This is not based on a true story—It IS a true story.
June 27th, 1977. Madison, Wisconsin.
The two punks jumped seventeen-year-old Keith Lowry outside the Skyland Service Station after midnight.
Keith’s father owned the gas station, but that didn’t exempt the teenager from working the lonely midnight shift on a prime summer night. Keith hadn’t complained when his father told him he’d have to cover some extra hours; the other clerk had just been fired for pilfering stock off the shelves.
When Keith’s father confronted the clerk, he told him coldly that he wouldn’t press charges if and only if they never saw his face in the gas station again. The clerk had cussed and denied it, but left quickly enough. Both father and son thought that was the end of it. They were wrong.
Keith saw them as soon as he stepped out to check the pumps. He recognized the clerk immediately. Angry beyond thought, Keith jabbed one finger at the thief. “My dad gave you a big break, man. Get the hell out of here before—”.
The two punks rushed him, and their hands bunched up Keith’s T-shirt like a pair of cotton handles. They lifted him in the air, dragged him past the pumps to shadowy edge of the station, then tossed him violently to the ground. Asphalt tore his skin like road rash. Keith Lowry flipped himself over, struggling to stand. He cursed at him and then got to his hands and knees, almost making it to his feet.
Then one booted foot swung into his stomach like a leather pendulum and he was down again, on his side, his arms crossed over his wounded stomach. The two punks yammered laugher like hyenas, darting short, hard kicks at his exposed back, thighs, and shoulders, occasionally bending down to piston a quick jab into him. Keith didn’t cry or beg. He just clenched his teeth.
Brakes suddenly screeched on the nearby road and a car door clacked open. Sharp heels hit the concrete. The kicks and punches stopped and there was just silence. Keith opened one eye.
Brilliantly-lit under the gas station awning stood a tall, wide-shouldered man. He wore a navy jacket and pants, his legs were arched widely apart, one in front of the other. One hand was balled tightly at his side, and the other reached out to the two punks, the fingers heavy with gold. It beckoned to them.
A Mississippi drawl broke the silence. “I’ll take you on,” the mystery man said.
That drawl was as familiar as apple pie, cold milk, and the Star-Spangled Banner. It was the theme to I Love Lucy or the whistle announcing The Andy Griffith Show. It was as American as America.
There, karate-posing in the flesh, stood Elvis Aaron Presley, the King now come to Madison, Wisconsin, on a hot summer night at one in the morning.
Elvis jabbed out his tucked fist in a flash of navy and gold. The two punks blinked, silenced from surprise and being star struck. Seeing Elvis was a shock, but so was witnessing firsthand the harsh toll the years had taken on the King of Rock and Roll. His sweaty cheeks were rounded and pale, pushing against the frames of the smoky aviator sunglasses. A fleshy mound waddled beneath his chin. The zipper of the navy jacket, which sported an official DEA insignia, strained against his paunch belly. Beneath the jacket, the sequins of his stage jumpsuit gleamed.
Everyone had heard Elvis had gotten fat, but he didn’t exactly look fat. He looked…overstuffed, like a sausage casing ready to burst. Unhealthy. Most of all, Elvis’s eyes no longer glinted with his good-natured arrogance of the 50s and 60s. Crow’s feet crinkled around his bloodshot eyes, now as sad as they were soulful.
Keith thought he had never seen a more exhausted man in his life.
The ex-clerk and his buddy took a few steps backwards into the deeper shadows of the Madison night. Elvis chuckled, his lips pulling back in that sneered, sideways grin equal parts cool and cruel. When he did, the years and pounds and pills melted away, leaving only the King.
“The fight’s settled then, huh?” Elvis asked.
The two punks ran. Keith stood up, his body sore but not really hurt. Elvis gave him a quick up-and-down glance beneath the aviators and then nodded. Without a word he turned and swaggered back to his open limo door. By now a dozen vehicles had stopped by the gas station, car windows filled with gaping, open mouths. A handful of brave souls minced up to Elvis. Although he greeted them, he didn’t break stride in getting back in his car. A bodyguard held the door and slammed it shut as soon as Elvis was in.
Seconds later, Elvis had faded into a red blur of taillights.
Keith knew the story was unbelievable, but he also knew it would become believable with so many witnesses. He didn’t know what to say or if he should say anything at all to the gawkers. Instead, he walked silently back inside his father’s gas station and called home.
Less than two months later, a 42-year-old Elvis Aaron Presley died from a combination of prescription drugs, exhaustion, and chronic cardiac stress. Over 80,000 fans, family, and friends lined the streets for his funeral procession. He is interred with his family at Graceland, which has welcomed over 20 million visitors since 1977.
Baby…you better believe it.