Overview

In his highly anticipated second novel, Judson Mitcham, with plain but elegant language, creates an emotional impact rivaled only by his critically acclaimed debut novel, The Sweet Everlasting (Georgia). Sabbath Creek is the story of Lewis Pope, a fourteen-year-old boy thrust into an adult world of heartache and brokenness. When his beautiful but distant mother takes him on an aimless journey through south Georgia, the cerebral and sensitive Lewis is forced to confront latent fears--scars left from the emotional ...

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Sabbath Creek

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Overview

In his highly anticipated second novel, Judson Mitcham, with plain but elegant language, creates an emotional impact rivaled only by his critically acclaimed debut novel, The Sweet Everlasting (Georgia). Sabbath Creek is the story of Lewis Pope, a fourteen-year-old boy thrust into an adult world of heartache and brokenness. When his beautiful but distant mother takes him on an aimless journey through south Georgia, the cerebral and sensitive Lewis is forced to confront latent fears--scars left from the emotional abuse of an alcoholic father and the lack of comfort from a preoccupied mother--that crowd his interior world.


At the heart of the journey, and the novel itself, is Truman Stroud, the quick-witted, cantankerous owner of the crumbling Sabbath Creek Motor Court, where Lewis and his mother are stranded by car trouble. His budding friendship with the ninety-three-year-old black man is his only reprieve from the mysteries that haunt him. Despite his prickly personality and the considerable burden of his own personal tragedies, Stroud becomes the boy’s best hope for a father figure as he teaches Lewis the secrets of baseball and the secrets of life.


Sabbath Creek is more than a coming-of-age novel. And while Mitcham provides a nuanced look at the relationship between a white adolescent boy and a black old-timer, his second novel transcends the tired theme of race relations in the South. This compassionate, smart, powerful work of fiction touches the pulse of the human spirit. It travels from the ruined landscape of south Georgia and takes us all the way through the ruined landscape of a broken heart.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
This spare, lovely novel, while generous in humor, is anchored by sorrow and interspersed with portents of tragedy. Especially poignant are Lewis's flashbacks to the tense dread of living at the whims of an alcoholic father. ''When he was like that,'' Lewis recalls, ''I didn't know how to stand, how to hold my face.'' Lewis observes everything with the alertness of someone who does not yet take common experiences, such as kissing and drunkenness, for granted; he never resorts to shorthand to convey them, but describes them with a scrupulous fidelity to his own perceptions. — Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow
Library Journal
In Mitcham's masterfully drawn, emotionally rich gem of a second novel (after The Sweet Everlasting), 14-year-old Lewis Pope is caught in the middle of a dangerous family crisis. While attempting to run away from his abusive father, Lewis and his frightened mother drive aimlessly for days through southern Georgia, unsure where to go or what to do. Their car breaks down in the sleepy backwater of Sabbath Creek, and they end up stranded at a ramshackle hotel owned by a 93-year-old black man named Truman Stroud. Stroud is a grand fictional creation-cranky, sarcastic, and full of genuine human warmth. A great deal happens during the weeks of their stay, leading to a deeply affecting friendship among Stroud, Lewis, and his mother. Mitcham brings vividly to life the rural community of Sabbath Creek, and he handles the emotional and psychological complexities of this story with remarkable subtlety. He also has important things to say about the redemptive power of human kindness and friendship. A powerfully realized, deeply satisfying novel; enthusiastically recommended.-Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR SABBATH CREEK
"A transcendent coming-of-age story . . . infused with the surface languor and latent violence of the Deep South . . .This spare, lovely novel, while generous in humor, is anchored by sorrow and interspersed with portents of tragedy." -THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

"Judson Mitcham . . . is a worthy addition to the tradition of such quiet powerhouses as Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy and Richard Ford."-THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820340579
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 176
  • File size: 245 KB

Meet the Author

JUDSON MITCHAM is the author of two novels and two books of poetry. His fir

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Read an Excerpt

He slammed down the hood, then elbowed me out of the way, trailing an odor of old sweat and cigars and loud cologne soured in his clothes. He told my mother he would order the part, but it might not arrive for a week or even longer. She asked him if Sabbath Creek had a place where we could stay.

"Not really." He squinted at her and scratched under his arm and leaned closer. "There is this place down the road, maybe a mile out of town, old nigger place, but you and your boy don't want to stay there."

My mother took a deep breath as if to speak, but she did not. We pulled our bags out of the trunk and climbed into the cab of the tow truck-a tight fit since the man weighed maybe three hundred pounds, and I was big for my age. At nearly fourteen, I was almost the same size I am now, ten years later. My mother sat crushed against the door; she locked it, and she pulled back on the handle as we rode.

The Sabbath Creek Motor Court resembled a chickenhouse reconceived as a motel-a long low strip of rooms, most of the windows broken out, the roof charred at the far end, wires sticking up like frizzy hair, no cars parked outside.

The man drove away, leaving us standing at the door where OFFICE had fallen off and left the outline of the letters. My mother pushed the doorbell button, waited, pushed it again. She knocked on the door, and it swung open; she pulled it shut, then knocked again, louder, and she opened the door and shouted hello.

She stepped inside, and I followed her. The dim room, lit only by a small floor lamp, smelled damp and poisonous. There was a closed door on the other side of the counter, and she walked around and knocked again.

"Hey!" she yelled. "You've got customers."

I sat on the sofa, which enveloped me in its broken springs and moldy stink, and after a few more tries my mother came over, and the ruined couch swallowed her as well, and we waited there.

***

We heard a door thump shut, then the sound of a car driving off, and a moment later an old man came through the door, a tall, thin, dark-skinned black man wearing a baseball cap, tennis shoes, brown work pants, and a white shirt buttoned at the collar. The little bit of hair showing under his cap was as white as the shirt.

"Uh oh," he said when he saw us. "Y'all work for the sheriff?"

He performed a jerky little shuffle-step as he crossed the room to the counter, where he set down a large brown paper bag.

"No, sir," my mother said. "We . . ."

"Do I have the right to remain silent?"

"Well, no. You see, our car broke down . . ."

"No?" the man said. "You mean I got to keep talking? Can anything I say be used against me?"

"Look," she said, "we just need a room. Is that possible?"

"Say you need a room? All right then, all right. That's good. We got you a room."

My mother explained that we might need it for a few days, since our car had broken down and was being repaired.

"Repaired? Where at?"

"A place back in town," she said. "What was the name? Coleman's?"

"Coleman's? Coleman can't fix nothing. What you take it to Coleman for? I could've told you where to take it."

She asked him again if he had a room for us.

The old man looked down and shook his head. "Coleman's. Last time I left a car over at Coleman's, Richard M. Nixon was the president. I'd have my car towed up to Fitzgerald now—have it towed anywhere—before I let those boys at Coleman's work on it. You might never get that car back."

"Well, from the way you're talking," my mother said, "we might be moving in here for quite a while. So maybe you can give us a discount."

"Hold on now," he said. "You can't move in. Didn't nobody ask you to move in, did they?" He waited, and we just stood there, and then he said, "So what kind of room y'all want? We only got one kind. Matter of fact, right now, we only got one room fit to live in. Got to fix the toilets in the other ones. And it's cash only."

My mother said that was fine, and he handed her a card to fill out. When she was done, he picked it up and read aloud.

"Charlene and Lewis Pope, 1991 Hunt Road, Cofield, Geor-gia. This your real name?"

She took the card back, scratched out Pope, and wrote in Smith, her maiden name. The old man looked at it and scowled and puffed out his lips.

"Another one of them Smiths, huh? All right then," he said, "if that's what you want to go with. But at some point I may need to see some ID, Miss Smith."

She started to pull out her wallet, but he said, "Let it go for now. We'll just let it go. But if y'all start getting rowdy, you see, I might need to check it. See if you really who you say you are."

He put away the card and tossed a key onto the counter. It slid across and almost fell, but my mother caught it.

"Just go out the door here and take a left. First room you come to," he said. "You want a key too, son?"

"Yes, sir. I guess so."

"Well, that's too bad," he said. "We ain't got but one. Y'all will just have to make do. Room One. Go out the door here, take a what? Left. Next door you come to. Already open. I'll have to get you some sheets and pillowcases and soap and towels and so on. I'll get you a shower curtain, and I'll turn those mattresses over. You'll need some lightbulbs-they all burnt out. Have to get y'all some coat hangers. The TV does work, but you only get two stations, and they go in and out. I had me a satellite dish, but some white boys stole it. I'll have to plug in the air conditioner. You got to fix that plug in the socket just right. The fan might make some noise, but it'll cool you off. No telephone in there, but the toilet works, I know that. I use it myself, every morning. I hope that won't bother anybody. I'll be in and out in no time, and y'all will still be asleep, most likely. I get out earlier than most folks. I like to watch the sun come up."

My mother said, "So you'll be coming into our room in the morning?"

"I'm afraid so. My place back here,"-he jerked his thumb toward the door behind him-"ain't had a working commode in twenty years. I had to give up on it. So I use Room One. I'll let myself in and out."

"All right then." My mother's voice had gone a little thin. She picked up another registration card. "It says here the manager is Truman Stroud. Is that you?"

"That's the name my mama gave me. I go by Stroud. The only one that ever called me Truman was my first wife, and I can't hardly remember her. You married?"

He asked me the question, not my mother.

"Not yet, Mr. Stroud."

"Stroud, son. Not mister nothing. Stroud. One word. When you do get married, before you do, you check with me, I'll tell you all about what to look for in a woman. I'm ninety-three years old, been married four times, and outlived every one. But they was all happy, and so was I. You don't see that a lot these days, do you?" He leaned over the counter toward my mother. "Fine-looking woman like yourself," he said, "got to be a husband somewhere. New or old."

"Mr. Stroud," she said.

"Does either of y'all understand plain American? Not mister nothing. Call me Stroud. That's all I answer to."

"Okay, then," she said. "Stroud. I don't believe my marriage is any of your business, is it?"

"Not none of my business at all. No, it's not, no ma'am. I see your point." He looked straight at me. "How about you, boy? You got a daddy?"

My mother snatched the key off the counter, turned, and picked up her bags. "That'll be enough, Mr. Stroud. And another thing. You'll have to find yourself another bathroom. We'll be paying for this one, and we'll be reserving it for our use only."

The old man made a big show of tipping his cap as we headed out the door. "So very pleased to have you with us."

© 2004 by Judson Mitcham

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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First Chapter

He slammed down the hood, then elbowed me out of the way, trailing an odor of old sweat and cigars and loud cologne soured in his clothes. He told my mother he would order the part, but it might not arrive for a week or even longer. She asked him if Sabbath Creek had a place where we could stay.

"Not really." He squinted at her and scratched under his arm and leaned closer. "There is this place down the road, maybe a mile out of town, old nigger place, but you and your boy don't want to stay there."

My mother took a deep breath as if to speak, but she did not. We pulled our bags out of the trunk and climbed into the cab of the tow truck-a tight fit since the man weighed maybe three hundred pounds, and I was big for my age. At nearly fourteen, I was almost the same size I am now, ten years later. My mother sat crushed against the door; she locked it, and she pulled back on the handle as we rode.

The Sabbath Creek Motor Court resembled a chickenhouse reconceived as a motel-a long low strip of rooms, most of the windows broken out, the roof charred at the far end, wires sticking up like frizzy hair, no cars parked outside.

The man drove away, leaving us standing at the door where OFFICE had fallen off and left the outline of the letters. My mother pushed the doorbell button, waited, pushed it again. She knocked on the door, and it swung open; she pulled it shut, then knocked again, louder, and she opened the door and shouted hello.

She stepped inside, and I followed her. The dim room, lit only by a small floor lamp, smelled damp and poisonous. There was a closed door on the other side of the counter, and she walked around and knockedagain.

"Hey!" she yelled. "You've got customers."

I sat on the sofa, which enveloped me in its broken springs and moldy stink, and after a few more tries my mother came over, and the ruined couch swallowed her as well, and we waited there.



***

We heard a door thump shut, then the sound of a car driving off, and a moment later an old man came through the door, a tall, thin, dark-skinned black man wearing a baseball cap, tennis shoes, brown work pants, and a white shirt buttoned at the collar. The little bit of hair showing under his cap was as white as the shirt.

"Uh oh," he said when he saw us. "Y'all work for the sheriff?"

He performed a jerky little shuffle-step as he crossed the room to the counter, where he set down a large brown paper bag.

"No, sir," my mother said. "We . . ."

"Do I have the right to remain silent?"

"Well, no. You see, our car broke down . . ."

"No?" the man said. "You mean I got to keep talking? Can anything I say be used against me?"

"Look," she said, "we just need a room. Is that possible?"

"Say you need a room? All right then, all right. That's good. We got you a room."

My mother explained that we might need it for a few days, since our car had broken down and was being repaired.

"Repaired? Where at?"

"A place back in town," she said. "What was the name? Coleman's?"

"Coleman's? Coleman can't fix nothing. What you take it to Coleman for? I could've told you where to take it."

She asked him again if he had a room for us.

The old man looked down and shook his head. "Coleman's. Last time I left a car over at Coleman's, Richard M. Nixon was the president. I'd have my car towed up to Fitzgerald now-have it towed anywhere-before I let those boys at Coleman's work on it. You might never get that car back."

"Well, from the way you're talking," my mother said, "we might be moving in here for quite a while. So maybe you can give us a discount."

"Hold on now," he said. "You can't move in. Didn't nobody ask you to move in, did they?" He waited, and we just stood there, and then he said, "So what kind of room y'all want? We only got one kind. Matter of fact, right now, we only got one room fit to live in. Got to fix the toilets in the other ones. And it's cash only."

My mother said that was fine, and he handed her a card to fill out. When she was done, he picked it up and read aloud.

"Charlene and Lewis Pope, 1991 Hunt Road, Cofield, Geor-gia. This your real name?"

She took the card back, scratched out Pope, and wrote in Smith, her maiden name. The old man looked at it and scowled and puffed out his lips.

"Another one of them Smiths, huh? All right then," he said, "if that's what you want to go with. But at some point I may need to see some ID, Miss Smith."

She started to pull out her wallet, but he said, "Let it go for now. We'll just let it go. But if y'all start getting rowdy, you see, I might need to check it. See if you really who you say you are."

He put away the card and tossed a key onto the counter. It slid across and almost fell, but my mother caught it.

"Just go out the door here and take a left. First room you come to," he said. "You want a key too, son?"

"Yes, sir. I guess so."

"Well, that's too bad," he said. "We ain't got but one. Y'all will just have to make do. Room One. Go out the door here, take a what? Left. Next door you come to. Already open. I'll have to get you some sheets and pillowcases and soap and towels and so on. I'll get you a shower curtain, and I'll turn those mattresses over. You'll need some lightbulbs-they all burnt out. Have to get y'all some coat hangers. The TV does work, but you only get two stations, and they go in and out. I had me a satellite dish, but some white boys stole it. I'll have to plug in the air conditioner. You got to fix that plug in the socket just right. The fan might make some noise, but it'll cool you off. No telephone in there, but the toilet works, I know that. I use it myself, every morning. I hope that won't bother anybody. I'll be in and out in no time, and y'all will still be asleep, most likely. I get out earlier than most folks. I like to watch the sun come up."

My mother said, "So you'll be coming into our room in the morning?"

"I'm afraid so. My place back here,"-he jerked his thumb toward the door behind him-"ain't had a working commode in twenty years. I had to give up on it. So I use Room One. I'll let myself in and out."

"All right then." My mother's voice had gone a little thin. She picked up another registration card. "It says here the manager is Truman Stroud. Is that you?"

"That's the name my mama gave me. I go by Stroud. The only one that ever called me Truman was my first wife, and I can't hardly remember her. You married?"

He asked me the question, not my mother.

"Not yet, Mr. Stroud."

"Stroud, son. Not mister nothing. Stroud. One word. When you do get married, before you do, you check with me, I'll tell you all about what to look for in a woman. I'm ninety-three years old, been married four times, and outlived every one. But they was all happy, and so was I. You don't see that a lot these days, do you?" He leaned over the counter toward my mother. "Fine-looking woman like yourself," he said, "got to be a husband somewhere. New or old."

"Mr. Stroud," she said.

"Does either of y'all understand plain American? Not mister nothing. Call me Stroud. That's all I answer to."

"Okay, then," she said. "Stroud. I don't believe my marriage is any of your business, is it?"

"Not none of my business at all. No, it's not, no ma'am. I see your point." He looked straight at me. "How about you, boy? You got a daddy?"

My mother snatched the key off the counter, turned, and picked up her bags. "That'll be enough, Mr. Stroud. And another thing. You'll have to find yourself another bathroom. We'll be paying for this one, and we'll be reserving it for our use only."

The old man made a big show of tipping his cap as we headed out the door. "So very pleased to have you with us."

© 2004 by Judson Mitcham

All rights reserved.
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