March 20, 1965
Mike walked into the Dolenz house, grinning from ear to ear.
Peter came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands dry. Catching sight of the grin, he answered with one of his own. “Good news, then?”
“Better than good,” Mike chuckled. “Soon as the others get home, let’s have a family meeting.”
With a nod, Peter gently jerked his head toward the kitchen. “Ma Dolenz is home already.”
Mike frowned. “She’s home? Bit early…”
Peter put the rag down and sighed. “She’s had a headache today. Came home and slept.”
“She’s better.” Peter’s smile returned. “She made her famous barbecue burgers tonight.”
Mike’s eyes lit up and he licked his lips in anticipation of his beloved favourite meal.
Davy came home bone-weary and Micky came home with homework out his ears. The others knew exactly how tired Davy was when he dozed off at the table, still with a piece of burger in his mouth.
Peter stood and swept out Davy’s mouth before lifting the 19-year-old out of the chair and shifting him into his arms. Without a word, he carried Davy into the bedroom and laid him on the bed. He tugged off Davy’s shoes and lay a thin quilt over the bellboy’s uniform.
Returning to the others, he asked Mike, “Do you want to wait till he wakes up?”
Mike nodded. “Yeah, I don’t want to have to say it twice.”
Peter nodded and resumed eating.
Two hours later, a sleepy-eyed Davy stumbled out of the bedroom. Micky was deep into his General Studies homework.
Mike walked over and laid a hand on Micky’s shoulder. “Get to a stopping point and stop for awhile,” he told Micky. “We need a family meeting now.”
Micky nodded and bent back over his reading.
Mike turned to talk to Davy, but saw Peter handing him a cup of coffee. Mike smiled – Peter had everything under control.
Fifteen minutes later, the four and Mrs. Dolenz were gathered around the dining room table again. “So?” Davy asked. “What is it?”
“Something really great happened today,” Mike said with a grin.
“You got a girlfriend!” Micky teased and Mike threw a napkin at him.
“Better!” Mike laughed. He leaned back in his chair and fixed that large grin on each of them.
“Guys,” he announced, “I think I may have found us a house.”
It was on a Saturday that they could all go see the house. They wanted to go together.
So Mike borrowed Ma Dolenz’s car and drove them out there. “Wow,” Peter breathed as city gave way to suburb.
“It isn’t in LA proper?” Micky asked.
“Nope,” Mike grinned. “Malibu Beach.”
“Malibu Beach?!” the other three gasped in pleased surprise. Malibu Beach was a wonderfully eclectic blend of a retirement community and family getaway – with a musical subculture that was huge and thriving.
“Yup – on the beach itself. The house is literally on a small rise on the very edge of the beach!”
“Hey, cool!” Micky laughed, rubbing his hands in pure glee. “The ocean as alarm clock!”
Peter’s eyes took on a dreamy look. “The ocean’s soothing rhythm rocking us gently….” Peter had recently become interested in peaceful meditation. Along with music, it soothed his sometimes chaotic mind as nothing else could.
“Girls in bikinis!” Davy laughed.
“You would,” Mike laughed. “Nearest house is half a block away. Lots of privacy!” He shut off the car. “Here we are.”
The four got out of the car and stared. The house was a cheery shade of yellow. It had two full stories and the distinctive window of a basement could be seen. A large garage was attached to the house.
“What d’you think?” Mike asked.
“Can we see inside?” Peter asked.
“Sure, I’ll go get the keys.” Mike walked across the street and halfway down the block. He knocked on the door of a one-story blue hours.
A gruff-looking man opened the door. The others saw Mike talking, pointing at them and smiling. The thought crossed each of their minds that the man looked familiar, but none of them could place where they had seen him before.
The gruff man nodded and vanished inside. A moment later, he reappeared and pressed a set of keys into Mike’s hand.
Mike thanked him and headed back to the others as the gruff man vanished into his house. Mike jerked his thumb over his shoulder as he arrived. “That’s Henry Babbitt – he’s the landlord.”
Peter frowned. “He doesn’t seem very nice.”
“Oh, he’s okay,” Mike smiled. “He’s just grumpy – I think he’s lonely. Come on.” He dangled the keys. “Let’s go look around!”
The empty house rang with their footsteps. The kitchen had an old-fashioned icebox, but the rest of the appliances were new.
“WOW!” Peter gasped as his steps quickened, taking him to the huge bay windows beside the sliding back door. “Look at that view!”
Micky joined him on the raised platform. “Look at that balcony!”
“Look at that bandstand,” Mike whispered in awe.
Davy looked around. “You think we can afford it?”
“Rent’s reasonable – long as we keep working, we’ll be fine,” Mike smiled at him.
Micky dashed up the stairs, chuckling at the rhythm of the ringing metal. “Bedroom has a full bath attached!” he crowed.
“There’s a half-bath here,” Davy said, walking out of the downstairs bedroom.
“And a half-bath here,” Peter emerged from a door on the other side of the living room.
“Let’s take it!” Micky cheered as he slid down the spiral banister.
“We’ll sign the papers Monday,” Mike smiled. “We’ve got us a house!”
Mike came down the stairs to a royal cacophony. “What is that?” he roared.
Ma Dolenz chuckled as she turned from the stove. “That’s Micky. Want some coffee before work?”
Mike nodded. “Where’s Peter?”
“Out back with Micky. Davy’s already gone to work – the hotel’s having a convention this week.”
“Dentists. I remember.” Mike took a sip, then glared toward the back yard. “I’m gonna go see what that racket is!”
“When do you four move out??” Ma Dolenz asked a bit sadly.
Mike smiled at her. “Figured me an’ Pete would go next week, then Micky an’ Davy the week after. In stages.” He hugged her. “Besides – we’re only half an hour away!”
“I know,” she chuckled, hugging back. “And that’s the way of life – children are supposed to grow up, move out, and make a life for themselves.” She looked up at her second-oldest adopted ‘son’. “But it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Mike smiled and kissed her forehead. “I love you.”
“You, too.” She pushed him playfully as the cacophony sounded outside again. “Now go satisfy your curiosity.”
Mike smiled at her, then walked into the back yard – and gaped.
Micky was sitting behind a battered but useable drum set. The playing was the scattered banging of an amateur, and Peter was nodding his head to show tempo. It was immediately obvious that Peter was teaching Micky how to play.
With a smile, Mike walked back in and closed the door behind him. Micky had always wanted to learn how to drum, but they had not yet found a way to teach him.
Obviously, the two of them had finally found a way!
Mike’s smile turned into a proud one as he headed up the stairs to shower before work.
After Mike showered and felt more human, he went back outside and reminded Peter it was his turn to shower before work.
Peter all but tripped over his own feet as he dashed into the house. Micky tapped the cymbal lightly as he asked, “What time is it?”
“Nearly nine,” Mike informed him. “Don’t you have a class this morning?”
“Yeah, at ten-thirty.” Micky sighed and sat up. “One more year and a semester and I’m done.”
“You’ll do great.” Mike smiled at him. “You’ve done great so far, and you’ll do great the rest of the time.”
Micky sighed. “I wish I had your confidence. English is harder than it looks when it’s your major!”
“At least you’re going,” Mike said with no rancor. “Davy’s next and then me.”
“If he wants to,” Mike shrugged. We’ve not talked about it yet.”
“Talk about it,” Micky advised. “I’m gonna go get ready – hey, when’re you two movin’?”
“Sometime next week.”
Micky clapped a hand on his shoulder. “This is gonna be great!”
Mike and Peter were loading Peter’s belongings into boxes and duffel bags, preparing to move them to the new house later that day, when Mike felt a sudden need to talk. “So you’re teachin’ Micky how to drum.”
“Yup,” Peter said, gracing Mike with a huge smile. “He’s always wanted to learn how.”
“Ever thought of makin’ a band?”
Peter shrugged. “The thought had crossed my mind,” he admitted. “But I want it to be all our decisions before we start anything.” He calmly went back to packing his shelf of books.
Mike didn’t work for a moment. He just goggled at Peter. The duality of the man never failed to amaze him. The brain damage he’d sustained as a child had left Peter very childlike in many, many ways – but there was a wisdom about him that would make them all just pause and think. And that part of Peter had come out more and more over the last few weeks.
Peter looked up, his golden-brown brows drawing together in puzzlement.
“Have you ever thought about goin’ to college?”
“College?” He frowned. “You mean like Micky?” Peter thought, then gave a slight smile and shook his head.
“Why not?” Mike asked, suddenly curious as to what was going on in Peter’s head.
Peter sat down on his bed. “Because to go to college, you have to have a high school diploma. You have your GED – I don’t even have that. To go to college, you gotta be smart. We both know, Michael – smart is one thing I am not.”
Mike sat down beside him. “You know something, Peter? That’s not true. You have an innocence about you that people take advantage of. You do grasp things here –“ he tapped Peter’s forehead gently, “it just takes you a little longer. I think if you worked hard and got your GED, and then wanted to – I think you’d do just fine in college.”
“Who’s going next?” Peter asked.
Peter nodded. “Good. He’ll do great. Know what I think he’ll major in?”
Mike smiled. “English?”
Catching the pun Mike threw, Peter’s reply was that deep-throated chuckle. “No,” he shot back. “Seriously, I think it’ll be history.”
“Because Davy has a phenomenal memory for the past and he really enjoys talking about it.”
Mike nodded, knowing Peter was right.
“Now you,” Peter grinned. “If you go, you’d major in either child care of music. You have a love for both of them.”
“Say for a minute you do go – what would you major in, Pete?”
Peter’s grin grew and his answer was absolutely no surprise to Mike.
Mike tossed and turned in bed for two hours before giving up. He slid out of bed and walked across the room. He opened the door, gasped, then smiled. “Couldn’t sleep?”
Peter shrugged, both arms hugging his teddy bear tight against the new orange one-piece pajamas he’d bought to celebrate the move. “It’s childish, I know—“ he began.
“C’mere.” Mike draped an arm around the smaller man’s shoulder, pulling him into a brotherly embrace. “If it’s childish, then we’re both kids.”
Peter looked into his face, his head tilting as he frowned in confusion.
“I couldn’t sleep either,” Mike said with a grin. “It’s too quiet in there without Micky’s snoring!”
And Peter smiled slightly. “And without Davy’s sighs.” The smile faded. “I even miss his nightmares.”
“Well, then,” Mike said with a sigh. There’s only one solution. We’ll be here a week until they move in, so…” The cheeky grin returned. “Your bedroom or mine?”
Peter hit him with the teddy bear and they both laughed.
Mike gathered his sheets and they went to the downstairs bedroom. Mike made up the bare mattress across the room from Peter’s and slid into bed.
And both of them were asleep in minutes.
Two days later, Mike and Peter took a day off work. They delivered Micky to class and Davy to work, and then drove off.
Peter grinned once they were alone. “I’m smelling you’ve got something up your sleeve.”
“Good nose,” Mike chuckled. “Feel like driving home by yourself?”
The grin faded. “Where will you be?”
“Either right behind you or right in front of you.” Mike turned into a used-car lot.
Peter’s grin spread again as understanding touched his eyes. “Outtasight!” he laughed. “Got anything in mind?”
“Actually -- I do.” Mike shut off the car and got out. “There’s a car that was put together wrong – the specs were misread and she ended up with a second back seat!”
Peter’s eyes widened. “Two back seats!”
“Yup,” Mike grinned. “She’s got a lot of engine troubles, too. Real cantankerous car.”
Peter’s grin exploded as he got out of the car. “Micky is going to be in love!”
“And there she is.”
Peter followed Mike’s pointing finger and saw a great monster of a car – a brand-new GTO, cherry-red and snow-white. The extra seat jutted out like a stiff leg.
“How’d she get engine trouble?” Peter asked. “She looks brand-new – she’s beautiful!”
“I think so, too,” Mike said. “Dealer said someone took a hammer to her engine.”
Peter growled. Senseless violence made him angry. He ran his hand over the red finish. “How much?”
“Enough.” Mike’s grin grew. “I’ve been payin’ on her for a few weeks. We’re just here to pick her up.” He went inside to collect the keys.
When they arrived at the Dolenz house half an hour later, they were in two cars. Mrs. Dolenz smiled at them, and started laughing. “What’s so funny?” Mike asked.
She held out a key ring. “I bought you boys a car today, too!” She pointed at a jeep waiting patiently in the back drive.
At that, all three of them burst into laughter.
Davy stepped back and smiled at his handiwork. “Do you think they’ll enjoy it?” he asked.
Micky grinned as he nodded. “Put it this way – if they don’t, we don’t know them as well as we thought!”
“What?” Mike asked as he came out of the upstairs bedroom, brushing his still-damp bangs out of his eyes. As he came down the tornado stairs, he asked, “What are you two goin’ on ab—“ He paused at the foot of the stairs, his eyes going wide and his jaw dropping open.
“Mike?” Davy asked nervously.
“Oh… my… Peter!” Mike bellowed. “Get out here now!”
There was a pause, then a hesitant, “Can it wait? I’m in the middle of—“
“No it can’t wait! Now!”
There was an audible groan, then Peter emerged from the downstairs bedroom – wearing only a pair of brown pants. His hair was still wet and soapy and his chest bore the marks of where he’d been leaning over the sink to wash it. “What is it?” he asked with only slight impatience.
Mike pointed. “LOOK!”
Peter followed his finger and his jaw dropped open. Heedless of his soapy hair, he stepped forward in startled shock.
Davy and Micky had arranged their instruments on the bandstand in the configuration of a real band. Mike’s guitars were over to the left, Peter’s to the right. The programmable keyboard stood off alone to the side, and the Piano Ma Dolenz had given them was on the floor to the side of that – off the bandstand. Micky’s drums were in the rear, and several microphones and speakers were there.
Peter turned to face the others. “Where did you get the money—“
Micky grinned. “I got a part-time job at Rudy’s Music Shoppe – and I got these there. The payments will come out of my checks.”
Mike turned to him. “You sure you can keep up with that and your studies?”
“I can,” Micky nodded. “Then I’ll go up on my hours—“
“And it’ll be my turn!” Davy laughed.
Peter looked at Mike, then back at the other two. “Does this mean you guys…”
Micky grinned. “I’m a lot better on the drums. I’d love to work on real songs!”
Davy smiled at them. “I know I can’t play very well – but I’m willing to try. Even if I just end up beating a tambourine – I’d love to be in a band!”
Peter’s grin exploded and he hopped up and down a little. “We’re going to be a real band! We’re going to – OOW!”
Mike laughed. “Go finish your hair, Shotgun. We’ll work on the band when you’re ready.”
Peter shot him a grin and padded back into the bedroom.
To their delight, the four musically meshed astonishingly quickly. They began to arrange some of Mike, Micky and Peter’s prolific poetry into songs. Davy was still ‘perfecting’ his poems, but he’d assured them he’d give them for lyrics when he was satisfied.
The three others came over at Peter’s call. “What do you think?” Peter asked, gesturing at the bass drum.
He’d hung a hand-made sign on it – a red, stylized guitar made up of letters.
Davy read them aloud: “M-O-N-K-E-E-S… hey, Peter! Love the hearts for tuning pegs on the S!”
Micky groaned. “Peter…we agreed on the name, but that is not how it’s spelled!”
“I know,” Peter smiled. “It’s on purpose – like the Beatles!”
Micky thought about that, then laughed. “In that case, Peter – I apologise!”
Peter’s reply was to give Micky one of those warm, tight hugs.
Davy suddenly frowned. “Mike?”
Mike was staring wide-eyed at the drum. He turned to the others. “We did it,” he whispered. “We did it. We’re….we’re really a band!”
Mike’s words were awe-filled and reverent – and true.
They’d often visit Micky at work at Rudy’s Music Shoppe. Rudy had this habit of forgetting their names and calling them by nicknames. Micky was ‘Curls’, Davy was ‘Tiny’ – he never got mad at Rudy, but took it affectionately – and Peter was ‘Smiley’. Because of his constant headgear, Mike became ‘Woolhat’.
When Rudy found out they were a band, he told them he’d had some experience as a manager and would they mind--?
The reply was an enthusiastic and unanimous, “Yes, thank you!”
Rudy was a nice guy, they found out. He swiftly showed them which clubs and places were good and which were the proverbial ‘dives’. He gave Micky a quiet place to come study on his days off when things got a little insane at “The Pad” – as Davy had nicknamed the large beach house.
He’d let Peter and Mike come in and work out the ‘kinks’ in their arrangements with the customers applauding or not – the feedback helped them make better songs. Rudy also had several talks with Davy as he prepared for his turn to go to college – helping him decide what to major in.
Rudy even loaned the four his Woody station wagon on days when neither the large GTO ‘Monkeemobile’ nor the cantankerous jeep Davy preferred decided to run.
Over the next several months, the four honed their musical talents into a cohesive, wonderful sound. Davy turned in his papers and was accepted into college as a history major as Micky prepared to graduate at the end of the same semester.
One chilly morning in March – almost a year to the day Mike announced he had found them a house – the four were gathered in the Music Shoppe. Mike was working out the last few hiccups in a new song about a girl named Mary while Micky was pricing the new shipments.
Rudy walked over and laid a hand on Mike’s shoulder. “Hey, Woolhat – you four up to an audition tonight?”
“An audition?” Mike blinked. “Where at?”
“An old army buddy of mine – George Russell – called a little bit ago. His daughter Vanessa is turning sixteen and he’s looking for a band to play at her party….”
And the rest was history.
MAY 18, 1987
It’s been one hell of a wild ride. If I ever had any doubts it was destiny that brought the four of us together, they’re gone now.
Davy and Micky both graduated with honors. I went after Davy, and majored in child development. Once I graduated, I went back on a full scholarship, majoring in music. Peter went with me – also on full scholarship.
He made better grades than me! So much for not bein’ smart, I’d tell him again and again. It never failed to make him smile.
All through college, the Monkees played steady gigs. Sure, there’d be a few months we’d be out of work, but they wouldn’t last long.
I just wish Rudy had lived to see us play steadily. A couple of weeks after the Russell gig, Rudy had a heart attack and died. We miss him to this day.
Our curmudgeonly landlord, Babbitt, turned out to be the same man who’d lost his son the day Peter got his brain busted. Once we made that connection, we started treating him better. Sadly, he died two years after we moved in. The ‘official cause’ was alcoholism, but we feel he died of a broken, slowly poisoned heart.
After college, the Monkees kept up steady employment. Our music evolved and grew as we did. We also got ‘day jobs’ – Micky became a middle school English teacher. Davy worked at a library for several years before he left to become a full-time writer.
As for Peter and me? We opened a day-care center and work there to this day. Five years ago, we started our own record company as well. Destiny Music is doing well.
We met two sets of identical twins, and married them. Each one of us had twins too – a girl and a boy. Overall, we feel very blessed. Our wives understand the unique bond we have, and have never felt threatened by it – or at least they’ve never let us know if they have.
Now, you may be askin’, how does all this fit into why I know this was all destiny?
Because of something that happened yesterday.
We had our usual Sunday afternoon get-together. As usual, we four gourmet chef wannabes got run out of the kitchen while our wives worked. We noticed all of a sudden that the kids were too quiet.
So, we tracked them down. And what we saw shocked us to the core even as it warmed us there.
Our kids know somethin’ of our strange history, but they’ve never heard the mantra that kept us sane growin’ up. They’ve never heard it from us or our wives. We’ve never even put it in our music. Some things are just too damned personal.
We walked up on them just as they used the borrowed knife on the last of their palms. They didn’t know we were there, and we just watched as bloody cut was pressed to bloody cut – boy to boy, girl to girl. All four boys – then all four girls – joined their hands and mixed their blood eight-fold.
Then they spoke in perfect unison – words that floored every single one of us. Words they couldn’t possibly have known and that brought memories flooding back and washing over us as our hands joined without our conscious knowledge.
“Together is how we started this life,
Together is how we will stay.
And if by some chance
Life should tear us apart,
We’ll be –
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