When coming up with a new character's backstory--the stuff that I need to know about a person that might never appear on the page, but that I need to know in order to live inside their head while I'm writing--I ask myself all sorts of questions. Like: Where did they go to school? Were they a jock? An outcast? An introvert with a few close friends? What was their first kiss like? Their most recent one? What pets have they had? What pets do they wish they could have? What is their weirdest guilty pleasure?
As of this week, I have a new one: What is the grossest thing they ever ate, and what were the circumstances?
Me? Both of my grossest moments involve mold. One a moldy hot dog that I ate half of (at the cafeteria serving the backstretch of Suffolk Downs race track, whilst waiting for the track vet to look at a horse I wanted to buy), and one a Lean Pocket with a green-and-purple interior that I again half ate before realizing it wasn't the one I had brought that day, but rather one I had forgotten in the barn fridge a month earlier.
Gack. But then again, from such things is penicillin made.
As you might guess, this question arises from life with a terrifyingly mobile nine month old, during Autumn in New England. We're doing better about playing with leaves rather than eating them, but all bets are off when it comes to the sandbox at the playground. (Sand. Nom!) And then there are the unexpected moments of abject parental gross-out.
To set the scene the other day:
Me: *spins ring things on floor, much to the delight of Wallaby and his kitten, Bunker The Terrible* Whee! Look at them go! That one went in your bedroom.
Wallaby: Squee! *waddle-crawl-walks after it*
Me: *takes two minutes to putter in kitchen whilst listening to normal, non-dramatic noises from his room*
Wallaby: Squee! *comes back out of his room*
Me: *sees blood running down his chin and on his collar* Aaaahhhh! *notes that baby isn't crying* ????? *investigates situation, cleans off kid, finds no obvious wounds, but something nasty on the hallway floor …*
Arizona: *comes upstairs* Hey you two. What's up?
Me: You know that tick that Lucy wouldn't let us pull off her the other day?
Arizona: It disappeared, right? We figured the tick stuff had killed it and it dropped off.
Me: Found it!