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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