And while I'm sharing writing, this is from the novel. Toward the end.
Hey, Bug, she said.
Hey, he whispered back, motionless.
Silence wrapped itself around them, not uncomfortably. She looked out the window. Warm, early afternoon light streamed through the glass. She sat down on a chair next to the bed.
I’m sorry, she said.
I know. Then, did she die?
Yes. Has no one told you?
They say she’s gone. They say she’s passed. They don’t say die.
Well, honey. Yes. She died. I’m sorry.
When they say she’s gone, I think maybe she went to the store. Went to get food or something. They don’t say die.
Why don’t they say die?
They don’t want to upset you.
He moved for the first time, turning his head to look at her. But she died, right?
She died, honey.
I don’t know. She slipped, I think. She was trying to protect you, I think, and she slipped into the water.
Is she going to be in the ground? Are they going to bury her?
Yes, she said. She took her time with what she said next, knowing the boy would spend hours visualizing it, agonizing over it. There is going to be a funeral, she said. They are going to put her in a casket.
Like a box?
No, not really. It will have very soft fabric in it. Like pillows. And it will be very pretty fabric. Like a bed. Like a newly made bed. And they will lay her down on it. Soft and pretty. And they’ll put her in a room, and people will go up to her, to look at her one last time. You can, if you want to. You don’t have to. But you might want to. You might want to see her one more time.
She’ll be dead.
Yes. But you might want to see her. One more time.
Yes, he said.
One more time.
They’ll say very nice things about her. The preacher will, other people will. I will. I promise I will.
And then. Then they’ll take the box outside. To the graveyard. They’ll carry it out to a gravestone. Very pretty. Made out of stone. So it’ll last. And they’ll lower her down.
Yes, I think so. With ropes. And they’ll cover her with earth. With soil. She couldn’t bring herself to say the word dirt. She wasn’t sure why.
He asked, will it be dark down there? In the soil?
Will she be cold?
No, honey. She won’t be cold. She’s past being cold, ever again.
Will she be bored?
Will she miss me?
Will she still love me?
Of course, honey. Yes. Always yes.
He turned, looked up at the ceiling again. His voice dropped lower, nearly monotonous. Is she going to heaven?
She didn’t want to lie to him. She was there to comfort, but she was unwilling to lie. She told the best truth she knew, as simply as she could.
I hope so, honey. I don’t know these things. I don’t know anything anymore.
I hope so too, he said, after a time.
She cleared her throat. She said, I’m afraid I wasn’t always very nice to your mother. I’m sorry for that.
It’s okay. He looked at her again. He said, do you remember that time we prayed together? All of us, on the floor?
Why did we do that?
To feel safe, she said. To talk to God. To ask for help. But mostly to feel safe. Close together, holding hands. Family. Blood. I was hoping it would make your Mom feel safe. Make you feel safe. Did you? Did you feel safe?
I don’t feel safe now.
I know, sweetie. Me neither. It’ll get better. One day, it will. You’ll see.
She stood from her chair, kissed him on the forehead, ran her hand along his cheek. She lay down next to him, inches away, but not touching. They lay like that, side by side, on top of the covers, as the last of the light faded from the windows, as the stars appeared and traced a lazy circle in the sky outside the walls of the room. The darkened room filled with the rhythm of their breathing, the quiet pulse of their hearts. After a time the boy fell asleep.