A cloud came over Julie's face. "Mom, that's not what I'm interested in. I'm interested in Jack and I just don't know if I can make it for so long."
"If you don't, you won't be the first girl that doesn't wait for her missionary friend."
"It's more serious than that. I love Jack and he loves me, he said so, and he wants me to wait. I want to help him and be here for him when he comes back."
"What can you know about love at your age?"
That's exactly the kind of argument Julie didn't need. She began to cry and clenched her fist. "You don't understand. It hurts so much to face this separation. I miss him so much and its only been four days since I've seen him. It's not fair."
"I think I understand."
As Julie's mother fixed toast, Julie got up and pushed her way past with her hands over her face. She left without breakfast and returned to her room.
By the time Jack called in the afternoon she had regained her calm. His voice was excited but she could tell that he deliberately suppressed his eagerness to see her. After the call she cried more and returned to her room to play the theme song from "Dr. Shivago" repeatedly.
Upon returning to their small bedroom, Elder Hall and Jack set aside their emerging enthusiasm for an hour to take a short nap before dinner, then to a class dealing with personal medical hygiene.
Dr. Eyring spoke. He is certainly a tremendous man. A great thinker with a truly objective viewpoint. I will try to adopt some of his ideas and personal insights.It is hard to imagine being more inspired and dedicated than Jack was but each day his capacity to appreciate his religion increased. The daily training sessions were a hybrid between a high-school pep rally and an Amway sales conference. They sang songs and were pumped up by speakers who were leading what amounted to an Evangelical revival for these pliable young minds.
The missionaries were being indoctrinated, willingly, into their role as teachers. Much of this had to do with what Jack would later recognize as salesmanship with a capital "C". "Challenge" was the operative word. Challenge people to be taught and to be baptized. This was more than just religion it was part of a successful marketing strategy. Salesmanship in a big way.
This marketing strategy was packaged and disguised in religious paraphernalia and a specialized vocabulary. The religious nature of the sales pitch obscures the starkness of the sales tools and makes the technique appear righteous. The ends justified the means.
The next day was more of the same. Our first lecture at 7:00 was Marion D. Hanks who spoke to us on how to use the scriptures. Then Bishop Sampson spoke to us on studying. I'm afraid I slept through part of this one. Then Brother William Critchlow told us about ordinances and defined our responsibilities for us. Then Sterling W. Sill said: `Act as if and you will be...' Alvin R. Dyrer spoke to us at 1:00 admonishing us to be close to the Holy Ghost. Then Brother Brookbank told us that we were going to teach with a singleness of mind.That is a lineup of important Church leaders calculated to inspire. The elders continued to pursue their memorization at every possible interlude like monks walking around with their eyes on the ground carrying a string of beads reciting their prayers. These missionaries were trying to memorize a lesson plan. The difference is more of detail than principle.
Friday morning came particularly early. Arising at 4:40 the partners were nearly late for a 5:00 showing to go to the Salt Lake Temple. This was the first experience of going to a temple for most of these young men. The inside of the building is more awe inspiring than the tremendous, famous spires of the outside. Many interior walls display painted bible stories that correlate with lessons taught in each room. The ceilings are painted to depict the sky so there is the illusion of space, of being there where the stories took place.
Church members come as volunteers to dramatize stories making the religious history more alive and poignant for the listeners. The central meeting hall is a huge open auditorium that extends as high as the exterior spires. Apparently the apostles and general authorities have meetings there and still practice the ritual of washing each others' feet. That must be very humbling.
Jack received his endowment for the first time along with the others. Like moving with a bunch of sheep through dip, he followed the flock from one room to the other wondering what was happening to him, if anything. He was looking internally for some tale-tale sign of inspiration or maybe a vision. He didn't notice anything particularly out of the ordinary except the community of silence.
As Jack sat staring at the paintings on the walls waiting in suspense for whatever story would unfold, his mind traveled to a scene from his former family life a million miles in time and distance removed from where he was. He had practiced a very different ritual after he had returned home for Christmas break during his Sophomore year.
Sid and his wife Wanda, two sons and one older daughter, lived in the medium sized town of Albany, Oregon. They were in the middle of the lush green Willamette Valley. Their average sized house was older and remodeled and didn't fit neatly into any architectural period. It was in the middle of the town, in the middle of a long block, in the mainstream of American culture. Jack had visited often during the summers when he had worked in his brothers' warehouse business. Jack looked forward to this visit because they got along well and were generous about sharing their home, their time and whatever they had.
Jack arrived for a visit during his vacation period. He spent the day before and Christmas eve with Sid's family, with nephews crawling over him and playing Monopoly. They opened their gifts on Christmas eve, which was apparently a Norwegian tradition associated with Wanda and her side of the family. Sid and Jack preferred to maintain their tradition of opening presents in the morning at a leisurely pace after a healthy bowl of oatmeal. After all, it wasn't actually Christmas until the morning. In fact, Jack assumed the role of cook for the oatmeal. He knew the important subtleties of this ritual.
First you had to start with Old Fashioned oatmeal, none of that instant, over-processed stuff. Old Fashioned Quaker Oats produced a whole different flavor and texture than any instant.
Then you put less water than called for into a pot or it would be too sticky when done.
Bring the water to a brisk boil before adding the cereal, otherwise it would be gummy.
Stir the cereal only enough to make a thick mixture with steam bubbling up through the natural vents that formed.
Turn down the heat immediately to low and place the lid on the pot slightly eschew. Allow the cereal to steam and be sure not to stir again. Not stirring again is the most important part of the ritual. Stirring would ruin the texture and thus eliminate an important element of the flavor complex.
Serve the flaky oatmeal with rich milk and sweeten to preference or add any number of fruits, nuts, raisins or any delightful combination of toppings. This was a ritual breakfast Sid and Jack had observed as their family Christmas breakfast as long as they could remember.
Jack was brought to attention by the entrance of another theatrical presentation. As the group watched, Jack noticed no one was talking to those who surrounded them, no snickers, no coughs, just rapt attention. Maybe they were each more oblivious to being part of a huge group than he was.
The dream of breakfast may have come from his suppressed hunger, after all, he was fasting for this sacrament. The temple easily accommodated this entire entourage of hungry souls. No one tried to catch his eye. They all seemed closed into their own imaginations as was he, most of the time.
There was always that dialectic element in Jack's thinking that put him on the outside looking in. He was not only a participant, he was watching the whole as well. There he was, trying to experience the private ceremony that would create an indelible, unmistakable, irrevocable impression. And there he was, objective, distracted from being caught up in the emotion, aware of his surroundings more than need be.
The whole process was like a group blessing that goes along with the garments they were to wear from that time on. During the ceremony they wore temple clothing. All wore white shirts, regular white pants and socks during the ceremonies. This enhanced the image of being among a flock of sheep. Along the way they were given a special hand embroidered, green apron that had special symbols on it. The elaborate skit and ritual in each room was designed to progressively lead each participant through the story of creation and through the fundamental cosmology of Mormonism. This is a theology with a complicated concept of what the Universe is about.
Harold B. Lee, another famous General Authority, gave a question and answer session to Jack's group after they had completed the ceremony. No one seemed to have any interesting questions so he just lectured.
Each of the elders was given a name from the genealogical research someone had done. Another deceased relative of someone would receive baptism for the dead. Jack was impressed with this ritual:
Then I went through the Temple for William Robson, born in 1809. I hope he will accept it, because it is becoming to mean more to me all the time.This refers to the concept that those who are dead, who live as spirits in heaven in the after-life, can receive the teachings accepted by the Mormons but cannot advance in their glory unless this ritual of baptism is performed on the Earth in the Mormon temples. This is a very unique superstition.
That evening Jack and Elder Hall continued with their plan of exercise after they studied their lessons. This evening they even won a few converts to their routine.
I'm at 35 push-ups and 50 sit-ups. I aim for 50-50.In his previous life, Jack had challenged the guys on his college dormitory floor to a sit-up contest. That was about 10 months earlier. The best any of them could do was about 150. He only stopped after 250 because he wanted to leave room to set a new record later if necessary. Of course the next day his stomach muscles had been so stiff he couldn't breathe without pain but it was worth it.
Saturday morning came early again. More study on the lessons. The lectures today related to personal hygiene again and along the way there was what amounted to group mesmerization. They continued singing songs like "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" to create more enthusiasm. Jack slept on purpose whenever it was possible without being too conspicuous; except when he wasn't singing and sharing testimonies with the group.
After lunch the Italian "twelve apostles" had their group picture taken. By this time they had developed a certain esprit de corps. They all sat together and faced what was recognized as the most challenging Mission. In the classes all the missionaries sat in assigned seating according to their groups. This made taking attendance easy. Any missing person could easily be identified.
When Jack wasn't absorbed with lectures, singing or asleep in his chair, he was thinking about seeing Julie the next day. He learned he couldn't have any physical affection with her because of mission rules. He was now actually a missionary, he still looked forward to one last emotional farewell, however.
During the evening Jack was interrupted during his studies by his companion. "Elder Lincoln, you have a challenger. This guy down the hall thinks he can do more pull-ups on the door frame than you can."
His reputation for physical prowess had carried a few rooms down the hall and he had stimulated some interest in physical exercise. "Well it's about time someone around here showed some initiative." Jack was eager for the challenge. "How many pull-ups does he want to do?"
"He didn't say." Elder Hall displayed an unusual enthusiasm like a prizefight manager. "How many can you do?"
"I don't know, it's been a long time. Tell him I can do more than he can. Bring on this athlete lets have a match."
Jack remembered having competed in pull-ups in the third grade when the only other contestant was a girl, Judy Haskill. She did four and Jack could only manage three. He was the only boy who could do that many. He had never forgotten that humiliation.
This evening he was luckier. His opponent managed 26 so Jack pulled himself up 30 times, four extra for good measure. He quit there, claiming he could have done more but he didn't want to show off. Secretly he was glad not to have to do more, he had barely reached that limit in good style. He passed down the hallway to the shower to the congratulations and back slapping good wishes of Elder Hall and several other jovial admirers. After that, he was only too eager to hit the sack.
The 5:30 wake up was becoming routine for Jack. He was shaved, dressed and ready by 6:00 when he woke his companion as previously agreed. They had to take turns using the facilities. The elders had Sacrament Meeting as a group after breakfast. They attended a session of the Tabernacle Choir where Jack and Elder Hall were silently polishing their memorization. They had to do their final recital before lunch and they wanted to be ready. They sat together with Elder Salinski by chance.
"I don't think I can do this lesson." Elder Salinski whispered.
"Sure you can," Jack urged. "Just relax and let it flow."
"No, I really only know the first eight conclusions. I just can't keep the rest in my head at once."
"Just do your best. They won't kick you out. If you make a mistake it won't kill ya."
"I don't want to be sent somewhere to one of those construction missions. That would be so humiliating."
Jack silently agreed, sharing the same fear without verbalizing it.
The pressure was mounting and Jack could sense it in the faces and attitudes of the others. No one was actually sure what happened to those who couldn't pass the test. They didn't know how the test would be administered. None of the leaders had actually said. Maybe those who failed would go to a work mission where they helped build chapels.
Time went too fast. The next moment they were with their group of about 25 elders huddled against the walls of a rather large classroom surrounded by windows. The only pleasant thing about being in this room was the light of the morning sun glaring off the street outside.
They had to wait for their leader to come, he was late. Each elder sat mumbling and referring to the lesson handbook they had all carried everywhere during the previous week. The late start was a good reprieve but only made the tension increase exponentially. This was the final oral exam and no one knew exactly what to expect.
Finally the door opened and a different returned missionary who volunteered his time came into the room. To Jack's surprise it was Burt Christianson, the former President of the Student Body at the BYU. Burt was stalky with bright, blond hair showing signs of balding. He looked very respectable in his dark suit and stylish wide striped tie.
Burt surveyed the room and recognized Jack immediately. He made a quick smile and subtle nod without formally acknowledging him. They had worked together in student government and even played racquetball together. All that seemed a long time ago but it was only three months since they had last seen each other at college. Jack hoped he wouldn't try to get revenge for having been beaten at his own sport.
Burt smiled briefly. "Okay. It's truth time. Your regular teacher couldn't come today so they asked me to come in his place." He rubbed his hands mischievously. "He told me you were all ready for this test, so let's find out." He had apparently done this before and enjoyed putting nervous missionaries through their paces. He asked each elder to repeat a portion of the lesson in order.
Jack got called fairly early in the second conclusion and had to recite the first half of the Joseph Smith Story. Burt seemed to deliberately take it easy on him, asking for a portion of the lesson he was sure to know. Elder Hall made it through his part too as the whole group took turns.
Burt continued pointing to each in random order. They had to prompt each other now and then but the test was less rigorous than imagined. When Elder Salinski was called he stumbled and stuttered first out of shyness then from failed memory. His mind went totally blank at one point and he couldn't say anything.
Jack whispered to help him, then Burt stopped him short. "Let him bring it out of his mind on his own."
Again more silence, Elder Salinski shook his head in shame. He was even tall when he was sitting. Now this height and blotchy red features made him all the more pathetic. He couldn't do anything except sweat.
"I just can't remember." He finally said in exasperation.
Jack felt sorry for his new friend. Up to that point he had been lucky to respond during portions of the lesson with which he was most familiar, that was just as well. The motivation of having a test had worked well to get most of the new missionaries to study and off to a good start.
"Okay, we're running out of time so let's have everyone repeat the rest in unison." Burt watched attentively to encourage each missionary to participate until the lesson was completed.
Jack had just enough time to exchange greetings with Burt.
"Geese, I'm glad that's over with."
"We have to keep you elders on your toes."
"How is it that you got the honor of this job?"
"I coordinate the returned missionaries that volunteer for this. Your leader came up sick so I had to fill in at the last minute. And by the way, good luck on your Mission."
With those few words Jack moved away with his friends to depart the Mission Home for his new life. Salinski was still alive, as Jack had predicted. He was visibly shaken as they said their farewells.
The week of lessons and indoctrination was over at 2:00. Julie had made arrangements to meet Jack before he left for Italy. After lunch they went to Julie's grandparents' house in Herriman, Utah, where Jack did a week's laundry with Julie there to kibitz. Her family had a small farm with an elegant brick home on the one main street of town.
After the family was settled for the night, Julie invited Jack downstairs to the large, open family room.
"It doesn't matter how late I get to bed tonight," Jack suggested as he went ahead of Julie down the stairs. "If I am really tired I stand a better chance of sleeping on the plane, and it's going to be a very long trip."
"That's good, I don't want to give you up any sooner than I have to." Julie was well composed and carried a wrapped package behind her back.
Once in the basement, Jack turned to face Julie. She held herself back out of a sense of mock respect. Jack extended his arms and Julie approached slowly, each staring easily and deeply into the other's eyes. They kissed softly but there was a mutual restraint.
She extended the gift without a word.
Jack feigned surprise as he took the package. "What is this? You shouldn't have."
"I didn't. It was my Mother's idea. Well anyway, it's not much." Julie spoke a little nervously, being alone with a missionary. She kissed him politely again. It wasn't quite the same as being alone with the same Jack just last week. Certainly not the same as being together at the lake.
"You shouldn't have done that... I mean the gift. But I'm glad you did... I mean the kiss. What is it?" He fumbled with the box shaped gift.
"Well, open it silly."
He began unwrapping it slowly. It was a book of some kind. It was a black diary especially designed for use by missionaries.
"Of course you have to let me read it when you get back. And you have to write in it every day, no excuses."
"That sounds fair. I'll try, but no promises."
After another polite kiss Julie said with a note of sadness in her voice, on the verge of tears, "I'll get us both a piece of Grandmother's chocolate birthday cake." This relieved her tension and she gained some composure. "Unless you think you've had enough to eat?"
"I'll never turn down an offer like that until I'm old and fat. And I probably won't turn it down then."
Julie went upstairs.
Jack moved around in the dimly lit room toward the stereo. He turned the receiver on and tuned in the first FM station he found that played classical music. He took off his navy blue blazer which he had worn as V.P. at The BYU, he had already removed the insignia. Now he took the insignia from the pocket and placed it on the nearby table. He thought that might be a good memento for Julie, he certainly didn't need it any more.
He undid his tie and settled onto the long sofa waiting and meditating with the music until Julie brought the cake down.
When he heard Julie's soft steps descending the stairs he said: "You know of course I'm a missionary now and I can't get too carried away with affection," Jack spoke wistfully.
"Don't worry I'll protect you from yourself. I always have, haven't I?" She teased as she put the cake aside and joined Jack.
This communication eased the tension somewhat. She came around the sofa to join him.
"Ya. That's true enough. And not being around you is going to make it easy for me to keep the mission rules about not fraternizing with women. I wouldn't want anyone but you."
"They really don't trust anyone alone, ya-know? But I suppose they have had a lot of guys go off the deep end, do something with women they're not supposed to and end up in trouble." Jack leaned back against the high overstuffed arm of the sofa.
Julie sat down beside him and then gradually laid on top of him. "Every once in awhile you hear of some missionary coming home early but the reasons aren't always given. Some guys just can't stay away from home that long and don't adjust to the life of being a missionary, I suppose. Others are weak and get caught up in the moment and can't remember who they are or what they're doing. Nobody talks about it directly when that happens but there is always a lot of speculation behind their back. It must really be humiliating for that to happen. It's an embarrassment for the whole family." Julie acknowledged these social consequences of failure as she crowded between Jack and the inside of the sofa. She stretched her legs out alongside his.
"I've been alone enough at school so I think I can cope with all that freedom. But I have to admit you helped me a lot this last year. You really made me the happiest guy at the BYU. We have shared so many memories. I'm looking forward to sharing this mission with you. In a sense I'm doing it for you as much as me. Did you ever think seriously about going on a mission?" Jack spoke softly as he nuzzled her forehead and combed her short hair with his free left hand. The other arm was useless, trapped under Julie between the pillows of the sofa.
"Ya, sure, but I'm just too shy. I have a strong testimony but I just don't see myself going around in public like that. It's not something very many girls do. Some people say it's just for girls who can't get married but that's stupid. Some very pretty girls have gone on missions. Girls aren't encouraged or expected to like boys are. I'll do my part in the Church here by teaching kids in Junior Sunday School and working hard in The Relief Society and such."
By this time Julie and Jack were laying solidly together with Julie slightly on top. Jack was completely aroused and Julie was pressing firmly with her thigh against his erection. They were so used to being together and comfortable, their bodies came together ignoring the unrelated nature of the conversation.
The music from the radio became by chance the popular theme from the movie "Dr. Shivago."
"Remember this movie. I'll always think of you when I hear this." Jack was speaking softly and kissed Julie's eyes as her tears dropped lightly on his face. He might have been crying too but he was so drenched by her tears he couldn't have known.
He was still caught up in the excitement of this new adventure. In that sense this separation would be harder on Julie than it would be on him. She had to face her loneliness every day with only her daily routine for diversion. She had to cope with that deep sense of abandonment that made her depressed and even angry at times. He would be absorbed every hour with a new adventure, meeting new and strange people, seeing new sites, overcoming difficult circumstances, being challenged by new material to learn. Her isolation was much more insufferable.
"Yes, I bought the sound track album last month. I play it when I get particularly lonely. But I'm afraid it won't really help, I'm going to miss you so much, it just makes me more lonely."
Again Julie's tears washed Jack's face like warm ocean water. The salt bit slightly into his lips made coarse by exposure to the dry summer sun. They rested quietly together for a long moment as the song finished. He licked the tears away from his upper lip and lapped gently with the end of his tongue against the side of her nose.
This silence between them was harder to tolerate than the light chatter. Their emotions were so intense that had either made any effort to be sexually intimate the other would surely have surrendered. Their habits were so well ingrained they contented themselves with close contact over the whole length of their bodies.
Julie broke the spell by sniffing uncontrollably and choking slightly on her own internal secretions. She raised herself gracefully and slipped off Jack. "I'll be right back. I have to wash my face and blow my nose."
Jack made an effort to stand but fell back on the first attempt. He managed to half roll and half tuck his legs under himself as he stood. His shirt was out of his pants and he repaired the damage by unzipping his grey slacks and opening his belt.
He rearranged his private parts in the unfamiliar surroundings of his garments. He fit uncomfortably in these new paraphernalia, even when he wasn't swollen with the force of his own nature. He fastened his clothes together as Julie was coming down. He circled to the back of the sofa toward the dim light coming from the stairwell. He reached to the table and took his college coat patch.
Jack had his back to the sofa as Julie returned. She was still wearing the black crepe dress with thin straps. A slight "V" formed loosely between her small but firm breasts giving her an alluring hint of cleavage. She was beautiful and perfectly proportioned for her slight build.
Jack had inadvertently complained once about the size of her breasts, trying to make casual conversation. Julie told him in no uncertain terms that her breasts were just fine and that he was a stupid jerk. If he didn't like them he could put his head somewhere else. He would never make that mistake again.
The loose crepe fit like a glove over her hips and moved sensuously as she walked toward him in the dim light. He would replay this sight in slow motion thousands of times.
"I want you to keep this BYU student government patch." He handed it to her when she approached.
"Hey, that's nice. That means were really going steady?" She said half serious, half mocking.
"Yes, of course. It also means I'm too cheap to get you a real gift or a ring or something you could actually use."
"You already gave me this gold bracelet, that's all I want. Just send me some new trinkets to hang on my bracelet from some of the different places you visit in Italy."
"Sure, that's a good idea. Right, but I was planning to do that as a surprise." Jack smiled and chuckled as she pressed up against him to take his embrace. He stepped a half step back against the sofa and lowered himself to her height as he kissed her.
He shouldn't have done that, it was dark and he had forgotten.
She had forgotten too. In the heat of passion they had forgotten about the cake. Jack found where Julie had placed the two plates on the wide back of the sofa. One piece was okay off to the left, the other was just to the right of center smashed against Jack's butt.
"Oh, shit!" Jack mumbled inside her wide kiss.
Julie pulled back surprised. "What's wrong?"
"Damn! I just sat on the cake!" Jack grimaced as Julie began to laugh hysterically.
Jack only managed a few simulated chuckles as he reached back. "Damn, now what am I going to do?"
"Don't worry your pants are washable." She laughed so hard she was crying. "I'll just wash them."
Julie held out her capable hands. "Give me your pants."
She was still laughing fitfully as she took control of the situation. She ordered politely: "Take off your pants Jack. That has a good sound to it, I've been wanting to say that for a long time." She teased Jack mercilessly. "You're such a klutz."
He stood frowning and trying to turn far enough to examine his bad fortune. He turned himself in circles with this effort.
She laughed again as she reached to help him undo his belt buckle.
"Ya, sure, that's easy for you to say. I was planning to wear these tomorrow on the plane. What are your grandparents going to think if they find me running around here with no pants on and the washing machine going? At least bring me a towel to put around my legs." Reluctantly he took his pants off exposing his garments. He surrendered the soiled pants to her care, his modesty protected by the darkness.
"You can have the other cake. I really didn't want any anyway." She laughed convulsively as she left the room with his pants.
They spent the rest of the night reminiscing, saying good by, making vague plans for the future and waiting for his pants to wash and dry.
The tears were over now. Each time Julie got sad she thought of the cake. She giggled each time she saw Jack's hairy legs extending stoutly below the towel.