Mark scuffed his feet along the sidewalk as any other nine-year old would. Every rock he encountered, no matter the size, he kicked. He couldn't help himself. His aim was pretty good, but he didn't kick them far. Too big of a kick would require him to swing his leg harder and could knock off the guitar strapped to his back.
He was on the way to visit Granddad in the hospital. There was a new song Mark had learned and he wanted to play it for him. Every song mastered at this early stage was an accomplishment. Nine months playing on the half-size instrument and his family already thought he had natural talent.
Granddad was different. He never coddled Mark. And now that Mark was following in his footsteps playing the guitar, he was even harder on him. He reviewed Mark's practice schedule. He made sure Mark went to his lessons. He even checked the calluses on the boy's fingers to really make sure he was practicing as much as the check boxes in the little notebook showed he was.
The hospital loomed ahead. Mark let go of Mama's hand and raced to big double doors. He pulled hard and the door opened with a whoosh. The cold air rushed out with the change in pressure. He held the door open for Mama and the two of them walked in together.
They rode up in the elevator in silence. Mark didn't know what was wrong with Granddad, but he was worried. He hoped the new song he learned would make Granddad smile. It was a good one. A barn burner they called it.
Mama knocked gently on the door. Daddy, Mark and I are here, she said. Both the knock and the announcement were a mere formality. They were done at the same time they walked in.
Granddad was lying in bed with a single sheet pulled up to his chin. His eyes were open and he was watching the television. A news channel was blaring the latest tragedy. He turned to Mark and smiled. He looked at Mama and asked, Can you turn that tv off, Honey. It just gets to be too much.
Hi, Granddad. I learned a new song that I want to play you.
The old man's eyes light up when he noticed the guitar strapped across Mark's back. Mark swiveled a bit and swung the guitar around to the front. It was definitely a move that he had been practicing.
Before you do, I have something to tell you. But help me sit up first.
Mark went to the other side of Granddad's bed and tried to help Granddad shift his weight so he could scoot up. Mama grabbed him under the arm and provided the leverage Granddad needed to move.
All the nurses have been swooning, Granddad said.
What's that mean?, asked Mark.
They are very excited about a guest here at the hospital. And I think you will be too.
Mark's eyes went wide. There were not that many famous people in Memphis that a nine-year old boy would get excited about, and especially one who was learning the guitar.
Really? You can't mean...? Mark couldn't even bring himself to ask the question.
That's right. Elvis is upstairs in a room just like this one. I imagine he has more flowers and more people taking care of him, but he's here.
Mark mouthed the name but no sound came out.
Can I meet him?