Excerpt from Getting Mother's Body by Suzan-Lori Parks, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Getting Mother's Body

By Suzan-Lori Parks

Getting Mother's Body
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  • Hardcover: May 2003,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2004,
    288 pages.

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BILLY BEEDE

"Where my panties at?" I asks him.

Snipes don't say nothing. He don't like to talk when he's in the middle of it.

"I think I lost my panties," I says but Snipes ain't hearing. He got his eyes closed, his mouth smiling, his face wet with sweat. In the middle of it, up there on top of me, going in and out. Not on top of me really, more like on top of the side of me cause he didn't want my baby-belly getting in his way. He didn't say so, he ain't said nothing bout the baby yet, but I seen him looking at my belly and I know he's thinking about it, somewhere in his mind. We're in the backseat of his Galaxie. A Ford. Bright lemon colored outside, inside the color of new butter. My head taps against the door handle as he goes at it.

"Huh. Huh. Huh," Snipes goes.

In a minute my head's gonna hurt. But it don't hurt yet.

"Where—" I go but he draws his finger down over my lips, hushing them so I don't finish, then he rubs my titty, moving his hand in a quick circle like he's polishing it. I try scootching down along the seat, away from the door, but when I scootch, Snipes' going at it scootches me right back up against the door handle again. I wonder if my baby's sitting in me upside down and if Snipes' thing is hitting it on its head like the door handle is hitting me on mines.

"Ow," I go. Cause now my head hurts.

"Owww," Snipes go. Cause he's through.

He lays there for a minute then pulls himself out of me and gets out the car. He closes up his pants while he looks down the road. Zipper then belt. In my head I can see all the little seeds he just sowed in me. All them little Snipeses running up inside me looking for somewheres to plant. But there's a baby up in me already, a Baby Snipes. Baby Snipes knocks down the Little Snipes Seeds as fast as they come up.

"How you doing?" Snipes asks.

"Mmokay."

I turn from my side onto my back, raising up on both elbows. My housedress is all open and the baby makes a hump. Snipes turns to look at me, his gold-colored eyes staying on mines, seeing the hump without really seeing it. He ducks into the front seat, getting his Chesterfields out his shirt pocket, and standing there with his back to me, smoking in just his undershirt.

"Penny for yr thoughts," I go but he don't turn around or say nothing. I sit up, buckling my bra and taking a look around for my panties, first in the front seat then running my hand between the backseat and the seat back, thinking my panties mighta got stuck in between but not finding nothing. Then I do feel a scrap of something and give it a yank. Big red shiny drawers. Not mines. Snipes turns around and sees me holding them.

"My sister's," he says smiling and putting on his shirt. "I let her use my car sometimes."

I stuff the drawers back where I found them, first leaving a little red tail sticking out, then stuffing them back in all the way.

"I didn't know you had no sister," I says. "I don't know nothing about you."

"Whatchu need to know?" he says.

"What's her name?"

"Who?"

"Yr sister."

"Alberta," he says. Then he turns away showing me the side of his face, shaved clean and right-angled as my elbow. He's smiling hard, but not at me.

"Clifton, can I ask you something else?"

"I'll get you some more panties, girl, don't worry," he says.

An hour ago, when Snipes came to get me, I was doing Aunt June's hair. I heard his whistle. He weren't stopped at the pumps. He was stopped across the road, standing against his car looking cool, waiting for me to come outside but waiting cool, just in case I didn't show. I seen him and run across the road without even looking to see if cars was coming and he picked me up and swirled me around. Just like Harry Belafonte woulda.

Excerpted from Getting Mother's Body by Suzan-Lori Parks Copyright© 2003 by Suzan-Lori Parks. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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