In a Los Angeles suburb, twelve-year-old Molly McCarthy sobbed uncontrollably on the bed in her room. The volume of her sobbing was purposely turned up high — loud enough for her parents to hear and experience her sadness. It was a frequent event in Molly’s home and typically yielded results that met or even exceeded Molly’s expectations. But today, the crying was going about as well as the nascent year had gone for young Molly.
1968 had gone off the rails early. Molly had been sick for two weeks immediately after New Year’s Day with strep throat, but she had gotten healthy enough for her birthday party in early February. However, February was when her best friend took ill and infected two other girls invited to the party. Molly’s parents refused to reschedule the sparsely attended party — something about a non-refundable deposit for the clown who was hired to entertain. Some clown. All he did was honk a horn and make balloon animals. Molly had asked him to make a balloon peace symbol. She had been influenced by her older cousin and was definitely one hundred percent against the Vietnam War, wherever Vietnam was. The clown had refused, citing the need to support the United States government and the military. Molly ended-up with a disappointing balloon poodle and wondered if all balloon dogs are poodles by default because of their shape.
But Molly wasn’t crying about past disappointments. No, she was weeping because Molly was facing possibly the biggest disappointment she had ever encountered. And wailing loudly enough so all would know the level of her pain had never previously been felt in her young and tender life.
The Stained Glass Eye was the record store in Molly’s little town. Molly and her friends had purchased all their 45 rpm records from the Eye. At the height of vinyl, the Stained Glass Eye was doing well, in part because of their relentless promotional efforts to bring musical acts to the record store, where they were hopeful of hawking their most recent release. However, the rock star who would be at the Eye that day in February needed no appearance to sell records. He was part of one of the biggest selling rock bands in the world. Molly’s favorite group. And she was going to miss him.
Molly had grown up adoring her older cousin, following in her every footstep, dressing like her, and liking what she liked. Molly always thought it was cool that their names were so similar, Molly and Mallory. But Molly had just started marching to her own beat which diverged a bit from cousin Mallory’s. Molly loved her cousin, but maybe not enough to go to Mallory’s fourteenth birthday party that day. Not when Davy Jones of the Monkees was making an appearance at the Stained Glass Eye at the exact time that birthday cake would be served at Mallory’s party that afternoon. Molly was making a stand. She had to see Davy Jones in person that day.
The Monkees were Molly’s favorite musical group. She considered them the greatest musical group of all time. She never missed their hit television show and relished watching the reruns. Although she didn’t own any Monkees album or an album of any kind, she owned every 45 the Monkees had released and reveled in both the hit “A” sides and lesser “B” sides. Oh, but that “Daydream Believer,” that was the best song ever with Davy Jones delivering the fabulous lead vocal. And Molly was going to miss him … in her town … at the Eye … that day.
She blubbered away into her pillow, lifting her head frequently so that her wails could be heard down the block and certainly into the kitchen of her house, where her parents had encamped to ride out this edition of Hurricane Molly. Every five minutes or so, Molly’s mother would implore her to “come eat lunch before we go to Mallory’s party.” Molly ignored those pleas and continued her torrent of tears, some real, but most forced. Molly knew she didn’t need food. She still had a Twinkie stashed in her Monkees lunchbox sitting in the corner of her room. She definitely didn’t need the leftover liver and bacon that her mother was attempting to foist upon her as a meal. Molly hoped that if she could continue her act, she might score a double win by missing that disgusting warmed-up leftover combo and getting her parents to acquiesce to the Jones appearance.
But Molly’s gambit wasn’t working too well. The Twinkie was delicious but not very filling. And her parents had seemed to draw the line at missing a family birthday party. Molly was just about out of tears and was getting somewhat light-headed from dehydration when she went for broke and bellowed during her rant, “I’d rather die than not see Davy Jones!”
Just like that, Molly was no longer alone. She tried to scream but was physically unable to make a sound. She slowly turned to face her intruder. He was red and had horns. There appeared to be a tail, although Molly couldn’t be entirely certain since he was sitting on her bed. Only the pitchfork was missing. She was petrified, unable to move.
“Don’t be scared, dear girl,” said the red intruder. “I’m not here to hurt you. I’m here to grant your wish. Now be a good girl and stop trying to scream, and I’ll give you some of your voice back. A little at first. We don’t want to unduly startle your parents now, do we?”
Molly was barely able to eke out a whispered, “No.” She was no longer crying because of the possibility of missing Davy Jones, but was on the verge of tears due to this odd stranger’s unwanted visit. After an awkward thirty seconds that seemed like thirty minutes to Molly, she finally asked, “What wish? To see Davy Jones?”
“Oh, no, that one would be much too easy. You should be able to figure out that one yourself. Fake an illness. Sneak out of the house. Sure, you’ll probably get in trouble, but it would be worth it,” the red stranger explained.
Molly cautiously pressed her crimson visitor further, “So, then, what wish?”
“Have you forgotten already, Molly? You wished to die rather than miss Davy Jones.”
Molly had forgotten, or rather she had not even noticed herself saying it. It had been more part of her overall rant than an actual wish.
“I am here to grant you your death, Molly. Now, I want to assure you that if you decide to move forward with this fate, I will guarantee your complete comfort during the experience. You won’t feel any pain. Agreed?”
“Who are you?” Molly asked with a quizzical look on her face.
“I’m an angel, of course,” the red-faced being declared.
“You sure don’t look like an angel. You look more like a devil. Are you the Devil?” interrogated Molly.
“No, no, I’m an angel. Some call us fallen angels, but we are angels nonetheless. Rather than fallen, I prefer to think that we just chose a different path. Kind of like rebel angels. Did you see James Dean in ‘Rebel Without a Cause?’ Sorta that kind of angel, except I have a cause.”
“No, my parents wouldn’t let me watch that movie. They say I can’t watch it until I’m an adult, and I probably shouldn’t even watch it then.”
“Figures,” said the self-proclaimed rebel angel as he rolled his blood-red eyes. “That sounds about right for those squares. Anyway, we rebel angels, we serve Satan, Lucifer, or the ‘Devil’ as you say. Although I have been known by many names over the centuries, you can call me Tommy.”
“Uh, okay, I guess, Tommy then. Thanks, I think. I’m kinda surprised you’re here. I don’t think I want to die.”
“But you said it,” argued Tommy. “It was so heartfelt. I can make it happen for you. We can do a sudden accident, or how about a drowning at the local pool? I can ensure that you won’t feel a thing. There won’t be any long, drawn-out, childhood illness. Ugh, even we demons, I mean angels, hate those. It will be quick. You’ll go to the afterlife, and everyone left on earth will carry on without you as best they can. And most importantly, you’ll have really shown your parents a thing or two.”
“Will I go to heaven?”
Tommy evaded the question, “Who’s to say? I can’t tell you anything more about the afterlife except that heaven’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Lots of goody two-shoes up there. That’s all I can reveal. You can’t drag any more outta me. It’s pretty top secret stuff. If I told you any more, I’d have to kill you.” Tommy chuckled at his quip.
Molly wasn’t laughing, but she was growing bolder and braver. “Say, why does a fallen angel like you want a little girl like me dead?”
“Look, you’re a good kid, although that crying and those tantrums are really annoying. But you’ve got a good heart. You’ve got the potential to grow up and do some really nice things for society. We rebel angels would prefer that doesn’t happen. Capiche?”
“No, I don’t capiche,” replied Molly, growing more belligerent. “I think that’s a lot of baloney sausage. What’s your real scam?”
“Hey, kid, I got a job to do. I’m supposed to try and get as many humans as possible to take more of a rebel path, like we angels with a cause did. We start working on people as young as we can. You know Bobby Bradford down the block?” Molly nodded her assent. “Bobby’s an altar boy at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow Catholic Church. I got him to take a swig of the sacramental wine last Sunday. He loved it. If I can get him to keep it up, there’ll be a cardboard box with his name on it waiting for him down on Skid Row someday.”
“Oh, that’s terrible. Poor Bobby!” exclaimed Molly.
“Poor Bobby nothing. He will grow up loving the cheap hooch and drift into unconsciousness without a care in the world after draining his daily bottle or two. Wouldn’t that be great, going through life without a care in the world? And as far as our situation is concerned, you called me. I didn’t have anything to do with you yelling out that you would rather be dead. I’m just here to get you to sign the contract and make your wish come true.”
“I’m pretty certain I don’t want to die anymore. I don’t think I ever really did,” explained Molly.
“But you can’t let your parents get away with keeping you from seeing Davy Jones. He’s so dreamy,” tempted Tommy in a sing-song voice. “And what’s the deal with your cousin Mallory having her party on the day Davy Jones comes to town?”
“Mallory doesn’t think much of the Monkees,” Molly said dejectedly. “She says they’re for kids. She thinks she’s smarter just because she’s older. She says the Beatles and those icky Rolling Stones are better than the Monkees. What does she know?”
Tommy cautioned, “Yeah, about that, she may know more than you think. Give it a few years. I know Mick from the Rolling Stones. He’s a talented young lad. Just met him recently. He was pleased to meet me, but wasn’t able to guess my name. He’s got lots of potential though. Seemed sympathetic to my cause, although we didn’t do a deal … yet. I was able to work a deal with one of his band mates though. He’ll be around a whole lot longer than his lifestyle should allow. But back to you, Molly. Can we work out a deal with you for your death?”
Molly and Mallory had never missed any of each other’s family birthday parties. They had always been there for each other. When Molly’s kid birthday party with the balloon clown teetered on the edge of disaster, Mallory had responded to a frantic phone call from her Aunt Sylvia, Molly’s mom, and swung by the party with some records. Mallory spun the records she brought and taught the younger girls some dances while the clown was summarily dismissed early. Molly then remembered that Mallory had refused to go see the Beatle’s movie “Help!” without bringing Molly along. Molly didn’t really understand the movie, but she understood how much she and Mallory meant to each other. Molly decided she probably should go to Mallory’s stupid party and forget about meeting Davy Jones. And then, Molly also decided that the party wouldn’t be stupid. Mallory would be there, and anywhere that Mallory was wasn’t stupid. The fate offered by Tommy was what was stupid.
“Uh, I don’t want to die,” Molly declared. “I’m going to my cousin’s party. I’ll enjoy myself without seeing Davy Jones.”
“Like I said, you seem like a good kid, Molly. I’m going to give you some advice. Davy Jones will be around longer than wheat pennies. If you play your cards right, you can probably see him singing at a county fair sometime in the future. But don’t dawdle too long after 2010. See him as early and as often as you can. He’s actually a good guy. He’ll put on a good show. None of those Monkees had any serious time for me, although Mike told me he wants to be rich beyond his wildest dreams. I’m working on it.”
Molly didn’t understand any of that. And 2010? That was so far in the future that Molly couldn’t even comprehend that date. But she knew that she wanted to go to Mallory’s party. With a dramatic sweep of her hand, Molly paraphrased a Bible verse from her Sunday School memories, “Begone, Tommy.”
The sickly-sweet smell of premium tobacco greeted Molly when she opened her eyes. She found her mother patting her hand. Her father stood in the background smoking his pipe. Molly was on her back in bed with a cold washcloth on her forehead.
“Oh, Molly dear, you gave us a fright,” exclaimed Molly’s mother. “You worked yourself into such a tizzy over this monkey person that you passed out. Well, now we won’t be going anywhere. Poor Mallory. I’ll call my sister and tell her that we’ll have to miss Mallory’s party.”
Molly wasn’t completely sure of what had happened, but she took her mother’s word that she had fainted. “No, don’t call, Mom. I feel much better now.” Molly sat straight up as her mother let out a short yip of surprise. “I want to go to Mallory’s party. It’ll be fun. I’ll get ready.”
“Oh, well, I guess that’s okay if you’re okay,” blustered Molly’s mom. “But come down for something to eat before we go. You can’t have birthday cake on an empty stomach.”
“Yes, Mom,” complied Molly. “I’ll get dressed and be right down.” Molly knew two things. One, that she had a weird dream, although the details were hazy. And two, that she couldn’t wait to see Mallory at the party.
Her father had not said a word. He had been examining something in Molly’s room the whole time while his wife had been trying to revive their daughter. He left a trail of wispy, aromatic smoke behind as he exited Molly’s room. Before he left, he placed the object back where he had found it, obscuring of all Molly’s 45 rpm records including all the hits of the Monkees with their deeply worn grooves.
Molly got up from her bed, a little woozy at first, so she took a sip of the water her mother had brought for her. She walked across the room and looked at what had been the object of her father’s scrutiny. It was an album that she didn’t own, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band by the Beatles. She didn’t own any albums. Molly had no idea where it had come from. Certainly not a gift from her parents. She put the first album she had ever played on her record player. Crowd noise and the tuning of orchestral instruments gave way to a solid drumbeat, screaming guitars, and Paul’s vocals providing a supposed history lesson from twenty years prior while Molly looked over the album cover. Even though she didn’t prefer the Beatles to the Monkees, she knew all about the Beatles and even liked some of their older songs like “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Molly often wondered why they no longer made good songs like that. She was able to recognize the Beatles on the album cover, along with some other stars like Marilyn Monroe and Marlin Brando. But most of the faces she could not place with a name, no matter how hard she stared.
And then she saw the face that looked very familiar, like someone she knew but could not recall who it was if her life depended on it. The more she looked, the more her gaze intensified and glazed over into a trancelike state. If she had Superman’s heat vision, there would have been a puddle of melted vinyl at her feet. Then the face on the album cover commanding Molly’s gaze appeared to blush just one shade of red and maybe even wink at her. It all came flooding back into Molly’s consciousness. Tommy!
Molly was awoken from her reverie by her mother’s call, “Molly, dear, are you coming down? We’ll be late.”
The album had sequenced from Paul singing the opening track to Ringo singing about getting by with some help from friends. Molly would do the same. She couldn’t wait to see her cousin Mallory, her friend, and help celebrate her birthday. “Coming, Mom,” shouted Molly. She switched off the record player, and Ringo’s vocals extolling the virtues of friendship slowly wound down and stopped while Molly’s life continued on.