Excerpt - "Strawberry Fields For Evan"

 

“Right, well… Anyway… this is a bit embarrassing, but here goes,” Evan said, aware that he was stalling. “Colin, you said I should join the Beatles, and, well, that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

These words hung in the air, and time appeared to have come to a standstill. No one seemed to know what to say, including Evan. That’s it, he thought, they were going to chuck him out of the house amid gales of laughter and derision. He felt sick and started to regret having mentioned it at all.

No longer would Pam look at him with such meaning in those luscious eyes of hers. And Colin, well, Colin would have a field day making jokes about the Yankee wanker who came to visit and got thrown out on his ear for daring to suggest that he might become the Beatles’ new drummer. Edith would probably reprimand her children for ever allowing such a deranged foreigner into her home. Why couldn’t he have kept his mouth shut?

After what seemed an eternity, it was Colin who finally broke the silence.

“Ev, it’s possible I might have overstepped me bounds a bit,” he said, looking to Edith and Pam for support. With none forthcoming, he continued. “They’re the biggest band in Liverpool, mate, and I doubt that Pete Best is gonna just hand over his sticks. I think he’s quite ’appy with the job.”

Evan realized that, at this point in time, the knowledge that Best was about to be let go was a fact known only to him and the other Beatles. As far as he could recall, they hadn’t even shared this with Brian Epstein yet. Obviously, the fact that the band was seemingly quite happy with its percussionist made his announcement even more preposterous, so it was no wonder Colin couldn’t make sense of it.

“Look, Colin… well, actually, all of you,” he started, looking at each of them in turn. “It’s not as insane as it sounds. I can’t really go into detail right now, but it’s something I think I need to do.”

“You do what you must,” said Edith, waving her hand in the air as if to diagram her point. “I’m no musician, mind, but I know good when I hear it… and you were good, Evvie.”

He couldn’t believe his ears. Were there no limits to this woman’s generosity?

She lit a cigarette and stood up. “You are indeed a man of mystery, but we like you, Ev. I’ve always been a believer in destiny, and who’s to say what yours might be? Follow your instincts, luv.”

“She’s right, Ev,” said Colin with a gleam in his eye. “And after you join the Beatles, you can go down to London and become prime minister.”

The women both laughed, but Edith spoke up quickly. “Colin, never poke fun at someone’s dreams. He could very well be goin’ places, and you don’t want to be the one who tried to discourage ’im.”

“You’ve a point there, Mrs. Davies,” said Colin, his face contorted in mock seriousness, “And by the way, did I mention that I’m going to build a spaceship and fly up to Mars?”

“Don’t be daft, you silly sod,” Edith chuckled, knocking ashes onto her blouse.

“Sorry, Mum,” he said, sounding like he meant it. “You’ll get no further quarrel from me, Evvie. But does it ’ave to be the Beatles, mate?” he asked, feigning exasperation. “Why don’t you try the Merseybeats and work your way up?”

Everyone laughed, and the tension eased considerably.

It was Pam’s turn to speak, and Evan lit a cigarette in anticipation.

She smiled that smile of hers that so intrigued him, took a deep breath, and said, “I’ve known you only two days, but in that time, I think I’ve come to understand you a bit.” She paused for a moment and then continued. “Well, I understand you as much as you can understand someone in two days,” she said, as Colin snickered and was promptly smacked by his mother.

“Anyway,” she continued, “I don’t know what it was that made me want to sit and talk with you at the station, or even before when you showed up out of nowhere at Blacklers, but there was something of interest there. It’s still there, and I say do what you feel you need to, Ev. We’ll support you, whatever you choose.”

The others nodded their agreement.

Evan didn’t know what to say to such kindness, and, springing from his seat, he walked forward and pulled Pam from the couch, hugging her tightly.

 “Thank you, Pammy,” Evan said warmly. He suddenly became aware of his actions and released her, looking at Colin and Edith and feeling his face becoming red. He couldn’t help but notice that Pam’s cheeks had a crimson tinge to them as well.

“Look, everyone,” he stumbled, “I find myself having to thank you all repeatedly. I don’t deserve all this. I’m sure underneath all this kindness you’re actually plotting to kill me or something, right?”

“Got it in one,” said Colin.

“So, I won’t dwell on the subject,” Evan said, ignoring Colin and trying to clarify his plans. “Suffice to say, whenever you take me to see the Beatles, I’m gonna introduce myself and take it from there.”

“You do that, Evvie,” said Edith loudly. “You do that.”

Everyone sat back down and seemed to contemplate all that had been said. The smoke from three “ciggies” wound its way around the room until Pam stood and broke the silence.

“All right, enough of all this happy talk,” she began. “Evan Fritz, you need the right haircut if you’re going to try and get in the Beatles. We’d better get you set up for Jill.”

There were smiles all around as Pam left the room, speaking over her shoulder as she went. “I’m gonna give Jill a ring now and arrange for her to come straight ’round. You be ready, Evvie.”

“Well, it seems I have an appointment,” Evan said as Colin and Edith nodded in agreement, both of them sporting wide grins.

As had been the case since his arrival the previous day, the scenarios that had played themselves out before him were of such magnitude that he was having difficulty coming to grips with them. He felt the need for more solitude in which to compose his thoughts, but with Jill and her scissors making their way to Springdale Road, it would not be forthcoming.

Confirming this, Pam returned to the living room and chirped, “Jill’s on ’er way. It won’t be long before you’re lookin’ a right prince. All the girls in town ’ave been talkin’ about those new Beatle haircuts, and one or two boys ’ave even cut theirs that way. You’ll be in all the style, Evvie.”

The circumstances certainly seemed to be right. Not only would he be in the right place to meet his musical heroes, but he would also be one of the few at the time whose hair was cut in similar fashion.

“Does Jill know how to cut hair in that look?” he asked, a little hesitantly.

“Oh, yeah; she cuts hair good and proper over in Mossley Hill,” said Pam, perking up. “She knows ’er way around the noggin, does Jill, and she’s studied that look from a Mersey Beat photo of the band.”

She looked at him more intently and added, “You know Ev, come to think of it, you might ’ave a leg up on old Pete Best. He’s the only one who doesn’t ’ave that haircut. That might just do you good.”

Indeed, Evan thought. Any help would be more than welcome.

Edith came over to him and pressed a large handful of paper currency into his hand. “Here’s some spendin’ money for you, dear,” she said warmly. Then, seeing the look of humility cross his face, she added, “It’s not a gift. You can help Colin with the pile of work to do in the garden tomorrow. You’ll earn it, Evvie; there’s a good lad.”

Realizing that resistance was futile, he said simply, “Thanks Edith. I don’t deserve this, but thanks,” and hugged her. It was another stunning act of kindness from someone he’d known for a grand total of two days, and he had to admit that he felt much better having some spending money in his possession.

He reached in his back pocket and pulled out his wallet, placing the bills inside. He didn’t want to be impolite and count them in front of Edith, so he wasn’t exactly sure how much money he had. Colin saw the Michigan driver’s license as Evan was fumbling with the money and came to life.

“Give us a look at that wallet, will ya, Evvie?” he asked, holding out a hand.

Evan froze. If Colin saw the expiration date of March 14, 2017, on the license, Evan would have a lot of explaining to do. That, combined with the Abbey Road T-shirt incident, would create an enigmatic tangle from which Evan would not be able talk his way clear.

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