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Alternate 11/22/63

Oswald missed. Or rather, he miscalculated his target and hit the First Lady. Jackie didn’t stand a chance. Her right temple exploded in a brainy mist and Zapruder captured it all. Of course she would have hated the posthumous scrutiny, how generations of Americans from that Friday forward would remember the image of her head separating into bits far more than her restoration and humanities efforts as First Lady.

The President was visibly devastated by it all, wracked with guilt. The nation was too. His inflexibility on Vietnam wilted almost entirely and America largely withdrew, aside from some naval blockading. He won against Stevenson in ’64 mostly on sympathy, though it’s not as if his charm and political instincts evaporated overnight. Still, everyone just felt sorry for him. Her head vaporizing like that and his look of horror beside her was a tough visual to shake.

Jack Ruby was a forgotten footnote who tried to play hero in a liquor store holdup once but bled to death in the parking lot. Oswald was killed in prison within the first two months. No one cared. Life Magazine published their Jackie issue the same week and didn’t mention him outside the crime itself. Kennedy wept on television on the anniversary of her death after winning reelection and it devastated us all. It was decades later when he died, and many of us still wanted to believe it was of a broken heart, despite so much predator-like evidence to the contrary.

Marilyn may have been the sexiest woman alive, but her version of the 60’s was usurped by Jackie K’s abrupt collision with the sunset, there was no way around it. Norma Jean deserved better, certainly. The country thought we did as well, but luck just isn’t that cooperative.

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