Well, here we are again, back in this weird little story that keeps expanding. At time of writing, I’ve all-but finished the 4th part, and am reasonably sure there will have to be a 5th to round it all up. Writing can be funny like that – concepts unspooling, questions demanding answers, characters dropping lines that suddenly make you realise there’s more going on in the background. It’s been an interesting project – very much a first draft kind of a thing, with the most minor of edits to ensure it can grow where it needs to. I will be rewriting it at some point, when I have the whole shape of it clear. I’ll tease out the deeper strands, get the focus sharper, and I think I’ll submit it somewhere. It’s about time I started acting serious about this writing business. But that’s in the future. For now, here’s part 3 of Dadi’s Little Helper. I hope you enjoy it.
Dadi’s Little Helper pt 3
But where to begin? How could Dafydd even start? Your brother’s a golem, Meic. I made him out of clay—Oh yes, he could see that going down well. You weren’t the kind of child we wanted, see, and what with your mother’s post-natal depression… well, we didn’t want to risk going down that route again—Awful.
The sleep-addled teen shuffled toward them, drawn by the gaping hole in Iolo’s skull, that shaggy scalp flipped upright like a lid. Meical kept tilting his head, shifting perspective as if trying to see through the optical illusion. But there was none. He pushed past his dad, peered inside, snorted in disbelief and shook his head. Then he saw the figure beyond: the other Iolo, new and improved (or getting that way). He held out a hand, gingerly, but Meical couldn’t quite bring himself to touch the clay.
‘How…?’ he asked. ‘I mean, when did…?’
The questions were too big. Best to start small, Dafydd thought, deflated. Simple truths. If he got caught in a lie here, he’d lose his son forever – lose everything, he was sure – but if he could get his son to understand… if he could help him see the world through his eyes then maybe, just maybe he could fix this.
‘I needed help on the farm, Meical. That’s how it started. You know what it’s like round here; no bugger wants to use their hands anymore. Your mam was in a hell of a state after losing Taid, and you wouldn’t—’ He cleared his throat. ‘I mean we knew right from the start you’d never want to—’
Meical dragged his gaze from the twins to face his father, eyes smouldering dangerously. Dafydd jerked back as though burned.
‘Well, you’ve said it yourself a hundred times, boy: you need more out of life, and I never wanted to get in your way. So… I found an alternative. A practical solution.’
His voice sounded small, even to his own ears. No wonder Meical hated him so much. Pitiful old fool. The disdain on his son’s face was raw but fleeting, washed away by the flood of questions each thought begged. Found an alternative? Jesus! He was a disappointment, he knew, but come on, this was ridiculous! You don’t just make another son. You don’t just make anybody; it’s impossible! And so on. To this fulmination, Dafydd had no defence, no simple answers to quell the storm. He’d have to raise his voice to be heard, and that would only worsen matters, so instead, he reached across and clicked Iolo’s head shut. Life returned immediately. The boy whipped around, surprised to see Meical there, then his eyes lit up with excitement. He signed in a blur, fingers gabbling.
[Look Meical, look what Dadi’s making for my birthday! Isn’t it wonderful? I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s so talented. It looks just like me! Did he ever make one of you?]
Well, now it was Meical’s turn to jerk back – shocked to his core by the question. By the possibility. His hand strayed up the back of his head, scrabbling for a seam or a catch, an existential horror washing over him, clogging his throat and his mind. But no, there was nothing back there. Nothing he could find, anyway. What was the trick of it? He tried to step around Iolo to take another look, but the boy turned with him, still signing his joy. Meical grabbed his brother’s arms tight to keep him in place, then spun him 180̊ – peering first behind one ear, then the other. Iolo giggled and tried to wriggle free until Dad reached across and popped the catch once more, freezing him into place. Meical’s shoulders dropped, then he looked up at his dad, blurred through a salty sheen. The next question tore his throat as he gave voice to it.
‘Am I real?’
His father caught him up in a hug, fierce as it was unexpected.
‘You both are, son. You’re my boys!’ Dad eased back then, and looked deep into his eyes. Meical felt himself shaking, frightened to hear any more. The tears spilled out scorching his cheeks as his father went on. ‘But I know what you mean, Meic, and yes. You are real. Real as anyone. Conceived in love with your mother, bless her. Flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood.’
Dad pulled him in tight again, murmuring I knows as he sobbed in gratitude and relief. The moments stretched out and Meical allowed himself to sink into his father’s embrace, like he used to as a boy, before those first stings of resentment.
‘She had a hard time after you were born, son. A hard time. She wasn’t herself for months after. Truth be told, she’s never been the same since—’ He bit his tongue. Changed tack ever so slightly. ‘Some things just change a person. But it wasn’t your fault, Meical. You didn’t do anything wrong.’
At this, Meical pulled himself back and wiped his eyes. His voice was thick with emotion, his nose full of snot and tears, but he couldn’t let this pass.
‘You blamed me anyway.’ Agonised, his father shook his head, welling up himself, but Meical pushed on. ‘You did! Both of you. And I never knew why.’
His father just… broke. Apologised. Begged his son’s forgiveness. Meical would grant it eventually, but not here. Not now. Not with his hollow brothers standing before them, not with the lies and the secrets still echoing in their empty skulls.
Dafydd tried to explain what he was doing – why he had Iolo in the workshop right now, and what he’d intended to do – but it was all too much for his sleep-deprived son. He’d had what? Half an hour’s sleep? No. He couldn’t deal with this shit. But Meical made one thing clear: he was not to touch Iolo again until he knew the whole of it. Just… let him get some sleep first, let him get some breakfast inside of him after, and then they would talk. Dafydd assented meekly. He wouldn’t lay a finger on him, he promised. Wouldn’t have time to fix him before Meical woke up anyway, so there was nothing to worry about. Promise.
So Meical draped a sheet over his brother, wobbled up to bed and collapsed without ceremony. He didn’t think for a second he could actually sleep, but he needed to process all this. His body, of course, had other ideas and sank like a stone into slumber. It was lunchtime before he emerged, sweating and angry. Dafydd had gone out in the meantime, left a note to tell Mair that Iolo was with him. That they’d be back by 1 o’clock and to let Meical sleep as long as he wanted. The kitchen clock read half twelve. Who knew what his dad might have done while he’d slept? What if he’d taken Iolo and done a runner? Meical was fuming, to Mair’s weary dismay, until a thought occurred to him. He was going out for a ‘breath of fresh air,’ he lied, then snuck back in through the workshop. Well, that put a different perspective on things. Iolo – the current model – was still there under the sheet, just as he’d left him. When his father returned, he took one look at him, sighed, then handed him a rucksack.
‘You had breakfast yet?’
The eyeball looked up at him from the top of Iolo’s bag. Meical blinked at it, then looked across at his father, agape. They had a pot of tea between them. Bacon sizzled in the pan, just part of the background bustle. Mam was tackling the washing up, her back to them, humming along to the radio, so the menfolk signed for now.
[What the hell is this? Where did it come from?]
[It’s what I was talking about earlier. What I had to deal with while you slept. Iolo found it last night. Or this morning—Whatever. In the woods. It’s not the first time, either.
[He’s brought body parts back before?!]
Dad snatched the bag back and zipped it up, tucking it down by his feet.
[No. He’s snuck out before. I was up early yesterday, fetching the eggs. Saw him climb in through his bedroom window. This morning he came in through the workshop. You can see why I needed to—]
‘Pour me a cup, would you, love? My hands are all wet.’ This was Mam, startling them both. She was still facing the sink though, thank goodness. ‘You’d better flip that bacon too while you’re at it, or you’ll set off the smoke alarm.’ Humorous, but brittle. That was Mam all over.
Dad got up, flipped the bacon, handed Mam her tea with a kiss, then returned to his seat. She changed the station when the news came on. The Sounds of the Eighties; that was better! A good bit of Kylie. Father and son exchanged a brief satirical grin as Mam started to sing along. She had a fair voice, but her mangled lyrics were a source of entertainment for them all.
‘Don’t you be laughing at me behind my back, Dafydd Pritchard,’ she snapped, turning to flick some water.
‘I wouldn’t dream of it, love,’ Dad said with a chuckle. ‘Listen, I was thinking I might take the boys out into the woods after. Teach ’em a bit of forestry, like, while the weather’s good.’
‘Fine,’ she said, her lips thinning a touch. ‘If you think you can drag them out there. Where is Iolo, anyway? He’s not had his lunch yet.’
‘Oh, he’s round and about,’ Dad said wearily, ‘don’t you worry. I’ll pack something up for him to eat on the way.’
‘See that you do. But honestly, Daf, I don’t know why you’ve got to push them all the time. You know Meical’s been working nights. Poor boy must be exhausted!’
This was an old argument, often rehearsed, and Dad slipped into his role without a blink. ‘Yeah, well he’s not the only one with work to do, is he? Stop going on, for goodness sake. This is important.’
The regret was instantaneous, he could see, so Meical interjected. ‘It’s alright Mam, I want to go. I think it’s time I found out what the old man actually gets up to out there. He’s prob’ly got a hammock set up.
That raised a rueful snort from Mam at least, and she turned back to her sink, satisfied that someone was on her side for a change.
Meical’s fingers flickered again.
[And it’d be nice to know what that massive fucking eyeball has to do with all of this!]
Indeed it would. Well don’t worry Reader, you’ll start getting some answers in next week’s installment.
Unti then, I hope you have a good one.