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Bedtime Stories

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Every night after dinner and before bed, Rhys settles down by the fire to listen to Father tell a story. This past week he’s been telling one in parts, it’s so long and intricate- and exciting.

“But Father, you can’t leave off! What happens when he gets to Tarsus?” Rhys asks. Tad had explained the historical significance of Tarsus, where the Apostle Pawl had come from, and where Antony had met Cleopatra. Unsurprisingly, the story was more interesting than the unrelated history lesson.

“I have to save it so we have something for tomorrow night,” Father says. “And it’s time for bed for all of us.”
Rhys knows that begging won’t help, so he accepts it and goes to bed.

Rhys was a lucky boy indeed. He had been just five when his father died at Agincourt fighting for King Henry and had left no provisions for his son’s security were such a thing to happen. Then, by some miracle, Rhys had been taken in by two soldiers who’d served with his father- one of them, who he now called Tad, was his countryman. The other was English but now lived in Wales with Tad, obviously loving him like Rhys’s father had loved his mother, which was nice. It was good to have a family.

Llewellyn, his Welsh father (called “Fluellen” since Father couldn’t speak Welsh) made sure Rhys ate his vegetables (usually in the form of leek soup) and rambled about history, especially his hero Alexander the Pig. When Tad got excited, he’d sometimes flap his hands. Rhys wasn’t sure what caused that, but he sometimes did it too- he had all his life. Father was different, more reserved and less excitable, but he never acted like Tad or Rhys were strange.

Rhys was thankful for that, because some people said he was bad. He did the hand-flapping thing when he was excited, he didn’t like loud noises, and he had trouble playing with the other children in town. Some people said he was a changeling, that his father who had died didn’t want him, and that was why he was left alone (Rhys later learned that wasn’t true- his mother had died the year before and his father couldn’t write, so he left no will).

It was the third night of the story, when the hero was shipwrecked (Father stopped right then, withholding information about a possible rescue) that Rhys realized the hero didn’t have a name, about which he then inquired.

“Well, his name is…” Father realized he had indeed neglected to give his unlucky hero a name. He looked over at Tad for help.

“Pericles!” Tad said. “Not the Greek hero Pericles, look you, but just as good.” He went off into tonight’s impromptu history lesson, about the Peloponnesian War. Father finally got him to finish with the reminder that it was bedtime, and Rhys, who didn’t want to admit how tired he was, privately agreed.

John Gower pulled the blanket over his son, eight and still young enough to have his father- either of them- tuck him in at night. Gower began thinking of the coming installments as he put out the candle. Maybe about a family being reunited after years of hardship- a happy ending of parents and children.