Excerpt from Abundance by Jakob Guanzon, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Jakob Guanzon

Abundance by Jakob Guanzon X
Abundance by Jakob Guanzon
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  • Published:
    Mar 2021, 328 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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It's-a-girl pink. Too festive a color for the soap in a McDonald's men's room. Wrong color, anyway, just like it was eight years ago today. Michelle had been certain that the little boy now waiting outside for Henry would be a girl. So certain that she'd handed Henry a pink-ribboned cigar, right before lugging herself out of the truck and onto a stretcher.

Henry's thoughts scroll through a reverse inventory, its sum a taunt. The absentee list of birthday paraphernalia—balloons and streamers, candles and cake, a pile of presents, a pack of friends, a mother—seems to etch itself into the graffitied bathroom mirror. Henry's burned a gallon of gas to drive them three towns east of the boy's elementary school to this McDonald's in particular. Not only for its PlayPlace, but because there's no bus stop out front. No keypad code to access the bathroom. This is one of the nicer locations, even if passing squalor has left a few stains in here. Mirror all carved up with phone numbers, initials, fuck u's. Smack center, one jagged message of encouragement says, It gets better.

Henry still reeks of the day. No chance to wash up. After he picked Junior up from school, they'd killed a couple hours at a park rather than inside the public library. When he unclamps an armpit reaching for the soap, a wet-leaf gutter musk seeps upward. The soap dispenser's porthole is a bloodshot cyclops. Tired and near empty. A weak sneeze of pink in his palm. He jiggers the pump till he's squeezed out every last driblet. The faucet is automatic, has a sensor but no knobs to warm the frigid gush. He's cavernous with hunger, and a shiver echoes through his bones. He works the soap into a sudsy film. Picks the crud from his fingernails, his cuticles, the cork of his palms. Before scrubbing his face and chest, he extends his leg, presses his boot toe against the door. Wouldn't want to be seen like this, doing this.

Pinching the sternum of his crewneck, he fans air over his torso, then pats himself dry with a paper towel. His black hair juts upward, stiff with dried sweat and limestone dust, months overdue for a cut, making a boxy helmet around his face. He slicks it all straight back, then almost smiles. Thinks back to the singlewide, the first night in their new home. When Michelle had seen him like this, fresh out the shower, she covered her smirk with a fist, muzzling the dim contours of her incisors but not her trademark pre-insult, "Ha."

"What now, huh?"

"Nothing." She gave the bedsheet a little matador flap. "Just your hair like that? Dad wouldn't know whether you's a guinea or a spic." "Fair enough," he said. "I'm still torn whether you're a redneck or plain white trash."

"Come here."

And so he did.

When he slides his boot toe off the men's room door, something jingles. A bright metallic note skitters across the floor tiles, comes to rest in the corner. A quarter. He squats to retrieve it, slips it into the front pocket of his jeans.


The way Junior slouches by the soda fountain, jaw slack as his shoulders and awe stretching his eyes, he ought to be watching a rocket climb into the blue instead of this fast food menu. The park's dose of June sun has left a flushed, feverish slick on the boy's brow. When he finally notices Henry checking his forehead, the boy's posture snaps from languid to infantry stiff. Out of respect or fear, Henry can't tell. Can't help but wonder if the boy is still scared of him. Either way, he's proud of his son, but instead of saying so, he just squeezes the boy's neck, each vertebra a prizefighter's knuckle.



"Pa, did you know Happy Meals are on the Value Menu now?

Three bucks." Junior flashes that same frown of approval Henry himself often makes before saying, "Not bad."

It is, though—bad. Bad that Junior's already weighing dollars. Even worse is the oil slick of relief that runs over Henry as soon as that internal, automatic arithmetic crunches out a figure that's a third of what he's budgeted for this birthday treat.

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Excerpt from Abundance. Copyright © 2021 by Jakob Guanzon. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

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