Being Elvis

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Carl Perkins is a massive Elvis fan. He works as an Elvis impersonator and is obsessed by the late singer. Finally his obsession threatens to destroy his marriage.

Submitted: January 12, 2017

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Submitted: January 12, 2017

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The crowd roared Elvis Elvis Elvis! He waved a hand. He kicked out and swung his arms in a practised Karate-style move.

‘Thank you,’ he drawled. ‘Thank you very much.’

He saluted, gave a theatrical bow and left the stage. His heart pounded in his chest. There was no rush like performing in front of a crowd. Being on stage, in front of the fans, it was almost like he was Elvis Presley himself and not a North of England tribute act. Carl Perkins headed for the dressing room.

It was gone one o’clock in the morning by the time Carl arrived home to his small terraced house in Salford. He let himself in as quietly as he could. His wife Marie would really let him have it if he woke her. He gave the dog, Shep, named after the first song Elvis performed, a few biscuits and went upstairs. He slipped out of his denim jacket and blue jeans and slid under the duvet beside his wife. She murmured at the disturbance and rolled away from him.

He ran a hand through his quiff and stared at the ceiling in the darkness. He turned his thoughts away from his wife’s grumbles and back to the evening’s performance. What a great night it had been.

The next morning he woke to find he was alone in bed. He sat up, stretched. Noises came from downstairs. He shrugged into his Elvis dressing gown and went down. He expected to find Marie maybe sorting the washing out or playing with the dog. He stopped in his tracks when he saw the open suitcase on the coffee table. Marie was placing items in the case on top of her clothing.

‘What’s going on, love?’

She shook her head and continued to pack.

‘Marie?’

With a frustrated sigh she turned to face him.

‘I’m leaving, Carl. It’s over.’

‘What? But why?’

‘Seriously? It is the whole Elvis thing. It’s too much.’

‘Everyone has to earn a living. It pays the bills.’

‘It is more than just your job.’

‘We’ve had some decent holidays thanks to the money I’ve brought in. We went to America.’

‘We went to Graceland three times. That just proves my point.’

‘I can change.’

Marie smiled sadly. She gently patted his dyed black hair styled after Elvis.

‘No, you can’t. If it was just a job you would wear a wig. It isn’t a job for you, it’s an obsession.’

His hand went to the gold TCB logo on a chain around his neck. Elvis and Pricilla had designed the logo for the King’s motto, taking care of business. Carl knew his wife had a point.

‘I could try and tone it down.’

She shook her head.

‘It is who you are.’

He shrugged.

‘But it is not who we are.’

‘Is there somebody else?’

‘The only person who has come between us is him.’

She jabbed a finger at the large framed picture of Presley over the fireplace. Marie tossed a few final items into the case and snapped it shut.

‘Take care of yourself, Carl.’

He managed a nod.

‘Come on, Shep.’ she called.

She headed out the door, the dog trotting behind her.

‘You’re taking the dog?’

She slammed the door shut. Carl watched from the window as she bundled Shep into the back seat of the car.

As she started the car and drove away Carl slumped to the floor. He felt shocked. Had this actually just happened? His wife had been his best friend for almost a decade. And now she had simply walked out on him. He knew the whole Elvis thing was wearing a bit thin with her but he had always assumed the tutting and eye rolling had been meant as a joke.

He spent the next few days on the sofa. Days passed by. He did not dress or open the curtains. He barely ate or slept. His eyes were puffy and red from crying. He played Elvis’ love songs and went over everything. How had things gone so wrong? How had he come to this? Every time he tried to call Marie her recorded voice chirped that he should leave a message.

Marie had been right about the extent of his Elvis obsession. Carl never understood why people found it so strange. Most men in this city were obsessed with Manchester United. Their lives revolved around the football fixtures and the transfer windows. Carl’s passion lay in music and a certain performer. Just a different focus of obsession, that was all. And he had been fortunate enough to make a good living performing the songs he loved.

But it had now cost him his marriage.

As the days passed he felt worse about everything. He had a gig at a social club in Eccles the following Saturday night. He did not know how he would make it through the show.

What did he have to live for? His wife gone. His true love had left because of his love of his idol. A thought struck him. Maybe he should end it all. His wife had left. Elvis was dead. The way he saw it the world suddenly had nothing to offer him. He had nothing left to look forward to. Didn’t the King himself struggle when Pricilla left with little Lisa Marie? That had been the start of the great man’s decline. Carl would not wait to be found dead in his bathroom, a bloated parody of the man he once was.

There was nothing left. After the gig on Saturday there was literally nothing to keep him going. Nothing. He said the word aloud. That was it. His mind was made up. After the gig he would end this torment once and for all. He would throw himself into the canal. He knew just the spot. There was a bridge over the canal. Yes. That’s what he would do.

As the week wore on he became more and more certain that he was doing the right thing. He had no option.

And so, on the Saturday he took to the stage at the packed social club. The crowd cheered. Carl smiled and waved. They had no idea what they were watching his farewell concert. He had changed the set list. The songs he worked his way through tonight were more romantic and soul-searching. Viva Las Vegas had been dropped in favour of the more sentimental Love Letters.

Depression and self pity ate away at him as, in the spotlight, clad in the trademark white jumpsuit, he sang Love Me Tender. With a lump in his throat he crooned American Trilogy. Hush little baby, don’t you cry, you know your daddy’s bound to die, all my trials, Lord, soon be over.

With his eyes shut tight he belted out If I Can Dream and Peace in the Valley.

The audience lapped up the emotional, powerful performance. He had tears in his eye as he launched into Wonder of You. He almost broke down as he completed the set with Are You Lonesome Tonight. With the crowd chanting for Elvis he gave a bow and left the stage.

An hour later, changed into jeans and jacket he was standing on the bridge staring into the dark murky waters of the Manchester Ship Canal. He sighed. Soon be over. He touched the chain around his neck. TCB. That was what he was about to do.

He leaned over and peered further over the railing. It was a drop of maybe ten feet to the water. He took a deep breath. Who would actually miss him? Not Marie. It was clear she wanted little more to do with him. And even his gig slots could easily be filled. There were lots of tribute acts doing the rounds. There was a Freddie Mercury act called A  Kind of Queen and a rock tribute act called U-See-DC. No, he would not be missed. He placed a foot on the railing.

Come on, he said in a mock-Memphis accent, you can do this.

‘Excuse me?’

He glanced over his shoulder. A woman looked at him with concern. She was around thirty years old with long dark hair. She wore a biker jacket with the collar turned up.

‘What are you doing?’

‘TCB. Sorry, that’s-’

‘Taking care of business. I know.’

Carl turned to face her.

‘It’s you.’ she says. ‘I was at the gig tonight. It was awesome, man. Just like watching the King himself.’

‘Thank you very much.’ He laughed.

‘Fancy going for a drink?’

‘I wouldn’t be very good company.’

‘Please. We can swap Elvis stories.’

‘I’m sorry but I can’t.’

‘Did you go to the exhibition in London the other year?’

‘No.’

‘And you call yourself a fan?’

‘I’ve been to Graceland three times.’

‘How amazing.’

Carl smiled. Marie hadn’t been so thrilled.

‘Let me buy you a drink’ she said ‘and you can tell me about Graceland. Deal?’

Carl said nothing.

‘Well, I’m tired and so weary,’ she sang. ‘but I must go alone, till the Lord comes and calls me away.’

By the time she reached the chorus of Peace in the Valley they were arm in arm heading to get that drink.


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