But the problem for Kevin Fitzpatrick was that he had three boys, whose own bed was a small, hard mattress filled with only the straw cut from the fields, and it not big enough for all three of them, and that it was gave their father such a problem. It wouldn’t be right for him to sleep all alone in that big bed while they crowded together on a bed so small that one of them had to sleep with his head sticking out of the foot of the bed, with his brothers’ feet shoved in between his own so that when the morning came after the tossing and turning, the three boys were tied about each other and it was a like a three-bent-nail puzzle to untangle them in the mornings.
Each of the three boys felt he had the answer, and that it was that he, and not the others, should be the one to join their father in the family bed.
“Sure, and I’m the oldest” Younger Kevin said to his brothers. “So it’s me should be in the bed, and the two of you will be comfortable then in the old.”
“Sure and it’s comfortable we’ll be if we hang ourselves by our feet from a nail.” Chris said. “But it’s not in that bed that we’ll be comfortable. And why should you be the one who shares the family bed, and me the one who was the godchild of dear Uncle Chris and a favorite nephew, that was I.” And Chris wiped away a tear.
“You’re both wrong.” Kelly chipped up so as not to be left out. “If it’s one of us has to be in bed with our father, shouldn’t it be the one who will crowd him the least? With me snuggled up next to you, Daddy, you’ll think you’re sleeping alone, and so will I.”
“And you with the way you crawl around in your sleep?” Chris said slyly. And to his brother Kevin, “And the way you snore, it’s like a banshee flew in the door who stubbed her toe on the sash.”
“Listen to you, you thinking that you don’t snore! Saints preserve us! If you think you don’t snore, you just stay awake tonight and listen to yourself sleep!” Kevin the Younger said. “You’ll be hearing what I hear every night; which is enough to make me wish that I could pull off me ears and shove them up me bum, so I could have something more pleasant to listen to.”
Their father held up his hand. “Now it’s not to blows you’ll be coming, lads.” he said sternly. “We’ll just give you each a night with me and we’ll see which of you deserves to be warming the bedcovers each night. You lads go fetch the broom and we’ll take three of the seven straws it has left from it, and the longest straw will spend the first night, then the middle straw the second night and the short one the third, and then it’s my own mind I’ll make up which of you should be the one sharing the bed.”
The three boys agreed that this was only fair and Kelly fetched the straws. It was his father who held them in his hand and the other two who drew first, so Kelly can’t be accused of cheating when he got the longest straw. Chris, the middle, got the middle straw, and it was Kevin the Younger who though he drew first, ended up with just a sort of nub of straw.
“Faith.” he moaned when he saw it. “If this is what I’ve been sweeping the floor with, it’s no wonder the roaches are laughing at me so hard.”
Kelly threw his arms around his Daddy for joy. “I get to sleep with Daddy!” he crowed out. “I’m going to take my Saturday night bath tonight, so I can feel how soft it is.”
“Enjoy it while you can.” Chris predicted dourly. “For it’s the only night you’ll be getting in it.
Night couldn’t come soon enough for the boy. He took his bath with special care and washed himself completely. He dawdled so long in the bath that his father finally called him out, saying, “Now it’s out of the bath you be coming now! You get any more wrinkled and it’s me you’ll be wanting to run the iron over you.”
So it was into the fabulous Fitzpatrick Family Featherbed that little Kelly crawled, and he sidled in underneath his father’s arm and he said, “See how soft and warm I am for you, Dad.”
“You’re as soft as the sun in the springtime.” his father agreed. Both wore nothing but the skin they had on the day they were born, for that is how they all slept in those days, and after all, who could be affording to wear silk pajamas when breakfast was a chunk of bread and lunch was a cold baked potato and supper might be nothing but your own lower lip? And that is why the bed was such a luxury as they had never known before.
“This bed is just as soft as I’d always thought it would be.” his son said in awe. “It’s like I’m lying on the clouds of Heaven with the angels playing a lullaby on their harps for me.”
And Kelly snuggled in closer to his Daddy. “Are you warm enough now?” he asked.
“I’m warm as I can be.” Kevin said to his littlest boy. “Though I have to wonder if your brothers, being that they’re bigger, wouldn’t be the warmer.”
Kelly was a truthful boy. “They’re warm enough.” He admitted. “But if it’s me you’ll choose to share the bed with you from now on, there is more that I can do than warm your body next to mine.”
“And what would that be, my youngest one?” Kevin asked his son.
Kelly reached across his father’s body, stroked his father’s chest with his tiny hand, and let it slide down his stomach. “You’re much bigger than Younger and Chris.” he sighed. “You’re bigger all over, I’ll bet.”
And then Kelly’s hand found his father’s pride and joy and it was a proud family tool indeed. Kelly found that his hand couldn’t fit more than two thirds of the way around it, and it took both of his hands to hold it tightly. It was nine solid inches of Celtic potency and Kevin sighed like the winds in the trees of autumn to feel his son’s hands upon it.