Long's fears and his self-doubts are almost gone now. But sometimes at night they do come back, and he feels that maybe this has just been a dream, that he'll wake up and he'll be back in Charlestown again. Then he begins to wonder what might have happened—if.... What if his grandmother hadn't been around? What if his uncle Billy hadn't taken him in? What if Dick Corbin hadn't taken him in hand? What if he had been accepted for the electrician's course at vocational school instead of being rejected?
"Well, he'd be an electrician right now," says his aunt Aida. "A tall one. He wouldn't need a ladder."
"I never would have made it out of Charlestown if not for all those people," Long says. "I'd probably be working for the Boston Housing Authority, and I wouldn't be very happy. I wasn't a happy kid. But there was always someone there, always someone saving my ass—Ma, my uncle Billy, Dick Corbin and his wife and Earl Leggett."
"Call it luck, call it circumstance," Diane Long says, "but you have to wonder how many others there are like him out there, people who could have really done something if given a chance. They knew they were better than what they were, but they never knew what to do about it."
Long stares out the window of his Redondo Beach home, at the lights winking along the Pacific Coast Highway.
"God gave me good people around me, and He gave me size," he says. "It's kind of a miracle, really. Diane and I have talked about it. Where would I be now if God hadn't decided to rip me from stone?"