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

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Wyoming

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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Print Excerpt

I guess you're wondering how I ended up with a woman like Syrena, in the first place. Truth is, it's Mike's fault. He's the one to blame. Or to thank, I don't know which. It was Mike Corliss who turned to me on this too-hot afternoon beginning of September. The four of us ought to go out sometime. Double Dutch, I mean. And I remember him smiling at me while my guts turned somersaults.  He was a different man those days, full of piss and vinegar. He had a smart mouth on him, and he wasn't afraid to use it either, which is why Laughton Starbuck kind of had it out for Mike.

"Where's your protective eyewear, Corliss?"

"My protective eyewear?"

"That's what I asked you."

"My protective eyewear's protecting the dashboard of Sheldon Cooper's truck. That's where I left it this morning."

Sheldon, he used to call me, 'cause he knew it got on my nerves. To everybody else I was Shelley.

I was just a journeyman carpenter back then. I drove Lij's truck to work and home every day, give my best friend Mike Corliss a ride. Half the time, he'd forget something on the dash: that blue bandana, that pack of smokes, that pair of goggles.

I guess I looked up to Mike, who was a couple years older than me and besides that had a way about him. He told a story better than anybody I know, though you never knew how much was true and how much he'd half-made up. He told me how a honeybee flies through the rain, missing every drop. He told me nobody'd ever saw a giant squid, but even so scientists know they exist 'cause sometimes, he said, a whale or a shark will wash up on the beach, a great big bite took out of it.

You ever doubted his word, Mike would just get real quiet: "Fine," he'd tell you. "Believe me or don't. I don't care." And kind of sulk after that. 'Cause Mike had a temper on him, too, I guess he still does. Take for example what happened with that bowling ball he'd stole from the alley in Birch Tree. For a couple weeks we'd kept that thing, a thirteen-pounder, in the back of Lij's truck, set inside a spare to keep it from punching a hole in the bed.  Well one evening we come up on the Go-Go Room, that's a bar in Summerglenn, and Mike calls out to me: Stop the car, damn it! Stop! So I pull into the lot.

When I turn to him, Mike's pointing to this beautiful baby-blue Chevrolet C30 with a custom decal on one door: Starbuck and Purchiss Construction, LLC. Mike is saying, "Go a little closer, Sheldon."

So I do. I pull closer, even though I already know what he's fixing to do, and I don't like it.  Don't, I tell him, but my breath catches and anyway he's already out the truck and reaching into the spare for that bowling ball and heaving it through Laughton Starbuck's front window.  The whole thing come out at once. A kind of glassy scream.  And I am afraid, 'cause I know I can't afford to lose this job, and 'cause Mike is taking his time coming back to the truck. He pulls the blue bandana out of his back pocket and kind of dabs at his forehead. Takes that pack of smokes out his shirt—he smoked, back in those days—and lights up.

He takes a big drag, gets in.

"Well," he says, "what are we doing now?"

You got the feeling around Mike sometime that he was liable to go too far one day. You got the feeling he was liable to go too far, and you'd let him.

***


We framed house for three years together. I guess you might be wondering how a boy like that held onto a job for so long, and truth to tell it had always stumped me. There were plenty on that crew who would've liked to see Mike go, by the way, in fact me and Lij were about the only people in Haywood County who seemed to think much of him.

Not even my sister liked him, not back then she didn't.  Mike come over to supper once or twice a week. He set there telling jokes until my ribs were sore and my grandfather was pounding on his chest, trying to get his wind back: You hear about that swamp rabbit, Lij? But all that while, May was quiet, the look on her face like she'd just sucked the juice out a lemon.

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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