Serialization Sunday: Hoodoo – Chapter 21
Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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.
There wasn’t even time for those little sperms to go swimming up inside me; not even a few cells stuck together yet, not really. But this weird slippery feeling took over, like another consciousness waking up inside me. I looked in the mirror and saw something fluttering at the edges, someone moving just outside my field of vision.
You might think I was stupid, but I really hadn’t counted on that development. I was all focused on marrying Bob and dancing and somehow those two things together were going to change the world. I swear up until that moment, the possibility had never occurred to me. What good would I be, all heavy with child, lumbering across the stage in our spring production of Coppelia?
So maybe I was imagining it. Wasn’t real, just some—I don’t know—hallucination maybe, that came from all the excitement of making love with Bob. Here I was thinking I had a person growing inside me when really it was just love, just this new way of being now that I wasn’t a virgin, now that I had a lover, this spiritual union I’d been thinking about for so long. I was too young to have a baby, I couldn’t believe Heavenly Father would let that happen, I had too much to do and I’d never get into Wasatch Ballet if I got pregnant at thirteen, no way they’d let me in. They wouldn’t let anyone in who was pregnant because who can dance that way? And you’re not the same after, don’t let anyone fool you about that. You can teach after having a baby, but that’s about it, you’re ruined for a professional career.
I walked around at school, went to dance class, helped out at home like everything was normal, like nothing had changed. But it wasn’t any good. Once that doubt had wormed its way into my head, I couldn’t think about anything else, not even during dance class, making me lose my place until Madame Lake had to ask me if I was okay and I had to tell her I just had a flu is all, I’d be fine, and she told me maybe I should go home, and I said no, please, I’m okay, it’s better if I’m dancing and I think she knew it wasn’t really a flu so she didn’t fight it but she still kept looking at me funny all through class.
Dr. Bob was different too. I was afraid to go see him in his office again. I don’t know, everything was strange now. His light had shut right off. His hair started to look greasy and his shirts weren’t ironed and the other kids at school stopped bending their steps toward him in the hallway. It was almost the opposite, now. Like he carried around a force field that kept people away so there was a gap around him when he walked through a crowd. Maybe kids can smell fear, like dogs. Because that was what it was. Whenever I looked in his eyes, I saw blank terror, like he was standing right on the edge of a pit that went straight through to Outer Darkness.
I was sitting on the grass outside the school next to the bike racks at lunch, maybe two weeks after It happened. I don’t know what I was doing, spacing out, I guess, when I saw a pair of feet stop in front of me. I looked up just as Jane sacked down next to me.
“’K, Alice? What’s going on? You’ve gone all weird, and you haven’t talked to me in weeks.”
“Nuthin. It’s nuthin.”
“That’s just crap.”
I was startled. Crap was practically a swear word at Laban.
“What—what do you know? I told you, it’s nuthin…” I was going to say more, but all of a sudden I was crying. Right on the flipping lawn in front of the school, and I was heaving these big old sobs like I was five years old.
Jane just sat there, sort of patting my knee, while I wailed and wailed. She didn’t seem to mind, didn’t seem to be in any big hurry. It took me forever to get it under control. It was harder because I was trying not to attract any attention, trying not to be too loud, which just made it all come harder and I was covering my face and shaking my head and hoping nobody walked by too close and finally I stopped caring, it wasn’t like I had any social standing at Laban anyway, who cares what they think, and I let it all out, all this stuff that I guess had been building up inside me came roaring out all at once and I bent forward so my face was in my lap wahh wahh and Jane patting me now and then to let me know she was still there and it was okay, she’d be there as long as it took. By the time I finally slowed down and started to look up hiccupping and sniffling, nobody else was around, I hadn’t even heard the bell for class, but Jane was still right there.
“Jane,” I said, still swallowing big wet sobby breaths, “Can you keep a secret? I mean a big, deep, dark, cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-your-eye secret, and never ever tell anybody, not even under torture, ever, for as long as you live? This is a real, serious, not kid stuff kind of secret.”
Jane thought about it for a minute, looking at me.
“Yes. Yes, I can. Cross my heart.”
She made the X over her heart, and mimed locking her lips and throwing away the key.
I knew nobody was around, but I looked around one more time, just in case. A pouf of wind turned the tears on my cheeks cold and dry.
“I think I’m pregnant.”
Her eyes got big, but she didn’t say anything.
“I know who the father is, and—it’s not his fault, so I don’t want him to get in any trouble, okay?”
Jane nodded, and thought for a second.“Does he know?”
I felt a crying jag shudder up my chest, and I took a big breath to tamp it down.
“No, not yet. I’m not sure.”
“Will you tell him if you are?”
I had to think about that, breathing big and slow to keep control.
“Yeah, yeah I think I’ll have to.”
My voice was shaky.
“Do you want to tell me who it is?”
I started to open my mouth, hiccupped, then shook my head, tears starting to jump out of my eyes.
“Okay, it’s okay, you don’t have to.”
We sat there for maybe five minutes, while I got my breath back.
“I think what we need to do, then, is find out for sure.”
She said “we.” She was going to help.“How long has it been?”
“Umm, a couple of weeks.”
“When is your period due?”
She knew a lot. I was starting to feel a little more calm.
“Um, I don’t know, it might already be time.”
“Okay. I was reading this thing in one of my mom’s magazines. There’s this new test that you can take at home. You can just get it at the drug store.”
“Oh, right. Like I’m going to walk up to Brother Washburn and ask to buy this test thingy.”
“Duh. We’re not going to buy it.”
Jane, Jane was going to make it all better. I would take this scientific test, and it would tell me that I wasn’t pregnant at all, I was just crazy. What a relief. Take me away to the Funny Farm, hee hee ho ho ha ha. But I still had to get through the rest of the week at school and see if my period came and then if it didn’t come I could take the test.
At school, kids would make this game with folded paper that you held over your fingers and you used it to tell your future, you moved your fingers to make it open crosswise and then lengthwise, like a mouth that could split itself in half, I could see girls bending over one, while one girl worked it, and the other chose a flap to read her fortune under and then it would start again crosswise, lengthwise chh chh chh the paper crinkling with each move and there’s me leaning in to ask Am I pregnant Am I pregnant Am I pregnant Heaven or Hell Heaven or Hell and the paper opens to black, just black, the mouth opening wider and wider, swallowing the girl who holds it and one by one the other girls gone, gone, gone, the school, the street, Lemuel, the whole world nothing but black holding me in its arms and my legs open, a pale light shooting out from inside me, a thin beam to see that everything is still there, the girls still bending over the fortune teller, the light moving to reveal hands, mouths, dull green lockers behind but all washed out like an old filmstrip and there’s me, there’s my mouth still moving Am I pregnant Am I pregnant Am I
I woke up breathing hard, holding the blanket tight around me, the sun coming in through my curtains.
Jane and me rode our bikes to the drugstore and she brought a big purse that was her Mom’s and she told me to pick out some maxi pads that were right across the aisle and while I reached for them she slipped the test into her purse just like that and I paid for my maxi pads and Jane got some gum and when we got out onto the sidewalk we grabbed each other’s hands and giggled with relief and terror all the way to where we’d parked our bikes. Real desperadoes. Jane wasn’t going through all that without knowing how it turned out, so we went to my house, where I could lock the bathroom door for hours and it didn’t matter ‘cause there were lots of bathrooms and we could just say we were doing each other’s hair or something. Jane looked the other way while I peed on this strip of paper and then we put it in this jar and we weren’t supposed to jiggle it or anything for an hour so Jane braided my hair and we put on some of the makeup Mom left behind and we whispered just in case talking too loud would wreck the test, too. And finally it was time but I closed my eyes and didn’t want to look so Jane looked for me and I heard her breathe in sharp and her hand grabbed my arm and when I opened my eyes she was looking at me with her eyes bigger than I’d ever seen them and she nodded and I finally let out the breath I’d been holding.
So I wasn’t crazy. Yay for me.
Jane didn’t ask me what I was going to do. She just hugged me really hard and told me that she was on my side, no matter what.
I turned my head off, after that. I didn’t want to think anymore. I would tell Bob at school on Monday, and he would know what to do. That was all there was to it. If I let myself think, I would have to think what happened to girls around here who got pregnant, which was…well, I didn’t know what it was. Maybe they locked them away, like Mr. Rochester’s wife in Jane Eyre. Or maybe, maybe they had a Church Court for her. I’d heard about those. I didn’t know what happened in a Church Court, but I imagined the Bishopric dressed up in black robes and met in a secret place, outside of Lemuel, in the mountains somewhere, a cave lit up with torches. I pictured them sitting on big chairs in their black robes and the pregnant girl would get dragged in and fall at their feet while they decided what to do with her. I could almost hear the scraping of chairs as they stood, pulling stones from their pockets, and the Bishop would be the first to throw, then one after another they would all get into the act, all of them throwing rocks at her—at me—while I tried to cover my face with my arms but it wouldn’t help and finally I’d just be a bloody pulp.
No, it was better not to think at all.
I hummed songs to keep my brain from going like that, in church on Sunday I couldn’t think about the baby that was growing in me, I just hummed Our Song to myself, the Logical Song, When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, and I got through church and Sunday dinner and the whole shebang.
So there it was Monday morning. I got to school early and walked into Bobby’s office without knocking, went right to the chair and sat down. I heard Bobby get up from his desk and pull his chair close to mine, I looked at his shoes while he sat down.
“Alice, I’m glad you…”
I touched the toes of my penny loafer against the toes of his brown shoes. Grownup shoes. Man shoes.
I felt like I was having to explain to a teacher why I was late to class. The penny in my right shoe shone in the light from the window.
“I’m, you know, pregnant.”
Bobby would know what to do. He would fix it.
He breathed in. He reached a hand toward me, held it in the air a minute, then dropped it into his lap. I stared at our shoes and listened to him breathe.
“You think I’m the father?”
His eyes were flat as buttons. I hadn’t thought about the smoking boy, not once. The idea stopped the breath in my chest. He didn’t count. I opened my mouth, but Bobby spoke first.
He was nodding. He didn’t look surprised. His light was all gone.
“Okay. I’ll figure something out. It’ll be okay.”
I stared at him for a few seconds, then got up to go. I almost stopped, reaching for the doorknob. Had he been expecting this?
“Alice,” his voice came very soft from behind me. “I love you.”
I opened the door and walked out.
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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