Dad sucked on tic tacs ever since I was a kid. When the orange flavor came along he kept a pack especially for me in his car. He used them to refresh his breath; I used them to shove a handful in my mouth, roll them around for a few seconds and then crunch them all down, that is, if he wasn’t paying attention.
My sister Wendy liked tic tacs, too, but even at four years old she preferred to store her candy away for weeks or even months, untouched. One time our father gave us a pack each. Mine went in a day. Then it was time to take Wendy’s. But my ten year old brain knew that until the seal of her pack was cracked, I couldn’t pilfer anything; it would be too obvious. So, one Saturday afternoon, I prodded Wendy to pull out her pack of tic tacs.
“I just want one.” I say as she runs away from me with the slim clear pack clutched in her little hand. “No.” A sharp retort as she laughs, dizzy with little person power.
I try to grab the back of her cotton shirt but miss. Her red runners grip the floor easier than my leather moccasins. She runs into the bathroom and stands on the fluffy green rug, its rubber backing securely stuck to the linoleum floor. Standing in front of the vanity, she opens the tic tac pack and shakes out a little white mint. She rolls it around between her fingers and turns to face me while she carefully places the tic tac in her right nostril.
“What are you doing?” I shout. “You can’t do that. It’s dangerous!”
She laughs. I can tell she’s mocking me. Then she looks into the mirror, pushes her thick blonde hair out of the way to get a good look at her profile, her big brown eyes fixated on her nose.
Realizing the candy pills are perfect for her little nostril, she shakes out another and shoves that one in with even more confidence. Then, satisfied with its position, she holds one more tic tac in her hand, ready for entry. I look on with astonishment. Noticing I’m still there, she reaches for the door and slams it shut in one swing with more force than a skinny little kid should have. Before I can even think to get the nail scissors from Mum’s bathroom to shove in the door lock to get in, I hear her pull out the drawer. Now the door is blocked and there’s no way I can enter.
This is bad. I have to stop her. I think of all the times I reached the bathroom first as we ran through the house with Wendy close behind me. If I was the one barricaded in that bathroom, she’d stand on the other side and jam the scissors in the lock anyway, slamming the door against the open drawer, just for effect. My brain bulb flickers and I run down the hallway to Mum’s bathroom.
I fling open the only drawer in her vanity and rifle through the various pins, Q-tips, emery boards and lipsticks in several shades of pink. I pick up a plastic container shaped like a long tube and open it up. Oh yeah, it’s to store those white things. What are they called? I can’t remember right now. I can’t think straight. There should be at least one pair in here.
Finally, under a Kleenex pack I find what I’m looking for. Three pairs of nail scissors. I choose the pair with the straightest point.
I rush back and plunge the tiny scissors into the lock while yelling “Get out of there right now! Let me in!” I plaster my face in the two inch gap I have now secured between the door and drawer. Silence on the other side of the door, but I can still feel her presence. I cram my mouth into the door opening, prepared to bellow as loud as I can. “I’m telling, you’re going to be in trouble!” Guilt comes over me, and I now know the inevitable next step has come.
I run downstairs. “Mummy, Wendy shoved tic tacs up her nose and locked herself in the bathroom.” Mum stands in front of the kitchen sink drying a bowl while I continue. “I told her not to do it.”
She looks at me a moment, then shakes her head. Tea towel still in hand, she walks up the stairs with me close behind. “She’s got the drawer out, so I can’t get in.”
When she reaches the bathroom, she does a brisk three-tap knock. “Wendy, open the door. Right now.” I hear the drawer close. The door opens.
Wendy’s face is scrunched up and red. “I can’t get them out” she says in a nasally, panicky voice, one nostril closed tight. What if they don’t come out? We’ll have to call Dad to come help. He’ll bring his doctor’s bag and have to take the tic tacs out with those really long skinny tongs. Or maybe we’ll have to go to the emergency. I’d know what to do if Wendy fell, but I don’t know anything about tic tacs up noses.
Mum puts her arm around her. “Pretend to blow your nose.” Wendy lets out a little snort and one tic tac flies out onto the floor. She touches her nose gently on both sides. “There’s more.” She cries.
“How many more?” Mum asks as she looks over at me, astonished.
“I saw her shove three up there,” I rat.
She sighs. “Well, keep blowing.”
Wendy gives two short snorts and another tic tac sails into the Kleenex that Mum has now taken out of the sleeve of her sweater. Then the third one slips out.
Wendy’s face is still red as she sucks in her lower lip while taking two big gulps of air. She stands there, looking at the Kleenex. Mum takes the tic tac pack and puts them in her pocket.
“I told her that was going to happen.”
“All right. It’s okay now.” Mum says rubbing Wendy’s back as she leads her out of the bathroom. I stand there watching my sister sit on her bed, still looking at the Kleenex in her hand.
“Is she alright?” I ask Mum.
“She’s fine.” Mum says, leaving for the kitchen once more, tea towel at the ready once again. Over she shoulder she says, “why on earth did she do that?”
“I told her it was wrong.”
I know Wendy will never shove a tic tac up her nose again. I also know that I’ll wait until later to get my hands on that little pack, almost full minus three tic tacs, when Mum gives them back. Then I’ll sneak in and take them from her stash.
At least I will eat them.