I was thinking about a person who lived in Rome back when I went on the police department. This was back in the 1960s. I saw him on Broad Street when I was walking a beat. I didn’t know what his name was, only that he carried a guitar. I am sure that some of the older people remember him; he was all over town carrying his guitar.
If you have read any of my stories you know that I never recall any last names. It would not do you any good to ask me the last name of this person. I saw him on the streets for a few years, but only heard him called Ennis. If asked his name, he would say, “Ennis, the brother of Elvis.” We knew that he wasn’t the brother of the Elvis, but we couldn’t argue the point that he didn’t have a brother named Elvis.
I will describe him as best as I remember. Unlike Elvis, he was short and skinny. He had a shirt that had a picture of a big rose on the back of it. The front had a rose on each side of the shirt. It was at one time a beautiful shirt but when I saw it, it was very faded out. If you have a little age on you, remember the pants that was so small that it was hard to get them up to your waist? They fitted so tight that they hugged the ankles and didn’t move when you sat down. I believe that they were called “hip huggers.” His were a bright red.
Picture this: a small man wearing this kind of outfit and carrying a guitar that was almost as big as he was. I also remember that the guitar only had two strings on it. I remember walking up to him on Broad Street one day. I looked the guitar over and then asked him, “Can you play that guitar?” His face lit up into a big smile and he said, “I sure can. I will play it for you, but it will cost you.” I declined the offer, telling him I would take him up on his offer another day. He smiled and waved as he went on down the street. I smiled that a guitar with two strings should make beautiful music.
I was taken off the street and put into a patrol car. But I would still see him all over town, walking and carrying the two-string guitar.
One Sunday, working the evening shift, we got a call to a disturbance in the park on Hardy Avenue. We arrived to find Ennis dancing around, picking the two-string guitar. I got out of the car and walked around to where I could get a good look.
Believe me when I say that Elvis would never be able to duplicate the movement that Ennis was doing. I stood quietly until he finished. He bowed to the people who was watching him. He turned and his face fell when he saw me.
I walked over to him. Smiling I said, “Ennis, boy you are good. Where did you learn how to pick that guitar?” The smile came back to his face. “I learn myself,” he said. I was trying to make him feel at ease. I could not see where he was doing anything wrong, and the people who were gathered around were enjoying themselves. The Whiz, a man who I had talked to before, came over to me. He assured me that they often came to the park with Ennis.
“Get him to do a song for us,” the Whiz said. I turned back to Ennis and asked him to do a tune. Someone in the crowd told us that he got a quarter for two tunes. I handed him a quarter and said, “Show me something, Ennis.” He took the quarter and looked at it. He tried to bend it. He put it in his mouth and bit down on it and, satisfied that it was real, put it in his pocket.
He came over and stood in front of me and put on a show that you would not believe. He twisted and turned, jumping up in the air. We left there laughing as hard as we could. Elvis could never do the things that Ennis did. That was one time that I believed I got my money’s worth.
I saw Ennis do his thing several times after that. He would be in the park with a crowd watching. He would come over to the patrol car and stick out his hand saying, “My buddies, Whiz and Lonie.” We would shake hands and call him our buddy and get a big smile from him. As the saying goes, we knew that we made his day when we shook hands with him. When that big smile lit up his face, he made our day, too.
Sometimes little things mean a lot to someone. Being his buddy made his day, being his buddy also made our day.