American Contemporary Fiction

Word count: 1000 words


While watching a program celebrating JFK’s life, Gerald and Lottie, in their 70s, were at loggerheads. Their daughter Denise was watching TV with both of them. The program was nostalgic and sentimental. It was November, the anniversary of the assassination.

“Lottie, what’s for dinner?” Gerald was feeling grumpy. He hadn’t eaten since lunchtime and was used to having dinner prepared by now. It was already six o’clock.

“Hold on – this is about liberty and justice for all,” said Lottie, watching the television. She’d always been fascinated by this ‘royal family’ of America. “I just want to watch this celebration of his life.”

Gerald sighed in dismay. He didn’t have much interest in the Kennedys.

“I’d like to celebrate some roast beef on the table.” He crossed his legs, leaned back on the sofa, and realized how hungry he was feeling.  

“Shush. You’ll get your roast beef later.” Lottie kept watching the TV. She didn’t want to think about dinner right now.

“‘Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for your country,’” said Gerald in disgust. “The most fascist remark I’ve ever heard.”

Lottie scoffed in disbelief.

“Really? The most fascist? How about Hitler?”

“Damned Kennedys,” said Gerald. “Him saying you owe your country everything. As if your country shouldn’t do for you.”

“Now, that’s a terrible way to react to a man who got assassinated,” said Lottie. She was very put out with Gerald.  

Their daughter Denise nodded in agreement and made a comment about the little Kennedy daughter.

“I’ve watched replays of his funeral…when I was little you had me wear my hair like Caroline’s. Short, with a barrette off to the side --”

“That was a terrible day,” said Lottie.

Denise nodded again.

“And John-John saluted his father when the casket went by.”

“His mother told him to do that,” said Lottie.  

Denise smiled, remembering something.

“You always wore big sunglasses like Jackie. She was beautiful. I think JFK must have had taste.”  

“A fascist,” said Gerald, annoyed. “Oswald thought so, too.”   

Lottie exclaimed.

“Good grief! How dare you say that? About the only Catholic who ever earned the presidency?”

“Being Catholic doesn’t make you good,” said Gerald.

Lottie tossed a pillow from the sofa at Gerald.

“I’ll tell our priest that next time you go to confession. If you ever do again.”

“JFK was no better than some of those European leaders,” said Gerald.

“Like who?” asked Lottie.

“Adolf Hitler,” answered Gerald. “He said, ‘What luck for rulers that men do not think.’”

“JFK did think,” said Lottie insistently. “And now you’re getting on your high horse about Hitler!”

“Wait a second,” said Denise, puzzled. “Hitler and JFK were both -- ?”

“Fascists,” answered Gerald.

“I liked Jackie,” said Lottie. “She decorated the White House and wore those gorgeous sheath dresses in the 1960s. Looked like a peach in those summer outfits, out in the sun on a sailboat at Hyannisport on Cape Cod.”

Gerald shook his head.

“High-priced whore if you ask me.”

“Why?” asked Lottie. She was getting very aggravated.

“Married that rich creep Onassis,” answered Gerald.

“She just did that ‘cause she wanted her kids to be well provided for,” said Lottie. “And she had style.”

Denise turned back to the TV.

“I don’t think it’s fascist to want American citizens to help other people.”  

“Don’t second-guess me,” said Gerald. “JFK was just a good-looking S.O.B.”

“Now, why do you say that?” said Lottie, angry. “I liked having a handsome man as President.” 

Denise shrugged her shoulders, but as it happened she agreed with her mother.

“That family’s had more tragedies…it’s pitiful. Two boys shot, one of the sisters was institutionalized, and John-John dying in a plane crash.”

“Poor old Rose,” said Lottie.

Denise continued.

“…and Jackie’s miscarriage, that stillborn baby…so sad.”

“Rose’s husband Joe was unfaithful,” said Gerald, acting triumphant. He felt as if he were winning an argument.  

Lottie looked at him sourly.

“I knew when I met you that you would never do that to me.”  

“It wouldn’t have been right,” said Gerald smugly.  

“Well, that’s one thing I can appreciate about you,” answered Lottie. “You’re not a cheater.”

“JFK cheated on Jackie, too,” said Gerald, his voice rising in volume. “With Marilyn Monroe. Famous affair they had.”

“I think that was just gossip,” said Lottie. 

Gerald shook his head.

“She sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him for his 45th birthday. Proof. It was on TV.”

“Proof of what?” asked Lottie, impatiently. “That Marilyn Monroe liked him?”

“I would have liked him,” said Denise. “I like Caroline. She writes books and makes political appearances.” 

“Well, she’s the last one left,” said Lottie.

Gerald laughed, and he kept talking loudly.

“Not quite. They have a very big family.”

“Dad, you’re just an old crank,” said Denise. “The Kennedys stood for justice and liberty and always doing the right thing for the public.”

“They spawn like rabbits,” said Gerald. “They’ve got a family the size of the Atlantic ocean.”

Lottie suddenly turned off the TV. She was tired of their conversation.

“Well, if you count all the cousins… Oh, you’re just anti-Kennedy, Gerald. The whole clan – they all make you mad. Because they’re rich and admired. And they’re humanitarians.”  

“Fascists,” said Gerald. He resumed his mild tone of voice.

“You’re a bigot!” said Lottie. “What do you ever do for anyone?”

Gerald chuckled, glad he’d annoyed Lottie.

“Ask not what I can do for you, ask what you can make me for dinner.”

He smirked, and Lottie took a swipe at him. Denise was still pondering the Kennedys. Lottie stood up to go to the kitchen to read a cookbook, Gerald picked up a pair of nail scissors with which to trim his nails, and Denise contemplated calling her boyfriend to ask him if he thought JFK had really been a fascist. After all, her boyfriend had studied political science. Wouldn’t he know?

And with that, the three family members finally went off to do their separate business.


August 05, 2021 23:31

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