Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

“Whoa, that was a close one, huh, Angel?”
“you think?” I turned off the desk lamp and instantly the dull gray walls of my suite were transformed by the daylight-bright neon from the Strip. I closed my eyes to the circus colors and my ears to the street noise and concentrated only on the quiet in the room.
“Create your future,” I heard Shen Wah say.



I STARTED THE MEDITATION standing in the sand on a beach somewhere in southern California. The water rolled softly from the deep blue ocean and settled quietly on my toes. I bent over and scooped up a handful of white sand, holding it for a moment before letting it slip through my fingers until only tiny specks of gold were left. I stretched, moving my body from left to right, finally center- ing on the path of light coming across the ocean from the setting sun right into my mind. I stretched out my arms and brought my hands together to create a triangle, with my eyes at the center fol- lowing the light back out to sea. I slowly raised my triangled self and met the center of the sun. From beyond the safety of the calm waters and pillowed blue skies, I felt myself accessing the files where I’d stored the mental snapshots I’d taken of the many houses of worship I’d seen and many forms of worship I’d experienced over the years: baby Jesus in the manger, Buddha in temples both modern and overgrown with vines, Native Americans sanctifying Mother earth. Then without warning, I was fast-forwarding through the horrors of children being abused and surviving to adulthood only to recreate their childhoods in their own children. The sorrow that I felt for all the lost souls overwhelmed me. I needed to help them, to redirect their destinies for the good of future generations.
Then I was in a glass elevator and pushing the Down button for Memory Lane. The elevator descended in a blur of red lights and halted abruptly on Dante Avenue. “Tell The Dealer I’m here to play a game of choice,” I said when the door opened. The bouncer mumbled through his headset, listened a moment, and then the big door swung open and I was walking down a corridor that looked like a gallery of Who Used to Be Who: Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Curt Cobain—all entertainers who had been dealt out of the big game of life. Above the portraits scrolled a purple marquee: YOU CAN’T WIN IF YOU DON’T PLAY The door at the end of the corridor opened as I approached, revealing a huge dimly lit casino, packed front to back and side to side with gamblers crowded around gaming tables. The noise was deafening. Bombshell waitresses and bare-chested waiters were delivering refreshment, mainly drinks, to the clientele, making it easy for them to stay focused on the next big score. On the far side of the casino floor was an elevated stage on which was a single table occupied by a dealer who sat with his back facing the crowd. There were no players. At the back of the stage, was an exit door illuminated in mauve. A man and woman started arguing at a table on the left side of the casino. Two small children sat at their feet, intently watching. I walked a little closer and saw that parents were putting their needs ahead of their children’s. The dealer liked the adults’ priorities, and gave them a friendly smile. I entered the casino and moved quietly through the crowd, sensing the undercurrent of fear in the air. Greed might have started them on the path but fear kept them going, I climbed the stairs to meet The Dealer. “How are you, my friend?”
I stopped dead in my tracks. Given the way my meditation was going, I was pretty sure the dealer would wear the face of Larry The Monster. I was very, very wrong about that. The dealer pushed out the empty chair with his foot and gestured for me to sit. I sat. And on the other side of the table, I also sat shuffling a deck of cards. “Don’t look so surprised,” The Dealer said. “You’ve been the game behind the game for some time now.” He flipped the first card over to me. It was a face card, and the face belonged to Larry The Monster. “May I ask you a pity question, Jim? How’s your life going?” I flinched.
“You’ve had it difficult? Larry brutally molested you when you were only ten? Took your innocence at such a young age? you’ve watched jealously as other kids got on in life without that bur- den? Is staying angry because your life was destroyed important to you?” I looked into the eyes of The Dealer and nodded. The Dealer flipped me another face card, this one with the face of my father.
“Your father betrayed you. He rejected you. It hurts more than you could ever describe. In many ways he was just as bad as Larry The Monster, because his love could have healed you.” I nodded again. The third face card was Mom. “your mother cared more about getting high than she did about you. What kind of a mother lets a father shame her child? It goes against the laws of nature. you carry deep sadness in your soul because you will never be able to trust a woman and have a home of your own.” I nodded again, thinking this dealer was pretty smart. Then he flipped me a card with the face of my brother Tommy.

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