From the get-go, my cousin Tommy stood out from the rest of us. My first impression of him was at our family re-union, the summer before second grade. This older kid, maybe twelve years old, was being knocked around by his mom for smoking at Grandma Agnes’s house.
Of course, as a kid, five years is a heck of a difference. I mean, he was already able to stay in the car by himself while his mom (Aunt Darcy) went inside the bar or the OTB, he was free to leave the yard when she had her gentlemen friends visiting, and heck, he already knew how to drive a stick shift. In fact, according to my oldest brother, he was already shaving.
From what I understood soon enough, Tommy’s old man went to prison when Tommy was seven or eight. Why, I don’t know. However, I do know they were still sort of like pen pals or something. My parents had told me that the man was in the Army, overseas, but one of my brothers showed me some newspaper clippings from years ago (which my dad would soon find, burn and with his hands shaking, order me never to mention Tommy’s dad to anyone). Anyway, a few years went by and after being around my brothers and hearing them cuss, I knew what certain things meant, like when my Dad would say, “That family scares the shit out of me”. The mere mention of Tommy’s family would send my dad into crisis mode.
So, yeah, by the time I was eleven, I had a much greater appreciation of my family’s reluctance to have him or Aunt Darcy over for get-togethers. It was always a big hassle hiding the liquor and sending our cats to the neighbors when they visited. With the cats gone, Tommy would pretty much sit perfectly still for hours in the same spot and grin at us. Of course, Mom would always say that he was just shy and it was only a stage, but you could tell by then that he was going to end up on the CBS Evening News before his curtain dropped.
He graduated from St. Pat’s and then some HVAC school, but the HVAC thing didn’t last too long because he was snooping around customers homes while they were gone. Well, what got him nailed was when he was walking around a house when the housewife was home alone and in the shower. Her sister dropped by, came inside and voila, there’s Tommy sitting on the floor outside the bathroom. Not good. He ended up with the choice of joining the Army or going to jail. Judges did that back in the day, but I’m not sure if they still do. Anyway, he opted for the Army.
All of us thought that giving him the option of being locked up in a cage or being trained to kill people was a mistake. Tommy got through boot camp okay, I guess. He never did write or call his mom while he was there, but she would have tossed any letters to on top of the fridge and forgot about them once she started drinking. From the court records we read years later, Tommy’s I.Q. was off the charts, but his results from the psychological tests the Army gave him were…. slightly bent. So, being the genius’s they are, they put him in infantry, where he could learn to sneak up on people, etc, more effectively and efficiently than how they trained him in boot camp.
I gotta hit the sack now, as I have to meet with the French in the morning. I will write bit more about Tommy later, maybe next week.