Big Sugar

Hennessy inhaled deeply and frowned, as several others, upon hearing the conversation, had come over to confirm that Big Sugar, whom Hennessy well-knew had been killed in a gun accident, had brought them to the shelter, in the bus bearing the number 500. Hennessy, a priest for over twenty years, was shocked, as he had identified Moses ‘Big Sugar’ Moore himself, after going to the morgue and hearing the story of the struggle between Big Sugar and Doris McQuade, the sixteen-year-old drug-addicted prostitute who had been attempting to kill herself with a .44 Magnum when Big Sugar took a .44 slug to his head, killing him instantly after he had attempted to wrestle the gun from her hand. Hennessy could still remember the torn and twisted flesh that had once been Big Sugar’s face and wondered if it could have been another man, even though he had been so certain that it had indeed been Big Sugar that he had seen on that cold, dank coroner’s slab, little more than a week ago. Or, was someone impersonating Big Sugar? And if someone was, then why; and, how did the 500 bus get to the shelter, anyway? Were they all playing a joke on the good father? Hennessy pushed through the lengthening line and into the shelter and immediately saw Big Sugar, as he was standing talking to Eddie ‘Dumb Eddie’ Malone, a semi-retarded homeless man, who roamed the streets endlessly mumbling to himself. Next to Dumb Eddie was Wheelchair Paul, an epileptic cripple that Hennessy knew had an I.Q. that approached the genius range of around two-hundred. Suddenly, Hennessy was grabbed by his forearm and spun around, by Joe ‘Punchy Joe’ Marabelli, an ex-prizefighter who had once been a world champion but now lived the life of an alcoholic, on the streets of the Bowery. He put his battered, oft-broken beak next to Hennessy’s and barked, “Hey Faddah, Merry Criz-muz.”

Hennessy patted Punchy Joe’s head, then quickly removed Joe’s vice-like grip from his forearm. He approached Dumb Eddie and Wheelchair Paul but Big Sugar was gone. “Eddie,’ he said, “who was that you were just talking to … was it—”

Dumb Eddie bobbed his head up and down and swallowed a mouthful of turkey. “Yeah-up Faddah, ‘at was Big Sugar. Yeah-up, he say Stella is happy now!”

Hennessy looked at Wheelchair Paul. “Dumb Eddie’s speaking the gospel Father that was Big Sugar and he did say Stella’s happy now.” Wheelchair Paul smiled at Father Hennessy.

Hennessy exhaled loudly and ran his hand through his salt-and-pepper hair. He had been a priest for a little over two decades and had read of, and heard about, many miracles; it was just that he had never been this close to one before. Was it a test of his faith or was it some sort of a practical joke? He stared at Dumb Eddie and then at Wheelchair Paul just as Wheelchair Paul motioned at him with his head and he turned to see two uniformed policemen striding towards them. Hennessy recognized them, as they were both Port Authority cops. They were almost upon him, as he searched the room for Punchy Joe. “What ‘id Joe do this time?” he said, scanning the room again.

Officer Jimmy Porelli nodded at Hennessy and smiled amiably. “Oh, it’s not about Punchy this time Father.” Porelli hated working on Christmas, even with the overtime pay, and nodded at his partner, Bobby McLarnin.

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