Nebraska Center for Writers


His sister, Trina, is sitting in her plastic wading pool, bright blue with purple whales stamped on it. she looks like a butterball turkey, splashing around in her diapers and pink rubber pants, banging her plastic shovel, trying to get his mom's attention. His mom, as usual, is reading a book, furiously underlining with a yellow Magic Marker. After she graduates from college, she wants to go on to law school. She wants to go right away, but his stepdad — Teddy calls him Dan to distinguish him form his real dad — wants her to wait until Trina starts kindergarten, which won't be for three more years. Trina can walk, sort of, and babble enough to get what she wants — juice, chicken noodle soup, pick me up, put me down, that sort of thing. His mother sits with her lawn chair facing the pool to make sure Trina doesn't drown. Every so often she gets up and slathers more suntain lotion on the baby's pudgy skin or picks up the bright plastic toys that Trina keeps throwing out of the pool onto the weedy grass. She is a good-natured baby; everyone says so. Always smiling and clapping her hands like an appreciative audience at any dumb thing you do — funny faces, tickling, peekaboo. For some reason, she thinks he is especially hilarious. Even during her rare temper tantrums, he can always get her to forget she's angry and start to laugh.

Reprinted with permission
from Evening News
Copyright © 1999
by Marly Swick
Little, Brown

by Marly Swick

Lee Harvey Oswald might as well have shot my mother through the heart. Sometimes in my confused memories of those days, when I try to reconstruct my mother's erratic behavior after the assassination, I see Jackie's face--disbelieving and devastated behind her black veil--instead of my mother's Scandinavian paleness and crumpled Kleenexes. I was only twelve at the time and there is no clear division in my memory between the public and the private world; to me, the public world was part of our household, a sort of light show emanating from our Magnavox console sitting in the corner of the family room, a backdrop to our daily lives. As far as I was concerned, our family might just as well have been riding through Dallas in that black open-air limousine, the bright sun shining, surrounded by useless Secret Service agents. My own version, if you will, of the single bullet theory.
Over the years, standing in line at various supermarkets, I would read those National Enquirer stories claiming that Kennedy was still alive. A vegetable in a wheelchair on a Greek island. Or a prisoner of Castro's in Cuba. And I would imagine, for an instant, my parents still married, celebrating what would have been their fortieth, their fiftieth wedding anniversary, having successfully weathered one crisis after another side by side — instead of what really happened. I recognized in those tabloid headlines my own inextinguishable desire to rewrite history. To imagine, at least, some weak flicker of that one brief shining spot having endured in the darkness of obscurity. We were, after all, a generation raised on happy endings. War was Bob Hope entertaining the troops. Marriage was Lucy and Ricky. Old age was Jimmy Durante — "Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are." Disease, death, disaster happened on the news to foreigners in foreign clothes speaking foreign languages.
The day that Kennedy was shot they sent us home from school early. I was standing in the girls' locker room, having just changed into my blue gym suit, when the principal's voice crackled over the intercom, solemnly informing us that the President was dead. The locker room smelled of sweat and wet towels and sickly-sweet deodorants. I felt sick to my stomach and scared as I put my camel-hair coat on without bothering to change back into my school clothes. The usual shrill bouquet of girls' voices had withered. A couple of girls spoke in hushed tones, but most of us just stood there silently, too shocked to open our mouths.

Reprinted with permission
from Paper Wings
Copyright © 1997
by Marly Swick

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