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I Can’t Shun My MAGA Friends

          By Connecticut Writer Roger Netzer


Jon Voight was my best friend among Hollywood people.

He changed into an extreme right-winger, he was a birther.

I couldn’t stay connected someone like that.

And I am sorry I couldn’t. – Jane Fonda


          The first guy was pudgy and bald and could never play a cowboy.   Not the one, anyway, who saves the wagon train or spearheads the cattle drive.  Sidekick, maybe.

        He had a jovial face.  Hubert Humphrey was his name.  How he must have been tortured and teased about that name when he was a kid.  You barely needed a tongue to say it.  Just purse your lips and blow out.

        The second man, the one running against Hubert, excited me more.  He was no Flint McCullough or Rowdy Yates, but he might have been able to play, say, a brave cavalry captain who gets shot from his horse.

        This second man’s name was way better than Hubert’s.   Jack Kennedy communicated command.  The stab of the  J then the staccato of two hard Ks, like a starting gun going off.

         It was the summer of 1960.  In  July, Hubert suddenly disappeared from our TV screen.  It turned out that the real contest was still to come.  It was going to be a fight between  the donkey and elephant teams.  ‘The two parties, they were called.   Hubert and Jack were in the same party, so it was like Kennedy had only won the pennant.  The world series was somewhere down the line.

        We were Democrats in my family, I learned.  I was glad.  A donkey was practically a horse.

        ‘But elephants are fat,’ I explained to Rose. 

        Rose laughed.  ‘Well, I’ve heard that donkeys are stupid!’  I did not have a comeback.  I kissed her below the ear, my favorite spot.

        I loved Rose.  I was not going to be able to stop doing that, even though she was a Republican.  The skin on her face was smooth and very white, and her eyes were brown and bright under brown bangs.  Her full name was Rose Marie Turley.  She was nine, making her three years older than me. 

        You did not need an invite to go to the Turleys’ house.  All you had to do was cross  two intervening yards that belonged to our neighbors.  So I could head down to Turleys’ whenever it turned out that was where I was going to go. 

        The fact that they were Republicans was not the only thing that made the Turleys different from us.  Rose had a younger sister named Annie who was cross-eyed and lame.  Annie was repeating second grade, which put her class a year ahead of mine. 

        And Rose and Annie did not have a mother.  They just had Pat, an adult woman in their household who I thought was their mother but turned out to be their ‘half’ sister.

        The only snacks available at Turleys’ house were Ritz crackers.  Pat would scatter them on the kitchen table like she was dealing cards.

        The Turley house was dark and broken-down, and the car their dad drove was from the 1930s.  They had no TV.  

        The girls’ toys were not new.  Still, we had fun speaking into their red plastic toy phone.  We used it to report disasters — floods, mainly — from which we were taking refuge in the decrepit Turley place.

        They had no back yard, either.   Where their back yard should have been, an old barn was falling apart near the woods.  This barn was to be avoided because the Ghost of the Winnapaug lived there.

        I could not see why they chose to live the way they did. 

        George Turley, their dad, looked old enough to be their grandfather, except he was  wirey and fast.  He did not wear a tie to work.  George made his living from manual labor, he said, and winked when he told me.  He let me call him by his first name on account of he thought the way I said it — Joge — was funny. 

        They had a real grandfather who lived with them, too.   Link Dunne looked the same age as George, his son-in-law.  Link was the father of Annie and Rose’s mother who had died. 

        Link had no teeth and rarely wore fake ones.   But the gray uniform he wore, with its gold badge, made him look dashing.  He had a uniform because he was one of several old men in our little town called constables.  They did things like direct traffic when folks exited church on Sunday.   Link’s outfit made him look like a soldier, which was almost as good as looking like a cowboy.  He had been an actual soldier in World War I. 

        Nowadays, Link Dunne was the dog warden.  This made me proud, because he was co-owner of my family’s dog, Prince.  My family had possession of Prince at night.  Come morning, Prince would light out for Turleys’ place to spend the day with Link.  Alert and curious, Prince occupied the passenger seat as Link made his rounds.  Link called him Blackie.

        November neared.  I badly wanted Kennedy to win, because he smiled like he was very amused about something.

Nixon had dark hair and a dark face and little dark eyes.  Something about his smile said he did not smile usually.  

        Nixon, at least, did not want to bury us, like Khrushchev did.  In my dreams, Khrushchev would come charging out of the woods behind Turleys’ house.  He may have been short and fat, but it did not stop him from moving fast.  A crowd armed with sticks and farm implements and rifles charged along behind.  They stretched all the way back to the woods, and who knew how deep into them? 

        Much as I wanted him to win, Kennedy was going to lose, I knew.  Bad things happened way more than good things. 

        And nearly everybody in town was a Republican, so the defeat was going to be humiliating in front of my classmates.    

        Rose kindly said she liked the golden PT-109 tie clasp that I kept clipped to my shirt-front where a tie might have gone if I owned a tie.  ‘Don’t worry things will be okay,’ she tried to make me believe.  “I’m for Nixon, but I like Kennedy.”  I kissed her under her ear where it smelt so good.    

        On Election Day, Annie and Rose and I played cowboys in Turleys’ yard.  We were lying face down on it, on account of it was a cliff we were climbing up.  This posture gave me the idea of playing dead again.  Despite the fact that none of our wounds and injuries and shootings were real, I would play dead when bad guys were around, so that they would not shoot my head off.  

        I heard Rose say, in her low cowboy voice, ‘The old trick, eh?’  I opened  my eyes and she nodded and winked.

        Back at home, in my bedroom, there was a wall-sized poster of Kennedy.  When I got back from Turleys’ that day, I did something to it.

        The poster was red, white and blue, except for the main part, a giant black and white picture of Kennedy’s face, smiling in that way he smiled.  By that time, his face had become so famous that they did not bother to put his name anywhere on the poster.  The only words, big and blue above his haircut (which was as celebrated as he was himself), it said THE MAN FOR THE 60s. 

        Below Kennedy’s face, I drew a crude picture that showed a smiling man with his finger up his nose.  ‘Picture of Nixon in nice mood,’ I captioned it.

        The next day, to my astonishment, Kennedy won.  I was so happy that I did not even have to gloat when Rose and I met up later that day.  She remained her patient, kind, sweet self.

        After that, bad things went back to happening.  George died the next April, and the Turleys had to sell their house and move into a smaller, shabbier one they did not own, and where it was too far for me to walk.  Two years after that, my own dad died.  In 1966, my brother got drafted.  Annie died from a botched abortion in 1967.

        Naturally, none of that stuff had happened yet on Election Day, November 8, 1960.  The man for the 60s was about to be our President.








Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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