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Short Stories - How to Buy Vodka in a Recession

a finalist in the Sacramento News & Review 2009 Flash Fiction contest

How to Buy Vodka in a Recession
by William Doonan

“I don’t have a lot of money,” I told the liquor-store clerk. He knows me; we go way back. “But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to sacrifice on quality.”

“How much do you have?”

I held up a handful of coins. “$2.34.”

He reached for a miniature bottle of Smirnoff. “This is the best I can do.”

“No.” I shook my head. “It’s really too small. What else do you have?”

“Nothing, nothing at all, except … no.”


He sighed and pulled a liter bottle from under the counter. The label was Russian. “I don’t know if you’re ready. It’s made from turnips.”

“What’s it like?”

“It’s a low-born vodka, sullen with a harrowing finish. It’s the kind of tipple you’d want along on a cold November morning if you were stripping wallpaper in Minsk.”

“How much?”


I did the math. “I’ll take two.”

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