Excerpt from Chalktown by Melinda Haynes, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Chalktown

by Melinda Haynes

Chalktown by Melinda Haynes X
Chalktown by Melinda Haynes
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2001, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2002, 352 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"Where you think you’re goin to?" his mother had said, quietly. Her bare feet planted on the damp wooden floor.

"Maybe Chalktown, I was thinkin," he had answered, hoping for an instant that Virgin Mary might be murmuring a prayer from a point he couldn't see.

"No sir, you aint," she said.

"It's spring almost and I don't see why not."

"Because of school's why not. I thought Mr. Calhoun told you about that county car out here lookin for you."

He had. But Hezekiah had been marking his days of truancy with a red crayon he kept hid underneath his bed. Upon waking, he'd counted them up and done the math and come to the belief that he had three -- or was it two? -- days left. While he stood in the doorway and felt the uncommon warmish air, he drew inside his mind a map of George County. The small towns inside that map: Lucedale, Agricola, and Basin and the river that ran within spitting distance of all of them: the Pascagoula. The roads that ran alongside, and the houses situated on those roads. All the people inside those houses. The map became bigger and bigger inside its grid. And once it stretched beyond his mental margins he tried to imagine somebody at the county seat suddenly taking notice of one dirt-road boy skipping school, making a game of the system, but he couldn't. It would be like looking for one fly amid thousands buzzing the fat carcass of a cow.

"George County aint got the money to waste lookin for me," he said.

"Well," she said. "I think you’re wrong there. The man in that car yesterday weren't out here shoppin. He was pretendin was all. Studied that holy yoke for a minute." She pointed to THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE IN EVERY PLACE BEHOLDING THE EVIL AND THE GOOD. POVERBS 15:3. His father, Fairy, had left the r out of Proverbs, and no one had bothered to repaint it. The ox yoke leaned against the pump house, marked down by fifty percent. "He stayed for most of an hour and never parted with a dime."

"I’m goin anyhow," Hezekiah had said, looking at her, noticing the slack skin around her mouth and the brittle sheen that lit across her forehead and the almost transparent covering of skin at her temples. Blue veins traced upward into her blond hair, where one shank had worked loose from its pin and settled over her ear. He felt a momentary pity for her that shifted something inside his lower gut. She was a formidable woman who was unraveling at her seams and it was this thing that made him want to walk away and never look back. There had been a sound then, a low troubled moan, and he had glanced down to his brother, stretched out on the floor atop his blanket. "I think I’ll take him, too," he said.

"Suit your own self, then. I think you’re askin for it, though. And I aint one to grieve when a person gits what they got comin."

Susan-Blair had walked away from the doorway then, and the dress tag quit its fluttering and Hezekiah went about the business of getting ready.

The kitchen was an unsightly mess. Stacks of dishes, all different makes and models, filled the counter space. Paper plates wearing leftover food, stacked by the sink. Three metal coffeepots set to the stove. She'd dirty one and go on to the next, he figured. What with her present occupation, there seemed no likely end to the supply, either. The milk had gone over so he filled a fruit jar with water, another with apple juice, and shoved four cans of Vienna sausage in the front pocket of the old haversack. Leg holes had been cut into the drab olive green and once his brother had been fitted into it, he would be carried out of the place. High time, too. Hez had gone to his back room and fetched up three clean diapers, stood looking at them for a long moment before picking up two more. No way a shitty bottom would set a curfew to his day.

On his way to the front room, he had stooped and turned off the gas heater in the hall and then gone to the kitchen stove and checked the registers. As much as he hated them, he'd not wish her, or his sister, to be a victim of leaking propane. He glanced around. Unless a messy house could suddenly acquire the ability to turn lethal, no one was likely to die before he made it back home that evening. Hezekiah left the room.

Copyright © 2001 Melinda Haynes

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Spark of Light
    A Spark of Light
    by Jodi Picoult
    The central premise of A Spark of Light involves a gunman holding hostages within the confines of a ...
  • Book Jacket: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    by Hank Green
    As one half of the extremely popular YouTube duo "Vlogbrothers" (the other half being his brother ...
  • Book Jacket: Waiting for Eden
    Waiting for Eden
    by Elliot Ackerman
    Elliot Ackerman's latest novel, Waiting for Eden, follows Marine Eden Malcom as his death ...
  • Book Jacket: A Well-Behaved Woman
    A Well-Behaved Woman
    by Therese Anne Fowler
    The full title of A Well-Behaved Woman includes the subtitle A Novel of the Vanderbilts which is ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Kinship of Secrets
    by Eugenia Kim

    Two sisters grow up bound by family but separated by war; inspired by a true story.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Paris Echo
    by Sebastian Faulks

    A story of resistance, complicity, and an unlikely, transformative friendship.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Strangers in Budapest

Strangers in Budapest

A couple trying to make a new life in a foreign land find themselves drawn into a cultural and generational vendetta.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

N M I A T Law

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.