19.10.16

ELVIS KIDNAPPED - Extract 1



This is the first of three extracts from my novel Elvis Kidnapped that I will be posting over the next two weeks in advance of the book’s publication via Amazon kindle, hopefully around the beginning of next month.
It is September 1975 and Elvis has been hospitalised after a season of shows in Las Vegas that was curtailed due to ill health. He is convalescing at the Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis…


Elvis Presley bored easily. Like many others upon whom Dame Fortune had showered fame and riches, the mundane was anathema to contentment and Elvis needed a constant charge to keep him amused. It could be any of many things: music, movies, pretty girls, fast cars, motor bikes, funfairs, travel, practical jokes, vandalism, food, sport, drugs or – his current favourite – impulsive gestures of unexpected random generosity. Hospital was boring and Elvis, as soon as he was feeling better than he did in Vegas, wanted out.
        When he was first admitted to the hospital immediately after his return from Vegas, huge sheets of aluminium foil were affixed to the windows of his room to keep out the sunlight. This enabled Elvis to maintain his Dracula-like routine of sleeping during daylight hours and coming alive at night, and the hospital was quite willing to bend their rules for such a famous patient.
        The official word was that Elvis was under treatment for ‘exhaustion’, but the truth was far more serious. Elvis’ liver was malfunctioning due to a grossly enlarged colon and he was suffering regular and painful intestinal spasms. His constant use of ‘medication’ ­– powerful, numbing pain killers during periods when he was awake and sleeping pills when he chose to sleep – and a junk food diet had upset his metabolic system, causing his weight to fluctuate wildly and putting additional pressure on his heart.
        Elvis briefly considered an intestinal by-pass operation but ruled that out when it was explained to him that henceforth he would have to adhere to a strict, frugal diet. Girlfriend Linda Thompson visited his private ward regularly and the pair would watch afternoon game shows on television together, and tune in to the hospital’s internal TV system, so they could check out the action in the public wards. Ever a snoop, this eased Elvis’ boredom for a while. So, after he’d been bedridden for two days, did a surprise phone call from the man who was once the highest in the land.
“Yeah,” said Elvis when his bedside phone rang unexpectedly. The line was silent for a few seconds. Then a voice he didn’t recognise came on the line.
        “Is that Mr Elvis Presley?”
        “Yeah,” said Elvis curiously. All calls to his bedside were supposed to have been screened by the hospital switchboard. “Who’s that?”
        “This is Ron Zeigler, the secretary to Richard Nixon, the former President of the United States. One moment please.”
        The one and only time Elvis had met Nixon was at the White House in 1970. Earlier this year he had phoned him when Nixon was himself hospitalised. Now, it seemed, the ex-President was returning the courtesy. The hot line crackled.
        “Hello Elvis, it’s Richard Nixon here. I’m speaking from my home in California. I just wanted to call to say how sorry I was to hear that you were unwell, and that I hope most sincerely that you’ll be feeling much better soon.”
        Caught off his guard, Elvis was momentarily speechless. “Thank you sir... er, Mr President, sir,” was all he could mumble in reply.
        From the library of his San Clemente home, Richard Nixon tried to sound chatty. “What’s the problem, Elvis?” he asked.
        “Er, just fatigue sir,” replied Elvis. “I just been working too hard I guess. A bit of a stomach problem too, so the doctors tell me. But I’m feeling better every day sir. I should be outta’ here real soon.”
        “That’s good,” said Nixon. “Well just you look after yourself now. You’re an important man in this country, our country.”
        “Thank you sir.” Elvis felt deeply flattered. He admired the former President, any President, very much. Emboldened by Nixon’s bonhomie, he decided to share some thoughts on current affairs. “I think you did a fine job up there in the Capitol, Mr President, sir, and I want to say that you had my full support in that Watergate business I kept seeing on television. I know you’re an honest man, Mr President, sir, and you had our country’s best interests at heart. I think that those people who were trying to harm you were, er, unpatriotic citizens who didn’t deserve a President like you, sir, er Mr President.”
        Nixon coughed discretely. Elvis’ grasp of the Watergate situation was evidently untainted by political reality. He decided to bring the conversation to an end.
        “Thank you very much, Elvis. I am confident that my position in history is secure,” he said, sounding far more confident than he really felt. “I gotta go now... State business, you know. Bye and best wishes Elvis.”
        “Of course. Thank you for calling, sir.” Elvis hung up and a swell of pride surged through his huge body. Goddam it, the former President himself calling to wish him well. Wait till he told the boys about that.
        Later the same day Elvis took a similar call from Frank Sinatra who also wished him well but his buoyant mood didn’t last. After a few days in the hospital he was itching to get back to his toys at Graceland, so much so that the hospital staff had little choice but to discharge him earlier than they planned.
        Linda visited Elvis every day and there was a sack of get well cards waiting to be opened at the foot of his bed. But Elvis was still bored.
       

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