Excerpt from Idaho by Emily Ruskovich, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Idaho

A Novel

by Emily Ruskovich

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
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  • Published:
    Jan 2017, 320 pages

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2004

They never drove the truck, except once or twice a year to get firewood. It was parked just up the hill in front of the woodshed, where it collected rain in the deep dents on the hood and mosquito larvae in the rainwater. That was the way it was when Wade was married to Jenny, and that's the way it is now that he is married to Ann.

Ann goes up there sometimes to sit in the truck. She waits until Wade is busy, so that he won't notice that she's gone. Today, she comes here under the pretense of getting firewood, dragging a blue sled over the mud and grass and patches of snow. The woodshed isn't far from the house, but it's hidden from view by a stand of ponderosa pines. She feels like she is trespassing, like none of this is hers to see.

The truck is parked on a rare space of flat land, an unlikely shelf carved into the mountainside. In front of the woodshed, around the truck, a few loose bricks lie here and there in the grass and snow. Spindles of mangled wire lean against the trees. Hanging from a long larch limb are two thick ropes that sway opposite each other now, but look as if they might have once been connected by a flat board—­a child's swing.

The truck is parked on a rare space of flat land, an unlikely shelf carved into the mountainside. In front of the woodshed, around the truck, a few loose bricks lie here and there in the grass and snow. Spindles of mangled wire lean against the trees. Hanging from a long larch limb are two thick ropes that sway opposite each other now, but look as if they might have once been connected by a flat board—­a child's swing.

It is March, sunny and cold. Ann gets into the driver's seat and shuts the door quietly. She pulls the seatbelt across her body, then rolls the window down so that several droplets splatter on her lap. She touches the wet spots with her fingertip, connecting them with lines in her mind to make a picture on her thigh. The picture reminds her of a mouse, or at least a child's drawing of a mouse, with a triangle face and a long, curlicued tail. Nine years ago, when Wade was still married to Jenny and both of his daughters were still alive, a mouse had crawled along the top of the truck's exhaust pipe into the engine compartment, and built its nest on the manifold. She thinks of how strange it is that Wade probably remembers that mouse, remembers the sound of it skittering under the hood, and yet he's forgotten his first wife's name. Or so it seems sometimes. But the mouse—­the mouse is still very much alive in his memory.

A few years after Ann and Wade married, Ann found a pair of deerskin gloves in a toolbox high on a shelf in a closet. They were much nicer than the work gloves Wade usually wore, and seemed to be brand new except for the odor of something burned. That was how she learned about the mouse in the first place. She asked why he kept the gloves stored in their closet instead of using them. Wade told her that he wanted to preserve the smell.

What smell is that?

The smell of a rodent's nest that caught on fire.

The last smell in his daughter's hair.

It was a long time ago now that he said things like that. He stopped talking about the details of his daughter's death once he saw how much Ann held on to them. He probably thinks she's forgotten about the gloves, it's been so many years. But she hasn't. He keeps them in the filing cabinet with his papers, in his office upstairs. She has opened the drawer just enough to see them.

That mouse had probably been in the truck the whole winter, during that last year that Wade was married to Jenny, that last year that May was alive and June was safe. Ann thinks of the mouse going back and forth in the snow between the truck and the barn, hauling mouthfuls of hay or insulation or tufts of stuffing from the dogs' beds, making its nest bigger and having babies in it once spring arrived. Some of the babies probably died early on and were absorbed by the nest, their tiny bones like shards of straw themselves. And other mice came, too; you could hear them moving under the hood if you put your ear against it. The little girls liked doing that.

Excerpted from Idaho by Emily Ruskovich. Copyright © 2017 by Emily Ruskovich. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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