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Today's Story by Caitlin Myer

“Can you believe it took ‘em this long to catch on?” he said, like he’d pulled off this big joke and had been waiting for someone to get the punch line.

Serialization Sunday: Hoodoo – Chapter 39

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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 39

It worked okay, the driving thing. I didn’t have to use my left foot at all, and something about it felt so good, eating up the road, me in control. Mike was a good teacher, patient and quiet with the instructions, little corrections, I could almost feel like I was a natural.

The sun was just coming up, windows rolled open, sweet early-morning air coming clean into the car, as I pulled into the driveway, Mike talking me in.

Dad was at the door, he must have heard us coming, and it almost knocked me over – his smile was back, all the way, as white and wide as the day it was born.

I was shaking and jumpy from the night, from the road, from all of it, but Dad looking so big and real like he did, he breathed life and hope in my direction, I wanted to get close and drink it all in. Mike came around to help me out of the car and through the door, handing me off to Dad while he went back for my stuff. Dad in pajamas, slipping an arm around my waist, and I got a full breath of that brown smell of baked desert off his skin, like he used to have, way back in the trailer park. I couldn’t have put my finger on it ‘til then, but for years, since moving to Lemuel, he’d smelled different, like a Sunday tie.

I didn’t get it at first. Dad shining that big smile out at me with courtrooms and judges and maybe jail lurking just out of sight. He was talking from the minute I came inside and they got me sat down, the old patter I knew from a younger Dad, playing cards with his buddies around the built-in table in our trailer.

“Can you believe it took ‘em this long to catch on?” he said, like he’d pulled off this big joke and had been waiting for someone to get the punch line. But I got it. It came on slow while I listened, my head all road-buzzed. He was wide open and breathing freely for the first time in years. Dad was whole. This was who he’d always been, if I thought about it. I remembered him slipping a card out from under his watchband when he was playing with his buddies, and giving me a big wink. They all knew he was a cheat and they loved him anyway. Dad had been playing the part of the reformed character, but there was some part of him the conversion just couldn’t touch. He was caught now and had to own up to all of it, but Mike still loved him, just like his old drinking buddies. So did I. He didn’t have to sneak around anymore, didn’t have to pretend to be something he wasn’t.

He was still catching me up with the ins and outs of the case when MaryEllen slammed out of her bedroom and across the hall to the bathroom. Dad shut up until the shower started, then stood up and said he should make pancakes since everyone was home. He had the first ones sizzling in the pan when MaryEllen came out, all buffed up for church.

“Pancakes?” Dad lifted the spatula and waggled it in MaryEllen’s direction. She didn’t even look at him, just muttered something about meeting Michelle. She looked at me and for a second I saw my baby sister all scared and lost but she shut it down fast and was out the door without even saying Hi.

“She’ll be okay,” said Dad, turning back to the pancakes, but he didn’t sound at all sure. She didn’t remember the old days. She didn’t know Dad like this, and we all three shivered a bit in the wake of her judgment.

“More for us,” said Mike.

At sacrament meeting I didn’t get that chill from the ward we felt around Mom and Utahna. MaryEllen sat with her popular friends, but nobody else seemed to avoid us. Maybe word hadn’t gotten around yet or maybe sex was a bigger sin than cheating people out of their money, I don’t know.

The Sunday School teacher was Brad Harmon, who used to play basketball with Denny. He was married with a couple of kids now and starting to get fat. His bottom lip was wet, and he used “man” as an all-purpose word.

“Listen, man, the Catholics believe in this thing they call original sin.”

We didn’t believe in such a thing. Brad explained that when Jesus died on the cross, He made it so that none of us had to be responsible for anyone else’s sin, the sins of the father are never visited on the son. His sacrifice meant that everyone is born completely innocent. If a person dies before they turn eight, they’re on the expressway straight to the Celestial Kingdom, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

I remembered Elder Tanner holding me underwater in the baptismal font, the sound of the water echoing around me. It was the last moment I was completely clean, completely free of sin. Since then, the sins had built up, layer after layer, until I wasn’t sure where I started and the sins left off.



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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