Elvissey

Elvissey by Jack Womack

Book: Elvissey by Jack Womack Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jack Womack
in a spot evidently legal. Once
outside, inhaling air both purer and dirtier than that of our
New York, I hacked myself blind, choking on the chemical
tickle in my gullet. When I recovered I pulled, then pushed
the doorhandle of a booth and stepped in. John sat fingertapping the wheel while he watched cars slog up the ramp
to the roadway. After dialing the operator I heard a short
ring, followed by a click.
    "Information, help me," I blurted into the receiver, conscious to word as they would. "Get me Memphis, Tennessee."
    "Moment, please," said a woman's voice. Hearing undigi-
talized tones surprised me; I'd not expected to speak to
something not programmed. "What number in Memphis?"
    "You got me," I said. "There's a listing for Presley?"
    "Moment, please." Detecting a rustling sound above the
static, I fancied that she might be thumbing actual directories, however impossible that would have been. "First names
of your party?"
    "Vernon," I said, "or Gladys."
    "I have neither a Vernon nor a Gladys Presley listed in
Memphis, Tennessee," she said. "I do have an Elvis Presley
listed."
    "Shoot me," I said.
    "Pardon?"
    "Address, I mean. Please." She recounted; I transcribed.
"Crazy. Many thanks." Extricating myself from the booth
after hanging up, I returned to our car; shouted to John
through the open windows.

    "He's there," I said. "We're on."
    "Seat yourself and let's fly."
    "A map's essentialled," I said; glanced behind me.
"There's a magazine store. They'll supply."
    "Hasten," said John. My skirt hobbled me from rushing;
as I tried to dash I sensed a lightheaded feel, as if I were
airshort after only a few steps. The store was small, no wider
than three meters; the single window was curtained by rows
of magazines held with metal clips. Within, racked magazines papered one wall; stacks of newspapers laid atop a
radiator bulwarked the window. The proprietor looked to be
seated behind a barrier of candy, and it was a moment more
before I realized that he stood. His other customers, two
prepube boys, pawed comics and stared as if they were mentally denuding me.
    "Hi ho," I said; the proprietor stonefaced me. "I need a
road atlas. Can you give me aid and comfort?" He pointed
an ink-blackened finger toward a shelf near the boys.
"What's the damage?"
    "Half a buck," he said. "You can't read, lady?"
    "Fifty cents," I repeated to myself, trusting that I could
accurately convert. Finding two silver quarters in my purse I
handed them over, and he slung them into a wooden box;
they chimed, landing atop previous receipts. "And a newspaper," I added, seizing one of the smaller atlases.
    "Okay. Which one?"
    Nine stacks of different titles awaited my selection.
"This'll do," I said, retrieving a Daily Mirror, gathering from
its mast that it was national, not local.
    "Nickel." The ones I had bore a bust of an AboriginalAmerican on one side and an animal on the other. He
sneered at my coin. "Lady, this ain't a nickel."
    "Sorry," I said; another error of research. From my purse
I withdrew a dollar.
    "Nothin' smaller?"
    I shook my head; as he coined me in return I examined one of his nickels, but couldn't recognize the figures depicted. "You haven't history books, have you?" I asked.

    "Why would I?"
    "Would anyone nearby? I'll pay through the nose."
    "Hey lady, you want a history book?" one of the boys
asked. His voice broke as he spoke; from his look I'd have
judged his age as no more than eight, but his sound suggested fifteen. I wondered if they went manly sooner, over
here. "You can buy mine," he said, passing me a hardcover
he carried. Its torn orange cloth bore the words The Growth
of the American Republic, Fourth Edition; the author's line
pronounced it writ by Casner and Gilbert.
    "You don't need it?" I asked. "For schooling?"
    "I'll tell 'em I lost it. How much you give me?"
    "A fin?" I suggested, slipping him one of my tens.
    "Yeah, swell." He and his friend evidenced no suspicion
as they admired

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