Penthouse Retrospective

by John Green Originally Published: July, 1983

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

But there was nothing in the cards that said poison and I always trust the cards, so I chose to stand pat. John looked down at the twenty-two cards laid out on the table and I could see he wanted more. I suspected that the poison story was a ruse to get sympathy. He now stared at me mistrustfully.

“How do you know I haven’t been poisoned? ’ ’

I turned toward him so that Yoko couldn’t see my face and said, with a smile but in a very grave tone, “The same way I know it was jasmine tea.” I had made that up. No one had mentioned jasmine tea, but playing the hunch that the story was fake I used it as an opening to show John that I had found him out and wasn’t going to betray him.

His eyes grew wide with understanding. “That’s amazing,” he cooed, echoing one of Yoko ’s favorite expressions. The pact was formed. “How did you know it was jasmine tea?”

“I’m psychic.”

“It’s good you weren’t poisoned,” said Yoko, a little disappointed by the anticlimax.

“A great relief,” agreed John. Then he seemed to fall to musing, his gaze roving about the room patiently, whistling under his breath.

“I get it,” snapped Yoko. “You want me to leave the room.”

John folded his face into an engaging smile and fluttered his eyelids at her. “I’ll be in the White Room if you need me,” she huffed, and left.

“Good night, dear,” he called after her. John held his expression fixedly on the closed door, waiting for her reentry until experience told him she had passed the point of no return. Then he turned his attention toward me.

Drawing a breath and brightening, he said, “You know, Charles, this is a historical occasion. King John comes to the Oracle. You are an oracle, aren’t you?”

I nodded, not wanting to interrupt the performance, knowing that it would give me time to study him.

“You know, I’ve met a lot of psychics.” He proceeded to tell me of a card reader he had met who had to look up the meanings of the cards in a book. Then there was a girl in India who could tell how much change you had in your pocket just by looking at you. Mystics and magicians, Lennon had met them all.

“And they don’t fool me, you know. I can see right through an act when I see one. So if you got any plans about being the next Maharishi, I’d just forget it.”

“If I wanted followers I would have incarnated as a mother duck,” I assured him.

He smirked and was off again. “Do you believe in UFOs? I saw one, you know! I was up on the roof, about nine in the morning, doing my usual, watching the people go to work, when I saw this thing, this ship. It wasn’t much of a ship, maybe big enough to hold two people. It didn’t make any noise, just glided along above the East River, heading downtown.” I could tell that he enjoyed this story. It was another test, a different mesh to sift me through.

“Were there any reported sightings that day?” I asked when he had finished.

“How the hell should I know? I’m not an enthusiast, you know. I don’t go following this sort of thing. I just saw it. I sure as hell wasn’t going to report it. ’Headline: EX-BEATLE SEES SAUCER. ’ Oh, that’s good. What was he on? … 80000, what’s your opinion, dear witch doctor?”

“You see a saucer, I see a ghost, and somebody else sees a bird, a plane, or Superman – or nothing at all. What you see depends directly upon what you’re looking for. It’s called selective perception. You see what you choose.”

“But what was really there?”

“Beats me. I didn’t see it.”

“Do you ever give a straight answer to anything?”

That was my opening. I picked up the cards. “Questions?”

A compelling view from a unique perspective on a rock music icon and the absurdities that surround him.

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