Excerpt of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy
(Page 5 of 9)
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On Tuesday, he saddled one of the horses and rode it into
town, leaving the truck. There was a chinook wind, and the
night was warm, for January, and the sky clear. The plains
spread out dark and flat in every direction, except where the
lights glowed from town. He watched the stars as he rode.
At the school, he tethered the horse to the bike rack, out
of sight of the side door and the lot where the teachers
would park. He took the fat plastic bag of oats from his
jacket pocket and held it open. The horse sniffed at it, then
worked the oats out of the bag with his lips.
Thats all I got, he said, shoving the empty plastic bag
back in his pocket.
The horse lifted its head to sniff at the strange town
Dont get yourself stolen, Chet said.
When half the teachers had arrived, he went in and took
his seat. Everyone sat in the same seat as they had the week
before. They talked about the chinook and whether it would
melt the snow. Finally Beth Travis came in, with her puffy
coat and her briefcase. He was even happier to see her than
he had expected, and she was wearing jeans again, which
was good. Hed been afraid she might wear the narrow wool
skirt. She looked harassed and unhappy to be there. The
teachers chattered on.
When the class was over and the teachers had cleared out,
he asked, Can I give you a ride to the café?
Oh she said, and she looked away.
Not in the truck, he said quickly, and he wondered
why a truck might seem more dangerous to a woman. He
guessed because it was like a room. Come outside, he
She waited in the parking lot while he untied the horse
and mounted up. He rode it around from the bike rack
aware that he could seem like a fool, but elated with the
feeling of sitting a horse as well as anyone didto where
Beth Travis stood hugging her briefcase.
Oh, my God, she said.
Dont think about it, he said. Give me your briefcase.
Now give me your hand. Left foot in the stirrup. Now swing
the other leg over. She did it, awkwardly, and he pulled her
up behind him. He held her briefcase against the pommel,
and she held tightly to his jacket, her legs against his. He
couldnt think of anything except how warm she was, pressed
against the base of his spine. He rode the back way, through
the dark streets, before cutting out toward the main drag and
stopping short of it, behind the café. He helped her down,
swung to the ground after her, gave her the briefcase, and
tied the horse. She looked at him and laughed, and he realized
he hadnt seen her laugh before. Her eyebrows went up
and her eyes got wide, instead of crinkling up like most
peoples did. She looked amazed.
In the café, the waitress slid a burger and fries in front of
Beth Travis and said, The cook wants to know if thats your
horse out back.
Chet said it was.
Can he give it some water?
He said hed appreciate it.
Truck break down? the waitress asked.
He said no, his truck was all right, and the waitress went
Beth Travis turned the long end of the oval plate in his
direction, and took up the burger. Have some fries, she
said. How come you never eat anything?
He wanted to say that he wasnt hungry when he was
around her, but he feared the look on her face if he said it,
the way she would shy away.
Why were you afraid of selling shoes? he asked.
Have you ever sold shoes? Its hell.
I mean, why were you afraid you couldnt get anything
She looked at the burger as if the answer was in there.
Her eyes were almost the same color as her hair, and ringed
with pale lashes. He wondered if she thought of him as an
Indian boy, with his mothers dark hair. I dont know, she
said. Yes, I do know. Because my mother works in a school
cafeteria, and my sister works in a hospital laundry, and selling
shoes is the nicest job a girl from my family is supposed
Excerpted from Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
by Maile Meloy Copyright © 2009 by Maile Meloy. Excerpted by
permission of Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Group, Inc. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.