Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

She shook her head.
“And I don’t want this.” She handed me back the bracelet. “How much money did you give the kid on the beach?” I asked. “Five dollars,” she said. “Five dollars for shoes?” I asked. “For mangia, something to eat.” Uh oh. “What exactly happened down there?” I asked. “She tripped and fell. I waited with her until her mother came. And then I gave the mom money to buy a treat for supper.”
“She? I thought I saw a boy.” “Her hair was short, but she was definitely a little girl.” “It wasn’t a scam after all. I didn’t even have the right kid,” I muttered. “What does it matter? This is good-bye, Jim.” She turned on an Inez DeLiso heel and walked back to the pilot. “I told you not to get involved,” Angel said smugly.
“Not now, Angel!” For the second time that night, I watched Maria walk out on me. Men stared at her, some even called out to her, hoping she’d stop at their table. She acted as if she didn’t hear a thing. When she arrived at the pilot’s table, she didn’t turn to acknowledge me. I had been reduced to just another admirer hoping for a chance to catch a smile. Feeling desperate and alone, I went back to my hotel and the comfort of an old thought: I had no purpose in life. I relived the pilot’s mocking Al Capone gesture that had everyone in the group, including Maria, laughing, at me, I imagined. I couldn’t sleep that night. I had no appetite. There was no one to turn to. I could die in my hotel room and no one would know except the staff, and no one would care. And then I imploded with rage.



THE NEXT MORNING I called Tommy in California and told him about my situation in Mexico. I told him if he didn’t hear from me by the upcoming weekend, to contact the maitre d’ at The Acapulco Plaza. I told him to bring my body back home to Stony Island. I also told him about Maria’s immigration issues and asked him to look for a small town close to San Diego, somewhere a bit behind the curve on immigration law, where we could be married in case a miracle happened and I got this sorted out. A few hours later, on very little sleep and an empty stomach, my luggage and I were inside Luis’s taxi. “I need to go to Shen Wah’s Temple, then to the airport. My flight leaves at 3:30.”

AT SHEN WAH’S , the monk and I greeted each other with the customary bow.
“I’m leaving today. I wanted to say good-bye.” Shen Wah’s eyes narrowed.
“When will you return?”
“This may be my last trip. I’ve crossed the local mafia. I thought Maria was taken in by a shoeless child down on the beach, and I retrieved the money back for her and then some.” He hid his bewilderment well, merely saying “Oh?” I babbled for a while about how sad love was.
“But you love Maria. Love is essential to the human journey. It is a time for joy. Why are you sad?” I hung my head. “The distractions, the hopelessness and the anger, are worse than ever. I’m not worthy for such a woman.”
“Please tell me about her,” he said.
“She’s beautiful, kind, and sees goodness everywhere, but only because she is gloriously naive.”
“So?” he asked.
“So, I am the problem. She is by nature good and…I am…I am…” I couldn’t continue. “Not good?” Shen Wah asked softly. I nodded. “Jim, why do you say such things about yourself?” I closed my eyes.
“Shen, I’ve hurt so many people. Some I’ve destroyed. Lust and rage entice me daily, tempting me to kill myself. How could I ever inflict this life of pain on someone like Maria?”
“How does she make you feel?”
“Safe! And when I told her that, she got annoyed and said she never wanted to see me again.”
“The highest of compliments. She doesn’t understand, but she doesn’t need to. Temptation surrounds all of humankind and your pain produces a desire to escape. My wish is that you will learn to step from your world of temptation into hers. Use her purity as a shield against the evil that pursues you.”
“Won’t that put her in danger?”
“She neither sees nor feels what you feel—which is good. Temptation will swirl outside her range of vision. It still will try to drag you down, but it is only inside the action of your desire that your demise can occur. Seek goodness first. Place your discipline in what you believe in the most, and you will prevail.”
“I’m afraid the evil will trap me,” I said.

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