Will loved scratch off tickets. And playing Fantasy Five. He never missed buying a ticket. Every Christmas I'd fill his stocking with $200 worth of scratch offs.
He'd always win the money back and then some. Will was always very lucky. We had a basket on top of the frig and we'd both throw the winning tickets in it. We played on Florida's money. When Will wanted more scratch off's he'd get $50 worth of winners from the basket and drive over to the 7-11 less than a mile from the house. $1, $2, $5, & $10 tickets. And he always bought the same. Two $10, Two $5, Four $2 & Twelve $1. This way we'd each have the same amount of tickets to scratch. Both of us were always lucky.
Wednesday night was always Will's Fantasy Five night. It was around 6pm when Will jumped up and said he had forgotten to buy a ticket. "It's Christmas Eve Will. You know you've got tons of scratch offs in your stocking" Out the door and into his convertible Mustang.
I knew he'd only be gone a few minutes. I've never been one to worry but after about a 1/2 hour I did think it was odd that Will wasn't home yet. I called his cell. No answer. Now this was odd. I called again. Still no answer. The phone rang and it was Will. He was at the 7-11 but his car wasn't. He needed me to come pick him up. The Mustang had been stolen. Come to find out Will had gone inside the store, left the car running, bought his Fantasy Five ticket, came back outside and his car was gone. Now I'm not one to get pissed off easily but this time I did. "Why in the name of hell would you leave the fu@kin car running" his reply "I was only gone for aminute".
Lets go back to March 24, 2003. Will's 29th Birthday. I bought him a silver convertible 5 speed Mustang with white leather seats.
Needless to say he loved it. The dealer asked me if I wanted LoJack installed. I had never heard of this. He explained that if the Mustang was ever stolen, LoJack would get it back — fast. A LoJack transmitter would be hidden in the car and if it was ever stolen the police would be able to recover the car fast. His voice deepened as he went on to say "Thieves can't find it. Thick walls can't stop it. When it comes to recovering your stolen vehicle, nothing works as well as LoJack. That's why LoJack offers a 24-hour recovery guarantee. Now that's peace of mind." I knew he was gonna be making a commission off this cause he sounded just like a commercial. But I was sold. Another interesting fact about LoJack was that neither Will nor myself knew where it was installed. The LoJack man came to the house that night after darkknocked on the door showed his ID asked for the keys went back outside and installed the transmitter. How fabulously secretive.
Will had told the police that the Mustang had LoJack installed. And just like the car salesman had advertised in less than an hour they had located the car. In a shopping center right off I-275 at the last exit before The Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Not a scratch on it. Only his CD's & his cell phone were missing. Oh & by the way the Fantasy Five #'s that Christmas Eve night were 04-10-14-18-30. Both of us were always lucky.
Another Graduation party. This time at the Esposito's home. The Espositos and The Fringes had been best of friends long before I was ever born. They had five children just like Mother & Father had five children. The only difference was that they had 3 boys and 2 girls. Mother and Mrs Esposito always shared everything. Even their pregnancies. They were both pregnant four times and always at the same time. It was only a matter of days after Mother gave birth to twins that Mrs Esposito did the same thing. With one small difference. Mrs Esposito had a boy and a girl. This actually worked out perfect. My twin Jerry was best friends with Maddon and I was best friends with Madonna. My brother who was eight years older was best friends with the oldest Esposito boy, my sister and the other Esposito girl were best friends and the last two born were best of friends.
Three times a year Mother & Mrs Esposito would plan what would become to be known as Fringe Esposito Day. In the summer all 14 of us would pile up in the two station wagons and head off to Ocean City, MD for a day on the Boardwalk and the Rides. All 14 of us would go to The Delaware State Fair and there was always another day for a picnic and the movies. These were always good times and like best friends do Madonna and I shared everything just like our Mothers did. Including Christmas Gifts. During Thankgiving break we'd peddle our bikes downtown and then walk over to Ed's Auto Shop. Ed's was the only store in town that sold comic books. We both got to pick out five. Our five favorites. It was always a hard decision to make but somehow we managed to do it. Now came the fun part. I'd give Madonna my five and she would give me hers. Then we would both hand Ed or his wife Edie fifty cents. No tax in Delaware. Still isn't. This would be the last time either of us would see our comics again until Christmas afternoon.
After Father was murdered Mother seldom gave parties. That part of Mother had died with Father. Madonna had also just graduated from The UOD and once again we were sharing. This time a party. I had rented a Cottage at Rehoboth Beach for the summer. Patrick was still in Connecticut with his family. After a long phone chat with him I got in my new Vet and headed to the Espositos. I decided to take the dual highway and drive as fast as the Vet could go. I arrived early. In less than an hour twelve of us were together once again. The eldest Esposito son had to work that night. Several sets of Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles, cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends, & just good ole friends arrived and this really turned out to be a fabulous party.
Around midnight I started gathering up my gifts ( mostly cards filled with cash ) said my goodbyes to those still partying hugged and kissed Madonna and jumped in the Vet. As I pulled out of the Esposito's driveway I wondered if I should turn left and take the dual highway or turn right and take the back roads to the beach. I turned left.
I was traveling around 90mph when the red lights appeared in my rear view mirror. Around 60mph when I could hear the siren and zero after I pulled off to the side of the highway.
I knew I shoulda turned right. I had had way to much to drink, going way over the speed limit, and I was driving a brand new Red Stingray Convertible Vet. As the State Trooper approached my car he said "sorry I missed the party tonight Thom-just got off the phone with Madonna a while ago and she said she was sure you'd turn left-wanted me to make sure you made it home safe" It was Madonna's oldest brother Matthew. "you missed a hell of a good party Matt" was my reply. "I know I did" was his. "I'll follow you home just slow it down and make sure you call Madonna in the morning" The rest of the way back to the beach I couldn't help but wonder what would have
happened if I had of turned right. One thing I didn't have to wonder about was how happy I was that Madonna and I loved sharing everything. This time a brother.
Mother called just as soon as she had gotten home from my graduation. I had decided to stay in Newark for another week to be with Patrick. Our lease on the apartment wasn't up until the end of June and Patrick was going back to Connecticut to visit his family for a few weeks so we really wanted this last week together. I had just received my degree in Psychology and he had just finished beauty school. Brains & Beauty. Nothin' better than that. We spent most of that week inside the apartment. We ordered in for food and only went out for booze. That last week with Patrick alone together in our apartment is still my fondest memory from my College graduation. Almost.
I drove home in my old 1962 Dodge Dart push button convertible. Mother had said on the phone to drive straight to Granny & Pop-Pops. I was planning on doing this anyway and thought it odd that Mother would even say this. As I turned into Granny & Pop-Pops farm and drove down the long driveway to their house I saw it. THE CAR!!!! Granny had asked me a couple of months earlier what my favorite car was. I kinda had this figured out then but with everything else going on I had put it in the back of my mind. But now there it was. Red. Convertible. Stingray. Corvette. 1975. The last of it's kind.
With a huge multi-colored bow wrapped around it that I knew my Granny had made herself. From old clothing that Mother never threw away. This car had brains and beauty. Just as I slammed the brakes on the Dart all the family came running out of the house and the yard filled with Fringes. I had to just stand and gaze at the Vet. I felt a hand on my shoulder and I knew it was Pop-Pop. "how do you like er Thommy boy?" My reply "get in and I'll show ya". We drove all over Pop-Pop's farm and suddendly childhood memories of riding my bike with Levi and the dogs came flooding back. Dirt roads had been paved. Soybeans and Corn had replaced some of the forest. Houses had been built and were hiding in the trees. I was driving my new car and yet my brain was filled with the beauty of memories. Peddling my bike on a rode paved with only hardened dirt. Chasing the dogs thru the forest now filled with beans & corn. Swinging on vines where houses now were hidden. My thoughts turned to Patrick and how he was gonna love this Vet. I was smiling. I looked over at my Pop-Pop the wisest man I have ever known and he was smiling. I knew why. Brains & Beauty. Nothin' better than that.