Thursday, July 07, 2016


Category: Short Story

by Harris Tobias

    The couple in front of me were aliens. I knew it as sure as I know my own name which, for the record, is Clyde Roof. When you’ve been hunting those slimy devils as long as I have, you just feel it in your gut no matter how clever their disguise. The signs are pretty unmistakable— their color is off, their hair looks painted on and they smell funny. To me they smell like stale donuts. My partner Ralph thinks they smell like shoe polish. Regardless, these two were not human and they had no right being on line at one of our shrines. I was going to call the authorities right then and there, but one of the guides came down the line handing out headsets and I got distracted. Besides, this was my vacation and not my problem. I hunt aliens 50 weeks a year. I finally got my lousy two weeks off. I wasn’t going to ruin it by working. I love my job, don’t get me wrong. I may not be the best in the department but I was good enough to be named employee of the month last April.
    We all slipped on our headsets as instructed. I watched the alien couple carefully. Sure enough they placed the headphones well below where human ears ought to be. Alien hearing organs are located lower on the neck. The couple were well disguised: He as a willowy Asian man about 60 in khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt; she a jolly, round faced oriental lady in black pants and a green T-shirt. Her shirt said Elvis Lives in large letters. I noticed that she wore a big camera around her neck and smiled at everyone. Unless you were sensitive to aliens like me, they looked like ordinary tourists lining up to pay homage to the King.
    The line shuffled forward a few feet and then stopped again for no reason. I was still toying with the notion of calling security when the female alien turned to me and held out her camera. She smiled and, in her phony accent, asked if I would take their picture. They stood close together smiling like Elvis meant something to them. There was a big portrait of a young Elvis on the wall behind them. It made my blood boil to think of these non-human outworlders desecrating this hallowed place. I didn’t want to make a scene so I agreed. They posed with their arms around each other, big goofy smiles on their faces. They looked so genuine, so ordinary. How cunning I thought.
    “You guys really like Elvis?” I asked, hardly able to hide the disgust in my voice.
    “Oh yes,” she said. “We have all his records. Kim here does Elvis real good. Show him dear.” Kim obliged, brushed his dark hair forward, shook himself into character, thrust out his pelvis and belted out a few bars of Love Me Tender while playing his air guitar. I had to admit he was pretty damn good— for an alien. Several other couples on line applauded so apparently he impressed them too. The line inched along. I felt like apologizing to the aliens for the long wait but they didn’t seem nearly as annoyed as me.
    I’ve been a big Elvis fan all my life. This trip to Graceland was a dream come true. Something I’ve been wanting since I was a kid. I was no Presley expert, but I knew quite a lot about the King of Rock & Roll. I couldn’t imagine creatures trying to pass as humans appreciating the King’s genius nearly as much. I thought I could embarrass them with a few simple trivia questions. To my surprise they knew more Elvis trivia than I did. I was impressed. I decided to put off exposing them until after the tour.
    “Where are you folks staying?” I asked, thinking I could always have them busted in their room later. Kim didn’t miss a beat, “Heartbreak Hotel,” he answered grinning a toothy grin.
    “Oh yeah? And where is that exactly?”
    To my surprise, Kim and the Mrs. replied in unison, “It’s down at the end of lonely street its Heart Break Hotel.” And went on to sing a few verses in full Elvis mode to the delight of the crowd. Even I joined in the applause. It was precious. The whole line burst out laughing. I had to admit, it was pretty funny.
    We got to talking. Since I was alone, they invited me to tag along with them. We walked through Elvis’ splendid home, stood where Elvis stood and touched things Elvis touched. We all felt humbled in the presence of his genius. We wept together before the wall of gold records. I had to comfort a sobbing Kim after seeing photos of a bloated Elvis in his last performance. The aliens seemed so thrilled to be there, so reverent, so genuinely touched that I abandoned any plans of turning them in. When the tour ended, I wished them well, I really did.
    It’s like the King said to Annette Funicello at the end of Beach Blanket Bingo, “Live and let live, baby,” he said. I can live with that.

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