The hot tub had 242 jets. Tame, lazy whirlpools churned water blue as the cover on my dad’s Jimmy Buffet record. Jacob’s dad--tan, gold chains reflecting in his glass funnel, something I later learned was a grail for $8 drinks—nodded vaguely from his bubbling throne as we went inside.
Air conditioning swooshed my hair. My house didn’t have air conditioning.
“This is my dad’s big screen,” Jacob pressed one button on a hundred-button remote. We watched Angry Beavers as his mom talked to the dog in the kitchen.
“Who’s a good Rascal? Do you want a treat? Does Rascal want a treat? Jacob,” his mom stuck her cotton-candy head into the living room. “Ask your friend if she wants to meet Rascal.”
I smelled the dog before I saw him, cartoon stink waves with alternating squiggles of Toilet and Bologna. His mom carried a wriggling dreadlock into the living room and--- with the smile of someone showing off a particularly new, particularly profound piece of art---plopped it between us.
The smell intensified. I started breathing through my mouth.
“This is Rascal,” explained Jacob.
The dreadlock sneezed. I put my hand on what I thought was a head but was probably an anus.
Jacob glowed. “Do you have a dog?”
“Cat.” I moved my hand away. Paws gummed my thighs. With all the curiosity and determination of a once-a-year aunt, the dreadlock launched a harrowing invasion of my personal space. A cold nose smeared my skin as—horror of horrors! —a tongue slithered from a wet orifice and painted my face with slugs.
Before leaving home, my mom told me to “behave, because they’re not like the people on our block.” She hand washed my Lion King sippy cup before putting it on a rack to dry. “They’re not our people.”
I didn’t know who Our People were, or if I was even one of them, just that it was very hard to behave, was in fact impossible, with slugs staining my face. I slapped the dog.
Jacob’s mom made a sound like a balloon filling very quickly. Jacob stared at me in a combination of horror and what I imagined was admiration for a display of violence usually reserved for loud, grown-up movies that played in other rooms.
Slugs dribbled from my chin.
“I'm calling your mother” His mom’s voice was soft, evil.
The door didn't slam, rather chimed behind me. Everything smelled like shitty bologna. Gasping for breath, I dunked my head in the hot tub.
242 jets bubbled dully. The water was hotter than I expected, but I stayed under, eyes squinting as I compressed myself to a single drop, tiny, invisible.
When I surfaced my head was steaming. Jacob’s dad tapped his glass funnel: