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Elvis Has Left the House
by James Tate
Issue no. 228 (Spring 2019)

The raccoon got up on the roof and wouldn’t come down. I threw rocks 
at it and it danced between them. Finally I decided to get my shotgun.
I got a ladder from the garage and climbed up on it. Then I took aim and
fired. It danced like crazy, but I missed and tore a hole in the roof.
Denny, the little boy from next door, came running out of his house yelling,
“Don’t shoot, that’s my pet raccoon!” I turned on the ladder and stared at
him in disbelief. “All right, you can have him if you can catch him,” I
said. He stood at the foot of the ladder and said, “Come here, Billy.” And
to my amazement, the raccoon came down and nestled in his arms and they walked
away toward Denny’s home. I put the ladder away and walked into my house
with my shotgun. I went into my study and started to work for a while.
I finished a report for work in about three hours, then decided to take 
a nap. I went into the living room and lay down on the couch. I slept for
about an hour and when I woke up the raccoon was in my lap. I started to scream
but then thought better of it and just started to pet its head, which it seemed 
to like. So we lay there like that for another half hour until there was a
knock on the door. I picked the raccoon up and walked to the door. It was
Denny, the boy from next door. “Can I have my raccoon back?” he said. “I
don’t know how he got in here, really I don’t. But, sure, here’s your 
raccoon,” I said. “By the way, what’s his name?” “Elvis,” he said, grabbing
his pet. A few days later I had worked hard in the yard all day and was
tired. I went to bed early and when I woke up Elvis was in my arms. It
felt natural and good and I kissed him, which he seemed to like. I got up 
and fixed him breakfast, which was cereal and milk. He liked that.
Then I went about my day and Elvis followed me around. He stayed that
night. And the next night. In fact he seemed to be a permanent tenant
by now. We had our routines and our meals. We slept together. One day
when I was raking leaves in the fall I saw Bob and Susan in their yard. They
were Dennis’s parents. After we exchanged greetings and talked for a little 
bit, I said, “How’s Denny?” “We thought you knew. Denny died last summer.
It was polio,” Bob said. “Oh, I’m so sorry. He’ll be greatly missed, I know,”
I said. Then I finished raking and went back in the house. I did some
paperwork, napped for a while, and fixed dinner. Something was different.
Elvis wasn’t there. I looked everywhere, but there was no Elvis.

Ólafur Arnalds – improvisations