Aunt Julie and I had spent at least 20 minutes daring each other to do stupid things when we decided shoving things up our noses was not only cool, but funny. Julie was six years older than me, so she picked things that were relatively easy, like Q-tips and pencils. Not to be outdone, I went a step too far.
It has been a decade since I thought about that day, but on a recent trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, I stopped in a candy store, which carries many of the old candy that was readily available during my childhood.
As soon as I saw the package of Tart ‘n’ Tinys, I smiled. I did a lot of dumb things as a kid, including eating Meow Mix on a dare, but on that day I thought I might have actually done something so stupid I was going to die.
“I bet I could shove these up the back of my nose and pull them back out,” I said. I was nine years old. It was absolutely stupid, but I was determined to win this idiotic contest.
“They’re too small,” Julie said. “They won’t stay up and will fall back out.”
“Not if I shove ’em up far enough,” I said.
I grabbed one yellow and one green Tart ‘n’ Tiny and stuck one in each nostril. Julie was right. They slid back out and were now covered in snot. I caught them with my hand and shoved them farther up my nose.
“See?” I said. “No problem.”
I wiped the excess snot across the front of my shirt. Julie and I laughed.
“Okay, you win,” she said. “Now take them out.”
I reached my forefinger up my left nostril to retrieve the candy and flick it out of my nose. It was stuck. My forefinger turned the candy around, but it did not come out. I jammed my pinkie finger up my nose. That only made the situation worse.
Now, not only could I not reach the candy, I could no longer pull it out of my nostril. My young brain decided repeating the process in my other nostril would achieve different results.
I panicked slightly. The candy was starting to burn. Julie refused to stick her finger up my nose and help me. She did have a look before declaring she couldn’t see the candy and then concluding we were screwed.
We were sure our antics would result in being hollered at and maybe even spanked. We were definitely going to be grounded. I could hear my mother’s voice saying, “you’re not funny,” and “what’s wrong with you? You should know better.” Yeah, we should, but you left two stupid, bored kids alone.
If I couldn’t get the Tart ‘n’ Tinys out of my nose, Julie would get grounded simply for being older. I had already decided a spanking was worth it even though my nose was burning. I had won our stupid competition.
“There’s no way to get it out now,” I said. “Do you have a stick or something to grab it?”
“Use your drum sticks.”
“They’re too big.”
Suddenly, I was envisioning drumsticks hanging out of my nose. I laughed again. I felt the candy move, by not enough to fall out of my nose. They partially blocked my nostril making it difficult to breathe.
“Shit,” I said. Not being able to breathe shifted me into full panic mode.
“What are we going to do?” Julie said.
“I don’t know.”
We looked around the room. There was nothing small enough to shove up my nose and grab the candy with. I was starting to think I was going to die. Either I wouldn’t be able to breathe or the sugar would melt into my snot and, somehow, get into my brain and kill me.
“Try this,” Julie said.
She handed me a tissue. Normally, I plug one nostril and blow, then repeat with the other nostril. I was afraid of crushing the candy into powder, snorting it, and then getting high like you did on cocaine. I would have to blow with both nostrils open.
I put the tissue up to my face and took the deepest breath of my life through my mouth. I blew as hard as I could out of my nose. The Tart ‘n’ Tinys left two small holes in the tissue. We heard them hit the wall across the room.
Julie and I giggled with glee. We looked for the candy on the floor. We couldn’t find them. We didn’t really care. I could breathe. I wasn’t going to die. No one was getting grounded today.
“What are you two doing up there?” my grandmother yelled from downstairs. We had been so distracted, we didn’t hear her come home.
“Nothing,” we said in unison.
“Well, come down here and help put the groceries away,” my grandmother said.
Julie and I raced downstairs and tried to keep straight faces so my grandmother did not suspect anything.
As far as I know, those two Tart ‘n’ Tinys are still somewhere in Julie’s bedroom today.