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Trailer Trash(9)

By´╝ÜMarie Sexton



“They’re little rodents that burrow in the ground.”

“Like prairie dogs?”

“Smaller.”

“Like, a chipmunk?”

“No, man. Like a squeakie! People shoot ’em. Or they find a field full of ’em and spin donuts in their cars, seeing how many they can run over.”

“Are you serious?”

“And when they get bored of that, they chase the antelope, trying to run them down. And if that ain’t cool enough for you, I hear they got dogfights up by Farson.”

“Dogfights?” Nate gripped his head with both hands, horrified, wishing he’d never heard anything Cody had said. “Like, where the dogs get killed?”

Cody blew smoke and shrugged again. “That’s what they say. I ain’t never seen one. Can’t really see why that’d be fun. Never understood why shooting squeakies was fun either, but you asked what people do.” He held up both hands. “That’s about it.”

“Oh my God.” Nate hadn’t ever killed anything in his life, unless he counted the occasional insect or spider on the bathroom floor, but he’d seen a cat get run over once in Texas. He didn’t ever want to see anything like that again. “I think hanging out in this field is better.”

Cody smiled at him. “See? You’re getting used to Wyoming already.”

Once he was back home, Nate went to the bookshelf in the family room and scanned the spines of the set of encyclopedias his parents had bought two years before. S comprised two full volumes. He pulled out the second one and sat cross-legged on the floor as he flipped through the pages.

No “squeakies.”

“Whatcha doing?” his dad asked, startling Nate from his contemplation of the book. “School hasn’t even started yet, and you’re doing research?”

“What’s a squeakie?”

“Squeakies.” His dad chuckled. “I wondered the same thing. Turns out they’re some kind of ground squirrel, although I’m not sure which kind. Jake said a Thompson’s ground squirrel, and Fred told me they’re actually Uinta ground squirrels, and Susan told me they’re Wyoming ground squirrels.” He scratched his head and shrugged. “Not sure who’s right or what the difference between them is anyway. Why? Somebody ask you to go shooting with them?”

“Not exactly, but I heard that’s what some people here do for fun.”

“Yeah, I’ve already been on a couple of calls because of it. People shooting guns in city limits, or on someone’s private property. For what it’s worth, I’d rather you didn’t participate in that particular local custom. It’s bound to get you in trouble sooner rather than later.”

Nate was perfectly happy to promise he wouldn’t go out shooting innocent ground squirrels anytime soon, but for the rest of the night, he brooded over his conversation with Cody. He imagined squeakies—they looked like prairie dogs in his mind, no matter what Cody said—running for cover, and antelope fleeing pickup trucks, and dogs, forced to fight to the death while a bunch of rednecks laughed and drank.

This was what passed for entertainment in Wyoming?

He took a deck of cards to the field with him the next morning. It was almost impossible to keep them from blowing away, but over the next few days, they managed a few games of Go Fish, Crazy Eights, and War. They were attempting a game of Five Card Draw when Cody suddenly asked, “So, why’d your folks split?”

Nate squirmed. He wasn’t sure he wanted to talk about it. Then again, he had a feeling Cody would understand, seeing as how his own parents weren’t together either.

“My dad had an affair.”

“Suppose that’d do it.”

“I guess.” Nate didn’t know the details. His parents hadn’t ever told him, but he’d overheard his aunt and uncle whispering about it.

He didn’t want to think about his parents. He scowled down at his cards. He didn’t even have a lousy pair. “I fold.”

Cody laughed as he gathered Nate’s discarded cards. “Bad move. I didn’t have shit.”

They weren’t playing for anything, so it didn’t matter. Nate’s hair was blowing in his face again, and he pushed it off his forehead. He kept thinking he’d buy a baseball cap, but he had yet to find one in Wyoming that didn’t have either a John Deere logo or some redneck slogan on it.

He glanced at Cody who was shuffling the cards, a cigarette dangling from his lips. “What about yours?”

Cody frowned as if he hadn’t considered that Nate might turn the tables on him. He cleared his throat, and took the cigarette out of his mouth. “My dad was sort of in and out all along, you know? But I guess he’s been mostly ‘out’ since I was ten or eleven. He lives in Worland.”

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