Jack & Lucky Chapter 4, Part 2
Chapter 4, Part 2
“No. It will never be the same. It will only get better, later. This is the price we have to pay for our beliefs.” Julie had been trained to cheer him up, but there was no way she could cheer herself, so her strong feelings were repressed. The tears would dry, but her instinctive nature would never know the fullness of what might have been if they could have stayed together.
It was this imaginary unity and the mystery of their unrequited love that created the huge sense of loss. The reality of it would likely have been no different than what she eventually felt. There would always be a sense of mystery caused by expectations of what might have been.
“Yes…I guess so…You hungry yet?” Jack broke the spell because he couldn’t contribute any new ideas. He knew it just wouldn’t get any easier. He was resolved to go and wouldn’t turn back now.
“Just about. How about a swim first?” Julie proffered.
“But we don’t have any suits. You up for a skinny dip? We seem to have all the privacy we could ever want,” Jack argued convincingly.
“If you promise not to look while I’m getting in an out of the water.”
“Sure, no problem.” Jack assured her as he began to remove his t-shirt with the BYU insignia. Jack turned away and removed his shorts and waded cautiously forward through the shallow, cool mountain water. By the time he was waist deep he was gasping for breath from the sharp cold contrast. He dropped into the water up to his chin and turned slowly to peek but Julie had preceded him quietly into the deeper water moving quickly in the other direction.
The answer to the question: “Why go on a mission?” must contain an explanation of Jack’s private thoughts as well as observations of his relationships with his family and community. His motivation comes from his unique experiences and personal life as much as from doctrine or scripture. His religious training was thorough but unexceptional and the outward signs of conviction were apparent much like for his friend, the drummer, Jim Long. Jim and Jack had a social life similar to many young men and women in similar circumstances, so it is only by studying Jack’s internal life that we find the source of differences which is also the source of intrigue.
New adventures always had a special appeal for Jack. He had felt a strong sense of excitement prior to his first departure for university life. Before that he was excited in anticipation when he left home for two weeks to attend the Boy Scout Jamboree in 1960. He never feared being away from home. He was never homesick as were some of his friends, notably Jim Long who shared the same ethnic experiences. Jack was always self-assured and eager for new challenges.
He would enter the LDS Mission Home in two days to study and be indoctrinated in the missionary methods and lore. The shopping list had been satisfied, a new suit, shirts, shoes, etc., were acquired all in keeping with the best traditions of the missionary service. As the time for leaving drew closer his thoughts concentrated on his impending service and his faith. The doubts he had entertained were not lost, these were merely covered under the enthusiasm.
Even though Jack’s desire to follow his religious tradition came from deep inside his emotional make-up, and this son-of-the-pioneers takes his religious life very seriously, in a curious way he is also on the outside looking in. He searches for meaning and relevance in his religious life while others can simply take that for granted. There is little evidence of this struggle in the routine of his life but in his mind and in his Journal, he is fighting a similar desperation and frustration that Lucky encounters in his normal life.
Religion at its best consists of community activity, but it has to have a strong, private, personal component. The community intercedes in Jack’s life during Church attendance, by subsidizing his college education, with frequent weekly meetings and by providing expectations that challenge his ambition. The private part of his commitment guides the rest of his life: he is honest, he reads scriptures and he respects the chastity of his female companions.
This is the third consecutive year that I am making an account of my attitudes. I have been doing a lot of thinking in this last year. I hope I haven’t lost too many thoughts. I think often about my future, my mission, school, girls, avocations, social prestige, religion, etc., all of which I will cover later, but as a preface I want to say that it is soon becoming the time for action. Soon I will have to resolve my thoughts and make some decisions.
Sometimes after extended periods of thought I think that I’m thinking too much and not living my thoughts enough. Not putting action where it is needed to prepare for the future. I feel a strong need to be prepared and my values have to become set very soon.
I’m tired tonight so I’m going to describe a thought, rather render a definition, which will not take much deep thought. The topic: Courage.
I have defined courage as the ability to do something you dread or fear. That’s not very explicit so I will give a further qualification. Possibly for some people a certain deed will be easy, but for others it would be hard. The others who do the hard deed demonstrate courage while the first who do the same deed show no courage as I define it. For some it may not require strength to fight wars, but for others great courage is necessary. I have a reason now for the development of this definition. I know of areas where I have to demonstrate more courage to do what needs to be done. I will develop these later…
Missionary work is an altruistic endeavor full of self-sacrifice and personal hardships. For most people this kind of work does not come easily. Any normal person who wishes to live a moral, upstanding life would have many opportunities to demonstrate courage. In the life of a missionary, there would be many more opportunities to demonstrate courage, as Jack understands it.
Jack is unconsciously looking at his future as a missionary. He sees this experience as a challenge, a test of courage. Beyond that, he is using the word “courage” to describe the scope of the struggle in his mind. He is confronting his doubts where others simply accept the teachings. He is fighting a demon so pervasive, pernicious, powerful and persistent that it takes courage to be counted as a religious person. His effort is heroic and private and he is nearly debilitated by the ferocity of the struggle. His religious motivation is winning, but only barely. This is where religion as a private act of love takes on greatest significance.
Succeeding on a mission is an achievement, a ritual of manhood. For young women it is optional. There are no similar social or peer expectations. A goal for many young women is to marry a returned missionary because these men have a special aura of sanctity. They are stable, ready for a family and capable of attending to the needs of their wives. This accomplishment enhances the masculinity of the boy who goes on a mission and comes home a man.
Men have the Priesthood, “the power to act in God’s name and through His Son Jesus Christ” and the only way women connect with the Priesthood is through marriage. Returned missionaries have acquired wisdom and a badge of honor because of their sacrifice. They have gained prestige and share that with their wives in the community setting. The men who come back usually are well developed and well equipped to testify strongly about the satisfaction and commitment they feel. They are matured, self-confident, resolved on their course of life. They are ready to complete their education and assume leadership in both The Church and the world.
Besides all that, returned missionaries are often ready and anxious to get married. So missionary service is overtly tied to the mating ritual of this sub-culture, Mormonism, and in many other ways it is central to establishing the closely knit cultural community that takes on the force of an ethnic group.
Jack jumped bravely into deeper water and swam trying to catch Julie. When he finally reached her, she was at the edge of the sun lit area and she turned to surround his neck with her arms. She kissed him quickly just before she pushed down on his shoulders to dunk him. Jack struggled slightly as he went under then scissor kicked strongly and raised himself quickly with a sputter and broad smile while shaking water off his face and hair like a friendly dog.
Jack began to reciprocate when Julie pleaded, “No. I don’t want to get my hair…” She had just begun to protest as her sound was overcome by water. Then her head passed below the surface.
“You Brute.” She complained when she returned to the surface. She reached again for Jack and he pulled her into an embrace and a kiss with each playing with the other’s tounge with their mouths open. The sweet water bathed their kiss with a clean, fresh flavor.
After an intense moment, he took a deep breath and moved slowly down under water and held his breath while putting his head between her breasts and holding tight around her buttocks. He was kicking for both of them with slow rhythmic swings of his experienced legs. She was treading water with her arms above as he descended lower and pushed his face into her stomach and climbed lower below her belly-button. As he reached her pubic hair and gently took a few strands between his lips he began to run out of breath.
She was in agony, torn between her sense of duty and desire to fulfill her physical instinct. If she encouraged him to take her now, she could keep him. That was one thought that circulated incessantly in her mind. Of course she was stronger than that. Her conscience said: “Have Courage.” But when he touched her so gently near her vulva she had a rush of unanticipated pleasure.
She gasped for breath as if drowning even though she was floating easily, her back arched slightly and tensely benefiting from his upward lift. “Take him inside!” her body screamed. If she had not been a practiced and committed virgin, she would have succumbed. History would have been different.
He reluctantly returned to the surface without offending her confidence further. She grabbed his head with both hands and kissed him hard on the mouth.
“Race you back,” she urged to break the spell. She put a foot against his stomach and shoved off against him. She was a good swimmer but no match for Jack even over that short distance. Jack easily caught up to her before shore. He waited, squatting below the surface while she walked slowly and carefully past toward the table. She crossed one arm over her breasts as she fought for her balance toward the edge of the lake and splashed water back at Jack. Otherwise she didn’t protest Jack’s eager gaze as she gathered her clothes and went behind a tree to dress.
“I’ll get lunch ready. Now I’m really hungry.”
Jack was in no position to get out of the water, not wishing to expose his erection to the open gaze of the world, even if the audience was a forest of Douglas firs. He was full of energy and turned and raced toward the center of the lake with powerful, athletic crawl strokes. He returned after a minute and made a decent exit. He gathered his clothes and dressed in the open while still wet.
Lucky only barely managed to get up when his Aunt called the morning after his farewell party. It was early enough to get his last paycheck cashed, run a few errands and make it to the recruiter’s office. The military bus had been canceled because there wasn’t enough demand, so they gave him a voucher for the Greyhound bus.
The bus depot was managed by a small restaurant and bowling alley near the Rialto theater on the west end of downtown on Oak Street. He had to wait about a half hour so he ordered a cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake. By the time he finished it was time to leave.
He jumped on the bus without looking back. The bus jerked and groaned up the hill and around the corners heading out of town. Lucky left The City of Hood River forever as it turned out. He saw for the last time the streets and vacant lots he and Jack had haunted. They had walked together along every street, past every building.
Lucky was headed for a new life. He was tentative and confused about how to live his life and about finding appropriate goals, the same way Jack was confused about his role in his religious life. There was some innate dissonance that made it impossible for Jack and Lucky to find simple comfort and satisfaction in these two very different contexts. They both wanted to find a way to fit, to feel dedicated and enthusiastic in their own spheres. For Lucky this search takes him into the Army and for Jack it takes him around the world on a mission. In spite of their differences physically, socially and mentally, they share a common quest. This common search is just one source of the bonding which keeps them in each other’s thoughts.
On the bus, Lucky remembered a letter he had just received from his sister Sandra. He had found it lying on the table just as he was leaving. His Aunt had put it there and she had left a note attached saying: “Lucky. Good bye, and Good Luck.” That was an unusual show of intimacy and affection since she usually called him Lawrence.
He opened the letter as he sat looking out the tinted window, the city disappeared and he was on his way to the Army.
Dear Lawrence. (He didn’t mind his real name when his sisters used it.)
Things have changed a lot since you left. I’m the oldest one at home now, but I don’t know how long I can stand it. Everybody argues about everything around here. I hate it.
I met this neat guy, Frank Kellogg, at Church about two weeks ago. We’ve been together every day and every night as late as possible. He’s really sweet to me. He has to work at nights in a dairy about ten miles from our house. He’s big and tall, or at least he’s taller than you are, not as tall as `Buford.’ He’s not real handsome, a little too heavy, but he’s nice and works hard.
I hope he asks me to marry him. Mom wouldn’t care. I’m almost 16, as old as she was when she met Daddy. I’m ready to leave home, and I think I love Frank.
Well, how about you? I guess you’re going to the Army. That should be a good experience for you. Don’t be too bull headed, and just do what you’re told so we can all be proud of you.
Write me a letter as soon as you get settled. Keep in touch, I miss you even if you are such a jerk sometimes. Enclosed is a picture of the family. I thought it might come in handy when you’re out there all alone.
Your favorite sister.
This was a happy letter but why did it make him feel so sad? Sandra was his special sister, the one closest to his own age. As children they used to sleep together in their innocence and cuddle to keep each other warm. He could never forget that. Now she was grown up too. Poor kids from the lower classes grow up fast. They had to, just for survival. A twinge of bitterness and class consciousness hit him with these thoughts.
Sandra was the only person, other than Jack, he really cared for in the whole world. He had already forgotten about Alice. Now Sandra was going out into the world just like he was. He would always have a special feeling for her.
That was love really. That burning sensation inside when the other person wasn’t even around. “Love, Sandra,” she had written. For the first time he began to understand what Jack had been talking about after all.
For the first time Lucky sensed a feeling of affection for his sister that could never change. This love didn’t need any verbal explanation, it was part of a conviction that created a bond. You had to experience it at least once to understand. There was a connection that could not improve or diminish. It made you feel good to be cared for by someone who was special to you. That was what love was all about. You hoped the best for them, they had the same sense about you and that was a constant in your life.
Lucky and the bus were up to speed now moving due west on the four lane freeway. They just kept moving away.
The warm air dried their bodies quickly as Jack and Julie moved around the campsite. They ate and chatted and laid together in their innocence among the grass and trees of a rugged, not quite pristine paradise all by themselves.
When they were ready to go, Jack made up a challenge. “Listen, I bet I can carry you all the way up the hill on my shoulders.” Jack knew he had gained enough strength during the summer. His work had consisted of carrying iron rods on his shoulders to put reinforcing steel in bridge decks, “punking iron” they called it. He had been doing that steadily up until only a few days before.
“No you can’t. Not all the way. That would be silly.”
“Sure I can. How much you wanna bet?” Jack was also thinking about her blister but even more how good it would feel to be so close to her between her legs once again. He knew he had only a few days left, and touching her in this way was the closest he would ever get.
“A milkshake for me if you don’t make it all the way.”
“That strawberry milkshake is as good as mine,” Jack retorted.
Julie climbed on the table and Jack placed his head between the back of her legs. She sat easily on his broad shoulders and she held onto his forehead. She tucked her legs tightly around his chest with her feet behind his back. Jack felt her tight around his neck and revelled in the contact. She was light enough and he moved up the trail without any trouble.
Julie brushed away the small branches and leaves that intruded in front of their progress. They bantered and made fun but Jack didn’t miss a step. By the time he approached the top his legs were tired but he knew he could make it.
In fact the end came too soon. Jack put her on the top of a table and as she turned he put his face between her thighs and hugged her desperately. She combed and stroked his wet hair with her fingers as she balanced herself precariously.
Julie looked at his head and broad shoulders reverently, sharing the same sense of frustration and longing that motivated him. There was nothing either could do to escape the youthful desire of their love except be courageous. They moved quietly to the car and made their way home.
Sunday evening came too soon as well. This was effectively the end of the summer, the last moment of freedom, it was the occasion of the Farewell Meeting and Jack had to give a speech. He expressed his excitement about leaving on a mission and his sadness to be leaving his friends and loved ones.
He looked in Julie’s direction when he said that.
Underlying Jack’s words and attitude was clearly visible the romantic nature of the challenge. Several return missionaries were in the audience and they had given their Testimonies and shared their success. This success and the return home is integral to the concept of missionary service. The fertility rite is central to the desire in young church members to “go out and do the work of the Lord.” There is a compelling juggernaut that both creates and reinforces the ethnic nature of the group. Missionaries are the heroes, the best motivated young men and women who set out boldly to convert the heathens.
Jack mentioned in passing his earnest desire to gain a strong testimony and having had some religious doubts. He didn’t elaborate these doubts, choosing instead to keep the discussion optimistic and positive. After all, he didn’t want to embarrass his family.
The family generally supports the missionary financially during the mission. So the family expectations are often the strongest influence. They participate vicariously in the beneficial effect of the activity and thus share in a sense of pride in strengthening the development of the ethnic group. If Jack had read the notes he had recorded earlier in his journal as his farewell message, he would have both startled and confused his audience.
Tonight I want to start a discourse on religion – faith – My Mission and the mental rationalizations I make to justify my decisions.
Religion is kind of a mysterious idea to me, vague and confusing. I am familiar with The Church’s standards and they are part of my attitude to a great extent, but I am also familiar with the psycho-historical: approach given to religions in general by philosophers and psychologists. For myself I have accepted the LDS Church as the only true church, therefore I stop using words like church and religion to describe it, I use the word “life” (in my thoughts). This life in its entirety cannot compete with any religion -nor compare- it is the life.
I have thus adopted religion as a part of my life. I have developed what is called a super-ego — a conscience — based on the standards I’ve been taught. The teachings of The Church have become part of my attitudes. I have accepted this and intend to live them to a reasonable degree of accuracy. This acceptance which I have made is contingent on faith. Now I will go into a definition and discussion of faith.
There are many questions of a religious nature that I cannot even begin to answer for the most part I don’t try to make any answer. What I do in my mind is accept what I believe and have been taught as an intellectual convenience–partly because I don’t think answers exist in many cases. Now I want to extend my analysis on faith.
Let us assume for the moment that God is real, that He established His plan as set forth by my beliefs. I think that faith is the key to the entire plan. Faith to me can be the power of mind which men don’t normally use. Considering the fact that man allegedly uses only say 10% of his mental faculties I would suppose that through faith he could use much of the remaining amounts. And by doing so would be able to have great control over his surroundings by merely mental concentration.
Another thought is that God created man with needs–some of which are satisfied by religions. He did this possibly so that he could establish a religion–and a plan. Part of the plan is to determine who would excel and who not. He left questions unanswered so that some men could have faith to accept religion and these would be the ones who would excel. Others would not have faith and would not excel. Since this faith they have gained is the key to the mental resources–in order to follow the plan and become like God man must develop his mind. Faith is the Godly power over matter which man must develop to become as God.
The method by which this faith is gained is difficult to discover. Christ did it through prayer. That must be the trick. Concentrated effort in a free humble mind–free from immediate outside influence and emotional pressures.
This need for faith is largely why I’m going on my mission. I feel a need to have faith–a strong working faith. Then I won’t need to be weak talking because much of what I say of a religious nature I say now with reservations because of the questions I have to ignore.
Other reasons I’m going on my mission range from being willing to sacrifice 2 and 1/2 years of my life to satisfy my family and friends, particularly my mother. I think my mission call means more to her than it does to me. Also my brother John is very anxious to see me go and be able to help. I am subject to social pressure. I recognize the influence in this area. I also recognize the benefits I will personally receive from working closely with people. All of these I have considered. I have given much thought to the public service motive. I feel this as a strong reason. I realize the motives that should exist–to bring people to The Church, to baptize and convert people to Christ by the authority of God. That should be my prime motive. That will surely be my prime objective. All my efforts will be devoted to that end. The other motives will be satisfied incidentally.
One motive I left out is that of future business prospects. I will become very familiar with Italy and will probably return to the country in a business venture of some sort and use the knowledge I gain on a mission to great advantage. But my motto is seek ye first the Kingdom of God and you will gain riches incidentally if you seek them. Even if I have to force myself to approach things in the proper perspective, I’m doing what is right and I feel good about it even with all the rationalizations.
After the Farewell, people milled around and Jack listened modestly and casually to the many good wishes, friendly praise and good advice. His head was spinning in the excitement as he worked his way toward the foyer like a politician on the stump.
Suddenly from behind he felt a strong tap on his shoulder. “Hi, big guy. I haven’t seen you around for a while.”
The voice was familiar and Jack turned to find Bill Logan, his erstwhile college buddy. “Hey, it’s good to see you. Geese it’s been more than a year. How you been doin’?”
“It comes and goes. Looks like you’ve been making respectable progress. You ready for this mission. Quite an adventure for a country boy, all the way to Italy!”
“As ready as ever, I guess. What do you think? You went on a mission didn’t you? Where was that?”
“Ya. I went to South Carolina. Hot as hell most of the time. But you talk about having doubts. Everybody who thinks has doubts, its more a personality type than something profound, usually. I had doubts, now I just ignore them.”
“That sounds easier said than done. You finish school yet?”
“No. Still have another year or so. Changed my major to psychology so I lost some time again. I need to work for a few months to build some capital. I plan to go back after New Years. My folks aren’t very healthy and can’t help so I have to work some. I’ll make it though. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to hurry particularly.”
Jack remembered Julie when he saw her waiting patiently across the room conversing with one of Jack’s older sisters, Jane. She had caught his eye and gave him a “Come on over look.” So he said good bye and good luck to Bill and made his way to join Julie. Shortly thereafter the crowd dispersed and they left the church.
As they neared the car, Jack turned to look once again at the building in which he had spent more time than any other outside of schools. The red brick structure was solid with a graceful up-reaching spire outlined against the striking, memorable, crimson sunset.
Time was flying and there was no way he could stop it and spend more time with Julie. One thing that caught Jack’s attention was the comment by Bill: “Doubts are more a personality type than something profound.” Jack wasn’t sure he agreed with that but somehow that didn’t surprise him. He frequently didn’t agree with Bill.
Jack was eager to gain that same sense of confidence about his religious beliefs he had seen and heard from other returned missionaries. They had each “gained a testimony about the truthfulness of the Gospel.” That was what Jack wanted, he wanted to overcome his doubts and have a clear knowledge of the Truth. He expected to find that treasure of confidence by studying the scriptures, praying, working hard and maybe somewhere along the way being touched by the Spirit as other returned missionaries had been.
He was the first representative of his immediate family to go on a mission, thus he carried not only his own agenda but the grand expectations of all his friends and most of his family. For now, he carried that burden lightly. He was courageous and excited enough to ignore his love for Julie and thus took that relationship too lightly. Eventually this would become the greatest sacrifice of his life.
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