by Shirley Bahlmann
It was evening, and I was puttering around the house, clearing away a little clutter here and there. I even cleaned out my purse, and that's where I found the giant red gumball of death.
I'm sure that my nine-year-old did not know it's true nature when he stashed it in my purse weeks ago. Neither did I when, in a mindless sort of way, I put it in my mouth and tried to chew. It was as hard as a jawbreaker. Ah, a challenge! I was up for it. I persisted, and finally broke through the outer shell to the tough sugary center that had the consistency of a super ball. I was surprised by some little bits of candy that fell out of the middle, and a blob of sugary moisture slid down the wrong tube in my throat.
Let me tell you, air does not travel well through sugar. My breath came in increasingly small amounts until I wasn't getting any air at all. My almost 18-year-old, Zackary, was passing through the room just then, and I grabbed his sleeve. He turned around, took one look at my fish face with my mouth going open and closed, open and closed, then dashed behind me, placed both fists under my ribs, and gave me several sharp squeezes of the Heimlich maneuver. The blasts of air seemed to loosen the sugar blob, and my breathing gradually got easier.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Yeah. Thanks," I said, then spit the gum out. It wasn't worth my life.
So, don't despair of your teenagers. Keep feeding them, because you never know - one day they may save your life!
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