Saturday, January 21, 2012

Looking for Elvis

     Big Marv was  bent over looking for his other sock when he caught a glimpse of himself in the locker room mirror.  “My ass looks like Elvis,” he told his buddies.
     “Your ass is a big white blob with a hairy “V” on top.” Nagi synched his shoulder pads.
     “I didn’t say it was the young Elvis. It’s the old guy -- the Las Vegas Elvis.”
     Emilio stuck his butt against the locker, let one rip and added, “ My ass sings like Elvis.”
     “Definitely the old Elvis,” Big Marv choked into his jersey.”
     “The dead Elvis,” Nagi added.
     After practice the three boys hung out at Big Marv’s.  He had a Lazy-boy, a king sized bed and a wide screen TV in his bedroom. There was an old-school, Led Zeplin poster on one wall. College football pennants were tacked up; Marvin’s mom was constantly reminding him of the goal. Big Marv was six foot and close to three hundred pounds. He was morbidly obese. The Lazy-boy groaned.
     “Hey look at this.” Emilio interrupted the rerun of Beverly Hillbillies. Emilio was the bright one, the good looking one, the guy with all the luck. He was holding up Big Marv’s laptop so that his buddies could see it.
     “Wow! that’s Marv’s butt,” Nagi said, “Check it out man, the Las Vegas Elvis is on U-Tube.”  They gathered around the full-screen view.
     “Here comes the other Elvis.” Nagi said as Emilio entered the screen. Then the breath they had built up didn’t tumble out as laughter.
     Emilio blurted, “Bullshit,” The other’s watched.
     The camera looked over the top of Big Marv’s naked butt; it was a telephoto shot, close up with incredible detail. Black hair at the top of his ass and the white globular folds of skin rippling the crack. He was bent over and Emilio was wiggling against the locker in front of him. The camera caught it in a way that put the back of Marv’s head in front of Emilio’s crotch.
     Later that week, the routine was broken and Nagi didn’t hang out with his buddies at lunch; he hooked up with Silvia and the two of them talked and touched each other constantly. 
     Emilio pretended to read a book. There was a spot of grass next to the flagpole where he could sit by himself. Nobody ever came this way at lunch and it felt good to feel that low October sun heating his skin. Most of the year, he stayed out of the sun; he didn’t want a black neck like his father’s; he didn’t want the black mexican tan of outdoor labor. 
     He had been hoping football would be his way out; he was almost to a thousand yards rushing: one hundred and forty more yards, and he would have the school record.  One regular season game, then the conference championship. Who knows? It all seemed so possible a couple weeks ago, but now he felt like puking every time he forced himself into that locker room.
     He dressed out late, and when the locker door clanked the locker room echoed like a jail cell. His cleats clicked over concrete as he passed Big Marv’s locker. The door had been closed for over a week now. Emilio could smell the wet jersey and socks starting to rot as he passed. Jersey number 52 drooped limp from the hook, grass stained, mud; it reeked of nostalgia and loneliness.  Emilio gritted his teeth and tried to focus on the record.
     After practice he saw Nagi at the 7-11 store across the street from school. “How’s the new girl friend?” he asked him.
     Nagi said the girl was sweet which meant he was probably getting some.
Emilio dropped half a pack of peanut M&Ms into a twenty ounce Coke. Shook it up and watched the brown fizz spray past his thumb.
"A little chocolate geyser to celebrate our friendship.” he said. Then he guzzled the flat liquid.
     “Who shot that video? Who would do something like that? Man. That’s fucked up.”  Nagi said, and it was the first time they’d talked about it since the U-Tube went viral.
     Emilio shrugged. “You seen fat ass?” he asked him.
     “No. Big Marv hasn’t been in class all week. I heard he was going to change schools.” Nagi  moved close. “Guess he could do that,” he said, then sat next to Emilio on the curb. There weren’t any cars on this side of the store, just the Liquor Mart and a dumpster.
     “They all have cell phone cameras. It could have been anyone.” Emilio answered him, “  I’m just glad we don’t have a computer at our house.”  Emilio  let his head droop and worked up a spit.  “If my little brother’s and sister’s saw something like that,”  he didn’t finish.
     “My old man just watches Aljazerra.” Nagi said, “ I don’t think they’re looking for Elvis on that channel.” 
     “Same with the spanish stations man. It’s like before all this happened, I never wanted to go home; I could just hang with you guys at Marvin’s, and groove, and eat vienna sausages and  candy bars. Man I’ll be missin’ those little cans of sausage if Big Marv cuts out.”
     Then Nagi said, “I’m worried about him; we should check in on him, find out what that new school’s like”
     There was a short cut to Marvin’s: a green-space that civic groups maintained. The park threaded between the golf course and the little creek that meandered through this side of town. Emilio  used to wander through here when he was a kid, before the golf course, before the Oakmoor Subdivision was built.  Back then, the woods were thick with brush and garbage. Nobody came down here except a few of the bravest teenagers who had fuck-holes cleared out in the thickets. He would wander here hoping to catch a fish in the little creek, or hunt some deer, or tigers or big game, but all that was in his imagination, because the closest he ever got to a fishing rod was the sporting goods aisle at K-mart.
     Now, that the trail was clear Nagi and Emilio moved easily along the creek. Most of the leaves had fallen. Red and yellow hands rusted into the hard clay, and a low, clear light played through the empty branches. The little creek trickled brightly. Brisk cool air filled them and it felt good to be walking away from school, from home, from everything.
     “I wish we could just keep goin,” Emilio said, “ Just walk the fuck outa this shitty town.”
Nagi asked him if he remembered grade school and the golf course, and how they used to wait in here and watch them play golf.
     “That was great.” Emilio remembered it, “ We’d sneak out there and swipe the golf balls right off the green.” He grinned. “The look on their faces, Man, Like -- Where the fuck did my ball go?”
     Then there was somebody or something ahead of them in the darkening woods. A cold chill heightened Emilio’s awareness like the way he felt out here when he was a kid and he wandered into some strange open place. There had been a chain bolted to the tree,  dirty magazines with pictures of naked women, whisky bottles, beer cans, an old mattress dragged somehow deep into the woods. That place had spooked him, and now he felt like somebody was watching him, so he hushed his friend and motioned him to stop. They stooped low to see up through the silhouettes. 
     Something big, a broken tree, or a ghost, something dangled and they slowly approached until Emilio recognized those wide hips, the size triple X sweat pants sagging down from the white, sweet white face of Elvis.

Bob Putnam

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