Excerpt from Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Foreign Soil

And Other Stories

by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke X
Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 272 pages
    Oct 2017, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Naomi Benaron
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Print Excerpt

"One day you gon have to learn how to do this, son. One day real soon, so y'all can come ridin with me." His right foot's knockin gainst the pile-a tree branches. The sticks shift mongst themselves like they livin things.

Ridin. Carter hate it how his daddy an Nate call it that. Like it's back in the good old days an they screamin through the forests on horses, white hoods lit up gainst the black night. When he was five, Carter thought his daddy had a horse somewhere, for ridin. Thought the animal mus be tethered on a neighbourin property. Didn't think it was fair that his daddy always rode at night, while he was in bed. He went along one day, hidden in the back-a the truck with the canvas cover over him, bump along terrified till the car reach the end-a the road an veer into the forest. They went hurtlin through the darkness, screech to a stop.

Carter can't remember it so clear now, but his daddy's friend Nate was there, an lotsa other men from roun town. They was all dressed in ridin gear like his daddy's—red or white hoods, matchin capes. They held long sticks: tree branches with burnin ends. He seen his daddy wrap them same branches with rags that very mornin. The men was singin songs an spittin an sayin nigger a lot. Nigger that. Nigger this. Fucken niggers. Flags with stars on them was strung up from the trees. The men touched their burnin torches to a tree, crowdin roun it. Then Carter realised it wasn't a tree, it was a giant cross. The cross lit up like hellfire an Carter scream an scream. His daddy foun him, dragged him out the back-a the truck, an drove him home, silent nex to him in the front seat. His worried-sick mama got a yellin-at when they got there, like it was all her fault. Then his daddy drive right back out into the velvet black.

Carter recognise the material his daddy's cuttin now. White flannelette, pink stars, blue clouds. His sister Lucy's old nightgown. His daddy hold the strip-a material tight, pick up a long stick, wind the length-a material tight roun one end an he tie it in a knot. Fear snakin slowly down Carter's spine. It jus don't seem right that his daddy's gon take that li'l sliver-a sleepwear ridin with him—that he gon dirty up those dainty stars an clouds that used-a wrap cosy roun li'l sleepin Lucy. Carter like that nightgown. Real pretty it was, with a tiny heart-shaped pocket on the front made-a light blue lace. He reach down, scratch a squito way from his ankle. When he look roun, his ma's standin at the bedroom window, starin at him strange, like she got to doin lately. Carter watch her a moment.

"Nearly there, son. Gonna be a good night for it."

His daddy's not really talkin to him. Carter been sittin out here for well near an hour, keepin his daddy company while he's sat up on that bench, preparin. Whole time the conversation been lopsided.

Carter look down at his hand. Small cluster-a red crescent shapes are pressed into his palm. Lucy's singin, down there on the lawn. She's singin an twirlin in her dress, singin that princess song, the one Gram Izzy taught em. Carter can croon the words by heart. He wanna twirl with her, to dance with the burnt grass crunchin under the soft bottoms-a his feet, swingin his hips an curtsyin. Carter close his fist again, dig his fingernails in hard as he can, wincin.

Feel like his daddy's takin near forever to up an go ridin. He been preparin things since early this mornin. Carter, squintin at him from his bedroom window, was peerin through the dawn light, past the double row-a Mickey Dee Superman figurines on his windowsill. His daddy lope the perimeter of their ole wood an wire fence, barley sack in hand, bendin every now an then to pick up branches. His daddy's six-foot-an-some self set gainst the flat fields'd looked giant-like: eerie an wrong.

Excerpted from Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke. Copyright © 2017 by Maxine Beneba Clarke. Excerpted by permission of Atria Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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