Build Date: Wed Feb 21 15:10:23 2024 UTC

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.
-- H.L. Mencken

An Elvis Cult Miracle

by Lenny Tuberose

1999-07-12 07:52:02

Canuck UBERMENCH Lenny Tuberose will worm his way into your heart with this piece of crazy fiction... Bourbon, hillbillies, and Elvis. Read this instead of going to lunch.

Sacred Heart of
Elvis! "C'mon Allen, you said you had a story for me. You gotta help me out here. You owe me for Chrissake!"

That got my attention. "I owe you?! How do you figure?"

"Remember when I looked after things so you could go out with Suzy Armstrong in college?"

"Looked after things! You got drunk on my old man's whiskey and then nearly burned the fucking house down when you fell asleep smoking his cigars!"

"Yeah, well that was your sister's idea..."

"My sister was only eight years old!"

"The kid was a bad seed Allen. What ever happened to her anyway?"

"She's a nun now."

I had known Marcus Parker since we had roomed together in college. "Do you have to smoke those?"

Parker shrugged his shoulders but made no move to extinguish the offending object.

"I'm a journalist," he said, as if by way of explanation.

"Of course. How stupid of me. Shouldn't you be drinking cheap hootch too? It's almost 9:30 in the morning."

Parker ignored the jibe. Leaning well back in his chair he began blowing smoke rings which he studied carefully. After some time, I said, "I have a story for you."

Parker said nothing. After a moment, I went on. "Do you know what a stigmatic is?"

"People who need glasses? You got me out of bed before noon for a story about...!"

"Not astigmatism, you idiot. A stigmatic. You know, a person with unexplained wounds that simulate the wounds of..."

"Oh, stigmata! Sure I've heard of it."

Parker extinguished the nub of his cigarette in the cold remains of his scrambled eggs, earning him a look of sheer disgust from the patron at the next table. He craned his neck around looking for a waitress and then began a spirited semaphore in a vain attempt to get his coffee refilled. The waitress, familiar as she was with Parker's custom and tipping habits, developed a sudden and intense interest in her apron and beat a hasty retreat to the relative safety of the kitchen. With a shrug and a sigh, Parker began picking his teeth with the corner of a matchbook. This was too much for the patron at the next table who stood with a strangled moan of revulsion and fled into the street.

I raised an eyebrow but said nothing as Parker went blithely on. "Stigmata, huh? Not normally my ball o' wax, the freakshow shit. Still..." his eyes narrowed. "What's in it for you?"

I shrugged, tried and failed to look innocent. "Well, I was thinking that it might be a good topic for a book..."

"And the free publicity would help you swing a publishing deal. And to turn it into a best seller."

"Well, best seller might be a little optimistic, but it certainly couldn't hurt sales. It'll sell papers too, Marcus," I pointed out.

"I don't know man. That religious shit doesn't really sell papers any more, you know? I mean, if it was aliens, or bigfoot...or alien bigfoots!" Parker's eyes lit with an unholy fire at the thought. I would have sworn I heard the faint 'ch-ching' of a cash register in the shabby reporter's head.

"This isn't your run-of-the-mill stigmata story Marcus. Believe me, this one will sell with the trailer park set."

Parker shrugged. "Maybe," he allowed. He reached for another cigarette and found the pack was empty. "Shit. Alright, I'll tell ya what, let's...are you gonna finish that?"

I pushed my plate and half-eaten danish towards Marcus.

"Thanks. Let's go and see this guy and if the story looks juicy then I'll pitch it to my editor.

"Fair enough. You wanna take my car?"

"Yeah, sure. What are you driving these days?"

"K-car. 1984."

"Christ! Business that bad is it? Listen, if you need a few bucks..."

"Fuck you Marcus."

Parker spread his hands wide and shrugged.

"Hey, suit yourself. I guess crime really doesn't pay."

"Crime? what the hell do you mean by...?"

"Oh come on Allen. You're a fucking writer! You guys steal from each other like magpies. And the better you like someone, the more you steal from him. It's perverse."

"Yeah, well we can't all have the imagination of a yellow journalist Marcus. You wouldn't know the truth if it crawled up your pant leg and gave you a hickey."

"Truth doesn't sell papers. Anyway, at least we're not lawyers."



"You know, I met a guy who was abducted by aliens once."

We had been driving for an hour. It seemed like a lot longer. I said nothing, hoping against all hope that the Marcus would shut up.

"He said the spaceship was full of abducted frogs." Parker offered. "Said they were..." Mercifully, almost, Parker was interrupted by the high pitched whine of a siren. Looking over his left shoulder, he said, "Shit! State Trooper. Step on it. Maybe we can lose him."

"In an '84 Dodge? Even if all four of his tires blowout and he has to follow us the hard way with his boots on the wrong feet he could just follow the trail of rust." I applied the brakes and pulled over onto the gravel shoulder to await the law. I watched in his rearview mirror as the State Trooper's car approached through the cloud of dust kicked up by my capitulation.

I watched with growing interest as the State Trooper turned out to be a stunningly beautiful blond. My writer's mind instinctively groped for an apt phrase to break the ice and weasel my way into her good graces. I'll never know if it would have worked, because as soon as she got close to the window, Marcus saw her and blurted out,

"Whoa, nice hooters honey!"

Now she had her gun out. Not good. Her face was utterly emotionless behind her mirrored glasses. "You just bought yourselves a ticket."

"For what?" I asked. "This car won't even go the speed limit, so I know we weren't speeding."

Tactical error on my part. The trooper took out her baton and walked backwards without her eyes or gun wavering from my face. She took out both my brake lights.

"Unsafe vehicle," she said.

Funny thing was, the vehicle really was unsafe, so she hadn't needed to bust it up. Ok, maybe funny isn't the right word.

Just then, Marcus' last remaining brain cell dies of loneliness and he says, "Hey baby, we're dangerous criminals. Aren't you gonna put the cuffs on us and strip search us?"

It was about that time, as far as I can recollect, that I lost my mind. The next thing I know, I've got my hands around his pencil neck and I'm beating his head against the passenger door window, screaming, "You stupid fuck! I'm gonna fucking kill you!"

I was punctuating each syllable with blunt-force head trauma--had a nice rhythm going too--until the passenger door opened and the trooper hauled Marcus out by the scruff of the neck. She smiled. It was a perfect, beautiful smile, but with the baton and the uniform she still looked like a growling rottweiler.

"That's assault sir," she said sternly. Then she cracked Marcus across his pointy head with the baton. "That's procedure." She smiled again. She then proceeded to beat Marcus like the annoying sack of shit he is. She had real staying power--I was impressed. After a while she let me bundle him back into the car.

"I'm going to let you off with a warning this time sir, but you better get those lights fixed. Y'all have a nice day now."

And then she walked back to her car and drove away. I sat there for a while and reflected on the vicissitudes of life. After a time I began to wonder if it had really happened. Then Marcus moaned and spit out a tooth. He was a real mess--I considered hitting him again, but I didn't want him to bleed all over me. Then I noticed that he was already bleeding all over my car--my car with no brake lights because of him--and I hit him.


By the time we reached Tupelo, Marcus had regained consciousness. He didn't even mention the beating. I bet the sick little shit actually liked it. I wished I had hit him a few more times while I had the chance.

"Where are we?" he asked.


"Good God why?"

"The story, Marcus. Remember? We're here to interview the woman with..."

"Stigmata, yeah, I remember. You didn't tell me she was in Tupelo."

"You didn't ask. Does it make a difference?"

Marcus shrugged. "I should have guessed. We're dead in the heart of America's freaky fucking Devil's Triangle of weird shit here."

He was right about that. These people were like a different species--they made the French-Canadians seem normal.

"Ok," Marcus said, "we need supplies. Find us a store so we can pick up some iodine, bourbon, and a gun."

"Sounds reasonable. Unh...the iodine is for your abrasions and contusions right...?"

"Un Huh."

"And the bourbon is for..."

"Self-defence. Shit could get freaky, and without some protection your mind could snap like a...a...snappy, brittle thing."

"Ok, so what's the gun for?"

"What are you, a Commie? This is America, and we, as American citizens, are entitled to a big, shiny gun. Get me some smokes too, would ya."


To call it a dilapidated hovel would be an insult to dilapidated hovels everywhere. But what it lacked in hygiene, it more than made up for in shabbiness. I knocked on the door again.

"Hold yer water! I'm a'comin'."

Two big hands appeared on either side of the door and moved it to the side. The hovel's occupant squinted at us in silence for a time. Then, "What d'yall want?" he demanded suspiciously.

Marcus pushed past me. He opened his coat, flashing his big, shiny new gun, and then flourished the 2/3 full bottle of bourbon and grinned his evil grin-- substantially more evil now after the state trooper had knocked out three of his teeth. "Mind if we come in and talk to you?"

The hillbilly returned Marcus' grin with a gap-toothed smile of his own. "Please yerself. Mind you wipe yer feet or the wife

'll have the hide off'n me."

The inside of the shack had a dirt floor. It's only other occupant was a goat. I hoped that wasn't the wife.

"What's with the college boy?" the hillbilly asked Marcus.

"He drives me around."

"He's got a pretty mouth..."

This was getting ugly fast. "We're lookin' for Frances. Frances MacFadden. Is she here?"


"She does live here though, right?"

"Yup." A man of few words. A man of few teeth too. He was as sparing with his syllables as he was with the soap.

Marcus offered him the bottle of bourbon and the hillbilly took a long pull and then wiped his mouth on his filthy sleeve. "Not bad. Not good as mine though."

"You make your own white lightning?" Marcus asked, an unholy glint in his beady, bloodshot eyes.

"In the jug there. Have a pull if'n ya think yer man enough." Looking at me, our host said, "It'd kill you, college boy."

Marcus stooped down to retrieve a jug from the floor and took a swig. "Smooth," he said, when he could talk again.

The hillbilly just looked at him for a moment. Then he said, "That's kerosene sonny. Poteen's in t'other jug."

Marcus didn't even blink. He took a pull off the other jug. When he was done coughing a sputtering and could breathe again, he took another pull off the jug of kerosene to rinse his mouth. "Christ, I think I feel my hair growing back."

I decided to try again. "Frances...?"

"Huh? Oh...right, she's not here. She's gone off to Memphis. To the hospital."


The drive to Memphis was uneventful. Marcus slept most of the way, and I amused myself with an elaborate daydream of killing him slowly. We arrived at the hospital shortly after sunrise.

The woman at the front desk was extremely busy--she was listening to the radio, doing her nails, talking to a girlfriend on the phone and reading a book, all at the same time. Having witnessed a terrible emery board accident in college while waiting in the endless line for adding and dropping courses, I decided--for the sake of safety--to wait patiently for her attention to wander my way.

" anyway, he says 'but baby, how was I supposed to know?'. What a jerk! And then he has the nerve to say..."

Now, I've been ignored before--I've been in the emergency room at the hospital plenty of times--but this woman was really good. When her eyes did accidentally stray my way, it was as though she was looking right through me. I was invisible! To test my invisibility theory, I began to dance a spirited jig with much hand-clapping and foot-stomping. This earned me a poisonous glance of the sort usually reserved for someone who has just sneezed in your salad. I wasn't invisible then, just unworthy of notice. Good--I knew how to deal with that. I began to hum and tap my fingers on the desk with a rhythm calculated to throw her nail-filing into confusion. Yes, it was dangerous, but I am an uncommonly ruthless man.

"Oh shit! Hold on Edna..." She turned her baleful, basilisk-like gaze towards me. "May I help you?" she asked in just such a way that it was obvious that the only thing she wanted to help me with was tying my belt into a makeshift noose and hanging myself from the nearest convenient rafter.

I smiled. "We're here to see Frances MacFadden."

"So what do you want from me?"

" number?"

She looked at me like I was a talking dog turd. Then, with a show of pained exasperation, she opened her little book.

"Room 210."

"Thanks. Where is...?"

"It's right after 209. Don't they learn you Yankees nothin'? Don't take no Edward Einstein t' figure it out."

She was right, the room was right there between 209 and 211--pretty good for Memphis. We were about to enter when we saw the doctor approaching. I intercepted him. "Good morning Doctor. How is Frances doing today?"

"Are you relatives?"

"Why, yes. I'm her brother..."

"...husband." Marcus said at precisely the same time. We looked at each other and then at the doctor. He didn't even bat an eye. Maybe he thought we were both telling the truth--we were in Memphis.

"She's sleeping right now--she's had a bad few days, I can tell you. Frankly, gentlemen, I'm totally stumped. She hasn't eaten solid food in over a week, but every morning at about 3:30 a.m. she vomits up a huge wad of material. I have the lab report here...the vomit consists of partially digested striated muscle--apparently bovine--and what appears to be about eleven herbs and spices, all embedded in a matrix of what appears to be bacon fat. We've had her watched very carefully and we're sure she's not sneaking meals. It's quite an intriguing little mystery."

"Thanks Doc. Is it ok if I just poke my head in and see how she's doing? I won't wake her."

"I'm sure that would be fine." Marcus and I opened the door and poked our heads in. There was Frances, sleeping like a baby. On her nightstand was an Elvis table lamp On the wall opposite her bed were two huge velvet Elvis paintings that almost entirely failed to please the eye--one of the young Elvis and the other of fat Vegas Elvis in his rhinestone jumper. She had a contented smile on her face and had apparently fallen asleep while working on a needlepoint Elvis--destined to be a lumpy and unattractive pillow it seemed.

We quietly backed out of the room. When we were back in the hall, Marcus said, "Alright Allen, what the fuck is going on here? You said we were here for a stigmata story, and that woman doesn't have a mark on her."

"It is a stigmata story Marcus. Do you know why stigmatics have those wounds on their hands and feet?"

'Well, they mimic the wounds of Jesus don't they?"

"Exactly--they reproduce Christ's Passion--his final few moments on earth."

"Yeah, so? That woman doesn't have any marks on her Allen..."

"You heard the lab report Marcus--bovine striated muscle and eleven herbs and spices--that's Kentucky fried steak!"

"You lost me Allen."

"You saw her room Marcus--the woman is an Elvis freak. She is miraculously reproducing the final moments of Elvis' life, which he spent bent over a toilet puking up his favorite food...Kentucky Fried Steak! It's a miracle Marcus-- the doctor as much as said so--but it's not a Christian miracle, it's an Elvis Cult miracle. This is the first ever documented case of Elvis stigmata!"

Marcus just looked at me. After a while he smiled a sad little smile and shook his head. "You knew all along didn't you? You bastard."

"I wasn't sure until I heard the lab report. Are you going to pitch the story to your editor? This is big Marcus!"

"Allen, I may be an alcoholic and a liar--I may cheat at cards and diddle my friends' wives and charge long distance calls to other people's phones--but I'm not stupid. If I pitch this story, I'll be out on my ass and I might have to get an honest job."


So that was the end of it. Marcus refused to even pitch the story. I couldn't find an editor who would touch the book, so it never got written. I hear that Frances recovered and now she travels around healing true believers with the power of Elvis, and every summer around the anniversary of Elvis' death, she pukes up big steamy wads of Kentucky fried steak. Believe it or not.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

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