The world’s largest ball of bras
Kyle Semack is working his summer job at Fink’s. He’s stocking canned pork and beans when the pink Cadillac pulls up and parks across Main in front of Dot’s Diner. Kyle is listening to Black Sabbath on his Walkman and wouldn’t have noticed a thing if it hadn’t been for the clap of thunder just then, loud enough to be heard even through the heavy metal din in his ears. He looks up for a moment and just about glues his nose ring to the grimy glass when he sees the behemoth payload on the flatbed trailer behind the Caddy. It looks to be at least thirty feet in diameter.
He pulls off the headphones. “Hey, Jodie! Come out here!” he shouts to his younger sister, who is back in the bakery frosting cupcakes for the weekly St. Augustine charity dinner.
“Cain’t!” Jodie shouts back, in her squeaky voice. “Got ma hands full.”
“Damn it, Jode. Y’all gonna miss it. Ain’t never seen nothin’ like it. Shit.” Kyle walks right on out of the store without even removing his “Fink’s Friendly Helper” apron.
It’s nearly noon and mid-August. The rains haven’t set in, and Ida, Louisiana, a stone’s throw from Texas or Arkansas (take your pick) is a good place to fry okra on the sidewalk.
Kyle scuffs up to the thing in his black work boots. There’s every sort of bra in that ball, and there are layers of them, so you can see them not just on the surface but down behind each other. There are fancy ones, plain ones, lacy ones, black ones, light yellows, hot pinks, ones with flowers on them. He even sees one with little Tweety Birds, and a few of those athletic kind. Then there’s one, right on the surface, makes him wish he could meet its previous owner.
That big ball of bras is creating it’s own sort of gravity, pulling Kyle in like a planet of female mystery. That kid is just about in a trance, ready to reach up and touch a lacy red one, when he notices a heavyset man in a light-blue leisure suit stepping out of the diner. The man is wearing a ten-gallon without a spot of dust on it. Kyle figures he must belong to the pink Caddy.
“Well, howdy!” the man says, walking up to Kyle with a used car salesman’s smile pasted on his fat shiny face. He extends a large hand. “Name’s Bill, Big Bill Barns. Out from Lubbock.”
As they shake, Jodie comes walking across the street towards them.
“Whoa!” she says when she gets close, turning red and putting her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun.
“Let me give y’all the grand tour,” says Big Bill. They walk around the trailer to the back, where a spot of shade hangs on them from the only tree on Main.
A large sign on the trailer’s bumper boasts: “World’s Largest Ball of Bras.”
“No shit!” Kyle says, pushing a long strand of violet-streaked hair out of his eyes. “How many would ya say are in there?”
“Don’t know as anyone’s actually kept a count,” says Big Bill. “Twenty thousand, maybe more.”
“How long y’all been doing this?” she asks.
Jodie is wondering how high that ball would bounce if you dropped it out of an airplane. She reaches, bewitched, to touch a cup of blue satin. It feels cool against her finger, like moonlight.
Kyle is silently repeating over a rap beat in his head, Big Bill Barn’s Big Ball o’ Bras. Big Bill Barn’s Big Ball o’ Bras. Big Bill Barn’s Big-Assed Balls. He laughs, letting the air puff loudly through his closed lips.
“You’re soooo rude!” his sister hisses.
Big Bill seems oblivious. “Well, I didn’t actually create the thing, you see,” he explains. “I’m just its most recent proprietor. Acquired it after a stunt in Arizona. “Bras Across the Grand Canyon,” is what they called it.
“You mean they stretched ’em all the way across?” Jodie says, her eyes looking like they are about to pop out of her chubby, still pimple-free face.
“All the way,” says Big Bill. “Though, regrettably, I did not witness the event myself.” He chuckles, imagining the sight, his belly shaking under the blue suit.
Dude must be burnin’ up in all that polyester, Kyle is thinking, as he stares lustfully at a white lace number with little pink roses right where the nipples would be. “You could train a whole damn football team on this thing,” he says. “Snap! Snap! Snap!”
Jodie kicks her tennis-shoed foot against the thick rubber sole of Kyle’s boot and scowls.
“So,” Kyle says to Big Bill. “After they stretched ’em ‘cross the Canyon, they rolled ’em up into this here ball and sold it to you?” Kyle starts to thinking about his girlfriend’s black lace one, the one that unhooks from the front.
“That’s ’bout right,” Big Bill says.
“Must’ve cost a fortune,” Jodie says. “Now what’cha gonna do with it?”
“Oh, gonna see how much bigger I can get ’er. Travelin’ some. Taking more donations. Maybe get me one of them Guinness World Records.”
“You mean this ain’t no world record yet?” Kyle says.
“Oh, I reckon it is. But there ain’t no harm in adding a few more. You care to make a donation today, young lady?” he says to Jodie. She flushes and looks about ready to crawl under the nearest rock.
Dude, can’t you see she ain’t got nothin’ on her yet, Kyle is thinking.
“Got me a donations bucket right over here,” Big Bill continues, encouragingly, leading them around to the other side of the ball. Kyle can see a few good-sized items inside the white plastic bucket, and can think of a couple of young ladies at the high school who might have an item or two of interest to add to Big Bill’s Eighth Wonder of the Modern World.
And then there’s Mrs. Big Bill to consider. She walks out of the diner in a low-cut summer dress the color of bubblegum. She has bleached hair, sapphire eyes, and a smile that would sell a lemon right off the lot for a good price. She can’t be more than half Big Bill’s age.
Whooeee, Kyle is thinking, her bra could reach across the canyon all on its own.
“This here’s the Mrs.,” says Big Bill with pride. “May Beth, these here young’ens are takin’ a mighty interest in our investment.” He pulls a crisp white hanky from his pocket, lifts off the Stetson for a moment, and wipes the sweat from his face and balding head before replacing the hat. “We ’bout ready to roll, Doll?”
“Y’all don’t gotta leave right away do ya?” Jodie whines.
By now, a few other folks are braving the heat to come see the ball up close and personal. Carver Jones and three of his clients from the barbershop, Al Sterling, Ray Lobinsky and Artie Gonzales, virtually hop across Main like eager rabbits. Emily and Clair Ann, the waitresses at the diner, giggle in front of the window and egg each other on to go outside.
Within minutes, there’s a small crowd and Big Bill and the Mrs. are happily giving tours.
Macy Sue from the Sears catalogue store struts down the sidewalk twirling her dainty pink donation. Kyle can’t help staring at the shape of her breasts bobbing gently under her blouse, and he’s feeling pretty grateful about having left on that thick, green grocery apron.
Jodie is staring even harder than Kyle, wondering what Macy Sue looks like without any clothes on, and lamenting that she herself will never look so sexy.
Macy Sue drops the bra into the bucket and receives a round of applause and lots of whooping from the men.
“Wow!” Jodie says, under her breath. “This is soooo cool.”
“Yeah,” Kyle agrees, then realizes it’s his baby sister he’s talking to.
“Come on, Jode,” he insists. “We best be headin’ on back.”
“Are you kiddin’?” Jodie says, flushed with excitement.
“No. I don’t think you ought be watchin’ this.”
“Who’re you ta tell me what to do!” Jodie screams. “Who you think you are, anyway? Just ’cause Daddy’s done gone, don’t mean I gotta listen to you!”
Kyle throws his sister an I’m gonna kill you look.
Everyone else is a little nonplussed. Jodie Semack is everyone’s sweetheart, a quiet, gentle child, not yet twelve.
Luckily, Macy Sue comes over and hugs Jodie’s red-haired head to her chest, making all the men envious.
“Sweetie,” she says in that molasses voice of hers, “Y’all just come along and we’ll get ourselves a cool root bear float or somethin’ else nice.” She and Jodie head towards the diner.
Jodie turns and gives that ball one last longing gaze.
Kyle stares at his sister’s flushed face in the glaring sun, wanting to hate her, but realizing instead, and much to his dismay, that she might just be pretty one day.
Eve West Bessier was born and raised in the Netherlands. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from San Francisco State University, and a master’s from UC Davis where she has been working in educational research for the past decade. She has co-produced two award-winning educational videos, and has written a creative writing and an art curriculum for youth. She lives in Davis and is an Area Coordinator for California Poets in the Schools, a jazz vocalist and vocal coach, and a promoter of community arts programs. In 2000, she received the Kathryn Hohlwein Award for poetry and won first prize for poetry in the California Focus on Writers Competition.