Deirdre went quiet on the other side of the wall; and I listened closely a little longer, trying to hear what she was doing, before continuing on my walk. Flower petals fluttered past me through the air, and I smiled contentedly as I viewed the path ahead—looking like a street after a parade—multi-colored and festive. I could no longer hear Deirdre so I continued on my way, almost reaching the large chestnut tree at the southern corner of the wall, when I heard the familiar creak, and clackety-clacking, of Father Davidson’s bicycle behind me. I turned around and watched as he parked his bike, leaning it against another chestnut tree near the northern corner of the wall, some 75 feet or so away from me; and then he clambered like a squirrel up the tree and across a low-hanging branch, and then onto the wall. For a man nearly fifty, or thereabouts, he was quite agile and limber; and I admired his dexterity.
He stood still and very erect for a brief moment, staring down at Deirdre, before saluting to her, and then jumping into action; dancing along the wall in the same way he had when I first met him—one step, two, and a little hop, and a twirl, and then repeating. This time however, flower petals flew in all directions as he went; and he reminded me of a child with a pile of fallen leaves. He smiled broadly, and glanced often in Deirdre’s direction, to make sure that she was still watching him.
“Come on, get down now.” I heard her plead, but more gently this time than before. And then: “You don’t need to hurt yourself. You win, I’m too tired to fight you anymore.”
Father Davidson didn’t stop however, but continued to hop, and twirl, and kick up flowers in all directions. Yet, when he had reached about midway along the wall, he laughed loudly—or did he shriek?—and he tripped, or was it intentional? And he fell off the wall and out of my sight, landing on the other side with a rustle and then a thump.
I’m still unsure what exactly happened on Deirdre’s wall at that moment—when I go over it in my mind. It seemed that he may have slipped, as perhaps the petals were wet and slick from the morning dew. But he may have tripped, as his right foot appeared to hit a protruding stone and he lost his footing. But on the other hand, he may have simply jumped.
By the time I ran around to the side gate and into the backyard, Deirdre had managed to lift Father Davidson’s torso up onto her lap as she knelt on the ground behind him. His hands and feet were bloody, and he appeared to be unconscious as she held him in her arms. Nearby shrubs must have softened his fall before hitting the ground; although I noticed a large bump growing upon his forehead, indicating that he must have struck it fairly hard.
Deirdre looked panicked and distressed as she rubbed his face briskly with a scarf, which she pulled from around her neck. He was breathing but unresponsive; and the next few minutes seemed to stretch into eternity as we tried to wake him up. Eventually cold water splashed onto his face, and over his head, helped revive Father Davidson. However, he was groggy and mostly incoherent as his eyes struggled to focus; and he turned his head this way and that, attempting to understand where he was and what had happened to him. But when Deirdre asked me to call for an ambulance, the Father suddenly became more alert and aware of his circumstances and adamantly refused—instead, insisting to be brought inside, and for Deirdre to care for him.
And though she was clearly reluctant to do so, she acquiesced, and between the two of us we managed to hoist the Father to his feet, propping him up as he stumbled across the backyard and into Deirdre’s house. Once inside, she directed us down a short hallway, and then into her spare room—Ryan’s former bedroom. We helped Father Davidson onto the bed, propping his head under several pillows; and I sat beside him while Deirdre went to get a washcloth to clean the blood from his hands and feet. He remained delirious as she cleaned him, saying ridiculous and nonsensical things that made her smile, and even laugh; and when she finished, he was asleep.
She had washed him with great care and gentleness, which made it hard for me to believe the things I knew about her anger; for anger or harsh feelings seemed too incongruous for the sweet woman I saw here before me, hovering attentively over the ailing Father. But how complicated, multi-faceted, and changeable is a human being; at peace one moment and then provoked to madness the next, and then settled once again. Though Father Davidson had clearly awakened her to her better nature, and Deirdre looked joyful for once, and her face seemed radiant with a new happiness and purpose. I hesitated to leave the old woman to care for him alone, but she assured me she was fine and could manage.
Father Davidson stayed with Deirdre for several days, until his wounds began to scab over and the bump on his forehead went down. She cared for him like a mother would, much to her own surprise; and her heart warmed to him, as she allowed her own wounds to heal and she began to forgive. She hadn’t intended to forgive him, but the decision snuck up on her unexpectedly. If she had been honest with herself, she always knew in her heart that he had never intentionally hurt her boy Ryan; she had always known this, though it was inconvenient and unsatisfying to admit it.
In fact, she often doubted that Father Davidson, or Josh as she always thought of him, had actually anything to do with her son’s death at all; she had secretly come to accept that it was just an unfortunate accident, and one that was most likely caused by Richard, and not by Josh. Now, as she watched the Father sleeping soundly, she wondered why she had harbored such anger and bitterness towards him all of these years. He certainly hadn’t deserved it, so why had it taken her so long to accept this? She wanted to wake him now to apologize for everything, but she let him sleep. Certainly, there would be time to finally apologize later.
* * *