"Good shot," Seamus yelled. He slapped a hairy hand on his greasy denim covered knee. It was midnight. It was New Year's Eve. It was the porch of Cornhuskers Bar and Grille.
"Dang," said Red. "Can't say I ever done that before."
Red was thirteen and very thin. In this part of the country, he was considered a man, since he worked the fields. Just like the older men, he was expert at chewing tobacco, drinking hooch and driving most any kind of tractor, truck or farm vehicle. Carrying a shotgun was part of being a man, too.
In this part of the country, shooting out streetlights was as much part of New Year's celebrations as getting drunk and vandalizing anything not nailed down. The men considered it harmless fun, since they would only break the tail off the horse statue in front of a farmer's market, only put somebody's rocking chairs on the roof, or pour buckets of nails in an unsuspecting homeowner's driveway. Just a bit of tomfoolery, that was all.
The town fathers of this tiny settlement in the middle of cabbage country turned a blind eye to many of the holiday pranks. Otherwise, there would have been few people who were not in jail.
"Here, watch me," Seamus said to Red. "Let me show you how a real man shoots." Seamus was as pudgy as Red was thin. Seamus always wore the same blue overalls, with a faded red T-shirt underneath. He was in his fifties and breathed heavily due to a large belly.
The shot cracked through the air. It missed the aimed at street light completely. The bullet went somewhere into the wooded area behind Cornhuskers.
The men on the porch, about five of them, started to jeer. Red rolled on the wooden floor in mock laughter. He stopped when something hard hit the side of his head.
"Easy, now, Seamus," one of the men said. "Leave him alone."
Red writhed with pain. "You're crazy," he yelled. "You're crazy." He looked at the others. "Seamus is crazy."
A woman appeared from inside the tavern with ice cubes, cloth napkins and a bowl of water. Soon Red was fixed up, sitting with a glum expression on a nearby rocking chair.
The morning of New Year's Day was a sad sight around Cornhuskers. Beer cans, broken furniture and broken glass littered the grass and driveway. Most folks were sleeping off the partying of the night before. A dog or two seemed to be the only living thing around.
Since the day fell on Sunday this year, the regular pious folk headed for church. Some never drank, some did not stay up until midnight and one or two did not even own a gun. Most were simple, country folk and minded their own business.
"Mama," Bessy said, pointing to a high window inside the small, wooden church. Bessy was the young daughter of Reverend and Mrs. Treadgull. She was dressed in a bright yellow dress with light green flowers on it. "Mama, look."
Mrs. Treadgull looked up. Her placid expression changed and she fell forward, hitting her forehead on the hard pew in front of her.
The Reverend came down from the pulpit to see what was the matter.
"Paw," Bessy said. "Look, look."
The Reverend slowly turned his head up toward where his little daughter was pointing. The beautiful stained glass window of Jesus was intact. It was the face. Instead of the loving gaze of the Redeemer, the open blue sky was showing through.
"Land sakes," the Reverend announced. He did not know whether to try to help revive his wife or whether to run out to see what had happened to the precious window.
As in most country settlements, news spreads faster than lightning in a thunderstorm. Everyone blamed Seamus for this terrible sacrilege. His bullet had missed the streetlight and headed straight for the church which was hidden behind the trees.
As it happened, although Seamus never went to church except for Christmas and Easter, this day his little son was to be baptized by Reverend Treadgull. Seamus' wife insisted she did not want another heathen around the house, so Seamus agreed.
Mrs. Treadgull recovered quickly and was soon sitting prim and proper in her pew, wondering why they had ever agreed to come to this God forsaken place to try to turn these people to the Lord. Things seemed to get worse each year and this New Year's Eve only proved how bad it was. Now even the church was not immune to vandalism.
Since baptism was a sacred thing, the Reverend could not refuse it to the little innocent child, even though his father was a bit of a rascal. Seamus, his wife holding the little boy, and a godmother and godfather stood by as the Reverend dipped his finger in a bowl of holy water. At the moment he was to put some drops on the baby's head, all the lights in the church went out. The windows were small, so the entire room became very dark.
Suddenly Seamus fell to the floor, hollering in a loud voice, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
People began running out of the little building, fearing Seamus' erratic behavior. They feared more gunshots.
But Seamus did not have a weapon. Now he was crying. Nobody had ever seen him cry before. Nobody had ever heard him say, "I'm sorry."
This incident happened fifty years ago. Today, what had been Cornhuskers Bar & Grill is a Youth Center, teaching teenagers work skills and computer courses. There is a tennis court, a pool and a social hall.
The church has been rebuilt, with good lighting, fine air-conditioning, and the stained glass windows are exceptionally beautiful. The special one right over the entrance door is dedicated to Seamus, who became a minister and took over the church and mission work when Reverend Treadgull and his family moved. Seamus is long gone, but the park in the middle of town is now called Seamus Park.
Today, Randy, Seamus' son who was baptized fifty years ago, is the preacher of this church. He is also the mayor and co-founder of a community college in this village turned into a small, prosperous town. Red is the head of the world mission ministry, taking the message to distant countries.
Old folks still talk of that New Year's Eve so long ago, the night that ended up turning a drunken sinner into a man of God.
'Redemption' according to the dictionary means 'the improved state of somebody or something saved from apparently irreversible decline.'
So when visitors ask what turned Seamus around, the old timers invariably answer "Redemption," and continue about their business.