Mel Berning and
Brian Eugenio Herrera

Mel Berning
Response

Lloyd’s Ball
By Brian Eugenio Herrera

Inspiration piece

The ride to get here had been awful. The kind of ride that makes you doubt the trip to begin with. The heat of the high desert sun beat through every surface. I thought sure the sun would bend the glass of the rear window, turning it just concave or convex enough to make it a magnifying glass which would cause the pile of file folders on the seat next to me – cause them to spontaneously combust. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, actually. One window in the backseat wouldn’t roll down at all. Something about it falling of its runner. The other window rested about two-thirds open, treacherously angled. A jagged edge, ready to stab. The wind, such that it was, wandered daintily over the edge, as if it too was afraid to be cut. Every third minute or so, my roasting face sought the solace of a breeze from it. But this was that dry West Texas air, the kind that feels more like sandpaper than a cool cloth. But every few minutes, there I would go again. Hoping that it might be cooler this time. What’s that definition of insanity? And each blast of scratchy air seemed to bring with it that smell.  Part dust, part old cigarette butts. A sturdy loitering smell, the kind of stink that just won’t leave. I could feel my mouth clenching, tightening my lips taut. It was bad enough a smell. I didn’t think I could stomach the taste.

Stomach. God. I can’t believe how hungry I still am. Skipping lunch yesterday seemed like a sensible enough idea at the time. I had no idea yesterday morning’s ham and cheese croissant – so flaky, buttery, fluffy, chewy, gummy and crusty all at once – I had no idea it would be the last thing I would have to eat for what is it now thirty seven hours. I figured I’d have some chance to eat something between Providence and East Armpit, New Mexico but at every opportunity nope. Something decided I needed not to eat. Fuckers. And now I’m sitting here. The only place open in this six-building town waiting for the kid’s ex-step-abuela to show and maybe clue me in. The only place open is a bar called Lloyd’s Eight Ball. Lloyd tells me they used to have a cook but nobody wanted to eat so when the stove broke they fired the cook and now what we got is some Lay’s peanuts on that rack over by the candy machine and some pickled eggs. I look to the lonely oval suspended in liquid on the shelf behind Lloyd’s giant ear as he tells me this. The egg seems lost in another time. Like a creature inside it might yet be born, if only some intrepid traveler might transport it carefully to a planet able to sustain its particular form of life. But I’m not going to eat the egg. Nor am I going to risk the peanuts. I can see a film of dust on the lumpy cigar shaped packages from here. No it is best that I content myself to choking down the syrupy coke that Lloyd was presently pouring for me. I could tell whatever carbonation had once passed through that gun was a distant, effervescent memory. A cold flat soda with a tap water chaser sounded pretty good when I ordered it, though Lloyd clearly thought my order final proof of whatever he was already thinking about me.

My hands shook as I took the glasses from Lloyd and made my way to a dark wooden booth toward the back of the bar. Was I that hungry? Or was I nervous about finally meeting the kid? Or was it Lloyd’s egg? I gulped the water in one thoughtless chug, choosing not to notice how much the water tasted. Of old pennies.

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One Comment

  1. Melody Berning
    Posted May 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm | #

    Brian Eugenio Herrera, I am very impressed, and thank you!

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