Rule Number 1: When asked about your parentage, give suitably vague answers.
It was Jimmy Doogan, a boorish kid with freckles spread like flak across his face, who had been the first to... [+]
I glare at the back of her head. She’d be moody too if she were responsible for Elvis Presley’s death.
“Shhhh,” Aunt Arlene scolds. “It’s on.”
They sit on the couch in my mother’s house trailer, suffocating me with cigarette smoke and sorrow. My cousin Lisa is sprawled across the La-Z-Boy. She hasn’t spoken all evening. Together we watch the TV flash pictures of shocked and weeping fans. I utter not a word of the heartbreak I’ve unleashed.
Living in a trailer park on the edge of a grey prairie town, I am surrounded by Elvis fans. My mother has all of his albums, watches all of his movies. Aunt Arlene, who lives three trailers down with Lisa, had even gone to Vegas to see him in the flesh, bringing back a rhinestone that had fallen off his outfit. And Lisa is always boasting she shares the same name as Elvis’s daughter.
Months ago, because she had no money, Lisa got me to buy a cheap paperback Elvis biography. We read it together on my bed while sucking jawbreakers and listening to top hits on the radio – hits that never included Elvis tunes.
Then it happened. I realized I didn’t like Elvis. Not one bit of him. So yesterday, the third day of an August heat wave and two weeks before my fourteenth birthday, I sat in my bedroom holding the Elvis book in one hand and scissors in the other. I cut each page, slicing first across the middle, then up along the spine. I watched as the pages, all 218 of them, floated down onto the orange shag.
This afternoon I found out Elvis was dead. I’d killed him, page by page by page.
I figured it worked something like voodoo magic. With each snip I unleashed my dislike, my discontent, my restlessness. It flew from my room and was carried by hot August winds high above the Alberta prairie. It slipped unnoticed over the border into Montana, sped over states I’d never seen, then slid somewhere over the rainbow in Dorothy’s Kansas, blasting into Tennessee, seeking Memphis, ripping into Graceland. And, finally into the very heart of Elvis himself.
The TV flashes more images. “The world will never be the same,” one fan wails.
My mother nods in agreement. “I can’t believe he’s gone.”
“Long live the king,” Aunt Arlene quietly proclaims.
Lisa’s face brightens, suddenly remembering. She snaps herself upright in the armchair and speaks for the first time this evening. “Hey, Pam?” she asks me. “Where’s that Elvis book?”
Without answering, I bolt outside into the evening heat.
Beyond the rows of tired trailers and dusty pick-up trucks, I spy the juicy yellow of a canola field. A welcome breeze lifts my hair. Poplar leaves flutter. A change is happening. I know it.