Serialization Sunday: Hoodoo – Chapter 17
Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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.
“…We ask thee in the name of Thy Son to sanctify this water to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may drink in remembrance of the blood of Thy Son, which was shed for them, that they may always remember Him, that they may have His spirit to be with them, in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
Denny was kneeling at the front of the chapel, giving the sacrament prayer, his white shirt perfectly creased, head hidden behind the white lace draping the sacrament table. I said Amen with everyone else, and Denny stood up behind the table with the other two Elders. They handed trays to the Deacons, boys my age from school, hair slicked down with dippity-do or their mom’s spit. Mom sat on my right, holding the baby, MaryEllen, Mike and Dad down the pew to my left. Mom was bouncing Utahna a little hard, if you asked me, the kid’s head bobbing all over the place. She seemed okay otherwise, though, considering this was her first time back at church since Utahna’s blessing. Coming in to the meeting, nobody talked to her, but Mom was walking so fast, nobody would have had a chance if they’d wanted to. I rubbed my nose. She overdid the perfume, too.
One of the Deacons, LeGrand, who was in my math class, stood at one end of the pew, just to the right of Mom, waiting for the sacrament tray to come down the line. He had his hands in fig-leaf position, skinny arms just showing through his white shirt. His cowlick was starting to stand up, working hard against layers of goop. I could see he was trying not to look at Utahna, or Mom, or any of us, but it wasn’t easy. His eyes kept jumping around, till he bit his lip and rubbed a shoulder against his chin, finally focusing on his shoes. The white plastic tray made its way down the pew, tiny paper cups in double rows on either side of a rectangular hole in the middle. You had to pick up the cup with two fingers, to keep from smushing the ones next to it, drink the water, crumple the cup and drop it into the hole, then pass the tray to the next person. Almost everyone drank quick, knocking it back like Mom used to do a shot of whisky. When I looked along the back of the row, I could see heads bobbing back one after the other, like a slow wave moving down the pew. The wave stopped for a second at MaryEllen, while she decided which cup she wanted to take. I never knew what made her decision, but she usually picked one from the middle of a row, instead of one from the end like a normal person. I had my eensy drink of water, then passed the tray to Mom, just as LeGrand reached for it. I held the tray in front of Mom and glared at him. He blushed, his hand still out for the tray, flicked his eyes at Mom, and dropped his arm. She was staring straight ahead, not even looking at the little cups, just took one in her fingers and drank, dropped the empty cup in, and held the tray to the side for him to take. I checked down the row to see if Dad had noticed, but he was praying, and Mike and MaryEllen were thumb-wrestling.
Looking back, it probably wasn’t such a good idea for Mom to come back on Fast Sunday. Once a month, you fasted for two meals, and gave what you would supposedly have spent on the food to poor folks in the church, like we used to be. And on Fast Sunday, you came to church hungry, and we had Fast & Testimony meeting. What was different about Fast & Testimony meeting was that, instead of the usual assigned talks, anyone could get up and say whatever they wanted. You were supposed to bear your testimony about the gospel, and usually tell some story about why your faith is so strong, like, “I lost my favorite shoe, and I looked and looked and couldn’t find it, and finally I prayed and the Spirit moved me to look under the bed, and it was right there!” sort of thing. For a long time I thought people were saying “bury” instead of bear their testimony, like “I’d just like to bury my testimony about how Family Home Evening is a True Principle” or whatever.
Anyway, the first couple of people that stood up, that was more or less the way it went. But then Sister Brimhall stood up. If it was true that the higher the hair, the closer to God, then Sister Brimhall was perched right on the arm of His throne. Mike rolled his eyes at me over MaryEllen’s head. Brimstone Brimhall, Sister Grimhall, Sister Brimming With Righteousness. I would never forget that she was the first one to walk out of Utahna’s blessing.
“I’d just like to bear my testimony on this beautiful Sunday morning…”
On the whole it made sense, go without food for a couple of meals—not too much—just to make it a little easier to let the Spirit work in you, and then let anyone who is moved by that Spirit get up and express themselves. Usually, it worked great. There were a lot of tears at Testimony meeting, and sometimes you could feel like maybe you knew your neighbor just a bit better, having heard about some private or moving or even miraculous experience they’d had. I’d borne my testimony a few times, feeling my heart pound like it would tear right through my chest, shaking all over, but once I started talking, I could feel the love, the Christ-like love of all the people around me, people nodding to themselves at what I said, some smiling at me—people who would never talk to me outside of church—and by the time I sat down, I’d be warm to my toes.
But this Sunday, Sister Brimhall stood up. Her lipstick was rolled into balls on her bottom lip. I wasn’t really listening to what she was saying at first, until something grabbed my attention: she was talking about the sacrament.
“…and the sacrament is a sacred thing, it is nothing to be trifled with. As the scripture says, he who is not worthy should not partake, and I truly believe that she who partakes when she is clearly unworthy drinks damnation to her soul!”
Sister Brimhall was looking right at Mom.
Up until now, Mom was rocking Utahna harder and harder, but when she heard that, she stood up. The folds of her dress, just inches away from my nose, were shaking like crazy. She looked all around the church, and opened her mouth like she was going to say something, but then she closed it, held Utahna close against her shoulder, and walked slowly out of the chapel. If you wonder where I got my empress walk that Dr. Bob noticed, you just had to watch my Mom move down that aisle. She didn’t even stoop to look at Sister Brimhall as she passed, the Brimhall beehive wilting visibly in her wake. Dad looked like he’d just woken up from a nap, and he was starting to get up too, when we all looked up at a commotion on the stand. Virgil was pushing aside the other members of the Bishopric before lurching into the aisle after Mom.
I’d never thought of it before. My Mom’s name was Edie, short for Eden.