We all have our Idols.
I reckon that's the best way to explain what happened Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. More so, it explains what has happened in the aftermath of what I've since named "Elvis' Return To The Building." It's Friday as I stand here in the cool of the night waitin’ in the line with the rest of them—I mean the whole damn town just about--for the Big Show. Three days have passed since Elvis graced us with his presence, and I'm still pretty clueless ‘bout what’s goin’ on ‘round here, but judging by how fast this line's movin' towards the entrance doors, I imagine I'll figure a few things out pretty soon.
I have to say I don’t have a real good feelin’ ‘bout any of it, though.
Here's what I know so far.
Every single radio station, television stations, pages on the internet that do live feeds....every media outlet possible broadcast The Return. I happened to be at work. I own a bar and keep a television on for the daytime patrons, The Regulars. The Regulars consist of two guys, Frank and Percy, who I ain’t likely to get rid of no time soon. We had the T.V. on Three's Company--the episodes when Suzanne Somers was still on. Frank and Percy were down at one end of the bar arguing over whether Jack's friend, Larry, was really a gay. That’s the way they talk or the way Frank talks. Percy don’t say much. By much, I mean he don’t say nothin’ at all and hasn’t since ‘fore I knew him. Now, I ain’t exactly educated, but you won’t hear me arguing with a mute ‘bout whether or not some fictional character on a long-gone television show is some kind of homosexual. And you surely won’t hear me refer to him as “a gay.” My mama raised me better than that. But, that’s Frank, and Percy’s just along for the ride it seems.
Anyhow, the TV screen went black in the middle of a closeup of Somers and her school-girlish pigtails. She’s what you might call the essence of every dumb blonde joke, that Chrissy Snow. I was lookin’ at the screen thinkin’ how that schoolgirl thing she had goin’ on ain’t as appealin’ as it was meant to be not to me at least when "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" began to play. In the middle of the slideshow of schoolgirl types that was playin’ in my head, I thought, What is this bullshit? just before the screen showed a young Elvis descending onto a stage from the heavens. And when I say young Elvis, I mean 50s Elvis not bloated and sad 70s Elvis…not back from the dead, skeletonized, zombie Elvis either. This was the real thing if seein’ is believin’ as they say. The Elvis much of the country fell in love with way back when.
"What the fuck s'wrong with the TV, Mack?"
"Can't be the TV, Frank," I'd replied. "Just bought the damn thing. Cost me 600 bucks down at Wal-Mart. Maybe it's the cable or the channel itself." I grabbed the remote and changed the station but every channel I flipped to played the same thing. I had flipped full circle and come back the original channel when the screen started to close in on Elvis while the music simultaneously quieted down.
"Aw, horseshit," I had yelled down the bar to Percy and Frank. "You guys into Elvis?"
"Naw, Mack, not since I was a kid. You?"
"Nope." I'd powered the thing off by then and walked over to the satellite radio hookup I had over behind the bar. I kept it on Sirius’s Classic Vinyl channel playing all the greats from Rock ‘n Roll history (no Elvis). Everyone seemed to like it just fine when we weren't in the mood for daytime television bullshit. But, as soon as I pushed the power button, Elvis' undeniable voice blasted through the speakers.
"Thank you. Thank you very much."
I'd heard no applause. But, of course, Elvis continued on.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I've got a whole lotta shakin' up to do tonight. I'm here to give you some news that may be hard to stomach at first. The King is back, folks. Ever since I was a kid, I knew God had something special in store for me. When I passed on to the heavens above, He asked me for a personal concert then told me how I was his son and that I'd return one day to this world to fulfill his plan. I'm here, folks, to do just that. The gospel foretold of this day. I am the King, as always, but I have returned to my people, my fans as Christ. I know there will be doubts, but as I have always said, truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.”
The station went to silence then. Nothing I did to the radio or the T.V. would work. Every channel was static. In the thick quiet of the bar, I poured us all a shot of my best scotch. TV, radio, even the Internet from what I hear...none of it has worked since.
This line's movin' slower than I first thought or maybe my nerves is just gettin’ the best of me now. I’m a bit antsy—that kind where you pop every knuckle in your hand 15 times just to have something to do with yourself. I have no fucking idea what's going to happen, pardon my language. But, sitting at home tonight wasn't an option. That thing that looks like Elvis and is calling itself the messiah made that much pretty clear the second time we saw it. That was Wednesday morning at about 10:30. We were all waiting for it, really. With nothing else to entertain us, the stories had already gotten pretty wild. Of course, the crazies were already out in full force, too. The gossips, the newspaper, every customer, every whispered word held stories of what could be going on. It was really Elvis after a lot of plastic surgery. This is the one people who were sure he'd never died, The Elvis Spotters, were always going on about. Then there were The Invaders. These people were sure it was aliens. Jesus Freaks were divided. Some said God would never pick such a loose hipped rock star to represent Jesus, Lord and Savior. The real nasty ones referred to him more as a drug-fueled, egomaniacal demon sent to take the first born of every man in the county, but that’s a bit much, ain’t it? The other Freaks thought it was a comforting, modern image...and smart of God to use such a recognizable, trusted face. The Conspiracy Theorists decided it was a government experiment and then The Desperate Housewives with their Elvis memorabilia in the form of Russell Stover collectible tins and Ty Beanie Babies were ready to be led like sheep to a slaughter. Everyone else, which was just me, Frank, and Percy far as I could tell, just sort of waited on some answers.
Strange world we live in.
So, Wednesday at 10:30 in the a.m. Every television, radio, computer, even mp3 players and intercom systems announced another speech when they simultaneously began to play Elvis' version of Amazing Grace. Wasn’t a single one of them things on when it happened. Not in the bar anyway. But it happened anyway. We were all on the edge of our proverbial seats, though, right where that...thing...wanted us. And we all hung on every word. I know I did. Frank and Percy had their eyes glued to the television set from their end of the bar, too. We were caught up in the power of it, but who wouldn’t be?
He didn’t descend from the sky this time, but he did his routine of playing to the audience—that’d be us and whoever else was watchin’. He was wearin’ a leather suit like he did in the 1968 Comeback Special, but this one was white instead of black. His shirt was black and the tie was white with just a hint of twinkling sequins—that familiar Elvis flamboyance was there but slight. He took a knee at each end of the stage, waving and blowing kisses like an ass finally stopping in the middle and raising both arms making his suit jacket stretch and pull at the buttons. Behind him, a line of gentlemen stepped out from the shadows. Some I knew right off and some I didn’t.
“Mack, who the fuck are they?”
“Shut your loud mouth, Frank. We ain’t never gonna find out if you talk through the whole thing.”
Elvis let his arms down then and stood to take the microphone.
"Thank you for more of your time, ladies and gentlemen. I'll be brief so we can all get on with our day and prepare. As some of you may have figured out, it's time for my next big comeback tour. We're callin' this one The Judgement. We've got a lot of dates and stops to make to fit all you folks in. I won’t leave a single soul in my flock behind, don’t ya’ll worry. That’s why I ain't doing this tour alone. I've got some good ol' boys to help me out. My apostles. Let me introduce you. This here's Peter, one of my original disciples. You might be more familiar with him as Bobby Fuller. That there is Andrew. Some people call him Dimebag but Darrell seems more appropriate, don't it, son? That's James the Greater. His name here was Rhett Forrester. James the Lesser was, well, not too well known as Jaco Pastorius. Then, there's my dear John who was named Joe Strummer for some time. My man down towards the end of the stage there is Philip better known as Peter Tosh. This guy here is John Bonham to you all but I've known him as Bartholomew. Next to Bartholomew is Matthew. He lived here in the Rolling Stones as Brian Jones. That guy down near Philip who's got his back turned is Thomas. Turn on around, son, and let them get a look at their beloved Jim Morrison. He's a little shy or he likes to play it anyhow. On this side of Thomas, there's Thaddeus. He looks so much like his daddy, that Jeff Buckley. The kid jerkin' 'round in the middle there is Simon. You probably know the name Woody Guthrie even if you don't recognize him. And then back here behind everyone hiding out is Judas. Come on out and show them your face, Kurt. Kurt Cobain to those who might know the face. Come on, now. They aren't going to stone you... That's everybody, ain't it? Yeah, so anyway, folks, you'll be getting a list of tour dates in the mail. We all expect you to be at one of these dates. It's free. Get on a bus or drive your car. Walk. It don't matter none. We'll take care of it. Just come to the show. If we have to come looking for you, you've ruined any chance you've got at salvation. We just don't have long enough for that. I expect you'll have your mail today. The first date is Friday. Now, I've been getting some bad publicity--you got to expect that. But, I also expect to see ya'll there all the same."
And that was that. The screen went black again and I poured shot after shot until I ran out of scotch.