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Today's Story by Caitlin Myer

He tried flashing those white teeth at me now, but he didn’t believe in it.

Serialization Sunday: Hoodoo – Chapter 31

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.  Our first serialized novel, the taut thriller City of Human Remainscan 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 31

The desert outside the car window looked washed out, used up, beat to a pulp from its long fight with the floods. The waters had shrunk back, leaving behind wreckage that had been carried for miles maybe, a man’s blue sock, a dishwasher, a doll, pieces of wood and plastic and cardboard pushed along and left where they were floating when the water evaporated in the summer sun. It looked like a whole town full of people had blown by on the run from something bigger than they’d imagined, from a nightmare monster, a bomb, the end of the world.

I leaned my head on the seat back and looked out the window while Dad drove, cradling Bobby in my head. Only two weeks, but I was scared to be away from him for so long, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to take it.

I squinched my eyes against the sun and put my feet up on the dashboard.

“Has Denny written you?” Dad asked.

“Yeah, he sent me a picture of him and Yukio.”

Denny sent me another picture I didn’t tell Dad about, but kept on my dresser in my dorm room at the Academy. Mom and Virgil, on their ranch in New Mexico. They’re leaning against a split-rail fence, Mom’s boot up on a rail, a curl of blond hair blowing against her mouth, one hand shielding her eyes from the sun. Between them, sitting on the fence in a dress, is Utahna. Virg is steadying her with one hand, squinting in the sunlight, pointing at the camera with the other, he’s telling her where to look, and she’s wearing his cowboy hat, it wants to swallow her whole head, but she’s holding it up, away from her face with one baby hand, laughing at the photographer.

Denny moved there to work on the ranch with his new wife, Yukio, after he got back from his mission. Denny had baptized Yukio and her parents and brother in Hokkaido, and he said that the minute he was lifting her out of the baptismal water, all wet and clean, he knew they were supposed to be married. Yukio was from the countryside, so they figured she’d be right at home on the ranch, and Denny was trying to grow a patch of lavender outside their bedroom window to make it smell just like the lavender fields outside Furano, where she grew up.

“She seems nice, Yukio,” said Dad.

“Uh-huh. How’s Mike?”

“Oh, he’s fine, I guess. Hardly ever see him, you know. MaryEllen is doing real good, though. You hear she’s class secretary?”

“Yeah, you told me. On the phone.”

“Oh, of course.”

Dad reached to turn on the air conditioning. He didn’t hardly know how to talk to me anymore, ever since that day. It’s like he was scared to death of whatever he might find out, if he questioned me too closely, so he never did.

“You ready to take this over next year?” Dad patted the steering wheel of the car, raising his eyebrows.

He was into Oldsmobiles now, a new one every year, just like the Cadillacs. This one was brown, like the desert outside the window, like the color of the water standing in big puddles in the middle of the fields we drove past, what Raylene called baby-poop brown. He promised to give me one as soon as I got my driver’s license, but I kept putting it off. I don’t know, all the kids in the high school I went to in Salt Lake couldn’t wait, they all got their learner’s permits when they were fifteen and a half, the first day they could, and I was supposed to take Driver’s Ed last term before summer vacation, but I swapped it at the last minute for a dorky ceramics class instead. I just didn’t like the idea of putting my hands on a steering wheel.

“I’m holding out for a better color,” I said, leaning my head back against the window to look at Dad.

He really looked rough. He’d gone all skinny again, like when we lived in the trailer park, only his laugh was gone. He tried flashing those white teeth at me now, but he didn’t believe in it. Mom had his big old grin stashed somewhere in the suitcases she ran out of our house with. I wondered if she took it out to look at once in a while, if she and Virg had it mounted and hanging on the wall like the head of a deer, if Virg told stories about the wild, brown Jim he nearly lost Mom to. Another one of his great stories. I wondered if Denny was happier there, with Yukio and Utahna, than he used to be here.

I leaned my head back against the seat, and fell asleep.


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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