Excerpt of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy
(Page 7 of 9)
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While the man talked on, Chet got up from his seat and
made his way up the aisle to the door. Outside he stood
breathing the cold air into his lungs. He let the lights of
town swim in his eyes until he blinked them clear again and
climbed into the ranchers truck. He gave it enough gas so
the engine wouldnt quit, and it coughed and steadied itself
He knew Beth Travis lived in Missoula, six hundred miles
west, over the mountains, but he didnt know where. He
didnt know where she worked, or if she was listed in the
phone book. He didnt know if it was he who had scared her
off or the drive. He didnt know if the truck would make it
all that way, or what the rancher would do when he found
out hed gone.
But he put the truck in gear and pulled out of town in
the direction he had three times watched the yellow Datsun
go. The road was flat and straight and seemed to roll underneath
the truck, dark and silent, through a dark and silent
expanse of snow-covered land. He stopped outside of Miles
City, and again outside of Billings, to hobble around on his
stiffened-up leg until he could drive again. Near Big Timber,
the plains ended and the mountains began, black shapes rising
up against the stars. He stopped in Bozeman for coffee
and gas, and drove the white line on the empty road past
Three Forks and Logan, to stay out of the ice that spread
from the shoulder in black sheets. Somewhere off to his
right in the dark, his parents were sleeping.
It was still dark when he reached Missoula, and he stopped
at a gas station and looked up Travis in the phone book.
There was a Travis, B. with a phone number, but no address.
He wrote down the number, but didnt call it. He asked the
kid at the cash register where the law offices were in town,
and the kid shrugged and said, Maybe downtown.
The kid stared at him. Its downtown, he said, and he
pointed off to his left.
Downtown, Chet found himself in dawn light among
shops and old brick buildings and one-way streets. He parked
and got out to stretch his hip. The mountains were so close
they made him feel claustrophobic. When he found a carved
wooden sign saying Attorneys at Law, he asked the secretary
who came to open the office if she knew a lawyer
named Beth Travis.
The secretary looked at his twisted leg, his boots, and his
coat and shook her head.
In the next law office, the secretary was friendlier. She
called the law school and asked where Beth Travis had gone
to work, then cupped her hand over the receiver. She took
a teaching job in Glendive.
She has another job, too. Here.
The secretary relayed this information on the phone, then
wrote something down on a piece of paper and handed it
Down by the old railroad depot, she said, pointing
toward the window with her pencil.
He pulled up at the address on the piece of paper at
eight-thirty, just as Beth Traviss yellow Datsun pulled into
the same parking lot. He got out of the truck, feeling jittery.
She was rummaging in her briefcase and didnt see him right
away. Then she looked up. She looked at the truck behind
him, then back at him again.
I drove over, he said.
I thought I was in the wrong place, she said. She let the
briefcase hang at her side. What are you doing here?
I came to see you.
She nodded, slowly. He stood as straight as he could. She
lived in another world from him. You could fly to Hawaii or
France in less time than it took to do that drive. Her world
had lawyers, downtowns, and mountains in it. His world had
horses that woke hungry, and cows waiting in the snow, and
it was going to be ten hours before he could get back to get
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.