I Met Her Today
Author's note: I have always loved Elvis, ever since I was a little girl, and I felt like I had to somehow... Show full author's note »
PrologueTransported in time, I found myself in rural (is there any other kind?) Mississippi. The dirt under my bare feet was red like a sunset, and there was noise everywhere. The first thing I became aware of was the heat. The air around me seemed to have a physical weight, like a wool blanket fresh out of the dryer. Almost the instant I arrived, I was sweating. The second thing I noticed was all the noise. It wasn’t unpleasant; women’s voices were raised in song, and other voices seemed to be shouting simply to shout. A dog was barking somewhere nearby. Squinting in the southern sun, I looked about, dizzy from the sudden heat and thoroughly confused. Just to my left there was a house, a tiny shanty of a building raised up on cinder blocks. Three crooked steps led up to its front porch, where a little boy sat, nonchalantly rocking back and forth on the porch swing. I walked up to the bottom step and stopped, looking at him. He stared back. Sweat trickled down the back of my neck. “Hello,” I said brightly.
The little boy started in his seat, shocked out of his stupor by the sound of my voice. “Hey.” he replied. He didn’t smile.
I raised myself onto the first step. “How are you?”
He shrugged, obviously wary of me, a stranger, though the town around me seemed like a place that wouldn’t know the meaning of the word.
I couldn’t tell exactly how old he was; he was small, maybe three feet tall, and his dirty toes dangled far above the creaky porch’s surface. I thought he looked about four or five years old. His face was unremarkable; his shy blue eyes and pouting lips seemed too big for the nose and ears, and his honey-colored hair needed washing. He didn’t seem interested in conversation, but he didn’t object audibly when I sat down beside him on the swing. “This your house?” I asked, already guessing the answer but having nothing better to talk about.
He nodded. “Yes, ma’am.My daddy builded it all by hisself.”
I had to admit it; the kid was cute in his own way, talking about his dad like that. Maybe it was the little southern accent. “Did he now? He must be a smart man, your daddy.”
He grinned, a beautiful sight. “Yes’m.”
It was then when something about the kid struck me as familiar. I couldn’t place it, but I felt like I’d seen that face before. The question was answered for me seconds after my mind had asked it.
“Elvis Aron, where have you slipped off too?” A heavyset woman appeared from behind the screen door wearing an apron and an expression of worry. Relief flooded her face when her eyes settled on the little boy, who leapt up like he’d been stung.
Meanwhile, I was frozen to the spot. The woman ushering her son inside the house had called the little boy Elvis. I stood up like my kneecaps had been replaced by bedsprings. “Excuse me, ma’am?”
The woman turned. Gladys. That was her name; I remembered now. She stared at me, eyes wide with expectation. I had never found her all that pretty in pictures I’d seen, but in person I felt she was beautiful. This woman had given birth to the greatest performer that had ever lived, and she didn’t even know it.
“I- I’m sorry for intruding on you like this. I’m afraid I’m lost.”
Gladys put her hands on her hips, smiling like she knew something. “I figgered as much. You don’t sound like you’re from here.”
I shook my head, still in a state of shock. “No ma’am. But I’d appreciate directions out of town. I gotta get home.”
She laughed. “Oh, well that’s no puzzle!” She pointed straight down the road to the left. “All ya gotta do is keep walkin’ that way, and you’ll be out in less than five miles!”
I grinned at her. “Thank you very much.”
I was maybe ten yards down the road when something made me turn. There, at the window, was Elvis. He didn’t smile; he didn’t wave; but our eyes stayed locked for a long ways down the road, until a pickup crossed the street behind me and I lost the house in a cloud of dust.