Excerpts from throughout the novel THE SPUD



do you like driving?
yeah, it’s okay.
it’s like inside, but outside.
well mostly inside, but yeah.
my mom won’t let me drive.
because you’re too young?
no, cause i might crash.
you think you’ll crash?
yeah. of course.



the repair shop is a fenced up rectangle, across the street from a dog kennel. kp drives to the boarded front entrance, checking his clipboard in case he’s made a mistake. auto glass services, 2235 garrett way, idaho falls, 83213. he squints to see the number. no mistake. a yellow note saying WE ARE OPEN.

he’s not tempted to steal peoples’ mail anymore. if he was still eleven year old kp, (and maybe he is, just plus eight years, ten inches, and a dead dad and brother) he might open one of the envelopes to see what’s inside, maybe a rock from italy or some letter that says please leave and come to my house where we can swim and eat grapes or go for a walk. the envelope is exciting cause it keeps our images inside, anthony says, sitting on a log at the creek, holding three envelopes for mag hartley. hopefully opening them doesn’t suck. he hands one to kp, the first of dozens that summer, riding bikes. dear taxpayer, kp reads out loud, -no. it says taxpayer? anthony asks, not believing, taking the letter back, looking for a name, still scrawny here, wearing the same basketball shorts as kp. we considered form 8857 and are prepared to deny your claim. this letter is not a denial of your claim, but if you do not respond to this letter within 30 days, we will send you a letter denying your claim. that, and an address.

kp walks inside the repair shop with his clipboard and gives it to the man. are you mr. d’agastino? he asks, hoping for a second he’ll say yes, i am, and sound like rome. but he says no, and his voice is a clear idaho.



one-story. rug, cardboard boxes, a seat near a microwave with a revolving bowl of smart-mac cheese. aunt gwen stands in front of the microwave, her left hip popped slight against the counter, the bone doesn’t fit. everybody is throwing out their microwaves these days, she says as the bowl goes around.

jesse and kp sit at the table. jesse’s hair all pieced and wet from walking nine miles in the rain back from jail, no phone number to call, holding out his thumb on the side of i-75, three quarters in his pocket. people don’t pick people up, he says in the passenger seat of her dodge, but who cares. nine miles is nothing, he says at the table, spooning pieces of yellow cheese into his mouth.

is anyone hiring, do you guys know? jesse asks as aunt gwen pours herself a glass of water and sits on the couch. maybe the movie theatre, she says. they’re always hiring.



the camera’s not in the picture, but it’s working now. she knows because of the flash against the t-shirted boy’s burger, mayonnaise dripping down the side of the patty as he bites, bigger than his face, two hands clenching bread, a swallow. the soap salesmen stand on both sides of jd as she watches.

this is how you escape from handcuffs, anthony tells jd one night, holding a sharp knife and a potato in the kitchen of her mother’s house while her mom tends to the barbeque outside. do you know what SPUD stands for? he asks, unlocking the cuffs around jd’s hands with the tip of the knife. the society for the prevention of an unwholesome diet, anthony says, and jd wakes up and tries to go back.

people used to think potatoes shouldn’t be eaten, jd says to herself, watching one french fry enter the mouth of a man and another one fly into the air, beneath a cloud. they had to use a narrow spade to dig up the roots and since the plant lived so deep in the ground, it was considered dirty food. the soap salesmen watch the six men slide potatoes into their mouth.



you plucked all your eyelashes off, huh.
well just the right eye. i didn’t mean to.
does it hurt, or what’s the blinking like.
this eye versus the other one?
yeah, is there a difference.
probably. i don’t feel it.



the town of hailey has the sawtooth national forest, red devil peak (6594 ft), della (6729 ft), the rotarun ski area, two bmx parks, and a sun valley polo club building. a golden eagle with his hands on his hips on the sign, the bird wearing a big t-shirt reading CSI.

anthony paxton was an orphan, the dean says into a microphone, standing in front of a crowd in the university auditorium. he had no support here. no allegiances. kp looks at the faces in the chairs, some nodding, but most still, like cardboard circles of faces glued onto couch pillows, the pillows molded into shapes of torsos, arms and necks. kp recognizes one of the cardboards as a mother. he’s seen her twice since the shooting. she’s always soft and purple. once she looked at him and blinked, like she was going to sleep in the street, and he ought to leave her alone, to rest.

jd’s hair flies around the window as they pass the college campus, gun clenched in her right hand near the door handle. he had no support. no allegiances, the dean says at the podium a couple weeks after the bakery. kp pulls his cap further down on his face, doesn’t want eyes to meet eyes. he wants to leave, but the people will see him and they’ll think he’s awful. for leaving, for coming, for listening, for not asking his brother about it, for not making him lose his keys in the morning, for not having smart, beautiful, meaningful things to say to him over dinner. kp closes his eyes beneath the cap, above the wheel. in the dark, he sees himself walking up to the mom after the speech. he’s tall, she’s soft. neither of them speak. he holds her, and the other people walk out. 



has the back to school bigfoot burger challenge started yet?
lotta folks are here, but the contest begins at four.
about how many people are there right now?
maybe fifty. are you a ticket-holder, ma’am?
yes i am. are there many seats left or?
most people are sitting on the grass.
and are there camera-men there?
cameras are allowed, uh huh.
and news reporters?
oh sure, some.



the girl’s standing in front of the peak, talking on her cell phone, gun shaping her back pocket into a triangular square. kp parked in the driver’s seat, watching her, like the scene where the girl calls her boss to complain about the sky, too blue, too big, too bland, and her boss, a big time tijuana drug dealer says he’s on his way to meet her in his fat yellow hummer with a trunk full of guns, girls and cocaine. jd puts her hands in her front pockets, arches back to stretch, the perfect ass, small and firm and sixteen years old, all by itself, standing so classically upright in the faded blue as the gun rod presses on the cheek, the arch slowly ripping open the center jean seam, the ass bare, in his hands, on his lap, his pants down, dick out.

THE HAMMER can replace porn for you, aunt gwen explains on the back patio of her house, drinking a club orange cocktail out of her bozeman horse mug as kp takes off his cap and cracks knuckles one by one in the mitt of his hand. are you even ejaculating anymore? or is it just numb now, aunt gwen asks, the afternoon light dimming the comet-shaped scar on her jaw. you can black out all those images, k-p babe, they’re separate from you. they don’t belong.

jd closes the car door. fuck mountains, she says, kp summoning his aunt’s black sharpie to scratch out her thighs and the thumb between her lips, all the dripp milk color to leave only the flat interstate, so-called, between idaho and what, idaho and what, a red ticker passing fifty, sixty, seventy as the girl in the passenger seat peels off her socks. 







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