Sunday, December 16, 2012

Death visits.

When I was a little boy, when JFK was president, my elementary school was about a half mile from my parents' house. My brother, who was a grade older than I, and I would walk there together, unaccompanied by parents or guardians.

There was only one major street to cross and there was a light and a crossing guard at that corner. The crossing guard's name was Miss Nichols, and I, of course, called her Miss Pennies, making, at an early age, a coin joke.

We walked up a hill on our way to elementary school and down a hill on the way home six or seven hours later. One rainy evening when I was in first grade, a kid was riding down the hill with a pizza strapped to his bike. The pizza slid from his control. He veered to grasp it and was hit and killed by a passing car.

Death visited our path to school.

If I were to return today to that neighborhood, I would still, 50 years later, know the precise spot where the pizza kid died. I would still look for stains of blood as I did when I was five.

When death visits, he seldom leaves.

Those were, stealing an adjective from Paul Simon, Kodachrome days in America.

Of course there were other parts of America where churches were bombed, people were lynched and little girls were turned away from white people's schools.

This was before riots tore apart US cities. Before white-flight to the allegedly safe suburbs. Before either Kennedy was shot, or Malcolm, or Martin. This was before millions of Vietnamese were killed and more than 58,000 Americans, 25,000 of them 20 or under were killed in a land that didn't wind up mattering.

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