SOMEWHERE IN TEXAS, SOMEWHEN IN THE SEVENTIES
“Early in the morning, before the fog had burnt off full, you could see the pronghorn in the distance. My daddy would have the glasses, and he’d pick one out for me and I didn’t need but one shot–BANG–and that leaf-eatin’ sumbitch would be down. My daddy would gut it and cut the heart out, steaming and drippping, and we would take bites from it. The heart was the animal and the animal was the land and that land was Texas: it made us strong.
“There may have been transubstantiation involved, at least on a metaphorical level.
“I walk for Texas. Can you understand that, young man? Texas is at my back and though I set sail for new and fecund lands every morning, I end each charmed journey back where I began: Texas, which spawned me and nourished me and taught me about hats.
“But every man must one day wrap himself in denim and rhinestones, grow his ‘chops out all Wolverine-like, and let his magic dancin’-legs take him to see the world. I been to Saskatoon in the winter and Phoenix in August. Played Atlantic City a buncha times. Depressing. Nothing like Vegas: that’s the only town I ever fell in love with wasn’t in Texas. Only town fast enough for Roy Head. Yes, that Roy Head.
“You should have heard of me.
“I was retoolin’ my sound in 1974: country ballads about what a whore my wife was, maybe an uptempo swing number on each side of the record, but still concentrating on how women have failed me. The Vegas gig was a plum one: twelve weeks a year in the lounge at the Sahara. I would sing and dance and tell jokes and, if the crowd was hot, I would use one of my stretchy-legs as a jump rope and then jump rope my own leg.
“It wasn’t as good as Shecky Greene’s lounge act, but it was a lot of fun.
“It was a debaucherous time for America, and I was no different than the next man, except for being cooler and the leg thing and having more money and a much larger hat: I am no teetotaler, sir! Roy Head has totaled cars, boats, a winnebago once, but never tee! Do the nights last too long? Occasionally. Have I had to chase my liver down in a parking lot and jam it back in my body on more than one Abilene morning? Why not. Have I killed three men named Rudy? Yes.
Sometimes, a man is nothing more than boots and thirst.
“Breakfast would be at three in the afternoon, sharp. There would be melons and shrimp, which did not taste good together, and the foods of various cultures, such as China or Italy or Jewish. The bacon would be to your crispness. It was a fine spread, but they couldn’t get the Tex-Mex right. I had to fly in my personal chef Louie Grabass and install him in the hotel’s kitchen.
“This led to complaints, but I gotta have my Tex-Mex and Louie’s gotta grab ass.
“On this particular day, it was me, Louie, Big Bucktoothed Pete, and a buncha showgirls that stayed the night and we had done stuff to, even Pete. Skippy Joe was missing cuz he had wandered into the desert lookin’ for Navajo gold: we told him how many things were wrong with that notion, but Skippy Joe was an obstinate sort when he got hold of an idea. We wasn’t that worried about him cuz he’d done this before and it seemed like nothing could kill Skippy Joe, ‘cept for the total organ failure at age 39.
“Skippy Joe was too beautiful for this here world.
“Anyway, we was finishing up our breakfast chimichangas and getting ready to face the day and pump up for the show when Pete opened the shades. I stood agoggle: directly across the strip, filling my view from sky to street, was Elvis. The Intercontinental Hotel had put up his marquee while I slept, the sneaky bastards.
“I was outraged, and then I was thirsty.
“Don’t judge me! To judge me is to judge Texas, and I could make a firm case that judging is a sub-heading of messing, and we all know about messing with Texas, and how not okay it is. That Kentucky-bred fool was mocking me and I needed a drink. First, I had a Priscilla, which is an underage scotch and Aqua-Net. Then, I had a Charlie Hodge, which is water and a scarf, but also a whole mess of random pills.
“You would not be incorrect in saying I had my nose open.
“Big Bucktoothed Pete might have also had a Hunting Season, which is a drink made of vermouth, whiskey, and artificial deer urine. I’m not blaming that for what happened, but it is a contributing factor. Pete also might have had too many Hunting Seasons and mistaken one of the showgirls in her feather headdress for a wild turkey and sprayed he with some birdshot.
“She did return to dancing after the incident, so there’s a happy ending.
“I called the troops together and we left Headquarters–I called the hotel suite Headquarters–and got into the lipstick red convertible Cadillac Coupe de Ville. That girl had ivory leather seats made from whale penis, or walrus penis: it was penis, I tell you what. I called that car The Fuck Apple and it got six miles to the gallon, the way Jesus intended.
“It’d fit in the lobby of a Las Vegas hotel, but just.
“Rushing to the showroom, I felt a spirit come over me! I was back there in the Texas of my youth, out in the scrubby hill country watching them deer’s tails flash as they heard the truck coming. My daddy was there! He spoke to me as I came upon the King, his meaty thing encased in the finest jumpsuit I ever seen, and my daddy–I could see him–he raised that pronghorn’s heart and took a bite! Only by ingesting can we become! To make the flesh my flesh: my daddy told me what to do!
“And that’s the story of the night I tried to eat Elvis Presley.”
“Do you wanna buy a lottery ticket or not?”
“I WON THE LOTTERY THE DAY I WAS BORN ROY HEAD!”
“There’s a line behind you, man.”