TOAD SUCK, AR — Cloyd Jackson is just like any other Arkansan who’s felt the hand of God: He’s a man with a literal — and literalist — mission.
Founder and First Pope of the Righteous Church of Fosterology, Jackson appears to be a more or less unassuming man living a modest life just beyond his means in a twelve-foot Airstream singlewide that lost its new house smell sometime between the years 1947 and 2003, during which time something on the order of fifty various litters of hounds inhabited, defecated and urinated in the confined space with him. But behind his five teeth and freshly-deloused beard there twinkles an eye nearly as bright as a Federline dissertation.
Preaching what he calls the Gospel of Paul, Jackson’s theology is muddy but consistent. He claims the soul is like an Aboriginal boomerang, cast from the hand of the Almighty (or possibly by His representative on Earth, Paul Hogan), intended eventually to return to Heaven unless met with temptation — what Jackson calls “The kangaroo head of Satan”.
In weekly services he shakes a rainstick — why, no one can say for certain — and brandishes a hand-made PVC didgeridoo. During his meetings — which have had an all-time record attendance of one other than himself — he becomes strikingly articulate, perhaps even possessed. “I am the Bullroarer of Him Who sits on high and Looks Down on the World, lo, even as unto one who sitteth upon the Rock of Ayers, which is called Ayers Rock!” he warned recently. And, “Do not give in to the temptation to follow the Doctrines of the Bruces, for lo they are most sinful and will clasp ye down into damnation, yea, even as like unto the Saltie doth clasp his prey into himself.”
Though he knows nothing of Australian culture save what he’s gleaned from Fosters ads and Crocodile Dundee movies, Jackson insists he’s on the right path. “It’s gotta be true,” he declares. “Thet Hogan feller, he done went’n gone away twenty year, n when he come back he lookt jus’like hisseff. Hadn’t changed a jot, not even the movies was diff’ernt.”
Jackson was referring to the third and much-delayed film in the Dundee franchise, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles — in which Paul Hogan does in fact resemble his earlier self, and which could be seen as an almost miraculous resurrection of a two-decades-dead character. The Lazarine performance, however, doesn’t appear to have been successful outside of Australia — except, apparently, in Jackson’s tin house.
There are other inconsistencies in the Righteous Church of Fosterology, such as the lack of goanna flesh that Jackson insists is a rite of the sacrament, as well as the expected beverage. Fosters, he says, is too rich for his lifestyle.
In their place he substitutes geckos and Milwaukee’s Best.
For Jackson, everything changed some fourteen months ago when he ordered okra lasagna, an “Aye-talian” meal, by mistake at the local diner. The side was a piece of garlic bread that, Jackson says, resembled Australia.
“I lookied at ’er a real long time,” he said, “afore I seen it.” Unfortunately the original piece of bread is long gone, devoured by the legions of hounds or insects inhabiting Jackson’s trailer, but all is not lost. The diner’s owner happened to have a Polaroid camera and, as Jackson says, “Ah kep th’pitcher.”
Some claim to see a superficial resemblance while others insist the slice of bread is the very image of the island contintent itself, with the butter representing the range of the Aborigines, the parsely settlements by Caucasians, and the robust crumb the can-do nature of all the nation’s inhabitants.
Whatever others may see in the sacred slice of toast, Jackson is absolutely rock-solid convinced of his faith. “Mir’culs happen all th’time,” he asserts. “Even in a slice uh Aye-talian bread.”
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