I’ve met many writers in the virtual world where we now increasingly live. They all want you to read their blogs, comment, retweet their tweets and like them on Facebook but not all of them return the favor. So it’s a true honor to post an excerpt from Jennifer Hotes’ debut novel Four Rubbings. She is a champion supporter of other writers, a hospice volunteer, and still very much in touch with the magical, tormented world of teenagers. She’s also a very talented artist. From Four Rubbings:
“As I kneel down next to my mother’s grave, I notice the withered flowers that slump over the sides of the vase. The sunflowers we brought for her birthday have exploded with rotting gray seeds. I dig my nails into my palms to keep from tossing the dead bouquet behind a bush. The leaves crawl with gnats and tiny worms that feast on the fetid offering.
“You guys are glad I forgot fresh flowers, aren’t you?” I say, content to leave the rotten bouquet in place. I stretch across the grave and goosebumps erupt down my naked arms and legs. I suck in the air that hangs thick around my face, a mix of rotting leaves and smoky sweet mulch that tickles my nose and makes me sneeze. After blessing myself, I cross my legs at the ankles. I close my eyes and picture the porcelain white vault below that encases the last of my mother’s earthly remains. I imagine the cedar roots that have wrapped around her coffin by now, blotting out the delicate gold leaf details entirely. I think about my mom the gardener, tucked inside the roots of a tree, and smile. Desperate to feel my mother’s spirit, I paint a vivid mental picture of her, plucked from fuzzy memories and fading photographs. In this particular time capsule, I’m seven and she snuggles next to me in bed. Lush copper hair drapes over her shoulders. It was before the days when she hid her chemo-ravaged head with scarves. Her eyes glint with mischief as she looks down to ask which book I want first. My tiny hands reach for The Runaway Bunny. She wraps her arms around me and opens the worn board book. The thick spine creaks as she turns to the first page and I nestle deeper into her. Resting her chin on the top of my head, she begins to read a book we both know by heart. Her voice vibrates down my back, and her warm breath washes over me like a blessing as she whispers:
Today brought the news of my mother’s cancer and her dire prognosis. So tonight, my favorite baby book brings me a special comfort. She won’t die. Mothers don’t die. She will be here to watch my whole life, because I need her. That’s what mothers do. As she closes the book, I lean into her and breathe in baby powder, sunshine, and coffee. She kisses the top of my head and tucks a curl behind my ear. “Josie, before you were born, our hearts were stitched together in heaven. I’ll always be this close.” She lays her hand across my bony rib cage. Lying on her grave, I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from crying and taste blood. I hold a hand over my ribs and ache to feel a trace of the string that ties our hearts together, but all I feel is cheap fringe and fake beads.
Read more about Jennifer Hotes.
As a part of her blog tour Jennifer is raffling off free copies of her book plus several other other goodies, including a free peek at the next book in her Stone Witch series. Click here to enter the drawing.