Excerpt from Wyoming by JP Gritton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by JP Gritton

Wyoming by JP Gritton X
Wyoming by JP Gritton
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    Nov 2019, 246 pages


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Ian Muehlenhaus
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"I can't stand him, Shelley," May told me one morning, that spring. "He's just so goddamned arrogant." I never took it all that serious. Mike was my best friend, it didn't matter if nobody else liked him. It never occurred to me to wonder why, if May hated him so much, she never told me not to ask him over.


All this craziness happened the same summer Jimmy Carter was fishing in Georgia and a rabbit swum up to his boat and bit him. That was the joke back then, the one we kept on telling one another and never seemed to get old. Like that afternoon, after Starbuck shut off the generator, and me and Mike made our way over to the truck and get in.

"You seen any swamp rabbits today?" Mike said.

"Swamp rabbits? No more'n usual."

"Haven't had to fight any off, I hope?"

"Just a few. The swamp rabbit is docile this time of the year. The heat gentles him."

"Gentles him?"

"Chills him right out, Mike."

"But he remains a dangerous beast."

"Dangerous as they get, Mike."

We were quiet after that, the miles ticking along. And then Mike said, "I hope Ray don't mind buttered toast for supper, 'cause butter and bread's all we got at the house just now."

And I knew him well enough to know what he meant: he meant he wanted to come to supper and he wanted May to fix him a plate to bring his dad after. That was the year Ray Corliss got bad sick, I forgot to mention.

"You can eat supper at our place," I told him. "We got plenty."

And Mike said, "Well I don't know."

And I told him, "Sure. Won't take long, have you home before the swamp rabbits are up and about."

"When's that?" he asked. "When they come out?"


"Well, all right."

And we'd had this exact same conversation a hundred times and a hundred times Mike had come over and put me and Lij in a fit while May set there grinding her teeth, watching Mike eat the food he never bothered to thank her for. Except that afternoon, May had company of her own.

I hardly noticed her, even though I decided later on she was the kind of girl you notice: full-figured, kind of. I know May must've introduced us. I know I must've learned Syrena's name. I know I must've shook Syrena's hand. I know she must've explained, or maybe May did, that they worked together at the JC Penney's in West Plains, in the home appliance section.  Problem is, I don't really remember all that. It was about like any other supper—couldn't even tell you what we ate—except there were five of us at the table instead of the usual three.

When we finished, me and Mike got in the truck. I'd been true to my word: it was well before sundown. He shut the door after him, that plate covered in tin foil settled into his lap, his daddy's supper.

"She had eyes for you, Shelley," Mike said.

And I said, "Who?"

And he said, "Who you think?"

So I thought. After a beat, I said, "Syrena?"

"Yes, shit-for-brains."

And I told him all the things you're supposed to when you hear something like that: Naw and You're full of it and She wasn't ever. But I couldn't help smiling a little to say it.  And by the time I pulled onto the highway, Mike Corliss was working around to his big idea: "We ought to go out sometime, the four of us. Double-dutch, I mean."

And I was quiet, trying to decide if he was serious. And then Mike said: "Missed the turn, shit-for-brains."


That summer, we were working on this cabin. Now we aren't talking Abe Lincoln out there with his axe and a pail of tree sap set to boil over a fire. No, them log cabins come in a kit, with the grooves already cut in the joists, and the splines and eleven-inch screws in a shrink-wrapped crate. I swear it to you, that first pack of lumber come with a set of directions.

Excerpted from Wyoming by JP Gritton. Copyright © 2019 by JP Gritton. Excerpted by permission of Tin House Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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