Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

THE DOOR CLANGED SHUT behind me. I was in my own cell, all right, in maximum security, both for my own protection (I looked very young) and because I were considered a flight risk (only in my dream had I been able to play the Harvey Geller card).
My cell was probably six by ten. It was furnished with a dull stainless-steel floor bunk, a sink and a toilet. The walls were white-washed cinderblock and there were two sets of bars, one for the window and another for the sliding steel door and frame.
All of a sudden I felt dizzy. I sat down on the bed and closed my eyes to stop the airless room from spinning. This was my reality. I was locked up. I heard a hoarse whisper.
“Hey, what you in for?”
I didn’t answer. Had no answer.
“Suit yourself,” the voice said. “Been here for twenty-two and in for life. Celled ’til death do us part. Going to leave when I hear a harp. How old are you? How much time you get?”
I broke into a cold sweat as the cell seemed to shrink in size. I was beginning to panic. I remembered learning that the human mind can only process one thought at a time, so I knew if I could shift the negative thought to a positive thought and center on it, I’d be okay. I closed my eyes, stretched out on the bunk, and pondered Cherish and the previous six months. I felt God wanted Cherish to be protected, which is what I’d been doing. But in the process of protecting her, I had embraced a life of crime, which I knew God wasn’t happy about. I was following Sister John’s advice to “find someone to help in all situations,” but I failed at the condition she put on it: In the process of helping, do not cause harm. I hated myself for hurting all those people.
I hated that Nick was still on the loose. On the other hand, his escape guaranteed our release. I had a legitimate job now. But if I’d gotten just a little help from good old dad, I wouldn’t be in this jam. He had ruined my life. Well, actually, it was Larry the Monster who ruined my life, but my dad had a chance to fix it and he chose not to when he chose alcohol instead of me.
That memory gave me a chance to reflect on the disease of alcoholism and its consequences that pass from one generation to the next. But even in the depths of my well-cultivated self-pity, I knew I had a choice in this matter. I did not have to follow in my parents’ drunken footsteps. The drinking could stop here. It would stop here. I decided then and there to stop hurting my soul. The results of this one self-esteemed action would be far-reaching.
I remembered hearing the newly deceased elvis singing about being unable to build a future on suspicion—and then it struck me. What I’d just done was switch my focus from an external, past-focused memory of my father’s failures as a parent, which only fed my self-pity and rage, to a present-time, inner-focused solution of hope.
My spirits brightened. I wasn’t going to wait to change what I’d become. I’d start preparing spiritually for the future right now, in this prison cell. I wasn’t sure exactly how, but I figured a soul injury was like any other injury. you had to give it a rest so it could heal.
If I could stop harming my soul with negative actions—give my soul a rest—maybe it would heal.
I couldn’t wait for Monday morning.



“Are there any new developments which the government would like to present?” the judged asked after the preliminaries were over with.
“No, your honor,” the prosecutor said. “The government wishes to drop the charges.”
“The defendants are free to go,” the judge said. “What did all that mean?” I asked the public defender.
“Like the judge said, it means you’re free to go.”
“Everything is going to be okay,” I told Angel.
“I’m done. No more playing, no more lying.”
The only cloud that sunny day was the certainty that, sooner or later, Nick would catch up with me. For now, however, I had a new life to begin. I talked myself into a one-bedroom apartment in Silver Spring. I sold burial plots and finally made enough money to live on if I watched my budget.
As promised, Harvey Geller trained me and I did fairly well. Selling burial plots to people who hadn’t yet died might just be the hardest thing to sell in the universe, but I was getting good at it. Early one afternoon I sold a nice young couple a twin bed out on Parklawn’s back forty. I had two more calls to make when I decided to stop for a cup of coffee. On the way out of the coffee shop, I heard a voice from the past speaking behind me.
“Turn around slow, Jimmy, real slow.”
Bob pressed a forty-five into my gut.

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