Katie Letcher Lyle

Books & Articles:

Venturi

Elvis In Oz

from ELVIS IN OZ

©University of Virginia Press, 1992

Excerpt:

Things are kind of tense at the moment: my son Freddie has dropped out of his rich prep school and come home to the country high school to finish—in the middle of junior year. Kelly, my daughter, his half sister, is acting spacey in school, and they want me to have her tested for epilepsy. I said, What fifteen-year old isn’t spacey, tell me that. One of the cats, Violet, actually my favorite one, is missing. This is the third day. We’ve called the Addlers, down the road, who graze their cows on our farm, and the radio station. And my ex-mother-in-law slugged a black babysitter, for God’s sakes, the same one she bit last month, at the nursing home; only this time the babysitter hauled off and knocked her down, and they had to take Gaga to the hospital, where she may have a concussion. Then Elrod, my ex-husband, sold my soul to this witch out in the mountains, in payment, as he explained it, for some kind of interview he needs for this anthropology course he’s involved with. My soul! He acted like it was just a big joke when he told me, but I don’t know. And the kids won’t drink the milk because it has onions in it.

I tell them it’s a sign of spring, for God’s sakes, and that it means it’s real, and to add Hershey’s, but they won’t touch it. “It’s always tasted like that in the spring,” I say. “When I was little--”

“You’re not drinking it,” Kelly says.

I change the subject. I tell them their bones will all dissolve. Kelly says, “Oh, Mom! That’s just so gross!” and Freddie says, eating two pieces of bacon at one time, “That might be interesting. There’s a character in English history, Ivan the Boneless. He just had gristle instead. No bones.”

“You made that up,” Kelly says, which is just what I’ve been thinking.

“I did not,” Freddie says. I try another bite of doughnut, but like the first, this one will barely squeeze through my gullet.

After they’ve left for school, I take their untouched milk out to the barn. The cats don’t mind the onion; they drink lakes and ponds of onion milk and don’t complain. I think about the severed wasp— there’s some story about how it goes on eating jam even after its body has been cut in half. You have to go on, no matter what happens. Every day, I sit down like a real writer and things come out, but then I read them and it’s all the most terrible drivel.

When I head out for the grocery, having sat for my two hours at the computer, my car starts making this awful racket, so I take it over to see what’s wrong, and this guy I went to high school with, Sevvie, tells me, he says, “Sounds like it’s the transmission.”

I don’t mean to laugh like a madwoman, but see the irony? So I say, “That’s the problem? That's always the problem. For a writer, the problem is always transmission. Get it?”

And Sevvie, because he is a gentleman, chuckles politely.

I was once in love with Sevvie, but that was back when I believed he would have gotten a joke like that. I mean, I had a crush on him. Last year out of the blue once he asked me in the late spring, “Have you found a lot of morels this year?”

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