Authors: Jane Smiley
I went up to Daddy and put my hand on his arm. I looked him in the eye and I said, “No, he doesn’t. After Jem started working with him, he stopped looking mad.”
“If Jem’s training did the trick, then the horse …”
“Then it won’t be worth the thirty-six dollars we spent if we wreck what he did.”
“Are you sassing me, young lady?”
I took a deep breath and then said, “No. I’m being honest and saying what’s in my heart.”
We looked at each other for a long moment, then he took a deep breath, too, and said, “Well, missy, what do you want me to do?” Now he grinned down at me.
I have to say that I felt a little bossy as I took the rein out of his hand and showed him how to soften Rally by turning his head and his neck, asking him to step back and step over and then go around us in both directions. Then I patted Rally on the
face and the neck. I said, “He doesn’t like to be treated like a car or something. The others don’t mind so much, but he does.”
Then Daddy said, “I’m sorry. I guess I wasn’t thinking.” It sounded like he meant it. He took the rein and did some of the things I had done and then put his foot in the stirrup and got on the horse. It was just about then that Mom came out and checked on us the first time. She was smiling to beat the band but didn’t say anything. She passed us and went over to the mares’ pasture, where she pretended to do something, then she waved as she went back to the house.
Daddy walked Rally around a little bit and then stopped in front of me. He said, “What now?”
“Well, I would walk him and trot him, changing direction a bunch of times.”
I showed him how to lift the inside rein and get the horse to shift his weight and step under. Then I said, “When you’re lifting the rein, be sure he steps under right away. Then he won’t get lazy and stiff.”
Daddy tried this for a few minutes. He was good at it because he could feel the difference in the horse’s willingness to do what he was being told between before Rally stepped under and after. Pretty soon he was trying a little of everything—loping, trotting some figure eights, a couple of sliding halts, a long looping gallop around the outside of the arena. Daddy was a good rider the way people are when they learn to ride at an early age and know all the moves without thinking too much about it. Probably most of the horses he had ridden over the years had decided the best thing to do was just go along with him and his ideas, because he was strong and quick and why
not let him be the boss? But that didn’t work with every horse, as Rally would be the first to tell you.
Mom came out again, just when Daddy was doing some figure eights at the lope, with a change of lead in the middle. She smiled and went back into the house.
I sat on the railing of the arena, looking around our place—at Jack and Black George and the mares, then up at the hawk curving through the blue sky, then over at the house, where purple and white irises were crowding against the porch, then at the dark edges of the mountains across the floor of the valley. Maybe there were a lot of things to wish for, but right then, I couldn’t be bothered to wish for anything else than what I saw around me.
Daddy trotted over to me. He said, “I bet we can get at least a thousand for him.”
I said, “Mr. Tacker did like him a lot. You could call him and ask how Ruby is doing.”
I jumped down off the fence and stroked Rally’s nose. Daddy said, “He’s a good horse.”
I said, “I think he is.”
We stood there for a minute, looking at Rally, and then Daddy gave me a squeeze around the shoulders.
Mom came out to check a third time, and I saw that she saw that everything was fine.
After Rally, we did the other horses, but we didn’t give them much work—they had done well all week and we expected two good long days Friday and Saturday. By the time we were sitting down to a late lunch of chicken rice soup and ham sandwiches, it seemed like all of us had forgotten about school completely.
Certainly, I had. So, for a moment, I didn’t even recognize Gloria’s mom’s car when it pulled up behind the truck. Then Gloria threw open the door and jumped out shouting, “Abby! Abby! Wait till you hear!”
Mom opened the door, and Gloria ran in and hugged me. I said, “Hear what?” I remembered the way her face went blank when she saw the necklace in my locker on Monday, and I decided I wasn’t going to fall for just any old story. But it was hard to resist how she was now—jumping up and down and grinning. She exclaimed, “Kyle came back!”
“Kyle came back from where? Kyle Gonzalez?” I sounded a little doubtful, I know. But Kyle?
“Yes! He saved you!”
“Where was he?”
“He was home sick! He had pinkeye or something gross like that, so he was out Friday, Monday, and Tuesday. And you know no one talks to him much, so when he got back yesterday, he didn’t know what happened to you until the end of the day, and then he told!”
Mom asked Gloria’s mom to sit down and have a cup of coffee or tea, and she did, but Gloria was just jumping around the table, she was so excited. Daddy said, “Gloria, what did he tell?”
Gloria’s mom said, “Settle down, Glow. One thing at a time!”
But she didn’t settle down. She exclaimed, “He was fixing the bells! He was fixing the bells on your mission so they would ring better or something, and when he stood up, he saw her pick up the necklace off the floor!”
“Stella. It was Stella who found the necklace on the floor
of the lunchroom, and then,
, she was coming out of the lunchroom to turn it in, and she saw that it belonged to Joan, and so she was afraid to do anything with it because of the anonymous note.”
Gloria’s mom said, “What anonymous note?”
“Well, it’s not anonymous anymore. Debbie admitted that she sent it.”
I said, “Debbie!”
“Yes! Debbie saw Stella put the ink cartridge on Joan’s chair and she thought Joan should know, but she was afraid of Stella.”
“You should never do anything anonymously—” began Mrs. Harris.
“Stella didn’t see Debbie—she’s so quiet. But she knew
had been sitting behind her, so she thought you—”
“Abby would never send an anonymous note!” exclaimed Mom. “Would you?”
“I did see it,” I said.
“You should have come forward,” said Mom.
But Gloria rushed on, so I didn’t have to answer her. “She kept the necklace all day Thursday and all day Friday, and she was scared to death the whole time, because Mr. Canning was so mad and talking about the police, so—”
She sat down and leaned toward me as if she was telling the punch line. “So,
, she waited until the end of school, after the bus left Friday, and she pushed it through the air vents of your locker.”
“Why my locker?”
, she was trying to get it into that empty
locker near yours, but she miscounted and pushed it through your vents instead.”
Mom said, “Is there an empty locker near yours, Abby?”
“Mine is six from the end of that row, and the fourth one is the empty one.”
“Is it locked?” said Daddy.
“They’re all locked,” said Gloria. “But she was mad about the anonymous note. I think she knew perfectly well that it was your locker.”
Mom and Mrs. Harris shook their heads.
Daddy said, “Why didn’t Kyle come forward last week?”
“Why does Kyle do anything?” said Gloria. “He said that he didn’t think the necklace was any big deal on Thursday, but then when he found out that you got blamed, he had to tell.”
“That sounds like Kyle,” I said. “He did a good job on our mission.” I glanced at Daddy. “He doesn’t do anything if he can’t do it right.”
“Well,” said Daddy. “That’s a virtue in anyone.”
Now Gloria sat down in a chair beside me and put her elbows on the table and her chin in her hands, staring at me. She said, “So, you’re going to come to school tomorrow, right?” She looked like she always had, just Gloria, my friend. I decided I was wrong about that other look I thought I’d seen. She grinned. I grinned back at her.
Mom said, “We haven’t heard anything from Mr. Canning, Gloria.”
“I’m still suspended.”
And then the phone rang. It was Mr. Canning, unsuspending me.
* * *
In the end, I didn’t go back to school the next day, since vacation was almost here and nothing much was going on anyway, but over the weekend, Gloria brought me my assignments, and we worked on them together. When you are suspended, you can’t do that work, and so you get Fs on it, so for once I was relieved to have homework.
On Monday, Mr. Tacker came by, and on Wednesday, he brought his trailer to take Rally away to his ranch. He said he would get Jem Jarrow to help prepare Rally for the big summer parade. He paid Daddy a thousand dollars, and Daddy gave me fifty for myself. Mom took me to town and we opened a savings account. Mr. Tacker said he would keep his name, Rally. I said I would come to the parade and watch him.
On Tuesday, Stella called and said that she was really sorry and that she hoped I would forgive her and still be her friend. She had learned her lesson. I said, “What lesson?” I’m sure I sounded grumpy.
Stella sounded, as Mom would have said, “truly repentant.” She said, “Well, lots of them. Way too many. I guess—” There was a long pause. “I guess the main one is, well, I don’t want to be mean, really. I get mean sort of not really intending to, but I know I shouldn’t be mean. I have a mean thought, and then I get carried away. I guess the main lesson is not to get carried away. Don’t you know what I’m talking about? Something you shouldn’t say comes into your head and you just say it, even though you know you shouldn’t?”
I told her I knew what she was talking about. I still wondered if she had pushed that necklace through my locker vents on purpose, but it seemed mean, as long as we were talking about being mean, to ask.
I told her I would still be her friend.
She said, “Thank you, Abby.”
It sounded like she meant it. What I meant, I have to admit, was We’ll see. But I decided that was a private thought.
On Wednesday, Miss Slater called and said that she had entered me and Gallant Man in four classes in the spring show; would I come out Saturday and sit on him for an hour or so? That night, I had a little free time, so I sat down with my notebook and wrote the names in my best handwriting. Under the name Rally, I wrote everything I had learned about him, and then, at the bottom, I wrote,
A little girl can ride him.
Jane Smiley is the author of many books for adults, including
Horse Heaven, Moo
, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning
A Thousand Acres.
She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001.
Jane Smiley lives in Northern California, where she rides horses every chance she gets.
The Georges and the Jewels
is her first novel for young readers.
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2009 by Jane Smiley
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The Georges and the Jewels / Jane Smiley. — 1st ed.
Summary: Seventh-grader Abby Lovitt grows up on her family’s California horse ranch in the 1960s, learning to train the horses her father sells and trying to reconcile her strict religious upbringing with her own ideas about life.
[1. Horses—Training—Fiction. 2. Ranch life—California—Fiction. 3. Family life—
California—Fiction. 4. Christian life—Fiction. 5. California—History—1950—Fiction.]
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