Online Exclusive Fiction – “Grisly Vegas” by Libby Kennedy

Elvis falls, bashes his face on the sidewalk. Haggard grizzly bear Elvis, same slick pompadour, crooked toothy snarl, he walks with that hip thrust Elvis is famous for, shaggy black mutton chop sideburns. In Vegas. People stop, stand gawking, not comprehending what Elvis…or a grizzly bear for that matter is doing on The Strip in Vegas. Elvis is dead, bears live in forests.

He trips on the sidewalk lip, smashes out his front teeth, scrapes his chin. Grunts sticky gunk around in his throat. Some people stop to look, others quicken away, sideways glance with that guilty feeling when a hobo asks for a few coins. Gotta whole lotta shaken’ goin’ on. They pass by looking for buffet discounts or magic fountain shows, bad tattoo shops, hookers. This mutton chopped bear picks himself up and bows his massive head in pain, drops of blood dripping from his maw. A tooth with meat still attached lays on the ground. It’d make a nice five dollar Vegas souvenir necklace. He takes a step, unsteady, like the rest of the drunks around him. He should shake his head, long pearly string of bloody mucus whipping back and forth then run off like wild things do. He doesn’t. He pads along the main drag, blending in with the freaks. Giggling Japanese girls take photos with Elvis, lean on him like a giant cuddly Pikachu. He’s hungry but changes his mind because these girls are rail thin. He doesn’t snarl or roar like one would expect from a wounded animal. Pauses out of boredom then waddles off down the strip.

Chris Angel is filming a show. Chains, glass box full of water or amniotic fluid, gasoline, fricken zombies, electrodes, lightening, legless midgets, one bored mermaid. Elvis walks through set and the filmmakers jump to attention, it’s part of the program. Bright lights in par cans, and ACTION. Rawr! Bear’s all shook up. Craft Service table, eats up his 15 minutes of fame, end scene, off he goes, off to The Wynn.
Still hungry and its spawning season in the Koi Pond. He paws at some fish. No one on the rivers edge blinks. Part of the show. Paid actor. He scoops up some stupid trusting koi fish that comes kissing up to the surface, into his mouth and bites with what teeth he has left. Guts burst a crunchy wet skwartch, gills flapping like pageant queens waving. Front row pond side table, an LA woman orders pan fried trout.

Someone hands him a flyer, girls, pretty girls. Cheap blowjobs. Totally Legal. Free Shuttle there and back. He looks at the flyer, doesn’t take it, no pockets to put it in. Flyer Guy moves on to someone who does have pockets. It’ll stay in Vegas.

Blood dries on his face. Broken teeth are throbbing. Still hungry. Always hungry. Trash can stuffed, half eaten hamburgers, pizza crusts, greasy fries. Isn’t fresh salmon or small forest creatures but close enough. He knocks the lid off, tears into his meal. The only person to take notice is a woolly coat transient with dreadlocks, waits his turn to rummage. Elvis leaves behind a long plastic cup of blue sluice, frozen pineapple coconut and vodka. Woolly coat grabs the yard long and raises it with an appreciative eye twitch. Same toothless grin.

Artificial stars, meteor showers illuminate the air. Time to bed down. An alley, pile of cardboard. Mini Cooper paws stack boxes against the brick building, he crawls inside. Day sounds switch to the sounds of night creatures. Moans, the wail of sirens, hunters, the hunted, night spirits, constantly prowling. Red eyed junk demon steps into the opening of his den. Elvis opens one eye, lifts a lip and spits a snarl in the beasts face. A scurried retreat, shaking, acrid smell of fear, sweat, urine. He can rest, hackles flatten, conserve energy.
His mind wanders prior to falling into the chasm of deep sleep. Wide open glades, flowers woven through tall grasses that sway in the breeze, whiffle of wind over a velvet field.

Clattering monster rolls back towards the box pile, beep beep. Waking is instant, fur; muscles ruffling as he runs from rolling beast. The machine grapples hook arms to hoist a bin, the bin spews into its open back. Elvis retreats, determined to find the glade.

A mother; child in tow, hammers out a text on her cell phone. Drops child’s hand. A mound of curls and full diaper walks on tip toes to where the bear sits. Distant siren though buildings, playing tennis, volleying sounds in one direction then another, violent game of ping pong. She pauses in front of Elvis, their faces inches apart, breath to breath. One nose cold, wet, one sticky with snot. The toddler creeps her hands up to his face, cups his chin gently, eyes melt together, chocolate in a double boiler. The sun leans between two towers, follow spot on their stage, focus on this one perfect moment. His gentle snort, her lips curl in a smile. She holds his maw. And he is still. Two hands under his chin, soft there, she likes it. They breathe, soft warm, short breaths, in, out. In sync. And the mother turns.

A million pigeons take flight, deck of cards shuffling mid flight when she screams. Reverb cuts the air, slices the light, the sun shrinks behind, she screams, lunges, snatches, nail slices, spit projectile, stroller warbles, tips, crash. Panic, the child screeches, grabs his fur, pulls, yanks, rips. He bellows, howls, there’s pain, so much pain, her hand is full of his hair, mouth still sore from falling, losing teeth, terror, roar, head wags as the girl is scooped free, untangled, unwoven. Car appears, doors open, flurry of fire, shattered light. A bristling climax of pain maggots through him. Moist blink.

Then soft hands caress. He opens his eyes and the girl has placed her hand on his cheek. The warmth of the sun and he sees a tuft of green, a water colour patch of grass edging through a concrete crack, his glade. And Elvis has left Vegas.

The woman lets her daughter stroke the mans beard, one long, gentle tender moment, then pulls the child back into her arms. First responders roll up.

Libby Kennedy’s writing credits include multiple prizes for short fiction in the Cecilia Lamont Literary Prize competition, as well as the Bard’s Ink Competition and Burnaby Writers Society Competition. Her stories have been published in Dark Times (Ronsdale Press), CHICKEN SOUP for the Mother of Preschoolers Soul, Attitude with Gratitude, CUP of COMFORT for Fathers, and an upcoming Roslyn Press anthology.

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