The Walking Wounded - Cover

The Walking Wounded

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 20

That Sunday was the day of Kevin's baptism. He called the church office before he left, and got Tyrone's permission to alter the proceedings just a bit.

He hardly noticed much of the service. He knew that he stood beside Karin as she handed out bulletins. He knew that he sat beside her in the last row of the center section. He knew that they sang, and prayed, and heard a sermon – a shortened one, but he couldn't have described any portion of the service two minutes after it occurred. His mind was entirely on the upcoming ordinance.

Finally the service was over, and the preacher asked the congregation to remain seated while Kevin made his way to the baptistery. The building hadn't been a church's meeting place originally, and so the baptistery was a later addition, to the side of the pulpit in a little nook that originally had been someone's office, and later a storage room for the church, and now the "baptistery corner."

Kevin climbed the steps that led to the small platform behind the baptistery. Tyrone was already in the water, and he said, as Kevin climbed down into the water, "Our brother here has asked, and I have given permission, for him to say a few words before we baptize him."

Kevin now stood before the microphone. "I'm gonna surprise you, an' I'm really gonna surprise one person. I don't know how to say things fancy or nice, so I'll just say it. Friday Karin Seguín an' me got engaged."

He could see Karin's surprise at the announcement on her face. But the surprise wasn't as general as he'd expected. Instead of surprised looks, he saw looks of joy, and some nods, and one person near the back – Kevin couldn't see who – shouted out, "It's about time, Kevin!" People were congratulating Karin, and Tyrone – who hadn't known either – turned and shook Kevin's hand.

It took a couple of minutes for the happy tumult to die down, and when it did Tyrone was back at the microphone. "Okay, we've all had our say about this announcement – well, Karin's going to have something to say to Kevin afterwards, I believe." She nodded vigorously from her seat. "And now it's time to witness an act of obedience."

He turned to Kevin. "We've talked in private, but I want to talk to you here, before these brothers and sisters, to establish why I'm baptizing you today. You are a Christian."

"Yes, sir."

"What does that mean to you?"

"I ain't exactly sure of everything. An' I can't say everything I want to, not right anyway. But it's like that song, once I was blind an' now I can see. An' even though I was real wicked, 'cause o' Jesus I'm God's child, an' when I die He'll take me to be with Him."

"So you do believe that Christ died to free you from sin – and you trust Him to do so."

"Yes, sir!"

"Then, Kevin Farley, I baptize you as my brother in Christ – in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

They'd rehearsed the act, as much as is possible without actually getting into the water, and Kevin – who couldn't swim – held his nose closed with his hand and held his breath. He went under, his long hair floating, and then came back up, dripping wet – and happy. "Man, that was cool!"

"I have never heard that description before, Kevin," said Tyrone, laughing, "but it is as accurate in its way as anything more theological."

When Kevin came out of the changing room, his wet hair slicked back and his wet clothes in a plastic bag, Karin was waiting for him. She grabbed him by the shoulders and kissed him. "That is because I love you." Then she shoved him against the wall and punched him in the shoulder, not gently. "And that, Kevin Farley, is for springing that announcement on me!"

"Sorry, Karin. I guess I should o' told you, shouldn't I?"

"Yes, you should have. I would have been beside you, if I'd known. I hadn't even thought of announcing it, my mind's in such a whirl. Kevin, you can be so exasperating at times!"

"Kar, I'm sorry, all right? My mind's all messed up too. I wasn't thinkin' ... anyway I was only thinkin' 'bout halfway, if I was thinkin'."

Karin took a breath. "Okay, it's done now. But Kevin, I want to be with you in everything. Please, don't do something like that again."

"Okay, Karin. Just keep remindin' me, though, okay? I ain't used to thinkin' 'bout anybody but me." Just then he realized that they were the center of a crowd, all eager to congratulate them. "Hey, Kar, we're blockin' traffic."

"No you're not," someone said. "We're here for you."

And with that the mobbing started. Karin and Kevin stood with their backs to the wall, and even Kevin's enormous size and strength wouldn't have gotten them out. It was 20 minutes before the crowd dispersed, and the second service started late. But Kevin learned something special – Christ's people are a family. It's not just something nice that preachers say, but the literal truth. He couldn't have put it into words, and if he managed it they'd have been ungrammatical words that weren't the best ones for the job, but he understood something. Blood is thicker than water – and what binds Christians together is the strongest blood tie of all, the tie formed when Christ shed His blood to redeem them.

It was Karin's turn to buy, and she pulled a surprise of her own. With Kevin in the Hyundai's passenger seat, she drove north on Juan Tabo, then east on Montgomery. She pulled into the parking lot of Harry's Eats, and led Kevin inside – where he balked upon seeing the white table cloths and the cut glass vases and the well-dressed customers. "I can't do this, Karin," he said.

"Actually, Kevin, you can. You just don't want to. And I understand," she said, her hand on his arm. "But I want to do this for you. This is where my mother and I eat every week, and I've reserved our usual table. It's back in the corner, so that you won't be right out in front of everyone. And anyone who says anything will have to answer to me. Not," she added, "that anyone will say anything. This is, yes, a fairly fancy restaurant, but it's also a restaurant that draws customers from a wide area. And though today you probably won't see them, I've seen people eating her who were clearly fresh off the road, or off the range."

"You sure 'bout this, Kar?"

"Yes, Kev, I'm sure. And listen to me," she said, touching his bearded cheek with the back of her hand. "I will never do anything that will harm you. It might not always be easy for you, but I will never hurt you if I can help it."

"Okay, Karin, that's good enough for me. I ain't sure how to eat in a joint like this, but I'll sure give it a shot."

The hostess had been waiting during the exchange, and now she led them to the table. Karin didn't wait for Kevin to hold her chair, as she might have with another man, for she knew that he'd probably never heard of it and certainly had never done it. If I do make a gentleman out of him, it won't be today, she thought. It's one thing at a time.

Kevin looked at the menu, and realized that it was over his head. "Kar, I can handle a cheeseburger an' fries, but this is too tough for me."

Karin laid her menu down and looked at him. "I told you that you're growing up, and I am more sure of it now than I was then. You might be Mr. Big Bad Biker, and you're certainly my big boy, but you have the integrity, and the courage, to admit that you just don't know how to deal with a menu. There are a lot of people with educations who don't have that kind of bravery or honesty."

He hung his head, looking down at his folded hands, then back up at her. "A few months ago I'd have punched out someone who told me I'd say anything was too much for me. But I've learned a lot since then, an' one thing I've learned is that there ain't nothin' shameful in bein' honest. There's a lot o' things I've only told you about barely, and there's things in my past that I'll never tell you 'cause they're too shameful. But when I do tell you somethin', I promise I'll always be honest."

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