Thank You, Thank You Very Much
By Brenda Whitehurst Rollins
"It likely bounced off some cloud real far out and just took awhile to get back here," Birdie Bucksum declared to Elmore right after she and the world heard the tinny, canned sound of Elvis on the six o'clock report. Not wasting a minute after Daddy clicked off the news and clicked on Vanna White, Birdie had marched right over from her folk's bungalow next door to declare her opinion, just like she'd done at the Reddys’ since she and Elmore played as children under the moss-draped oak in his back yard. "And how come you didn't tell me?"
Elmore had groaned when he heard the bell and saw her glaring through the peep hole. It was a love-hate thing with Birdie and him. Always had been. He knew what she was there for, but he let her in anyhow.
He always let Birdbrain in because he liked to see her unhitched-up-38's bob up and down when she walked. Got a kick out of watching the points on that spectacular matched pair draw imaginary lines on the backside of her polyester pullover when she stomped past him. Besides, truth was he'd always liked her deep down inside, though he'd never admit it out loud and knew she wouldn't either. It was one of those things you feel, he thought to himself, when somebody your age has lived right next door all your life.
"You going to get the phone?" she asked as she jiggled by.
"Huh-uh. Been ringing all afternoon. Ever since the news reporters got wind of it all from SETI." No answer, he figured, and maybe they'd think he was out.
"They couldn't have got it. You're not in the phone book." She stopped in the entry hall and looked at him, that you-are-dumb look in her eyes.
Elmore shrugged. Why bother explaining?
Still, something important had just happened downstairs, and he found himself wanting to tell SOMEBODY about it. Maybe even Birdie. Yet how he could expect a gal who believed Neil Armstrong and Jack Kennedy faked the whole Moon thing how he could expect her to believe Elvis was singing in space? Hellfire, he'd had trouble believing it himself that is until he'd cranked up his equipment again only minutes ago. Now he knew Elvis was out there. In fact, The King was more than "out there." He was out there ALIVE.
Yep, Elmore was as sure of that now as he was that a trotline fixed across Stuck Pig creek would snag a dozen "cats" in one night. Because if anybody was an Elvis expert, it was Elmore, thanks to his dear Mama, who'd three years now peacefully slept under a planted picture of Elvis rising up betwixt the daisies on her grave. It was because of Mama's devotion to The King that Elmore knew by heart every tune from "Mystery Train" to Elvis's changed-up version of Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog," and every other song right down to the very last one Elvis recorded.
And the song he'd just heard Elvis belt out was one Elmore had never heard the King do before.
"Well, then, nonbeliever," he drawled to Birdie, eyes absently stroking her from her little bitty waist to her pouty pink face, "how do you account for me just now hearing him sing a song I never heard and he never recorded?"
That stopped her. She stuck a finger through the bright yellow curl nearest her cheek and wound the long strand around it, her pooched out lips moving forward and back like a suckling lamb's as she worked at thinking. Elmore remembered well that Mama had got to Birdbrain too Birdie was almost as big an Elvis fan as he was so he waited. After a long time percolating she said at last, "You got proof?"
"I do," Elmore said solemnly in his bottom-line way. But he was allowing himself to get excited now. Get Birdie to pay attention, he told himself, and sometimes you can go clean through to her pea brain. He crooked a come-on finger and shuffled past her, headed for the basement. Behind him he could hear the padding of her size-5 feet on the warped hallway floor.
"I managed to get most of it recorded," Elmore said as casually as he could while they descended. She tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned. "Elmore, if this is one of your stupid practical jokes . . ."
"Honey, it's not. I swear." He stepped down to the Astro Turf and crossed to the equipment lining three of the four walls, kicking aside R.C. Cola cans as he shuffled along. He adjusted dials and flipped a switch. Elvis's voice, rich as Elmore's vintage tape player would allow, filled the room. Birdie gasped, stumbled back, and plopped onto one of the Lansings. There was no doubt it was The King. Elmore's face took on a glow as he watched her.
When the song ended, she murmured, "Mercy." They stared at each other, faces somber, for a long time. Finally, Birdie said, "There's only one possible answer for this."
He stared dumbly at her.
"Elvis was abducted by music-lovin' aliens. We got to figure a way to get him back!"
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