The Pearl River Excursion (Part 7)

Discussion unfurled into the night. Options were weighed, risks were assessed. In all things, at all costs, the legacy of Elvis Presley was to be upheld. Around midnight, with all plans agreed upon, the meeting concluded. The entire committee, along with Ewan and Ishani, and minus Ronnie (who was officially removed), would travel first thing in the morning to Pearl River. 

 Dawn’s gentle light smiled upon Walnut Ridge. Here and there, wispy veils of fog hovered above dimples in the landscape. The odd passing car hummed, adding a soft drone to the morning chorus of whistling birds. One such choir member sat perched upon the modest wooden cross adorning the stubby little steeple of what used to be the local Presbyterian church. Basking in the cool, sweet air, the tiny sparrow twitted merrily, looking down upon the adjoining parking lot at a small, brightly coloured bus with the words Walnut Ridge Elvis Tribute Show! emblazoned across the side. The bus sneezed and croaked then roared to life; the sparrow flitted up into the pale blue sky. Gravel crunched beneath the tyres of the vehicle as it rolled out of parking lot before turning out onto the street and heading south to Louisiana. There awaited them, unaware of the impending visit, an elderly man going by the name Aaron McAllister. Aboard the bus were thirteen members of the Walnut Ridge Elvis Impersonators Club. Each of them was armed with a gun. 

After a smooth seven-hour trip, including a detour via Graceland, the travellers arrived in Pearl River. Gene parked the bus by the side of the road about half a mile from Aaron McAllister’s house and they walked the rest of the way. With the bus out of sight, the group hoped to conceal their identity from Mr. McAllister. They needn’t have bothered. With their high, slick hairstyles, gold chains and rings, their sunglasses, the swagger in their walks and the fact that every one of them except Ishani had a thick black set of sideburns, even a New Guinea tribesman would have instantly identified them as off-duty Elvis impersonators. Together they walked the short, paved path up to the front porch of the old but neat little home. Harry knocked on the door. They waited. Harry knocked again. Footsteps shuffled in no hurry toward the door. A bolt slid back, the doorknob turned, and the pale green door opened. Thirteen starstruck faces grinned and gawked at the old man in the doorway. The man gasped faintly and tried to shut the door; Harry thumped his boot down across the threshold. “Excuse me sir,” he said, smiling from one sideburn to the other. “Are you Aaron McAllister?” 

The unannounced guests held their collective breath. 

“Yes,” said the old man. 

Seeping through the doorway one by one, the Elvis impersonators surrounded Mr. McAllister, touching his face and hair and clothes, murmuring to one another in delight. 

“Please,” said the old man, “give me some room. You’re suffocating me.” 

“Everyone get back!” yelled Wayne. “Give him some room!” He pushed everyone away, grabbed Mr. McAllister by the shoulders and steered him toward the living room. He practically shoved him onto the couch and then knelt before him, staring at him in wonder. “Is that better?” he asked. 

Mr. McAllister adjusted himself. He nodded like a good hostage. “Thank you,” he said. He watched everyone gather around him in the small room. “I wasn’t expecting visitors today.” 

“Ah, yes,” said Harry, speaking on behalf of the group. “We apologise for dropping by unannounced, but we are here on important business.” 

Ken sat on the couch beside Mr. McAllister and stared at him. Mr. McAllister leaned as far away from him as possible without appearing rude. 

“You see,” continued Harry, “we are looking for a sensei.” 

“We are karate students,” added Jerry. 

“Yes, that’s right,” said Harry. “The reason we are here today is that we are all karate students, and we need a new sensei. We were told you teach karate.” 

“Uh, well,” said Mr. McAllister softly, “I do teach karate, but just at the community centre. It’s a senior citizens class, and… and…” He looked at Ewan. “Didn’t you try to sell me insurance last week?” 

Ewan’s eyes widened. “You remembered me.” He put his hand over his heart. “I cannot tell you what an honour it is that you would remember me. I am such a fan. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be just like you.” 

Ishani elbowed Ewan in the ribs and glared at him. 

“Ow!” He rubbed his side. “What I, uh… What I mean is, I am a big karate fan. Yeah. I always wanted to be a sensei. Like you.” 

 Mr. McAllister shifted in his seat. In the kitchen, the phone rang. The old man leaned forward. “I need to answer the telephone.” 

“Make it quick,” said Ishani. 

Mr. McAllister pushed himself up off the couch. “I’ll try, ma’am.” 

The group cleared a path for the old man. 


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