SummaryA young man, unsure of his Welsh ancestry—confused by his parent's evasiveness, and his grandmother's refusal to share anything personal about her reasons for coming to America—visits Wales and discovers the deceits that formed the foundations of his life.
4. The Seduction
The sun was setting as they rode back up the entrance road to the farmhouse. Douglas breathed in the pungency of the newly turned soil as if it were a harbinger of what was to come. There was now a small sports car parked behind the Toyota; the crate, minus one of its sides, sat empty between the house and the corrugated shed. Emrys greeted them at the front door, holding it open. Squinting against the raw light, and before inviting them in, he gestured with one arm towards the sky behind Gwen and Douglas. The dogs barked, again and again, out of sight.
Gwen turned around first. “Oh, it’s lovely. You’ve got to see this, Douglas,” she said. She groped for his hand as he turned. To Douglas, the view was unremarkable. He was puzzled, but perhaps it was not a sight his hosts were accustomed to. A cloudless sky. A yellow sun. Every day in California.
“Welcome home, you two. I’ve a glass of Penderyn fer ya both. Douglas, if you’ve got any ache in yer muscles, Welsh whiskey’ll act like a balm fer it. If yer not achin’, no harm done. Nights’re cool in the valley here, and it’s always been easier than darnin’ a sweater—which we are good at in this country also, by the way.” He laughed at this and opened the door a bit wider. “Here, let me take that fer ya,” he added, picking the Free Wales cap off Douglas’ head and tossing it onto a chair. They squeezed through, one at a time, and stood facing two figures that were in shadow at the base of the stairs. The interior of Emrys’ house was much larger than it appeared from the outside, and stretched 50 feet or more towards the rear, with a large living area to the left of the stairs, cluttered with several cushiony chairs and two sofas; behind that a small reading room with a roll-top desk and a half-dozen straight-backed wooden chairs set in a semi-circle, which opened into a dining room and kitchen separated by a counter. Not the humble dwelling of an impoverished potato farmer.
“Douglas, you remember Conwy, eh?” said Emrys, moving off to one side. “He’ll be joinin’ us fer dinner.” Conwy stepped into the light and extended his hand in greeting formally. His expression was dour, however, and his handshake strangely unenthusiastic, unlike the first time they’d met.
“Good lad,” he said, dully. “Not too sad a day I hope, lookin’ fer yer kin?”
Douglas’ head still buzzed from his intermingled fantasies about Gwen and Hollis. It adjusted slowly, as his eyes did to the contrasts in light within the house. The other figure stepped forward.
“And this—this is Father Moyell. Old family friend. Just arrived from Manchester courtesy of Conwy’s speedy MGB. There and back in record time! So’s he could catch a glimpse of you, was his hope.” Douglas thought Emrys’ tone oddly flat, compared to his normal upbeat manner. “And, well, here ya both are.”
“I see you’ve attended to yer grannie’s request,” said the priest, as he stepped forward out of the shadows, walking with a slight limp, his face lit like Conwy’s from the sunset light behind Douglas and Gwen. All thoughts of Gwen’s unrestricted affections evaporated when Douglas recognized the face of the man whose hands now extended forward, waiting for Douglas’—the face of the Anglican priest who had stood at his Grandmother’s bedside that extraordinary evening two years ago. But perhaps he was mistaken; there was just a resemblance, a similarity like so many in this most uniform of countries. Add the limp, however—and it had to be him. Upon reflection, I see you’ve attended to yer grannie’s request now seemed less of a conversational nicety, and more of an uncomfortable demand for confirmation. The priest’s expression softened slightly as he took Douglas’ extended right hand and clasped it firmly within both of his, for several seconds.
“I remember you. From the home,” said Douglas, as the priest’s hands loosened their grip. Douglas’ curious—but cautious—nature took over. “This is—well, it’s strange, to say the least. It appears everyone knows everyone, except me. Did my grandmother call you after I’d called her? And then what? You flew right over to check up on me?”
“Not at all, Douglas. I haven’t come all the way from America. My home is in Manchester, just a few hours’ drive east, where my diocese is. I asked myself—how could I not take the opportunity to see for myself Mary Williams’ grandson—on Welsh soil?” Father Moyell put his arm around Douglas and guided him towards the reading room off the main hall. Conwy, Emrys and Gwen followed silently. Emrys continued on to a table in the corner with stacked glasses and bottles of various liquors atop it. He uncorked a bottle and began pouring its contents into several of the glasses.
“So you never lived in America?” asked Douglas, as Conwy gestured to Father Moyell, Douglas, and Gwen to be seated.
From the corner Emrys ordered, “Penderyn for all, and sit where Conwy puts ya!”
The priest laughed heartily, and Gwen and Conwy smiled. “Gawd no, lad!” said Father Moyell. “We’ve all remained here, us and others, in honor to our cause.”
Before Douglas could ask What cause? The Free Wales cause? Emrys was standing over him and there was a large shot glass filled with a clear liquid in front of his face, which he grasped. “Now, Father, there’ll be no talk of our troubles while our guest is here. Remember your manners. Of us all, yer the most principled.” The priest nodded while accepting his glass from Emrys.
When all five of them had a glass in their hands, Emrys lifted his up, and the others followed suit. “Once again, a toast. To our young guest, who has much to be proud of. He is an American soldier, so he understands a cause greater than himself, and…he is a romantic, who in a short while will be with his lady friend who awaits him in Ireland! And he’s an innocent—fer he’s an American, after all!”
“Fuck!” cried out Douglas suddenly, flopping back into a chair and gazing at the ceiling. “Fuck!” He downed the shot glass in one long gulp. “It’s so obvious now! You’ve known all along who I am! Oh my god! How is this even possible?” He looked at everyone seated around him, feeling once again the hot surge of anxiety in his chest—compounded by the effects of the strong liqueur. He wanted to laugh, at the sheer improbability of what was happening. What held him back was the feeling of having been manipulated. There was a flurry of Welsh dialogue.
“Duw gollfarnu, Gryffin,” said Conwy, eyes darting to Father Moyell. “Dywedaid wrthych beidio a do dag ef.”1
“Cofio, Conwy. Ni fyddai’n yma mae’n os nad oedd i mi!”2, the priest responded. He in turn looked at Gwen, who clenched her fists and announced:
“Peidiwch ag anghofio, Yr wyf yn un y mae y rhan fwyaf i golli.”3 Conwy and Father Moyell both bowed their heads to this. Douglas’ head swiveled, trying to make sense of the body languages of the men showing deference to Gwen for some reason. Not knowing Welsh fed the anxious part of him, but Gwen smiled sweetly and continued, “Douglas is a sensitive man, I can tell you, and we need to remember that Mary deprived him of what all of us take for granted.”
Emrys turned to Douglas, who was in a stupor despite his rapidly beating heart and the surge of adrenaline with its conflicting signals of fight or flight. He remained caught between the two, waiting for more information. “Gawd, I’m sorry Douglas,” Emrys began. “I had an inkling it might be yew we spotted on the highway. But in all honesty, no one had any idea you’d be on the A470 this mornin’. That was pure chance. I mean, there’s not a lot of ways inta Abertridwr, so you was gonna be on the 470 sooner or later to and thru Caerphilly, and we’d most likely find ya on the road to Senghenydd—maybe not even today. Or we’d miss ya entirely. Or you’d change yer mind and we’d never a know’d it. So…what I’m tryin’ to say is, it’s amazing yer here. We’re all—I dunno—well, we’re just plain amazed.” Emrys’ speech had the effect of calming the others. There was something about the rhythm of his voice, the hint of a Liverpudlian lilt—like Ringo Starr—that took the edge off. He poured more liqueur into Douglas’ glass.
“We are,” Emrys continued, tapping Douglas’ glass with his own, “Yer official greetin’ committee, ya might say. All us who knew of ya, and cared about yer grannie, troublesome as she might be.” Conwy stepped off to the side, as if allowing for a longer speech he expected from Emrys. Gwen nodded politely to Father Moyell as she crossed between him and Douglas to join the two middle-aged men. Emrys’ expression changed to a concern over something, furrows in his forehead deepening, as Father Moyell responded to Douglas’ query.
“Well, you’re yer Grannie’s kin, alright. That’s come out just now,” he said, the hard features of his face—sharp nose, flat eyebrows, large high cheekbones—receding and softening courtesy of a broad and inviting smile. “Suspicious, untrusting, and more cynical than a young man ought to be. She’s handed that down to ya.” Combined with the larger-than-possible smile, the terse character analysis disarmed rather than irritated Douglas, and he relaxed. The priest continued. “Lad, I’m here because I grew up in this valley. This was yer Grannie’s home town—and mine, and Emry’s father’s, and Conwy’s—when we was children, and remained her home until she run off with yer dad to America. The two of us was trafferth fer twenty years til she abandoned the valley. My dad was Bishop of Caerphilly and ran Mass for St Martin’s Church, where I presided after his death, and before I retired to Manchester.”
“What were you doing in California?” asked Douglas, between sips. “When I saw you in the nursing home?”
Gwen gave the priest a concerned look, which he took note of before he stumbled into his answer. “Well. Retired Anglican leaders get invited to go places. I’m in the United States two-three times a year to visit some of our Dioceses. The Diocese of Western Anglicans is in Long Beach, matter-of-fact. So as I was in the country anyways, Grannie said come. So I came. You know she gets her way.”
Douglas had to smile. “Yes,” he said. “Stubborn. Irritating.” Gwen smiled and patted Father Moyell on the shoulder.
“As troublesome as when she was a child,” the priest interjected. “And last I saw her, as annoying and secretive as ever.”
The last comment, combined with Father Moyell’s mirthful and accurate description of Mary’s unflossed character, relaxed Douglas further, as if a pressure vise on his diaphragm had been loosened. “When was that?”
“Why the day I saw you, young man. Two years ago, nearly to the day! But I spoke to her just yesterday, when she announced to all concerned that you—Douglas Williams Jr., grandson of Mary and Llewellyn Williams of the Caerphilly valley, was on yer way as promised, that you had arrived in Wales, and would be coming to Abertridwr forthwith.”
“All concerned?” said Douglas. “What does that mean?”
Emrys interrupted, “I kin see that this might have the potential to be a lengthy conversation, Douglas, so might I suggest we all get seated and partake of the Penderyn in a more relaxed fashion. There’s no rush, eh? Yer my guest fer the night, am I right, Gwen? Dinner and a pillow under yer head?” He looked at her, and as a father might with a young child, took her chin in his fingertips and tilted it upward. She nodded, and smiled, shifting her gaze back to Douglas, who felt that to argue the point—had he actually agreed to this, or just resigned himself to it—would stall his slow-building sense of comfort.
“I believe he has agreed, Emrys,” she said.
“Good girl!” said Emrys, kissing Gwen’s forehead. “That’s perfect!”
Everyone followed Emrys into the living room, anchored by two opposing and imposing sofas with high arms and backs, and soft fabric with intricate patterns.
“That’s a lovely new couch you got there,” said Father Moyell.
“Matches the older one nice, don’t it,” said Emrys. “Brought it in just today, with Conwy’s help.”
Douglas pulled up short when he saw that there was a man sitting in the sofa that faced away from them. Emrys entered the room first, and when the man stood up Emrys whispered something in his ear, after which they both turned around to face the group.
“And this, Douglas—this is Dylan, just returned from a lengthy spell…um, elsewhere.” Douglas’ attention was drawn to the face that was now illuminated. A young man’s face that resembled his own, slightly more gaunt, military buzz-cut, almost bald—the sort of look he himself had during his first year in the military. This, he realized instantly, this is my doppelgänger! Could be the Dylan I was mistaken for in the coffeshop in Abergavenny! What a crazy country! It occurred to him that Emrys might have stopped his truck mistaking him for this Dylan, whom they obviously knew, but out of kindness—once they realized he was not Dylan—offered him the ride, when he could easily have just apologized and driven off. But that wasn’t what he’d suggested earlier. Perhaps the two of us are the showpieces for dinner. Something to chat about over drinks, into the ‘wee hours,’ as they say.
“Boray-da, Douglas!” said Dylan, smiling innocently, as if he did not appear to notice the remarkable similarity. They shook hands, Douglas perfunctorily, Dylan relishing it. “Emrys has been giving me the low-down on ya! That’s a phrase isn’t it? Low-down? I love American language! You’ll have to give me all the idioms and such at dinner. I know some, but I’d love to learn more.” He shifted his attention to Gwen. “Gawd, it seems like forever, eh Gwen? I bet yer surprised ta see me after all this time.” The two exchanged kisses on both cheeks, and a short embrace.
“I am indeed,” said Gwen, glancing at Emrys.
“So let’s eat!” exclaimed Dylan. “I’m starved! It’s been ages since I’ve had an Emrys feast!”
As if it were a directive and not a request from a guest, Emrys said, “You heard the man!” In the dining room, places had been set. Water glasses had been filled. Dylan walked alongside Douglas as they circled the table to find a seat. Emrys and Gwen followed a few paces behind.
“So, how do you know Emrys and Gwen?” Douglas asked Dylan. Another typical American trait, he thought to himself. We go right for the connection. To sharing. Strangers on a bus—lifelong buddies at ride’s end.
“I’m from here originally. Been away a long time. Bit of a homecomin’. Kinda like you, eh, from what Emrys has told me.” No mention of the incredible coincidence of their likeness, thought Douglas. It was as if the two of them were the ‘elephant in the room.’ More discomforting than remarkable.
Conwy pulled out a chair for Gwen and gestured for Douglas to sit next to her. Dylan sat opposite Gwen and after she shimmied her chair in, Conwy and Father Moyell joined Dylan across from Douglas. Emrys paused at the head of the table, then excused himself to enter the kitchen.
“How was your trip here?” asked Douglas, between sips of water.
“I believe,” said Dylan, unfolding his napkin with a flourish, pressing it into his lap, then picking up his utensils, one by one, and examining them, “that if ya get to where you want ta go, no trip is unpleasant. All journeys that end well are worth the struggle.” He replaced each utensil in its original position.
“I like that,” said Douglas, eager to find a comfort zone with the man sitting across from him. “I could live by that motto. I’ve been hitchhiking everywhere.”
Gwen put her hand on Douglas’ arm and smiled. “I took Douglas up ta Senghenydd today, Dylan.”
“Yeah, Emrys told me about yer granny’s wish. Hope it was fruitful.”
“I shown him his granddah’s headstone.” Gwen took a long sip of water before continuing. “Llewellyn Williams,” she said slowly, reverentially. The tone of deep respect surprised Douglas. “Born, 1890. Died, 1913. Killed by the Brits in the big one.”
Dylan sat back and smiled, as if he’d solved a riddle. “It’s no wonder yer granny wanted ya to see that. Him and his brother was the fiercest Welsh nationalists ever.”
Douglas interrupted. “Actually, we thought maybe Joseph was still alive. I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t get a chance to meet him.”
“So he passed as well?” Dylan leaned forward on his elbows.
“We ran into a family said he’d passed away 20 years ago, but there were no records of it in Abertridwr. And we couldn’t find a headstone. I’m going to Caerphilly tomorrow. It’s on my way, so it can’t hurt to try again.”
“Did ya know it was the two of them that started the Free Wales movement?” Dylan said, leaning back again in his chair. He shifted his eyes to Gwen for a second, then back to Douglas. “She tell ya that?”
“She did,” said Douglas, remembering the “Free Wales” cap he’d woken up wearing on the truck ride from Conwy’s, and worn on the visit to the Senghenydd cemetery. He felt slightly more comfortable engaged in conversation, and less distracted by their amazing resemblance to one another. “More than once.”
Emrys entered the dining room with a huge serving dish stacked with lamb chops as big as a fist, on bones as long as a forearm.
“Ok, lads, enough of the sad past,” said Conwy. “Let’s focus on the food now.”
“I get the feeling lamb is the only meat you eat here,” said Douglas, chuckling, seduced by the steaming, glistening lamb’s aroma.
“The cawl was nothing compared to this,” said Gwen, eagerly. “When Emrys cooks lamb, all the chefs in Paris are jealous.”
When everyone was comfortably seated, Emrys bowed his head and Douglas followed suit. “Father?” said Emrys, glancing at the priest.
“Fer what we’re about to eat, Lord,” said Father Moyell in an upbeat tone, without a trace of the somberness Douglas associated with prayer. “We thank ya. And for the pleasure of having company, especially the young men we see in one case so rarely and the other not at all until now. Lord, we feel your blessing. Amen.” Emrys looked up, pausing, it seemed to Douglas, for maximum effect, surveying his guests. Finally he said with gusto, “Don’t wait fer me or Gwen, lads. You’d best grab a bite!” Emrys roughly bent the huge chops so the bones lay flat and gestured for everyone to help themselves. He led the way, snatching the chop on his plate by the bone handle and bringing it to his mouth.
“Have ya been to France, Douglas?” asked Dylan, tearing off one of the chops. Douglas nodded. “The French ladies, y’know—they wear the same fookin’ clothes day after day. Not the rich ones. The regular ones. They can’t afford all that style the Americans are after. So they wear what few togs they got, and it’s all about the style, then, eh? Change a belt, a scarf, a piece of jewelry, shoes, and voila! You’re like a different female every day.” Douglas couldn’t help but smile. With a big grin, Dylan delivered the punchline: “That’s us with food! That’s our style!” Juice slipped out of the corners of his mouth when he bit into the chop he’d been holding.
Noticing that Douglas hadn’t yet grabbed a chop, Emrys dropped one on his plate. “But that’s a lie, Dylan. Truth is, we’ve no style at all here in Wales. We’ve no culture except singing, truth be told. Most folk’d as soon sing a song about food as actually cook it.” He paused to smile. “So findin’ a good cook is like strikin’ a deep vein, eh Conwy?”
“Thank gawd ya can’t sing, Emrys!” said Conwy. “Else we’d starve!” Everyone laughed until Emrys cleared his throat, as if he might have food caught in it.
“Slight detour goin’ down,” said Emrys. He took a deep breath that reassured his guests that all was well.
The food took over. No one spoke for several minutes. Every so often, Gwen would glance at Douglas sweetly, and smile, but she seemed to have no conversation in her.
“It’s fantastic, Emrys,” said Douglas, when his plate was clean.
“You’ve no need to be mannerly, Douglas,” said Emrys. “Grab in fer what ya want. There’s no royalty here. Ya eat what yer hungry fer, and there’s plenty more chops left. I didn’t cook fer no applause.”
As Douglas reached for another chop, he realized that Dylan had stopped eating; he held half a chop in his two hands, elbows on the table, and stared at Douglas, who once again felt the uneasiness that accompanied the sense of being scrutinized. “Like fookin’ twins, we are, Douglas!” said Dylan abruptly, holding the lamb tantalizingly close to his lips. “‘Cept for the hair. Mine’s short as sin.” He smiled and looked down at his food, holding the unfinished chop just below his chin. “Do ya see it?” he added, wiggling the chop as he spoke. “Or am I the only one?”
“Yes!” said Douglas.
“We all see it, Dylan,” said Gwen, sounding irritated.
“Doppelgänger, it’s called,” said Emrys. “More common than people think. ‘Specially with the Welsh.”
“They say everybody’s got a double in this world,” said Conwy. “Or more’n one.”
“Leave it to the Germans to find a word for somethin’ ya hardly kin believe,” said Dylan. “I get the dopple part—that’d be double. What’s the ganger part mean?”
After a few seconds of silence, Conwy spoke up. “Well, there’s the gangplank, right? The plank ya walk out on at sea. So I see it as walk or walking. Whaddya say Douglas? You’re the only one here with a college education.”
“Ganger does mean a walker in German. Don’t ask me how I know,” said Douglas. “I read a lot of shit in college.”
All through the rest of dinner, Gwen grew increasingly uneasy. She did not participate in the conversations. After dinner, Emrys served several digestifs, and Douglas again found himself in the curious position of consuming more alcohol than he would have normally, lured both by Gwen’s proximity and promise, and Emry’s urging. If in his love life he never felt pressured to please, in his social life he was the opposite. When he played his music, it was to please. When he conversed, it was to make himself feel comfortable, to please—in this case—his hosts. And so he drank glass after tiny glass. First, a portion of a bottle of Armangac was split into five small snifters. Douglas was urged to swirl the liqueur generously in his mouth and wipe his lips with it before swallowing. While sipping, Emrys left the room abruptly, and called out from the living room for everyone to come and join him. Douglas could hear the sounds of footsteps on the stairs. By the time everyone had settled comfortable into chairs, snifters still in hand, Emrys had returned. He held Douglas’ guitar by his side.
“No, no,” said Douglas. “I don’t want to play. Please.”
Emrys laughed. “Well, ya don’t want us to play, that’s fer sure.” He held the guitar by the neck and turned it sideways, noticing the tiny card taped to the top side of the body. “This yer play list?”
“Yes,” said Douglas. “But it’s only a few of the songs I play.”
“The night is young, lad.”
Dylan leaned over to look at it. “Here’s ’Blowin’ In The Wind,’” he said. “That’d be by Bob Dylan. He renamed himself after our famous poet, Dylan Thomas, dja know that?” Dylan held the guitar as if he were ready to play it, looking over the titles Douglas had taped to the topside, plucking one string after the other.
“Is that who you were named after?” Douglas asked him.
“Nah, Dylan’s a common enough name here. I don’t think my ma and pa knew anything of Dylan Thomas.”
“What is it makes a man change his name?” interjected Conwy. “You do it all the time in America. All your actors, and pop stars. Dylan used to be Zimmerman, eh?”
“It’s the American way,” said Emrys. “America is the re-invention of democracy. It’s only natural that lots of Americans would re-invent themselves as well.”
Douglas was startled when Gwen chimed in. “A name change isn’t the only way to become a new person,” she said, reaching across Douglas for the guitar. She snatched it from Dylan and placed it gently in Douglas’ lap. “A person can just evolve. A person can just become who they want to be. I think that’s what music is really for. What do you think, Douglas?”
“I think I really don’t know,” he answered. He pointed awkwardly at Emrys. “Once again my host has got me a bit tipsy.”
Conwy had left the room unnoticed and popped back in carrying a Polaroid camera. “Don’t move, anybody! Just crowd in on one another a wee bit.” Emrys obliged and leaned against Gwen, who was already pressed against Douglas. Dylan and Father Moyell sat on opposite arms of the sofa. The flash took Douglas by surprise. I am more than tipsy, he thought.
Conwy stared at the photo as it began to emerge. Without showing it to anyone, he placed it in his breast pocket. “One more for posterity, folks. Ya never know when ya might want to be lookin’ at a memory of a special time, eh?” The group resumed their poses and the flash once again surprised Douglas. He took the guitar from his lap and set it gently behind the sofa.
“Can I see the picture? I’d like one of those,” Douglas asked Conwy, who extracted one of the photos from his pocket, examined it, and quickly returned it there.
“Not yet, I’m afraid. Let’s see what they looks like in another minute.”
“Don’t make him play if he doesn’t want to, Emrys.” said Gwen.
“It’s like a job fer yew, then,” said Dylan. “I get it.”
“Yer right, Gwen,” said Emrys. “Sorry, lad. If you’ve a mind, have a go at it later. If not, no foul.” Emrys reached around to the sitting room cupboard and brought out a different bottle. “Lookie here,” Emrys remarked as he held the bottle up to Douglas. “Surely you’ve heard of this.”
“Danzy Jones Wysgi Licor,” read Douglas.
“Give it a sniff,” said Conwy, as Emrys uncorked the bottle and held the opening in front of Douglas’ nose. A stark combination of alcohol, rosehips and blackcurrant—powerful enough to staunch the background smell of pungent topsoil that hung inside the house as well as out—overwhelmed him and he coughed uncontrollably.
“I’m told it’s quite popular on college campuses in the states,” said Emrys. “Surely you reckonnize it.”
“No,” said Douglas. “First time.”
Both Emrys and Conwy shared a look of disappointment with each other, as if they had been lied to, but they shrugged it off.
Emrys walked the room, pouring a generous quarter into everyone’s glass.
“I just got out of prison,” said Dylan, suddenly, looking at Douglas. “In case yew was wonderin’.”
“Christ, Dylan!” said Gwen. “Jaysus fookin’ Christ!”
“What?” said Dylan, swallowing the powerful drink in one gulp.
“It’s OK, Gwen,” said Emrys, standing between the two of them. “It’s been a weird day, hasn’t it? Who’d a thought this mornin’ we’d be here with a young American in me own house tonight, drinkin’ to gawd knows what—what are we drinkin’ to, Conwy?—and as a topper he’s kin to the hero of the Abertridwr Valley.”
“But Emrys, we’re going to scare off our guest!” cried Gwen.
“Easy, Gwen,” said Emrys. “Yer not afraid, are ya lad?”
Douglas took stock of himself. He realized he was not afraid of the fact—if it was true—of Dylan’s revelation, but nervous because he was unsure of what the night had yet to offer. With the help of the warming cloak settling in his neck and shoulders—the effect of the ales and liqueurs—he felt only a jittery amusement.
“What were you in for?” asked Douglas.
“I bombed a radio station. A fookin’ English fascist propaganda arm.”
I should be alarmed, thought Douglas. But maybe this whole thing is a farce. They’re just jerking me around. Having fun with the tourist. Seeing if I’ll crack. I can play along.
“A real bomb? An explosion?” asked Douglas, slurring slightly.
“Just like Ché Guevara,” said Dylan. “By the book it was.”
Douglas remembered reading Ché Guevara in college. Books with bomb-making recipes were the rage for a few years.
“Just a small device,” Dylan continued. “But it were enough. And I got jobbed straight away.”
“Dylan, don’t be modest,” said Conwy. He turned to Douglas. “Big bomb. Big blast. Made the BBC!” Gwen rolled her eyes.
“Yer American Revolution is the model,” said Emrys. “Ireland, the Middle East, South Asia. Everyone looks to your history. Yew said fook off to Britain, and yew backed it up. Yer so naïve as a people, ya got no idea the monster yew created. Have some Poteen.”
Douglas hadn’t noticed Emrys sneaking up alongside him and refilling his glass with a different clear liquid. “What’s Poteen?” he asked, with Emry’s face nearly on top of his.
“Let’s just say, it’s a cousin to Vodka, and it does fer congestion what a chimney sweep does fer yer chimney!” said Conwy, sipping from his glass slowly.
Douglas could tell he was settling into his drunkenness. Again. Second time today. The heat of anxiety mixed with the warming effects of the liqueurs. He couldn’t tell one from the other. He adjusted his position on the sofa when Gwen moved next to him; he felt the weight of his head had nearly doubled. Moving it slightly, his body was left behind and he almost toppled into the cushions. I am losing control, he thought. But Gwen is here next to me. That is comforting. I don’t have to please her. Like Hollis, she will use me for her own pleasure, if she likes. It’s not that I desire someone other than Hollis. There’s nothing I have to do. Just sit here. Talk. Believe that I will be sober by the morning. What happens will happen. He felt the excitement of being desired and moving towards it—the imagined conclusion creating a kind of moral vacuum. Right or wrong will show themselves later, because I am not willing my way to this. Douglas watched his hosts for the next hour or so without judgment or critical thinking. When he spoke, it was to react to a direct question. He let his head lay on Gwen’s shoulder, and told her: I’m a cheap date, aren’t I! A few drinks and I’m gone. Or perhaps he just thought it. Before he passed out, he said to himself: You are all liars. I don’t believe a word you’ve told me. Your language is bizarre, and you smile so much, I don’t know if you’re happy, or just twisted. Or perhaps he had spoken out loud.
5. The Surprise
When Douglas awoke it was pitch-black. He could hear muffled barking from the two Mastiffs Gwen had been playing with when they arrived at Emrys’; they must have got out of the shed. He thought for a moment he was in a closet, but within a few seconds, he could make out tiny slits of light where a pulled shade failed to match the shape of the window. He leaned towards the dim light, and as he tried to rise, could not balance on his elbow and slipped forward. He was on a bed, but more like a hammock than a mattress. He was in his pants and undershirt, and a thin sheet had been thrown over him like a napkin tossed on a table. He felt hot, and the sheet was more a nuisance than a help.
He lay on his back and waited for the spinning to stop, turning his head slightly to and fro to discover the inner balance. Where is Gwen? What time is it? Sitting up, he opened the shade. A bright full moon illuminated the landscape below him. He was on the second floor, somewhere. He recognized the street in the distance that linked the small plots of farmland. Emrys’ farmhouse. Below him, spread out along the gravel driveway, were perhaps a dozen dark figures. The barking had stopped. The figures were moving in unison, spreading out along the front and the sides of the farmhouse.
He tried to call out Gwen’s name, but it came out more like a whisper surrounded by a hoarse rasp. One of the figures below looked up and in the moonlight Douglas could see that it was a man, and he had on some kind of uniform. Soldiers? Instinctively, Douglas withdrew his head and turned to look around the room. His eyes had adjusted, and he could make out the furnishings. The bed he was on, a bureau with four drawers, a small sink and a mirror above that. Photos. A rugby scarf draped over a simple, straight-backed chair, the kind found in grade school classrooms, and a desk with—with all my belongings emptied from my backpack! Despite the headache, as he approached the desk, he nearly jumped when he heard someone in the room whisper his name. He could not immediately tell from what direction.
“She’s gone, Douglas.” It was Emrys. He was standing at the foot of the bed. “It’ll be better for ya if yew wait here.”
“What do you mean?”
“These men have no patience. They’d as soon shoot ya as speak to ya.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You’ve been a good guest. Really. I—I’ve been a bad host, I’m afraid.”
Douglas turned around and faced Emrys. He could hear the men gathering outside the front door directly below. Emrys kept staring at Douglas.
“Where’s Gwen?” Douglas’ voice broke the surface only slightly. “She talked to me yesterday about wanting to travel with me. To get away, actually.”
“Well, she’s done just that, lad. She’s away.”
The men were banging on the front door, and shouting: “Dylan Clewes! Dylan Clewes of the Sons of Glyndwr! Surrender yerself now!”
“Dylan Clewes?” said Douglas, finding more of his voice now. “Ohhh man, he wasn’t released from prison, was he?”
“No, lad,” said Emrys. He faced Douglas and grabbed both his shoulders firmly. “He escaped. He’d been hiding out with Conwy fer a few days. Then we brought him here. I’m sorry, Douglas. We was desperate.”
“They’ve come to arrest him?”
Emrys pursed his lips. “Not precisely. They’ve come to arrest yew.”
Douglas understood now. It wasn’t just Gwen to whom he had surrendered.
I’m sorry, lad,” said Emrys. “The two of us is intertwined, ya see? I’d do anything for him.” He released Douglas and walked to the bedroom doorway and shouted down the stairs. “Conwy! Let ‘em in!”
Douglas got up, and, finding he could walk without the nausea that had crept up his spine earlier, joined Emrys in the doorway. Conwy led a group of men dressed like soldiers to the stairs.
“Stay where you are!” shouted the lead soldier when he had reached the second floor. “Don’t you fookin’ move an inch!”
Emrys stood calmly near the top of the stairs. He motioned to Douglas to stay in the bedroom. “I suppose if I told yew Dylan Clewes weren’t here, ya’d say I was toggin’ ya, eh?”
As he reached the second-floor landing, the lead soldier took out a picture from his breast pocket and stared down at it, then up again at Douglas through the doorway. He put the picture back in his pocket. “Step aside, Emrys!” Emrys nodded and stepped aside.
Douglas clenched his teeth and exclaimed, “Jesus Christ! This isn’t happening!” as the soldier brushed past Emrys. “I’m not him! I’m not Dylan whatever-his-name-is.”
“Clewes, lad,” whispered Emrys. “It’s just as good a name as Williams.”
The lead soldier gestured to the men following him. Two men quickly handcuffed Emrys. Two others, one each side of Douglas, handcuffed him as well. Having his hands forced behind his back prompted him to feel for his wallet in the back right pocket of his jeans. Empty.
“Where’s my wallet?” Douglas asked no one in particular as the men stepped away from him and the lead soldier approached. On his chest was a nametag: Sgt. Scholes. “My wallet will have my IDs. Oh, and there’s my passport! You’ll see. I’m Douglas Williams. I’m an American, just visiting.” The heat of anxiety was returning, moving up his neck into the back of his head.
“Sit on the bed, Dylan,” said the sergeant. He yelled out to the troops remaining in the stairwell. “Sit this man,” he shouted, shoving Emrys to the edge of the stairway. “With the other man downstairs!”
“Yes sir!” said one of the soldiers, who led Emrys and all but two soldiers back downstairs. Those two stood at the bedroom door. Sgt. Scholes sat on the bed next to Douglas.
“I had a wallet,” said Douglas. “Check my stuff on the table. There should be a passport there.”
The soldier hesitated. He scanned Douglas’ features in an eerie imitation of Gwen’s intense darting eyes. “That’s quite an accent you’ve got there, Dylan.”
“I’m not Dylan. I know I look like him. I met him last night. He was here. We had dinner together. All of us.”
“Oh? All of you?” Scholes’ attitude was flippant, a disconnect that increased Douglas’ already mounting fear. It meant the man interrogating him had no empathy whatsoever.
“Dylan was here.” Douglas spoke with a quivering voice, fast-paced. “He said he’d just got out of prison, but I assumed he meant just released, you know? And Gwen was there, but I don’t really know her relationship to everyone. And Conwy, the man downstairs, he was here too. We met at his place up in the high hills, up—”
“Up north?” interjected the sergeant.
“Yes. Up north. I think. Yes, because we drove south first. And there was another man. A priest. Father…Moyer or Mayell or something! We had a great meal, and afterwards we drank. A lot. I’m not used to drinking so much. I passed out. I woke up here. Upstairs. In this room. That’s it. Simple story. The truth.”
Douglas had spoken so fast he was out of breath; he inhaled slowly and deeply, in an attempt to recover, and had to clear his throat. He felt as if he ought to add something but couldn’t figure out what. When he stopped talking, the awful reality of the situation set in, the anxiety overtook him. He felt he was drowning. The thick atmosphere of his situation was unpleasant, dangerous, foreboding and suffocating. I am being arrested because I look like someone. Unbelievable! I’ve done nothing. They’ll find my passport on the table there with my backpack. I’ve dropped my wallet again, but it’s probably on the floor. Silly fantasy about Gwen! That was so stupid. I’m happy with Hollis. Where’s her picture? Also in my wallet.
“Ah, the truth,” said the sergeant. He put on white rubber gloves and walked over to the table; he rummaged through the contents of Douglas’ backpack, sifting through clothes. He searched through the dresser drawers holding a small flashlight, then bent over and examined the floor under the bed, spraying the light like a gardener might water his plants.
“Wait!” said Douglas. “There’s a photograph! Conwy took a Polaroid! Ask him. Make him show you—both Dylan and I are in it. Together! You’ll see there are two of us! Ask him!”
“I’ll tell you what, Dylan. Don’t yew fookin’ talk, eh? Don’t fookin’ speak of photographs, meals and drinkin’ and yer girlfriend and what a fookin’ happy time you had last night! Yew may have forgot the bloody family you orphaned, but we have not!” As he spoke he sifted through the items on the desk with increasing agitation. He picked up an object and tossed it into Douglas’ lap. It looked like a roll of thick wire. “What d’yew suppose that is?”
Douglas hesitated to look at what had been thrown at him. He felt that responding—actually engaging in a conversation with the soldier—would lead him further into confusion. Better to try to stabilize the situation for himself. Just hold onto what he knew. “My passport should be there. My passport will clear this up. I know I look like this guy. I know! I met him. We look alike. But he has short hair! Really short. My hair is—” Instinctively, Douglas tried to raise his hand and run it through his hair, but the handcuffs held his hands tightly behind his back. The other soldier at the door laughed.
Scholes said, “Dja think we wouldn’t come fer ya? Dja think everyone in town loves ya so much you could prance around all day wid yer girlfriend, ridin’ around all afternoon? There’s got to be a dozen families ratted you out, not to mention we been planted up the hill fer the last week! Fer a smart lad, wid his Level Fours, you’re a first-class idiot!” He approached Douglas with clenched fists, with a hiss in his voice, and pressed his face menacingly up to Douglas’ and stayed there. “Dja think yew could snub yer nose at us right at sundown, all smilin’ at the world, and we wouldn’t react?”
“I’m not him, I tell you. I’m Douglas Williams. I’m an American. On my way to Dublin!” Douglas spoke, weakly, as if the proximity of the soldier’s face were sucking the energy out of him. He struggled to draw another breath as Scholes shouted:
“Ya had the gall to visit their fookin’ house! And whadja went there for? Ta gloat? I ought to fookin’ trow ya out the window right now!” Douglas kept leaning back as the soldier pressed forward. “Yer damn right ya oughta be afraid! Yer a fookin’ coward! Gimme that!” Scholes grabbed the object he had thrown earlier into Douglas’ lap. “Fookin’ cordite!” He shook the thick bundle of cord in front of Douglas’ face. “And yer a fookin’ idiot twice over!” He left the room apace, brushing past the soldier at the door. “He stays there on the bed. If he’s gotta piss, let him piss his pants!” To another soldier standing just outside the door, he added, “Bag everything!” He darted his head back in past the doorframe for one last burst: “And why wouldja have us lookin’ fer a passport, Dylan? We’ve still got yers from Strangeways when ya went in. Dja make a new one up? An American one? Well, it ain’t here! And neither is yer girlfriend! Maybe, just maybe, she’d had it with yew and yer pious rants about a free Wales!”
Douglas fell backwards on the bed. He had to twist his body sideways, with his hands stuck behind him, in order to rise up. This put him facing the mirror on the wall above the tiny washbasin. What he saw nearly stopped his heart.
His hair had been chopped short, military—prison?—style. In the mirror was the man who had emerged from the shadows next to Emrys early last evening, the man who had sat across from him at dinner, and the man who had lounged casually in the living room, drinking Poteen and Wysgi Licor and Armangac. His dog tags had been removed from around his neck. He was so used to hiding his military status while traveling, that he had failed to mention the dog tags as another way to confirm his true identity. And it was obvious that he wasn’t going to find them in the room, or in the house. Not the dog tags, not his wallet, not his passport. Sgt. Scholes was right about one thing: I’m an idiot. How could I not have seen this coming? Because a young woman had figured me out. A woman like Hollis who could tell I was always the one who was invited in, never the one to reach out. Always sought after, always loved by someone, never needing to search for love. Never needing to give much, if anything.
After a couple of soldiers had bagged the contents of Douglas’ backpack, he was escorted down to the living room and placed on a sofa next to Emrys, with Conwy seated in a nearby chair. Daylight hinted at the windows, as a dozen or so soldiers carried boxes and sacs into vans parked outside the farmhouse. Emrys asked Douglas if he’d been roughed up at all.
“Just to put the handcuffs on,” said Douglas. “Doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen later though.”
“It’s only t’ get him away, y’see,” whispered Emrys. “To America, eventually. Give it another day and you’ll be all sorted out proper. No harm done in the end.”
Sergeant Scholes appeared in the opening of the front entrance to the house, tapped on the shoulder of the man guarding them, and announced, “Enjoy yer last few minutes of comfort. Soon as we wrap up, you’ll be sittin’ on benches in the back of a van. Trip to Swansea’ll take over an hour.”
Douglas hung his head, suddenly fatigued. He lay back against the sofa pillows, but his chin remained low, nearly touching his chest. So that’s what I was. The amazing chance look-alike in a country of look-alikes. “Just my dumb luck, eh?” But even as he said it, Douglas knew there had to be more to it. A guess as to which highway I’d be on? At just the opportune time? No way.
Emrys waited until the soldier guarding them stepped back, filling the doorway, some distance away from them, and whispered: “It weren’t luck, lad. Dumb or otherwise.”
“But even I didn’t know I was going to be where I was yesterday. Hitchhiking on the A470. How could you have known?”
“Ah, Jaysus, yer going to hate me. I don’t want that. But I’m no spook. I’m just as amazed as yew are all this fell into place.” Emrys held his face in his hands, pressing his fingers into his forehead. “You’re a fine lad. I feel terrible. I don’t know what to tell you, or how. I’m sorry.” He looked at Douglas pleadingly, as if begging him not to ask any more questions.
“Wait a minute. My grandmother? She knew where I was before I called her?”
“She knew when ya left Frankfort, Douglas. And when yer transport landed at Heathrow. She’s not a woman who’s comfortable with uncertainty. She got your furlough dates. Knew yew was headed towards your girlfriend in Dublin. Knew you’d be hitchhikin’ outa London, most likely on the A40, which is the most direct way, tru Gloucester, Monmouth, on to Abergavenny.”
“But you couldn’t be sure.”
“Not sure at all! Ta say the least! Me and Gwen, we made the run to Monmouth, the day before, ta buy the sofa and have it all crated up. This, after all our crossin’ fingers and prayin’ that Father Moyell would get Dylan to Conwy’s safe and unsighted.”
“Father Moyell helped him escape?”
“Sorta. Dylan was on road work detail every Wednesday—what you call a chain gang in America—in a lowland bog, middle o’ nowhere, and made off after cuttin’ a chain. That were the easy part. He crawled fer miles tru the bog ta Chorlton Ees forest, southwest of Manchester, where he hid out in sight of the only access road. Father Moyell showed up in his MGB, ‘fore the dogs arrived, and then they was off to Conwy’s. Gwen and I headed fer home, wid no idea where yew was, and prayed you hadn’t called Mary yet. When she did call, to tell us yew was in Abergavenny, we set out right away. We had no idea how you might be getting’ to the A470, but we figured you’d need ta go tru Merthr Tydfil, headin’ south ta Caerphilly eventually, so we headed towards where we thought ya might be. Every truck that passed us we thought maybe yew was on it headin’ towards where we came from. I was all ‘this is impossible’ but Gwen she were the optimist. ‘He’ll be walkin’’ she kept sayin’. I thought we shoulda just planted ourselves in Abertridwr and waited, but Gwen, she was certain you’d have trouble findin’ a ride south of Merthr, so we toddled back’n’forth between Aberfan and Pontypridd til sunset, and the next mornin’ we was up before dawn. Goin’ north, Gwen said she seen someone climbin’ a fence and convinced me ta turn round. I thought it couldn’t a been yew, that ya couldn’ta got that far south in a day. But, well, she was right. She’s right about most things.”
“Fuck,” said Douglas, dropping his head down into his lap. It felt good to stretch his spine after a night sleeping like dead weight, on his back, in a hammock-like bed.
“When you was all took with Gwen,” Emrys continued. “I thought it would be a complication, but she said nah, it was perfect.”
“I still don’t understand. Why you? Why Gwen? What’s your relationship to Dylan? How the hell did you find him? A guy who looks exactly like me! How do you even know my grandmother?”
Emrys spoke softly and without rancor, as if he were explaining a sin to a young boy, or how touching a hot plate could burn your finger. “You Americans are so busy luxuriatin’ in yer excess, you’ve no pain in ya to help ya see the obvious. Think on how yer wrists are hurtin’ and look me in the eyes. What’s yer granny’s maiden name?” The pain. The connection.
“She never spoke about it,” said Douglas. “That’s the problem.”
“In the cemetery. You saw it. On the stone of a young woman. What last name did the Sergeant give ya when he called you out? Think, lad, think! Me and Dylan is all that remains of what’s been hidden from ya all these years, but no more. What’s happened is yer grannie’s been forgiven, and has forgived, in one act—thru yew. Dee Clewes, Douglas. Dee Clewes. Born 1925. Died 1950. And I am Emrys Clewes. Dee was my young wife, rest her soul.” He sighed, twice; first a light one, then a heavy, elongated one. “Dylan is my son.” He paused to measure the impact this revelation had on Douglas. Satisfied that Douglas wasn’t going to become violent, he continued. “And yew…are his twin brother.” Emrys paused again, sensing that this information, even fed bit by bit, might stick in Douglas’ mental throat. “Dee was biological mother to the both of ya.”
Douglas was stunned. None of this could be true. This was just a twisted version of what he’d been told as a child. More confusion. The bones still lay haphazardly, unconnected. Thank goodness you’ve got your mother’s brains, his father had always told him, meaning Hannah’s. And yet the word twins explained everything neatly, cleanly. That rarest of coincidences—encountering your doppelgänger—might seem reasonable, given the Welsh look. But to be discovered, and used in such a fashion? Unlikely. That he had a twin brother, that this twin’s existence had been hidden from him for some as-yet-to-be-understood reason—bizarre as it might seem—was more believable.
The next revelation, however, jostled the previous ones. Emrys cleared his throat and said, “And I am yer biological dad.”
Douglas’ mind began to loosen as if parts of a machine rusted in place had been oiled and manipulated. He felt unsure of where the truth lay—but strangely liberated. The fight or flight instinct did not well up in him, like he thought it might. With the last bit of information: And I am your biological dad, he should have felt more unsettled. What should have driven him away, or into conflict with Emrys, had the opposite effect. His body relaxed.
“I kin see this is hard fer ya to make sense of, lad.”
Douglas felt more dazed and lost than anxious. He did not know what to make of the significance of the name. Clewes. A connection for sure, but what kind? Coincidental? He had a twin brother. What did the surname matter, save that it was the same as his grandmother’s?
“I’m tryin’ ta be as gentle as I can wid ya, Douglas. I owe it to ya. To be honest. And I kin tell you need to know. Mary mighta sent ya here on a goose chase fer yer Great Uncle Joseph, but yew’re after something more important, that’s why I feel fer ya. I’ve no reason at all to be tellin’ ya tales.”
“You’re right. I want to know,” said Douglas. “Everything.”
“Yer parents—they told ya yew was brought to term inside another woman’s body din’ they?” said Emrys, bringing Douglas out of a momentary haze.
Douglas nodded: he remembered the conversation with his parents when he turned twelve: But you’re all ours, Douglas. They had looked into his eyes and spoken with one voice, firmly and confidently. That was the way you told the truth. This was maddening, this new information. Both stories could not be true. Twenty-four hours ago he did not even know Emrys Clewes. How was he to believe this man? And yet the belief came to Douglas as easily as breathing in and out. As he exhaled, trying to calm himself, he believed, as surely as the next breath he was about to draw, that what Emrys was telling him now was the truth—a truth that freed him from all the tension his upbringing had created in him. All the stiffness, all the emotional barrenness—his grandmother’s and his father’s—was like the forlorn and pitted landscape of Wales itself. There were all the rosy cheeks and red hair, thin noses and bright blue eyes the color of the sky, but those oases of beauty were dwarfed by the vast stretches of scarred earth, the pyramids of black rock piled up like monstrous burial sites. Everywhere were reminders of past horrors, deformations of the land, monuments built by every generation to mark the sites of death and disaster. The lush greenery clinging to the Brecons’ steep mountain walls, or pinched—alongside cold and fast-flowing streams—into small creases in the flatlands, were overwhelmed by the brutal and uninviting countryside. This façade was his heritage; the hard and unforgiving land, manifested in his grandmother’s stoicism.
Soldiers were amassing out front. A van pulled up and the doors swung open. Emrys glanced outside and sped up his story.
“That body was Dee’s,” said Emrys. “Her womb. But the other part, the surrogate mother part, that were a lie they told ya, straight out. The process, the in vitro, was a new thing back then, experimental. Yer mother and dad, they was desperate fer a child, and Mary even more so. But when they found out yer ma had a condition that prevented her from carryin’ to term, right away Mary turned to the church and Father Moyell—first fer a possible adoption, then fer the new procedure. Mary insisted yer father go through the Anglican church to find a woman would agree to carry to term someone else’s baby. And Dee, who’d grown up in the orphanage like I had, who were just a young woman I had been seein’, was agreeable, especially to the money part. But the procedure didn’t work. Yew kin imagine the sadness of yer parents. What yew can’t imagine was yer grannie’s rage.”
“Actually, I can begin to imagine it,” said Douglas.
“Adoption fer her was not acceptable. She wanted a Williams’ grandchild.”
“So the procedure failed,” said Douglas seriously. “I get that. And then you got your girlfriend pregnant with twins.” Douglas smiled nervously. “How did you feel about that?”
“I was over the moon, lad. I was in my thirties. Dee was young, but the both of us was in love wid the idea of bein’ parents. Only Father Moyell come to us and says that Dee can’t keep the babies. Why? we ask him. Because just like the agreement she’d signed, the babies would hafta go to the couple that paid. It weren’t Dee’s fault the in vitro didn’t take, but she’d been paid the money and would have ta give it all back, which Father Moyell said he wouldn’t accept anyways. Dee was near ready ta give birth and we was all desperate, when outta the blue, Father offers us this deal from Mary: Dee kin keep the one child, and Mary takes the other, fer her son in America.”
“And Mary never told my mom and dad what had actually happened.”
“She fed them the story they told you. Which they in turn altered to suit themselves. That yer dah was the father, and that Dee were just the vehicle you boys was ridin’ in.”
“Jesus,” said Douglas. He stretched his body out to relieve the cramping in his legs, then shimmied back up to a sitting position. “I come from one helluva fucked up family. What happened to you? Did the church help you?”
“The church agency made the arrangements, signed the paperwork, fer the transfer. It read medically that the one child were from the Williams’ sperm. For my part, I done the right thing, and married Dee in her eighth month. After she gave birth, Father Moyell accompanied you to California. Dylan stayed here. There was only one problem. Dee came down with a septic infection durin’ her labor. She lost a lot of blood. The babies was healthy, accourse, you and Dylan both, but she developed a high fever, and they couldn’t stop it, and day after day, one by one, her organs failed. And then—then it was just Dylan and me.”
“And where was Joseph? What was that all about?”
“Joseph were sent up ta Strangeways prison again, this time fer life, and died there just a few years after yew and Dylan was born. Buried in the cemetery alongside the prison. Which is why there’s no headstone in Senghenydd. No one saw fit to tell Mary. Not even Father Moyell. Mebbe he wanted her ta feel the guilt, no relief what might come if she knew fer sure he had passed. I dunno. Yer grannie were in no way unhappy he’d been sent up fer life. When his name come up, as it did sometimes, talkin’ wid the Father about the old Welsh underground, and him bein’ incarcerated, she’d just smile. She inquired about me and Dylan, but no more’n that. She was focused on beatin’ down Joseph, and made Father Moyell swear that he’d visit Strangeways, pass on the news about him bein’ a granddah, hopin’ the news’d torment the bastard. She never understood nothin’ beyond what he done to her. She never understood that the man never cared about me. So why would he care about a grandson? But that were Mary. If the facts didn’t suit her, she ignored ‘em.”
The soldier at the door suddenly snapped to attention, and Sergeant Scholes brushed past him to announce that everyone would be leaving soon. He demanded that Emrys and Conwy hand over immediately, or otherwise show him, where they keys to their vehicles were. Emrys nodded in the direction of Conwy, who was positioned next to a table by the stairway, and Conwy nodded downwards to where they keys lay.
“When do I get a phone call?” asked Douglas as Scholes picked up the keys.
“Yew’ve been watchin’ too much American TV in yer few days o’ freedom, Dylan.” He paused when he reached the door to add, “It’s goin’ t’ be all BBC from now on.”
Emrys let out a sigh, as if he had been holding his breath. “Don’t be too eager, Douglas. Yew’d be doin’ us a favor if ya didn’t ask fer one too quick.”
“You really think this’ll work?” said Douglas matter-of-factly.
“We’ll see. We’ve got nothin’ to lose. Ya know I’ll do whatever I hafta to delay yer processing. Nothing against yew. We only need time.” Douglas could tell that there was no regret in Emrys, other than what he expressed for having wronged him.
Scholes stormed back into the house, and the guard at the door stiffened up. “Sir!” he said as Scholes passed. Conwy and Emrys stood up as well. Douglas struggled to rise. The sergeant unfolded a piece of paper he was carrying.
“Dylan Clewes! This here is the warrant for yer arrest, which we are authorized to carry out. There is the original charge, as outlined within, for which yew stood trial. There is the additional charge of unlawful flight, also outlined, for which there are additional penalties, and for which you may be tried separately. Do you understand these charges?”
Douglas looked at Emrys, who nodded.
“Don’t fookin’ look at him! Do you understand these charges?”
“My name is Douglas Williams. I’m an American.”
Emrys smiled at Douglas, knowing the American traveler had accepted that no good could come from easy compliance. That his insistence on being who he really was would net additional minutes, perhaps hours; it would aid, and might ensure, Dylan and Gwen’s successful escape.
“All right then, listen up, yew,” said the soldier, who withdrew from his chest pocket, with the hand not holding the document, a small card, which he read from: ‘You do not have to say anything unless you wish to do so, but I must warn you that if you fail to mention any fact which you rely on in your defense in court, your failure to take this opportunity to mention it may be treated in court as supporting any relevant evidence against you. If you do wish to say anything, what you say may be given in evidence.’ Do you fookin’ get what I just said?”
“My name is Douglas Williams—”
“Oh, shut the fook up! And sit the fook down!” Douglas complied. Emrys stepped away. Scholes called out the door, “We’re going to have to bloody tape this! Bring Cooper in with the video.” He stuffed the card back in his pocket and handed the papers to the soldier by the door. Momentarily another soldier entered the house with a bulky video camera, a shoulder-slung recorder and a tripod. He set it up across from the sofa where Douglas sat. “Tell me when, Cooper.”
“Ready, sir!” said Cooper.
Again, Sgt. Scholes took out the card and read from it. When he was finished, he sighed heavily as if he knew what was coming next. “Do yew understand this right as it’s been expressed to yew?” he asked.
“My name is Douglas—”
“Hi-fookin-larious! I expected a piece of work, but this takes the—aw shite! Doesn’t bloody matter,” said Scholes, calming himself. “Cooper?”
“Yes sir!” Cooper rewound the tape and reviewed it while Scholes tapped his feet nervously. “Solid, sir!
Scholes leaned over and pressed his face up to Douglas’. “Yer not a revolutionary! Yer just a spoiled schoolboy knocking over yer mates’ lunchtrays ‘cause yer bored. Yew don’t care about anybody but yerself! Ya don’t give a shite about yer Welsh Nation! Yer just a terrorist.” He grabbed Douglas’ arms and forced him to stand before turning him over to another soldier, who grabbed one of his elbows, jerking him out the door. Emrys and Conwy followed voluntarily.
“That’s a good lad,” said Emrys, with the same smile he’d shown Douglas when the window of the Toyota had dropped with a thud less than 24 hours prior.
In the back of the van, Douglas sat next to Emrys, both men chained to a bench anchored to the floor and side panels. His arms were pinned behind him. He arched his back to take the pressure off his cuffed hands, which scraped against the metal wall of the van every time the vehicle hit a rough spot in the road or changed speed slightly. The pain was sharp with every contact, and Douglas felt that he was probably bleeding. Across from them Conwy sat with his eyes closed, head twisted back and to one side.
“Kin ya begin to understand, now?” said Emrys, continuing the story he’d had to abort during the transfer. “About yer grannie’s reluctance to speak about this to ya? Not that I agree wid her about clammin’ up all these years, lyin’ to ya outright when ya pushed her. But that ain’t even the half of it. She also lied to yer dad. It begun with him, ya see. And it had to do with me.”
“Just like yer mom and dad took only one baby back to America, when Mary left Abertridwr, she took only one of her sons wid ‘her.”
“Christ!” exclaimed Douglas. “My dad had a brother he never knew about? How could he not know?”
“Not had a brother, lad. Has a brother.”
“Okay. Has a brother,” said Douglas. Emrys looked at him as if he’d asked a question and was waiting for an answer. “Oh double-Christ!” shouted Douglas, banging the back of his head against the side panel of the van, which woke Conwy from his slumber. Douglas thought, this is too twisted, frankly, not to be true. “That’s you! You’re my dad’s brother! And you’re my biological father.” Processing this news, and while formulating more questions, Douglas sat silently for several seconds.
“Kinda makes a mess of yer brain, don’t it?” said Emrys, giving Douglas a gentle nudge with his shoulder.
“No!” Douglas exclaimed. “Not at all! It makes sense! It makes terrific sense!”
“Well, ta put a fine slice into it, I’m really the bastard brother, as it weren’t Llewellyn Sr. were my dad.”
Douglas felt the bones of his familial past—so long scattered and unrecognizable —viscerally coming together, finally beginning to take recognizable form. He could picture how the remaining ones might fit. “Joseph,” he said firmly, knowing it would be confirmed by Emrys. “Joseph was your biological dad. He had an affair with Mary.”
“Not exactly, though it were the story Joseph told the town, the story that broke Llewellyn’s heart, drove the wedge to their marriage, and shamed Mary, a shame that only increased when she gave birth. A shame that increased further with the Senghenydd Mining Disaster of 1913 in which yer grandah was killed. Ya might say that were the final straw.”
“Joseph raped her.”
“That’s right, lad. Took advantage o’ her when she were not as attractive to Llewellyn as before the birth. Days after she gave birth ta me, soon as she was fit, she bundled me up and lay me on the steps of the church where Father Moyell’s dah was the priest at the time. The next day she was gone. As it were clear to all that Joseph were the father, the church urged him ta do the right thing.”
“Which I gather he did not,” said Douglas. “He abandoned the baby—you—and that was what she was referring to at the nursing home when she said she could finally forgive him—”
“Could forgive him if,” Emrys interrupted. “If he could forgive her.”
“Forgive her for what? For leaving?”
“Come on, lad. Fer not takin’ me wid her! Fer not takin’ both her sons. She had ta know what would happen ta me. That Joseph would have none of it. Leavin’ me on the church steps was a slap in his face. Her revenge for him ruinin’ her life. Wid her husband dead, she had no reason to stay, and every reason to leave. His shame drove him first from the church, then from town; it drove him to take up wid the more radical elements of Plaid Cymru. And eventually to prison. And as much as she blamed him fer her shame and heartache, she felt the guilt of ruinin’ his life as well. There’s no easy way wid the heart, lad. Imagine all this she’s had locked up in her fer fifty years!”
“I don’t understand, tho, why Father Moyell would come to visit her two years ago, when she wasn’t dying. She could have made a phone call, or written a letter to him, to say what she needed to say, couldn’t she?”
“You got it backwards, lad. It were Father Moyell arranged the visit, abrupt-like, after Dylan had just been jobbed fer the bombing, and dropped into Strangeways Prison, as fate would have it, where Father Moyell was the Anglican aide, doublin’ the fate. Father Moyell, and his father before him, was also Plaid Cymru, ya see, and sympathetic all along to our cause. He’d baptized Dylan, guided him on his confirmation, and when I told him my idea, how all we needed was a way ta get my boy time to get outta Wales, get to America somehow, he went ta see her, face ta face, with you and her folks present, to put the whole thing into motion. It weren’t just you that made a promise that night, Douglas. It were yer grandma. Father Moyell told her she had to have a reckonin’ before she died. And thanks ta yew, she’s made good. Getting’ Dylan to America was fer her the only way to find the peace she needed. And what she needed fer that, was fer yew to get to Wales. She needed ya to feel a bit sorry fer her. Poor old lady who’d lost somethin’ that only yew could help her find.”
Douglas sighed. “Well, it worked,” he said. Seen in this new light, his grandmother’s machinations both repelled and intrigued him. And led him to thoughts of Gwen. “What about Gwen?” he asked Emrys. He hoped against hope that Emrys would say she was pressured to go along with the ruse; that she too had been manipulated.
“Gwen,” said Emrys. “She seen straightaway how fragile yew was. How easy yew was took with her. She could see how yew was with women. And we needed yer passport. And more.” Emrys’ face softened further, as if a peace were settling into the folds of the skin on his face. “Gawd I felt fer ya. But ya couldn’t see our distress, could ya? It was all about what was happenin’ to yew. Conwy thought maybe we should ask ya up front. Y’know, didja want to be a part of it. But I figured, if you had said yes, you didn’t have it in ya to lie after, about losin’ yer passport or it bein’ stole or whatever. Plus we needed fer the army ta be preoccupied, so ta speak, fer a decent bit of time.”
“And the house in Seng-what-ever?”
“That weren’t yer great uncle’s. It were a house wid a history that mattered, that figured in, shall we say.
“The Commons Building, with the records?”
“A good show, eh? That were my idea. And Gwen she knew Arwenna. I dunno why she took yew to that particular house. It were a hell of a risk. She was actin’ out, I guess. Angry for what had happened to her husband.”
“Her husband? She’s married? Wait, don’t tell me. To Dylan. I’m such an idiot!”
Emrys nodded. “Married two years. Just before he were sent up. I’m sorry, lad. She had to lead you on. Well, she thought she had to. She thought you’d figure us out, straightaway. Maybe you woulda, too, if she hadn’t, well…”
“If she hadn’t kissed me?”
Emrys smiled. “She can think on her feet, eh?” He looked off for an instant. “Jaysus, wouldn’t ya love a girl like that on yer side?”
“The visit to the cemetery?”
“She had ta make sure yew touched yer grandah’s headstone. She felt bad a bit about gettin’ ya lathered up before yew could see the survivors’ plaque wid your grandfather’s name on it.”
Douglas took a deep breath. “So the plan was always for them to leave together.”
“The moment you’d passed out. Well, not exactly. I took the trimmer to ya while Conwy propped ya up. Dylan came and sat by ya twice to measure the likeness of the cut in the front. They set off out the back behind the cover of the hedgerows while I did yer backside. They crawled fer an hour before they reached the road where Father Moyell picked ‘em up. Had to be outta sight and behind enough earth so that the heat signatures the Brits use wouldn’t get picked up by the men watchin’ the house. I’m hopin’ they’re already on the ferry to Rosslare. At the very least they’re in Pembroke and aim t’get on shortly. Then to Cork for a fishin’ boat to the states. Twenty-four hours, that’s what we figure. If you can just be Dylan for 24 hours.”
“The soldiers were watching the house all this time?”
“Since Dylan escaped. They weren’t too secretive about it.”
“How did you get Dylan into the house?”
“Emrys smiled, “Dylan had hid up at Conwy’s fer a couple days after we knew yew was comin’. We snuck him into the crate after you passed out, and when we got home, we paraded you around wid yer Free Wales cap so the crate would seem like just another delivery. It were agonizin’ fer Gwen, cuz she were desperate fer him, if ya know what I mean. After a coupla years, ya can imagine. We needed to make a show of you and Gwen. Get the Brits ta look away from the house.”
“The cap was to cover my hair.”
“Gwen’s idea again. Once yew was gone off on yer bikes, we opened the crate on the back of the truck so’s the world could see it were a sofa, but huddled in the dark was Dylan, outta sight. We pulled the sofa out part way like we was inspectin’ the goods. Shoved it back in and carried it up to the front door. Wid the opening facin’ the door, we slid the sofa and Dylan out the same time. We still had ta cross our fingers, that if the soldiers was convinced yew was Dylan like we hoped, that they wouldn’t try ta take ya in Senghenydd. Dylan were considered an armed and dangerous escapee, though. Brits would prefer not ta make noise around here, ta do things quiet and outta public. So we had that. She took ya to the Rees house, but then slipped outta sight figurin’ Mr. Rees might stifle his anger wid a woman watchin’. Same reason she kissed you later. More evidence to show ‘em yew was Dylan.”
So she was never going to sleep with me, thought Douglas. That was never a possibility. She was just doing what she thought she had to, saying whatever needed to be said, if the plan were to succeed. Douglas pictured Conwy arriving in his sports car and helping Emrys carry the crate into the house. He imagined the discussion the three men must have had prior to his return with Gwen. Did they know in advance of the means she used to seduce him?
“Gwen seemed genuinely angry with you and Dylan when we got back. I could see that.”
“She thought it cheeky that Dylan would show himself to ya instead of holin’ up in the attic til we had you well-meddwyn. She thought yew would figure it out and run off.”
“So she made up the story about wanting me to take her away the next morning.”
“And we had to get yer hair cut. That was the one thing. As it was, we didn’t know when the soldiers’d come chargin’ in. I know’d from experience they love to come in middle of the night, early hours of the mornin’, when there’s less likely to be resistance. But we wasn’t sure. Thank gawd they was creatures o’ habit last night.”
The thought occurred to Douglas: Am I also that predictable? So easy to figure out that I can be manipulated by people that barely know me? Am I that simple? He realized he had never—never—needed to explain himself. To anyone. Only minor hurts and inconveniences had plagued him. The big ears, pale pink skin and shockingly red hair that were mocked in his elementary school years had evolved into a striking blend of features that had served him well as a teenager and beyond. Life had always come to him. Since high school women had always found him attractive. His parents had always loved and supported him. Learning to play the guitar had come naturally, and he had a good voice. Audiences found him appealing to listen to, and to look at. These advantages balanced out, on the whole, his uneasiness with his family, the feeling of otherness from his younger years that lingered in the shadows, which in a different form he had been feeling ever since he had crossed into Wales.
“You have every right to hate us,” said Emrys, pricking the introspective bubble. “Without those handcuffs, I suspect you’d as like to take a good swing at me.”
Douglas said nothing. He was busy examining Emrys face for truth of character, as if it were possible for him to tell the difference between the Emrys who sat next to him now, and the Emrys who picked him up on the A470. What questions could he have asked the old Welshman in the front seat of that truck that would have helped him uncover the reality of the situation? Is it me? Should I have forseen this? Is it a peculiarly European thing, this constant suspicion, born of repeated invasions and occupations? It can’t be something you think; it must be something you feel, like your own skin when it contacts someone else’s. But then, is it your own skin you are feeling—the pleasure of it? Or someone else’s skin, and the excitement of that? Douglas did not feel anger, however. He felt shame. And the worst of it? Had he slept with Gwen, he wouldn’t have thought twice about it affecting his relationship with Hollis. But having been fooled, he found himself now walking the tightrope of suspicion, as all of the violated do. Never again. Never again. And with this feeling came the understanding of what all Europeans have felt for centuries: nothing is permanent. Everything is always shifting, the past is always underfoot and influential.
The van halted suddenly, and Douglas, Emrys and Conwy were slammed forward against the cab. He was aware again of his discomfort, but unaware of how much time had passed. When the van door opened, and a guard stepped in to unhook the men from the chains that had kept them seated, Douglas realized he had completely forgotten about something important.
“My guitar!” he shouted. “What happened to my guitar?”
6. The Guilt
Walking through the underground garage, on the elevator that took them to the first floor of the police station in Swansea, Douglas remained silent. He could feel the torn skin and the wetness of blood on his wrists. The Douglas who had entered Wales 24 hours ago would have complained about the cuffs; he’d have grimaced and made noises to draw attention to his pain, and in so doing, sidestep it, push it aside, get it treated and leave it behind. Not now. Now he preferred to feel it. Completely. The pain will substitute for confession, he thought. So I will not feel compelled to tell Hollis of my infidelity. Isn’t that how it works in Europe? In America we escape our pasts; we move west, we divorce, we climb the corporate ladder—all to get rid of the pain, the conflict, the lack of resolution in our youth. In Europe all futures are somehow monuments to the past. There is no recovery from past sins. They simply build over them. The pain will be a monument to my stupidity, to my willingness to let desire trump fidelity.
Douglas lost track of where he was, the number of hallways and doors they had passed through. He was pushed down onto a bench, next to Emrys , who elbowed him back into the present.
“I was thinking,” he said. “I was thinkin’ I should’ve made Dylan leave the guitar. He thought it would be just the touch he needed to feel like he was yew. I thought the passport, the wallet, the dog tags. That were enough. But he were the one taking the chance, so I let him.”
“Well, shit,” said Douglas. “Maybe when you two talk again, you could convince him to ship it back to me.” But he didn’t believe that would happen.
“It’d be up to him.”
“Great. I’ll never see it again,” said Douglas, unable to mask his disappointment.
“Ya give him no heart, then?”
“I don’t know him.”
“Ya think ya know Gwen?” asked Emrys.
“Maybe—a little. I don’t know what I know anymore.”
“Douglas, lad,” said Emrys, in the sympathetic tone of a concerned father. “Very little has changed. Yew are still who yew are. Only thing is now ya know what it’s like to be took advantage of. You’ve added humility to yer character. Yew’ll be a better man fer it.”
“What about the phone call? Don’t we get offered a phone call?”
“I wouldn’t be too eager for that,” said Emrys. He was still whispering but took a more serious tone. “They’ll as like know about this whole affair before you have the chance to talk to them.”
“Cuz soon enough, the local authorities’ll take yer prints, whether yew want ‘em to or not. The British Sergeant in charge, he’ll horn in to supervise. He won’t want to, but he’ll do it cuz it’s procedure. He’ll as like be preparin’ a press conference as we speak, to talk about the recapture of the Welsh Nationalist terrorist Dylan Clewes. That’ll give us more time. Later, when yer prints don’t match the one’s on file fer Dylan, there’ll be confusion, and then the Sergeant will interview yew again. This time he’ll take seriously yer story and will check out all the information ya provide him, but he’ll be reluctant ta release that information to the press or other law enforcement authorities because—well, fer the same reasons you would rather not your family know how you was took advantage of. All this’ll slow the machinery down. They’ll be listenin’ in on yer call in any case.”
Douglas closed his eyes. Options on how to act, what to say, did not present themselves, although his mind was racing. He felt exhausted, he wanted to sleep and wake up on the side of a road, somewhere, anywhere but here.
He was on a knife edge of self-awareness now. He could see with astounding clarity the resolution of this unbelievable situation. He would be released eventually, get a new passport, his belongings would be returned to him, and the Army—never happy when one of their own got in trouble in a foreign country—would more than likely ship him directly back to Frankfort, with no stop in Dublin to see Hollis. Probably. But not certainly. If there was a chance, he felt more desperate than ever to see her. It was unclear to him, however, how his relationship with Hollis would evolve. Only that it would change. What would he do and say in Dublin if he could be with her?
Emrys’ face grew animated. “Ya thinking of yer girlfriend?”
“How did you know?”
“How could ya not? Yew love this girl, eh? Like Gwen loves Dylan?”
“She loves me,” said Douglas. “She believes in me. She pulls me in. She…does everything for me.”
“Yes, but do ya love her?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever told her. Used the words, I mean.”
“Well, yew need to do that, lad.”
Emrys smiled, but Douglas felt a further tightening in his chest. With the one phone call he was supposed to be given, he could call Hollis; he felt he ought to call her. But could he tell her the everything? He lacked the guile to lie part way. To share with her this amazing story, this life-altering experience, but not the part about Gwen, would be impossible; or rather, he could picture himself omitting that part, but his imagination—the projection of an action’s inevitable trajectory—led him to the knowledge that some facet of his voice, or some tic, would lead Hollis to question what he was leaving out. And if he had learned nothing else, he had learned the suffocating power that secrets could wield over a life, over many lives. How can I tell her I love her, and not tell her everything? It must be everything—or nothing.
Another part of him wanted to call his father, but not for comfort or help of any kind. Rather to lash out: I know now! I know the family secret! I know about Emrys! I know about Grandma. About who my real father is! His thoughts shifted, the way his guitar and backpack had bounced off the walls of Emrys’ truckbed, carelessly, without direction or discipline.
His mind settled back to sample scenes of the inevitable reunion with Hollis. Every scenario arrived at the same scene before crumbling: “Did you sleep with her?” she will ask me. I will say “No.” She will say “But you wanted to.” She will know the answer to that without me having to say it. To try and keep her in my life, I will say “She reminded me of you.”
7. The Recovery
Moments later Douglas was separated from Emrys and Conwy and led to different areas in the station. He was processed, photographed, fingerprinted and told to “wait here” every few minutes. He was escorted down another long hallway and into a holding cell by himself. He could glimpse part of a window beyond. Hours passed. He slept in short segments on one of two benches, startled by every loud noise. Daylight arrived, and he slept fitfully again. He awoke and gauged the sun to be overhead, and that it might be past noon. He fell asleep without trying and awoke this time to see Emrys and Conwy seated on the other bench. Emrys was bent over, head halfway to his knees, both hands pressing his lower right abdomen. Conwy, surly and silent, arched his back and groaned. They looked as if they’d been beaten up. But why them and not me? thought Douglas. Three policemen and two soldiers appeared at the cell door, and the two Welsh Nationalists helped Douglas to his feet.
“It’s alright, lad,” said Emrys, as Douglas was led roughly out into the hallway. Now, he surmised. Now I will be beaten. “Do as ya please. Say what ya will. They’ll as like know by now that you’re not Dylan.” Emrys smiled weakly, and Douglas, eyes throbbing as he squinted against the harsh fluorescent lighting, managed a feeble smile in return.
Halfway down the hallway, Douglas was ushered into a room with two metal chairs and a metal table between them. A policeman uncuffed him then re-attached his cuffs to a short chain welded to the center of the tabletop, and slid a chair roughly behind his knees, forcing him to sit. The door remained open for several minutes. The soldiers outside mingled casually with the policemen and shared stories of the raid.
Abruptly the two soldiers snapped to attention and saluted in the direction from which they had come. Sergeant Scholes brushed past them without returning the salute; once in the room he waved in their direction, and the door was pulled shut with a loud clang.
“You don’t look too happy,” said the Sergeant. “I take it the cavalry’s not coming to rescue you? American western style?”
“I haven’t had my phone call.”
“Really? You’ve got no lawyer. Who would you call? The person you’d as like need to ask for help is down the hall in a room just like this one. We have been meticulous in our cooperation with the local authorities, and scrupulous in our attention to processing details. I was assured that the call would be provided, but no matter. I’m here now. This is all costing the crown a pretty penny, Dylan. So as unpleasant as it is for you, it must go on.”
Douglas slumped in his chair, but only from fatigue, not depression. At that moment he realized that he didn’t really care what happened next, in this room. What could they do? Hurt him physically? To get him to say what? I am Dylan Clewes, after all! But he could not imagine saying that, no matter what they did to him. I have been conditioned, like most Americans, to having my needs met immediately; part of the fast-food delivery mentality. But I don’t need anything, for myself. I just need time. Time and the truth will out. Time for Dylan and Gwen to be on their way to America. Emrys’ needs and my needs are the same! Douglas smiled. And within a few seconds he was beaming.
Scholes responded. “I don’t see what you have to smile about.”
But Douglas did. He allowed for the possibility that Dylan’s crime had been justified, as Emrys proclaimed, and that the death in the bombing was a miscalculation and not intended. And wasn’t that what America was all about? Possibilities? The woman who kissed me so passionately in the cemetery would never have devoted herself to a cold-blooded killer. How many hours had Emrys said would be needed? They could be on their way to America already; like their ancestors to the new world, to begin again, as immigrants had before them, fleeing persecution or past misdeeds, to re-invent themselves, to turn a Zimmerman into a Dylan, or turn a Dylan into—what? Who might Dylan become, once they had arrived, once he had discarded the passport and started anew?
“What do you want me to say?” said Douglas to the dispassionate Sergeant. “You’re going to find out sooner or later they’re gone.”
“Who’s gone?” said Scholes.
“Dylan Clewes. And Gwen. And when they get to America, he’ll turn into someone else and then you’ll never find him.”
“And that pleases you, eh?” The Sergeant’s tone was decidedly more measured than previously. The explosive anger displayed at the farmhouse was gone.
“It does. I’m an American. Renewal is what we’re all about.”
“Yes, yes, yes.” Scholes closed his eyes and sighed. “America. Land of the free. Home of the brave.” He opened a folder he’d set on the table, and pulled out three sheets, separating them. One had multiple sets of fingerprints on it. The second was a photocopy of his Army ID. The third was a photocopy of his passport. The sergeant read calmly from the passport: “Douglas Williams. No middle name. Richmond, California, USA. Born 16 January 1950.”
“I told you!” Douglas felt energized again. His situation had resolved, just as Emrys predicted. The door opened and a policeman entered, handing Douglas’ backpack to the sergeant.
“It don’t bother you, how you was used by that family? You’ve been made a complete fool of, Mr. Williams. Emrys Clewes has had you fer lunch.” Was this a ploy? To get him to confess being a part of the plot? So that the army itself could avoid embarrassment? Scholes pulled something else from the folder and slid it across the table. It was one of the two polaroids Conwy had taken the night before. It was wrinkled, like it had been formed into a tube shape and then unfolded. “Emrys had hid this in one of his socks, apparently. Just after midnight he made a commotion and offered it up as evidence that yer story were true. Announced that since it was now after midnight and Dylan had got himself and his wife outta Wales—that he’d no reason not to square things. With us—and with yew. Just about the time we got the fingerprints back.”
“They fooled you, too, y’know,” said Douglas.
The sergeant snatched the photograph from Douglas. “We’ll be keepin’ that, fer now.” He slipped the photo back into the folder. “Oh, and they’ll be caught, lad. Yer passport’ll be useless, as Dylan’s on a travel watch list fer all the airports, train stations, ports and tunnels. Usin’ it would get him detained immediately. I give it a week and he and his missus’ll be settin’ here right where yew is, dreamin’ of better days, plannin’ for a life in prison.”
Douglas’ thoughts turned to Emrys. There would be certain jail time for him. No bond. No happy reunion for the Clewes clan. Emrys’ sacrifice would have been impossible for Douglas to imagine if he had not been party to it, if he had not gotten to know the man. It was a modern display of old-world European character, like the early American immigrants who sacrificed their lives—the cliché of saccharine movies and literature—so that their children might live safer, healthier, or freer ones. Emrys had done it. With this one stroke, with this audacious plan imagined by him, put in place by Father Moyell, and driven by Mary, Dylan Clewes had a real chance to become a new person. And was there anything more freeing than that? Before this trip, Douglas’ past had been essentially a blank slate. Nothing that had transpired prior to his birth had ever had an effect on him. He mused about his America, where social mores and commerce were designed to help you forget the past. What happened to your grandparents was over and done. What happened in your own childhood could be out-foxed with psychotherapy or boot camp. The past was just another eye chart to look over. Still, he wondered: Have I really changed? Or am I just feeling the effects of the Williams DNA? In America we still run away from what the Europeans have always built over. In America, cemeteries are all “over there,” somewhere other than where you are standing, unless you choose to visit one. In Europe, they are all underneath you. With every step, you risk plummeting into the past. And that is a bigger difference than I could have imagined.
There was a knock on the door and Sergeant Scholes shouted, “What?”
A voice from outside shouted, “Ask the lad what kind of guitar he owns. What kind of case.”
The shouting continued. “What kinda guitar you own?”
“A Gibson. So?” said Douglas.
“Speak up!” said the sergeant.
“Gibson!” shouted Douglas.
“Anythin’ about it?”
“I have a playlist on the side. Folk songs like Bob Dylan—”
“And the case?”
“Black case. A hard case. Nothing special. My names on it, though. Etched in the plastic rim near the handle.”
“Williams!” interrupted Scholes. He shouted the name again. “Douglas Williams!”
They are humoring me, thought Dylan. Like they would actually spend time trying to track down my guitar!
“Right, then!” came the response from behind the door.
“Yew want to make yer call?” said Scholes. “You might want to call a bloody lawyer. Yer not completely free yet.”
Douglas, fighting fatigue again, let his head sag against the high-backed chair.
“No,” said Douglas. “I’m good.”
“Suit yerself,” said Scholes. “But it’s part o’ the protocol, so I’m takin’ ya to the room. Yew can call or not call.”
He was uncuffed, lifted forcefully from his chair, and escorted to a tiny room with an old rotary dial. The door closed behind him and he was alone. There was a small glass window in the door and he could see a policeman standing just outside. He dialed his parent’s home phone, unaware of what hour it might be in California. It didn’t matter. He kept the handset pinned to his ear but pressed down on the cutoff after the first ring. He stayed in the booth and dialed the number for Trinity University in Dublin. Again he cut off after the first ring, keeping the handset pressed to his ear, until the policeman’s head filled the little window. He hung up the receiver, opened the door, and was immediately escorted back to the interrogation room. He was re-cuffed to the chain. He rested his head on the table, drowsiness overtaking him.
8. The Renewal
He awoke to gentle pressure on his shoulder. Sergeant Scholes leaned in slightly, keeping his hand in place. Douglas felt surprisingly comfortable. His head was supported by a pillow. His arms lay at his sides, unrestrained by handcuffs.
“Yer free ta go, Mr. Williams.”
It took Douglas a moment to realize that he was free to bring his hands up and examine them. Bruises and scabs had formed on his wrists. In front of him was his backpack.
“What time is it? What day…how long have I been out?”
“Only half an hour or so, Mr. Williams. Her majesty wishes to apologize fer the abusive language spoke to ya in the early stages of the operation. Please examine the items we’re returnin’ to ya fer any damage or omissions. Oh, and you kin pick up yer guitar on yer way to Ireland.”
“Where is it?”
“Safe and sound.”
“Pembroke. It were left in the terminal. Suggests they took the ferry. They’ll be watched fer in Rosslare.”
Douglas felt a serene surge of pleasure. “If they haven’t got there already,” he said.
“Possible, but unlikely. It’s where yer headed also, courtesy of her majesty. Nice two-hour ride to Pembroke in a limo. Ferry to Rosslare as you originally planned. You kin pick up a new passport at yer embassy in Dublin. You’ll be accompanied by a nice gentlemen from Her Majesty’s finest to the gate of that embassy. Then it’s back to Frankfort for ya, most likely. Military might have some harsh words fer ya, I imagine. Runnin’ foul of the law in another country.”
“So that’s that,” said Douglas. And he was going to Dublin after all! He smiled at the thought of Gwen and Dylan somewhere in Ireland, planning their next steps, free for the time being. Perhaps they’d boarded a vessel and set out for America already.
“Dunno what ya keep smilin’ for. If they’re in Ireland, the Irish authorities’ll find ‘em. Dylan Clewes is on the Interpol list, Mr. Williams. That’ll be your problem too until he’s caught. And you don’t have a choice about that. You’ll be watched.”
Scholes sat back in the chair when Douglas looked through his backpack. The soldier took a deep breath, watching intently as Douglas emptied its contents—a mix of clothes, books, toiletries, pens and notepads, and the Polaroid that Scholes had confiscated earlier—onto the desk.
“Ya know, most twins, they don’t look as alike as yew two. Without that as evidence, no one’s gonna believe ya if yew ever decide ta tell yer story. Though if it was me, I wouldn’t be eager to tell no one.”
Douglas smiled at the sergeant and slipped the photo into his shirt pocket. He shook one of his crumpled sweatshirts to loosen something that was trapped inside one of the sleeves. A worn, washed out baseball cap. Red, with Free Wales printed in yellow.
“This isn’t mine,” he said, offering the cap to the sergeant.
“Whose is it, then?” said Scholes.
“I don’t know,” said Douglas. “Maybe it was Dylan’s.”
“Well, it’s of no use to us. Leave it on the table if ya like.”
Satisfied that—aside from his passport, military ID and dog tags—nothing else was missing, Douglas folded his clothes and packed them neatly into his backpack. He left the cap on the table.
“There’s another thing,” said the sergeant. “He’s requested a word with you before we transfer him and his mate to lockup.”
“Strange man, Emrys Clewes.”
“When? Where?” said Douglas.
“Here. Now if ya like. He’s just outside.” Sergeant Scholes gestured towards the door, which opened immediately. Emrys, hands still cuffed behind his back, shuffled in and Scholes directed him to the chair opposite Douglas. He uncuffed, then re-cuffed Emrys to the table-top chain as he had Douglas earlier. “I’ll be at the door, watching,” he said, swinging the door open and pulling it shut in one rhythmic motion.
Emrys adjusted his position on the hard chair and shook his wrists so that the chain rattled. “So yew’ll be on yer way to Ireland,” he said. “I heard yew’ll be getting’ yer guitar back. Dylan’s a good lad, really. He never intended to hurt no one. He’s not the bastard the press makes him out.” He paused and smiled. “I think maybe Gwen had ta convince him to leave yer guitar, but he done it.” He leaned across the table, stretching the chain, and whispered in Douglas’ ear, “You’re family, after all.”
“You and Conwy are going to prison, aren’t you?”
“Til there’s a trial. And like as not, fer a good spell after.”
“Thank you for setting things straight with Sergeant Scholes.”
“Well, mebbe ya feel that way now, wid all ya been through, but yew wasn’t so sure about me before, and yew might not feel as kindly to me later as ya do now.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Yew can’t unlearn what you’ve learned, lad. Once Adam and Eve learnt what it was made ‘em human, once they had the self-knowledge they craved, that were the end of their unfettered happiness.”
Douglas could see tears forming in Emrys’ eyes. What Douglas had struggled with seemed miniscule compared to the immense unhappiness that weighed on Emrys’ slumped-over shoulders, the bleak future he faced personally. He wondered: Will Dylan’s freedom—assuming he and Gwen reach America, and assuming he can make a life for himself there—be enough to balance out Emrys’ loss?
“Is there anything I can do for you? Do you want me to carry a message to Mary?”
“Gawd no!” said Emrys, laughing nervously. “Have ya learnt nothin’?” He slammed his hands down on the metal table. The chain whipped and snapped, making a loud cracking noise.
Scholes rushed back into the room. “That’s it, then!” he said, pushing down on Emrys’ shoulders. Douglas stood up and backed away from the table. “Get on now, Mr. Williams. Get on now with yer life. Go home!”
Douglas shouldered his backpack. Emrys twisted in his chair and smiled the same broad smile he had greeted Douglas with when the window of the Toyota truck had dropped with a thud on that lonely stretch of the A470, south of Merthyr Tydfil, alongside the River Taff, in the shadows of the imposing Brecon Beacons. He knew he’d never see that face, nor the forlorn beauty of Wales, again.
He picked up the cap and wore it as he left.
9. The Future
Douglas’ guitar had been in the way building at Pembroke Pier, just as Scholes said it would be. He was on the ferry to Ireland. The soldier accompanying him kept a respectful distance, and Douglas had no awareness of his presence. As the Irish Sea heaved slowly, he gripped the case handle tightly, as if it were a mooring. After the ferry had lost sight of land, and there was nothing more than the gentle swelling sea to stare at, Douglas left the aft rail and found a seat in the cabin, far away from the crowd, most of whom were forward, anticipating the moment when the opposite shore would be sighted. He left his guitar case open beside him and began to play, picking out notes in no particular order, abstract riffs melting one into the other. While allowing his eyes to open and close dreamily, he noticed the edge of a pale blue envelope sticking out past the flap of the small storage compartment in the neck area. Holding his guitar in his lap with his right arm, he slid the envelope out of the small compartment. It had already been opened. His name was written on the front, in Hollis’ handwriting. He slid out the contents and read the note which he had read a dozen times before:
You are somewhere along in your journey, I bet. Days or weeks. I know how you are. You won’t write or call. You won’t share your feelings, until you are sure of what you feel. I understand. And you understand how much I love you, don’t you? I hope this trip will help you find out who you are. Just know that whatever you discover, that’s the person I love. And will love. Forever.
If you had been there, if you had watched me, would you have understood then? thought Douglas. What have I discovered? That I’m not that good a person. I don’t love you enough, maybe. Or in the right way. I think if I did, I would realize how much of myself I would lose if I lost you. I think I’m beginning to understand that. Is that good enough for now? Will you really accept me no matter what?
When he looked down again, the compartment top had sprung open, and the contents revealed why. Instead of replacement strings, picks and a tuner, the storage area was crammed with his passport, his military ID, and his dog tags. Dylan was going to get to America on his own, and Scholes would have one less tool for tracking him. Emrys would have been proud.
Douglas tried to replace the note in the envelope but felt resistance; inside the envelope was something else. A worn and faded newspaper clipping, with the headline:
“ONE DEAD IN STATION BOMBING”
There was a picture of a small, one-story red-brick building that looked like it belonged on the same street he had walked with Gwen in Abertridwr, except for the windows, which were blown out, and the central door, which lay awkwardly at an angle on the sidewalk in front, attached to the doorframe by only one lower hinge. There were people gathered to one side, and firemen were carrying a body bag through the open doorway. Beneath the picture was a caption:
“Fireman carry the body of Thomas Rees from the bombed-out building which housed the offices of BBC Radio Cymru. Byddin Rhyddid Cymru, or Free Welsh Army (FWA) are suspected of carrying out the attack, one of a recent series targeting British companies in Wales.”
In the caption, the name Thomas Rees had been circled. In the text of the article, the words “Meibion Glyndwr” had been circled and an exclamation point added. Douglas took out Conwys’ polaroid. On the left was Gwen, with her arm around Douglas. Dylan sat to Douglas’ right, and next to him Emrys and Father Moyell. Everyone but Douglas was smiling broadly—had I been too drunk? Or did they just have the radiance that comes from the knowledge of what is coming? In a space at the bottom of the newspaper clipping there was a message in black marker, black and thick enough to be legible over the newsprint:
“Douglas—For every Rees there is a Clewes. For every love, you must risk something. Thank you. Gwen”
Douglas pictured them now: on some kind of merchant boat, some fishing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean, having sensibly avoided major means of transport; they would come to America the same way his grandmother had, by the same means of travel and for similar reasons. They might be arguing. As forecast by Conwys, Douglas had ended up with one of the polaroids. Gwen’s idea? Perhaps Dylan had demanded he be present for the dinner, to keep an eye on Gwen. Might she otherwise have seduced me? thought Douglas. He believed a part of her wanted him, just as a part of him wanted her. What is the real difference between Gwen and Hollis? I have been seduced by both women. By one, to keep me in her life; by the other—to keep another man in her life. Gwen’s lie—”take me with you!”—made believable by the aggressive kisses so similar to Hollis’.
He knew at that moment what the test of Hollis’ love for him would be. And that if he were to continue with her there was only that one way. I will tell her everything. Every feeling, every action and reaction. I will tell her the truth. I will do this not because I need her but because taking this chance will help me learn what love is to me. I may learn that I do love her, but then there is the risk: that she may not forgive me.
In Wales he had discovered the world that America was built to forget, and he could not un-discover it. The sorrow. The guilt. The tragedies, both natural and man-made. The black rock upon which fortunes and buildings were built. The graveyards under the offices of Parliament, beneath the office buildings of London and Paris and Rome and Dublin and so on and so on. The trespasses of tribe against tribe, unforgotten, remembered beyond all reason, were in the blood, in the water, in every vein of coal in Wales, and every rock in Ireland, in every vine in France, and so on and so on.
He placed the envelope and its contents back in his guitar case and strummed the guitar mindlessly, playing chords and notes that made no musical sense. Randomly, he poked and flitted his fingers across the strings. In the middle of the Irish Sea, with no land in sight fore or aft of the ferry, Douglas played his guitar and slowly, form followed function. The random became organized, like the bones of his past that had finally taken form. The arbitrary became meaningful. He sang softly to himself, words that became phrases, phrases that became lines that had purpose. Chords braced solidly against the melody that was developing. Something for Hollis. Something that began to feel a little like a love song—that he might lose if he didn’t keep at it, that would be forgotten if he didn’t continue until he was sure of its meaning. He had to get to Hollis quickly, knew that he had to make love to her—take her, make her feel what he was capable of giving. He needed to know if it would be the last of the many times they had made love, or the first of many more.
There existed now the likelihood that when he set foot on land again, he would be newly, painfully aware that wherever he walked, cement or tar, gravel or grass, granite or sandstone, the earth held beneath its surface a history of suffering, of entanglements and uncertainty, of moral confusion and denials, and of death—for where do the dead go but underground? Even the swirling ashes of loved ones distributed over oceans and dissipated by fierce breezes eventually find their place on land and are beaten down into it. In Dublin, he would try to explain this new awareness to Hollis, for it would otherwise reveal itself to her as a form of inhibition; there would come a moment he would be reluctant to share, which would then subject him to a suspicion he was hiding something from her.
What would elude him from now on would be the unique “openness” that characterized Americans, a trait that depended on ignoring what was underneath, of ignoring the past, of living in the present. He would become that most un-American of Americans, a man whose past prickles his conscience daily, a man whose relationships started with empathy and ended with a defined separateness, rather than the other way around. To become the person he wanted to become would take more work than it would have, had he not visited Wales. Unlike his grandmother, he would find a way to both factor in his sins and overcome them.
1 "I told you not to bring him! (Father Moyell)!"
2 "Remember, Conwy. The lad wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me!"
3 "Don’t forget, I’m the one with the most to lose!"
In 1981, the National Coal Board unveiled a memorial outside the Nant-y-parc Primary School, on the site of the former colliery. The monument is a 20 ft high replica of the mine’s winding gear.
In 2013, the Welsh National Coal Mining Memorial was created, honoring in general the role of mining in Welsh history, and its character as a country, and in particular the Senghenydd Mining Disaster rescue workers—depicted in bronze—who risked their lives to save the few they could.