When I was 12, my dad spent a week camped out in the backyard. My brother and I would bring him Hamburger Helper and these little packets of ketchup we stole from the McDonald’s down the street. We’d talk about spaceships. Constellations. The night Ritchie Valens fell from the sky, and he said someday he’d show us where it happened, and we could leave flowers, and he’d never done it, but the drive really wasn’t all that far.
Except, that fourth night, we didn’t bring him anything. Could only see his shadow hunched over inside of the tent. My brother had found a dirty magazine in the dumpster behind the gas station, and we sat on his bed looking at it. Some of the pages were torn out. One of them had an ad for Campari. The women looked like they were from California or Florida or some place with lots of fruit and no snow, and my brother said someday his wife was going to look like that, and maybe mine would too. Only uglier. With fewer teeth. Definitely smaller tits. Then he said who was he kidding, and I wasn’t ever getting married, and his pal Lamar told him I was probably gay. I said I wasn’t. He rolled his eyes. I watched them moving around inside his head and realized he looked nothing like Dad, that it was only their laughs that sounded the same.
Brett Biebel teaches writing and literature at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. His (mostly very) short fiction has appeared in Chautauqua, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Masters Review, Emrys Journal, and elsewhere. 48 Blitz, his debut story collection, will be published in December 2020 by Split/Lip Press. You can follow him on Twitter @bbl_brett.