Hairy Mammalian Creatures

Everyone looked super comfortable in their clothes, super relaxed. By contrast, I felt like every stitch of my outfit was slightly off, everything about me rendered in minor key.

Hairy Mammalian Creatures
Photo by Kenny Eliason / Unsplash

by Jenn Salcido

It was the first day of fifth grade.

We had just come back from camp, newly sassy and well-versed in important conversational topics: the infinite varietals of the word “fuck,” cigarettes, doing sex.

On the bus, we chewed the cud of our bubblegum and nakedly gawked at our schoolmates, looking for evidence of summertime progress in the areas of boobs and butts.

Some of us gave each other knowing glances, nervous nods; one of the girls had bought a razor, a cheap thing made of pink plastic.

“To shave our legs,” Amanda had explained to me, when she could see that I didn’t understand.

I hated her.

“TO SHAVE OUR LEGS,” Danielle hissed at me, when she could see that I didn’t understand.

She hated me.

I don’t remember much in the way of “talks” given to me on this constellation of subjects. I knew what I wasn’t allowed to do, but I wasn’t really given the information that may have helped me ease into adolescence with less self-loathing, something like: your legs are hairy, and that’s because humans are mammalian creatures with hair. You have thick, brown hair, so your leg hair is going to be really hairy, and this is a fact so just get used to it. And P.S., you are a lesbian.

We knew we had P.E. at the end of the day, and it was decided that we would perform the clandestine pubertal rite after the bell rang but before we were expected to be back on the field for soccer practice. Vibrating in my seat, I fiddled with my Trapper Keeper and surveyed the new-old bodies around me. Everyone looked super comfortable in their clothes, super relaxed. By contrast, I felt like every stitch of my outfit was slightly off, everything about me rendered in minor key. Oh no, I thought. Did I have bumps in my ponytail?

I always got so sweaty in P.E.; I couldn’t help myself. While the other girls languidly slapped at tetherballs with boneless flipper hands, I put my whole being into the activities. Once I had shed my classroom clothes, I felt free again, and I relished the swish of my color-blocked Umbro shorts as I nailed stupid boys in the gut during dodgeball. I lost myself in the flow of things, the glory of the game, and our plan was far from my conscious mind. When the bell rang and unleashed the cacophony of a class dismissed, I felt the coldness of a deep dread coalesce beneath the long-sleeve t-shirt I was wearing layered under my billowy top t-shirt (No Fear).

I shuffled to the locker room, sipping on my sports bottle, looking like a guinea pig, feeling like a rat.

After the civilians cleared out and only the team remained, Vanessa, our team captain and the master of ceremonies, prepared the sacrificial virgins. Danielle and Amanda’s legs were spread out in front of them on the bench. I was leaning halfway into my locker and surreptitiously trying to assess the smell of my armpits, surveying the scene with skepticism, which was my way, which is probably part of why Danielle had instinctively hated me when she moved to the neighborhood that summer.

“Jennifer can’t do this,” Danielle said, in a nasally voice that by then I knew was meant to evoke me. She was not the only one in the neighborhood who used it. It was also frequently applied to my mother, usually because she had come to my defense re: some childhood injustice.

I watched as Vanessa slid off the plastic cap from the safety razor and applied it to Danielle’s downy blonde leg, near the knee, in the spot that I assume we all understand now in our adulthood to be notorious for being a fucking nightmare to shave. I took in a deep gulp of the air, already heavy with a metallic tang, and felt my mouth arrange into a rictus.

Almost immediately, the blood began to geyser up, shower down. Amanda shrieked, retracting her long legs beneath her body. Vanessa, I noted, did not look repentant. As Danielle released a florid stream of profanity, her porcelain skin caught flame from within, so that although the carnage was limited to her lower extremities, it was as though her face had been blotted with blood. I slapped my hand over my mouth to keep my lips from bleating out: I told you, I told you, I told you.

Jenn Salcido is a writer living in Los Angeles, where she reads, walks, and takes notes. Her fiction has recently appeared in Back Patio Press. Her journalism and other work from a prior life lives on at She tweets @jenneralist