The Canyon


As we walked into our 9th grade algebra class, our teacher told us to go home immediately: President Kennedy had just been shot. I walked home in a daze, not yet appreciating that I had dodged the proverbial bullet that would eventually get me, too—I would be missing my weekly algebra test for which I was unprepared.  I found my mother sprawled on the couch, sobbing disconsolately. The whole nation, even my Rock of Gibraltar wild woman mother, was in shock, and the three days of national mourning had just begun. There would be no music, no dances, no parties, no movies, no jokes, no laughter—nothing that could remotely resemble fun—at least not that I knew about.  I loved President Kennedy, but I loved being a teenager even more. And worse yet, it was only Friday afternoon.

Friday was a total waste, as were Saturday and Sunday. And then Monday dawned cold and gray—poor President Kennedy would be buried today and as if that weren’t depressing enough, I would be facing one more totally wasted day, too, but then it hit me–this was a whole day off from school! I got my mother’s blessing to go to my best friend’s house so she could help me with my algebra. Once there, Marilyn helped me slather on some forbidden makeup and lipstick. After stashing my algebra book in her room, we sallied forth to the incredibly deserted main drag, where she bought us each a chocolate egg cream at Marty’s Soda Fountain. Marilyn was the coolest friend—funny, pretty, and so very generous—she had a babysitting job and had developed a taste for some bigger ticket items that I would never have thought to buy. As we were leaving Marty’s, she scooped up a few candy bars, and two packs of cigarettes—a red pack for her and a green one for me.  Marilyn magnanimously paid the grand total, and off we went to smoke our respective packs of cigarettes.

A mile or so later, we were on one of the many paths threading through the huge, scrubby fields of tall, dead grasses and low trees towards “The Canyon.” We picked our way carefully down the precipitous slope and made ourselves as comfortable as we could possibly be while sitting on rocks in almost freezing temperatures. At least we were protected from the wind, which was fortuitous, given that lighting cigarettes was the first item of business on our agenda. We proceeded to smoke each and every cigarette and eat each and every candy bar. All the while, we laughed, told jokes and funny stories, and became so giddy, we were choking, snorting, crying and drooling, not necessarily in that order.

The cigarettes were gone. Our throats were as raw as the dropping temperature. Our bladders were full. It was really time to leave. Suddenly, the gloomy twilight chillingly revealed the silhouettes of five boys on the rim of the canyon.  They lobbed rocks at us and laughed while we frantically scrambled around to avoid the stinging blows.  Miraculously, they ran off. We climbed out of the canyon, and limped back to Marilyn’s house. I retrieved my algebra book and coughed my way back home.

That night, we watched the news of President Kennedy’s funeral. I remembered the algebra test which I would take and fail tomorrow, and I burst into tears. My mother, mistaking my misery for grief for the dead president, wrapped me in her big, wild woman arms and said, “You’re the best kid in the world. I love you, Googs.”

Photo Credit:

Music Credit: Sukiyaki (Ue o Muite Arukou) – Kyu Sakamoto (English Translation and Lyrics)



Filed under My Very Short Stories

8 responses to “The Canyon

  1. Jean

    This is wonderful. My gosh I am really impressed!,
    Will read all to Clay..He’ll get a kick outta this.


    • Thanks, Jean! Your my first “customer.” Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding! (You just won a free trip to the world! Just bring your money!) Thanks so much for your nice comment! I appreciate it! Love to you and Clay, Gloria


  2. Sissy Jeffords

    Great story! I love your writing Gloria!


  3. Phil Turner

    You’ve got a memory, girl, and a way to put it down. We were sitting side-by-side in French class when the first jumbled reports were announced (Ms. DiFazio?). Welcome to the Real World, kids – that numb feeling lasted a long time.
    Egg Creams – to a poor guy fresh from the Islands what a disappointment to find there was no egg and no cream.

    Phil T.


    • Hey, Phil! Je suis, je suis, je suis dans la clase! Yes, it was Mrs. DiFazio’s class! That was one weird day, wasn’t it? Also, I was happy egg creams didn’t have any eggs in them! I don’t think they had any cream either! It was just chocolate syrup and seltzer water. Glad you liked my story.


  4. Liz Coomes

    Hi Googs!
    Wow, love it! Made me queasy just thinking about smoking all those cigs. I may have to write a companion piece to this or at least have a talk on the phone. Your dear sweet Mom!


  5. Marilyn Pruner, Rose, Tudor, Taylor, McTigue, AKA Jeanne

    Gloria–G L O R I A, Gl-o-o-ria! Always thought of you when I heard that song. Seems like just yesterday that we went to the canyon. God, those were fun (and “clueless) days. To think we thought we were so cool putting those cigarettes in our mouths. If I had only known that when I finally made a habit of them after PJ was born, it would take 25 years and a dozen attempts to finally give them up. That was over 20 years ago and I’m still feeling the effects. Back in those days, they were 25 cents a pack. Big spender, Me, on my whopping 50-cent/hr. babysitting money! Ha! I finally quit when the price went to about $2.oo a pack for generics. That story was such a wonderful walk down memory lane! You’re a great writer. Great talking to you today. I plan to check in here regularly and I hope to call more often too.

    Love ya, girl,


  6. Cousin Arlene

    Love it and love seeing the Talcove name in print!


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