I was probably about ten or eleven years old at the time. I was at my childhood friends’ house, Luke and Tim in Leucadia, California. Living next door to them was a redheaded, freckle-faced kid named Eddy. He had so many orange freckles, in fact, it was like he almost didn’t have any because his entire face had become this orangish freckle color. His parents were disgusting. Even back then I knew there was something seriously wrong with his family. We’re talking about a chain-smoking mother who just sat on the couch all day watching crappy TV, and a father who I couldn’t even fathom how fat and greasy he was. Their yard was a dirt pit filled with trash and fleas, but it didn’t compare, not even close, to the inside of their house. I only ventured inside once, but I’ll never forget it.
First of all, I had no idea there was some sort of invisible wall of death that separated the outside of his house to the inside. It’s one of those things you don’t know until it’s too late. The door opened and I stepped in. The first thing I noticed was an odor that hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought I was going to pass out. My initial reaction was panic–flashes of a premature death by suffocation crossed my mind. To this day, I have absolutely no idea what you could possibly mix to make that smell. I do know that cigarettes, burnt tortillas, stale saltines, rotten beans, peanut butter, wet dogs, and chickens were somehow involved. I could already feel the fleas attacking my legs. The fireplace was the biggest ashtray I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I’ve still never seen a pile of cigarette butts that big. You couldn’t see the top of the pile. I don’t know how high it extended up the chute, but I remember making a mental note to look at the chimney from the outside just to see if you could see any cigarette butts popping out. Another thing about cigarette mountain was that it was still burning and smoking! I felt lightheaded. I started getting dizzy.
Eddy offered me a stale saltine covered with peanut butter. I don’t know why I accepted it, but I did. What the hell was I thinking? You know how cigarette smoke will stick to your clothes, leaving that viciously rank odor? That’s exactly what happened to these saltine crackers. The stench penetrated deep inside the crackers, and then I knew it was quite possible I might vomit all over his mom if I ate that rotten peanut butter thing sticking to my hand. I immediately started plotting ways to get rid of it without anyone noticing. Eddy was standing right there, and his mom sat on the couch next to I don’t know how many cartons of cigarettes. I asked to use the bathroom in hopes of secretly flushing it down the toilet. My plan failed because Eddy’s little sister was taking a bath. Poor girl. I imagined her immersed in mud while using a plunger to scrub her back.
I felt like an idiot standing there with that cracker and I knew I couldn’t stall any longer. So, I did what I had to do. I stuck it into my mouth with a smile and wiped my hands off on my pants. Normally, a stale peanut butter cracker wouldn’t be all that bad, but this was on another level. My tongue burned as if acid were poured on it. My whole face was beginning to get numb, and I’m pretty sure I lost all sensation in my mouth. My vision blurred and I was slightly disoriented, but I forced my jaw to continue moving up and down.
Eddy told me he was gonna make another one and asked if I wanted one. “No!” I yelled. “I mean, I’m not really that hungry right now.” At this point I had at least two flea circuses traveling across my body. I proceeded to compulsively scratch myself. I felt like a freak, but I couldn’t help it.
Suddenly, Eddy’s mom cut the grossest fart I’ve ever heard in my entire life. I didn’t know what to do. It didn’t even seem real. Nothing was said. She just tossed her old cigarette in the fireplace and lit up a new one. I knew at that moment I had to get out of the house as soon as possible. TThere was no time for Eddy to come back from the kitchen. I tried to speak his name, but I had somehow lost my voice. Only a small squeak came out. My legs were wobbly and weak, but I forced them to move. I finally made it outside and gasped for air.
Eddy came out a couple minutes later and asked if I were all right. I didn’t tell how I barely made it out of his house with my life. I just smiled and told him I was fine. – Laban Pheidas