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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Book Reviewed by:
Ian Muehlenhaus
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It was full up that night, and I knew if we turned down the music and told every crackerjack in there to shut up, you'd hear that humming in the air meant somebody was going to scrap.  Who knew exactly how long it'd take, but it was coming. The table pushed over on its side, and the broke glass and the quiet over the bar before that wet sound of somebody's knuckles on somebody's mouth. And I'd brought May here.

But I knew we couldn't leave. We couldn't leave 'cause we were miles from home now. Besides, May and Syrena were already settling in on one side of the booth and Mike was handing me a ten-dollar bill: "Get a round."

Don't think for a second I felt good about leaving him alone with May, I didn't. Waiting on the beers, I couldn't stop myself from wondering what kind of fool'd bring his sister to such a place and what kind of fool buys her a beer when he's done it? I guess I felt a little better when I come back from the bar, though, account of Mike had left. He was sidling up to the pool table, where a couple boys I didn't know stood in blue jeans and matching green t-shirts that read "Claymore-Union Extraction Services." Their skin where it showed was mud-brown, so dark that the too-blue eyes almost looked like they didn't belong in their faces. Strong-looking, good-looking boys who smiled bright white when Mike took the beer I'd brung him and nodded their way:

"I'll put two dollars on this game, if Sheldon remembered to bring me my change."

They looked at me, and I handed Mike his money.  After I'd racked the balls, Mike set to studying the tip of his stick. Something about the look on his face told me I'd be the one making the chitchat, and I was right. Me and them out-of-town boys got to talking, and they told how they were roughnecks, headed home from Louisiana. Said they lived up toward Clay County. Said they were stopping for the night.

That's when Mike cut in: "Stopping here? What in hell for?"

The two of them laughed. One said: "Just figured we would."

The other said, "Sick of driving."

Mike still had that look in his eye, the one I knew meant he was fixing to do something mean or crazy, or both: "Nothing to see here," he told them. Then: "It's your break."

Keep in mind Mike still hadn't said so much as a dozen words to May so far, not that she seemed to mind. She and Syrena were still just a-setting there in that booth, reminding me of a couple of sisters in a church pew, chaste is the word I'm looking for.

Anyway. Took those Clay County boys about ten minutes to win the first game and hardly that long to win the second one. We couldn't have been playing a half hour by the time Mike smiled and spat in the sawdust and said, Best out of seven.

The tall one just shrugged. By then, I could tell they were a little tired of playing, but that didn't mean they were about to give us the table. And now the other Clay County boy stuck his chin out at Mike, "I guess you owe us that two dollars."  And I can see he doesn't care about the two dollars, it's just he doesn't like Mike all that much, he'd rather just get it all over with: the table turned up on its side, the glass broke on the concrete floor, the fist and so on. I could feel it coming then, boy—hear that hum—and I watched a vein doing jumping jacks in Mike's neck. We were all of us a little drunk now, me and Mike and the roughnecks, but I wasn't drunk enough just yet to scrap.

"Tell you what," I said. "Let me buy you fellows a beer."


Well guess who's standing up at the bar when I got there? Jarvis Wicklowe and Laughton Starbuck. I hadn't saw the company truck in the lot, which I figured meant he'd parked round the back. Account of maybe he was nervous about bowling balls falling from the sky.

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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