Off the Beaten Track: Percival Everett

31 Oct


Having happily received Percival Everett’s newest opus, a novel entitled Assumption (Graywolf) I did a bit of search-engining to see if my enthusiasm was shared by the American reviewing industry. As far as I can tell there has been one review in Minneapolis’s daily (the proud home of Graywolf Press) by Steven Weintraub— who immediately distinguished himself (to me)by revealing that he had read 20 of Everett’s 22 published tomes.

Assumption is propelled by Odgen Walker who is biracial and after a stint in the Army he takes a job as a deputy Sheriff in a small New Mexico town. Perhaps an excerpt will offer a clue to why you ought to take notice of Percival Everett:

Chapter 2

Ogden Walker put his finger, a once-broken index that still held a curve, to the hole in the glass of the door through which two bullets had passed, a neat hole with spiderweb etching out and away. He felt the icy air, the rough exit hole, and he traced the netting of cracks to the wood. Neither the neighbors nor Mrs. Bickers knew who or what had been on the porch, but all were certain that he, she, or it would not be returning. Ogden marveled at the fact that Mrs. Bickers had been able to put two bullets through the same mark. He certainly could not have fired two shots like that, but still it was his job to relieve the old woman of her firearm and any others she might have. It wasn’t that he believed she should not have the gun, an old woman alone like that, but that she’d pulled the trigger without so much as a glimpse at the person on the porch. It could have been the meter reader, the postman, ringing only once this time, or Ogden himself.

“I need to talk to you, Mrs. Bickers,” Ogden said through the slim crack she offered at the door.

“Not now,” she said, her voice hoarse, perhaps thick with the morning. She pulled her terrycloth robe tight around her bony frame. “Can you come back?”

“No. I have to talk to you now. Okay? Open the door and let the not-yet-fully-awake deputy in.” Ogden looked her in the eye. “Please, ma’am.” He always sensed that the old woman didn’t like him because he was black, but that was probably true for half of the white residents of the county.

She opened the door and stood away. Ogden walked past her into the tight space of the foyer. He caught sight of his tired face in the mirror of the combination coat rack/bench. He watched as she closed the door, attended to the bullet hole from the other side.

“You got any coffee, Mrs. Bickers? I’m dying for a cup.” He knew that the old lady had never been comfortable with him, but he believed he could somewhat control the tension by having her feel he didn’t notice.

“Don’t have any coffee,” she said.

“What about tea? Listen, I need to sit down with you and have a little chat. Sheriff wants me to do it. So I have to do it.”

“Come on back.” She led the way to the rear of the long house and into the kitchen, across the buckled linoleum to the table.He held his holster away from his hip as he lowered himself into a chair. “A lot of excitement last night,” he said. “Are you all right?” He watched as the old woman filled a mug with the coffee she’d said she didn’t have and set it down in front of him. “Thank you, ma’am.”

She wiped both hands on her apron.

Ogden wrapped his hands around the mug. “Strong tea,” he said.

She sat. “Let’s get on with it.”

“Pretty fancy shooting last night, Mrs. Bickers. I’d never be able to hit a mark twice like that.”

“Well, I didn’t see much point in putting two holes in a perfectly good door,” she said without a hint of a smile.

“No, I guess not. Mind if I take a look at your gun?”

She frowned and twirled a lock of her loose gray hair between her fingers.

“I need to see it.”

Currently reading Uncanny Valley Adventures in the Narrative by Lawrence Weschler (Counterpoint)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: