Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 22
Challenge #10: Collaborate with one or two other writers, featuring a journey between places you live or have lived. The journey must involve an unusual method of transport and the story must not include any adverbs.
For this story, I worked with GDeyke, who wrote everything up to “The tour was neither,” and SCFrankles, who wrote everything from “They started to eat” onwards. My contribution was the section in the middle.
“I’ve had it.” Paul grabbed his guitar and strode out the door.
“You can’t—” Ringo ran after him. “Hey, you can’t leave!”
Paul spun to face him. “You know what? We aren’t—weren’t—even that good. Losing a member can’t make it worse.”
The audience glared.
Ringo glared back. A handful of people from a handful of villages—there were fewer people in the tent than there were cigarette stubs. As they continued to play, he saw several groups come in, look at the three-Beatle stage, listen to a few bars of a three-Beatle song, and leave. He suspected that their potential fans living in Kottspiel—who could hear the music from outside the tent—weren’t bothering to come in at all. It was obvious what was wrong.
“There are meant to be four Beatles,” said John. “We’ll need another Paul.”
“Paul. Ha!” Ringo jutted his chin at the audience. “They’re the problem. No appreciation. It’s like they don’t know what they’re listening to.”
“Beatles covers short one member?”
“We don’t need a Paul. Paul is dead.”
“Er… right.” John wasn’t sure how many people would get it.
“You know what? We should go to Reading. Play at the Festival. Maybe we’d get to play for people with some culture.”
John and George stared at him. They both appeared to have been struck speechless.
“Come on, guys. It’ll be a Magical Mystery Tour!”
They surrendered in the face of the glint in his eye. “Fine.”
The tour was neither as magical nor as mystical as Ringo had suggested. In fact, it was less a tour and more a mundane plane journey with a budget airline. John’s complimentary pillow smelled like sick and George’s seat wouldn’t stay in any position except tilted all the way back. The train into Reading itself wasn’t much better, and when they got off they spotted someone getting mugged just outside the station, which John hoped wasn’t typical for Reading but suspected was. The…atmosphere sure was different from the more low-key, rural gigs they were used to playing.
At the festival itself, however, things started to look up.
“Hey,” said George, “there’s a lot of musicians here. Maybe we’ll even be able to find ourselves another Paul before we go on stage!”
They didn’t. Ringo had been right about one thing: the Reading Festival did draw people with culture. Enough culture that a three-man Beatles tribute act didn’t cut it. They weren’t so much booed off the stage as beered off. Squeezing Carling out of his ’70s fringe, John joined the others backstage.
“Hey, maaan.” A man with a long grey ponytail and a faded tie-dye T-shirt approached Ringo. “I dug your three-man groove. Because, like, Paul is dead, right?”
“Yeah!” Ringo grinned. “See, I told you!” He looked around at the others. “This guy gets it!”
John and George looked at one another. The hippy seemed to be a few eggmen short of a walrus. Still, it was nice to have a fan.
“Here.” The ageing hippy handed Ringo a large square cake. “Those guys may not appreciate what you guys are doing, but I do. I want you to have this.”
“Wow!” said Ringo. “Thanks!”
“Are you, uhh…” George leaned over. “Are you sure that’s okay to eat?”
“Oh, come on, guys! It’s homemade for sure—that guy must have put a lot of effort into it. Dig in!”
They started to eat.
“Unusual flavour,” said George.
“Nothing wrong with mine,” Ringo said.
The turquoise words floated out of his mouth and hung over his head.
“Er…” said George.
“What?” The four letters floated up, rearranged themselves to “thaw” and dripped on Ringo’s hair.
John was staring into the sky. “The birds are singing,” he whispered.
“So?” Ringo turned to the giant pig at his side. “I’ll be with you in a moment, madam.”
“They’re singing selections from Elton John’s greatest hits…”
But Ringo was deep in conversation.
“So, you’re Lucy,” he said.
“Yes—Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds! I know you’re looking for a Paul and I can help you.”
She turned round and showed him a rocket strapped to her back.
Lucy faced him again. “I will transport you all to the magical city of Liverpool—there to find your new fourth member!”
“Will it take long, O Rocket Pig?” said Ringo.
“Nah,” said Lucy. “About four hours if you follow the M6.”
She ascended and indicated the basket that was now hanging from her chest.
“Come on,” yelled Ringo. “This rocket pig is taking us to Liverpool to find a Paul.”
George and John looked over and both squinted at where Ringo was pointing.
Then John grinned. “You’re right. It is a rocket pig. Thought for a moment you were seeing things.”
“What is this rocket-piggery..?” muttered George but he clambered in with his fellow band members.
Lucy rose into the sky and before they knew it they had touched down in Liverpool, next to the Beatles Museum.
“Go inside,” said Lucy. “You will find whom you seek.”
So they did and they saw…
“It’s Paul,” said Ringo. “The Paul—Paul McCartney!”
They approached in adoration.
Looking up, Paul smiled.
“Please,” said Ringo. “Would you consider joining our band? We have need of a fourth member.”
Paul shrugged. “Why not? Sounds like fun.”
“Our quest is at an end,” said Ringo. “And now I’m going to have a little sleep.”
Ringo, George and John lapsed into unconsciousness.
When Ringo came round, a normal-sized pig was chewing on his hair. Raising his head, Ringo blinked. “So it was all a dream…”
“Er,” said George, who had got to his feet. “Paul McCartney isn’t Paul McCartney.”
John gulped. “It’s Ringo Starr.”
“Hello.” Mr. Starr gave a little wave. “I still want to be in the group.”
Ringo eased himself up and stood with mouth gaping, staring at the former Beatle.
Then he frowned.
“Well, that’s no good. What are we going to do with two Ringos?”