"'ey, did you see that?"
"See what, mate?"
"Something just fell from the sky."
"What was it?"
"I dunno. I think it was...a guy."
"Stow the gab, man; yer drunk off yer arse."
Ringo rubbed his eyes and pushed at the ground to push himself up. Finding himself strangely too weak to do so, he lay still for a few moments, remembering himself. Things flew through his mind---saying goodbye to the others---colour---pain---knowledge of his regained youth---a solid connection between his bottom and the grassy ground he had landed on---and now a feeling of nauseating dizziness. Another feeling, this time from his stomach, overwhelmed him, and he turned his head slightly and puked up the lunch John and Paul had made for them all at the Field. He coughed a little and then rested his head away from the disgusting mess, feeling better except for the sour taste in his mouth.
"Ring? That you, man?"
A strangely familiar face peered down at him, over the tall grass in which he lay.
"Cor! What a spew!" Another person spoke this time, but the voice too was familiar. "Damn, Rich! If yer mum only knew!"
"Knew---what?" Ringo stammered, trying to identify the two boys addressing him.
"Ack---you've no sense of humor when you're drunk, Ring, and that's a fact." The other person spoke this time. "'ere, let me give you a hand up."
The boy put out his hand and Ringo accepted it, not believing the two bright-eyed, laughing boys in front of him were who he thought they were.
"John," said the boy pulling Ringo up, "I think you beat him all 'round! He tol' me he saw a guy fall from the sky," this said to Ringo, "but he's a daft one, innit he? Drunk." The boy said this in an amused, playfully affectionate tone.
"I ain't drunk, Paulie," the other said sweetly. "You just can't see beyond the tip o' your nose!"
John? Paulie? Ringo felt dizzy again, but at least he knew it was really them.
"Ah, watch it, lad," the boy-Paul said. "Damn!---How many have you had, Ring?" he said, steadying Ringo. "Yer all but falling down drunk!"
"Nah," Ringo said, feigning to speak drunkenly. "I haven't had much. Just a sip or two..."
"Right," the boy-John replied, laughing. "Come ’ead, let's go back to the Cavern and get George. I could do with a bite."
"The Cavern?" Ringo squeaked out. Oh no, oh please God don't let me be back when Pete---
"Yes, the Cavern, you nit," Paul said, ruffling Ringo's hair. "You act like you've ne'er been there before."
"Well---" Ringo started, but John interrupted him.
"He's drunk, a'course he's never been there," he said and they both started snickering.
"Oh, but you never know," Paul said, looking completely innocent as he spoke.
Ringo laughed along with them and they all strolled "back" to the Cavern---
---and into the very thing Ringo had been dreading.
Screaming, yelling fans, shouting obscenities and waving signs with "PETE FOREVER---RINGO NEVER" loudly written across them.
"Shit," John muttered. "Let's try the---"
"Too late, they've seen us," Paul replied. "We'll have to go through them."
"Easier said than done," Ringo said softly and tucked the time coin under his shirt collar so that it wouldn't be ripped away from him.
"C'mon, lads," Paul said. "On three, we'll make a run for it. One---two---THREE!"
They ran, hands protectively over their heads, backs hunched over. Ringo was between John and Paul and felt his bent back hit a few times. The door suddenly opened ahead of them and Ringo rushed into Paul, with John right behind him and they tumbled onto the floor. The door was promptly shut and they stood up.
"All right, men?" Paul asked, brushing himself off. "Ring? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," he replied, his head pounding. "Let's get George."
"That's the spirit," John said with an understanding smile.
"Ish okay," Ringo replied amicably through a forkful of salad.
"If you can't handle it, you could..." George didn't finish, but John finished for him:
"You could leave the band if you can't handle yer fan 'adoration.'"
"No, that's all right," Ringo replied, half-expecting to disappear after his reply. But the as Timepool didn't instantly appear, he resigned himself to the fact that this wasn't going to be as easy as John and Paul's, and George's missions had been.
He studied his young companions, reminded himself that he was indeed young as well. Paul and John looked like they had both just gotten their hair trimmed recently and George's ears stuck out under his just-above-the-ear-tips hair. John and Paul were constantly bantering and George interjected sarcastic rejoinders every so often.
Just like the ones he knew.
Was there no end?
No end to this insanity?
Ringo played on, always smiling, always joking and laughing, and always reassuring the others that he didn't mind being a part of the group though so much negativity surrounded him...
Say the word and you'll be free...say the word, love...his John and Paul sang in his mind.
That's what he needed right now: love and some kind of stability. But there was none. This supposed "past" of his wasn't his past at all...he knew it belonged to the Might-Have-Beens...or to the early Beatles just about to become Might-Have-Beens---"a past in danger of happening." It hadn't seemed so when he had arrived (if falling into a field and being mistaken for a drunken Ringo Starr could be called arriving) but now, he was certain. The animosity of the fans was a good deal stronger than it had been in his past---it was pure hatred now. The fans seemed to want something to happen to him---and he'd seen a couple Teds, part of another Liverpool group and great admirers of the Beatles, leaned up against the Cavern's alley wall, smoking and drinking in its darkness, saying some things along the lines of, Oh, that Richie Starr-boy wants his ass kicked. Yesh, says another, yesh, he wansh his ash kicked good an' hard. And yet another mumbles drunkenly, Well, what he wants, we'll give it 'im. They all howled as they took another swig and Ringo quickened his pace considerably as he passed them.
John and Paul somehow were innocent of all this and George seemed amused. If Ringo came into the Cavern dishevelled, it was, "Ring, have you been hittin' the bottle again?" or "Ringo, you animal!" But he didn't seem to understand what a mess his drummer was in. None of them did.
"What's that, then, Paulie?"
"We're booked to play up north o' here, a place called Delaney. In two days! For a hunnert quid!"
"Get on!" John said, eyes wide and disbelieving. "Yer off yer head!"
"No! Really! A hunnert quid for a set---just one night! Can you beat that!"
"Let me see that!" John snatched the paper Paul was frantically waving and read aloud, "A request that the Beatles play at Delaney Town Hall for one evening already set, advance pay; transportation will be provided." At the end of the note was a scrawled message that John also read: "Of course I'll have you play, Paulie. Delaney's buzzing with talk about your band. Tell the others that you'll also be getting all the beer you can drink!"
"So whadda ya say to that?" Paul said breathlessly, his eyes sparkling with excitement.
"I say it's...fab," John replied in a rather confused tone. "I say we do it!" he added, more confidently.
"Yeah!" Paul and George cheered, but then George said, "But aren't we gonna play at that one club down the street from 'ere?"
"We're supposed to play in Delaney on Friday," Paul answered, "and it's Wednesday now...We're supposed to play down the street tomorrow and Friday. Want to talk to them down the street, then?"
"Yeah! We're gonna go to Delaney; a hunnert quid is better than fifteen or forty-five pounds. And free beer!" John was grinning with a devilish gleam in his eye. "Come, lads! Down the street we go!"
"You guys are good business. Why would I let you go? You committed and so there you are."
"Good business, my arse," John had muttered under his breath. "If we're such good business, you'd pay us more to keep us here."
The owner heard him and frowned and told them to get out, he'd see them tomorrow.
As they walked back to the Cavern, Paul said, "Well, why don't we just play the club tomorrow and kip off to Delaney on Friday?"
"Sounds good to me," George agreed.
"The owner'll prob'ly get some Teds to come after us, though," John said grimly.
"I don't bloody care," Paul replied, anger rising, and he stopped and turned to John. "If he wants to play that way, fine. Let 'im. Are we gonna be scared into playing some crap club when we could be playing a hall for a hundred quid and with an invitation, too?"
John's face suddenly lit up with an unholy grin. "Ah, you be a daring one, Macca! You want to risk the Teds and go to Delaney---well, you've got my vote."
Paul smiled. "And I've got George's too, right, Geo?"
"Ring? You up for it?"
Ringo stared back into the young Paul's earnest, clear green-brown eyes. Risk the Teds? Well, why not. They were already after him anyway.
"Sure, Paulie. You've got my vote as well."
"Relax, Geo. Everyone thinks we're having tea right now and then going to play at that club. No one's looking for us," Paul reassured him.
"No one's looking for you---it's me they want," Ringo said, his own tension mounting.
Paul turned to him. "What are you talking about?"
Ringo told him what he'd heard but Paul just waved his hand.
"Just a bunch of drunken louts," he said.
"I hope so. I'd rather not have me ass kicked tonight."
"Yeah---'Let me live long enough to drink all that beer!' is what you want." They laughed, but a little more quietly than usual.
"Come 'ead, you three," John said, coming from around the truck they were loading their instruments into. "It's all in."
They climbed into the back of the truck and locked the doors. They all sat back and pulled their coat collars up to warm their necks, as it was a cold night.
"Tell the driver to step on it," Ringo said quietly. "I won't feel safe until we're well out of Liverpool."
Paul humored him and leaned over the seats and repeated Ringo's request. The driver nodded and they roared off, coming to the quiet road to Delaney in a few minutes. The driver drove quickly, then slowed as soon as the lights of Liverpool were far off in the distance. Ringo stared out the back window as the other three nodded off, leaning against each other.
"We'll be in Delaney in a few minutes," the driver said after twenty minutes or so had elapsed. "You might like to wake yer mates."
Ringo sighed in relief and gently shook the others awake.
"C'mon, lads, wake up. We're here...almost."
Paul yawned and stretched and John scratched his head and smiled sleepily. George snored on.
The truck slowed and the driver said, "We're here. Welcome to Delaney, boys."
He pulled up in front of Delaney Town Hall, a rather plain-looking place, but the people lining up in the front made it seem like the loveliest place they'd ever seen.
"Well, they don't look like they'll be kickin' our arses," Paul observed with a grin.
"I'll take you 'round to the side entrance," the driver said. "It leads right to the stage and it'll be a helluva lot easier for you guys to set up."
"Thanks, mister," Paul replied.
Ringo smiled and pushed open the back door and stepped out. He breathed in deeply. The cool night air was refreshing and he felt surprisingly cheerful.
"Ready, lads?" he said.
They ran on stage and got in their places. Ringo looked out over his cymbals and surveyed the large crowd and whistled.
John was saying something; probably introducing the first song. George turned and whispered, "It's 'Some Other Guy'," to Ringo and smiled.
"One, two, three, fawr!" Paul yelled and John's guitar, doubled with George's, blared to life. As soon as Ringo's drumsticks touched his drums, he felt himself yanked off his seat and out of Delaney.
Copyright 2000, 2001, 2002, 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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