Every small town has a cast of characters so unique they become infamous. The small Missouri town I grew up in is no exception. We had the guy who drove a hot pink hearse. We had a religious cult. And of course, like every small town, we had our very own Elvis.
Elvis wasn’t the young, handsome man calling others hound dogs. Nor was he an overweight drug addict squeezed into a rhinestone jumpsuit. Our Elvis sported a pompadour with his patented lip curl, and he was more likely to be wearing jeans and boots than leather or blue suede shoes.
I had never seen Elvis in person. I only heard tales of him and his Priscilla – a chubby, older blonde whose hair was straight out of Hairspray. Priscilla jumped out of the ’50s or at least Grease with her satiny Pink Ladies jacket that she paired with jeans. Like her elusive husband, she was only someone I had heard gossip about from my parents or at the cafeteria lunch table at school.
At the time, I didn’t care much for Elvis Presley. I knew who he was, especially as a girl I knew had a mom whose house was a shrine to the singer. You couldn’t move anywhere without some Elvis picture, doll or tchotchke in your immediate line of sight. The obsession is exactly why I didn’t care much for the man. Instead, my heart was all aflutter for New Kids on the Block. What can I say? It was 1989, and I was a wee 10-year-old lass.
Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, my family would order from Pizza Hut every Friday night. It was a ritual my siblings and I looked forward to every week. Such was our love of supreme pizzas.
When Friday rolled around, Dad would call in the order, and after the prescribed amount of time, we’d jump into the car, drive downtown and pick up our dinner. I loved this ritual, because I usually was allowed to run in, pay for and pick up dinner. And the night of The Incident was no exception.
When we arrived, I raced into Pizza Hut and paid for dinner. The food wasn’t quite ready, so I sat on the bench by the take-out window to wait. I won’t lie, I was bored and fidgeting as though I had drank a case of Coke. My dad had given me exact change, so I didn’t even have a quarter to play Super Mario Bros. Resigned, I sat there and looked around at everything and nothing all at once.
And then Elvis walked in the door.
In the early dusk of late fall, spotlighted by the headlights of cars driving past, Elvis seemed to glow. Maybe ghosts got hungry too, I thought, not even trying to hide my gawking. But as the man stepped up to the take-out window, I realized he was flesh and bone. A lot of flesh. Way too much flesh.
I’m shuddering as I type this.
The staff didn’t immediately step up to help, so Mr. Presley decided to make good use of his time by relaxing his boot. Clearly, Mr. Presley’s mom never taught him to bend at the knees. So, like a drunken woman with a tramp stamp, he leaned over, giving me an eyeful of tighty whities and plumber’s crack.
I’ll understand if you have to stop reading so you can go vomit.
Better? Okay, I’ll wrap this up.
Before Elvis finished tying his boot, I heard a teen shout, “Kinnaman!”
Looking away from the mentally scarring butt of the King of Rock, I saw my pizzas being held out to me. Unfortunately, in order to access them, I had to stand next to Nightmare on Crack Street. I took a deep breath to steel my nerves and ran for my pizzas. Yanking them out of the teen’s hands, I ran to the car. My dad turned to me once I jumped in the passenger seat. “Did you see Elvis?”