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

AUGUST 1977 TO JANUARY 1982 | CHAPTER 17

 

ONE THING LED TO ANOTHER after high school. I hung out with Nickels and his associates more than I should have, and as a result participated in an occasional fight of splendid and legendary proportions. I also had a couple of minor brushes with the law, and I started drinking in earnest. One hot and humid August morning, I woke to find I’d fallen asleep again in the front seat of my 1968 Chevy convertible. That had been happening a lot lately. I would cruise around with a six-pack, and when I got tired, I’d pull over and pass out. I wasn’t proud of my lifestyle, but I was on my own and sup- porting myself as a day laborer, earning enough to make ends meet. I reached up and turned on the ignition. The radio blared
“Suspicious Minds,” and then the disc jockey did a voice-over. “That’s right, fans, The King is dead. elvis Presley died yesterday afternoon from an apparent heart attack.” Whoaaa! elvis dead? The music came up again. It was a dead man singing. I leaned back in the seat and looked up to see a pigeon flying overhead. I blinked and took a snapshot in my mind. I’d been practicing freeze-frame picture taking ever since Sister John Christian taught me the technique. I was so good at it I could even hear the shutter closing as I froze the image. Curiously, I never forgot a single one of the images I caught this way.
I closed my eyes and with elvis on my mind, eventually fell back asleep. BANG! Something hit the side of my car.
“Hey, kid! you can’t nod off here.” I saw a cop’s face glaring down at me. “Okay, but I—”
“Don’t give me any lip or I’ll tow your heap and you’ll go directly to jail without passing Go.”
“yessir. Did elvis really die?”
“yeah, kid, he’s dead. Now move it or lose it.” I put two blocks of space between me and Officer Billy-Club, and re-parked the car, still thinking about elvis. I decided to toast him, and reached into the back seat for a beer. I popped the top, raised the can and muttered,
“To you, elvis.” The isolation was taking its toll. Sadness and a feeling of impending doom were constants in my life, and I wished I belonged somewhere. I didn’t want to need people but it was instinctive, so I’d keep trying to connect with others in hope they would save me from myself. When I failed, I’d try to fill the void with alcohol and food, which just created more mental anguish and sickness in my soul. I was walking a thin line between right and wrong ways of living. My anxiety would subside when I wasn’t lying, cheating, or stealing, but I kept crossing over for the thrill of getting away with something. I glanced in the side mirror. I could see Officer Friendly walking up the block so I pulled out and put another two streets between us. While parking, I noticed a Help Wanted sign in a win- dow across the street. I crossed the street, went inside and started taking mind pictures. The business name was Renters Assistance Center. The set-up looked like a real estate office, with desks neatly lined up in rows. Behind a counter sat a thin, fortyish platinum blonde, chewing gum and filing her nails. A nameplate on her desk read Ruby. Three rows back was a guy who weighed four hundred pounds if he weighed an ounce. Across the aisle from him sat a tall slender doll about twenty-one years old with long blond hair and a wavy curl in front. Behind her at a table for six, four more people jabbered away on phones. I heard the fat guy introduce himself to the other person on the phone; his name was Petey Lye. I overheard the cutie introduce herself to someone on the other end of the phone. Her name apparently was Cherish. “May I help you, young man?”
“Yes, Miss Ruby. Elvis sends his regards and asks that you remember him kindly.” “Really.” She sat back and folded her arms. “yes, ma’am, I believe he would. Also, I’d like an application for the open position.”
“Do you know what you’re applying for?” she asked. “No. Could you disclose the duties, ma’am?” “We help people find apartments. Say, y’all need an apartment?” she asked.
“No, just a job application. Where you from, ma’am?” “Memphis, Tennessee.” “Memphis is nice town, ma’am.”
“Thank you kindly,” she replied, smiling. Ruby opened a drawer, took out a pad and peeled off what appeared to be an application. She handed it to me and then hunted up a pencil. Behind both rows of desks were two offices with glass fronts covered with blinds. The hallway that separated them led to a rear door which emptied out into the outer ally. The blinds on the right office moved slightly while a speaker mounted on the wall above the front glass behind me crackled. Memphis eyeballed the right corner of the foyer.
“So what do you do to assist people?” I asked. She began to tell me when her phone rang. She raised a finger and winked.

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