Ten o'clock on a Friday night. Nasty rain comin' down, like
silver needles. Miralee and me were sittin' in the parkin' lot of
the Kentucky Fried Chicken place in Eustace, Arkansas, our
windows rolled up and steam on the glass. "Oh Lord!" she said
suddenly. "Oh Lord, that's him! Look at the way he walks!"
She sat up straight, and I picked the gun up from the floorboard.
Me and Elvis, we were one of a kind.
I always got mistook for him, even before Miralee dyed my hair
black and froze it in the pompadour and I started wearin' the
Elvis outfits. I'm talkin' about the real Elvis, of
course, when he was somebody worth lookin' at and he hadn't lost
the Tupelo snarl, not when he was big as a whale's belly
and—God forgive me—all used up. I weigh about a hundred and
fifty pounds soakin' wet, so my Elvis is the King of Dreams, back
before he made them dog-ass movies and carried his soul in his
I'm not knockin' money now, hear? Money is the green grease that
runs this world, and you gotta have a wad of it to get by in this
day and age. I used to do all sorts of things; I've been a truck
driver, a mechanic, a coffin polisher in a funeral home, a
used-car salesman, and a bartender in a country-western joint.
You do what you have to do to get by, am I right? And nobody
ever said Dwayne Pressley wasn't one to grab hold of an
opportunity when it come a'knockin'. That's why I started
wearin' the Elvis outfits, doin' the makeup and all, and Miralee
and me went into the soul-channelin' business.
Templin is a quiet town. Hell, Arkansas is a quiet state.
Miralee, my girlfriend goin' on six years, works at the
Sophisticated Lady Beauty Shoppe on Central Street in Templin.
She can tell you right off: people in Templin have been starved
for entertainment for years. Last entertainer who passed this
way was Joey Heatherton, and her bus was lost on the way to the
National Guard Armory in Eustace, forty miles south of us.
Anyway, Miralee knew about my Elvis impressions. When you kinda
look like the King and your last name is Pressley, you go with
the flow, know what I mean? I can sing some, and it ain't hard
to find somebody who can play a guitar. Miralee got the band
together for me. She's a smart little lady, and ambitious to
boot. She went right out and bought some Elvis tapes for the
VCR, and I started studyin' 'em. This was right after I got
fired from the Templin Tap Room for sellin' liquor to minors
under the table. Man's got to make a profit, don't he? Hell,
that's the American way! So, anyhow, I had plenty of time to lay
in bed and study ol' Elvis in them concert videos. There were
tapes of him just talkin', too, about his life and everythin', so
I could get the twang of his accent Memphis-perfect. Then I
started practicin' with the band. You know the songs: "Hound
Dog," "Burnin' Love," "In the Ghetto," "Jailhouse Rock,"
all those tunes that make the memories glow like barbecue coals
on a summer night. I was better at the motions than I was at the
singin', but then again you might have to say the same thing
about the King, too.
Miralee got the costumes for me, all them black leather and
high-collared jobs covered with rhinestones. She talked Mr.
Riggston at the Tap Room into lettin' us do a show there on a
Saturday night, and if I said I wasn't sweatin' bullets I'd be a
damn liar. The first few numbers were pretty bad, and I split my
tight britches, but I just kept on goin' cause some woman
screamed "ELVIS!" and it kinda fired me up. I found out later
that Miralee gave her five dollars to do it. But we did good.
So good Mr. Riggston wanted us back the next weekend, and he even
put an ad in the Templin Journal. About a month after
that, you couldn't stir the folks in the Tap Room with a thin
stick. Like I say, people were starved for entertainment.
"Ain't no way!" I told Miralee, as I watched the fella go into
the Kentucky Fried Chicken place. I was wearin' a cap to hide my
pompadour, and I didn't have my Elvis makeup on. I put the
pistol down again. "That can't be him. Fella's as big as a
"I say it is him!" Her eyes, blue as Christmas, locked
on me in that way she has that'd make a pit bull turn tail.
"You saw the way he walked!"
"Hell, he's a big fat guy. All big fat fellers waddle like
"No! I mean how he moved his shoulders! You know what I'm
talkin' about, you've seen it a hundret times in those videos! I
say that's him, and don't you say different!"
When Miralee gets excited, she don't want nobody to slap a wet
rag in her face. And God knows I wouldn't want to try. Miralee
is a hundred pounds of dynamite with a two second fuse. I just
shrugged. The fella I'd seen shamble into the Kentucky Fried
Chicken joint had worn a raggedy brown overcoat and had on a
cowboy hat that looked puke green with mildew. He'd weighed
maybe near three hundred pounds, and the collar of his coat was
up so you couldn't see even his profile. As far as I was
concerned, it was just some big fat Eustace dude who wanted a
bucketful of fried chicken at ten o'clock on a Friday night.
"I'm goin' in to see," Miralee said all of a sudden. She
opened the door, slid out from under the Chevy's steerin' wheel,
and stood in the rain. "Keep that damn gun ready," she told
me, and before I could say yea or nay she was stridin' across the
I watched her go in. I picked up the pistol again, a little
snubnosed .38 with six bullets in it. I shook a bit; the night
was chilly for mid-October. I watched the restaurant's front
door, and my fingers played with the .38's bone-white grip. I
was scared as hell, but my mind was made up. If the King showed
up with a hankerin' for fried chicken on this rainy Friday night,
I was gonna kill him.
We didn't stop with the shows at the Tap Room. We were packin'
'em in every Friday and Saturday night, and suddenly Mr. Riggston
was my best buddy. But then Miralee started readin' a paperback
book she'd bought at a garage sale, and she walked around the
house with glassy eyes. When Miralee's thinkin', she's walkin'.
Round and round the house, all night long, like a cat who hears a
mouse but can't find the hole. I got a look at the book's cover:
My Seven Selves, it was called. Written by some woman
whose picture showed her in a long white robe starin' at a big
crystal ball in her palm.
Miralee stopped her walkin'. One mornin' she looked at me and
asked, in a quiet voice, "Dwayne? You ever hear of somethin'
This was her drift: that some folks—and the lady in the white
robe was one of 'em—could call back the souls of the dead and
make 'em talk. Yessir, believe it! That these folks, channelers
they were called, could let themselves be took over by the souls
of dead people and the dead people would talk through 'em.
"That's the most craziest thing I've ever heard in my—" I
stopped what I was sayin', 'cause Miralee had a look on her face
that makes silence golden.
"Crazy or not," Miralee said, "there's money in it."
My ears perked up like a hound dog's.
The road to riches is paved with suckers and that's God's honest
truth. I started studyin' the Elvis tapes harder than ever, 'til
I knew every twitch and sneer. I read that book by the
white-robed woman, and though I didn't get the drift of all of
it, I learned enough of the babble to get by. Mostly, I worked
on my Elvis accent, 'cause Miralee said that soundin' like the
King was gonna be real important. Then, when she thought I was
ready, she called ads in to the newspapers in Little Rock,
Memphis, Knoxville, Birmingham, and Atlanta. After that, we
Wasn't two days before we got the first call, from a Tennessee
woman. She wanted to know if her husband was messin' round on
her, and since the ads said that Elvis knew everythin', just like
God, she figured that he was the one to ask. She showed up at
the house on a Tuesday afternoon—a little fireplug of a woman
with a white beehive hairdo—and I was scared again like my
first night on stage, but I gave her the show Miralee and I had
worked out. I didn't pretend I was Elvis, see, but I
pretended I was took over by his soul and channelin' him right
there in the livin' room. I wore my Elvis outfit, of course, and
I had my makeup on. Oh, I gave her a dandy show, fallin' down on
one knee and gyratin' around and actin' up a storm. Then I took
her hands and I said, "Darlin'," in the King's voice. She
looked just about to faint. "Darlin'," I said, "your man's a
good 'un. He knows he better not mess around on you, 'cause
you'd leave his ass in a minute and find a young stud, wouldn't
"I sure as hell would, Elvis!" she answered, in a choked-up
"He best hold tight to you," I told her, "and you hold tight
to him. You be a good wife to him, and he won't do no strayin'.
That's what the King has to say to you, darlin'. And one more
thing: you've been a mighty loyal fan and I sure do appreciate
your love." Then I sang "Amazin' Grace" to her, real
quiet-like, and she just about fell out of her chair. Tears ran
down her cheeks. She held my hand to her face, and she kissed my
ring that has the big E on it in false diamonds.
I didn't like it when she cried. I don't know; it made my heart
hurt, kinda. I stood up and gave a few half-assed twists and
shakes, and Miralee told the woman it was the King goin' back to
Rock 'n Roll Heaven. Then Miralee told her it would be fifty
dollars. The woman didn't flinch, but I did. I put on my
sunglasses, and I watched the woman take bills out of her purse
and scratch up some change. She only had forty-one dollars. We
But by God if that woman didn't leave smilin' and happy. Miralee
said, "Tell your friends about the King's comeback!" and that
Tennessee woman answered, "I will, I will, you better believe I
will, oh mercy I'm still shakin' like a schoolgirl!"
I went to the bathroom, took off my shades and looked at my
face—the King's face—in the mirror. Lord, lord; what a world
this has turned out to be.
The telephone rang. Fella from a little town in Georgia wanted
to know if he should open up a bowlin' alley or not. Miralee
said Elvis didn't give advice over long-distance. The fella said
he'd be there to see us on Thursday night. And that was just the
beginnin' of it.
People are lonely. They want to believe, more than anythin'.
They want to connect with somethin', they want to see into the
future. Listenin' to those people, and seein' 'em look at me
like I was really Elvis ... well, the world's just one big
Heartbreak Hotel, and all of a sudden I had the room keys in my
fist. At fifty dollars a pop, ten or twelve "fans" a week,
you'd better believe Miralee and I were standin' hip-deep in high
I watched the Kentucky Fried Chicken place, the pistol in my hand
and rain runnin' down the windshield. The door came open, and
Miralee walked out. Walkin' fast, too. My heart started
hammerin'. She was comin' back to the car. I didn't want to
hear what she was gonna tell me, not really. I wasn't ready for
it. But then she slid back under the steerin' wheel, her black
hair drenched, and she looked at me and said, "It's him. I
swear to God it is." Her voice was steady, not nervous at all.
She was ready, even if I wasn't. "He's buyin' two buckets of
chicken, and he'll be out in a minute or two. Lord, he's gotten
"It's not him," I said. "No way."
"I heard his voice. He tried to disguise it, and he sounds like
he's been garglin' with glass, but I'd know that voice
anywhere." She nodded, her mind made up. "It's him, all
right. When he comes out the door, you go get him." She turned
the key, and the noise of the engine firin' made me jump. "Can
you believe it?" Miralee asked me, her knuckles bleachin' white
as she gripped the wheel. "That sumbitch pretends to be dead
for goin' on ten years, and he shows up just when our business is
gettin' good!" She revved the engine, and the Chevy shook like
a bull about to charge.
And that was the point, of course. That was why we were sittin'
out there in front of the Kentucky Fried Chicken place, and me
with a gun in my hand. We'd been hauntin' that parkin' lot for
over a week, waitin' for the King to show up. Stalkin'
him, I guess you might say. We had to kill him. Had to. See,
we were makin' almost a thousand scoots a week soul-channelin'
the King into our livin' room, and then all of a sudden the
Midnite Tattler reports that a Zippy Mart clerk in Eustace
says Elvis walked in at three o'clock in the mornin' and bought
an armload of Little Debbie cakes and a six-pack of Dr. Pepper,
and that he winked at her and left hummin' "My Way." She said
he'd changed a lot, of course, but she was an Elvis fan and could
see it was him right off. Not long after that, a fella says he
was huntin' squirrels in the woods north of Eustace when he comes
face-to-face with the King pissin' in the bushes. Said Elvis
squawled and took off like Bigfoot, and that he moved mighty fast
for a man his size. Well, it wasn't long before other folks said
they'd seen Elvis too, and by God if some agent fella from New
York didn't go on a TV show and tell the world he'd been
communicatin' with Elvis over the phone for the last two months,
that the King had been hidin' out and now he wanted to get back
into show business, write a book, and star in a movie of his life
You can guess what happened to our business. How can you
soul-channel Elvis if he's still alive? Folks wanted their money
back, and some of 'em even said they were gonna put the law on
us. And while all that was goin' on, the reporters were swarmin'
all over Eustace tryin' to hunt the King down. Miralee and me
both knew a stone-cold fact: if the reporters found Elvis, we
were fit to be flushed.
Where to look was the problem. I remembered somethin' from one
of the tapes. Elvis was a young fella, sharp and lean as a
blade, and he was about to go over to Europe in the Army.
Reporter asked him what he was gonna miss most, and he drawled it
with a sneer: "Southern fried chicken."
We knew that sooner or later, if the King was anywhere near
Eustace, he'd make a late-night run on the only Kentucky Fried
Chicken place in twenty miles.
But with that pistol in my hand and murder on my mind, I hoped
I'd been wrong. I hoped Miralee was wrong too, but she's got a
good eye. She sure as hell would know Elvis if she saw him, even
if he did weigh near three hundred pounds.
The Kentucky Fried Chicken's front door opened, and the King
waddled out into the rain with his booty of buckets.
I saw it, then. The way he walked. Movin' his shoulders.
Somethin' you just can't explain. Somethin' ... kingly.
Like he owned the world, and everybody else was just rentin'
space. Seein' him in the flesh, even that big and all, froze me.
I said, "Miralee, that's not him," because I didn't want it to
She said, "Go get him," and she gave me a shove.
He was headin' to a beat-up rust-bucket of a brown Cadillac. The
rain was fallin' harder, and when I got out of the Chevy the rain
pelted my shoulders. I had the pistol clenched in my hand, and I
started walkin' toward the King.
"Hurry!" Miralee urged.
Elvis must've heard. He stopped dead, holdin' onto his buckets.
He looked at me, his face hidden under the mildewed cowboy hat.
I could tell he had three or four chins. I lifted the gun, and I
said, "Into the car and get come on."
"Huh?" That voice. Oh lord, that voice.
I got my tongue untangled on the next try. "Come on and get
into the car!" I motioned toward the Chevy.
"I ain't nobody!" he said, clingin' to his buckets so hard they
were startin' to bust open at the seams and fried chicken pieces
were squeezin' out. "You don't know me! I ain't nobody!"
"I know who you are," I said, and I meant it.
The bottom popped out of one of his buckets, and chicken wings
I pulled the hammer back. "Let's go," I told him. My hand was
shakin' so hard I'm surprised the gun didn't go off right then
and there. The King lifted his thick arms and dropped the
buckets, and he walked over fried chicken toward Miralee and the
Chevy. I opened the back door for him and he squeezed in, then I
climbed in right after him. Miralee hit the gas as soon as the
door was closed, and we headed out of the parkin' lot.
"We got him!" Miralee said, merrily. "We got that big
sumbitch, didn't we!" She drove us over a curb and I heard the
King's teeth click together. "We got him, sure did!"
"We got him!" I answered, half about to laugh and half about to
cry. "Right here in the car he sits!" I poked him in the
belly with the gun's barrel, just to make sure he was real, and
my arm almost sank wrist-deep in flab. Elvis smelled like a
pigpen, and he had a gray beard that didn't hide his triple
chins. His clothes—blue jeans, a red checked shirt and that
brown overcoat—were blotched with food stains. He breathed
like a bellows, and I swear he made the whole car tilt slightly
to one side.
"I ain't nobody," Elvis said. "I ain't nobody at all,
"You're Elvis Presley and I got a damn gun in your belly!" I
hollered at him. "You been hidin' and pretendin' you're dead
and I got a good soul-channelin' business goin' and then you
decide to come back to life so where does that leave me, huh?"
"Where does that leave us?" Miralee corrected, driving
through the rain. The wipers were sluggish, and they made a
skreeking sound across the glass. We'd been plannin' on buyin'
us a new BMW when we had thirty thousand dollars saved up.
"I ain't no—" He stopped, 'cause he must've known it was no
use. He just sat starin' at nothin', his head titled forward.
"I knew it couldn't be forever," he said, quiet-like. He shook
his head. "Knew it couldn't be." He looked at me; I couldn't
see his eyes under that hat, but I knew they must still be keen.
I knew his stare could still strip the bark off a tree; I felt
its power, directed right at me. Elvis said, "What're ya'll
plannin' on doin' with me?"
"We're gonna kill you," Miralee told him, as brightly as you
please. "Take you out to the woods and kill you. Bury you
deep, too." I flinched a little, because I was thinkin' of how
big the hole would have to be. We had a pickaxe and a shovel in
the trunk. "You wanted to be dead, didn't you?" she asked.
"Well, we're gonna help you out."
I have to say, I thought it was pretty disrespectful puttin' it
this way to the King. I mean, I was ready to kill him and all,
but ... I was still respectful. The King was fat and he
smelled like a goat, but he was still the King. Until I got
around to killin' him, I mean.
Elvis just sat there, and didn't say a word.
Miralee suddenly hollered and swerved the wheel, 'cause a van
with ABC NEWS on the side came out of the rain and almost knocked
us off the road. A few seconds later, a car with CBS NEWS and a
blue blinker on it swept past us, movin' fast. Like I said, the
reporters were crawlin' all over Eustace, tryin' to hunt Elvis
down. We were headin' out of town to find a good spot in the
woods, but a red light caught us before we got more than a mile
away from the Kentucky Fried Chicken joint. Miralee pulled up
beside a white station wagon that had somethin' written on the
passenger door. I saw what it was: THE GERALDO RIVERA SHOW.
The King saw it too, and in the next second he moved like he had
lightning in his pants. He whipped that door open and bellowed,
"I'm Elvis Presley! They're gonna kill me!" and by that time I
had an arm around his neck tryin' to keep him from gettin' out.
He got stuck in the door, and Miralee was screamin', "Don't let
him out! Don't let him out!" I jabbed the gun's barrel into
his back, but he kept on thrashin'.
Fella got out of the station wagon. I saw who it was. That
fella who went to Chicago to dig up Al Capone's vault. He
reached out for Elvis, and Elvis strained to grip his hand. That
was when the light changed, and Miralee stomped her foot down on
the pedal. The Chevy laid rubber, Elvis still tryin' to squeeze
through the open door, and that TV fella gave a shout and jumped
back into the station wagon's passenger side. His driver gave it
the gas too, and started after us. Miralee shouted, "Get that
door shut, Dwayne!" The King's blue sneakers were shreddin' on
the pavement. I don't believe he wanted to jump, with the
engine revvin' up toward fifty. He pulled himself back into the
car with a big whuff of breath, and I reached over his belly and
slammed the door shut. The station wagon with that TV fella in
it was right on our tail, comin' up fast so they could read the
license plate. Well, there was just one thing to do about that,
wasn't there? I cranked the window on my side down, leaned out
into the wind and rain, and shot at the station wagon's tires.
My cap flew off my head, my pompadour whippin' around like a
scalded poodle. My third bullet knocked out one of the wagon's
headlights, and then the driver didn't feel so nosy; he hit the
brakes, and the wagon skidded off the road into a tangle of kudzu
We were out beyond the town limits by now. I cranked the window
up and sat there shakin', realizin' I could've killed either one
of those two fellas. Only one I wanted to kill was the King, and
to tell the truth I was feelin' a bit queasy about the whole
business. Miralee was still flyin' us along that rain-slick
highway, but I said, "Don't want a trooper pullin' us over,
babe," and she cut the speed some.
I felt Elvis starin' at me again. He said, in his raspy, old
man's voice, "I've got money. I'll give you all of it."
"Don't say that," I told him. I just couldn't stand it if the
King started to beg. "You sit there and be quiet, all right?"
Miralee's head had cocked. "Money? How much money?"
"We're supposed to kill him, not rob him!" I complained, but
she shot me a hard glance in the rearview mirror and I buttoned
"How much money?" she asked Elvis.
"A lot. A whole lot, darlin'." I winced when he used that
word. "My place is six, seven miles from here. I'll show you.
You don't really want to kill me, do you?"
Miralee didn't say nothin'. I didn't either. My throat was so
dry I probably couldn't have said anythin'. I mean, it's one
thing to plan on killin' somebody and another to do it. I guess
it was the sound of the shots that got to me, or the way the gun
smelled. Maybe it was the fact that the King was sittin' beside
me, livin' and breathin'. No, no! I had to quit thinkin' like
that! If I didn't kill him, our business was washed up! I had to
go through with this, if I liked it or not!
Miralee said, "Show us where you live." Her voice was silky;
it was the way she asked me to go down in the basement and clean
out the spiders.