They say from an upside-down vantage point the world is the same as when it enters the eye. I try to keep things that way, upside-down, but the world tries to right me.
“Well, what do we have here gents?” says one of them, stepping forward. He’s wearing round glasses and looks back at the other members of his gang with a peculiar smile on his face. “Do you think he’ll do?”
I’m a bit confused and even slightly frightened by the statement, but I work up the courage to ask, “What do you mean will I do?”
“What my friend, John, said was, Do you think he’ll do, not, will I do?” It’s a boyish-looking Baby Face. His comments arouse laughter out of the group. Just as suddenly, the laughter fades, and we stand there, an awkward inquisition.
“I think he’s just what we’ve been looking for,” Baby Face continues.
“Ay,” the others agree most readily, adding one more “Ay” for good measure. And then another. They laugh at that, too.
“What for, though?”
“Incorrigible little bugger, isn’t he, John?” says the One with the Big Nose to the one with round glasses.
My mind races as to why these four would want anything to do with me, considering who they were and all. I’m still dangling upside-down and feeling quite woozy, so I drop to my feet to meet the four men at a proper angle.
“It’s the divine light in all of us,” says George.
“Just follow us to our submarine, and we’ll fill you in on the way,” John says resting a hand on my shoulder, and with the other, motioning towards the rest of the crew to get moving.
They cut down alleys and take street corners so fast I hardly stay on their heels. After sixteen blocks and a strange photo op while crossing the street, my four guides lead me to a giant yellow craft covered in but a few measly branches behind a tiny Coke Zero billboard.
“Haste, lads, haste! Let’s not be late! Ready the ship, George.”
“Aye,” he replies.
“Where exactly are we going?” I wonder out loud, trying not to be nosy but feeling a bit lost.
George gives the answer. “Why, to Pepperland, of course! Where else do you think we’d be going?”
I shrug. “Timbuktu?”
“Get a load of the bits on this one,” John says.
“We need a tambourine player in our band for a big show, and we thought you had just the hands for it.”
“If you think his hands are something, you should see his legs,” the One with the Big Nose replies.
Baby Face whistles.
“Wait! Me… YOU… Play together…Stage…Band…the…”
John approaches me, querulously.
“You don’t look all that well, chap.”
“He seems to have turned a bit green,” says Baby Face from behind the wheel. “Have a seat and take a load off.”
“You’ll need the energy for the show,” says George.
I take their advice and plop down by one of the windows, staring out at the universe as it passes below. From inside the submarine, the world looks big and endless, like a million restless thoughts meandering on a wind inside a letter box. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy pass over me like a warm gun. And then I see Penny Lane, as bustling as foretold, just off the left rudder.
“Beautiful, just like I had always imagined it,” I said to no one in particular.
“Come again?” asked George, looking up from his meditations.
“How can he come again if he hasn’t come once?” asks John.
Everyone laughs. Hard. Then the four of them laugh again. The One with the Big Nose whoops and hollers.
The group settles; time passes; I grow anxious. I look out the window some more; the more uneasy I feel about the prospect of an impromptu concert with the greatest band ever assembled. Upside-down.
After what feels like an eternity aboard the submarine, I rise from my seat and begin pacing. “Are we there, yet?”
“You’re an impatient little lad, aren’t ya?” John remarks.
“Sorry, sir, it’s just that I’m pretty excited to play with you and your friends here. Been a fan all my life.”
“Quite alright,” he says with a smile, “just keep still.”
“Ya, you’re shaking the ship,” says George from the cockpit.
“And when this boat is a rockin…” says The One with the Big Nose, but the other three promptly boo and throw little candies at him. Jelly Bellies I believe.
John shakes off George and Ringo, who raspberry in response. He reassures me by saying, “we’ll have our fun soon enough.”
We arrived in Pepperland at dusk. Everyone welcomed us with big banners and poster board signs of every shape and variety hoisted in the air. The wild and vivacious crowds screamed and roared our names, including mine. Imagine that! The sight was practically overwhelming, but I couldn’t help but feed off their energy.
Baby Face and John lean forward, whispering, as flashbulbs pop walking down the ladder, “a Beatle now.” I recover with a smile just in time for the camera. I make my way through waves of people closing in on me from all sides. Two security guards press the mobs of screaming teenagers and middle-aged nostalgics as we make our way to the stage. Their outstretched arms grab clothing, pull hair. Everyone wants to get a hand on the great Vince Richmond, the Fifth Beatle.
The band makes quick work tuning up. The sea of people is at critical mass in the public square. We rush the stage and jump right in, Paul bellowing out into the night: “Heyyyyyyy Jude!”
The notes and cues come naturally. We run through the set with ease and intensity. The crowd shrieks and screams…
“When’s it going to be our turn to use the jungle gym, mister? You’ve been on there forever!”
I dangle from the cool steel, still engaged in a serious tambourine solo, ongoing for the better part of twenty minutes.
“Ya,” snarks another kid, backing his friend up. “We wanna play on it, too.”
The crowd grows larger as word spreads throughout the playground.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Says a woman producing a can of mace from a leather handbag.
I lower myself from the bar and grab my knees, hobbling before I regain my balance.
I say to the woman, “I’m playing with The Beatles in Pepperland!”
She looks at me puzzled.
“Don’t worry,” I tell her. “The show’s almost over.”
I beam with pride, smiling, but the mother frowns at me, a look of disgust and fear. Pointing to the stubble of my five o’clock shadow, she says, “don’t you think you’re a bit old to be playing pretend?”
The sun never set the same way again.