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Today's Story by Caitlin Myer

I was evil and he would make it his mission to make me suffer for what I’d done to him and his family.

Serialization Sunday: Hoodoo – Chapter 24

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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.

Chapter 24

Saturday afternoon sandbagging, a loaded bag thuds into my hands, I have the rhythm now to just swing it over into the next pair of hands, thwak thwak thwak, the bags moving down the line, my toes wet from the filthy water edging up onto the sidewalk, but warm enough, from the sun, from the constant machine move, thud swish, thud swish, I don’t even see who goes with the hands next to me on either side, just thud swish, thud swish, almost a meditation, almost a prayer. The bag lands in my hands from the right and I heave it to the left, hours I’ve been doing this, at first it was pretty cool, everybody talking about the flood and sparkle punch set up on the folding table somebody must have brought from the church, and sure thing, there’s the Bishop ladling out drinks before we get down to it, and it’s sort of a weird holiday with people of all ages, and kids running around and playing in the water, but then we’re into it and it’s the same thing for hours like I said, my arms are shaking and I can hear the guy next to me breathing hard, the breath catching in his throat, rattling with phlegm and I think I’ve rubbed my hands raw, I felt blisters forming under the gloves they’d handed out and then bursting, sliming the insides of the gloves and the bags keep getting heavier surely it’s time for a break, for some ice cream maybe and in the four seconds between bags I stretch my shoulders and neck and while I’m reaching for the next bag, something across the street makes me stop.

Like a semi hurtling right at me, it was someone I knew, there was someone familiar, like he’d walked out of my head and onto the sidewalk, it was him, it was Bobby, the fact of him being right there, right across the street, got bigger and closer and louder until I dropped the sandbag that landed in my hands, splashing all of us with mud.


There he was, just like I’d thought a million times only it was always somehow different, like he would show up backstage again after a show or I don’t know, I always imagined him finding me, not this, not just seeing him in a crowd, but there he was, on the far shore of our little river, and the sun was out, there was no mistake, it was him Bobby Bobby Bobby like I’d never seen him before, in levis and a t-shirt with a bit of a tan and I stepped backward out of line and kept an eye on him while I moved behind all the people, spying him again and again in the gaps. He was placing the sandbags that landed in his hands into a growing wall in front of him. Those were the fingers, inside a work glove, that touched my collarbone; the breath that moved in and out of his mouth was pulled from me.

It wasn’t possible, it couldn’t be, but there he was, the only guy I ever loved and he looked like himself, but different, stronger, and he wasn’t talking to a crowd like he always was at Laban, it was just him, and I could see the muscles in his arms jump as he caught the bags, I saw him flatten them out and place them in the wall, I could almost think he’d been born doing this, never looking up, never looking around, never seeing me.

What did he know? Did he still love me, was it even possible? Would he recognize me and shout, or turn and run, would his eyes turn cold and blank? I watched him from behind the line, looking for a clue, looking for my hand print on his heart, but I didn’t know how to see it.

Would it be like a movie, Bobby running to me in slow motion, his arms held wide?

I stopped behind the line of sandbaggers and watched him. Like me, he had a rhythm, catch, shape, place, and I wondered what prayer, what fantasy was going through his head. I was drunk on Bobby, his face in profile while he filled the sack, every line I remembered like a hallucination, his lashes down over his eyes, his white hair short, I wanted to run my hand over his head, down his neck and back, watch the blush move all the way down his body, across his chest and further down, glowing on his belly where the hair hadn’t turned gray yet, hot to the touch, like I’d felt just once before.

What if he never thought about me at all?

Someone called a break, and I watched Bobby pull back a glove to check the time. He looked down the street to see everybody stretch their backs and groan and laugh and say Whew, what a day! and clumps of people started heading toward the folding table where snacks were laid out, white bread sandwiches and potato salad from the relief society, and more sparkle punch, people caked with mud holding those teeny paper cups and gulping down the sticky sweet punch, I watched Bobby watching them, and then he turned and walked the other way.

It wasn’t a decision I made, I just felt that thread connecting us pull me on to see where he would go.

I kept back on the sidewalk, well behind where he was, across the water, and when the people thinned out I dropped further back, I wasn’t ready for him to see me. I didn’t know what picture of me he carried in his head, if he even thought about me at all, maybe if I watched I could see it, somehow. The street was wide and late afternoon sun shone in hard round splotches on the water, making it look black all around, ripples moving through from currents running all the way down from the canyon, like creatures moving deep below the surface, taking over what used to be the road.

Bobby didn’t walk fast, and I had time to watch him, to match him up with the pictures I’d kept in my head, pictures that had started to get less and less sharp, so I’d have to pull up one gesture that was still bright in my memory, him laughing and looking at his feet when I ran into him in the grocery, just that one thing would drag the rest of him along, until I could almost see him again. But not just walking, I’d forgotten how he walked, like he was listening to something I couldn’t hear, and I’d never seen him in levis or a t-shirt, the clothes tight against his body, and I knew he didn’t have muscles like that before.

He turned left, away from the water, away from me.

There weren’t any footbridges close. I couldn’t let him go. I panicked for less than a second. How deep was the water? It was almost summer, and warm out, we’d left the other people far behind and nobody else much was out in this part of town on a Saturday, nobody to see if I just—stepped—into—the water.

I waded in, up to my knees, then deeper, the water licking up to my thighs, my levis a hundred pounds heavier, I swished my legs through, my arms crossed over my chest. I could still see him, he was walking directly away from me, I took giant steps, fe-fi-fo-fum, not thinking about the solid things I felt nudging up against my thighs and crotch, not looking down to see what else might be swimming in the water with me, I walked in water, weighed down like I never was on dry land, my socks and tennis shoes soaked through, but I could still see him, all I had to do was get across to his side, but there was a sandbag wall right there, the office building here must have had it put up so their sidewalk wouldn’t drown, and where the gutter was I dropped down until the water hugged right into my crotch, I had to parallel the sandbags until I cleared the wall, Bobby almost disappearing, I came around the end and safe again on dry land, I squelched quickly to the corner, just holding myself back until I was sure I could see him, his back was still to me, but he was turning right, and I hurried ahead to see where he went.

I peeked around the corner to see him fishing keys out of his pocket, and there was his car, the old Chevette, the car I used to ride in, my head under the dash, or on his lap. The car I kissed him in, the car where we sat and talked.

No, no, wait. He was getting in a car. I’d never find him again. He was going to drive off and I’d have no idea where he would go, no way to track him down, it was lost unless I called out to him, ran up to the car, banging on the windows until he stopped, he’d be sure I was crazy, if he ever thought about me at all, why did I think he would want to see me at all?

But he didn’t get in.

He opened the car door and ducked in, coming out with a book in his hand. He locked the car again and kept walking.

I had to keep following him now.

This part of town was like a real city, buildings right up against the sidewalk without any big parking lots in front, Temple Square just a couple blocks from here I think, but that wasn’t where we were going, we were heading East toward the mountains and now there were people on the street and I must have looked something with my jeans wet from the crotch down but I couldn’t let him out of my sight, water dripping behind me leaving a trail on the sidewalk, my jeans heavy and stiffly wet against my legs, he was just a block ahead of me, walking with his book in hand, all I could see now was the back of his head, disappearing and reappearing as more people appeared on the sidewalk, it was getting to be evening, the sun going down and people out on a Saturday for whatever they do but Bobby was still walking, we were passing apartment buildings and into a part of town I didn’t know very well but I could still see him ahead of me and then I couldn’t.

I panicked for a second, where is he where is he, he was just here and I’m popping up on my toes to look over people’s heads and nothing but there aren’t many places he could’ve gone it’s just a block and there’s an apartment building and there’s a coffee shop and there’s a house, and then something snags my eye and I look back at the coffee shop and there he is, standing just inside the door, the waitress in orange polyester dress with the built-in apron points at a table and I’m breathing again, there he is, he’s right there in the coffee shop, I walk around the corner into the parking lot and I can see the side of his face, and I realize the sun has almost gone down it’s dark out here but not in there, I’m safe to just watch him, looking at the menu then holding it out to the waitress telling her what he wants, I can almost hear his voice and then she’s gone and he opens his book and maybe if I can see what he’s reading I’ll know how he feels about me, I know it doesn’t make sense but that’s what I’m thinking, trying to look at the book with bionic eyes and read the title all the way from the darkening parking lot in there to the lighted room, Bobby turning the page and swallowing, I can see the Adam’s apple moving in his throat.

What if I walked in, right now?

He would run to me from across the coffee shop, throwing his arms around me in front of the cash register. He would kiss me hard, and tell me how much he missed me. He would thank me for freeing him from his marriage, it was never right, he didn’t know why he’d ever married her. He would devote his life to me, now that he’d found me again. I’d be a famous ballerina, and he’d be the man at my side – my manager maybe – always there, sort of blurry in the photos, he’s shy around cameras, and when I retired he’d write a book about our love, our glamorous life touring with the Chicago Ballet, the Joffrey, the New York City Ballet.

Or: He’d cringe away from me when I came too close, and say how he just needed the chance to tell me how I’d ruined his life. He would look at me with broken eyes and tell me I was some sort of perversion, a psychotic break he had but he was over it now, that he loved his wife and didn’t know how he kept living without her, he could never go back to Lemuel, people would spit in his face on the street, there was a restraining order keeping him away from his own daughter, his daughter, that pretty little girl who came to The Nutcracker on the night I bewitched him, he never should have let her near me, never should have spoken to me, looked at me in the hallway, I was evil and he would make it his mission to make me suffer for what I’d done to him and his family.

He’d see me coming and be hiding, and when I came, he’d spring out and stab me to death. Hit me with a baseball bat. A lead pipe. In the library, with a candlestick. In the conservatory, with a rope. In the kitchen, with a pistol. He wouldn’t rest until I was dead, or crippled.

A car pulled into the parking lot and I walked fast around the back of the shop, I didn’t want the headlights on me like a spotlight. I crouched behind the garbage cans while the car stopped, the doors opened and closed, feet walked away from me and into the shop. My pants were getting cold where they were wet, and I could just see a brown wave on my thighs where the water came to.

I stood up and came back around to my window, my love, reading his book, and the waitress came and put her butt between us, throwing a cup onto the table and pouring coffee into it. Bobby didn’t even look up as she walked away but lifted the cup to his lips, the steam rising away from his face.

He was drinking coffee?

Like it was the sign I was looking for, I knew had to go in. This was it, this was my chance, I might never see him again, he would eat and get up and walk back to his car and drive away and I would never know.

I walked around to the front of the place, the hairs on my arms standing up and stabbing into my skin like a hundred thousand needles, I looked at my hand as I reached to open the door and it was shaking, but I pulled it open and walked in, the heavy spring air breathing in behind me, I didn’t stop, didn’t even look at the waitress, just walked back to Bobby’s table, where he was setting down the cup to turn a page, just looking up for a second and he flinched, the cup landing hard on the table and he was on his feet, crowded back against the wall like I was a bear with claws out for mauling, he sucked in his breath fast and out again, his mouth shaping my name but no sound going with it, his eyes wide and the book still in one hand, fingers white on the cover.

And then the red flooded into his cheeks, the Bobby blush, I could have cried to see it again, and he expanded out of his corner and put down the book, he reached for my hands, and I gave them to him and we held each other’s hands tight as life while his eyes ran all over me and finally his voice came out.

“You’re,” he squeaked, and tried again, “you’re taller.”

I nodded. I was tall as him, now. A little taller, maybe.

“Sit down?”

My knees were already giving out, so I let myself land on the chair across from him. We still held on to each other’s hands.

“Alice,” he started, his mouth opening again, that sweet mouth, I was swamped with memories of his kiss, his words went away again and he just looked at me.


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. 

Read more stories by Caitlin Myer


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