By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
”Why are you telling this to me?“ John finally asked. ”Why did you choose me?“
”Because I‘m tired,“ Elvis said. ”I’m operating on but one cylinder. And I feel intensely alone at heart. ‘I’m so lonely, I could die.‘ I just don’t think I can get it up to go out on tour again, even though we‘re set to leave on August 17. I have aches all through my body; I have to take whole buckets of these pills just to get through a day. It’s time to pass it on.“
”To me?“ asked John, startled. ”I‘m gobsmacked.“
”I’ve been around long enough to recognize the Lord‘s handiwork when I see it,“ said Elvis. ”Something brought you in here tonight. And I’ve been waiting for something, I didn‘t even know what. Just trying to hang on until I received some sign.“
”But I hate rock & roll,“ John protested. ”I’m not your man.“
”Well, maybe that‘s your role,“ said Elvis. ”Maybe your job is to kill it off -- strangle it like J.D. strangled Jesse Garon. Maybe it’s got to die for something else to be born. Or maybe it‘ll fight back, become something harder, scrappier. The holy fire. I don’t know. I can‘t get up high enough to see over it.“
”’When the two sevens clash,‘“ said John, growing animated. ”Marcus Garvey prophesied that when the two sevens clash -- 1977 -- it will be safe for the Rastafarians to return to Ethiopia. ’And for Babylon the wicked, there will be brimstone and lightning and thunder.‘“
”Now you’re thinking,“ said Elvis.
”But what if I don‘t want it?“
”You in Tennessee, son,“ said Elvis. ”This is the Volunteer State.“ With that he took his enormous hands and folded them down over the younger man’s forehead so that they formed a perfect skullcap. Something within them seemed to glow and hum, and then all was still again, save for the faintest smell of carbon in the air.
”You will be a man, my son,“ said Elvis, folding his hands in benediction.
Malcolm sauntered over to their booth as the Colonel watched them all from some remove, the original suspicious mind, missing nothing.
”Are you getting along famously, I hope?“ Malcolm asked, roseate in the bloom of victory.
”It‘s been stimulating,“ John snarled, the old curdle returning to his voice with a practiced whip crack.
”We’ve been getting along just fine,“ said Elvis, a weight now lifted from him, taking years with it. Seeing that his private audience had concluded, the guys trickled back over so as to better be at his beck and call, and seemed to catch the updraft in his mood.
”Your Colonel thought he was going to win my boys in a game of chance,“ said Malcolm. ”But I brought out the two-pig-bluff, and I don‘t believe he knew what hit him.“
Sid made his Vicious face -- cocking one corner of his lip up past his nostril and sang, ”’She‘s sure fine-lookin’ manShe‘s somethin’ else.‘“
”Hey -- you do that thing,“ said Elvis.
”What thing?“ asked Sid.
”My snarl. You do my snarl. I got that from Frank Sinatra in The Man With the Golden Arm. I did it in front of him once, I thought he was gonna pop me in the snoot. That’s why I took ‘My Way’ away from him.“
”What‘s ’My Way‘?“ asked Sid.
Elvis closed his eyes, his voice tattered but still held aloft, giving proof through the night. He struggled through the first few bars, the sound a shimmery rasp, but then the hoarseness cracked, like a break in the clouds, and a warm golden radiance shown through.
”And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I‘ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I‘ve lived a life that’s full.
I‘ve traveled each and ev’ry highway
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.‘“
”I like that,“ said Sid.
”Well then, you can have it,“ said Elvis. ”I make you a gift of it. Any you boys want a Cadillac?“
”No, we’re fine,“ said John. And then, when this didn‘t seem to be quite enough, he turned back and gave a full open-hand salute. ”God save the King,“ he said.
”The King is dead,“ said Elvis.
”No, we mean it, man,“ said John.
”So do I,“ said Elvis. ”Long may he reign.“