Some decades ago, here and there in the Heights and in the Tunnel Bar stories about Tommy — a dealer in rare powders — often were in the air. I was in the tavern one day back then when in walked Tommy’s cousin Eddy, a railroad worker in the Hoboken yard. Seeing Eddy, I realized that the town crier news feed had been quiet.
“How’s Tommy? I haven’t heard anything about him for a while.”
Looking at his watch, “Well . . . Let’s see . . . It’s after 3, so I guess he’s dead.”
“It’s after 3, so he’s dead! What’s that mean?”
“He got real sick last night and went to the hospital. I was there at 7am. The doctor said that it was meningitis and that Tommy’d be dead in 8 hours.”
. . .
I was walking up Central Ave a couple of weeks later. Out of the corner of one eye, it seemed that there was Tommy. My first thought was that I was imagining an apparition. When I looked closer, indeed it was him.
“Jeepers, Tommy! Eddy told me that the doctor said you’d be dead in 8 hours!”
“Yeah, I was layin’ in the bed too weak to move when I heard the jerk say that. I thought then ‘Who the hell is this bastard to be handin’ out det sentences?’ I willed myself up and told the nurse to get me my clothes. ‘YOU CAN’T LEAVE!’ THE HELL I CAN! I ain’t under arrest. You ain’t keepin’ me here.”