Abe wasn’t joking. Jerry could talk. I don’t know if it was for the symbolism of it, or just because it was an easy landmark, but we met Jerry at the Mormon Temple in SLC, and he kept up a steady stream of conversation, although conversation might not be entirely accurate, it was a monologue interspersed now and again with grunts and innocuous questions from me, statements that he took as encouragement to keep on talking.
The last few days with Abe had been peaceful and sad. I was going to miss my walks with Joseph and the other kids who had eventually warmed up in their own ways. Those weeks were restorative. In the end, Jake was right, I needed the rest and the rest did me good. That said, it was a reminder of the home life, albeit a different variety of home life I had abandoned, and that was painful. During those days I was reminded at every turn of Nate and what I’d run away from. Abe and his clan had their obvious differences from my situation, I didn’t have two spare wives for instance, but the similarities were there. There was love. There was a lot of love. I was never quite sure how Abe dealt with all that love, to be honest, but there was no denying a happiness, a pervasive happiness that they all exuded, from the youngest crawler to the rest o the rascals Joseph led, to the trio of fine women who attended to Abe, the kids and I. I know it’s not PC, that it runs in the face of all feminist conventional wisdom, but that ‘family’ worked. Whether it was a result of their isolation, some unseen compunction, or any other more nefarious means remains to be seen. What I saw was a group of content people, leading a fulfilling life. Not for everyone, but there you go, they weren’t hurting anyone.
The meeting in SLC was banal and bizarre. Abe and I stood around in the large plaza before the Temple talking about the structure of the church, the internal politics and divisions that exist in any group, just chattering away, when a tall, grizzled, weather-worn and severe-looking man walked up to us.
“Abe?” he asked hesitantly.
“Jerry. You must be Billy,” he said to me. Those four words served as the preface to hundreds of thousands more I would hear over the next 12 hours and 1,000 miles.
I was handed off like a half-read newspaper.
Abe said so long in a terse off-hand way, and Jerry and I marched off to where he’d parked his truck. A Chevy.