A strong wind came up and pulled at them, slowly but steadily directing their path away from the Pool.
"No!" Paul shouted. "John, George, Ring, catch hold!"
They all gripped hands and moved in their ghostliness towards the Pool. Paul shoved his other hand through the Pool against the wind and it gleamed gold as The Beatles fell in.
They were in a classroom, familiar to them only in its overall look and feeling---a British classroom, with an oddly Liverpudlian feel to it. A very young man, perhaps twenty or twenty-one, sat alone in the middle of the room on a rickety wooden chair. They couldn't properly see his face; it was hidden from view as he was hunched over a left-handed guitar.
"Ohhh," Paul breathed softly.
The boy continued strumming his guitar and a sweet voice issued forth:
"I left my baby...sitting alone...on her own, without me...just as she'd wanted it to be..."
The boy stopped singing and sat up, not hearing or seeing the four (they were still ghost-like) and obviously not seeing the small crowd gathered outside the classroom door of teenagers, listening to him play.
"Oh God..." the group heard a girl say. "The man is sexy. I didn't know he had such a voice!"
"That, my friends," came an obviously elder male's voice, "is a man of looks and talent, a pure star, who never got his chance. What a pity."
"Well, why doesn't some'un give 'im one, then?" another girl replied. "You know, he's like a bird, trapped in a cage...it isn't right that he's a teacher."
"Oh, you over-dramatic English Lit kids," the elder male. "And what, Mary Ann, is so bad about being a teacher?"
"Nothing, sir," the girl named Mary Ann replied. "But it just isn't fair that he missed out. I swear, the man was meant for something big, not to be a schoolteacher."
"Mr. McCartney made the choice himself," the male, probably a teacher himself, reminded her. "He is a wonderful teacher."
"I know that," Mary Ann retorted. "And that's all good an' all, but how must he feel knowing that all his students know he was meant to be something and isn't? How does he feel knowing that his "over-dramatic" English Lit kids think he is a symbolic figure, symbolizing the different fates we have in life? One of Mr. McCartney's friends even painted this picture---it's beautiful---every time I see it, I cry---of a bird lying with broken wings at the bottom of its cage, looking longingly out towards the light shining in."
"But how do you know that this was even painted for him?"
"Because I asked the artist the painting's title. He said that he called it, The Two Fates of Life or The Trapped Songbird. He said it symbolizes Mr. McCartney and the artist himself. They were both meant for something."
During all this talking, which the invisible four had paid the deepest attention to, the trapped songbird himself had kept on singing and playing, really not hearing what was said about him.
The crowd quieted and listened again.
"...And he told me I had a choice...and so I chose. But how was I to know what could have been...instead of what was?"
There was a deep, aching sadness in the boy-teacher's words and the way the sunlight shone on his dark hair made him look like a heartsick angel. He strummed his guitar once more and then pulled the strap over his head and placed it gently in a rather battered guitar case. Having locked the case, he seated himself at his desk and quietly graded English Literature papers while the crowd still watched. They thought of him as a tragedy of life, even more so when they realized that he felt the pain of his path in life only distantly. He did not wallow in the luxury of self-pity, serving to make him more loved and respected by his students, friends, and fellow staff members.
He finished grading the papers and then straightened his things. He ran a soft hand through his hair and then put on his coat and hat, grabbing his guitar case.
The crowd outside was lined up on either side of the door as he locked up and walked through the small aisle way in all the bodies there.
"Good afternoon, loves," he said cheerfully. "Is there some kind of meeting goin' on? Don't let me bother you..."
He tipped his hat to the girls and they all quietly, and respectfully, watched him walk away.
Ringo wiped his eyes carefully and George sniffled.
"Bloody hell, you two," said John. "Carrying on like that!"
"But didn't you feel any of that yourself, John?" Ringo demanded. "Didn't you feel that pain and the other Paul's unknowing of it?"
"Yes," said the real Paul. "Yes, I felt it. Hell, did I feel it. I--I kinda got into his thoughts and poked 'round---he has no family and nothing planned in his future except for teaching another forty years. The girl was right---he is trapped. He's trapped and can't do a damn thing about it."
"That's where we come in," George said. "We're going to set him free."
"Chatter on, son, chatter on," John sneered. "Sound like a bloomin' book, you do."
"Did you feel anything, John?" Paul asked quietly.
John blinked and then nodded. "Yes. And I have a fairly accurate idea of who the other Paul's 'artist friend' is."
The Beatles, still in their ghost-like form, followed him.
"He-ey, Mr. McCartney!" a fifteen-year-old boy called out to the teacher-Paul, as the boy crossed the street to Paul's side.
"Hey yourself, Raymond!" the teacher yelled back. When the boy had neared, he said, "So how's yer mum, Raymond? And yer sis?"
"Real well, thank you, sir," Raymond replied, grinning. "Mum says thank you for helping Lena with her lessons when she was sick. She says---" and here Raymond lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper "---that you're a real nice young man. She---she rather likes you. She says you could teach me how to behave!"
"But you won't take any teaching, now, would you, Ray?"
Raymond smiled goofily. "No sir! But Mum also said to tell you, should I see you, that she'd like to have you come to supper next Tuesday, at six. Lena asked 'specially that you be asked and Mum's so grateful (and she likes you so much) that she said yes."
"All right, then. You tell your mum I'll be along next Tuesday and that I'll be bringing someone along."
"Your artist friend?"
"Okay. Mum won't mind. See you, Mr. McCartney!" Raymond ran off.
Mr. McCartney continued walking and looked up as an elderly woman came out of her store, sweeping the steps.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. McGovern," he said cheerfully.
She looked up and her face broke into a smile. "How'd do, Paulie? Getting' 'long well at the school?"
"I guess," the teacher answered, shrugging modestly.
"Oh! I've heard all sorts of good things about you, m'dear. Your mum and dad would be so proud of you. Where are you going in such a hurry? Would you like a cup o' tea, luv?"
"I'm sorry, Mrs. McGovern, but I can't today. I've got to drop some things off and see a friend."
Mrs. McGovern suddenly stood tall with her broom, her eyes darkly disapproving.
"'A friend?' By any chance, m'boy, is this that artist-what's-his-name person?"
"Yes, ma'am---and his name's John," he replied.
"That one's got 'trouble' written all over him," the woman said, ignoring him. "You shouldn't 'ssociate with his type, Paulie. It could influence you---but not that you'd ever change your sweet ways, I'm sure. I just don't want him getting you into any trouble, m'lad."
"He won't," Paul returned, a little stiffly. "He really is a good guy, Mrs. McGovern."
"Don't tell me! I'm not one to change my ways, Mr. McCartney. I say the boy's trouble and I mean he's trouble. I don't want Mary's little boy 'round people like him."
"Please, Mrs. McGovern, don't," Paul implored. "Look, I've really got to go. We'll have tea another time, shall we?"
"Oh, all right," the old woman assented, rather grumpily. In truth, she was rather fond of Mary's son and had always liked him, ever since he was a wee little lad. She couldn't help being a bit motherly towards him, as he was extremely young and alone in the world. "Here, Paul luv, give yer mum's old doting friend a kiss."
He stooped and kissed her wrinkled cheek and tipped his hat to her, bidding her good afternoon.
"Ah, my boy," she murmured when he was out of earshot. "What a shame, what a shame."
It was a rather small, cramped flat they saw from looking in the dirty windows. Everything was in one room---the kitchen, table, bed, everything. There was a worn carpet on the floor and a small cot in the corner of the room. The teacher's books were stacked neatly on the small table that had two chairs, near a small oven. It was obvious that this other Paul tried to keep clean and it was also obvious that he was very poor and could not afford to switch jobs or move or anything. They all felt badly for him, even John. It was sad to know that the poor young man tried and wasn't getting anywhere---anywhere that they could see.
The teacher-Paul leaned his guitar case against a wall and pulled his guitar out, lifting it by its neck and resting it on his left shoulder. He then left the house, taking special care to lock up. Whistling, he set off down the street. The Beatles had nothing to do but follow.
There were paintings all around, in fact. He was at his regular selling-post, right under the lamppost, outside the park. He had his paintings leaned against the lamppost and curb as well as his knee. He took a long drag on his cigarette as a little girl passed by with her mother, holding balloons in her hand. He mentally sketched the picture and then reached beside him for his sketch-book and drew them as they passed.
He was the teacher-Paul's "artist friend" so often referred to and it tickled him to hear Paul's relating of what he'd gotten from people for associating with John. Right now, he was scowling darkly because his hand would not be still and his drawing was crooked. He crumpled it up in anger and laid down the sketch-book, making a mental note to re-do the drawing sometime in the week. He picked up his guitar that he'd laid next to him and strummed it and swore because he'd knocked it out of tune. He sighed and then went about tuning it, as Paul had taught him how. When he finished, he strummed it again and proceeded to play a few lazy, dragging songs.
"Well, Marjorie, would you look at that?" a dressed-up woman said disagreeably as she and another woman passed John. "A guitar-player as well as an artist. How disgraceful. His mother must feel shamed."
"No, she doesn't," John called out loudly to them. "Me mum encouraged me! And she isn't shamed---she's dead."
The women both turned red and muttered embarrassed apologies as they hurried away. John lightly touched the strings of his guitar and a car, containing one of his usual customers, drove to where John stood, and the driver got out of the car and browsed through John's paintings.
"Really, Mr. Lennon, you have a rare talent," the man commented. "You should be financially secure by now. I am sure your paintings are selling so well---they show such utter genius."
"Thanks," John replied, not really paying attention. Another figure was approaching in the distance. "Mr. Rosenthal, you really 'ave got to hurry. I'm packing up for the day."
The said Mr. Rosenthal picked five of John's paintings and handed John a wad of bills.
"Keep it, John," he said. "Your talent deserves more than I could pay."
By saying that, he made it clear that he was not offering all that money out of charity and that John had really earned it. He drove off and John began stacking his paintings.
The figure approaching was now near enough to see that it was one of his best friends, a poor young man, a teacher, of almost the same age as John. His friend was carrying a guitar over his shoulder and whistling. "Hey, Paul," John said grinning, holding up the money that Mr. Rosenthal had paid him.
"Hey, John," Paul returned, playing a "congratulations" kind of song on his guitar. "A club, then?"
"Yeah, for a couple drinks. Get yer paycheck today, Paulie?"
Paul made a face. "No. They told me they'd give it to me next week."
"Landlady on yer ass yet?"
"Yeah. Told her I'd have the money today, but then I had to tell her I wasn't getting any 'til next week. She rather likes me, but can't help hinting at that damn money."
"Have anything at yer house fit to eat?"
"No---cat got in and ate the food I left out two days ago. I've got nothing but stale bread and milk."
"Here." John handed him a few bills. "That'll take care of yer food for a while. I'd give you more, but the landlord's about ready to kick me out."
"I'm not asking for charity," Paul said quietly, pushing John's offering hand away. "If he's going to kick you out, then you need the money more than I do."
"Rubbish. If I get kicked out, I'll come live with you. And if I do, I'd like something decent to eat." John was laughing, but his expression changed until it was almost pleading. "Take it, Paul. I have enough to cover my flat and my food. You've got to eat---you're getting too thin. C'mon."
A loud grumbling in Paul's stomach made him accept the money with a rather subdued thank you. John waved it away.
"If I was starving, I know you'd help me," and that settled it. "C'mon, let's go back to me flat and drop all this and then we'll get something to eat."
The Beatles were in the park that the artist-John and teacher-Paul had been standing across from, but the two young men had long since gone for their drink. They were no longer ghost-like, but solid once more. The two angels were with them, the female angel sitting on a park bench while her companion stood, hands folded behind his back.
**Now we are going to send you back just a little bit, so that you can make the changes,** the male Voice explained. **Now that you know what the end result of one decision can be, you'll be able to understand a little more what to do.**
"But what do we do?" John asked, his hands in his pockets, his posture a bit slumped as he stood.
**We send you back. You live with them---who're yourselves before anything happened, and you make the decisions that you really made.**
The female angel was sitting back comfortably, one arm folded under her head, her eyes looking up at the sky with her other arm draped across the back of the bench. Her knees were bent close to her, and her white gown lay in long, shirred folds around her.
"All right, then," John began, a bit tiredly, "but---"
**Oh, John. Shut yer mouth for a minute.** She hesitated for a moment. **When we send you back, it'll be different.**
With a sweep of her relaxed hand, the Timepool sprung into existence before them all, this time a pool of swirling magenta, fuchsia and scarlet.
They jumped, startled.
The colours were too strangely blood-like for their liking.
"What's wrong with the colour?" George asked. "You only told us about blue, for the Might-Have-Beens, and rainbow colours for our own pasts. And now this blood-looking thing?"
**He'll tell you that,** the female angel said, dodging George's questions. **Let him tell you.**
The male angel dealt her an amused look, but became serious again, clearing his throat.
**You are going back to fix what the other Might-Have-Beens have done. They've laid a larger, weightier decision back in your pasts, John and Paul; a decision that was never there in the first place. Paul, a teacher's career was never an issue with you. All you had to do was decide if you wanted to or not. The bad Might-Have-Beens, belonging to Them, have made it so that this teacher-Paul had a heavier decision to make, thus making him one of the Might-Have-Beens. There may come a time when They will need the extra help.** He paused for a moment. **Do you understand?**
"Yeah, I think so," Paul answered slowly. "They, whoever they might be, screwed around with our pasts and made more Might-Have-Beens than would have originally been there, because there might come a time when they'll need the extra ones."
**You've got a fairly good idea of it, Paul,** the male angel said approvingly. **But this time---**
"Wait," Ringo said. "Before we get into this anymore, can we have some names to call you two by? It's getting irritating just saying, 'the female angel' and so forth."
The Beatles felt puzzlement from the two angels/Voices.
**Well, I guess you can call him Alexander and me Adriana,** the female angel said, **if that makes it any easier.**
"Yeah," Ringo replied. "Thanks. I just like to have names for people/things I talk to. What if I was yelling for you or something? I'd be yelling, 'Hey, um, Miss Angel' or something like that."
Adriana laughed and got up, taking Ringo's face in her hands.
**You are wonderful,** she said, smiling. **You are just marvelous.**
Alexander coughed politely. **Um...Adriana, we have to get on. I need to explain the 'other part.'**
**Well, go on, then.**
**John and Paul,** Alexander started, **you two will be going back---and be put into your past bodies. That's the only way this is really going to work. You'll do the things that you've already done in your past without thinking, but we need you in the bodies themselves so that you recognize the Might-Have-Been trap a little more easily. There isn't much time left and you still have many of these kinds of things to put right. George and Ringo, you'll be with us, resting up. This time, John and Paul need to go it alone.**
"So let me get this straight," John said, "you're going to put us back into our past bodies---and we'll be back in our past. All the things our past selves have done, we'll do without thinking so we won't screw up the past. And while we're in these bodies, we'll be able to fix this Might-Have-Been crap. Right?"
**Letter perfect, luv, letter perfect,** Adriana said. **And now, it is time for you both to go.**
She kissed them, "for luck" as she said, and Alexander gravely shook hands with them.
"Take care of George and Ring," Paul charged them. "Please." **Don't worry. They're in good hands.**
"What happens if we screw up?" John asked.
Alexander's fine features clouded. **Let's not talk about that.** He started guiding John to the Timepool.
"No, let's," John retorted, standing firm. "What will happen?"
**You'll probably be killed by Them. If you succeed, well...**
Adriana touched John and Paul with a brightly glowing hand. They were both instantly calmed.
**You two can do this. Just be open-minded while you're out there. Anything can happen. Trust each other. Now go.**
The Timepool grew larger before them and John went in and Paul looked back at George and Ring, who smiled as encouragingly as they could.
"Take care, you two," Paul said, and leapt in after John.
Copyright 1999, 2000, 2001, etc.: Lissa Michelle Supler/Strawberry Sunshine This is copyrighted original work and may not be reproduced in any form, by any means, without the permission of the author. Permission may be obtained by e-mail.
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