Elvis at 50
by Arthur Byron Cover
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4
At five in the morning of January 8, 1985, Elvis Aaron Presley looked at himself in the mirror and accessed his life.
His first conclusion was that he looked like crap. Well, hell, it stood to reason; he’d been up all night with the baby. As a result, his jowls looked fit for a bulldog and his eyes had more bags than the Memphis Airport.
It didn’t help his general disposition that it was twenty degrees outside and he had to be at work in thirty minutes. Another eight-hour shift, picking up the trash and garbage of the good people of Memphis. More than just good people, excellent people, really, who waved and chatted with him and Skip while they did their work, but even so, it was twenty degrees. Twenty cursed degrees. Heckuva way to spend his birthday.
Even so, he had to admit that, for him, life at 50 wasn’t bad. While his was not the state of accomplishment he’d imagined for himself at this milestone, he had to admit he’d never been happier. Sure, things were difficult financially, especially since the arrival of Lisa Marie, but he had a family who loved him, and that more than made up for any shortcoming in his life.
Emphasis on the word love. He peeked into the bedroom. Loretta was sprawled out on her side of the bed as if she’d been pole-axed, snoring as loud as a chain saw. It was a wonder she didn’t wake the baby.
With a sigh, Elvis took another look at himself in the mirror, then brushed his teeth. And shaved. He was thinking of letting the sideburns come back, but thought maybe he was too old for such a youthful affectation.
It occurred to him, Asimov still wore sideburns, last time he checked, and he was a lot older than Elvis. So there was no reason why he couldn’t wear sideburns again. He pointedly refrained from shaving that part of his cheek.
During the process he absently hummed one of his old hits. “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” He wouldn’t have done so, wouldn’t have dared, if there’d been the possibility someone would hear him. He never sang anymore. Never.
He tiptoed into the bedroom and got dressed. Then he kissed his wife on the cheek, called her Baby, and told her it was time to wake up. She pleaded for five more minutes. He warned her he’d start singing.
“Don’t you dare!” said Lor, as if she were telling one of the kids to keep away from his hunting rifle. Then she began laughing. Elvis laughed with her, but still insisted she wake up, which she eventually did, reluctantly.
“Please clean the catbox,” she asked, which he did, immediately. It was in the bathroom. The night before, while Lor had been asleep, the cat had brought them a present. Elvis finished killing it and disposed of it, but had refrained from telling Lor, which in retrospect seemed a better and better decision all the time.
“Have you listened to your birthday present yet?” Lor called from the bedroom.
He could tell from the sound of her voice she was holding the baby, who had begun whimpering. “I haven’t had time,” Elvis said with a laugh as he flushed the litter down the toilet. “I was with the baby.”
“I’ll see you later,” said Elvis after he’d washed his hands. He kissed her on the cheek. She pinched his derrière.
He put on his boots, coat, and boots in the foyer of their little two-story house. Once upon a time an alderman had lived here, but the neighborhood had gone downhill since then. Obviously, thought Elvis, with what he regarded as his famous lopsided grin plastered on his face. We live here.
Now he was ready to leave. Instead he took the time to again access his life at 50. Two of the boys were upstairs asleep. Jay, whose real name was Jesse, and Vernon. Jay was in the Air Force and home on leave, while Vernon would be going to the community college in the fall.
Then there was Elvis Junior; he was the spitting image of his mother, which always upset the boy because he was at the age when he wasn’t sure if he and girls were of the same species. But in Junior’s crystal blue eyes, Elvis saw the reflection of his mother Gladys, whom he used to call by the same nicknames he reserved for those special moments with Lor.
Junior was quite the brainiac, always reading something or asking questions about everything under the sun. He’d also made more career choices than any twenty other kids, but lately he’d settled on singing opera like his uncle Big Jesse. The boy had a good voice too, though it took quite an effort of will on his father’s part to refrain from giving him a few pointers, even if he was trying to sing opera.
Elvis happened to glance down at his birthday present: A vintage 33 1/3 LP: Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. Gonna Be Some Changes, 1946-54, Original Recordings from the Father of Rock and Roll.
Elvis grinned. He couldn’t wait to listen to it. Crudup was one of his favorites.
Suddenly he half-expected to see something extra in the mirror, something not there a moment before. But no, it was only his reflection. Exactly how he wanted it.
He left whistling “Viva Las Vegas” to himself, feeling like the richest man in the world.
* * *
Despite his best intentions, Elvis was late to work because traffic was backed up on Interstate 40. He took side streets, the smooth ride of his cherry red classic ’65 Chevy pickup only slightly marred by the numerous potholes alone his chosen route.
An ’82 Starlet hatchback was pulled off the side of the road at an angle that clued him to the possibility the driver might not have been intending to park there. Elvis recognized the car. He turned down the radio, which was blasting Cynda Lauper’s “Time After Time,” and pulled over.
Sure enough, he got out to find his AA sponsor, Lucky Godrey, trying to change a tire. Lucky was a big bruiser of a guy who’d back in the day had been a fixture as a villain on the Southern wrestling circuit, but he’d never hit the big time. As big as an ox but as gentle as a lamb. Elvis knew his supervisor wasn’t going to be happy, but Lucky wasn’t so lucky when it came to things mechanical. Without a further thought, Elvis pitched in to help.
He did all the work. Elvis put some rocks behind the front and rear tires and began raising the jack. Lucky watched and asked him how his health was.
“Fine,” said Elvis with a laugh. “Hand me that torque wrench will you? I thank God every day my liver problems stay in remission. Last time I went to the doc, he told me I was the picture of health. Or, I would be if I lost some weight and cut down on the cholesterol. And the carbs. Plus the cancer sticks. Lor doesn’t know I still smoke, but I’ve got a pack stashed in the glove department of the truck.”
“Elvis, there’s something I gotta ask you.”
“Sure, Lucky. What d’ya need?”
“I don’t need anything. What I have to know is, why such a great guy like you, with so much on the ball, is content to work for the city.”
“Why do you ask? Prejudiced against trash men?”
“No, no, no, you asshole. You know what I mean. Being a trash man is good and noble work. It’s essential, I think, to the flow of modern society, as those affected by the trash strikes in the Big Apple can certainly attest. It’s just that anybody can do what you do. If there’s one thing I’ve learned the last seven or eight years, it’s that you’re not just anybody.”
“Now, Lucky, you know what a wicked past I’ve had.”
“That man is no longer with us,” Lucky said in all seriousness.
“He’s in here” — Elvis touched his heart — “if I’m not careful.”
Lucky put a hand on Elvis’s shoulder. “That man no longer exists. You haven’t had a run-in with the law ever since I’ve known you. You’ve repaired more than any man thought possible, given the damage you did to your family. You love your wife and she loves you. And you’re smart as a whip. Why don’t you take some night classes at Macon? Learn a trade.”
“I had a trade. That’s how I met you.”
“I heard this joke. ‘My old man’s the town drunk. Lot of places that’s not so bad, but New York City?’”
“I’ve heard it,” said Lucky dryly.
“Well, change that to Memphis and that used to be me. There! All finished.”
“Wow! That was fast!”
“And I’m the one who ain’t got no college education.”
“You know what I mean, man.”
“I do. Say, it’s my birthday today. I’m 50!”
“A milestone,” said Lucky, shaking his friend’s hand. “What are you going to do to celebrate?”
“You know me. For me a night of celebration is being at home with the wife and the kids. When they’re talking to me, that is!”
“Ha. Ha. Thanks, buddy. I’ll be at the meeting tonight, if you need me.”
“Sure thing, pal.”
* * *
Copyright © 2015 by Arthur Byron Cover