There had been some changes since I had last been there. Walking past our old house, I saw it had been painted, and a low picket fence had been erected around it. Apparently, someone who had a little money lived there now. I saw a little child playing in the yard, pulling his dog around in a little red wagon. I stopped to speak to him.
Leaning over the fence, I asked if he was having fun. He looked at me, towering over him, and apparently, I looked like a red-headed giant to him, and he started yelling bloody murder.
That brought a young woman to the front yard, wiping her hands on her apron.
"Henry, what's the matter with you? Don't you know your dad can't deal with all that noise?"
Then she caught sight of me, and asked who I was, and what I was doing there.
"Ma'am, I used to live here and saw your little boy playing in the yard. I was just being friendly. I'm very sorry to have disturbed you."
"Oh, I see. My husband just got back from serving in Vietnam a few weeks ago, and loud noises really bother him."
She must have decided I was harmless, so she walked out to the fence and spoke further with me.
"I am so worried about him. He can't find work, and he can't sleep at night. Were you in the service?"
She was looking at the scar that was still red and puckered the skin on my neck.
My face must have flushed then, because I could feel the heat from my blood.
"Yes, ma'am, I just got back a few months ago. I'm right sorry about your husband. I'll say a prayer for him tonight."
"You're a Christian, then? Oh, thank you so much."
"You're welcome, ma'am. Are you a believer?"
"Oh, yes, I don't feel like I could cope, otherwise."
"How about your husband?"
"I'm not sure. I thought so, but he's changed so much from when he went into service. He's angry all the time. I don't know what to do."
Looking at her more closely, I could see bruises near her right eye. I recognized immediately what they were. She had applied makeup to cover them, but they were there for all the world to see.
Speaking softly, I said, "Ma'am, he beats you, doesn't he?"
I knew I was treading on dangerous ground, but I couldn't refrain from asking.
"Mind your business, young man!"
I could see she was embarrassed, but I plunged on.
"My old man beat up my Ma and us kids most every weekend after spending most of his paycheck at Dooley's Pub. I know what you and your boy are living with. Either get your man help or get yourselves out. I hope you are hearing me, ma'am."
She looked at me with tears in her eyes, and said, "Thanks, you'd better be on your way."
Putting my New York Yankees cap back on my head, (I had removed it to speak with her), I nodded and waving once more to the kid, I walked on, heading down the street.
(To be continued)