The Night Elvis came rolling through town and Left the Big Tip. The Authors Collection.

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Four hamburger baskets and four cokes, all on one ticket.  Maybe some pie and coffee later.

Sara Marie Hogg
Sara Marie Hogg

This is how it all started.  His voice had a machine-gun burst, but was slow and lazy, all at the same time.

Suzanne turned in the ticket and filled the water glasses.  She tried not to be self-conscious as she walked away from the table.  She felt the chiffon scarf slipping from her ponytail.  Before she could turn around, Dark and Handsome had grasped the scarf on its journey to the floor and returned it to her.  As she glimpsed into his sleepy eyes, no words were exchanged, but her own eyes said, “Thank you. You are very kind.”

She delivered the hamburger baskets silently, but with an innocent and charming smile.  The four young men at the table smiled back.  She then went to a nearby alcove where she could watch them, unobserved.  They laughed and kidded each other.  A couple of times the one she called  The Beanpole reached his long arm across the table and played songs on the jukebox remote.  The others laughed at his selections.  Dark and Handsome began hamming it up and beating his palms on the table in time to the music.

A few locks of black hair flopped down over his eyes.

CathoDarlington-3dLeftWhen the time seemed right, Suzanne darted out to bring them pie and coffee.  She removed he baskets and returned with the dessert.  She left the alcove a few times to keep their coffee cups filled.  Between the refills, she often overheard other employees talking excitedly in the kitchen.  As the lights were dimmed in the main dining room, Suzanne gazed at the handsome strangers bathed in the neon lights from the outside.  She felt the vibrations from the jukebox, she felt a glamor, excitement, magic.  For a teenage girl, this was some kind of a job!

What was that smell?  Ammonia!  As Suzanne opened her eyes, she was aware of faces staring down at her.  Ancient Marti was kneeling beside her, applying a cold cloth to her forehead.  What was going on?  She got to her feet with assistance, wobbly and uncertain.  Dishes were partly cleared from the table and ice cubes were scattered on the floor all around her.

“Look, Suzi!  He gave you a twenty dollar tip!”  Marti placed the crisp bill in Suzanne’s clammy fingers and closed them.  “You fainted when we told you, remember?”  Suzi’s knees weakened again as she grabbed the edge of the table.  Yes, she remembered.  It was Elvis—Elvis Presley.  He had stopped at this restaurant before, usually at odd hours, when he was making a trip to a larger city down the road.  She felt tears trickling down her cheeks.

Somewhere down the road a young legend named Elvis was traveling on, having done his good deed for the day.  The town of Calhoun would have something to talk about for years to come.  Suzanne, well Suzanne would be remembered as the girl who fainted.

 ***

     This has been an edited excerpt from the chapter, The Big Tip, as it appears in the novel, Catho Darlington—Lessons Learned in the Space Age.  Elvis Presley was not yet completely a household name and early in his career he made the rounds of regional and mostly rockabilly singing engagements. This is a true event which was fictionalized for inclusion in the novel and appears on page 127. Long after the novel went to press, I did an illustration for this chapter after-the fact.  Happy day!  With publication of The Big Tip in Springfield! Magazine, I then had a place to put my illustration.  It can also be viewed on the page, Catho Darlington—Lessons Learned in the Space Age, the book—on Facebook, along with other illustrations and tidbits.

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