“Last week I helped my friend stay put.” – Mitch Hedberg
Ethyl’s response to Albert’s I’m here! text was It’s open! Albert stuffed the last of the fries into his mouth and tossed the bag into the back of the Canary Yellow 2007 Ford Econovan he’d “borrowed” from his roommate’s dad.
A cooler sat on the passenger seat. The cooler wore a seatbelt. The cooler, with a Pabst- 30 inside, weighed enough to make the seatbelt light flash and seatbelt dinger ding. A Pabst-30 was, theoretically, too much for two people, but two Blue Moon 6-packs, Ethyl’s favorite, cost about the same, and maybe two sixes wouldn’t be enough to get everything packed and into the van, and maybe a Pabst-30 would be just enough to not do any of that.
A half hour earlier, Albert had felt guilty, high in Timer’s, beer door open, shivering, staring into middle space, trying to apply logic, or fiscal responsibility, or pragmatic utopianism to the situation.
“Can I help you?” That was the guy behind the cash register. Had Albert been standing there that long?
“I’m good!” A Pabst-30 it was.
A half hour later, Albert swallowed the last of the fries. He pictured the inside of Ethyl’s fridge. No way would a Pabst-30 fit. He closed the lid and unbuckled the cooler.
“Pabst?” Albert and Ethyl were on the couch now. The cooler was on the coffee table. The cooler was open. “You said Blue Moon.”
“Long story, babe.”
“You smell like Burger King.”
“There’s a French fry in your beard.”
Albert found it. He almost ate it. He almost put it in his pocket. He put it in the cooler.
He popped two beers and handed one to Ethyl. Ethyl was named for the anti-knock gasoline additive. Her dad’s idea of a joke. Ethyl liked the name. It’s a good name.
A stack of wire-banded cardboard boxes blocked the ROKU. Ethyl tried the remote. It didn’t work. She took a drink. She tried it again. Albert, finished with his first beer, got up, moved the boxes, and kept going. He crushed the can and put it with the recycles. He used the downstairs bathroom, commonly referred to as a half-bath because there was a toilet and sink but no bath. It should be called a no-bath.
Albert opened the fridge. He’d been right. No way would a Pabst-30 fit. He found a jar of herring. He looked for crackers in the cupboard. He found Doritos. Back at the fridge, he looked for cheese, and found cheese, taco cheese, but shredded. Removing the herring revealed the salsa. Albert made nachos.
Ethyl scrolled Netflix. She’d seen most everything and what she hadn’t, she hadn’t for good reason.
“I made nachos,” Albert said and sat back on the couch.
“Here, you choose,” Ethyl handed Albert the remote. “Herring?” Ethyl said. “You made herring nachos?”
The pipe magically appeared. Albert offered Ethyl the first hit. He lit it with a green-tipped Diamond kitchen match, green-tipped because the wood came from “responsibly managed forests.”
They settled on an Icelandic four-part cop thriller.
“Herring nachos are good,” Ethyl said.
Dan Nielsen is a part-time standup comic. His least flavor of jelly is petroleum. Recent FLASH in: Connotation Press, Jellyfish Review, (mic)ro(mac), Necessary Fiction, The Cabinet of Heed, and Cheap Pop. Dan has a website: Preponderous. You can follow him @DanNielsenFIVES. He and Georgia Bellas are the post-minimalist art/folk band Sugar Whiskey.