After her daughter died, Aunt Harriet turned her back on her faith. She went to the Bhagwanpoor thing, her friends said. To the sect. Although they uttered the word "sect" in hushed tones, as if they feared that it was lying in wait, ready to pounce, shave their heads, and leave them to stagger through the streets of the world, clanging cymbals with childish delight, a clutch of abandoned lunatics like those from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. But Aunt Harriet didn't look as if she was planning to get out her cymbals at Bertha's funeral. When she saw me she gave me a hug and planted a kiss on my forehead. More precisely, without saying a word she kissed the scar on my forehead and then nudged me on to my mother, who was standing beside her.
My mother looked as if she had been crying for the past few days. When I saw her my heart tightened into a crinkled lump. How dreadful to have to bury your own mother, I thought as I put my arms around mine. My father was standing next to my mother, supporting her; he seemed much smaller than the last time I'd seen him and there were lines on his face I had never seen before. Aunt Inga stood to one side; she had come on her own. In spite of her red eyes she looked breathtaking. Her beautiful mouth arched downward, which on her face gave an impression of pride rather than sadness. And although her dress was modest and high-necked, it looked more like a little black number than a garment of mourning. She grasped both my hands, and I winced briefly when I got a small electric shock from her left hand. She was wearing her amber bracelet on her right wrist. Her hands felt warm, hard, and dry.
Excerpted from The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena. Copyright © 2014 by Katharina Hagena. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow Paperbacks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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