by Sean Lovelace
Elvis hands me a Ruger 10/22 blued barrel semiautomatic rifle and picks up a Ruger 10/22 stainless steel barrel semiautomatic and we go into the living room to shoot action figures. He has them lined up along the stairs, Flash Gordon and Wonder Woman and The King himself. We shred them. We shred the stairs.
Elvis says, “What you think about these extended banana clips? They hold 30 rounds. They’re illegal sometimes and sometimes legal — depends on the president — but I bought them when they were legal and all this gun shit is grandfathered in. They’re never going to get my guns. That’s why I have guns. So they can never get them. Are you hungry?”
“What?” I yell. My ears bleed wheat pennies tossed inside a blender.
“Me neither!” He laughs and we reload and get back to shooting. Elvis likes to hold his rifle at the hip, and spray like champagne. I carefully select an action figure and squeeze the trigger and decapitate its plastic head, one after another. I take my rifle and lift it above my head, pumping, pumping. Working out my biceps. Yesterday I bought a new shirt, the color of wet sand, with orange buttons. I know I’ll never have the fashion sense of Elvis, but I have decided to try. I keep thinking if I wear one brown shoe, and then a black shoe on the other foot, I’ll be original my whole life. I guess I’d have to buy two pairs at once. I don’t know. I find it all hard to maintain. What I mean is to gather and arrange the flickering, to shore up anything for very long.
My head does a moiling thing, a leaking.
I shut my eyes and hear the humming syllables of moth wings and see a grassy field at night. We are on our backs, her and I, clasping hands, telling each other a story for every scar on our bodies. My stories so ordinary, a series of tumbles: shoelaces in bicycle pedals; running down a playground slide. Hers are of making a homemade bola out of dog bones and hemp twine; of leaping from a rumbling boxcar; of skin against razor-honed coral, swimming with whale sharks off some Australian peninsula. Or was it archipelago? Similar, but not the same, she would say to me, when I would ask her feelings. If only I could show it all now, reassemble it all, the images she formed with her lips, her words, the call of geese drifting over the night…I look around for a notepad. Elvis yells that he doesn’t keep notepads in the house. Doesn’t keep any kind of paper or pen. He yells it isn’t much more true joy in this life than shooting up a big-ass mansion with rifles.
I can see his point, though I don’t really view Graceland as technically a mansion. It just seems like a really large house.
We run out of ammo.
It is so quite I feel invisible, almost happy for an instant. Smoke flurries into glittering mounds. Smoke self-fertilizes the ceiling. The smell is wonderful.
Elvis says, “The telephone keeps ringing since you been here , ringing and ringing in my ears. Everyone who calls wants to steal my secret formulas. I’m committed to science, to instruments and the bendings of lights and scarves and such. One time in Vegas the entire audience fainted, all at once. Fell to the floor like playing cards. Wow.”
Elvis says, “What we ought to do is call up my helicopter! Spring break in Japan. Right now. I mean pick up everybody we know, man. Red and Duke and even Jolene. Priscilla loves Japan. And you could call up Sarah, tell her we’re coming.”
He grabs a gray brick of a phone off a table of purple glass. He presses it to his ear. He shakes the phone. Yells into its blank face. Flings it into the hallway. He picks up his rifle and points it at a gold-plated antelope mounted on the wall.
Elvis says, “Man you ever had French fries so bad they tasted good? Like that. So bad it’s good? Oh man…”
Elvis starts crying, this deep dry sobbing. I can’t imagine why, but I know his life must be as large as the very world, his head the very planet the sun rises and sets for. And I feel close to crying myself, and won’t stop once I begin, so fiddle with the place where the sling connects to the stock of the gun. I didn’t need that name, that arrangement/incantation of consonants, vowels, Sarah. I didn’t come here for that. My teeth feel like rows of bent nails, rusty. Someone has taken my nerve endings and replaced them with tiny barbed wire octopi. I need to fall down, but not really fall, no, maybe kneel, or fold myself into origami, a napkin, a legal document, a dog-eared page. I need to tell Elvis a story is what I’m thinking, before everything inside me cascades apart. I tell him about the bird that migrates every year all the way across North America and stops only once to rest, for a nine second nap. Nine seconds, all those thousands of miles. How about that one?
Elvis doesn’t pause, doesn’t frown in contemplation, which I find odd, especially for a scientist. He’s through crying; is smiling now as he peers down the barrel of his rifle, and I am about to warn him how many men have died by unloaded guns, by half finished bottles of beer, half named urges, half believed words, whispered, hissed into smooth, dark waves — “don’t take it personally,” and “I’ll carry you with me still” — when he interrupts me.
He yells out, “You want to go out back by the stables and let the horses free and get some grapevine and smoke it while swimming in the pool and watching movies on my 8mm projector? I got so many movies, man. Me and Priscilla making our very own milkshakes. Me and Priscilla putting each other’s hair into bows. Me and Priscilla riding the horses right into the pool, the deep or shallow end.”
I already said I wasn’t hungry, and honestly, horses, they frighten me, but I answer, “Well…ok.”
“Whoa,” Elvis says. He puts his hand out near my face, rings blazing like accordions. I squint into their golden echo, as his face falls into the secret of his chest. His body tumbles to the floor; he clutches the leg of the bluest couch. “Did you hear that?” he hisses. “Priscilla is home! We gotta clean this shit up, man.”
Elvis hugs his body, rolls into/underneath the couch.
I stand alone, my feet sinking into the deep shag. Into the sound of approaching footfalls, or maybe rain. I look up; take in all the bullet holes. The stairwell, the walls, the ceiling — a constellation. Every hole seems so deep to me; seems to peer right out like a watchful eye.
“Caverns and craters,” I say to Elvis.
“Listen,” Elvis says. “Priscilla is going to look, is going to find me, ok?”
“Passages and space…open mouths.”
Elvis grabs my ankle; he squeezes hard. “Hey, listen to me. Even now, she is taking off her clothes. You understand the situation? Where it’s at? But you keep standing there.”
“Voids,” I say to Elvis. “Voids and windows.”
Elvis squeezes harder. Harder still; I can feel the grip and pulse of his fingers, the hard press of jewelry. He shakes my ankle and I look down to his face, into my bent self of his mirrored glasses. The footfalls and rain become a thudding, a throb and thrum shuddering low inside my chambers: heart and stomach and lungs.
“Seriously,” Elvis says, “It’s here. It’s here for you.” He points out his hand low, unfolds an index finger, a golden ring burning like a tiny sun. “Out past the stables. Past the horses. Out past everything, man. It’s time to go.”