Excerpt of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy
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What about your father?
I dont know him.
Thats a sad story.
No, its not, she said. Its a happy story. Im a lawyer,
see, with a wonderful job driving to fucking Glendive every
fifteen minutes until I lose my mind. She put down the
burger and pressed the backs of her hands into her eyes. Her
fingers were greasy and one had ketchup on it. She took her
hands away from her face and looked at her watch. Its ten
oclock, she said. I wont get home before seven-thirty in
the morning. There are deer on the road, and theres black
ice outside of Three Forks along the river. If I make it past
there, I get to take a shower and go to work at eight, and do
all the crap no one else wants to do. Then learn more school
law tomorrow night, then leave work the next day before
lunch and drive back here with my eyes twitching. Its better
than a hospital laundry, maybe, but its not a whole fucking
Im from near Three Forks, he said.
So you know the ice.
She dipped her napkin in her water glass and washed
off her fingers, then finished her coffee. It was nice of
you, to bring the horse, she said. Will you take me back to
Outside, he swung her up onto the horse again, and she
put her arms around his waist. She seemed to fit to his body
like a puzzle piece. He rode slowly back to the school parking
lot, not wanting to let her go. Next to the yellow Datsun,
he held her hand tight while she climbed down, and then he
dismounted, too. She tugged her puffy coat where it had
ridden up from sliding off the horse, and they stood looking
at each other.
Thank you, she said.
He nodded. He wanted to kiss her but couldnt see any
clear path to that happening. He wished he had practiced,
with the high school girls or the friendly secretaries, just to
be ready for this moment.
She started to say something, but in his nervousness he
cut her off. See you Thursday, he said.
She paused before nodding, and he took this for encouragement.
He caught up her hand again and kissed it, because
he had wanted to do that, and it was soft and cold. Then he
leaned over and kissed her cheek, because he had wanted to
do that, too. She didnt move, not an inch, and he was about
to kiss her for real when she seemed to snap out of a trance,
and stepped away from him. She took her hand back. I have
to go, she said, and she went around to the drivers side of
He held the horse while she drove out of the parking lot,
and he kicked at the snow. The horse sidestepped away. He
felt like jumping up and down, in excitement and anxiety
and anguish. He had run her off. He shouldnt have kissed
her. He should have kissed her more. He should have let her
say what she wanted to say. He mounted up and rode
Thursday night he drove the truck in, no cowboy
antics; he was on a serious mission. He was going to
answer her questions honestly, such as the one about why he
didnt eat. He was going to let her say the things she intended
to say. He didnt wait for the crowd to arrive before
going into the classroom; he went in early and took his seat
in the back. The class filled up, and then a tall man in a gray
suit with a bowling-ball gut came in and stood behind the
Miss Travis, he said, found the drive from Missoula too
arduous, so I will take over the class for the rest of the term.
I practice law here in town. As some of you know, and
the rest of you would find out soon enough, Im recently
divorced and have some time on my hands. Thats why Im
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.