Elvis lay on his bunk listening to the stuttering rooster. The Rhode Island Red has taken its customary pre-dawn perch on the rail fence outside his window and as usual, struggles to bring his morning announcement to a conclusion. “Urrrr-urr urrr-URRRr, Urrrr-urr urrr-URRRrr.” It’s a starter grinding on a weak battery. No fuel. No spark. No vroom. “Urrrr-urr urrr-URRRrr.” When Elvis can stand it no longer, he gets up, throws open the camper trailer window and yells, “Hot-Aw-Mighty-Damn, Son; it’s ROO! Urrrr-urr urrr-urr-ROO!” The rooster rustles down from his post deflated by his failure and the defeat and hurt visible in his one good eye shames Elvis. “Aw shoot, I’m sorry Rusty,” he calls after the yard-bird as it sulks away. But the damage is done. Way to start the day.
It had been Elvis’ intervention that kept the Colonel from shooting the rooster that Saturday morning he showed up bloodied from comb to claw with a shiny metal talon skewered through his neck. He was obviously a refugee from the Friday night cock fights held across the border. Less clear was whether he had won or lost. The Colonel told Elvis, “OK, but he’s your problem now, son. Clean him up if you want but if you aim to keep him out of the soup pot I wouldn’t try pulling that sticker out of his neck.” There had been no danger of that as the mean little banty bastard would not allow Elvis to come near. He did however eat the feed and drink the water Elvis put down for him daily and he took up residence in the abandoned Karmann Ghia behind the main barn.
The rooster survived without doctoring and little by little the steel talon that still cursed his cock-a-doodling eroded away leaving only Frankenstein bolts on either side of his neck. His breast feathers, once white, were stained red with rust. Rusty Suspenders, (just Rusty for short) was the natural name for the newest member of the family.
Elvis ran hot tap water and spooned instant coffee into a cup. He felt bad about losing his temper with the bird. It wasn’t Rusty’s stuttering that was bugging him, he couldn’t help that. No, he wasn’t mad at Rusty. In fact, Elvis maybe more than anyone could empathize with Rusty’s uneasy adjustment from fighting cock to alarm clock. He’d had more than a moment in the spotlight himself after all. To wind up living in a 60 year old Airstream trailer on Colonel Parker’s dirt farm, 300 yards from the Calexico border with a stuttering rooster for a best friend qualified as a flabbergasting fall from grace.
The late seventies had been a tough time for The King. Some racket called Disco was gaining favor and only country stations were playing the king of rock and roll’s singles. An English band called the Bee Gees was wearing jumpsuits and another dweeby Brit was performing something called punk and calling himself Elvis. The King was pretty certain this was not homage. His appetite had grown with his depression and his own jumpsuits no longer zipped.
He talked to the Colonel, told him he wanted to grow his hair and wear flannel. He wanted to write songs fueled by his feelings of helplessness and angst. The Colonel told him that weepy shit would never fly, and besides, he had a plan. It was to be an absence makes the heart grow fonder scheme like when the Beatles killed off Paul. They would announce: The King Is Dead.
After a reasonable period of world-wide grieving, during which time Elvis archives would sell out and have to be re-pressed, Elvis was to be whipped into shape at the Colonel’s Cancun complex. Personal trainers and a nutritionist would mold him back into shape and restore him to all his hip swiveling glory. Then, he would rise like a phoenix, maybe even in a new sequined phoenix jumpsuit. The Colonel would pronounce The King’s resurrection, announce his new album and launch a worldwide tour. The best laid plans.
Elvis found Rusty sunning on the bonnet of the Karmann Ghia. He’d saved his last powdered donut and he balanced it on a fender. Rusty could not hold a grudge. While the bird pecked his breakfast down Elvis took the canvas sack from the peg hook on the side of the barn and slung it over his shoulder. He felt the weight of the pistol and remembered to check for bullets. Three left.
The Colonel’s plan was working. The world wore black. Every single Elvis recording or piece of related memorabilia sold out. Fans overwhelmed with mourning made pilgrimages to Memphis Tennessee to see the mansion Elvis named Graceland. Down south things were not going quite as well. Elvis was not used to having folks (other than Colonel Parker) tell him what to do. When the spunky aerobics instructor (pogo-ing in her Olivia Newton John leg warmers and headband) tossed his covers back one morning and told him it was time to get up and get physical, physical, The King introduced her to the Prince of Morningwood and physical they got.
Elvis started off down the dirt drive and Rusty abandoned his donut crumbs to trail behind. It was his routine to walk the 2 miles to the mercado and along the way pick up aluminum cans. Rusty would snatch up any bugs that scattered from under the cans. Theirs was a symbiotic relationship. The pistol was in case he spotted rattlesnakes or coyotes. The rattlesnakes posed no threat but would fetch $500 pesos for a large one, enough for a case of Sol cerveza. The coyotes, the two legged ones, they were trickier to turn a profit on.
The staff at The Colonel’s Cancun Casa all fell in love with Elvis. He got high with his nutritionist Barry and talked him into making pot brownies every day. He was sleeping with Kelly his spritely aerobics instructor and teaching her transcendental meditation to help curb her hyperactivity. The weight trainer, Jordan, resisted at first but after finding out Elvis’ black belt was not honorary, (for a fat guy Elvis had a mean roundhouse kick) he decided to just join the party and work on his novel. Years later it would be released anonymously with the title Primary Colors. Many would mistakenly believe the central character to be loosely based on President Bill Clinton, himself a rather charming fellow loosely based on Elvis.
While Elvis’ metamorphosis remained stuck in the chrysalis stage, the other side of Colonel Parker’s plan was surpassing expectations. People were just not prepared to live in a world without Elvis and they did not intend to. Long Live The King. 45s of Hound Dog were selling for hundreds of dollars. Legions of Elvis impersonators sprung from every corner in every shape, color and size. Graceland with its deep pile shag and velvet furniture became a Mecca of sorts to a clan known collectively today as Walmart shoppers, and to Parker’s delight, the central hub of a billion dollar industry. Long Live The King!
It became clear to Colonel Parker that Elvis was worth more dead than alive. The only problem was Elvis got restless being cooped up in the Cancun compound. The staff couldn’t keep him on the complex and every time he escaped he was sighted. These sightings took on a cultish aspect of their own and folks either bought into them whole heartedly or made them up for amusement. Either way, the Colonel knew there was no such thing as bad press. He just needed to keep it speculative. He couldn’t risk the truth being exposed definitively. Elvis would need to be kept hidden. He was too well known for Cancun and even Cabo was not secluded enough for one of the most recognizable men who ever walked the planet to go unnoticed.
This story has been stalled for too long so I finally decided to just post it as is and move on.