There was something dried and crusty on the mirror. It looked like spit perhaps. In fact I hoped it was just spit. This wasn’t the nicest hotel in Vegas and as I shifted uncomfortably, feeling like a pallbearer wearing this suffocating blue suit and staring at myself, I wondered if any prostitutes had ever conducted business in this room. The flashing lights from the Strip danced across the bed and up the wall. It felt like a place a hooker might make a few chips. Then I started to wonder why hookers don’t unionize, get healthcare, demand better-looking johns. Then I wished I was at the Mirage. Then I wished I was a mirage. Then I realized I was just stalling because I was nervous.
Shelby was staying with her parents in a suite two floors up and I was meeting them for the first time. That’s why I was wearing that suit. I had to dust it off with a garage broom because I hadn’t worn it since Nana died. Hopefully I wouldn’t be the fatality this weekend but the idea of being tucked into a safe and secure coffin didn’t seem too bad at that moment.
It’s never comfortable shaking the hand of the Father whose daughter you know intimately. They squeeze a little harder. You force a smirk. Their eyes squint. You know that they know what you know about their little girl. It’s never much fun which is why I’d been avoiding it. An old friend of mine, Chazz, who I haven’t seen in years but could never forget, used to break the ice by telling the father that he was happy the girl got her mother’s ass instead of his. Chazz has a space between his teeth that whistled when he laughed. I always imagined the look on the father’s face as Chazz whistled with that toothy grin. Honestly, Chazz was lucky to get any ass at all and lucky he hadn’t yet been killed.
I made my way down the smoky hallway to the elevator. I was supposed to meet Shelby and her folks in the lounge and I didn’t want to be late. I guess Shelby’s mom loves Dean Martin and there was supposed to be a Rat Pack tribute band playing there that had won some awards in town. I didn’t much care. I wanted to get this over with. All of the cigarette smoke was getting to me; my eyes were red and my nose stuffy. I remember thinking, I bet mom will think I’m a weed head. As the elevator door opened, two drunk girls who looked like they dropped out of beauty school to audition for “Jersey Shore” walked past me holding Long Island Iced Teas in three-foot long plastic cups.
“Who died?” the shorter one snickered at my suit as the taller one egged her on. Before I could answer, Nana, seven years ago, they ran off down the hall spanking each other and screaming like a feast of jackals. My mind wandered back to the spit on the mirror. I was ready to see Shelby.
I sat down at the bar in the lounge and pushed a dirty ashtray exploding with butts toward the bartender. I would guess she was about 60 but I couldn’t be sure. She was a botoxer’s worst nightmare. She dumped the ashtray and slid it back in front of me.
“I don’t smoke,” I said.
“In Vegas you don’t have a choice,” she replied, sounding like the Crypt Keeper and not looking much prettier. “Do you at least drink?”
“I’ll have a Shirley Temple.” Her gaze hung on me for what seemed an eternity then she sighed disappointingly and walked off shaking her head. I guess I wasn’t her type.
“Slide that ashtray over here, will ya Chief?” I heard, as a white leather jacket covered in jewels brushed against me. The man wearing the jacket fell into the stool beside me and cocked his head. It was Elvis.
“Don’t worry about her, be your own man.” He fired a cig as I slide him the ashtray.
“Elvis…” I muttered.
“The one and only.”
“I didn’t know you smoked,” I said, almost like a question.
“I didn’t know we knew each other that well.” His lip curled before blowing a plume of smoke over the bar.
“Your jacket, it’s…”–all of the sudden I felt like a fool–“…cool.”
“This jacket is a symbol of my individuality. What’s with the choir boy suit?”
“Oh, it’s…really not my style. I’m meeting my girlfriend’s parents. Her dad is conservative so I just figured…”
“You just figured you’d pretend to be somebody you’re not to impress a man you’ve never met before.” Elvis slowly shook his head. “That’s no way to win at life.”
The bartender returned with my Shirley Temple. “Drink it slow, I wouldn’t want your one chest hair to fall off.” She walked away. Why she hated me I never found out but the desert does have a way of driving people mad.
“It’s not that I’m pretending,” I said to Elvis, “It’s just that I’m–”
“Pretending,” Elvis retorted.
He took another drag. “When I met Pricilla she was 14. Imagine what her Daddy thought of that.”
“How did you handle it?”
“We lied a lot. But in the end, I am who I am and nobody can change that.”
Elvis patted me on the back. I thought about what he was saying and he was right. I started to loosen my tie. “Yeah, why am I acting like someone I’m not?”
Elvis turned to face me and looked straight into my eyes… “But whatever you do, make sure that under no circumstances and I mean NEVER…” My eyes grew wide–
“You all finished here?” interrupted the crusty bartender.
I turned with a furrowed brow, “Can’t you see I’m having a conversation?”
“With who? Yourself?”
“No with…” I turned back but Elvis was gone! I had to know what he was about to say. I looked across the casino and all I saw were Elvises. A banner hanging over a bank of slot machines read, “Elvis Convention.” Elvises were everywhere!
I jumped up and ran into the swath of leather jackets looking for the real Elvis, hoping beyond hope that the King hadn’t left the building. As I spun a white leather jacket around I was face to face with Black Elvis!
“Rock and Roll, buckaroo!” Black Elvis said with a hitch in his hip.
“Have you seen…? Oh forget it.” I ran into the crowd grabbing and turning Elvises. Jewish Elvis, Tranny Elvis, Asian Elvis who looked oddly like my Aunt Jean… Then I spotted him, the real Elvis, heading for the door. The cigarette gave him away. As I broke past Turban Elvis and sprinted I screamed, “Elvis, wait!” Just then, I tripped over Midget Elvis, flipped once, and cracked my head on the white, marble floor. I rolled over, dazed and confused, as Midget Elvis looked down at me.
“Watch where you’re going, dickhead!”
“Thank you very much…” I sarcastically shot back in an Elvis voice, my head splitting. As I rose, the real Elvis was gone. I would never know what advice he was going to give me.
“Kyle,” Shelby called out concerned and jogging toward me. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I said rubbing my head, “I think so. I’m just a bit foggy…” Behind Shelby I could see two parents staring at me. The mother had kind eyes but the father looked like he just zippered his scrotum.
“Are you ready to meet my parents?”
“Viva Las Vegas,” I said, still in a fog and suffering from a concussion. We headed over. They met us halfway.
“You must be Kyle,” Dad said as he extended his hand. I grabbed it and he shook hard.
“Yeah, but this suit isn’t really me,” I said as I pulled off the jacket. “And this tie should be on a corpse.” I turned and hurled the tie toward the bartender, “Why don’t you put this on and smile, Little Miss Happy Face.”
“Kyle…I think you hit your head harder than–” Before Shelby could stop me I yanked down my pants.
“These pants are way too tight and my junk needs to breathe!” I kicked them through the air. They landed on Midget Elvis. “Good thing I didn’t wear the leopard thong Shelby gave me, huh pops? WOO HOO!” I started to pelvic thrust and curl my lip.
“Kyle…” Shelby was speechless.
I cocked my head, “It’s okay baby. I am who I am and nobody can change that. My God my head hurts!”
As I stood in my dress shirt and underwear, pumping my hips, suddenly and without warning Dad started to laugh. It began from deep within and slowly built until it came out with a thunderous guffaw. “I always hated meeting the father. It’s so unnerving! Good on you for being completely original, Kyle.”
Shelby suspiciously smiled and put her arm around me. Mom nodded her approval.
“I think he’s a keeper, Shel,” Dad said. “Way better than that Chazz guy you used to date who was always whistling at your mother’s ass!”
And with that, I fell backwards and knocked myself cold.