Here Jack was studying religion dutifully; in the loft room up the stairs there was some kind of encounter in progress. Jack presumed that Marcelle brought one or more women there for sexual favors. The noise they made in the evenings several times a week was vaguely audible above the loud music he played, and included vigorous shuffling and incomprehensible moaning and groaning. This seemed consistent with what Jack imagined would happen during such events but since neither he nor Elder Lester had any personal experience, they weren't completely sure.
Several days after Jack helped Marcelle write a letter, he questioned him about his activities. "Who makes all that noise upstairs at night?" Jack was teasing when he said this, but Marcelle didn't take offense, he looked a little embarrassed.
"Oh that's nothing, just a rendezvous."
"There must be something important in there, it has a huge padlock on the door?"
"Oh, it's nothing important. Would you like to see?" He seemed to be proud of this retreat.
"Sure. We would like to see what you have hidden up there?"
Marcelle led the two up the stairs with a sheepish smile. The room was decorated like a cheap theater set from the play "South Pacific." There was some colorful fabric draped here, a bamboo screen there and beads hanging across the narrow entrance. There was a disheveled bed in the far corner, a record player in the middle and not much else. If someone were half unconscious and drunk in a dim light it might be possible to imagine a picturesque, paradise setting. It probably wasn't perverted but it was certainly curious. Jack's attitude was summarized simply in his diary:
It's kinda funny sometimes.
That wasn't the only curious thing confronting Jack's active life. Elder Lester had some kind of problem or at least he made funny noises at night. At first Jack was completely at a loss to explain what the noises were. He wasn't masturbating or moving his arms, he just made wet sounding noises. Finally Jack concentrated and followed the location of the sound with his ears. It became apparent that he was making sucking noises, like a baby sucking a pacifier. He wasn't sucking his thumb, he just made these stupid noises with his tongue in his mouth. He was like one of those orphan cats that hadn't nursed long enough and continued their sucking impulse throughout their whole lives.
Wednesday Jack made contact with the main local newspaper.
We went to see if we could arrange some publicity. We have it, as soon as we have a street meeting. Called the Secretary General and he said sure thing tomorrow morning... had a comeback and tracted a while. Then dinner, home, tried to study, no basketball today, read. Lots of reading lately, it's good for me I guess. I have a lot to learn.
Thursday: I studied the lessons again, have to keep hitting them consistently. I'll do it for Julie, use her as my motivation. No other motivation has sufficient carry-through. We'll see.
Got a phone call message from Elder Pond, he is sick and wants me to step in for him on an appointment this morning. With a little hustle we went over and had to wait for Elder Jason who had gotten up late, I guess as usual. I went out with Elder Jason and we gave the Screening Discussion. He doesn't have a book with any pictures or any other materials. He has only been out here 8 months but has a very poor work ethic.
In the process of riding around with Elder Jason, Jack traveled through town on his own motorbike for a change. Jack made a point of going by the train station. He purchased a new Time Magazine so he had some entertainment for a few spare moments of distraction. Elder Pond was still in bed when Jack and Elder Jason returned.
"We made it there and back," Elder Lincoln said with some relief.
"I don't feel any better. Thanks for the help."
Jack continued by teasing Elder Jason. "When are you going to start teaching, Jason?"
"Very soon, I assure you. I work on the Lessons with Elder Pond every day. Thanks for helping, it was just so nice of you. I think I'm more of a music person than a language person."
Elder Pond laughed and coughed. "Jason is the kind of person who is able to work between 9:00 and 5:00 only. When he doesn't get ready until after 10:00, frequently finds excuses between 12:00 and 3:00 (Italian siesta time) and wants to quit working when it gets dark or rains, that doesn't leave much time for actual work."
"I do what I can. You're so mean to say that. I don't like staying out after dark, who does?"
Pond continued his disclosures. "Study time for him is work time too. He resists making up any work during other times of the day except when absolutely forced."
Jack and Elder Lester were both laughing convulsively.
"You guys are so mean." Elder Jason couldn't help himself from laughing along with them.
Elder Pond was the only one who didn't laugh. He continued, "It's a constant battle to move Jason beyond his natural disinclination to work."
Jack said chuckling, "You guys couldn't be more opposite."
Their living situation was unique. They shared a double bed, apparently the only one available.
Pond continued to tease Jason, who seemed unaffected. "At night sometimes he touches me. I have to hit him with my elbow to keep him on his own side."
"I just get cold, I don't mean anything by it. If you think I'm gay then you shouldn't sleep with me. You do have such a nice body." Elder Jason left the room only slightly ruffled to practice the piano. He played quite well for the meetings.
They all laughed, because Elder Jason could tease back. Whether he was gay or not was never disclosed. Elder Pond was normal enough and was genuinely frustrated by the personality of his eccentric companion. Jason was funny when he wasn't being down-right disgusting.
After, we checked at the Office of the Secretary General for permission. They mailed it out, they said. We went home and it was there, but was negative!Jack had received the great bureaucratic shuffle.
Saturday morning the pair got up late because they had stayed out late playing basketball the evening before.
Had fun, these guys are bigger. I like to push big guys around.
Before Jack was dressed the other two, Pond and Jason, came to suggest a trip to Venice, about an hour away by train.
So we decided to go with them. We walked around Venice, that for me was quite exciting. We saw Saint Mark's Cathedral and I was particularly enthralled by all the pigeons. We rode a gondola, that was the center of my interest. We went shopping on the way to find a Church Member which was the purpose of the trip. She had moved back to the states...The whole group was enraptured with Venice. This city is the epitome of culture, full of art and ambiance, as long as you ignore the smelly water.
Another week of hard work started bright and early Monday.
We went out to comebacks and at 10:30 we met a girl who speaks English. I'll have to brush up on my deep thoughts so I can present her a logical presentation, she is a deep thinker. It seems hard to go deep when you go trite for so long.
During the next weekend Jack spent considerable time studying and developed a chronological display of the religious history of man (according to Mormon Myth). This extended spread-sheet began with the pre-existence, acknowledged the important events of the Old Testament, followed the life of Christ, the Apostasy and the restoration of the Gospel. On the far right it showed the Millennium, the Second Coming of Christ and the divisions of Heaven in the After Life.
Jack prepared this with the idea of using it to explain the Mormon concepts to the one girl he met who spoke English and asked rather probing questions. The next appointment with her was scheduled for Thursday. After a week of tracting...
I gave the Lincoln special -Plan of God- fabricated lesson received by inspiration last weekend. It tells about life from beginning to end. We gave a copy of The Book of Mormon to the smart girl... We studied until 4:00 when we went to an appointment and found three extra college students and gave a Screening Discussion amidst many distractions and questions. That was quite a struggle. One at a time is hard enough.These students were curious but probably more attracted to Jack because of a similar skeptical nature than by any sense of devotion to religious studies.
Jack was becoming frustrated by the repeated failure to get permission for a street meeting but he didn't let that stop him. Instead of continuing at the mayor's office he went to the Vigili, the local police. He met a sympathetic, aristocratic looking gentleman. After Jack explained their intentions and showed the letter, he offered some help in a patronizing tone.
"Part of the problem is the letter you submitted. It isn't in the correct form." He set the letter back on Jack's side of the desk.
"Can you help us? We haven't had any experience at this."
"Okay. It will only take a minute, I guess."
He was less than enthusiastic but agreed, so Jack gave him back the letter.
"Thank you. This should really help."
"It needs to be in the official form of a "Domando."
He took the letter again and began to write quickly. "To the Egregious Most Honorable Sindaco (Mayor)..." His use of language was florid and professional. Jack could see immediately the shortcomings of his own first feeble attempt, even though he had received help from Antonio and previously had succeeded in Brescia.
"You should go see the Questura, they are the representatives of the Federal Government, they might be able to help you too. What you want to do should be permitted."
So Jack and Elder Lester went there and made an appointment to come back later and discuss the matter. After a bit of tracting and seeing comebacks the two returned to the Questura.
They told us where to go, back to the Sindaco. So we will.Jack hadn't done any better by contacting the university personnel. He had not received any response from any students other than those he had met tracting. No professors expressed interest even though he had placed some of the posters in the student Mensa.
Jack also learned about the Universita' Populare, which was open to the community as a form of continuing education.
We registered the new Domando at the mayor's office and meet an astute authority, a person who said he would help us. Then we began to run down the Universita' Populare (Peoples' University for Cultural Growth) to schedule a forum type presentation. We were referred to the President, who we eventually found. After waiting, we talked to him and were granted permission for something on the 16th of March. We figure the district leader might speak.
The next day, as it turned out, the district leader came to visit.
Now I'll save postage on letters to him and the president. He is Elder Mangiovi, an Italian, and speaks no English. He brought some Improvement Era magazines. I got a package with pictures from Julie and slides from the Mission Office, just what we need for our presentation on 16 March. We scheduled a District Conference for 18 March. He might move here. Then we went to play basketball. I felt good tonight and scored some points for a change. To bed late. Elder Mangiovi slept with us. I slept on the floor on my mattress. Good enough.
Another innovation for Jack was a visit to a used book store. Jack had for some time hoped to collect copies of the classics of Italian literature as a way of learning more about the culture. He considered it a way to use his time in Italy to one more good advantage. He began looking for interesting books, cheap, since he was low on money. This is a practice he would continue and expand. He also left some copies of The Book of Mormon in several book stores as he had done in Brescia. More bait on the soft-sell hook.
On one trip to the book store they discovered that one copy of the Book of Mormon had been sold.
Naturally we were pleased. We looked at books and I finally bought a book on Buddhism.Jack's curiosity was beginning to get the best of him. One of the students had suggested some interesting comparisons between Mormon doctrine and the Buddhist teachings. Jack had never studied Buddhism beyond a report in school. He knew less than what he might find in a small encyclopedia.
How could you "know" if your religion was true if you didn't at least examine the tenants of some of these other major religions? He felt he should have an acquaintance with these esoteric teachings. This mistake is natural enough. The ideas of the world are slipping through the Door of Open Mindedness. Not a good sign. "For best results keep sealed." It is a small consolation that he didn't actually read very much about Buddhism because the book was in Italian and too difficult.
Jack was suffering from a severe cold again. His apartment was frequently drafty and the weather continued to be miserable.
I took some extra rest because I felt so poorly. We went out to the bookstore after one appointment, then bought some books on various religions, etc...after lunch we gave a Screening Discussion to a comeback. Turned out to be three men. They were tough going. At the end they were interested in The Book of Mormon. In fact one guy is a book collector so he traded for a Catholic book which I was happy to receive.
Sunday morning Jack still had a fever alternating with chills. He was able to get some relief by taking some decongestant pills, enough to make it to Church.
We had to walk because my companion's bike got stolen. That's ironic because he just bought it from Elder Pond for $25.00. We had a good meeting, eight elders, four members and four investigators. There was a good spirit prevalent. Then to eat, I had to force myself because I didn't much feel like eating.One of the investigators was a young boy, Pasqualato, who Jack and his companion had invited.
Jack spent the rest of the day in bed and late into the following morning. At 10:30 they went to an appointment with another girl who had invited her boy friend and her priest to join them. The priest was a young fellow, maybe 30 years old, with bright red hair. He was a thin version of Elder Jason but somewhat more sensible. The discussion progressed nicely with Jack making some good points without being offensive to the Priest.
It was clear that the Mormon message was of interest to the girl. This was apparently the girl's way of getting permission to listen, by letting her priest challenge us. Since he couldn't say anything terribly convincing, we will have a chance to teach her and her boy friend. This teaching of religion has some serious challenges when you have to confront the opposition head on.
Elder Mangiovi supplied Jack with a set of "lesson figures." These were little cut-out-figures that related to the subject matter of the lessons. It appeared at first glance to be a little childish but if it made it easier for people to understand, what was the harm? More importantly, if it was easier for the missionary to remember where he was during the course of the lesson it would be extremely useful. Jack tried using these a few times but most people just snickered.
By the 2nd of March Jack's cold was better. He tried to diversify his diet to make sure he was getting the right kinds of food.
Ate a good breakfast.
Had some strawberries in my rice, real good. Then studied some and then we went out to an appointment. Gave a Screening Discussion and tracted until lunch. I haven't received any letters from Julie for over a week. I'm getting a little lonely. I'll write to her tonight. Cooked a good dinner. Peaches, yogurt, strawberries, potatoes with fish sticks with one egg and string beans.
Jack had his appetite back after being sick. He was moving around on automatic pilot, just going through the motions because he felt disconnected without receiving letters from Julie for several weeks.
Jack had corresponded with several previous girls he had dated at The BYU. He had apparently mentioned Julie to one, Lora, who was there. At Jack's careless suggestion, Lora who was a free spirit and had always been a little creative and bold, went to visit Julie, probably out of curiosity.
Julie was studying in her dormitory room one Sunday evening during the first of March. She looked up when there was a knock on her door and opened it to find a very thin, attractive blonde.
"You don't know me but we have a friend in common," Lora began.
Julie smiled automatically in response to the charming smile from Lora. "That's nice, who?"
"Jack Lincoln." Julie's heart skipped a beat at the sound of his name. "Of course he's Elder Lincoln now." Lora confirmed her acquaintanceship with this intelligence.
Julie's smile faded only slightly. "Sure, come in. How do you know Jack?"
"We dated some last year. He was always so much fun and God he was a good dancer and a good kisser too." Lora liked to spice things up just for effect.
Julie had to turn away to gain her composure as she returned to her seat. "Sit down. I've been keeping in touch with Jack in Italy." She kept her cool and tried to be casual. "Now that I think about it, he's never told me much about his friends last year. Except about the class office and such."
"We went to some of the Sophomore Class parties together. He organized some of the dances himself. I think he spent more time on that than on his studies." There was some truth to that.
"Do you hear from him often?"
"Yes, several letters already since he's been in Italy. He seems to be doing alright. Is that the impression you get?"
"Ya, sure." Julie calculated in her mind the difference between `several letters' and the frequent correspondence she had received and felt somewhat more confident. "His letters aren't very long sometimes, so I guess he keeps busy." Julie volunteered this in order to elicit a more specific response.
Lora didn't take the bait. "I suspect that Communications isn't his long suit."
Julie was getting infuriated but changed the subject to keep from exploding. "Where are you from?"
"Nevada, near Las Vegas. Did Jack ever tell you about the girl from the horse ranch? That's me. No?"
Julie shook her head meekly.
"Probably not? Like I say, he didn't always communicate the best."
"Nevada, huh. I've never been there but I've always wanted to go to Las Vegas to see a show and such. I guess I wouldn't gamble, of course."
"There are a lot of Mormons in Las Vegas who work at the casinos, they say as many as half the employees. It would be like going to church, you would see so many Mormons behind the tables in the casinos." Lora laughed by herself.
"Is that so? I never would have thought about that. I guess they are people who can be trusted. I know the early Mormons traveled to Nevada but I never put two and two together."
"In Las Vegas, two and two makes 22. That place is really growing and too over-crowded for my liking. That's why I really love the horse ranch. Jack promised to come and visit sometime. I thought he would have come last summer but he must have gotten tied up."
"He told me he was working on construction. So maybe he just didn't get time. I'm sure he would have enjoyed a visit." Julie was becoming more brave and trying to lead to more revealing disclosures. She would never tell anyone about their precious time together, thinking about the last day they were together at Wattum Lake.
"He said he liked horses and knew how to ride. But I'm not sure whether to believe everything he said."
"Oh, he knew how to ride alright. We used to go for long rides when we were younger."
"He never mentioned that to me but that's not a surprise either. How long have you known him?"
"Six years or so, since high school."
"Did you guys date then?" Lora asked with surprise.
"Some. You know, nothing serious."
"So you've been his girl that long? God, I didn't put that together. I'm sorry. I thought you were more recent friends, not high school lovers." Lora thoroughly enjoyed this subtle teasing.
Julie wasn't happy at all now but she retained her composure. She could see Lora was trying to be a torment but that knowledge didn't make her feel any better disposed toward Jack for the moment. "You know how those feelings come and go when people are gone. I'm sure he's making a great missionary and if you can help him by writing once in a while that would be real swell."
"Ya, I can do that, but he owes me a letter now, so I guess I better wait and see." There was a pregnant silence. "Well, I guess I better let you get back to your books. What you studyin'?"
"Just Health now, but I'm working to be a teacher."
"If that wouldn't just frost you, so am I. Are you a Freshman?" Lora said with obvious condescension.
"No, I'm a Sophomore transfer student."
"Oh, I'm a Junior. That's why I don't remember having any classes with you. Jack must like teachers," she said with a sly tilt in her voice.
Julie grimaced and pursed her lips noticeably.
"Right, and this is my first year here. I went to a junior college near home last year."
"Oh." Lora got up. "Well good luck and thanks for sharing some time. Say hello to Jack for me if you write to him soon. He probably writes to you a good deal more than to me."
That was the only good news Julie heard.
"Sure I'll let him know you stopped by." Julie wore a cosmetic smile as Lora left. "You can be sure of that," Julie thought to herself. Some of her naive adoration for Jack faded even though these new revelations were innocent enough.
Finally got a letter from Julie today, also one from Lora. Lora visited Julie and was impressed. Julie, on the other hand was a little ticked. But nothing that can't be straightened out.
Jack liked the idea of teasing Julie but she didn't always share his sense of humor, as one might expect. His sense of propriety was closer to that of Lora's. On the occasions when Julie disagreed, she thought he was a little too insensitive and told him so. Probably true. That was apparently why Julie hadn't written for nearly two weeks. She was upset and more than a little miffed.
As Jack was studying in the evening after church one Sunday, the neighbor lady came to the room and announced that someone had just ridden his motorbike away. She handed him the cable lock that had been clipped. Now neither he nor his companion had wheels and what's more he was out his investment.
The work of the Lord progressed nonetheless, for the next week the two continued their teaching on foot. On March 9th Jack began to acknowledge the weaknesses in his own mental constitution.
We had an appointment at 6:30 with a family. While waiting I gave the mother-in-law a lesson. Then talked to the rest. Not much success, they were agnostics. I feel if I can't make a logical presentation to an agnostic with pride, I can't make one to myself. We talked a lot anyway about all sorts of things.The intelligent questions these people had were much the same as those with which Jack had been tortured earlier, then varnished with a coat of faith. He had been struggling with similar quandaries in his own mind since he was a young boy. Most of these questions he had put out of his mind or rationalized one way or another. Now the same old questions were being forced onto him by these contacts and he was having to deal with them again.
Jack communicated the rationalizations that he had made previously to overcome his own doubts and the Mormon doctrine as best he could, in so doing he saw the weaknesses in his responses and lost the edge off his conviction. He could see that his previous logic wasn't working and he didn't yet appreciate how accepting the mystery of spirituality could replace the urge for logic. As they say in baseball, he was still throwing with his arm, not using his wrist or hips to get power into the throw.
March 10th, Friday: I've really been bad about getting up these last two weeks. Don't have any new English books to read. Hard to study the others and stay awake. Guess I'm spoiled. Ate rice of course for breakfast. Washed off with cold water, studied more by reading scriptures. Went to an appointment after cashing a check, but nothing exciting. Then to lunch and took a book to read in line `Marxismo'. Still overcast today, just threatening. Read over a book about the archeological proof of The Book of Mormon Julie sent. It's very circumstantial. Then hit an appointment, talked to a young student. Then we had a second appointment with a policeman and his family, very interested. Then home and ate. Then other comebacks, talked to a doctor, nice guy, my companion gave the Screening Discussion all the way through for the first time.