Monday, March 7, 2011

Maggot Art

The title of the lecture is "Maggot Art - Make pretty pictures with your friend, the maggot."

We walk into the room, the Swede and I, and choose seats a few rows from the front. One other gentleman is also seated in the room. The lack of participants makes me wonder if Maggot Art is a literal title for our lecture. Seated behind a conference table at the front of the room is another gentleman. He wears a UF polo shirt. Our instructor. A cardboard box rests on the table in front of him alongside a small plastic tub, tightly sealed with a lid. Next to that, a smaller colorful box. Because I have children, I recognize the label on the box. Crayola.

The maggot has various cycles to its life. It begins as an egg, which has been deposited by a fly. Once it hatches, our maggot feasts on the material in which it was deposited. Given that this lecture was part of Sleuthfest, a writers’ conference for mystery writers, the maggot was most likely deposited on a dead body. After feasting for a good long time, the maggot enters a "wandering" stage, during which it wanders away from our dead body to find a nice quiet spot to begin its transition into a fly. The maggots that are sealed in the small plastic tub next to the box of Crayola paints are all in this "wandering" stage.

The instructor tells us these facts as we three participants rise from our seats and join him at the table. Any omissions or errors are my own as I was too distracted by the plastic tub filled with maggots to take notes. After explaining that each and every maggot that swarms the bottom of the tub is in the "wandering" stage, the instructor plucks the quarter inch long, creamy colored critters from the tub with plastic tweezers and drops them one at a time on an appetizer-sized paper plate. We each receive five. Pick your color, he says. After demonstrating how to pick them up without squishing them, he tells us to dip them in the color of our choice, drop them on the sheet of white construction paper we were each given, and watch the art appear.

I dab my first maggot in a dollop of magenta paint. He won't come off my tweezers, so I tap him gently on the paper. Once free, the maggot is still for a moment, and I worry I have killed him. But after a deep breath or two, which is what I imagine he is doing, my wandering maggot begins to wander, leaving behind a colorful trail—a strand of hot pink silken thread draped across the paper. Next, I choose turquoise. Lastly, purple.

I manage about ten minutes before sliding my rainbow-colored maggots back to the instructor. They'll be fine, he tells us. Non-toxic, water based paint. He'll rinse them off and they'll go onto become houseflies. The Swede holds out a bit longer than I do. When we are both done, we pack up and go for lunch. No calamari to be sure. While I probably won't participate in maggot art again, I am happy to know that should I ever have a dead body in one of my books, and should maggots be present on that body, they will appear first in a mouth and nose and any open gaping wound because that is what maggots like best.

See for an updated list of events. BENT ROAD on sale 3/31/11.

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