The Day After Elvis Died


Bused home from two-a-days, junior high players in half-shirts and padless football pants howling like hound dogs, swaying back and forth in the aisle with a tick of horny release stuttering from hips snaking in slow circles, one leg posted down while the other spasmed with grand mal energy, she kept staring at us in her wide security mirror, tugging and chewing back anger and a loose strand of her off-yellow hair, and when she swung us sharply toward an off-ramp of the Wilbur Mills Freeway—an unscheduled turn in our course toward home—lurched to an air-braked shudder and stop on the right shoulder, she stood, said we could all go straight to hell, and walked off leaving the door almost as wide open as our eyes and hangdog mouths. The keys dangled in the ignition, but none of us dared start the bus, and a few guys grabbed their cleats, trudged down the steps, but the rest of us were too salt-drained, tired, and sure she had to come back, couldn't abandon us and this job in such a gesture of misplaced loyalty. Half an hour later, someone said she lived nearby, so with keys in hand we trooped over to her little blue house behind War Memorial Golf Course. Two of the seniors approached the door while most of us settled in the dusty yard or milled about stretching sore legs or hoisting tote bags in mock power lifts, grunting as if locked under the weights back in the gym. After polite, then firm, then loud knocking, she answered out a screen window, saying clearly she'd shoot any one of us bastards still on her property in thirty seconds. Like some frantic free-for-all drill we scattered, knocking one another spinning and down and back up and over the chainlink fence, contact fiercer than we would ever make on the playing field that August where potbellied coaches drained our fury under the Arkansas sun.

JON TRIBBLE was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. His poems have appeared in the anthologies The Jazz Poetry Anthology, Surreal South, and Two Weeks, and in Crazyhorse, Poetry, Ploughshares, and Quarterly West. He teaches at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he is the managing editor of Crab Orchard Review and the series editor of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry published by SIU Press.