Faster Horses

 a novel excerpt

He didn't kiss me or anything, just took his hat from my head and bowed a little when he put it on. His friend Manuel waved to me and Linda. They slammed their saddles into the trunk, threw themselves in the car making the tires whoosh, and fishtailed for Texas.

Right after Bud drove off, Linda settled Lady in the trailer and we started on a fast trip home over sizzling roads to drop me off for second grade. It seemed like everyone was going somewhere. The week before, the switchboard lady with the blond hair left us a message from Mam saying that she and Grandad had finally moved the last of the furniture from the house on the hill. They were living at the new ranch.

Linda was nervous and quiet as she drove through California with her red hair down and her elbow stuck out the window. Her shirtsleeve fluttered against the blazing green door and the car smelled of the Sea and Ski she slathered on her arms. We didn't stop at Knott's Berry Farm because it was too expensive. I wanted to play more word games, but she didn't. She gave me gum to chew then hollered at me because she couldn't stand mouth sounds. She said I sounded like Lady when I chewed.

Linda was always in a big hurry to get where she was going. She didn't want me to know it, but she was kind of mad. She had to go so far out of her way to take me home that she was missing the El Paso rodeo. Even worse, as soon as she dropped me off, she had to turn around and drive three days straight, from Oregon clear back to Austin.

But, Bud's promise to come see me had cheered me up. It also cheered me to think that Linda's taste in men had finally taken a turn for the better. During the long drive when I was tired of reading comic books, I'd stare out the window at the golden fields and dream the way the new ranch would look. It would have wide open gates and flags flying our brand like the ranches I'd seen in California.

Coming off the Willamette Pass on the last leg of our trip, Lady, tired from standing in the trailer so long, threw herself from side to side, making the car rock, her dainty iron shoes pounding thunder as my mother tore down the winding mountain road into the Willamette Valley. I wasn't tired like Lady. In my excitement to get back and see the new place, I was jumping up and down on the front seat, polishing my version of "Jambalaya," braids flying in the wind.

© Faster Horses, Judith Clayton Van, 1995