One Sunday Afternoon


There's no doubt about it. People want to reach out and touch this phenomenon called the Rolling Stones — to touch the hem of the robe, as it were — and the craving is so strong that it overwhelms and distorts patterns of normal behavior.

    That incident with Bennie was typical. I mean, friends and old lovers and acquaintances and people I didn't even know, coming at me in order to get at the band. It wasn't me; let's face it. It was the Rolling Stones. 
    And that's a fairly difficult thing for a guy like me to wrestle with, since I'd be very happy if it was me that they wanted to see. Very happy indeed; that's why I counted them friends of mine. And so it hurt a bit to think that so many of them only counted me as a friend, too, when the Rolling Stones happened to be staying at my home in North Brookfield. 
    Please. No tears on my behalf. My feelings weren't that hurt, if you want to know the truth. A lot of those bastards had it coming to them — dopes from the past, who used to bully me around a bit in the old days, now that I come to think about it. Screw them. 
    Also, I'm quick to recognize that some of my bona fide friends — people who would not, for the world, have knowingly made things difficult for me — simply got carried away. Infected by what Kathleen and I dubbed "Stones Fever." There's no doubt about it. People want to reach out and touch this phenomenon called the Rolling Stones — to touch the hem of the robe, as it were — and the craving is so strong that it overwhelms and distorts patterns of normal behavior. 
    You don't get a temperature with Stones Fever; but you act weird. Less cool, less composed. You suspend other priorities in your life, which may or may not involve other human beings, and become Stones-focused instead. You lose track of your manners and sense of decorum. You forget yourself outright, during intervals. You feel distracted, compulsive — as though driven by some elemental force. 
    "Stones Fever." That's what it's like. The only possible immunization process involves intense will power, usually surfacing in the form of a rabid professionalism. That can keep you from getting Stones Fever, if you want not to get it. Some people want to get it, of course. 
    It was filled with churchly reflections such as these that I left Long View Farm early Sunday morning for the Cape, by airplane. Bennie had meant me no harm the night before, he just got carried away. Another cipher in the "Stones Fever" column. I was going to forget about it all anyway, and try to have some fun down at the beach with Nancy and the kids. I figured, quite mistakenly, that I might be able to stay a couple of days or so. 
    "Monday night?" I shouted over the beach phone to Kathleen. "That's tomorrow night! I just got here. It's at the Cove, you say?" 
    "They're trying very hard not to say it's so, Gil, but it's got to be Sir Morgan's. Stu's been in touch with them ever since we made the visit that night. It's got to involve WAAF, too. Rob Barnett keeps on calling, and Stu's been buying him meals at the Paxton Inn." 
    "So should I come back, Kathleen?" 
    "Oh, no, Gil. Oh, no, I'm doing fine, I mean really fine. I think. Hold on, I've got to put you on 'hold.'" 
    As soon as Kathy put me on "hold", I put her on "hold", and called pilot Bob Adams requesting a near immediate pickup at the Provincetown Airport. "You just got there," Bob said, "and I just got the airplane put away." 
    "Well I still need you to come down again. Can you?" 
    "You got it, Gil." 
    "See you then, Bob," I said, punching back the blinking button which was Kathleen on "hold", but Kathleen wasn't there; only the click-clickswere. I was the one still on "hold". A full minute passes. 
    "O.K., Gil," I hear, "where were we?" 
    "I was saying how I was coming back this afternoon, and how I needed a pickup at Worcester at, say, four o'clock." 
    "No problem, Gil. Bennie just called you. He said to say 'Thanks for the hospitality.' Don't know what he means by that, but that's what the message was." 
    "I know what that's about, Kathy." 
    "Oh," Kathleen said. "Also, call Bob Connolly, 791-3242. That's his home telephone number." 
    "Who's he?" 
    "Didn't say. I thought you knew who he was. That's the way he talked, in any case. He says it's important, so do what you want." 
    "I'll call him from the airplane, Kathleen, which I'm not going to meet on time unless we cut this short. See you later." 
    "See you later, Gil." 
    And I did call this fellow Bob Connolly, just as soon as we were airborne, and only seconds before the Twin disappeared into the thick cloud cover which had already brought rain to the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, and which would make tomorrow, Monday, a very rainy day in Worcester County. 
    "Bob Connolly?" 
    "This is Gil Markle, Bob. Returning your phone call." 
    "That's good of you, Gil. I'm a reporter for the Worcester Telegram, and I'd like your confirmation of the Stones' plan to play a surprise concert at Sir Morgan's Cove tomorrow night, Monday." 
    "I can't do that, Bob," I said. "For one thing, I don't speak for the band on such matters. And for another thing, I don't know. I simply don't know whether or not they're playing anywhere, or when. I really don't." 
    "You're saying it's the Cove, but you can't be quoted as saying that?" 
    "No, Bob, I really don't know whether or not it's the Cove. But I can tell you this. It's Sunday now, and you're looking for a gig at the Cove, or in one of three or four other places, tomorrow night. You shouldn't have too much trouble figuring this out. I'd go down there if I were you — to Green Street — and see what you can see. If the Rolling Stones are playing there tomorrow night, I'd bet you'd be seeing some signs of activity, even now. And you could judge for yourself." 
    "I hear you, Gil. I was hoping you'd say something like that. Thanks." 
    "Call me back when you find out, Bob," I shouted back over the air-to-ground telephone, bumping along in the clouds toward Worcester. "I'd really like to know myself." 
    "I'll let you know, Gil." Bob Connolly said, and we signed off. 
    "Air-to-ground Operator. Do you wish to make another call, sir?" 
    "I do, Operator. Same QM number. Number calling, Area Code 617; number: 867-7050." This was the number most likely to be free at Long View. Miracle of miracles; it rang. Jesse Henderson answered. "Hello, Long View," Henderson began. 
    "Jesse. It's Gil. Listen, I'm in the airplane. Just broke out of the clouds. Let's see, what's down there... where are we... " 
    "Should be just about over the Farm, Gil," Pilot Bob Adams shouted back through the partition. 
    "Jesse," I shouted. "We're just over the reservoir, headed directly at you over Stanley's farm. Low. About five hundred feet. See us?" 
    "No, Gil. But if you're over Stanley's, check out the sound reinforcement system, the platform, and the young rock 'n' roll band playing down there. Stanley rented them the space for the afternoon, I guess." 
    Adams threw the Twin into a tight bank, my wing down. Beneath me I saw a rock 'n' roll band playing on a platform using what seemed to be a very large sound system. "See them, Jesse," I spoke through the phone. 
    "Friends of Stephen Jo Bladd's son. Steven was here, to see Charlie Watts. He was embarrassed by it all. Couldn't believe it. I think Steve's gone now." 
    "And how are the distinguished guests taking it? I mean, the band playing down there and making a lot of noise. They're still playing. I can see them." 
    "You bet they are. I can hear them. Can hear you now, too, Gil. That last pass brought you nearly overhead. No one seems to mind, to answer your question about the band. They're playing Stones tunes. Keith's out on the deck now, laughing over it. Mick's outside the Farmhouse on the porch, and he's laughing, too. So I wouldn't worry about it." 
    "We'll do one more pass, and then back to Worcester, Jesse. This time we'll come right overhead." Bob Adams heard me, and took the plane out of its circle over Stanley's farmhouse and headed straight toward Long View. Once again, he stood the airplane on its wing, just over the porch, and there on the porch was Mick and Prince Rupert, and they were both laughing. Mick pointed up at the 75 X-Ray, as we roared overhead. 
    "That's it, Jesse," I continued into the telephone. "See you in an hour or so." 
    "See you, Gil. We're breaking down the gear tonight after rehearsal. The whole lot of it. The whole setup. Everything into the truck for the gig tomorrow night." 
    "At the Cove, Jesse?" 
    "Yeah, Gil. Sir Morgan's. It's at Sir Morgan's." 
    Bob pointed the airplane back toward Worcester, and I hung up the sky-phone. The gig was at Sir Morgan's Cove. Bob Connolly was right.


 All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.