washcloth monsters and tried to kill each other.

It’s a shame she didn’t use those same skills in a fiscal manner because that girl would have been rich by now. Come to think of it, if I’d have been stashing dollar bills like toothpicks, we’d be able to afford the internet in our house.
Dammit, Noelle! We did it all wrong!

Post Script: Dear Noelle, Happy Birthday today! I’m sending you a box of used toothpicks and I’ve asked all the children in the neighborhood to donate their old scabs. I’ve wrapped each one like a stick of gum and put them in a pack. I think you’ll like this gift. Don’t worry, it will come with wine. Lots and lots of wine. Because I love you.

Yes, Noelle, I used a picture of a cake YOU made for Little B as your Happy Birthday image. Because I'm lazy. But I still love you. Lazily.

Yes, Noelle, I used a picture of a cake YOU made for Little B as your Happy Birthday image. Because I’m lazy. But I still love you. Lazily.


Filed under For my short story collection, My Dearly Beloveds, My journey to writerhood, White trash childhood

8 responses to “Toothpicks and Scabs: A Very Gross Story

  1. I love that this all boiled down to a birthday post!! hahaha Your family is awesome!! I was cracking up through the whole thing that I don’t even know where to begin?! The bouquet of toothpicks, the pyramid of scabs, you guys locking your mom out of the bathroom?! So much WTF in one blog post!! I loved every bit of it!

    • Oh, our childhood was one, long, unending string of WTF. The part of this post that continues to make me spit tea from my nose is visualizing Chris and Noelle smacking into the faucet with their heads. It was so funny! And they’d cry but they’d just keep going, sliding all soaped up and naked down the tub!
      I honestly don’t know why any of us are still alive.

  2. bwah! bwaahahahahaha! This is SO DISTURBING! And you were right. I loved every last bit of this post! I almost gagged when you started talking about how she would stash her scabs in the corner of the tub — I knew exactly where that was headed…

    I’m glad you were able to stick to your resolution of eating at the table. I’m sure that someday, your feet will thank you when you’re not stepping on remnants of overly used toothpick carcasses. Cats are smarter than we give them credit for sometimes. Usually they leave the “dead things/presents” in your shoes.

    My littlest minion eats her boogers. She says that she likes them because they taste salty.
    And The Manchild chews on his fingernails after cutting them. I’m pretty sure I caught him chewing on a cut toenail once after a shower too.

    • Boogers are a common food source for the under-10 set, for bachelors, and for starving people. And probably demented people, too. Bedot used to have a Booger Bank, similar to Noelle’s scab collection. I’ll have to write that story up later.
      And the eating of the nail bits isn’t all that odd…and then I read the toenail thing and I died. I threw up, shivered all over my body, passed out, then died. Because I hate feet. I hate them so much. Well, not little kid feet. And not nice, shapely feet (I saw a German woman once who was wearing sandals because it was summertime and she had beautiful feet. If everyone had feet like that, feet would not be gross. However, most people have tormented, twisty/nubby toed little lumps of grotesqueness at the ends of their legs. Barbie doesn’t, obviously, but most other people do and …ugh) Toenails. OMG, ACK! ACK! Ugh. I have…excuse me…must go…ugh

  3. normalfornorfolkblog

    Seriously, this is truly disgusting. And i’m not easily disgusted. My disgust is generally reserved for people who fart in public. It makes my brothers regular trick of dumping a turd in the tub just as I was about to step in quite lame……also, I believe most men have a boggie (booger) bank on the underside of the drivers seat of their car. And the German woman with the nice feet? I bet you couldn’t say the same about her lady garden….or her armpits……

    • I KNOW! Isn’t it ghastly? And yet, I still laugh evilly every time I read this.
      Noelle’s ex-husband used to collect his boogers on the underside of the driver’s seat in the car, too!! She haaated that. HATED! I feel sorry for the people who have to detail those cars. Who wants to come across that??

      I was too young to think about the German lady’s pubic or underarmpit hair at the time and now…I’m glad I was innocent because…Ack.

  4. Tyler J. Yoder

    Okay, I retract my comment about wanting to crawl into your skin and be you, because this post made me vomit all of my organs onto the rug like some sort of frog. I’m putting off re-ingesting them because that’s gross, so I’m going to let them sit there and attract lint and carpet beetles and things.This is only barely hyperbole.

    I still think you’re nifty, even if you are sometimes hilariously gross.

    • Heh heh heh. You, too, could be this gross if you just give it a little effort.
      Oh, I love how this story gives everyone squeebie weebies. It makes me laugh with evil glee.
      And also, I need carpet beetles. I have none of those. Probably because they died of used toothpick poisoning.

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