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Fireball, My Foe

There turns out to be a limit to how much candy you can eat.


There is no other holiday like Halloween. Where else, when else do millions of people buy $4 billion worth of candy, then send their children out to collect it from one another in a spate of frenzied exchanges?

It is the American bacchanal. It thrilled me as child, and it thrills me still--except that today I dispense the candy, rather than collect it. My trick-or-treating days ended in what is best described as the Year of the Fireball.

That year I went trick-or-treating as a Queen of Hearts--with a very large sack. By nine o'clock, the sack was full and the neighborhood had been stripped of every last Tootsie Roll.

As my brothers and I got home, the family Labrador knew which one of us to follow upstairs. Me. I not only regularly brought home the most candy, I always ate it right away. (Only bubble gum ever lived to see the morrow. Even my jaw had its limitations.)

As I was spilling out my loot in my room, my brothers were busy hiding their candy. They lived in hope that I would not find and devour their stashes. They liked eating their candy slowly. To me, this was almost criminal. Leaving candy lying around uneaten was tantamount to neglect.

But what I lacked in self-control, I made up for with decorum. I ate my candy in a precise order: candy appetizer, candy main course and candy dessert.

Looking back, I can see it was probably a mistake classifying the hard stuff--the Life Savers, jawbreakers and the like--as appetizers. But maybe what happened that year would have happened whatever order I'd eaten that candy. I've never been one for sucking hard candies. I'm a chewer.

The terrible cracking sound came during an appetizer called a fireball.

I froze. It was loud, I thought; no ignoring it. But there was no pain. Why look for what you don't want to find? So I didn't look. I kept eating.

By the time I got through the main course of Three Musketeers bars and Reese's cups, the tooth was the least of my worries. A thick, greasy sweat had erupted on my brow. But instead of questioning what I'd eaten, I blamed the pace at which I'd eaten it. "You've eaten too fast," I scolded myself. After a momentary pause, I was ready for dessert.

It was while experimenting with how many Good & Plentys I could chew at once that I felt something sharp. Before I could stop it, my tongue reflexively checked the tooth that had split the fireball.

There, unmistakably, was a crater.

I spat out the wad of Good & Plentys. Stuck in its side was my filling.

I have no idea how long the panic lasted before inspiration struck. I could cement the filling back in the molar with Bazooka! Handily, this was the one type of candy remaining in my bag.

It was almost working when I noticed something odd from the corner of my eye. The family dog began edging backward with a nervous look in her eye. She knew before I did that I was about to throw up.

There was no finding the filling after that happened.

Years later, after root canals and at least one crown, I lost the whole tooth. Ignoring my dentist, I have steadfastly refused repeated suggestions of bridges. The space where there was once a molar is now a sort of gap-shaped memorial to Halloween.

I now seldom eat sweets, except at Halloween. But this is some exception. Last year, when I bought my supplies at my local supermarket, the trolley was so full with bags of candy that the guy at checkout whistled and said, "Man, I'm coming to your house."

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