Authors: Roni Teson
Deeply moving depictions of family life and the progression of alcoholism and its effects—as well as a fascinating take on the afterlife we all will face.
—G. Miki Hayden,
New York Times
-plauded Edgar winner
Excellent handling of a dysfunctional family actually coming full circle. The topic of life after death puts an intriguing spin on this story. Captivating!”
—Victoria Christopher-Murray, author of
Truth Be Told
Sinners & Saints
, plus many other titles
“Roni Teson is a gifted storyteller who brings to life a hardened alcoholic with the same grace and honesty she employs in writing about an angel. Her timing is flawless—
Heaven or Hell
is a page-turner. I didn’t want it to end!”
—Karen Coccioli, Author of
The Yellow Braid
“This was absolutely phenomenal! I did cry and figured the end would be heartbreaking, but I ended up smiling as I read it. Wonderful story!”
A Novel by
Copyright © 2012 Roni Teson
Cover design by JT Lindroos
Cover photo by aussiegall
Author photo by John Carson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means,
graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any
information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
ISBN: 978-1-4525-5498-3 (sc)
ISBN: 978-1-4525-5499-0 (hc)
ISBN: 978-1-4525-5497-6 (ebk)
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012911858
Balboa Press books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting:
A Division of Hay House
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in
this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views
expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.
The author of this book does not dispense medical advice or prescribe the use
of any technique as a form of treatment for physical, emotional, or medical
problems without the advice of a physician, either directly or indirectly. The
intent of the author is only to offer information of a general nature to help you
in your quest for emotional and spiritual well-being. In the event you use any
of the information in this book for yourself, which is your constitutional right,
the author and the publisher assume no responsibility for your actions.
Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models,
and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.
Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.
Balboa Press rev. date: 7/31/2012
For Katie and Izabella
The endeavor of writing a book can be quite overwhelming, as I learned. Much more than the creative thought process is involved in pulling together the pages of a novel. It is with much gratitude that I acknowledge the following people: G. Miki Hayden, my editor and mentor. Victoria Christopher, my dear friend and coach. Karen Coccioli, my best cheerleader, and a most talented author. Diana Cox, for her detailed proofreading. Shauna Gerber, my first reader, and the many other readers who provided much brilliant feedback. And the myriad of other folks who’ve touched my life during this writing process. I thank you all.
JOE OBSERVED HIS BODY FROM ABOVE. He was totally confused because only moments earlier he and Father Benjamin had entered Skid Row in search of the General. They were walking side by side, Joe with his cane and the father chatting endlessly at him. Then suddenly Joe seemed to be disembodied, somehow floating over the top of his body watching the drama unfold.
The priest held his cell phone up to his ear, and Joe heard the other end of the call as if it were he who was on the phone, and not Father Benjamin.
“Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?”
“This is Father Benjamin,” the man blurted out. Then the next few sentences rolled off his tongue as one complete word with several syllables. “He’s not breathing. We’re out at Washington and Fourteenth, close to the parish where we work.”
“Okay, sir … Take a deep breath, please.” The phone crackled in Joe’s ear. “What’s the address? Are you outside?” a woman asked.
“Yes, at the base of Skid Row. There isn’t an address. Send an ambulance.” Father Benjamin dropped the phone and began pumping Joe’s chest.
“Sir, sir … Are you there?” Joe heard the miniature voice yell up from the gutter where the phone lay.
He watched in disbelief as Father Benjamin breathed air into his mouth, pumped on his chest, and scooped up the cell phone in one swift sweep. The muck from the street splattered on the priest’s cheek as he put the phone to his ear. “Yes, yes, I’m sorry. He’s not breathing and please know that this is not a normal call from this area. I’m a priest and he’s an addiction counselor. Please send somebody now—Washington and Fourteenth.” Beads of sweat covered the father’s brow.
The priest knelt over Joe’s body while the homeless in the area went about their business as usual, paying no mind to the man and his patient. One old guy stepped over Joe’s legs without a glance, another man eyed Joe’s cane, and a woman lit a cigarette stub from the wrong side while she sat down on the curb to the right of Joe’s feet.
Father Benjamin, in turn, ignored the folks on the street while he worked persistently on the body—Joe’s body. And to Joe’s amazement, from somewhere above his body, he continued to watch his own chest move with the air his friend, the priest, provided.
The man pounded on Joe’s chest. “Breathe, damn it.”
Father Benjamin then wiped his forehead with the back of his hand while he quickly viewed the surrounding area. He seemed to be searching for help, and Joe felt sorry for him as he couldn’t see a single capable person in the vicinity.
After the priest swung his head back down to breathe again—once, twice—for his friend, finally Joe coughed and gasped for air. And at that moment, the floating feeling came to an end. Joe somehow landed flat on his back, startled at his new vantage point. He was now in the scene he’d been viewing from a distance seconds earlier, and he was looking up into the face of Father Benjamin—strange.
Did that just happen?
Joe thought to himself.
Did I just die?
“Oh, thank God you’re breathing.” The priest slumped down on the sidewalk.
“You better have breasts or at the very least a good reason to be kissing me.” Joe gagged and spit, and somehow managed to lift his left eyebrow while he chuckled a little.
“Sorry, just a collar.” Father Benjamin motioned toward his neck.
“What’s that crap on your cheek. Don’t put that near me.” Joe coughed and laughed a little again, all the while leaving one eye open. While he struggled to breathe, the salty taste of blood entered his mouth.
The priest ignored Joe’s comments. He wiped his phone on his pants and quickly punched in some numbers.
“Aaay, you’re not so immaculate now, are you, Father.” Joe motioned with his head toward the father’s now dirty pants and shirt. Oh, how he enjoyed teasing the priest about his manicured hands and perfectly pressed pants.
But Father Benjamin frowned at Joe and focused on the call he was making. This time, Joe only heard one side of the conversation, and the seriousness of the incident finally occurred to him.
“Yes, this is Father Benjamin, again. I’ve got the same emergency at Fourteenth and Washington. One of our counselors is down, and I called you over five minutes ago. Where’s the ambulance?” he demanded.