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Bonnie Mercure started writing fiction four years ago, and in that time has had numerous short stories published in ezines and magazines, including Writers' Journal, Electric Wine, and Challenging Destiny. Her fantasy novel 'The Jacob Theory' will be published by CrossroadsPub.com sometime in 2001.

Here is one of her fantasy stories, Elvis Has Left the Bathroom.

Elvis Has Left the Bathroom
Bonnie Mercure

Maddy Lippet sat at the kitchen table and drummed her fingers against the polished wood. A chicken casserole sat untouched in front of her. When the clock above the stove chimed eight o' clock, she started tearing a napkin to shreds. Steven was two hours late. Why couldn't he at least have the decency to call? Her husband used to be the most punctual man she knew. Now he came home hours late, ambling through the door with a lopsided grin on his face and smelling of mildew. Maddy didn't want to confront the cause of Steven's preoccupation, but how else would she get to the bottom of it?

It started a week ago, when Steven came home from work and proclaimed he'd seen Elvis Presley urinating in the bathroom of a 7-11. Steven had weak kidneys and often had to stop at convenience stores and gas stations coming home from the accounting firm where he worked.

"You mean an impersonator?" Maddy had been standing by the stove mashing potatoes.

"No! It was the real Elvis. He urinated in the stall and sang a verse of 'Love Me Tender, Love Me True,' then poof! He was gone."

Maddy peered closely at her husband. His jet black hair, always meticulously combed, was disheveled and dripping with sweat. His black-rimmed glasses were steamed and his face was as red as a ripe tomato.

"What do you mean by gone? You mean he finished his business and left?"

Steven shook his head furiously. "He vanished. One second he was there, singing and urinating as if he didn't have a care in the world, then poof!" Steven threw up his arms to emphasize this. "Gone."

"Elvis Presley?"

"Not the obese, drug addicted Elvis. The thin, good-looking one. The Elvis that's on the postage stamp."

Maddy had smiled in an appeasing way, sat her husband down at the kitchen table and poured him a Scotch. Didn't everyone have moments when his or her brain went into over-drive? And Steven was under stress at work, it being tax season. After all, one time, when Maddy was in college, she swore she had seen a round silver object in the sky as she walked home from a bar. But Elvis Presley? Steven didn't listen to rock and roll anymore, new or old. For the past decade, he'd refused to listen to anything but classical music.

* * *

When Steven finally arrived home at ten o' clock that night, the chicken casserole was one big clump of dried-out mush. He shot through the front door with his arms flapping like a bird ready to take flight. The lens of his glasses were cracked, and he wasn't wearing any shoes. His socks were caked with mud, which were making smudges on Maddy's just mopped floor.

"Poof! Poof! Then they're gone!" he yelled as he ran in a circle around the kitchen table.

Maddy stood and grabbed the back of her chair to steady herself. "Sit down, Steven. You're not making any sense."

Steven plopped himself down at his usual spot and began scooping heaps of the desiccated casserole onto his plate. He consumed the food in a rapacious manner, barely taking the time to chew. Maddy didn't know what to say. What do you say to a husband that appeared to have lost his mind? She decided to stay calm; try to understand the situation.

She took a deep breath and loosened her grip on the back of the chair. "Honey, where are your shoes?"

Casually, Steven wiped his mouth with a napkin. He seemed much calmer now, as if the casserole was laden with sedatives. "I gave them to John Lennon. He was in the bathroom of the Standard Station a few blocks away from here. Who would've guessed we wore the same size?"

Maddy pulled out the chair and sat down. Her plan to stay calm was quickly evaporating. "John Lennon's dead," she said. "And, furthermore, if he were alive, I don't think he'd want your shoes." Steven wore shiny dress shoes every day, the kind men wore to funerals.

Steven snorted indignantly. "Mr. Lennon loved my shoes!"

Maddy was on the verge of screaming. She reminded herself that if she wanted to help her husband she'd have to keep a cool composure. She tried to give him a mollifying smile, but the corners of her mouth only twitched.

"After tax season, why don't you take some time off? You've been working so hard lately."

Steven's eyes narrowed into diabolical slits. "What did you say?"

Her husband had never been prone to mood swings like this, and for a moment his open hostility left her speechless. But she composed herself and forced her tone to sound level. "I'm just saying that maybe you've been working too hard."

Steven sprang from his chair, raised his arms and shook like a preacher who claimed The Holy Sprit was pulsating through his veins. "You have the gall to talk to me about work! After the wonders I have beheld!"

Maddy braced herself against the back of the chair. She was tired of trying to appease him. She was feeling what her mother referred to as 'at the end of your rope.' Before she could regain control, she screamed, "What the hell is wrong with you? Why are you seeing dead rock stars?"

Steven stopped shaking and stood still. He pushed his cracked glasses up and said, "I can see I am not understood. I shall go where I am needed." Calmly, with an air of great purpose, he strolled toward the door.

"Where is that, Steven?"

"Any all night gas station's bathroom will do. If I am there, they will come. After all, everybody needs the service of a good accountant." He slammed the door behind him.

When Maddy heard the Taurus peel out of the driveway, she remembered that Steven was not wearing any shoes. She felt an inane urge to grab his Nikes from the front closet and chase after him. But she stayed planted in her chair. In his current condition, he might run her over.

* * *

The next afternoon, when Steven had not yet come home, Maddy called the police. Cradling the cordless phone on her shoulder, she paced around the living room. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't convey the seriousness of the situation to the officer on the other end. Aside from being out all night, Steven's accounting office had called that morning and told her he hadn't been in all week. She squeezed the phone against her shoulder hard enough to make an indent in her skin. "You don't seem to understand. My husband has never stayed out all night before. Plus he's been hallucinating, seeing dead rock stars in the bathrooms of gas stations."

The woman officer sighed on the other end, as if she had heard it all before. "Is he on any narcotics?"

"No! My husband would never take drugs!"

"Well, sometimes the spouse is the last to know. But we can't do anything unless there are signs of foul play. When he needs money, he'll come home. They always do."

Maddy hurled the phone against the flowered love seat. Her straight, conservative husband on drugs? Impossible! In college, where they had met, Steven had been head of the 'Just Say No' committee. Nancy Reagan had been his hero. Maddy would believe the Pope had dropped acid before she would believe her husband had.

Maddy grabbed Steven's Nikes out of the hall closet and hopped in their second car, a rusted green Chevy. She'd go to every gas station and 7-11--every one in town if she had to-- and search their bathrooms until she found him.

First she went to the Standard Station where Steven had thought he had seen John Lennon. Maddy circled the parking lot, searching for their car. When she didn't see it she parked and approached the men's bathroom located on the side of the building. Perhaps by checking out the bathroom, she could figure out what her husband had been doing for the past week. She tried the door; it was locked. She went around to the front of the gas station and entered. The attendant, a young girl with a buzzed head and a nose ring, was ringing up some kids buying packs of gum. Making sure that the attendant wasn't looking, she grabbed the men's key hanging nearby and hurried out the door.

When Maddy unlocked the bathroom, she was greeted by the stench of urine and mildew. She stepped quickly inside and shut the door. A dusty overhead bulb cast shadows on a gray cement floor littered with cigarette butts. She squinted and looked at the lonely toilet and the rust-stained sink. Out of all places, Steven had to pick this one to imagine seeing John Lennon.

Something caught her eye laying underneath the sink. Steven's battered glasses. She picked them up and shoved them in her purse. She headed for the door, but stopped in mid-stride. Against the wall sat a document, so white and clean it looked incongruous in the filthy bathroom. With a shaking hand, Maddy picked it up. The title, typed in bold letters, read, 'Tax Form For Deceased Musicians.' Under the title it read, 'John Lennon. Date of birth: 10/9/40 Date of death: 12/8/80.' When it came to assets, it stated that John owned one pair of angel's wings (removable) and one halo ( also removable) and one gold guitar.

So this was what her husband had been doing for the past week? A stream of air slowly escaped from her parted lips, and with it went her last hope that her husband hadn't really lost his mind. She slid the document in her purse, next to Steven's battered glasses.

Forgetting about returning the key, Maddy hurried to her car. She needed to find Steven, to get him the help he so desperately needed. She drove to the 7-11 a few blocks away with her foot glued to the accelerator. In front of the 7-11 sat two squad cars. On the side of the building she glimpsed their Taurus. Maddy parked just in time to see two officers escorting a wailing Steven out. He wore only his boxer shorts and his socks, which were now the color of soot.

"Elvis has left the bathroom!" Steven shouted.

Maddy jumped out of the car. "Please, officers. Let him go. He's my husband."

"Your husband is under arrest for loitering."

"Loitering!" She had never heard of anything so absurd.

The police pushed passed her. "He locked himself in the bathroom and refused to come out for seven straight hours."

Steven turned toward Maddy, momentarily loosening the police officer's grip. His face was contorted in such a mask of madness that she barely recognized him. "I was with my client, Elvis Presley. They interrupted me, then poof!"

"C'mon, buddy." The officers shoved Steven into the back seat of the squad car. He smiled at her, then began to rock methodically back and fourth, mouthing the words, "Poof. Poof."

"Then they were gone," she whispered as she watched them drive away.

* * *

Maddy was on her third cup of coffee. She sat in the lobby of the mental ward, where her husband had been transferred after starting a riot because the jail didn't have enclosed bathrooms. She listened closely to Dr. Kessler, Steven's court appointed psychiatrist.

"Your husband is exhibiting extensive psychotic behavior, Mrs. Lippet. After refusing to leave his bathroom all of last night, the staff had to physically remove him this morning so he could eat. He became combative and had to be sedated."

She reached in her purse for the tax document she had retrieved from the 7-11 the day before. Perhaps if the doctor read it he could further assess Steven's mental status.

The document wasn't there. How could that be? She'd made sure she had it before she left this morning.

"Poof," Maddy whispered.

"Pardon me?" Dr. Kessler said.

She shook her head. "Nothing."

The doctor cleared his throat. "Your husband is resting comfortably. Would you like to see him?"

Maddy nodded, and followed Dr. Kessler down the hospital corridor, to a small room that smelled like disinfectant. Steven sat in an orange plastic chair, staring out the window. She pulled up a chair and sat down by him. When he finally looked at her , she noticed that his eyes were glazed over from whatever drug they had given him.

"I finished Elvis' taxes last night." His voice was riddled with sadness.

Maddy turned toward the doctor lingering in the doorway. He shook his head and said, "Now Steven. You know Elvis is dead. Why would he need his taxes done?"

Steven sighed. "How many times do I have to explain it to you quacks? I've been appointed by the celestial IRS to do dead musician's taxes. Don't you understand the waiting list they have up there? Rock stars are kicking the bucket constantly!" He pounded his chair. "There aren't enough good accounts up there to compensate the growing number of dead musicians!"

Dr. Kessler stepped forward. "You're getting loud, Steven. I warned you before about upsetting the other patients."

Steven put his head down, looking defeated. "What does it matter now? I can't get to my new clients from here. I had an appointment with Kurt Cobain last night at the Standard Station. It wasn't very professional of me not to show up."

"Steven, you have to let them help you here," Maddy said.

"Mr. Lennon and Mr. Presley were so pleased with my work. They loved the shoes and clothes I gave them. You know how boring it is for them to wear the same white robe and golden sandals all the time?"

Dr. Kessler took Maddy's arm. "The medication is obviously wearing off. We'll try something stronger. Why don't you come back later?"

Maddy eyed her husband one more time. All the anger she'd felt toward him these past weeks was gone. He looked so defeated, heart-broken. Before leaving, she handed him his Nikes. He held them on his lap, stroking them as if they were kittens. A tear slid down his face and landed on the laces. "I wish I had someone to give these to."

* * *

On the way home, Maddy had the sudden urge to use the bathroom. The three cups of coffee seemed to have gone straight through her. She exited the highway and found a Q-Mart. When she pulled into the parking lot she saw the back of a thin man with long brown hair. He wore shiny dress shoes and a white robe and held some type of document.

Maddy blinked. When she looked again, the man was gone.

"It couldn't have been," she whispered.

The attendant directed her to the women's bathroom located towards the back of the store. She went into the first stall. A minute later as she was pulling up her underwear, she heard a raspy voice singing: "Take another little piece of my heart now baby"

Maddy left the stall and came face to face with a young woman with long auburn hair and a pale face littered with tiny clumps of acne. She smiled at Maddy. "Hi. They told me to come here if you need a good accountant, but John just told me the guy with the funny glasses hasn't been around lately. He hasn't ditched us, has he?

Maddy gawked at the woman, who wore a shimmering white robe. "Love your dress," the woman said.

Maddy closed her eyes, thinking that when she opened them the woman would be gone. She wasn't.

"We need him so badly. You know what a bitch it is to find a decent accountant in the after life?"

Maddy shook her head.

"It is, believe me. You think the IRS is bad down here? Just you wait!"

"Well, um. . . . Do you have a pen and a piece of paper?"

The woman snapped her fingers and a pen and piece of paper appeared. With shaky hands Maddy wrote down the hospital's address and Steven's room number. The woman thanked her, and in an amazing swiftness, a gust of warm wind appeared and the woman vanished. Smoke encircled Maddy, wrapping her in a shadowy cocoon.

Maddy stood in the bathroom for hours, waiting for the woman to come back. When she didn't, Maddy began yelling the only words that made any sense to her: "Poof! Poof! Then they were gone!"


Elvis Has Left the Bathroom first appeared in Peridot Books.

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Bonnie Mercure, your Fiction Guide at the dowse Fiction Hub, is a dark fantasy author. Visit her website


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