April 23rd, 2006
Three Elvises walk into a bar.
You may laugh, but I was there, it’s true. Three Elvises. Elvii. Whatever. First strode in the bishop: big as life and twice as wide, identified as he was by his high-collared cape, resplendent in rhinestones and the golden sunglasses of his office. Behind him swaggered a priest, her jumpsuit less ornate, her belt-buckle smaller, her cape shorter. Last was a neonate, still in training but wearing the blue suede shoes of one who was near priest-hood. Now, he didn’t have the broad steps of the other two, wasn’t much more than a boy, but he held his pompadour just as proudly
“Whatâ€™s your poison, preacher?” the bartender asked, not sure what else to do once the bishop had maneuvered his mighty, blessed girth onto the stool.
“Fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, currently. But as for what me and my compatriots will have to drink, Pepsi-Cola iffin you got it, water if you don’t.” Now some say Elvises sweat extra hard in the memory of their savior, and the bishop clearly subscribed to this form of worship. He wiped the outside’s sweat and grit from his face, and gave each bushy sideburn a quick comb with his fingers. “I wonder if I might trouble all you fellas for a word about the man who gave his life for your sins, our lord and savior Elvis Presley.”
As hard as it was for all the patrons of that shithole speakeasy that night to believe, it was true: The Holy Missionaries of the Church of Elvis were in their midst, preaching the gospel. And I’ll say this, that bishop had a powerful set of pipes.
“For his love is a burning love, a hunka, hunka burning love that will melt away all your sins should you accept him in your heart. But your love for him must be tender, it must be true.” Unsurprisingly, not every drunkard wanted to hear the wisdom in loving tender. A half-full pint glass was rocketed to the bishop’s head. It was caught before contact by the priest, who, in her skill caused not a single drop of warmed-over beer touched the bishop’s immaculate pompadour.
“Truth is like the sun,” the preist said. “You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.”
Was about then, the whole bar rose as one to pound those three missionaries into the floor. Not me, I was under the table. But the whole group tried to take those holier-than-us-ers down for the count. What we hadn’t reckoned on was the fact they were a great deal less drunk–and therefore, more mobile, even the bishop–and that all Elvises are trained in kung-fu.
‘Least I think it was kung-fu. All I know is even that boy threw a mean karate chop. Not that I felt it. I was under the table. Swear on my life.
It was in the remains of this fight, this battle, this ever-lovin’ crusade that the three Elvii–unharmed, if dirty–opened their mouths as one and sang. And let me tell you, brother, you ain’t heard shit unless you’ve heard “In the Ghetto” done in three-part harmony. If there was a dry eye in the bar, I sure didn’t see it. As unlikely as it sounds, those Elvises did do some conversions that day, and I’m sure several patrons woke up the next day with hangovers around their foreheads and silk scarves around their necks wondering what happened. But a few of them–more than a few, come to think of it– swore off the drink entirely. They felt the burning love within, and purified them without.
So they tell me, leastways.
As the Elvises turned to leave, I found strength in my own voice to call out to them, and I asked them, I won’t lie, I asked them how a fellow like me could sing like that.
The bishop and priest turned to the boy, who looked bashful at the attention. He slid he gaze upwards and when it came down it was the most serene thing I had ever seen.
“My voice is God’s will, not mine,” he said. And then they were gone, a trail of hound dogs and suspicious minds, teddy bears and puppets on strings and devils in disguise behind them, all of us were all shook up. They’ve been always on my mind ever since.