Mike Nesmith came out of the bedroom rubbing his eyes. Using his own breath to inflate their flat tire till they could get home and repair it had not been one of his brightest ideas. It had left him with dancing black spots in front of his vision the rest of the day.
But, he reflected, they had been in kind of a rush....That stupid lady with her stupid tea leaves and the stupid predictions about Davy leaving the band.....
A couple of hours later, Mike and his roommates Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz were sitting at their kitchen table playing cards and watching their roommate Davy Jones who had recently sworn off girls -- pace and rant.
Finally tired of it, Mike called over and asked Davy if he wanted to play. Mere moments later, there came a knock on their door.
"It's a girl," Davy groaned.
"I'll get it," Mike announced, standing up. The other three stood in his wake, and he looked through the peephole. "Yeah, it's a girl get him upstairs!"
After a bit of confusion on Peter's part that nearly sent Micky upstairs, they soon had Davy safely sequestered away.
Only then did Mike open the door.
The woman stepped brazenly into the house. She was a short thing with tight blonde curls wearing a white outfit that would have been at home on a lady from the 1890s. The huge camera she carried awkwardly looked to be about from that time as well.
Mike found himself wondering what picture she'd stepped out of!
"I-I'm from the DuBois Photo Agency," she shrilled in a voice so grating that Mike caught a glimpse of Peter sitting on the steps with his fingers in his ears. She went on with her spiel and Mike shook his head. He wanted her out of there!
He listened in complete disbelief as Micky piped up, "Sure, why not?"
She set up her camera and positioned them Peter sitting in a chair and Mike and Micky standing behind it in positions so formally stiff and smiles so forced that Mike got a brief mental image of them in 1890s clothing. For a moment, truly amused at that image, Mike's smile was genuine.
"Now hold it!" the woman shrilled. "Hold it wait a second I thought there were four of you?"
"He's upstairs," Micky reported through his forced smile.
"Oh..." She blinked, then looked up the stairs and smiled. "Oh Oh! Okay, hold it!"
Mike only had time to wonder why in tarnation she was ducking down so low before the world exploded. An involountary cry was ripped from him as light burned into his eyes.
He registered Peter and Micky's screaming as well, and then heard them hollering. Peter evacuated the chair, and the sudden lightening of what Mike had been leaning on toppled Mike off-balance. He hit the floor hard and rolled onto his hands and knees, shaking his head to try to dispel the whirling black spots filling his vision.
He heard the girl shrieking, then the door slam. Then he heard Micky's gasp of his name.
"She...gone?" he panted, trying to climb to his feet, one arm swinging out to make sure he didn't hit anything.
"She's gone," Peter's baritone rumbled as a hand caught his and an arm bare, it was Micky, Mike realised, as he'd been the only one in short sleeves lay across his shoulders and supported him as he finally gained his feet.
"Shit," Mike sighed as he pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes. "That was bright!"
"It sure was," Micky agreed, not releasing Mike. "You okay?"
Mike opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted by Davy's ranting as he came down the stairs. "Look, fellows, you can't keep me here! This is a free country and I am going out!"
Mike shot a glance toward the shorter form he could just barely make out as the spots slowly began to recede. "Wanna bet?" he snarled.
Chaining Davy to a chair hadn't worked. Davy had left the house and taken the traitorous chair with him.
In hindsight, Mike mused, it would have been better if one of them had stayed with him.
Mike had other problems, but he decided he wouldn't say a thing till they found Davy. That crazy lady's flash powder had set up a screamer of a headache and things weren't as clear as he'd prefer them to be.
Soon as Davy was found, Mike vowed, he'd go to the doctor and find out what was up with his eyes.
When they found Davy.
Not a minute before.
The trio tracked Davy and his upholstered traveling companion back to the obscure teahouse where this crazy set of circumstances had started.
"Oh, lovely," Micky snarled. "I had a crazy feeling..."
"Well," Mike sighed, squinting at the lights on the third floor. "Let's get up there and find out what we're dealin' with."
The other two nodded and chorused, "Right!" Then they began to make their way up the stairs.
Mike stumbled four stairs up and nearly toppled into Peter. Micky grabbed Mike's arm until he steadied himself. "Thanks," Mike groaned.
Two steps from the top, he stumbled again. This time, he did topple into Peter, who launched himself onto the floor and somersaulted the momentum out before he was knocked into a wall.
"You okay, Pete?" Mike gasped.
"Yeah," Peter said, standing up and brushing himself off. "Are you?"
Mike waved a hand dismissively. "Let's find Davy."
Micky squeezed his upper arm, and Mike leaned gently into the touch. He couldn't see it plainly, but Micky was looking intently into his eyes.
Because Micky's face was still a blur, Mike didn't see Micky's lips thinning in worry as he realised something was "off" with Mike's sight.
The trio arrived at the lighted room. Micky kept a hand hovering near Mike's arm, ready to guide him if necessary.
They appeared in the doorway to see Davy still shackled to the chair openly flirting with a beautiful girl in a scanty bikini. She said something soft to him, and Davy turned and smiled. "Hello, fellows!" he chirped. "This is Fern!"
"Figures," Mike growled.
The tea-leaf reading woman appeared from behind a screen, smiling at both of them.
"Hey," Davy gasped, the grin never leaving his face. "It's the woman who saw all this!"
"Yes," Fern smiled. "Mrs. Batterley."
Mrs. Batterley took another cup of tea and made a ridiculous-sounding prophecy that Davy would perform with Fern and not the Monkees! When Davy protested, the woman crushed the couple together, declared "Fate has spoken!" and swept out of the room, cackling.
"Please, Davy?" Fern purred seductively, a finger running down Davy's neck and chest. "Please? For me?"
Davy drew in a sharp breath and shuddered as his eyes closed. "I... I dunno...." he gasped. "I'd like to....but I'm part of a group....Fellows?"
Peter and Micky looked at each other and nodded. Mike was squinting at Fern, confused by all the blurred peach his defective eyes were showing him. She had to be wearing something....
Suddenly Mike felt himself being propelled forward and plunked down into a chair. He felt two warm bodies plunk down slightly higher than he was, and figured his bandmates were sitting on either arm of the chair.
He felt a sudden jerk as Davy pulled on the chain. Ah so he was sitting in that chair!
Davy yelled at them, but none of the three would budge. "All right, fellows," Davy growled, "you asked for it!"
Mike frowned as he heard something go SNAP! "What?" he whispered.
"Davy overextended that weak link," Micky whispered back.
"Davy!" Fern gasped. "How did--"
Davy's voice was deeper than normal. "A man in love has the strength of thousands!" He took Fern's hand and they left the room arm-in-arm.
"Not to mention a capacity for bull--"
"Mike," Micky put in.
"loney bigger'n a longhorn," Mike snarled in his wake.
Micky rubbed Mike's arm briefly and opened his mouth, intending to ask Mike about his eyes.
Suddenly, a phone rang.
Seeing the phone was on a wheeled table, Micky reached out a long leg and pulled it over to where they sat. After a moment of jockeying over the receiver, Peter won. "Hello?"
Mike squinted up at him as he listened to the voice on the other end.
"Okay, yeah, I'll tell her," Peter said. He hung up and Micky kicked the table back into place.
Peter looked at them and reported, "That was the Amateur Hour. He was informing the tea leaf lady that her daughter and Davy would be going on last."
"Oh," Mike said, nodding. Then all three looked at each other and gasped out, "Her daughter and Davy?!"
"Crap!" Mike snarled. "He's been set up, and he don't even know it!"
"Well, how do we get him out of it?" Peter asked. "He sure won't listen to us any more!"
Micky blew the air out of his cheeks. "Okay, we need a plan..."
"Fast," Mike nodded. "That show is tomorrow night! And we don't even know where those ladies took Davy!"
"Let's head home," Micky suggested. "I don't know about you, but I think better at home!"
Peter grinned at him. "You think better nearer the refrigerator!"
Mike snorted. "You two!" He glared at them as best he could his big grin was ruining the effect. He was very thankful that he could see them again! "Come on! Micky's right let's head home."
Back at the Pad, Mike paced the floor while he tried to push the situation with his eyes out of his mind and focus his whirling brain on trying to formulate a plan to get Davy out of his love-besotted bad decisions.
"Brother!" he burst out in frustration. "We've landed in some scrapes before, but this takes the proverbial cake! A talent show without us, just because some chick's got a great--" Suddenly he broke off, freezing as his eyes widened.
Micky had been alert to any strangeness since he'd registered Mike was having trouble seeing. The sudden stillness and silence now caught his attention. "Mike?" he gasped.
A slow smile began to spread across Mike's face. "Talent show... I think I got us a possible plan."
"Well?" Micky demanded. "Don't keep us in suspense!"
"Come here," Mike said, stepping over the back of the sofa. "We need fake names and fake acts. We need to plan ways to sabotage Davy's act."
Micky gave a mock dramatic pose. "You don't mean!"
"I do mean." Mike's grin grew. "We are gonna crash that show. Now," Mike said as he looked from one to the other. "Each of us needs to pick a talent that we're good at so good at that we can do it badly and not hurt ourselves."
"Badly?" Peter asked. "Why do we have to do it badly?"
"Well, we're gonna be sabotagin' Davy's performance, right?" At Peter's nod, he nodded as well. "Wouldn't be fair for one of us to win, then."
"I get it!" Micky grinned. "I could go completely manic and tell my worst one-liners!"
"The ones that make us reach for the clothespins for our nose, they stink so bad!" Peter laughed. "Perfect! I'll play--"
Mike held up a hand. "Hold on there, Shotgun. I'll do the playin'. To be blunt, Peter?" He smiled. "I don't think you're able to play an instrument badly!"
"Of course I can! I can flub the--" Peter stopped. "Okay, well, there's the.... Well, maybe the..... Okay, you play the music!"
"Still leaves you without a flub, though," Mike sighed.
"No." Peter began to beam. "Prestidigitation!"
The huge word made both Micky and Mike double-take. "Presti-what?" Micky gasped.
"What in the world is that?" Mike frowned.
"Prestidigitation," Peter laughed. He reached toward Mike and touched his ear. When he pulled his hand back, a silver dollar rested in his fingers. "Magic!"
Micky and Mike both stared openly at Peter, their jaws slamming open. "Peter?" Micky croaked. "H-How'd--"
"I used to do tricks between sets. I'm no Houdini, but I can pull off the traditional illusions. And I can flub them safely."
"Show us!" Micky gasped.
"The illusions or the flubs?"
"Two tricks illusion, then flub!" Mike ordered.
Peter grinned and went to the window, whistling. A bird he'd been feeding and training flew in, and he put him in a paper bag. He slammed the bag flat, and showed them the empty paper. Then he held out his arm and whistled, and the bird flew to perch on it.
He repeated the trick, only this time a bird-shriek of pain erupted and he pulled feathers out of the bag. At their aghast looks, he smiled and reproduced the shriek it had come from his own throat. He pointed up, and they saw the bird calmly preening itself as it sat on the upstairs railing.
Peter's eyes then lit and he laughed. "How about I do one that succeeds then flops at the very end?"
Mike and Micky looked at each other, then Mike said, "You're gonna have to explain that one, Shotgun."
"No but I'll show you." He got up and rummaged till he found a magician's top hat. He moved to the sink and poured a large glass full of water. "Normally, this is milk," he explained, "but we don't have it to spare."
With that, Peter showed them the hat. "Just an ordinary hat." He poured the water into the hat, then set the glass down. With a flourish, he turned the hat upside down.
Not one drop of water spilled.
Peter then turned the hat back up and grinned, "Now for the flop!" He pressed a lever on the brim of the hat and put it on his head.
Water streamed onto his face and hair. He closed his eyes against the liquid onslaught, then opened them and grinned.
Mike grinned back and looked at Micky. "Well? What do you think?"
Micky let out a whoop of a laugh. "I believe we've got us a plan!"
Davy finally showed up at midnight. He looked exhausted.
"She wear you out?" Mike couldn't resist teasing from the bandstand.
Davy stood there, blinking dazedly at Mike. Then the quip registered and he glared daggers at the Texan. "Not the way you're implying," he growled.
Mike chuckled and lay the black guitar aside. "I figured but I wouldn't be me if I didn't yank your chain a bit."
"No," Davy sighed. "Probably not."
"So how'd it go?"
"We've got it narrowed down to two songs we're going to choose one and practice in earnest in the morning."
Mike jerked his head toward the bedroom where Peter was already sleeping. "Go you're dead on your feet."
Davy shot him a wan smile and weaved his way to the bedroom.
Once the door closed behind Davy, Mike released a long sigh. He moved to check and lock both doors, then headed up the stairs.
Micky looked up from his book and took off his reading glasses. "He's home, then?"
"Yeah," Mike sighed as he sat heavily on his bed and tugged off his boots. "And he's exhausted."
Micky nodded. "You headin' to bed?"
Mike shook his head and stood up, undoing his belt. "I'm gonna shower first. Might not have time tomorrow."
"Okay." Micky replaced the glasses on his nose and found his place again.
"Why're you wearin' those again?" Mike gathered his pajamas and a pair of towels,
then began to unbutton his shirt.
"Small print, low light," Micky said, then spared a cocky grin. "And all the better to count your meager chest hairs with, my dear," he cracked.
The shirt flew across the room and hit Micky smack in the face.
The next morning, Davy was gone before the other three got out of bed. Mike called the Amateur Hour and got their performing order.
At exactly four PM, the Monkees in costume drove up and went in. They saw Davy and Fern sitting in the waiting area. They slid into the area, keeping to the shadows and waiting silently.
The stage manager came and led Peter away. Moments later, "The Amazing Petrov!" was announced.
The state manager returned and touched Mike on the shoulder. "Mister Hodstetter? Follow me, please."
Mike, disguised as the "aw-shucks" country boy Billy Ray Hodstetter, stood up. He grabbed his white 12-string and followed the stage manager.
They were almost to the wings when it happened. Suddenly images became indistinct and colours melted away.
Mike stopped in his tracks, gasping as his eyes widened. He could hear the indignant squawk as Peter "smashed" the bird and feel the brush of feathers and the prick of claws as the real bird came back and perched on Mike's shoulder for a second before taking off to the rafters as it had been trained.
But within the space of just a few seconds with no warning whatsoever Mike's world went completely black.
The stage manager frowned and turned back. "Mister Hodstetter?" she asked.
He reached toward her voice. "....sorry......c-can't see."
After a pause, she said, "Oh." She took his hand and guided him to the end of the wings.
"The Amazing Petrov" finished, and Mike heard his faked sobs as another manager led him from the stage. "Billy Ray Hodstetter" was then introduced.
The stage manager positioned Mike and whispered, "Ten steps forward. Turn to your right and stop you'll be under the overhead microphone. Bow and begin. When you're done, turn to your left and just walk I'll get you."
"Thank you," Mike whispered, and felt her hands squeeze his shoulders before she released him with a comforting pat between his shoulderblades. Feeling suddenly adrift without a touch to ground him, Mike took a deep breath and began to hesitantly walk.
Peter passed Micky as he was being led to the wings. He glanced at the stage and stopped cold.
Something was wrong Mike was moving too slow.
Mike whispered, "Ten." He turned to his right and bowed. "Thank-thank you very much," he stammered. He wiped his sweaty hand on his jeans this being in the dark was terrifying! -- and felt for the right fret on the guitar's neck.
Music poured out too fast! -- and Mike heard himself hit a bad clunker. He forced himself to slow down to tempo and felt his lips compress in emotion.
But nervousness, blindness and fright sent the song zooming back into supersonic range. Mike finally gave up and tried to sing the lyrics at that tempo.
His voice came out shaky and soft completely scared. And he completely really forgot the words to his own song, stuttering so badly he could barely get the chorus out!
When the song was over, he felt relief and the humiliated blush that kissed his high cheekbones was for real. He had meant to flub the song not destroy it completely! He stammered out a second thank you, bowed awkwardly, spun to his left and all but dashed off the stage, tripping over his own feet in the dark.
The stage manager caught his hand and guided him into the wings. A moment later, he felt a swirl of air, the presence of a larger form in his personal space, and larger hands gripped his arms gently. Peter's rumbling whisper sounded in his ears, "What happened to you?"
"Can't see," Mike choked out, leaning into the unexpected touch, needing the grounding. He blinked as the blackness slowly became a dark grey. "....but it's gettin' better."
"Feel like going on with the plan?" Peter whispered back.
Mike blinked and squinted into the returning light. "Yeah....let's do it." He heard Micky's character being introduced and whispered, "Fast we don't have much time."
"I can't believe this!" Davy roared. "Her daughter!" He spun around and punched the air with the uncontrolled action of one who has to get the angry energy out or explode.
"We're sorry you found out this way, Davy," Peter said gently.
"But honestly," Mike put in just as gently. "Would you have believed us?"
Davy took a deep breath. "No," he admitted softly, rubbing a suddenly aching forehead. "No, I wouldn't. I swear, fellas, no more gi--"
Micky clamped a hand over Davy's mouth. "Don't," he groused. "That's what got us into this mess!"
"Yeah," Peter nodded. "Just... try some moderation, huh?"
Davy smiled as Micky removed his hand. "I'll do my best."
Peter hugged him one-armed and they left the studio together.
They completely missed hearing that "Billy Ray Hodstetter" had won the talent show.
Peter and Mike were still so rattled by Mike's "blackout" that Peter insisted on driving home. Mike was still so shaken that he let him.
"Did you recognise us?" Mike asked Davy en route to the Pad, grinning across at him from their shared middle seat.
"Peter, no," Davy said, bringing a huge grin to the blond driver's face. "I started to suspect something was up when I saw Micky up there."
"You recognised me?" Micky gasped.
"Well, you gotta admit that skillet face of yours is pretty hard to miss!" Davy shot back.
Micky's reply was to take off the battered fedora he was wearing and whack Davy four times on the head and shoulders with it amid everyone's laughter.
Once they'd calmed down, Davy smiled at Mike. "Now you I thought I recognised you, till I saw how you were moving! That was some fantastic acting, mate you honestly looked like you couldn't see a thing!"
The car suddenly went deadly silent. Micky turned around to face Mike. "You lost it again?"
Mike's eyes went huge. "You noticed before?"
Peter pulled into the Pad's driveway. "You mean this has happened before?"
Davy frowned. "Guys? What's going on?"
Mike sighed, lowering his eyes. "Davy...." He chewed on his lip. "I....wasn't acting."
Davy gaped at him, then he narrowed his eyes. "We're calling the doctor in the morning," he growled. "You are going to get your eyes checked sudden blindness like that just isn't normal!"
It was a measure of how worried Mike was that he just nodded.
Mike flinched as the light shone in his eyes again. He'd been in the ophthalmologist's office for almost an hour now and he was getting fidgety.
Doctor Stein sighed as he put down the light. "Mike," he said gently, "I can't find anything wrong. I'm going to have to dilate your eyes and see if there's something going on deep inside where I can't see."
"Dilate my eyes?" Mike frowned. "How?"
Stein reached in a drawer and pulled out a small bottle. "With eye drops. You'll be unable to tolerate outside light without sunglasses till it wears off--"
"Davy brought his," Mike interrupted. "I'll bum those." He chewed on his lower lip for a second. "Is it gonna hurt?"
Stein shook his head. "I can't answer that, Mike that varies from person to person."
The lip got a second going-over as Mike thought. At last, he said, "Let's do it. I need to know what's going on."
Nodding, Stein uncapped the bottle and got several tissues. "Tilt your head way back."
Mike obeyed, and felt the tissues being pressed into his hand. "Open your eyes very wide," Stein ordered. "Left one first. Here we go."
Liquid fire combined with ice fell into Mike's opened eye. He let out a gasping cry and flung himself upright, his eyes squeezing shut as tears of pain involountarily leaked from the corners of both eyes. He pressed the tissues to them.
"Don't wipe anything but the corners," Stein ordered, supporting Mike as he shook.
Mike nodded and obeyed. Moments later, he was blinking breathing hard but the pain was receding.
"Hate to tell you this..." Stein began.
"Gotta do it again," Mike sighed. At Stein's nod, Mike nodded as well. A few more blinks of his eyes, and he settled back into the chair. He opened his eyes wide again and fisted the armrest, waiting.
Stein repeated, "Here we go," and a few seconds later, the pain was firing through Mike's eyes gain. Once more, he held the tissues to the corners of tearing eyes.
"I'm dimming the lights," Stein said. "Don't panic."
"Thanks for the warning," Mike said sincerely as he wiped his face. Stein had been nothing but kind, telling him everything before he did it.
When he opened his eyes into a dimmed room, Mike nodded. "You turned down the lights, all right."
Stein chuckled. "Okay. Let's start."
Mike sat back and submitted to test after test. His tension level grew as Stein became quieter after every one.
"Doc?" Mike whispered. "Did you find something?"
After a long pause, Stein said softly, "Yeah, Mike.... I think we did."
When Mike came home from the doctor's office, he was still pale. His hands were trembling.
Micky came over and caught his hands. "Mike?" he asked, worried as he looked into Mike's eyes.
"They're workin'," Mike said in a shaky voice. "For now."
Peter frowned as he stood. "For now?"
Mike nodded as Davy finally came inside after parking the car. He'd refused to tell Davy anything, preferring to say it once when they were all together. "I'm gonna lose my sight," he reported in the same odd, shaky voice. "...and then get it back... and then lose it again.... over and over and over."
Peter lunged forward, sweeping him into a huge, tight hug. Mike broke and clung to him like a lifeline. Peter could feel the tremours that wracked the Texan's body.
"Is it... predictable?" Davy whispered.
Mike rolled his head on Peter's shoulder, and Peter looked at Davy and shook his head.
"Permanent?" Micky asked.
Mike broke the hug, though he kept a hand on Peter's arm. He nodded miserably.
Peter shook his head in shock. "Is... was there a cause for this?"
Mike remained silent, but gave another nod that said more than words could.
"Injury?" Micky guessed.
Mike's head lowered more and it was Peter who put it together. "Oh, no, Michael!" he gasped. At Mike's slight nod, Peter grabbed him up into another hug.
Davy shook his head, confused. "I don't--"
Peter's deep voice choked out one word.
As Mike calmed down and got some more control, the first thing he did was admit he hadn't wanted anybody to know his dad used to "knock him around".
About the only thing that made that bearable for Mike was the fact that once the shock was over, none of his friends looked at him with pity in their eyes. All of their eyes blazed with anger for the child he had been, but none of them pitied him.
The next thing Mike did was gather them all around the table and explain exactly what the doctor had told him. "I've got tiny holes in my retinas and optic nerves -- like they've been pinpricked. Doc thinks that's from the... rough handling.... I got as a kid. There's also a small floating pool of pressure behind my eyes. When it moves and presses on the optic nerve, I go blind. When it moves away, I can see." He sighed. "Doc thinks that pressure set up when I blew up that tire."
Peter rubbed his arm. "Michael what are we going to do?"
Mike shook his head. "We go on....adjust to this...."
"And you look at life through new eyes," Micky smiled gently.
They all smiled and Mike closed his eyes in relief. His friends would not be abandoning him.
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