--SOMETIMES IT’S SAFER WHEN THERE’S NO WAY OUT
…I have a new story up this morning at Intrinsic Magazine:
…Right now the lake is boiling, or at least it looks that way. It’s raining so the hardest I’ve ever seen rain fall, and it’s pretty. There were some sheaths of fog lodged between the evergreens on the other side of the lake but now the rain has broken those up and they look like dragons moving in slow motion, as if secretly trying to escape from the tree limbs.
…I started a story (or maybe novel) about an idea I’ve had for a while. It’s just a vague idea right now having to do with an Elvis impersonator. I don’t have much more than that.
Here’s the start:
My Life with Elvis Presley
Elvis is drunk again, wobbling and leaning on the upstairs banister for support with an invisible microphone in his hand, warbling Hunk-a-hunk-a-burning love like a walrus in pain.
He’s fat Elvis, with his prosthetic stomach bulging over a wooden rail, a trail of belly hair applied to make it seem real, believable. He wears a white one-piece jump suit, bejeweled with all kinds of silver studs and white leather fringe, a massive trucker belt buckle. His shirt collars are pointed and as long as the pizza slices they serve at Shakey’s.
“Dad,” I say, “what are you doing? You don’t have a show tonight.”
My dad has worked as an Elvis impersonator for ten years now. It’s his obsession and he’s pretty good at it when he’s not drunk, which isn’t very often, since, like me, he’s still trying to cope with my mother’s affair that’s left us without her.
He wipes away a sling of white jaw drool, accidentally lifting a mutton chop side burn off his face. The faux hair floats in the air like a patch of black lawn before landing an inch from my feet.
“Practicing,” he says with a drawl and lopsided sneer, in full Elvis mode, if not also sloppily.
Even from such a low height, there would be some kind of carnage if he fell. Dad’s the parent around here, but the truth is I’m the one who takes care of us.
When I start toward the steps, he sticks out his arm and palm like a school bus stop sign—“Hold on, Lisa Marie. Hold on right there, darlin’. I can make my own way.”
Lisa Marie is my real name, but McBride is my last. Probably his whole life my dad was dying to have a girl so he could bestow her with the same name as Elvis’s baby girl.
I watch him sway in place, in an unsteady orbit up there on the landing, hoping he doesn’t topple or spew.
“I’m good, kid.”
His footfalls down the stairs make the house shudder. In reality he only weighs one hundred fifty-five pounds, with the prosthetic gut, maybe one fifty-seven.
Before Mom ran away with Mr. Eglington, Dad was a fairly healthy one ninety-five. Before Mom ran off things were still quirky, but they were good. Before Mom ran off I thought my parents were happily married, so I guess that says a great deal about my powers of observation or my understanding of what love is.
I do quick math: one ninety-five subtracted by one fifty-five equals forty, divided by nineteen (months) equals, what? How many pounds lost per month? Hell, I don’t know. I really suck at math.
“You’re so skinny.”
“I am absolutely nothing of the kind,” he says, slurring hard, trying to focus on me as he comes down. “You, on the other hand, are nothing but a sparrow.”
I know what that really means, where it came from. When she was still around, Mom used to call me Birdy. When I was a little girl I once found a wounded robin in the back yard. It was hobbling on one leg and going zeee-up! Zeee-up! Zeee-up! I brought it into the house, got online and figured out how to nurse it back to health. After I let it free outside, I was Birdy to Mom from then on.
I watch him gauge the last step, as if it’s a plate of squirmy snakes, his eyes equally squirmy. He misses it entirely, and falls forward in a heave, but I catch him by the shoulders. After all, he’s light—one hundred and fifty-five (or one hundred fifty-seven pounds).
His fake belly ends up in my hands, my palms. It feels moist, gluey, like an egg fried over easy.
But he doesn’t fall down or hurt himself. That’s good.
“Dad,” I say. “Dad. Dad. Dad.”
“Oh, honey bee,” he says, leaning over me his hot breath smelling of alcohol.
“Are you going to throw up?”
He burps but positions his hand so the worst of the odor misses me.
“I don’t think so, no.”