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Newly arrived in the backwater town of GroVont, Wyoming, teenager Sam Callahan is initiated into adulthood when he embarks on a period of intense sexual experimentation with sassy, smart Maurey Pierce. Reprint. NYT.
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Tim Sandlin has published eight novels. Two of his screenplays have been made into movies. He turned forty with no phone, TV, or flush toilet and spent more time talking to the characters in his head than the people around him. He now has seven phone lines, four TVs he doesn't watch, three flush toilets, and a two-headed shower. He lives happily (indoors) with his family in Jackson, Wyoming.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
From Chapter One
I remember being way out in right field and my nose hurt. Hurt like king-hell, as if my sinuses were full of chlorine. Now I know that when anyone moves from the South to Wyoming, their nose always hurts like king-hell for two weeks. Has something to do with the humidity, I guess, or the altitude.
But at the time, standing out there in right field pretending to spit in my glove so I could hide my right hand as it pinched my nostrils, I thought Lydia and I were the first Southerners ever lost in Wyoming. I also thought the nose pain meant I had leukemia and would die soon.
"Sam, Sam, can you hear me?"
Sam's eyes fluttered in weak recognition of his grandfather's presence.
"Sam, I'm so sorry you're dying of leukemia, I'm sorry I shipped you and your mom out to the Wilderness when you needed to be home the most."
Sam tried to raise his hand. It was a noble effort.
"Sam, this is your grandfather, can you forgive me before you die?"
The poor boy's lips worked, he made the supreme effort, but no words of forgiveness would escape his mouth. Slowly, painfully, he smiled.
Back then I often had recurring daydreams of people being sorry when I died.
Out in right field, I was keenly aware that people were watching me. Where they watched from, I wasn't certain, but I always know when I'm being watched. It makes my butt itch. I have a feeling this deal goes back to the second grade when Lydia told me not to scratch in public because someone was always watching. Lydia's the kind of mother who would do that to a kid. Since I couldn't scratch where it itched and my nose hurt like king-hell, I stood out there in right field kind of twitching. I hunched my right shoulder up to rub my ear, then blinked my eyes hard, trying to scratch my sinuses from the inside. I raised up on my toes and tensed my butt cheeks. That didn't help at all, made me feel more watched.
The trouble, of course, was social alienation. I'd always played baseball with gas company conduits behind third base and the Caspar Callahan Carbon Paper plant twenty yards off the first-base foul pole. Now, nothing lay behind third base, only the bare valley floor stretching forever to a line of green along a river, then another forever before the Tetons jumped up two dimensional in the background.
The openness got me. There are no treeless spots in North Carolina-unless someone's fought like king-hell to make them that way. Here, I could see a tree up by the school and a few scraggly little willows we'd call weeds marked the home run fence behind me, but other than that-zip. Zappo. Nothing. I was lost in limbo where the unbaptized babies go when they die.
Off the first-base line was almost as bad. A bunch of rural, shrieking types played pathetic volleyball. They all had their hands over their heads like apes. I could see pit stains from thirty yards. If the wind changed, I'd be in big trouble. The batter swung wide and missed by a foot. He was tall and gangly. One thing I had to admit about Wyoming, even in the midst of my bad attitude, the kids might be ugly but hardly any of them were fat. Maybe a girl or two, and they were more muscled broad than fat. I spit in my glove again. Somewhere along the line I'd decided spit was good for leather and not to be wasted. The kid batter swung again and again missed by a mile.
"Sam, you've only been gone from Greensboro a short time, yet you've returned with the demeanor of a cowboy."
Sam tipped his wide-brimmed hat. "Yup."
"You seem so much taller and more enigmatic."
Caspar had banished us before-that's what he did when Lydia pulled one of her classic boners. But that was to Maine or Georgia Sea Island and summertime. This was a mockery. Mars. The inside of a vacuum cleaner bag.
I heard laughter. They weren't just watching, they were laughing at me. I chose to take the high road of the sports hero and ignore them.
The night before-our first night in hell as she called it-Lydia had told me about school. "Sam, honey bunny." The honey-bunny stuff was a nasty habit. "Sam, honey bunny, you're at the worst age possible to be starting a new school. You can handle it one of two ways. You can wallow in superiority, tell yourself everyone's a stupid yahoo but you."
"Yahoo," I said.
"Or you can be nervous as heck that you won't fit in and no one will like you and you can suck up like a puppy dog."
"Neither way sounds fun," I said.
"I advise superiority. It has always stood me well." This conversation took place before 10:30.
"Hey, kid, throw the ball."
I ignored them. I wasn't sure how it had happened, but the gangly kid stood on second and there was a new batter.
A ranch boy crossed the foul line, walking straight toward me. I concentrated on the new batter who was a spastic or some such. He switched sides of the plate between every pitch. The boy came up on my left. "You deaf, kid?" He was real skinny and had bad pits on his chin. When he spit a wad of juice, I looked at his swollen cheek in amazement. I'd never seen anyone chew tobacco and this guy couldn't have been more than thirteen, fourteen years old.
"Can I help you?"
The boy wrinkled his nose and mimicked in a high voice.
"Can I help you."
"What's the problem?"
"Our volleyball." The boy had about six inches of extra belt hanging off his buckle.
"Your volleyball's the problem?"
"You've got it."
I looked down at the ball at his feet. Same color as Lydia's skin. "I'm sorry, I didn't see it."
"How could you not see it. It's right there." The boy bent down to pick up the ball. "We thought you were foreign. Can't understand American."
From the left side of the plate, the batter drilled a high fly down the right field line and I took off. I'd show the turkeys.
Not a kid in Wyoming could make this catch. I pictured myself, at a dead run, reaching out, spearing the ball, then whirling and firing a strike to the cowboy-booted second baseman to nail the gangly base runner.
Almost worked that way.
I flew across the playground, made the jump, snared the ball, and came down with my left foot in a hole. As I started to fall, I caught myself with a straight right leg, stumbled a couple steps, pitched forward, and hung myself on the volleyball-net guy wire. Would have done permanent damage, except the force of the sprawl yanked up the stake holding down the guy wire. As it was, my head jerked back, my feet kept going, and I made a sound like yerp. Then I slammed to my back. I rolled into the pole which, without its guy wire, fell across my body, bringing the net down on my face.
Breathing was tough. I lay in silence, staring at the blue above. A black bird circled up near a cloud. Yellowish spots formed at the corners, swelling in front of my eyes. Turning my head carefully, I looked at my left hand. The ball lay tucked in my mitt. It had been worth it.
Way high, a face came into view. She had remarkably welldefined cheekbones, dark hair pulled back, and blue eyes. Black hair and blue eyes, like Hitler.
The eyes blinked once. She opened her pretty mouth and disgust dripped off her voice. "Smooth move, Ex-Lax."
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Book Description Henry Holt, 1991. hardcover. Condition: New. 1991 NY: Henry Holt First edition, first printing, new/unread in flawless dust jacket. Seller Inventory # SANSKIP11
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