Roadside Elvis Shrine

Inspired by Odessa Sleeps, a film by Susan Evans

The King was basically a Tarot card anyway. His soft-focus image, the slight hip check, the strong line of the jutted jaw, everything poised delicately between celebrity and sainthood. He deserved something like this: to be represented with a purely theatrical effect of thick golden beams racing toward every border from a hidden vanishing point behind his pose.

The shrine is located along State Route 23, in Eastern Washington, at the unmarked entrance to an apple orchard. It is a scrap wood fruit crate mounted sideways on a cedar rail. It is draped inside with purple linen, and decorated with the Tarot card (described above), scattered tourist post cards, incense, votive candles and a movie poster featuring Elvis serenading a coy brunette in a swimsuit and a lei.

You may leave behind whatever you wish: sunglasses (not the expensive kind), a personal note, anything to bring good luck or signify what you might be looking for or running from. The item which generally draws the most respect from the casual traveler is a tin crown in gold lame' studded with plastic gems.

The woman who approaches is around thirty, with the bare hints of circles under her eyes. She has no destination in mind, and this explains why she lifts her foot from the accelerator as she approaches, wondering what offering this idle roadside attraction might hold in store. Anyway there is still plenty of light out.

The early Elvis: the pure rush of an excited promise. The middle Elvis: the emptiness of that promise fulfilled. The late Elvis: the even larger emptiness of that promise fulfilled (repeat endlessly).

It had been the last argument that did it. "Look," he scolded her, "my habit of not calling in advance is not something I feel the need to apologize for." This remark - mean, inarticulate -- caused her to finally put things in the car and drive away. Others, however (her sister and mother), would point to earlier causes. They would say it was about time, and good riddance.

She will leave behind, upon her departure, a "velvet kitten" plastic hair comb, a pack of Marlboros, her brushed aluminum lighter, and a worn out cassette tape of Johnny Cash's Greatest Hits.

About the author:

Sean Carman would like to thank Susan Evans for her helpful comments on this piece.