Genevieve was working in her studio with Bennie, who was carefully striking the pose that took her the better part of the morning to decide on, when Alexis came dashing in from the hall. “Mommy, I just saw Mrs. Dupont running back to the barn really fast.”
“Mrs. Dupont? Patrick’s wife?” questioned Genevieve, and seeing her daughter nodding vigorously, mused. “I wonder what she is doing here at this time of day.” Trying to remember if the farm manager’s wife ever came to the farm, except to bring their son over to help his father.
“Didn’t you hear her? She stopped her car so fast it put gravel into the yard, and she yelled all the way to the barn!” exclaimed Alexis.
“No, not that I noticed, but we have the windows closed. Where were you when she came?” asked Genevieve, wondering if Alexis was too far away and be mistaken of what she saw.
“I was on the veranda. I thought the rocks were going to land up there so I ran back in the house, and then ran to the kitchen window and watched her running to the barn. I didn’t know that a woman that old could run that fast,” explained Alexis, excitedly.
“Did you hear what she was yelling about?” asked Bennie; trying not to move his head and shoulders, thinking that it might be a very juicy story; if Patrick’s wife was that mad.
“I dunknow, something about the president in Dallas,” said Alexis, shrugging her shoulders.
“It is four words, dear, I do not know, not two words. Oh, well, President Kennedy is visiting in Dallas about now. That must have her all excited. I wonder if she wants to go to Dallas and watch the festivities,” said Genevieve, tilting her head as she dabbed a spot of burnt umber, to make the highlight next to it pop.
“I think that was all happening today. There was something in the newspaper about a motorcade route they would be taking. I would have liked to see that myself,” said Bennie.
“Me too; Bennie will you please stop moving,” said Genevieve, trying to resume work as Alexis went to the studio window and looked down into the yard between the house and the barn.
“Mommy, Mrs. Dupont is going back to her car and Mr. Dupont is going to his truck.” Alexis informed the artist and her model.
“That is interesting dear. Maybe they have a family emergency. I suspect your father will let us know soon enough,” said Genevieve, putting the situation out of her mind as she carefully mixed a small amount of paint and smudged it on the canvas to check its tone before mixing more.
“I guess everyone has a family emergency,” said Alexis, carefully pronouncing each syllable of the word e-mer-gen-cy, slowly.
“Why do you say that, dear?” asked Genevieve, wishing her little girl would go discuss the situation with her father, but not wanting to shoo her out.
“All the hands are leaving.” Alexis pointed out, getting her mother’s attention, causing Genevieve to lay down her pallet and brush, heading to the window.
“Bennie, your robe!” she cautioned the young man seeing he was going to the window. “Someone might look up.”
“Yes, boss!” wrapped in the robe and partly hidden behind the mother and daughter, he looked out at the exodus, taking place in the yard. “Whoa, it looks like rats from a sinking ship.”
“Bennie, Genevieve,” the voice caused the trio to turn and find Kelly standing in the open doorway. “Patrick’s wife brought some very bad news. She tried calling, but the phone lines seem to be out. Probably overloaded. She knew it was unlikely that we would be listening to the radio during the day, and she knew we don’t have a television set, so she drove over to let everyone know.”
“Oh, my goodness, not another war?” asked Genevieve, remembering how people ran around spreading the news of the Pearl Harbor attack, twenty-two years before when she was only nine years old.
“No, … almost as bad … No, just as bad,” said Kelly, and not seeing any way to blunt the blow, blurted out, “President Kennedy has been assassinated in Dallas.”
“Oh, no!” Bennie cried out. Unlike Kelly and Genevieve who tended to think that one politician was as bad as another, Bennie was actively involved in campaigning for Kennedy and was a devout believer that the election of the charismatic young Catholic president heralded a new era of democracy.
“I am so sorry Bennie!” said Genevieve, putting her arm around the young man to comfort him.
Alexis backed off and slipped out of the studio, going to her room where she huddled up on the window-seat thinking about her father’s announcement. She understood about assassinations. She read a book about Lincoln, a few weeks before. She couldn’t understand why anyone would do it again. They should have all learned it was wrong, very wrong, and didn’t make any difference to how things turned out. It made her very uncomfortable to see how upset the adults were. She wrapped herself up in a small blanket that was her bedspread when she was a baby, and reread her book of fairy tails.
As she read she tried to ignore the hushed voices in the house, the radio playing a little too loudly, and the ringing of the phone once the phone lines begun working again. The next day was more of the same. Alexis didn’t want to leave her room, with the farm so strangely quiet, with none of the hands there. She ventured down only to take care of her pony and help her father with the few chores he could muster up the heart for.
“Oh, Genevieve, I just don’t know what this world is coming too,” said Kelly, after tucking Alexis in while trying to answer all her questions about the president. “Where did Bennie get off to?”
“He went for a walk. You know how he likes to walk when he gets upset. He really liked the president. You know he met him one time during the campaign? The president, of course he was Senator then, made Bennie feel like a friend and a very important part of the campaign,” said Genevieve, thinking sadly of Jackie, the young wife who lost a child while in the White House, and now lost her husband too. She was most sorry for the two young children who would never know their father. She knew what that was like, and felt for them all the more.
“I thought he would have felt better hearing that Jack Ruby killed the bastard,” said Kelly bitterly.
“I think Bennie is mad at Ruby, for cheating the public out of a trial. Bennie wanted to find out what Oswald was thinking when he did such a horrible thing,” said Genevieve, having given it some thought after the young man left the house for his walk.
“Well, I think it is a blessing that we don’t have to go through a trial. A trial would give a guy like that all the attention he wanted,” She remarked.
“Kelly, should we cancel the thanksgiving celebration?” asked Genevieve.
“No, we still need to gather together and be thankful. Think of how lucky we are to live in a country where our leader can be assassinated, and power can be passed to another without the country dissolving into chaos or civil war. We have to be thankful for our friends and our family, and the good health we are blessed with,” said Kelly, sounding a little bit like his uncle.
Genevieve let it pass, without a snide remark and said, “Yes, dear, you are right.”
When Alexis awoke on Friday feeling like things were better. As she laid in her bed things just seemed to be different. She got out of bed, and realized that she could hear the sound of the hands arriving for work, and smell breakfast cooking in the kitchen indicating that Eileen came to work. Assured that the bad man was dead, a Texan was now president, and all was right in the world, Alexis went out to see if her father would take her for an early morning ride before breakfast.