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Authors: James Howe

Also Known as Elvis

BOOK: Also Known as Elvis
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For my brother Doug

Twelve years later . . .

Dear Little E,

Okay, so your name is going to be Elvis. But since your mom calls
me
Elvis (which is not my real name), I hope you don't mind if for now I call you Little E.

Man, how did I get to be twenty-five and having a kid? It's crazy! It seems like yesterday that I was hanging out at the Candy Kitchen and got called Elvis for the first time because of my slicked-back hair and black leather jacket.

The Candy Kitchen is this soda fountain and sandwich kind of place that's been around forever in our little town of Paintbrush Falls. My parents went there. My grandparents went there. And my best friends, Bobby, Addie, Joe, and I went there. Over the years, the only thing that changed was, they took out the jukebox. Otherwise, it was like a time capsule. And eventually they brought back the jukebox. Or I did. But hey, I'm getting ahead of myself.

And anyway, maybe you know all this already. I
don't know how much you can hear in there. By the time you're born and old enough to read this, you'll know a lot of it. But I still need to tell you, because it's the story of the summer that changed my life. I keep thinking that if things had worked out differently, I wouldn't be here today and you wouldn't be here in three weeks and six days. (That's when you're supposed to be born. If you're like me, you'll show up when you feel like it.)

The story begins twelve years ago, the end of June. Bobby, Joe, Addie, and I were hanging out at the Candy Kitchen, where we always hung out, in the last booth on the right with the torn red leatherette upholstery. We were having a Forum, which is what Addie called it when we talked about “Important Stuff.” Addie wrote down every word, like we were the United Nations or something.

Oh, and just so you know, your mom is the only one who calls me Elvis anymore. To everybody else, I'm Skeezie.

Like I said, it was the end of June, the summer between seventh and eighth grade.

FORUM: “What I'll Be Doing on My Summer Vacation”

Skeezie:

If the service gets any slower in here . . .

Addie:

Relax, Skeezie. It's summer.

Skeezie:

Meaning?

Addie:

Meaning, it's okay for things to move slower.

Joe:

Besides, in case you haven't noticed, HellomynameisSteffi is the only waitperson working today.

Skeezie:

“Waitperson”? Really?

Addie:

It's the nonsexist term.

Skeezie:

Well, this “eat person” is hungry and can't wait anymore.

Addie:

Skeezie!
Please
stop snapping your fingers!

Bobby:

Change of subject. Can you believe seventh grade is actually over? Now all we have to do is survive eighth grade.

Joe:

And high school.

Skeezie:

And life. Oh, good, here she is. Hey, Steff.

Hellomy

 

nameis

 

Steffi:

Hey yourself, Elvis. You snapped?

Skeezie:

Yeah, I was thinking, should I try these new sweet potato fries you've got on the menu?

Hellomy

 

nameis

 

Steffi:

I'm glad you're doing some deep thinking, Elvis. Why don't you keep it up and answer that question for yourself?

Skeezie:

In the words of the King, don't be cruel.

Hellomy

 

nameis

 

Steffi:

I'm sure a lot of people other than Elvis Presley have said that, but in the interests of my other customers, I'll cut the cruelty and say, Yes, Big E, try the sweet potato fries. They are awesome.

Skeezie:

Sold! And Dr Peppers all around!

Bobby:

With a scoop of vanilla ice cream in mine, please.

Joe:

And mine.

Addie:

How is it that you're the only one working today, Steffi?

Hellomy

 

nameis

 

Steffi:

We lost two employees. Adam's going to college in the fall and is biking across the country this summer.

Bobby:

Cool!

Hellomy

 

nameis

 

Steffi:

Right? And Tina got a better job at that new frozen yogurt place at the mall. Listen, I'd love to keep chatting, but before
other
people start snapping
their
fingers . . .

Skeezie:

Yeah, yeah.

Hellomy

 

nameis

 

Steffi:

Be right back.

Addie:

That is so cute. She called you “Big E.”

Joe:

I don't get it. You don't have big ears.

Bobby:

Or elbows.

Joe:

Yeah, your elbows seem pretty normal to me. Although I have noticed that your eyeballs pertude.

Addie:

Protrude.

Joe:

Whatever.

Skeezie:

One, my eyeballs do not protrude. Two, it was not cute. And three, can we move on from the subject of HellomynameisSteffi? And four, if
I
owned this place, the “waitpeople” would not have to wear those dumb hellomynameis badges.

Addie:

Whatever you say, Big E. So today's topic is—

Bobby:

Addie! School's over. Can't we just hang out for once and not talk about Important Stuff?

Addie:

All I was going to say is, today's topic is “What I'll Be Doing on my Summer
Vacation.” I'll start.
I
am going to volunteer at the public library!

Skeezie:

Wait. That sound you just heard was my brain going to sleep.

Addie:

Just because you've never read a book in your life.

Skeezie:

That's not true. I read your copy of
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Somebody
back in the fourth grade.

Addie:

It's “Frankweiler”—and
that's
where it went! May I have it back, please?

Skeezie:

Um, I'm not quite finished with it. I think I have, like, a hundred pages left.

Addie:

If I weren't using my hands to write this down, I would throttle you. Oh, and next month I'm going to stay with my grandma for a week, and then in August my parents and I are taking a two-week road trip. New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC!

Joe:

Ooh, will you bring me something from
Broadway? T-shirt, snow globe, cute chorus boy . . .

Skeezie:

You are so gay.

Joe:

You are so not and should only be so lucky. So, do you want to hear what
I'm
doing this summer? Well, Kelsey and me. We're going to be art counselors at the day camp.

Bobby:

Kelsey didn't tell me you were doing that with her. You'll be really good at it.

Joe:

Thanks. And then my family's going to Montreal for a week, where I will
parlezvous français
and change my name to Jacques. Oh . . . oh . . . oh! And I forgot. Addie, you don't have to get me any of that stuff from Broadway, because—drumroll, please—I am going by myself (with a little help from the fabulous Trailways bus system) to visit Aunt Pam in the Big Apple. What about you, Bobby?

Bobby:

Well, since I'm no longer working at Awkworth & Ames . . .

Skeezie:

Department Store of the Living Dead.

Bobby:

Um, yes, it is kind of quiet.

Addie:

I heard it might close. I hate that. I know it's kind of an anachronism and nobody ever shops there, but it's just such a part of Paintbrush Falls. I can't imagine it not being here.

Joe:

A what-ism?

Addie:

Anachronism. That's something that doesn't fit the time period it's in, like it belongs in an earlier time.

Joe:

Oh. Like Skeezie.

Addie:

Precisely.

Skeezie:

Sound of me laughing. Not.

Addie:

Anyway, the point is that sometimes change is hard.

Bobby:

I know what you mean. But I like my new job so much better. I'm working with my dad out at the nursery.

Skeezie:

The one near the Stewart's where my mom works?

Bobby:

Uh-huh. I'll be outdoors working with
plants and all. Who knows, I might even lose some weight. And it's really good for my dad and me to have the time together. At the end of July we're going on a camping trip to Indian Lake for a week. We've never had a vacation together, just the two of us. Never. So what are you doing this summer, Skeezie?

Skeezie:

Sleep. Maybe finish that book of Addie's. Eat ice cream. Sleep.

Addie:

Seriously.

Skeezie:

I'm being serious.

Joe:

Well, it's nice to know you have ambitions, Skeeze.

Skeezie:

Hey, our food!

Hellomy

 

nameis

 

Steffi:

Here's your sweet potato fries, Big E.

Addie,

 

Joe, and

 

Bobby:

Awwwww.

Skeezie:

You guys. Shut. Up.

Hellomy

 

nameis

 

Steffi:

So I was overhearing your conversation. What
are
you doing this summer, Elvis? Hanging out at the pool, driving the girls crazy?

Skeezie:

Not likely. Yeah, no, I've got plans, sort of, I just . . . hey, these sweet potato fries are
excellent
.

Hellomy

 

nameis

 

Steffi:

I'm glad you like them.

Bobby:

You look tired, Steffi. You should take a break.

Hellomy

 

nameis

 

Steffi:

No kidding. But as Elvis put it: Not likely. Well, eat up, you guys. And give me a yell—I mean, snap—if you need anything.

BOOK: Also Known as Elvis
3.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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