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Elvis, Aliens & Moonpies | Chapter 1

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Metzgar EAMP Chapter 1.pdf

Metzgar EAMP Chapter 1.pdf



Elvis, Aliens & Moonpies

Chapter 1

Harris Lumkey sped westward on Interstate 20 toward Fort Worth hoping to make it to town before sunset. The last-minute call from his assignment editor to cover a national UFO enthusiasts’ conference irritated him to no end. “Really,” thought Harris, “I finally get a decent opportunity to break in my new routine and I have to cancel at the last minute just so I can chase down the true believers and get their views recorded for posterity?” Harris was sure this excursion was a waste of time. He’d had enough experience with these people to know that no matter the question, the answer was always “aliens.”

But chasing the same story again and again was just more of the usual for the longtime features reporter at the oldest newspaper in the ArkLaTex. Sure, it wasn’t the heady journalistic career he’d hoped for when he made the leap from ghost writing memoirs for dying hospice patients, but it had led him to the acquaintance of a couple of decent fellas who’d proven remarkably able partners for the kinds of (mostly harmless) trouble not-so-young-anymore men could find in this part of the world. And the reporting gig was certainly much less depressing than so many years of trying to put a glossy sheen on the dysfunctions of families that always came to light when a matriarch’s rule -- funny how it was always the women -- was lurching toward its definitive end.


As Harris exited from I-20 onto I-635 he noticed flashes of lightning in the distance. There weren’t storms in the forecast, but this time of year anything was possible. He’d traveled this way more than once moving at just 25 miles an hour with his hazard lights on amid the quarter size hail or raindrops the size of dinner plates that were synonymous with the summer months. He slammed on his brakes to make way for a small motorcycle, moped really, that had just cut him off. The garment bag hanging from the hook in the back of his car slid to the floor, taking along with it all associated leather, rhinestones and assorted bling.

 Harris grunted as he heard his costume thump onto the worn carpet in his backseat. It had all started as a dare. Thibodeaux and Harp had harassed him into joining the Elvis impersonator contest at their favorite riverboat. Harris’s lanky good looks and head of dark hair had made him the best candidate of the three for this charade. But he’d still entered the contest reluctantly, painfully aware that he had little ability to play a musical instrument, even less ability to dance -- despite his early years as a stripper, much to his mama’s chagrin -- and no ability at all to sing. But in the end, none of those weaknesses had proven a handicap. Harris had been crowned King for a Day by the Otis Riverboat Casino Company. By dint of that victory, he’d been awarded a four-day trip to Vegas for the national King for a Day contest, a journey on which Thibodeaux and Harp had accompanied him. To their never-ending mirth, Harris had swept that competition, too. The win had come with a $20,000 prize which Harris had spent to pay off the remainder of his mortgage and to commission a custom-made Elvis costume. The fact was, Harris had uncovered a hitherto unknown love for performing. All he had to do was lip sync, gyrate a bit, wink at the ladies, and know when to take a bow. He was a natural.

 The costumes didn’t come cheap, but if he was going to make a go at “performing in the style of Elvis” -- the preferred terminology for those in the know -- Harris knew he had to look the part. And that’s why the last-minute trip to Fort Worth to report on UFO aficionados was so annoying. Harris had landed his first paying gig as Elvis in East Texas for the next afternoon. He was already en route when his editor, Washer Durrett, had called. Harris knew the paper was struggling and that it would be easy to use his refusal as an excuse to cut him loose, so he canceled the performance. Harris wasn’t getting rich as a journalist, but he sure wasn’t going to get rich as Elvis, so being a rationalist at heart, Harris had set aside his growing stage ambitions for the moment and had continued west on I-20 heading for the UFO Rodeo.

 Looking to the west, Harris saw the sky beginning to clear, just in time for sunset. The timing was good as his phone indicated he was nearing his exit. “At the next light, turn left. Your destination is on the right.” As he exited, Harris saw the bright lights of the En Toto Hotel with the digital sign highlighting the weekend’s big event, “Welcome to Fort Worth, UFO Rodeo! Let’s Lasso You an Alien!” Harris shook his head. It was going to be a long couple of days.

As Harris pulled into the parking garage, he marveled at the digital signage that greeted him at each turn. “They’re here!” the sign blinked in bright green, capital letters. “Are you ready for the alien rapture?” Finding a spot on level 3 of the En Toto parking garage, Harris decided to take the Elvis costume with him. “Why not?” he asked aloud as he locked the car and watched the digital signage reflected on the hood of his ageing Toyota Rav 4. “Buckle in! Next stop: Zeta Reticuli!”


“Oh, Lord,” muttered Harris as he walked toward the elevator. “This is going to be painful.”


Entering the hotel lobby, Harris was greeted by Men in Black, grey-skinned and almond-eyed aliens, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, and yes, various iterations of Elvis. He approached the check in counter and was greeted by a harried looking young man in the hotel chain’s signature blue blazer. “Welcome, alien lover,” said the clerk whose name tag indicated his name was Ted. “From what planet do you hail?” he asked, barely disguising his cynicism.


“Well, Ted,” Harris replied, looking him in the eye. “I’m no happier to be here than you are. Can you hook me up with a nice room, at least? This week-end is going to suck in so many ways.”


Ted looked surprised, then laughed. “Sir, you’re the first normal person I’ve talked to all day. You can have the Presidential Suite as far as I’m concerned.”


“Nah, I don’t need a suite. Just a safe haven to hide from these crazies at the end of the day.”


“I gotchu,” Ted said. He handed Harris a UFO Rodeo welcome folder and a couple of room keys. “Welcome to the best party on this side of the Milky Way.”

 Harris rolled his eyes, thanked Ted for the help and gathered his things. Balancing his laptop bag and Elvis costume on one shoulder and pulling his 22-inch carry-on with the other arm, Harris navigated toward the elevator. Ted had checked him into a pool-level executive suite overlooking the Metroplex. Breakfast and happy hour included. He wouldn’t need to expense any of that. Washer would approve.


Harris stowed his things, took a quick shower and headed toward the conference’s welcome reception on the pool deck just down the hall. “Might as well jump in,” he reasoned as he grabbed his man bag stuffed with reporter’s notebook, camera and audio recorder, and pulled the door closed behind him.

As he walked through the glass doors marking the boundary between the air-conditioned hotel and the damp Texas summer night, Harris was greeted not just by a wall of oppressive humidity, but by barely clad, body-painted young women resembling green nymphs. They were circulating hors d'oeuvres and champagne, and tolerating a generous amount of harassment. The hostesses were indeed delightful, but this wasn’t his first rodeo. Harris knew the limits: Look don’t touch. Order politely. Tip generously. And move on.

“Citizens of the universe,” a voice boomed over the speakers surrounding the pool. “Welcome to the UFO Rodeo! Harris scanned the space to identify the speaker. It was a small man in an ill-fitting tuxedo, looking for all the world like a poor man’s version of the host at Cabaret’s Kit Kat Club."

“Ooof,” thought Harris as he took a measure of the speaker. “This is the brains behind the UFO Rodeo? That explains a lot.”

“Tomorrow morning we’re going to get down to business,” Tuxedo Man said, “but tonight, it’s just those of us who know the truth, those of us who seek the truth, and those of us committed to spreading the truth. Tonight, you’re with kindred spirits. Eat, drink and enjoy."

Harris grabbed a champagne from the tray of a passing wood nymph and resolved to mingle amongst the conference goers. Washer wanted a story or two or three. Harris psyched himself up for the inevitably tedious conversations. It would be painful, but he recalled the famous Confucian saying, “A farmer must stand on a mountain top with his mouth open for a long time before a roast duck will fly in.” Harris had to go find his roast ducks.






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