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#JFK

  • JFK Assassinated: A Friday Never Forgotten

    Episode #21

    "THAT FRIDAY"

    AN EXCERPT FROM THE FIRE ESCAPE STORIES, VOLUME II,

    AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK OR E-BOOK AT 

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M8K27KF

         On that Friday in November 1963, the final high school football game of the season was canceled.

         On that Friday, Ginny wept out loud as she sat next to me on the bus ride home from school; except for her cries and a few other kids sniffling or whispering, the bus was silent.

         On that Friday, my mother and I watched the nonstop news from Dallas in disbelief, in quiet, in fear, wondering what it meant for our country, our president shot, reaching for his throat, gasping for life, his wife standing in the accelerating convertible groping for something—her husband? her safety? her future?

         On that Friday, my father called from work to say that he did not know when he would be home again, that we should be careful but strong, that we should pray, that we should know that he was thinking about us, loving us, even as he did whatever his job demanded to help deal with the situation, to help settle the country, to help provide some degree of sanity to a world suddenly gone mad.

         On that Friday night, our phone rang again. My mother and I looked at one another, wondering who it could be. Edgidio and Marianna had already called, and my mother had already shared her horror and grief with her other friends in Virginia and New York, so she said, “See who it is, honey.”  I picked up the phone, said, “Hello,” and heard a voice I did not know, nor did I immediately recognize the name that was uttered until he said it for at least the third time: “It’s Harry, Mike, remember me? Are you and your Mom and Dad okay? This is just awful stuff. Awful.”

         I finally collected myself and said, “Oh yeah, yeah, we’re okay, Harry.” My mother looked at me and mouthed, “Harry?” and I nodded. She blew a kiss in my direction. 

         “I just wanted to check, Mike,” Harry said. “I’ve been so busy working on a big project in DC that I have neglected to call you and your folks. I am sorry. Sometimes it takes a tragedy like this to make people remember what is important in their lives. We are family. I have to do a better job of keeping in touch.”

         I didn’t know what to say, so I mumbled, “Well, yeah, we’re all okay. Dad’s not here. Would you like to speak to my Mom?”

         “Sure, Mike,” Harry said. “Sure. And when things settle down, I would like to visit with you to catch up, see what you’re up to. Okay?”

         “Yeah,” I said. “Here’s Mom.”

         While they talked, I looked out at the back yard blanketed in darkness. A small light shone on Ginny’s porch, so I went outside to see what it was. Someone moved in the narrow stream of light. “Ginny?” I called softly across the yard.

         “Yes, Mike, it’s me,” she said, shining a flashlight toward me. “Meet me.”

         We met where our yards touched.

         “You okay?” I asked. 

         She had been holding the flashlight toward the ground, but now she turned it to her face, revealing a bruised, swollen eye. “He did it,” she said. “Randy. He said I was a ‘queer’ for cryin over a dead president, one who ‘loved niggers.’ When I didn’t stop cryin, he punched me. I got one good scratch on his face ’fore Paw grabbed him and threw him out the house. Maw, she started cryin and put ice on my eye. She tol’ Paw he’s gonna have to do somethin ’bout Randy, else she’s gonna take me and move out.” Ginny looked at me, the flashlight’s beam illuminating the colors of her bruise like a flashing pinwheel. “I don’t want to move, but I jest can’t keep gettin punched. I don’t want to fight like a scared animal ’most every day. And I don’t want the president to be dead, Mike. It’s jest not right that he’s dead.”

         I brought Ginny into my house, where my mother put more ice on her eye and talked softly with her, promising that everything would be okay. After a while, my mother walked Ginny back to her house.  I stayed at home, thought about Randy, wondered why he would think it was okay to punch his sister, wondered what Sally-Boy would do with someone like Randy, wondered what I should do.

         The Thursday following that Friday in November was Thanksgiving. My father still had not been home, so my mother and I rode a quiet train from DC to New York and then took the subway to Brooklyn. In the small tenement apartment with Uncle Sal, Capricia, and Sally-Boy, we ate turkey and sweet potatoes, none of the Italian fare we normally consumed. Nor was there the usual noise and loud talk that went along with our dinners together. The world was still somber, contemplating what it had witnessed, the assassination, the swearing in, the arrest, the murder of the president’s assassin on live television while in police custody, the new president, the unanswered questions. 

         Still, during the Thanksgiving dinner, an occasional laugh slipped in, a warm gesture, a kiss.  My father called in the middle of dinner to say that he would be home when we returned to Virginia that weekend. He had my mother give the phone to each person individually, and he told everyone, including Sally-Boy, that he loved them and gave assurances that things would be okay.

         On the fire escape after dinner, Sally-Boy and I each nibbled a piece of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

         “I like Italian food a lot better than this shit, don’t you?” he said.

         “Sure,” I said. “I mean, this is good, but it’s not tiramisu.”

         Sally threw his piece of pie into the night. It splatted like one of our water balloons when it hit the street.

         “Sally, it’s not thatbad,” I said, a laugh slipping out. “You really need to stop throwing things off this fire escape.”

         “Yeah, it is that bad,” he said. Then he held up his hands as though he were holding a rifle. He squinted down his arm, focusing on the street, moving his hands slowly as if he were following something.

         “What are you doing?” I asked

         “I don’t get it,” he said. “He’s up in a building. He sticks a rifle outta the window. He spots the president’s car comin. He makes three shots. Boom! Boom! Boom! President’s head blows apart. That guy was a hulluva shot. I don’t get it. Wish I could shoot like that.”

         “Why? What are you going to shoot?”

         “I don’t know. Not the president. Some bad guys. There’s always some bad guys to fight.”

         “Did you like the president, Sally?”

         “Yeah, sure, I guess. I mean, I don’t really give a shit ’cause the stuff the president does, it don’t really matter to me. Tomorrow it’ll be a week since he got blown away. It’s too bad, sure, but, hey, I’m still here, and I got stuff to do.”

         “We all do,” I said, wondering if that Friday in November actually changed the world at all, the Friday that I thought affected everyone, the Friday that brought daily life to a halt, the Friday that channeled horror directly into our homes, the Friday that would eventually merge into a lifetime of other Fridays.

         That Friday.

    End of Episode #21