Read an excerpt

Bitter, Sweet–Laura Best

Chapter 3: pages20-21

Mama said a coffin was too expensive, not to mention that there would be too many questions asked if we tried to get one. The last thing Mama wanted was for anyone, especially the government, to know our family business. Instead, she told us to just wrap her in that quilt.

“It’s a pretty enough quilt,” she said.

But shortly after Mama closed her eyes for the last time, Jesse had a better idea. He scrounged up some lumber from the walls of the rundown old pig house and nailed the boards together.

“Do you think Mama will mind, Pru?” he asked.

“I bet she wouldn’t mind one bit,” I said.

Mama had planned everything out just right—even her sickness—because she hadn’t wanted Flora and Davey to be afraid once it came time to do everything. She’d spent as much time talking about her death as she did planning out how we were to survive once God took her back with him.

Jesse dug the hole that night beneath the light of the full moon and later he said it was as if it was meant to happen when it did, the way the moon had given him just enough light to work by. Except what Jesse didn’t know was that Mama had planned it all out herself, made sure it happened when she’d wanted it to. Jesse didn’t know but I did and I also knew I would never tell.

Jesse kept jabbering away after he came in from digging and I imagined that the moon had somehow gotten into him and it was building itself up into a huge combustible ball right in the centre of him. His eyes had grown in size, and his pupils had opened up like deep dark holes. I knew Jesse had been looking to me to agree with him, to tell him the yes, everything did seem to be just right, but I’d been too numb, my brain crammed full from trying to remember all the last-minute things that Mama had told me those final few weeks when she was living.

We buried Mama early in the morning, before the sun had time to push its golden head up over the earth. Jesse and I should have felt guilty for making the little ones get up from their beds at that hour when they had only fallen asleep a few short hours before, but Jesse said we couldn’t risk someone coming by. He said the morning was the best time. I could see the logic in what he was saying. Besides, when Mama was alive and well she’d sit and wait for the sun to bring a start to another day, so that part seemed right.

I read from the Bible because Flora and Davey thought Mama wouldn’t go to heaven if I didn’t. I read the part about there being a time and a purpose for everything, which I thought seemed most fitting considering everything Mama had gone through that last while. Davey and Flora cried while I tried to make my voice sound strong. Mama would be counting on me. I couldn’t let her down.

Leave a comment


  1. I read your novel, Laura. It was GREAT.


  2. christicorbett

     /  September 19, 2010

    An exceptional glimpse into your novel. You have a lovely way of showing emotion with words.
    Christi Corbett


  3. Elaine McCluskey

     /  December 8, 2010

    This is truly lovely writing, and I am amazed by the depth of emotion it conveys in such a short passage.


  4. This is truly wonderful. I’m impressed! This is the kind of lean, compelling writing that I love to read.


    • Thanks Ann. I found this particular chapter quite easy to write. The voice was right there and I immediately fell in love with Pru.



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