Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

I RANG THE FRONT BELL AT SISTER JOHN’S and she called “I’m around back, Jimmy.” I walked down the gangway and opened the gate to see her standing by the back fence holding two pots of flowers. At least a dozen more sat in boxes on the ground around her.
“Jimmy, you’re not going to believe this. Muhammad from across the alley brought all these flowers over this morning. Look, there are roses and marigolds, and tulip bulbs that will bloom next spring. He said he was sorry about all the commotion and that things were going to be different. I’m so happy.” I nodded.
“That’s good, Sister.” “See, it’s like I told you. Just pray and things will work out.” “That’s great, Sister. What do you want me to do?” She gave me instructions and I picked up the shovel and began digging. As Sister John went on about God and prayer and how things worked when one did what was right, I looked up her chubby red cheeks and felt good for the first time all summer. By the end of the afternoon we were done, and I felt blissfully satisfied. I was gathering up the garden tools when I saw Sister John and Muhammad coming toward me across the lawn. “I want you see the flowers and meet my helper,” she said to Muhammad. “Oh no!” I groaned to myself, turning to face the other way.
“Jimmy, this is Muhammad. He’s the one who gave us these beautiful flowers.” With my back still turned, I raised my hand and said “Hey, thanks!”
“Jimmy! That’s no way to greet someone. Turn around now and remember your manners.”
“Yes, Sister.” I turned slowly. Muhammad’s hand went to his bruised face in surprise, and then he looked at Sister John.
“I’m so sorry for what I did.” Then he reached out to take my hand and bowed over it.
“I’m so sorry. Please never again. Never hurt me again,” he pleaded. I looked at Sister John and shrugged.
“No problem. Listen, I’ve got to get going. See you later, Sister.” I started to leave. “Just one second, young man!” she said. She walked Muhammad to the gate. He was still apologizing when she turned back to me.
“Sister, I really have to go,” I said as I started my second attempt at escape. “Freeze, mister,” she said. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and tried my best to look innocent. “Jimmy, what did you have to do with this? Why did he apologize to you?!” I shrugged. “I don’t know, Sister. He’s a crazy guy. I gotta go.” “you’re not going anywhere until I find out what’s behind this.” “Sister, please don’t ask. Just enjoy your flowers.” She took my hand. “I can’t do that. Let’s go inside and talk at the basement table.” She walked over to the door, opened it, and pointed down the basement stairs. I walked down the steps and entered the Sisters’ utility room, where we’d put away the meat in the freezer. There also was a refrigerator and a washer and dryer, all white, and in the middle of the floor sat a rectangular green table with a linoleum top and chrome trim, surrounded by six chrome chairs with green seats. Over the table was a round white light on a gold spin stem. “Sit!” Sister John ordered. She reached out for the ball at the tip of the light shade and pulled the fixture down to about two feet above the table so that the light shone brightly in my face but cast a dull hue around the rest of the room. She tilted the light. “Tell me how this happened,” she said curtly. I shifted my body to the right to hide my face in the shadows. She twisted the light slightly so she could see my eyes. The only sound in the convent was my breathing and the ceiling creaking as one of the other Sisters passed through the room above us. “Sister, I’ve been wondering. How many other nuns live here with you?”

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