"There is no sure cure for birth and death save to enjoy the
George Santayana, "Soliloquies in England"
by Guilford Barton
I know who killed John F. Kennedy. You all can embrace the
conspiracy theories if you wish. Cling fast to Castro and his
band of not-so-merry men. Hold the CIA close to your quivering
heart. Keep one eye open for Russians, the Mafia, the second
gunman, or even the mysterious man with the umbrella if it helps
you sleep a little more soundly. But I was there. I saw him pull
I know who did it, it was Corky.
I was eight years old when my family made its annual pilgrimage
to Florida in the fall of 1963. My younger brother and I endured
the long trek from Michigan while lying prone in the rear of our
old station wagon. Dad would fold down the back seat and toss in
a pile of blankets, while mom filled the remaining void with toys
and food and comic books and any other tranquilizing materials
she could lay her hands on. Lord knows what they were thinking.
Granted, this was long before the days of mandatory seat belts,
but it didn't take a physics degree to realize what would have
happened to us in the event of an accident --launched through the
windshield like a pair of missiles clad in cut-offs and matching
Beanie and Cecil T-shirts.
We entered Miami Beach the same way we always did, from the
north end of its magical strip which allowed for a ceremonial
procession past those fabled icons of tourism: The Shellborne,
The Fountain Blue, The Desert Inn, The Surfcomber, The Dunes, The
Castaways; each with its own aura, its own distinct gaudiness,
its own devoted clientele. Our loyalty belonged to a motel called
The Aztec, a rambling stucco beast that squatted close to the
Apparently the brutal laws of nature also had applications in
the world of hostelry, for each year we returned to find that the
beast had extended its lair by devouring one of its weaker
neighbors. We'd also find Corky waiting for us.
He was a year or two older than me, red headed and freckled and
already well down the long, slippery road to obesity. I remember
that he liked to wear shirts with wide horizontal stripes that
made him look even fatter than he was. He came to Miami each year
with a mother unfortunate enough to find herself divorced in a
time when it wasn't nearly so chic. She would lie by the pool all
day long striving for the tan that never surfaced. Always in the
same white straw hat and frumpy bathing suit, always with a
Coppertone stained paperback lying open across her stomach,
always alone; politely yet firmly shunned by the wholesomeness of
the American family.
That was also the year an outsider managed to infiltrate our
little circle, a dark haired boy about my brother's age with a
toothy grin and a startling square face. Corky instantly dubbed
him Blockhead, so quickly in fact that I don't think I ever did
learn his real name. Together the four of us lived those precious
few days with an intensity known only to children who would
otherwise be mired in a snowbound classroom, with nothing but
close gray skies and a falling barometer waiting just the other
side of the final bell. It was like a stay of execution, and we
were determined to wring the sweet nectar of our fleeting
childhood from every last moment.
Each morning we rose early and raced to the sea, not to beat the
beachcombers to the conch shells and other precious flotsam, but
to run and jump on the shimmering, oily blue man-o-war that had
washed ashore the previous night, delighting at the satisfying
pop their bubble-like bodies made beneath our tennis shoes. We
could sit for hours at the feet of the mystical "Hat Man" as he
wove his palm leaf creations and tales of scorpion encounters
with equal dexterity.
The limbo dancers mesmerized us as they slithered ever lower
beneath their golden bar, and then lower still until their
bronzed shoulders kissed the hot sand.
Whole days were devoted to catching the chameleons that haunted
the alien shrubbery, releasing the poor creatures only after
pulling off their tails so we could watch them writhe and twitch
long after the rest of the lizard had disappeared.
Great forts of sand were defiantly built just beyond the surf
line inviting desperate battles against the tide, which were
lost, forcing us to fall back and dig into new positions that
were just as quickly besieged and overrun by the sea's endless
strategy of advance...retreat...advance...retreat.
If all else failed, one of our parents could always be found and
systematically tormented. My father was a favorite target. We'd
wait until he fell asleep on the beach, then sneak up and fill
his oddly hollow chest with sand. One day he woke to this
indignity, rose up on his elbow and said, "Why don't you boys
wade out a couple of feet into the water and get lost in the
"What's that, Daddy?" my brother asked.
"It's a place where weird things happen," he said before turning
over. It was a brilliant move on his part (I can imagine him
smiling into his towel even now), because we spent the entire
afternoon roaming the surf in a vain quest for the supernatural.
The next day it began to rain. By mid-morning we were desperate
enough to shuffle into the formerly scorned craft room run by a
middle-aged woman known to one and all as Miss Sandy. She gave us
idiotic plaster figurines that we glumly painted with idiotic
colors. Just after lunch the sky quit messing around a really let
go, sending curtains of water that we tried to visually part for
a signs of a break in the storm, and we loitered on the brink of
panic when it became obvious that none was coming.
"What do you want to do, Corky?" I asked as we sat in the lobby,
swinging our feet off the end of a vinyl couch.
"Shit if I know," he said, shoving a handful of M&M's into his
mouth. "There's nothing to do."
"But we're on vacation," my little brother pleaded, very close
to tears, "there has to be something to do!"
"Well there aint, so shut up." snapped Corky, whipping one of
the little candies across the tiled floor.
We watched in silence as a man came out the rest room and
crushed it under his flip-flops. "I know," ventured Blockhead,
"let's play assassinate the president." It was one of those rare
moments of inspired genius. Assassinate the president! My brother
and I sat in mute wonder of the possibilities, and Corky--who I
knew thought of Blockhead in literal terms--grinned widely and
wrapped a massive arm around the smaller boy's neck. We split up
into two teams each armed with water pistols purchased from the
motel gift shop. The younger boys acted as the president and his
faithful bodyguard, while Corky and I garnered the plum roles of
the treaded assassins. We gave the other two a fifteen minute
head start before giving chase, which led from the steaming
machinery and snaking pipes of the basement, to racing across
treacherous rooftops slick with rain and guano left behind by the
generations of seagulls that roosted along the parapets. We
dangled from slick fire escapes, hid inside the huge commercial
washers and dryers, careened into guests along the narrow
corridors, monopolized the elevator, and screamed past a sulking
crowd of grownups as they huddled around the cabana bar clutching
their cocktails for dear life.
Time and again we would catch a glimpse of our quarry: a couple
of heads hovering above a cascading pile of unused lounge chair
cushions; two small bodies streaking along an upper balcony, a
pair of feet disappearing around the corner at the far end of a
long hallway. Each encounter was closer than the one before, and
our excitement grew as the gap diminished. Twice we thought we
had them cornered only to let them slip through our fingers, but
in the end something a simple as a wrong turn trapped the prey in
the second floor game room. Corky pressed his wide back against
the door jamb and leaned into the opening. A stream of water shot
over his head and splattered against the opposite wall.
"Cover me!" he gasped, diving through the doorway and behind the
pop machine while I wildly sprayed the far end of the room. He
returned the favor with a withering volley as I belly flopped my
way beneath a row of pinball machines. Slowly we advanced, inch
by inch, game by game, driving them back, popping up just long
enough to draw their precious liquid fire, which sheeted off the
game tops and dripped onto the small of my back. By the time we
had reached the last pair of pinball machines the return fire had
Someone cursed from the corner of the room and a bright yellow
water gun bounced off the Skeeball game next to Corky and
skittered across the floor. Then my brother rose from behind the
chalk scarred pool table and, with a valiant yell of defiance,
emptied the last of his water in my direction. I ducked behind
the table, rolled to my left, and brought my own weapon to bear.
Blockhead dove in front of my brother and cried, "You can't
shoot, he's the president!" I pulled the trigger and a wet stain
spread rapidly across the Secret Service man's chest. Then Corky
took careful aim and sent a lethal stream straight between my
brother's brown eyes.
Nothing happened for a full minute, we all just stood there
staring at each other as the water dripped off the end of my
brother's nose. Then Corky let out a loud whoop and we all
dutifully followed suit.
"Let's do it again!"
The four of us skipped down the main lobby's spiral staircase
arm in arm in arm in arm like the gang from the Wizard of Oz.
Before we were halfway down we knew something was wrong. Knots of
people stood here and there in obvious distress and confusion,
while the bellboys huddled near the front desk and conversed in
reverent whispers. One couple sat on a bright orange couch
sobbing uncontrollably, their children and luggage strewn about
A weeping Miss Sandy stumbled by us with her make-up in streaks.
"What is it, Miss Sandy?" Corky asked. "What's the matter?"
"Didn't you boys hear the announcement over the loud speaker?"
she asked with a puzzled expression.
"No. What announcement?"
"Oh, its just awful, Cork." she answered, wiping her cheeks with
a flowered tissue. "Some damn fool's gone and shot Jack Kennedy."
Of all the memories I carry from that day one stands out in
sharper focus from the rest. It's the image of the man who stood
alone in the middle of the lobby, silhouetted against a huge
plate glass window that looked over the ocean. He stood very
still, with his back to me, staring out at the rain, and from my
vantage point it appeared he was about to embark down the path
that meandered between two rows of palm trees as they marched
down to the sea. An enormous, overstuffed suitcase hung from each
arm and, although they must have weighed a hundred pounds each,
he chose to hold them as he stood there, rather than let them on
fall to the floor. From the set of his shoulders I knew that he
would always carry that burden.
The Warren Commission scared the crap out of me, and I lived in
fear of men with dark suits and sunglasses who might swoop down
like birds of prey and carry us off into oblivion. Each night in
the months that followed, my brother, flashlight in hand, made
his way down the narrow hall that led to the my bedroom
sanctuary. Beneath the covers we tried to confront the mystery.
"How could it be?" we would ask the darkness. "How could four
dumb kids kill the President of the United States a thousand
miles away?" For there was never any doubt in our young minds
that we were in some way responsible; that we were involved. We
had never played that game before and we sure as hell would never
play it again. Did that make it pure coincidence, or just one of
those nasty pranks that fate sometimes plays on the guileless?
It was my brother who eventually offered the explanation that we
came to embrace. "Maybe dad had it all wrong," he said one night
as the glow from his upturned Eveready garishly lit the underside
of his chin and highlighted his nostrils. "Maybe the Bermuda
Triangle doesn't stop at the beach, maybe part of it sticks into
the game room."
It was not long afterward that he stopped climbing into bed with
As for Corky?...he and his mother left for New York the morning
after that terrible day and never came back. Sometimes when the
weather turns particularly wet I'll let my thoughts fall on the
memories of my old friend, wondering how far his road has taken
him. And I don't know if they'll ever catch him or not, I just
hope he doesn't squeal on us if they ever do.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.