Mourning on the West Coast

From Dallas Doctor’s “World Without Love ~ A Collection of Short Stories that Together Tell a Story” (pages 43-44):


Mourning on the West Coast
by Dallas Doctor

(November 1963)



The loudspeaker startled us.  Blaring something about teachers going to the office.  Miss Bellow left the room. 

In all my years (all ten of them), no teacher had ever left us alone in the room before.

It got quiet.

Stunned, we kids sat and looked at each other for a long time.  A really long time.  Eventually, Bobby Lee got up from his desk and went over to the window.  Everything looked normal outside.  Some of the kids started whispering.  I didn’t like it.

After a much longer period of not knowing and waiting, Miss Bellow came back to the class.  She said:

“Sometimes things happen that don’t make sense…”

And then she started not making sense. 

She talked for a long time about something, but we couldn’t figure out what it was, and she went on and on and on and she was rambling and I tried, but I couldn’t follow whatever she was going on and on and on about.

Then she started crying. 

She turned her face away from us, moved over to her desk, sat down, put her head in her hands, and began sobbing.

Then we really got quiet.

Miss Bellow finally blew her nose, wiped her eyes, looked up over her glasses and said, “Soon, some of you will go home for lunch and find out that the President has been shot.”

I was one of the kids that went home for lunch.  I ran as fast as I could.  Kennedy was dead.  I knew who Kennedy was.  Dad talked about him every night at dinner.  Kennedy and the Democrats and the Socialists were destroying the Country.  Dad always said Kennedy was the worst president and that it was Kennedy’s fault about the Bay of Pigs.  That’s how I found out that pigs could swim.  I had never seen pigs swimming, but I imagined that it might be a pretty neat thing to see, if I ever got to see it, especially if there were a lot of pigs swimming at the same time, like in a bay.  So I thought maybe now I might get to see it, and anyway now with Kennedy gone, we could get rid of the Democrats and Socialists that were ruining the government and the country could finally get back on track.

When I got home, Mom already knew about Kennedy. 

But she was crying too.


I was sure Dad would take a bigger view about the whole thing, but when he returned home a few minutes later, he was just as upset as she was.

It was very confusing, and on the west coast, it was still morning.




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