Archive for December 6th, 2017

Do The Right Thing

(Yesterday was my brother’s birthday, so I thought I should reprint the Smelvis story.

(I wrote the piece, for a little alternative weekly, back in the fall of 1994 . . . which now “seems a thousand centuries ago,” as Colonel Kurtz did say. It was composed while a shrieking tooth died howling in my head, radiating ceaseless waves of pain that not even liquid morphine could long calm. The plan was to finish the story & then the paper would give me some money & then I could go to a dentist. But by the time the money arrived the tooth had at last expired, and so I was back in but the daily pain of living. I no doubt spent “every darn penny on booze or women or movies,” as Chuckles Grassman recently glowered.

(My brother always liked this story. He was the model for the character Tector. He was supposed to accompany me on this journey, but for some reason backed out. I brought him along anyway.

(My brother never made it to South America. Because when he died identification of the corporeal container was at best a guess, I like to think he actually did, and thrives there to this day. Freed at last of white people, and all the other demons that possessed him.)

calling elvis
is anybody home
calling elvis
i’m here all alone

The Feather River delta died years ago below too many goddam dams. The banks of the Yuba/Sutter bottomlands shimmer in that shade of scummy yellow-brown that settles round the throat of the toilet when you don’t scrub the thing very often. In signal-clotted fits and stalls I am following the highway, preparing to cross the river, frantically throwing garlic at the “I YAM WHAT I YAM” messages emanating from the jesusjumping signboard hung above the Yahweh Hotel.

I’m going to Graceland, Graceland West, in Yuba County: I’m going to Graceland. Poorboys and picaros, from felonious families; and we are going to Graceland. My traveling companion is thirty-three years old; he is the child of our father’s second marriage. With that shotgun cross his knees, we will not be well received, in Graceland.



When I Worked

December 2017
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