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 Settling Wheat – Epilogue (The Children’s Question

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MoulinP

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Posts : 226
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 58
Location : Norfolk, England

PostSubject: Settling Wheat – Epilogue (The Children’s Question   Wed Jan 31, 2018 2:27 pm

Settling Wheat – Epilogue (The Children’s Question

Susan tripped into the drawing room and the two dimples either side of her mouth lit up.


“Ah, here’s Pappy.”


Her two brothers came to stand either side of her.


“Are we gonna ask him now?” Harry asked, unsure. Their father was obviously asleep, head propped up on his arm that was resting on the arm of the sofa. The leg with its recently healed foot crossed over the other.


“Sure, why not?” Susan frowned. Harry and Billy looked at each other, doubtfully.


Harry took a deep breath and gave his sister a push forward. “You first,” He and Billy took up positions behind her. Some way behind her.


Susan huffed. “Boys!” she sighed, with a long-suffering air. Stepping forward, she had no hesitation in giving the crossed knee a vigorous shake.


“Wake up, Pappy we need to ask you something,” she said, in a loud voice.


Heyes woke with a start and a groan.


“Sheesh!”


He put his hand to his forehead, breathing deeply, eyes closed, as he waited for his wildly beating heart to calm down.


“What d’you want, Susan?” he asked, with more patience than he felt.


“We want to ask you something.” Susan pulled herself onto the sofa next to him.


“Yeah we need to know now,” Harry said, squeezing into where there wasn’t a space between Heyes and the arm of the sofa. Heyes found himself moving up to allow the boy in, re-crossing his legs as he did so.


“Now,” said Billy, straddling the crossed leg. Pappy often bounced him on it but not for a while. Billy wondered why that was. It was always good fun.


“Owh!” Heyes gasped in pain. “Billy get off. That’s my bad foot!” Then seeing the boy’s face begin to crumble as he obeyed, Heyes smiled and beckoned the boy back. “Come here.”


Heyes lifted Billy up and sat him on his lap. Billy grinned.


“You have to know right now? It couldn’t wait?” Heyes asked, more sharply than he wanted to. He finger combed his hair back. He still felt a little shaky yet he was determined not to take his irritability out on the children. He lived for moments like this. Precious moments. This was what he’d dreamed about while waiting for amnesty and he didn’t want anything to spoil them. Least of all by him.


“Yes! It can’t wait ANY longer.”


“And you can’t ask Mama?”


Susan shook her head. “No, it’s about you so we have to ask YOU.”


Heyes nodded. “I see. Well out with it then,” he said. As I’m now awake, he added to himself and rolled his eyes. He pulled himself into an upright position.


Susan and Harry swapped glances and Harry nodded at his sister. Susan huffed. It was always her. She had to do EVERYTHING!


“We need to know why some folks call you Heyes,” she said, looking up at him, intently.


Heyes blinked and he frowned. He wasn’t expecting that, thought it had been settled and he would need time to consider what to tell them, if anything. This could be dangerous. “Right now?” he queried, stalling.


“Yes! It can’t wait ANY longer.”


“Why not?” Perfectly reasonable question, he felt.


“’Cos Mama says I’m a big girl now.”


Heyes nodded, smacking his lips.


“So I need to know and you can’t tell just me without the boys so they’re here as well so you only have to say it once,” Susan said thoughtfully and then paused. “Whatever it is,” she added, ending with the full double dimples, which he had endowed her.


Heyes was speechless. Not for the first time did he think, as he looked at his innocent looking daughter, she’s way too bright for her own good.


Heyes sat up straighter and folded his arms. He frowned. “Um … well it’s like Wheat … .”


“Nope,” Susan said shaking her head.


“It’s not,” said Harry.


“S’not,” said Billy and rubbing a hand over his nose. Was he agreeing or was there really … ? Heyes pulled a face in disgust. He suspected the later. Even after nearly eight years of parenting, he still hesitated at dealing with some things. Anything to do with bodily fluids in the main.


“Where’s your handkerchief, Billy?”


Billy pulled a pristine handkerchief from his pocket and waved it triumphantly. “Here.”


“Try using it, huh?” He watched Billy closely as the small boy prepared to use the handkerchief. Then had to step in and help. His handkerchief encased fingers held Billy’s nose.


“Here, Billy, blow,” he said. Still with a grimace, he wiped the boy’s nose and handed back the handkerchief. Susan patted his arm to get his attention. Heyes looked round.


“Pappy, we DON’T think it’s a nickname, like Wheat think it is.”


“You don’t, huh?”


“Nope.”


“Uh huh.” Heyes smacked his lips and nodded considering how to play this.


“It’s only certain people. If it was a nickname everybody would call you Heyes wouldn’t they?”


“No not everyone. Sometimes it’s not appropriate.”


“It’s appropriate now.”


“I didn’t mean … .”


“Yes Pappy now!”


Heyes looked from Susan to Harry, almost in panic.


“Now!”


Heyes looked at his determined children. Yes, they were definitely ganging up on him.


“How old are you again?” he queried with a frown, at Susan.


Susan harrumphed. “You know how old I am. I’m seven years, four months, one week and three days.”


Heyes swallowed. “This can’t wait until you’re eight?” he asked, hopefully.


Susan sighed as only a small girl can and gave him a disapproving look. “Pappy, you’re stalling.”


Heyes smiled mischievously. “Yes I am.”


“Don’t. We really need to know, Pappy,” Susan said, seriously.


“Yeah, really really,” added Harry, decisively.


Billy nodded furiously.


Heyes sighed. “Who have you heard calling me Heyes?”


“Uncle Thaddeus, Wheat and Sheriff Lom.”


“Yeah, Uncle Thaddeus called you Heyes a lot!” Harry said.


“Hmmm. So just the three?”


She nodded.


“Not Mama?”


Susan shook her head. “Mama calls you Josh, or Darling. Or when you’ve been bad …
Joshua.” Susan gave a passable impression of an irate Mary.


Heyes chuckled and rolled his eyes. She had that right!


“It’s time we know, Pappy,” Susan said, seriously.


“Yeah if you don’t tell us now you know what’ll happen,” Harry said, warningly.


Heyes frowned at him. He disliked being threatened and even less by his small son.
Unfortunately, he did know what would happen and the prospect wasn’t appealing. They would just go on and on until they wore him down. He had to think quickly. Tell them enough to satisfy them but not enough that anything they said to their friends might compromise him. He felt the time was coming but he wasn’t ready yet to make his old persona public. And he certainly didn’t want his hand forced by three small backstabbers!


Before he could say anything, Mary joined the family.


“Hallo. This looks very serious,” she said, amused by the look her besieged husband gave her.


“’Tis Mama. Pappy is just about to tell us,” piped Harry.


“Tell you what?”


Heyes rolled his eyes. “Tell them why Thaddeus, Wheat and Lom refer to me sometimes … occasionally … once in a while as Heyes.”


“Ah,” Mary nodded. She had been wondering if the children would notice that eventually.


“And you call Uncle Thaddeus, Kid, Pappy.”


Heyes looked at Susan and swallowed hard. “Do I?”


“Yes.”


“Well perhaps it’s time they knew, Josh,” Mary said, settling herself in a chair.


“Is it?” Heyes looked at her horrified. He had expected support when she had walked into the
room. Instead, she had joined the other side. “Really?” Heyes frowned, doubtfully.


Mary nodded. “I think so, Josh.”


Heyes grunted. He wasn’t so sure but he took a deep breath. He looked at Susan and the boys who were waiting expectedly.


“Okay.” He gave a deep sigh and made Billy more comfortable on his knee, considering what he was going to say. He rubbed his chin. “I have something to tell you but it’s very important that you don’t tell anybody. You have to promise me now.”


“I promise,” Susan and Harry chorused.


“Promise,” said Billy a beat later


Susan licked the pad of her forefinger and held it up. “See this wet.” She turned her finger round. “See this dry.” She drew her finger slowly across her throat. “Cut my throat if I tell a lie,” she finished, solemnly.


Heyes chuckled and kissed her forehead. “I hope not sweetheart.” He sighed and then puffed.

There was no putting it off any longer.


“Okay before I met Mama, I didn’t live here in Porterville. I didn’t own the hardware store and I didn’t write books. I did something else for a living. Something that … is … well its against the law.” He paused, wincing. “It’s illegal. Do you know what illegal is?”


“There’s a law against it and you’re not supposed to do it. You can get into trouble,” Susan explained, knowledgeably.


“Is that what you call it when I’m in trouble?” asked Harry, mournfully.


Heyes chuckled. “No not quite.” He ruffled the boy’s hair. “An’ ‘cos what I was doing was illegal I was known by another name. I was known as Heyes.”


He smiled pleasantly and looked hopeful. Would that do?


Not a chance!


“So what were you doing that was illegal?” Of course, who else but Susan would ask?


Heyes glanced at Mary and cleared his throat before he could go on.


“Well … you know… that taking something that doesn’t belong to you is wrong don’t you sweetheart? If it’s without the owner’s permission?”


Susan nodded.


Heyes swallowed. “Well I used to take things from banks and railroads that didn’t belong to me.” He rolled his eyes and smiled tightlipped and hopeful.


“What?”


“Money.”


“Why?


“’Cos I needed some.”


“Couldn’t you borrow some?”


Heyes pursed his lips. “Nope.”


“Couldn’t you get a job?”


Heyes considered. “Yeah I suppose so,” he said, reluctantly.


“But you didn’t?”


“No.”


“Why?”


“’Cos …” Heyes took a deep breath and looked at the ceiling. “It was kinda easier to do it the way I did.” He swallowed hard. Boy, this was difficult! He frowned. “But it was very wrong of me. I know that now. So I stopped doing it and the authorities have forgiven me,” he said, quickly, getting in before there were any more questions. There, done.


Susan smiled. “That’s good.”


“Yes it is,” Heyes agreed with a nod. “But because of what I used to do I don’t call myself Heyes anymore. But folks who knew me then, for instance, Lom and Wheat and Thaddeus still call me Heyes.” He shrugged. “It’s a habit I guess.”


“But if the authorities have forgiven you why can’t you call yourself Heyes anymore? If that’s your name?”


“Because … I had a new life and I wanted a new name to go with it.”


“Can you just do that? Suddenly call yourself something else?” Harry wanted to know.


“Yeah. Pretty much I reckon.”


“Can we call you Heyes?” Harry asked.


“No. You can call me Pappy.”


“Mama, why don’t you call Pappy Heyes?”


“Because like Pappy said, I didn’t know him then. I know him as Joshua so that’s what I call him. And besides …”


Heyes frowned hard and the shake of his head told her not to continue. She was going to say that Heyes was his last name, like Smith. 


“Besides what Mama?”


Mary thought wildly. “I … much prefer Joshua to Heyes,” she smiled; pleased she had got out of that one. She looked at her husband. She did prefer Joshua to Heyes but she wasn’t thinking of just the name.


Heyes looked at Susan. “Are we done?”


Susan nodded. He looked at Harry for an answer.


“Suppose so,” he said begrudgingly. “Can I be called something else?”


Heyes glanced at Mary and then smiled back at Harry. “Like what?”


The small boy gave it a thought and then had a lightbulb moment. “I know! In one of those books you read us at bedtime, there’s someone called Dodger,” Harry grinned, triumphantly.

“I like Dodger.”


Heyes looked at him incredulously. “Dodger? The Artful Dodger?”


“Yes that’s him.” Harry nodded, enthusiastically.


“No.” Heyes was firm.


“Awh, Pappy!”


“No!”


Heyes looked at Mary, who was biting her lip. He looked at her wide-eyed in accusation.
You’re supposed to be on my side, he said, silently. He looked back at Harry.


“Your name is Harry and that’s an end to it.”


“Bodger then?” Harry tried.


“No! Not Dodger, Bodger, Codger, Lodger or anything ending in an odger! Harry Smith is a
perfectly good name.”


Beside him, Susan frowned. “Shouldn’t it be Harry Heyes?”


Heyes looked at her open-mouthed. “What do you mean? Our last name is Smith.”


Susan shook her head. “Nope.”


Across the room, Mary saw Heyes stiffen and she knew he was done playing. It was up to her to rescue the situation. She got up.


“I made some brownies earlier. They should be cool enough now. Who wants one?”


“Me!” A childish chorus went up.


Billy squirmed off Heyes’ lap, causing him to grunt. At the same time, Harry squeezed himself out of the non-existent space between Heyes and the arm of the sofa. Heyes smacked his lips, as Mary became the Pied Piper of Brownies. He looked at Susan. She hadn’t moved and was still sitting beside him, looking at him.


“Don’t you want brownies?”


“Yes.”


“So?” He widened his eyes at her.


“Mama’ll save me some.” Father and daughter looked at each other. “Heyes is our last name
really isn’t it?”


Heyes looked at his daughter for a moment. “Run along, Susan,” Heyes was soft but sharp.

“Please don’t be difficult about this.”


Father and daughter looked at each other hard. Susan recognized now was not a good time to push it. She moved off the sofa and got up. When she got to the door, she looked back.


“You know Pappy. I’ve decided. I might not settle for just being difficult.  With a little more practice … .” She paused and gave a wide grin. “I can be impossible!” she said, triumphantly.


“Wha’?” Heyes’ head snapped round. “SUSAN!”


Susan had gone.


He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “Ye-ah.” He rested his head back. “Yes I know that all too well,” he breathed. “Sweetheart you’re gonna be the death of me.” That wasn’t the first time he had said that nor would it be the last. A moment later, he was chuckling to himself. “Ah well.” He levered himself off the sofa with a groan. “Did Mary say something about brownies?” he muttered as he limped off in search of his share.


Heyes wasn’t to know at that time but about a year later, his old persona WOULD be out in the open. But that of course is a different story.

_________________
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
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