Serialization Sundah: Hoodoo – Chapter 16
Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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.
Jane Watson lived right down the street from me. We weren’t in the same ward, though, because the dividing line ran right down my street. She wasn’t just in another ward, she was in a whole other stake, which might as well have been Mars, churchwise. So it wasn’t until she asked me over the first time that I found out we were neighbors.
Her house was little, and it smelled like old people and dirty laundry. But it had a wood fence around it, which was cool, and they were going to plant flowers in the spring. I hardly saw her mom at all. She stayed somewhere in the back room. I was happy enough not to meet her, but I heard her croaking behind the door for Jane. Jane fixed sandwiches for us, and some kind of special plate for her mom with rye crackers and sprouts. Jane told me they moved here after her grandfather died and left them the house.
We took our sandwiches back into her bedroom, where she had a red light bulb in the lamp, and music posters all over the walls. She had a bookshelf full of record albums.
Jane plunked down onto the floor next to me, talking about the people in her ward.
“They droned on about the speshull music that the old guy sitting at the organ brought us. And what a speshull day it was. And how speshull it was that the Relief Society was meeting in a new room.”
“It’s not anything like church back in Michigan,” she said, pulling some playing cards out from under her bed and shuffling them for a game of Go Fish. “We had meetings in Brother Jackson’s basement. It was like we were all freaks together, you know?”
I remembered Sister Page and the other church members from Pahrump, and I nodded.
Hanging with Jane I was just Alice. Nobody weird or freaky, nobody special—speshull—nobody but myself.
It was a relief.
I didn’t invite her over to my place very much, although she went all goofy over Utahna with her great big eyes and hair that got redder every day. And she totally flipped over my stereo. When Dad got the new stereo, the old one moved into my room, a big old wood cabinet stereo that looked like a piece of furniture—the height of fashion in 1975. Jane promised to bring some records next time she came over.
But things were weird at home in those days. Mom didn’t look right since having Utahna, pale and skinnier every day. She stopped washing her hair and let it hang greasy around her face while she slobbed around the kitchen in socks and an old caftan. Some days she’d shut herself up in the bedroom and not talk to any of us, leaving us to scrounge up peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. One night, Dad came out of the bedroom with his superwhite smile and jolly voice.
“Okay, kids—pancakes for dinner tonight!”
Like it was a special occasion or something. MaryEllen was the only one who complained. She was too young to remember much about the way things were before we came to Lemuel, so she really missed all those tuna casseroles and jell-o salads. Peanut butter tasted okay to me.
The house felt different. Virgil didn’t come around anymore, though he still worked with Dad. To hear Dad say it, old Virg was just what the business needed to put the jet engines under things. Virg had a way with people, Dad said, that made them want to open their wallets without asking a second question.
Denny was MIA a lot too. He was hot and heavy with some girl from school, I guess, and planning on getting his own place as soon as he graduated in the spring. Everyone used to talk about Mike and Denny like they were twins or something, but Mike was starting to lag behind Denny in a bunch of ways. They were only a year apart, but Mike just wasn’t quite as cute, or as smart, or as good at basketball as Denny.
Mike wanted to know when Jane might be coming around again.
“Eew. She’s way too young for you. She won’t even be old enough to date for two years.”
“I don’t wanna date her, Tonto,” Mike used Virg’s nickname for me, tossing his hair back, “I just thought she was kinda, you know, cool.”
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. If Jane’s too young for my brother, what am I doing with a man who’s somewhere in his forties? But that was something completely different. It wasn’t just some crush. Heavenly Father had asked this of me, and I wasn’t about to say no to Him. Joan of Arc was way too young to be going to war or whatever, but she’d been Called. Not that I’m saying I’m like the modern Joan of Arc, or anything.
I was sure Heavenly Father made Dr. Bob love me.
“You’re unique, Alice. There’s something about you.”
We were sitting in his car, motor on, heater on, windows all fogged up. Bobby had his seat moved back from the steering wheel, hands in his lap, looking at his palms like he was reading a book, like the answer might be hiding somewhere in his lifeline, the weird loop that said why he was in love with an almost-thirteen-year-old.
“Did I ever tell you about the first time I saw you?”
I pulled my feet up onto the seat and hugged my knees. “In the gym at Parley P.?”
He smiled sideways at me, shaking his head. “Earlier. In the hall. I was talking to your principal—you remember Mr. Allred?—and there was a knot of girls in the hall, too, nothing unusual, but—I don’t know—something snagged my attention. I couldn’t see what it was at first, but it had those girls riveted, too. They were quiet for a second, like someone had walked over their graves, and then this rustling went through them. Finally one of them got up the nerve to say something. I don’t remember what she said, but it was directed at you. You were walking across the hall, beyond them, and whatever she said slid right off your back. You walked like a little empress.”
I put my forehead against my knees. I remembered what she said, all right. It sure as heck didn’t slide off me. That year jokes about me being permanently dirty were in. Like Pigpen, only instead of being followed around by a dust cloud, my dirt supposedly stuck to my skin.
Lisa Oaks had said, “Hey Lott, it helps if you get under the shower!”
If some girl said something like that to me before I was baptized, I would have knocked her down in nothing flat. But I wanted to be Good. So I kept walking.
And Bobby had been watching.
I squinched my eyes up against my knees.
“And, you know, I see things like that all the time—girls being cruel to each other—but there was something different about you. You almost seemed to carry this light.”
I rolled my head to one side, and peeked out at him. He was looking at me, now, his face wide open. I could see all the way into his heart.
“I—you know—it wasn’t like I even had the leading edge of a thought about you…like this. But I knew you were important, in some very particular way. Not even in a personal way, like someone who was going to be important to me, just…special.”
Speshull. I reached across the emergency brake and touched his knuckles with one finger. He turned his hand over and pressed one of his fingers against mine.
“It wasn’t until this year that I even really thought of you as—um—female, if you know what I mean.”
His blush shone out of his cheeks.
“But when I saw you in that ballet, Alice—more than just what you can do on a stage, I mean beyond talent and charisma, of which you have buckets—past all of that, there was something more. I don’t know—my whole universe turned upside down.”
He laughed gently, closing his hand around mine.
“I could swear you put a spell on me, Alice.”
I uncurled my legs and leaned forward, breathing a cloud onto the window. With one finger, I drew a heart, an arrow going right through it.
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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