Serialization Sunday – Hoodoo: Chapter 5
Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel. Our first serialized novel, the taut thriller City of Human Remains, can be found in full here.
Our current novel, Hoodoo, tells a story of visionaries, heretics and lunatics in Utah, centered on the life of Alice Lott, a twelve-year-old girl who believes that God wants her to have an affair with her junior high school counselor.
Find earlier chapters in Hoodoo here.
Someone brought a tape player to school my first day at Laban Junior High. He turned it up real loud, playing the new Supertramp album, so everyone could hear it, even with all the kids jostling around, trying to find their lockers, yelling to friends across the hall.
I looked down on almost everybody. I don’t mean that as in I looked down on them – I mean, I could see the tops of their heads. I was bobbing along on a sea of hairdos. Teachers bobbed along with me, and one or two other hormonal freaks. We could’ve had a normal conversation, almost, right over the tops of everybody’s head. So it wasn’t hard at all for me to spot Dr. Bob right off.
You know how you can drop a bunch of metal filings onto a paper, and move a magnet around underneath it, and all those metal filings will collect around it, following it wherever it goes? Kids were packed in all around Dr. Bob, and as he walked down the hall, the pack moved with him, just like metal filings.
This time, he was just lit up the usual way – morning sunlight coming in through the window – and his face was edged in light, and when he looked at me, he smiled, and held up his hand –
Wait. Let me back up. I was in the hall, all these kids around, and I was just watching the scene, it was different from my new perspective, I was separate from everybody, like back in the elementary school gym, when I was sitting on the stage, I was way up there, and everyone else was doing their thing, and I was someplace far away, and then I saw Dr. Bob, and Zap, just like that, I was pulled back in, I was one of them now, one of the million and two kids milling around him, wanting something from him. His face was alive, not shut away in some other room like other adults. He was smiling, talking to the kids, making them laugh, and the kid with the tape player turned up the volume on the Logical Song.
When I was young, you know that life was so wonderful
The sun was lighting up the edge of his face, like I said, and one eye – and this is where I noticed his eyes were gray – one eye turned clear as glass from the light.
And he was laughing, his lids coming down over his eyes for just a second, and in another second he would look up, look right at me, over everybody’s heads, just like in the gym at Parley P.
oh it was beautiful, magical
And before he did – in just the half-second before he saw me – it was in this moment that something changed for me. A minute before I’d been daydreaming about Randall Warner, but just like that, it was gone.
And in its place was this heat coming off Dr. Bob. As strong as the light he was shining around the old gym, but secret, aimed right at me, and I thought when he looked at me, he’d be able to see right under my first-day-of-school outfit to my new breasts like they were neon signs.
All these kids were moving around between us, like they were messengers of this thing I was feeling, this heat, all the hidden places of my body awake to him. I was sending out rays.
And then he looked at me. He saw me, in a way nobody else did, he looked right in my eyes, and I was hooked.
Oh, yeah, the real thing, a bona fide miracle.
He grinned at me over the heads of the other kids, and mouthed my name.
His eyebrows went up, making it a question. I shouldn’t have been surprised that he remembered me. There was, after all, exactly one kid in Lemuel with brown skin. I nodded, and he lifted a flat hand from the height of the kids around him to above his shoulder, his eyes big and wide with the wonder of my growth spurt. I shrugged. He pointed up the hall toward a door with his name on it, and I nodded.
And then he was pulled back in by a question from someone next to him, and he slowly made his way down the hall, and out of sight.
Dr. Bob. Bobby, Bobby, my Bob. My Bob. Heavenly Father had blessed me, I was forgiven for Randall Warner (or I could be, couldn’t I? with hard work, with faith), He had shown me the one I was going to marry, and now he blessed me with loving him.
My whole life stretched out bright and clean in front of me like the Yellow Brick Road, leading all the way to the Emerald City, the Celestial Kingdom. Dr. Bob, and me (Mrs. Bob!), and ballet, and someday kids I guess, and Dr. Bob, smiling his Bobby smile, reaching for my hand, touching my face the way Randall had, only better, with God’s blessings. Weeble eve in the gift of revelation.
Main Hall had these big, vicious orange and green color blocks all along the walls, and as I walked to my classes they made a rhythm: orange…green…orange…green…Dr. Bob…Dr. Bob….weeble eve…weeble eve…weeble eve…like going over rumble strips on the highway.
All I could think about that day was him. Blue shirt, sleeves pushed up on his arms, tie loose, top button open, showing his Adam’s apple. His eyes, one gray, one clear in the sunlight. My name in his mouth.
Alice Lott (hearts) Dr. Bob.
Dr. Bob + Alice Lott.
After school, I rode my bike to dance class, my head still singing his name, timed to my pedals, Dr. Bob, Dr. Bob. Laban was a lot closer to the studio than Parley P. Pratt Elementary was. It was just two blocks before turning right, then a straight shot down Center Street. Slouchy apartment buildings and wooden houses, then the park, then old brick houses with deep porches and big trees in the yard. Schultz Mortuary. The library. Town Hall, with the fountain out front. The bells in the bell tower started up, playing the refrain from the hymn,
All is well, all is well
I thought it was crazy when we first moved here, to hear a hymn I’d just learned being played all over town. The bells chimed three times – I was going to be early for class. Downtown Lemuel: the fabric store on the right, drugstore on the left. The only bar in Lemuel, Hal’s, on the right. All the way to where Center Street almost runs out, the motel with the swimming pool on the left, and across the street I hopped off my bike and wheeled it inside before unloading my dance bag. Up twenty-four carpeted steps, then twelve linoleum, I was into the dressing room and half-undressed when the Big Girls started trickling in. I didn’t get it here like I did at school. If the Big Girls paid any attention to me at all, it was sort of as a mascot. They didn’t even seem to mind that I was freaky good. They had high school social lives to think about, after all, while I clearly had nothing else going (except him, my secret husband, my Dr. Bob). My hair was up and ready to go while they were still unrolling their tights, so I made straight for the studio to stake out a place and start warming up.
The studio’s only boy was already in front of the mirror. Thick blond hair in big waves. One foot just barely touching the floor, like he was waiting for permission, holding his black slippers in fig leaf position, wrists crossed, bony elbows held close in to his sides. He looked twelve, but this poor kid was my exact opposite, a late-bloomer. Jay was fifteen or sixteen, and light enough to make a decent stretching partner, to put all his weight on my knees, opening my turnout. He was braced against my back, pushing me deep into a forward bend, when Madame Lake blew in, pink fur coat in seventy-degree weather, hair magenta to go with the coat, swirled on top of her head like a cinnamon bun. Sandy the pianist and the Big Girls all to their places, and class began.
The A above middle C on the piano was broken, so we danced to tunes like:
Ya dada da click da da
Da ya dada da click
Click da ya dada da da, click, da!
The rosin box in one corner of the room. Windows looking down onto Center Street, right into the swimming pool at the motel. Jay whispered how he’d love to leap right out the window, a giant grand jeté, and land smack dab in the middle of the pool. Carollee had to do barre on the portable in the middle of the room, so we could all see what was wrong with her dégagé. Madame Lake pounding out the time with her stick, counting,
I wasn’t exactly the best and brightest student at Laban Junior High. And I sucked at sports. Lemuel might have been the Promised Land for Jim, but it sure as heck wasn’t for me. The streets were nice and wide, and everybody in town knew everybody else, just like Elder Tanner said. Not like that was a good thing. There might have been games of kick the can, but Mike and Denny were too old for that stuff and I wasn’t invited. But the dance studio, that was all mine. I was a Celestial angel in ballet class. I was the Prom Queen and Cinderella and all three Charlie’s Angels rolled in one. Who’d a thought it: Alice Lott the Prima Ballerina. Even my sweat was beautiful. The other girls were there because their mothers made them, because it looked good to have some extracurricular activities on their college applications, because they didn’t make the cheerleading squad. Or Laurel and Esther, who played cello or flute. They listened to Brahms or Mozart or whoever. They got straight As and wore white stockings and pleated skirts. Ballet was just part of the package for them.
But it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d had all the popularity in the world, a hundred and two friends and was the Queen of Dodge Ball. Every time I stepped onto that studio floor, I had a reason to suck breath into my lungs and let it back out. God had assembled me for this purpose: to raise my arms in port-de-bras, to pirouette, to leap nine feet higher than anyone knew a person could. This was the meaning of life. This was worship, the kind of ecstasy that shows in those old paintings of saints with haloes. This was prayer.
Founder of the Portuguese Artists Colony in San Francisco, Caitlin Myer regularly reads her work at Why There Are Words, Quiet Lightning, and other established reading salons in California. Her one woman show on Simone de Beauvoir was produced in Seattle.
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