Hey, who left this gum here?

When an eight year old finds a mysterious gum ball (GBOUKO – “gum ball of unknown origin”) on his dresser, he doesn’t ask questions. He looks around quickly for evidence of foul play, and chews it. Blue was my favorite “flavor,” but given the banality of that particular Sunday afternoon, even a white GBOUKO got me excited.

When animals find something they suspect is edible, most examine and smell the object before ingesting it. There’s a series of skills and internal alarms built into their DNA to guide them in “food or not food” dilemmas. Sometimes they’ll even back away from actual food simply because they’re not completely sure it’s legit. It’s better to go hungry than die.

The eight year old boy is a different species. Its survival instincts have been out-witted by the cunning desire for candy.

No more than two seconds elapsed between me seeing the GBOUKO and putting the GBOUKO in my mouth. I threw it in like the first handful of popcorn from a fresh batch – no doubts, and not a care in the world. I first noticed its rough texture, then the acidic taste of its coating. I’d never seen this kind of gum in the house before – my parents didn’t particularly enjoy gum, and it didn’t really taste like gum – but that was no reason to be suspicious. Who was I to doubt a gift  from the magic candy fairy who must have broken into our house for the sole reason of placing one solitary GBOUKO on my dresser?

I did what boys are supposed to do: I chewed it. When my teeth punctured the GBOUKO, I was expecting a light crunch followed by a flow of sweet minty juice. Instead, this particular GBOUKO crumbled into a fine dust and instantly absorbed all the moisture in my mouth. I began to panic, and when the dust cloud drifted from my palette into my sinusus, I realized I’d bitten into a mothball.

An unstable person might proclaim, “Now the ski socks I store in my cheeks are protected from their natural predators!” but even at eight, I understood something horrible had happened.

I didn’t spit the mothball out. The night before, I’d just watched a movie in which doctors decided to leave a bullet lodged in a man’s brain because removing it would be too dangerous. I thought a similar situation was possible with chewing a mothball. I was panicked, and eight years old and not ready to watch movies like that, apparently.

With a mouthful of broken dusty mothball, I ran into my parent’s room where I found my mother reading a book. I opened my mouth, and a small puff of what probably looked like smoke, exited, along with the garbled words, “I think I ate a mothball.” “Was it on your dresser?” “Yes,” I said, exhaling a little more smoke. “Ok, go to the bathroom and spit it out,  I’ll call poison control.” She appeared calm. But considering the order of things that are likely poisonous is 1. Snakes 2. Mothballs 3. Dumpster cheese, I’m sure she was freaking out.

I could hear her on the phone. She had to repeat “mothball” multiple times. Then she said, “I don’t know,” followed a little later with “No, I don’t think so.” I’m assuming the other side of the conversation went, “A what?” “Wait, what? Is he of average mental capacity for his age?” “Well, did he swallow it?”

She hung up. “They said to just wash your mouth out and you should be fine.” I washed my mouth and blew my nose incessantly for hours. It was three days before the smell left my sinuses. To this day, if I sniff really hard, I can almost smell my grandpa’s wool checkered blazer.



23 thoughts on “Hey, who left this gum here?

  • Our one-plus yo found some mothbablls on a closet floor early in the season at our summer place, and ate an indeterminate amount. We called the hospital, and they had us give her syrup of ipecac. That stuff is amazing: they tell you it will take effect in 15 minutes, and precisely at the 15-min mark she upchucked — with no warning or preliminary discomfort. BTW, our daughter is now almost 29 and pregnant with our first grandchild….Plus, when I was young (4? 5?) and sharing a room with my little sister (3 years younger), I got ahold of a bottle of children’s aspirin. My little-kid logic said that if taking this stuff when you felt sick made you feel better, then taking it when you felt fine should make you feel even finer, right? So I chewed a bunch of the stuff like candy. When my mom found the much-emptier bottle, she assumed my little sister had eaten the aspirin. The doctor told her to make some soapy water and get it down her throat. My sister, bent over my mom’s knee, threw up as intended, but provided no evidence of the aspirin (of course). I can still remember how distressed my mom was as she continued to do as instructed to my sister but seemingly accomplished nothing but torturing her. Very distressing for me and my three older siblings who were standing around watching during all this. But did I step forward, admit what I had done, and relieve my sister’s torture and my mom’s distress? No, of course not! I might have been a little kid, but I wasn’t stupid: I could see that what had been visited on my sister would next be visited on me — and I obviously didn’t want that! So, the apsirin stayed in my stomach, and I came to no noticeable harm from it. Many years later, when we were all adults, I confessed my crime and apologized to my sister. She forgave me, but with some asperity…

  • Wait…your mother was reading a book…alone…in her own bedroom. WTF. How can I get in on this?

    • OhmyGod, Ashley, that was the BEST takeaway from a blog post ever!

  • Great post!

    Once when I was babysitting my then 2 1/2 yo nephew at my dad's house, I heard him padding down hall saying "Pawpaw medicine yucky!" over and over again. His grandfather was on quite a few different meds at the time, and I really freaked out when the child came into view appearing to foam at the mouth.I was thinking, good lord this child is going to die on my watch. When I finally got close enough to smell him though, I realized what he had was a mouth full of curiously strong mints ™. Apparently he decided to chow down on an entire tin of Altoids (I just had him spit them out). Scared the crap out of me, but his breath was fresh…

  • Loved the comments as much as the post. Jason, you've got A badass fan base!

  • Ok, eerily similar story to my friend Ben's. Except it was his little brother's freshly dislodged baby tooth masquerading as a small piece of popcorn. Oh, and Ben was 19 at the time.

    His mother called the dr to find out if they needed to worry about an ingested baby tooth then concocted a tooth fairy related lie for the small boy.

    Two weeks later Ben was diagnosed with Aspergers.

  • Bet your mom was doing the quite panic thing. I do it all the time – no panic showing on the outside while calmy saying "please put Grandma's mugger stun gun down, sweetheart", but in my head…

  • When my mom was pregnant with my brother(I was 2 at the time), she was taking a nap on the couch and smelled something floral and sweet which woke her up. She looked at me and realized that I had smeared myself with her deodorant. Apparently, it was around my face because she said she called poison control worried that I'd eaten it(although, other than the smear around my face, there was no evidence that I'd done such a thing). She said I just wanted to smell good, a compulsion that exists to this day.

    Also, my step-daughter shoved cheese and stickers up her nose when she was about 4. As panicked as my husband and step-daughter were, I still find it hilarious(she's 19 now).

  • Was it on your dresser? Awesome.

  • Rebecca (different f says:

    Snorting laughter till my stomach hurt, then delayed reaction laughing that looks so maniacal because its removed from both the time and place of its source. In other words, that was a really good one.

    *still smiling*

  • i feel like your mom set you up on that one… who leaves a single mothball hanging out on top of a dresser? don't those things work better next to the clothes? possibly explains the calmness.

    • i was thinking that was odd as well ha ha. I can only imagine how disguisting that was. It was pretty funny to picture it!

  • Not 2 months ago I brushed my teeth with Cortaid thinking it was my travel size toothpaste. Yum.

    And as a kid I repeatedly ate Crisco because how could something that LOOKS like frosting, not taste like frosting. I blame my sugar-nazi hippy parents for that one,

    • I took a bite out of a bar of Irish Spring soap for the same reason. How can something that looks that good not taste good? Ridiculous!

  • I shoved packing peanuts into my sinuses when I was 3. I wonder what I thought those were…

  • When I was two and a half, we moved across the country, and as often happens in a move, items wound up in random–and wrong–places.

    I was in the living room, and came across a container of the most amazing blue jelly. It was a rich color, and I had to try it–sure the the taste would be as delightful as the hue.

    Nope. It was Vicks.

    • Sort of like kids and baking chocolate…while edible, far from tasty.

  • OH.MY.GOD. This totally killed me. I actually pictured a little *poof* of smoke coming out of your lips as you bit in to the moth ball. So gross.

    And I have to say I am betting it'll be hard to not post daily. I just started a blog and the one day I didn't do a post, I felt weird. I think it'll be a while before you break the cycle. And I have to say I'm happy about that.

    • Ha… I pictured the poof as well. ;)

  • I hope you are choosing your GBOUKO's a little more carefully these days. Eww

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