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

“Okay, but I want you to buy the children shoes.” I still had my hand inside the back of my shirt. “Walk. you go first,” I told the two men. The children stood still as we approached them.
“Look at their feet, all yellow and callused. These kids need shoes. Who sells shoes here?”
“Señor, we can not pay. It is not our money. We only oversee for the owners of the market.” A little girl with very short brown hair tugged my hand. “The shoes are over here, señor.” I looked down at her. “Were you down on the beach yesterday when a woman in a brown bathing suit gave you money for food?” She smiled, showing big yellow teeth.
“Si, señor. She is a nice woman. Is she your wife?”
“No,” I said quietly as I slumped down in a rusted steel chair. I lowered my head and ran my hands through my hair. When I opened my eyes, the little girl stood in front of me and placed her little hand in mine.
“Señor, we have no money for shoes but we try to earn some money every day. It’s just that we need to eat, too, and so there is never enough. Could you please help?” I nodded slowly, filled with self-disgust. She led me to a shoe booth and I bought shoes and socks for all her friends. I then returned the bracelet back to the seller and apologized for the misunderstanding. On the way to the airport I replayed the last two days in my head. The wrong-child episode, losing Maria, and the one that felt the worst.
“Luis, tell your cousin congratulations. He played me perfectly. There was never anyone after me.” Luis smiled.
“He never said there was. He just said that two men came ask- ing for you. The rest you made up yourself. you have a very strong imagination, señor. And now, what airline?”
“United. I’m headed for Las vegas.” I thought about Maria and how wrong I had just been. I was encased in despair. I could never expose her—or anybody else I loved—to my insanity. We pulled over and as I took my bags from the trunk of the car, the driver said compassionately, “The children like their shoes, huh?” I nodded, rolled my eyes, and pointed to myself. “Mucho loco Americano, si?” He laughed back loudly and pointed to my chest. “Mucho, mucho, loco Americano. I think Las vegas should be warned you are coming, no?”

CHAPTER 29

 

SEVERAL ELVIS PRESLEY IMPERSONATORS from somewhere in europe jostled at the boarding gate, playing guitars and singing “Viva Las Vegas.” elvis, Sister John, Cherish, and a highlight reel of all my failures played in my head like a bad Saturday morning cartoon. I decided the anger I couldn’t shake was staining my perceptions, like dirty glass in a fishbowl. I wondered why I had even been born. “you were born to fail. you can’t win. you might as well give up,” I told myself. “Jim, you need to eat something and get a good night’s sleep,” Angel said. The ticket agent, who wasn’t in on this conversation, interrupted to find out my destination.
“Las vegas, Nevada, USA,” I said. “One-way.” “Are you checking two bags?” she asked. I clutched my shoulder bag.
“Just the suitcase. I’m carrying this one.” She looked at the black leather bag. “How much currency are you carrying into the States?”
“A couple of thousand.” She looked at my shoulder bag, then at the herd of elvis look-a-likes.
“Are you an impersonator too?”
“More of an impostor. But if vegas killed elvis, then it’s good enough for me!”
I was headed for vegas because an old friend from Stony Island, Joey Drazik, was getting married. Joey had been part of the baseball gang, and he’d grown up to be a car salesman. He spent a good deal of time in vegas and knew every lobby and back room, high roller and bust-out in town. He was working in New york at the time, but chose vegas for his vows because he knew friends from all over the country would show for a vegas wedding. The ceremony itself was set for A Chapel on the Strip, but the guests were staying at the Imperial Palace. The hotel’s revolving door sucked softly as I entered, and then I was bombarded with DING DING! DING DING! and the roar of some temporarily rich tourist holding a winning hand at one of the tables. Keeping a good grip on my shoulder bag because I had been to vegas a few times before, I took in the view of the casino, mentally snapped a shot of the exit door behind me. In front of me was a minefield filled with glassy-eyed people feeding coins to the slots and slam- ming down their mechanical arms. The patrons’ eyes glittered with visions of easy Street as the dials spun, only to deaden when a trio of mismatched fruits landed them on Despair Drive. The low was brief, because it was so easy to reload. Over and over they force-fed the slots, spurred on by the occasional winner. Cocktail waitresses bearing trays of drinks navigated the minefield with impunity; the patrons were already destroyed and I knew I could be, too. I just wasn’t sure I cared. I followed the roar of the crowd to a blackjack table. There were four men sitting on barstool-height chairs playing No Limit. The dealer flipped the cards without expression. Her blond- streaked brown hair settled on the collar of the red ruffled blouse she wore over a black minidress. Her long fingers were tipped with pearled nails; her hands floated like a magician’s above the card chute. When bets were set, she flicked her right hand with the precise amount of velocity to deliver the cards in front of the players.

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