Tutti Frutti

by Dylan Metrano

Little Richard is sitting in the hotel room he’s called home for several years. It’s an ordinary room. Could be anywhere. His piano is at his brother’s. His dog is at his sister’s. Most of his possessions, his history, his glory- it’s all scattered throughout storage units between here and Georgia. 

He’s been up since six, watching evangelists on a muted TV. Little Richard hasn’t left this room in a week. He’s nearing seventy, but still feels like a young man. His assistant Mark makes his meals, helps with his business affairs, keeps him company. Mark once played in the band, but now he’s Little Richard’s right-hand man. He makes everything a little easier.

With one eye on Billy Graham or Oral Roberts or some other whatshisname, and one eye on a palm tree outside stretching toward the sun, Little Richard calls to Mark:

“Mark, today is a glorious day.”

“Indeed it is, Sir.”

“We should take a little trip.”

And thus begins the process that occurs every time Little Richard leaves this room. Mark takes a deep breath, and gets a case from the closet. Little Richard is a king among men. It’s important that he look impeccable. People expect him to look impeccable. He always gives everything he has- because he can. His talent comes straight from God. It’s his responsibility to share his gift with the world.

So first, the hair. Sides cut short. Brushed back above the ears. Longer in the back. A pile of pomade-waves atop the crown. The hair adds six inches to his 5’10”. Cuban-heeled shoes add another six . 

In the mirror, he applies his pencil-thin mustache with a pencil-thin pencil.

He sings to himself as he applies foundation, highlights, eyeliner. A little rouge. An hour passes. The face in the mirror looks familiar again. He looks like Little Richard.

Mark lays out the suit, bright white covered with rhinestone pins – saxophones, martini glasses, cameras, a G-Clef, and a pistol for good measure. Little Richard gets dressed as Mark pulls the limousine around. Little Richard grabs a pair of sunglasses from atop the television, and waits for Mark to escort him to the waiting car.

It’s after noon, and Little Richard was feeling hungry. 

“Little Richard is feeling hungry.”

Mark knows that there are only a few drive-throughs in L.A. that a stretch limousine can fit through, and Little Richard is, of course, a man of very particular tastes, so he makes a quick calculation and they head to In and Out Burger. Mark orders two burgers (animal-style), two vanilla shakes, and French fries. Little Richard pecks at the food in the back while Mark steers towards their destination. 

As they turn onto Wilcox, Little Richard wipes his mouth with a wet-nap, gives his lips a last minute touch-up, and they double-park, blocking in three identical grey cars.

Mark, also dressed in white, albeit without the flair of his boss, exits the limousine, and walks around to the passenger side. He scans the street, and opens the door. For a moment, everything is still. Then Little Richard leaps out of the car, like a man half his age. Matching his boss’s stride, they ascend the stairs of the Hollywood Post Office. 

Inside, a small herd of tired-looking people is queued around a velvet rope. Mark opens the front door, and they step into the lobby. No one looks in their direction. Little Richard takes a breath, and then with his one-of-a-kind firecracker of a voice, he hollers “Hello, everybody! Little Richard’s here to get his mail!”.

He sashays to the front of the line where Dottie, his favorite clerk, blushes a little and gives him a gigantic smile.

“Why, hello! It’s been far too long since you’ve last stopped in. And don’t you look terrific? Let’s see what we’ve got for you.”

Little Richard looks over his shoulder at all the people in line behind him, He can see their eyes widen and smiles wash over them. He feels blessed that he’s able to bring a tiny unexpected moment of joy to all these beautiful people, people who would take this story back to their offices and dinner tables.

Mark puts a small pile of envelopes and magazines into his satchel, and they turn toward the door. Little Richard pauses for a moment and then says to the seventeen people in the room, “I’d like to wish for each and every one of you a splendid day. God bless you all.” Then, winking at a young mother with a stroller, he pirouettes, lets out a little “WOOOO!!!” and disappears out the front door.

Little Richard can hear tiny gasps of delight and a smattering of applause as the door closes behind him. A warm feeling of contentment washes over him, as he climbs back into the old limousine. Mark slips a disc into the car’s CD player. “Tutti Frutti” spills out from inside, as they drive back to their hotel.