Sunday, January 8, 2012

Just Your Garden Variety Elvis Freak

In so many ways she was just your garden variety Elvis freak. She had the records, she had the velvet paintings, she had the teacups, teapots, tea towels and tea cozies. She had the salt and pepper shakers; the pill boxes; the pocket mirrors; the sheets, pillow cases and towels. She had the doodads, the tiddlywinks, and the tchochkes. If it was made, and it had a picture of Elvis on it, she had it. 
But so what? She was not unique. There are thousands of people exactly like her, alive in America this very minute. They make their yearly pilgrimage to Graceland, they throw elaborate parties on Elvis’s birthday and hold mournful wakes to commemorate his (alleged) death. They talk to him, adore him, pray to him. Some of these people seem just like you and me. How would you ever know, just by looking?
My Aunt Tootie was like that: a semi-regular person who shopped in the supermarket, stood on line at the Post Office, paid her taxes and water bill and gas and electric, and just happened to have an ongoing Elvis fixation. Until it went  . . .  a little bit too far.
You see, Aunt Tootie had cats. She had Pretty Boy, Pretty Girl, Eleanor Roosevelt, Paw-Paw, Patches and Sister. And one day it came to her, in a dream, that every one of her cats was really the incarnation of Elvis himself. That’s exactly what her dream told her, that Elvis, the King, now lived within the bodies of her cats.  Simultaneously. Everywhere at once. He was the King, he could manage it.
So Pretty Boy, Pretty Girl, Gray Eyes, Paw-Paw, Patches and Sister were renamed Elvis, Elvis, Elvis, Elvis, Elvis and Elvis. Because, Aunt Tootie reasoned, if you were the spirit of Elvis you wouldn’t want to have someone calling you Patches. Let’s face it, it’s hard to argue with that.
Aunt Tootie glued little rhinestones to her cats’ collars. She sewed tiny satin capes for them. She fed them grits and collard greens and pepperoni pizza. (The Elvis web sites are very specific about what the man liked to eat.) And she played her Elvis records from the time she woke up in the morning until the time she went to bed at night because — why not? 
Aunt Tootie was perfectly happy with this arrangement. But the cats — well the cats went berserk. Those poor felines had their dignity; they knew the collars and the capes were just plain tacky. And they were sick and tired of eating Chicken à la King every single Friday night. 
One day it happened: the cats were able to make their escape. One second they were inside, behind closed doors. The next second, six streaks of fur (in rhinestones and satin) were flying down the street. Pretty Girl, Paw-Paw and Patches got lucky. They made their way to the alley behind Irma Litvik’s house, and from that day forward, they were spoiled rotten. But in a very normal, "Kibbles 'n Bits" kind of way. 
No one ever saw Pretty Boy, Eleanor Roosevelt or Sister again, but I like to hope for the best, and so should you.
As for Aunt Tootie, she took the desertion hard. 
But then she got over it. She is one resilient woman. And needless to say, cats or no cats, she never lost her devotion to Elvis. 
Within a few weeks she hung a sign in her living room window: Hound Dog Antiques. Now all her treasures are out there on display and she just loves showing them off to people who stop by. Of course, nothing is for sale, and you might think that makes her a bad business woman, but Aunt Tootie says she’s living the New Economy. Whatever that means. 
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you: she has dolls now. Elvis dolls. She buys the little outfits on e-bay. It’s a sort of Elvis/Barbie thing. The dolls don’t mind the rhinestones or fake fur, the way the cats did. Or if they do, they’re not saying anything. Aunt Tootie is somewhat in love with the dolls. And she believes, in her heart, that they love her too. 
But if you saw her on the street, and didn’t know any of this, trust me: you would think she was just a regular person.