IV / The Difference a Day Makes
You guys all know me. I’m Jack Ruby.
– to the policemen who wrestled him
to the floor after he shot Oswald
You can get more out of me. Let’s not break up too soon. I have been used for a purpose, but it can’t be said here. Unless you get me to Washington, you can’t get a fair shake out of me. Dallas is a homicidal town.
– Ruby, to Earl Warren
When the motorcade hits Dealey Plaza, Jack’s five blocks away
at the Dallas Morning News, placing an ad for the Carousel.
He’d be at the parade, but he’s already pushing the paper’s
Friday-at-noon deadline, and these days he has to pay up front
for everything. In the composing room a portable TV can barely contain
the breaking news. Jack can’t believe anyone would whack a president
in this kind of broad daylight.
He’s stunned but undeniably
excited, racing to Parkland Hospital. He’s always known the shortest route
to any spectacle in Dallas. There’s bound to be some serious actiongoing down there, and he wants to be one of the first to find out
if Kennedy’s going to make it. And if not, should he close the club –
it would be the gentlemanly, graceful thing to do –
and for how many goddamn nights?
He’s there in time to hear the doctor pronouncing death. A black eye
for the city, Jack says to the man standing next to him. And why
does it have to be the weekend, when things are smoking most
in his business? A Saturday is worst of all to lose.
His ad’s already paid for, true, but surely for Jack Ruby
they can turn it into something more respectful: Closed or In Memoriam.
Whatever’s classy. He’s up to his neck in this historic moment:
no club he’s put over half his heart or money into voluntarily
has been dark for even a single night. He hope those unpatriotic
Weinstein brothers in their greed stay open for everyone to see.
It’s way past dark when Jack makes one of his trademark stops
at Phil’s Delicatessen: a dozen corned beef sandwiches, a dozen
bottles of celery tonic. He’s jawing to the counterman: In my mind
suddenly it mulled over me that the police were working overtime.
So to speak. An impossibly detailed description of the suspect,
Oswald, was circulating scant minutes after the fatal shots were fired.
Seventy-five minutes later, he’s hauled out of a movie theatre,
a matinee showing of Audie Murphy’s War is Hell, and this day in Dallas
has been that kind of war: president assassinated, governor wounded,
a mail-order rifle and shell casings found in the Book Depository,
an Officer Tippit gunned down miles from Dealey Plaza, supposedly
with a mail-order Smith & Wesson .38 in the hands of this scrawny,
omnipresent 24-year-old ex-Marine. And something about Russia
and Fair Play for Cuba, and Jack is still waiting for his order
and thinking out loud it’s in-fucking-credible, how fast
they’re fitting all these pieces together. How much news there really is.
And foot soldier Jack wants in before this war is over. He’s not too proud
to buy his usual position up at the front line. From way back
he’s been an enlisted man with a bad haircut, but he can dream,
can’t he: No shit, it’s been a nightmare, Phil. And my goddamn feet
are killing me. He means this day in Dallas. How it just doesn’t quit.
Jack steps off the elevator at midnight, and cockeyed luck is with him:
he’s being swept along through the crowded hall to the Dallas PD’s
basement assembly room where Oswald’s about to be put on display
so the rumors that this prisoner’s been in any way manhandled
can be laid to rest. In this blur of wingtip shoes that’s passing
for history’s forward momentum, no one’s about to stop Jack Ruby.
In his dark suit and customary snap-brim, Jack could almost be
a plainclothes detective. He’s standing on a table in the back,
craning his neck, making notes like a reporter. He could be mistaken
for either one, and for the moment he’s having it both ways:
the time of his imaginary life. He’s correcting the district attorney
who’s just mentioned Oswald and Castro and a “Free Cuba Committee” –
that’s Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Don’t these guys ever listen
at least to the news? And now comes his first good look at Oswald
himself: he seems so small, so lost in the crowd, as if
he’d be a lot happier right now giving a souped-up Chevy the gas
and gunning down Main Street until there’s nothing but the day ahead.
Even his matter-of-fact I’m a patsy is all but swallowed up
in this ricochet of questions, the crossfire of self-congratulation.
And no matter where he finds himself, this is Jack’s time of night.
A few more minutes, and Oswald’s gone. Show’s over, but Jack
is in no big hurry to leave. He likes being awake at this hour
with his usual roll of cash and loaded snub-nose in his pocket.
And this evening’s no exception. Yes, he should be considered armed
but not real dangerous tonight. He’s pressing the flesh
with the out-of-town reporters, handing out his “Jack Ruby, Your Host
at the Carousel” calling cards, and they should try to stick around
a few days, he can make it worth their time. The drinks are on him
when the club reopens, when all the Dallas hoopla finally dies down
and Jack can make it his business again to give folks a little
something they can’t get at home: a taste of pizzazz and a shot
of hubba-hubba. And when the reporters ask can they quote him on that,
he says of course, he does it all the time himself.
IV /The Difference a Day Makes (part 2)
IV /The Difference a Day Makes (part 3)
IV /The Difference a Day Makes (part 4)
V / Jack Ruby Spends His Last New Year’s Eve with His Sister
From Jack Ruby's America
By David Clewell