[personal profile] yes_2day
Posting a few days early because I am very proud of myself, being now 8 to 10 stories ahead.  Goes to show, after a dry spell there can be a nice long wet season.  :)  Of course, whether they are any good or not - well, y'all will be the judges!

In this chapter, our beloved George Harrison meets with his three former band mates in the hospital, and a little organized chaos ensues.

WARNINGS:  This is a sad one.  With some foreshadowing. ALSO THIS IS ALL FICTION.

Chapter 151

November 2001
New York City

        George Harrison had more bad news.  The cancer in his brain had not been stopped by the treatment he had received in Switzerland.  This was not entirely a surprise, because the doctors had told him it was an experimental pilot, and the odds were not in his favor, but they had hoped it might prolong his life by slowing down the disease’s progress.  Unfortunately, the treatment had no noticeable effect.  Now it was clear that the odds had won out, and he was left with only weeks to live. 

        He and Olivia were mourning this news when George’s doctor called, and said there was another pilot program offered at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City - it was a treatment of radiotherapy for non-small cell cancer.  It was highly questionable, this pilot, a literal shot in the dark, but it was the only thing left that might stand between George and the grave.  The answer was “yes,” and soon they were on a flight to the hospital, where George checked in using as his surname his wife’s maiden name, Arrias.  He was placed in what was mainly a maternity ward to keep tongues from wagging about his cancer.   Once in the hospital, he was prepped for what the hospital called “revolutionary” cancer surgery.  In medicine, “revolutionary” often is another word for “last resort.”  The treatment was stereotactic radiosurgery, a procedure that attacks tumors with high doses of radiation.  It was available to patients with large and advanced tumors; in other words: when all else has failed.

        Unfortunately, all of the security efforts deployed by the Harrisons to protect their privacy were foiled when some individual in the hospital spilled the beans to the newspapers.   “He is very frail and gaunt,” the informant was quoted as saying, “The word around the hospital is that the procedure he is having is the last chance of saving his life.”

        George was infuriated by this breach of his privacy, and he lodged a complaint with the hospital.  But the damage was done.  Soon, reporters and photographers were camping out in the hospital parking lot.  This would bother anyone, but for someone like George who absolutely hated such attention, it was a quadruple aggravation at a time when he certainly did not need it.  (Later, after his death, his estate would sue the hospital for damages based on the breach of his privacy.)


November 12, 2001

        George was sitting up in his hospital bed, trying to pull himself together.  Today was a Big Day.  Today he was going to see all three of his Beatle brothers.  Ringo had suggested it of course.  Good ole Richie Starkey.  At the New York hospital where George was undergoing radiotherapy, a top-secret meeting was about to take place.   A security expert hired by Paul McCartney had swept in and organized the meeting so as to keep all non-necessary hospital personnel out of the path of the arriving Beatles.  So it was about noon when John and Paul’s car swept up to the designated entry spot, and they both poured out and, with heads down, legged it quickly into the hospital.  They successfully avoided all witnesses and press.  If there was one thing Paul could do for his dear friend George after all these years, it was to gift him with the deep privacy he so craved in these last days of his life.

        John and Paul followed the hospital director of operations up the freight elevator to George’s floor, and then trailed him to George’s private room, which was way off the beaten path.   Olivia met them outside the room.

        “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, fighting back tears.  “He is so weak...” She fell into Paul’s arms, and he embraced her while she wept.  She hadn’t cried at all in weeks, but seeing John and Paul had set loose the waterworks. 

        “Is Richie here yet?” John asked softly, as Paul rocked Olivia back and forth.

        Olivia managed to whisper, “No,” in response.

        “Ready?” Paul asked her as she moved out of his arms and met his eyes.  Olivia nodded her head ‘yes’, and then led the way into the room.

        John was just behind Olivia, and saw George first.  It was a shocking sight.  George was a skeleton, bald and weak.  For a moment, John froze in place, but then forced himself to move further into the room. 

        Paul caught sight of George a moment later.  His heart nearly stopped due to a stroke of unbelievable emotional pain coursing through him.  But his legs kept moving, and he strode straight to George’s bedside, and grabbed one of his hands.  There were IV lines running out of both arms, and George’s head looked huge on top of his little neck and his shrunken body.  Every empathetic impulse in Paul’s body was activated.  It reminded him of standing next to Linda’s bedside as she was only weeks away from death.

        “Hey Geo,” Paul whispered.  George’s eyes were shut, but he managed to express a weak smile.  “It’s me and Johnny.” Paul felt a slight squeeze on his hand.  Paul looked behind him and asked John to bring him a chair - not with his voice but with his eyebrows.  John understood immediately, and pulled the chair over, and then pulled one over for himself.  Olivia had returned to her chair on the other side of the bed, and now the three of them sat around the bed, observing George.  Eventually, George realized this.

        “You can’t stare me back to health,” George opined in his dry way.  This caused everyone to laugh and relax. 

        “We can try,” John said hopefully. 

        George said softly, “I’m glad you could make it.  There are things I’ve meant to tell you.”

        Paul was rubbing George’s hand with his thumb.  He said, “We have things we need to tell you, too.” 

        “I’d better go first, because I might die at any moment,” George quipped.  Again, almost against their wills, the other three laughed. 

         George gestured for a sip of water, which Olivia immediately provided.  “This is for you two,” George began, obviously meaning John and Paul.  “As you probably know, I really resented your partnership throughout the last few years I was in the band.  I didn’t like being left out of it, so I guess I have been bitter about it.”  George paused briefly to swallow, take another sip, and rest for a moment.  Talking was not impossible, but it was difficult.  “But lately I have come to understand that you and Paul were like the two different plants I had in my garden for years.  I planted them too close together as seeds, and as the years passed, their roots became intertwined.  But from above they looked like two completely different plants.  So when I decided to remove one of the plants because it was crowding out the other, and I pulled its roots out, the other plant came out too because their root-balls had become one.    Both plants could live bound together, or they could die together.  There were no other options for those two plants.   You two are like that.” George stopped a moment to control the tears that were threatening to fall.  In so doing, he didn’t notice that John and Paul both had tears streaming down their faces.  George took another sip of water, and, exhausted, added, “I’m sorry it took me so long to figure that out.”

         A deep silence followed George’s extraordinary speech.  Paul was softly weeping, so John felt as though the onus was on him.  He put his arm around Paul’s shoulders and whispered, “Are you okay babe?”

         Paul nodded, and wiped his wet face off with his free hand.  Paul said to George, “I have felt so bad for so long.  I never meant to exclude you.  I’m just dense, you know?”

         George laughed, and so did John.

         Paul continued, “You have to hit me over the head with a 2 by 4, as the Americans say, because I don’t always know what I sound like to other people.”   

         John and George both whooped, and then George had to cough a little due to the effort.  John said, “You don’t say!”

         Paul took a deep breath, desperately trying to restore his equilibrium.  He could feel John’s hand, rubbing his back, and was grateful for it.

         John said, “Harri, I really appreciate what you said.  I was far worse than Paul; I know it.  But I had a raging mental illness, you know?  I hurt just about everyone I loved, including you, and I’m truly sorry for that.”

         “Aren’t we the twee ones?”  Paul asked after a respectful silence had passed.  His audience of three chuckled affectionately.  “Would sugar even melt in our mouths?, as my Irish grandmother used to say.”

         George squeezed Paul’s hand and studied his old friend’s face.  Tears accumulated in his eyes.  The only reason Paul had hurt him so much over the years was that he had loved Paul like a brother.  John was an idol who had often let him down, Ringo was his best friend who had never let him down, but Paul - Paul was like a brother.  It meant that they might not have chosen each other as friends but for their love of music and adventure, but they were bound by something deeper - by something very much like blood.

         “I’m not going to last much longer,” George said, eying Paul closely as he did so.

         Paul’s eyes were steady and sure.  He had been here before.  “I know,” he said calmly.

         George was glad Paul made no attempt to deny this obvious truth.  He said, “It’s going to be a nightmare, trying to die privately and peacefully.  They know I’m here now, and they’ll follow me when I leave the hospital.”  George looked very distressed.

         Paul put on his business-face.  “They can’t follow you once you’re up in the air in a private plane,” he said.  “Or, maybe you want to come stay with us in our apartment?  We have loads of security there.”

         “I’m leaving here in a few days, when the treatment is over, and I want my palliative care to take place in Los Angeles, at Cedar Sinai Hospital.  They have a world class outpatient hospice service there.”  George was businesslike too.  Olivia, meanwhile, was covering her eyes with a tissue.

         “Well, John and I rent a house in Bel Air - it is extremely private.  Do you want to stay there?  I can set you up with our security expert, and he can help manage it.”

         “That would be great, if we could,” Olivia said.  And George nodded his agreement.

         “I’ll have the property manager and Gavin DeBecker, the security expert, set it all up.  We have strong security there.”  Paul was patting George’s hand with one hand while he squeezed it with the other.  He earned a warm smile from George.
        It was at that moment that Ringo came in the door with Barbara.  There were greetings all around, and then the two wives - Olivia and Barbara - discreetly left the room.  Ringo took Olivia’s chair, and looked around at his “brothers.”  How sad that this would no doubt be the last time they were all four together.  Knowing this was true made each moment bittersweet for Ringo. 

        “Can you believe the four of us are here - together - and we’re the same four people who went thru the craziness 40 years ago?” Ringo asked. “It feels surreal.”

        John cleared his throat.  “I know what you mean, Richie.  I feel like those were four other blokes than the ones sitting here now.”

        “I’m not sure that’s a bad thing,” George said.

        “Why not?” Paul asked, sincerely interested in George’s viewpoint.

        “We are four different people now:  because we grew up and allowed ourselves to change.  Not all people subjected to our level of fame managed that.”

        “I think we managed it because we had each other,” Ringo opined.

        “It’s like that funny thing you said,” John agreed.  He looked at Ringo.  “Remember when you said that you would look in the mirror and think you were a god - a living god - and then you would go to the studio and there were these three blokes there telling you, ‘nah, you’re not a god, you’re from Liverpool.’” 

        They all laughed in acknowledgment and recollection.

        Paul said, “I wouldn’t have made it through all that madness if it weren’t for the three of you.  That I am sure of.”  As he finished this statement, he felt a squeeze on his hand.  He looked up and caught George’s eyes, and they exchanged what could only be described as a loving look.  Paul’s breath caught in his throat and he gave George a full-on genuine smile, which made George’s face light up.  George had never really been immune to the McCartney charm.  He had always felt, at his plumb depths, that Paul was solid.   Yes, Paul could be peremptory; maybe he was a bit too sure of himself.  And, true, Paul could be bossy and perfectionist.  But there was something solid about Paul.  It was something you could count on, when all else failed.  And, despite Paul’s reluctance to confront his own emotions directly, there was a deep empathy and compassion for others’ feelings in Paul. 

        “When was the last time you got buzzed?” John asked George suddenly.

        George looked at John as if he were crazy.  “You do realize I’m in a hospital getting medical treatments.  I’m on death’s door.”

        John said, “So why worry about having a buzz?  I mean, if you’re gonna die anyway.”

        George laughed - it was a kind of weak thing, but only because he himself was weak.  He couldn’t muster up a belly laugh. 

        Paul had laughed nervously.  Joking about death was not one of Paul’s specialties.  He supposed this was a remnant of childhood Catholic guilt. 

        But Ringo had heard John’s comment and said, “I think it’s a great idea.”

        “Barbara will kill us if you drink,” Paul said to Ringo.

        “Don’t be a spoilsport,” Ringo pouted.

        John said, “I think the four of us need to do some pot.  That’s better than alcohol because of Ringo’s situation.”

        “In a hospital room?” Paul asked incredulously.

        John turned to George and Ringo and said, “I love how he turns into bossy big sister the minute all four of us are together again.  He’s never like this when it’s just me around. I say let’s do pot, and he’s a blur trying to get ready for it.”

        Everyone laughed, although Paul was a little embarrassed.  He’d always felt just a little bit different than the other three.  It was like he was the superego of the group - always having to monitor the risk/danger factors while the other three could just be reckless because they knew Paul was there to apply the brakes.  He was the designated driver of the Beatles.   On one level it was a drag to be cast in that role, but on another level Paul knew that the group had needed him - even if his cautiousness pissed them off.

        “I suppose they do use marijuana in medical situations,” Paul said dubiously, giving in to the group dynamic reluctantly.  He was a bit worried the hospital security staff might have something to say about it.

        “I’m the leader here,” John said with a puffed up sense of importance, “which is why I thought ahead.”  He pulled out of his jacket pocket one huge marijuana cigarette rolled and ready to go.  “We’ll share it.”  He then proudly produced his cigarette lighter.  “Ringo, lock the door.”

        Ringo got up obediently and went to the door.  He said, “There are no locks on this door.”

        “We’ll need a lookout,” John decreed.

        “Don’t look at me,” Paul said with a pout.

        George said, “I can’t do it.  I’m stuck in this bed.”

        John laughed and said, “I know, let’s get the wives.  They can sit right outside the door and make noise if anyone is coming.”

        Ringo agreed and went out to talk to Barbara and Olivia.  He gained their amused consent.

        Paul, meanwhile, was feeling skeptical.  “You do realize that they will smell this all the way down the hall.  There’s no smoking in the hospital, let alone pot!  They’ll call security.”
        “No they won’t babe, because we have a secret weapon,” John said assuredly.

        “Oh, and what’s that?” Paul asked, as Ringo sat back down.

        “You!” John declared.
        “Me?”  Paul was confused.

        “Yeah.  You’re gonna go down to that nurse’s station and you’re gonna sweettalk those nurses, and you’re gonna explain that the four of us need to share a blunt together for old time’s sake.  Meanwhile, Ringo - see if you can open that fucking window.”

        George was chuckling.  This was like old times alright:  John bossing everyone around, Paul charming the pants off the authority figures, and Ringo doing gofer duty.  And what was he doing?  Sitting around watching the three of them and thinking they’re all fucking crazy, but in the most amazing and beautiful way.   Just like old times.

        Paul was doubtful, but he knew his duty.  “What am I supposed to say to them?” He asked fatalistically.

        John was a bit impatient with all this lollygagging around.  “Just tell ‘em to look the other way.  Don’t come down here.  Don’t ask, don’t tell.  There’s just one reefer, and we’ll do our best to control the smell.  We’ll stuff towels under the door, like we used to do in the hotel bathrooms.  Ringo, go dampen those towels from the restroom.  Oh, Paul, when you get back, you can disable the smoke alarm.”

        George could be heard chuckling some more as Paul got up and headed out the door.  Paul decided that he was going to have to put on his game face.  He swung down the hallway to the nurse’s station, where he leaned on the counter looking as adorably hopeful as he could manage. 

        The two nurses sitting there had been gossiping about their boyfriends.  They looked up and - holy lord! - Paul McCartney was standing there, looking adorable.  Noticing that the women had caught sight of him, Paul favored them with a sheepish and melting smile.

        “I need a favor,” he told them, his voice lowered to a very sexy tone.

        Both nurses giggled, stood up, and approached the counter.  “What do you need?” One of them asked.  They were both holding back silly giggles.  (They would both later tell each other, “No way is he gay!”)

        Paul looked down at his hands, strategically, and then allowed his eyes to look up while his chin was down.  He said, “All four of us are in there, you know.”

        The women made noises assenting to this information.

        “It’s just that our old mate George is dying,” he said softly, looking absolutely miserable.

        Both women’s faces drooped until they looked sad and sympathetic.  They nodded in gloomy agreement.

        Paul allowed himself to look sheepish again.  “We have this silly memory - it was kind of something we did when we were touring, back when it was all crazy, to calm down.”  He stopped to gauge the effect he had on the two women.  They were hooked, so he continued.  “We’d lock ourselves in a hotel bathroom and we’d,” he stopped and looked around as if the three of them were conspirators, and the two women leaned in close to him in reaction.  “Well, we’d share a joint.”

        The two women giggled.  “You had us going,” one of them said.

        “But it’s true!” Paul objected, charm dripping out of every pour.  “It was our thought that maybe we could smoke a joint with Geo one more time...just for old time’s sake.”

        The two nurses looked at each other.  It wouldn’t be the first time they’d looked the other way so dying patients could do some naughty thing with their families or friends.  Of course, what if one of the doctors smelled it?  One of the nurses said, “I don’t have a problem with a discreet 45 minutes, but if a doctor or security guard comes by, we can’t vouch for what they might do.”

        Paul nodded with utter sympathy and understanding.  “I see that,” he agreed, “and we will certainly never tell them that we spoke with you.  You can act shocked and we won’t blink an eye.”  Paul winked broadly after this, causing both women to go weak at their knees.

        They smiled and giggled.  Paul smiled at them one more time, and as he turned away he said, “Thank you very much for this.  It means a lot to all four of us.”  He then strolled back to George’s room, leaving two blushing and giggling women behind him.

        Paul smiled at Olivia and Barbara, both sitting in the hallway, and entered the room. 

        John saw him from his catbird seat near George’s bed.  “So what’s the story?” He demanded from Paul.

        Paul noted that Ringo was on a chair taking a close look at the smoke detector.  Paul said to John, absent-mindedly, “They’ll be cool, but can’t vouch for any doctors or security guards that might come by.” 

        “Good,” John said.  “If any of them come in, Paul, it is your job to talk them out of the trees.” 

        Paul walked over to Ringo and said, “All you have to do is take the batteries out, and then we can put them back in later.”

        Ringo looked at Paul as if to say, where the fuck are the batteries? With his eyebrows, Paul persuaded Ringo to climb down from the chair, and then took his place.  He quickly found the battery cell compartment, and removed two small batteries.  He would replace them later, as soon as they were finished with the joint.  He then returned to his seat and looked forward to his first puff on the spliff.  He said, “Johnny, I enabled this whole episode, so George goes first and I go second.”

        John was feeling generous, so he said, “Sure, why not?”

        Satisfied, Paul turned to George and grinned. He noticed immediately that George had a very amused, ironic expression in his eye.  Paul winked, and George chuckled.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.


        “Remember that time we lost the talent competition to the sisters who played spoons?” Paul asked lazily.  His voice sounded droopy from the pot.   

        George and John both guffawed.  They were lighting up their second joint.  John had lied about how many joints he had brought with him.  By the time Paul found out, he was too high to give a shit.  Now, deep into the second cigarette, all four of them were feeling no pain.  Or, at least, if George felt pain it was clouded by the drug marijuana in addition to the morphine drip.

        Ringo grumbled, “I wasn’t a part of the group then.  I feel like I missed out on so much.”

        Paul said sympathetically, “You were with Rory Storm, and you guys used to win the contests.  Our group was always coming in 2nd or 3rd, or maybe the drummer wouldn’t show up...”

        “Maybe?” John screeched.  “We were always chasing fucking drummers.”

        George said, “We had a nerve - calling ourselves a rock band with just three guitarists and no rhythm section.”

        John and Paul laughed in appreciation.  Ah, their misspent youth!

        Ringo said, “I guess I don’t regret my own memories from those days, but part of me wishes that I was part of the rest of you the whole time.”

        “It’s a good thing you weren’t, though,” John opined.  “We were three bastards to any outsiders.   You looked great to us because we had to talk you into joining us.”

        George added, “You looked great to us because you were already so experienced and - compared to us - successful. If you’d been with us when you were inexperienced, we would probably not have been so nice to you.”

        “Gee thanks for your vote of confidence,” Ringo chuckled, also completely laid back by the effects of the pot. 

        “We love you, Rich, and are grateful you were part of us,” John said warmly.  “It’s just that the three of us were the three Musketeers throughout our teen years.  We were hard on any newcomers.” 

        “Except Stu,” Paul said bitterly.  Then he caught his breath. He hadn’t meant to say that out loud.  He looked up guiltily and saw that John was looking at him curiously.  A quick glance to his right and he could see George peering compassionately at him from amidst his pillows.  Ringo appeared to be clueless.  Paul schooled his face into a comical smile.  It didn’t fool either John or George.  Ringo remained clueless.  Ringo hadn’t been part of the whole Stu drama.  He had been elsewhere having different experiences at the time.  But John and George decided to let the moment go.  No point in digging up old injuries.

        Paul’s sudden memory of Stu had spoiled his high.  His shining light went out, and he sat back in his chair and slipped into a deep melancholy.  Pot could do that to a bloke.  One moment you’re on cloud 9 and the next moment you’re under a dark cloud.  I’m John’s second choice was the voice going on inside his head.  It didn’t matter that in the end John had settled for him.  Stu had been the one to cut the cord when he decided to stay in Hamburg.  John had not wanted Stu to leave and had been devastated by it.  Paul could not help but feel that he had been John’s consolation prize.  Of course, Paul didn’t allow those old, deep, insecurity-driven thoughts to haunt him on a normal basis.  But there was nothing normal about what they were going through now in this little hospital room.  This little capsule of ‘50s and ‘60s memories had recreated the aura of those earlier times, and had vividly brought back the feelings Paul had so deeply experienced in those bygone days.  He forced himself to stop thinking about it, because he would regret it forever if he pouted all the way through his last few hours with George. 

        John was asking, “So George - what was your favorite memory from the Beatlemania years?”

        George said, “Why you asking me?”

        “You’re first.  We’ll all go.  As you pointed out, you might die at any moment.”  John gave George his clown smile.

        George acknowledged John’s hit with good nature, and said, “I enjoyed the Maharishi and India.  That is where I found my soul and my passion.”

        The other three were politely quiet.  Neither Ringo nor Paul had enjoyed the Maharishi thing as much as George, and John was probably totally over it.  Still, they all meditated from time to time.  And three out of the four of them had become vegetarians.  Ringo might even be vegan - he had such weird eating restrictions from a lifetime of suffering from a bad stomach. 

        John said, “Okay Ringo.  You go next.”

        Ringo thought about it a bit and said, “It had to be when we landed in New York for our first trip to America.  All the people, the press, that press conference, the limos, the hotel rooms.  I was terrified at the actual performances, but all that other stuff was great fun.”

        There was a general round of agreement with Ringo’s comment, and then John said, “I’ll go next, because Paul’s answer will go on for hours.  He’s gonna tell us he loved it from 1963 to 1968, or something like that.”  While George and Ringo chuckled, Paul was a bit stung by the comment.  John was doing that thing he always used to do in the Beatle years - calling him out in front of the others by making him feel uncool, too enthusiastic, and much too straight-laced.  In other words:  not like the other three.  Paul was surprised to have these feelings wash over him.  He hadn’t realized until he’d been out of the Beatles for years how much he had resented being treated like the oddball.  The assumption was that he had not been a natural rocker; he was one by association only.  These thoughts flew through his brain so quickly, that he only missed the first few words of John’s presentation.

        “My favorite part was Paris, when we found out I Want to Hold Your Hand went to number one in America.  Remember:  Brian wore the chamber pot, and George Martin joined us for dinner that night?  In a strange way, for me at least, it was all downhill after that.”  What he didn’t mention was the incredible sex he and Paul had that night back in their hotel room in "their" city.  He still got hard thinking of that night, as indeed, right at that moment he felt a stir in his nether region.  “So Paul - your turn.”

        This walk down memory lane was spoiled for Paul.  He had managed to push Stu out of his mind, and then he got shoved back in to the Paul is a goody-two-shoes compartment he’d always resented back in the day.  So he was subdued.  He knew the answer, though.  “Writing and recording Sgt. Pepper was my favorite time and memory from those days,” he said softly.  John noticed that the spark of mischief and joy had disappeared from Paul’s eyes.  He put it down to Paul being unable to think past George’s looming death. 

        “Well, that was all pretty predictable,” John pronounced.  “So this will be the funner one - what is your worst memory from Beatlemania?  George?”

        “That’s easy for me.  That last tour - ’66 - in Asia and America.  Remember the thugs in the Philippines turning off our electricity and chasing us with sticks?  And having to give all our money back as a ‘tax’?  And then the whole Budukon controversy in Japan.  Followed by the Bigger than Jesus controversy in America.  Oh, and that horrible ambulance ride out of our last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco?  That whole tour was a tour too many - a nightmare.  And I was scared someone would kill us.”
        Ringo said, “Yeah that was bad.  But I hated the Let It Be sessions more.  What possessed us to let cameras in?  That’s why it all went wonky.  We were all acting up for the camera, to exercise our grievances against each other.” 

        “That sucked,” John agreed, “but I hated when that jackass Scotland Yard detective decided to arrest all the rock stars for drug possession.  They arrested George and Pattie, and Yoko and me.  They left you and Paul alone.”  John said to Ringo, sounding a little resentful about that.

        “It was political, John,” George commented.  “I was mouthing off about Indian religion, and you were mouthing off about politics.  They were bringing us down.  Ringo and Paul weren’t political.”

        Ringo said, “I was political; I just kept my big mouth shut.   I never thought that - other than to hope for peace and love - my opinions were important enough to bang on about.”

        Paul had listened to this whole colloquy and felt ever more isolated from the others.  First, of course he had political opinions.  He often expressed them in the ‘60s, but he did so with a kind of calm judiciousness that did not upset people.  After all, he had been the one who spoke of racism in America, and he was the first one to say ‘ban the bomb’ in an interview.  Strange how no one gave him credit for that, especially his former band mates.  And, truly, the worst time for him was when they were forcing Allan Klein down his throat, and double-crossing him in business, and forcing him to sue them, and then accusing him of fraud and all other sorts of stuff.  And throwing bricks through his windows.  But he couldn’t say that here, could he?  And the other answer he might have given:  “My worst part was when the Beatles ended.”  He couldn’t say that either.  That would only point out to the other three how unlike the rest of them he was, since they all seemed hell bent on ending the group at the time.  Paul settled for the third worst thing the others hadn’t mentioned yet - although it was the precursor to the end of the Beatles and the management dispute.

        John hadn’t noticed Paul was quiet.  There were so many memories flowing through his head, and he was focused on George and Ringo, who he did not see very regularly.  He turned in chipper fashion to Paul and said, “Paul - your turn!”

        Paul said flatly, “When Brian died.  And the business office was in free fall.  We lost our bearings then.”

        All three of them stared at Paul and suddenly recalled what he had gone through, as opposed to what they had been through.  There was a long, awkward silence.  It was George who finally broke it.

        “Paul, I should have apologized to you years ago for my part in that whole Allen Klein thing,” he said softly.

        “It’s in the past and I forgave you decades ago,” Paul said softly, “but thank you very much for your apology.  It means a lot to me.”

        Ringo added, “It was just that it was your in-laws, you know?  If it had been anyone else...”

        Paul kept bitterly silent.  How many times had he asked his three friends to consider a third candidate if Eastman was unacceptable?  How many times had John and George told him it was Klein or no one, and that was just how it was going to be?  Apparently Ringo, at least, had forgotten about those times.  Still, Paul said nothing.

        John cleared his throat.  It suddenly came to him in a flash that Paul was extremely upset.  Paul was not having a fun time, sharing memories.  Paul was feeling left out and excluded.  And Paul was not meeting his eyes.  Paul was mad at him for opening that whole can of worms when they were there just to see George.  Now John was worried that when they left the hospital, Paul would clam up on him.  He sighed.  Fuck.  As usual, I didn’t think... John noticed he had the still burning spliff and he handed it to Paul as a kind of weak gesture of apology.  His worst suspicions were confirmed when Paul waved it away.  When Paul said ‘no’ to pot, it was not good.

        George noticed this bitter interaction and was visited by a frisson of regret.  He shouldn’t have let this ‘memory’ stuff get started.  He should have shut that down.  Surprisingly, though, he had forgotten all about the end of the Beatles.  He had been enjoying the vibe and focusing on when they were still friends. He looked with deep concern in Paul’s direction and reached out his hand toward Paul who, reflexively, grasped it.  George squeezed the proffered hand and said, “You’re like a brother to me, Paul.  We can fight all we want, but in the end there is nothing but love.”

        Paul’s face was pathetically grateful.  He nodded, but no words came.  He was fighting back tears.  This was such an important moment for him.  He had wanted absolution for all his sins - real and perceived - from George, and now he had it.  He believed George meant it, and suddenly all of the shit he had gone through that evening - the bad memories being stirred up - was worth it.  He was still deeply hurt by his memories, but at least talking about it caused this precious moment with George to happen.

        Four hours, three pot cigarettes, and many tears and laughs later, John, Paul and Ringo (and Ringo’s wife) trailed out of the hospital.  George had fallen asleep, and it was time for them to leave him in peace.  Each man had gotten what he had needed out of the meeting, but each of them could not help feeling that he wanted more.

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