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My Hero


Jax Rerun

Electric blue. Electric: full of life. Blue: the ribbon for first prize. Yep, that's this jumpsuit all right. And halleluiah it’s tall enough for these gangly spider legs of mine. My sister Shauna's over on the rag-rug putting on great Grandma's light green ballroom dress: the one with all the frills and pearls dangling at crazy angles. Cousin Heather's stuffing socks into a humungous bra -- a black and silver flapper dress hangs off her hips. It's time for the talent section of the Prairie Creek Beauty Pageant. I'm going to sing. I know, I know, I always sing. But it's my only talent -- and it's an actual talent. Not like the crazy dancing Heather will do. And God only knows what Shauna has planned -- she never tells anyone what her plan is. I think maybe she makes it up as she goes along. Last year she did what she called an improvisation of Shakespeare: "Whether it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of man or say Romeo Romeo where! fore art thou Romeo, I die with this kiss." She slumped into the dirt patch beside Grandma's peonies and twitched like a dead sucker fish -- all the aunties clapped and cheered. It didn't make any sense at all. I've never read Shakespeare and if that's Shakespeare, no thanks -- I'll stick with Ramona Quimbly!

The electric blue jumpsuit isn't spandex like the tights I have to wear to Jazz classes and it sure isn't cotton. It's smooth against the skin but hot. Hot like a big blue Ziploc bag wrapped around my body. I've never worn anything like it. The zipper starts below my belly button and runs straight up to the throat. I leave it mostly undone -- I imagine Elvis would wear it that way. The electric blue fabric slides tight down my thighs then swoops out under the knees like an upside down Blue Bell -- the kind that grow in the meadow near the Saskatoon berries. Cool air swishes around my ankles -- its the only relief I get from this bizarre hot material. I can feel sweat collecting in the small of my back.

I search through the wicker baskets in Grandma's attic. I find a thick, white leather belt that slings low on my hips. I wish it had “ELVIS” studded on its back. I bet that's what he would’ve liked.

I stand outside the veranda at the back of the house. Around the corner sits my mom, my grandma, and two of my aunties. They sit in brown and orange folding chairs and sip iced tea in the hot sun. Grandma wears a floppy green hat and large, bug-eyed sunglasses. The aunties shade their eyes with their hands. My mom is trying to peer around the corner of the house so she can catch a glimpse of me before I come onto stage. I duck back behind the veranda.

Cousin Jen announces, " Ladies and gentlemen, honoured members of the panel, we are proud to present, for your listening pleasure, the one, the only, the King of Rock n' Roll... ELVIS PRESLEY!"

I race onto stage. The crowd roars with applause. "Thank you, thank you very much." I launch into song. "Well since my baby left me. I found a new place to dwell. It's down at the end of lonely street. It's Heartbreak Hotel." I swing my hips forward and back like a happy drunk -- the cool grass brushes against my ankles. "Baby I'm so lonely..." I wiggle my upper lip the way Dad always does (I've never actually seen Elvis perform). "I could cry." I swing my right arm up in a full arc twice and then fall to a knee looking down at a dandelion sprouting from the green stage. One last lip quiver seals the deal. The crowd goes wild. I look up from the grass. Behind the cheering aunties, across the lawn, leaning against the barn is my dad -- he stands clapping his heavy, oil-stained hands. "Thank you, thank you very much."

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