Maile Meloy’s winter in July

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Maile Meloy’s short-story collection ‘Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It,’ coming in July, was one of our 60 summer book picks. One of its stories, ‘Spy vs. Spy,’ has been posted in its entirety on 5 Chapters. It’s a dash of winter cool for the summer months.

The first morning, they all met in the gondola line. Jonna, the new girlfriend, flashed a nervous, welcoming smile, and Claire, back from California on a ticket that wasn’t cheap, hugged Jonna tightly. Then she hugged George. Claire’s cheeks were pink with health and cold and happiness, and she wore a blue fleece hat that said UCLA on it. She asked Jonna questions as the gondola rose, and Aaron was inordinately proud of her: she was so vibrantly young and engaging and unself-absorbed.

Jonna, on the other hand, was a puzzle. If Aaron had met her on the street, he wouldn’t have pegged her for a ski instructor. She didn’t seem hardy or sporty or gregarious; she seemed delicate, prickly, and undernourished. She was wiry, about thirty-five, with a peroxide-white cloud of hair around her face, and a small diamond stud in one nostril that must have been hell in the cold. Aaron gave silent thanks that Claire had not gone in for piercing her face. Then he heard Jonna say that her father was a lift operator when she was a kid, so she skied for free, tagging along after the instructors in place of being babysat. That made sense. She was a ski brat the way people were military brats, and it had made her insecure -- which was typical of George’s girls. He liked them needy and dependent, the opposite of Bea, who ran an emergency room and was born to command. The puzzle solved, Aaron stopped listening and watched people make their way -- some quick and graceful, and some in a slow, shuddering slide -- down the mountain below.

The story follows Aaron and George, brothers locked in a lifelong rivalry, over a ski weekend. It would be too much to assume that Maile Meloy has any sense of sibling rivalry, but she does have a sibling -- Colin Meloy of the Decemberists.


-- Carolyn Kellogg