El Bético autentico

My brother got obsessed with soccer and bought a bunch of shit, shit that was mostly like t-shirts and subscriptions to whatever digital platforms let a person watch Boca Juniors and the Turkish Süper Lig and random Italians running around the field with their nipples hanging out, and Real Betis became his favorite. He adopted them. Probably because everyone else was in love with Barça or one of the Madrids, or else, more likely, someone from England, someone with a lot of Americans, and my brother taught himself Spanish. He read like Andalusian poetry on the weekends. He spoke to us in Spanish. To himself. To his boss. He quit his job and bought a ticket to Sevilla, and we just knew it was gonna be one of those visa overstay type situations, and so we tried to make the most of the intervening months. We tried to get on his wavelength. We watched and ate tapas or whatever, and I remember going to Menard’s with him. This was like a week before he left. I wanted a new dishwasher, and he ran up and down the aisles muttering, speaking, always never quite yelling, and “Viva el Betis,” he said, “Manquepierda,” and people were like what the fuck, man, you could tell, but this one guy. One guy. Stopped my brother. Shook his hand. Whatever they said was drowned out by someone making a bet like a third set of keys, but it was probably in Spanish anyway, and this guy’s eyes, they looked like they were sure. Like they knew. My brother, I don’t know, his heart must have been going, and he looked back at me, and I looked over at the lumber. I thought about deck replacement and new flooring and how wood tells you everything, doesn’t it? Its chips and divots and patterns. The way it casts shadows. I let those guys stand in them. I heard my brother cough. His new buddy cleared his throat, and yeah. Okay. I guess there was some fucking flash of idiot beauty in the two of them, standing there, each knowing exactly what the other wanted to pretend.

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.