Months before she died—you can read this in many biographies of him—she worried that fame was going to his head, that he was losing his way.
Then she died young, before he reached the peak of his success, and after that he changed. Pierced by grief for years, he nonetheless forgot his mother’s advice, and year by year his life went further off the rails, the promise of his talent less than half fulfilled.
By the time he was forty—which biographies also report—Elvis had been tormented by the belief that he had not served his mother’s memory well and that she would have been ashamed of his drug use and his self-indulgence.
After his death at forty-two, he lingers because he fears the very thing that he most desperately desires: to see Gladys Presley. Love of this world, which was so good to him, is not what holds him here, as I once thought. He knows his mother loves him, and will take him in her arms without a word of criticism, but he burns with shame that he became the world’s biggest star—but not the man she might have hoped he would be.
In the world to come, she will be delighted to receive him, but he feels he is not worthy of her company, because he believes that she resides now in the company of saints.
I told him this theory on my next-to-last night in Stormy’s apartment.
When I had finished, his eyes blurred with tears, and he closed them for a long time. When at last he looked at me again, he reached out and took one of my hands in both of his.
Indeed, that is why he lingers. My analysis, however, is not enough to convince him that his fear of a mother-and-child reunion is without merit. Sometimes he can be a stubborn old rockabilly.
My decision to leave Pico Mundo, at least for a while, has led to the solution of another mystery related to Elvis. He haunts this town not because it has any meaning for him, but because I am here. He believes that eventually I will be the bridge that takes him home, and to his mother.
Consequently, he wants to come with me on the next phase of my journey. I doubt that I could prevent him from accompanying me, and I’ve no reason to reject him.
I am amused at the thought of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll haunting a monastery. The monks might be good for him, and I’m sure that he’ll be good for me.
This night, as I write, will be my last night in Pico Mundo. I will spend it in a gathering of friends.
This town, in which I have slept every night of my life, will be difficult to leave. I will miss its streets, its sounds and scents, and I will remember always the quality of desert light and shadow that lend it mystery.
Far more difficult will be leaving the company of my friends. I’ve nothing else in life but them. And hope.
I don’t know what lies ahead for me in this world. But I know Stormy waits for me in the next, and that knowledge makes this world less dark than otherwise it would be.
In spite of everything, I’ve chosen life. Now, on with it.
The Panamint Indians of the Shoshoni–Comanche family do not operate a casino in California. If they had owned the Panamint Resort and Spa, no catastrophe would have befallen it, and I would not have had a story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
DEAN KOONTZ, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives with his wife, Gerda, and the enduring spirit of their golden retriever, Trixie, in southern California.
Correspondence for the author should be addressed to:
P.O. Box 9529
Newport Beach, California 92658