E3: Cocksure

19 min read

(This is Season 1, Episode 3 of Momentum. The content deals with adult themes.)

Day 34
October 4
Tillamook, Oregon

1,525 miles to Mexico

Chickery Chick

“what do I love? Hmm.” Jack* furrowed his brow like this was the most interesting question he’d been asked in weeks. “Well, I love chickens.”

Jordan burst out laughing. “Chickens? Why do you love chickens?”

Jack tilted his head and brought his hand to his chin. “Well, I suppose it’s because of what happened to me when I was about six. Back then, my parents owned a farm on an island in the Willamette River. One day, we had this big ol’ flood. Almost all of our chickens died… except for this one hen that found her way up onto the kitchen table. Now, I have no idea how she got up there, but somehow I got it in my head that I saved that chicken. So I named her Chickery Chick, after that old foxtrot song from the fifties. Do you know it?”

Jordan shook his head. Immediately, Jack burst out into song:

Oh, Chickery chick, cha-la-cha-la
Check-a-la romey in a banan-ika
Bollika, wollika, can’t you see
Chickery chick is me?

Jack looked to be in his late sixties. Jordan was two weeks from turning thirty. The two men laughed together as they stood on the sidewalk beneath the bright October sun.

“Anyway, I’ve been saving chickens ever since. I must have a thousand by now.”

“Wow, you have a thousand chickens?”

“That’s right. Probably more than a thousand, actually.”

“Are you a farmer?”

“No, no. I keep them all in my house.”

“How big’s your house?

“Oh, it’s just a two-bedroom apartment.” Jack fluffed his tail feather. “They’re not real chickens. They’re memorabilia. I’m a chicken collector.”

“Can I come to your house?” Jordan asked breathlessly.

“You… you want to come to my house?”

“To see your chickens. And to record your Story.” Jordan reached into the pocket of his camera bag and carefully unfolded a newspaper clipping from the Daily Astorian, the biggest newspaper on the Oregon Coast. Above the article, there was a photo of Jordan standing proudly in front of the long bridge over the Columbia. The caption read, “The remarkable young man walking from Canada to Mexico to make a global connection.” He thrust the clipping into Jack’s hand.

Jack frowned as he examined the photograph. “Um, I… guess that sounds okay,” he stammered. “Sure, you can come over to my house and, um… photograph my… chickens.” He sighed and slumped his shoulders. “Alright, follow me. My home is… right this way.”


The Brewing in the Wind drive-through espresso stand in Tillamook, Oregon, about sixty seconds before Jordan met Jack.

A love anthropologist

they weren’t exactly chickens in Jack’s apartment. Sure, there were a few hens and a handful of chicks. But mostly, they were roosters.

Okay, they were cocks.

Jack’s two-bedroom apartment was full of cocks.

Cocks on the coat rack where Jordan hung up his jacket. Cocks on the umbrella stand next to where he set his backpack. A row of framed, hung cocks lined the way down the short entrance hallway toward a glass armoire that was jammed to hilt. Crystal cocks and porcelain cocks. Clay cocks and wooden cocks. Big cocks, little cocks, happy cocks, sad cocks. Cocks of all shapes and sizes.

“You really like roosters.”

Jack shrugged. “I’m a bit of an addict.”

In the kitchen, there were cocks on the hand towels and the tea cozy. Cocks on the oven mitts and the sugar container. Cocks on the fridge magnets, soap dispenser, salt and pepper shakers, and the light switch. A different cock on each of the serving spoons. Jack took a bowl from the cupboard and covered the henhouse on the bottom with a heaping serving of granola, plopping a spoonful of yogurt on top. “Our town creamery makes the best quality in the country,” he bragged.

I’ll bet, thought Jordan. “Thank you so much. This is really nice of you.”

“Oh, it’s nothing.” Jack grabbed for a cock-themed knife. He sliced a peach atop a cutting board that had a cartoonish cock on its handle. “Nothing at all. It’s my pleasure to help a lonely traveler who is heading to… Where did you say you were going again?”

“Mexico. I’m walking to…”

“Mexico! You best be careful when you’re down there. I’ve seen some scary things on the news.” Jack handed the bowl to Jordan perfunctorily, ending the conversation, and led him into the adjacent sitting room. He gestured toward the loveseat. (Four cocks on pillows; a cock on the quilted throw. “Please sit here. But you’ll need to excuse me for… for just a moment. I need to make a phone call.”

“Sure, that’s fine.” Jordan could hardly contain his excitement as he settled onto the edge of the loveseat.

About ten days had passed since Jordan and his magic harmonica crossed the bridge over the Columbia River. The very next day after arriving in Astoria, Jordan was interviewed by the journalist from the Daily Astorian. (She’d been tipped off to his arrival by someone he’d stayed with up near Puget Sound.) The published article was the epitome of a puff piece, but Jordan was someone who desperately needed to be puffed up. When he got his eyes on the newspaper, they magnetized to that word remarkable.

That night, when he lay in his tent, just after he finished masturbating, he wondered whether remarkable was what he was really walking towards.

Burning the napkin at the foot of the bridge had helped Jordan feel, for the very first time, like he was the author of his own Story. Suddenly, he felt free to approach the project to Tell a Story About the Universal Similarities Between People in a way that was much more him. Leaving Astoria, he had walked west until he reached the long, sandy beach that ran south from the mouth of the Columbia River. Finally, he was on the Oregon Coast.

The first big town south of the Columbia was touristic Seaside. From there, he followed the coastal trail through Cannon Beach and Manzanita. The weather was glorious, and with the spectacular scenery, it truly felt like—this time—he’d finally left the worst behind. Even still, Sally was on his mind constantly. He took full advantage of the gorgeous viewpoints along the rugged coast, often cursing her name out toward the open Pacific:

“FUCK YOU, SALLY! FUCK YOU, YOU SELFISH SLU…” In quieter moments, he understood that he’d made mistakes, too, and that he’d need to conduct a full post-mortem on their relationship. He had time and space. There were still fifteen hundred miles for his reckoning. But he’d moved into the second stage of grief, and he no longer doubted whether he was angry.

Somewhere around Nehalem, he birthed the love story idea. It was cute—and, he hoped, remarkable. He decided that he was a “love anthropologist.” If I listen to enough people’s stories, I’ll figure out what went wrong with Sally. I’ll finally be ready to meet my soulmate.

A few days and a few Stories later, Jordan bumped into Jack the Chicken Man in Tillamook.

Jordan took a spoonful of his granola and chewed contemplative as he looked around the sitting room. Plenty of cocks here too. But there were many other decorations as well. On top of the TV, there was a black and white portrait of an elderly woman. She had Jack’s prominent beak. That’s got to be his mom. On the display case behind the TV stand, there was a clutch of family photos that depicted handsome men in uniform, posing proudly with their young families in front of the flag. Nearby, there was a posed photo of a big, multigenerational brood encircling Jack, who smiling with what seemed like patriarchal pride. Jack has kids? That’s strange. I could have sworn he was gay.

Right beside the group photo, a handsomely framed document announced Jack’s membership in the Church of Latter-day Saints. But how can he be gay? He’s a Mormon.

Just then, he heard Jack’s voice filtering in from the bedroom. “Hello, pastor? You told me that I should call you if something like this happened…”


Jack’s kitchen

His legs are splayed

“Sorry ’bout that,” Jack said sweetly. He settled into a La-Z-Boy that faced the loveseat and put his bowl of granola on his lap. “My, uh… my pastor.” He nodded at the framed Mormon document. “I’m very active in our local church.”

“That’s cool.” Jordan put his phone on the edge of the loveseat. “Do you mind if I…”

“Now, I always bless my food. So I am going to bless the food, and then we’ll go on.” When Jack bowed his head, Jordan imitated the gesture. “Father in heaven, thank thee for this day. Grateful for food and ask you to bless it, providing strength and nourishment. Ask thee to be with me throughout this day and to be with my loved ones wherever they may be. Said to you in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

“Bon appetit.”

Jack took a bite of his granola.

Jordan asked for Jack’s consent and received it. Then, he turned on the voice recording function on his phone and cleared his throat. He already knew what he was looking for: he wanted Jack to repeat that cha-la, cha-la foxtrot thing that he’d done out on the sidewalk. It was a great Story. It was exactly what Jordan thought he wanted—an accessible and hopeful representation of love. But back then, out on the sidewalk, Jack had been energetic and gregarious. Now, surrounded by his cocks, he was flaccid and morose. Jordan decided that his task was to cheer Jack up and get him back in the mood to sing.

“So, I told you my project…” Jordan’s voice cracked. He felt the blood rushing to his cheeks. “Sorry. My project is about… love stories. So I’d love to hear a little more about all the co… I mean, the chickens. could you start by, like… Where do they all come from?”

“Oh, from all over.” Jack began to look around the room, gesturing weakly. “Friends gave me that one and that one and that one. I’ve got a lot packed away. Mostly there’re here and in the kitchen, but I also have some in my bedroom.” He hesitated. “But mainly here and in the kitchen. In fact”—he made eye contact with Jordan—”I actually got one just yesterday. I haven’t even opened the box yet. So I can bring it out while you are here, so you can see me open it.” He swallowed. “If that’s what you want.”

“Cool.” Jordan could feel the butterflies.

“I’ll go get that then.”

“Cool.”

“Okay.” Jack put his hands on the armrest and started to stand up. “You know, if you want to, you can peek here real quick and see all the roosters in my bedroom.”

Jordan hesitated. “Okay.”

He put his bowl of granola to the side and followed Jack to the threshold of the bedroom.

Jack entered the room at stopped at the foot of his bed. “Look at them all.” He flopped his arms helplessly. “Rooster pillows. Lamp roosters. A blanket down here. I have a hen sitting on a basket down there. They’re everywhere. Roosters!” He put his hands on his hips and shook his head slowly. “Roosters, rooster, roosters. It’s crazy. It’s just crazy.”

He took a step toward the mirrored closet door and slid it open. Jordan was leaning against the door frame, still frozen in place. He didn’t want to enter the bedroom, but he desperately wanted to see what was hidden inside. The closet was filled with boxes. “Egg plates. For serving deviled eggs.” Jack pulled one out and waved it toward Jordan. It was Christmas-themed. “My mother gave me my first one. I thought, Well, that’s cool. So I started looking around on the computer. Big mistake. Now I’ve got hundreds of them.” He pointed at some of the other boxes. “Magnet holders. Aprons. Oven mitts with chickens, canisters with chickens. I have no idea what’s in there.”

“How much do you think you’ve spent on these over the years?”

“Over fifty years? I really shouldn’t tell you but…” He smiled and looked Jordan directly in the eye. “You look like a trustworthy person. Thousands. Thousands and thousands and thousands.” Jordan had to wrench his gaze away.

“Ah, this is the one that I was looking for.” Jack bent over and picked up a white box a little larger than a microwave. He straightened up and turned toward Jordan. Jordan shuffled right. So did Jack. Jordan shuffled left. Jack followed. Finally, Jordan took a step backward into the sitting room. Jack followed, settling into the La-Z-Boy as Jordan sat erect on the love seat.

Jordan felt that he was shaking. The ceiling looked like it had dropped six inches.

Jack reached down and hefted the white box onto his lap. “Now, this here is supposed to be a soup tureen or something… Something you put on the table.”

“Where did it come from?”

“The company’s is called Lenox.” Jack bent over, leaning closer to Jordan’s phone. “That’s L-E-N-O-X. They send catalogs out. And I’m a sucker because they’ll call me up and… Andrew is the fellow’s name. He’ll say, Jack, we have another rooster.” Jack’s voice box went tight. “He’ll say, Jack, why don’t you just let me send it to you? If you don’t like it, you can just send it back. Well, guess what, I don’t send them back. I never send them back. They end up in storage. I’m paying storage on chickens.” He looked in Jordan’s eye again. Jordan felt himself shudder. “Do you think that’s crazy?”

“No!” Jordan lied. “You’re just… passionate. Remarkably passionate.”

Jack hung his head. He didn’t seem remarkably passionate at all.

Silently, he opened the cardboard box and dropped both his hands inside. Jordan sat still, smiling, but out of the corner of his eye, he was evaluating the exit routes out of Jack’s sitting room. There was a glass sliding door to his right that led out to the garden. It was eight, perhaps ten feet away. The only other exit was through the corridor that led back to the front door, but Jack’s La-Z-Boy was directly in the way.

There was a rustle of wrapping paper as Jack fished out the cock. It was ceramic and about the size of a basketball. Jack hefted it up in front of himself and examined it. “Oh, no,” he clucked. “Ohhhhh, no.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Look.” He twisted the cock so Jordan was looking at it head-on. Jordan thought it was a pretty lifelike representation. “They sent me another one just like this. From the standpoint of looking at it from the front, it’s fine. But when you look at him from the side”—Jack twisted the cock in profile—”look at the base.”

Now, Jordan could see the problem. The tureen sat atop a ceramic pedestal that made the cock’s lower body look less lifelike. “His legs are splayed.”

“That’s right.” Jack licked his lips and looked Jordan in his eye.

Jordan’s whole body shuddered, and his mind spun as he tried to think of something to say that would change the character of the situation. “It’s like… It’s like he’s sitting on the toilet.” He made the wrong choice.

Jack overlooked the apparent innuendo. “I called them up, and I told them, You guys really need to do better with your pictures of this. It’s not the best quality.” He sighed as he placed the tureen back in the box. “They said I could send it back. But did I? Of course not. Am I dumb?”

Once again, Jordan lied and shook his head.

Jack sighed. “Oh, well. The other one ended up in storage. That’s where this one’s heading, too.”

He put the white box down beside the La-Z-Boy. “So. Where should we go next?”


Right before Jack revealed the misshapen cock

Heading for the not-entirely-unpredictable conclusion

Jack had a Foghorn Leghorn clock up on the wall. The minute hand was steadily progressing. Jordan had been at Jack’s apartment for the better part of an hour. He’d photographed all the cocks. He listened to all the Stories. But he still hadn’t gotten the climax he wanted. Jack kept side-stepping around cha-la, cha-la, even though Jordan had asked—in a roundabout way, mind you—about Jack’s Origin Story three separate times.

Jordan was getting very, very anxious.

Of course, he could have just asked Jack if he’d sing the bollika, wollika song again. But that solution seemed too obvious. That wasn’t what Paul would have done.

Even though Jack and Jordan were alone in what felt like a steadily shrinking sitting room, in truth, they were accompanied by a third, invisible character. The third, invisible character was Jordan’s best friend, Paul.

Jordan had met Paul while going through a particularly dark period in his life. Paul had helped him through a previous breakout by consistently providing insightful advice and an empathetic shoulder. They became close. Paul became something like a father figure. But beyond the emotional support, Paul was also something like Jordan’s creative guru. Paul was a storyteller, with the Emmy awards to prove it. Jordan’s social network was full of successful people: dentists, lawyers, bankers, and entrepreneurs. But he’d never met someone who’d created a successful career in the arts until he was introduced to Paul.

Recently, after a long career as a producer in the television business, Paul had decided to try his hand as a director. His debut feature—a documentary about racism in Mississippi—had premiered at Sundance and was acquired by HBO. A few months later, it would screen at the White House for an audience that included Michelle Obama. Not bad at all for a debut. Jordan thought Paul’s film was the best documentary he’d ever seen. What he loved about it were the same things he loved about Paul: sensitivity, nuance, and curiosity. The film was remarkably generous to everyone—even the more villainous characters.

Truly, it was a Story About the Universal Similarities Between People.

Once, Paul had told Jordan that his creative ambition was to make meaningful work. “I don’t want to make junk food,” he’d said. Jordan decided that he didn’t want to make junk food either. So even as he continued his tedious conversation with Jack, Jordan tried to call upon all the storytelling wisdom that he’d learned from his guru. He tried to emulate Paul’s deep, searching questions. He tried to imitate Paul’s sensitivity and nuance. The more understanding Jordan tried to be, the more boring Jack became. Now, Jack was telling Jordan, in detail about his favorite recipe for tiramisu. Foghorn Leghorn’s leg swung toward the hour.

Beyond creative advice, Paul had also given Jordan something tangible to carry while on his walk. It was a good luck charm—a marble-sized garnet crystal. Paul had assured him that garnet was “grounding.”

“Every time you’re afraid,” Paul had said, “you should hold the stone in your hand, take a deep breath, and call on your inner wisdom.”

Jordan didn’t believe in crystals and didn’t believe in grounding either, but he still felt honored by Paul’s gift. He surprised himself by reaching for the stone frequently during those first lonely weeks in Washington State. By now, the stone had found his home—ever-present in his right pants pocket.

Jordan could feel Paul’s crystal pressing into his thigh just as he heard Jack say something that finally caught his attention. The word was divorce. Bingo!

“How long were you married?”

Jack scratched his neck. “Twelve years.”

“My parents were married for twelve years. And what’s your advice for a young person thinking about marriage these days?”

Jack’s eyes went wide. He struggled to keep his voice steady. “I think that’s up to the individual. You know, there’s certain things that I’d rather not tell you while on the recording. Because that’s the bad side of my life, as opposed to the good.”

Jordan leaned forward, getting ready to pounce. “The chickens being the good part?”

“And my kids. My job. I love my job. And the church that I go to.” Jack let his gaze settle on Jordan. Something about the expression made Jordan’s stomach turn. “But if you turn off the recording, I suppose I can tell you a little about the other stuff too. Only if you’re curious.”

Jordan hesitated. Then he reached for his phone.


The entirely unpredictable conclusion

Jack tented his fingers and looked Jordan in the eye. Jordan suddenly felt overcome by unexpected fear. He tried to swallow it down. Paul wouldn’t have been sacred. And anyway, Jordan had asked to hear the dark side of Jack’s Story. Your’e not going to get up and leave now, are you?

“When I was in my fifties, I had a job at a big corporation in Salem. I used to drive up and down the Interstate all the time. It’s lonely country up there, so every now and then, I used to pick up a hitchhiker.” He paused, crossing one leg over the other. Then he shifted positions and crossed the second leg over the first. “This one time, I picked up a hitchhiker who had one of those… What do you call those marijuana cigarette thingies again?”

“A joint?” Jordan made a face.

Jack’s whole body sank into the cushions of the La-Z-Boy. “That’s right. A joint.”

The first time Jack smoked a joint, nothing happened. “A few weeks later, I picked up another hitchhiker who also had one of those… joints. But once again, it had no effect. But the third time I picked up a hitchhiker who had a joint, we ended up in bed together. Pretty soon, I was going to bed with a lot of hitchhikers.”

Jordan shot his hand into his right pants pocket. “Were they women or men?”

Jack shrugged. “Mostly men.”

Suddenly, the whole sitting room transformed into a whirlpool of cocks.

Jack’s dark Story got darker quickly. He rattled off the details in a monotone voice, describing the facts as if they’d happened to someone else. How his wife had left him once she learned about the hitchhikers. How he couldn’t stop himself. How he went to the Midwest on a business trip, where he met another straight man who also liked to smoke marijuana. How that man used to beat Jack to within inches of his life.

“I lost my job. I lost everything I had. I found meth, cocaine, crack.” Jack was resting his jowl on his hand, speaking as casually as if he was reciting a recipe. “I ended up living on Skid Row in St. Louis, where I’d do anything to get high. Anything.” He locked eyes with Jordan. “What they say is true. The thicker, the harder, the better.”

As soon as Jack said this, Jordan heard a voice in his head. The voice told him to get up and leave. But in Jordan’s excited, panicked state, the voice sounded more like this:

JORDAN, GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW. STOP FUCKING AROUND AND RUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!

He thought about running. He knew he could be out the garden door in about five seconds. Getting to the front door would take a little longer, and it would require getting past Jack. Jordan was less than half Jack’s age, and he was stronger than he’d ever been in his life. But he worried that Jack had a weapon. In his excited, panicked state, he became convinced that he’d wandered right into a trap.

If he was going to run, the garden door was the better option. But running meant leaving his backpack at the front door, and without his tent, his stove, and the rest of his Hobo Starter Package, Jordan knew that his trip would be over. How would he find the money to resupply? What would he tell his financial supporters? All of this was spinning through his head. It was a lot to process, especially when there was a voice screaming:

RUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!

Jordan held the stone and took a deep breath.

“You look a little white,” Jack said suddenly. “Is everything okay?”

Jordan nodded his head.

“Do you want to take a shower? My shower has excellent water pressure.”

Jordan shook his head fiercely. “Nothankyouthatsverykindofyoubutimokay.”

“Are you sure? I have very fluffy towels.”

“Noithinki’mokaythanks.”

Jack tilted his head. “Say. You don’t have any marijuana, do you?”

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? RUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!

“noidontimactuallysober.”

“That’s good. That’s very good.” Jack uncrossed his legs and spread his thighs wide. “That sounds like a very mature and thoughtful choice.” His voice had grown husky.

Jordan was frozen stiff. Because when Jack had uncrossed his legs, Jordan’s eyes had gone straight to Jack’s crotch completely of their own volition.

Jordan tore his eyes away. The corner of Jack’s lip twitched. Jack spread his thighs even wider. Jordan couldn’t help himself from glancing down at Jack’s fly again.

The strangest thing was happening inside of Jordan’s body. He felt like someone had hammered an enormous nail through the crown of his head that traveled down the length of his spinal column, affixing him into the hardware of the loveseat. He didn’t feel capable of running, even if he wanted to. He felt weak. His whole body felt like jello. The room was spinning. He started wondering whether Jack had spiked his granola. Beyond the nail, though, there was something even stranger. It was this intense pulsing sensation, and it was centered directly in his… it was centered directly in his cock. Jordan’s cock was pulsing like mad. This sensation was both terrifying and humiliating.

Why did I look at his crotch? he was thinking. Am I getting turned on? Is this disgusting man actually turning me on? What the fuck is wrong with me?

He couldn’t tell whether he was actually erect. He’d never felt anything like the intense pulsing before. He’d never experienced this when he was aroused. He thought about touching himself to assess the situation, but he couldn’t figure out a way to do it while Jack was looking at him. Jordan didn’t want to send the wrong signal, but that moment was long gone. He tried to pretend that everything was fine, that he was empathetically commiserating with Jack’s gruesome Story. He tried to pretend he was Paul. He shuddered when Jack licked his own lips.

Jack’s Story began to turn when his mother became ill. He flew back to Oregon to care for her. She, in turn, cared for him, helping him get off the crack and back into the Church, where he found his forgiveness.

“When she died, I just stayed. This was her apartment.” He blew a kiss towards the portrait atop the TV. “Hello, mother. I can feel you with me now. Thank you. Loving you.”

Story finished, Jack turned his gaze back to Jordan.

Every cell in Jordan’s body was in its own fight-or-flight. His whole being was a biological clusterfuck, and the intense pulsing in Jordan’s cock was threatening to register on the Richter scale. Jack wasn’t saying anything. He was quietly looking at Jordan, wearing an expression of authority and confidence. It felt to Jordan like he had been caught in a spell, and he wished that he hadn’t left his magic harmonica in his backpack. Squeezing Paul’s crystal so hard that it threatened to cut the palm of his hand, Jordan tried to take long, deep breaths discreetly. But his heart rate was through the roof, and every time he paid attention to what was happening inside of his head, the voice was telling him to

RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!

The pulsing sensation was threatening to overwhelm him. It felt humiliating and it felt good, it felt good and it felt humiliating; the emotions danced together until they became this bigger, unwieldy beast, and Jordan suddenly realized that he was defeated. He wasn’t going to run. It wasn’t possible to run. Not with this nail down my spine. It slowly dawned on him that there were just two ways he could get out of Jack’s apartment, and one of them was in a body bag.

With a dawning sense of dread, he started to let in the reality of the other solution.

“You really look like you want a shower,” Jack said suddenly.

Jordan hesitated. He’d never had a sexual experience with a man before, and if he was open to it, he never dreamed that it might be with a man like Jack. But the room was still spinning, and all he could see and feel was cock. He thought about things he’d never thought about. How it was supposed to start. Which one of them would stand up first. Who would give and receive. No, it’s clear that Jack would want me to be the giver. He wondered whether it would feel good. He wondered whether he would like it. He wondered how it would feel when he got on his knees, closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and Jack…

RAPRAPRAPRAPRAP.

The knock at the front door sent Jordan flying off the loveseat. When he landed on the pillow, he froze and looked over to Jack. Jack’s expression had totally changed. His eyes were panicked.

The two men sat there, totally still, staring at each other for one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, fo…

RAPRAPRAPRAPRAP.

“Hullo, Jack?” cried a man’s voice at the door. “Are you in there?”

Jack closed his eyes and sat perfectly still. Jordan watched his chest expand as he took a long, deep breath. He reached for the arms of the La-Z-Boy, pushing himself up. When he reached his feet, he paused and took a long look at Jordan, but he didn’t say anything.

He disappeared into the corridor that led to the front door.

Jordan jumped to his feet. His right leg was already on its way out the sliding door; it was on its way out of Oregon as fast as possible. But his left leg was locked shut. And his left ear was craning toward the wall, trying to get a fraction of an inch closer to the front door so he could hear the conversation.

There were two men’s voices. They were speaking with Jack familiarly. By the tone in Jack’s voice, Jordan could tell he was trying to get rid of them. But by the tone in the men’s voice, Jordan could tell that they weren’t going anywhere.

Finally, Jack relented and invited the men in.

Turning toward the entrance, Jordan tensed all of his muscles, preparing to attack. But when the men rounded the corner, Jordan ejaculated in laughter.

They were both dressed in matching outfits. White short-sleeve button-down shirts. Black slacks, tacky ties, and a pair of black name badges that read, ELDER MILLER and ELDER SMITH.

They were a pair of twenty-one-year-old Mormon missionaries.

Jordan had never believed in the divine as intensely as he did in that moment.

The missionaries looked at Jordan. Jordan looked at Jack. Jack was looking at Foghorn Leghorn.

“And you are?”

“Jordan… Walking… Remarkable…” He grabbed for the newspaper clipping in his camera bag and shoved it into one of the missionary’s hands.

RAPRAPRAPRAPRAP.

Another knock at the door. There were two more missionaries in Jack’s sitting room a moment later. The energy from five minutes earlier had dissipated so quickly and completely that Jordan couldn’t help wondering whether it had all been in his head. But he couldn’t bring himself to make eye contact with Jack. Instead, he chatted with one of the missionaries. He tried to appear relaxed. Finally, he sensed his opportunity. The four missionaries and Jack escorted him to the front door.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Jack said as Jordan was tying up his shoes. “Can I offer you a Book of Mormon for the road?”

When he looked at Jack, Jordan felt something pass between them that he could barely understand.

“NothankyouImgooditwasnicetomeetyougoodbye.”

“Goodbye,” cried out the missionaries in unison. “Bless that you will travel home in safety.”

Without looking over his shoulder, Jordan raced out into the blinding sunlight.


Leaving Tillamook, Oregon.