Oberon's Gift - a Political Fantasy by Richard D. Hardaway - HTML preview
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To counteract the gloom and doom of the daily news-heres an upbeat alternative: Blessed with a wee bit of magic and his own considerable abilities, George Bertram Potter (No relation to Harry) enters the picture and ultimately pours light and joy into the dark corners threatening mankind. Accompanied by his beautiful wife, Lydia, their son George Two, and his nanny, Liza Cooper, Good ol George sets out to right the worlds wrongs and bring sense to government turmoil. Though OBERONS GIFT may at times seem bizarre and a bit over-thetop, thats part of the fun of this feel-good tale. After a
brief bumpy beginning, poli-sci major George Potter meets the amazing Oberon, the leprechaun, and hes off and running! Once you are caught up by the good fairys spell in the first chapter youll be hooked. So Read On...and Enjoy!ONE
The rusty, dusty VW Bug roared and clattered down the night-quiet streets of old Oakland. It was two A.M. After squeezing through three yellow lights and blatantly running a red one, the small car swerved into the circular drive of the Amos Plunkett Memorial Hospital; and came to a screeching halt in the white passenger zone at the front steps.
The driver side door flew open and a tall, black-bearded, long-haired young man in faded jeans and a sweatshirt with cut off sleeves, leaped out and rushed around to the passenger door. A pretty blond with a pained expression emerged. Her bulging camel coat did nothing to hide the fact that she was extremely pregnant. The girl groaned softly as the young man grabbed an old shopping bag from the back seat and gently, tenderly almost carried the young lady up the steps, through the glass and brass doors and into the hospital lobby.
The young man looked wildly around for a moment until he spied the admittance desk in the far corner. The girl bent forward and moaned: “Hurry, George! Please!” He seated her carefully on one of the couches and ran to the desk.
“Please!...my...Lydia...shes...shes about to have a ...baby!” he stammered desperately.
The thin-faced, gray haired woman seated at the desk looked up. In his haste, George had neglected to comb his hair and beard. With his scruffy appearance and worried, wild-eyed look, she must have mistaken him for an escapee from the mental ward upstairs. Her startled expression was magnified by the thick-lensed glasses she wore. Then a flicker of distaste touched her face. Hippies! her look seemed to say.
She stood up, stepped to the counter and smiled as she glanced at Lydia across the lobby. Her lips smiled only. Her eyes still held the same coldness.
“Yesssss...of course,” she hissed at George. “You do have the one hundred dollar admittance fee, dont you?”
George turned white. “”Admittance fee?-Hundred dollars?” came his choked reply. “I dont...”
“Well, we cant admit her unless you can pay the fee. Hospital policy-this isnt Community General, you know.” She spoke with a condescending tone, slowly and distinctly as though Lydia had all the time in the world, when actually the young lady was nearing the critical three-minutes-between-contractions stage.
Georges own sympathy pangs were coming even closer together and he wasnt sure he could stand much more of the old gals total indifference. George looked over at Lydia. She was holding herself and looking at him with such pleading eyes, he wanted to throttle this bitter old woman who was keeping his girl from the attention she needed.
“I...I just dont have it.” he said hopelessly.
“Then Im afraid youll have to take her to Community.” she said, obviously enjoying their discomfort.
Lydia groaned loudly, and the woman, exhibiting no concern whatsoever, gave the girl a look of impatience.
“Wait a minute!” cried George, grasping at straws. “How about the pink-slip to my car?”
The woman narrowed her eyes at him for a moment before she spoke. “Well...that is highly irregular, but I think it has been done in the past. Yes-if thats the best you can do.”
George turned on his heel and sprinted for the car. In the glove compartment he found the pink paper. It was fresh and new. He had received it only day-beforeyesterday. Hed scraped up enough from his tutoring to pay for the car, the only thing he owned except for the clothes on his back.
He ran up the steps and back to the desk where the sour-faced old biddy waited with outstretched hand. She flinched slightly as their hands touched. Then she studied the document for a few moments and nodded. She pressed a button. A nurse came from another room. Without a word she saw what was needed and quickly brought in a wheelchair. The nurse, at least, showed some compassion for Lydia. Clucking like a mother hen, she and George helped Lydia into the chair. George hooked the old shopping bag over the handles of the wheelchair and said apologetically: “Uh...her things. She might need them.”
Lydia gave him an adoring, though pained look as he kissed her. The nurse flashed him a friendly smile, turned the chair around and pushing it ahead of her, trotted off down the long white hallway.
George blew a kiss after them
“Young man,” croaked the woman at the desk. “You still have to fill out these papers and sign them.”
George gave her a piercing look and glanced back down the corridor. Lydia was out of sight.
He filled out and signed the papers without bothering to wade through all the fine print and legal mumbo jumbo. He felt a bad case of writers cramp coming on before he finished filling in the blanks and signing his name, George B. Potter, again and again. All the while the unkind woman looked disapprovingly down at him.
“There now, Thats just fine,” she said with her best cold smile as she gathered the forms together. “You will please wait in there!” she commanded as she pointed a bony, yet well-manicured finger toward a doorway clearly marked, Waiting Room.
“How long does it take?” asked the dazed young man.
“Oh really! Dont you know anything?!” asked the woman, her short supply of patience at an end. “It could take minutes. It could take hours-sometimes even a day,” she grumbled.
George turned and slowly walked away from her toward the waiting room.
He paused in the doorway and surveyed the small, well appointed room. Much of it was in shadow, yet here and there pools of light illuminated comfortable looking leather couches and chairs. There was no one in the room. He had his choice of parking places, so he selected his corner and waded across the plush carpet to an inviting leather armchair. As he plopped himself down into it, he felt his weariness take over.
Most of good ol George's friends and professors thought him to be, clear of eye, steady of hand, resolute of purpose, tried and true, and serene of spirit
Actually, and few people knew this, deep within his rather impressive, sturdy frame also beat the heart of a lover and poet. But that was when he was possessed of all his faculties. At the moment, he was none of the above. His exhaustion and the events of the past hours had driven out his usual cool, leaving him just a bit dizzy and dopey. A list of confusing thoughts coursed through his momentarily befuddled, though usually intelligent, sensitive mind:
One: Whoever kept the timetables upstairs must have goofed it, he thought. Lydias premature labor had sent poor George into a state of dazed panic. Hed glimpsed frightening visions of himself trying desperately to deliver the baby enroute, in the VW. Needless to say, he was relieved when his hopelessly ill-qualified help was no longer required.
Two: The impending blessed event had foiled his own secret scheme to become a husband before he became a father. He loved Lydia and wanted the baby, but now it looked like marriage would be after the fact. The truth was, hed been caught off guard and hadnt even informed Lydia of his matrimonial plans. He could see his peers laughing at him for his pangs of conscience. Well, darn! He had old fashioned moral standards and was determined to set the date as soon as Lydia was able.
Three: Then there was the little matter of money. Hed been unwilling to risk a run to the University clinic and had rushed her to this, the closest hospital. It looked pretty elegant and expensive. Hed already hocked the VW, and wasnt sure hed ever get it back. Maybe he could borrow a few bucks from the University Student Fund.
Four: And, what about their plans for his career? George had just completed his masters thesis in political science to the praise and plaudits of the faculty judges. They enthusiastically advised him to go on for his doctorate. Sorry folks...his entry into the political arena would have to wait. He had a real family to take care of now. First a job, then hed see about working out a study schedule.
There, that was better. Hed rationalized his problems into a neat package and heaved a long sigh of relief. Everything would work out. It always did.
He glanced over at the collection of publications stacked neatly on the table next to him. George had read the newspapers already. As a devoted student of the political scene, he liked to stay informed.
He rummaged around under the newspapers and smiled. Now heres something of real interest! he thought as he extracted the latest copy of Playboy. He hadnt seen one for a long time-couldnt afford the price. He thumbed through it and skimmed an interview with the House Majority Leader. It was informative, and as usual, just a bit provocative.
He closed his eyes for a moment and tried to clear the drowsy fog that was creeping into his consciousness. He forced his eyes open and continued to thumb through the magazine. Another overpowering urge took him and he yawned a big, self indulgent yawn. He shook himself. He must stay awake! No use. His efforts were in vain. The power of sleep overtook him and he fell into a fitful slumber. His unkempt, dark beard and full mustache fluttered slightly in the breeze produced by his deep even breathing. In fact, the elegant surroundings clashed sharply with the scruffy appearance of George Bertram Potter, BA, MA, U.C. Berkeley Class of „82.
The hospital quiet was broken only by the soft chiming of the call bell and the whisper of crepe soled shoes as nurses scurried along the corridor outside.
Suddenly, an unexpected sound jarred him awake. His magazine started to slide from his lap and he made a grab for it, then sleepily spread the centerfold across his knees. A voluptuous Miss April offered him a sultry smirk. He was about to give her a groggy grin in return, when he was startled by the sound of someone clearing his throat, and realized he was no longer alone. George peered over the edge of the centerfold and focused his eyes on a puddle of light on the plush carpet nearby. Standing in the puddle was a pair of very shiny, very green, patent leather shoes.
The remarkable shoes impelled him to look further. He allowed his eyes to travel upward, where he next took in sharply creased, bright green trousers, followed by a smartly tailored matching vest and suit coat. Then a pale green shirt came into view, adorned with a green-on-green polka-dot tie. The tie was held precisely in place by an enormous, glittering, green-jeweled tie tack.
Finally, his eyes came to rest on the most extraordinary face hed ever seen! The pointed, bright red-orange beard went perfectly with a halo of flame-colored hair. the face was wreathed in a merry smile and the twinkling green eyes were the same hue as the mans dapper, three-piece vested suit. His eyes were separated by a pointed nose that turned up slightly at the end. The trim little man was rather short, thought George; less than five feet tall.
The two men studied each other silently. George couldn't take his eyes off the amazing little gentleman. The man in green continued to smile as he surveyed the graduate student in the chair. He raised an eyebrow and said to himself, So this is our candidate? He could see he had his work cut out for him. The young mans disheveled appearance wasnt very encouraging.
At last the little man broke the strained silence.
“Good morning, George Potter,” he said softly, with just the hint of an accent.
George was naturally surprised the bizarre little fellow knew his name and stammered. “Who...who are you?!”
Little Red Beard drew himself up to his full height and made a slight bow.
“I am Oberon,the Good Fairy,” he said proudly.
George bristled and growled at the man in green, “A fairy, eh? Buzz off man. Im not interested!”
“No, no, George,” said the stranger with a high piping laugh. “You misunderstand my meaning. I am the real Good Fairy. Were sometimes called leprechauns”
This was too much for George. “Oh, come on now!” he scoffed. “Theres no such thing!” Then all of a sudden a small chill went through him. Hed just noticed something else about his visitor. The red-bearded man cast no shadow. Stranger still, this Oberon character seemed to create his own light. A mysterious aura of green radiance shimmered about him. George blinked his eyes and rubbed them. He ran a hand through his hair and scratched the back of his neck where the hair had begun to rise.
Impossible! Maybe he had been studying to hard. Yes,that was it. And he decided hed better have his eyes examined in the morning.
The little mans smile faded and his face registered disappointment. “You mortals! We offeryou the world and still you doubt us. I suppose you want proof?”
George said nothing, but was even more perplexed when the little man reached for his inside jacket pocket and withdrew what looked like a golden pointer, one of the collapsible kind. The strange little fellow extended it to its full length and made a few practice passes through the air above Georges head. The tip of it sparkled and gave off a strange greenish light. Finally, the leprechaun turned the tip downward and touched the paper image of the Play-Girl-of-the-Month, who lay well exposed in Georges lap.
George watched with fascination, and gave a start when the buxom young lady stretched her arms, yawned, and looked up at him with such a come-hither glance, he blushed. Since George hesitated to join her between the satin sheets on which she lay, the delightful creature reached up with her tiny hand and touched his cheek. Still he didnt move, so she gave his cheek a tweak. He flinched slightly and she reached up and kissed him tenderly. Oberon the Good Fairy, watched all this impatiently. At length he waved his wand again, and with that, the nude girl returned to her page and two dimensional form.
George continued to stare in awe at the magazine. His mouth hung open.
SuddenlyGeorge scowled at the leprechaun. “Now hold on a darned minute! Youre messing with my mind. That was a very clever trick, but I think youre nothing but a hypnotist!”
Oberon groaned inwardly, Why are some mortals so skeptical? At first glance, hed hoped for an easy victory, But appearances can be deceiving. Initially hed seen only a scruffy student sitting before him. One who seemed to have none of the requisites of world leadership. He smelled clean enough, but looked rather shoddy. Yes, Oberon had at first decided, a genuine hippy in patched jeans; and at first glance seriously lacking in the brains department. Still, hed read the committees spy report. and Potters brilliant masters thesis. Presumably, hidden in the deep recesses of the young mans rough exterior was a heart and mind filled with grand ideas and potent emotions. It was the ultimate goal of Oberon and his fellow beings to help bring those internal forces to the surface and project them to the world. That would come later. This initial visit with the candidate was merely to show him anything is possible with a little push and extra will power. Just now hed caught a promising glimpse of the young candidates true colors in his extraordinary blue eyes. Hed been warned this George Potter was more than usually rational, realistic and logical--potentially a tough nut to crack. Oberon realized two powerful wills now filled the room. The leprechaun only hoped he was up to the challenge. He had to win. The subject must accept the first wish or the game was over.
Close your mouth, George, “ snapped Oberon. “Its time to get down to business.”
George looked up and clapped his mouth shut.
“Do you believe I am who I say I am, George?!” Oberon demanded.
“Sorry, Id like to believe...I really am trying...but...” stuttered the student.
The leprechaun sighed a resigned sigh, “Well, at least youre making an effort, I guess this is as good a time as any to explain why Im here.”
George nodded uncertainly as the little man continued.
“George, have you ever wondered why it is, every few years, a unique human being makes an appearance on earth? Someone, who by sheer will and personality, is able to change the course of history?”
George furrowed his brow and shrugged his shoulders
“Surely youdont think it was mere chance that produced Alexander the Great, Elizabeth I, Napoleon, Winston Churchill, Abe lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mao Tsetung, Gandhi, et cetera, ad nauseum. The list goes on and on, but I think you get the idea.” He could see a vague glimmer of understanding come into the still dubious young mans eyes.
“You see, George, its a little game we Good Fairies play. When it gets dull here on earth, we like to stir things up. Every once in a while, just for the fun of it, we select someone. Our candidates are carefully screened. They must meet certain qualifications.” He waited for this to sink in, then pointing a finger at George, he said very positively,
“This time, George, weve seleted...YOU!”
Again Georges jaw began to dangle in disbelief.
“Heres how it works,” continued the man in green. “We grant you three wishes. Im sure youve heard that one before. Whatever you want, though we sometimes make a suggestion or two.” Oberon, the leprechaun warmed to his subject as he saw excitement begin to show in Georges face. “Then we just sit back and see how you turn out. Thats the best part o the game. You can imagine the wagering that goes on back home. Its a gamble. Oh, weve come up with some real lu-lus, That damned German paperhanger was a source of great embarrassment to us. All in all, though there have been some outstanding successes!”
“Are you really for real?” squeaked the graduate student.
You said youd at least try to believe, George,” admonished Oberon.
“Ive tried...but its all so unbelievable!”
Concerned that he might lose this young man, and thereby lose the wager, he resignedly continued his sales pitch.
“Listen, George, and this is important! The way we play our game is crucial. You do get three wishes, but to make the game more interesting, the rules committee instructs us to dole out the powers one at a time. Surely, you can see how this adds to the suspense.”
George nodded vaguely.
Oh brother! groaned the leprechaun to himself. Then he continued. “Tonight you get your first wish, Then, after this meeting, I will show up periodically to grant the other two. Get the picture?”
Still not totally convinced, George grunted in assent.
“The rules committee also retains the right to revoke the remaining wishes if our candidate becomes difficult or causes trouble, as in the case of the aforementioned dictator. Also, if necessary, they may suggest a wish, if the chosen fails to come up with something. You must see how all this could make the game more exciting for both the candidate and the folks back in Neverneverland”?
George replied, “I guess....”
Hoping he was finally getting through to his subject, the leprechaun made a final plea.
“George, this is the chance of a life time! Dont pass it up!”
Fearing ostracism by the committee or lost points in the game if he failed, the good fairy gestured desperately toward the centerfold still draped over the young mans lap.
In his exhausted state, George finally decided the only way he was going to get somepeace was to give in to the bizarre little mans unbelievable arguments. Then, maybe this Oberon character would leave him alone.
“Okay...Okay. What do I have to lose?” he murmured giving up and giving in.
“Nothing”, agreed the relieved Oberon, “and you have so much to gain! Now”, he urged, “ How about that first wish?”
Still pretty sure hes dreaming, George thought for a moment before answering.
“Well...face it. Im a poor starving student. I had to hock the VW to get Lydia into this snooty hospital.” He blushes. “And though I love the heck out of Lydia, were not even married. The rent is way overdue on our little dump, and now, with a growing family, we need a bigger place.” He paused and cleared the fog from his voice. “If any of this madness is possible, I guess my first wish has to be money. Im not greedy, but a few thou right now would sure come in handy.”
Though Oberon cringed at the young mans stubborn doubt that fairies exist, he came back with, “Wealth, yes, that's usually the first wish.” He waved his wand over George and some sparkles slid down the young mans cheek. Though he felt the tingle, he really didnt feel any different. Perhaps riches had to grow on one.
“Well, George, thats your first wish. Well meet again. How soon depends on you.”
Oberon eyed the young man in the chair and wondered just what sort of choice he and his brothers had made. He knew the human spirit often contains that elusive spark of greatness. It lies hidden within the deep recesses of the mind. Though it may yearn to break free, its usually stifled by lifes petty responsibilities or destroyed by everyday frustrations. All it really needs is a little encouragement. Oberon and his brethren had furnished the first measure of fuel, now with any luck, they could ignite their candidate with the prime ingredient-Opportunity! The Good Fairies planned to put Georges political and language skills to good use later, but wanted to have a little fun with him first.
Oberon concentrated his extraordinary mental powers on his subject.
“George, I read in your thoughts that your only concern is for your Lydia and the boychild who is going to enter this mad world in...” The leprechaun checked his green- glowing, digital watch.“...in exactly five minutes and twenty seconds.”
George caught the Good Fairys meaning and beamed from ear to ear.
“A boy? Oh boy!” He yelped.
“Yes, a boy,” Then a thought apparently struck the amazing Oberon. “Oh...before I forget. You are going to come into a wee bit of money almost immediately. When you do, your common sense will dictate you only spend it for the welfare of your new family. Use the money wisely, George, but dont be be afraid to take a little gamble.”
“So, thats it. Good-by, George and good luck!” the little man in green concluded, as he waved the wand one last time over the young mans head.
This time Georges eyes became heavy and his head bent forward as he fell into a deep sleep. He seemed to float in the darkness for a long time. Then a blinding light cut through the black--a bright spotlight. The light was followed by a whole panorama of sights and sounds that came sweeping though his mind: A voice singing a clear high note; roaring, screaming applause; banners waving; crowds cheering. The visions went on and on, though they may have been only moments in actual time.
The dream-pictures and voices danced and leaped through his brain, until another sound violated his sleep. It came from far outside the fantasy world in which he swam. Somewhere, in the distance, someone was calling his name.“Mr. Potter! Mr. Potter, please wake up!”
It was a long way back, but George finally roused himself and looked into a vaguely familiar, friendly face. The mass confusion of the preceding hours came back to him: The panic stricken moment when Lydia announced she was in labor; the fear theyd never make the University clinic in time,; and their last minute dash to this high class private hospital. There was the instant regret when the night clerk turned out to be the reincarnation of the Wicked Witch of the West, who refused them asylum without a deposit, while Lydia moaned in pain. A moment of inspiration had prompted George to offer the pink slip to his old VW. The crone had practically cackled with malevolent glee as she accepted it, then grudgingly called the nurse who now smiled so warmly down at him.“Yes...y-es. Lydia?” George croaked. “How is she?...Th...the baby?”
“ Your...um...ah...wife is fine, and you are the father of beautiful eight pound boy,” smiled the nurse.
`”A boy? Whoa!” breathed George.
Georges heart was so full of new-father pride he didnt bother to correct his and Lydias marital status.
“Are they okay? May I see them now?!”
“Theyre both fine-just fine.” the nurse thought for a moment before she continued. “Well, ordinarily Id say you should let your...ah...wife rest. But she came through labor well. Shes a healthy girl and recovered quickly. I guess itll be all right if you dont stay to long. Just take this hall to the end and turn left...room one fortyfive.”
George missed her amused, slightly disapproving look as he thanked her. Resisting the impulse to run, he hurried down the hallway, quickly found the number and pushed open the door.
George entered the small room and saw Lydia sitting up, bolstered by pillows on the adjustable bed. She held a small creature in her ams who was sucking and smacking at her breast.
The soft light from the lamp fell across the bed and Lydia appeared to him like a vision; like a madonna in an old painting, all white and pure.
“Oh wow!” he exclaimed in a whisper.
Lydia looked up and smiled at him. “George, come and meet your son.”
George walked hesitantly, almost reverently to the bed and knelt beside it, without taking his eyes off the miraculous pair.
He gazed at the tiny creature she held--so shriveled and wrinkled and beautiful. The tiny fingers were clenched and the eyes were closed in secure ecstasy as he sucked. Georges own eyes misted over and Lydia could read his feelings. She took one of Georges hands and pressed it to her lips.
“Big George and little George, she whispered.
“Lydia,” he replied softly. “I love you so much!”
They stayed like that for a long time until the tiny boy-child finished his breakfast and fell asleep. The nurse came in and took the baby away.
George sat on the bed and Lydia took him in her arms as she had the baby. She kissed him and laid his head on her soft bosom.
Suddenly, he started to chuckle and Lydia squirmed uncomfortably. “George, stop that”
Your beard...it tickles. Whats so funny, anyway?”
“Oh, just a dream I had. One of those fabulous, incredible dreams that never come true.”
Distracted from what he was saying by her own thoughts, she whispered hesitantly.
“I hope you wont be angry, but I didnt know what else to do.”
“Whats that, Love?”
“Well, ah...I think we agreed that if the baby turned out to be a boy, wed call him George, after you. That was okay, but I had to give a last name too...and, I...I gave him mine!”
George sat bolt upright and choked out. “Why Lydia?! Why did you do that?!”
He could see tears welling up in her eyes.
“We...were not married, and its legal to give the mothers maiden name,” she sobbed.
“Now, wait a minute--married or not, our son's going to have my name, and besides...”
“Oh, George,” she interrupted, smiling through her tears. “I just wanted to hear you say it. I wasnt sure. They said we could change it to your name if we did it before the records went out.”
“What do I do?” he demanded, a little irritated at the adorable girl on the bed.
“Just ring for the nurse,” she said, smiling as she handed him the buzzer cord. She still
wondered if he might change his mind, but he took it and pressed the button without hesitation.
The nurse came in immediately. She looked as if she knew why shed been called and gave Lydia a wink.
George said in very positive tones. “The childs name is George Bertram Potter the Second.
The nurse smiled, went over to where George sat and gave the surprised graduate student a kiss on the cheek.
“Of course thats his name. I knew it all the time.” Then in a more serious tone she added. “I think it would be best if you let Lydia sleep. Why dont you go next door and have some breakfast? You should be able to see your family again in an hour or so.
“I am a little tired, George. sighed Lydia. “Maybe you should let me rest be for a while.”
George nodded with an understanding grin. He had important decisions to discuss with Lydia but decided they could wait a while longer. He gave Lydia a gentle kiss and turned to the nurse.
“You said theres a place to eat next door?”
“Yes, the Happy Pancake. Out the front door, turn left and its a half block down.”
“Thanks, I guessI could use some breakfast,” said George. He patted Lydias knee and she took his hand.
“ George...I love you.” she whispered as he got up to leave.
George made his way through the lobby. Old Witchie-Bitch Looked up, gave him her best look of disgust and returned to her paperwork. George was too full of the wonder of fatherhood to let her dampen his spirits.
As he walked happily out into the early Oakland dawn and down the steps he had to resist the impulse to skip the half block to the Happy Pancake.
The eatery was one of the usual fast food outlets, prefabricated of pseudo-wood, glass and plastic. George pushed the door open and was greeted by a rush of food smells tinged with the odor of rancid fat. He was so hungry, he didnt even notice the sign in the window inviting all comers to: Play Breakfast Bonanza and Win up to Three Thousand Dollars!
George stepped up to the counter and was greeted by a sleepy eyed young lady. Dressed in an orange and yellow uniform, her name-tag read--Agnes. As she wiped her perspiring face on her sleeve, she did her best to give him a weak smile.“Yes sir, may I help you?” she said.
George ignored her question for a moment. He was so proud, he had to announce to her he was the father of a brand new baby boy. The young lady showed a great lack of enthusiasm at this bit of news.
George thought, Probably get a lot of new fathers in here, Then added aloud. “The hospital recommended your establishment as an excellent place to partake of some sustenance.”
The girl gave him a blank look, thought for a moment and then made a stab at a reply.
“S--Sustinuts?” she stuttered. “ I dont think we have that on the menu,” and glanced at the list on the wall behind her.
“Oh, sorry,” smiled George at her discomfiture. “Well then, how about something for breakfast. What do you suggest?”
It was obvious the poor girl was reluctant to make decisions. Her weak smile faded and she scratched her head as she thought for a moment.
“How about some Happy Pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage?” she inquired tentatively.
“Whatever you say,” replied George. He was starved and willing to try anything.
“Fine, sir, If youll just have a seat, your food will be ready in a few minutes.”
George took a table near the window and the girl called back his order to the assembly line. He was the lone customer in the place when Miss Agnes came over to pour him a cup of coffee. He thanked her and sipped his coffee as he looked out at the awakening city. The streets were still in deep shadow, but the sky to the east was brightening and people were beginning to scurry about, hurrying to work or hustling to get ready for the day.
George saw none of the early morning bustle. His mind was full of other things: His new family, his new responsibilities, and Lydia. Lydia! What a terrific girl she was! What a beautiful life they had together! He thought about how theyd first met--on the UC Berkeley
The dirty window he was looking through dissolved away and he was projected back to that moment one and a half years ago. It was a hot day, he remembered. Hed headed for his favorite tree, brown bag in hand. The tree was off the main traffic patterns and he usually had it all to himself. But, today there was a girl sitting under his tree--a beautiful girl!
He stopped a short distance away. She was concentrating on a text book as she absently munched a sandwich. The girl didnt see him at first, so he had a chance to study her. George had never been so impressed by the mere look of a girl before. She was very pretty, yet there was an open honesty in her face that was different from the flighty breed of coed he knew.
There was no doubt about it. He had to meet this girl. Several devious plans seeped through his mind, but he discarded them. He didnt want to rush her. That might scare her off.
Then he saw her paper bag lunch and remembered his own. It wasnt much of an excuse for conversation, but better than none. He moved closer to her, and clearing his throat, made a profound opening statement:
“Hot,” he said, mopping his brow.
The girl looked up.
Would you look at those baby blues?! he observed to himself as their eyes met.
The girl said nothing and George plunged on with his suave, though one sided conversation.
“Do you brownbag often?” he inquired.
She nodded, but still said nothing as she went back to her book..
He pursued his quest. “Its a very warm day. May I borrow a bit of your shade?” It was damned warm, but the girl seemed cold and indifferent toward him. She didnt seem to want him around at all. It was embarrassing. He could feel the blood creep up under his beard as he blushed. He hesitated a moment, then with a burst of determination, decided to go ahead and sit. It was his tree, after all.
She didnt react to his move, but he had the distinct impression she was on her guard. Was he that creepy looking?
It was true-her first impression of George wasnt as favorable as his of her. With his long hair, black beard and clean but scruffy shirt and coveralls, he looked like a hippy--the genuine article.
Later, he learned that she was from the midwest where hippies were rare, and shed heard strange tales about them. Her parents narrow minded attitude and exacting code of behavior also affected her first impression of him.
They didnt say much to each other at first, but finally George took the bull by the horns and began a monolog about his field--political science.
Soon she began to see more than his rough facade. There was a modesty about him and an easy sense of humor the made her feel comfortable in his company. She could see that he was attractive under his beard. His finger nails were clean and clipped and he sat close enough for her to smell the fresh soap scent about him.
At last, just before the buzzer rang for the next class period, she spoke. Wonderful words flowed from her lovely lips. Hed been waiting anxiously for her to speak and any sound she made would have been music to his ears. He learned that she was at UC Berkeley to study journalism and this was her first semester.
Politics and Journalism, thought George. How ironic. The two often went hand-inhand to support one another, or they worked from opposite poles in a tug of war. In any case, hand-in-hand or as opposites that attract, he was sure they had much in common. George was determined to find out how much.
As they gathered their books and collected their litter, George asked if they might meet again for lunch the next day. She didnt answer, but she didnt say No; only gave him a long look and pretty Mona Lisa smile she walked away toward the English building.
“Oh, sir?” George was awakened from his reverie by Miss Agnes motioning to him from the counter. “Your breakfast is ready.” He paid for the meal with his last bit of change.“Sir,” she said as he turned to go back to the table. “Dont forget your Bonanza Game coupon. You could win.”
George took the small card from her. “Now whats this?” he muttered to himself as he sat down. He looked at the card absently and tossed it on the table.
George wolfed down the breakfast without noticing the pancakes were a little soggy, the scrambled eggs dry and too scrambled. All he knew was it was filling and soon he felt better. Several other breakfasters came in while he ate. He barely heard them order: Happy Pancakes, eggs, sausage, etc.
Finally he lost interest in the cold plate before him, and found himself staring at the contest coupon. He picked it up and turned it over. There was a square black patch on the back side.
The counter girl leaned over his shoulder to refill his cup.
“Yes, sir. You just rub the coating off the black window there, she instructed.
“Like this?” he asked as he began to rub his thumb over the area she indicated.
“Yes. See, its starting to come off.”
He could see that his thumb was beginning to turn black as he rubbed. Suddenly a dollar sign appeared, followed by the numeral three.
The girl leaned in closer. “Sir, I think youve won something!” she exclaimed with mounting excitement. People around them stopped eating and turned to stare.
Then, as George rubbed, a zero was uncovered. He kept rubbing--then another and another...until George and the girl could plainly see a dollar sign, a three, and three zeros.
The waitress squealed.“Ooooooh, hot damn, sir! But it cant be! Why weve never had a...wait here...dont go away. Let me get the manager!”
George continued to rub as the girl ran to the back of the restaurant. Several of the Happy Pancake customers came over to watch. Perspiration broke out on Georges forehead as he worked. Finally, he stopped and looked again. All the black was gone; transferred to Georges thumb and fingers. But there, in a neat red frame on the card, George, as well as those standing behind him, could clearly read:
YOU HAVE JUST WON THE $3,000 BREAKFAST BONANZA-
People crowded closer to make sure. Then they gave a hoot and a holler,clapped George on the back and congratulated him. The winner sat staring silently at the card. He didnt hear the commotion going on around him. Across his mind flickered the image of a dapper little man in green with a red beard. He also saw visions of Lydia with the baby in her arms.
At length, the breakfasters quieted down, rushed back to their tables and began to rub off their own coupons. There were a lot of disappointed groans in the now crowded room, but from one corner, someone yelled:
“Hey! I won ten bucks!”
“Be with you in a moment, Sir,” came a new voice from the back of the Happy Pancake.
A sandy-haired, freckled- faced young man was being practically dragged to Georges table by Miss Agnes.
“Look! Look for yourself, Mr. Kelly.”
The newcomer leaned over Georges shoulder and studied the card for a moment.
“Well, golleeee! Youre right Aggie. Hes won the big one all right. Congratulations, Sir!” Freckles grabbed George's free hand and pumped it vigorously. “Boy, wait „til they hear about this downtown. Youre our first big winner!”
George looked half dazed as he turned toward the manager who was now shoving some papers in front of him.
George was used to filling out forms and now he signed right on the dotted line.
“And this form is a release so we can use your name and picture in the newspapers and on TV,” beamed young Freckles as he placed another paper in front of George.
The winner, who was feeling just a little out of phase, murmured as he signed, “Newspapers?...TV?”
“Yes Sir, This is big news!”
At last George regained some of his composure and asked. “What time is it?”
At last it hit him. Hed just won Three Thousand Dollars. Thinking of his new family he realized this could make all the difference in their future.
“Ive got to tell Lydia,” he said aloud, jumping up and handing the coupon to young Frec.
“No, sir, you keep that. Bring it back at ten thirty and Ill have your check for you.”
“Thank You! Thank you!” stammered George as he started for the door. His knees were all wobbly and he couldnt feel the floor under him. Suddenly he was running...running back toward the hospital. He dashed into the hospital lobby, shouting,
“I won! I won!
Old sour face WitcheeBitch looked up from her desk in dismay. “Sir, Please be quiet! “This is a hospital.”
Georges yell was quickly reduced to a whisper.
“I won! I won!” he chirped.
The old biddy still had his pink slip, but he decided to deal with her later. Her had to see Lydia first.
He hurried to Lydias room only to find her asleep. Torn between his desire to tell her about his good fortune and her need to rest, he stood for a few moments looking down at her. He thought she looked angelic with her long blond hair spread out on the pillow. There was a faint smile on her lips. As he looked at her, she stirred, opened her eyes and gazed sleepily up at him.
“Hi, Honey, she said, stretching and yawning. “Oh, I had such a good sleep. What have you been up to?” She sat up and patted the bed next to her. George sat down. Hardly able to contain himself, he handed her the card.
“Lookee, lookee, Lyd. Look what your ol Dads brought you,” he said with a big, boyish grin.
Lydia squinted at the card, reached for her glasses on the table, put them on, and studied the winning Breakfast Bonanza coupon.“What does it mean, Georgie?” she asked with a puzzled frown.
“It means I just won Three thousand dollars at the Happy Pancake,” he beamed.
For a moment she didnt get his meaning until she read the contest rules on the reverse side of the small card. She clapped her hands together in amazement and laughed.
“It cant be true!” she exclaimed.
“But it is...and heres how the whole thing came about.” With that he told her about Little Red Beard.
“Oh George, you have such a vivid imagination. Sounds like another of your crazy dreams. Youve worked too hard to finish your masters thesis, thats all,” she patted his knee.
“I think its given you hallucinations.
George deflated a little. “But it seemed so real. Guess youre right though--just a dream.But the contest money is real enough Lyddy Itll help pay the hospital bill and I can get our car out of hock.”
“Yes darling of course,” Lydia replied, pulling him down to her for a big kiss.
He wriggled loose and gave her a pinch. “Here, girl enough of that. We have serious things to discuss. Theres a pressing problem that must be rectified.”
“Whats that Georgie,” she asked with a puzzled frown.
“Its high time we got married,” he replied with mock seriousness.
„I dont see why,” Lydia replied, but joy filled her when he spoke the words. All along, the thought had gnawed at her perhaps it would be better for them to give the child up for adoption. She knew it would be impossible for her now that shed held little George Twoand nursed him. Yet the truth was, they werent married. Though they had discussed it, time and nature had gotten away from them. Perhaps now George should dump her and go on with his career.
“We need to marry for the boys sake,” George went on with a straight face. “Because he needs a father...” he saw her face fall and added with a big grin. “And because I love the heck out of you and need you so much?”
Her heart leaped as he kissed her tenderly. At last she was sure George really loved her as she loved him-with all her heart; and this wasnt just another college romance that had gone too far.
Lydia squeezed his hand. “Yes, and I suppose our folks need to know they are grandparents.”
“Wont this frost „em?!” laughed George. “Tell ya what, honey, why dont we plan the wedding for a week from today...next Saturday. That way you and George Two should be strong enough. Ill send your folks and mine telegrams, asking them to be here on the twentieth.”
Lydia squirmed a little, then gave a wicked little laugh. “Thisll give my parents a kick right in their mid-Victorian pants. George, they dont even know about you, let alone little George. Youd better put my name on the telegram and dont mention the baby. One shock at a time. I love my folks, but theyre not going to understand any of this.
They talked for a while, planning their future and how theyd use their new wealth. Two hours went by and another nurse came on duty as Lydia and George talked. The new nurse frowned at George and said, “Bath time, sir. Im afraid youll have to wait outside.”
“Oh, man!” exclaimed George. “What time is it?”
“Id better get going then. Gotta pick up our money.” He gave Lydia a kiss and rushed past the astonished nurse.
When he arrived back at the Happy Pancake, a small crowd had gathered on the sidewalk. A van was parked at the curb. On its side panel, giant letters stated the vehicle belonged to Channel Two. An obviously bored cameraman with a TV mini-cam balance on his shoulder was standing to one side. A pleasant looking young man stood near him with a microphonein hand. He was studying the toe of his shoe; checking its shine in the morning light. Miss Agnes was coyly trying to get his attention, but he ignored her.
Meanwhile Freckles, the Happy Pancake manager, was deep in conversation with a short, bald headed man. The spectators looked on with mild interest, wondering what it was all about.
George glanced in through the windows of the eatery. He could see it was empty. Too late for breakfast and too early for lunch. He stood with the onlookers for a few moments and viewed the scene. Then Freckles caught sight of him and called out a greeting.
“Mr. Potter, we were getting worried.”
He motioned George over to meet the bald headed man who turned out to be Happy Pancakes Bay Area public-relations man. He made a big fuss over George.
George Potter was the first big winner in Happy Pancakes first contest, and this was indeed an historic moment!” George thought they were overplaying it a bit, but smiled and acted out the part of an excited winner as best he could. The P.R. man was very proud hed been able to round up so much media publicity in such a short time. He introduced George to the newsman, who kept repeating he wasnt sure this story would get on the news. George got the impression that Channel Two carried a big chunk of Bay Areas Happy Pancake advertising budget and they were only covering the story to keep their client happy.
The newsman coached George on what to do and how to stand. The cameraman faced them into the morning sun so they had to squint. Freckles went through the motions of presenting George with a check as the man pointed his camera at them. The newsman smiled a toothy grin and asked George how the whole thing came about. George was tempted to tell them about little Red Beard but, Lydia's skepticism and his own common sense had reduced that whole episode to a dream. His good luck was just that, and nothing more.
Finally the show was over and everyone scattered. The Channel Two crew packed up their gear and left. the P.R. man snapped a few pictures and he took off. The spectators lost interest and went about their business. Freckles and Miss Agnes congratulated him again, then went back inside to get ready for the lunch bunch.This left George standing by himself on the sidewalk. At last he looked down at the check in his hand. Sure enough it was for three thousand dollars! His mind started spending it so fast he got the sinking feeling it wouldnt last long. But it would be a big help...that was certain. First, he had to do something about the car and the hospital. He leaned through the doorway of the Happy Pancake.
“Could you please tell me where I might find the nearest bank?” he called after the retreating figure of ol Frec, the manager.
“Oh, of course, Mr. Potter. Theres one right around the corner. Just have them call us if they have any questions.”
George hurried to the bank, entered and rushed up to the nearest teller. She took his check and looked at it without expression. “Let me confirm this, Mr. Potter. Just a precaution. Its for your own protection, you know.”
George nodded. the girl went to the phone at the back of the bank and he supposed she talked to Freckles. She nodded, hung up the receiver and returned to the window with a smile.
“ Yes indeed, Mr. Potter! Everything is in order and congratulations! How do you want the check handled? Perhaps youd like to open an account. Were having a contest and I could win a trip to Hawaii.”
George thought for a minute while the girl continued to beam at him eagerly. Finally he said. “Yes-I dont have an account anywhere. Never had any money to put in one. Lets see...Ill open an account for twenty-seven hundred; and take the balance in cash. Ive got a few expenses I gotta take care of right away.”
“Checking or savings?” asked the girl, earnestly.
“Oh, checking I guess. It wont last long enough to make any interest anyway.” The girl made out the necessary forms and George signed them. Then she counted
out the three hundred in cash. He inspected the pockets of his old jeans for holes and carefully folded the money away in the watch pocket. He turned to thank the teller, but she was already helping another depositor.****
George hurried back to the hospital and found Lydia still asleep. He had plenty to do anyway. First he settled accounts temporarily and got his VW out of hock.
He went out to where hed parked the small car. He got in and was about to put the key in the ignition when he heard a voice at his elbow.
Startled, George turned to see a man leaning on the second hand VW as if he owned it. He reminded George of a caricature of a used car salesman. Dressed in an outlandish, wild plaid jacket with yellow trousers, his hair was plastered to his head and a giant cigar stuck into his slash of a mouth, he looked pretty sinister, but too flamboyant to be a real crook. Nonetheless, George was immediately put on his guard.
“Yes...Yes-sir?” George stammered at the bizarre looking character.
“Say, Bud,” the man repeated. “ I saw ya dis mornin at da Happy Pancake.”
Georges reaction was to reach down and put his hand over the money hed stashed in the watch pocket.
“I know ya got money burnin a hole in yer pocket,” continued the man as he took the cigar from his mouth and studied it for a moment. Then he fixed George with the steadiest look his shifty eyes could manage and leaned closer to the student.
“A lot of folks would like to help ya part wit dat roll,” he continued. “Dont get me wrong. I aint one of „em. I got a real proposition for ya.”
Oh sure! thought George with a frown.
“Ya ever play da horses, Bud?” the man asked.
“No, I dont believe in gambling. You never win in the long run,” was the students ready reply.
“Au contraire--au contraire,” smiled the man. “Youve heard of the Irish Sweepstakes? Youre a lucky guy. Look at this morning. Ya won three thousand buckolas. Wit luck like dat
you could easily win da Sweepstakes-A million smackers!”
“Youre selling Sweepstakes tickets.” stated George, flatly.
“That I am, Bud. I just know I got the winning one here somewhere.” He shifted the cigar to the other side of his mouth as he pointed to the book of tickets in his hand. “I can feel it in my bones, and Ill sell it to ya for the low price of five bucks a ticket.”
A bell went off in Georges head and once again he could see the red bearded face of the little man in green. Remember, George, be wise with your money, but dont be afraid to take a little gamble. Oberon, the leprechauns words echoed in his mind. He saw the red beard thrust toward him as one of the little mans green eyes winked.
“Gosh, was it only a dream?” said George aloud.
“Wazzat, Bud-a dream?” he went on. “Sure its a dream, A dream come true of you should win.”
George thought of Lydia back at the hospital and he thought of George Two. They needed money badly, a larger home, diapers, baby food, doctor bills. His conscience was torn between Oberons advice and his own good sense. Still, if the little guy in green wasnt a dream--and if this was a chance to win a million dollars. Decisions, decisions! But after all, this was his lucky day, or was it only luck? Oh, what the hell!
Finally the face of the man in the garish plaid jacket came back into focus. “You okay, Bud?” he asked with a puzzled frown.
“Oh, s...sure, fine. Give me ten tickets,” sighed George.
“A fine investment, Bud. Ten tickets, thats only fifty buckolas. Sure you wouldnt like to buy more? You can afford it, and it would better yer odds.”
“Just ten, please,” replied George impatiently. Those fifty buckolas would buy a lot of baby formula and he was already regretting his decision.
“Okay man, here are your tickets. Just make out the stubs, give me the cash, and Ill be on my way.”
George signed his name, gave his current address and then reluctantly peeled off fifty dollars. He handed the ticket halves and the money to the man. He got an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach as he watched the man fold away the money and put it in hismoney belt. Turning to leave, the man called over his shoulder. “Well, good luck, Bud. Dont call us, well call you.”
George watched the man disappear around he building and looked at the ten stubs in his hands, numbers X-222-4378-2190 to X-222-4378-2200.
He looked at the sweepstakes tickets for a moment; suddenly feeling discouraged. Why had he wasted a perfectly good fifty dollars on these most probably worthless tickets? Then from some where, he thought he heard a familiar voice with a soft accent say:
Dont worry George. Remember, weve selected you!
The voice in his brain startled George and he decided he was having delusions, just as Lydia had said. Lack of sleep and sitting up all night probably.
A bit angry with himself for his foolishness, George tossed the tickets into the glove compartment.
He glanced at his watch and growled, “Tempos Fugit!” He had a lot of things to do before the hospital released Lydia and little George Two the next morning. Fired by his new responsibilities, George came back to life; his brain once again on full power. ”Time to get organized,” he said to himself, grabbing his old clip board from the back seat. He clamped on a fresh sheet of paper and made a list, checked it twice, then muttered “Times a wastin!” as he shifted the VW into gear and raced out of the parking lot. He had a plan, if only the three thousand bucks held out long enough to put it into action.
First he needed to pay the back rent. He drove to their old apartment. But when he tried to get in he found his key no longer fit. “Oh, oh,” he worried. “I was afraid of this.” Putting on what he hoped was his most apologetic expression, he knocked at the managers door. After what seemed an eternity, he was greeted by a grumpy, shavecreamed face.
“Oh, there you are, Potter!” the manager grumbled through the foam. “I was about to dump your junk on the sidewalk and put your room up for rent!”
“Sorry Mr. Jenkens. I realize the rents way over due and I mean to rectify the situation immediately. Also Id like to pay for an extra week.” He explained about Lydias being in the hospital and the new baby. “Sorry, but well need to find a bigger place.”
The manager attempted to smile through the lather and proceeded to wipe it off with a towel. “Oh, so she finally dropped it eh?..Uh...Congratualtions,” he muttered flatly. “Come on in.” Georg entered the rental office and whipped out his checkbook.
The smile faded, “A check eh? is it any good?”
“Sure is!” George laughed triumphantly. “I just won the Happy Pancake Bonanza.” He made out a check for the past rent plus seventyfive dollars for the extra week. “Is that OK?” he asked, handing the slip to the now pleased and appeased manager. Children and pets werent usually allowed in this normally all student apartment building. However, the university was between sessions, and the man was so relieved to get Potters back rent, he decided he could afford to make an an exception. Fortunately the Potter apartment was out back, so the squalling brat wouldnt disturb him. He gave George a new key and wished him good luck.
“Thanks for being so understanding,” George smiled. “Now Ive gotta run!”
Leaving the manager looking suspiciously at his check, George stopped at the apartment. The new key fit, and he grabbed an extra pair of old overalls and a few other necessities. Looking around the small room, only confirmed that he and Lydia had been so much in love, they hadnt noticed how tiny it was. They only saw only a cozy love nest. With the arrival of the baby, came the dawn. They really needed more space.
From the stand outside he got a free classified, and shuffling through the rental section he spotted an ad in his price range. Oh, boy! It was located in West Oakland, so he couldnt expect much. In fact, he wasnt sure he really wanted to raise his family there.
Since hed taken on his scholarship to UC Berkeley a few years back, he „d become familiar with the Oakland/Berkeley area of East San Francisco Bay. Greater Oakland was sometimes called the Brooklyn of the West. It was made up of a mixed bag of contrasting districts. Some of the far west side, near the harbor, was a notorious slum with a high crime rate. The upper east side was made up mostly the opulent homes of the wealthy. In between there was Downtown and pockets of borderline neighborhoods. He hoped at least for borderline. After all, the rent was cheap, and he needed to save money. Also, it wasnt far from the campus. He called the number in the ad. With the landladys promise to meet him there, he took off for the West Side.
West Oakland was about as he remembered it; so he wasnt surprised when he found the basic house, situated in a basic, ethnically mixed neighborhood. Children of all colors played along the street. However, he was glad to see the area wasnt as dismal as some. The small wood sided house in question looked fairly respectable. Nothing a coat of paint wouldnt cure. He knocked on the screen door and was greeted by a smiling African American. She was somewhere in her early forties, a majestic woman obviously dressed for house cleaning, She wore a faded cotton dress and her hair tied in a bright colored bandana. A duster was held in one hand.
“George Potter?” she asked. in a warm, lilting contralto. She pushed open the door as he nodded, returning her smile. “Im Liza Cooper, and with luck, your new landlady.” She added. With a glance out at the street she chuckled “Welcome to elegant West Oakland!”
She apologized for the shabby condition of the living room. “Im afraid the prior tenants didnt do the place any good. Ive been trying to whip it into shape, but its going to take a few days. Hope you can wait”
While they talked, Liza Cooper gave George the tour. Apparently shed started her cleanup with the kitchen and single bathroom and they looked okay. Then she took him out to the large back yard. It was a bit overgrown, but green. “And theres a push mower in the garage,” she suggested hopefully.
She also volunteered that she lived next door, was a childless widow, and kept busy with volunteer work. In response, George told her his dilemma. She was understanding about his and Lydias unmarried status and overjoyed about the baby.
“How wonderful, a baby boy!”
“Could be a bit noisy.” offered the student.
“In West Oakland?! Crying babies? Not possible.” She laughed a deep mellow laugh. “Besides I love children. None of my own, mores the pity, but I do a lot of baby sitting.” she pulled herself up proudly. “Reasonable rates-excellent service,” she said with mock seriousness.
There was no resisting Liza Coopers outgoing personality and George decided the place was a good choice in spite of the location. Pretty sure Practical Lydia would agree, he decided to take it. To seal the deal, George quickly outlined what he planned to do to upgrade the two bed-roomer. As he spoke, he scribbled notes on the clipboard list. The landlady, impressed by Georges enthusiasm and efficiency, realized the eager young man could do much for her rental, and waved the last months rent/cleaning fee.
Thanking her profusely, he paid for the first month and moved on to the next item. He groaned as he saw his list of to-dos was getting longer.
Driven by new purpose, the young father became a whirlwind of activity. Determined to complete his many tasks before next Saturdays wedding deadline, he pushed the VW bug to its limits. The hospitals executive management had been more understanding than their witchy night clerk and had returned the pink slip in exchange for a time arrangement to pay te bill.
George moved Lydia and baby George Two back to their temporary quarters in the tiny one room-one bath pad. Then he was off and running, To save money he shopped for furniture at the Salvation Army and was able to find enough sturdy pieces to makedo. At a department store, he opened an account, bought a queen size mattress, a bassinet, baby bath, and other essentials suggested by the helpful sales lady. Arranging delivery to the new place, he called some school buddies who agreed to pitch-in to help the class leader in exchange for aid with their theses.
Brushes and rollers a-flying, the crew managed to repaint inside and out, and gave the tiny house a certain curb appeal George hoped would please Lydia. Liza , his new landlady was delighted.
The wedding plans included a reception; and to save money, George had decided to hold it in the back yard. As he mowed the lawn his thoughts turned to the magic of the week. Was Oberon for real? Incredible as it all seemed, hed like to believe in little Red Beard, but in the glare of broad daylight he had to agree with Lydia. Hed been delusional and his own good luck was responsible for all that had happened. Still, he couldnt have done any of it without the Happy Pancake winnings.
Though he wanted to spend all his time with his new family; he was so busy, he only managed to sleep with them; and only when the baby wasnt crying to be fed or changed. While he was away, he left it up to Lydia to arrange for their simple wedding on Saturday.
At last, all was ready, and George moved his family into their new home. Fully recovered, Lydia laughed as she gave him a big hug and kiss. In her eyes, the newly painted edifice was perfect. She went from from room to room, admiring the clean paint smell, the worn but serviceable furnishings, and the flowers George had purchased for her home coming“Georgie,” she whispered. “What a surprise! Its just wonderful!”
Finally settled in, and following a trip to the grocery store, Lydia prepared their first dinner at the new place. George was anxious for Lydia to meet their extraordinary neighbor and landlady, and with Lydias blessing, he invited Liza Cooper to dine. The neighbors bonded immediately and it was love at first sight for baby George Two and warmhearted Liza.
The next step, and a potentially painful one, was meeting Lydias parents at the airport the next day. Lydia had led them to believe they were only coming to meet a brilliant grad student she was thinking of marrying. They assumed their obedient daughter was taking into consideration the marriage was subject to parental approval. If they gave their okay, the couple would marry the following day.
George had bravely volunteered himself and the VW Bug to take on the challenge. Neither was looking forward to the arrival. Lydias folks were conservatives from the midwest, bigoted and by no means tolerant of hippy types like George. Most harrowing of all, they were totally unaware their pure and chaste daughter had given birth to an illegitimate grandson!SIX
The summit meeting at the airport had been anything but warm. In fact, Georges first meeting with Lydias parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Miles, had been greeted with a real cold snap in spite of the warm Spring day. Lydia stayed home to give them more room in the tiny VW Bug, and now her parents were neatly folded away in the back seat. Their luggage was divided between the front passenger seat and the small trunk.
They rode in stoney silence and George could feel their eyes boring into the back of his neck...a neck now showing above the collar of the dress shirt he wore. Lydia had trimmed his hair as short as campus styles would permit. His beard was neatly trimmed also, and he wore his only suit and a tie for the occasion. All their preparations had apparently been for naught. It was obvious Lydias folks still branded him as some sort of undesirable creep who was stealing away their chaste daughter.
George glanced in the re ar view mirror and caught Mrs. Miles glacial stare. Ginny, was her first name-for Virginia or Ginger, he couldnt remember which. Shes kinda pretty. thought George-like Lydia, or she would be if she wasnt making such an effort to retain her scowl. She wore a pink suit and little white hat. Looks like a strawberrymarshmallow sundae, George chuckled to himself.
They finally arrived at their small rental and George parked the VW in front. Seeing the house through his passengers eyes, he realized the house and the neighborhood surrounding it, would not pass inspection. The dreary scene was accompanied by the raucous sounds of fat mommas with pendulous breasts, screaming at their children.
George went around and removed the luggage so the Miles could get out. Mr. Miles untangled his long limbs and clawed his way out with a grimace of pain. George moved to help Mrs. Miles, but the old man nudged him aside and gave his wife a hand.
When they were all standing there in the sparse grass of the parkway, George could see the Miles were shocked by the conditions surrounding the home he planned for their daughter.
George looked at the place. Hed been so proud of all the work hed done in such a short time. Hed cut the weeds and he and his friends had added a coat of paint, but he could see by the wealthy Miles smug expressions it must appear pretty shabby.
“Come on in,” he invited with the bravest smile he could muster.
Just then Lydia came hurrying from the house. “Mommy, Daddy!” she exclaimed. For a moment the faces of the Jonathan Miles warmed a little at the sight of their
lovely daughter running to meet them. Then their expressions changed as they grumbled and gave her perfunctory hugs and kisses.
Come on, folks, thought George. After all she is your only daughter. If Lydia was disappointed by their greeting, she didn„t show it. Instead, she took
Miles called back over her shoulder.
“Well, at least Mother Miles finally spoke to me,” George muttered to himself. He had a time getting at the night case. It was at the bottom of the pile in the trunk.
He removed it, put everything else back and locked the car. This wasnt the worlds safest neighborhood. Covetous eyes were already evaluating the expensive matched luggage.
When he finally entered the living room, Mrs. Miles was talking to her daughter a mile a minute and George could see Lydias chin quiver slightly. Her father stood by, nodding gravely.
“Its not too late,daughter,” was all George heard, because when the screen door slammed behind him, Mrs. Miles clapped her mouth shut. All three turned, and the future parents-in-law glared once more at George, while Lydia looked at him helplessly and shrugged.
At that moment a high pitched cry came from the back of the house, followed by a squalling sound.
“Wazzat?” yelped Mother Miles.
“Oh, just the baby, answered Lydia. “George, Ive told you about slamming the screen door. It shakes the whole house.”
“The...the...baby?! chimed Ginny and Jonathan Miles together.
“Yes, come and see, said Lydia with a worried smile.
Well, this is it! thought George, resignedly.
They moved toward the back of the house and down a dark hallway where Lydia opened a door into a darkened room. The wailing sound suddenly grew much louder.
Lydia moved to the window and opened the drapes a little. Sunlight flooded the room. Her parents eyes were drawn to a bassinet in one corner. Small arms and legs could be seen sticking up and waving about. The crying changed in pitch. Lydia moved to the bassinet, picked up the child and held it lovingly to her bosom.
“Hello, George Two,” murmured Lydia lovingly. “My, my, Georgie Porgies little butkin is all wet.”
“George TWO” squawked the elder Miles together.
“Of course. Your grandchild.” Lydia was warming up to her performance. “Little Georgie, say hello to your grandparents-Grandma and Grandpa.”
Ginny Miles gave a short screech and began to topple. George was standing behind her and caught her as she fainted dead away. Jonathan Miles gathered his wits and pulled his wife from Georges grasp.
“You over-sexed pervert-youve already defiled my daughter! Dont you dare touch my wife.”
George was stunned by the whole scene. He could see that Old Man Miles had murder on his mind, but right now he had his hands full of Old Lady Miles.
“Daughter, you pack your bags and come with us. Bring that brat with you!” screamed Jonathan Miles. “Were taking you home. We can dispose of his bastard on the way.”
Lydias eyes flashed sparks as she stuck out her pretty chin, squared her shoulders and let her father have it. Mrs. Miles came out of her stupor just in time to hear the whole thing.
“How dare you?! How dare you come into my home and speak to my future husband like that?! It was Georges idea to invite you to our wedding. He was the one who had the courage tosend the telegrams!” Lydia was furious now and she spoke with great intensity, in a low biting tone that cut through the animosity that filled the room. Her words slashed at them with more power than if shed screamed them.
“I love him and he loves me. George Two is a product of that love and I am not going to give up either of them! And you are coming to our wedding tomorrow, or you will never see me again!” she concluded and the room reverberated with the power of her anger.
The Miles were stunned by the speech of their once obedient and docile daughter.
“Mother, I think hes made one of them women's libbers outta her.”
“Shocking!” squawked Ginny.
“George, take my loving parents to their hotel.” Lydia said with tears choking her voice. “We are getting married tomorrow at two oclock. George has made special arrangements to pick you up, so please be ready by 1:30!” She turned away and George could see her shoulders shake as she held the baby to her.
He went to her and tried to comfort her. “Oh, get them out of here!” she screamed, shaking his hands from her shoulders.
George was a little hurt by her rebuff, but he thought she was probably justified. After all, hed gotten her into this mess. He turned to look at her parents. At the moment they werecompletely at sea. Lydias tirade had taken the wind out o their sails. They turned and went down the hall. George followed them and gathered the night case as they walked out of the house and back to the car.
As a special treat, George had splurged on a chauffeured limousine to carry Lydia, little George, both sets of parents, Liza Cooper and himself to the wedding. At the time it seemed an impractical expense. However, the VW was not a practical alternative. Nonetheless, even with Georges father, Henry, sitting up front with the driver, the limo was crowded. Though it was obvious Lydias parents felt they deserved such treatment, they did not appreciate some of the company. During the short ride to the park, they sat as far away as possible from Liza Cooper and their illegitimate grandson. In spite of the obvious coldness of Lydia's parents, Liza maintained a cheerful attitude as she held George Two
What a hell of a wedding day this was going to be! thought George, looking around a the guests. Upon arrival, the limo party joined the others gathered under a huge oak tree awaiting the minister who was going to perform the ceremony.
Lydias parents were still glaring at him. Nothing new there. But they were dividing their animosity between George and his parents, who had just arrived that morning from Los Angeles. The Miles seemed to blame the Potters for bringing this monster into the world.
Mrs. Potter was embarrassed and would like to give her son a good talking to. She was disappointed in him and had mixed emotions about his new family. Shed taken to Lydia instantly and the baby was adorable. But she was confused about the relationships. Right now her grandson was a bastard, and their future daughter-in-law was sweet, but must have loose morals to have let this happen to her. Then there was the matter of her own son. He seemed to have turned out to be some sort of sex fiend. Surely things couldnt be as bad as they seemed, she thought. Shed taken a Mydol to calm her nerves. Maybe she would view things differently after the wedding.
The only one who was taking it all in stride was Georges father, Henry Potter. The dock worker could see everyone was taking the whole thing too seriously. He tried to keep a straight face and hold back the laughter that welled up inside him. He really would like to take his son out for a beer and have a good laugh over this comedy he was witnessing.
Henry could read the Miles like a book. A couple of well-to-do throw backs to the turn of thecentury. Oh, thats right, theyre small town midwesterners--same thing. Even his wife was a little shocked by the premature grandson. But then, shed been a virgin when he married her. Hed been so anxious to get into her pants, hed given up his wild bachelorhood for a roll in the hay. But their life hadnt been so bad. She was a pretty good old girl. They had Georgie to show for it. He was proud of his intelligent son; proud of his new grandson and beautiful future daughter-in-law. He caught Lydias eye and gave her a wink. She smiled back bravely. So what if they werent married, that was all going to be fixed in a few minutes. Ah, here comes the preacher now.
A young man with a black jacket and a backward collar came up with apologies for being late. Jonathan Miles was glad to see the clergyman. Seemed to make things better. Maybe his daughters good name could be salvaged after all. The preacher did have rather long hair though, he decided.
Lydia smiled at the holy man. She was relieved to see him. She had thought all this might be a great joke on her parents, but they were taking it harder than shed imagined. Her mother appeared to be in a state of perpetual hysteria, and was making everyone nervous. This was her wedding day and she wanted it to go smoothly. About twenty of their school friends were standing around shuffling their feet. They looked uncomfortable. They couldnt care less about George and Lydias marital status, but were appalled at the fuss the older generation was making over the little menage-atrios.
The Man was here, however, and now the ceremony could proceed. They gathered under the big tree. Birds sang and butterflies flitted among the flowers. It was a perfect day for a wedding. The bride and groom stood with the minister on a slight rise. The rest of the party stood behind them. The maid of honor was Lydias best friend and George had asked his father to be best man. It made the stevedore proud to stand there with his son against the rest of them. Lydia didnt bother to ask her father to give her away. He was out of it as far as she was concerned.
The simple ceremony proceeded smoothly. The minister had a pleasant speaking voice and was able to give the old words new meaning. George glanced at Lydia. She wore a simple dress with flowers in her hair and held a small bouquet . Gosh shes beautiful! he thought.
The young minister came to the part in the ceremony where he asked, if there was anyone who had any reason why these two should not be joined in Holy Matrimony. George could imagine Mom and Dad Miles squirming behind him, but they kept silent.
At that moment, from far off, he heard someone calling his name: “George Potter? George Potter!”
He looked beyond the minister to the far edge of the park, where he could see a man running their way.
“Finish it!” George said to the minister through his teeth.
The minister apparently hadnt yet heard the voice calling from behind him and went on to conclude the ceremony.
“...and I now pronounce you man andwife.”
George had been watching the approaching man and hardly heard the last words of the ceremony.
“George?...George?” he heard Lydia beside him
“Huh?” he asked, glancing at her.
“Arent you going to kiss me?” She had a puzzled look on her face. She hadnt heard the man either, and he was hidden from her view by the minister.
George gave her a nice husbandly kiss just as the man came running up to them.
“George Potter?! Is there a George Potter here?” He panted.
“Yes, Im George Potter,” volunteered the groom, a little perturbed the ceremony had been disrupted by this stranger.
“Mr. Potter, am I glad I found you! You couldnt have heard yet. Im from the San Francisco Examiner and I want to be the first to congratulate you!”
“I didnt know the Examiner went in for flowerchild weddings,” allowed George.
“No...no...Listen. I want to congratulate you. We just got it on the wire. It took some quick sleuthing, but I found you first!”
The guests had all gathered around and were gaping at the excited young reporter. He looked like a crazy man. He was panting and perspiring, but looked triumphant.
“What a scoop!” he bellowed.
Lydia could stand it no longer. “What are you talking about?!”
The reporter reached for Georges hand, and the groom extended it almost as a reflex action.
“Mr. George Potter, let me be the first to congratulate you. You have just won the Irish Sweepstakes!!!”
They all stared at him blankly. Whats that! The Irish what?!
“The Irish Sweepstakes.”
“Thats right...ONE MILLION SMACKOLAS!”
There was a short screech from somewhere, and out of the corner of his eyes, George saw Ginny Miles collapse. She aimed for her husbands arms, but the old man just stood there dumfounded and Ginny missed him. She hit the ground with a thud, rolling a bit as she hit. Her legs went straight up in the air; exposing slip, panties, garter belt and all. Her legs hung for a moment then dropped to the turf. Ginny Miles was out cold.
No one paid any attention to the unconscious mother-in-law. they were all dancing and jumping and shouting and hugging George and Lydia. Lydia was crying and George was smiling so hard his mouth hurt. The guests formed a circle and began to dance around the couple. Finally Lydia dried her tears and looked up at George who was hugging her close.
The little man in green, George?” she whispered in disbelief.
“Or maybe Im just damned lucky. I won you didnt I?!” he grinned and gave her a more-than-husbandly kiss.
The crowd quieted and the reporter got his story and picture. He promised he wouldnt tell anyone where they were and congratulated them again. They revived Mother Miles as the rest of the crowd left for the house. George gathered his extended family, and ushered them back into the waiting limousine.
The C elebration on the way home in the limo was a riot. Even Lydias parents were smiling. They actually spoke to Liza Cooper and wanted to hold the baby. Finally George sobered a bit and asked for quiet.
“ Listen. A million bucks may sound like a lot of money here in 1983, but it also means a lot of income tax.” He smiled sadly at his listeners. “Oh, we can probably get by on it, as long as we dont try to live too high in the stratosphere. However, I think we can at least splurge on a case of good champagne. Driver stop at the next liquor store!”
When they finally pulled up at the house, most of the crowd had already arrived. Besides the parents, George and Lydia had invited their university friends, and a couple of professors . Lydias girlfriends were busy setting up the buffet and a couple of coolers full of ice and refreshments. There was lots of beer and wine plus Georges respectable champagne. There were paper plates, plastic utensils and disposable wine glasses. Hot dogs and burgers were grilling on the BBQ and someone was tossing a huge salad.
Normally its the responsibility of the brides father to provide the wedding feast, but on first meeting, the grooms father, Henry Potter, had seen his daughter-in-laws parents were in no mood to encourage this marriage. Now, of course, with the promise of a rich son-inlaw, theyd changed their tune...a bit late to provide anything. Though his son, George, had arranged for a bakery to deliver a fancy cake; it had been Henry, whod stopped at a supermarket that morning to purchase the food and a big assortment of drinkables.
As afternoon wore on into evening, the crowd was enjoying itself and there were many toasts to the bride and groom: Georges father started it all off with a toast about how much he admired these brave young people who had defied convention. He wished them much happiness.
Suddenly a toast came from an unexpected quarter. Jonathan Miles made a half try at an apology and started to blubber. He could see now he had misjudged this fine young man. This new millionaire, George Potter.
Mother Miles stood next to Lydia. Shed apparently made a full recovery and was holding the baby and crooning a lullaby. When she finished she handed George Two back to Liza Cooper with her most tolerant smile. Taking a slug of beer she put an arm around Lydia. Then turned to look at George and said, “George Potter, I am so proud of you. I cant think of anyone Id rather have for my Lydia.”
Lydia smiled at her new husband and gave a little shrug.
A couple of the Georges friends were talented musicians and were encouraged to entertain. They did so, and were so well received, George, whod become a bit tiddly on champagne, also volunteered to sing. Lydia cringed as George fumbled with his old guitar. The rare times hed tried to serenade her had been pretty painful. Finally tuned up as well as his tin ear would permit, George began to sing, and the listeners began to groan. He struggled through one dismal song and ended on a real clinker.
As he did so, he suddenly saw a familiar figure off in back of the crowd. A little green suited gentleman with a red beard. Oberon had his fingers over his ears, and grimaced as if in pain. There was a smattering of polite applause for Georges effort. After all, he was the groom, a millionaire, and their host. But after the token gesture, the crowd turned back to partying.
Obviously distressed, Oberon grabbed an embarrassed George by the elbow and steered him away from the crowd. “No, No, no, George!” growled the leprechaun, “This simply wont do! We have important plans for your future and the committee back home is not pleased with this performance!”
The dazed young man glanced around nervously until Oberon assured him leprechauns could not be seen or heard by mortals unless permitted. Dragging him into the empty kitchen, the Good Fairy continues his harangue.
“Oh you can sing, George! You sing like a bird...I want to say a crow, but the voice itself is not that bad--a pleasant though flat little baritone. In any case, after much pleading on my part, the boys back home sent me over to offer the second gift. We can hear, deep down inside you there are some vague musical qualifications, and you do appreciate real music. Its unfortunate, you havent the resources to create any.” Oberon paused for a moment and gave the young man a discouraged look “I lost a lot of game points during your caterwauling and though its almost too soon after the first wish, weve decided its high time for your second one. I think we must bless you with perfect pitch, and a true sense of musicianship. Im afraid this time you have no choice in the matter. Its our decision you take Musical Talent.”
Still unsure if all this magic stuff was true, or if this leprechaun was merely a champagne delusion, George hesitated. He loved music, but wasnt sure his political future really required it. Still as Oberon had stated, He had no choice in the matter
Seeing the doubtful look on the young mans face, the enchanter reassured him “George, Youll love it. Look what we did for Brahms, Beethoven and the Beatles.?”
Maybe, just maybe, thought the leprechaun, with a bit of e effort f rom this young man, they could eventually add George Potter to their list of musical successes.
“Uh...Okay, I guess so” he acquiesced
Just then a giggly couple came out into the kitchen.
George looked around nervously.
Seeing the new bridegroom/father, they laughed, “Hey daddio!”
“Dont worry, George...only you can see me.” Oberon reassured him again, as he waved his wand over the bridegroom. Sprinkles swirled around Georges head. He suddenly felt a sort of giddy euphoria and grinned.
To avoid a bout of overconfidence Oberon cautioned him, “We cant do it all for you.” Oberon added “You must make an effort before talent takes over. A good music teacher and some poetry studies would certainly help. Goodbye for now. and good luck!”
With that, the leprechaun waved his wand at the ceiling and followed the sparkle cloud up and out into the night.
A bit bedazzled and befuddled George returned to the party. He sheepishly
apologized for his music as he walked unsteadily through the crowd. They all smiled and clapped him on the back. with their assurances.
“Its Okay, Georgie! Just too much good champagne!” Raising their, glasses, they once again toasted the new bride and groom.
In Liza Coopers ample arms, George Two giggled and gurgled as his mom kissed his dad.
The sports coupe droned its way across the great bridge in the direction of the city. The driver looked east toward the the metropolis. It was a spectacular day. The blue of the sky and green of the bay were cut by the jagged white slash of tall buildings. The steel cables that supported the bridge gave a stroboscopic effect to the bright scene beyond. The flickering panorama lulled the driver, and he was only half aware of the traffic that moved beside him. George thought of many things. Today was the first anniversary of his marriage to Lydia. He thought back to how the incredible year had started. That day, had also been beautiful, but it hadnt started out that way. The wedding itself had been a near disaster, yet he had to smile at the memory of how it turned out. Wealth had certainly given him a whole new image in the eyes of his inlaws. He had to admit he was glad to see them go home.
The year that followed had passed like a dream. However, after the euphoria of instant wealth had worn off, he and Lydia regained some of their perspective. Their win made them minor celebrities for a few days, but in a week or so, most of the world had forgotten about them. Not everyone, though. The get-rich-quick schemers still beat a pathway to their screen door. Even before they could get out of the West Oakland neighborhood, a pageant of unsavory characters paraded through their tiny living room; each with a wonderful idea of what the Potters should do with their money. Many were obvious con artists--both male and female. Others were smooth as silk as they outlined marvelously plausible pathways to greater riches through wise investments.George and Lydia were pulled this way and that, and the temptations were great. Finally the million dollar cashiers check arrived, and with it a man from the IRS with a reminder. The taxes would have to be paid--a substantial amount.
Uncle Sam couldnt have reared his ugly head at a more perfect moment. His arrival sobered the young couple and they made plans to escape the money sharks who swam about them.
They moved into a high security apartment building and locked their doors. Liza Cooper was glad to rent her two houses and move in with them. As good friend, house keeper and George Twos nanny, she became indispensable. She only allowed immediate family and good friends inside, and they were not encouraged to stay long. George and Lydia were planning their future.
Through his new banker, George investigated and retained a respected tax lawyer, and a reliable investment broker. The four of them sat down and mapped out their strategy.
Deferred tax payments would allow the young investors to use their big cash clout to make more money while paying off the government. The majority of the money was invested, but George held out a hundred thousand dollars or so just for fun. He sold the VW and bought a sports coupe and a nearly new Mercedes sedan. .
As the months passed, the Potter investments did astonishingly well; almost as if they were charmed. Their money doubled, tripled and continued to multiply.
The wealthy George and Lydia Potter were sensible young people who would normally avoid a show of wealth. But, now they were rich and could indulge themselves a little.
The apartment they had was nice, but they wanted something more permanent. A place in the country where George Two could have a dog and pony when he was old enough.
Several prominent architects were contacted and each submitted sketches. The mansion was to be built on a piece of property high on a hill in Marin County. Construction, landscaping and decorating would take two years.
As George turned the car up California Street he found himself tapping out a rythm on the steering wheel. Musical thoughts had been bugging him for weeks, as tunes buzzed in his head. Driving up the circular drive of their high rise apartment building, he wondered about this new obsession. Not exactly annoying, it had begun to distract him from his primary goal, a doctorate in Political Science; it was such a distraction in fact, hed brought books home to study over the weekend.
The doorman helped him gather his materials, and load them into the elevator. George thanked the man and assured him he could handle everything at the top.
In their tenth floor apartment, he stashed the books behind one of the potted palms. Hed dive into them later. He was about to put the guitar there also, but thought better of it. Lydia, George Two and Liza Cooper were out shopping so he had the apartment all to himself. In the living room, his eyes caught his reflection in the mirror over the fireplace and he moved toward the image. He studied himself. Not much change. His beard and hair were neatly trimmed a little closer and he clothes were of better quality, but the same George Potter still stared back at him. He smiled at his reflection and could feel the laughter welling up inside.
“Hello, Monsieur Nouveau Riche!” he said with a chuckle.
He still held the battered guitar case. He looked around for a place to hide it. Amazed how their living quarters had improved in just a year. The scarred old case really looked out of place among the elegant furnishings. He started to set it down on the coffee tale, then held it up in front of him as a memory suddenly flickered through his mind. So many miracles had happened hed almost forgotten.
“Musical Talent!” the little man had told him at their wedding reception. “The second wish is Musical Talent.” George looked again at the old case and shook his head. No--ridiculous!,
But he had wished for wealth and look at this apartment. He most certainly was rich. Maybe...
just maybe the red bearded Oberon fellow hadnt been a champagne fantasy.
George hadnt touched the guitar since his wedding day. The case he held was a bit dusty and he felt like he was defiling this beautiful room with the ancient dust of his past. Hesitantly he opened the battered, dilapidated case. One of the hinges was broken and the other looked like it was about to give way. The instrument itself wasnt in much better condition. It was a gift from his father on his sixteenth birthday. It was used merchandise even then and George had hauled it around from one pad to another for years. Hed taken a couple of lessons when he was in high school. They hadnt helped much. He could still barely accompany himself if the tunes were in the key of C
-or at the most in F. Any more flats or sharps were out of his territory. He gently lifted the old instrument out of its case. He wavered for a moment and almost put it back. He had a lot to do and there really wasnt much time to mess around. He looked down at his fingers. He couldnt even see his calluses. Soft as the hands of baby George, he thought to himself. If he could still play at all, it was going to be a painful experience. He left the metal strings open and gave them a twang.
“Oh man-bad vibes,” he said aloud, cringing at the sound. The old box was way out of tune. He fumbled with it for a few minutes and at least got it in tune with itself. He was surprised that he could define the pitches so well. Usually it sounded to him as if it was a bit sharp or flat, but he could never tell which. He struck a G chord--the sure test. For the first time in his life it actually rang true.
George reached down into the old case and drew out a tattered song book. There were only a few songs in it he could play. He turned to one of his old favorites and began playing the accompanying chords. They were simple and basic, but at first he felt unsure and awkward. He stuck with it and soon it all started to come back to him. He tried a good ol reliable strum: Down-down-up-down-up-down.
“Hey! Not bad!”
Like riding a bicycle, you never forget how. That also seemed true with his old guitar. He flipped through the dog-eared old book, picking out a few phrases from this song and that. Hed never been able to play some of them before. Now, although he hit a few clinkers, his playing was one hell of an improvement.
He decided to try a song. George picked one he knew and liked. He smiled ruefully to himself for a moment,remembering the last time hed performed it. How hed butchered it at the wedding reception. He wondered what was going to come out as he fixed an eyed on the open book, took a deep breath and stuck the opening chord. He started to sing the first line of the chorus, but before he could finish the opening phrase, he stopped. Something was wrong. This wasnt his voice. For one thing, the notes were normally almost too high for his meager range, yet now the sound came out clear and right on key. He didnt slide up to the first note or almost crack as he sang. His voice was stronger, too. He started over and sang the whole verse. Goose bumps broke out on his arms. Maybe resting his voice all these months had been the reason, or, and he hardly dared think about it...what had really happened at their wedding reception?
He sang the song all the way through. By the time he finished his heart was pounding and the hair on his neck felt like it was standing on end. He couldnt go on after that. He felt too good. George put the old guitar back in its case and stood looking out the picture window at the city. He simply couldnt get over the feeling of warmth that had surged through him while he sang.
“Well, well, Georgie Porgie. Isnt daddy in fine voice today?
George turned to see Lydia standing in the doorway with Liza who was holding George Two. There was a strange look in their eyes. He walked over and put his arms around his family. A great feeling of love flowed through him as he looked down at them, and though he struggled to keep them back, he could feel tears well up in his eyes as he bent to kiss them.
The next morning, George crept into the living room and took out the old guitar case again. This time he withdrew and held the instrument almost reverently. Would it still be there? The ability-the feeling hed had the day before? He began to play and found new strength and dexterity in his fingers. He sang the song again and could feel every nuance in the meaning of the lyric poetry.
As he finished the song, he heard a sound behind him and turned to see Lydia standing in the doorway. She was smiling, but tears were running down her cheeks.
“George,” she breathed. “That was the most beautiful thing Ive ever heard.”
George set the guitar back in the case and she came running to him, put her arms around him and held him close.
“George, what is it? What does it mean?” she asked as she kissed him.
“I dont know yet. Ive certainly never felt anything like it before. Whatever it is,
I want to know more.”
In the weeks that followed, George and Lydia made several decisions about the future. They found themselves with time on their hands, and the wealthy young couple agreed, that to continue to grow, they must continue to learn. So when the fall semester rolled around, they left Liza to watch over George Two and returned to Berkeley.
Lydia want on with her journalism studies and George took a couple of graduate courses in PoliSci while he researched a subject for his doctors thesis. He wanted to do something different; something profound and of use to future generations, and would not be filed away to gather dust in the university archives. Also he wanted to create a basis for a political career. As he delved into the areas of sociology, psychology and economics, the glimmering of an idea touched his mind, but it seemed to come to him from a long way off.
He was also very involved with his new found talent. In order to do both his research, and follow his musical bent, he was forced to organize every minute. He drove himself to study and do research for his thesis, yet nearly all his waking hours found his fingers itching to pick up his guitar and play--a new guitar now, the finest money could buy.
He was ravenous for more knowledge about music, singing and songs. He studied for a few months with a renowned San Francisco guitarist. His technique grew by leaps and bounds until he was playing in the league with Chet Atkins, Roy Clark and Lorendo Almieda. Finally his teacher advised him to keep his money; he could teach the young man no more.
George auditioned for a famous voice coach, but the woman told him his natural talent exceeded anything she could teach him. George took his natural talent home and practiced by himself, or for his biggest fans, Lydia and Liza.****
During class breaks he and Lydia met under their favorite lunch tree, and while she leaned against his shoulder or lay with her head in his lap, he would play and sing for her. She never tired of this and never could quite believe the wonderful sounds were coming from her ol George.
Of course the campus abounded with folk singers holding forth to small groups of groupies under nearly every tree. Once in a while one of them would come by and squat down to listen to George.
“It really moves me, man,” theyd say, and there was a look of awe in their eyes as they went away.
George played and sang quietly for Lydia alone and few people stopped to disturb them. The other students could see they were very much in love, and though the passersby would like to stop, they felt like they might be intruding.
As George finished each song, Lydia would sigh or touch his lips with her fingertips or even be moved to kiss him lightly.
Yet George wanted to write his own songs. He seemed to be driven to it. In the back of his mind, words and pictures began to plague him, as well as the ever present notes of music. Often he would pause in his studies to jot down the moving thoughts that came rushing through his mind in a great torrent. He filled one notebook after another with the word-thought-images. He even studied a little about poetic form, iambs and pentameters and such, so he could
write down his poetry--poems he planned to use as lyrics for his songs.
On a dare from Lydia, George took his notebooks to the dean of the literature department, an irascible little old man who had written several respected books on the field of poetic criticism and had published reams of poetry.
At first, the old man was impatient with theyoung man. He didnt want to be bothered with the amateur scribbling of some struggling student. George thrust his notebooks on the old gentleman with such determination, the dean finally consented to look at them when he had time.
One evening when George and Lydia were deep in a game of chess, Georges mind wandered off the into the realm of music, and Lydia took advantage of his preoccupation to put him in check. Just then the phone rang. Liza answered and informed George there was someone on the line, but the man was babbling so incoherently, she couldnt make out the name. It did sound urgent, however.
George took the phone and was finally able to make out that he was talking to the venerable old poetry critic. The professor was soexcited, George wasnt sure what he was talking about. At last he asked the old gentleman to calm down, only to learn that his own poetry was the reason for the callers excitement.
“Some of the finest imagery...such emotion. A bit rough, but Ive never read anything like it. Magnificent! Must get together and polish the form.”
The old man raved on and on while George beamed and nodded. Lydia sat fascinated, watching her husbands reactions to the one-sided conversation, until George finally got ina promise to see the professor the next day and said “Good night.”
When George told her what the old man had said about his writing, Lydia was jubilant.
“I told you, George. I told you! I knew you had something--something wonderful! Oh
George, Im so proud!”
She hurried around to his side of the game table and gave him a big hug and a kiss. Then she looked over and studied the chess board for a moment before she moved her queen.
“Checkmate!” she said with a laugh.
With the immediate problem of writing down his extraordinary lyric poetry solved, George next set about learning how to write down the music that filled his head. Pulsating rhythms and unusual melodies poured through his brain. Often, He would sit and listen to the recordings hed made by humming the tunes into a tiny cassette recorder he always carried with him. If only he could put the melodies down on paper. This would not only give him a permanent, tangible record, but would make it easier to purge his mind of the obsessive sounds that distracted him from more academic studies.
The next Spring he found and opening in his schedule and added a basic class in composition and counterpoint. Hed already discovered he possessed perfect pitch. This helped him to quickly absorb the the principles of notation, and within weeks he was actually able to write down the music as well as the words of his songs. Lydia and Liza enthused over them, but George suspected they were a bit biased. He was proud of his works, but knowing that one has a distorted view of ones own creations, he wasnt sure of anything until his mid-term in the composition class.****
The brightly lit room was arranged like an arena. Curving rows of student desks, about seventy of them, formed concentric arcs that where set upon risers, so the spectators could all have a clear view of the performing area below. The room was sparsely populated with students this morning. There were only about twenty scattered across the expanse of seats. Eight oclock classes were not popular and most of the students sat slumped, bored and sleepy as they tried only halfheartedly to concentrate on what was happening below.
The performing area contained only a piano, a stool and the instructors desk. Behind it sat a discouraged Dr. James Lawrence Ph.D. He looked almost as dejected as the class. this was the first time hed required them to perform their own works. It was a sort of mid-term examination and he could see the grading curve was being destroyed by the poor work presented so far. One feeble art song had been sung in a quavering soprano by Miss Twitchel in rather bad French. His head still rang with the contemporary piano sonata that sounded like jackhammers on pavement. And those were the best of a pot pourri of nearly a dozen numbers to which these hallowed Berkeley halls had been subjected this morning. Thank God the hour was almost over. Time for just one more. Well, this was just basic composition. Hopefully things would improve as the semester moved along. He picked up the next piece of music.
Ah, George Potter, he said to himself as he looked at the neatly hand printed manuscript. Now, here was a student to watch! The young mans stuff was almost too good to be true. Some pretty inspired music combined with extraordinary poetry. Hed almost suspected plagiarism, but as he glanced over to where the young man sat, he was impressed by the smiling, alert face in the otherwise disinterested sea of dozing students.
“ Mr. Potter will you please entertain us?” he demanded aloud. there was considerable irony in his request to be entertained. This morning had been a bust so far and hed hoped for better.
George nodded, removed his guitar from its case and descended the two rows from his seat to take his place near the stool. He glanced at the empty music stand and then up at the drowsy faces before him. He could see nothing but terminal disinterest.
“Wont you need your music, Mr. Potter?” asked the professor, extending the piece of notation paper toward the student.
“Thank you, sir, but I wrote it. I should be able to get though it without any help.” That was refreshing, actually knew his music; the words too! thought the music instructor.
George began to play. His fingers flew over the fret board in an intoxicating new rhythm that made the students sit bolt upright in their seats. Hey! Here was something worth listening to.
Then George began to sing. It was a joyous song that struck them and rocked them with its happiness and optimism. They loved it and began to clap. Dr. Lawrence wanted to dance!
At last, a student worthy of my teaching! he shouted to himself.
There were several verses, but the song was so exciting and the words so intelligent and inspiring, when George finished, his audience just sat there for a moment, dazed and then disappointed the celebration was over. Next they were up and hurrying toward him. The period buzzer sounded, but they didnt even hear it. They clapped him on the back and congratulated him. Though some were envious, they all admired his talent. This George Potter had something. Now they could all see it.
At last the instructor reminded them that the bell had rung, and they reluctantly hurried from the room. George was putting his guitar away as the instructor spoke to him.
“George Potter, this is a red letter day for the music world! I can sense it!” He was almost rubbing his hands together with delight as he approached the young man. “Do you happen to have any more songs like that, Mr. Potter...may Icall you George?”
“Of course, sir. And yes, I try to write one song every day or so. I have about fifty. Your class has been a great help to me. The tunes and words were there in my head, but you showed me how to write them down.” George snapped the latches on the guitar case and turned to leave.
“George, I just remembered something,” Dr Lawrence added eagerly, as if he was afraid to part with his new discovery. “Theres a rally next Tuesday at two. The student council asked the music department tofurnish some entertainment. I think youre ready for something like that. Youll have to go through the audition process, but in your case thats just a formality. Would you help us out? Just one or two songs?”
George hesitated for a moment. Performing before this small class was one thing, but thousands of university students!? That was something else entirely.
The instructor could see George was a bit overawed by his request.
“Look, I know you can do it. You should do it; for yourself and for the school.” The professor had a far away look in his eyes as he continued. “There was something about the way you sang that song. You have an extraordinary gift. You shouldnt hide it.”
George fidgeted for a moment. He glanced down and seem to study the label on his guitar case. then he looked up as he spoke. “Sir, if you think I can do it, Ill be glad to give it a try.” he answered finally. He could see the older man was delighted.
“Good! Good! Come by Tuesday morning and well go over the program together.”
George stood to one side of a large platform. The stage faced the stadium seats, which were filling fast. The occasion was the University of Californias Founders Day. The program would include a few speeches and much entertainment. There was a rock band on the bill preceding George.
Professor Lawrence came hurrying up. He was a little out of breath. His huffing and puffing could have been from the exertion , or his excitement. The music instructor had heard Georges songs that morning, two new ones, and he couldnt wait to see the reaction of the crowd.
“Howre you feeling, George?” panted the instructor.
“Got butterflies, sir, a whole flock of em!” George mumbled.
The stadium wasnt entirely full, but the program started on time. Several
First, a group from the drama department enacted a vignette depicting the founding of the university system. They received a modest amount of applause. Next, the president of the university made a short speech describing the growth of the institute of higher learning. There were several other speeches, including one by the student body president, who subtly asked for a few changes in future school policy.
Following the speeches came more amateur acts, and the rock band was introduced to scattered enthusiasm from their fans. The band played several numbers and the crowd was very appreciative. A few students even started dancing on the track and in the stands At last the band excused themselves. There were loud groans from their followers and a few students got up to leave.
Then it was Georges turn.
The student body president gave a short introduction:
“Heres a guy who caused some real excitement at the auditions. I give you,
George felt something like a heavy stone in the pit of his stomach. His legs went all
wobbly as he struggled up the steps to the stage. There was some polite applause,
followed by a wave of fidgeting as he fumbled with the tuning. Hed already tuned it, but
now the G chord sounded out of whack. Perspiration broke out on his forehead.
Someone in the crowd began to clap in rhythm and the assembly took it up: The
unmistakable sound of impatience.
From his left he heard Dr. Lawrence trying to get his attention.
“George? The instruments tuned just fine. Now, go ahead and sing! Just like you
did this morning.”
George had been a little concerned hed be nervous, and perhaps his nerves might
affect his performance. He also wondered if the audition had just been a fluke, that
maybe his blood sugar had been high that day, but as he looked across at the
thousands of students and faculty in and entering the stands, he got the same flush of
emotion hed felt days earlier. As he took his place before the microphone, a strange
energy seemed to radiate from his chest. It was as if the crowd was feeding him with
power, and because this audience was so much larger than the audition committee, the
feeling was even more overwhelming.
Finally, George began to play the intro. The music became a tangible part of him,
and he closed his eyes for a moment as he began to feel the pulse of it. The guitar was
plugged into the sound system and as the intricate rhythms sounded across the big
stadium, the crowd quieted. Theyd never heard such playing! It had a great beat, but
was different somehow. The sound got right down into their blood and they began to
sway and clap to the music!
Suddenly, George felt a sharp pain in his chest, and he had to stop playing. He
bent forward to relieve the pain. Apparently his audience thought he was bowing and
there was some scattered applause. Then the feeling inside him started to swell. The
crowd sat like statues. There was only the sound of the campanile chiming the half
At length he started to play again and could almost hear the relieved sigh that came
from the stands. It was upon him once more; that same expansive euphoria. He felt it
grow until he thought he could hold it no longer. He sensed singing would relieve the
pressure, so he began to sing. Emotions came swooping in on him like a fragrant
whirlwind. The swelling within continued like some marvelous benign cancer as the
feelings that filled his mind and heart poured out of him and flooded across the cinder
track; up and around the students in the stands.
Hed never experimented with drugs, but hed read about them, and it was as if hed
received some marvelous hallucinogenic injection. It flowed through him and he
experienced something intangible; like his soul separating from his body and moving out
toward his listeners as he sought to imbue them with the emotions that filled his mind.
He could only feel he had enormous power over them, and he became drunk with it as
he moved out and rocked them with the positive meaning of his song.
As he seemed to float closer and closer to them, he could see clearly their rapt
expressions, their eyes glued to the singer before them, their lips slightly parted. Here
was a voice and message they had never heard before, and he reached out and
touched them, embracing them in a mantle of sound. They sat transfixed until the song
ended. Then there was a peaceful silence, and no one heard the bell ringing for the
next class. They heard only the echo of the song and the singer.
At last it began--the applause. Slowly at first as if in disbelief, then building to a
crescendo that rocked the stadium. They roared and whistled and stomped, and
begged for more! More! More of George Potter!
George was a almost in tears from the flow of adulation that soared over him. He
could see Lydia in the front row and she was crying and laughing with happiness. Wait!
Was it only his imagination? He thought he also saw, sitting next to Lydia, a little redbearded man in a bright green warm-up suit. Oberon, the leprechaun, was grinning
from ear to ear as he gave George a big thumbs-up salute!
As the applause died, George pulled himself together, struck a thundering E minor
chord and began to sing and play again. The audience quieted immediately and sat
down, listening in spellbound silence to the phenomenon on the stage. This time it was
a quiet ballad, so beautiful there was a rustling sound across the stadium as
handkerchiefs and Kleenexes were applied to weepy eyes.
When he finished they stood and saluted him with applause even stronger than
before. George bowed and bowed. Then he prepared to leave the stage. “No! No!” they cried in one voice.
“More! More! We want More!”
George didnt know what to do. A delegation of hundreds of students poured onto
the field and toward the platform, their hands reaching up to him; calling to him;
pleading with him to give them more of the uplifting experience. It was better than pot,
LSD or any drugs they could imagine, and they wanted to keep the high they were on. He blushed, plugged his guitar in again, and went back to the microphone. He sang
for them; song after song of love, happiness and a world filled with the wonders of hope
and fulfillment. And they sat there in the stands or on the track listening or standing to
applaud him all the early summer afternoon. Classes were forgotten as he sang on and
on. Some became quite burned in the warm sunshine, yet they were oblivious to
everything but the singer on the platform.
Eventually the sun began to sink beyond San Francisco Bay, and a magnificent
sigh escaped from the crowd as the student body president came forward and asked
them to please let George Potter have some peace.
As Danny descended from the stage, the crowd rushed out to envelop him. They
lifted him up on their shoulders and carried him in triumph around the field like an
olympic champion. Near him in the mob he could hear Dr. Lawrence calling out to him,
but he couldn't make out the words for the cheering crowd. Finally they set him down and the crowd slowly dwindled away. Many hesitated as they left the field, looking back one more time at the amazing singer. Lydia came up to him and held him. She could see was exhausted, but there was look of great joy in his eyes.
“George, I love you ,” she whispered. “And from whats happened here today, so
does everyone else.
Dr. Lawrence was standing nearby. Next to him stood a handsome, sharply
dressed young man. The crowd had gone and only the four of them were left on the
field. The music instructor came up to George and Lydia, The blond haired young man
“George, heres someone who wants to meet you.” there was a look of total
admiration in the professors eyes.
“George Potter, this is Paul Connor.”
Even in his exhausted state, George realized he was shaking hands with The Star
Maker, the hottest impresario in show business. Both the singer and his wife also
realized theyd seen him before, on the Late Show. Twenty years earlier, Connor had
been a major child actor. Hed starred in many films; singing, dancing and charming
his way into the hearts of America. As he grew older and reached the awkward stage,
movie parts came few and far between. Instead of becoming discouraged, Connor
turned his energies to helping others. His connections and show business moxy
pushed many talented performers to stardom.
“Extraordinary talent,” exclaimed the young man. “Extraordinary!” Paul Connors
voice was soft but positive.
“Didnt I tell you he was special?!” enthused the professor.
“You did! You certainly did, but I never expected anything like this!” exclaimed the
George introduced Lydia to the two men as they moved off the field together. George was too frazzled from his performance to make more than brief replies, but
somehow arrangements were made for them to meet with Connor over breakfast the
next morning. Though the young agent didn't say it in so many words, hed not only
been impressed with George, but even more so by the crowds reaction. There was no
doubt Paul Connor, Star Maker, had plans for ol George.
George and Lydia awoke at nine AM with a yawn and a warm embrace. Lydia sighed, stretched and said. “Are you going to call Paul Connor?” she purred from the crook of his arm.
“ Sure, I guess so. You suppose he was sincere about making your little daddio a star?”
“Darling, you are a star, whether the world knows it or not. He did seem pretty sure about you yesterday at the rally.”
He gave her a squeeze, then rolled out of bed and picked up the phone book.
“Its gotta be in here some where,” he said leafing through the book. “Ah, here it is. Fairmont Hotel.”
He sat on the edge of the bed. Lydia slithered across to him and snuggled against him as he dialed and asked the hotel operator if Connor was awake. He was assured the young impresario was already up and making calls to Los Angeles. His line was clear and the operator dialed his room.
“Hello, Mr. Connor...uh...Paul. This is George Potter. Are you hungry? Breakfast in forty five minutes. Were almost next door in the Nob Hill Towers. Theres a button on the mail box. Right! See you in a half hour.”
He replaced the receiver and unwound himself from Lydias embrace.
“Move it dahlin Hell be here in a demi heure.”
She groaned, yawned, and put on her robe, while George called Liza on the intercom to order breakfast. A little over a half hour later the foyer buzzer rang and Liza admitted the agent. Over breakfast Connor quickly got down to business.
“George,” he began. Ive already talked with Dick Baum of NGM records this morning. I told him about you, and frankly he doesnt believe you exist. He demands proof positive. Do you suppose you two could fly down to Hollywood with me on Monday to show him your stuff?”
Georges eyes were shining. “You sure work fast, Paul. What do you think Hon.?”
“I dont think it would hurt to skip a class or two for such a worthy cause,” Lydia answered with a grin. “Now, however, if you gentlemen will excuse me I need to get ready for school. The impresario rose slightly in his chair as Lydia left the room. After Lydia had gone, Connor studied the young man who sat across from him in silence.
“Youre an attractive son-of-agun,” said the young talent executive finally. “But, I tell you what. Would you consider...ah..your beard? Its a beauty, but it hides your face. The general public likes to have everything exposed. Or as much as is decent.” He hesitated a moment. “Is there any chance youd consider shaving it off?”
“My beard?” asked George with a puzzled look on his face. “Well, I dont know. Ive had this beard for years, but...Well, okay, Ill shave it off it you think I should.”
“It may be curiosity on my part. Id like to see what you really look like, and believe me, I know the public. Theyll want to know the same thing. There will be a public. You can be sure of that, George!”
The two sat talking for a while. Paul outlined the steps to Georges career as if he was already famous. In the eyes of the young entertainment industry leader, George was already on top, though the actual moment was still months away. It was almost as if he could read the future.
Then the two men fell silent and Paul sat staring at the grad student across from him. The look unnerved George a bit, and as if he could see he was making his new protégé uncomfortable, Paul Connor smiled and excused himself.
“Please ask your wife to pardon my lousy manners, but I really have to run. Ill have the plane tickets sent over this afternoon. Well take the Monday nine A. M. United Flight from SF International.”
The following afternoon George and Lydia spent some time playing with George Two. Then, as they put him down for his nap, George grew thoughtful.
“How do you think Id look without my beard? “ he asked with a grin.
“Oh George, youre not going to shave it off?! I love your beard! Ive never seen you without it.”
“The man wants it off. I think its time I shaved it off anyway. I can always grow it back. Come on. Lets see what the ol boy looks like shorn.”
George took scissors to the bathroom. Lydia followed him. He began to cut away the beard and could see Lydias pained expression reflected in the mirror. When he had the beard as close as he could with the scissors, He checked his progress.
“What a bum,” he observed, rubbing the dark stubble. Lydia grinned a sad little smile at the tragedy that was taking place. He washed his face then applied lather and steamed his beard in a hot face towel for a couple of minutes. He reapplied lather and began to shave with a twin blade. It took a little time; the stubble kept clogging the razor.
Finally he wiped away the last of the lather, turned toward his wife and gave her a tentative little smirk.
“Well?” he asked.
She stood there for a few moments just staring at him, not saying anything, like he was some kind of freak.
“Whats the matter?” he asked, glancing back at the mirror.,
“George,” she said, her eyes widening with amazement. “Youre absolutely adorable!”
“I am?” he asked her reflection.
“Yes! Absolutely...absolutely adorable! Give us a big smile,” she demanded softly.
George turned and gave her a big toothy grin.
“My God, George! I cant believe it! That smile! Its dazzling! Makes my orbs ache. You make Donny Osmonds smile look like hes frowning.”
George stood there grinning and she stood there looking for a while, then she added: “But something is odd; or at least different. Ive only seen snapshots of you without your beard, but somehow youre not the same. In those pictures you werent...well...so ostentatious, I guess thats the word.”
She tilted her head to one side as she studied him.
“Your teeth-thats it! I thought there was something. Lately they seem to be bigger and whiter. What have you been doing to them?”
“I dont know...nothing. I really hadnt noticed. The beard hid a lot of things. But I think youre right. George bared his teeth, made a buck-toothed-beaver face and lisped,
“Mah teeth ya thay? Hathent ya heard that motht big tharth hath big teeth?!”
She laughted as he winked at her. “And what about the sparkle in your eyes?” she exclaimed.
“You like?” he asked.
“I like!” she agreed enthusiastically.
“Gee, if you say so.” he said looking into the mirror and giving himself a big grin. “I am kinda cute at that.”
“Oh you!” she laughed. Inside, however, she had serious new feelings. She already adored ol George, but this New George?!... Funny, but it was almost like she was falling in love all over again with the charming man in the mirror.
He grabbed her playfully and gave her a big, lingering kiss. The embrace went on and on, and when they finally moved apart she gave him that special look of hers.
“I know,” he breathed. “Me too.” He took her hand and they smiled at each other as they walked back into their bedroom.
Paul Connor glanced out the port beside him. The 747 was making a wide curving arc as it started its approach into L.A. International. They were over the coastline and Connor observed the Pacific was sparkling blue-green in the morning sun. The beach communities and even Smogville itself were brilliant in the sunlight. the day was so clear and bright, the city dazzled the eye. There were still a few shabby corners to the old town, but it was home and L.A. looked beautiful to him.
Connor chuckled to himself. the entertainment capitol of the world was making ready to receive her new King. He looked over at his protégé. My god what a transformation with the beard gone. The unveiling had revealed an extraordinary being.
Hes gorgeous! thought the impresario. Even if he could barely carry a tune, he had more going for him that most of the current pop idols. Connor watched the reactions of the stewardesses who served them. When George looked up to acknowledge the stewardess who brought his coffee, he gave her a smile and the girl almost dropped her tray. She struggled to keep her composure, but it would be an understatement to say the singer had made an impression on the young lady. Potter had the kind of handsome, good guy face that drew people to it. It was a rare blend of ruggedness with just a hint of sensitivity. Later, Paul saw their stewardess at the far end of the passenger compartment whispering behind her hand to her compatriots and looking their way. The agent almost broke out laughing when each gal came by on some pretext or other to get a closer look. Each went away with that ooo-la-la look on her face.
Yet George Potter seemed oblivious to all the admiration he was receiving. Modest, too, Connor observed. That may not last.
George was concentrating on the notation sheets he held on the portfolio in his lap,
busily jotting down notes and words. From time to time, hed lift his le ft hand slightly, and move his fingers as if he was playing the frets of an invisible guitar. His eyes would stare blankly ahead for a few moments, his lips parted; moving as if forming words. Then he would return to his composing.
Hes got it all. Look s, humility, charisma and musical genius! thought Connor. George Potter, you are going to be my greatest achievement!
He glanced at Lydia who was sitting between them. He really liked Georges wife. She was a very pretty girl with long naturally wavy blond hair that rested on her shoulders. She had a peaches and cream complexion that really didnt need make-up. Her eyes, studying the Newsweek she held were a blue that matched the expensive pantsuit she wore.
Connor suddenly felt the pang of a new emotion go through him as he looked at the young couple. Oh, shit! Not again! He recognized the symptoms. He was becoming just a little jealous of Lydia, the wife of his new star.
Connors chauffeured limousine carried them quickly from the airpor t into Hollywood and to the door of NGM records.
“Before we go in, Ive got to tell you a little about Dick Baum.” cautioned the young impresario. Hes a unique human being. That much you and he have in common, George. Hes a business genius and can spot real talent in a minute. But he always keeps his cool, so dont expect a great outward show of enthusiasm. You can tell when hes impressed though. Just watch his cigar.
Connor led them into the impressive building that housed NGMs offices and studios. The trio stood inside the lobby for a moment and took in the bigger-than-life posters of some of the worlds greatest pop recording artists. Connor then ushered them to the reception desk that sat like an island in a sea of deep red carpet. The receptionist recognized Connor immediately and pushed a button that connected her with Dick Baums secretary.
“You may go right back, Mr. Connor. Hes expecting you.”
As they moved by her, the receptionist gave George an admiring look and resisted the impulse to sigh. George carried his guitar and portfolio as he followed Paul and Lydia down a long wide hallway.
Baums secretary waved them on into the office of a short baldheaded man with an immense cigar thrust in his mouth. He got up from his chair and seemed to move almost resignedly around the desk to greet Connor.
“”Paul, what is all the excitement about?” he growled good-naturedly from the side of his mouth as he looked at the young couple with the Star Maker.
“Dick, this is Lydia and George Potter. Potters, meet Dick Baum.”
The men shook hands and Baum motioned Lydia to a chair, but kept George standing and walked around the singer, as if appraising a statue.
Finally Dick Baum stepped in front of George. His round cheeks hollowed out for a moment as he took a big drag on his cigar. The tip glowed almost white hot. Then he stuck out his lower lip and sent a jet of white smoke shooting straight up toward the ceiling.
Lydia was fascinated. George was spellbound. Paul Connor was delighted! So far, so good!
“He looks okay, but can he sing?” demanded the recording executive.
“You want to hear for yourself? I refuse to have my word doubted for another moment!”
Snorted Paul Connor with mock indignity. “George would be so kind as to show Doubting Dick here your stuff?”
“Hold on a minute,” interrupted the recording executive as George started to remove his guitar from its case. “Lets do this up right. I think studio three is vacant. Lets hold the audition in there.”
Lydia and Paul could see this strictly-business-man was beginning to soften. George, however, remained a bit awed by the little man.
Baum escorted them to a spacious recording studio. An engineer was puttering around, apparently setting up for a session.
“Charlie, would you mind helping uswith a little audition?” Baum asked the man through another puff of smoke.
“Sure, Mr. Baum-ready in a jiffy!”
George was directed to a stool and a Telefunken mike was lowered into position. Another mike was placed near the mouth of his guitar. George watched all the preparations with great interest and then thanked the sound man as he made a last a last adjustment and said:
“Good luck, kid!”
Dick Baum had taken Paul Connor and Lydia into the booth across the studio from George, and they were seated in plush chairs behind the engineer. The sound man asked for a mike check and George played a few chords and smiled as he went la, la, la into the microphone that was practically touching his nose.
George could see they were rolling a tape on him. It gave him a moments qualms, but when the engineer pointed to him, he began to play the intro of the new ballad hed composed on the plane. He played and sang of forests and lakes and the beauty of the world. He closed his eyes through the last part of the song and could actually see the sights he told about in his song. He played a rising arpeggio as his voice went up and up and ended the song as if whispering into infinity.
There was a heavy silence following the song. He opened his eyes and looked toward the booth. They were all standing and Dick Baum was puffing like steam engine going up a grade. Connor was watching the smoke cloud and suddenly he grabbed the little recording executive and the two of them tried to dance a polka, but the engineering booth wasnt quite large enough.
The engineer was beaming from ear to ear and gave the singer a big thumbs up!
Lydia, Baum and Connor came out into the studio and rushed up to George. Lydia kissed him, Connor hugged him and Dick Baum puffed until he almost scorched his lips, the cigar burned so close.
Connor was the first to speak. “Come on Dick-spit it out! Hes fabulous-right?!”
“Right, Right, Right!” agreed Baum. “Whered he get that song? I cant tell which I liked best. The song or the singer--guess theyre all one!”
George was grinning. “Just a little thing I knocked out on the plane.”
“He has a suitcase full of them,” Lydia offered proudly.
“Then lets get together with the legal department and get things rolling,” Dick Baum was almost smiling. Later,Connor told the hed never seen the recording executive so excited about a performer.
“Paul, one suggestion,” Baum offered the Star Maker with an appraising glance at George. “I think you might get him some acting lessons. When Hollywood gets a load of your
boy, hes gonna need „em”
Old Mrs. Minor looked around at the crowd that packed the auditorium. She adjusted her glasses and settled back. The old lady hadnt missed a Mike Griffin show in years. The host and guest comedians made jokes about her perfect attendance. She enjoyed the notoriety, but most of all, she loved the show. She adored the show biz razzle dazzle, a throw back to those glorious days of vaudeville. Shed been a hoofer in the early years; danced in the chorus of many a hit Broadway musical. Now she enjoyed the vicarious applause and glitter of Americas most popular variety show.
Tonight there was an added pre-show tension in the air. She could feel the excitement. Something special was in store for the studio audience and the nation who would view the show the next night.
Back stage, the usual last minute panic was having its effect on everyone. The assistant producer was particularly excited as he placed the first performer in position. He seemed to sense here was a future star of the first magnitude. The rehearsals had brought the entire cast, crew and orchestra to their feet when this George Potter performed. He couldnt remember when there had been such a flutter over a newcomer.
The warm-up was over and the countdown began. The video tapes were rolling. there was the cue for the overture, a dance number with the Troy Devane Dancers. The opening dance was followed by a short scene change that would be edited out later. There was a fanfare and a voice from somewhere announced:“And...Now...HERE”S MIKE GRIFFIN!”
The applause signs flashed and the audience responded. Mike Griffin smiled and welcomed his audience. He listed the stars who were to appear.
“...But first, ladies and gentlemen, we have a young mean who is making his first appearance anywhere. He has not been heard on record or radio, or been seen on television, stage or screen. But he will be...believe me...he will be!”
During the introduction, George stood a little nervously off in the second set. Behind him, on the cyc, a spotlight formed a crescent moon and there were tiny twinkling lights for stars. Blue plastic sheeting was blown buy fans to represent the ripples on a lake. George was wearing a simple white silk shirt and tight white pants. He stood in the shade of a giant plastic weeping willow.
He could barely hear the host intro, but then the expectant applause began and the orchestra took up his introduction. A historic moment was unfolding. As in rehearsal, George stepped from under the willow. He was playing a guitar completely inlaid with white mother of pearl to match his costume. he played and smiled and sang one of the songs from his first, yet unreleased album. It was a song that was both happy, the sad. A song that made one think, and consider the condition of all mankind. The voice that flowed through the crowed pulsed with feeling.
Mrs. Minor felt all goose bumpy. My goodness, what a voice! What a song! What a face! She thought to herself. A face that every woman, child and many men would love. The face belonged to George Potter. She glanced around her the rest of the audience sat transfixed as he sang, a dazzling flame that burned so brightly on the stage before them.
When the song ended, the audience sat spellbound in silence for several long moments.
Another pause that would have to be edited before air time. They they jumped to their feet, almost as one. Screaming, whistling, hollering, crying for the George Potter who bowed and blushed and smiled. That Smile! He was simply adorable!
Mrs.Miners eyes were shining with tears as she stood applauding with the rest of the worshippers. Never in all her hears as a Mike Griffin devotee had she seen or heard anyone like George Potter. Yes it was an historic moment and she was proud that she was there to share it.
Mike Griffin stood to the side of the stage as the applause went on and on. The audience screamed for more. The ovation would have to be cut down later of they would have to eliminate one of their other acts. Mike Griffin didnt care. He was absolutely beaming with pride as if he had been the one who had discovered this new, future ruler of American hearts.
As the waves of applause poured over him, George felt a surge of love and happiness. This was it. This was where he belonged! At length, Mike Griffin shook Georges hand and motioned for him to leave the stage. After a while they were able to get the audience calmed down enough to continue the show.
Word leaked out and Georges performance was reviewed in all the major papers the next morning, before the program was aired to the nation. It was rating month and the result of the advance publicity was unprecedented. That night, the Mike Griffin show grabbed the highest ratings in its history.
By Sunday morning, the whole country was buzzing with news of the new singer. Those who had missed the show were chided for their misfortune. Radio stations were deluged with requests for song by George Potter. Most of the D.J.s had never heard of him, And on Monday, N.G.M. records was flooded with requests for demo records. The record stores suffered a similar fate. From teenyboppers to grandmothers, mobs jammed the stores, screaming for records by George Potter.
“Who is George Potter?” some wanted to know. The public demand added to the the pandemonium at N.G.M. Night crews were put on in the pressing plant to work around the clock in order to fill the orders that poured in. Within a week there was little doubt in the minds of Americans that George Potter was the new King of show biz. D.J.s were forced to play at least one Potter selection for every other artist they featured. If they didnt, their listeners would spin the dial to a station that was playing one of his new songs. There were solid hours set aside to play the entire disc. Local advertisers bid extravagant sums to sponsor George Potter Hours.
In the meantime, George and Lydia sat in Paul Connors living room and listened to Paul take one call after another requesting George to appear coast-to-coast again. Manufacturers wanted his endorsement for their products and Hollywood was calling with film offers. Finally Connor had to install a switch board with young ladies to filter the calls. Outside, fans clamored at the gates for a glimpse of the new idol.
Impatiently, John J. Prentiss jabbed at the intercom for the umpteenth time and shouted into the box.“Miss Lovely, what the hell is taking so long to get me Paul Connor?!”
“Please Mr. Prentess, were doing everything we can. The lines are jammed,” came the reply.
THE NBC vice-president winced and put a hand to his stomach as he groaned in desperation. “Keep trying, Miss Lovely. Keep trying!”
He switched off the intercom and reached with trembling hand for the right top drawer of his desk. He extracted a bottle of Mallox. He didnt even bother to measure-just opened the bottle and took a healthy swig of the chalky liquid. He made a face and returned the bottle to the drawer, then lay back in his high back chair and tried to relax. Impossible! Hed barely slept since Saturday night; since hed seen this George Potter on ABCs Mike Griffin Show. NBCs Friday night was slipping and he needed a summer replacement that would bolster the ratings and hopefully keep at least the puny audience they had.
Never before had he been struck by a performer like Potter. The young man possessed the most electrifying personality hed seen since Elvis, and Potter appeared to have a lot more going for him than the swivel hipped rock star.
Printess watched his family as they watched Potter. His wife was all ga-ga and the younger Printess, a teenage boy and girl had com pletely flipped over the singer. Theyd been talking about nothing else all weekend. They and their friends were already forming a George Potter fan club.
Printess himself might have discounted the response of the young singer if he hadnt felt the same way. The new find was a spellbinder if there ever was one. He was a throwback from those great revivalists who could mesmerize their congregations. George Potter came across the television like no entertainer before him. His charisma poured forth and enclosed the viewer in a private world of enchantment. Printess laughed, then winced again at the sharp pain in his stomach. It was almost as if Potter was some sort of faith healer with poetry and music and with the soothing, inspiring power of his voice . Printess recalled how hed felt during the several hours following the Mike Griffin Show. The pain in his stomach had been forgotten. His children had been almost respectful; a miracle in itself. That night, he and his wife had enjoyed a tender scene reminiscent of their honeymoon.
The next day the kids had gone out to buy all the George Potter records they could find. This time, dad was treating, which surprised the hell out of them. Butt none of the record stores had any records by the new sensation.
Fortunately, one of the reviewers had mentioned that this George Potter was the newest discover of the star-maker, PaulConnor. All weekend hed tried to get the NBC policy makers together for a meeting. Hed been in the business long enough to know that the other networks wouldnt let any grass grow when it came to such an obvious money maker as Potter. Unfortunately, everyone with any NBC clout was incommunicado.
Finally at this mornings eight oclock meeting,hed played back the Minimax video tape hed made of the future super star. Then hed demanded one million dollars to get the ball rolling. NBC needed Potter, must have Potter or they were all doomed to oblivion!
Hed painted a gloomy picture of what would happen if someone else got their hands on the boy. It was his greatest sales pitch, he smiled at the memory. Hed been positively inspired. God, now if he could only get through to Connor. he groaned and was about o reach for the Mallox again when the phone on his desk rang. He made a lunge for it sending himself and his chair crashing to the floor. Finally he righted everything and grabbed the phone.
“Heh...hello,” he gasped, P...Printess here!”
The voice at the other end sounded youthful and exuberant. “John--John? that you? this is Paul.”
“Great Hercules! its about time,” Printess said struggling to get back into his chair. “Im not going to mince words, Paul. You havent sold that boy to anyone else, have you? Dont you dare say you have. I have a razor blade poised at my juggler vein!”
Paul laughed. “Jesus, John, dont do anything desperate! I know George is the greatest thing since thehydrogen bomb, but hes got a long life ahead of h im. There should be enough to go around.”
“You have sold him...you bastard! Ohhhhhhhh!” he grabbed for this stomach and his secretary rushed in with a glass of water and a pill which Printess gulped as the water from the glass splashed down his thousand dollar Pierre Cardin suit.
“JOHN? John, you still there? came the voice from Los Angeles.
The executive groaned, “Yes, but not for long.”
“ I sold Potter for on special on ABC. Thats all. CBS called, but as usual cant get their shit together with any kind of a deal. What are you offering?
“You know how conservative the top brass are here. I could only scrape up six programs to the us started. 1984 Summer replacement.
“How much in the buckola department?” demanded the voice on the other end.
“Money...money...money. Is that all you can think of?”
“Right...right. How Much?
“The turds upstairs would only kick in one millions dollars for this experiment. I had to convince them the kid was worth every nickel.”
There was a barely audible gasp from the other end as Connor tried to keep his cool. There was a short pause before he replied.
“Id call that damned imaginative wheeling and dealing!”
“Look, Paul,” Continued John Printess. “You and I know youve got the hottest property of the decade...possibly the century. IF the guys upstairs had any sense at all, I could have got them to commit to a ten year contract, at least. That would have been imaginative. But, imagination is one thing they lack. Thats why they hired me, and thats why I have to hire George Potter.
“I just want to make sure when this contract expires, I get first crack at the next one. I know the price will go up. Just hope you dont get too greedy. At least put NBC in position for first negotiations.”
The executive could tell his young star making friend was more than satisfied with the deal.
“You can count on it, John. I speak for George Potter when I say we appreciate your confidence in his talent.”
“Just try to get your butts to New York next week so we can get the ball rolling. June is just around the corner” added the NBC executive. The pain in his abdomen was already beginning to subside and he gave a sigh of relief. He wished there was some way he could retain his cool and not flip his wiggeeo every time a crisis like this came up. The voice on the other end of the line was saying.
“well be in your town next week to see Guiness of ABC. Now how about a lunch meeting to kick things off?”
“How about a reception for Potter with the brass? They might be more willing to fork over the money if they could see their new star in person>”
“Okay then...Tuesday at five P.M. your time. See ya!”
Paul hung up and his businessmans face turned to a little boys, similar to the child star still seen on TVs late show. Grinning broadly, he leaped and capered around the room.
The handsome couple on the leather couch laughed to see this contrast in personality which made their friend so much fun too be with. In fact, to live with. They were staying with Connor until they could rent a suitable place of their own.
“Youre in George,” laughed Connor. “They are all fighting for you. CBS will be next. Last and too late as usual. But wait until contract time. You can bet we can name any figure we want.”
George and Lydia watched the agent finally come to rest on the arm of the chair opposite them. They were new and green to all this show biz business, they hardly knew what he was talking about. They already had plenty of money so couldnt get overly excited about making more
They entered the large NBC reception room to the friendly accompaniment of clinking champagne glasses. Paul Connor stepped back and took Lydias hand, allowing George to Precede them into the room. The singer wore a white vested suit with a white on white shirt and tie. The room fell silent for a moment as everyone turned to stare. there was a wave of murmured approval from the executive wives, and though the urbane New Yorkers tried to hide it under a veneer of indifference, their eyes betrayed the obvious excitement the young mans presence brought into the room. John Printess hurried forward to receive his quests.“George Potter-this is an honor, Sir! Congratulations on your instant success.”
George beamed and blushed slightly which brought another murmur from the matrons in the room. This George Potter was really lovable.
Printess led the Potters around the room and introduced them to NBCs top brass. Connor trailed behind. He already knew most of them, from the chairman of the board down to a vast assortment of vice presidents, wives and husbands. All came under the charm and charisma of his new protégé. Finally Printess led them near a small platform where a guitar leaned against a stool. George needed no more than this suggestion. He took up the guitar, checked if for tune and sat down on the stool. To the accompaniment of soft guitar chords, he made a simple speech, thanking them for their confidence in him and for this warm reception. Then he began to sing. The crowd moved closer, though Georges voice had great carrying power, even when he sang pianissimo.
He finished the song and there was not a sound. Not so much as champagne glass tinkle or chink of ice. This strange phenomenon of silence was to follow every song he would ever sing in public. His listeners were literally entranced. It was almost like hypnotic therapy--this mystical, magical euphoria that bathed every soul when he sang. Then the moment would pass and the applause would come. Slowly at first, then it would build to a crescendo of adoration. It always embarrassed George a little, this power he had over people. Yet it was an integral part of him, like the fingers that played his magic melodies.
The ABC Special became broadcast history, and when George move on to NBC, the network welcomed him with open arms. The new weekly TV hour was an immediate success. NBCs Friday night ratings soared as more and more people tuned in and turned on to George Potter. As his popularity increased, critics, sociologists, psychologists and philosophers made great attempts to air their opinions of the new phenomenon. They could rhapsodize, fantasize and try to analyze, but few could criticize the new show biz wonder. He was beyond description. Beyond the fallibility of mere words. They were sure he must be only human, yet he seemed to loom larger than life.
Was he another Elvis? That comparison seemed weak and lacked credibility. Elvis image had been mostly sensual--a mere sex symbol. George Potter was more than that. True, woman of all ages adored him to distraction, but nearly every man and boy also admired him for his homely wisdom and the optimism he projected in his songs.
The religious hesitated to call h im, Messiah, though there was a quality in the message of his songs, speech and behavior that made them wonder.
Poets compared him to Sandburg, yet that description lacked strength, since the weight of Potters word-images were more profound than any poet in memory.
Most of the public saw it immediately. The simple truth was. George Potter was Love!
That was what he preached, but in such a way his message became an epidemic that spread through every heart and mind that heard him.
His music? That was easier for the critics to put a finger on.
The millions of music fans,realized he had brought with him a revolution in music, just as Elvis and the Beatles had done before him. He combined the best qualities of folk, soul, rock, disco, country and classical and fused it into a new style for his generation.
Some tried to describe his voice. Perhaps the most concise analysis was written on the cover notes on the back of his first album: George Potters voice has that natural quality everyone can relate to, but it has a great difference that sets it apart from any voice before him. His wide range gives his singing extraordinary flexibility He can spin husky whispered high notes in triple pianissimo or his voice can cut like surgical steel. His lower register may thunder like brass or caress like woodwinds. It is a unique instrument belonging to only one unique person--George Potter!
It was an amazing yet human voice, but it was only a vehicle for his thoughts and ideas. the means with which he could project his philosophy to the world; the poetry that could caress the soul or persuade the listener that all was not as hopeless as it seemed.
People clung to his ideas. This was a generation that was immersed in a gloom of pessimism that had been touched by the dehumanizing plague of automation and affluence. They had lost the ability or desire to create.
Another thing that set George apart was that people listened when he sang. The idols of the past had always been drowned out by the clamor and hysteria of the crowds who adored them. At a George Potter concert, the crowd might go wild in anticipation; might wax hysterical when he made his entrance, go into ecstatic glee when he finished a song or even clap to keep time when it was appropriate. But mostly, they listened.
The power of his personality flowed out into the waiting audience, and over and around them. They reached out and took him and devoured his delicious dreams with their minds and hearts. Within them, his visions created a soothing balm of peace and tranquility, a glimpse of a better world there within their grasp. Thesongs might be a joyous celebration of love and happiness that lifted them up and carried them, or he might sing of beauty and hope. Whatever the song, whatever the dreams and wonders they saw in his mind; they listened, they responded, they worshipped.
TIME MAGAZINE--June 29, 1985. Just what is a George Potter? an interview with James Arden.
The new show biz phenomenon, George Potter is currently the brightest burning meteor in our galaxy of stars. So bright does he blaze that he has eclipsed even the memory of the legendary Elvis. There is a big difference between our new idol and the late swivel-hipped singer. By some miracle, he has in the short year of his success, lifted the low spirits of this country and nearly every English speaking being within range of our satellites, to a new height of optimism.
Critics are unanimous in their praise of his talent. The big controversy being--How does he do it?!
No one knows for sure, but most people feel very strongly about George Potter. we interviewed hundreds of George Potter fans from every walk of live, and here is the general consensus of opinion.
Q. What happens to you when you hear George Potter?
A. George Potter is the best prescription a doctor can give. Makes me feel wonderful. Like a new person.
Q. Who is George Potter.
A. Hes the greatest guy in the world!
Q. What do you think of George Potter?
A. Love „im...love „im!
Later we interviewed the star himself, along with his lovely wife Lydia in their home
In Marin County.
Q. George, its been said that your greatest gift is communication with your public. How do you do it?
A. Jim, thats a question I cant really answer. I dont understand it myself. All I know is that just before I start to sing or speak, I get this big delicious pain in my chest. Its like my heart is going to burst. It scared hell out of me at first (Laughs) I thought I was having a heart attack. But when I start to sing, the feeling is fantastic. Like flying. It just seems to pour out of me. It know it sound weird, but the great feeling I have must somehow transmit itself to the folks who are listening. Its a strange and wonderful emotion. At least to me it is.
Q. What do you think it is, Mrs. Potter?
A. I think it must be Love. George is a very loving man, but the love he gives his publish has got to be the greatest love in the world. It takes a lot out of him. After a performance he sometimes sleeps for twelve hours.
Q. How do you write your songs, George?
A. Well, you know, I was a political science major in college. I try to keep up with everything thats going on the the world. Unfortunately, these days nearly all the news is bad.
It depresses me and I know what it must be doing to the morale of the public. I try to take the negatives of the news reporters and turn it around to show the positive side.
Q. How do you do that?
A Its like Lydia said. I guess its love I project into my songs. I try to convince my audience to love themselves, their family and their fellow beings. It works for me...I just hope I can make it work a little for the people who tune in.
And thats George Potter. Ill admit I was already a fan, but I expected to meet a cold, impersonal star. I found George potter to be warm, humble, intelligent and dedicated to the course hes made for himself. The big job of making people happy. I guess I caught the epidemic, too. The epidemic of Love...called--George Potter!
As the weeks of Summer wore away, more and more people discovered George potter. NBCs Friday night summer replacement drew the largest audience in history, according to Neilson and ARB. The fact was, the other stations might just as well have shut down during the Potter show. No one was watching them.
Competing networks suffered a big turnover in top brass that Summer. Buckpassing became the order of the day as vice-president blamed vice-president for the failure to sign up the new superstar.
They couldn't wait until NBCs limited contract ran out so they could get a crack at Americas newest obsession.
Via satellite, most of the English speaking world was watching, too, as week after week George Potter dazzled them with his personality, wisdom, and talent. It wasnt just his singing that drew them, though that was extraordinary. The thing that pulled them to the tube each Friday at eight, was what he said in his songs and the way he could project his ideas and emotions to his viewers.
Many couldnt decide which they liked best. The portion of the program where George sang to them, or toward the end of the show when the singing was over. Then hed put down his guitar or banjo, sit on the edge of the stage and just talk to them. His philosophy was an extension of his poetry. He could put into words what most people just thought about. He would speak on different subjects each week. Sometimes it might be love, or against prejudice and bigotry. Or hed speak to the children, perhaps to encourage them to do better in school and to honor their parents.
Sometimes he spoke of the government. He never criticized, but only suggested. He had the rare ability to cut through the smokescreen of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo surrounding an issue and get the the heart of the matter. Often he would weigh both sides of an argument and show the best way to a logical conclusion. He gave his talks with uncanny clarity so every age group and mental ability could grasp what he said, and always with a light sense of humor that gave them an avenue of hope. ****