Louis Agnon was my best friend in Grosse Pointe Park and lived 5 houses up on the corner of Essex and Trombley. In November of 1963 we were both 6 and in Mrs. Sherman’s (Sherman the German, we liked to say) First Grade class. Every house in the neighborhood had a basement except for mine. Louis’ house was special in that he had a detached garage and even the garage had a basement. We were not allowed down there and there were locks on the doors to keep people out and the windows were soaped to keep anyone from peering in.
There was an Acorn tree, tall and slender, in my backyard and this is where Louis and I spent most of our time. We could get so far up, up in the tippy-top and we could make that tree sway back and forth. It was like riding a 50 foot high teeter-totter with him on one side of the trunk, now tapered to only 3 inches thick, and I on the other.
From our perch we could see out over the rooftops and a block away to Lake St. Clair where the big ore boats took their loads to the Steel mills. They had come from Lake Superior and were relatively safe now having put some distance between themselves and “the big lake they call Gitchee-Goomie”.
From our perch we would discuss what could possibly be in the mysterious basement of his garage. It couldn’t be good, that much we knew.
Maybe it was flooded with water and filled with old tires, reptiles, flotsam and jetsam of all kinds.
Maybe there was a cache of stolen money, bags of gold coins and bundled bills.
Maybe his father knew some tough guys that used it to “squeeze” people like James Cagney did in the movies. Probably there was some mutant monster, a terrible Shoggath-like creature that had gone long unfed, waiting, waiting, waiting...
The ‘Summer of Love” was still 5 years away, Rob and Laura Petrie were still safe in separate beds, and Louis and I knew nothing of the mechanics of sex. We would talk about all the girls in our class and which ones were kissable and how we would go about getting them alone to do just that. It was Lori Sundburg that emerged as the 1st Grade equivalent of Marilyn Monroe.
In 1963 September turned to October and the October leaves fell to November winds. We were forced to abandon our trees for the shelter of my room to watch T.V. “Maverick” and “The Man from UNCLE” and the "Wild Wild West". We played Mousetrap, Monopoly and Life while mom brought milk and cookies.
Then one day in the most somber of months the news broke like a lightning flash.
The President was dead. November.
They let us out of school and Louis and I had much discussion over this event. Later that afternoon, when they caught the guy, the Assassin, we were delighted to imagine what to do with him.
Hangin’ from a Sour Apple Tree was too good for this guy.
Stabbing with a thousand little knives was too quickly done.
Chained to a bag of concrete and dumped into Lake St. Clair offered no real appreciable trauma.
First Runner up in our choices was to lock him up into Louis scary garage basement to be chewed up by whatever the hell was down there.
But the worst thing we could imagine, Louis and I, was to have the slimeball’s wiener cut off.
We had no idea why but we knew he would miss that the most.
For me it’s the saddest month.
The wind turns cold, boats sink, presidents get killed and their pretty wives are bathed in blood and brains.His kids dont have a daddy anymore.
It even starts out with a No.
She was very worried about me.
It has appeared on Bulletholes several times before. I kept adding to it. But for this version, I cut about 300 words out. Its better for it I think.
The inspiration for this story back then, and now as well, is a song by Greg Brown I heard in 1994. Its the way he says "November" in that growling voice, and the picture he paints that takes me back to as though it was the day before the president was killed, and everything was fine. Someone finally got a Youtube of it up a few months back. Since I shaved some text from the post, lets go ahead and share it here and now.