Serialization Sunday – Hoodoo: Chapter 6
Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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.
My conscience wasn’t easy. I had a stain on my soul, and I wished I could take it all back, start over again. I swore to myself I would never question Heavenly Father’s plans for me again.
If Jim/Dad had seen the Hand of God pointing to a picture of the Pope, I could go to one of those confessionals, spill out my sin to a priest behind a grate and get my Hail Marys or whatever, and never have to see that priest or his sad eyes. Article four says We believe in repentance, but it doesn’t say the small print, which is that you have to confess to the Bishop who plays golf with your Dad, that you have to look at him across his big shiny desk while he shakes his bald head and asks for details.
“Did he touch you?” Bishop Snow asked, and I had to say yes, and
“On my breasts.”
“No,” I whispered.
I felt small and dirty while he looked at me with big wet eyes and I promised him I’d never do it again, I wanted to be Good again.
My repentance wasn’t over with that though, I had to stop answering the tap tap at my bedroom window and if it happened again I’d have to be disfellowshipped which meant I couldn’t take the sacrament or say any prayers in church and then everyone would know I’d been bad and it would just confirm what they’d always said about that weird brown Lott girl. You could take the girl out of the trailer park, but you couldn’t take the trailer park out of the girl. I cried in my prayers at night, begging Heavenly Father to forgive me. Just that little thing. It seems so small now, and almost sweet.
But I knew I had one more thing to do before I could be forgiven. On top of confessing to the Bishop, you also had to make restitution, like if you stole something, you had to give it back, or work it off, or something. As far as the Bishop knew, Randall Warner and I were the only ones that were hurt by my sin, and you can’t really pay someone back for that. But I knew – and Heavenly Father knew – one other person that was hurt: my future husband, Dr. Bob.
I had to see him, he had to know about my transgression, I had to see if he could forgive me. That was the only way.
He was always in the hall between classes, talking to the kids and telling them to stop into his office anytime. So one day I skipped lunch, and stood outside his office door, and raised my fist to knock. Just an everyday thing, when you think about it, knocking on a door. I hesitated, fist raised.
Can you just see me? There I am, twelve years old and tall as Big Bird, working myself almost into tears and blushing, my fist hanging in the air, trying to work out what I was going to say, because I didn’t want to waste his time, I didn’t want it to seem like I wasn’t here legitimately. Like I was here because I had a vision that he was supposed to be my husband, and I had crush the size of Africa on him, but I’d already cheated on him, but it was over now, and the only time I wasn’t thinking about him was in ballet class, and even then sometimes. I didn’t want him to know I dreamed about him at night. Dreams that weren’t always virtuous and lovely and of good report.
I hunched down in my shoulders and let my fist fall, leaning against the door frame, sure that I’d failed, I was a coward, Heavenly Father couldn’t count on me at all, I’d already screwed it up, I should just give up and go to lunch.
And that’s when he opened the door.
“Alice,” he said, only a little surprised to see me lurking there, and he smiled. A genuine smile, the way Santa Claus would smile at you, if he was real.
“Come in, come in,” he stepped back to let me through, motioning me to a big leather swivel chair in front of his desk.
He closed the door and sat down across from me. He’d obviously been on his way somewhere, probably lunch, but he sat down easily like it was what he’d planned all along, like he could think of nothing more pleasant than a chat with an overgrown pile of nerves.
He asked me how I was doing, and talked with me about school until my shoulders released and I settled into the chair and started to feel more at home, and then he looked at me, his eyebrows pushed together in concern, and he said, “Is there something particular you needed to talk about?”
There was something about him, the tone of his voice, the way he looked at me, I felt like I could trust him better than anyone, better than Mom or Jim or anyone in my family, like he was the best friend I ever had in the world.
And just like that, it all came spilling out, Randall in church, and Randall was so cool, and how he had all these secret girlfriends and all of a sudden he was paying attention to me, and did you know he rode a motorcycle? and it really took me by surprise and I hadn’t planned to kiss him or any of that stuff, I hadn’t really thought about it but all at once it was just huge, you know, I didn’t really want to fight it off, and he looked at me with those big blue eyes and that scar, you know, over his eyebrow? from the fight he got into with the guys from Grandview High? and I didn’t say no to him when I should have, when it was the real Test, the kind of test they talk about in the Scriptures, when it was the Test – I failed. I failed and even though they say that the Heavenly Father will forgive, and I won’t open the window to him any more, even so, I can still feel his hand prints on my body, his dirty hands, and even though I went to the Bishop I don’t know if I’ll ever be clean. Because even Christ can’t make something not have happened, can he?
I’d never made such a big speech to a grown-up in my whole life.
Dr. Bob looked at me with this deep and wide understanding, and forgiveness, and I could see that he felt everything I was feeling, right then.
“You know, Alice, my daughter is five years old, and sometimes when I come in to tuck her in at night blah blah blah blah blah…”
My mind froze. I stopped taking in any of his words. Huh? Wait, roll back the tape. Did he say daughter?
For the first time, I looked at his left hand. A ring. Gold.
Oh gosh, oh gosh, oh gosh – Dr. Bob was married!
Anybody thinks Heavenly Father doesn’t have a sense of humor, just ask me. Oh, He had a good laugh over this one.
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.
To comment on this story, visit Fiction365’s Facebook page