Alligator Wrestling With Elvis
By pure happenstance, I run into Elvis at a diner in Tupelo.
“Oh my god,” I say, asking if I can slide in on the other side of his booth.
He snarls, but in a friendly, hillbilly sort of way, saying, “Suit yourself, pal. I’m just waiting for ‘Cilla.”
I try not to think about what this means, about my psyche finding Elvis here after all these years. But this is just too rich, so I do my best to keep my voice level even though my heart is stampeding in my chest.
“Don’t you usually travel with a posse,” I ask, “an entourage?”
Elvis cocks his head toward the window, the parking lot, which explains why I saw a gold limo out there.
Realizing I might never have this opportunity again, I blurt out, “my mother fell in love with you. She’s in love with you, even now.”
Elvis looks a little worried, Billy Jean worried.
“Do I know her, or you?” he asks.
“No, but Mom went to dozens of your concerts. One time she even flew to Hawaii to see you.”
“Now that’s a loyal fan.”
“You don’t understand. If she knew I was here, her heart would probably rupture.”
Elvis smiles though it’s hard to see his eyes through the thick-rimmed aviator sunglasses he’s wearing.
“She even made a jump suit for you. It pretty much looks like the one you’re wearing; white, same fringe on the sleeves, plunging neckline and detachable cape. She had it framed and it hangs on our living room wall.
“That’s borderline between cute and creepy.”
“My mother’s not creepy. She’s the sweetest woman alive, truly, a regular Mother Theresa without the Catholicism or praying mantis physique.”
“I guess I’ll take your word for it.”
“Thanks,” I say. “So I was wondering if maybe I could get your autograph for my mom, maybe you could even write her a little note?”
Elvis leans forward and looks at me eye- to-eye over the rim of his aviators. “You know I’m not here, right, that I’m dead, and you’re talking to my ghost?”
“Of course. What am I, nuts?”
Elvis takes a toothpick from the dispenser on the table and sticks it halfway in his mouth. He’s got thick ‘70’s lamb chop sideburns and his skin shimmers like a fresh cup of coffee.
I’m not sure how long I’ll get with the King, so I rush right into it. “Here’s the thing. My dad looked exactly like you—dimples, jet-black hair, smoldering brown eyes, gummi worm lips.”
“Gummi worms? What are those?”
“Chewable candy that has a rubbery texture, but they might not have become popular until after your time.”
“Gummi worm candy? What the hell? Sounds kinda sick to me.”
“The point is, my dad could have been your twin.”
Elvis bows his head. “I had a twin. He died at birth.”
“I know. Jesse.”
“Spot on!” Elvis says, jerking his head up.
“I know just about everything about you. Mom never shuts up. Again, though, the point is mom’ll never find another love like dad. It’s a once in a lifetime thing. You’re the closest thing there is.”
“What’re you expecting?”
“Maybe you could swing by. Here, I’ll write our address down on a napkin.”
“Kid, you seem nice enough, and I’m sure your mom is a swell gal, but I don’t make house calls.”
“Not even this once?”
“I told you, I’m a ghost.”
“Then couldn’t you just float over to our house?”
When Elvis cranes his neck to the left, it makes a cracked walnut sound. “Kid, getting mixed up with a ghost is kinda like alligator wrestling.”
Alligator wrestling with Elvis? — I’m so confused.
“When you wrestle an alligator, someone’s going to get wounded pretty bad, and it ain’t usually the alligator.”
I’ve been here five minutes and now a waitress walks up, eyeing me with apprehension or fright, or both. “So you wanna order something, or what?” she asks.
I look over at Elvis. There’s a plate with peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches on it, which I know was his favorite snack during the fat Elvis years.
“I’ll have what he’s having,” I tell the waitress.
She looks where Elvis is sitting, then back at me, her face corkscrewed, bewildered and annoyed. “Who’s he?”
The waitress can’t see him, of course. She thinks I’m a basket case, and maybe I am. But how did Elvis get that stack of peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches? What about the gold limo outside?
“How about some apple pie ala mode,” I say. “Black coffee, too.”
The waitress writes my order down on a stubby pad, swivels and strides to the counter.
“See what I mean?” Elvis says, grinning like when he did that dance number with Ann-Margret in Viva Las Vegas. “Wrestling with the alligator. It’s going to make you crazy.”
“If you knew my mother, how sad she’s been all these years, you’d be a little more supportive.”
“Sorry, kid. I don’t wanna be cruel.”
“Then don’t be. Help me out.”
Elvis peers out the window. “‘Cilla’s not gonna show, so I guess I better fly.”
I scream, “Wait!”
But he’s gone. Poof.
All that’s left is the half-empty booth I’m sitting in. Even the stack of sandwiches has vanished.
When the waitress brings my order, I pick little spurs off the pie crust, wondering if I haven’t imagined everything, wondering if perhaps I’ve not gone insane.
I pay, leave and head home.
Mom meets me at the door, as if she knew just when I’d arrive.
“You’ll never in a million years guess who was just here.”
Her face, neck and chest are flushed fuchsia and she’s got her pristine Jail House Rock album held in her hands. It’s autographed in thick felt pen. The ink looks fresh and she looks happy for once.
“That’s crazy,” I say.
“I know, right? But he said he’ll be back.”
Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans. His work appears widely in print and online journals. His story collection, “The Dark Sunshine,” debuted from Connotation Press in 2014. You can also find him here.
If you liked Len’s story, you might enjoy his The Raptor and The Boy
(Next story: Where Here Is by Poonam Srivastava)
(Previous story: In Which Woody Allen Goes For a Pedicure by Jennifer Fliss)
(Picture derived from this)