Paperback Writer

Note from Johanna: This one struck me as rather funny, and that's why it's here.

It's the mid-1960s and I'm part of a sizable team of people who are managing the Beatles as they tour through the United States. At the moment, I'm at a soda-fountain/diner place - all vinyl banquette seating and chrome - talking with the owner about an upcoming appearance by the band. They're going to be at the diner and signing autographs before going to a concert. There are already hundreds (if not thousands) of screaming teenagers outside, and it's taking the combined efforts of the local police and a contingent of national guardsmen to keep order.

I'm a little worried about the relatively small size of the diner which seats maybe a hundred people, as compared to the mob scene outside but this event wasn't my idea and the higher ups are confident that they can maintain control. Apparently I'm willing to believe in this confidence - I guess it's not my job on the line if everything goes to hell.

A tour-bus pulls up and one my coworkers disembarks, looking worried. They beckon me on board and mutter something about tranquilizers. Indeed, the Fab Four seem to have gotten their hands on some sort of controlled substance and are so whacked out as to be barely coherent. They've been drawing on each other with red and green felt-tip pens - water soluble, fortunately - and despite several scrubbings by the long-suffering handlers, they still look a bit clownish. Fine, whatever, that's what makeup is for.

Paul's the most coherent of the lot, so we (the sizable team of handlers) work on getting coffee down his throat and finding out what the hell happened. Whatever it was that the band took, it wears off quickly and it looks like the day might be saved. They're definitely still woozy, but - grit teeth, cue gleam in eye - they can stand up and play, and that's all we really need.

For some reason, it's decided that the band is going to play a set in the diner - to make up for the lack of a signing session, perhaps - and that annoys me and another woman on the team. We weren't ready for this, and we bitch and moan as we change into performing clothes, hurriedly set up the gear for the band, and plug in our own guitars. At this point, I start feeling like something is vaguely wrong but, no, this is the status quo, it seems. My co-worker and I apparently play back up - from a position in the audience - during the show. Given that I'm grumbling about not yet knowing the bass-line for the opening number and I know that my friend's amp isn't even plugged in, there are shades of Robert Palmer's music videos about the whole thing...

Regardless of lingering doubts, my friend and I work the crowd, have a good time and praise circumstance when the real performers don't fall off their impromptu stage that has been hastily cobbled together out of plywood and tables at the diner. The show is a hit - of course - the crowd thins out and, in order to avoid someone who is claiming that he's a Martian and really needs to talk to me - I duck into the bathroom to change into street clothes.

When I walk out of the bathroom, it's forty years later. The diner has come full circle - now it's a tacky retro joint - and I recognize some middle-aged patrons who were a few minutes ago, screaming teenagers. I shrug this off like I expected it the entire time, and vaguely wonder if anyone on the bus ever noticed that I didn't get back on, forty years ago...

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