Tom and I would look in the local newspaper for jobs, sometimes we’d find ones that would last 2 weeks to a month. He and I would take the money that we made and go buy a bag of weed and a case of beers and go back to my house and shoot pool for a while until someone such as tank, Bull or Joe would drop on in and hang out with us.
And other times he’d go back home to eat supper and I’d call him on the phone and tell him I’d walk over to his place and pick him up to go find us something to do. Sometimes Tom’s older brother Frank would answer the door, we’d talk a minute or two while Tom was coming up the stairs from his room in the basement.
Frank had served in the United States Army in Vietnam from 1969 to 1974, he was in the 101st Airborne as a Reconnaissance officer. He had seen a lot of action, he didn’t talk much about it even when I’d ask him about the war. Frank told me that when he came home, he and other soldiers that were with him were greeted by an angry mob of anti war protesters shouting things like “Baby Killer”, so he ran straight to the nearest bathroom and to in to blue jeans and a t shirt and threw away his medals and his uniform and then he came home.
Frank worked at the Hydra- Matic transmission plant with the rest of the family. I thought he was a great guy even if his only vice was whiskey…lol, about a year after I’d gotten to know frank, Agent Orange started to eat away at the fingers on his right and left hands and he’d ask me and Tom if he could get us to drive him out to the V.A hospital in Ann Arbor, MI. the V.A was 17 miles away from where we lived and Tom and I enjoyed the drive out to there. The skin had started to peel away from a few of Frank’s fingers to expose bone and I really didn’t notice it much until one day when Frank leaned up from the back seat to tell me something and he gripped my shoulder and something sharp startled me. It was the exposed bone of his index finger, it kind of freaked me out for a moment. The doctors at the V.A hospital started to prescribe Frank pain killers, and after that he was knocked out most of the time.
The way we saw it at the time is. here is Frank he can’t work, but he hangs out with us and drinks our beer and smokes our weed, so what the hell kind of example is he?
One day in October of 1981 Frank suggests we all go to a local country bar and drink a couple of pitchers of beer, his treat. So, we get there and drink the first pitcher and then Frank starts in on Tom again about why he thinks Tom and me should be working and becoming responsible adults. Tom stands up from the table and says Fuck you Frank, as he’s headed for the front door. I get up and walk toward Tom and say not to be so concerned, that Frank is just being an asshole. Tom tells me you stay here and finish your beers I’m gonna go out to the road and hitch a ride and maybe find a party. So frank goes in to his little speech about how Tom is irresponsible, and that I shouldn’t be hanging out with him. I tell Frank to shut up, and that Tom is my best friend. There is lots of silence between Frank and me. We finish off the pitcher of beer, walk to the parking lot and I don’t see Tom anywhere.
I dropped Frank off at his home and then I went home, roll a few joints and call Steve to see if he wanted to hang out. Steve and I hung out in my family room and smoke and drink for the rest of the night. I spent the next 2 days with Steve, sometimes I’d call Tom’s house to see if he had come home yet.
On the second day Steve and I were standing in the living room of my home, I was talking to my mom about something while the evening local news was on our TV. during my conversation with my mom I stopped to watch the broadcaster say something about an unidentified man’s body found in Sumpter Township Michigan, then they flashed a drawing of the man’s face on the screen, it looked just like Tom, I was shocked, I told Steve to look at the TV and he agreed that the picture looked just like Tom.
I called Tom’s house and asked Tom’s dad about the picture I saw on the TV news and he told me that he saw it to, and that they were calling the Sumpter Township police to find out more information. Tom’s dad asked me to call him tomorrow, so I agreed and went back to rolling joints and drinking beers.
The next day I called them late in the morning to find out what they knew. Frank answered the phone and said that his mom and dad were over at the county morgue looking to see if it was Tom who the police had found. Frank called me back later on in the day and asked me to come over and he’d tell me more. So, I walked over to their house and Frank met me at the front door and let me in.
Frank told me what the police had told his parents:
2 men escaped from the state mental hospital and stole a car, on their way down the road they picked up Tom, they smashed his head with a tire iron then drove to a gas station and killed the attendant, took his sawed off shot gun and took all the money and cigarettes. The 2 men hit 3 more gas stations, then they drove out to a corn field and pushed Tom out of the back seat and he woke up and started to run. He made it in to the field and one of the men shot and killed him. Then the 2 men then drove off to rob another gas station which is when the got arrested.
So, the family had Tom’s funeral 4 days later, it was a strange affair, Frank walked with me up to the casket and started in on me about how I needed to grow up and get a real job, and that Tom was just a lazy assed kid that could never do anything right. I’m still in shock and mad as hell that Tom is gone and all Frank could do is show his concern for me by putting his brother (My Best Friend) down as though Tom’s life didn’t matter, I’d guessed that the war really did fuck Frank’s head up. I’m stoned outta my mind trying to block out the fact that I’m looking down at my best friend in a box, I’m trying to remind myself that Tom is not coming back. Then Tom’s aunt who Id never met before sits next to me and asks me to go up to Tom’s casket with her, So I wobble up to the box and she pulls back the bandages on his head and takes my hand and runs it over the area where Tom’s skull is bashed in, while she’s doing this she tells me about the evils of drugs and alcohol. I nod my head to let her know I’m listening (even though I don’t want to) then she opens up the bandage wrap on his torso where the gun shot put a gaping hole in his side, and she puts my hand on it. At this point I look over at Tom’s dad and then over at Frank, I just wanted someone to get me the hell away from this woman! I shout at her with all my might GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME YOU BITCH! at this point Tom’s dad comes running over and I tell him that she is saying bad stuff about Tom and it’s making me so angry I want to beat the shit out of her.
Tom’s dad tells me to go outside and calm down and have a smoke and that he would take care of it. I’ve had other friends since then but none of them were ever quite like Tom, I love him and I miss him so much.
This part of my life story is over but there are more to come. Thanks for reading this, I hope you hold on tight to your friendships.