On an impulse, I went up to the front door and rang the doorbell. Immediately, the shouting ceased, and the lady I had met earlier in the day, came to the door, looking disheveled and she was wiping her eyes. I immediately noticed that her left elbow was at an odd angle as well.
Lifting my cap from my head, I nodded to her.
"We met earlier," I explained, "and I was wondering if I could perhaps look through your home and see if it had changed much in the time since I lived here. If it is not inconvenient, that is."
"Yes, I remember meeting you. Er, uh.. I don't know. Things are a mess right now..." She began making excuses, and I knew she didn't want me in her house when she was in the middle of a fight with her husband, but I wanted to meet him and perhaps help him see what he was doing to her. This was the only tactful way that I could think of to do so.
"Oh, that's okay," I smiled. "I've seen messy houses before. I won't stay long," I promised.
She stepped back and called out to her husband, "Claude, come out and meet a young man who used to live in this house. What is your name, did you tell me before?"
"Zebulon O'Hanlon, ma'am. People call me Zeb, though."
Claude came through the door from the bedroom nearest the kitchen, and I took in his looks instantly. He had an evident attitude of belligerence, as though daring me to say anything the least combative. I recognized that look...I had seen it many times before, on the face of my own father. I would have to step carefully.
"Who are you, and what are you doing in my house?"
I could see he was spoiling for a fight, and determined to strike out at anything in his path.
Sticking out my hand, I introduced myself and said I was just recently out of the U.S. Army, and visiting in town. I had happened to pass by the house, and was interested in seeing if it had changed any since I had lived there eleven years ago, and to meet the people who lived it it.
He seemed to calm down a bit when he heard I had been in the Army.
"Where did you serve, Mr. O'Hanlon?"
"In Vietnam," I replied. "How about you? Were you in the service, as well? How are you getting along?"
"Yes, I was there, and I've been treated like dirt ever since I came home. People turn away from me when they hear I was over there. I didn't go by choice, but I served my country."
"I understand, sir. Tell me, do you have bad dreams sometimes? Many people returning do. I know I do."
"Yes, say, would you like a beer? Or maybe a cup of coffee? You say you used to live in this house?"
"Yeah, a cup of coffee would be good. Thanks."
"Make some coffee for us," he told his wife.
I noticed she was holding her left elbow, but it seemed to be somewhat better than it did when I first came into the house. Apparently, he had not broken it, but no doubt it would have been soon if I had not interfered.
We sat at the kitchen table and pretty soon we were swapping war stories. I looked around at the kitchen and noticed how very neat it was. Then, as I glanced around, I noticed a little blonde head peeking around the corner of the doorway. I touched Claude on the hand so that he would be aware the little boy was listening. He stopped talking and waved to the little boy to come in.
(To be continued)