Holiday Without Elvis
By Mark Randles
Elvis Presley died when we went on holiday to Skegness.
He was still very much alive that afternoon when me, Mum, Dad, two sisters, and our pet collie dog, Mitzubishi Zero, squeezed precariously into the rusting, rust coloured Hillman Imp. My eldest sister and I took it in turns to sit in the seat-well to watch the rush of road, inches beneath, through a small hole in the carpet and floor. It provided respite from being squashed on the seat against a bulky suitcase which caused indentations in our bare legs.
Mitsubishi Zero’s head hung down from the wide parcel shelf, his long, rough, tongue, lolling from the canine grin of his dog-breath mouth. The roof-rack above us carrying our holiday clothes. Billy Butlin carrying our holiday hopes. Mum and Dad, sat side by side in the front, not speaking. Their eyes fixed on the road ahead. Mum’s long, brown, wiry hair hanging down the back of the seat. Dad had a scab on the back of his neck which he had been picking. They had no words to say to each other, having argued and rowed while packing earlier that afternoon. Both now sulky and sullen. Dad, tired and bad tempered, still dressed in his work clothes, clenched fists on the steering wheel. Mum’s face pinched and drawn with the prospect of another hopeless holiday. Us three children, sensing the seriousness of their falling out, sat in near silence in the early evening August sunshine.
The weather was still glorious as we reached the holiday camp. The scent of sea air catching at the back of our mouths as we glimpsed the shimmer of the water in the distance for the first time. While Dad went off to the Butlin’s reception to collect the chalet keys, Mum poured us steaming coffee from a huge, blue, vacuum flask into plastic cups and handed us thin, triangle ham sandwiches. When Dad came back with the key to our chalet (in row Z) she silently handed him a sandwich too. “Do you want a coffee, Ron?” I watched her say and he nodded a “thanks” and even though it was the only seven words they had exchanged in nearly two hours, I knew everything was going to be alright between them. We made our way to the chalet; the last one in the last row, the furthest away from anything.
The next day, as I sat beside the paddling pool, a tiny, tinny, transistor radio pressed to my ear, news came through that Elvis Presley had died. Mum and Dad sat close by, side by side on an iron-handled wooden bench. Dad reading the Daily Mirror, mum a copy of Woman’s Own. Nearby I could hear my sisters’ laughter and squeals and shrieks as they splashed about in the shallow water. I lay back on the grass with my arm across my face, shielding my eyes from the sun. And as I lay back, I followed the line of vapour trail from an aeroplane as it scratched a tear in the pale, blue sky.