Life At The Top: Part Two

LIFE AT THE TOP ***Part 2***

By Stephen Lipscomb

If you haven't read the rest of this story then click here to read Part 1.

Chapter VI

My first thought was that I couldn't breath. I was dreaming and I couldn't bring myself to breath. I thought that it was imperative that I wake up and see what the problem was. I awoke to coughing and spewing water from my lungs. The sight of brown water passing out of my mouth in such volume made me sick to my stomach and the morning eggs soon followed.

A chorus of "Ewwww," came from behind me. I turned around to see three teenage boys snickering and making faces as drool hung from my open mouth. I wasn't in the mood for this and chose to ignore them.

It took me several minutes to compose myself enough just to take an inventory of my status. I quickly noticed that I was soaked to the bone. My clothes were the same I had put on this morning but were ripped and tattered. A huge tree limb was wedged in my shirt and a sharp pain was coming from that area. I looked down to see I was impaled by one of the limbs. The wound was not serious but it was bleeding profusely. I pulled the limb out of my clothing and grabbed my right side and rolled in agony.

It was then that I notice that my face was covered in blood and the cut on my forehead had mixed with the water to create quite the gruesome look. I chuckled over the thought that for once in my life I was uglier than Bob. I took off my jacket and wiped my face with it. It was at this time I noticed that I was laying in mud and I actually looked up to see if I recognized where I was.

I was behind two grouping of row houses. The houses were of old design and in different stages of disrepair. What struck me as odd was that there were no river nearby that I could hear. This accompanied by the fact that I did not recognize the place gave me an uneasy feeling. I quickly turned my jacket inside out and wiped my face.

A sudden pressure on the back of my shoulders forced my face back into the mud. One of the boys had jumped on my back. I struggled to get free but my main concern was to not drown in the mud. The entire wait of the boy lay directly on the back of my neck while another held my legs. In between my ragged gasps for air, I noticed that hands were going through my pockets. I gave up a brief struggle that ceased when I felt a blow to the back of my head.

All at once my head swam and the pressure released from my back as the youths ran off. I rolled over and looked down through my legs and saw the three boys running away in a pack. I tried to call out, but my swimming head would do nothing but emit bellowing moans. I noticed that the last boy had my wallet clearly in his hand and looked back at me as to see if I were following. Fortunately, I got a clear look at him and noticed that he did look familiar. Intense hatred coursed through my veins as I struggled to my feet.

All I could think about is was how I must have looked to the bystander. As chance would have it, there were none. This was fortunate because I am sure the scare would have surely brought the police. As far as I could tell without a mirror, I was covered from head to toe with mud. I bled from the ribs, my forehead, and a couple of places on my hand. My aching knee could barely support my weight as I hobbled away.

Limping down the alley in the direction of where the boys had ran, I noticed that my knee was not as badly hurt as I had thought. I was tender and painful, but I found it easier to bare with each step. I saw an overflowing rain barrel at the end of a down spouts behind one of the housing units so I headed there for a badly needed clean up.

I stuck my entire head and rubbed my face. My hands oscillated up and down my cheeks in an attempt to wipe the blood and dirt from every crease and crevasse. I waited until the last minute and came up for air with my head dripping. I immediately felt refreshed and, for a moment, forgot all the nagging pains. After a moment's pause, I took a second plunge in an attempt to clean the rest of my head. My hands worked in a massage-like motion up my temples to the sides of my head. The rubbing motion combined with my fingers pulling through my hair soothed every bone in my body. I then rose out of the water and swiped my left hand over the top of my head to push the water back from my face. Something felt wrong. I reached with my other hand and carefully examined my head with both hands to find out exactly what I was feeling. There was something stuck to the top of my head. When I tried to pull it off, I realized that it was somehow anchored to my scalp. Hair! There was hair on top of my head! Not the small morsels of filament-like threads that sparsely covered the top of my scalp, but a complete thick carpet of hair! How could this be? I rushed to the window over the barrel an peered at my reflection. I immediately turned around. Someone had slipped up behind me. Maybe those teenagers again for another try at my pockets. I turned with such force that I lost my footing and fell to the ground. There was no one there. I was sure I saw the reflection in the window. Maybe the face I saw was on the other side of the window. That could explain it. I had only seen it for a second. In my paranoid state that is bound to be what happened.

I slowly rose and peeked in the window. What I saw startled me even more then the last glimpse. The reflection was me. It was me. What startled me and left me motionless was that fact that it was a teenage me! My sleek cheekbones and full head of hair were the first thing I noticed. I moved closer and noticed that the eye wrinkles were gone. As a matter of fact all my wrinkles were gone. Instead of the graying brown locks, staring at me were deep rich black hair that covered my entire head. Even the small scar above my right eyelid that I had gotten falling off a bed at age 22 was gone.

It took about 3 minutes of my standing there in those soaked and filthy clothes to notice that the clothes did not even fit me. They were baggy from the lack of midlife flab that once filled them. I felt my belly and discovered a lean and hard teenage body. Once again I stared at my face in the window. It then struck me that the face I saw wasn't mine at all. The features were similar to my high school days but the nose and ears were different. I moved closer. Brown eyes, I had brown eyes staring back at me. I knew my eyes were green and that surely had not changed over time. I slowly examined every aspect of my face and the more I looked the more I realized that I was looking at a stranger.

I don't know what caught my attention first. It was either the flash of the silver club in the corner of my eye or the sound of approaching feet. Either way my reaction was too late. Before I could turn to defend myself, a direct blow to the head sent me to the ground.

I came to in a bed. I stared at the ceiling for the longest time before I realized that I was not awakening from a terrible dream. At first I was not sure I could move. I was not sure I wanted to know if I could move or not. The pain in the back of my head sent pulsating throbs throughout my head. I just stared at the ceiling. The ceiling was peeling and cracked. The well lit room had one window that I could see out of the corner of my eye. two beams met at the top of the vaulted ceiling. A fan was attached to one of the beams and slowly turned. A long string dangled from the fan and slowly twisted in the air.

"He's awake," I heard in a muffled deep burley voice. A figure walked up to where I could see him without turning my head. He was a slender man with a handlebar mustache and absolutely shiny bald head.

At this point another person came within my field of vision. This one was a much bigger man in a uniform. I recognized the uniform as an old police uniform. He wore his hat and it reminded my of an old keystone cop flick that I had seen a few nights before. On his side was a silver Billy club that I surmised was what had caused the throbbing pain in my head. This man did not say anything, he just stood there stoic with a disconcerting look.

"Are you okay?" the slender man asked in a low tone. He lowered himself to my face. "I am so sorry Stu. I couldn't see your face from my angle and you were covered in mud and walking like a possessed man. To top it off I haven't seen you in a few months." He glanced back towards the foot of the bed. For the first time, I quite involuntarily moved my head to look at the object to which he was looking. I was met with a sudden piercing pain in the back of my neck. The man moved closer to comfort me and said "I honestly thought you were a burglar. You must believe me!" I could see through my squint that he was looking at an elderly lady sitting at the edge of the bed. I could tell by the expression on both of their faces that the slender man had touched on a tender topic somehow. The teary-eyed lady reacted to my grimace by standing holding my foot in a comforting way. She bit her lip and I could see a deep appreciative look on her face.

"How hard did you hit him?" she said sternly at the officer. For the first time, the policeman looked away and tried to apologize to the lady. She shunned him before he could speak.

As if on cue, the two tried to apologize to me profusely. She silenced them again by putting up both hands.

"Stu and I are not going to press any charges. Leave him be! I would thank you kindly to leave. Both of you. I appreciate you coming to my aid, but I am sure I can handle it from here." The lady gestured towards the door. The two mouthed to make another protest but realized they did not have a say and started to walk out.

The slender man walked to the door and spun around. "If there is anything I can do for you Stuart, just call me." he said wrenching the hat with both hands. He held his position for a moment and slowly walked out with the policeman. She swung the door shut behind them. The closing door did not make a sound.

"Where am I," I said in a hushed voice.

"You are in my house laying in your bed." She looked at me inquisitively and said "What is the matter with you Stu? You know you are talking rather strangely."

Her statement brought me a revelation. The kids in the alley, slender man, policeman, and this lady all had an English accent. A very thick English accent at that. I had only known this from watching television. This was the first person I had ever met with such a way of speaking. I found it odd I had seen so many in one day.

I tried to sit up and winced from the pain. She moved closer and helped me to the pillow. After the throbbing stopped, I chose to ignore her question and I asked again "No, where are we is what I meant. I have never met anyone with an English accent before today."

"Where do you think you are at?" she said oddly looking me straight in the eye.

"Well I was just outside of Tateville, Kentucky before I fell in the river." I said to her in an even tone. She just sat there and didn't change her composure. After a pause, she rose and said, "You aren't quite well. That bugger must have hit you pretty hard. I'll get a doctor to come over."

I tried to phrase a few more questions but she just rose and walked out of the door without pause or consideration. I just lay there and tried to examine my situation. It seemed in a matter of hours, my life made no sense any more. Was this angel a dream? Was the whole day a dream? I patted my head gently. I felt the brushy head of hair that I had just discovered a few minutes ago. This certainly didn't feel like a dream. The entire experience had been to painful to been anything but real. I soon found the room and the soothing sound of the ticking of a distant clock too much to handle. I just relaxed with the throbbing head and drifted to sleep.

I awoke to see a light in my left eye. At first I was startled and tried to get away. I soon found myself to be restrained by a rather large man with a flashlight in my eye. The small flashlight danced in front of my face and carefully examined every orifice above the neck. His thick fingers probed massaged and felt every angel of my face. He then pulled out his stethoscope and pressed the cold metal against my bare chest. It was as this point that I realized I was naked. I was naked in front of an old lady with a big man fondling every part of my body. I struggled to pull the top cover over the more sensitive areas. The doctor resisted.

"No need to be modest now. Who'd you think pulled those rags off ya," the gruff old doctor said as he continued his examination.

The old lady just stood off in the corner and looked at me with admiring eyes. The doctor proceeded and I soon noticed that my throbbing neck had stopped the pounding. I felt the back of my neck and examined a large, tender bump on the back of the base of my head.

"Good thing that bump raised outward and not inward. Don't think a bump that size would have left you alive if it had raised inward." the doctor said without even looking up. He was currently flexing my swollen knee.

"So how is he Stan?" Ms. Sutcliffe asked.

"He'll live just fine." the doctor replied as he started to bandage my knee. "How did you get so banged up young fellow?" he inquired.

Not feeling like getting into a lengthy discussion, I just answered "I can't remember."

The doctor paused and for the first time looked at my face and gave me a look of concern.

"Ms. Sutcliffe. You had better keep some ice on the back of that young man's head. He might have a spot of amnesia." With that comment, he tied off the bandage. He pulled up a stool next to the bed and sat down facing me. "I want to ask you a few questions if I may," he said as he cleaned his glasses with a handkerchief he had pulled from his pocket. I could still see the red lines in his pale face where the tight glasses had been. I used this opportunity to grab the free part of the blanket and cover myself to at least some degree. I saw the elderly lady walk up to him on the other side and hand him something. The two mumbled and the doctor finished the conversation by shaking his head in agreement to something.

Replacing the glasses on his face, he asked "What is your name?"

"Victor Walsh." I replied with a quick response.

He just sat there as if he were surprised and formulating his next question. "Does the name Stuart Sutcliffe sound familiar?"

"No. Why should it?" I began to get impatient. "Just where the hell am I, and I don't want bed as an answer."

He leaned back and mumbled something towards the elderly lady. He turned back to me and said "Your name is Stuart Sutcliffe. You are 17 years old and were born in Scotland. Your father died long ago and you live here in Liverpool with your mother. You joined a gang a year ago and two months ago you disappeared. We had gotten word only a few days ago that you had been killed in a tuff near the Mersey River."

I don't know what expression I had on my face, but astonishment would have to be an understatement. I don't know how long I just laid there and tried to formulate some hypothesis about what had happened.

Finally the elderly lady walked over and sit next to me. "It is so good to have you home Stu," she said with a teary eye and leaned over and gave me an extended hug. When she arose, I could see the doctor collecting his things and preparing to leave.

"There's nothing more I can do here. His memory will probably come back in a few days. Just keep ice on the bump and call me if it gets worse." With this, the doctor partially bowed to both of us and saw himself out.

"Stu, do you mean to tell me you don't remember me." she asked with a tilt of the head.

"To be honest, no. I don't remember any of this. The first thing I remember was being attacked by a group of boys and then being hit on the head. By the way, did he say we are in Liverpool. Liverpool, England?" I sat fully up in bed and scanned the room for some clothes.

"Why Yes." she said as I rose carrying the blanket with me.

"Is this the same Liverpool the Beatles came from?" I asked. After not hearing the response I turned around to repeat it for fear she had not heard me. I stopped in mid sentence and could tell that she had heard me, just not understood the question.

"The Beatles. You know. Rock and Roll. 'I Want to Hold Your Hand'." I waved my hand trying to determine who had the amnesia here.

After a pause, she replied "What are you talking about. Please lay down, you are not feeling well".

I could tell she had no clue about what I was talking about. The first thing I thought was that I must introduce her to Frank. They would be the perfect couple. In the mean time I looked through every drawer to find my clothes.

"Where are my clothes?" I asked.

"I threw them in the garbage. They were soiled and tattered beyond repair." she exclaimed.

I looked at her with a scowl and I could tell this hurt her feelings. "I am sorry, as you can tell I am not quite myself. Do you have anything I can wear besides this bed cover?"

Without speaking she quickly rose and opened the closet. It was full of old style clothes like that I saw on those delinquents that attacked me.

"You have got to be kidding. These may have been in style in the 60s but I can't wear these out. Do you have anything else at all."

Once again, she gave me a look of puzzle and worry. She said "How about trying the 50s."

I first thought she was joking, and then it all fit. Another revelation hit me.

"What year is it?" I asked slowly without looking at her.

"1957," she said as she helped me back to bed.

Chapter VII

It had been two weeks since I found myself in the mud puddle in that alley. My young body had healed well. I had retained only a slight scar on my ribs from the tree branch and my knee had no ache now.

The two weeks had given me a good deal of quiet time to think about the events that transpired. There was no doubt the entire experience was real. The angel had given me a gift of another shot at life to realize 'self-fulfillment,' in her words. I had used the last two weeks to choose how I wanted to pursue this goal.

I found myself often wondering how Mom and Bob were fairing. I would not spend too much time on this course of thought before I realized that Mom had not even married yet and would not know me from Adam in 1957. I found no reason or desire in my soul to journey back to the states to relive my mundane life in the Kentucky foot hills. In fact, I found myself fitting in to my new life quite well. Liverpool offered a stark contrast to Kentucky in many ways.

Liverpool was an interesting and diverse town. Most of the small city was dirty and soil with years of neglect and poverty. There wasn't a corner in Liverpool that didn't suffer from lack of parking and traffic that could get quite intense at times. Most of the people here worked in some way with the fact that we were a port city. Huge warehouses and docks lined portions of the waterway. Boat whistles and horns could be heard dozens of blocks away at all hours of the night. The land was very flat but congested. I often had to go on top of our building to be able to see the lay out of the land. Sometimes I would go up on the roof in the mornings to enjoy the sunrise. The harbor fog would take longer to burn off than back in Tateville and the sky did not get nearly as pink in the mornings. It would not take long after dawn for the traffic to pick up noticeably. Occasionally I would hear a whistle and see a slow moving freight train on its way to a ship to transfer its load to the local merchants. Overall, Liverpool was a nice place to live for an adolescent. I could see for adults though that Liverpool sat poised as a trap. A trap that could easily snare the unknowing into a lifetime of mundane and lifeless existence. I guess Tateville and Liverpool had a lot in common after all.

My Liverpool vacation was coming nearly to an end. My final year of high school would start soon and Ms. Sutcliffe, as I called her now, had resigned herself to the prospect that her dear son would never get his memory back. I think she deemed this a miracle in many ways. I had never seen her so happy as the day I met some of Stuart Sutcliffe's friends. They had come to visit me once the word of my return circulated throughout the community. The three young men who came to see me actually looked scarier than Bob in many ways. What I found to be unsettling about the entire experience was there description of the real Stuart Sutcliffe's demise. It seems that Stuart and his gang hand gotten in a fight where he had been stabbed in the ribs. After the fight ended, the three had tried to revive Stuart and found that he had expired. They covered there tracks by throwing his body in the Mersey River. I could tell that all of them were amazed that I had lived through the experience and they vowed their allegiance to revenge. I told them that I did not remember them or anything and to forget about their vendetta. Ms. Sutcliffe was there to hear the whole thing. When she saw that her son did not recognize any of these boys, the joy was impossible for her to hide. I gathered that she assumed that the darker side of Stu's life died with his memory loss. For all practical purposes this was true because I had no inclination to hang out with this sort. Needless to say, I doubt any of those young men would make it onto Ms. Sutcliffe's Christmas Card list. I still remember Ms. Sutcliffe hurrying to show the three the door.

I had grown to have a very fond appreciation for Ms. Sutcliffe. She had a humor much like that of my mother's humor. She was extremely intelligent as well as kind and giving. I could tell that she wanted more than I could give. No matter how nice, she would never be a mother to me and I could never feel that way towards her. Despite how fond of her I had grown, I had a strong desire to leave and travel where ever I wanted. I had no real family ties and a twenty three year head start on all of my peers. The problem was that the one thing I definitely did not have was money. Traveling would cost a lot of money even in this time. As I could see, there were not a lot of good job opportunities in this industrialized town.

In a way, the decision had been made for me already. I must stay and attend one more year of high school. My plan was to collect as much money as possible to get out of Liverpool and start life somewhere else. I figured with what I knew about the future, I could easily make a good living and for once in my life, make my own decisions.

Chapter VIII

As I walked across the stage, I could not believe the response I received from the female portion of the crowd. It seemed the entire class cheered for me as I was handed my diploma and congratulated for having the highest grade in the class. Yes I had become quite popular.

I felt an growing surge of pride. Not from getting the highest grade point average, and certainly not from graduating from high school again. I had found it easy the first time. The second time did not even require homework or regular attendance. The source of my pride was the fact that I had been a lover to 5 of the 7 women sitting on the first row of bleachers and not one of them knew of the other. Mom was right all along. I had been fishing for the wrong thing. I shook my head as I climbed down the stage when thinking of all the time I spent with slimy worms and hanging out with Frank when I could have been enjoying the better part of life.

Of course at this point in time I had a distinct advantage. You see, as an added bonus, I had been graced with one of the best looking male bodies I had ever seen. Once I was cleaned up, I realized that I looked a lot like James Dean who had died two years earlier. To make things even better, I had become aware only recently that James Dean had become a big star in England at this time. I would often put on my shades and comb my hair like his. When the girls saw my maturity mixed with killer looks, it really wasn't a fair game. I don't consider myself a Casanova, and want to date one steady girl. However, at 18, there is not a lot to choose from in the brain department. All of the girls I met had dedicated most of their mental abilities to chewing gum. This explained the high turn-around in the love department.

I walked back and took the seat that I had earlier occupied. One, two, three, four, six girls were currently staring at me. At least three of those were blowing me kisses. They could not see my eyes from the shades and I was sure all of them thought I was looking at them individually. I glanced around the room scanning the bleachers for more faces. I saw Ms. Sutcliffe sitting about mid way up some bleachers looking at me once again with teary eyes that were full of pride. Next to her was Stan the Doctor. A few seats down was the slender man that had helped the cop cold-cock me outside the window. His daughter was graduating tonight. Her name was Tiffany and she lived next door. I had chose to spare Tiffany the patented Stu heartbreak out of principle and for the fact that she was just plain ugly. I laughed at the thought and looked down in an effort to hide the smile. I decided to look up and scan the rest of the crowd.

At times the entire experience was surrealistic. It felt like I was living in one of those old television shows only in color. In my world, it had become so easy to manipulate people and get what I wanted that manipulating life was like changing the channel. I had never experienced such freedom before. It was a mind-numbing experience with a double edged sword. The down side was the lack of challenge that life had to offer. The lack of challenge had nearly driven me insane. An entire year of school had gone by and I had barely enough money saved to return to the states where I was sure my destiny would await. During the frustrating times of trying to hoard money, I often wondered what the angel had in store for me. Was I missing something already? Was something right here and I failed to see it?

I scanned the crowd again to take my mind off problems that need not be addressed at this time. It was at this time I saw him. Sitting at the very top, with three of his buddies, was the kid that had taken my wallet. There was no mistake. The rounded jaw and brown hair as well as the scruffy appearance caught my eye immediately. This in addition to the fact that he simply looked like someone I knew. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I had seem someone that looked like him before. The three other rejects only complemented the ensemble. He just sat there in a laid back position. His arms were outstretched over the next bleacher seat up and he carefully scanned the crowd for the next person to torture. The thought of revenge coursed through my veins. I desperately wished to confront them on my own terms and see if they were men enough. I fidgeted in my chair and counted the minutes as the people passed over the stage. I kept a close eye on them. If they were going leave early, so was I. I kept calm and watched them through the corner of my eye. A couple of times one or two of the gang would get up and pick on some kid in the stands. I had made up my mind that at least one of them was going to pay for what they did.

What seemed like and eternity passed and finally the last student graduated and before I knew it we were all throwing our mortar boards into the air. Except me. I kept a watchful eye. The minute we were dismissed I jumped into the isle and started a fast paced walk in their direction. I could see they were in no hurry to get up. They just sat there making crude comments towards some of the underclassmen. I was met by a rush of people leaving their seats and headed for the exits behind me. I wove through the crowd only to be grabbed by one of the girls that was blowing me kisses a few moments ago.

"Where you going lover," she said as she grabbed my arms.

I raised my arms and without taking my eye off my adversary, I pulled her arms down and said "I will meet you outside Veronica, I have something I need to do right now."

Only the sound of a gasp made me look down. It wasn't Veronica. It was Shelia and she had her mouth open with disgust. Before I could plead for forgiveness, a right cross smack sent my head reeling to the right. The result was that my mortar board went flying, tassel and all. In addition, my shade were now at full tilt and my cheek stung from the impact. She just stormed out without my saying a word.

By this time, the crowd had cleared and the sound of laughter made me turn around and pinpoint the four young men I was doomed to confront. It seemed that the gang has seen the entire episode and were now alternating between pointing and holding their stomachs in a deep belly laugh.

Without hesitation, I straightened my shades and walked towards them. I walked about half way up the bleachers and stopped. I just stood there until the laughter stopped. The one I was after finally composed his self when he noted my stone-like demeanor.

"What's the matter chap? Find one you couldn't handle did ya?" he said starting another chorus of laughter.

Once the laughter died down. I moved closer and focused on what I knew to be the leader. It was obvious he didn't remember me. "You should learn to remember faces a little better," I said in almost a whisper. The mood changed immediately. The leader looked at each of the others in turn and leaned forward from his laid back position.

"So just how would I know your face." he said coolly. The others just stood there silent.

I took off my shades and stared at him. After a moment, I said, "Picture me laying in the mud. Maybe then you'll have the balls to stand up and prove you are a man". I slid the shades into my pocket.

The look of recognition came over his face. I stared him down and he realized that it was payment time. He stood up and came down to meet me face to face. I was a bit taller than he was but it was very close.

"I've got the bullocks to hit you so hard it will make one of your lady friends cry." he said dryly under his breath.

I am not sure how it started. Once of us pushed the other. All I know is that he received a quick left jab to he nose and immediately went to his knees. When two of the other three jumped at me, I found that 18 year old body quick enough to move out of the way to see them tumble end over end all the way to the bottom seat. The last member, and the smallest, just stood there and shook in anticipation of attending the school of kick-butt 101. I had not seen him in the alley so a quick underhand motion was enough to send him bounding down the bleachers and out of sight.

I reached down and pulled the bleeding derelict up from his knees. His nose was obviously broken and was bleeding profusely. I could see the school teachers coming into the auditorium from the other side and wondering what was happening. I whispered in the guys ear, "I had better never see you again. If I do I'll finish this." With this, I let him slump back to his knees and tend to his nose. The other two just lay there on the floor moaning. I walked through them without even looking down. Justice had been served.

I met Ms. Sutcliffe about mid way in the auditorium and we walked out of the auditorium briskly with her on my arm.

Chapter IX

I sat on the back porch and looked up at noon sky. It had been a cool day so far and the last day I was going to spend at the home of Ms. Sutcliffe. I strummed the guitar Ms. Sutcliffe had given me as a graduation present. It was not a high quality guitar but still had a nice tone. I remember feeling bad when she gave it to me. I knew she could hardly afford the sixteen pounds she had spent at the 1958 English equivalent of a pawn shop. I don't think she knew that I had hid thirty pounds in the top drawer of her dresser. I knew she normally kept money here and would not notice if there were a little more.

Later today, I would be moving to a small studio apartment and starting to attend the Liverpool Art College. Unbeknownst to me, a few months ago Ms. Sutcliffe had sent some of my high school art work to the admissions dean and managed to get me accepted. At first I was skeptical at the thought, but then I realized that my options were far and few between. The money I had saved during my high school had been hard-earned and enough to get me to America, but there would be little left over. Certainly not enough to start out having it as good as I have had it here. In addition to the monetary considerations, going to college was certainly an interesting prospect. I had not considered Art to be my first choice, but I was not in a position to decline anything sent my way that I couldn't afford otherwise.

I started playing an old Beatles tune and lightly sang the words. I paused for a minute and contemplated a reoccurring urge to go out in search of the Beatles before they became famous. Unfortunately, I didn't know much about their history. All I knew was there first big hit would be out in a few years and they would surely be starting to form any time now somewhere right here in Liverpool. The feeling of the fantasy reminded me of buying a lottery ticket back home at the one and only Tateville 7-11. With each lottery fantasy, my mind filled with the possibilities of being rich and famous. As with all the lottery fantasies, this one died quickly as well. As I found out the first time this idea came to me, Liverpool was a very populous city. Finding any one of the fab four was nearly impossible. After brief attempts of asking people in different areas of the city, and checking some of the local pubs, I eventually gave up on my quest. I wasn't even sure how old they would be at this point in time. If only I had one history book with me.

I returned to playing the song but at a louder volume in an attempt to pound the frustration out of me. I closed my eyes to focus on the vibration of the guitar and my voice. When I open then, I was startled to see Ms. Sutcliffe looking down at me in horror. I stopped and she interjected "Stu! Never do that again! I thought someone was killing you!" With this she just stood there with her hand on her chest. I had to laugh.

I stood up and laid the guitar against the concrete wall. I moved up close to Ms. Sutcliffe and put my arms around her. She returned the gesture, but slowly and after a brief hesitation. I could tell she was not used to being hugged by her son.

"You know your son loves you." I whispered in her ear.

"Yes I know," she replied as she patted my back. "I'm very proud of you Stuart. I am going to miss you terribly."

"Mom. It is only a few miles away." I said not realizing that I had called her Mom for the first time since we met. I don't know if was from deep appreciation or just because I knew that one simple word would mean a lot to her.

We broke our embrace and grabbed both side of my face squishing my cheeks together as so many old people do.

"You had better come see me Stuart Sutcliffe. I mean that." She then kissed me and took my arm. "Come on in here. We have some packing to do."

It was now moving time. Ms. Sutcliffe doted over me as only a mother can. I was surprised she didn't tell me to put on a clean pair of underwear. By the time she was finished, one would have thought I was going to war with all of the suitcases and boxes I had to carry. Not wishing to hurt her feelings, I toted the entire load in one trip out to the curb where my ride was waiting.

After I loaded the trunk with my gear, I gave Ms. Sutcliffe one last hug and kiss and climbed in the car. I waved gently through the back window as we slowly moved away. She just stood there motionless and cried. The sad moment passed quickly though as we made the turn and I realized that I was on my own and ready to start a new life.

When we arrived, I handed the driver a small tip and unpacked my luggage by myself onto the curb. I double checked the address with the address Ms. Sutcliffe had sewn onto the inside of my jacket. It matched and I looked up at the structure in anticipation.

The building was a typical two story row home. Painted red brick adorned the front and sides of the building. The front had not porch but a small stoop that served as an entrance to the upper level. The entrance to the basement was on the side. I had been told by Ms. Sutcliffe that this building was set up for two separate rental units. My rental unit was to be the upper floor.

An elderly gentleman came out of the front door and stood at the top of the stoop. I recognized him as the landlord. I had met him once a few months ago and noted that he was not a very pleasant man. He looked down at me and tapped his foot. I started to climb the stairs. I had made about three steps and realized I had left my stuff on the curb. It would surely be stolen if it left my sight so I ran back to get it and trudged it all up the stairs. I dropped the entire load onto the stoop off to one side. I reached out to shake his hand and he said "Do you have the rent?" I immediately retrieved my hand and pulled out an envelope filled with cash and handed it to him. Without saying a word, he opened it and counted it for what seemed like and eternity. Only after he verified the amount twice did he then extend his hand and smile.

"I'm Mr. McNeily, in case you don't remember. If you have any questions, this is my card." he said without looking at me. He pulled out a card and keys and handed them to me. As soon as I took them he pulled open the front door and motioned for me to enter. I quickly gathered up my stuff and squeezed in the door. We walked into the main room. It was truly a studio apartment. Wide open, two stories, wood floors, and lots of space. I had seen it before and fell in love with it. I laid my stuff down in the middle of the floor and just looked up and around the room.

"Did you mother tell you about your roommate?" he said while stuffing the envelope in his breast pocket.

"Yes she did. Well, I mean, she told me I'd have one. I don't know anything about him." I said with a shrug.

"Well here he is now." he said as I heard the front door shut.

At my position I could see Mr. McNeily looking at someone around the corner. The way he looked and the sounds of shuffling led me to believe that my roommate was having the same trouble negotiating his luggage as I had. I heard the distinct thud of a suitcase hitting the wood floor and saw a hand give Mr. McNeily another envelope. He counted it once and handed him a card and a key just as he had done me.

Mr. McNeily moved out of sight and I could here the two whispered to each other. I distinctly heard Mr. McNeily say "Come in here and meet your roommate."

Mr. McNeily popped from around the corner with a young man at his arm. My look of astonishment had to have been obvious. I saw the same look of astonishment on his face as he finally looked up from the card he had been given to focus on my face. I pulled off my sunglasses and didn't say a word. He just stood there with his mouth open. It was the same guy I had given a broken nose to only a few months before. The thought of rooming with him made me sick to the stomach.

"Have you two met," Mr. McNeily asked as he walked between us and alternated stares between my face and his.

Neither of us answered. I finally broke the stare and looked at Mr. McNeily replying "No Sir, never."

I could tell he didn't believe me but he was a businessman and didn't care.

"Well good then let me introduce you two." as he grabbed both of our arms and pulled us closer. Mr. McNeily looked at him and said "This is Stuart Sutcliffe," as he motioned his hand towards me. Mr. McNeily then slowly turned his head to look at me and motioned towards him with the other hand. "Stuart Sutcliffe, this is John Winston...," and he hesitated. Mr. NcNeily finally turned to him for help.

"Lennon. John Winston Lennon," my roommate said finishing off the sentence. With this he stuck out his hand.

The next few minutes cannot be described by any words or association of experience. All at once it came together. This was the reason I had recognized him so easily. This was the reward the angel had mentioned. Once it was spelled out to me it was so obvious. It could not be anything but the truth.

I was standing in front of John Lennon. I had to repeat this fact in my head several times before it truly registered. What added to my confusion was that here stood a man that was not only my hero but a man whom, a few minutes ago, I couldn't stand. John Lennon was a bully and a thief? How could this be.

I finally noticed both of the men staring into my eyes with bewildered looks. I instinctively reached out and shook his hand vigorously.

"John Lennon! It is so nice to meet you John Lennon! I can't believe we are going to be roommates. Do you play guitar John Lennon? What am I saying, of course you play guitar John Lennon." It was at this time I realized that I was hurting the man and I tried to compose myself by letting go of his hand and clearing my throat. He just stood there looking at his hand in bewilderment.

"Will there be anything else Mr. McNeily?" I asked as I put my arm around him and showed him to the door. He hesitated as if in shock from my behavior.

"Is there any medication involved with you that I need to know about as the landlord of this building?" he said with a concerned scowl.

"No Mr. McNeily. I am just excited about my new life. Been a pleasure, keep in touch." I said as I gently guided him out the entrance and closed the door behind him.

I stood at the door and attempted to compose myself. So many thoughts went through my head I could not process them all. I chose just to go in and make an attempt to smooth things over with Mr. John Lennon.

I turned around and walked around the corner. John just stood there in the middle of the floor waiting for me.

"Listen chap. Thanks for not causing a problem, but I am afraid I am stuck here same as you. The minute we handed him those envelopes we became permanent roommates, like it or not." His voice got louder and punctuated the remark by thrusting his finger towards the floor on the last word. I searched for the words.

"Listen to me John. What is done is done. The way I see it is that we are even." I said in a calm voice as he walked over to the couch.

He sat down and pulled out a cigarette and seemed to muse over the entire affair. "You know the whole thing was pissing in the wind for me. What were you doing with fake money in your wallet in the first place." He took a deep puff off the cigarette and only glanced at me for a moment. It was obvious he was anxious about the entire situation.

I sat down in the chair across from him and just chuckled. "That was real money. It was American currency." I leaned over motioned towards the cigarettes. He acted surprised and quickly reached down to grab the pack. I pulled one out. I stuck out my other hand and he put his book of matches in it. "I carry American currency because I can't seem to find any Liverpudian currency." I said as I lit the cigarette in my mouth. The tobacco was harsh but it had become a necessary vice for me my senior year in high school. I had never smoked before, but it seemed to be the culturally thing to do in Liverpool.

John just sat there staring at the floor taking intermittent puffs. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was very careful not to stare. The situation was volatile enough. I didn't want him to think I was gay or something.

"So you play do you?" he finally blurted to break the silence. I looked up to see him pointing at the guitar case.

"Yes I do. Can't sing worth a wounded dog, but I can play." I said while I leaned forward.

"Me to. I've got me a guitar and a band." he said with a tone of pride.

I tried to act surprised. I could barely hold my excitement. I wanted to tell him the entire story but I was sure he would think I was insane. It would be easy to get him to partially believe me. I was sure he had met Paul McCartney and George Harrison by now. A simple drop of those two names would get his attention. I could even play him some of his songs. Now there was a thought that made my insides burst. I thought of the irony of the possibility of my teaching John Lennon his own music. Better yet, if I could befriend him, I could play a part in co-writing some of those timeless songs. I would truly become rich, famous, and immortal. My mind raced at the possibilities. What about his death. I knew exactly when this man died. I remembered exactly what I was doing that day and I knew where it happened and how an entire world mourned for the loss. I could certainly prevent this great man's death. I thanked my angel as loud as I could possibly scream without vocalizing one sound. I just sat there in deep contemplation on how to handle this. Then I remembered how easy it had been to manipulate these teenagers in the ultimate disguise. I knew that I could win over John Lennon and use all my advantage to certainly realize my self fulfillment prophecy.

"Rock and Roll you say?" I said with a deep and confident tone. I laid back and spread my arms the way I had seen him on those bleachers. The chair had no back arms. I sat there like a grounded bird trying to fly fumbling for something to rest my arms on and still look cool. I looked back and realized I had embarked on a fruitless endeavor and settled for crossing my arms on my lap. Fortunately, he was looking away at the time and did not see the awkward move.

"So what do you guys play? Anyone I know in the band."

"Anything with a rhythm. Little Richard, Elvis, Buddy Holley, you name it. We do quite well. I don't think you know the guys in the band. There a guy named Paul that I met at a church social that is just learning the guitar. He really isn't very good but he learns quickly and has a very nice voice. Then there is George. I don't really care for George, he's a bit too young. I let him in the band cause his Mom lets us practice at his house. There's a couple of others but they are on their way out. I can't get the others to show up for practice. The three of us are doing quite well."

I noticed that he had relaxed quite a bit by now. I was sure I had played my angle well and knew this was the way into John Lennon's life. I also new I had to play my cards right. I was sitting across from one of the most influential musicians the world had ever known.

"What is the bands name?" I asked pursuing the topic unmercifully.

"The Quarrymen is the name of the band. I would thank you to not call us a skiffle band." His emphasis on the word 'not' punctuated his indignation. "We are a rock and roll band. We've been getting some underground records from the states from some Merchant Marines. It is real kicking stuff." With this he sat back with wide eyes and I could tell how he was enthused about this. I was surprised to hear the bands name but was not willing to push this. I knew it would be about 2 or 3 years before there name hit the charts and I wasn't sure when the name 'Beatles' would first cross John Lennon's consciousness.

"We are working on getting a PA system through the college. We've worked a deal to do the dances for free in return for an old PA system they had almost discarded. The first dance is in about 2 months." he said as he stubbed out his cigarette in a cup laying on the table.

What was I to say next. The conversation was about ready to change. I could feel it. I struggle to pick out one question from the plethura of questions that flooded my mind. I though of at least a dozen question in that brief moment only to hold off from fear of divulging too much of the known future. Then it came to me. Let the moment pass. I repeat the fact that I lived with John Lennon. I had all the time in the world. Act like he was one of those girls I dated in high school. Keep cool and act almost disinterested. Show him enough to bait the hook and let him think he is the one making the catch. It was to easy and to right. Once again I screamed to my angel in appreciation.

"What room do you want," I said beating him to the topic change.

"I am partial to the one in the back. It is away from the road. Noise bothers me at night, but it doesn't really matter otherwise." he said with a shrug.

"Then I'll take roadside. Won't bother me any. Want to go get some groceries later?" I asked. He just gave a boyish grin and pulled out his pockets to reveal empty liners. "Never mind. first round is on me." I said as I stooped over to pick up my stuff.

"Great," he said as he rubbed his hands together. "I'm starved." With this, he to rose and picked up his considerable pile.

As I stood there with arms overburdened, I said "So I guess you Mom packed for you to hey?"

He stood up with all of his bags and suitcases and said, "No my aunt did. I can see your point."

Once again, I didn't understand why his aunt was packing his bags. I made a mental note to get into that later. "Well at least yours didn't sew your address into your clothing. I feel like a postal package." He laughed and trudged towards his room. I heard him drop the load on the wood floor and take a flying leap onto the bed. I walked towards my room with a smile to end all smiles.

Chapter X

After I unpacked, I found it hard to believe how much stuff Ms. Sutcliffe has stuffed away in my suitcase. Virtually everything that Stuart Sutcliffe owned was now in this tiny studio apartment. I marveled at the woman and admired her deeply. I made a mental bet with myself that Ms. Sutcliffe and my Mom would be best of friends if they ever met.

"Stuart. Are you ready to go." A soft voice whispered from the open doorway.

"Stu. Call me Stu, John." I said as I quickly rose from the bed. I did not know how long he had been there. "Yes. Anytime you are ready," I said. With this, he motioned his head towards the door and motioned for me to come. I grabbed my wallet and followed in a hurry. I couldn't believe it. I was going to buy John Lennon dinner.

We walked down the street. He walked at a good clip and I found it difficult to comfortably keep up. We did not talk for the longest time. I was trying to formulate the next conversation in my head. I walked at least three blocks before I realized that it was raining.

"So where are we going?" I said shielding my eyes from the rain.

"This way." he said pointing in front of us. I looked up only to see empty sidewalk all the way to the end of the block.

"Really, smarty?" I said sarcastically, realizing the poor joke in a belated fashion. I continued to walk silently and lost count of the blocks after ten. I finally asked, "How much further is it?"

He said nothing. I look over at him and could see him smirk. After a long pause, he said "Just a bit further."

His gate finally slowed and I looked up to see a rather large man standing in a doorway. Behind him was a small grocery store with 3 isles. He gave us a heavy stare as we approached. We walked up to the door and the man stood in our way.

"Move over ya bloke," John said poking the guy in the stomach.

"Let me see the money before you go inside. No money, no food." He said with arms crossed. John and I looked at each other briefly and then turned back to the man. I pulled out a small fistful of cash.

John grabbed it from my hand and said "That'll do." The big man yielded the doorway with a disapproving frown.

"Are we dressed funny or something?" I whispered in John's ear.

"What is the matter. Never been around our sort before." he said without looking at me. He carefully examined some food on the shelves.

I chose to ignore his comment. This was obviously his territory and I didn't feel comfortable in any confrontation. I decided to concentrate on the issue at hand, getting some groceries for tonight's dinner.

I didn't know where to start. The store was small and dirty. I had seen much nicer Mom and pop operations in Kentucky. John had obviously been here before. He grabbed a hand basket and indiscriminately threw things into it without looking. I picked a few, but for the most part did not recognize a lot of the foods they had to offer. John made one final round and I threw my items in with his and he dropped it on the counter. The big man operated the tiny keys clumsily on cash register. His thick fingers were not well suited for the job. John handed him the money he had grabbed. The big man handed him back the change. He did not bother to count it. John and I left the store and he shouted "Now there is a shopping experience that generated another satisfied customer." With this John pulled from his pocket a can of something that he had obviously shop lifted. He waved it at the man in a teasing fashion. The man came after us. As he rounded the corner of the counter, I furiously dug in my pockets to see if I had any more money on me. I came up empty and had to make a split second decision to try to placate this huge man bounding at me or to catch up with John who was now a good two blocks away in full stride. I chose the latter and ran like hell. The large man never stood a chance and gave up before he reached the end of the sidewalk.

I never did catch up to John. Since I had been following him on the way, I had not paid close attention to the route. The consequence was that I made several wrong turns and I arrived home long after John had gotten back.

I pushed open the front door cold, wet, and with a bitter disposition. The first thing I saw was his piling the contents of several different boxes, bags, and cans of various foods onto a paper plate. As I wrestled with my wet boots at the door entrance, he ignored me and sat down to start eating. My empty boot hit the floor heavily and John looked up realizing that I had made it back. He paused his maddened attack on his food for a moment long enough to dig out my change and toss it on the table.

"There's your change." he said as the bills flopped to their final position. A couple of coins rolled off the side of the table and hit the floor. John hesitated and looked under the table to see where they went and then returned to eating.

I started to pull on my other boot.

"So what took you so long? Did he catch you?" he said with a mouth full of food.

"No. Not even close." I said in a despondent tone. The other boot slipped off along with most of the sock. I pulled the sock back on and started to pull off my coat.

"Why, John? Why did you take that can?" I said as I hung up my coat. I restrained myself from being angry. After all, this was John Lennon.

"Why not?" he said without looking up. "Are you afraid of life? Learn to live on the edge. It's the only place to be." The sentence was followed with a prolonged snicker.

I carefully pushed my boots against the wall. He still had his shoes on and the floor was soaked. I noticed his coat laying on the back of my chair at the kitchen table.

I approached the table and stood there. "John. Don't ever do that again with me around. If I can't earn it, I don't want it. Right now life is pretty exciting enough for me. I like it just the way it is." He chose to ignore me and continued eating. He was close to being finished.

"Relax man. Sit down and have some. It isn't bad. I haven't eaten all day." For a moment I did think about the situation. I was still a teenager and maybe I was still enforcing those same strict standards that applied to mature responsible adults. I had forgotten what it was like to be on my own for the first time. In fact, I had never known that feeling. I resigned to the fact that I was the one with the problem so I prepared my own plate and sat down across from John.

I picked up his coat and laid it on the counter top. As I sat down, I thought about what we would talk about. I thought about how to bring it up and how to exactly handle my new roommate. I was never given the chance. Almost on queue, as I sat down, he stood up and said "Well time to go. Got a practice at George's house. Don't stay up." He bounded into his room and later emerged with his guitar case. I gave a quick thought to asking him if I could come. I was understandably anxious at the prospect of seeing the fab-four. The time was not right. It was too soon. I had to remember to get him to ask me. Then, and only then, would I be able to work my way into this life of his.

John laid his guitar case down and entered the bathroom. I could here him flush and then open the door. I tried not to stare. He picked up the case and left without saying anything. I wanted to go with him so badly.

I was left there with alone with my thoughts running wild. I hurried to the window and watched him go down the stairs two at a time and bound across the road to jump into an old green van. I had seen it when I pulled up in the taxi and then again when I walked home in the rain. I did not realize that it was his. It then occurred to me that he had planned the entire store episode. Why else would he walk all that way in the rain when he could have driven. He would have known that I didn't know where I was and that I would probably get lost. I just marveled at the ingenuity of the practical joke. The van turned over and stalled. I saw him pumping the accelerator. The van came to an abrupt start and jerked away and out of sight. I held my stare in his direction and finally focused in on the streaming water running down the window.

After a few minutes of letting my mind float in a drift, I turned around and cleaned up the kitchen. What I could salvage went into the cupboards. After cleaning the wet floor, I went to my bedroom and jumped on the bed contemplating on what to do next. I worried that I had not handled John well today, but quickly dismissed it. Even in hindsight, I could not think of what I could have done differently to better the situation. Eventually, I dismissed the thought and pulled out some papers that listed the classes that I would soon be taking at Liverpool Art College. Class Registration would be tomorrow and I needed to complete the forms.

As I looked at the literature, I looked over the different type of art classes they had. I had always wanted to try painting and decided to give these classes the first choice. About an hour passed an I found it increasingly difficult to fight sleep with the rhythmic pounding of the rain against the window. It wasn't long after that I lay my head down on the book and drifted off to sleep.

I awoke to the drone of heavy traffic. It wasn't quite full daylight yet, but the morning rush hour was in full swing. The sounds of heavy trucks and small cars with faulty mufflers laid down a blanket of noise that made it impossible to sleep any more. I rose and picked out some clothes for today. I silently slid out to the bathroom. I was sure that John had been out late and didn't want to wake him at such an early hour.

I emerged from the bathroom feeling totally refreshed and ready for the new day. I put my shades on and headed out the door. As I closed the door behind me, I noticed that the green van was back in its usual parking space. I looked up at the sky and could see no clouds. The weather promised to be very pleasant this morning. I was grateful in the anticipation of having to wait outside in line to sign up for classes. I started whistling a Beatles tune as I walked down the street in the general direction of the college looking for a place for a cup of coffee.

It was late in the evening and I had two bags of groceries in my arms as I rounded the last corner in the journey home. It had been a long day at the registration office. I had gotten all the classes I wanted and even managed to talk to some of my future teachers. The event wetted my appetite for the upcoming year. It was going to be a blast. I felt that my life could not have gotten any better. Here I was, a young college student with little responsibilities going home to chat with John Lennon. Of course, John Lennon was not quite the John Lennon I had imagined, but he was John Lennon nonetheless.

The bags were getting heavy. I had carried them quite a long ways. The store I stopped at a few blocks back was much cleaner than the one I had gone to last night. I found more items that I could identify as edible. I looked up from the sidewalk to focus on my destination and noticed that the van was there but parked differently than this morning. I had not seen John all day and I wondered if I should have mentioned something to him about the registration. I stopped at the base of the steps and looked up at the door. I was tired and just wanted to trudge to bed. I climbed the steps and opened the door. I entered and dropped the load on the table. My arms were cramping and I rubbed them while I kicked off my shoes into the corner.

I heard a melodic chord vibrating from a guitar coming from the center room. I peeked around the corner and saw John sitting facing me looking down at some music laying on the floor. He had a guitar across his lap in the playing position. I could tell he was motioning through some chords. A cigarette dangled from his mouth. A head covered in black hair occupied the seat facing the couch. The seat was facing away from me and I could only see the top half of the head. I heard John mumble something to this person and look up waiting for a response.

I did not want to intrude, but could not bring myself to leave. I had to see John Lennon actually composing a song. I turned around and quietly started to put away the groceries. As my point of view changed, I could see the mystery man sitting there with another guitar. The wing of the chair still occluded his face. This piqued my curiosity. I hurried to put the contents of my grocery bags away without regard to where I was storing the items. I caught myself before I tried to store milk in the cupboard. They started playing. It was crude and unpolished, but spirited. The rhythm was unique and I found myself tapping my foot. I listened and slowly walked up on them. I went around the back of John and peered up at the person sitting across from him. I was stunned. I was staring at a very young and dashing Paul McCartney. I could tell Paul was having difficulty keeping up. It was obvious John was the better musician at this point. The two just sat there and strummed chords to the song. I had not heard the song before. I did my best not to stare at Paul but I could not help some of the longer peeks at this young man's face. I walked back to the kitchen and pulled up a chair besides them. At my vantage point I could see both of them just sitting there. It was a surrealistic feeling again. Two average boys playing guitar in front of me that would eventually become the greatest group ever known.

The music stopped. "Do you mind? I'm not used to having someone stare at me like that when I'm practicing. I am trying to keep the sound down and we will only be a little while longer." John said. Once again I was rudely reminded of the immaturity of teenage life.

"I'm sorry John. That sounds great. Did you go to registration today. I forgot to remind you." I said in an attempt to change the subject. I got up and started to return my chair to the kitchen.

"Sounds like shit if you ask me." He took the cigarette from his mouth and laid it in an ashtray. He did three quick chords in the same progression twice. "It goes like that Paul." he said impatiently. He chose to ignore my question.

Paul copied the chords exactly.

I watched for a few minutes more from the kitchen. John meticulously stepped through each chord progression until Paul got it exactly right. In fear of being chastised again, I broke my stare and walked into my bedroom. I would have to settle to listen to them rather than watch. I sat on the edge of the bed and just stared out the door. Through the crack of the door I could barely see John's hand as it slid up and down the guitar neck. I just sat there and marveled at what I was hearing. John and Paul were planting the early seed of what was to become a legend. I knew that these two would be mainly responsible for selling more records than anyone in history. The thought boggled my mind.

The music stopped and I heard John say something about going to the bathroom.

I was confident that I had pulled the charade off and I sat down next to the guitar on the bed. I pulled out a cleaning cloth that was wedged in the case and began to wipe the body of the guitar. After a few minutes I realized that I was not alone. I looked up to see Paul standing at the door getting ready to knock on the door frame. Before he could, I stood up and said "Hello. Nice to meet you." I realized that I wasn't suppose to know this young man's name yet. I stuck out my hand and said "I am Stuart Sutcliffe."

He lowered the hand that was balled to knock on the door frame and extended it instead. "I'm Paul McCartney," he said in a brash voice. He had a firm grip. He took a half step into the room and then peeked just his head out looking down towards the bathroom. He quickly stuck his head back in and said "Are we bothering you?"

I shook my head. "Not at all."

He gave and affirming nod. "I have to apologize for John. He is very passionate about practicing and takes his music very seriously. He really okay once you get past all the stuff that comes with the package." With this, he gave a half wink and I realized he had to deal with the John Lennon in the same matter as I.

Once again I fumbled for a topic. There was so much to talk about but so little I could say. The uncomfortable pause in the conversation was broken when Paul peaked over my shoulder and looked at my guitar. "Is that yours?" he said pointing at the guitar.

I turned my head and said, "What? The guitar? Yes, that is mine. My mother gave it to me for a graduation present. Want to see it?."

He shook his head up and down quickly and gave me a boyish grin.

I turned and walked over to the side of the bed. "It isn't fantastic, but it has a nice sound." I said, excusing the instrument.

"May I?" he asked with his hand extended. He indicated he wished to pick it up.

"Sure. Be my guest." I said stumbling all over myself.

He picked it up and gently laid the cleaning cloth to one side. He started to strum it. Paul got a sour look on his face and started to adjust a few of the strings. With each pick the string came closer and closer to tune and I was amazed at this man's ear for music. After he finished the last string he started to strum a few chords to see how the tuning fit together.

"I can't play this one. I string mine backwards. This way is just to awkward for me." he said looking down as he fumbled for some chords.

A knock on the door interrupted the serenade. Both of us turned.

"Ready to get back at it?" John said as he walked into the room.

"Sure." Paul said.

"Can you play?" Paul asked me as he carefully handed it back.

"Yeah. I'm not too bad. Just can't sing worth a hoot." I said with a giggle.

Paul just smiled and turned around. He and John walked half way out of the room and Paul turned around and said, "Stuart, do you want to practice with us. I mean if it is okay with you John."

"Well I don't...," I started to speak but was interrupted by John.

"I don't think that is a good idea. We have a lot of practicing to do before tomorrow's dance. I wish George could be here." John said as he made a complete circle and left the room.

Paul followed backwards and with arms in the air mouthed the words, "I tried." He then turned around and followed John back to the couch.

I put the guitar back in the case and was surprised that I didn't feel rejected. As a matter of fact I felt pretty good. I realized that John must have been under a lot of pressure at this point. I also realized that with a little patience I would make it into a realm of fantasy that I have never known.

Copyright by Stephen Lipscomb

Stephen Lipscomb is 35 and lives in Virginia with his wife and daughter. Stephen is a Computer Scientist with a Bachelor of Science Degree. He has written his own instructional booklet on running a lawn service. Stephen is currently branching out to writing in the fiction/adventure genre.

Stephen can be e-mailed at:

Sign Aphelion's Guestbook

Return to the Aphelion main page.