I live in the woods.
Most of the time, this is magical. But there are drawbacks, most of them involving critters. For someone who grew up in a suburb and could afford to be a bleeding heart, all creatures great and small, salad-not-slaughter, tree-humping hippie wannabe, it was an adjustment meeting denizens of nature who have little or no respect for personal boundaries.
Each winter I spend a couple weeks visiting family. During my absence, all creatures great and small treat my cabin as their 24/7 party central.
Last year it was mice. At the time I had two beloved pet rats, and when I finally realized that I had to, in the words of Emperor Palpatine, “Do what must be done,” the conflation of my pets and the very cute, very poopy and probably diseased mice that lived -- and eventually died -- in my closet did some damage to my psyche.
This year I took precautions and returned from my winter break delighted to find zero mouse poop, no chewed clothes, and no evidence of any life beyond an annoying number of little flying bugs, which Professor Anne chomped out of the air video-game style. I kept hoping to see point values appear then fade above her snout.
On my second day back, I was rummaging through my pantry cupboard for some vinegar when I saw a maggot. I squished it. Squishing bugs used to gross me out, until I moved to the south and met cockroaches and quickly learned I must show no mercy, for I would be shown none.
Went back to rummaging. Stopped when I saw another maggot.
So that’s where the flying bugs were coming from.
Long story short, there was more than one maggot in the cupboard. Somewhere between “several” and “many,” if I had to throw a dart. I emptied the entire cupboard and drenched the shelves in Lysol. It pains me to waste, and I stood with an open, nearly-full box of cornstarch in my hand, one foot on the trash pedal, and said, “But I don’t actually see any maggots in this cornstarch…Maybe it’s okay.” Then I decided “maybe maggots didn’t throw a rave in my box of cornstarch” was a hell of a gamble to lose.
I threw the cornstarch away. And the sugar. Not the paprika. I couldn’t throw away the paprika, even though the lid was open on the pour setting.
I Lysoled maggots off my vinegar bottles. Off the box of onion soup mix. I was calm about it. The maggots were disgusting, as maggots are wont to be, but I bore them no ill will.
Until I opened my box of tea. There were four in there, squirming around on my tea bags like they were test driving mattresses at Bedz-z-z Express.
You know the moment in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, during the Battle of Hogwarts, when Mrs. Weasley sees Bellatrix Lestrange try to kill Ginny and screams “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” and starts dueling the shit out of Bellatrix?
If you’re a maggot, go ahead and crawl in my cornstarch. Slither on my vinegar bottles. Dangle from the cupboard ceiling.
But do not get on my tea.
The tea bags did not survive the battle that ensued. But neither did any of the maggots.
I impaled the maggots on tiny toothpick pikes, anchored in Lysol-sodden tea bags, to serve as a warning to future maggots.
Okay, maybe not.
But I did issue a stern verbal warning to potential descendants of these Original Sinners.
And really it’s okay, because now with my new tea steeping tumbler with attached infuser, tea bags are so last week.
It’s all loose leaf from here.
Addendum: The internet informs me that the maggots may have been the larvae of pantry moths, which ride home with you from the grocery store. Apparently harmless and easily deterred by open bowls of vinegar.