GM - Story #3

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Chapter 25

Jameis Thomason jolted sideways and mistyped the keys on his keyboard as the NetJets plane touched down in DesMoines Iowa. He had finished half of the first chapter of his book before the wheels ever left the ground in New York and in between questions and discussions with Jaio, he hadn’t stopped typing the entire three-hour flight.

He felt as though his fingers could simply be pricked with a pin and the words would flood out of his capillaries like water spilling through a cracked dike. He pounded and clacked the keys on his keyboard in a desperate attempt for his hands to keep up with the thoughts formulating in his head.

As the plane taxied toward the gate, he looked up to take stock in his surroundings. Big Cael Block took up the entire aisle with his heavy duffel bag slung full over his shoulder. Henry Lucas scrolled through news articles on his iPad as his cute little daughter colored in her coloring book.

He felt the presence behind him as if standing with his back to a burning fireplace. Jaio’s strong hand and long fingers wrapped the curve of his shoulder and relaxed his entire back. The touch of his hand sent an instantaneous reverie rippling through his mind. Like a movie played in fast-forward, he recapped all that he had gathered from his conversation with Jaio as the plane sat in the hangar for its pre-flight service.

“I enjoyed speaking with you,” said Jaio. “You seem to understand my perspective very well. Let me know if you have any other questions and I will spend whatever time you need to get my story and message out to the people of this world.”

The reality was that Jameis had gathered quite a bit in only a short period of time with Jaio. And his work had come along faster than any piece he had ever written. After posing the question to his readers and challenging them to reflect on whether they would be capable of accepting a new “son of God” into their modern, enlightened lives, Jameis proceeded to break the story of Jaio’s true identity in chapter two.

He had interviewed Jaio and Cael, the two closest eye-witnesses to the story. And he could picture the whole event clearly in his mind from their vivid descriptions.

Cael had maintained the position nearest to Jaio during his address in Bethlehem. He had an escape route planned to exit the scene if an attack occurred. The extremists approached Jaio with redundancy from either side of the stage. Cael was able to subdue the closest terrorist but could not neutralize the second assailant until just after the shot struck Jaio in the chest.

Cael had no explanation for Jaio’s survival of the gunshot to his chest and Jaio merely smiled and thanked God for protecting him.

Jameis dedicated the next few chapters to describing Jaio’s philosophies, beliefs and teachings. He managed to cross cut quotes, directly from Jaio, with clips of his pod casts and other research he had conducted on line.

By the time the rubber of the plane’s wheels screeched against the stiff, hard runway pavement, Jameis had worked his way into Jaio’s past and started taking notes as to what he wanted to learn about the preacher’s childhood and upbringing.

“I enjoyed speaking with you,” said Jaio. “I know you have questions. I will provide your answers in time.”

The pews at the little wood and brick building with the funny steeple in Churchville, Iowa had never filled so quickly and completely. Each delegate from the parishes Melanie invited to the gathering had brought at least a half dozen others with them. Other religious leaders from nearby churches, mosques and synogogs merely took the liberty of showing up uninvited based on word-of-mouth that the intriguing preacher, “Jai”, would address the crowd and solicit their support as a team of apostles.

Jaio, Melanie and Henry sat in the back room with Father Francis and reviewed their presentation. They had organized Jaio’s teachings into a platform, with themes, key take-away messages and a structure that would resonate not just with theologians and philosophers, but with the vast audience that they would soon seek to address.

The group in Churchville would serve as a soft-launch pilot for the greater national engagement. Henry had worked tirelessly for several weeks on his own to sort through notes he had taken at Jaio’s many meetings and discussions. He transcribed his most recent videos and podcasts and organized his thoughts into various color-coded pages taped to the giant glass wall of his home office.

The video crew that Henry hired set up in the back of the church occupying each corner of the room.

Henry stood by the entrance to the altar and regarded the crowd. In the distance he heard symbolic thunder figuratively representing the start of a storm.

We’ll have to go public to the mainstream soon after this,” he thought to himself. “There’s no containing it after tonight.

Melanie looked past Henry, also sizing the crowd. She huddled nervously with Father Francis. Jaio walked beside her, put his hand on her shoulder and nodded reassuringly. His gesture eased her tension. The whole scene felt like those anticipatory moments before a concert when the orchestra members all tune their instruments while waiting for the maestro to take the stage.

Melanie saw her husband and children in the front row. They waved to her with wide smiles. Her youngest motioned to all the people filling their church and mouthed the word “wow!” to her.

Father Francis walked across the altar to the top of the aisle and addressed the crowd. He welcomed them and thanked them for coming. Henry gave an overview of the new non-profit organization he had formed and how they are sponsoring and supporting Jaio in his mission to preach to people all over the country and ultimately the world.

Melanie gave a brief history of Jaio’s presence in Iowa and the various organizations he had connected with over the past year.

Finally, Jaio emerged from the back room. Dressed in a pair of jeans and a loose white button-down shirt, he resembled a rock star more than a religious icon. The building shook with the applause he received and then hushed to near silence as Jaio addressed the crowd and paced through his newly organized platform in his own charismatic and convincing way.

The music rattling out of the overhead speakers annoyed Greyson and the smell of stale beer turned his stomach. He sat, staring at himself in the mirror of the bar, perplexed. He had lost some semblance of his sense of time and his mind went cloudy. He fumbled for his phone and scrolled through the faces.

“Cid,” he spoke tentatively. “Where are you? I need to see you. I need to speak with you tonight.”

Cidalia Gaudin had just settled onto her couch in her pajamas with a pint of Hagen Daz ice cream. Hakim had just shut down his computer for the evening and they flipped channels looking for a good cooking show or some late-night comedy.

“He sounds very strange,” Cidalia said to Hakim as she changed her clothes and threw on a big fluffy sweater. “I could barely hear him. It sounded like he was at some kind of club or bar. Would you come see him with me? I told him I would meet him in the lobby of the Hilton.”

Surprisingly, Cidalia and Hakim beat Greyson to the Hilton, despite having to hail a cab and split the traffic-crammed city. Cidalia expected the familiar sight of a flush, imbalanced Greyson, slurring his words and gushing apologies for his rude behavior. She and Hakim ordered a pair of margaritas and waited patiently for their friend.

Greyson arrived almost immediately after his friends took a booth in the plush lounge at the Hilton. Cidalia noticed him looking for them and waved to him. He ambled over to them with better balance than she expected. He sat, smiled and shook Hakim’s hand, thanking them for joining him.

“You're sober tonight?” Cidalia asked.


“What can I get you?” Hakim asked, turning to wave to the bartended just across the way.

“No,” Greyson said quickly. “Nothing for me tonight. Water is fine.”

Cidalia gave Greyson a look of surprised approval. She again noticed the healthy sheen of his skin, his filled out, well-nourished physique and the clarity of his deep blue eyes like the water in a swimming pool twinkling in the sun.

“What was so important that you needed to meet us tonight?”

Greyson paused. He glanced up and down the sparsely populated lounge. He hesitated. He had expected a private conversation with Cidalia. He had not specifically asked Hakim to join them. But then again, he hadn’t asked Cidalia to come alone either.

“I am totally dry now,” he said. “I went to a bar tonight and ordered a whisky straight up.”

“I am not sure you totally get what it means to be dry,” Hakim interjected.

“That’s just it,” Greyson continued excitedly. “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t drink it. I didn’t want to.”

They looked at him dubiously but intrigued.

“What changed?” Cidalia asked. “You look great, and healthy. You look very different.”

“I feel different,” Greyson replied, pausing and then continuing. “I am different. I’ve changed. I’ve actually changed.”

Cidalia and Hakim looked at him almost blankly. His excitement contrasted with their cautious confusion.

“I met someone.”

Cidalia’s eyes flinched.

“He’s very unique.”

Her eyes flared. Hakim leaned in to hear more.

“He’s totally different from anyone I’ve ever met. He’s special. He inspires people, changes them. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

Hakim put his elbows up on the table and took a long sip of his margarita.

“What does he look like?”

Cidalia grabbed her purse.

“Alright, I’ve heard enough.”

Michael Horniday’s NetJets plane did not take off from the airport in Bakersfield in time to arrive at Jaio’s meeting in Churchville. A mechanical problem grounded him at the small three room local airfield for several hours. The delay ended up being one of those moving targets where it first seemed like a routine issue and then slowly snowballed into a longer and longer wait. Where he had expected to take off in the early morning and arrive by the afternoon, he instead made it a red eye leaving in the late afternoon and arriving well after midnight.

Throughout the day, he found himself packed into the small, but comfortable lounge with about a dozen other disgruntled business passengers. At first, they sat in relative silence, but eventually friendly conversation broke out and filled the room with chatter. Michael moved to a corner recliner, swiveled to face outward toward the beige and dusty desert and browsed the internet.

In all the years that Michael had loaned his technology, his expertise and the assistance of his best people, he had never logged in and observed one of Jaio’s podcasts. Like his brother, he scoffed at his sister’s passion for her new Messiah, but without ever really listening to her or to him.

He had only agreed to travel to Iowa to upgrade Melanie’s home computer and security systems and meet the new embedded journalist about their media launch. Always up for the ego boost of playing the rich, connected hero, Michael had agreed to leverage his connections in the media business to attract a publisher for Jameis’ budding book and to consult on the launch of a web-based documentary series that would coincide with the reporter’s upcoming series of feature stories for the Christian Science Monitor.

Michael had argued that unveiling Jaio’s identity in CSM as opposed to a network considered more “mainstream” might taint the story, especially since Jaio’s influence spanned other religions from Christianity to Judaism, Buddhism and even the Islamic faith. But Jameis Thomason, out of loyalty, had secured a promise from Henry Lucas that the story could break in his newspaper and on his web site.

As the message on the broadcast system at the Bakersfield NetJets lounge communicated the third consecutive delay, Michael came across an e-mail from his sister containing links to some of Jaio’s past events in and around Churchville.

Wanted to give you a feel for what you will see when you come out here next week,” she had written.

Almost catatonically, Michael, in his boredom, hovered over the blue text string and clicked.

The crowd outside the chapel in Churchville had about dispersed after a near two-hour presentation and question and answer session. Missy Davidson stood outside interviewing a pastor from Oskaloosa, who had heard about the gathering and took his two sons with him to listen. She recorded his reaction and noted how blindly he had bought into Jaio’s platform. He seemed to be able to recount Jaio’s key points seamlessly and exuded an authentic excitement about bringing the platform back to his community.

Jameis also worked the crowd taking similar notes and documenting the predominant reactions of the audience members.

They looked at each other in amazement at what had happened at this tiny little shack of a holy place.

“Is this the beginning of a movement?” Missy asked her mentor? “Is this real?”

“Keep this one in your back pocket,” Jameis winked. “Jaioism. You heard it from me first.”

Jaio stood at the front of the church. Father Francis milled about, picking up and hovering at the fringe of the conversation. Henry and Melanie sat in the pews discussing next steps.

“I’ll manage the team here in Iowa,” she said. “There are a lot of them - a lot more than I expected. It’ll be a big job to keep them in line and focused. We’ll need Jaio to come back at least once a month to keep them motivated and inspired.”

“You will be able to keep them inspired,” Jaio said. “But I will be back.”

“The bigger issue is the national launch,” said Henry. “There were too many people here tonight for this to stay in the grass. It’s time to come out.”

Cael Block moved forward from one of the back pews. Jameis and Missy returned through the double doors of the church and closed out the night behind them.

“It’s time for our reporters to release the first feature.”

Greyson cleared Cidalia’s confusion about his relationship with Jaio and described him in more detail. He glossed over the violent and dangerous elements of his experience with Jaio and chose not to connect him to the Miracle in the Middle East. Instead, he referred to him as Jai, a preacher from his sister’s parish here on an exchange program. He positioned him as one of his parents’ protégés and focused on his remarkable ability to connect with people and share his unique perspective with others.

He told them about his podcasts and videos and the large following he had gained across the world.

He described how Jaio had transformed Gina from a stripper to a motivated business professional; how he had cured Olivia’s hiccups; how he had inspired Gina’s brother to foster his artistic talents and how he helped him get a job. He told them about helping the homeless, the visit to Carlos in the prison and how he had somehow facilitated Latrell’s slow, but miraculous recovery.

“It’s not even really Latrell’s life that he’s salvaged,” Greyson beamed. “It’s more like his mother’s and sisters’ lives that he saved.”

“Or yours,” Hakim added.

In the fading California sun, streaks of orange and red backlit the rolling hills beyond the dead flat runway outside the NetJets lounge. The chairs around Michael had emptied as the other passengers reacted to the announcement that the plane was finally ready to depart. Many of them had left the airport for late lunches in the quaint small-city downtown area. Some stayed and napped. And others sat at the bar watching CNN all day.

Michael had not moved from his seat. He hadn’t flinched. The hostesses stopped waiting on him. Over the course of the afternoon, Michael had absorbed several hours of Jaio’s sermons.

The NetJets staff reminded Michael that the boarding process had begun. The last few passengers stood in line with their tickets in hand and their roller boards at their feet.

Michael closed the laptop and exhaled. He whispered to himself out loud, just softly enough for the NetJets staff not to hear him.


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