"Susie! Susie!" I heard my mother calling. "Dinner is ready."
He was inside me. He was grunting.
"We're having string beans and lamb."
I was the mortar, he was the pestle.
"Your brother has a new finger painting, and I made apple crumb cake."
Mr. Harvey made me lie still underneath him and listen to the beating of his heart and the beating of mine. How mine skipped like a rabbit, and how his thudded, a hammer against cloth. We lay there with our bodies touching, and, as I shook, a powerful knowledge took hold. He had done this thing to me and I had lived. That was all. I was still breathing. I heard his heart. I smelled his breath. The dark earth surrounding us smelled like what it was, moist dirt where worms and animals lived their daily lives. I could have yelled for hours.
I knew he was going to kill me. I did not realize then that I was an animal already dying.
"Why don't you get up?" Mr. Harvey said as he rolled to the side and then crouched over me.
His voice was gentle, encouraging, a lover's voice on a late morning. A suggestion, not a command.
I could not move. I could not get up.
When I would not --was it only that, only that I would not follow his suggestion? --he leaned to the side and felt, over his head, across the ledge where his razor and shaving cream sat. He brought back a knife. Unsheathed, it smiled at me, curving up in a grin.
He took the hat from my mouth.
"Tell me you love me," he said.
Gently, I did.
The end came anyway.
Copyright © 2002 by Alice Sebold
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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