factgirl is the kind of person of whom we need more in this great, terrible, troubled nation of ours.

When I was small, I was very small indeed, and we were very poor as well. We had no money for a Halloween costume, and so mother would wrap me up in a sheet of tarpaper. It formed a crude tube. I could not see. I would stumble down the street, blind as a bat, bumping into people and things. Most of the other children were in a similar fix. When I grew big enough to see over the top of the tarpaper, I finally understood why the blindness had been a mercy all those years: Our street was like a scene out of one of the apocryphal, non-integrally numbered circles of Hell enumerated in the lost appendices to Dante's Inferno. Dozens of children staggered this way and that, encased in black tubes: They looked like a forest of sooty little smokestacks, driven to mad life by unseen malignant forces.

It scared the crap out of me. I vowed never to let my children see such a thing.

But the one thing that was a comfort to me through all those broken years of childhood contusions and benighted despair was this: Many of our neighbors wanted to give us "treats". They would toss pomegranates, coypus, aubergines, and roux into the tops of our tubes. It was up to us to lay hands on the stuff -- not an easy task, given that our hands were pinned fast to our sides by the damned tarpaper. For the most part it was a humiliating excercise in frustration, as was every part of those hellish evenings. However! There was an old lady on our street who gave us toothpaste. I didn't want roux: I was a small child! My teeth were rotting out of my head! I wanted some basic fucking oral hygiene here, folks. And that's what I got.

I've always been grateful to that old lady, and it's to her alone that I owe those few teeth I still have today.