In my hometown of Malvern, Arkansas, there lived a real-life Snuffalufagus. His name wasn’t “Snuffalufagus.” His name was “Elgin,” but for all I knew, he was hairy and brown and sported a porn star appendage.
Everybody knew Elgin but me. He was a blend of myth and awesome.
“Elgin taught me how to brew moonshine.”
All that was cool and bad ass seemed to originate with Elgin, as though he were the secret catalyst to life’s otherwise inert Petrie dish of chemicals. Elgin was the kind of guy who always had a trunk full of fireworks, or half a bottle of Jim Beam, or the phone number to an easy girl.
“Me and Elgin snuck into Cindy Johnson’s* bedroom last night!”
What? Cindy Johnson!? Where was I?
That was it exactly. I was never in the right place or the right time for Elgin. He was the human end-of-the-rainbow. He was Bigfoot, and all I had was a snapshot of what might have been his footprint.
“Maybe your friends are playing a prank on you,” suggested Angry Dad after I expressed my frustration.
I seriously entertained the notion. Elgin was too perfect to exist. He was the kind of guy who dabbled in hot air ballooning and wrestled alligators on dares. The kind of guy who always knew where to find a back-alley cockfight. The kind of guy who could toss a stiletto from a great distance and make it stick into a tree trunk.
Elgin, the Malvern Snuffalufagus.
Except, I knew Elgin existed. He was real to too many people. One summer, I noticed that an abnormal number of my friends were working at the Cock of the Walk, a lakeside restaurant in Hot Springs.
“Jennings Osborne** left me a 100% tip!”
Jesus! How did you get a gig at the Cock?
“Elgin’s dad owns it. Didn’t you know that?”
No. Just tack on another element to the Legend of Elgin. I began to resent my non-relationship with Elgin. I was a cool guy! Why wasn’t Elgin getting me laid? Why wasn’t Elgin bailing me out of jail? Why wasn’t Elgin teaching me how to forge a ninja throwing-star from molten steel?
“I think you’ve really built up Elgin. He’s just a regular guy.”
Could a regular guy lift a Dodge Duster over his head? Could a regular guy play trombone in his own jazz band? Could a regular guy fire an arrow into outer space, or build bricks without straw? Don’t tell me Elgin was a regular guy.
“Me and Elgin went to Mexico!”
“Elgin knows Bill Clinton.”
“Elgin let me drive his Porsche!”
I was like Big Bird, but the opposite! Everybody could see Elgin but me. I tried to picture him in my head: Eight feet tall. Wearing an entire bearskin for a shirt, and two bearskins sewn together for pants. A diamond tooth. A solid gold cane in one hand, and a hot chick’s ass in the other.
“Aw, dude! You just missed Elgin!”
Yeah. He must have flown right over my head.
* Cindy Johnson is a made up name. Don’t bother looking her up.
** Jennings Osborne, on the other hand, is not made up. He’s an eccentric millionaire who aggravates his neighbors with a billion-watt Christmas display every year.