Are You Still Mine?
Having supersenses isn’t all good. Elvis can feel his chin wag when he sings. He tries a karate kick to energize himself and can’t get his toe past knee-level.
He’s playing to a small crowd at the Memphis Fairgrounds. The only squeals come from the coaster behind the stage. His hip shake is more of an old-woman’s waddle. He dyes his hair because it’s in his contract. I’m back where I started, he tells himself. At this rate he’ll be back to driving a truck.
“Some of y’all may remember me,” he says. “I used to be a pretty good touch football player over at Guthrie Park. I used to sing a little, too.” No one laughs. He’s not sure anyone’s paying attention.
There’s a young woman with cotton candy in front of her face. Only her eyes show, and she’s crying.
He points her out. “Darling, this one’s for you,” he says and breaks into “Unchained Melody,” a Righteous Brothers song some people might know.
Not this girl. When she pulls that cotton candy away, she’s about twelve years old. She’s just done up her hair to look older.
The coaster clatters behind him.
While he sings, he sways to relieve the pain of his arthritic hips. His latest doctor, a young guy just out of med school, took one look at his x-rays and said, “Sir, you must’ve been a dancer or an athlete when you were young.”
“Little of both,” Elvis said.
“Well you overdid it in any case.”
“I don’t care about the diagnosis, man. Just load me up on Demerol.” Elvis impresses with his knowledge of pharmaceuticals. He’s been studying his Physician’s Desk Reference for years. He can quote liberally. It’s how he knows Latin. Tempus fugit.
“You used to be a doctor?” the young guy asked.
“I used to be just about everything.”
“Now you’re just you,” the doc said as he wrote the script.
“Time goes by so slowly,” Elvis sings on the carnival stage. “And time can do so much.”
He knows the rest of the lyrics but waits, hand to ear, till the coaster delivers his screams.
John Henry Fleming's stories have appeared in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The Rupture, The North American Review, Mississippi Review, Fourteen Hills, New World Writing, and Carve, among others. He's also the author of Songs for the Deaf, a story collection; The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman, a novel; Fearsome Creatures of Florida, a literary bestiary; and The Book I Will Write, a novel-in-emails originally published serially. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of South Florida and is the founder and advisory editor of Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art. His website is www.johnhenryfleming.com.
© 2019–23 The Lincoln Review