The cop overtook and signaled them to stop. He got down from the Guzzi 350cc motorbike, and set it on its stand. He came up and framed himself in the car window: dark Ray-Bans, helmet, lavender blue shirt, it was like a movie, a damn movie, black pants, an American B-flick, boots, even the butt of his Colt automatic sticking out of its leather holster ... Faction!

"Documenti ... your papers," very polite, a young face with very neat features. He talked to the driver in Italian, the accent had to be Sardinian. The midday light was blinding, the heat crushing, and the air seemed to ripple like water.

"Dove andate? Where are you going?"

"Sassari," the driver said.

"Per chè fare?"

"La signora e uno cantante ... uno recital questa sera ... ."

Now the cop hesitated, reflected, seemed like a dreamer with the beginnings of a smile ... he had an idea in his head ... he was considering something ... but it took just a fraction too long. He seemed embarrassed out there on the road that stretched out to the horizon through empty fields, the silence stretched out, too, and what the hell was going on? In the car, they were worried, and then they heard a little voice: "Anch'io canto un poco... I sing a bit, too." The driver translated. "Elvis," said the cop, "you know Elvis?" He took off his Ray-Bans, slipped them in his breast pocket, his smile slipped to the edge of his mouth, he still had his helmet and visor; in the car, they slid down and then raised their heads so they could see him framed in the window; he stepped back two paces, looked down at an imaginary guitar and then and there in that bald landscape:"Love me tender, love me true ..."... a swivel of the hips ...Heartbreak Hotel, King Creole... they watched in astonishment, in Sardinia not far from Caligari --- "No, I keep telling you, it's Cagliari" --- the resurrection of a singer who, after all, was stamped with Roman Catholicism, the Madonna, the Mama, the Virgin: who started out, at twelve or thirteen, playing hooky in the little churches round Memphis, Tennessee, and singing gospel in the chapel, weeknights and Sundays ... By the chapel in the moonlight. ... That's where the songs came from: the Virgin. After that, Elvis added one touch of Pelvis, the swiveling, jerking back and front and around: nothing much at all, a wink, a mild erotic gadget for teenagers but it offended the armies of righteousness, even though it was a tiny part of the devil's own score and played without much conviction, with a smile, because sex was not at all his thing and that's certainly why all the fuss had such a powerful effect, because he was acting out a part. Elvis's thing was religion and sensation mixed together, because his whole body was musical down to the end of his hair and his nails ... which is why it made perfect sense that he should be reincarnated on this dry road in the Sardinian countryside, a bit south of nowhere, in the form of a road angel, a kind cop on a motorbike ... and the performance showed no signs of stopping, they shouted "bravo! bravo!," he started again, four of them in the back of the station wagon all streaming with sweat and the cop impeccable, dry as the King, not a drop of sweat even out here in the desert, a glint in his eye and always a cheap little smile at the corner of his mouth. It was all very fine, but it was going on forever, and the thermometer climbed and the car became a furnace and the cop seemed to think he was giving a full-scale, house-full concert on his own, and they couldn't stop him ...Don't be cruel... or get moving ...Blue Moon... and abandon him as he sang on and on in the exact focal point of the sun.

Eventually, he did stop, and they said "Bravo! bravo!" and he said "Grazie!," put back his shades, no more doe eyes, "I have to go ... my colleague is waiting farther down the road ..." That was when Charles, whose taste did not improve with a few drinks, allowed himself to indulge an odd whim: "You could be Signora Caven's guest star ...questa sera, tonight ... the last part of the, show ... very good." The cop started to think again, considered and tested and tasted the notion, and then said: "Vorrei molto ..." he'd love to, but he promised his mother, La Mamma, he'd be home that evening and besides, it would be tight, he lived a good distance off and he'd have to go get something to wear on stage, a suit, when he finished work ... it was all a bit difficult. "Come like that," Charles said, "sing like that!" And the cop, with a sweet, troubled smile: "No, not that, mi displace ma non lo po." And when Charles saw the sadness in the smile, he knew he'd gone too far because the boy was suddenly now wondering if all this time they hadn't been making fun of him without seeming to. The Guzzi roared to life and Elvis, born again as the Road Angel, melted away into the horizon.

--- From Ingrid Caven
Jean-Jacques Schuhl
©2004 City Lights Books
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