DIVINE CHILD
Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

“very soon you’re going to make me a promise, young man.”
“What kind of promise?”
“We’ll talk about it later, but I expect you to make it.”
“But Sister, how can I say I’ll promise if I don’t know what it is?” She just looked at me.
“Okay, I’ll think about it,” I said.
“We’ll make sure you do! And in the meantime, make sure you use your head for something besides a hat rack.” Frankie and I looked at each other, astonished. Sister John had said something funny! On the way inside, I glanced back at Slim, and when our eyes met, I winked at him. Back home, I was pulling weeds out of the hard ground along the fence. My mother called from the back porch to dig down farther so I could pull them out by the roots.
“That way—” I chimed in—“they won’t grow back.” except they did. Joe and I had dug up the entire strip along the back fence the summer before, going deep with a shovel, and the weeds still grew back. Here I was being punished for trying to lie about my grades, but nobody was going to punish my mother for lying about the weeds growing back. My mind drifted back to the refrigerator and the rest of those hot dogs. My mother came out onto the back porch.
“Jimmy, I’m going to Flowers Grocery. Keep an eye on Steve while I’m gone.”
I straightened up and thought about getting another one of those hot dogs, except this time I’d dunk it in mustard. I bounced through the yard, happy my mother would be gone for a while. When she finally left, I pulled my feast from the refrigerator. I dunked the first hot dog straight down the middle of the mustard jar, then slipped it into my mouth. It was gone in three bites. Not bad at all. I reached in the package for another and then another, until there was only one left. I rolled up the almost empty pack, put it back on the refrigerator shelf, and walked into the living room to check on Steve.

TIME PASSED. “How long has it been now?” Tommy asked one afternoon when he stopped by on his way home to supper.
“Two weeks down, four to go.”
“Man, oh man, I’m glad I’m not in your spot.”
“What’s going on in the outside world?” “you’ve been watching Jimmy Cagney movies again,” he laughed. “It’s really all there is to do you know, watch Tv in the inmates’ lounge.” Tommy laughed again.
“That and eating. The coaches are going to put you on the football line instead of playing you in the backfield. They’ll need someone big and fat to take over Ricky’s spot.”
“What high school is he going to go to?” I asked.
“He got a scholarship to play with me at Mendel High.” “Do I really look a lot bigger?” I asked him.
“I’m only kidding. But you better watch it.”
“I’m trying, but I just can’t seem to stop thinking about food.” After Tommy left, I went back inside to watch TV until my mother called us to supper. everyone in the house scrambled. I jumped up from the chair where I was watching TV, my brothers came up from the basement where they were tinkering with a toy train, my father’s recliner popped forward and he walked heavily toward the kitchen. I was seated before anyone else came in, because it was Tuesday, which meant meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy. I’d never paid attention before, but by the third week of being grounded, I figured out the menu pattern, which relied heavily on different ways to serve ground beef.
Monday was spaghetti; Tuesday, meatloaf; Wednesday, hamburger patties with mashed potatoes; Thursday, hamburgers with pork and beans; Friday, tuna fish with noodles; Saturday, hamburgers; and Sunday, chicken.
Conversation was not a priority at our table. Nobody ever said much beyond “Pass the salt” or “Can I have a piece of bread?”
As usual, my mother was well on her way to being drunk, and Dad was quiet. I knew not to say a word, just eat and get out of that room. From time to time, I glanced at the meatloaf on the counter to see if there would be any leftovers to sneak tomorrow. My father got up for another slice of meatloaf. He stood between me and the counter, and I couldn’t see how much he was cutting. As he returned to the table, my heart sank. He’d taken the last slice. It was going to be a long, boring Wednesday.
After dinner, I watched for what seemed like forever as my mother cleared the table and my father finished his coffee. We always had to wait for him to finish his coffee before we had dessert, which was usually one scoop of ice cream per person. As soon as my father was halfway through his coffee, Mom took the ice cream out of the freezer. I watched as she opened the carton. A new container? Good! I’d sneak some of that tomorrow. My mother told my father that I would be baby sitting for Mary Kay and Steve the next day, because she had to go to a funeral. even better! While she was at the funeral, I’d be feasting on ice cream. After dinner we all left the table and dispersed around the house. Joe and Johnny ran back downstairs to play with the train and I went out to the front porch to wait for Billy, who’d come by every evening since I’d been grounded.

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