Doda Yucky shuffles Safta out the door and I'm alone again. I continue to avoid the sheeps today. Ron wants me to help, but what if he gives me a job I can't do?

I don't want to give him a reason to resent I'm his kid. And if the opposite happened, if he bragged to everyone how great I am, I don't want the truth to come out that I'm less than perfect.

Deep down, even though we have major issues to overcome, I want him to be proud of me. I know it's a dumb thought, but it's true.

I spend the next hour rearranging my side of the closet. My eye catches on the skimpy clothes on the other side. Snotty sure does like showing a lot of skin.

I walk outside and wouldn't you know the yelping pup is waiting for me at the door. Great, the only one who likes me here is a dog.


"Dumb mutt," I mutter.


I ignore the mop following me at my feet. My spirits lift a bit when in front of the house, right under a nice big tree, is a hammock. I maneuver myself into it and put my hands behind my head as a pillow.


I look in between the holes in the hammock and notice the mutt under me.

"What do you want?" I ask it.

"Arg! Arg! Arg!"

I groan. Dogs aren't my thing. They're really not. But just to shut it up I get off the hammock and pick up the nuisance. I get back on the hammock with the thing in my arms. It has to lay on me because he'd fall through the holes otherwise. He finds a comfortable spot on my stomach and sighs contentedly.

Against my better judgment, I find myself petting him. Even though he probably has fleas and other insects living off his body, he's soft and fluffy, like a down comforter.


I look down and spot a cherubic face smiling up at me. It's my little cousin, Matan. He can't say my name right, he just calls me I-me. I think it's cute so I don't correct him.

Mutt jumps off my lap and I sit up. I see Matan has collected flowers in his chubby hands, and they're for me. My frozen heart starts to melt as he hands me the yellow, purple, and white wildflowers (or weeds, however you choose to look at them).

His smile widens when I take the flowers from him, smell them, and say, "Mmmm."

It's amazing how little effort it takes to make a child happy. Unfortunately, they all grow up and become cynical sixteen-year-olds like me.

Picking Matan up, I set him on the hammock next to me. He laughs as I swing the thing back and forth. I take one of the flowers and push the stem into his hair, the flower sticking out of his long, curly locks.

"Pretty," I say, laughing.

I know he doesn't understand a word of English, but he laughs back, then takes a flower out of my hand and puts it into my hair. We do this for about ten minutes, until we're both full of colorful wildflowers sticking out of our hair.

He speaks Hebrew to me and I speak English back to him. It doesn't matter that we're both oblivious to what the other is saying, we're having fun. And fun is universal in any language.

A lady who I haven't seen before comes up to us and says something to Matan. He jumps off the hammock and runs to her.

"Yucky left him with me, but he wanted to come see you. I hope it was okay," she says.

"It's fine," I say. "What does the name Matan mean in Hebrew?"

She looks down at my little cousin. "It means 'gift,'" she explains before leading him away.

He turns back, runs to me, and gives me a big hug. "Shalom, I-me," he says, then bounds off.

I give a little wave. "Shalom, Matan."

When he looks back with his hair full of flowers and furiously waves back at me, I realize I've just made my second friend in Israel (Mutt being the first).


Don't trust males. Human or otherwise.

Going into the house, I take out my nail polish and hold it up. Cotton Candy is the name of the color. It's a bright, shiny pink that sparkles in the sunlight. I think it'll look great when the hellish sun reflects off of it.

I decide to paint my nails outside in the sun after I take the old polish off. Sitting down on the concrete in front of the house, I open the bottle. I feel better. I guess doing something I'm used to doing back home helps.

The mutt lies down next to me, using me as his shady tree. I let him, just because he'll keep bugging me anyway. I paint my toenails until I hear a sound coming out of the mutt's butt that sounds surprisingly like a fart.

"Eww," I say.

The dog doesn't get up, he just looks at me like I'm bothering him.

"Listen, if you're going to hang around me there's a couple of rules. Rule number one: bark like a dog. Rule number two: take a bath before you rub up against me. Rule number three: I don't want a dog, so go find someone else to bug. Rule number four, five, and six: no dog farts. Got it?"

Wouldn't you know it the mutt gets his lazy ass up and walks away. Did I say something wrong? Maybe I should go play with him later. Just so there's no hard feelings.

I go back to painting my nails when I hear someone walk up to the house. I look over and it's Avi, the last guy in the universe I want to see. And he's staring at me.

I dip the brush in the nail polish.

"Why stare? You've already seen me without my clothes on," I say, trying not to look in his direction. It's pretty hard, because he looks like an Abercrombie model.

But then I remember he saw me naked and I want him to be anywhere but in my line of vision. I can't walk because my toenails are wet and I don't want to smudge them. Anyway, why should I be the one to move?

Mutt decides at that moment to come back. I expect him to come directly to me, but instead he hobbles over to Avi.


"I wouldn't touch that thing," I say. "He's dirtier than my Uncle Bob."

Uncle Bob works in a factory. He cleans up okay, but no matter how many times he washes his hands, there's always this black, gooey gunk stuck under his nails.

Avi bends down and pets the traitor, who wags his tail so vigorously you'd think it was a flag in some parade. Then he looks at me. Not the traitor, Avi.

"You're not much for helping, are you?" he says.

I don't even have to try and sneer, his comment makes my lip curl on its own.

"Whatever," I say.

Then I go back to painting my toenails a second coat. But now I'm so pissed at what Avi said my hand starts shaking and I'm getting nail polish on my toe-skin. Each stroke now looks like a two-year-old kid had a field day with the brush on my toes.

The dog trots over to me and buries his wet nose under my arm.

"Go away," I say.

He won't leave, he just sits down in front of me. I look over at Avi again, who's still eyeing me. Why does he do that?


"Traitor," I grumble through gritted teeth to the mutt.


If I tell you what the mutt does next you're not going to believe me. He sticks that butt of his in the air, like he's trying to play with me or something. When I don't take the bait, he grabs my shoe with his teeth and runs away.

Now this isn't just any shoe, it's my one and only pair of Ferragamo jelly sandals.

"Give that back!" I yell. "Do you have any idea how much that cost?"

I try to grab for it, but the white devil-pup starts shaking it back and forth in its mouth like a chew toy.

"Stop it," I say in a loud, warning tone.

But he doesn't. He starts running away with it. I get up, trying not to ruin my still-wet toenails in the process. But it's no use. As I head toward the dog, it trots away in the opposite direction.

Now it's war.

Most of the time I go through life at a relatively slow pace, but that doesn't mean I can't haul ass every once in a while. The only problem is my boobs bob up and down when I run fast. But I try not to think of that. I'm concentrating on saving my Ferragamo sandal.

The mutt stops beside one of the houses and I pretend I'm not going to get it. I sneak behind a lemon tree with the hugest lemons I've ever seen. They're as big as a baby's head.

When I think he might forget I'm behind the tree, I sneak a look at him. His butt is in the air again and his tail is wagging a mile a minute. He's looking straight at me.

And my sandal is still in his mangy, slobbery mouth.

"You should get neutered," I say as I step from behind the tree. Maybe then he'd have some respect for Ferragamo.


"What, no 'arg'?" While I'm talking to him, I'm sneaking up to him. "Keep that tail wagging so I can have something to grab at when I catch you, you slimy mutt." Grrrr.

"You don't scare me," I continue, inching closer. I'm almost within reach. Grrrr.

My concentration is solely on the sandal until I step and feel something squishy squeeze in between my toes. I look down and realize I've just stepped on an old, rotten cucumber. But at second glance, I realize it's not a cucumber, it's a DEAD SNAKE. It's black, but shimmers a bright fluorescent green in the sunlight.

I've never been more grossed out as I am now, running toward my uncle and aunt's house. Obscenities, some I even make up, are streaming out of my mouth. I'm trying hard not to think about the snake-guts that must be in the crevices of my toes as I run as fast as my legs can carry me.

"Ho ..." I say to Avi in-between gagging. Please dear God let me get the word out before gagging again. "Ho ..." Gag. "Hose!" I point to my foot just in case he doesn't get it.

The jerk gives a short laugh (at my expense) and I follow him to the back of the house. When I see the hose, I run toward it as fast as my snake-encrusted feet can carry me.

Avi turns the handle and I quickly chance a glance at my gross foot. Little pieces of black, stringy guts are peeking out from in between my toes. My toenails are dry now, with pieces of grass or hay stuck to them permanently.

I'm still gagging, I can't help it. I think if I stop looking at my toes I can get through this. When the water starts spurting out of the hose, I take it from him and aim the water toward my foot. My gaze lands on Avi. "Thanks a lot for helping me get my sandal," I say sarcastically.

"Thanks a lot for helping with the sheeps," he counters.

"It's sheep, not sheeps. Whether you have one sheep or a million of' em, it's still sheep."

He walks forward and pulls the hose out of my hand. I watch wide-eyed as he bends on one knee and lifts my gross foot and places it in his hand. Then, if you can believe it, he washes my foot thoroughly.

I'm about to lose my balance, I really am. And it's not because I want Avi to catch me or anything. I hate playing the damsel in distress every time he's around.

I'm lightheaded because it's ungodly hot outside and I just busted my ass to run after a Ferragamo-stealing mutt. To top it off, this boy who I'm determined to hate has one of my feet in his hands.

"You can stop gagging. Whatever you stepped in is gone."

"It was a snake!"

He shrugs. Like it's no biggie.

"You ever stepped on a snake?" I ask.

"I usually watch where I step."

I yank my foot out of his grasp. "Well, where I live there are no snakes. Dead or otherwise."

He stands, which is not so great because I was feeling superior when he was on his knee. But he's probably six feet tall and when he looks down at me I feel small. Instead of responding, he gently pulls a flower out of my hair. "Cute," he says, twirling the stem between his fingers.