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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  • First Published:
    May 2003, 272 pages
    Apr 2004, 288 pages

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"You ain't been around in almost a month," I said, breathless from the swirling.

"I been working, girl," he said. He got a custom-coffin business. He makes and sells handmade coffins in any shape you want with plush lining inside and everything. While we drove he showed me his sample book with three new photographs, proud, like folks show pictures of they children. A oak Cadillac, a guitar of cherry wood, and a pharaoh-style one too, all big enough to get buried inside, the new ones not painted yet so folks can pick out they own colors.

"People been talking," I said.

"What they saying?"

"Stuff," I said. "They saying stuff." We kissed as we drove down the road and then I started laughing cause he was tickling me and getting me undressed and showing me his sample book and driving all at the same time. His left hand on the wheel, his right hand between my legs. Then we pulled off the road. Then we did it. Now we done.

"I'll get you a whole damn carload full of panties, girl," he says. "Them panties you had on is probably along the side of the road somewhere between here and Lincoln." He smiles and I smile with him. I remember taking them off. The wind was whipping and musta whipped them out the window while we drove. But that was an hour ago.

Now I look down the road, seeing if I can see them. I see somebody down there walking in the dirt and the shimmer from the heat.

"I don't wanna go home without no panties," I says.

"You worry too much," Snipes says.

All the car doors are open and the wind goes through, drying the sweat off the seats.

"I gotta know something," I says.


"The man's supposed to ask the girl," I whisper.

He don't speak.

We been together since March. Now it's July. I wanna give him a chance to ask me.

"You said I wouldn't get bigged the first time we did it," I says.

"Was our first time your first time?" he says.

"You gonna marry me or what?" I says. The words come out too loud.

He don't speak. He cuts on the radio but it don't work when the car ain't running. He gets out, closing the back two doors, leaving mines open and getting back behind the wheel.

"Sure I'm gonna marry you," he says at last. "You my treasure. You think I don't wanna marry my treasure?"

"People are talking," I says.

"They just jealous," he says and we both laugh. "Billy Beede got herself a good-looking man and they all jealous."

When we quit laughing we sit there quiet.

"You my treasure, girl," he says. "You my treasure, capital T, make no mistake."

"I'm five months gone," I says. Too loud again.

He wraps his fingers tight around the wheel. I want him to look at me but he don't.

Someone comes up, stopping a foot or two from the car to stare at us openmouthed. It's Laz. He got his wool cap down around his ears and his plaid shirt buttoned to the chin.

"You want yr ass kicked?" Snipes asks him.

"Not today," Laz says.

"You don't stop looking at me and my woman, I'ma kick yr black ass," Snipes says.

Laz looks at the ground.

"You don't get the hell outa here, I'ma kill you," Snipes says.

"Being dead don't bother me none," Laz says. He got a bold voice but he ain't looking up from the ground.

Snipes jumps out the car and they stand there toe to toe. Everything Snipes got is better than everything Laz got.

"Go the hell home, Laz," I says and he turns and goes. Snipes throws a rock and Laz runs.

"Goddamn boot-black-wool-hat-wearing-four-eyed nigger probably wanted to see us doing it," Snipes goes, getting back in the car and laughing and holding my hand. "Peeping and creeping boot-black-winter-hat nigger."

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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