Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Difference a Day Makes (part 2)

IV / The Difference a Day Makes
(part 2)

Jack’s too wound-up to sleep. His heart is thumping to a tune
he can’t begin to carry. Especially not here at 4 AM, but at least
Friday’s over in America. Officially, it’s a new day that finds jack
in the main office of the Dallas Times Herald, showing off
his latest sure-fire get-rich-quick scheme – the Twist-erciser,
a five-dollar exercise gimmick based on what’s left of the dance craze:
a platform the size of a bathroom scale, set on seventy ball bearings.
Jack steps us, and he swivels. He shimmies. He’s turning in every
direction at once, a squat 180 pounds of wobbling, centrifugal force.
He’s trying to get dibs on its national distribution,
so are there any questions he can answer, how many are they good for.
He’s in a crowded, smoke-filled room again, but this time Jack
is the only reason. These people need some kind of relief about now.
A few of them are laughing until they hurt, until it only looks like
crying. They never knew what this guy was going to think of next.
And Jack’s laughing too, like there is no tomorrow. He needs buyers
right now for whatever he’s selling. He can’t keep spinning this way
forever. Another night’s taking a sharp turn into the next morning
in the middle of his life, and Jack’s still going.
He’s hanging on. He’s trying not to lose his balance.


Jack’s collapsed on his living room sofa
in whatever version of sleep shear nervous exhaustion allows him.
Something happened this Saturday afternoon that turned him around
and upside down, bringing out the hangdog he keeps shut up inside
his garrulous, showboating self. He hasn’t done anything yet,
but he’s hiding out finally where no one would ever think to look.
Jack Ruby is unbelievably home, and he’s holing up here until morning.

He shouldn’t have answered the phone ringing off the hook at the Carousel.
He was only there because where else is he supposed to be.
This time the police were looking for him. They were actually asking
for the pleasure of his company. They were passing down the word
that sounded suspiciously like the word that sent him from Chicago
to Dallas in the first place. And Jack has forty thousand reasons why
he’ll still be good enough. If he doesn’t get it done, he’s as good
as dead, he’s got a feeling, stranded and uncelebrated forever
in Dallas. Maybe this can be at last his parting shot, his ticket out.
With no warning, he’s in way over his head. But he’s in, goddamn it,
he’s in.
And in a flash he sees who the cops are working for.
He can only imagine the months of rehearsing that went into this
One Show Only in Dealey Plaza. The only flub, apparently, was Oswald,
who never understood his part to begin with – one more hapless actor
asking whoever’s directing What’s my motivation? Now he’s absolutely
off the script, and who knows what he’ll say with the cameras rolling.

So here’s where Jack comes in: last-minute bit-part addition, a walk-on
to end all walk-ons. And he can be a real quick study when he has to.
It’s the weekend’s sudden acceleration: in a matter of seconds Jack goes
from knowing zero to knowing just enough to be dangerous tomorrow.
He’d rather be smack in the middle of another Carousel Saturday night,
bouncing some unruly asshole down the stairs if he had to, OK,
but that guy would always manage to pick himself up off the ground
and get on with the rest of his no-account life.


Jack’s turning over and over in his sleep. There’s no way he’ll ever
get comfortable tonight. Maybe it’s just another bad dream: this owner
he knew years ago from a competing club is slashed bad in a fight.
Jack hustles down to Parkland again to donate some of his own blood.
And when the guy wakes up, there’s Jack at his bedside,
shaking his head and whispering Well, I guess we’re partners now.
Jack’s always taken pride in working alone, but he can’t tell
if the Jack in the dream is only kidding.
And it’s getting all mixed up
with the episode of Gunsmoke on the TV Jack never turned off.
Now he’s in a crowded saloon, pushing past Marshal Matt Dillon
and his gimpy-legged deputy, Chester B. Goode. He’s looking around
desperately for the high sign from some flunky at the bar, but
before the bad guy of the week can make it through the swinging doors,
Miss Kitty smiles and drops her skirt, and everyone in the place can see
she’s packing enough heat to kill any man several times over. And Jack
is sweating a lot by now. He’s reaching deep into his pocket
for one of his Carousel cards. He need a new headliner with genuine
star power, some undeniable class, and they should discuss what’s possible
after whichever one of them gets to Oswald first.

This whole thing
could turn out all right, he’s guessing. In the bargain there’s a chance
he could be treated like some kind of hero. And he’d be saving Jackie
the emotional expense of coming back to Dodge for the trial. He can almost
see it now: there goes the Chicago Cowboy riding off into the credits,
heading north again into a long winter of television snow.


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

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