Copyright 2006 Terry F. Phillips Sr.
All rights reserved
Aunt Betty, as everyone called her, was a widowed woman who lived a few blocks from the church. Of course, Victory was so small, you could walk out of town by just walking a few blocks.
She was also called Aunt Betty because it seemed she was related to everyone.
“So, should I call you Aunt Betty?” I asked.
“No, you may call me Betty,” she said as we walked toward her house.
Her tone of voice was firm, but kindly.
We turned the corner north of the church.
“That’s my house, the white one on the left,” she said.
I had to smile, because they were all white. But to her, her house was indeed “the house” and the others were not as important to her.
I followed and soon we walked up the short driveway and onto the porch.
I noticed she did not carry a purse and had no key in her hand. She did not look for a key under the doormat nor anywhere else.
Instead, she just pushed the thumb latch on the door and opened it. There was no screen door; indeed the windows had no screens on them. And, she kept the door unlocked.
But, as quickly as she unlatched the door, she pulled it shut again, but almost noiselessly.
She signaled me to step off the porch and she quickly joined me.
“Come along, but be quiet,” she said. “We must hurry.”
We hurried; indeed we did hurry, for the little old woman was spry for her age. Our destination was the next-door neighbor.
“Cory is home today, I reckon,” Betty said. “She has been feeling poorly.”
We quickly climbed the steps to Cory’s house and knocked. All the time, Betty watched her own house.
“Hello, there,” she said when an elderly woman, who I recognized from Sunday school, appeared at the door.
“Cory, this is our new minister,” Betty said, apparently forgetting that I had been introduced to the congregation already. “And we must use your telephone and quickly.”
The woman stepped out of the way and let Betty into her living room. I stayed on the porch. If she was, indeed, sick with any communicable diseases, I decided I would avoid contact as much as possible.
Then I sneezed. O must have caught cold in Sugar Creek the day before, I told myself.
In a few minutes, Betty stepped back on the porch; the neighbor lady stayed inside the house.
“Now, we must wait and watch for the police,” she said in the same tone she might have said, “Now, we must do the dishes.”
I thought about the Sunday school that was proceeding at the church and wondered why I couldn’t get the bath and breakfast I had been promised.
In a few minutes, the answer became obvious. We watched two sheriff’s cars pull up in front of Betty’s house, go inside, and in short order, come walking out with a man in handcuffs!
“That is why I had to delay your hospitality,” Betty told me.
The man in handcuffs was a wanted fugitive from the law who had been wanted for breaking and entering into homes in the Victory area. He, like everyone else, apparently, knew Betty’s house was never locked, that she was always ready to take in strangers and offer them hospitality as she would if Jesus Himself came calling.
Fortunately, for her, the crook had fallen asleep on her couch. It was he who she had seen when she opened the front door of her home. IN an instant she recognized him as the man the Ladies Aid had deduced was breaking into people’s homes. She had hurried me to the neighbor’s home to protect me from harm.
Betty walked over to the sheriff’s deputies and spoke in low tones with them for a moment before they left with their prisoner.
“Now,” she said, very matter-of-factly. “You need that tub, but I don’t think you’ll have time for a breakfast before church. We’ll have to figure something out after church and feed you some lunch.”
So, I bathed, put on clean clothes from the suitcase I had carried from my car, still parked in front of the church building, and made it back in time for the worship service.