Serialization Sunday: Hoodoo – Chapter 22
Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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.
Tuesday morning, homeroom Biology. Mr. Day talking about mitosis. Drawing chalk circles on the blackboard to represent cells. Stacey Porter was hall monitor first period, and she came in the door, handed a folded note to Mr. Day. She looked a little funny and glanced once at the class before Mr. Day nodded her out of the room. He laid his chalk down on the tray and unfolded the note, looked over his glasses at me.
“Alice? You’re wanted in the principal’s office. Um, now, I think.”
I got up from my desk, chair squeaking loud, out the door, down the hall, one step after another left foot right foot, left foot right foot. Spring sunshine coming in through the high windows making squares of light on the floor. I held my arms at my sides and walked. I felt like I’d done this before.
It was Jane. Jane told. All that giggling and braiding my hair, she told. She was only pretending to be my friend, and in the end she turned on me. What did they give her for turning me in?
Right foot, left foot.
Weeble eve, weeble eve. What did I believe? I didn’t know anymore. Was this what was supposed to happen? How could it be? It was going to be stoning, or being sent away to live with someone’s aunt in Canada. Or reform school. Or locked away in the attic. Maybe Mom would come back, and…
No, she wouldn’t.
Right foot, left foot.
I couldn’t really be mad at Jane. She probably thought it was best for me. I mean, what else was I going to do?
Would they torture me to find out who the father was? I wouldn’t tell. Never in a million years. They’d never get it out of me. Even if they pulled out my fingernails.
What would Dad say? I wondered if there was any way I could convince them not to tell him. Just, just tell him I fell down a well. That was better.
God couldn’t let this happen, not really. He’d save me at the last minute. He needed me to dance. Didn’t He?
This hallway stretched into infinity. I could walk forever, an eternity of right foot, left foot. If I could just stay in this hallway, none of it would be true, none of it happened, nobody would know, I can just be a thirteen-year-old girl, walking in the school hallway forever.
But there he was, the principal holding his door open, looking down the hall at me. Why did he have to do that? I could have walked right by, none of this had to happen, I could’ve just kept walking. I could have believed in the story I’d been telling myself forever.
The receptionist wasn’t sitting at her desk. There were two chairs in front of it, Dad sitting in one. Bobby was in the inner office, his skin white as Elmer’s glue, a blonde lady sitting next to him, she saw him looking at me and started turning to see who he was looking at when somebody inside shut the door.
Dad stood up. “Alice, honey…”
“Please—Mr. Lott, Alice,” The principal gestured both of us to the chairs, and he sat down at the receptionists’ desk.
My head was roaring now, I could barely hear what the principal said. He asked me if I knew Dr. Bob. Of course I did, I said. Everybody at Laban knew him.
Had he ever…touched me? the principal wanted to know.
I looked up at the principal while he repeated his question. His voice got lost in the roar. I looked over at the closed inner door, at Dad, looking smaller, like he’d shrunk, even though the chair was too little for him.
It couldn’t have been Jane. She didn’t know it was Bobby, I never told her who the father was. Jane didn’t tell on me. It was someone else.
“What?” My voice was louder than I expected.
“Alice,” the principal cleared his throat, touched the edge of the desk, then folded his hands together on top of it. “He came in this morning and told us that he—molested you. The police are…they’re taking his statement right now.” He tilted his head toward the inner office.
“Honey,” Dad leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. “If you tell the police everything that happened, he won’t be able to hurt you anymore. He’s going to go to jail for a very long time. And after he gets out, there’s a thing called a restraining order. He won’t be able to come near you.”
No, no, no. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. We were supposed to get married, I was supposed to dance, and I was going to…
What, save the world?
I didn’t understand. I looked at the inner door again, like I could see through it. I could hear voices coming from the other room. This wasn’t it at all.
Except…except, the understanding was creeping in on me, I couldn’t hold it back.
I stared at the Principal like I was waking up from a dream. I thought I’d done everything right, I thought heaven was going to open up and angels come down from the sky and turn time backwards. I thought Mom would come home and Bobby marry me and I could dance forever and save the kid down the street with the skinny arms and the starving babies in Africa and the President of the United States and movie stars and our old neighbors from the trailer park in Pahrump.
I had this whole story going in my head, all because I saw a light in the gym at Parley P., all because I fell in love.
That light could have meant anything.
All I wanted was to dance, to see Daddy smile again, Mom to come home. I didn’t ask so much. If nothing else, I had to dance. What else was there for me? Dancing was the one thing I would never give up, not ever. In class, on stage, I was home, no matter what was happening outside. The world could be falling down all around us, but if I was dancing, everything was right.
And if I had this baby, I’d never be able to dance again, not the way I thought I was meant to.
I shook my head.
The principal leaned forward on the desk. “Alice? Did he molest you?”
What if the father was the smoking boy? What if it was his, all along?
I whispered it, and felt a cramp, just below my bellybutton.
The principal looked at Dad, then back at me. “Listen, Alice. He’s already confessed. The only way we can protect you is if you tell us the truth.”
I looked straight at the principal, tasting nicotine and spit. I heard the ski lift creaking through nighttime trees. I swallowed.
“He’s crazy. He never touched me. That’s just gross.”
Another pain, stronger this time.
Dad took my hand. “Alice, it’s important that we are sure. I know it’s scary, but we have to know. Are you certain, honey?”
“Daddy, I swear. I don’t know what he’s talking about. That man never touched me, not even once.”
Grass soaking in through my clothes, my tights ripping. A cramp made me push out a grunt, like someone had punched me. I put one hand over my mouth.
“I’m feeling sick…”
I lunged out of the office and ran down the hall, my shoes sending back echoes, into the girls’ bathroom. In the stall I pulled down my panties and they were thick with blood. A cramp made me sit down on the toilet and I could feel the blood flushing out of me, hitting the water below. I felt a sharp pain, a pressure like I had to pee or something, but I heard a plop and raised up off the seat just enough to see a big clot of blood. I didn’t dare move. Clot after clot plunked into the water. I leaned against the cool wall and tried to breathe, a sludgy river of blood washing through me. I crossed my arms on my knees and laid my forehead on my arms and closed my eyes.
The bell rang and kids came roaring out of classrooms, four hundred feet pounding through the hallways, laughing and yelling and singing, girls banged into the bathroom, in and out of the stalls next to me, chattering and combing their hair, dropping lip gloss on the floor and picking it up, talking about the policemen in the school and probably something got stolen or I bet they were finally hauling away Donny Moody for the graffiti all over the outside of the science wing, all the voices and bodies and lives bumping up against each other, a hundred conversations and a thousand dramas and slowly the bathroom emptied out and lockers banged shut and kids were hurrying to class and the bell ringing and someone shouting across the hall and classroom doors were closing and one pair of feet running and then it was quiet again, I was alone.
The bleeding was slowing down.
After a while the bathroom door opened and a pair of sneakers made their way down to my stall, and a soft knock.
“Alice? It’s Jane. Your dad and the principal sent me to see if you’re okay.”
It took me a minute to make my voice work.
“Do you have a maxi pad?”
I heard some rummaging around, then a coin being dropped into a slot, the clunk of a box against metal.
The sneakers came my way again, and Jane’s hand appeared under the door holding a cardboard box.
I used some toilet paper to wipe most of the blood off the crotch of my panties and dropped it into the water.
“What happened last weekend? It didn’t happen. None of it happened. Okay?”
“…okay. Um, should I go tell them you’re okay?”
“Yeah. I was just a little sick. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
The sneakers turned and Jane left the bathroom. I fixed myself up and emerged from the stall. There I was in the mirror.
Almost the same, but not quite.
Now I was completely alone.
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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