The Majesty of Maggots

By Elizabeth Engstrom

Gil Grissom always sees the big picture. While the local police officers in some backward Nevada town stand around scratching their heads and staring at the headless corpse, Gil gets squinty-eyed, looking around at everything but the obvious. Then he pulls out a pair of tweezers, moves in close, and tenderly picks up a maggot.

A maggot!


Who among us can erase the mental imprint of the first time we saw something undeniably dead that seemed to be alive, it was so covered (and filled) with heaving masses of squirming maggots?

While endlessly fascinating to little boys (one summer, my brother had to make a daily pilgrimage to the vacant lot to check on some maggots’ progress with a dead possum; he even made me go with him once), little girls tend to find maggots no less than gag-worthy.

I can’t even eat orzo today.

While living in Hawaii, I once picked a friend up at the airport and took him back to his house. He had neglected to take out the garbage before he left for two weeks, and maggots were cascading out of the trash compactor, piled up in front of it, and spreading out across the kitchen floor.

I had never, I realized, gotten over the dead possum episode of my youth. I gagged and ran. (I’m certain that the human gag reflex when confronted with fly larvae is a good survival mechanism. Bugs are a good indication of food too past its prime to eat. In fact, until 1668, it was assumed  …

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