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Chapter 21

Emile checked his watch, the watch he hadn’t worn in weeks, and it read a bit after three. Mystery Train played on the speakers that the Luau had placed under their front awning. It was an eerie feminine version of the song – not the Elvis masterpiece. Emile asked a passer-by, a man in a suit, what day it was, and the man in the suit stood back incredulous. What day is it? he said. What day? Are you serious? The day the King died, that’s all. Good lord, son, how in the hell can you call yourself a Memphibian? The shocked man in the suit walked away murmuring about momma, how the Japanese would respond and where exactly Elvis may have gone.

Damn straight, Emile said. And he jumped. He jumped as hard as he could and his feet left the ground and the Rapa Nui head got smaller, and Emile lost more breath than he ever dreamed he had and the feel was exactly that of dreams when he flew breathless and he knew it and he was in the real surreal. The street below was a drawing, the cars novelties. He felt he’d been gifted, gifted heavily, and he suspected Lungsee in this calculus, and then it all just came to a workaday. He sped up a bit, turned left and headed on into midtown.

Emile soared on heart alone, laughed at life aloud and knew Lungsee knew his math. Emile watched the city roll by below as a map on a roller scroll might. All the places he knew, all the things he’d seen, done, lived. It all meant everything but he knew those were big words and he quickly tried the math and, well, math doesn’t matter. Someone made that shit up, too.

He flew westward as a bird from a tree might and passed over Montgomery Ward, the Steinway piano store, some Ford dealership, the Poplar Lounge and then Overton Park spread itself out below and the golf course sat green and dotted with golfers and their target flags and Emile saw the Parkview building coming up and he strained his eyes to scan Lungsee’s rooftop weekend aerie with mattress and antenna clothes rack and transistor radio and nearby treetops… and there he was. All asplendored out on his rank mattress. Naked as a jaybird. Reading the Sunday paper from days ago. A corndog soaking in a cup of coffee. Clothes draped on the antenna. Lungsee looked up and saw Emile and then stood and smiled his huge wonderful smile, and then he waved his big flabby arms, his fat fingers making peace signs, and he howled, Regard! and gave a pelvic thrust for the ages.

Emile smiled, nodded and saluted with his cocktail his best friend ever: Regard! He looked ahead, lowered his head and streaked through the Memphis sky until he got to Shepard Hall Mental Hospital.

But then the world became blurry and he didn’t know what was going on and he couldn’t figure anything out and so he closed his eyes and when he opened them…

Emile stood at the lobby desk at Shepard Hall Mental Hospital and handed the phone receiver back to Harriet the nurse. He had a concerned and puzzled look. He then checked his watch. It read 3:09. I’m late. Crap. He’s gonna think I’m not coming. He’s gonna think… he thought to himself. Hey, Harriet, he said. He in his usual spot?

Harriet said, Hi, Emile. Yep, he’s out there. So, what do you think about Elvis? Tragic, no? I heard it was an OD. What have you heard? Anything?

Emile looked around the lobby. The desk’s Chattanooga Choo-Choo announcement ringer bell was on its side in the middle of the floor. Who the hell knows? he said.

Harriet’s phone rang and she smiled and picked it up. Emile smiled at her for a moment and then walked out the lobby’s side door. The garden had more buzz than usual. The King’s death must have riled the natives.

Emile found Ty at his perch and he sat. He grabbed Ty by the nape of the neck and shook him like only a big brother can. Or would want to. Ty smiled and wrestled free. King died, he said. That’s fucked up. You’re late. Is that what kept you? The king dying?

I have no idea, Emile said, and then he looked at his right hand, the hand with the cocktail. He looked at it funny. Huh.

What’s that? Ty asked.

That, little brother, is a cocktail. But I have zero idea what it is or where I got it.

Ty reached out and Emile handed the drink over. Ty took a slow contemplative sip, like a molecular sommelier. He moved his mouth like a cat lapping up water. That’s a crazy monkey, he said.

Emile took the drink back and had another sip. Yep. Sounds about right. Tastes like something Elvis might drink.

Yep, agreed Ty.

Emile took another much bigger sip and thought for a second and studied the yellow concoction. Might be better with rum though, he said.

That’s what I was thinking, said Ty.

They sat there in the garden and took in the day. August 18, 1977. A day that will live forever. All because an entertainer died. Maybe the greatest fucking entertainer that will ever grace us, but an entertainer nonetheless. And because someone was late. Someone who was needed. And counted on. And a brother. Yeah.

Emile and Ty sat there and both were thinking how no one really knows what happens to people when they die. But does it matter? Probably. A lot. But if you can’t know, you can’t know. Fuck it.

Emile then remembered. Shit, man. Dig this. I just talked to dad on the phone. Gra ma’am went missing. Just out of the fucking blue. No one knows anything.

Really? Ty’s eyes bugged a hair.

Yeah. Just poof, and gone. And the living room rug, too. Fucking weird, man.

Ty thought for a long moment. Regard, he said.

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