Devil Don and St. Phil have visited a London pub and are now slowly making their way back to their hotel, side by side, weaving a bit and sometimes, after the occasional misplaced step, lurching unexpectedly forward. Don’s Handmaidens follow at a discreet six paces behind the brothers.
Devil Don and St. Phil downed only two pints each, as they did not want to risk drawing attention to themselves. They were not entirely certain that they were of legal drinking age in England. It was not a question they dared ask Wesley. Also, neither brother was much accustomed to liquor, even in their own country, and the dark beer, which looked as though it were far more potent than the stuff back in the States, has had both a physiological and psychological impact on them. So both St. Phil and Devil Don feel high—high on the alcohol and high, frankly, on finally escaping their mother.
And both are in reflective moods. English food and English accents have demanded some adjustments on their part. Devil Don’s English Handmaidens have been a godsend, of course, but each brother is also taking comfort from the familiarity of the other’s companionship. Yes, at the moment, St. Phil and Devil Don are actually each grateful for the other’s presence!
“You know, Donald,” St. Phil begins, “I don’t think I have ever thanked you for any of the things you have done for me.”
Devil Don turns his head to look at his brother and collides with a lamp post. A Handmaiden rushes forward to kiss the wounded spot on Devil Don’s forehead.
Is Phil going to thank him for his royalty money, the money that Margaret “shared” with Phil while forcing them to become partners? That wasn’t something he had done for his brother’s benefit. Margaret just did it to them both. Does St. Phil want to thank him for quietly helping him learn guitar after Margaret pulled Ike from their lives? For creating their musical arrangements? What, he wonders, could be on Baby Boy Phil’s mind?
They begin walking side by side again, and their swaying gait brings their shoulders together. Devil Don reaches around St. Phil and places a hand on his brother’s shoulder. He feels St. Phil’s arm encircle his waist, as though they are posing for photos. In a soft voice, Devil Don asks, “What did I ever do for you?”
“Well, stuff like teaching me to tie my shoes and comforting me when I was scared of thunderstorms.”
Devil Don halts, removes his arm from his brother’s back, and attempts to stand up straight. He looks into St. Phil’s bloodshot blue eyes. “Do you actually remember me teaching you to tie your shoes? Do you actually remember me comforting you during any thunderstorm?”
“Well, maybe not exactly,” St. Phil acknowledged. “But Mama always said—“
“Stop right there,” Devil Don interrupted.
“Oh, hell,” St. Phil groaned. “Are you saying she made it up?”
“You have many fine qualities, Phil, as well as a heavenly high tenor voice, but you are so very gullible where Mama is concerned. Do you actually think you rehearsed a song in your sleep when you were five?”
“Phil-l-l-l-l, I was in the same damned bed.”
“All right. All right. To tell the truth, I don’t actually remember you baking Mama a birthday cake when you were ten, Donald.”
“Of course, you don’t. I didn’t bake any cake. Shit, we lived in a one-room house with a wood-burning stove. I was a ten-year-old kid, not a magician.”
St. Phil looked around their path in all directions. “You’d better not say that in public, Donald. Mama says the house had two or three rooms, depending on the person she’s talking to. Now I suppose you are gonna tell me that you and I didn’t talk and sing from birth, either.”
Devil Don conjures up an incredulous look. “Of course we did. I talked with you the day they brought you home from the hospital. You were in a little basket kind of bed.”
“Really? I don’t remember that. What did we say?”
Devil Don attempts to suppress a hiccup. “Not a lot. I told you that you were superfluous because the family already had a little boy. And I guess I also said you talked too much. And, oh yeah, I said you sang like a girl.”
St. Phil thought about this for a bit before responding. “It is hard to remember stuff from when you were a really little kid. Did I say anything?”
“Yeah. You told me to shut up.”
A matronly Handmaiden breaks away from the group of females following them. Her silver hair, cut in a severe bob, and her sensible shoes convey the calm authority of a primary school teacher. The brothers halt as she whispers in Devil Don’s ear, all the while arranging the stray curls that have escaped his pompadour. Devil Don thanks her and turns to St. Phil. “She says we have walked three blocks beyond the hotel.”
“Oh, shit. No wonder my legs feel tired. Should I fly us back?”
The offer tempts Devil Don. He is exhausted. Maybe he needs bigger doses of his Vitamin B12 shots. “I suppose we better walk. Someone might see us. Anyway, I’m not sure you could pick out the hotel by its roof. Let’s just follow Darling here. She’s English, so she probably knows the way.” Devil Don bestows an appreciative smile on the woman next to him, who makes a brief tittering sound and strides ahead into the lead position.
St. Phil’s eyes follow the woman, who seems somehow motherly, although not at all like their own mother. “I’ve always wondered if you have ever known any of those women’s names.”
Devil Don answers immediately. “Don’t be silly. I know all their names. They’re all named ‘Darling,’ just like my wife and all our female fans.” No trace of humor appears on Devil Don’s face.
St. Phil blinks hard and changes the subject. “Do you think Mama ever tells the truth?”
“I doubt it. I suppose there are things we can’t know about that may be true, but I think it’s more likely that everything she says is a lie. I don’t believe for a minute that she was anywhere close to seventeen when I was born, and I sure as hell don’t believe what she said about Ike wanting to work a construction job in another state because he was sick of the music business.”
St. Phil grimaces. “Mama’s never gonna forgive us for drivin’ up there and bringin’ him back to Nashville.”
“She’ll forgive you. Eventually, she’ll come to believe that it was all my idea and that I forced you to go along with it.” Devil Don smiles again and looks at his angel-faced brother. “You know, we’ve done some good stuff as a team.”
“I know,” St. Phil responds. And then, in a risk-taking move, he blurts out what is in his heart: “Donald, I am glad we’re brothers, and I really do love you very much.”
Devil Don is not completely certain that he is glad they are brothers, but he does know that he loves St. Phil anyway. “Phil, I love you very much. In fact, I love you even more than you love me.”
St. Phil’s eyes roll toward his brother. “I disagree.”
Devil Don modifies his position only slightly. “It’s just that I’m older, so I have loved you longer.”
St. Phil’s head hurts, but he knows what Devil Don just said makes no sense. “That can’t be right. You couldn’t have loved me before I was born.”
“But I started loving you before you started loving me. Hell’s bells, a minute ago you couldn’t even remember our first fight. I mean, uh, our first conversation.”
“Well, Donald, maybe I don’t remember every little thing, but I know I love you more than you love me, and I always have.”
“How dare you say that you love me more than I love you? Everybody knows I’m the sensitive, tormented Everly Brother, so don’t you go forgettin’ it.”
“Dammit, Donald, don’t go pullin’ that crap on me. Yeah, you’re broody and moody and all that. But I’m very sentimental about our home in Kentucky where we’ve never lived, and Mama always says I am the sweet one. I love you more than you love me, and you had better accept that as fact, or I’ll punch you in the nose.”
The brothers reach the hotel, and St. Phil sighs in exasperation. “Aren’t we on the fourth floor? And isn’t that cage thing they call a ‘lift’ broken?”
“Yeah,” Devil Don says, exhaling forcefully, briefly closing his eyes.
St. Phil yawns. “Would you please ask one of your women to go up and open a window facing us?”
Devil Don signals the group, and a youthful and athletic-looking Handmaiden dashes past the brothers. A few minutes later a fourth-story window opens. St. Phil looks up and down the street, scoops up Devil Don, and quickly ascends to their hotel room.
Once through the window, St. Phil dumps his brother on one bed and collapses on the other, falling asleep almost instantaneously.
Devil Don dismisses the Handmaidens, who are trying to undress him. He listens to his brother’s steady, deep breathing and remembers their days as small children.
Devil Don knows St. Phil will soon feel cold. Tired as he is, he gets up and carefully removes his brother’s shoes. Circumnavigating the bed, he pulls the edges of the blankets upward and over St. Phil, nearly swaddling him.
As he works, Devil Don speaks to the slumbering St. Phil. “Oh, Baby Brother, someone else would have taught you to tie your shoes if I had not. You would not have run races with your shoes untied. And, you know, I took childish pride in understanding that the worst weather would always pass and sunshine would always return. Somewhere deep inside, do you know that I am the one who warned you never to fly in a thunderstorm? “
Pleased with his efforts, Devil Don looks down on St. Phil and says, “Please don’t ever fly in a thunderstorm.” He then returns to his own bed and begins to sing as he removes his own shoes and slips under the blankets:
Good girls and boys
Receive lots of toys
And once in a while
They can fly . . .