I’ve just returned from a six week camping adventure to Baja, Mexico, and points beyond, with my husband, Fred, and a group of friends. Like the Warpworld protagonists Josh and I created, I am an explorer at heart, always eager to see what’s around the next corner and try new things. Whether joyous or disastrous, my travel experiences inform my writing, my characters, and the worlds I build. Perhaps no more so than with the character of Ama Kalder… as I was reminded during a recent run-in with a bottle of Mexican mouthwash.
We were in the small, quaint town of Mulegé, in Baja California Sur, shopping for groceries at Saul`s – a store with aisles so narrow only one shopping cart may pass through at a time. Josh will tell you that I am a little obsessed with cleanliness, (yes, camping is a challenge sometimes), and that extends to oral cleanliness. So when I spotted a small bottle of mouthwash on Saul’s dusty shelf how could I resist?
Two days later, way off in the back country, on one of the idyllic and isolated beaches of San Basilio, I cracked the bottle of mouthwash open for the first time and took a swig. Generally, I swish for at least 30 seconds. I did not last 30 seconds. Maybe 5 seconds? It’s hard to say because my mouth was BURNING and the world began to blur.
I spat the liquid out. My gums and tongue were numb, strings of drool hung from my bottom lip. What the hell had just happened?
Now, my Spanish is, let’s say, ‘passable’. I can read most signs, order food and beer, find a washroom, comment on the weather, tell a waiter I’m too full for dessert (well, actually, I just learned that for 15 years I’ve been telling Mexican waiters I am too pregnant for dessert – damn you cultural idioms!), and tell vendors that their blankets are nice but too expensive. But, in light of this horrific event, had my powers of translation failed me? Had I misread the label on the bottle? Had I just ingested carburetor cleaner or roach killer? Yes, it was that bad.
I re-read the label. Nope, it was mouthwash. There was even a picture of a mouth. I think. I was still recovering and my eyesight had not returned to normal.
That evening, the mouthwash turned into the best campfire game ever. As in: “Who can hold the mouthwash in their mouth the longest?” A circle of brave souls challenged themselves, often finishing their turn by spitting the remaining liquid onto the fire, where it would explode into a beautiful ball of flame. By the end of the game, no one could feel their tongues and I suspect at least one person had a full-on hallucination. Two campers vowed to buy bottles for their friends back home, proving definitively that sadism is alive and well.
It gets better.
One of the campers did buy a bottle, took it home, and emailed us later with the following question: “Um, any idea what ‘Diluar una parte de ASTRINGOL FRESCA PROTECCION en tres partes de agua’ means? Because that’s what it says in the fine print on the mouthwash bottle.”
Apparently, the mouthwash was supposed to be diluted in three parts water.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time’ could be my life’s catch phrase.
So what does this have to do with Ama? Well, it got me to thinking that Ama is exactly the type who would buy that mouthwash and guzzle it without reading the fine print. Heck, Ama probably wouldn’t even read the big print. Ama leaps, then looks, (this is what makes it so much fun to write her). And as I return to work with Josh and our edits of Wasteland Renegades, the next book in the Warpworld series, I can’t help smirking/sighing at some of Ama’s mouthwash moments. Some turn out just fine. Others? Well, they may have seemed like good ideas at the time but…
So the vacation is over but I’m happy to be back at the keyboard, getting Seg and Ama’s next adventure ready for you, dear readers.
I’m also happy that I can finally feel my tongue again.