#3 Please by Blake L Bell

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I’m craving barbecue on a Friday, thinking, maybe. I skip filling up and head straight home from work. My car runs on hope alone. Except it doesn’t. It gets all sputtery and weird, forces me to stop at a gas station outside my neighborhood. I put exactly ten dollars of gas in my tank and peel out.

Liquid rushes into the test window, a wave wetting dry sand. “It’s when you start craving foods you wouldn’t normally. That’s how you know,” my mom says, comforting me over the phone.

I sit on the tub’s edge, recall being ten, refusing to eat anything other than pulled pork with mac and cheese. “I don’t normally crave ribs, though.”

“I know, honey. I just can’t stand to see you get your hopes up like this, okay?”

 

My husband and I start eating barbecue every Friday. We’re trying all the places in town so I can critique them according to my ranking system:

  1. Sauce
  2. Meat
  3. Potato salad
  4. Beans
  5. Mac and cheese

The top three are the keys to the kingdom. The Holy Trinity. I want a brisket with thick sauce that licks and slips, could be the choppy type or thinned in strips. If the sauce doesn’t hit right, I’ll eat the meat, but I’ll be sad about the sauce the whole time, and I care more about the potato salad than I put on. It’s third according to my ranking system, but that’s just a product of societal pressure to ascribe a higher value to the meat and sauce. I never forget a good potato salad. Or a bad one.

And these days, I measure time by barbecue night. It’s been five rib, pulled pork, and brisket combo plates since the last negative test, and tonight, I’m craving chicken.

 

Blake L Bell is finishing up an MFA at Mississippi University for Women and teaches English at a magnet school in South Louisiana. To read more from her, visit blakelbell.com or follow her @blakelbell.

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