Don S. Olson
Look—I wasn’t the triggerman.
In the summer of 1963, from his bedroom window on the second floor
of the Westchester Plaza Apartments on the Belford Avenue side of
the alley, Charlie Belyea shot little Dougie with an air-powered BB
gun. I encouraged him to do it, but I was only the spotter, not the
triggerman. He yelled that he was shot, somebody shot him, people
were shooting at him, and some of the other kids started to gather
around. Charlie and I tore out of his bedroom, right through the
living room, out the door, and down the stairs, out to the swing set
area. As the door slammed behind us, I heard Mrs. Belyea call out,
We tried to convince Dougie that getting shot was impossible. The
other kids stood around and stared. We were breathless, frantic,
saying, “Dougie, Dougie, it’s okay, it’s okay.” A couple of them
smirked at us like we were responsible. The idea that someone would
actually shoot this cute little boy was unimaginable. To suspect
Charlie or me was ridiculous. We were the big kids who looked after
Dougie around the playground, right? Weren’t Charlie and I
Dougie’s bodyguards when the Mitchell brothers tried to kick
him off the swings? Didn’t we come to his rescue when Victor tore
his new shirt and tried to bully him out of his Snickers?
Dougie slowly calmed down until he was just sniffling and most of
the other kids went back to the swings and sandbox and jungle gyms.
But Fred Spada hung around until Charlie said, “What’re you lookin’
“Did you shoot him?” Fred said. Fred was Clayton Spada’s little
brother, two years younger than us.
“What do you think, Spada?” Charlie said. Charlie wanted to sound
“No, Fred, nobody shot anyone,” I said. “That’s crazy. We heard
Dougie scream. We thought one of you guys did something.”
“Yeah. You guys are the ones who did something,” Fred said.
“Get outta here, Spada-spaz, or we’ll tell your mom you did
it,” Charlie said.
That seemed to work. However small Fred’s respect or fear for us,
Mrs. Spada inspired absolute fear and respect. Fred and Clayton
attended Catholic school, went to mass, and had to account for their
whereabouts every minute of the day. They weren’t allowed much time
to hang out with the likes of Charlie and me.
Mrs. Spada was only five feet tall but thick and scary, even for us.
She was from
and always wore long dark dresses. She constantly looked out her
front door to see if anything was out of order. The Spadas’
apartment faced a plaza where we played tag and touch football and
sometimes got pretty rambunctious, as kids do. She often yelled at
us, “Do something constructive!” She stood like a fire hydrant with
a single black eyebrow folded down over her dark eyes, glaring. When
she yelled, “Clayton! Fred! Get in here!” they slumped and shuffled
into the apartment, and I felt really sorry for them. Her husband
was a scientist at one of the aircraft companies nearby. I don’t
remember him saying one single word. He came home in the late
afternoons with his briefcase, and he’d nod at us, but never said a
thing. Mrs. Spada greeted him at the door with a big smile, and
that’s the only time we ever saw that expression on her face. Then
he’d disappear into the apartment and she’d give us that black look
of hers and follow him in.
Fred went back to the jungle gym but kept watching us.
“Where’re you hit?” Charlie said to Dougie.
“Right here,” Dougie said, and pulled up his pants leg. On his calf
was a slightly depressed hole in the unbroken skin, bright red,
exactly the size of a BB. Charlie glanced at me for a minute, then
shooed Dougie off to play. Fred drifted after Dougie.
“Jesus, Charlie,” I said to him, somewhat relieved. “You could have
really hurt him.”
“Hey, it was your idea!” Charlie said.
“I just wondered if you could hit someone that far away. You didn’t
have to go and try it!”
“You wanted me to let you do it!”
“Well, I wasn’t going to shoot some kid!”
We looked at each other for a moment.
“Do you think Fred will tell anyone we did it?” Charlie said.
“Nah. Dougie’s always screaming about something…ya think?”
Charlie thought for a minute.
“We better stash that gun. If my mom sees it, she’ll kill me.”
We went back up to the apartment and tried to slip quietly back into
Charlie’s room to hide the BB gun, but Mrs. Belyea walked out of the
kitchen with her arm around a big Tupperware bowl, stirring banana
slices into lime Jell-O.
“Where were you two headed in such a hurry? What was going on down
“Oh, nothing, Mom. Kids yellin’. You know.”
Mrs. Belyea looked at me and smiled.
I had a moment of paralysis. “Um, well, Mrs. Belyea, we were, you
know, just, um, well, Dougie down there, um, he…he thought that…”
“Come on!” Charlie shoved me toward his room. To his mom he said,
“We gotta put those wings on before the glue sets.”
Charlie built model planes. He pushed me into the room and shut the
door. “What’s the matter with you? You sounded like a dope out
Charlie’s mom was a whole other story. Divorced from Charlie’s dad,
she was the hottest mom I ever saw in my life. To me, and to every
other friend of Charlie’s, Mrs. Belyea was a knockout, a bombshell,
the ideal. She was five-three or so, black hair cut short in a
pixie-cut, and she had these amazing curves that none of the
other moms had. She didn’t dress like anyone else’s mom, either. She
usually wore tight, pastel-colored Capri pants with either snug
sleeveless turtlenecks or light cotton blouses with the tails tied
in a knot so that her breasts were just out there. Man! In
those days, some women had a way of supporting their breasts that
made them look like a pair of torpedoes coming at you, or like the
front end of a ’57 Cadillac.
I have no idea how old she was at the time—probably only about 30 or
so—but what 12-year-old kid cares about that? Although we were
enthralled by the blond icons of the time—Marilyn Monroe, Jayne
Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren—Mrs. Belyea was real flesh and blood, and
for all of us who were beginning to really, really like girls
for reasons we didn’t understand, Mrs. Belyea seemed to have a
secret that we had to decode. We were fascinated with the way she
talked, the way she moved. Each step she took in those Capri pants
made her butt flex to one side and then this incredible, exquisite
tension would build until suddenly, as her forward foot hit the
floor and her back knee bent to transfer her weight, the whole
round, packed, powerful mass of her perfect ass would just jump from
one side to the other, followed by a tiny quivering aftershock. Then
her calf would tighten and the tightening would travel up the back
of her thigh, loading her buttocks for the next salvo. Whenever I
saw her walking, I heard jungle drums start up and animals began
roaring in my head. There were grace notes in the jiggle of her
breasts against the broad chords of her hips swaying, step by step
by step. And when she talked to us, she would bend slightly forward
at the waist so that our 12-year-old eyeballs jumped nervously from
her enormous brown eyes to her warhead breasts. So close that I
could feel her breath on my ear, she would lay her silky hand on my
wrist and say, “Would you boys like some Eskimo Pies?”
After that, there was nothing we could deny her.
We never wanted her to find out about any of the shit we did. If we
had disappointed her it would have broken our hearts, crushed us.
She was our angel. Of course, when puberty began its unrelenting
march into our lives, the angelic quickly became debased by the
impure visions we conjured up as we locked ourselves into our
individual bathrooms to explore these new, curious, and irresistible
urges. Maybe that’s why I remember Mrs. Belyea so clearly.
Not that her influence civilized any of us much. Beyond the range of
her smile, or, for that matter, Mrs. Spada’s thunderous and
condemning gaze, we reverted to our savage little selves. We ran
wild, created adventures, organized ball games, and stayed away from
our homes as much as possible. In summertime the total freedom was
the most wonderful feeling of all—no school to rein us in, no fixed
times to do anything. It was our own Lord of the Flies. We
haunted construction sites and staged brutal rock fights in the
excavations for sewers for future apartments and aircraft plants. We
raced bikes in the streets and tried to kick each other off as we
threaded our way between cars. When a plastics factory burned down,
we picked through rubble while it was still hot under our Red Ball
Jets and gave off smoking fumes that I’m sure were toxic as hell. We
built rafts out of old pallets and floated them down a creek that I
now realize was an effluent channel from the Frito-Lay factory by
the railroad tracks. We played endless hours of “over the line” on
the fields of the local school, scaling the ten-foot chain link
fence with our bats and gloves and balls, a fence designed
specifically to keep us out. We scrambled over the tops of the
two-story apartment buildings that most of us lived in to evade Bob
the Maintenance Man when he caught us doing any of the things that
to him were off-limits. We sprinted across rooftops with absolutely
no consideration of gravity, but only concerned by what would happen
if he told our parents. Adults existed almost totally outside
of our world. With the occasional exception of Bob the Maintenance
Man, I don’t remember any intrusion by them into this world that was
wholly our own.
Gathered in the alleys, ditches of construction sites, on the
rooftops, and in the vacant lots, we lived in our own society.
Although we returned to our homes for sit-down dinners and at night
slept in our beds like little angels, it was only to refuel the
wildness. And it was in these same alleys that we smoked stolen
Tareytons and discussed what we thought sex was, who the prettiest
girls at school were, and, if Charlie Belyea was absent, what was
going on underneath Mrs. Belyea’s Capri pants.
But there was also a dopey innocence. Now and then one of the
gang—Jim Flynn, Tommy Allen, Francis O’Leary, Roger Rowe, or the
other Charlie, Charlie Cameron—would sneak a Playboy magazine and we
would devour it like hyenas. Once I boldly checked out a book on sex
from the public library, and we pored over it, trying to digest the
technical discussions of vulvae, inner and outer labia, clitoris,
cervix, ovaries, vagina. It seemed complicated. Even our own organs
took on a dimension that made them more like plumbing than something
useful with the girls at school—glans, vas deferens, ureter,
prostate, urethra, seminal vesicle. What was all this stuff,
and how did it relate to the terms we were picking up on the
schoolyard—dick, cock, pussy, twat, shlong, and poontang? Where did
Mrs. Belyea fit into all this and why did we feel so funny around
her? And furthermore, how was it that Charlie’s dad moved out when
he could have been having sex with Mrs. Belyea whenever he wanted?
This last subject was one on which we speculated with great energy,
puzzled over the Belyeas’ volatile separation versus the stability
of the Spada family. Was there something we didn’t understand about
In the autumn of the same year that Charlie shot Dougie, I was
walking to my fourth period art class with my cohorts, shoving and
punching each other out of the breezeway between the buildings.
David Young ran up behind us, breathless, and said, “They shot
President Kennedy!” When we got into class, the PA system announced
that indeed the President of the United States had been gunned down in Dallas.
We sat silently. Our art teacher, a spaced-out but otherwise
pleasant woman with the slow, precisely articulated speech of
someone who’s been around children too long, began to sob quietly.
All of the girls and some of the boys in the class began to cry too.
Some of us looked at each other with wide eyes; someone should take
control. Our teacher tried to bring some sense to things, but
halfway into every sentence she’d break down into long racking moans
that caused her shoulders to shake. It was unsettling.
The PA came on again. School was closing for the day and those who
did not walk to school were to report to their homerooms pending bus
scheduling. The rest of us were free to go. Even in late November,
it was a mild day in Los Angeles, and being a
Friday, despite the events, it felt great to be leaving early.
As weekends go, however, it
was terrible. All sporting events were canceled. All television
shows on the national networks and local stations were canceled.
Everything was canceled. Although my parents went out that
night—working class folks didn’t cancel a night out for
anything—there was nothing to watch on television. Instead, they ran
movies about Abraham Lincoln and repeated news stories over and
over. It was depressing, and I went to bed and listened to the
airliners landing at LAX until I fell asleep.
A pall fell over everything on Saturday. Just a few of us—Charlie
Belyea, Tommy Allen, and Charlie Cameron—gathered in the alley and
jawboned about the assassinated president and swapped stories we had
heard about the shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald. We devised the most
excruciating tortures imaginable for the guy who shot the President.
The Catholic kids among us—Jim Flynn, Francis O’Leary, and Roger
Rowe—all had to stay home. Their families took it pretty hard about
the Catholic president.
Finally, we disbanded for home. My mom and I watched the new
president, Lyndon Johnson, make a speech to the country that night,
while my dad pulled a shift at the North American Aviation plant,
one among many manufacturers around
at the time. Johnson seemed to have the weight of the world on him,
which I guess he did. I had no idea what this meant. My mom told me
not to worry but to pay attention because it was history in the
By Sunday, my buddies and I were out of our minds with boredom.
Everything was shut down. I ate my cereal with the TV on because
they were bringing Lee Harvey Oswald out for a jail transfer. On the
screen a bunch of guys in suits and cowboy hats waited around. I
decided nothing exciting would happen. My dad walked into the
kitchen as I put my bowl in the sink.
My dad worked hard to take care of my mom and me, and he always made
it a point to spend time with me no matter how many hours he worked.
When Sunday came, my mom and I did our best to let him relax. He
earned his Sundays.
“I’m going to Tommy Allen’s,” I said.
“What’s that on television?” he said.
“I think it’s the basement of the jail where they have Oswald, the
guy that shot the President,” I said. “They’re going to move him.”
My dad took a tan Incaware cup from the cupboard and filled it from
the glass percolator on the range. He took a tentative sip.
“Do you understand all this that’s been happening?” he said. “Are
you all right? Everything OK?”
“Yeah. I’ll see you later, Dad.”
“Stay out of trouble.”
Tommy Allen was a celebrity in our circle because he had been run
over more times than any other kid. He frequently missed school
because he’d cracked a rib bouncing off a car, or crashed his bike
into a driver pulling out of a gas station, or lost a race to beat a
stoplight. He even managed to get run down by a Good Humor ice cream
truck, which was a real work of art. He had meant to fake it as a
diversion while Roger Rowe robbed the icebox when the driver got out
to see if Tommy was dead. Roger ate the whole box of Fudgesicles
himself while Tommy had his arm set.
I hung around Tommy’s until his mother kicked us out. Then we found
Charlie Belyea and Charlie Cameron. The two Charlies had been to
church and Tommy had promised to go to the late service, and I never
ever went, so we had a few hours to kill.
Belyea had a great idea—we’d make a dummy. We scrounged whatever
clothes, newspapers, and hangers we could find for the frame and
stuffing, and in short order we had a pretty good-looking dummy,
The first stop was the balcony over the apartment where three
stewardesses (so-called in those days) lived. These gals were almost
as fascinating as Mrs. Belyea, but we had little contact with them
because of their flying. The guys they dated chased us off if we
hung around, trying to look in the windows. We had the theory that
sex was going on in there. I had only been in their apartment twice:
once when I had to apologize for smacking a ball through their
picture window, and again when Charlie Cameron and I helped carry
groceries from the carport. The three women threw a lot of parties,
and more than once the police came around. There was a big white
polar bear rug in the living room. The first picture of a naked
woman I ever saw had her spread out on a rug just like that, and it
became of great interest to me ever after.
We hung the dummy over the railing. We waited. We heard the door
open. We dropped the dummy in front of the landing of the apartment,
and there was a ripping scream. When the stewardess realized what
had happened and looked up, her face went from fear to anger and
finally into a smile.
“You boys,” she said, starting to laugh, “you boys are going to get
into some real trouble some day.”
A blond man came out and looked up. He was an airline pilot with a
shirt with epaulets and metal wings over the pocket. We came down
and picked up the dummy, keeping straight faces until I made the
mistake of looking at Charlie Belyea. All he did was raise his
eyebrows at me and I burst out laughing and we took off running. The
pilot started after us, but his girlfriend called him off.
“Little bastards!” he yelled. “You have no respect for anything!
Right after the President gets assassinated!”
We headed over to
Belford Avenue where Charlie Belyea
lived. There 93rd Street
turned 90 degrees into Belford and it was the perfect place to tuck
the dummy under a car. Drivers turning the corner wouldn’t see it
until they were on top of it.
Clayton Spada and his brother Fred came up the street, returned from
church. Although Mrs. Spada didn’t like her boys associating with us
because we were public school kids and therefore delinquents,
Clayton secretly liked hanging around with us. He had the awkward
air of a kid who never learned to throw a baseball, and I think he
admired us for our natural ease with such things. He was very
studious, but had envy in his eyes when he came from school with his
stack of books and saw us lighting out for the ball field with our
gloves and bats and cleats. The few times I had been in the Spadas’
apartment, I found it strange, with statues of bleeding Jesus on the
cross. And like every other Catholic household I’d ever been in,
there was a smiling portrait of John F. Kennedy hanging there, right
over the dinner table.
Fred walked by, but then stopped and watched us from a distance.
Clayton stayed with us.
“Whatchou guys doing?” Clayton said.
“Whaddaya think?” Charlie Belyea said, pointing to the dummy lying
between two cars.
“What are you gonna do with that?” Clayton said.
Charlie and I slid the dummy just behind the front wheels of a Buick
LeSabre so that only the legs were visible. To a driver coming
around the corner, it looked like someone fixing his car but lying
in the road. We crouched behind the Buick to hide, including
We didn’t have to wait long. The first car that came around was a
Borgward, a strange looking thing, but the man behind the wheel
never saw the dummy. The second car was a late-model Olds with a
woman driving. She glanced to her right and then straight ahead, and
then her head snapped to the right again and her mouth formed an “O”
and she wrenched the wheel to the left and the car heeled way over
and she clipped the tail of a Chevy parked on the other side of the
street. The crash was louder than you’d expect for the damage done,
and by the time she came to a stop, we were running away. Looking
back, I saw her get out of the passenger-side door.
We tore down the breezeway of the building where Clayton lived and
into a series of alleys beyond. I couldn’t believe that Clayton was
running right alongside us in that clumsy-footed way of his. It
wasn’t easy in wingtip shoes.
When we stopped, Charlie and I laughed so hard that we couldn’t
speak, and Clayton was smiling, and Charlie Cameron had to take his
glasses off to wipe his eyes. Tommy cackled in a high-pitched
staccato that made it hard for him to breathe. This went on for a
couple of minutes until we weren’t laughing any longer, but just
wheezing and coughing.
“Did you see the look on her face?” Charlie Cameron said.
“She’ll be mad when she finds out that was a dummy,” Clayton said.
His eyes moved over each of us, as if he could be part of the gang
Naturally, we had to return to the scene of the crime. We slipped
through the alleys via an alternate route so that we could look at
the scene without being spotted. The woman was standing by the Buick
crying, and there were several other adults there, including the
owner of the Chevy. He was talking to the woman who had hit his car,
trying to calm her down. The dummy was now lying on the Buick’s hood
and two of the men looked around. To tell you the truth, I felt bad,
although we had to keep ducking back around the corner so we could
laugh. It was mirthless laughing now, and when I looked at Charlie
Belyea, he looked worried rather than devilish.
After an hour, the grown-ups left. The dummy still lay on the hood
of the Buick. We debated if they were trying to lure us out. Clayton
was very worried.
“My mother’s going to kill me,” he said.
I said, “Oh, don’t sweat it, Clay—Fred’ll cover for you. Tell her
you were playing tag.”
“We were supposed to come straight home from church. Mother is
really upset about the assassination.”
“Well, it’s not like Lee Harvey Oswald is running around Westchester Plaza.”
“You guys shouldn’t do this stuff.”
“Clayton,” Charlie Belyea said, putting his hand on Clayton’s
shoulder, “have we ever steered you wrong?”
Clayton looked at Charlie, then at me, and then at Charlie again.
“Fred says you guys shot Dougie.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Mrs. Spada stalked
around the corner, with Fred right beside her. With her was Mrs.
Belyea. Charlie dropped his hand from Clayton’s shoulder. Mrs. Spada
looked us over.
“Clayton, go home with Fred.
I talk to you later,” she said. They left.
Mrs. Spada looked at us, one at a time, long enough for each of us
to look away. Her thick black and gray hair looked like it was made
of iron. Her black eyes were burning like an oil fire.
“Did you do that?” she said, indicating the dummy.
We looked at each other. I started to speak, but she cut me off.
“You!” she said, pointing her finger at me, “You! I know you. All
the time—big joker. Big joker! You think everything is funny!”
“But Mrs. Spada, I, I …”
“You think it’s funny to throw that thing in the street? You think
so, Mr. Big Joker? I tell you something. Someone else is a big
joker, big joker just like you. Just like you!”
“But Mrs. Spada…”
“Lee Harvey Oswald, he’s a big joker! Big joker! An’ they fix the
She spun on her heel and stomped off. We watched her broad back
recede down the walkway and heard her thick-soled shoes clomping
long after she had disappeared around the building.
Mrs. Belyea looked at Charlie.
“You’d better get on home, young man,” she said. He left.
Mrs. Belyea took me by the arm and led me a few steps away.
“I’ve always liked you, Don. I always thought you were a good
influence on Charlie.”
I didn’t know what to say. She smiled. She moved closer.
“I hope nothing will happen to change my opinion of you,” she said.
“Mrs. Spada told me some things. I went through Charlie’s room.”
There was a crushing feeling in my chest. Despite that, a strange
excitement ran through me, like an overwhelming happiness, but
physical, starting right at the center of my body. I couldn’t
remember Mrs. Belyea being so close to me before. Her beautiful face
was inches from mine. I felt myself getting flushed, north and
south, as though my blood was heating and expanding, and if it kept
going my head would explode.
“Do you know anything about a BB rifle?”
The words went off like a sonic boom. I had a moment of confusion.
It hit me. It was Fred! Fred told his mother about Dougie! And maybe
Mrs. Spada told Mrs. Belyea!
A thousand things I could say swelled in my brain all at once. Mrs.
Belyea’s eyes flooded into mine. Her breasts were practically
touching me. I could feel the pulse in my arm beating against her
fingers. I’d never had anything like this feeling inside me before.
There was a roar in my ears that was blocking all the words, and I
was trying to swim through the blood and the noise and grab some
words, any words, to say to Mrs. Belyea before my head exploded and
I took a deep breath.
“Yes, Mrs. Belyea, it’s mine. I was showing it to Charlie and I
guess I forgot it.”
She leaned closer. “Is that all?”
Jesus! I was taking the rap for the gun! Was I supposed to say that
I pulled the trigger on Dougie? Maybe Mrs. Spada said that I did.
What if she hadn’t? What if she was talking about something else
entirely, which could be one of a hundred things that Mrs. Spada
might say. We weren’t good Catholic boys like her sons. There were
lots of reasons for Mrs. Belyea to look through Charlie’s room, like
the time he got caught with Jim Flynn’s broken switchblade at
school. I hoped Charlie appreciated what I was doing for him.
“No, Mrs. Belyea. Honest. That’s all, really. Well, except for this
dummy and stuff.”
Mrs. Belyea kept looking at me, and then let go of my arm and patted
it gently. Thank heaven she smiled just then, or I think I might
have started crying.
“Okay, Don.” She turned to Tommy and the other Charlie. “You boys
ought to go on home now.”
“And I don’t think you’re
like Lee Harvey Oswald at all,” she said to me.
Mrs. Belyea smiled again, and then walked to the corner of the
building and turned out of sight. I heard jungle drums beating.
Tommy Allen whistled very quietly.
“Mrs. Spada was really mad at you,” he said.
“Why me? I wasn’t the only one here,” I said.
“Well, you know,” Charlie Cameron said, “she thinks you’re a bad
“Me?” I said. “Me? What did I ever do?”
Charlie looked thoughtful for a moment.
“She knows you don’t go to church,” he said.
Of all of us, even Belyea, I was the only one who didn’t belong to
any church, and it was no secret that my dad held no truck with
religion. But I didn’t think that made me into Lee Harvey Oswald.
“Let’s get the dummy out of here,” I said. We carried it to a narrow
passage between the alleys. All the air had gone out of us by that
point. We dismembered the dummy and I took Charlie Belyea’s things
to give back when I went to get the rifle. There was nothing to be
said, so we drifted off.
I slogged home. What if Mrs. Spada had called my mom? When I
got the BB rifle, where would I hide it? Well, that was Charlie’s
problem, really. The closer I got to home, the more dread I felt at
the idea of my father sitting there waiting to cross examine me
about the dummy and the gun and the shooting and ten other things
that I figured he must have found out by then. I felt like a convict
walking to the gallows.
In the apartment my dad was sitting in his chair smoking an L&M and
watching television. I could hear my mom in the kitchen.
He smiled. “Why so glum? Say, you really missed it this morning.
Where have you been?”
Was this a trick? Was my dad acting normally, or was this a trap?
“Oh, just messing around with Charlie and them for a couple of
“You know when you left this morning, not two minutes later, they
brought Oswald out and some fella shot him, right there live on TV.”
My dad seemed like his normal self. That lifted the weight I’d been
carrying all the way home. And they shot Oswald!
“Well, gee, Dad, I guess that’s good then, isn’t it?”
“Why do you think that?”
“I mean, he shot the President and everything, so didn’t he deserve
On the TV there were pictures of Oswald, including one of him
holding a rifle and a book. He had a little smile on his face. It
startled me how much he looked like Charlie Belyea with that little
smile. That was very
“Well, maybe, but maybe not,” my dad said.
“What do you mean?”
“I know it all seems clear now, but what if it’s not so easy? You
know, a man shoots the president, so then they catch him, and two
days later he gets shot. Everything is fixed. That isn’t the way the
world always works, you know. Nice and tidy.”
“But I thought that he was the guy. Oswald.”
“He might well be, but just imagine if he wasn’t the guy. What if he
was the wrong guy, or he was there, but he wasn’t the guy who did
it? This all happened awfully quickly, you know.”
I didn’t like where this was going.
“What if he wasn’t the triggerman?” my dad said.
My blood ran cold. Maybe he was tricking me! He continued
with a straight face.
“What if Oswald, the man they said shot the President, what if it
wasn’t him? What if he was shot because they
said he was the
triggerman? What if the guy who shot Oswald in the basement did it
because of what everyone was saying, but it wasn’t right? Maybe the
guy he shot wasn’t the actual triggerman?”
And all I could think was, I swear that it was Charlie who shot
Dougie. I wasn’t the triggerman. Honestly. I’m not Lee Harvey
Oswald, no matter what Mrs. Spada says. I don’t think everything is
so funny. Really, I don’t. I’m telling you, I’m telling you, I
wasn’t the triggerman. I wasn’t the triggerman. I’m not Lee Harvey
Oswald. I am not Lee Harvey Oswald.
Don S. Olson
Sherwood Olson is the co-author of
The Manager Pool
(Addison-Wesley). He teaches creative writing at Northern Arizona University.