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.

The Fateful Bread

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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