Our Lady of Grace Church, Brooklyn, New York Some time later

Vinny arranged four construction cones in a twenty-foot square on the floor of the church gymnasium and ran a clothesline through holes he’d made in the tops of each. He stood in the center of the makeshift boxing ring examining his handiwork. It appeared to him that the shape of the ring looked a little off, so he moved two of the cones until the ring seemed square.

Father John carried a smile wherever he went. He spotted Vinny in the center of the makeshift ring and called out in a robust voice. “I see you’re here bright and early, Vinny. Got your ring set up and everything.”

Vinny stepped outside the square and wiped his hand on his sweatpants before extending it. “How’s it going, Father?”

“Ah well, I’m fighting the devil this morning.”
“Really, Father? What’s going on?”
“Sticky fingers in the collection plate.”
“Really? Someone stealin’ from the church?”
“Not stealing—just sticky. It’s the curse of being located down

the block from an IHOP—the sweet stuff gets on everything. I found chocolate chips stuck to a five-dollar bill and the holy water smells like maple syrup.”

“Is that a big problem?”

Father John raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you read the papers, Vinny?”

“What? Uh…I don’t get it.”

“Money laundering?” Father John smiled even more broadly than usual and gave Vinny a heavy swat with his big paw. He was every bit of six-foot-three, with wide, rounded shoulders, and a thick middle.

Vinny clipped him playfully on the chin. “Good one, Father. You had me going for a minute.”

“Thanks for helping out. By the way, how’s the wrist feel?”

“Yeah. It’s coming along.” He held out his hand. “At least I can hold it straight again.”

“But no more boxing?”

“Only with the kids,” he said halfheartedly. “The doc says I can’t fight no more on account I shattered the whole thing on Dempsey’s face. He said it’s good enough for day-to-day stuff, but it can’t take a lot of punishment.”

“So what are you going to do now? Not that your fighting purses ever amounted to a hill of beans.”

“I got me a hack license—been driving a cab in the city a couple of nights a week.”

“I’ve got faith in you, son—always have. I know you’ll land on your feet.”

“I did against Dempsey.”
“That’s right. You did.”
“Do you think we’ll get any kids showing up for these here

boxing lessons?”
“Well I know one is coming, and I’m sure others will follow.”

He looked past Vinny to the opposite end of the gym, motioning for someone to come forward. “Come on over and say hello to the coach.”

Vinny turned and was stunned by who he saw approaching. “What the hell?”

“Watch it, coach,” Father John said with a smile. “Let’s not forget that we’re in the house of God.”



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