by Browning Lloyd
Taking the Beltway this hour of the night is bad enough, but add in the fact that it's rained all day, puddles are running curb to curb, the happy hour crowd is headed home fueled by margaritas, Coronas and free mini-tacos; then assholes like the guy in the red Porsche complete the recipe for disaster. A laughing, handsome, nipped-and-tucked face reflects oddly orange in the glare of the streetlamps and offsets the almost ultraviolet blue glow of teeth illuminated by the keys of the cell phone tucked between jaw and Brioni-draped clavicle; the conversation with his Botoxed, siliconed, surely-blonde paramour much too important to allow focused control of his motorized manifestation of a mid-life meltdown. Gone as quickly as he arrived, red tail lamps fade over the next hill, reappear, then disappear around a curve leaving me in my gray, four-door dad-mobile wondering what it would be like to spend money on a nice car, not on alimony, and thinking about buying a nice dinner for two adults instead of two orders from the kids' menu and one adult meal at the end of this forty mile drive just so I can spend an hour with my children and return them to her house. The wipers slap rain back and forth across the windshield in an odd contra tempo to music, weather bulletins, and really bad commercials coming from the radio that keep me awake but do little to entertain me, to inform me, or to convince me I need to change brands of motor oil, beer, or chewing gum, or buy a new car that returns the favor when I turn it on. Ahead, brake lights flicker and flash and the rooster-tail arcs of splashing water behind each car shorten as they slow for a curve that straightens into an eerie calmness along the broad, flat, waterlogged grass between the roadways that is bisected by dark trenches of seemingly parallel lines that suddenly diverge at a red-scarred concrete piling of a flyover ramp, each dark trench now leading to half of what had been, just seconds before, a red Porsche, now truncated, steaming, and smoking, the front piece gapingly open and piloted by a headless mannequin in an Italian suit. Drivers stop, dial 911, get out of their cars, and stare in horror; a few vomit and others cry for someone they never met, but I just change the radio setting, drive by and think, my god, life is good.
Browning Lloyd has lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia, since 2006. His professional background is in mass media, marketing and healthcare management. A freelance technical writer since 2000, his health and medicine stories for healthcare clients have appeared in newspapers, in regional magazines, and on hospital websites. In 2002, he covered the murder trial of Andrea Pia Yates in Houston for UPI. He has also received awards for his radio, television, and multimedia campaign writing. In 2008, he joined one of Lauran Strait's writing workshops at the Virginia Beach Adult Learning Center and serves the Hampton Roads Writers' board of directors in an advisory capacity. He has served on community boards for the American Heart Association, the National Kidney Foundation, and the American Cancer Society and received its Sword of Hope award in 1993. He has started work on a novel set in Houston. He is married and the father of three sons.