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Today's Story by Caitlin Myer

This was my present to Bobby. Just this once.

Serialization Sunday: Hoodoo – Chapter 28

Every Sunday, ask Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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 28

I sluffed Algebra to meet Bobby at the coffeeshop. The first time I’d missed a class in three years. It wasn’t such a big deal, one class. I was okay in Algebra, it wasn’t like I was missing anything important, but all the same, I nearly turned back a hundred times before I got there.

I pulled open the door of the coffeeshop, my stomach left behind. I didn’t see him right away, expecting him to be at the same table as before, next to the window.

“Alice,” he called to me from the other side of the coffeeshop, beside the wall with a mural of a guy on a bucking horse. Bobby had a cup of coffee next to him, and a menu laid out at my place. He flushed.

“You look beautiful,” he said. “Don’t ever cut your hair, okay?”

I wanted to laugh, but my breath was caught up inside, pushed back into my mouth, and it came out sort of strangled.

Long hair would always be the fashion in ballet, but mine was even a bit longer than was practical. It was heavy and curling, and took a heroic effort to coax it into a bun that would hold fast through a triple pirouette. I’d left it down to meet Bobby, instead of my usual schoolday braids that were easy to wind around my head for dance class, and it felt loose, almost naked.

In Algebra, Mr. Udall would be kicking Shane Davis’ feet out of the aisle between the desks, rasping out the equations before he got to the blackboard, his voice box smashed in ‘Nam.

I sat down and looked across the table at Bobby. It was almost like the old days, when I used to ride in his car with my head in his lap and we’d end up at Bennie’s Spic ‘n’ Span. But this was different. It was daylight outside, and I’d come here all on my own. I wasn’t one of his little patient-students anymore. I was almost a grown-up. I had a real life here in Salt Lake, and it was me, now, inviting him into my world.

We ate breakfast, taking our time, talking. Slowly, I forgot about Algebra, forgot about the time. Bobby and I talked, and he reached across the table to lightly touch the knuckles of my hand, making all the hairs on my arm stand at attention.

The waitress in the orange dress refilled Bobby’s coffee cup, the sharp smell rolling out of the coffeepot and into my head, lighting up memories of the old days in Pahrump. Mom in her waitress uniform. I had a funny shock, a longing to roll it back, keep the missionaries out of our trailer, maybe we could still all be together, even now. Or maybe Mom would be dead with an exploded liver. Or Dad. Or she would have moved on to someone else, not Virgil, but someone like him maybe, a lanky cowboy with a moustache and aviator shades and a scheme for selling ladies’ underwear.

And I wouldn’t have met Dr. Bob, not in a thousand years.

“Can I have a sip?” I asked, out loud. He squinted at me, then pushed the cup across the table. He drank it black, the way Mom gave it to us in the mornings, from the coffeepot on the trailer stove, the top rattling and clanking as it boiled. I raised the cup to my lips, the heat of it reaching out and steaming up my face. It tasted like I remembered, bitter and hot on my tongue.

I looked across the table at Bobby as I drank again, the coffee warming down to my stomach. It tasted like sin, and childhood. He watched me, I could feel his eyes on my lips as I drank. I drank on purpose, watching him watch me. I wanted him to know I was with him, he couldn’t scare me away, I wasn’t a little girl anymore.

“Do you want to go?” he asked, and I nodded quickly. I hoped we would find someplace to be alone together. I wanted it, and I was afraid. I didn’t feel ready to go to his place, to see his man apartment, but I wanted to kiss him, to feel his hands in my hair, his body pressing against mine.

We walked out into an oven, the air pushing against us as we walked, Bobby pointing out buildings he’d worked on and the new dikes where they were going to run City Creek, since it was flooding now too, overflowing, it all had to go somewhere. We walked up the long hill toward the mountains, almost all the way up to the University and then turned south to where the houses got bigger and fancier and trees grew along the streets.

Algebra was long over. And English class, and Anatomy. I thought about Mr. Udall and his smashed voice box. Was he about Bobby’s age? It was weird to think about. I watched the side of Bobby’s face while we walked. He didn’t look like he was any age.

“Were you in Vietnam?” I pictured my man in green camouflage, his cheeks painted, like in the movies. He watched the sidewalk in front of him, and shook his head.

“I went on a mission. Got a deferment.”

My picture changed, to Elder Tanner outside our trailer in Pahrump. Bobby in a suit and tie.

“Where did you go?”

“Brazil.”

“Wow. You speak Brazilian?”

He looked sideways at me and laughed. “Portuguese. They speak Portuguese in Brazil.”

I never was all that good at geography, but Bobby squeezed my hand.

“It’s a lot different from the Portuguese they speak in Portugal, though. So I guess you could call it Brazilian.”

He was having fun with me, but it was all okay today. I held Bobby’s hand and we walked in the sunlight, holding hands. We wandered into an empty church parking lot. Nobody was around in the middle of a weekday. Bobby took both my hands and pulled me against the back door of the church. He leaned against the glass and I smelled his skin, sunlight and construction-site dust, and we kissed, his head bumping against the glass and that deep quiet inside the church behind him. My want had piled up in me like sickness, I kissed him and he held me hard against him, his hands on me and then slipping under my clothes, cupping my breasts, and a car pulled into the parking lot, his hands jolting out from under my shirt, we lounged casually against the door, just talking, just resting here outside the church and talking, my heart knocking in my ribs, I could hear the swish of blood in my ears, two points of red on Bobby’s cheeks. We heard the car, but pretended to ignore it. I could see into the dim quiet behind Bobby, the carpets the same in every church. I could name the rooms behind each door standing open in the hallway: Primary and Sunday School rooms, the tiny room where the Deacons prepare the sacrament, Priesthood meeting room. The car slowed, then turned and left the lot, and Bobby and I breathed together. I laced my fingers through Bobby’s, and we started back down the hill, the day drowsing in me like a long dream that pulls you back when you try to wake up, and you wrap yourself tighter in your blankets, falling back into the sunshine of a half-real summer day.

We walked all the way back down the long hill and hopped the City Creek dike, and then we were at the entrance to Temple Square. We stopped and looked in at the gardens, the temple, the dome of the tabernacle. We wandered in and through the gate, almost without thinking, like this was the way we’d planned to go all along. I’d come here when I was a kid, to be sealed to my parents. I guess we were still sealed – as far as I knew, Mom never got a temple divorce from Dad, so even though she was married to Virg and living far away, she was stuck with us in Heaven.

“Do you think you’ll ever get re-baptized?”

Bobby stared straight ahead. His face went blank in a way I didn’t like. He blinked. “I doubt it.”

He’d kept walking, but now stopped. Facing away from me, he started talking.

“I was excommunicated because of what happened with us, okay? But I had a choice, too. It also happened because I wasn’t sorry. Alice.”

He said my name so quietly, I moved closer to him, right to his side.

“I’m not sorry,” he whispered, and took my hand in his. His face had rearranged itself into Bobby again, and I squeezed his hand. We were at the door to the Visitor’s Center, and Bobby opened the door and held it for me.

It was cool and quiet inside, and smelled like church. We watched the movie about Joseph Smith while Bobby walked his rough hand up my thigh, and I leaned my head on his shoulder, his breath rasping into my ear.

We stopped in front of the giant white sculpture of Jesus, the blue curtain of the universe behind him. I looked from Jesus to Bobby, and something wormed its way into my brain, making me hold my breath.

They looked alike. My Bobby was Jesus with devil eyebrows and short gray hair.

When us Lotts were sealed for all Eternity in the temple, we’d stood right here, the whole family, looking up at Jesus and feeling like we were being invited in to dinner with Jesus and Heavenly Father. This was how Jesus looked in my head, how he’d always looked, all white and gentle-faced. No wonder I fell for him.

No, that wasn’t all of it. I still believed in it, believed that we were something special. And what I saw, that day at Parley P. Pratt Elementary, the light shining from him, from my Bobby, that was real. I didn’t imagine that light, even if I was awful quick to decide what it meant. That statue could be almost anybody, the beard and long hair hide so much, and that smooth white surface, you could paint anything there.

But, but: the long nose, thin face, that knowing lift to the upper lip. The lips, reminding me of the taste of Bobby on my own. How twisted was I? I stood at the feet of Jesus, and all I could think was my hunger for Bobby’s kiss, my eyes wandering down the sculpted robes. Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly be doing this, standing in this sacred place and thinking such sacrilegious thoughts. What was our eleven-foot Jesus hiding under those robes? An unholy giggle bubbled up my throat, and I covered my face with my hands. I remembered rolling around on the floor of the Saltair with Bobby, his penis in my hand. I was choking now, behind my hands.

“Hey,” I kept my eyes closed, listening to Bobby’s voice, close beside me, his breath on my ear.  “You okay?”

I exploded a laugh into my hands and turned around, my back to the massive white statue.

“He looks like you,” I whispered, trying hard to get it under control. I looked up at Bobby. Something flickered across his face, but then it was gone, and he looked from the statue to me, a smile twitching at his lips.

“Um, thanks?” he whispered back.

I saw the blood in his cheeks, the wrinkles like stars at the corners of his eyes as he smiled for real. He was more human than some giant white statue. Our love was real, too. He wasn’t panting after other little girls. He loved me. He’d ruined his whole life for me, and he wasn’t sorry. We were special.

“Say something to me in Br- in Portuguese.”

“Eu te amo,” he whispered, “te amo, te amo.”

I looked out the window behind Bobby. The sun had shifted.

“What time is it?” I said, pulling at Bobby’s hand.

“Uh, almost three.”

If I ran, I could make it to dance class in time. But I felt like the day had slipped away, like I’d only been with Bobby for five minutes. I leaned in close to him, breathing in his skin, Jesus looming behind us.

Just kiss him and go.

But it was like pulling free of taffy. He had warmed all around me, and if I pulled away now, something would be left behind, my hand, maybe. No, my heart. Stuck deep inside Bobby. I’d been without him for three years, and already I felt the threads between us lashing tighter and stronger, tying my heart, my belly, the hot place between my legs to him.

Just one class. Just one afternoon, one evening, I could lose myself in Bobby, find myself in Bobby. I pressed my face into his shoulder, snaking an arm around his waist. In two minutes, it would be too late. Class would have started, and I would still be here. This was my present to Bobby. Just this once.

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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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