Brett Biebel

World Cup ‘22

         The book about it is never published, but it should have won a million awards. What it is is memoir or criticism or journalism, and the author is some pseudonymous woman from Connecticut, and she travels to Qatar on and off for a decade, always staying just long enough to avoid visa complexity, and she watches stadia get built. She interviews workers. She talks to their ghosts. People end up dead, and an international uproar is like some constant, Persian Gulf wave, and there are interviews with families. There are brutal descriptions of heat. She watches a Nepalese man fall from the scaffolding surrounding some in-progress hotel and decides he passed out. Just sort of fainted, wrong place, wrong time, and there are long passages about desert vistas. Buildings are glass weeds, touching sky, blocking water. She walks along coastlines. She eats roasted lamb and ground wheat, and together we watch with her as flags and shops and restaurants spring up from nothing, and the final scene is her standing outside the US training facility. It casts a long shadow. She can hear weights being lifted. Metal clanks, and directions are shouted, and she writes about these interstellar space telescopes and how they can see light emitted millions, no, fucking billions of years ago, and that’s America, she says. Sending out signals from deep space, and they all have to do with nation-building, with forming an idea of yourself, and all those ideas involve death. Violence. They all involve conversations with shopkeepers and overhead alleyway trysts and slaughtered goats, slaughtered chickens, slaughtered men and silenced women, and yet, there’s a grit in all of it, in its constant grinding hum, and she admires it, she says. The national becoming. The clock of creation. She writes, at the end, that they’re all Qatari cowboys. That she’s one of them. That there’s something liquid and sticky, and maybe it’s shining. Maybe it’s clawing at each of their boots.

Brett Biebel‘s teaches writing and literature in Illinois. His (very) short fiction has been anthologized in Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction and been listed as part of Wigleaf’s annual “Top 50 Very Short Stories” (2021). He is the author of 48 Blitz (Split/Lip, 2020) and the forthcoming Winter Dance Party (Alternating Current, 2023) and Gridlock (Cornerstone, 2024). His reader’s guide to Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon will be released by University of Georgia Press in 2024.

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