Bending Bottle Caps

by J. Bear Savo

When I was a child, my grandfather went for solitary walks on summer evenings. He lounged in his backyard swing, grinning at the bug zapper while smoking bad cigars. He religiously watched and misunderstood the nightly news and told the same bad jokes over and over again. He drank beer after dinner.

Always after opening his beer, my grandfather would place the bottle cap between his thumb and forefinger and bend it in half. Sometimes he would challenge me to do the same, but my small fingers couldn't manage it and he would have to bend it for me. Despite my failure, he'd offer me a sip of his beer and I would take one even though I knew it was going to taste terrible.

“Papa,” I asked him once, “why do you bend your beer bottle caps?”

“Because,” he answered, “you can't drop them inside the empty bottles otherwise.”

By the time I had grown strong enough to bend the bottle caps and old enough to enjoy the taste of beer, my grandfather stopped drinking it. He stopped going for his summer evening walks. He abandoned his swing and unplugged the bug zapper and let his cigars rot in their wrappers. He stopped watching the news and forgot all his bad jokes. Eventually he stopped all together.

I don't enjoy summer strolls. I have neither swing nor bug zapper and I only smoke cigars when the mood strikes me. I get all my news online and I think that everything everywhere is a bad joke. These days, however, I find it impossible to open a beer without bending the bottle cap in half.