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Bad Vibes in the Jersey Punchbowl

Sex, Strippers and Staph Infections in the Jersey ‘Burbs

Play the Devil, strippers

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here was genius somewhere in that stripper’s head.

A man whose father had probably said, “just do it”, and he listened. The rest of the country was out there losing, but The Hammer figured out how to skip student loans and make a fortune taking off his pants.

Down a stone driveway two Maseratis were tanning under the low sun like lions. No concern for anything. Certainly not the food chain under-neath them. Like the acre in Monmouth County they were sitting on, where gas was $4 a gallon and property taxes rose like debt ceilings.

“What’s the issue at this house?” I asked.

“Hole in the liner. We’ll be in and out.”

I might’ve been fooled at the first stop, but by 3:30 I knew there was no such thing as “in and out” in pool time. It was inevitable that something would go wrong. And we would be left to find a solution that hopefully held until the following week, when the next batch of pool boys would be blamed for our mistakes.

I could hear ambient noise from the Monmouth Park Racetrack. Somewhere on the other side of this suburban ocean of mailboxes and vinyl, a race was beginning. I pictured the line of beautiful horses waiting for the gunfire. Families with coolers sitting in boisterous anticipation. Children waving at the giant pets as they ran by. Excited just to see a horse. To win or lose. To be alive.

The Hammer’s pool was sanitized with Baquacil — a witch’s potion that was said to be a healthier alternative to chlorine. It was promoted as gentle on the skin. No more green hair. And eyes could open underwater for a few seconds before melting. It was the “hot alternative” on the market, and a few bold customers had paid for the upgrade.

“Fuck Baquacil, bro,” Frankie said. “It grows algae faster than a fish tank.”Scott Laudati

Frankie Gunnz liked structure. It was the old school rule of conduct — when something worked it should be stuck with. Through all new inventions and bandwagons, the chlorine had proved resilient. This didn’t stop scientists from getting together every few years to invent a new brew and fool the herds to buy high. And when the studies were released and the new water was found to be toxic toad blood, it trickled down to Frankie to reverse the disaster and restore order.

The Hammer’s pool was dehydrated piss yellow. Bulbs of green algae bobbed around like huge Man o’ War jellyfish. It was a horrible sight on eyes singed between sun glare and super weed.

“You see what I’m seeing?” Frankie asked.

“You could throw a fishing line in there and catch dinner.”

A man pushed through the back door of the house. A tan man. From his figure I knew it was The Hammer. He had the body of a late night infomercial. The ones with some bozo from the 80s selling a workout bench with lots of poles and levers. Saying, “You’ll look like Rambo if you use the “Ab Cannon” for just ten minutes a day”.

“Frankie,” the Hammer whined, “I paid $2,000 to upgrade my pool and it looks like the punch bowl at a frat party.”

“We’ll get it clean,” Frankie said. “It’s the Baquacil. There’s no controlling it.”

The Hammer squinted at the pool. Too many trips to the tanning salon had charred his skin. When his temples pressed together, his wrinkles and crow’s feet looked highlighted with a White-Out pen.

“They promised me I’d never have to touch my pool again.”

“It’s plain evil,” I said. “Are there no standards anymore?”

The Hammer’s head flailed around like an excited Muppet. It was impossible not to notice the steroid use. His head looked like an olive tooth-picked onto a London broil.

“Go get six bags of shock,” Frankie said to me.

Extract from Play the Devil by Scott Laudati. Published by Kuboa Press.
Strippers image by Pixabay/Tina244


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