The Right Door
George stood at the bus stop and fished about in his pocket for a fag, found a packet and pulled it out. He cursed when he realized the pack was empty, then cursed again when he looked about at the lingering fog. He’d always hated days like this, when the fog stayed ‘round so late, everything looked so ghostly and scary. He shivered uneasily.
ears caught the faint sound of an approaching voice and a grin crossed his
face as his fears were stilled. Was
that John? Sounded like him!
George, where ya off to?”
blinked and his grin widened; the fog was lifting and he could make out his
mates’ faces! Trying to
appear cool, he simply nodded a ‘hullo’ instead of rushing to greet
John, Stuart, errrrm, jus’ headed home,” he replied as casually as he
could, scratching his head to hide his lingering uneasiness. Where had he been
off to? He couldn’t remember!
John asked with an easy smile. “We’ll
ride with ya. Think yer mum
might be willin’ t’ fix us some brekkie?”
might,” George allowed, feeling somewhat queasy at the thought of food.
He quickly changed the subject.
“We gonna practice? ‘s
Paulie comin’ over? What
paused in confusion, somehow realizing that something was wrong, there
seemed to be little buzzing insects in his head, whispering things to him,
what was wrong with him? Something
wasn’t quite right… He
shook his head as if trying to rid himself of the voices plaguing him.
The buzzing continued.
and Stuart exchanged a glance, then Stuart shook his head.
Paul’s not ‘ere, nor Ringo, but we can practice some tunes, if ya
want,” he replied.
bus rumbled up to their stop and they climbed on.
fag?” George asked as they settled themselves on the upper deck.
was turning into a lovely day, and the sunshine was rapidly burning the fog
away. He watched from the
corner of his eye as John and Stuart exchanged another glance. George resolutely ignored the buzzing in his head.
those things’ll be th’ death o’ ya,” John said with a grin, and
Stuart snorted a derisive chuckle.
again, and not knowing the reason for the feeling, George looked out at the
passing scenery, enjoying the play of sunlight upon the houses they passed.
He saw a few old mates and shouted a ‘hullo’ to them in passing,
received a few waves and smiles in return.
The bus trip was short and they were soon at their stop, swinging off
the bus and ambling up the lane, pausing only to wave a hullo to Rory as he
ran for the bus.
John asked casually as they walked.
swallowed and shook his head. He
must be coming down with sommat, his stomach felt as if it would heave with
the mere thought of food!
He couldn’t really remember the last time he’d eaten anything,
but thinking of food simply made him nauseated.
The buzzing in his head din’t help matters, either!
John and Stuart nicked into a corner market, George followed out of habit,
wondering if they were stopping for a pack of fags or what?
When John picked a gleaming red apple from a barrel, with Stuart
quickly following suit, George had to look away.
Hari, try one, ‘member what they say, ‘an apple a day…’” Stuart
glanced over at him in time to see his friend bite into his stolen goods.
Stuart’s even white teeth broke the skin of the apple and crunched
into the flesh of the fruit, the juice running down his chin.
The fresh apple aroma made George’s stomach clench.
He couldn’t look away, no matter how much he wanted to.
George, jus’ try one,” John added, biting into his own apple.
He held out an apple to George, a perfect piece of fruit ready for
watched as his own hand, of it’s own volition, slowly reached out to take
the fruit from his friend. That
same hand brought the apple to his lips.
His eyes closed at the subtle scent emanating from the fruit, the
smell bringing to mind autumn and crisp weather and falling leaves.
Without regard for his stomach, he nibbled at the apple, the fresh,
crisp flavour flooding across his tongue, his mouth nearly going into
raptures at the taste.
had he last tasted an apple this good?
When had he last tasted anything
had he last tasted anything,
couldn’t remember, and pushed the thought from his mind as he greedily
attacked the fruit, savoring each bite as his stomach decided it liked the
treat. He was simply starving, and the apple tasted so
just what are ye boyos up to, eh?” an adult voice interrupted George’s
at the approaching figure, he was astonished to see old Mr. Wilson bearing
down on him; the old man had a wide smile plastered across his swarthy
features. George hadn’t seen
the old shop owner in…well, in a very
long time, seemed like! And the
old man had always been cross and frowning, not smiling like this!
foolishly, with the apple core clutched in his hand, caught utterly
red-handed, George couldn’t do anything but gape.
apples t’day,” John said, casually finishing off his fruit.
“Ta, Mr. Wilson!”
echoed his friend’s comment around a mouthful of apple.
with ye lads, then, I’d imagine Louise is waitin’ fer ye, eh?” Mr.
Wilson said, winking at the astonished George and collecting the apple cores
before waving the lads along.
What? No fingers smacked for thievery?
No caustic comments about taking what didn’t belong to ‘ye?’
No angry growls, no being chased from the shop by the business end of
a broom? George allowed his
friends to lead him out the door and back onto the street, whilst looking
back over his shoulder at the shop owner all the while.
a bit better? Ya looked a
little dizzy, George,” Stuart remarked.
John chimed in. “Don’t
think ya been eatin’ right, son, looked like ya needed sommat in yer
was going on? George’s head
was spinning. When had John ever
acted benevolent like this, looking at him with such concern?
George sat down on the kerb, lightheaded and out of breath. Was something seriously wrong with him? He didn’t bother to look up when he felt two bodies flank
him on the kerb, didn’t raise his head when he felt a warm and comforting
arm draped across his back. He
didn’t move as a hand tousled his hair in rough sympathy.
George, yer okay, let’s jus’ get ya home, right?” John asked.
“Yer mum’s waitin’ fer us.”
let him rest for a few minutes, waiting until he nodded, then helped him to
his feet and put solicitous arms about his waist, letting him lean on them
as they walked. George
gratefully accepted their support; his legs felt rubbery and tired and his
head continued to spin with strange, buzzing thoughts intruding into his
mind. He tried to push them
home appeared through the lingering wisps of fog as they turned the corner,
and he thought if he could only make it inside the old two up – two down,
he’d be awright.
‘ere,” John called as he pushed open the door, letting it bang loudly
behind him once they were all inside. Typical
George asked faintly.
came through the kitchen door, her beaming smile welcoming each of them.
son, you look like you’ve been through a war, come and sit down, love,”
took his arm and helped him to the sofa, somehow getting a brisk hug in
during the process. She smelled
so good, like fresh baked pastry and lovely spices, and George breathed it
in, closing his eyes in relief. He
sat down heavily as another figure came through the kitchen doorway into the
living room, and he felt an overwhelming wave of déjà vu sweep over him at
the sight of his father.
son, it’s good t’ see ya, lad,” the elder Mr. Harrison boomed,
reaching out to seize George by the shoulder, giving him a restrained shake,
a smile on his lips.
had to clear his throat, because no other sound would come out.
The buzzing that had seemed so loud in his mind became memories
crowding into his brain, his world was spinning in tighter and tighter
circles as a small part of him noticed John and Stuart looking at each other
in concern. But his Mum and Da
were just smiling at him, fondly, happily.
He tried to push the crowding memories and thoughts aside, but found
he hadn’t the strength to do so. They
crashed over him in waves, and he was stunned by their force.
This was…this was…unbelievable…
goin’ on?” he breathed. “What
took his hand and squeezed it. “You’re
all right, son, everything’s all right.”
am I? What is this?” George
asked again, faintly.
just fix you some brekkie, dear, your friends can chat you up,” Louise
said, standing up and releasing his hand.
She hesitated, then leaned down and kissed him on the cheek.
“Relax, love, everything’s all right.
It’s lovely to see you, my dear.”
grinned crookedly and followed his wife from the room.
George watched them go, his stomach queasy and his head continuing to
spin. At least the buzzing had
passed, but now he was simply flooded with memories, staggered at their
depth and scope. He looked over
at John and Stuart, both of them watching him closely, both of them
George began when they didn’t break the lingering hush in the room.
fell silent again as Corky jumped into his lap. He absently petted the purring cat, amazed at the silken
texture of the animal’s fur under his fingers.
Under his strong, youthful fingers.
He looked at his hands in amazement, then unceremoniously dumped the
surprised cat from his lap as he stood up to stagger to the mirror and stare
at his reflection. He reached
trembling fingers to touch the mirror’s surface, then touched his own face
as he watched his reflection.
found his way back to the couch and sat down quietly, then decided that he
might as well take the plunge, no sense in delaying any further!
It was obvious what was going on, but he had to put it into words for
his own sanity’s sake.
never thought th’ afterlife would look like th’ ‘Pool in th’ 60’s.
Never thought I’d see meself as young an’ strong again.”
ran his tongue over his teeth, damn,
he’d forgotten what sharp canine teeth he’d had as a youngster!
No wonder he’d had them capped in the 70’s!
that’s it, innit?” he continued. “This
is th’ afterlife, innit? That’s
why Paulie’s not here. An’
Ritch. I knew thur was
something wrong when I asked about him, I barely even knew
him when I was this age. An
hesitated again; he simply couldn’t bring himself to say his wife’s
name, or his son’s. That’s why they’re not here.
He ignored the pain of his thoughts, shrugged and went on.
Mr. Wilson. Mum an’ Da.
Th’ two o’ you lads. That’s
why every person I’ve seen has been somebody from me past, people that
were gone before I…before I died.
That’s right, innit, lads?”
laughed and Stuart made a face before reaching into his pocket.
He pulled it back out, looking regretful and irritated as he slapped
a coin into John’s outstretched hand.
ya he’d twig pretty fast,” John said smugly, pocketing the change.
“Can’t pull much wool over Hari’s eyes.”
grumbled a bit, but a reluctant smile flirted with his lips, curving them
just a touch.
gonna be insuff’rable now, John,” he announced, then turned to George
with a serious expression on his youthful features.
“This is a transition point, Georgie.
Some people are pretty disoriented when they get ‘ere, it’s a bit
of a rest stop, I s’pose,” Stuart explained.
“A place t’ get yer bearings, b’fore ya move on.”
th’ ‘Pool? In th’ early
60’s?” George asked, incredulous.
wondered about Stu’s comment of ‘moving on’, but decided he’d ask
about first things first! Seemed
bloody odd that he’d be a teenager
in the afterlife! He’d had
enough of that the first time ‘round!
took up the explanation, a smug expression lingering on his young face.
George noted that Corky had moved into John’s lap and was glaring
at him, affronted at having been dumped from the lap he’d originally
th’ transition point’s dif’rent things fer dif’rent people, o’
course. Fer you, it’s a
memory of a happy time, afore ya got famous,” John replied as he stroked
the cat. “It’s a bit
different fer everyone, it was learnin’ chords with Julia fer me, an’ it
was workin’ on a paintin’ fer Stu.
Julia said it was a trip t’ Scotland fer her, one she’d taken as
a young girl. Seems like ev’rybody just gets a bit of a rest stop when
they first pass over, a place they remember as bein’ a good time in their
lives. I figger a rest stop
like this gives ev’ryone a chance t’ adjust t’ having …died.”
why th’ ‘pool, why am I a teenager?
Why not th’ Japan tour with Eric, why not th’ day I met…?”
shook his head and interrupted. “Nah,
I know what yer askin’, but ya can’t go back t’ yer son’s birth or
th’ day ya met yer wife or anything like that, it’s gotta be someplace
an’ people in th’ past that ‘ave already passed on.
Dhani’s not ‘ere, George. Neither’s
Eric or Olivia.” He shrugged. “Neither’s Yoko or Sean, or Julian. Or Astrid,” he added with a nod to Stuart.
“Don’t wanna bring any of ‘em ‘ere afore their time,
shivered, as if someone were walking over his grave. Then he chuckled at the thought.
He didn’t have a grave, did he?
Well, unless you considered the Ganges his grave!
He wondered if Livy’d even had the chance to scatter his ashes yet,
or had the inevitable media circus broken and prevented her and Dhan from
tried to pull his thoughts away from the wife and son, from all those he’s
is ready, boys, come and get it whilst it’s hot!” Louise’s voice floated out from the kitchen.
found himself on his feet, pulled there by his friends, and they helped him
into the kitchen. He looked
around as a wave of nostalgia passed over him; everything was as he
remembered, the spice cabinet and the plates, the chairs and table, his
parents, everything as it had been in the early 60’s.
He sat down without comment and the smells from the plate set in
front of him reminded him of how long it had been since he’d been able to
eat a real meal. The apple had
simply been an appetizer; the potatoes were cooked crispy on the outside and
were probably soft and tender in the middle, whilst the fluffy pancakes were
dripping with butter and syrup. His
mouth watering, he took a small bite of each and then dug in with gusto when
his mouth went into raptures at the flavours.
know you were fairly vegetarian as an adult, George, is this all right?
I didn’t want to fix bangers or anything that might upset you,”
his Mum asked worriedly.
swallowed hurriedly and nodded. “’s
fabulous, Mum, ta. Can’t
‘member when I last ate, can’t ‘member when anything
ever tasted so good.”
this was fantasy or an after-death experience or whatever, it didn’t
matter, he thought as he reached out and hugged his mother. Mum felt real, and
the food smelled and tasted absolutely incredible, the flavours flooding
over his tongue and taste buds, evoking memories of meals he’d enjoyed in
the past. And Mum was clearly
delighted with his reaction, fussing a bit over him as he tucked back into
his meal, pausing only to ensure that his mates had full plates before she
left the kitchen with his father in tow.
George looked over at John and Stu, they appeared to be enjoying
their meal, and George found himself wondering if they were real, or if this
was all simply part and parcel of his imagination?
they were real, why were they here, hadn’t they already ‘moved on’?
Were they just here to greet him, to help him through the transition,
the ‘rest stop’?
took another bite of his potatoes and pondered that thought.
What is reality? What is unreality? Is
one more valid than the other? And
what about an afterlife being set in Liverpool, and being a teenager again?
Even if this was only a transition point, it was still pretty
bizarre! But is one view of the
afterlife more valid than another?
all, any road will take you there. Isn’t
that what he’d always believed? Yes,
put his fork down, his head beginning to spin again.
think on it too much, son,” John advised, pointing his fork at George in a
stabbing motion. “Just accept
it as a rest stop and enjoy yer rest.”
He scooped up some potatoes and chewed vigorously, swilling his tea
to wash his mouthful down. “Sometimes
ya just have t’ accept things as they are, an’ not analyze it much.”
Stu added earnestly, setting his tea cup down in its saucer.
“Spend too much time thinkin’ on it an’ yer gonna make yerself
crazy. Ya just gotta take some
things on faith, I s’pose, an’ go on from there.
It’s like this, George! I
dunno how an automobile runs, but I know it does,
an’ I count on it t’ get me from place t’ place.
I don’t need t’ know
what happens under the bonnet, I can just accept th’ fact that as long as
I put petrol in it an’ take it t’ the garage fer repairs, it’s gonna
keep takin’ me from one place t’ th’ next.”
gotta be sure an’ watch th’ oil, too,” John supplied helpfully.
“Don’t ferget how ya blew th’ engine on Asser’s mini after we
went back t’ th’ ‘pool that time!”
slugged John in the shoulder, and George had to grin at his mates’ fooling
about. He shook his head and
picked up his tea cup, blowing on the hot liquid to cool it, enjoying the
aroma of the fragrant steam rising from it.
His stomach had settled and his head had cleared, he really thought
he was feeling better than he’d felt in … years!
He turned his thoughts back to Stuart’s comments, giving his old
friend a wry smile.
gotta admit, I never thought th’ afterlife would ‘ave cars an’ buses an’
markets an’…. an’…” He
looked around for any example, and his eyes fell on the spice canisters on
the counter. “An’ cinnamon
or sugar. Or tea!” he added,
taking a sip and breathing a sigh of enjoyment.
Perfect, sweet with sugar and creamy with milk!
grinned. “Just accept it fer
what it is an’ yer gonna be a lot happier, George, don’t try an’
pushed his plate away and savoured his tea to the last bit in his cup.
He sighed as he set cup down on saucer.
now? Where do I go from
here?” he asked curiously, trying his best to follow John’s advice.
shrugged. “There’s no set
way, nothin’s right or wrong. When yer ready,
ya jus’ take a walk through a door.”
What door? Whur?”
was John’s turn to shrug. “Any
d’ya mean, any door?
How do I know it’s the right door?” George demanded.
laughed, the sound joyful and jubilant.
“It’s always th’
right door, ya daft thing! An’
I said it happens when yer ready.
I could walk through the pantry door, or I could walk through the kitchen
door into the living room, right now,
and I’d be, errrrr, moving on, eh?” George asked, incredulous.
if yer ready,” John replied.
“An if yer not ready, yer gonna find yerself standin’ like a fool in a dark
pantry. Or yer gonna walk
through th’ kitchen door an’ into th’ living room an’ have another
cuppa with yer folks. I told ya,
son, don’ think on it too much, jus’…”
go with th’ flow?” George suggested, when John seemed at a loss for
words. Didn’t seem as if he
had any choice in the matter, p’rhaps that was the best way of things.
stood up abruptly, waited for John and Stu to climb to their feet.
fer meetin’ me, boys,” he said. “I
‘preciate it, means a lot t’ me.”
t’ see ya again, Georgie,” John said, hugging him fiercely, a library of
unspoken words contained in his embrace.
Stuart said with a smile, hugging him briefly after John let him go.
“Good t’ see ya, George.”
smiled at them, then turned towards the kitchen door. Indecision speared him for a moment, then he squared his
shoulders and took a deep breath. Would
his next steps lead him to the living room and the promised cuppa with his
folks? Or would they take him
through the door and away from his rest stop, to wherever that might lead? He
realized he didn’t care.
always the right door. And it
happens when you’re ready, Stuart had said.
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 many 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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