Around noon, George, roused from sleep once again by a particularly loud blast, sat up and aimed the sofa pillow at Ringo who woke with a start. “Christ, get that fixed!” George yelled in irritation. “How does Mo sleep next to you all night?!”
Ringo tucked the pillow comfortably behind his head and smiled coyly, “And who says she sleeps next to me, now?”
“Ugh, I don’t need any details,” George muttered as he performed a full body stretch on the floor like a long, thin cat.
John, who had woken up with George’s yell, as they all had, let out an ear-splitting howl of a yawn and rubbed his eyes. He noticed Paul sitting up. “Aye, how’s our poor, pale, pasty Paulie today?”
Paul rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to reply. Nothing but a hoarse rasp of air came out. He tried to clear his throat and answer again. Still nothing. John looked on, amused. “Too many of them...” He made a gesture of inhaling a large joint and leered.
Paul mimed “ha ha” and sat looking somewhat disgruntled.
George stood up, rubbing his stiff back. “What’re we going to do about the TV spot we’re supposed to film today, then?”
“Lip sync?” John suggested. “Sag off and tell them we’re not coming?”
“Let’s try some tea,” Ringo said. “Me mum always gave me tea with honey and lemon for me throat.”
“Obviously didn’t do a thing for it,” George said sarcastically, ducking the sofa pillow as it flew at him.
“That’d be lovely, Mother,” John said, batting his eyelashes at Ringo.
George and Ringo went into the tiny kitchenette as John stood, stretched and lit a fire in the grate. Paul gingerly swung his feet to the floor, wincing at the tremendous sinus headache that simultaneously arrived as he stood up.
Paul’s flat was high on the fourth floor of the Asher’s stately London home. Since he had gotten to know the family well after dating Jane, they decided it was easier for him to stay with them rather than take a train back to Liverpool or find lodging elsewhere. So they had graciously converted a small space into a bedsitter for him. As it was, with the Beatles’ schedule, he was seldom there. John walked to a window and surveyed the leaden sky and snow-covered roofs. “A shitty day to go out,” he commented and lit a cigarette.
“Might as well stay in and work on getting Paul’s voice back,” Ringo said, balancing a tea tray.
“Why? I rather like him this way,” John retorted as Paul pushed past him to sit in one of the chairs by the fire.
“Oops, forgot the honey,” Ringo turned to go back into the kitchenette and banged into George who had been standing directly behind him with no escape route. Tea and milk sloshed dangerously on the tray.
George backed up and bumped into the wall. “A bit cramped in here,” he said to Paul who started to answer but remembered his voice was gone and simply raised his expressive eyebrows and shrugged.
They gathered around the tea tray, fixing their cups. Then they all sat back, John and Ringo on the floor, at ease for a moment in a life otherwise filled with an overabundance of activities. After tea, Paul could still barely manage a gravelly whisper, so he went down the hall to the bath he shared with Jane’s brother, Peter, to take a hot shower. The others experimented with toasting bread in the fire, a few slices inadvertently evaporating into charred crumbs along the way. When Paul came back in, he sniffed at the smoky air, caught the others’ guilty looks and rasped, “What’ve you been doin’? Burning me furniture?”
“Here, have some toast,” John held up the poker with a blackened chunk of bread on it.
Paul began to laugh, but it caught in his throat and started a nasty coughing jag. Stumbling back onto the bed, he hacked up the phlegm that was blocking his vocal cords.
“Bah, sounds like one of me cats chunking up a hairball,” John said, backing away.
“No more toast for me, that’s ruined my appetite,” George added.
“I’ll never forget the support my mates offered me in my time of need,” Paul said when he finally recovered. His voice was somewhat lower than normal, with a husky undertone. He flopped back on the bed and closed his eyes.
“I need a kip too,” George said as he rearranged himself comfortably in the chair. “Barely got a wink what with Ringo’s window rattling.”
“Aye, I can’t help it,” Ringo protested with a hurt look, “It’s the way I was made.”
John took advantage of the spare time to read through the newspaper as he was fond of doing, gleaning bits of strange information to be used in his songs or poems. Ringo cleaned up the tea things and wandered around until he found one of Paul’s guitars. He took it out of the case and started cautiously practicing chords and plinking out melodies.
“Aye, Paul,” a voice broke through his dreams after what seemed like only seconds since he had dozed off, “Time to get going.”
He stretched as George asked him how he was feeling. “A bit shaky, but all right.”
Ringo had progressed on the guitar from plinking to all out crashing away on the strings, caterwauling some atrocious lyrics along with it.
As he stood up, Paul mildly asked Ringo, “Another of yer own original compositions, then, Ring?”
“Aye!” Ringo proudly replied.
Paul glanced at John who had hidden himself behind the newspaper. But it was upside-down and shaking in a suspicious manner. George sat in his chair, resting his hand over his mouth as he stared studiously at the rug. Ringo noticed the sudden silence and looked around. “What? What? Have I done it again?” he exclaimed in (somewhat) mock dismay.
He watched as Paul carefully squatted down next to him and took the guitar. Slowly, mournfully, he positioned his fingers, looked sadly again at Ringo, plucked out the few chords Ringo had devised, and sang the opening lines to Elvis’ “Hound Dog” in a rusty voice.
“Aw!” Ringo groaned in disappointment, “I thought I had me first number one.”
A loud cackle expelled from behind the shaking paper confirmed the fact that John had been containing himself with great difficulty. George and Paul laughed, and George said, “Don’t give up yet. One of these times you might not rewrite someone else’s number one.”
Ringo gave a glum shrug, smiled suddenly, and threw the sofa pillow at John who still sniggered helplessly.
A knock came at the door as they were all attempting to straighten rumpled clothing and find coats. It was Peter. “Alf is here with the car, Paul,” he said. “But there is quite a crowd gathered outside already.”
“Shit,” Paul muttered, then had to stop to cough, which made him feel like he was going to burst a few blood vessels in his head.
“Hey, that doesn’t sound good,” Peter said.
“Doesn’t feel too great either,” Paul replied, leaning against the doorframe. “Would you be a good lad and tell Alf that we’ll have to resort to plan N?”
Peter grinned, familiar with that term. “Righto, just be careful with all that snow on the roof.” He went back down the stairs to tell the Beatles’ chauffeur the plan.
Ringo looked puzzled. “What’s he on about--snow on the roof?”
Paul was busily buttoning his jacket and wrapping a thick scarf around his neck. “Since the fans have found out where I’m staying, they’ve caused a bit of a problem for the Ashers. So we’ve arranged, in emergency, with the neighbors, for me to climb over to their roof and go through their house to the back alley, where Alf will be waiting.”
George looked alarmed and peered over to the snow-laden roof a few feet from the window he was looking through. “You’ve got to be joking!” he exclaimed in disbelief.
Paul flung open the window and a blast of frigid air blew in. From the street below they could hear faint shrieks and calls. “No, afraid not. Nothing to worry about. Done it before. Just mind your slippery boots,” he said nonchalantly as he stepped onto the sill.
Ringo paled, but John chortled in manic glee. “Right, heave-ho, Tarzan!”
as Paul jumped across to the neighbor’s roof.
Copyright 2000: Ms. Moonlight. This is original copyrighted work and may not be reproduced in any form, by any means, without prior consent of the author. Permission may be obtained by e-mail.
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