You Can't Keep Any, Dummy / by Zachary Kocanda


You shit in a store that used to be a Borders. You open apps and you close apps on your phone and two years ago the two of you are here and it’s a Borders and you open a Beekeeping for Dummies book.

“When the bees die, we die,” he says. “I read an article about it. I read the title of an article about it. Oh my God, the author’s name is Howland.”

You think how when you’re ten and, at your brother’s T-ball game, a bee gets you on the tongue. You hate the games and just want some Lays and the bee fucks up your afternoon. And at school you color maps of tongues—“You taste this here,” teacher says, “and that there,” etc.—and now you know the map’s bullshit and all because a Harvard professor misinterpreted data in a German paper.

He asks to look at the book.

“Ahem,” he says, and he reads, “‘To bee or not to bee,’” theatrically, his right hand up, his left hand holding the book, and he says, “Fuck this book. Fuck you, Howland, and your name, and your bees.”

“The book says you can keep bees in backyards,” you say. He says you don’t have a backyard and you say you know. He has a backyard, his parents have a backyard. You two could have a lot of bees back there, but his dog, a black lab, isn’t going to like the bees in his backyard.

You open to a page that says how bee colonies can collapse and you want to say your theory about us, about the world and our collapse, but you don’t say it because honestly, it’s a sophomoric theory and you don’t want to use the word “us” with him yet, even if it’s not about the two of you.

“I was a bee for Halloween,” you say.

“This year?” he asks, looking at an Entertainment Weekly. You say no. He was with you on Halloween. You were a ghost and he was a ghost, too.

 “It was my sister’s costume,” you say, “and my mom wanted to reuse it. Are you going to buy a book?”

“I’m going to buy an e-reader this weekend,” he says. “Do you want one? It’s my parents’ credit card.”  

The day the Borders closes, you text him. You drive past the closed Borders because you volunteered to play with the cats that morning.

You text, Borders is out of business because of you and your e-reader.

How’s your ass? he texts, and uses an emoticon. The emoticon winks at you.

I don’t know if I can live in a post-Borders America, you text dramatically, and when there is no text back, you text, Me and my ass like books.

You have fun playing with the cats.

In Borders, you think of the phrase, You’re a keeper, and you ask if you’re a keeper or if he’s a keeper. You are not a keeper of bees, but with the three hundred ninety-two page book you too can keep bees. In post-Borders, you know the answer.

You think of how many calories are in a bag of Lays potato chips and how your only input to the e-reader vs. book debate is that when he slaps your ass with an e-reader, it’s not the same as when he slaps your ass with a book. You think of the word vice-versa, the mathematics of language, the a of b, and the b of a, and your score on AP test for calculus that cost more than eighty dollars, more than his parents pay for the e-reader. Your AP score is a one out of five by the way. You download Beekeeping for Dummies at your apartment, and it’s mid-winter. Bees eat up to thirty pounds of honey during the winter.

Yeah, you know the feeling.




Zachary Kocanda will graduate from Bowling Green State University in 2015 with a BFA in creative writing. He is the editor-in-chief of Prairie Margins and tweets at @ZacharyKocanda.