Crocodile Elvis: A short story
Thu, Nov 12, 2009 (midnight)
Illustration: Doug MacDonald
Elvis drew a bead on the television set. Squeezed one off from his pearl-handled .44 and sent it straight to that big repair shop in the sky—vacuum tubes and all. The shot reverberated through the large suite of rooms, causing the Jamaican housekeeper to drop an armful of clean linen and hit the deck. She ran screaming from the room wailing, “Sweet muddah a Jeezus!,” flopping and jiggling in places that a woman shouldn’t have. Those Jamaican girls sure were high-strung. And man could they run. Even the big ones.
Elvis was staying at the International while filming his new movie, Viva Las Vegas. Elvis really didn’t wanna do the movie, but Colonel Parker had insisted, had talked him into doing this latest bit of schlock by explaining just how many new Cadillacs his paycheck would buy—and the fact that “that lil’ ol’ poontang” Ann-Margret would be his co-star. Ann-Margret. That was some girl. She looked like a preacher’s daughter but drank and smoked and cussed like a colonel from Kentucky—and her bottom was smooth and white as a catfish belly. Oh lordy! She gave Elvis the creepin’ night sweats. Day after day watching her wiggling her tail on the set in them get-ups: leotards and skimpy little shorts. Elvis hadda take a lotta cold showers (he hated cold showers). Each day he prayed to Jesus and the spirit of his mama to give him strength so as not to stray from ’Cilla, his child bride-to-be, and commit fornication ... but it was rough. When shooting wrapped for the day, he’d hole up in his suite of rooms at the Hilton: practicing his karate on the bellhops, or looking for something good to shoot on the television.
There was a knock at the door. Oh lordy! Ann-Margret! Just the other day she came knocking at his door and Elvis pretended to be asleep. The woman sure was persistent.
“Go ’way, Ann! I just ate some green bananas room service sent up an’ I ain’t feelin’ so well.” Elvis just loved peanut butter and banana sandwiches, deep-fried in hog fat. He ordered them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It drove the room-service chef crazy.
“Elvis! Open the dang door! It’s Colonel Parker!”
Elvis opened the door, and The Colonel burst into the room. He was smoking a five-dollar cigar and smelled like sauerkraut.
“Elvis, I got some good news! Them fellas from the movie studio just called. When you’re done shootin’ Viva Las Vegas, they want you ta fly to Australia an’ start work on your next film, Crocodile Rock.”
“Colonel Parker, I don’t wanna go to Australia. I hate Germany. I was stationed there in the Army. Besides, you promised I could have some time off when we was done here.”
“No. No. ‘Australia’ not ‘Austria’ ...”
Just then The Colonel noticed the television set.
“Elvis, didn’t I tell you to stop usin’ them goddarn television sets for target practice! The hotel charges me every time you plug one.”
“I’m sorry Colonel. It’s just that I was watchin’ some movie ’bout the Civil War ...” Elvis seemed vexed. “I still can’t believe we lost! Robert E. Lee was six foot two and had a beautiful white head a hair and beard like Sanna Claus. General Grant was a midget and a drunk. Had a big, red nose an’ kept fallin’ off his horse ... damn Yankees!”
“Forget about all that. You know how many Cadillac cars you’re gonna be able to buy with the check from this here movie? ...”
“Colonel, I don’t want no more Cadillacs. I already got 37. ’Sides, you promised I could spend some time with ’Cilla.”
“Look, you’re gonna like Australia. They got a varmint there called a kangaroo. Hops like a jackrabbit, but big as a man. Carries its young ’uns inside a pouch in its belly.”
Elvis seemed intrigued by the idea.
“So what’s this movie ’bout?”
“You play Lance Doolittle—a champion crocodile wrassler who wants to become a singer so’s he earn enough money to save his mama’s kiwi farm and marry Julie Newmar ...”
“Julie Newmar? She in the picture too?”
The Colonel grinned and nodded.
Julie Newmar. That was some girl.
“... And you got a big number in the movie. They got some fella name a Neil Diamond from New York to write you a song, ‘Do the Crocodile.’ You sing it to a female gator wearin’ a sundress and bonnet.”
“Colonel Parker ... I—I don’t wanna sing to no crocodile.”
The Colonel was in no mood for insubordination. He’d just spent six hours on a jetliner, and his hemorrhoids felt as if someone stuck a red-hot branding iron in his bunghole.
“You look here, Elvis. You don’t sing to that lizard and they’re gonna give your part in the movie to Robert Goulet!”
Robert Goulet? Just the other night Robert Goulet was on The Jack Paar Show. Elvis shot the television set.
“Robert Goulet ... there’s somethin’ ’bout that boy really bugs me. All right, Colonel. I’ll do it.”
“That’s a good boy, Elvis. I knew you’d see it my way.” The Colonel stubbed out his cigar in the ashtray. “Well, I gotta go. Business ta tend to. You behave yourself. Don’t shoot no more television sets—and take it easy on them bellhops.”
“All right, Colonel. Say, would you have room service send me up one a them peanut butter and banana sandwiches for supper?”
The Colonel chuckled. “Elvis, you sure do love them peanut butter and banana sandwiches, doncha?”
Elvis chuckled too.
The Colonel left. Elvis got up and stretched. Walked over to the window and looked down on the little blue square of the hotel’s swimming pool. Tomorrow they were shooting the pool scene for Viva Las Vegas over at the Flamingo. Ann-Margret in a bathing suit. Elvis couldn’t wait. Lordy. That was some girl.