November 22, 1963, best I can recall…
My dad liked Ike and my uncle Ben liked Ike, which meant, through a line I didn’t fully understand, I liked Ike too. Ike made roads and highways, and you needed roads and highways to drive your Ford on, or in Uncle Ben’s case, your Chevy. Uncle Ben had a new ‘58 Chevy, with those wide fins on the rear end and those cool sideways teardrop shaped taillights.
I remember riding in that Bel Air and thinking how much I liked the Chevy and taking a blood oath in my head to never breathe a word of this truth to anyone. The oath in my head was like the ones Dougy and I would take down by the swamp whenever we fucked up something really bad and knew it had to be kept secret into eternity, just without the blood. I’d never reveal to my dad I thought Uncle Ben’s Chevy was cool. Dad, a Ford man, was a little jealous of Uncle Ben’s fins, I think.
Bobby’s dad, Uncle Rick, he liked Fords and Chevys and even Uncle Art’s Dodges, a kind of renaissance man. I guess today they’d call him a liberal.
My dad wasn’t no damn liberal. He liked Ike, but I already said that and it’s not the point of this story, anyway.
November 22, 1963, was a Friday, I think, it’s hard to tell because the world kind of crashed to a stop that afternoon. I think it was Friday because I remember the next day I was home and there weren’t any Saturday morning cartoons on. I was kind of pissed, but then I remembered the President was dead and Ma said I shouldn’t be so upset about some goddamn cartoons.
I remember the principal came on the school PA system, about 2pm that afternoon, and managed to scare the living shit out of all us in Truman J. Moon Elementary School. We’d been in training since first grade for a Soviet Nuclear attack and as far as Dougy and I could remember, being told weekly at least, to hide under our desks when the air-raid alarm rang through the school. We were secure in the knowledge that no Soviet nuke could hurt us safe under our half-inch of plywood. Sitting at our desks and listening to the principal and now our teacher, Mrs. Garrison, crying and some news reporter guy who they’d patched into the system all crying, we figured the nukes were on us and all Hell was about to break loose.
We got out of school early and I remember I was happy about that, even though Dougy said I shouldn’t be happy, what with the President dead from the Soviets and all, but I was and I suppose I felt bad about that. I was worried about my cousin Bobby. He was way down by Goshen about ten miles away and I was hoping the Soviets wasn’t there by him either.
When we got home, Dougy and I went to wait for Kippy to get off the bus. Kippy was older and smarter than us and his dad had killed Germans in the big war, so he was kind of an authority on world affairs. Actually, pretty near everybody’s dad or uncle had been in that war, but Kippy’s dad seemed to be the one still maddest at the Germans and the Germans was as close to the Soviets as we could imagine so we figured he’d know what to do about the Soviets and nukes and the end of the world.
I was kind of pissed off by all this end of the world business, truth be told. It was just a year before the world was ending when those goddamn Soviets had boats full of nukes headed for some place called Cuba, that the President, when he was still alive, called Cuber. Me and my sister watched all that on TV too and I still spent most nights waiting for the missiles to come.
Anyway, Kippy came home, and he said it wasn’t the Soviets at all, but I was the space aliens and it was what we deserved for shooting those rockets up into their turf. We all collectively decided we’d blame Mr. John Glenn hisself for going up there and pissing off the space aliens and killing our President and it was getting dark so me and a Dougy slapped each other around for a minute or two, since it was Friday and we wouldn’t get to fight much over the weekend, what with our moms around and all that; much easier to fight in school.
I finally went home and my dad was there and even though he liked Ike, I could tell he was shook up. Seeing my dad scared was what scared me the most. He said he wasn’t scared of the Soviets or space aliens, but he was scared of the uncertainty and the government.
I called up Bobby even though it was long distance because I had to make sure he was alright. My uncle Rick said there was no Soviets in Goshen either, so I figured we were all pretty safe for the moment.
We got a new president that day and even though my dad liked Ike and didn’t like no democrats; he said we had to listen to him because we was Americans and that want we did, at least back in those days.
I didn’t fully understand what my dad was scared of but from that day in 1963 on I’ve never been one much for uncertainty or the government either and almost sixty years later we still don’t know who killed the president, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the space aliens like Kippy said.