Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thirty-fourth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

This broke Gwilym’s heart and he gathered all his boys up in his huge arms and cried aloud.
Gwilym and his family rode with Fred back to Huish. They were all looking forward to this for different reasons. Jac and Llawen wanted to see their first mothers; this is what they called Heilin and Heulwen. Bleddyn wanted to visit his mother’s grave and talk to her. Fred wanted to show off his new-found wealth and writing skills to his family. Gwilym was looking forward to talking in some detail to Father Drew.
Fred drove the cart and discussed the last tower project with Gwilym. He sang the saga of the ‘Project Management Guide’ to Gwilym. He had added verses about the Work Breakdown Structure, Defining Activities and Resourcing Activities to it. Gwilym was impressed.
“You could write that song down now that you know your letters, you know, Fred?”
“I only know t’first letters in each word.”
“You have to preserve your knowledge for others to learn from you. Remember that scroll we found in that jar in the cornerstone. I never listened to the man who knew that story but I could learn it hundreds of years later by reading the scroll. You need to do that for people who follow you.”
Fred looked down and Gwilym could tell by the shade of his ears that the man was blushing.
“Did tha put back t’old scroll, Gwilym?”
“Yes. After I had made a copy.”
“Tha copies every scroll tha comes on don’t tha?”
“Aye, Fred. There is much knowledge to gain in this world. I’d love to read every scroll and book there is.”
“How will tha make this next tower better than t’last one?”
Gwilym thought for a while. “It was good to know all the work we needed to do and it helped a lot to know who would do each activity. But men were still stumbling over each other because they wanted to do two different things at one time. Or they were waiting for someone else to finish their job before they could start their own. We need to know WHEN things will happen, in what order. Also, we need to know how long things will take so that people can work around each other. I think if we know how long each task will take and how they are linked to each other, we can figure out exactly when things have to happen.”
“Tha be right there, Gwilym. Will we try that on t’next tower?”

Bleddyn was busy telling the boys all about Huish, the townsfolk, Heilin and Heulwen, their mother, Father Drew and the first tower. Jac and Llawen were wide-eyed with excitement. “Your nurse-mothers are so beautiful!” he was telling them. “But not as beautiful as your real mother,” he hastily added as he caught Gwilym’s eye.
‘Interesting.’ Gwilym thought to himself on hearing Bleddyn’s words. ‘The boy is growing up.’
Fred, too was paying close attention to Bleddyn’s words. “What think tha of Heilin, Gwilym?”
“She’s a beautiful woman, inside and out,” he stated plainly.
“Why do tha not marry her then?” he inquired.
“I’m not ready to replace their mother,” Gwilym replied to Fred. He then noticed that all of his boys were watching him anxiously, eager for an answer to this question that had always seemed taboo to them. The one question they had always felt compelled not to ask.
“Boys. Listen to me carefully. Your mother was one of a kind. She was more than a wife. She was my best friend. We traveled together. We talked about everything together. She understood my mission in life and sacrificed her happiness to help me achieve it. She was a learned woman who I could go to and discuss my struggles and she understood them and helped me work them out. And she was your mother. She gave so much of herself to you. She taught you your letters, Bleddyn. She would have been so proud of you all. It is her beauty and kindness that you have inside you. Her understanding of others. She misses you every day. And I miss her so much.”
The boys were all crying now. Fred wiped away a tear from his eye. Gwilym tried a brave smile.
“So I keep her in my memory. I talk to her at quiet moments, about you boys, about the job, the quest. And that makes my life tolerable.” Gwilym looked at his crying sons. “But what about you three? Have I been selfish by not providing you with another mother? I cannot replace Kaitlyn but perhaps I could give you a permanent mother to always be there for you. Would you like that?”
Jac and Llawen immediately nodded yes but Bleddyn shook his head and said “No, Da.”
His brothers looked between father and son and cried even harder. Jac said, “I want a mother, Da. Bleddyn already had one but I didn’t.” This broke Gwilym’s heart and he gathered all his boys up in his huge arms and cried aloud.

When they arrived in Huish, they were all excited. They were met by the curious children who were always happy to find and announce strangers on the road and were escorted to the center of town amid this laughing, raucous crowd. They dismounted outside the tavern. The whole town gathered around and Gwilym scanned the crowd. Heilin pushed her way through the mass and swept Jac, then Llawen up into her arms and smothered them with kisses.
“Where is your sister, Heilin?” asked Gwilym.
“Heulwen’s a farmwife now, Gwilym. Married farmer Llyr last spring. Come on you!” she motioned forward a shy three year old girl. “Do you remember Iola, Jac? She was your milk sister. Many times she fought you over my breast but you were always the polite one. Say hello to your milk brother, Iola.”
Iola said a quick hello and then turned and buried her face in her mother’s skirts. Heilin laughed and said, “Oh! Now she decides to be shy, does she?”
“It’s wonderful to see you again Heilin,” Gwilym said. “And have you found yourself a nice farmer to marry also?”
Heilin laughed broadly. “No, no! Marriage is not for me just now. This little one may not look it but she is quite the handful.”
Fred bustled into the group and interrupted. “Would tha join us for dinner, then Heilin? We are all famished and we need to decide what to do and where to live and all. And Gwilym was saying that we needed to know what’s happenin’ in Huish now. Tha could tell us.” He blushed, then looked straight at Heilin.
Heilin smiled prettily and agreed. “Then let’s go to the tavern.”

During dinner, Gwilym found lodgings for the few months he would be in town and inquired after all his old friends. Little had changed apart from many marriages and births. Heilin had arranged that she sat next to Gwilym at the table and she took every opportunity to touch his arm when speaking to him or press her breast against him while reaching past him for something at the table. Fred was sitting on her other side, touching her arm and offering to pass her food. Gwilym smiled inwardly at this and took every opportunity to praise Fred for all the problems he had solved, the leadership he was displaying and the Project Management song he was singing.
“Fred knows his letters now!” Bleddyn exclaimed.
“Really?” asked the surprised Heilin and she gazed on Fred with a new respect.
“Aye!” he replied. “Young Bleddyn has been workin’ with me since we started t’last tower in Londinium. And I even know a lot of words, too. Like this is a T A B E L table. And you’re eating B R E A D, bread. What do tha think of that?”
“It’s wonderful, Fred,” she said and started paying more attention to him.
Gwilym winked at Bleddyn and then asked the smith, “Does Father Drew still preach here?”
“Aye,” replied Haearn. “He’ll be happy to have you back in town. He’s been a little starved for intelligent conversation since you left.”

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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