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Today's Story by Caitlin Myer

Who was I to take away his hope?

Serialization Sunday – Hoodoo: Chapter 33

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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 33

I went back to old Madame Lake’s studio for dance class. I was like a celebrity here, Madame Lake just about turning somersaults to put me right up front, show me off as her discovery.

The studio seemed to have shrunk inward. The piano still had the same dead spots, but there was a new pianist now, a guy with pale skin and big round glasses to match his big round chin. One of the little girls – a year behind me in school – had shot up. She wore a black leotard with torn black tights underneath. Her nails were painted black, and she’d shaved her pretty blond hair down to fuzz. I never thought I’d see anything like that in Lemuel. The other girls left kind of a space around her, like they used to do with me. They still did that now, if I let myself notice. Of course it didn’t matter that I was a guest dancer from the Academy. I could be Prima Ballerina of the whole world, and nothing would change here.

We worked through barre, Madame Lake still doing her old front-side-back-side combinations, but that didn’t mean I could just laze my way through. Even at the Academy, we spent time on the basics. It always came back to plié, tendu, rond-de-jambe. Plié, tendu, plié, tendu. The old, clean routine working its way deep inside me. Each repetition pulling up pieces of my self, my true and whole self.

My heart kept filling every time the floor creaked, the sun shining in through those shabby old curtains. I could see a couple of dancers looking out at the motel swimming pool across the street, the water sparkling hard and bright in the June sun, and I was with them, I remembered wishing I could leap all the way out the window to land in the cool water, blue chlorine and sunshine and kids running barefoot along the edge.

The piano plunked away and we were in the center, the adagio, Madame Lake had a tough one today. People look at the high leaps and think that’s the hardest part, but they haven’t done a slow promenade in attitude, standing ankle wobbling, lifted knee drooping. Nothing harder than finding that core of stillness, turning slowly, slowly in place without seeming to move, like a doll in a music box.

In Madame Lake’s studio, everything else disappeared. Bob and his rough hands could have been a million miles away. I felt like Paul on the road to Damascus, only a slow revelation, no fireworks, no visions from heaven. I had sinned, and forgotten why I was made, but forgiveness was possible. I was reborn in Madame Lake’s studio, the warped floor beneath my slippers, the sad old curtains dragging on the floor. Forget church. My worship was here.


I was sitting up in my old bedroom late, right next to the window Randall used to tap-tap in the mornings when he delivered the paper, I remembered the twelve-year-old Alice sitting on the bed, listening to him tap-tap-tap, my knees up under my nightgown, trying so hard to be Good. I felt like I’d been mixed up for years, ever since I met Bobby. Maybe life could be simpler than that, maybe I could just be a good person, and dance, and have a normal life. Yeah, who was I kidding? I couldn’t stop loving Bobby. Not now, not ever in my whole life.

Someone tapped at my door.


It was Mike, all stringy these days, home from a night out with friends. “Hey.”

Nice, normal Mike, likeable Mike.

“Hey, what’s the haps.”

We were talking softly, not to wake up Dad down the hall. Mike came in and sat down on my bed.

“Eh, you know, same old stuff.”

He was working in an auto shop, never went on a mission, I kind of always assumed Dad was disappointed in him, but maybe he liked having him around, with just him and MaryEllen left.

“How do you like it up in the big city, anyway?”

“It’s cool. You should come up and see me sometime. I mean, I’m pretty much dancing all the time, so I’m boring, but there’s a ton of stuff to do up there.”

“Yeah, I guess I should.”

“I have a pretty cute roommate, you could meet her, hang out with all the ballerinas,” I raised my eyebrows at him.

“Huh, yeah. I guess,” Mike picked at the bedspread, a quilt I’d had since we moved in, big pink and orange flowers on it, like somebody’s fever hallucination. Mike was pulling at one of the fifty loose threads. “You going to see Jane while you’re here?”

I blew out my breath. Jane, Jane, Jane, Mike had been puppy-eyed about Jane since the first time I brought her over, I kept thinking he’d get over it, get interested in someone else, get distracted, something, it wasn’t like he’d seen her much over the last three years, maybe when I came home to visit, maybe when he went to games at Lemuel High or maybe he ran into her at the store or the park, but that’s a long time to carry a torch, I know, I’m one to talk but at least there was something real there for me, there had been, but for Mike, what was this hope living on all this time?

And I knew the thing that would screw that up, that sweet hope my brother carried around on his face like a kick me sign.

Jane came to Salt Lake for a concert a few months back, looking different now, since the braces came off, and she grew some inches and still going, her hair chopped short and all spiked out.

Something was up with her, and we wandered outside, while the music was slamming away we stepped out onto the street, flat deserted at night like most streets here, the dance hall breathing and pounding with people and music, everything around it dead, quiet. Jane lit a clove cigarette. It wasn’t my place to judge anyone anymore, so I looked at the parked cars and we walked along the sidewalk, the stars bright above us and no moon, we might’ve been the only people left in the city, and when we spoke, it was low and quiet, like we could break the world.

Jane took a drag on her cigarette, and breathing out smoke, she started to talk about one of the popular girls, Stacey or Buffy or Lisa, one of the girls from Laban Junior High who on a merciful day looked away from me when I walked down the hall, who could cut me down with a few words, who did, all of them, who cut me down every chance they got, like cutting me was as necessary to them as putting clothes over their nakedness, and maybe that’s exactly what it was.

“She doesn’t know I’m looking at her, I don’t think, most of the time,” Jane was saying, “but I watch her all the time. I can see, when she’s putting on lip gloss in the girls’ bathroom, that she’s just holding it together.”

“What do you mean,” I asked, I thought maybe she was going to tell me some good dirt on Stacey or Buffy or Marcie, something I could use some night when I was feeling small and dark.

“She’s so fragile. It doesn’t show, not on the surface, but she’s like some porcelain doll. Every inch of her is perfect, perfect. But she has to work for it, and I think—I think I can see it tiring her out.”

Jane’s eyes weren’t looking at anything in front of her, they were looking seventy miles away, looking into this girl’s room, where she was laying out her outfits for the week, or folding down the pages of a fashion magazine, and all at once I got it, I recognized that look from my mirror, that painful sympathy for someone you love, someone you love the way I loved Bobby.

Jane was lit up, Jane was in love with this girl.

But she was wrong, it was a sin, we didn’t even say the word lesbian in Lemuel, didn’t have a way of thinking about Jane, there was no place for someone like her.

And Mike, here was Mike, right in front of me, that same look, that same light for Jane.

It was all screwed up, when you think about it. Here were two people loving, they weren’t doing anything but loving, and Jane was a sinner and my brother had no hope and didn’t know it.

“You really like Jane, don’t you?”

Mike tipped his head side to side, like he meant to say kinda but not really, but then he blushed just the littlest bit, and looked down at the bedspread, his fingers worrying that thread with insect energy.

“Yeah, I guess I always have.” He was trying to sound nonchalant, but his voice ran out and he whispered the last word, and I knew what he felt, he was my brother and for a second my heart beat with his.

Like it wasn’t hung all over his face anyway.

“Listen, you can’t tell anyone, okay? I promised not to tell, but…”

His eyes jumped up to mine, wide and hopeful. This was the guy that used to put me in a headlock until I screamed uncle. I knew what was moving beneath his skin, it was there for me, too. At least I knew Bobby loved me back, at least I had that. But Mike had to know, he was going to find out, one way or another. Better now than, I don’t know, three years from now, and he’s carrying that torch the whole time. Better now.

“Jane doesn’t…like boys. Um, at all.”

Mike just looked at me blankly for a minute, then made a face.

“Yeah, right.”

He turned his head away from me to look at the wall.

“What, you mean she’s, like, into girls?”

I nodded.

“Well, that’s not, that’s just…” he lifted his hands to show how stupid it was, then dropped them in his lap. He stared at them, blinking his eyes hard.

“Well, shit.”

I hadn’t heard Mike swear in years and years, not since the trailer, since Pahrump. He didn’t say it loud or anything, just like he’d been saying words like that all along. It was too late now to take it back, to say I was just joking. I’d screwed it all up for him, in just a few words. Who was I to take away his hope?

He pushed his lips together, nodded once, and got up from the bed, waving goodnight behind him as he walked out of my room.


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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