Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Neighborhood Bet


Green was his favorite color, to him everything was beautiful in green. Green was the color of his deceased mother's eyes. It was a bang out July morning when the knock on his door, rap-rap-rap, broke his coffee trance. Groppie Cantwell, a skinny twenty-one year old nincompoop of a man-boy, had come to tell him about Gosswick and the Special. Groppie, who was the product of the loins of a brother-sister boom boom, could be excused for his dimness. After all, he was challenged in a genetic mixing sort of way.

The consanguinous conceptus blurted out in short bursts,

"The old man, ya know..."
"Gosswick, the geater, the geats..."
"Found him dead, dead as a runover rat."
"Squalkie, he said it was a stroke, big one..."
"Now the Special it's yours, Man you sure lucky."

Alfred Gosswick was a widower, who lived behind Ian Chandler for what seemed like an eternity. Gosswick's house faced Natrona Street while Chandler's faced Elmore Avenue. They shared a common back yard property line and they shared a common wall between their garages. Through the years the heterosexual and homosexual men shared tales and beers over a rusty chain link fence. Both men claimed the fence belonged to each other, so neither ever thought they had any stake in keeping it up. And as they got older, the fence got rustier. So it went.

The men also ragged each other about their garage queen cars. Gosswick had a cherry 1953 Buick Special. Gossie bought it from an old lady back in 1975. When he took the title, the green Buick had 21,985 miles on the clock. As it stands now, the mileage is 25,396. Al spent a lot of time keeping the car up and not much time drivng it.

A wall away from the Buick stood Chandler's 1956 Plymouth Fury. Only available in white with gold anodized trim, the Fury was the more collectible of the two cars.

The Plymouth was originally purchased by Ian's uncle, Connell. Connell Cleary pretty much ran the car into the ground. When the Fury fell into Ian's hands in 1968, it needed a total restoration. It took 11 years and over $9500, but the Fury rose like the Phoenix. Sweet ride.

Whether it was the result of too many beers or the product of male braggadocio, the straight and the gay set up a bet, winner take all. Who ever lived longer would get the other guys garage and either the Buick or the Plymouth. At first, it seemed like one of those joke bets, but as time went on the petard took on life. The situation was like telling a fish story, which by repetition becomes real.

Gaetano "Geater" Pasquilino was the neighborhood lawyer. Geats did actually graduate from law school and he did somehow pass the bar, but his legal skills challenged those of Vinny Gambini, a fictional lawyer played by Joe Pesci, in "My Cousin Vinny". Geater even looked like this,

One night, two summers ago the three men, Ian and Al and Geats, executed the paperwork making the crazy bet a reality. It was the real deal except, truth be told, the three of them were drunk as skunks by the time the Hancocks went down. Four bottles of zinfandel and a case and a half of Coronas can do that. Nonetheless. Nonetheless.

Groppie shot out of the door as fast as he had come in. Groppie always ran. As Ian watched the fleeting rail like image, the realization of his old friend's demise came over him like one of those San Francisco rolling fogs. One minute you can see forever and then you can barely see five feet in front of your nose. Ian was saddened to win the bet. He was saddened that he wasn't there when Al stroked out. Maybe he could have helped him.

Life is so fragile, so delicate and so iffy. Yet, everybody takes their next breath for granted, for to do otherwise would make life too cumbersome to enjoy. Ian Chandler picked up a bottle of Irish whiskey, he pointed the bottom to the ceiling and he took a long swig. As he wiped his mouth with his hairy forearm he said, "I told you I would win, you sonofabitch." With watery eyes, he went out the back door, walked across the yard, jumped the oxidized fence and he looked through the window of his new garage. Somehow the Buick didn't look as green as it had before. No, not nearly as green. Oh well...

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