"Paul, Im just not sure about this. Im not sure this is th right thing ta be doin."
"Cmon, Ritchie, all you have to do is look at the charts. Beatles 1 was at the top fer months. The Anthology went over great, too, it was in the top ten best sellers for a helluva long time. Thisll be a fantastic benefit, think of th kids! Itll be a sell out, Beatlemania is bigger than its ever been before!"
"I know that, Paulie, thats what worries me! I just dont want it to go back to th madness, weve already lived through that once, whats th sense in relivin all that, an at our ages? I jus don know about this, it doesnt seem right, I mean, jus th three of us an all, its . . . its not right, man. An anyway, how ya gonna convince George? After that arsehole almost got im back in 99, I dont think ya stand a chance of gettin im to agree to this."
"I dunno, Ritch, I was hoping th two of us could somehow convince him. You know, united we stand an all that stuff. Come on, its fer a great cause!"
Ringo laughed. "Right, what are ya, a damned musketeer? Well, if ari says ok, then Ill do it, too. But ya gotta convince him first! An I don think thats gonna appen!"
"Yer kidding me! No way, not a chance in hell, Paulie!"
"Cmon, George! Its fer a great cause! An Ritch said hell do it if you do it."
"Ya serious? He said he retired fer good years ago! Well, no, on second thought, Ritchs probly bored, he probly asked where do I sign, eh? Yer not bullshittin me, are ya, Macca?"
"Swear ta God, I wouldnt do that to ya, George." Paul solemnly crossed his heart.
George laughed shortly, then sighed. "I dunno, Paul. Doesnt seem right, not really, not with just th three of us."
"Its fer a really good cause, man," Paul said quietly, then shut up and let his friend think about it for a few minutes.
"Ya think theres a market fer us? I mean, whos gonna wanna see old farts like us jumping around on stage?" George asked with a little smile.
"Youve got yer head in th clouds too much, George! Havent ya been payin attention to th charts? Th re-release of yer entire catalog alone over th past five years . . . !"
George looked angelic, mystical. "Well, I dont much concern myself with that sort o thing anymore, its counterproductive to me peace o mind." He grinned suddenly and boyishly. "I just let the money roll into the bank account and dont bother meself. Of course I know what its like out there, ya daft fool! I just wondered if people would really want to see us, or if they just wanna live in their memories of times gone by."
"Mmmm, I see what ya mean. I think its a bit of both, ya know? But I think itll be a sell out. An think of all the kids itll help!"
"Well . . . I dunno, man. I wanna say yes cause I think its fer a great charity. But I gotta admit its a little scary."
Paul laughed. "Go on! Its always a little scary! Lets do it, man! Please."
George looked at him suspiciously. "Ya promise were not going on as The Beatles, right? An if theres even a hint of us being called that ridiculous name, Im out, man."
Paul laughed. "What, you don like Threetles? Me neither. Swear, man, its just gonna be called Old Friends. Th papersll ave a field day o course, an I cant do a thing about that. But no advertising with th name, no old photos, nothin like that." He laughed again. "Of course, if we did that, wed sell lots more tickets, but I don think thats gonna be a problem. I think its gonna be a matter of fightin off th people who want tickets!"
George joined in, laughing in resignation. "Yer probly right. Well, its sure gonna be different, innit? OK, then. Why not? Where do I sign?"
The concert sold out almost as soon as the tickets went on sale. Another record.
"So, dya still think nobodyll wanna see us old farts jumpin around on stage, Hari?" Paul asked smugly the next day, when they met for rehearsal.
"Dont rub it in, Paul," George replied with a smile as he checked the tuning on his guitar. "I gotta admit, it feels good ta be back here, playing with you arseholes." His affectionate smile included Ringo, who was busy setting up his drums. "But I still feel strange about doing a concert with just th three of us, ya know? Doesnt feel . . . whole, I guess. I wish John . . ." His voice trailed off to silence as he busied himself with his guitar. He sighed again. "Makes it hard, doesnt it?" he said quietly.
"Yeah, I know what ya mean, man," Paul smiled back, memories clouding his eyes and making his smile wistful. "Bein back togethers good . . . an bad at th same time. Ya know, its almost like weve never been away, like its all come round full circle. Nearly. Except for . . ." His voice trailed off into a sigh.
Ringo laughed, trying to lighten the mood. "Yeah, like no times passed at all. I swear, though, I look in a mirror an see this sixty year old man, an thats not me!"
The other two laughed. "Who are ya tryin ta fool?" Paul asked. "Youll never see the sunny side of sixty again, mate!"
"Yeah, well, you neither, Paul! Were all ridin down that road now," Ringo replied with a rueful smile.
Their laughter was easy, comfortable. Old friends, playing together again, after all those years. All those years ago . . . . The lights in the studio suddenly went out.
"What th hells goin on?" Paul complained.
"Dunno, man, jus wait it out, theyll be back on shortly, some kinda power outage, I guess," George replied.
Ringo played a little solo on the drums, inadvertently betraying his nervousness. The silence stretched out. When the lights came back on, they all started to breathe a sigh of relief but then stopped, frozen, as they caught sight of their mates.
"Oh, man, are you guys seein what Im seein?" Ringo asked, his voice shaking. "Somebody tell me what th bleedin hells goin on ere!" He tilted a cymbal and looked at his reflection. "This cant be appenin! I think Im havin an acid flashback or somethin! This is un-fucking-believable," he said quietly, looking in the cymbal again. "I don know if Im crazy or not. But I look like Im in me twenties again!"
George laughed, looking at his friends, stepping into the bathroom to check his reflection in the mirror, wondering at how calm the three of them seemed.
"Tell ya what, Ritch," he said as he exited the little room, "I dunno if yer crazy or not, but if ya are, were all infected with th same madness. God, I feel great! This is incredible, no aches or pains, I swear I feel like a kid again!"
"You are a kid again, George! Ya look like yer barely twenty!" Paul laughed, checking out his reflection in one of Ritchies cymbals. Unbelievable! It was a little hard to think straight, though. This had to be a dream or something!
George looked down at his body. "Holy Christ, I was never this skinny, was I?"
"Shit, ferget about skinny, check out what happens if ya jus think about a bird!" Ringo exclaimed. "Shit, I avent ad that appen so quick in . . . well, I cant remember when!"
Amidst laughter and wonder, the three men checked out their young bodies and pronounced them good. Ringo was the first to ask the questions theyd all been thinking.
"So . . . whats goin on? What appened? Is this real? Did we all die when th lights went out in th studio an were just think this is appenin? Is this th afterlife?"
"I don think so," George replied thoughtfully. "I mean, I don think we died, anyway. I don know fer sure, but nothing Ive studied has made th next step seem like a step backwards. As far as this being real, well, it sure seems real ta me. I dunno what we do now, I guess we just go along with whatever happens an take things as they come. Its a little confusing."
"No shit its confusin! Maybe thats from the . . . hell, what do we call it? Transfer? Jump? A rift in th space-time continuium?" Ringo asked, rubbing his forehead, wishing he could concentrate. "So is that what ya think this is, Georgie? A step backwards?"
George shrugged in reply. "Didnt know you were a Trekker, Ritch. But I dunno, a step backwards seems logical. Its too weird ta imagine anything otherwise."
"Ive always liked science fiction, ari. But this is too weird no matter what it is," Ringo complained. "I mean, its . . . not natural! I keep wonderin if Ive gone off th deep end or somethin."
"Well, were all floating in th water without life jackets, if thats th case," George replied, laughing. "So don be feeling alone, ol man!"
"Maybe its a second chance," Paul interjected thoughtfully. The others turned to look at him as he continued. "I mean, what if weve been given a second chance, an opportunity to do it right this time?"
"What, go through all that again, live our lives over?" Ringo blurted in astonishment. "Bleedin ell, I don wanna do that! It was bad enough th first time! I mean, it was fun at th time, but ta go through it again? Shit, most of its just a blur anyway. I don wanna relive it."
"But now you know what you didnt know then!" Paul exclaimed, warming to his subject. "Its like th dreams ya ave once ya leave school, where yer worried about some test or final exam, an ya avent studied fer it. Well, weve studied fer it now! If ya ave th chance ta do it all over, wouldnt ya jump at it?"
"Hell, no!" Ringo replied with irritation. "Ive never wanted ta live me life over."
"Oh, I dunno," George said mildly. "I can think of a few things I wouldnt mind setting straight, if I had th chance. But I don think its possible."
"Why not?" Paul asked.
"Well, if were really here, and were really us, then I think its all pre-ordained. I think whats happened has already happened, an I think we wont be able ta change anything even if we want to. I dunno how long were gonna be here, but I think were just gonna do th same things an make th same mistakes as what happened . . . originally."
"But you dont know that fer sure," Paul felt compelled to point out. It seemed strange to hear profound thoughts from this skinny kid facing him, the face as familiar as his own. He had a feeling of déjà vu, with Georges past and present/future faces nearly overlaying one another. He shook his head and blinked to clear his vision.
"No," George grinned, "but it makes as much sense as anything else! An I don wanna go out there thinking that Ive gotta be on pins an needles with every little thing I do. I don wanna have ta worry about whether eating one more jam butty than I did . . . originally . . . is gonna change history, an when we get back ta our real selves, everything will have changed just cause of that extra sandwich!"
"Are we gonna go? Out there, I mean?" Ringo asked nervously. "An do ya think were gonna get back ta our real selves?"
"I dunno, doesnt appear weve got any control over it ourselves, but as far as going out there, why not?" George laughed. "Im not gonna sit in here waiting fer th lights ta go out again, waiting ta slip back inta me old bones! Well?" he challenged the others with a grin. "I think I could use a drink!"
They looked at each other, their faces and forms so familiar and yet so foreign. Smiles broke out on those faces they remembered so well. They walked out the door of the studio and into the wide world.
October 1965, forty years in the past? Ringo looked at the calendar in the hallway and grimaced. "This is just too fuckin weird," he complained softly. "Its givin me th shakes." He followed his mates outside and across the street to a pub, watching as they ordered lagers.
"Nah, Ill ave a . . . a cola, ta. Plain," he specified to the man behind the bar.
Ringo looked around, remembering that the place had always been a favourite of his, a quiet little pub where theyd always been treated as normal folk. Hed spent many a night in this pub, pissed out of his mind. In fact, the barkeep was looking at him strangely as he opened a bottle and filled the glass. Ringo chuckled to himself. It was probably the first time hed ever ordered anything other than alcohol in this fine establishment. He took his glass with a nod and joined his friends at a table.
"Ya know, Ritchie," Paul ventured, "ya could ave a drink if ya wanted."
"I got a drink right ere, Paulie. You know Im an alcoholic, Im not touchin th stuff."
"Come on, Ritch, yer twenty-five years old. Yer not an alcoholic now."
"Me body may be twenty-five, but up ere," he tapped his forehead, "Im an alcoholic. This is when it all started, man, an Im not goin there. Those days are behind me."
"Leave Ritchie alone, Paul. He can celebrate . . . whatever this is with a cola just as easy as with a beer or anything harder," George said. "Just think about how yer gonna feel th first time somebody offers ya a juicy, rare steak."
Ringo laughed when Paul turned a delicate shade of green.
"I didnt think of that. Shit, there werent many vegetarian restaurants round in th sixties, are there? Hell, Ive been veggie fer a hella lot longer than I ever ate meat, th very idea of eatin anythin like that makes me shiver," Paul said quietly. "I think this is gonna be a little harder than I thought. I wonder ow long were gonna be ere?"
Laughing a little over their successful afternoon escapade, they walked back into the studio . . . and froze.
"John?" Paul said faintly, stunned. "Oh, God . . ." Oh, God, hed never stopped to consider that theyd see people who were . . . gone. What had been a fun little lark suddenly became serious.
John looked up from tuning his guitar. "Ya don ave ta tell me Im late, I already know that. But Im ere now, where th fuck ave you three been? Ya know we got this album ta finish up before Merry Chrimble. Well? What th ell are ya lookin at? Lets get some work done!"
"ang on a second, John, well be right back," Paul said as he grabbed his open-mouthed companions by their sleeves and pulled them out into the hallway, shutting the door to the studio.
"Oh, shit! Its John!" Ringo cried, obviously struggling to keep his voice down. "Oh, shit! I didnt even think of this! Jeezus, I don think I can andle this. I think Im gonna be sick. Oh God! I was married to Mo in 1965, that means shes still alive, too! An Zaks a newborn! What th hells goin on ere?" He sounded close to the edge of hysteria, stunned with their current reality.
"ang on, Ritch, get a old of yerself, take a breath," Paul commanded, giving his old friend a little shake, wishing someone would shake him. Hed never stopped to think, it was just a lark, some sort of weird trip to go along with. But . . . John! Was this real? His old mate, alive?
What if George was wrong? What if something they did could change the future? What if, by having a drink this afternoon, they changed all history and . . . hell, he didnt know, what if he married Jane, what if he got back to his reality and found out that everything had changed? What if . . . ?
"Oh shit is right! ari, what if yer wrong? What if we can change things? Oh, God, what if we can change what appens ta John?" Paul asked, his excitement building with each word.
Silence descended up on the three of them, absolute, total silence. What if, what if?
George cleared his throat and took a deep breath. "I dunno. But hes gonna think were loonies escaped from an asylum if we go in there an tell him about th future! If yer right, Paul, an this is a second chance, then we cant afford ta blow it. If Im right, then nothings gonna change anyway, so we gotta try, right? It cant hurt. An maybe we can make a difference."
Paul nodded and swallowed, trying to quell his excitement. He looked at Ringo.
"Ritch? Ya with us? Cmon, man, if theres any chance we can do this, we need ya with us."
Ringo took a deep breath, then another. He seemed to be having a really rough time with this, Paul thought, but his answer was clear.
"Yeah, man. We gotta try. Im with ya. United we stand."
"Divided we fall?" Paul asked, and all three of them started laughing. The laughter had a slight edge of hysteria to it, but they were able to control themselves after theyd released a little of their tension.
"OK, musketeers, we got some practice ta do. Wonder what songs were supposed to know? Werent we doin Rubber Soul about now?" Paul wondered as he opened the door to the studio and they filed into the room.
It wasnt any easier seeing John the second time, Paul thought as they walked back into Studio Two. He wanted to rush up to his old friend and hug him, never let him go. The looks on Ritchies and Georges faces spoke of similar feelings. None of them could resist the temptation of simply touching John as he fiddled with his guitar strap. Paul slapped him on the back, George squeezed him on the shoulder, and Ringo bumped him affectionately as he walked past.
John looked up in irritation. "What? Are ya finally ready? Come on, then, lets get started!"
It took a while to get in the groove, and they had to endure some scathing remarks from John while they tried to remember the music they were supposed to know so well. But for some reason, none of them could seem to stop smiling all through the first days work on Johns new song, "This Bird Has Flown."
Dinner was an adventure; it was difficult to determine just what was available for three vegetarians to eat in the mid-60s. George took matters into his own hands and asked Mal (another shock) to go to an Indian restaurant for their meals, and he ordered for everyone.
John gave him a funny look. "I knew you were gettin into th Indian thing with th sitar, George, but whats this with th food?"
"Oh, just wanted ta try a few things I read about," George replied. Funny how the half-truths came so easily, he mused.
"Well, I ope its good food, Im starvin," John replied, still fiddling around with "This Bird Has Flown," and George had to smile about the working title for "Norwegian Wood."
"Ya know, John, maybe a little sitar would sound good on th song, dya think?" he asked casually.
It was still so odd to be sitting here, talking to his mates, it was all so close that it seemed like yesterday, yet so far away that it seemed like another life. George thought about what Paul had said earlier. If there were any way to change the future then theyd have to try; the moment hed seen John, he knew they would have to make an attempt. But what other things would be changed if they were able to right that one wrong? The ripples in the pond of life could make drastic differences. Couldnt they?
They ate with hearty appetites when the food arrived, and even John admitted it was good, although he complained about the lack of meat. George pointed out the chicken vindaloo hed ordered for his meat eating companion and told John to shut up and eat. The vegetarians of the group enjoyed the carrot soup, stuffed prinjals, dal with creamed spinach and grilled bread. George wasnt sure if the difference was because the foods in the 60s had few preservatives, or if it was just the fact that his much younger taste buds experienced flavours differently, but everything tasted fantastic!
Huddling together on break after dinner, Paul asked the question.
"What ave we gotta do?"
"Change his attitude," George replied.
Ringo laughed. "Right! Change Johns attitude? Thats a larf, well never get that done, not even if were ere fer th rest of our lives!"
Ringo paused for a moment of sober reflection, wondering if maybe they would be here that long. He finally shook himself mentally and asked, "An what attitude would we ave ta change, anyway?"
Paul answered, hed been thinking of this the entire time theyd been in the studio.
"Next March is that interview where John says th Beatles are more popular than Jesus. e cant say that. If e doesnt say that, then th bastard wont . . . wont . . . ave a reason ta . . . ta do it," he finished weakly. It was hard to think about it, let alone say it, especially here and now, with John alive.
"Ya think its that simple?" Ritch asked.
Paul nodded, relieved to see that George was nodding, too. He must have been thinking about this, too.
"Yeah, I think Pauls right," George said. "Thats th catalyst, thats th thing we gotta change. If we can change what John says in that interview, itll change . . . what happened. Or whats gonna happen, I mean."
"But George, you dont really believe we can change anything, man! Thats what ya said earlier," Ringo accused.
"I know I said that, an yer right, I dont think we can change things. But maybe Im wrong. Ya know, Im not some all seeing prophet or anything like that, Ritchie. I dunno, maybe were just here ta say goodbye. But if theres any chance . . . well, we gotta try, man."
"Well, ya act like a prophet, or some kinda hermit anyway!", Ringo joked nervously. "Or at least ya do in th future. Or th present. Or whenever it is! Shit, this is so confusing!" He sighed. "So . . . what do we do ta change is attitude? We don know how long were ere. Shit, what if were ere fer . . . forever?"
They looked at each other blankly. George finally answered.
"I guess well just have ta go with th idea were here fer a short time. I guess we just start talking about how the Beatles are more popular than television or something, an weve gotta hope it sinks in. If were still here in March, then we can do something about th interview, but we cant wait an just hope were gonna be here then, we may only have a day, or a week. Or an hour."
"Or forever," Ringo added morosely.
No one had come up with a better plan by the time their break was over, so the old friends trooped back into the studio. They werent able to talk about it during conversation between songs, it wasnt an easy subject to casually bring up. All three of the visitors from the future exchanged glances, hoping theyd have another chance, wondering if they should force the issue and just blurt everything out. A few moments here or there spent whispering and rejecting ideas didnt help them find any answers.
When the session was over late in the evening, they each gave John a hug or a slap on the back as they prepared to leave, and John looked at them with suspicion rampant in his expression.
"Whats goin on? Yer all actin funny, yer not smokin, yer eatin weird food, yer all daft or trippin or somethin," he commented as he pulled on his coat. "Yer huddlin together, whisperin whenever ya get th chance, yer actin like bloody conspirators. Whats goin on?"
Paul forced a laugh. "Nah, John, theres nothin goin on. Just kinda clearin out th lungs an body, tryin a few new things, you know ow it is. Hey, man, good session today, that songs great, its gonna be a hit, Im sure of it. Its a beaut, John."
He wanted to say how much he enjoyed working with him, how much John meant to him, but he knew he couldnt say anything without raising Johns suspicions even higher than they were already. Paul saw from the corner of his eye that George looked worried; he was frowning and shaking his head in warning, so Paul swallowed and turned away before he started babbling.
"See ya tomorrow, man, ave a good night," he said quietly. He wondered if the three of them should stay together tonight, but the urge to go home, to be alone for a while, was almost overwhelming, and after a few brief words of farewell to George and Ringo, he escaped as quickly as possible.
Paul found his car and drove home. It was strange arriving there again, it had been a long, long time. All the necessary keys were in his pockets, he parked the car, unlocked the door and walked in. Memories flooded over him from the smell and feel of the house. Looking around at the furnishings and paintings, it was like . . . stepping into a time portal. Thats exactly what had happened, he realized, and it was the strangest thing hed ever experienced.
He spent an hour just wandering around the house, looking at everything, picking up items hed forgotten hed ever owned, replacing them carefully, not wanting to intrude, feeling like a stranger in his own home. Any time he passed a mirror or a window, he very nearly did a double take, wondering just who was the stranger he saw in the reflection. Had he ever looked that young? He stopped in front of the mirror, seeing his young face in reflection and his much older face in memory, wondering which was real, shaking his head as they blurred together into a composite. He was Paul, old-Paul and young-Paul combined, all the pieces of his life coming together to form a whole.
When he walked by the telephone for the third time, he finally stopped stalling and picked the receiver up. He called a number he almost couldnt remember, it had been so long, but his fingers knew the rotary sequence and they dialed it automatically. Trying to keep his hand from shaking, trying to keep his voice steady, he greeted his brother.
"Hey, Mike, ow are ya? Can I talk ta Dad? Yeah, I know its late, lemme talk to im."
He waited with his heart in his throat. When he heard his fathers sleepy voice, he could barely speak, barely assure his dad that he was fine, that he just wanted to say hello. He struggled to control his voice despite the tears that wet his cheeks, closing his eyes upon hearing the old familiar voice he thought hed never hear again.
He spent a good twenty minutes chatting, talking about anything and everything, just so he could continue to hear that voice. He wished it was earlier in the evening, hed have gone to see his father in a heartbeat. But for some reason, he felt he needed to be here, too. He kept his confused father on the line even though it was late in the evening, and he tried to store up every word and nuance, every feeling and sound, for the future.
When the doorbell sounded, he knew he had to ring off. This must be why hed felt he had to be here. He knew who was at the door, it couldnt be anyone else. He took a deep breath, trying to calm his pounding heart.
"Theres somebody at th door, Ive gotta go. I love you, Dad, with all my heart. Talk to ya soon."
He almost broke down when he replaced the receiver on the cradle, wondering if there would be a soon in which to talk to his father again. The doorbell sounded again, and he pulled himself together, went to the door to answer the ring.
Jane was at the door, smiling at him. He took another deep breath and returned her smile. God, she was so beautiful. He welcomed her into his home with a hug and a kiss.
Oh, God, this was so . . . weird.
Ringo sat in his car, trying to work up the courage to walk into his old home. It had taken him a long time to drive here, mainly because hed forgotten where hed been living at the time. Not to mention having to search for his car, hed forgotten what vehicle he drove in 1965, too. The streets were so different, so familiar yet so strange, the clothes people wore, the cars, everything was just so weird. Maureen was alive. His ex-wife, no, his wife was alive and the mother of his baby, his newborn baby. This was gonna be bloody difficult. But he knew he had to do this, maybe this was all part and parcel of why he was here. That is, if he was here, if this wasnt just a bloody hallucination!
He sighed, placing his thoughts squarely on something hed tried to avoid thinking of until now. What about sex? If he had sex with Mo, was he cheating on his current wife with his ex-wife? Or cheating on his future wife with his present wife? And if they could change things, what if having sex caused something to happen, maybe an unexpected pregnancy? But if hed originally had sex with Mo on this particular night, and didnt have it now, would that change screw things up, too?
To top things off, if trying to figure out all that wasnt enough, this body definitely had the urges of a young man of twenty-five, and all this thinking about sex wasnt helping matters. His mind might be sixty-plus, but his body wasnt having any of that; it knew what it wanted, and it had been wanting it nearly all day. He had to laugh about that, hed forgotten how urgent sex was to a young man. He couldnt help but wonder if everything worked, and how different it would feel. Were the memories better than the reality? Or had the memories of youthful escapades themselves faded with age?
The side door opened and Mo stood in the doorway, framed by the light from the cheery interior of the house. God, she was so beautiful, so full of life, and his breath caught in his throat just looking at her. And she was holding baby Zak in her arms. Ringo took a deep breath and got out of the car.
"Hullo, darlin, you look great! An ows me boy, eh, Zakkie?" he asked, giving Mo a kiss and taking his infant son in his arms.
Ringo had to struggle to keep the tears at bay, he knew hed never fully appreciated this at the time. Oh, hed certainly loved his son, but knowing what the future held, knowing what a fine young man Zak became, knowing his son had followed in his old mans footsteps . . . well, it was all the more precious, holding him now, a tiny infant only a month old. Having grandchildren had given him a new appreciation for how very brief this period of time lasted. The years passed so quickly, he thought, and his little boy had become a man almost overnight. It was hard to believe Zak had ever been this small, was there ever a more beautiful baby, he wondered?
Absolute, total love flooded through Ringo, along with renewed amazement at this trip, at the unexpected opportunity to once again hold this precious bundle in his arms. He felt an overwhelming surge of affection for the mother of his child, and he gave Maureen another kiss before following her into their home. He wondered if something as simple as an extra kiss might change things, too?
Oh, God, this was so . . . confusing!
George had Alf drive him home. He needed to think, and driving himself along the familiar/unfamiliar narrow streets wouldnt give him much time to do that. In spite of the confident pose he put up in front of his mates, he didnt have a clue what was going on or if what they were doing was right or not. But Pauls theory about this being a second chance had struck a chord within him, and he wondered if it really was a chance to set some things right. And if it wasnt, then there was no harm in trying, was there? Hell, maybe if he said that to himself often enough, hed start to believe it.
He got out of the car and stood looking at his old house. He had to smile, it hadnt even been painted in psychedelic colors and patterns yet!
"Thanks, Alf, will ya pick me up tomorrow at 11?"
He chuckled at Alfs surprise, that must be pretty early for a start back in 65. Well, Paul and Ritch had said theyd be at the studio at noon, so maybe theyd have a chance to finalize plans. Maybe they should have stayed together tonight, hung out in a group and not gone their separate ways. But he thought theyd all needed to get away from each other, just a little bit, just get a little breathing room and think things through. Maybe . . . see some old friends or family. Maybe that was why they were here?
Shit! Enough dawdling, all this thinking was just an excuse, he was procrastinating, he might as well admit it! He was afraid to walk into his house, afraid to face a part of his past. He hadnt thought it would be so bloody difficult.
He took a deep breath and committed himself to the action, walked up to the house, opened the door, stepped inside. He shut his eyes at the sense of déjà vu when Patti rushed into his arms. Oh, God, she was so beautiful. And so young! He felt like an old lecher just looking at her, with 60 plus years of life in his head but a 22 year old body that responded . . . instantly . . . to the physical charms she presented.
Georges memories of the future cast their spell on him, and he found his thoughts centering on what would happen scant years from now, the steady distance that would grow between them, the way Patti left him for Eric. And finding Olivia. Dhani, his son. Oh, God.
"Hullo, sweetheart, did ya have a good day?" he asked, his voice breaking on the last syllable. He cleared his throat.
She looked up at him, he could tell shed been crying, although she tried to smile at him. His heart went out to her, she was so young, everything was always so desperate and urgent at that age.
"Whats wrong, love?" he asked.
The man he had become asked the question gently; he knew the callous youth hed seen in the mirror wouldnt have sounded like that. He stroked her hair, awash in the physical sensation of holding her close, touching her as he waited patiently for her reply.
"That girl called again," she said, burying her face in his shoulder, sobbing.
George was stunned with the immediacy of the memory. What a fucking arsehole hed been back then! Living with Patti, loving her and talking marriage with her, yet always enjoying a bird or two on the side, especially on the tours, the typical Northern chauvinistic attitude, wanting to have his cake and eat it, too. The years had certainly changed him.
He sighed, wondering if this was something he should try to change. He hugged his ex-wife close, trying to comfort her. No, she wasnt his ex-wife right now, she wasnt even his wife at this point, she was his future wife. And if he tried to change things and succeeded, then what would the future be like if something he did now meant that he and Patti worked things out and stayed together? No Olivia, no Dhani?
Oh, God, this was . . . heartbreaking.
They gathered in Studio Two the next day, back to the familiar structure of EMIs hallowed halls. They avoided each others eyes for a time, but all three were thoughtfully quiet, perhaps thinking over their nights, perhaps wondering what they might have changed.
Ringo finally broke the silence, leaving the soul searching to remain private; he instead addressed something that he was pretty sure was safe to talk about. Looking at his friends, he was fairly certain that none of them had been able to resist temptation during their evening apart. Maybe Georgie, the mystic, the saint? He looked at his mate a little closer and chuckled. No, he looked far too smug and satisfied. And tired/. Ringo was pretty sure Georges expression mirrored his own, and Paulies, too.
"Everythin works pretty good, doesnt it?" he asked a little sheepishly, smiling.
Paul started laughing. "Hell, pretty good doesnt nearly cover it, ya know! Wow!"
George joined in the laughter. "Ya got that right, its pretty amazing. . ."
"Whats amazin?" John asked as he walked into the room.
"Amazing weather," George deadpanned. "It hasnt rained in, what, a day? What are we working on today, John?"
John looked at him with a thoughtful expression, his eyes narrowed in misgiving. "Why ya askin me, Georgie? Christ, yer still actin weird, man. I dunno, Paulies th one who usually takes charge o that." He looked expectantly at Paul. "Come on, then, lets get started!"
"OK, errr, maybe we could . . . maybe we need ta work some more on yer new song, that was a good one," Paul stumbled.
"Nah, lets do that new one, Drive My Car, right?" Ringo suggested. Paul looked at him, raising his eyebrows in question. Ringo mouthed back, "Lewisohn."
"Yer kiddin, right?" Paul asked him quietly when he walked past. Ringo paused for an equally quiet reply.
"Nah, got th new Chronicles recently, yesterdays rehearsal jogged me memory bout it. Its a week or two before we get back ta workin on Wood."
"Yer a lifesaver, man, ya got a mind like a steel trap!" Paul whistled in admiration.
"Yeah, its usually closed," Ringo completed the old joke and climbed behind the partition to his drum kit.
Ringo was the first one called to the phone that afternoon, Maureen was ringing him. Worried that something had happened to Zak, he hurried to the booth to answer the call, pausing only long enough to pull Brian Epstein into a bear hug, leaving his manager staring in confusion over the action. Brian hadnt been at the studio yesterday, and Ringo wondered if the shocks would ever stop arriving.
Picking up the receiver, he greeted Mo with trepidation, a slow smile breaking out on his face as he realized that this was a thank you call from his surprised and gratified wife, although she certainly didnt coach it in such terms. Ringo nearly started chuckling, hed really tried to tone things down a bit last night, but forty years of additional knowledge and expertise didnt disappear simply because one was trying to be cautious. Mo had seemed a bit overwhelmed, and Ringo thought what a fool hed been in his younger years; sex at that age was often too urgent to spend time ensuring a partners pleasure, and that was a real loss, he thought. He couldnt talk long or say much, with both Brian and George Martin in the booth, but he told Maureen he loved her, and he asked her to kiss Zak for him before he rang off.
Pausing before returning to the studio, he quickly dialed an almost forgotten number and spent an all too brief ten minutes chatting with his mother. He finally returned to the studio, quiet, thoughtful and shaken even more by this weird trip he was sharing with Paul and George.
Georges call arrived next, and his smile upon his return to the studio bespoke of a similar thank you call from Patti. When a call was announced for Paul, he and Ringo shared an amused glance as Paul left the room to go to the booth. When Paul returned with a smug smile on his face, the three shared a grin and a chuckle.
"All right, what th hells goin on with you lot?" John asked. "Whats th joke, whyre ya just larkin about like this? We got an album ta finish! Jesus, yer all actin so fuckin weird, I cant ardly stand it. Come on, then, lets get started!"
Cowed but still chuckling, they got started. The session went well, and they all felt more comfortable than they had the previous day. When John questioned how well they were doing in rehearsal, they realized that they were playing the finished version of the old familiar song. The only problem with that was that it was supposed to be a new song. It was hard to go back to playing a working version of it, though, and they ended up completing the song in four takes, with overdubs, very nearly a record.
"Ya must ave been practicin last night, George, ya sound . . . I dunno, different, smoother, I guess," John commented as they broke for dinner. He seemed in a better mood now that theyd got a song for the album done. "You, too, Paulie, ya sound really good."
"What about me?" Ringo asked, laying his sticks down.
"You? Nah, ya sound pretty much th same ta me, Ritch," John replied, and Ringo made a face when Paul and George laughed.
There was a pause in the conversation as they grabbed sandwiches and drinks, and Paul took a deep breath. He had to say this, the urgency had been steadily growing all afternoon, and he couldnt hold it back any more. Well, not and keep breathing, anyway!
"Hey, John, I love ya, man. An I love workin with ya. s truth, man."
The relief he felt at having said it almost made him lightheaded. He saw the look George threw at him, warning mixed with alarm. But then Ringo piped up, slapping John on the back, relief coloring his features as he spoke.
"Yeah, I gotta agree with Paulie, John. Yer th greatest, man, an I love ya. Its a real pleasure workin with ya."
George sighed, jumping on the bandwagon in spite of his reservations. "Yeah, Johnny. Working with you has always been fantastic. I love ya too, man."
John looked at them closely, cautiously stepping away from them with exaggerated care. "All right, whats th joke? Ya all goin soft? I better keep me eye on you lot, ya sound like yer goin queer or somethin."
George laughed, and Paul was surprised that it didnt sound too forced. "Nah, its just something we never got . . . errr, get round ta saying, man, not very often, anyway. Not often enough." He paused for a long moment, then grinned and added, "Maybe we wanna borrow some money or something."
Paul breathed a sigh of relief when John took off on that subject, joking about finances. He wondered what hed been thinking, saying that. But he knew hed needed to say it, and maybe the others had needed to say it as well.
They made small talk over cheese and pickle sandwiches and Paul decided he had to try to bring it up in the conversation.
"Pretty amazin . . . ow big The Beatles ave gotten, innit?" Paul asked rhetorically, stumbling a little, but determined. "What dya think about it, John?" Paul exchanged a guarded glance with his fellow conspirators.
"Oh, yeah, well be playin together an well still be on top forty years from now, ya know!" John replied with a sarcastic smile. "Well prolly ave a hit single on me 65th birthday, I can see it all now!"
John laughed into the silence that held the others shocked and spellbound. Forty years? Exactly forty years? How had he picked exactly that number?
After taking a swallow of his drink, John added, "I always knew wed get to th top, never ad any doubts meself. Hell, were practically more popular than . . . I dunno, Jesus, I guess!"
The three listeners froze in the act of eating, forgetting all about the forty years comment, realizing this was it, their chance. They rushed over the tops of each other as they tried to say what they thought, stumbling over the words and each other in their hurry to speak.
"No, man, thats th wrong thing ta say," Paul began.
"Ya cant say that, John," George started.
"Bleedin ell, John, ya know thats knockin religion an thats a really bad thing ta do," Ringo said.
John looked at them, amusement and irritation warring in his expression. "All right, what th fucks goin on ere? Yer all actin so weird, like ya know somethin I don! Whats th joke? Whens th bucket o dishwater gonna fall on me ead?"
"John, theres no joke," Paul replied quickly. "But ya cant be muckin round with religion like that. Look, man, its really important. You know th backlash would be orrible, deadly, even! You can say that The Beatles are more popular than television, or more popular than fish an chips, but ya cant be messin round with comparin us ta any religious figures. Ya gotta listen to us, man."
He wanted to shake his friend, cram the information down his throat, make him promise hed never say anything like that, ever! A thought occurred to him, what if they were able to convince him, but it just delayed the inevitable? What if he said it in 1968 instead of 1966? Or in 1970, or some other time? Or what if he said something worse? Was this just an exercise in futility? Or was it really a second chance? But a second chance at what, to change things? Or was it just a second chance to say goodbye?
Shit! There were just too many fucking questions! His eyes were stinging and he had to get up from the table. Paul paused long enough to grip Johns shoulder and give his old mate a little shake, and then he left the room to try and pull himself together. He climbed the stairwell to the roof and took a few deep breaths.
Ringo followed him onto the roof, pulling him into a brief hug. "Take it easy, Paulie, I know what yer feelin, were all feelin it." He stepped back and looked down at the street below, sighing.
"I just wanna tell im . . ." Paul began, stopping when his words caught in his throat.
"Yeah, I know. So do I. But we cant, man, hes already suspicious. We dont wanna make matters worse."
"Right, ow th bleedin ell could we make matters any worse?" Paul demanded angrily.
"I dunno, but Im sure theres a way, its Murphys law, innit?" Ringo asked wryly.
The door opened and George joined them on the rooftop. "You two all right?" he asked.
"Yeah," Paul nodded, answering for them both. "Its just so freakin hard not ta say what I wanna say to im!"
"Yeah, I know, man, I wanna tell him, too," George responded. They were silent for a few minutes, then George sighed. "Look, we better get back inside." They all walked back into the stairwell, the door swung shut behind them . . . . . and the lights went out.
"Bloody ell, not yet!" Ringo groaned. "Thats not enough time!"
"Shit, we only ad one freakin chance at it," Paul said softly. "Was it enough?"
"Hare Krishna," George whispered, a simple prayer.
When the lights came back on, they were back in the old familiar studio. They looked at each other, seeing the old familiar faces and bodies, feeling the old familiar aches and pains associated with aging.
"Did that really appen?" Ringo asked, reaching into his pocket for his wallet. He smiled unselfconsciously when he flipped through the pictures it contained, at least it wasnt like in that movie, where people disappeared from the photo.
"Did we do any good?" Paul questioned in reply, pulling out his own wallet after seeing what Ringo was doing.
"I guess theres only one way ta find out," George replied, walking from the studio to the office. He sat down at the computer and booted it up.
"What are ya doin, man?" Ringo asked.
Waiting for the connection, George checked his billfold as well, closing his eyes in brief thanks to a higher power upon seeing the unchanged pictures. But did that mean . . .? Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Paul putting his wallet away with a relieved expression on his face. George likewise put his wallet away and logged onto the internet.
"Thought Id go ta Bagism.com an see what theyve got listed, theyve got a good chronology of events," George belatedly replied to Ringos question as he quickly typed and clicked enter.
"Im scared ta look," Ringo admitted.
George nodded. "Yeah, me, too, Ritch. But how else we gonna find out? If we ask anyone, theyll think weve gone mad. Or senile." The screen went blank for a moment, then filled with information. George read quietly.
Paul swallowed, ashen faced. "So . . . whats it say?"
George looked up from the computer, shaking his head. "We didnt change anything," he sighed. "Its all still th same, everything happened . . . like we remember. I didnt think we could make a difference, but I was hoping . . ." His voice trailed off and he sighed once more. "I was hoping I was wrong. I guess ya cant change th past, no matter how much ya might want it. But Im glad we tried, anyway."
"But did it really appen?" Ringo asked again.
George shrugged tiredly. "I don know, Ritch. Maybe it was just a hallucination. But we all three had it, thats pretty weird. I jus don know," he repeated.
"I swear I don know, either," Paul said, shaking his head in wonder or annoyance, he wasnt sure which. "Maybe it appened. Maybe it didnt. Maybe it was just a hallucination, maybe that acid flashback ya talked about, Ritch. Or maybe we were just given an opportunity ta say somethin we shoulda said more often when we ad th chance. Maybe it was just th chance ta say goodbye. Too many fuckin maybes, man, I really don know."
Paul sighed heavily, and the three of them were silent, alone in their thoughts, sitting or standing with slumped shoulders and memories that may or may not have been real. After a few moments of reflection, Paul felt a smile surfacing at the thought of yet another maybe. He started to chuckle, and the others looked at him in surprise.
"Or maybe . . . maybe it was th chance fer John ta tell us were doin th right thing with this concert. He said wed be at th top in forty years, lads . . . an its forty years, ya know."
There was silence in the room, silence and then smiles.
"Yeah, well, I know what John would say if e was ere," Ringo said with a laugh. "Hed prolly say come on, then, lets get started!"
They laughed, and they got started. After all, they had a concert to prepare for!
The charity concert was an unparalleled success. The album of the concert went platinum before it was even pressed, and the single "Old Friends" was number one on the charts on the 65th anniversary of Johns birth.
Cheryl Mortensen has been a Beatle fanatic since the 1960s, but somehow went on to other things in the late 1960s, only rediscovering her passion for "all things Beatle" in the late 1990s (and on into the new century). She is a computer programmer and an avid photographer. (Concert photos of bands and performers is her favorite area -- ask her about her Ringo pictures!!) Cheryl lives with her husband of 18 years (Mike), her German Shepherd (Sorsha), and a bunch of fish in the tank and the pond that they've never bothered to name.
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