Mike felt the studio floor beneath him shake for the fourth time that morning. These tremors were a daily occurrence and were really becoming a hindrance when it came to filming this series of “Do Not Adjust Your Set”. He ran his hand through his thick brown hair in frustration; it shouldn’t be taking this long to film this sequence.
Michael Palin stood at a modest, slender 5’11”, and had thick brown waves for hair. Also in his possession were two hazel green eyes, and the most distinguishable dimples in the business. He had been writing for television ever since he graduated from Oxford in 1965, three years ago. He was absolutely in love with writing and performing, particularly comedy, and couldn’t see himself doing anything else. However, this new series of Do Not Adjust Your Set was beginning to try his patience, mainly because of the riots going on around the studio lately.
Luckily for Mike, this was the last episode to film before he ventured on to a new project with John Cleese and Graham Chapman, the lads from “At Last the 1948 Show”. The duo were quickly making a name for themselves in the comedy television industry, and Mike was genuinely touched when he got the call from Mr. Cleese asking him to join them on “How to Irritate People”.
“I can’t bloody work like this!” A shrill voice screeched off to Mike’s right.
Terry Jones, a short, dark-haired Welshman, had been one of Mike’s closest friends when it came to performing and writing. The two had been lumped together since their cabaret days at Oxford, and Mike was having a difficult time moving on to something different without him. But he heard John’s words in the back of his mind, “Just you Mike, we just want you.”
“Bloody protesters!” A slender, handsome, fair-haired fellow cried as he clenched his script tightly.
Eric Idle was famous for being quite the charmer on set. Every time Mike turned around Eric was canoodling with a female extra, or charming the stockings off of the ladies in the audience. Mike liked Eric, he could come off a bit arrogant at times, but he was funny, intelligent, and quite the guitarist. He was also a member of the Cambridge Footlights, a prestigious comedy troupe that John Cleese and Graham Chapman had also belonged to during their University days. Though that was a bit before Eric’s time, mind you.
Mike’s gaze lingered out of the nearest window; the sky blazed red to match the violent nature of things going on in the street.
The street? Mike shot quickly up to his feet as he was suddenly reminded of something.
“Oh damn! I didn’t park in the car park this morning, and the meter’s running! I won’t be long, just keep filming the Captain Fantastic bits, yeah?” Mike shouted over his shoulder as he bolted trough the studio doors before anyone could protest.
"I swear if there’s one scratch on it from these protesters, I will come unhinged," Mike thought to himself as he ran out into the crisp October air.
Things were much worse than usual as he attempted to identify his car amidst the chaos. Protesters crowded the studio street. Anti-war signs were scattered everywhere. Young people, students, hippies, and mods alike had been marching and chanting throughout the streets of South London for three days now. Apparently the American ambassador was trying to persuade the British government to aid them with the situation in Vietnam.
Slim chance there.
Why the Colonies thought they could get Britain on their side when their own people didn’t even want to be in Vietnam was a mystery to Mike. Typical Americans, can’t keep their noses out of others’ affairs.
Mike was definitely anti-war, but being in the entertainment industry he felt the need to keep his political opinions out of the public eye. Nobody likes a radical, and he certainly didn’t feel the need to make a scene, unlike this lot of heathens apparently.
Mike finally located his car amongst a crowd of picketers who looked like they hadn’t slept or showered in days. He politely pushed his way through the disheveled bunch, making sure to apologize for accidental bumps and shoves he had caused until he finally reached the vehicle.
"Alright Palin, now how do we get out of here?" Mike thought to himself once he was safely inside.
Just as Mike started the car, his passenger side door was thrown open by a slim figure that quickly jumped inside.
“DRIVE!” A woman’s voice shouted as the figure frantically looked over her shoulders.
Without hesitation Mike threw the vehicle into gear. Luckily the police were clearing the protesters off the actual street and onto the sidewalks. He noticed a group of three officers were barreling towards him in his rear view mirror.
"I guess that explains a lot." He took off at a blistering pace from the studio and was blocks away in under a minute.
The woman beside him breathed out a sigh of relief as she sunk down into the seat. She was a tall, slender thing, about 20 years old Mike guessed. She wore a military green tunic with form fitting black pants and combat boots. Her long wavy chocolate colored hair went down to her shoulder blades, and Michael could’ve sworn he saw flecks of gold in her light brown eyes. She was breathtaking.
“Oh! Turn that up, will you?” She pointed to the radio.
"American?" Mike thought to himself. "That’s not something you hear every day. Must be studying abroad."
“Hello?” She waved her hand to catch his attention. “Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything and all, but I’d rather not ride in complete silence if you don’t mind.”
“I beg your pardon?” Mike asked, rather taken aback.
“The Monkees are playing on your radio, sir. And I would like to listen to them, if you’d be so kind.” She chimed with an air of snarkiness to her voice.
Mike reached over to the volume control and turned it up until he could hear The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” clearly. He was a little surprised by her tone, but quickly chalked up his offense to being British.
“You’re American?” Mike asked as he watched the woman start to get into the song.
“Hmm? Yes! Oh where are my manners? Allison Graddy, from Texas at your service!” She threw her hand up to her forehead in a mock salute and flashed him a dazzling smile. She then closed her eyes and went back to grooving to the popular 60s tune.
Mike rolled his eyes, annoyed.
“A Uni student I’m guessing. Yeah, you’d have to be to do anything that ignorant!” Mike surprised himself; he was starting to sound like his father. “That was rather irresponsible of you back there I might add.” He decided to take a scolding approach, since he obviously had about 4-5 years on her. “Jumping into a random stranger’s car is generally ill-advised in these parts! And why were the cops chasing you? For all I know you could be a loony!”
“Chill out, man. What’s with the third degree?” She added calmly, still dancing to Davy Jones’ crooning over the radio, “I was protesting, obviously, and I threw a sign that accidentally hit an officer. The fuzz was none too pleased, so I took off running. Before they could catch me, I took a leap of faith and jumped into your car. Luckily, you were in here and either handle pressure very well or very poorly.”
Mike sighed, relaxing his shoulders a bit.
“I’m sorry, I’ve just got a lot going on at the moment. I’m finishing one show, and about to start a completely different one. I’m going to work with one of the most well known writing duos to date, and I have to do this without the one friend who’s been there for me through everything. We’ve been performing and writing together since we were both at Oxford. I came outside to move my car away from the fray going on outside, then you came along, and now the rest of the cast will be wondering what happened to me seeing as we’re miles away now.” Mike caught his breath, “It’s just a stressful time, okay?” He was surprised at how easy it was to open up to her.
“Why?” She cocked her head to the side inquisitively.
“Why do you have to do this without your friend? Wouldn’t he be happy for you?”
“The new writers I’m working with want me, and only me to work with them. I’m afraid Terry will be hurt if I take this on without him.” Mike clenched the steering wheel so tight his knuckles started to whiten.
“Hey now,” she placed a sympathetic hand on his, “I know this is a really rough time. But just because you won’t be writing and performing with your friend on this show doesn’t mean he can’t be there for you and you for him. Who knows? Maybe your new colleagues will change their mind and decide they want to expand their troupe. Who knows? Maybe they’d even rather have him than you!” She nudged him playfully.
Mike laughed, “You’re probably right, Terry’s one of the funniest guys I know. They’d be lucky to have him. I’m Michael by the way, Michael Palin. You can call me Mike.”
“You’ve got a say in this group too, Mike. They obviously really want you, so they’d be unwise not to listen to your suggestions.” She squeezed his hand to reassure him. “Anyway, this is good. I don’t think the cops will find me here. Thanks again!”
With that she climbed out of the car and started walking at a brisk pace along the sidewalk, she turned around briefly and gave a curt wave before taking off and turning a corner.
Mike sat there stunned. He wasn’t really sure what he was feeling at the moment, but he did know that this complete stranger had barged into his life and provided him with the most translucent clarity.