Gil Hoy is a widely published Boston poet and writer who studied poetry and writing at Boston University through its Evergreen program. Hoy previously received a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston University, an M.A. in Government from Georgetown University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. While at BU, Hoy was on BU’s championship wrestling team and finished in second place in the New England University Wrestling Championships at 177 lbs. He served as an elected Brookline, Massachusetts Selectman for four terms. He’s an elected member of the Brookline, MA Democratic Town Committee. Hoy’s work has recently appeared in Best Poetry Online, The Galway Review, Muddy River Poetry ReviewTipton Poetry Journal, Rusty TruckMobius: The Journal of Social Change, The Penmen Review, Misfit Magazine, The New Verse New, Ariel Chart, Chiron Review and elsewhere.

How Did You Know?

By Gil Hoy

From an early age, Rick could recall all of the events in his life. He could remember exact dates and intricate autobiographical details with great precision.  A doctor told him he had hyperthymesia. Although very rare, that explained it.

Rick had another ability that could not be explained. He could sometimes predict the future. As accurately and in as much detail as he could remember his past. This happened when Rick was dreaming. But his future predictions were unlike his hyperthymesia. They were about other people and not about him. But no one believed him so he kept his predictions to himself.

Rick was a third-grader in the early ’60s. He went to The Wightman School, an elementary school in Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania. It had been around for nearly a hundred years. Rick was highly intelligent and an excellent student.

Kennedy was President then. There was a growing optimism in America. A belief in what the President called “The New Frontier.” America was going to the moon. Ahead of the Russians. Because, as the President put it, “Space is there, and we’re going to climb it. And the moon and the planets are there.”

When Rick got home from school that Friday afternoon in November 1963, the back door was open. He’d been let out early.  The day had started off like any other day. He was a little late for school. So was his best friend Mark. As Rick had approached his school, he saw Mark walking quickly down the alley towards him on the steep hill behind Rick’s house. When Mark caught up, a bell rang signaling the beginning of class. But later in the day, there’d been an announcement over a crackling loudspeaker. “We are closing school early today. Please go right home. President Kennedy has been shot.”

When Rick got home, he went through the open back door leading to the kitchen. His mother was sitting at the kitchen table. She had her pj’s on. Her hair was a mess. Her hairpins and rollers were on the table and her work clothes lay in a heap in the hallway. She was smoking a cigarette, holding the ashes in her hand. She hadn’t had a cigarette in ten years.

Their black and white TV stood against the far wall. The picture was on volume medium.  There were only three channels then, ABC, CBS, and NBC. Rick’s mother was sobbing. “The President is dead,” she said, “How did you know?”

Over the next few days, Rick and his mother watched a lot of TV. They saw the funeral march and a horse with no rider. They saw a boy salute his dead father in a casket.

Rick listened to the drums in the funeral procession. One hundred beats a minute. Every 10 seconds, the drums started. Then they would stop and start again:  “Duh duh duh. 

Duddddeleee duh duh duh     Dudddeleee duh duh duh     Dudddelee duh, duh duh duh.”

After the President was buried, Rick sat with his mother at the kitchen table for several hours. Neither one said a word. Rick’s younger brother and sister were there. But they were too young to understand what was happening. Rick’s father was out.

Rick’s seventh birthday was in three days. He would go up the street to Mark’s house to read. Both boys loved to read and would sit together reading for hours.

Rick gathered up his books in his backpack. He said goodbye to his mother, brother, and sister. As he was going out the kitchen door, his mother cried out, “How did you know? How, how my son? Just what kind of a boy are you?

Rick started the trek on the alley up the steep hill to Mark’s house. When he got there, he woke up from his dream. It was 8 AM, November 22, 1963. He was under his covers in his bed.  

Rick knew every detail of what was going to happen over the next few days. As completely and as accurately as he could remember the events of his past. But this time things were different. This time, Rick knew what was going to happen to him as well. 

Rick went downstairs. He tried to tell his mother and father what was going to happen that day. But they didn’t believe him. “Hurry up and get dressed for school. You’re going to be late,” his mother said.  She was already in her work clothes although her shift didn’t start until 2. She had rollers and hairpins in her hair. Rick said, “I’ll be coming home early today. Just wait and see.”

By then, he was a little late for school. So was his best friend Mark. As Rick approached his school, he saw Mark walking quickly down the alley towards him on the steep hill behind Rick’s house. When Mark caught up to Rick, a bell rang signaling the beginning of class. And there was nothing that either of them could do about it.