07 March 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: God and she willin'

Some days later Sergeant McShane came over looking for Katie. He saw her lugging a can of ashes out to the curb and his heart turned over with pity. He gave her a hand with the ash can. Katie thanked him and looked up at him. She . . . had heard that Mrs. McShane was now in a sanatorium for incurable tuberculosis patients. She was not expected to live long. "Would he marry again-- afterwards?" Katie wondered. "Of course he will," she answered her own question. "He is a fine-looking, upstanding man with a good job and some woman will snap him up." He took off his hat while he spoke to her.

"Mrs. Nolan, the boys down at the station house and myself do be thankin' you for helpin' us out in the catchin' of the murtherer."

"You're welcome," said Katie conventionally.

"And to show their appreciation, what did the boys do but pass the hat for you!" He extended an envelope.

"Money?" she asked.

"It is that."

"Keep it!"

"Sure you'll be needin' it with your man not workin' steady and the chilthern needin' this and that."

"That's none of your business, Sergeant McShane. You can see that I work hard and we don't need anything from nobody."

"Just as you say."

He put the envelope back into his pocket, looking at her steadily all the while. "Here's a woman," he thought, "with a trim figure on her and a pretty white-faced skin and black curling hair. And she's got courage enough and pride for six like her. I'm a middle aged man of forty-five," his thoughts went on, "and she's but a slip of a girl . . . We've both had hard luck when it came to marryin'. That we did." McShane knew all about Johnny and knew that he wouldn't last long the way he was going on. He had nothing but pity for Johnny; he had nothing but pity for Molly, his wife. He wouldn't have harmed either of them. He had never once considered being physically unfaithful to his sickly wife. "But is hoping in my heart harming either one of them?" he asked himself. "Of course, there'll be the waitin'. How many years? Two? Five? Ah, well, I've waited a long time without hope of happiness. Sure and I can wait a bit longer, now."

He thanked her again and said good-bye formally. As he held her hand in the handclasp, he thought, "She'll be my wife, someday, God and she willin'."

Katie could not know what he was thinking. (Or could she?) Maybe. Because something prompted her to call after him.

"I hope that someday you'll be as happy as you deserve to be, Sergeant McShane."

--from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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