Judgment Deferred
(Based on a true story)

Arthur linked his fingers together and stretched his arms above his head, arching his back and sighing. He loved Saturdays. Home from work, time with the family, time to work in the yard. Smiling as he looked around his yard, Arthur realized it wasn’t really work when you enjoyed it as much as he did. The early summer sun brought sparkles out of the dewed grass and young flowers.

It was going to be a beautiful day.

Arthur looked up when he heard the sound of his neighbor’s car starting. Smitty was not normally up and about this early on a Saturday. Arthur expected to see him later, sitting on his back steps, beer in hand.

Then, strangely, the car still running, Smitty walked out of the garage and reached up, pulling the manual door down. Frowning, Arthur stepped back toward his porch, out of sight. Smitty walked around the side of his house, returning moments later with his garden hose draped over his shoulder and heading for the side door to the garage.

Arthur gasped and started forward, then stopped. Was this really happening? The stop was very momentary, however, as his body took over for him and he moved forward quickly.

“Hey, Smitty!” he called, his neighbor stopping suddenly, surprised. Smitty glanced quickly at the garage, shifted the hose on his shoulder.

“Arthur,” he said simply.

“Did you see that game last night?” Arthur said, smiling. “Holy cow. That was a buzzer beater, huh? Wife had to keep hushing me for fear I’d wake the girls.”

Smitty nodded absently. “Good game,” he said.

Arthur stretched, looked up. “Beautiful day. Not surprised to find you up so early. Probably the nicest day we’ve had this year. Say, I was wondering, do you think your girls would mind coming over to entertain mine later? I’d sure like to take Laura out. Been too long.

“Hey,” he added before Smitty could answer, “that might help both of us! While your girls are babysitting mine, you could have a date with your wife!”

Smitty frowned, but nodded, glancing toward his house.

Arthur chuckled. “My girls sure love yours. Laura is always saying how incredible it is that two teenagers like yours would be so patient with two little ones like ours. Special kids you’ve got there.”

Smitty nodded absently and shifted his feet.

Arthur looked back toward his house, his heart catching in his chest. He took a deep breath, then glanced back at Smitty who was frowning and looking down at his feet. Arthur sighed, then lightly clapped Smitty on the shoulder.

“Well, I’ve bothered you enough. Let me know about the girls. I’ll talk to you later.”

Then, without giving the other man a chance to respond, Arthur turned and walked back to his house, going in the back door without hesitating. Once inside, he hurried to the curtained window looking over the back yard and pulled it aside. He watched Smitty who still stood, hose on his shoulder, staring at nothing. Arthur held his breath, his stomach cramping when Smitty started again toward the side garage door. When his neighbor disappeared from view, Arthur dropped his head down, his forehead thumping on the glass.

A noise roused him and he looked out again. Smitty’s garage door was opening. Arthur watched as his neighbor walked out, straightened, obviously taking a deep breath, and looked up at the sky. It seemed to Arthur he could see a hint of a smile on his face as Smitty walked back toward the side of his house to replace the hose.

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