I was surrounded by the Walshes as soon as I walked through the front door of their home.
"Is he okay? Why did you take so long to come home? Did he say anything to you? Was he glad to be alive?"
"Yes, I'll tell you all about it in a few minutes; first, though, I must call his wife and see if I can convince her to give him another chance."
My fingers dialed the number he had given me, I waited through four rings, wondering what her response would be. How much should I tell her? All of it? I wasn't quite sure.
"Hello, Jenkins residence. Who is calling, please?"
"Good afternoon, ma'am. Is this Mrs. Wilson?"
"No, it is not. I'm afraid she is busy with her son at this moment. Perhaps you could tell me why you need to speak with my daughter. Could you tell me who this is? I know you are not that worthless skunk she is married to!"
Uh oh! I realized this was not going to be as easy as I had imagined.
"Er...ah...this is Zeb O'Hanlon, a new friend of Claude and his wife. Your daughter needs to know what has happened. It is very important that I speak with her, please, ma'am!"
"Well, Mr. O'Hanlon, I"
"Mama! Is that Mr. O'Hanlon on the phone?"
I could hear Claude's wife in the background, and she sounded a bit anxious that it would be me instead of Claude calling. Perhaps she was curious as to why. That was actually in his favor, I thought.
Apparently, she had taken the receiver from her mother's hand, because then I could hear her loud and clear.
"Why are you calling me instead of my husband? What is wrong?"
"He's a lily-livered coward is why!" This exclamation came from her mother in the background.
"Actually, Ma'am, he tried to take his own life this morning with a bullet. I found him and his neighbor and I got him to the hospital, where he is recovering. He has life-changing news for you. I will not share it, but I know you will be pleased. You will find he is a different man from the one you left yesterday. Please, I speak on his behalf, please come back to him and give you both another chance. Use your own mind and heart instead of listening to your mother on this."
"Okay, one more chance, and that is it!"
"On his behalf, I thank you. I wish you all well."
Hanging up the receiver, I turned to the Walsh family.
"You heard the conversation. Now for the news about Mr. Walsh... He accepted The Lord while I was visiting him at the hospital."
Little Katy jumped up and down, clapping her hands. "He's going to be happy now, isn't he, Mr. Zeb?"
Stooping down to pick up that delightful child, I replied, "Yes, Katy, he is. He will be a good neighbor to you, too. He has a little boy just a little older than you are, who will be much happier, too."
Katy threw her arms around my neck, giving me a gentle kiss on my cheek.
"I love you, Mr. Zeb! Do you think we could get married when I grow up? Would you wait for me? "
I could feel my face turning red. She had certainly taken me by surprise with that one.
"Er ah, now, Miss Katy, that is something I can't promise. That is too far in the future. Don't hang your hopes on me. No doubt, I will be the farthest person from your mind twenty or so years from now. I'll always remember you, though. Now, I need to run upstairs and see about packing up my duffel bag. If you all will excuse me."
I set Katy back on the floor and headed upstairs. This family had grown close to my heart and I knew I was going to miss them.
(To be continued)