A Pilgrimage to Memphis
Let me backtrack a bit here. The day Charlie had passed, I had returned home and retrieved the zippered satchel, anxious to see its contents. I quickly opened it, spilling everything onto the dining room table.
The first thing I noticed were the keys to the Cadillac. Two sets were bound together with the ownership which was already in my name. Holy Shit, Charlie! I had planned on taking the old van to Memphis, but now I could go in style. Then, it dawned on me. It was obvious Charlie hadn’t done all this on the night he died. He must have been preparing well before. He must have known he wouldn’t be able to make the trip.
I spread the remainder of the items out on the table: a detailed itinerary, maps, and notes about the places he wanted to visit and why. There was an envelope that contained a substantial amount of cash, old bills, most from the fifties and earlier. Also, inside was a small jewelry case with a diamond ring and a slip of paper that read, “This was my grandmother’s and should have been Angie’s.”
A couple of separate sealed envelopes were also enclosed. On the outside of one, in bold lettering, was written To be read by Evan Jackson Only. The other envelope said, Read this on the night before your trip.
Trip? Hmm, What trip?
Before opening the first letter, I went to the kitchen and poured myself a stiff drink.
I sat down at the table and broke the seal. The letter was dated. I was amazed by what I read.
October 14, 2017
Well, if you are reading this, it means I’ve croaked. I knew it was going to happen. I witnessed my demise in one of those damn dreams. Only, this time, it wasn’t about the past. This one was about my near future.
In it, I was watching the late news. It was Friday, the 9th of November. Anderson Cooper began his newscast by confirming the winner of the election. I slumped over in my chair, dead as a doornail. Guess I just didn’t want to hear any more bad news.
After having that same dream three nights in a row, I figured it was going to happen. I was going to die. So, I decided to get my shit in order, and that’s what I have tried to do.
As you can see, I left you my car and some money. Would’ve been more, but there were a couple of ladies I had to take consider. It’s all yours, Evan. I only ask you do one thing. Make the damn trip! Take what’s left of me with you, and plant it under the oak tree in the park I marked on the map.
It’s where I used to go with a young woman named Angie. It’ll be a big old oak by now. If it’s still standing, you’ll find some initials carved in it. We did that age-old ritual of carving our initials in a heart CP & AE, sappy or what? Under that tree would be a good spot to dig a hole and plant my ashes. You can keep my urn, in case you develop a nasty coffee habit.
I thought, Who drinks coffee out of an urn?
Oh, yeah. You’re going to love my urn. It’s a classic. It’s waiting for you at the funeral parlor.
If you go to that park and find a parking lot instead of that big old oak, just dump my ashes in the Mississippi. Feed the catfish. Lord knows I ate enough of them as a kid.
Do us both a favor. Make the trip, Evan. Don’t worry about me, son. I’m in a better place. Hopefully, I will no longer have those damn dreams that haunted me. If I can connect with you from this side, I will. If you don’t hear from me, then just ditch the ashes, visit the places in our original plan, do what you love, and have a good life.
You take care now,
Your friend for this life and beyond,
So, he had dreamt about his death, including the day and exact time. He had left me his Caddy, money, ashes, and a bunch of stories about his past.
Charlie planned his last few days down to the minute. I couldn’t help but picture him laying in bed, waiting for that news broadcast to come on.
I set the letter down. “I’ll go, Charlie,” I said out loud as though he was there and could hear me. “The trip is on. I’ll pick you up at 9:00 a.m. on the 24th, just you, me, and Elvis. We’ll make our pilgrimage to Memphis.”
On the evening before my departure, I had the Caddy packed and ready to go, my alarm set. I headed to bed and opened the other envelope. Inside, was another hand-written note.
You are reading this, so I figure you are going on the trip. You will have noticed I added notes on the different places I wanted to see. I hope it might help you better understand their significance to me.
If you have decided not to make the trip, then you must donate all the money and the Caddy to Elvis Presley Enterprises. I’m just pulling your leg kid. I know you are going because I had some dreams about you making the trip. They were interesting, to say the least.
I don’t know if it will happen, Evan, but if you have a few dreams along the way, You should pay close attention to them.
Old Elvis is a very reliable vehicle for your trip, and if my dreams about your adventure prove accurate, you should have quite an adventure.
I pondered his words. He claimed he had dreams about me? What kind of dreams?
I read the letter a couple of times, then looked at the itinerary again. Charlie had added some last-minute changes to what we had originally planned. These new details included several specific exits for gas and stopovers until I reached Clarksburg. Originally, Clarksburg was going to be a brief stop on our way back to Michigan to look up any relatives of Corporal Henry Brown and tell them his story as Charlie had witnessed in his dream. Now, he had me spending more time there, including a stay over at a place called The Cotton Palace Hotel. Curious, I researched it on the internet and found that it had been torn down in April 1968.
Sorry, Charlie. I’ll have to find another place to stay in Clarksburg.
Why did he want me to take this route? I concluded they must have been last-minute, and he had not had the chance to discuss them with me. It didn’t matter. My tour guide was now in a funeral urn.
Still, having known the man the way I did, it was bound to make the trip more enjoyable. This pilgrimage was already turning into quite a journey. I hadn’t even left the driveway, and couldn’t have imagined…
what was in store.
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