Monday, December 04, 2006

That's Not Right, Mama

What does the end of the world sound like?

Onstage, the woman in the white jumpsuit shook back and forth in a limited fashion, as if she were trying to move her glued feet off the floor. Her boom-box scratchily blared the once-familiar hits of the Hillbilly Cat who had once promised it all to us, but who disappeared into a maelstrom of formulaic films and paint-by-numbers pop hits.

All that remained after that was wealth and madness.

The audience was becoming increasingly agitated, as the now-darkened skies seemed to threaten something more than rain.

Our “Appreciation Day,” carefully designed to make all of us believers in the American Dream, in the equality of management and the workers, in the ability of the kid from the mailroom to work his way up to the Executive Suite, had gone horribly, horribly awry.

The assembled multitudes of Endless Bore and Tedium were staring dazedly at each other, first with good humor, then with fear. They dropped their free hot dogs and ice cream and began to tremble. As she went into her fourth song, palms out and head shaking, the first of what would be a chorus of screams was heard.

Was there ever a more American rags-to-riches story than Elvis Presley’s? The kid who made a record for his momma and went on to become the greatest entertainer in the world?

Until he started listening to Colonel Tom Parker and slowly, all-too-easily, started to become a living caricature of himself?

And what was this onstage but a caricature of a caricature? A copy of a copy of something that had once been alive?

Is this what was waiting at the end for us, not even a gold watch, but a sad parody of our lives laughing at our willing waste of it, this rictus of a corpse mouth grinning at the shrunken apple head of our wizened ambition?

Shrieks began to pierce the air. Why wouldn’t she stop? Was this unending torment the arrival of Hell, at last?

A man ran through the parking lot, screaming with his fingers in his ears. A woman tore at the company ID she wore on her shirt, ripped it off and dashed it to the ground. A young man who looked like he’d only begun his long, corporate climb was found later gibbering in an elevator as he scrawled nonsense on the walls.

Which Elvis was it? There were as many Elvises as there were Americas: Fat Elvis, Thin Elvis, Gospel Elvis, Sexy Elvis, Western Elvis, Hawaiian Elvis, Young Elvis, Old Elvis, Rockin’ Elvis, Vegas Elvis, even Nixon’s Elvis, the Hillbilly Rat.

All of them contradictory and all of them true.

If we did not aspire to be Elvis, we aspired to an Elvis state-of-mind, an understanding that America would ultimately reward us for our zest for life, our thirst for freedom, and our will to break the chains upon our soul.

And now we looked at each other as if we’d awoken from a dream. My god, it wasn’t true! None of it was true!

Look what they did to the King!

True panic had begun to set in, as if an invisible fever had started to spread. “No more! No more!” someone shouted, as the Elvis Thing let us know once again, palms out, that she was not through with us.

From somewhere, we could make out the beginning of Dixie.

It felt strangely appropriate, for our own microcosmic War Between The States had left the parking lot as littered as any Southern battlefield. She had begun An American Trilogy and it meant that the ordeal was nearly over. All we had to do was make it through to the end of The Battle Hymn Of The Republic and we could get back to the safety of our cubicles and pretend it had all been a bad dream.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Somehow or other, she had gotten in. No one knew how, after all the work of shutting out the light, sealing up the windows, and making us accept our lives inside this impenetrable fortress, she had gotten in.

All it had taken was one germ and we had all become infected.

The next year there would be no talent show. A few years later, no “Appreciation Day” at all, as The Powers That Be had bigger problems on their hands answering questions about misrepresenting their products and misuse of monies.

Elvis knew! He knew!

Maybe he’d come back again to show us the truth, the blazing heart of that spiritual Pelvis they always try to hide when they want to cut our souls off at the waist.

She had trampled out the vintage where the free hot dogs were stored and her truth is marching on.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Viceroy Tigerbomb said...

Some people would choose just to get totally wasted and thus blank these kinds of memories out. History will be kind to you for preserving these precious visions.

Another burger for the man in the checked shirt!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger Count Screwloose said...

I'll take the potential promise of a burger over getting wasted any day!

RG

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 3:35:00 PM  

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