We ate cans of the stuff during the ’85-’86 strike. Dad smuggled them out of the plant starting maybe six months prior. One at a time. He sensed it all coming, and so it was every smoke break and every lunch, and his whole life he never took vacation or sick leave or nothing, and we had a room in the basement. It looked like a bomb shelter. Sometimes, my brother Jeff and I would play Monopoly or Risk down there, and when we started, the shelves were all packed, and we thought we’d maybe get through a game or two, but then it was weeks later. Nearly a year. Dad began keeping inventory, and Mom canceled the cable, and when the bank took the house, we only had the one can left. Mom died, and Dad tried to give it to Jeff, and “I don’t want that shit,” he said, but that was later. On the phone. To me. I let him drive it over one night, Marie and the kids at her sister’s over in Rochester, and we drank a few Grain Belts, and I got that can in the hall closet. Where we keep the jackets. Winter comes, and you see it every day, and sometimes I’ll tell Jeff how it’s a wonder he ever won at Monopoly on account of you gotta understand collection and culture and how there’s this value in like ironic or maybe nostalgic consumption, and I’ll get the call one day. I know I will. Might be the governor of Hawaii, or maybe the curator at that new museum downtown, and they’re all gonna want it of course, and I’ve got the price all set in terms of backpay and punitive damages, and I guess I’ll probably give it to them if they meet it, but that’s the difference between me and Jeff is he don’t really remember. I can tell you exactly what it cost.
Brett Biebel teaches writing and literature at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. His (mostly very) short fiction has appeared in Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Masters Review, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. It’s also been chosen for Best Small Fictions and as part of Wigleaf’s annual Top 50 Very Short Stories. 48 Blitz, his debut story collection, is available from Split/Lip Press. You can follow him on Twitter @bbl_brett.