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by Jerry Guarino

Tony didn’t believe in angels, at least not until. He had a change of heart after an incident that scared him to tears. Tony was a good Catholic boy, ten years old, growing up poor in New Jersey during the 1960s. His neighborhood didn’t have any fields, playgrounds or even grass. His old brick apartment house was across the street from a factory and adjacent to a canal that ran from the factory underneath the street to his side of the street. It was open without any protective fencing. Kids used to throw rocks into it for fun.

You know those television shows where a person is deciding what to do and there is an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other; it was amusingly demonstrated in the movie Animal House and less erotically in family sitcoms. These scenes were usually comic choices between good and bad, not life or death decisions.

Well, Tony would imagine a devil on his left shoulder and an angel on his right when deciding between two choices. Like when in the candy story, whether to take one and run out or not. He always chose to pay for the candy, but he was aware of the devil urging him to just steal it.

Tony didn’t have any friends in his neighborhood. A three-year-old boy, David, lived down the street and wandered near the canal. Tony saw him. David watched as Tony threw rocks into the canal. David did the same.

As Tony was looking for larger rocks to throw, he heard a splash. Turning around, he saw David in the water, just about 20 feet from where the canal went under the street to the factory. As if by a miracle, Tony found a long, strong branch from a tree and rushed to the sidewalk, holding it to intercept David floating by. He was lucky, or was it an angel, to be able to hold David from going under.

“Hold on David” he said. It seemed like an hour waiting for someone to hear his cries for help. There weren’t any cars driving by and the apartment house where he lived was too far away to alert anyone. But Tony continued to yell for help. He began to cry, fearing David would let go, float under the street and drown.

“Please don’t die David” Tony repeated over and over, desperately waiting for help. Finally, a police officer driving by saw him holding the long branch out for the three-year-old boy clinging for his life. The officer was able to get the boy out of the water just in time.

From that day on, Tony believed in angels and looked for a nudge when making difficult choices.