Deli Sliced Right by Brett Biebel

My girlfriend slept with this guy who worked at the Rainbow Foods up Snelling, and we waited for him in the parking lot.  Me and Lyle.  He talked me into it.  I said, “Shit, I stepped out on her two or three times already, so I figure it’s only fair, ain’t it,” but he said something about honor.  The olden days.  Barfights and switchblades, and they tell you the rules are changing, the ones about men and women and sex and desire, but maybe they’re not, he said.  Maybe they shouldn’t be, and so there we were waiting.  I didn’t know what we were planning exactly, but maybe just scare the guy.  Get a good look at him.  Anyway, he comes out, and he’s 6’ 5”.  Looks like a linebacker.  He’s carrying about four plastic bags all stuffed with shaved turkey and honey ham and the rest of the cheap shit, and we run up to him, and Lyle goes, “Hey, you know Rachel, don’t you?”

“Who’s asking?” the guy says, his voice all hoarse from something.  A cold, maybe.  Or else from talking over the machines.

“This here’s her boyfriend,” says Lyle, and he looks at me expectant.  You gotta remember this is broad daylight now.  3, 4 o’clock on a Friday, and the lot’s starting to fill up, and people are coming in with their kids, and everything’s got that end of the day stress hanging on it, and I don’t really know what to do, so I wave.  I actually fucking wave.  

“Hey,” says the guy.  


“Jesus Christ,” says Lyle.

“You know, the thing with Rachel, I don’t know if she told you, but we go back.  Her brother and me, we used to play ball together, and I think it was one of those old-time nostalgia things, and it’s none of my business, but she didn’t tell me nothing, man.  I swear.  Not a goddamn word.”

“You got anything good there?” I say, “Some of that Boar’s Head, maybe?”  I’m smelling sodium, and I haven’t eaten lunch, and this whole thing was Lyle’s idea anyway.

“In back,” he says.  “Let me.  You know what, man, hold on.  Wait here.  Peace offering.”  He bolts back inside, and we hear the auto doors, and Lyle and me sit on the curb.

“And one of them little whiskey bottles too.” Lyle yells, but the guy’s already long gone.  We don’t have any cigarettes, so we just tap our feet and watch moms with too much makeup and people struggling to get on them motorized scooters and these high school kids all dressed like burnouts, and the guy’s not coming back.  We know this.  Or, at least, Lyle thinks he does, and you can tell he’s wanting to hit me, or to hit someone anyway, given we made the trip and all, and he says, “You know there’s two of us, don’t you?  And one of him?”

“What about it?”

“Two is more than one, numbnuts, fucking think about it, and do you even love her?”

“Aw, Christ, do you?” and Lyle looks stunned by this.  Hurt even.

“Fuck you,” he says.

We’re deadbeat silent for God knows how long after that, and I’m thinking about this scar Rachel’s got underneath her shoulder, and she says it’s from a firecracker, Fourth of July 1996, and it looks a little like a star.  An explosion out deep in space.

“Whatever.  Let’s get out of this shithole,” Lyle says finally, and, as he does, we see the guy exiting way down by the pharmacy.  The whole other end of the store.  Lyle is livid.  “Pussy,” he screams, dragging it out at the top of his lungs, and you can see the guy stop.  The whole goddamn parking lot.  Everything is in freeze time, and the guy launches one of them deli bags, and we watch it flying.  Everyone watches it.  It arcs across the lot and over fast-food wrappers and pop bottles and carts and rusted SUVs clocking 100, 200K, and it looks like roast beef.  Pink flapping inside plastic, and in an instant I know me and Lyle are both after it.  We’re salivating.  Our heads are going to collide mid-air, and we’ll be hopelessly tangled, and, when we hit the pavement, rocks and broken glass will stick in our skins and scratch up our legs, and we’ll be two dogs, really.  Tearing into scraps we maybe don’t even want.

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.