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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)

TITLE: A Handshake Seals The Deal
By Virgil Youngblood


If Samantha could get her hands around Chester O’Keefe’s thick neck, he would not see another Texas sunset. Fortunately, he was aboard a military aircraft headed to Afghanistan.

Closing her eyes, inhaling deeply, she held her breath a moment before exhaling. The moist updraft caused her blond bangs to dance.

“I’m sorry Mrs. O’Keefe; you should have called me sooner.”

“Mr. Hoolihan, right? And you own Amos Pest Control? Of course you do. I called you. Forgive me, Mr. Hoolihan, but I’m not a happy camper right now.”

“Well, you got termites. That’d ruin anybody’s day. Those little mud tunnels running up the side of your slab from the ground to the siding are a dead giveaway. You noticed them, didn’t you?”

“Chester said it wasn’t unusual to see those after a rain. He told me to spray them off with the water hose if they bothered me.”

Hoolihan rubbed his bulbous nose with a stubby forefinger. “Well, they came back, didn’t they? See those little wings lying on the sidewalk? They are swarming, big time. After they mate, their wings fall off and they go looking for a crack to crawl into your home and start feasting on the wood. Yup. You got an in-fes-ta-tion.”

“Look, I don’t want to hear this. The buyer’s bank insists on a termite inspection. The loan is scheduled to close day after tomorrow and somehow this was overlooked. Can’t you just sign off on this, Mr. Hoolihan? We’ve lived here five years and haven’t had any problems.”

“I can’t do that Mrs. O’Keefe. You may not have a major problem but I can’t say one way or the other until …”

“Emily, Brent – behave. Go sit in the porch swing.”

Brent pointed at Mr. Hoolihan’s shoulder. “When I grow up I’m gon’na get a Screaming Eagle tattoo like you and Daddy.”

Mr. Hoolihan winked at Brent. “Take care of your kids, Mrs. O’Keefe. I’ll make a quick inspection inside and let you know what I find.

Samantha nodded and swiped away the tears welling from her eyes. Emily and Brent scooted apart on the swing so she could sit between them. Brent, six years old, was the spitting image of his father. Patting her hand he said, “Don’t cry, Mommy. They are only bugs and God made them too. It will be okay, you’ll see.”

After a long while Mr. Hoolihan reappeared. His frown advertised bad news for her and a big payday for him, as certain as Emily’s diaper odor conveyed a message.

“It’s worse than I thought” he said. “You’ve got ‘em in your master bathroom. They’ve eaten the sheetrock up in one corner and there isn’t anything backing the wallpaper. You will have to replace some studs and the sheetrock and wallpaper in there.”

Standing and reaching for the wall to steady herself, Samantha fought the rage and fear assaulting her.

“And they are under the slab on your front porch by the door. I’ll have to drill through the slab on the porch and inside the foyer to treat it. But the good news is, I guarantee my work.”

Samantha hammered the wall with her fist. “Chester, how could you let this happen? How could you? Oh, Chester, what am I going to …”

“Now, now Mrs. O’Keefe. It’s fixable. Don’t be taking it so …”

The fire in Samantha’s eyes backed Hoolihan out of arm’s reach. “Do you understand my problem, Mr. Pest Control Man? Tomorrow the mover’s come and the three of us stay in a motel. That’s going to happen. The next day I sign papers to sell the house. That’s not going to happen now. The day after that we fly to my parent’s home in Kentucky to stay until my husband returns home alive. I don’t know if I can reschedule the flight and I sure can’t afford to stay very long in a motel.”

Hoolihan smiled broadly, revealing a missing tooth. “Mrs. O’Keefe, my wife Hazel and I believe what our pastor tells us – we’re here for a reason. So, listen. We have a small cottage behind our house. You can stay there at no charge while I treat your termites and I know a contractor that can do your other work. It’ll take about two weeks.”

Before Samantha could answer Hoolihan said, “I ought to warn you though, Hazel will spoil your kids and love every minute of it.”

Daddy’s little man stuck his hand out. “Thank you, Mr. Hooy.”

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This article has been read 423 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Phee Paradise 04/15/11
This is a sweet, feel good story. Your characters are great, but at the beginning I was a little confused and your introduction to the kids was a little abrupt. But the end made up for it and I loved the line about the diaper.
Lillian Rhoades 04/15/11
Your opening sentence hooked me. The dialogue was realistic and credible. I.too, loved the diaper line and fell in love with the last line which helped to remove my question about the title.

There's a message here...God always provides for our needs. Thanks for the reminder.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/16/11
This is a sweet story, you had me brushing termites off my arms thankfully it was because of your great details. God does work miracles out of bad times and often we find ourselves more blessed because of the problem. And I totally fell in love with the little guy!
Kim Hamlin04/16/11
Great story, very realistic and a welcome reminder that God is always with us, even when He seems far away.
Cris Cramer04/16/11
Awesome story. Your characters and dialog feel really vivid and true to life. The moment where the kids appear is the only rough place; it would have helped if you showed us the action that caused the interruption, rather than just the verbal response from their mom. Without knowing the kids are there, her words at first look like a strange non sequitur, and there's a moment of confusion for the reader; if you show us the kids first, even just briefly, then her dialog is perfectly natural.

Other than that, really good work here, I enjoyed the story a lot!
Shirley McClay 04/16/11
Mr. Hooy! That's awesome! Fun story and great details!
Loren T. Lowery04/18/11
Fun story and well told. Make me think, do you think God made those pesky termites just so acts of kindness like this can be shown? Maybe Brent was onto something there. Good job.
Leola Ogle 04/19/11
Really touched my heart because my grandson is in Afghanistan until August, and his wife just returned from there a few weeks ago after being gone for 8 months. Now she is facing car repairs, the loss of her babysitter, plus adjusting to life back at home with her little ones. She has been shedding some tears like your MC. Well done! God bless!
Noel Mitaxa 04/21/11
Thanks for the opportunity to walk around the story with your characters and feel their emotions. Very descriptive slice of big-time trauma with little time to fix it. Should rate well.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/26/11
Congratulations for placing 7th in level three!