The Walking Wounded - Cover

The Walking Wounded

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 21

Kevin got a call Friday evening. "Meet me outside Harry's a little before noon tomorrow."

"An' why, Karin?" he asked.

"Because, dear, I want you to."

Kevin laughed. "Okay, I'll be there. Just don't go thinkin' you can order me around all the time, Kar."

"Kevin, I will order you around whenever I please ... but I expect that we'll get along better than that." There was a tone in her voice that made Kevin think of a soft smile and arms around him.

"Okay, Karin, whatever you say." And they hung up.

The next day Kevin pulled into Harry's parking lot a few minutes before noon. Karin was leaning against her Hyundai, and straightened up when he pulled in. By the time he was off the bike she was there, and gave him a kiss and a hug. "How are you, big boy?"

"Hungry, girlie. I figured if we was comin' here we was gonna eat, so I didn't."

She punched his shoulder. "Kevin Farley, you are too smart for your own good!"

"I'm learnin' from you, Karin."

They walked into the restaurant hand in hand. The hostess nodded as they passed, and Kevin glanced at Karin, wondering what was going on. As they approached the back corner he realized that Karin's parents were there, and a little flutter went through his stomach. I never thought about this, he thought. Guess I should've.

Karin led him to the table, and they sat down. Rogelio reached across the table to shake Kevin's hand, and then Delores did the same. Kevin looked at them, and then at Karin. "Is this what I think it is, babe?"

"It depends on what you think it is."

"I think it's an ambush, Kar. But," he added with a smile, "after the way I ambushed you I guess I deserve it."

Karin laughed. "I hadn't thought of that, Kevin, but now that you say it, I do believe you're right." She turned to her parents. "Kevin is right – I'm ambushing him. I need to tell you that Kevin and I are engaged."

Delores broke into a broad grin, while Rogelio leaned back in his chair with a smile. "So, hija, you decided that we were right?"

"Don't you dare tell me you told me so!"

"But we did, Karin. You have not forgotten that, have you?" Rogelio's accent was stronger than ever with his amusement.

"No, Dad, I haven't. But I don't need reminders either." She looked at Kevin. "And what are you laughing about?"

Kevin grinned. "I ain't laughin' 'bout nothin' ... Kari Bunny."

"I am going to get you for that one, Mom," Karin said before she too began laughing.

"Respect your elders, Karin," Delores said demurely. "If I'd had any idea that Kevin would do as he's done I—"

"You'd have done exactly the same, I know. I know you, Mom!"

"I suppose you do at that."

Kevin held up his hands in a time out signal. "I could sit an' listen to you guys all day. I could especially listen to Karin all day," he said looking at her. "But we got a waitress waitin' on us."

The rest of the party hurriedly composed themselves, and after consulting the menu, ordered. Karin again helped Kevin, and this time her suggestion was a Hispanic plate that included a tamale, an enchilada, and a soft taco, with green chili sauce and rice. "You'll love it, Kev," she said. "It's not the same as you had at home, because Dad's Spanish. This will be New Mexican cooking."

"But all these people say they're Spanish."

"They do," said Rogelio. "But history says otherwise. This is not Spain, but the United States. And while this part of the United States was once a Spanish possession, it was more recently Mexican. So these people are not Spanish. They are Hispanic, but I am Spanish. I speak a different variety of Spanish than they do – I use vosotros, for instance, which they do not. And they do not know how to pronounce the name of Barcelona." He said it Barth-eh-lo-na.

"Hey, I don't really care. I'm still gettin' used to New Mexico, okay? But it is strange that they say they're Spanish when you're Spanish an' say they're not."

"It's something like my family," Delores put in. "We say we're Norwegian, but the last actual Norwegian in my family came to the United States in 1892. All his descendants are Americans. I don't know a single word of Norwegian, and I've never been closer to Norway than Boston. But still, we call ourselves Norwegians." She shrugged. "Human beings are not, Kevin, always rational."

"I know that's true," Kevin said.

Just then the waitress brought their food. Kevin looked at the plate in front of him, and then at Karin. "You know, babe, you're takin' mighty good care o' me."

"What else am I going to do?" She clearly didn't need an answer, for she went right on. "Kevin, if I'm going to be your wife, that's part of it. And I want to take care of you. Call it a mothering instinct, or call it bossiness, or call it a woman thing, I don't care. You're my big boy, and take care of you I shall."

"Hey, I ain't complainin', all right? It's kind o' fun, when you think about it."

Delores looked at her husband. "It certainly is fun taking care of a man you love, and Rogelio seems to appreciate it." She turned to Kevin. "There is a sense in which the husband cares for the wife. Traditionally, of course, men earn the living and women administer the home. But it's more than that. Men – if they're truly men – help their wives out in a number of ways." She looked back at her husband. "But women care for their husbands too. And I would not trade that for anything."

Kevin waved his fork at the older couple, causing Karin to wince. It wasn't the kind of manners she was used to. "You guys love each other, don't you?"

They looked at each other, and then said, simultaneously, "Yes."

"I thought so. It's not like you're always hangin' all over each other, but ... but I can tell by the way you talk, an' the way you look at each other, an'..."

"You're reading their body language, Kevin," Karin put in. "You're not up to expressing it very well yet, but you're seeing the way their hands reach for each other. You're seeing their expressions, and the way they can't get far apart for long – all sorts of things."


"Well, Kevin, there's going to come a time when people will look at us, and draw the same kind of conclusions."

Rogelio and Delores looked at each other and laughed.

"What?" Karin demanded.

"Nothing, hija – except that we saw that the day you brought him to meet us. And I think that probably everyone at your church has already drawn those conclusions."

Karin blushed, the color creeping up her neck and into her face. "Have we been that obvious?"

"Karin, honey," Delores said, "why do you think we spoke to you three weeks ago? Perhaps parents are more sensitive to such things, but your father and I were certain that day that you and Kevin were in love."

"Back then?" Kevin asked.

"Yes, back then."


"Kevin," Delores told him gently, "sometimes the last person to know that love is involved is the person who loves. Sometimes it's love at first sight, and those who fall in love know it right then. But more frequently, I think, the last people to know are the two who love each other."


"I've seen it too many times to question it, Kevin. I don't know why it's that way, but it often is."

Kevin shook his head. "I'd never o' thought it."

"I wouldn't have either, Kevin," Karin said. She took his hand. "But I didn't realize it either. And when I began to realize it, I buried it, and denied it. If I hadn't told the church I'm pregnant, I probably would still be denying it."

"Yeah..." He remembered that morning, and the way she'd seemed to crumble all at once into a defenseless thing. And he remembered how his first impulse had been to do whatever it took to defend her – against what he had no idea, but defending her was the first and only thing on his mind that day. "I think I know what you mean, Kar. I think I been there myself..."

As they were eating dessert, Delores remarked, "There is the matter of rings..."

"Rings?" asked Kevin.

"Rings. Wedding rings, specifically. Don't tell me that you hadn't thought of that."

"Mrs. Seguín, I ain't never ... I haven't ever ... worn a ring in my life, and I ... I've never ... been married in my life. I don't know anythin' about wedding rings."

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