Love Among the Llamas
Love Among the Llamas
    Annie Reed
    Yesterday morning, I got in my car at seven
twenty-five, same as always. I popped in a CD – The Best of the
Doobie Brothers this time – and cranked up the volume to keep
me awake, same as always. I stopped by Starbucks for a grande decaf
latte, same as always. Took the freeway to where I-80 merges with
Interstate 395, that grand old mess of looped interchanges and
exits Reno locals call the Spaghetti Bowl. Same as always.
    Only not quite.
    Instead of veering right and taking the next
off ramp, a left at the light three blocks down, and a right two
blocks over into the parking garage, I stayed in the left lane and
kept on driving east on the interstate.
    And just like that, I quit my job.
    Crazy, huh? Maybe I always was crazy and
nobody ever noticed.
    I had plenty of time after that to think
about what I was doing. Once you get past Sparks going east on
I-80, there's a whole lot of nothing but empty road since all the
early morning traffic's going the other way. All those cars
carrying commuters to their jobs, and none of them was me.
    My heart hammered in my chest there for a
while, let me tell you. I almost turned around at the next two off
ramps I passed. But what was I leaving behind, really? An
almost-empty apartment. A barren love life. A dead-end job for
someone who’d only notice me by my absence.
    I giggled a little about that. I could just
imagine my boss's face when I didn’t show at eight. At five after,
he'd be checking his watch. By ten after, he'd be growing
    At eight-fifteen, my cell phone rang.
    I threw the phone out my car window – I
didn't have an iPhone, just some cheap thing I got at Walmart –
which only made me giggle harder. Bye-bye old life, hello you wide
new wonderful world full of possibilities, you.
    Of course, this part of that wonderful new
world of possibilities was more of the same old, same old. Dry,
sagebrush-filled, hot-as-hell in the summer and freezing cold in
the winter. Nevada was a desert state. I should know. I'd been born
here. I used to think the place was ugly, what with all that dry
dirt, but yesterday morning, with golden, early-in-the-day sunshine
streaming through my windshield, the world just felt different. I
didn’t know where I was going, where I’d stop, or what I’d do
tomorrow. I figured I’d just drive until I got tired, had to pee,
or I ran across something interesting.
    As it turned out, I stopped when all three
things happened almost at once.
    Although, to be fair – the llama was what
really made me stop.
    I’d seen horses up close. Cows, too, and
even sheep, but I’d never been nose to nose – or nose to neck –
with a llama. But there, on the outskirts of Hazen, Nevada, a town
that was little more than a blip on the road, I saw the words
"Lighting Llamas" engraved onto a huge, curving sign over a rutted
gravel driveway.
    I pulled off the road and stopped beneath
the sign. I rolled my window down and tried to decide if I wanted
to get out of the car. I mean, there was a llama right there in the pasture next to the sign. Big, brown eyes, long eyelashes,
creamy ivory fur. All I had to do was get out of the car, but for
some reason I couldn't make myself do it.
    The cicadas in the sagebrush on the other
side of the road were buzzing up a storm. The day was already hot
with the promise of getting nothing but hotter, and here I was,
heading south in a car whose air-conditioning was spotty at best.
What in the world had I been thinking?
    I'm not sure why I turned off I-80 at
Fernley except I had some vague notion about driving to Las Vegas,
but now that I'd actually stopped driving, the whole idea seemed
insane. It wasn't like I'd had any recent trauma, any life-changing
event that made me want to chuck it all and start over. I had two
credit cards to my name and just enough in my bank account to pay
rent next month. I wasn't some heiress off on a wild adventure. I
wasn't a secret witness skipping town. I

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