(The essay "LEE OSWALD: DEEP CLASSIC AMERICAN HERO" appears originally in FlashPøint #2.
Companion to the following story, it was actually written after the main narrative of the story was finished. But that narrative and the essay begot a counter-narrative, which runs in footnotes against the main; and indeed certain footnotes incorporate passages from the essay, forming an even more umbilical connection.
They should be read together ... but the story comes first.)


JR Foley

"The Old Man and the Sea [is]
a deeply touching story of man's
struggle against nature and the
sea, while here [U.S.S.R.] it is
considered an indictment of capi-
talist society...."

     -- Lee Oswald, "The Kollective"
     From the Files of the Warren Commission1
In November 1959 [I went] to
the Soviet Union to reside for
a short time (much in the same
way E. Hemingway resided in Paris).

     -- Letter, Lee Oswald to Secretary of the Navy,
          John B. Connally
     From the Files of the Select Committee on Assassinations
     U.S. House of Representatives2

                                        the revolutionist3

     "Very simple operation, Mama."

     "No more, Alka!"

     "You do what I tell you, nothing goes wrong."

     They spoke in Russian; he would not let her speak English.

     "Nothing goes wrong? With no bullets in my gun, somebody might shoot me!"

     "Nobody gets shot in these things, Mama. I tell pilot, `Fly to Havana,' we get off, they all fly home. Nobody hurt."

     "Idiot! We have babies! How can you even think about this again?"

     "Forget it, then, forget it. Stupid woman, what should I expect. I want Junie and Rachel out of this rotten society. I want them to grow up in revolutionary--."

     "Oh, don't talk about Junie and Rachel. This is only about you."

     "I said forget it!" He looked at her head lying face up at the ceiling.

     "You! You! And it was so nice up to now since you came back from Mexico."

     She turned her head toward him and away again. "You even got job. I thought you left all these childhood diseases behind."

     "All right, God damn it! Then I am going to buy you washing machine, and I don't want to hear another word about it."


     "Jesus! Do what I tell you, woman, things would be so much easier."

     She started laughing, softly, until the bed shook. Lee waited. He raised his hand, counting to ten, lips only. She did not seem to see, either because of the dark or because she was laughing too hard.

     "Of course," he said, "we can always go back to Soviet Union."


     That cut off her laugh. She gripped his arm. He shook her hand off with a snort and turned away.

     "You won't have your own washing machine there. But it will be easier than hijacking plane to Cuba. Hell of a lot easier than getting visa from those God-damned tiburones in Mexico City."

     "Don't even joke about that, Alik."

     "I thought you want to laugh."

     "Tell me you're only joking. It's not funny."

     He kicked the bed.

     "I don't want to go back to Soviet Union. I want to buy you washing machine. You need washing machine more than I need car. I'll keep riding bus to work."

     She sighed. "I use Helen's washing machine, Papa, I don't--."

     "You're my wife, not Helen's wife!"

     She fell back and went rigid.

     "I have enough when these God-damned White Russians buy you clothes I can't buy you."

     "We have no money! We have no house! We have nothing!"

     He did not answer immediately. He started to say in Cuba they wouldn't need money. Instead he said:

     "We'll get it. We'll get the money."


     "That's my business."

     She grunted.

     "I have friends."

     "Ohoho! If you're talking politics again, leave me out. I hate politics."

     "You're no Kroupskaya, that's for sure."

     "Good for me! I hate her. Everybody in politics I hate. And you are no Lenin."

     "Mama." It was an order; he half-raised his hand.

     "Go ahead, hit me."

     "I don't want to hit you, Mama. I want you to listen--."

     "You are so, so brave! You can't make love but you can hit me."

     "Mama, I am controlling myself."

     "You want to steal plane to Cuba to be V.I. Lenin, to be Stalin of Cuba! You! You can't even hold job."


     "You blame FBI, you blame KGB. You don't have two little things it takes to blame yourself."

     He held his breath.

     "You have heart of rabbit--!"

     His hand hit her sharply on the far side of her face. She started, then pulled furiously away, taking sheet and bedspread with her, turning and wrapping herself, saying not a word4.

     "Oh, Mama, Mama." In English he said: "I'm not talking about washing machines!"

                              "at night I lay with you ..."

     He listened for her breathing. She was so still. He did not think she had cried; he would have felt it. Bitch. Alone in his own room, in the rooming house in the city, with a light on and books and pamphlets on his legs, he might have been asleep already. But in this strange bed in a stranger's house, in the dark beside her, he was wide awake. Only the Captain5 left. Would he get even an hour of sleep? He'd be riding to work with the neighbor boy in the morning before she opened her eyes.

     He hated it when she made him slap her. If he hadn't she'd have mocked him even more. She always got what she wanted. She showed no sign of wanting to leave Helen's and find an apartment with him. Of course if Helen's husband would move back in. Forget Richard. Richard didn't know what the hell he wanted.

     Except he didn't want Helen any more. Stupid woman! giving the FBI his work address. Thank God he had given his supervisor only Helen's address. Because he planned. He knew what he wanted. If he had Richard's job and Richard's money he could get what he wanted, without anyone's help.

     She would never follow him to Cuba. His Kroupskaya! She loved the dresses they bought her, she loved the bobby sox. In Sears and Roebuck she was like a kid in a land of candy. She believed everything she saw on television. She had no purpose in life. Once he had actually liked that, he'd thought he could mold her.

     She had proved stubbornly unmoldable. And to think that she had once been Komsomol -- not that that meant much in today's U.S.S.R. But the irony of it, he, an American, was more of a revolutionary than she was and she was a God-damned Communist!

     But maybe it was better this way. He'd been closer to the life he'd dreamed of before he met her. She was not the one who had named him Alik; the boys, with their Russian tongues, couldn't pronounce Lee. Though no one else called him Alka.

     Only the Captain6 left.

     But it would be so much easier and safer to hijack a plane than take a boat ride to Cuba with a bunch of anti-Castro gusanos7. But how could you tell this woman that! Gusanos, tiburones! Worms on one side, sharks on the other. Maybe it would be better to earn some money for a year. Try a less dangerous route. If the God-damned FBI let you. Another reason to get her out of this house. But saving money for Cuba meant no new apartment. No washing machine. Nada.

     He'd have to call the Captain8. He couldn't take much more of this. He had done something once none of them had the guts or the vision to do, so the FBI9 would grind him under their heels forever. Even when they couldn't exactly find him, they always found a way to let him know. No escape. No life. Unless he sold them his soul10.

                                   garden of eden

     It was as though he had died and was born again into a new world, raw and exalted. He stood on the cobbles of Red Square, in the bloody snow of a late autumn sunset, Lenin's Tomb rising somber red in immense floodlights more fantastic than the fairy spires of St. Basil.

     He had done what no one had done before. No one.

     He had bridged the two great worlds of the day, and after living and working in the new world, he would write a book to the people left back in the old. He would be like a new Marx describing the fulfillment of Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto.

     He became the only American in Minsk. They gave him his own apartment, overlooking the river and the Opera House, and a stipend from the "Soviet Red Cross," and with his wages that gave him a bigger income than the director of his factory. They placed him in the most important radio and television factory in Byelorussia. He was a hero. Because he was an American -- because he was an American who had defied the Cold War and the reactionary capitalists who would destroy the world if they did not get their own way. And so he was embraced as a brother by his factory comrades, and they took him hunting in the forests outside the city. They hunted doves and when amid the naked birches and snow-laden pines they found no doves they laughed and hunted hares and squirrels. Wading through the snowdrifts they asked him about America, shotguns idle till their arms ached from the hanging weight of them, and Yermolai would shoot at a shadow, "just to relieve his muscles." They'd fire off all their guns at the winter sky and come out on the sleigh-smoothed urine-yellowed road that led up above the river to the pot-house.

     They went there in the winter and the summer and again the following winter before he got married. By then his Russian was very good and his distaste for beer long gone. They sat and drank beer on the benches between the cramped walls of the dark, close, warm room ripe with crowded odors and Pavel challenged everyone to sing. They got drunker and louder, going from "Moscow Nights" to Armenian drinking songs and three moujiks at a corner table joined in. Finally the barman put up a pot of beer. They stamped for him to go against Yashka. He sang the Prince's aria from Queen of Spades, Yashka sang "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," and his Russian beat Yashka's English. Nobody remembered who drank the pot. The barman had the moujiks throw them out in the snow and they were singing too hard to punch anyone but each other. They went hunting once more, with the girls this time, after he got married, but they killed nothing and the barman wouldn't let the women in the door. That was the end of hunting. But he cleaned and oiled the shotgun every day and hung it above the sofa in their apartment, where he let visitors admire it and it left a grease-stain on the wall.

                              men without women

     "And then you'll fly me to Cuba."

     "Wait. Listen to me. You're not listening to me."

     "I leave work and go home. I meet the pick-up, he drives me to Houston, you fly me to--."

     "Mexico," said the Captain. "I can't guarantee beyond Mexico." He looked away.

     "No Mexico," Lee said. "I ain't going back there."

     "You're not listening, Leon."

     The Captain leaned back. He looked directly at Lee only when he leaned back. In the dark his eyes beneath their false eyebrows looked permanently startled. They were in a strip club. On stage, in an amber spot, a girl in a leopard skin was slinking and grinding to sax and drums. Lee didn't know why the Captain had brought him here; the Captain was queer.

     "You need a better war-name, too." The Captain leaned heavily across the table, playing with his drink, and their knees touched. "Something doesn't sound like your Christian name."

     "Ha!" Lee shifted his knees, but to hear or be heard he had to lean toward the Captain's face. "This must be some demonstration you guys are planning. Sounds like a lot more than waving signs."

     The Captain drank his Bacardi.

     "You don't have to do this, son."

     Their table got bumped.

     "How you boys doin'!" It was the emcee who'd introduced the stripper. On stage he'd been tossing out dirty one-liners, putting on a fedora, taking it off, twirling it on his middle finger and whipping and tripping over the microphone cord, wiping his sweat, wiping his nose. "You're not watching the show! Ain't she a beaut? I got five more even more gorgeous but I gotta feed my dogs." He squeezed the Captain's shoulder, grinning at Lee. "Gotta tuck 'em in!" He waved the fedora, bumping and lurching for the exit.

     "Tuck 'em good for me, Jack," the Captain said.

     "Who's that creep?" said Lee.

     "Owns the joint."

     "You sure know a lot of people, Captain. You've got contacts everywhere. Brigada 2506. CIA. Mr. Greffi."

     "Forget the old man. He's got troubles of his own."

     "You working for him again?"

     "Are you listening to me?"

     "I'm listening."

     The Captain leaned forward, looking away.

     "If all hell breaks loose, anything can happen. You understand?"


     The Captain glanced at him. "Cops go wild, they arrest everybody."

     "You said I wouldn't be arrested."

     "You're not listening."

     The Captain drank his Bacardi and stared at the wall.

     Lee watched him.

     "Go on."

     "If you're arrested, what do you know?"

     "I don't know anything."

     "You don't know anything. And they can't hold you."

     Lee nursed his beer.

     "I know this."

     The Captain shifted.

     "You called me, lad." He stared past Lee. "I'm telling you you don't have to do this."

     Lee stared at him, a long time.

     "Cops can beat the shit out of you."

     "Not if they're friendly. There're cops in here right now."

     "Where?" Lee looked around. Cheers and whistles were going up as the girl, peeling leopard skin, cat-prowled down the runway.

     "When -- if you need to know."

     Lee rocked his chair back on two legs, drinking.

     "They working for Mr. Greffi, too?"

     The Captain looked at him then shoved back his chair.

     "You got to get back to work."

     Lee grabbed his arm, drawing glances from other tables.

     "Wait," he said. "Forget it, I didn't mean it, I mean, forget it."

     The Captain, half out of his chair, looked at Lee but didn't shake his hand off.

     "You said there's a grand in it," Lee persisted.

     The Captain looked at him, saying nothing.

     "Tell me about the grand."

     The Captain sat down, staring at Lee.

     "Kiss me," he said.

     Lee let go.

     The Captain smiled, the pupils of his eyes looking smaller and sharper beneath the halfmoon eyebrows. Then he looked at his glass.

     "A grand a day if you're arrested. Plus a lawyer if you need one."

     "A grand a day!"

     "Don't worry. You don't know anything they can't hold you."

     Lee watched the Captain's face. The Captain looked toward the drums and the runway.

     "You're going to do it11," Lee said. "Aren't you? What you talked about last summer."

     "You don't know a thing."

     The Captain took a drink.

     Lee shrank against the wall. No, they couldn't be. He couldn't believe it. Not that. But a grand a day! If arrested! What else could it be?

     "When I told you where I work." His throat caught, suddenly dry. He drank from his beer. "That's why you told me to call back." The beer made no difference.

     "You called me. Before I knew anything about where you're working. You called me begging for help to get to Havana."

     "I don't beg."

     "No, you don't beg, you demand."

     The drums were pounding. The girl, down to pasties and G-string, pranced and shimmied. The whistles and catcalls went higher and higher.

     "Look at the fat on that whore!" said Lee. He was breathing too hard. "Where do they find these whores? My wife's got bones. Very pretty bones."

     The Captain said nothing.

     "But if I don't get arrested, do I still get a grand, I mean, if I meet the pick-up like you said? Damn it!" He pounded the table, drawing looks from other tables. "How does this get me to Cuba?"

     "Calm down, lad. Enjoy the show. All I can give you is names and addresses."

     "You said a grand."

     "Old amigos. Amigos no mas. You don't want to use my name."

     "You said I'd get at least a grand."

     "You'll need more than one grand. They're expensive, my old amigos."

     Lee stared at the table.

     "Guys from the Sierra Maestras?"

     "From before Fidel fucked the revolution."

     "Guys in Mexico City."

     "Used to run guns, now with the embargo they run everything. All the time."

     "Why didn't you tell me this last summer?"

     "Why didn't you tell us you were going down to the bullfights last summer, Chico?"

     Lee leaned toward the Captain's ear.

     "Captain." He was still breathing too hard. "You know people who can land me in Cuba tomorrow."

     "Alive or dead, Chico?"

     "I'll do anything."

     The Captain's glass hit the table.

     "Pipe it, you guys!" said someone at another table.

     The Captain leaned across and looked straight at Lee.

     "Nobody trusts you after last summer, Leon. Then you come back from Mexico like the prodigal son you tell us we smuggle you into Cuba, you'll kill Castro!12"

     Lee grunted. He wiped his mouth.

     "I said I serve the Cuban Revolution not a cult of personality."

     "Well, we all serve the Cuban Revolution, Chico, but we weren't fucking born yesterday!"

     "Don't call me Chico."

     "It's better than Leon."

     "Then call me ... Viejo."


     "Old man. Like ... The Old Man and the Sea. I fight sharks."

     "Sharks." He looked at him. "If you like Hemingway, you read For Whom the Bell Tolls? I'll call you Pablo."


     "I'm surprised. It's about guerrillas in the mountains. It was Fidel's favorite book. In the mountain villages he held revolutionary trials of the landlords and had the villagers execute them, just like in the book. Check it out of the library tomorrow, and we'll say this talk never took place." He made to get up again and again Lee grabbed his hand.

     "Wait!" He looked around for anyone who might hear and dropped his voice to a furious whisper. "You're telling me you're going to do that, and I'm supposed to lead the cops on a wild goose chase like a mono in a bull ring and all I get's some names and addresses and not even enough money to get to Cuba!"

     The Captain suddenly interlaced their fingers and, sliding his chair in close, pulled Lee's face up to his mouth.

     "God damn it, Leon, you called me. Me, you call. Do I hang up? Do I tell you go fuck yourself?"

     Lee fought to free his hand.

     "You're trying to get out of this country, I know an old man moving heaven and earth to stay in! Cocksucker Bobby Kennedy's trying to deport him again. Dumped him in the middle of a God-damned jungle last time. An old man! Kidnapped him and dumped him. Left him to die. And he's trying to do it again!"

     The Captain let go the hand, which Lee snapped away.

     "You're a cold fish," the Captain went on, drinking. "But we go back a ways. O.K. You've had a hard life, I've had a hard life. I really don't give a shit if you ever get to Cuba. I know Fidel'll fucking break your heart like he broke mine. Like the Russkies broke yours. So what do I care? Life is miserable and weary enough. Nobody gets out alive."

     He rolled his head back and sighed at the ceiling.

     Cymbals crashed and the girl ran offstage to hoots, scattered applause, and dying laughter. The spotlight went white and out came a new emcee.

     The Captain and Lee paid no attention.

     "Captain--," said Lee.

     "So what do I care?" The Captain rolled forward, looking Lee in the eye. "Maybe if you get out of the Marines a year earlier, you go to the Sierra Maestras instead of Moscow. Born too late. But you made up your mind, and you went. Ignorant. Immature. But ... breathtaking. You talk a lot, Leon. But what you talk you do. And sometimes ... that is breathtaking."

     Lee began to smile.

     "So I know you can help us," said the Captain. "Whether we can help you get to Cuba, I really don't give a shit."

     He took out a wallet, dropped a couple of bills beside his glass, then put his hands under the table.

     Lee slid back in his chair.

     "There are four fifties on my knee," the Captain said with a little smile. "Earnest money. We're only talking contingencies here. But keep your hands under the table."

     "I don't want to be arrested."

     "Meet your pick-up all right, there'll be no arrest. Your pickup's a cop."

     "A cop! He's in here now?"

     "Cops can't find someone a cop already has."

     "You're crazy!"

     "Cop'll do what he's paid to do. He's got a family to support. He doesn't ask too many questions."


     "I got a family," Lee said. "I don't like it."

     "Then what are you doing here?"

     The Captain turned toward the stage. No one was laughing at the new emcee's jokes. Shouts called for the next girl.

     "It would be a tremendous sacrifice to lose them." Lee's throat was very dry again.

     The Captain drank the last of his glass.

     "No need to make it."

     With his free hand the Captain pulled out his wallet.

     "O.K., O.K." Lee reached under the table, took the bills and stuffed them in a pants pocket without looking. "So. What now?"14

                              in another country

     He had already lost a family once. It had not been much to lose: his brother Robert he liked well enough but his half-brother John he did not have to see, and their mother he never had to see again. His father he had never seen at all, dead before he was born. He had not gone to the Soviet Union to seek a new, happier family but almost immediately he'd found the Kuragins, who took him in like the son they'd never had. They had lived in the West themselves, in Argentina, returning only after Stalin died, and were excited by everything American. He fell in love with their daughters. But the petite and bubbly Natasha was in love with a Hungarian electrician, and Mme Kuragina warned Lee not to let the dark moody Yelena wrap him round her finger. So he looked elsewhere. There had already been Vera the Intourist Guide, a crush only, the first girl who'd been nice to him in Moscow. At the radio/TV plant he had met Lisa, who after a short courtship stunned him when on impulse and vodka he asked her to elope. It was not so much that she didn't love him, she said -- she didn't -- but that some day he might be arrested for a spy and then where would she be, where would her family be? He felt suddenly very cold, faint and sick. Yelena, jealous, taunted him unmercifully for his pain, but Old Kuragin, who bitterly regretted their return to the U.S.S.R., shut her up, saying Alik was lucky the Soviets had not granted him citizenship, he could leave any time. And to cheer him up his factory comrades took him hunting. In time he got over feeling faint and sick at the memory of Lisa's words, if not over the chill.

     Then one evening Pavel and Denisov took him to a medical students' ball at the Trade Union Palace of Culture, and there in the noisy, pillared ballroom, beneath a glittering chandelier, he saw a pretty dark-eyed girl in a dress of red Chinese brocade and he knew. Without a second thought he smiled: Kroupskaya! She didn't seem to notice him till the second time he asked her to dance. They danced well together. He told her she was as pretty as her name. He was there every time she finished dancing with someone else, waiting to dance with her again. Once she went aside to a bony young man with wild hair whose big ears blushed with anger. But it was an assembly line foreman from the Byelarus tractor works who kept cutting in. Afterwards, out in the night, when he asked to walk her home, he heard the bony young man call out her name but it was again the Byelarus foreman who tried to shove him aside. The foreman, very big and drunk, tried to shove them all aside, and Denisov and Lavrushka grabbed him and the foreman's comrades plunged in when the American suddenly bared his slender chest to the winter night, raised his fist in salute, and cried: "Long live the international friendship of workers of the world! Victory to all progressive peoples in the struggle against war and fascism! Arise, people of Minsk, defend the Motherland against the Hitlerites of Capitalism!" And they took off down the Leninsky Prospekt to the Victory monument laughing like children, leaving the tractor builders staggering and saluting. He told her revolutionaries should never fight amongst themselves; there were enemies enough to the West. She did not tell him, then, how much she hated politics; nor did she tell him she'd gone home with him only to make the bony young man jealous.

     But a month later she let him marry her. It was not smooth at first. She got annoyed when he refused to read to her from the notebooks he wrote in. The bony young man kept trying to see her, and he punched the doors of their apartment and demanded full explanations if she did not come home from work immediately. He had lied to her, too, saying his mother was dead, like hers. When a letter from the States made him admit the truth she was shocked. Later in America they would be forced to live with his mother a few weeks, and she could see for herself: the old woman bossy and loud as ever and now fat to boot, trying to take over his wife as she always tried to take over her son's wives, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the babies, then scolding, screaming, slamming doors, crying her eyes out and running after them when they finally escaped.

     Her life, he knew, had been even harder than his, though. Her parents were long dead, had never in fact been married, she had been passed from relative to relative and treated badly until she was taken in after her pharmaceutical degree by a kindly aunt and uncle in the Timber Administration of the Byelorussian MVD. Nineteen years of this and seen nothing of the world. He was only two years older but he'd been to the Philippines, to Japan, and now the U.S.S.R. So there was a lot he could do for her. He gave her an apartment of her own, with privacy and freedom for the first time in her life along with all the privileges a foreigner, and the wife of a foreigner, received. And, his little Russian beauty, he gave her a tender devotion she had never known. He took her to the Cafe Avtomat rather than make her cook and while she listened to the Voice of America in the living room he did the laundry in the bathtub. He washed the breakfast dishes and mopped the floor. He taught her how to make love better.

     They didn't know if they really loved each other, to begin with; both on the rebound, more or less. There were harsh words and tears at moments and talk of divorce on both sides; yet these moments seemed to bring them closer together, too. He knew, though, no one had gone as far for her as he had; and she was glad she didn't have to depend on relatives any more. Then one luminous Sunday on a picnic at the lake, lying amid daisies and wildflowers, they made a baby. Life did not get easier, but that sealed it. They were a family.15

                                        a day's wait

     "I was angry, Mama. I didn't mean it. I'm sorry. I was upset about FBI coming around, that's all. But I'll handle them now, they won't be back. Mama? I want to love my Mama, not hurt her." He stared through the glass of the phone booth at the sunshine in the Plaza. "Answer me, Mama."

     "Give me your word of honor."

     "That I won't hurt you? Of course--."

     "Give me your word of honor you will never send me back to Soviet Union."

     "I was angry, Mama, I was hurt, I didn't mean it. I want you to be with me."

     "I want your word of honor, Alka. You will not go and I will not go."




     "You won't send us back to Soviet Union?"


     "Do you swear?"


     "Your word of honor?"

     "Why do you need my word of honor?"

     "Sometimes you say one thing and do another."

     "O.K. Word of honor."

     "Oh, Alka! Why do you wait a whole day, two days! Why do you put me through this?"

     "Everything will be all right."

     "I can't go back there. I don't know what I'd do. I'd never let our girls go back there."

     "Well, don't worry, Mama. Take care of our girls. I'll be out Friday again."

     He went back to work.

     He had already written the Soviet Embassy in Washington for entrance visas for the four of them.

                                        one trip across

     That was all he needed. A visa to the Soviet Union was a visa to Cuba. If it would only arrive before Kennedy did.16

     As though he could speed them up. As though anybody could make the Soviets move faster than a glacier. As though he of all people could make them breathe if they held their breath.

     The Soviet Union was the last place on earth he wanted to go.

                              the butterfly and the tank

     They would not let him attend Communist Party Meetings because he was not a party member. They would not grant him a special exception as a foreigner because he was not yet 26. Afonka Bida would not even think of sneaking him in because it would be his head for taking a bribe too obviously.

     So he tried to get his picture on the shop wall. His lathe sang, drowning out the radio jazz Foreman Akinfiev hated. Radio frames piled up at his feet like pots of gold. Oil turned his hands Negro. "You are trying to outproduce Khlebnikov without going to night school," said Pavlichenko. "Shop Party Secretary Trunov won't even look at you till you're Pay Level 3."

     He had his own apartment the rest of them had to wait five or six years for; he didn't need that. With the Red Cross stipend he made more money than Factory Director Budyonny; he didn't need that. He didn't have to be a Communist to become a "Shock Worker of Communist Labor." But Pavlichenko pointed to the seventeen pictures on the shop wall by the stairs: not one man under 35, not one below Pay Level 4. There was no way up except by the years and observing regulations. Yet even with that he could almost live. The Party Meetings would be just like the optional Komsomol meetings and the compulsory political information meetings: party members watching like chickenhawks for the slightest deviation from complete, stone-faced attention to each meaningless word the party secretary droned. He wanted to watch party members watch each other as closely as they watched nonparty members, and watch each other watching each other as they all watched the party secretary watching them, and still not miss a single word he said. That would be something to describe. Not letting him in to witness that shed the Party Meeting of all threat of boredom, so long as they refused to let him peek it made the meeting door like a sanctuary screen. But even that he could live, in the end, without. But without wheels -- any kind of wheels, car, droshky, train, bicycle -- he could not live. They would not let him travel. He couldn't move up, he couldn't move out.

     So in the end there was too much he could not write about. He had come to see the Soviet Union; he had seen only Moscow and Minsk. A three-week petovkoo at a Black Sea worker's resort it would not take too long to get; but a three-week tour of cities and republics! The paperwork alone would make the factory central committee refuse, even if all permissions could be obtained, which was out of the question. He would obtain the committee's undying enmity, that was all.

     In America he did not even need a passport to cross into Mexico. In America there were things to spend money on, without waiting, without lines. America was counter-revolutionary but then again it was, maybe, only pre-revolutionary. He had come to the Soviet Union with American eyes, he could go back to America with Soviet eyes, see what no one else could see. He had bridged the two great world orders, he could be a new kind of Marx -- and if he lived long enough, who knew? A new kind of Lenin. But not with Russian-style Marxism-Leninism. His would be a revolution with civil liberties and without the incredible, staggering, stagnating Soviet-style bureaucracy whose sole purpose, beyond controlling every inch and minute of every Soviet's life, was to make sure everybody had a job, however stupid.

     It did not take too long to realize he could not stick around till he was the right age and pay level to become a "Shock Worker."

     "You are too romantic," Afonka Bida warned him. "Romantics turn into adventurists."

     "Watch out," Pavel whispered. "Your trouble, Alik, is you can't live with comrades only. You have to make enemies, too."

     Pavel, his best friend.

     So at last he wrote the American embassy about going back.

     And then Shop Party Secretary Trunov began to take notice.

                                        fifth column

     He could tell the FBI. If worst came to worst, he could just tell the FBI and Kennedy would be home free.

     Sure, and then they'd have him where they wanted him.

     Or Mr. Greffi would get him. The Captain couldn't save him.

     And if he somehow got to Cuba after working for the FBI ... if they found out, they'd throw him in La Cabaña for thirty years.

     Or maybe it'd be called off. They could still call it off, wait for a better opportunity and by then he'd be long gone.

     But to Cuba?

     The FBI knew where he worked, but not where he lived; they didn't know everything. They hadn't come to him yet, they'd gotten hold of the Clynes' address somehow, gone out there. Good old Mama, she'd taken down Hollins' license number but didn't give away the phone number at the rooming house; that they could have traced.

     But that thick-headed shark would have to be hit between the eyes before he'd catch the hint.

     Hollins would have to come to him. At work? Where else. And how to get him? What to say? He didn't want to get the Captain in trouble.

     What would Hollins be willing to pay?

                                        a pursuit race

     At noon he walked into the downtown FBI office and tossed an unsealed envelope onto the startled receptionist's desk.

     "Get this to Hollins."


     You have interviewed my wife behind my back. Leave her alone. Otherwise I will be forced to take action. You know where to find me.

     Down the street he halted at the club the Captain had brought him to and looked at the photos of strippers beside the door. His lunch hour was nearly gone. Still he couldn't make up his mind to go straight back to work.

     As though to make it up for him the door opened suddenly and a familiar man hurried out, in a wrinkled brown suit, fedora jammed over his eyes.

     They glanced at each other. The man in the fedora winked and aimed a finger at him.

     "Post time, gentlemen!"

     And sprinted up the sidewalk Lee had just come down, as though he too had an urgent message to drop on Agent Hollins' desk.

                                        a simple enquiry

     "I'll be coming out today, Mama, if it's O.K. with Helen."

     "I don't know, Papa. I don't think it's always convenient for Helen if you come every weekend. It's Lynn's birthday tomorrow, she's having party."

     "You mean Richard's coming?"


     "That's O.K. I'll stay out of the way."

     "I don't think it's good idea."

     "I'll stay out of the way. I won't cause any trouble. I want to kiss my girls. I want to be with you, I won't get in the way."

     "I think next weekend will be better, Alka."

     "You don't understand, I want to see you!"

     "Papa, are you in some trouble? Did you lose your job?"

     "No, no, I didn't lose my job, I'm calling you from work. Albert can bring me out again."

     "Not this weekend, Alka. Next weekend. You were here three days last weekend."

     "I'll leave first thing in the morning. I won't even come back on Sunday, I'll do my laundry, I'll watch football."

     "Not tonight. Maybe Sunday but I don't know, Richard might still be here, and how would you come out, anyway? I think next weekend will be a lot better."

     "I'll call you tomorrow night."


     "Tomorrow night. Then you can tell me."

                                   que te dice la patria?

     So he slipped a cartridge into his .38, slowly revolving the chambers. Outside, the dusk was growing dark. Inside, the bed lamp seemed to give less light, and dropping his newspapers he rolled over, face in pillow, gun to head, safety off.17

     To stand with the masses in the Plaza de la Revolucion, the lighthouseof the Morro standing watch behind, wave upon wave of May Day banners breaking against the Malecon, the voice of Fidel like a lead tenor over hundreds of speakers, sweeping them all into his aria, a chorus of half a million!

     "Cuba Si! Yanqui No!"

     "Cuba Si! Yanqui No!"

     But ... was that really the Revolution -- today?

     In The Militant a Canadian journalist wrote:

"The visitor here may detect the first faint outlines of maturity in a society that has existed for less than four-and-a-half years. The fervor of dedicated supporters of Fidel Castro is hardening into a realization that this particular society is here to stay. Now the struggle is no longer for mere survival, a romantic, swashbuckling adventure with pearl-handled pistols on the hip, but for order and stability through the mean and mundane contributions of hard work and personal sacrifice. The slogan, `Patria o Muerte!' (`Country or Death!') has become `Mas Produccion!' (`More Production!')"

     He spun the chambers again.

     If he'd gotten there in September, just before the hurricane, that would have been something like '58, '59. Camaguey and Oriente, 80 inches of rain in 180 mph winds, half the sugar and coffee crops wiped out and almost all the cotton and cocobeans, a thousand people dead, three thousand horses, ten thousand sheep, all property, highways, and railroads destroyed, whole villages buried under rockslides or washed away, the entire fishing fleet in Manzanillo smashed and scattered out to sea. But in only five days Red Battalions of engineers and electricians from the cities working round the clock had restored two bridges and all communications and main electrical lines. That was the Revolution. "Patria o Muerte!" Try getting ugly Americans to do that.

     Kennedy had pledged disaster aid but refused to lift the embargo. Soviet Union, Canada, Israel, Peru send aid and what does the U.S. send? Two Canadians with eighteen fruit cans stuffed with grenades and explosives. Captured immediately, paraded on Havana TV. They send the Queen Conch -- out of West Palm Beach! Kennedy's home! Both its launches captured immediately. Five gusanos kill two people, captured immediately. How stupid and clumsy could the CIA get. That Professor Andreson the Soviets were holding sounded just as clumsy. Must be a spy. Arrested outside the Metropole. He remembered the Metropole, he'd stayed there after the Hotel Berlin that time. Kennedy making a big stink about the poor old Harvard professor. God-damned amateurs all.

     No way, no way he could go in with gusanos. He'd end up in La Cabaña the rest of his life for sure.

     The Militant said fifty-nine American students had defied the travel ban to Havana by going through Prague. How the hell was he supposed to get to Prague! And he'd have to be a student somewhere.

     Captain said he didn't give a shit if he never got to Cuba.

     Was it off? Captain hadn't called. Were they letting Kennedy off the hook?

     Their business, not his.

     No FBI either. Hollins. To hell with him. Serve him right to have the President shot on his watch.

     It was such a farce. The Captain and his maricones yelling and screaming about Kennedy, going to get him for this, get him for that, Minute Men in every city, teams on stand-by alert, triangulation of fire, decoys, diversions, dispersed escape routes. One more thing to get roaring drunk over on hot French Quarter nights.

     You had to be cold, objective.

     Kennedy bullet-riddled. Who would gain? Politically, not emotionally.

     The right wing? John Birchers? Segregationists? Ku Klux Klan? They'd cheer but wouldn't gain a thing -- Johnson just as liberal. The Cubans? They'd cheer all right, both sides. Revenge for Playa Giron! Revenge for the Missile Crisis! But on Cuba Johnson would be just like Kennedy.

     Mr. Greffi? To stop Bobby Kennedy deporting him? That would sure halt deportation!

     It was all emotion, for the Captain and his amigos. None of it made sense -- objectively, coldly.

     Yes, he could have shot Fidel if he'd had to -- but only if he was convinced it wouldn't change a thing -- the Revolution was rooted and would go on no matter who was Maximum Leader.

     O.K. then: assassinating Kennedy wouldn't change anything. Was there any reason Kennedy should be assassinated -- deserved to be?

     Playa Giron. The embargo. The Missile Crisis.

     Kennedy was still "tightening the noose" around Cuba. The Worker called the Missile Crisis a "Socialist victory!" ... because Kennedy nicely agreed not to invade. But The Militant was more honest. And now the Times Herald was saying Kennedy "all but invited the Cuban people today to overthrow Fidel Castro's Communist regime and promised prompt U.S. aid if they do."

     And Kennedy was trying to assassinate Castro! Yes! The Captain knew all about that -- last summer bitching all the time that the CIA couldn't bring off "the easiest assassination in the world."

     Just did it, three weeks ago, to Diem in South Vietnam! So.

     So beat Kennedy to it. Turnabout is fair play.

     O.K. What was a good reason not to assassinate Kennedy?

     Civil rights. He was very good on civil rights. Even The Worker and The Militant admitted that, though they blasted him for going too slow, playing politics.

     But so was Johnson good on civil rights. Used to be a powerful Senator and maybe he'd even have better luck than Kennedy getting a civil rights law past the Southern bloc in Congress.

     So it wouldn't change anything.

     But that was a point against Kennedy, that assassination wouldn't change a thing.

     But, my God, how would it help the Revolution?

     If it backfired ... a revolutionary act that backfired was counter-revolutionary.

     He had to get to Cuba. Before anything happened.

     But the Captain hadn't called. Maybe they were calling it off. He'd be the last one to hear, he wasn't supposed to do any shooting anyway ....

     He could teach Marine tactics to Cuban militia, that's what he could do. He could be there if the U.S. tried to invade again.

     Lead an offensive against Guantanamo!

     Like Fidel and Che in the battle of Uvero.

     Or swing a machete, in the hot Caribbean sun, a city Rojo cutting cane for the people.

     "Patria o Muerte!"18

     Was Manzanillo where the Old Man pushed out in his skiff into the Gulf Stream? No. Manzanillo was on the southern coast. The Old Man lived on a beach outside Havana.

     He'd have to read that Hemingway book Fidel liked so much about the guajiro who executed landlords. Maybe write a book himself, a better one than the book he never finished about the Soviet Union.


     He opened the revolver, shook the cartridges onto the bed and slapped it shut again.

     Would Hollins give him anywhere near enough cash for one of the Captain's old amigos in Mexico City?

     Laying the gun against his head, he squeezed the trigger.19

                         "some day when I am picked up ..."

     "No, I can do my laundry. And watch football. Read."

     "Papa, I'm sorry. Now I think Helen needs me back at the party."

     "Give my Junie a kiss for me. And the baby. And yourself, too."

     "Silly Papa. We kiss you too."

     "You don't think Richard can pick me up?"


     "O.K., O.K."

     "Call again tomorrow, I'll be waiting."


                    a good cafe on the place st.-michel

     He'd always waited too long. He had waited too long in the U.S.S.R. for things to happen, and in the end had written very little.20 He had worked off and on with the rambling essay on the factory Kollective and life in Minsk, but he'd needed to get outside Minsk and never could. There was so much he could never write about the U.S.S.R. and now waiting for exit visas and a baby to be born, there were only his experiences -- his "adventures." They would not make him the Marx of a new world order, but they would tell the world what he had done. That was something; back in the U.S. that was all they'd want to read anyway.

     So while she visited aunts and uncles in Kharkhov for what they did not know would be her last visit ever, he pulled together all his scribblings to reconstruct a sort of diary. Back to the beginning. In June he had taken her to Moscow to apply at the American embassy for an immigrant visa, and took a room at the Hotel Berlin because, he told her, that was where he'd stayed when he first arrived in the Soviet Union; but he did not tell her everything. At the idea of going back with him to America she had been deeply disturbed, very excited, very fearful, and when they got back from Moscow she was shamed and browbeaten by her foreman at the pharmacy in front of all the girls, for of course they had found out immediately. She was expelled from Komsomol, although at work they liked her well enough to keep her on, hoping to dissuade her. But for her America had always been a far-off, wondrous land like a kingdom out of Krylov's fables. Her parents and grandparents were dead and she had no sisters or brothers. Not even Uncle Ilya, an MVD man, and Aunt Valya, who had given her a bed in their apartment, would be that sorry to see her go, although they were extremely upset; Ilya's career could be ruined. And she was a stubborn one; she had had to be, with no family, to survive in the Soviet Union. But beyond stubbornness she was not always certain what she wanted, and she had almost changed her mind twice since Moscow and he was glad he had not told her everything about the Hotel Berlin when he insisted they stay there that week in June when she was sure she wanted to go to America.

     He told her he didn't remember which room he'd stayed in -- it was only for a "couple of days;" but he remembered all right. By himself he walked past the door, without stopping; it was closed; walked past it twice only, because he didn't want questions asked.

     Only five days after he'd stepped off the train from Helsinki they had told him no. Five days. The slow, slow Soviet bureaucracy that took forever to decide anything. Nyet. He was shaken. Only five days and it was over. Hadn't even got his foot in the door. It made no sense. He had the radar data for them, he'd told them, shown them.

     He got angry. They would not play a game with him. "U.S.S.R. only great in literature," the stout deadpan Passport and Visa man, dressed in black, had answered him. "Go home." Shark. First of many.

     No! He had come here to do something and he'd do it.

     So. He placed the copy of Dostoyevsky's The Idiot Vera the Intourist guide had given him on one corner of the bathtub with a sheet of stationery then plugged the drain and turned on the hot water. It was past seven and Vera was due by at eight; they were supposed to go to the opera to celebrate his birthday. She didn't know Pass. and Visa had given him two hours to get out of town. He numbed his left wrist in running cold water in the sink and, hesitating one last moment only, drew the razor across its thin blue veins. Then stared a moment shocked at how much blood began to run; he'd hardly touched the place. Then plunged it in the hot tub. There was almost no pain. His heart beat wildly and he felt dizzy. He watched the tub water turn red. He tried to slow the blood flow but it was either this or the train back to Helsinki. He wiped the other hand and began to print on the sheet of stationery positioned on the book. I am dying, he printed. But I'm not sick. I'm not crazy. I came to Soviet Union to become a new man. My dreams have been shattered by a petty official! It is his wrists that betray the great people's revolution! Impossible to go on living when life takes on such grotesque and humiliating--. He slipped and book and denunciation splashed into the bloody water. He flushed the torn-up note down the toilet but left the book in the tub, propped so it could be seen. On a radio somewhere a violin was playing. It was getting close to eight. The events and the exhilaration and the dismay left him suddenly overwhelmed and exhausted, though still not believing he would die. He found a strange, dry-mouthed feverish pleasure in the thought he might die anyway, if Vera was delayed. But she was not delayed. He didn't know just when he blacked out but he heard her scream.

     He spent five days in the hospital and Vera brought him the happy news he'd been granted a one year residence permit, renewable, city of residence to be determined. The Soviets had bought the suicide. But not the American reporter who interviewed him a few days later. Five stitches in only one wrist did not impress her very much. She said she found it very hard to believe anyone could give up America for Russia. He said, "I can't wait."21

                              a natural history of the dead

     Last summer cleaning his rifle on the side porch of their old apartment in New Orleans, in the dusk, cleaning and oiling, the disassembled parts on newspaper at his feet, the dark of the strawberry bushes to one side, and people strolling on the banquette, in and out of the street light, him sighting along the barrel at them. Clicking the trigger.

     And something dark running past his shoe. His foot stamped. The crunch nauseating. A piece of newspaper wiping it off but a spot remaining on the dim floor, wet.

     And the longer he stared the more it looked as though it had always been there.

     The live, running thing, it seemed, a trick of the eye. Or daydream.

     Alive and running one second, mashed the next.

     Yet it seemed nothing had changed. No connection.

     The live cockroach still running across the floor; the mashed cockroach had always been mashed. When you were dead you always had been dead.

     That was something he could have written about.

     Why did people make such a fuss?22

                                   the end of something

     "You didn't phone us yesterday, Papa. What happened?"

     "Nothing happened. I wanted to see you, not talk on the damn phone all the time. "

     "But did you go out? We phoned you, you weren't there."

     "I was home all day. I went across to the Washeteria, but nobody told--."

     "Helen called. She asked for you."

     "God! I told you never to phone me there. Who did she ask for?"

     "She asked for you, Alik. Who else? Not `Alik,' your American name."

     "Damn! I don't live there under my real name."

     "Why not!"

     "I don't want the landlady to know I lived in Soviet Union."

     "It's none of her business, how would she know!"

     "You don't understand a thing. I don't want FBI knowing where I live. Oh, hell, now they'll find out for sure. You and your long tongue, they always get us in trouble."

     "Alik! You're starting again. All these comedies!"

     "I got to get back to work. I'll call you later."

     "It's killing me, Alka. It's destroying us. But I won't let it destroy our girls. If you want to live as Comrade Lenin, go ahead. But I won't take it."

     "You -- devushka, shut up! And you take Helen's address book and rip out my name and number."


     "Do you hear me? I order you to cross my name and phone number out of that book."

     "How dare you call me devushka!"

     "Devushka! Rip my name and number --. Hey! Hang up on me, bitch, you--!"

while the bombardment was knocking the trench to

     He tossed and beat the mattress. Damn you, damn you, Mama. Damn you. Forget her. It's over. Maybe later, in Cuba -- I SAID FORGET IT! If you want to get to Cuba, only you can do it. You can't take the girls, you have to get there first. She won't help. And forget the Captain. "Don't give a shit if you never get to Cuba." Walk on water, Oswaldskovitch. Yeah, and even then there'd be sharks. And if he did play decoy, they'd throw him to the cops. And if he went to Hollins, they'd own him. They had him like a bull surrounded by matadors. No, bulls had no brains. More like a matador surrounded by bulls, but no sword. What kind of sword would it take? What would he have to do?

     Oh God! Oh God.

     He began to sweat. Tossing and tossing.


     He tossed, wiping the sweat off his face, yelling at himself. Until he didn't know when sleep came.

     And in the morning the sun came up and the day was hot and clear and without emotion and quiet.

     But Friday still ahead. Whether he slept or waked. With or without him.

     It couldn't go on. No more. He had to end it. Call the Captain -- collect.

     Ram a pic in his neck. And see how he took it.

                                        death in the afternoon

     The Captain let go his arm.

     "What's come up? And face where I'm facing."

     The Captain stared angrily across the Plaza, away from the old building where Lee worked with the Hertz sign on top. They stood near the curb of Main Street, far enough down the lawn from the war memorial they couldn't be overheard by anyone eating lunch under the trees. The Captain stared toward the white pergola near the underpass. It was the twin of the other white pergola that stood in a twin grove of trees at the other end of the underpass, behind them. They both stared toward the pergola where nothing would happen.

     Lee wet his mouth, but his voice died.

     "Speak up!"

     "All the way."

     "All what way? What all the way?"

     "I ain't just drinking a Coke and go home." He was breathing too hard.

     "Make sense, I don't have time for this." The Captain glanced at him and stared away.

     Cars accelerated past them toward the underpass below. Lee wet his mouth, and swallowed to loosen his throat.

     "Somebody else can be mono." Then, suddenly, it was easy. He stared at a corner of the Terminal Annex across the Plaza, objective, emotionless. "If I play, I play matador."

     "Oh, Christ!" The Captain closed his eyes. In the sunshine the half-moons above his eyes looked like no more than strips of faded orange carpet, which they were. "Oh Jesus, Jesus Christ."

     "Mannlicher-Carcano's good enough sword."

     "Holy Christ, you little bastard, I told you last summer that piece of shit can't hit the broad side of a barn."

     Lee squinted at the corner of the Terminal Annex.

     "When is the last time you even fired it?" the Captain managed, clearing his throat with a great gob of mucus.

     "Oh, I've been practicing, in the creek, in the woods."

     The Captain stared at his hands.

     "A matador, you son-of-a-bitch, doesn't fight from the top of the arena, he gets in front of the bull's horns so he gets killed if he doesn't do the job right."

     Lee kept squinting at the corner of the Terminal Annex.

     "You're not doing a damn thing to get me to Cuba."

     "Estamos chingados!"

     The Captain paced the grass as cars passed, opening and closing his fists, staring furiously at the pergola. Then he looked at Lee.

     "Something bad's going to happen. If you do this."

     Lee stared at the Terminal Annex. Or else, he was thinking, maybe somebody's going to say something to Agent Hollins.

     "To hell with it." The Captain halted. He stared at Lee, who kept staring at the Annex. "You can never get there from Mexico. Go to Canada. I mean today, right now. Don't go back to work. Go straight to the Greyhound station, it's just two-three blocks that way. I gave you $200, in a half-hour I'll bring you five hundred. Go to Toronto, Montreal. Ship out on a freighter. Work your passage. But get out of here. This minute."

     Now Lee looked at him, utterly astonished.

     "What about my wife, my girls?"

     The Captain looked closely at him.

     "What about you?"

                                   to have and have not

     When he saw them come in the door the President looked up and then reached under and switched off the hidden tape recorder.

     "Captain!" He came around the desk grinning, walking stiffly. He took the Captain's hand in both of his. "And Mr. Oswald." He seized the young man's hand. "I've read your manuscript. I was fascinated. It made me feel I was right there, working beside you in that factory, assembling radios. I was there in those political education meetings, listening to those bastards rant. I'd like to have one or two of them sent over on a cultural exchange to a Democratic precinct meeting in South Boston. They'd get a political education."

     Laughter in the beautiful stillness of the room.

     It was a room of curving cream walls and thick grey carpet with the seal of the Presidency woven in. The polished oaken desk had been carved from the timbers of a British warship and paintings of naval engagements, models of tall ships and scrimshawed whale's teeth adorned the walls and recesses.

     "I want to read something like that from you on a related matter." The President's tone was intimate and urgent. "The Captain kindly agreed to bring you here at this time of night." The tall French windows behind their heavy olive drapes were dark. "I have a special request to make of you."

     Two wheat-colored sofas waited by the fire-place at one side of the office but the President remained standing. He did not ask his guests to sit down. He appeared too interested in their business to sit down himself. His suit was of a crisp black fabric that looked brand-new. He put his hands in the pockets of the suitcoat.

     "Mr. Oswald, I want you to go underground and write your personal observations of the revolution in Cuba. I'm reappraising our Cuban policy." He folded his arms. "I won't let the Soviets bring back their missiles and I'm still committed to self-determination for all Cubans, including the exiles. But I've ordered a broad reconsideration of our policy from top to bottom of the State Department, and this is why I need all the intelligence I can get." He put his hands in his pockets again. "The CIA and the NSA will supply their data. But there are certain institutional biases that, shall we say, limit the usefulness of that data. I want fresh, independent intelligence on the ground." A hand brushed back his hair. "I'm very impressed by your work in the Soviet Union. You were certainly well-trained by Naval Intelligence at Atsugi." He smiled. "I wouldn't trust anyone but a Navy man to do the job right.

     "I know," he kept smiling. "Not just a Navy man, a Marine." And turning he nodded toward the red flag of the Corps that stood out among the service flags ranked behind his desk.

     He went on that arrangements had been made for Mr. Oswald to enter Cuba by way of an international labor brigade of sugar cane cutters forming in Montreal. He would not need a new identity, a nom de guerre; his history in the Soviet Union was precisely what qualified him for this mission, as well as he efforts on behalf of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.

     The President slid his hands in the back pockets of his trousers.

     "I want to know how deeply the revolution has taken hold among the people of Cuba, and whether it is truly communist or some other hybrid." He crossed his arms. "I want to know whether supporting a counter-revolution is pointless. I don't want a repeat of our recent experience in South Vietnam.

     "We are prepared to recognize the legitimacy of the revolution if that is what the overwhelming majority of Cubans want. We are even prepared to help it succeed, under certain conditions, of course, that preserve and that do not endanger our vital interests in the Caribbean."

     This was a deep cover assignment that would last over a long period of time. Many months. Arrangements would be made to send his family to join him if he so wished.

     The President brushed his hair and placed his hands in his coat pockets.

     The reports would be smuggled out through the Marine base at Guantanamo. "There is some risk, of course." But Mr. Oswald would not be gathering military intelligence. He would not be involved with any networks of the anti-Castro resistance. So the risk would be much less than if he were. He would be expected to travel all over and participate as fully as possible in economic and political activities. "You will not act to subvert but always to support the Cuban Revolution. And keep me posted. Agreed?"

     The President settled his hands in his coat pockets. He was looking Lee in the eye. It was a gaze disclosing eyes so wide-set as to seem independent, well-practiced partners: one smiled and entertained you while the other observed you closely. It was a look keen and warm, yet at the same time tough and distant. It expected the most of another player in whatever game it was they were about to play.

     He met the President's gaze, gazed past it and the flags into the dark of the tall windows. At the edge of his gaze he was aware of a beautiful globe resting on the Presidential carpet. He looked at the President.

     "No! No, no!"23

     He gasped.

     He couldn't believe his own ears. He stared at the grass, shaken.

     He could feel the Captain staring at him.

     "If that's what you want, Leon," the Captain said. "If that's what you want."

                                        out of season

     Much of the rest of that day he spent in the men's room, heavy-legged and sick to his stomach, and went to bed that night without eating, slipping into fitful sleep, exhausted, the bedlamp and all his clothes on. By next morning a convalescent calm had settled. He ate nothing and at work filled his book orders and did not think. Like something just out of the corner of the eye, there seemed another person beside him whom the Captain had told others would be on the ground -- where was not said -- while "Leon" would be on his own up high. And a trapping cop with curly hair who had stared at them across dim club tables. But even after a textbook salesman showed off two gift rifles, sighting out a downstairs office window, it was still surprisingly easy not to think. There was, like a long thin ground fog in the pit of his stomach, nothing to think. Only that night, after a bit of chicken and salad, did his stomach and chest begin to feel as though he'd been drinking coffee all day. In his room after watching TV past midnight he kept the bed lamp on and flipped through recent TIMEs and OGONYOKs, because if he turned the lamp off and put them away he'd never fall asleep.

     Next morning at work, first thing, he asked Albert to drive him out to the Clynes', a day early. To pick up some curtain rods, he said. For his apartment.

                                        a very short story

     That evening he showed up at the Clynes' unannounced, without permission.

     He told her he wanted to make peace, a lot of pressures had gotten to him, he didn't mean what he'd said, he wanted her to show him she was no longer angry. Three times he asked a kiss, three times she ignored him, until he blocked a bedroom doorway. Her lips made no response as he kissed her and when he let go she went right on out to fetch more diapers from the clothesline.

     In the front yard he swung his daughter and her friends, round and round shrieking with fright and laughter. Then they tried to catch butterflies.

     After dinner, in the kitchen, his wife went to work on the dishes. Even when she answered him it was as though she hadn't opened her mouth. Out the window the dusk was clear, the sunset red-gold in the western sky.

     He told her he had a little money now, tomorrow he would get an apartment in town, for both of them -- all of them. He wanted his girls with him. And make a down payment on a washing machine.

     Without expression she kept washing glasses, silverware.

     "Would you say something?"

                                             at sea

     Watching her, he thought of the lines from Queen of Spades: `I could not imagine life without you. For you I would perform a heroic deed of unprecedented prowess.'

     She did not turn around.

     He swung his hand at her face, halted, made a fist, dropped his arm.

                                        a sea change

     She kept her face straight, her laughter in. Everything he said and did showed her her power over him was complete now; she was enjoying it and she was not going to lose it the least little bit by letting slip a smile. She'd let the puppy go on barking another day or two.

                                   night before battle

     Bed. Near total dark. His hand reached for her breast.

     Curtly her back turned.

     Later her foot touched his leg. He kicked it away.

                                        three shots

     He shut his eyes.24

          "now sleeps he with that old whore, Death..."

     Standing sideways, left shoulder forward, he profiled toward the Lincoln, sighting along the snub barrel of the .38; the Lincoln bearing down, slowly but unswervingly, its grill shooting jets of steam from the punctured radiator but the windshield as yet unmarked by bullet holes. He stood downhill, waiting for the face to clear the top of the windshield. There were other faces but he kept his gaze fixed on where the primary would clear, on where would be the spot between the eyes.

     He rose to his toes, sighting along the barrel, and charged.

     The other man was shooting from somewhere to the side and he, as he snapped his own trigger, unhearing its click in the roaring of the other's gun, snapped again with the Lincoln's huge bulk almost on him and his pistol almost level with the President's head, and behind him, as the Lincoln seemed about to hit him, his wife fired the 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano and he felt a sudden white-hot, blinding flash explode inside his head -25

                                        a farewell to arms

     In the morning he slept through the alarm clock. She woke him then went back to sleep. After kissing his daughters, he stuffed $170 in an old wallet and left it in the dresser. And dropped his wedding ring in a china cup.

                                        today is Friday

     All morning he filled orders. Every minute Agent Hollins tapped his shoulder. Every minute the place swarmed with Secret Service. The brown paper package with the disassembled rifle sat hidden on the sixth floor. They were laying new plywood up there and heavy cartons of readers had been moved to the east side, around the southeast window. Which was where the rifle, still disassembled, unused, unthought about, could still be picked up at the end of the day and taken back to the Clynes'.

     No, that couldn't be explained to Albert.

     And she'd made her choice. No going back.

     He could take it to his own place, slide it under the bed, tell Mrs. Bell, the housekeeper, he was going hunting. Or the landlady, Mrs. Hirsch, if Mrs. Bell told her she'd seen it.

     It kept things objective, thinking where to take it after work, how to cache it, explain it. And his stomach in check. Why he hadn't eaten.

     Eleven came and went. No Hollins. No Secret Service.

     Nothing from the sixth floor. The package still there.

     But he could go on filling orders. All afternoon.

     Working hard, wearing himself out, waiting and saving money, patiently, putting up with frustration after frustration ... and who knew what difference it would ever make?

     Would what happened to him -- to him -- really matter if he could do something that made a difference?26


     He put the assembled rifle on one side of the three book cartons he'd stacked for a gun mount, the clip with four rounds on the other. Then leaned back on his ankles against the other cartons, action taken, already difference made, but still nothing decided. He closed his eyes. Alone and free.

     Only the second time in his life. But the first nothing like this.

     Sunshine against the cartons and on the floor. Alone, free ... the world at his feet. The only man in the city who could save Kennedy. Yes. If he chose.

     Oh, Mama, what you are going to miss. Don't think. Out the open window voices from the sidewalk mingling with the Negro voices in the window below. A sweetness on the air. He saw flowers brought to him by little girls. He could keep his eyes closed, and smell, and listen to the birds till the car was past, disassemble the thing and go back to work. Nobody on earth to stop him.

     Or fire a warning shot out the window. Screw the Captain and his amigos.27

     Still get arrested.

     But would arrest matter, would even prison matter if he could make a difference in the world?28

     Somebody assassinated Czar Alexander II, and another 40 years passed before the Revolution broke out. But that was what had started it all.

     Don't think.

                                        marlin off the Morro

     A shout rose across the Plaza.

     The crowds at the far end of the war memorial had come to life. There was a very faint sound of sirens. The cars at the front of the traffic jam in the middle of the Plaza began to honk their horns.

     He peered at the men slouched along the parapet above the underpass and at the near pergola. The Captain had refused to say where the others would be. "You do your job, they'll do theirs." There were people on the grassy slope below the pergola, one man standing on one of its walls with a movie camera in his hands.

     He put the scope to his eye. Aiming but not yet loaded.

     Something slipped lightly along the edge of the scope. He moved to catch it, found men in dark suits here and there, with and without fedoras, one holding, under the bright sun, an open black umbrella, but not who he thought he'd seen.

     Something moved at the edge of the scope again, and this time, behind the man on the wall, beneath tree branches, behind a wooden fence, two heads were moving. Leaves covered the faces. One looked round and crew-cut, young thirties, the other older, lean and leathery, maybe Cuban or Mexican. A pair of hands on the fence, the crewcut's, pointing and gesturing. But no weapons.

     He scoped the men slouched above the underpass. He scoped the two behind the fence. The hands were gone.

     The noise of the crowd around the intersection of Main was rising with the thin sound of sirens.

     He craned to peer at the tops of the buildings to the left along the street coming down from Main. Triangulation. But he couldn't see.

     The Negro voices droned beneath the window.

     Don't think.

     Could have gone to Canada.


     No. No getting off that easy.

     For Playa Giron! For the embargo! For the Missile Crisis!

     The arch-enemy of Cuba brought down like the statues of Stalin.

     No medals for it, no honors. Only the deed itself.

     A material contribution, however imperfect.

     The real thing. The Second American Revolution begun.

     The only sense it could make.

     Enough to do it, and know it. No bragging. The run-of-the-mill shot his mouth off. You don't give them any excuse to launch an invasion.

     He closed his eyes, pulling in the rifle, wiping sweat and making fists to steady his hands.

     You going to do it?29

     You're not going to Cuba. Ever.

     You going to let gusanos and Minute Men take it away?

     He opened his eyes, angled the barrel on the edge of the top book carton, sighting into the oak tree below, the cross-hairs blurring, finding gaps in the leaves.30 Breathing.

                                        for whom the bell tolls

     He heard the sirens coming down Main and then the cheers and the motorcycles and then they came around the corner, wailing, two echelons of police motorcycles and behind them a white lead car. The crowds roared and along the curbs they were beginning to jump, and then a black Lincoln rounded the corner and as it straightened out he saw tiny hands waving.

     The Negro murmur halted.

     "They he is."

     He felt suddenly hollow and his mouth tasted of bile.

     You like him. It doesn't matter. It's not for you.

     He peered at the fence behind the pergola. The walls were so white in the sun.

     It's yours if you.

     From the time you first heard they were going to. You knew.

     Don't think.

     Are you going to let this go?

     From the beginning you've known. You've wanted.

     History is giving it to you.

     If you're equal to.

     No one will know. You do it for Cuba, for the Revolution. You get nothing but they can't take it away.

     He scoped the fence, and something lay on it under the leaves of the tree branches. There was only one head now.

     The Old Man. He loved the fish -- like a brother -- but he killed it because he had to. Let nothing get in the way. Even asked the fish to forgive him.

     You going to ask Kennedy to forgive you?

     He picked the clip up from the floor, opened the action, put the clip into the groove of the magazine until it clicked, then looked down toward the fence. Something was sliding forward over the fence beneath the leaves.

     Take it easy.

     No time to check the top of the white building.

     The motorcade was shimmering toward him across the Plaza, the thunder of slow motorcycles in the van. It was fresh noon. In the back seat of the open Lincoln the President, in a blue suit, and the President's wife, in a pink coat and hat, waved smiling.

     He couldn't look at the President. He couldn't take his eyes off the wife, the delighted smile, brushing hair out of her eyes.

     Kroupskaya. No. She was who she was, and always had been, and had never been what he'd hoped she would be, and she never would be. And he was who he was, and she would never understand. They had helped each other once. That was good. It was enough. Not her fault, not his. What she wanted -- America -- now she could get. The America he wanted wasn't here yet.

     He would love her always. And that was that.

     Marina. Helen would take care of her as well as anyone.

     They were coming in a straight line along the war memorial. Another clear, sure shot. He looked down toward the fence. He could see nothing clearly through the branches but they were there all right. He looked at the grassy slope and at the trees and tried not to think at all.

     The first motorcycles, sirens wailing, turned the near corner, the white car right behind.

     He expelled a breath and sighted into the oak tree below the window and to the right. Don't. He held a faintly unsteady aim through the stirring leaves on a spot of empty, sunlit street and repositioned as the white car passed through the cross-hairs.

     Think of the sharks behind the fence, up on the building. You can't let them. This is yours alone -- from all time this is yours. Even worse for ... him in the car if they get him.

     One thing, for a change, Oswald, done right---.

     Lee Oswald knelt against the gun mount, holding onto himself very carefully and delicately to keep his hands steady, waiting for the President's head to reach the sunlit place in the oak leaves where the grassy slope rose toward the white pergola.

     The sleek hood of the Lincoln entered the cross-hairs. You and me, Jack; we'll make it. The heads in the front seat passed through the cross-hairs and now the President's head entered. He began to squeeze the trigger.31 He could feel his heart beating against the book cartons.32


     The Old Man was writing in the garden. He seemed very glad to see the young man. They walked through the finca. "My widow is gone," he said. He pointed to the orchids falling to seed on the old ceiba tree. "She knows I can't do without her, but after all I drove her to it." They sat down at a table under the big tree and the Old Man brought out his flask. "We have good gin anyway," he said. The young man declined. The Old Man said he had the story all wrong.

     "The marlin is female. He can't blame the sharks, he's just the shark who wanted it all for himself, and so got nothing."

     Havana, the young man said.

     "You're almost there."

     They are the true revolution, he was told. They did away with all the old politicians, with all the American imperialism that strangled them. They divided the big sugar estates among the people that worked them.

     "I've been in four wars and seven revolutions," the Old Man said.

     "We're in for fifty years of undeclared wars and I'm signed up for the duration. They need to gen out the gusanos."

     "You reach a point. I've killed 22 sures and a hundred probables. The worst was a boy the age of my second son. He was pedaling furiously along the escape route toward Aachen. Shot him with an M1. Gave the bicycle to a French kid."

     "That phase is over. It isn't necessary anymore."

     "But how do you unkill one? Impossible of course. How do you unkill a wife? Remorse is not penance enough."

     "They have started clean and given every man his chance."

     "It's just down the road. Kenya, on the other hand, is far away. Paris."

     "I'm going. Alone, or with others who go there for the same reason. Venceremos. Venceremos."

     "Well. You've got a lot coming to you."

     The young man watched him. He did not look away.

     The Old Man bent over and kissed him on the forehead.

(1) The Commission found Lee Oswald the lone assassin of President John F. Kennedy.

(2) The Committee found Lee Oswald one assassin, but probably in conspiracy with others.

(3) Both Commission and Committee denied that Oswald was an innocent "patsy."

(4) poem The only man I ever loved Said good bye And went away He was killed in Picardy On a sunny day. (1922)

(5) "In this book an attempt is made to analyze the [Warren Commission] Report itself exclusively on the basis of the Commission's own information. ... No evidence from outside the Commission's official publications is used in this analysis. ... Any appraisal of the Report as it relates to Oswald inevitably leads to the conclusion he could not have done what he was charged with. Despite its contrary statements, the Commission's own proof of this is completely unassailable .... Yet [it] also wanted no other suspects. With Oswald dead and safely buried ... the Report considered no others. The dead Oswald left very few friends. He had no real intimates. ...

     "...But there remains the possibility that Oswald was involved in the crimes. Whether innocently or otherwise will ultimately be decided by others. My evaluation, limited entirely to what I have found buried in the hearings and suppressed in the Report, is that he was the "pigeon". My only doubt is whether, at least to begin with, he knew. ...

     "Buried in the subsection innocuously entitled, `Investigation of Other Activities' and unreflected in the table of contents, the headings, subheadings, or the index of the Report, is hard and unrefuted proof that a group of men were deliberately fashioning a `False Oswald'. The Report and the Commission first tried to destroy the validity of this information and, failing in that, switched to a childish but successful pretense that this mysterious person could not have been Oswald. Indeed, he not only could not have been, but he was not, and the Commission knew this and it knew his name! ..."

     -- Harold Weisberg, WHITEWASH: The Report on the Warren Report, 1965, p. xi, 137-138.

(6) "A substantial body of evidence, some of it well corroborated, suggests that Lee Harvey Oswald was involved with others in planning the assassination - or that others deliberately planned to draw attention to Oswald as the prospective assassin prior to November 22. The Commission disproved the former interpretation and ignored the latter. In proving Oswald was not involved in a conspiracy, the Commission did not thereby diminish the validity of an alternative explanation; indeed it strengthened the suspicion that an effort to frame Oswald had been under way long before the assassination.

     "Did Oswald bring a rifle to a sporting goods shop in Irving, Texas, during the first two weeks of November 1963 and request that a telescopic sight be mounted? The Commission found that he did not.

     "Did Oswald attempt to purchase an automobile during November 1963, stating that he expected to receive a substantial sum of money in the immediate future? The Commission found that he did not.

     "Did Oswald practice firing at rifle ranges in Dallas and Irving and in the fields and woods around Dallas just before the assassination? The Commission found that he did not.

     "Did Oswald meet with a member of the Cuban Revolutionary Junta, an anti-Castro group, in September 1963? Did he state that `President Kennedy should have been assassinated' and `It is so easy to do it'? The Commission found that he did not.

     "However, someone claiming to be Oswald or looking like him - or both - participated in every one of these episodes."

     -Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment, Fawcett Publications, Inc., Greenwich, Conn., 1966, p. 273-274.

(7) The Warren Commission reported:

     "... Mrs. Sylvia Odio ... a member of the Cuban Revolutionary Junta (JURE), an anti-Castro organization ... testified that late in September 1963, three men came to her apartment in Dallas and asked her to help them prepare a letter soliciting funds for JURE activities. She claimed that the men, who exhibited personal familiarity with her imprisoned father [in Cuba], asked her if she were `working in the underground,' and she replied that she was not. She testified that two of the men appeared to be Cubans, although they also has some characteristics that she associated with Mexicans. Those two men did not state their full names, but identified themselves only by their fictitious underground `war names'. Mrs. Odio remembered the name of one of the Cubans as `Leopoldo'. The third man, an American, allegedly was introduced to Mrs. Odio as `Leon Oswald', and she was told that he was very much interested in the Cuban cause. Mrs. Odio said that the men told her that they were then about to leave on a trip. Mrs. Odio testified that the next day Leopoldo called her on the telephone and told her that it was his idea to introduce the American into the underground `because he is great, he is kind of nuts.' Leopoldo also said that the American had been in the Marine Corps and was an excellent shot, and that the American said the Cubans `don't have any guts *** because President Kennedy should have been shot after the Bay of Pigs, and some Cubans should have done that, because he was the one that was holding the freedom of Cuba actually.'

     "Although Mrs. Odio suggested doubts that the men were in fact members of JURE, she was certain that the American who was introduced to her as Leon Oswald was Lee Harvey Oswald. Her sister, who was in the apartment at the time of the visit by the three men, and who stated that she saw them briefly in the hallway when answering the door, also believed that the American was Lee Harvey Oswald. By referring to the date on which she moved from her former apartment, October 1, 1963, Mrs. Odio fixed the date of the alleged visit on the Thursday or Friday immediately preceding that date, i.e. September 26 or 27. She was positive that the visit occurred prior to October 1. ...

     "On September 16, 1964, the FBI located Loran Eugene Hall in Johnsandale (sic), Calif. Hall has been identified as a participant in numerous anti-Castro activities. He told the FBI that in September of 1963 he was in Dallas, soliciting aid in connection with anti-Castro activities. He said he had visited Mrs. Odio. He was accompanied by Lawrence Howard, a Mexican-American from East Los Angeles, and one William Seymour from Arizona. He stated that Seymour is similar in appearance to Lee Harvey Oswald; he speaks only a few words of Spanish, as Mrs. Odio had testified one of the men who visited her did. While the FBI had not yet completed its investigation into this matter at the time the report went to press, the Commission has concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was not at Mrs. Odio's apartment in September of 1963."

     --The Warren Commission Report, A.P. Edition, p. 135-136.

(8) "Whether the visitor was Oswald himself, or Seymour impersonating Oswald, `Leopoldo' took pains to plant seeds which inevitably would incriminate Oswald in the assassination carried out on November 22, so that an anonymous phone call would be enough to send the police straight after him even if he had not been arrested within the hour. In itself, this setting-the-stage made it imperative for the Commission to press the investigation to the limits and to consider Loran Hall, Lawrence Howard, and William Seymour as prime suspects in the assassination, if they proved to be the men who had visited Mrs. Odio, unless an innocent and incontrovertible explanation for their antics was established.

     "The Commission's failure to get to the bottom of this affair, with its inescapable implications, is inexcusable. If the Commission could leave such business unfinished, we are entitled to ask whether its members were ever determined to uncover the truth. Indeed, the Commission did not even give an honest account of such facts as were established. Its own Exhibits expose the `evidence' presented in the Report as a tissue of evasion and deception which discredits more than it justifies the conclusion that Oswald could not have visited Mrs. Odio."

     - Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact: The Warren Commission, the Authorities, and the Report, Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1967, p. 379.

(9) "... There's nothing to it. Sylvia made it up. She did it with finesse, and for the noble reason of wanting to liberate her country from the tyrannical rule of Fidel Castro, who was holding her parents captive. More immediately, she probably also wanted to help save the skin of some acquaintances - fellow patriots - who she appeared to have good reason to believe had pushed their luck beyond all reason by involving themselves in the assassination of the American president ...."

     - Mary and Ray La Fontaine, Oswald Talked: The New Evidence in the JFK Assassination, Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, LA, 1996, p. 247.

     Comparing evidence from various sources, including their own interviews, the La Fontaines contend that Mrs. Odio synthesized the tale given the FBI and the Commission from several actual encounters in order to minimize her knowledge of Oswald, while suggesting blame for the assassination was certainly his. She had not volunteered this tale to the FBI. Upon hearing the news of Kennedy's murder at work she had fainted, been hospitalized, and subsequently confessed her worst fears to a friend, who alerted the FBI. But to this friend and to her psychiatrist she indicated having witnessed a "bright, clever" Oswald in two or three earlier meetings, perhaps in her apartment, with friends in the militant anti-Castro Directorio Revolutionario Estudiantil (DRE, or Student Revolutionary Directorate), with which Oswald had had significant, Commission-documented dealings in New Orleans in the summer of 1963. An acquaintance close to the New Orleans DRE, however, warned Mrs. Odio that Oswald might be a double-agent. This was reason for special concern. The Dallas DRE, according to the La Fontaines, were involved in buying weapons stolen from Ft. Hood for a new invasion of Cuba scheduled for the last week of November. They expected CIA support. When their CIA contact informed them the American Government had decided against support, they opted for their back-up plan, assassination of the President with all evidence pointing to an ex-defector to the Soviet Union with well-known pro-Castro sentiments and likely connection to Castro spies among the anti-Castro Cubans. Assassination, they were certain, would provoke the U.S. into invading Cuba after all. But the Oswald helping them buy the stolen weapons was not just the unreliable hijo de puta they were setting up to take the fall. Very likely, the La Fontaines conclude, he was an informant for the Department of the Treasury's Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco Tax, if not for the FBI as well. (Summarized from Oswald Talked, pp. 15-43)

"[On November 18 BATT] agent [Frank] Ellsworth awaits a shipment of guns from [Ft. Hood Capt. George] Nonte through [gun-shop owner John Thomas] Masen. Ellsworth expects to arrest not only Masen but his Ft. Hood big fish, the ordnance officer Nonte. The guns never show, however. A few hours earlier, the FBI and four anonymous members of the Dallas police have staked out the transfer of weapons from a mystery car to two henchmen of Jack Ruby, Donnell Whitter [Ruby's auto mechanic] and Lawrence Miller, who are to deliver the guns to Masen's `customer' Ellsworth. The shipment is intercepted [in a high speed chase resulting in the smash-up of the Thunderbird containing Whitter, Miller, and the guns] and Ruby's thugs arrested, aborting Ellsworth's sting that would have also arrested Masen and Nonte."

     -La Fontaines, Oswald Talked, p. 357

     The arrested men were also hospitalized: Whitter with very serious injuries, Miller with a bruised and cut-up face. Whitter remained in the hospital, Miller after emergency room stitches was taken to jail.

     Dallas police files released to the public in 1989, but not closely examined till 1992, include an arrest record of November 22, 1963, 2:45 p.m., for JOHN FRANKLIN ELROD, 31, "arrested [by C.H. Barnhart, M.A. Rhodes, A.M. Hart, and F.A. Hellinhausen `for investigation of conspiracy to commit murder'] on railroad tracks [at 3400 Block of Harry Hines Blvd.] a few minutes after radio call was dispatched that man was walking along railroad carrying a rifle. This man was not carrying rifle at time of arrest. This suspect was unemployed, states he has been in Dallas for two weeks. Lost his job last week at El Fenix [restaurant]. States he has been arrested for theft and D.W.I." Released after several days, Elrod left Dallas for his mother's home in Memphis, Tennessee. Ten months later, after deciding not to commit suicide, Elrod told a story to Shelby County Sheriff's deputies, who called in two FBI agents, Norman L. Casey and Francis B. Cole. Elrod told the FBI agents he had been placed after his arrest in a cell with Lee Harvey Oswald, who had been arrested for killing a Dallas policeman. He said that shortly after they were confined together a third man with a "smashed up" face was led through a corridor by their cell. Oswald said he recognized the man despite the face injuries. He had met him before in a motel with four other men. The other men, including the one whose face was now injured, had received money. He was driving a Thunderbird loaded with guns. Oswald mentioned at least one of the other men's names: Jack Ruby. The FBI agents wrote up a report, but noted that Elrod's official FBI identification record "does not reflect incarceration ... in the Dallas County Jail, as claimed." - La Fontaines, Oswald Talked, p. 28.

(10) "As to the story that Oswald was an FBI informant, I doubt that Oswald was directly on the FBI payroll. A more likely possibility is that he worked for a private security agency which in turn reported to the FBI, the way that ex-FBI and ex-Office of Naval Intelligence agent Guy Bannister, according to a CIA document, reported to the FBI in New Orleans."

     "...[T]here are numerous signs that Oswald's employment recurringly coincided with opportunities for surveillance of FBI subversive targets. But Oswald's activities appear to have focused on the targets of other investigative agencies as well, the federal Social Security system, and above all the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms unit (ATF) [Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco Tax] of the U.S. Treasury. This multiple targeting by Oswald increases the likelihood that he was an employee not of the FBI but of a private agency with contracts to more than one federal government agency."

     "... In Texas anyone in 1963 could go to a gun shop and purchase a weapon untraceably over the counter. Only in interstate purchases did the law require identification, and Oswald was interested only in making interstate purchases. In the words of the Warren Commission:

Using the named of A.J. Hidell, Oswald had ordered a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver from [Seaport Traders in] Los Angeles on a form which he dated January 27[, 1963]. On March 12 he ordered a rifle from Klein's Sporting Goods in Chicago under the name of A. Hidell. (Warren Report 723)

     "The Warren Report did not mention that in 1963 Seaport Traders and Klein's Sporting Goods were being investigated, by the ATF unit of the U.S. Treasury's Internal Revenue Service, as well as by Senator [Thomas] Dodd's Juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Treasury and the Committee sought to demonstrate the need for more restrictive federal legislation to control the burgeoning mail-order traffic in firearms.

     "As Senator Dodd announced, the existing situation had been studied, by actually tracing firearms through the mail, from firms under investigation. `A.J. Hidell's' purchase of a pistol from Seaport Traders on January 27, 1963, without even minimum proof of identification, was only two days before the Dodd subcommittee hearings on the matter opened on January 29. Sometime later, a corresponding purchase in Texas from Seaport Traders was duly noted in the committee's sample statistics. ...

     "... [Sylvia] Odio learned from a source in New Orleans that Oswald `was considered to be a "double agent" ... was probably trying to infiltrate the Dallas Cuban refugee group, and ... should not be trusted' (Vol. 26, Warren Commission Hearings, p. 738) The term `double agent' is resonant with the conflicting evidence we shall examine ...

     " ... As a double agent, Oswald would be playing both sides, acting covertly to fulfill some of the goals of the Cuban exiles (such as denouncing peace activists and integrationists in New Orleans) at the same time he was reporting against them.

     "Complex and improbable as this notion may seem, we shall see ... that there is good evidence for it. Oswald indeed was helping secretly to defame [New Orleans DRE chief Carlos] Bringuier's enemies, and thus acting as a conspiratorial part of the illicit gun-trafficking coalition on which (we have postulated) he was supposed to be reporting.

     "This double role may well have resulted in his being chosen for the fatal role of `patsy' on November 22. Although one can imagine many scenarios which would lead Oswald to play a double role, one is much simpler than the rest. It is that ultimately Oswald's movements were being directed by the circle of J. Edgar Hoover, a man who worked simultaneously for the Kennedys (against targets such as the Lake Pontchartrain [anti-Castro Cuban and Minuteman] arms cache) and against them (against integrationists like Martin Luther King)."

     -- Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1993, 1996, p. 243, 246, 249, 252-253.

(11) Oswald-the-Lone-Assassin is the only coherent Oswald we know. He is, in a functional sense, a multi-media creation of kinescope, photography, and magazine columns. As the La Fontaines point out (Oswald Talked, pp. 45-50), not the Warren Report but LIFE magazine established the public image of Lee Harvey Oswald. He became the lonely, withdrawn malcontent in the first article, by Thomas Thompson, on November 29, 1963. He stood fully revealed in the infamous grainy backyard photo, pistol on hip, rifle held up in one hand, the Militant fanned in the other, in Donald Jackson's "The Evolution of an Assassin," on February 21, 1964. Excerpts from Oswald's so-called "Historic Diary" of his sojourn in the Soviet Union appeared July 10, 1964.

     But the Warren Report's contribution to the legend of Lee Harvey Oswald was more than an authoritative seal of approval on LIFE. Old issues of LIFE that survived the trash can in basements or attics would go long unread. The Report would stay on public and private library shelves for generations. For the legend to keep alive, the Warren Report would have to preserve it in haunting prose, and that it has.

     If Oswald-the-Lone-Assassin is not an original creation of the Warren Commission's Report, it is a re-creation surpassing the original. Chapters VII ("Lee Harvey Oswald: Background and Possible Motives") and XIII ("Biography of Lee Harvey Oswald") are the work of highly skilled craftsman. Listen to this from Chapter XIII:

Marina and June [the Oswald's 18-month old daughter] departed with Mrs. Ruth Paine for Irving [Texas] on the morning of September 23 [1963]. Before she left, Oswald told Marina that she should not tell anyone about his impending trip to Mexico. Marina kept this secret until after the assassination. On the previous day, Oswald's landlord had seen Mrs. Paine's car being packed and had asked Oswald, whose rent was about 15 days overdue, whether he was leaving. Oswald told him that Marina was leaving temporarily but that he would remain. A neighbor testified that on the evening of September 24, he saw Oswald, carrying two pieces of luggage, hurriedly leave the Magazine Street apartment and board a bus. Though uncertain of the exact date, a city busdriver recalls that at the same time of day and at the same location he picked up a man who was carrying two suitcases of different sizes, and helped him place them so that they would not disturb the other passengers. The driver remembers that the man asked directions to the Greyhound bus station. He discharged the passenger at an intersection where he could board a Canal Street car and transfer to another bus which would go past the Greyhound and Continental Trailways stations. The landlord found Oswald's apartment vacant on September 25.

          (Associated Press edition, 1964, p. 320)

     Solid who-what-when-where reportage. But notice how the bits of testimony form an image and let it resonate, a figure mysterious yet clear: a manipulative little liar absconding with two suitcases on a bus.

     Earlier in Chapter XIII there is the following passage from the account alleging Oswald, in April 1963, shot his rifle at retired Gen. Edwin Walker, a notorious right-winger. The allegation is based almost entirely on Marina's testimony, but also on photos of Walker's house said to be taken by Oswald's camera and found among his effects. The letter referred to is an undated note in Russian (discovered in Ruth Paine's house over a week after Oswald's death) instructing Marina what to do if Oswald should be arrested. It does not mention Walker, or any intent to shoot anyone; nor does it mention any intent to conduct an anonymous but arrest-risky one-man demonstration in favor of Fidel Castro outside a Dallas department store, a possibility conceded in the Warren Report (p. 176, A.P. edition) ... and reported by one Dallas newspaper shortly before Oswald left for New Orleans.

When Oswald told Marina what he had done, she became angry and made him promise never to repeat such an act. She testified that she kept his letter, intending to give it to the authorities if he repeated his attempt. He told Marina that he was sorry he had missed Walker and said that the shooting of Walker would have been analogous to an assassination of Hitler. Several days later, [George and Jeanne] De Mohrenschildt visited the Oswalds, bringing an Easter present for June. During the visit, Jeanne De Mohrenschildt saw the rifleand told her husband about it. Without any knowledge of the truth, De Mohrenschildt jokingly intimated that Oswald was the one who had shot at Walker. Oswald apparently concluded that Marina had told De Mohrenschildt of his role in the attempt and was visibly shaken.

          (AP edition, p. 316)

     No need to recount how this tale has been shredded by assassination scholars, nor even the fact that White Russian entrepreneur Georges De Mohrenschildt later admitted to being closely connected with the CIA. But again notice how the recitation of bits of testimony adds muted strokes to the curiously emotionless portrait of a man capable of political violence; then suddenly brings the flat strokes to life with a surprising, powerfully concise detail: "visibly shaken." Which acts to confirm for the reader the unstated emotional turbulence of an assassin-to-be. (Inspection of the witnesses' full testimonies reveals "visibly shaken" to be the staff writer's phrase, precipitating with imaginative license into a single image the uncertain and conflicting accounts of the "post-Easter visit" delivered by the two De Mohrenschildts.)

     Here's one last passage, from Chapter VII:

That night [November 21, 1963,] Oswald went to bed before his wife retired. She did not speak to him when she joined him there, although she thought that he was still awake. The next morning he left for work before anyone else arose. For the first time he left his wedding ring in a cup on the dresser in his room. He also left $17 in a wallet in one of the dresser drawers. He took with him $13.87 and the long brown package that Frazier and Mrs. Randle saw him carry and which he was to take to the School Book Depository.

          (AP edition, p. 183)

     In Marina and Lee (Priscilla Johnson McMillan, Harper & Row, 1977, p. 525), Marina remembers the sum left in the wallet as $170, not $17; but that's not the telling detail. It's the wedding ring in the cup and the long brown package that are meant to catch our imaginations, and they do.

     In Death in the Afternoon (The Scribner Library, 1932, 1960) Ernest Hemingway said:

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing."

          (p. 192)

     What is laconically left unsaid in the Warren Report narratives seems very subtly to breathe the known. This is the result of high craft. But for over a generation critics have demonstrated the leads that the Commission staff adroitly avoided, the enormous mass of witness testimony and things left uninvestigated, uninterrogated, unknown. In fact, the breathing spaces in the narrative are well-wrought holes ... "hollow places" letting on as the seven-eighths of the iceberg below the surface.

     Yet the Warren Report narratives continue to cast their spell: they give us a "compleat" Oswald no other source has.

(12) "During the course of his very brief life, Lee Harvey Oswald was a street kid with mob connections in New Orleans; the up and coming President of his Junior High School class in the Bronx; a budding Marxist suspended from that class for refusing to salute the American flag; a patriotic Air Patrol Cadet in ["Captain"] David Ferrie's private Air Force whose life's goal now was to join the Marines; a top secret Marine radar operator who worked on the U-2 [CIA spy plane]; a disenchanted Jarhead who spent his time spouting Marxist slogans to mysterious women companions in expensive Japanese bars; a young ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence] agent who underwent language training in California preparatory to going underground in Russia; a Soviet defector treated like royalty by the Soviet officials, his uncle, his wife, and the KGB; a repatriated American welcomed with open arms by the neo-Nazi White Russian community of Dallas, Texas; a reborn militant activist who openly proclaimed his support for Castro, while at the same time being secretly connected with one of the most vicious, anti-Castro paramilitary forces in the USA; and, finally, either the chief protagonist, or only a mere patsy, in the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. There appears to never have been one single Oswald. Rather, he seemed to preside over a number of different personalities, each one threatening to pull him apart at the seams."

     - -Bob Callahan, Who Shot JFK? A Guide to the Major Conspiracy Theories, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1993, p. 110.


The rail ends do not meet
The sun goes down
And only rivers run no race
Nor does still water run so deep ...


(14) Victim. Executioner. Traitor. Impetuous youth. Bold adventurer. Kilroy. ONI deep cover operative. Bridger of worlds. International progressive. Revolutionary Marxist-Leninist. Neo-Athenian. Fidelista. Reckless adventurist. Freedom Fighter. Minute Man. Lone assassin. KGB sleeper. Sharpshooter. Lousy shot. Hitman. Gunsel. Kill Roi. Patsy. Damned soul. Anointed One.
     A man who had lived in extremis.
     A man who had drunk his age to the lees.
     A man who had lived the crises of his time radically, completely.
     Not to take pictures of it, but to be the picture.
     A man ahead of his time.
     A stander against all systems.
     A rebel against oppressors everywhere.
     A Champion of Tomorrow.
     The Crucified.

(15) In a "special message" for the Franklin Library edition of Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery (Random House, 1995), Norman Mailer writes:

     ... I hoped to understand Lee Harvey Oswald. For three decades, he had existed in the American mind as either a characterless victim or an unbalanced loner marooned in a set of plots and scenarios which depended very little on him and whom he might be. Yet, for a novelist (let us say, a good novelist), character is more important than plot. No book with a plot can survive long as literature if its characters are empty. So, I wanted to understand Oswald at least as well as I comprehend Anna Karenina or Sister Carrie, Madame Bovary or Studs Lonigan, Jake Barnes or Rabbit Angstrom. If Oswald could come alive for me, then I might begin to comprehend which plots and scenarios were able to fit him.

(16) Mailer is quite straightforward about his biases and the traps they set him. Three-fourths of the way through Oswald's Tale, he halts for a warning. Although the book began with no fixed conclusion -- "indeed ... with a prejudice in favor of the conspiracy theorists" -- its plan to "take Oswald on his own terms as long as that was possible" has inescapably produced "a hypothesis: Oswald was a protagonist, a prime mover, a man who made things happen ... a figure larger than others would credit him for being.

     "Indeed," to quote this crucial admission fully:

this point of view has by now taken hold to a point where the writer would not like to relinquish it for too little. There is the danger! ... It is possible that the working hypothesis has become more important to the author than trying to discover the truth.

     For if Oswald remains intact as an important if dark protagonist, one has served a purpose: The burden of a prodigious American obsession has been lessened, and the air cleared of an historic scourge -- absurdity. So long as Oswald is a petty figure, a lone twisted pathetic killer who happened to be in a position to kill a potentially great President, then, ... America is cursed with an absurdity. There was no logic to the event and so sense of balance in the universe. ...

     ...If a figure as large as Kennedy is cheated abruptly of his life, we feel better, inexplicably better, if his killer is also not without size. Then, to some degree, we can also mourn the loss of possibility in the man who did the deed. Tragedy is vastly preferable to absurdity. Such is the vested interest that adheres to perceiving Oswald as a tragic and infuriating hero (or, if you will, anti-hero) rather than as a snarling little wife abuser or a patsy.

          (pp. 605-607)

(17) "Did Oswald do it?

     "If one's answer is to come out of anything larger than an opinion, it is necessary to contend with questions of evidence. In that direction, however, one encounters a jungle of conflicting expert estimates as to whether Oswald could fire the shots in time, was a good enough marksman, was the only gunman in Dealey Plaza, and one one can go, trying to explore into every last reach of possibility, only to encounter a disheartening truth: evidence, by itself, will never provide the answer to a mystery. For it is in the nature of evidence to produce, sooner or later, a counterinterpretation to itself in the form of a contending expert in a court of law.

     "It will be obvious to the reader that one does not (and should not) respect evidence with the religious intensity that others bring to it ..."

               -Mailer, p. 775

     Ignoring the evidence, though, does involve one in a paradox peculiar to this case. Oswald-of-the-Evidence is a disintegration of Oswald-the-Lone-Assassin.

     But what can you do? Focus on Oswald, and the evidence fades; focus on the evidence, and Oswald fades.


... But we
Who have killed other men,
Have fought in foreign wars,
Buried our friends,
Buried our fathers, when these did shoot themselves for economic reasons-
An American gesture to replace bare bodkins with the Colt or Smith and Wesson
Who know our mothers for bitches,
We who have slept with women in different countries
And experienced great pleasures,
Have contracted diseases,
Been cured, married and born children
Who have seen revolutions, counter-revolutions and
Who have seen many systems of government
And many good men murdered
Who have been at Troy
In Flanders in Artois and in Picardy
During the fighting there,
(I speak literally,)
Who have seen an army defeated in Asia Minor
And cast into the sea
Who have lived in other countries as well as our own have
     spoken and understood the language of these countries
     and have heard what was said by the people;
We have something that cannot be taken from us ...


(19) Dallas Morning News, November 24, 1963:

"Lee Harvey Oswald, charged with murdering President Kennedy, was interviewed by the FBI here six days before the Friday assassination.
     "But word of the interview with the former defector to Russia was not conveyed to the U.S. Secret Service and Dallas police, reliable sources told The Dallas News Saturday.
     "However, in Washington, a spokesman for the FBI said it was `incorrect' that the FBI had questioned Oswald or had him under surveillance at any time in recent months, the Associated Press reported.
     "The interview reportedly was held Nov. 16 -- at a time when the Secret Service and police officials were corrdinating security plans for the President's ill-fated Dallas visit.
     "These sources said the Oswald interview added more data to an already `thick file' the FBI has on the 24-year-old avowed Marxist who defected to Russia in 1959 and returned in 1962.
     "Presumably, the FBI knew when Oswald obtained a job here several weeks ago.
     "But Oswald's existence here was not known by intelligence officiers of the police department, charged with keeping track of subversives and Communist sympathizers.
     "Police intelligence files contain no reference to a Lee Harvey Oswald, a check by The News revealed.
     "Police Chief Jesse E. Curry added fire to the sources' disclosure by telling the press conference Saturday he `understood' the FBI had interviewed Oswald a week or so ago and never informed his department.
     "Curry then hurriedly recalled reporters to say he did not have first-hand information of this. ...
     "In retracting his earlier statement about the FBI interview Curry told gathered reporters:
     "`I do not want to accuse the FBI of withholding information. They have no obligation to help us. Someone told me last night that they had interviewed Oswald.'
     "Despite Curry's retraction, sources maintained the Nov. 16 interview by the FBI did take place with no mention of it to the Secret Service and police. ..."

     The La Fontaines believe (Oswald Talked, p. 299) that interview alerted the FBI to the illegal gun buy scheduled for November 18. They also believe the interview alerted the FBI to another impending event.

(20) The only posthumous angle into Oswald's head are his "writings" (assuming he did indeed write them, and under no one else's direction). They comprise the "Historic Diary" (of his stay in the Soviet Union), "The Kollective" (a long essay on the radio-TV factory where he worked in Minsk), a self-interview upon returning to America, a political manifesto entitled "The Atheian (sic) System" (perhaps dyslexic Oswald's intended word was "Athenian"), the note to Marina in Russian purportedly on what to do if her husband were arrested for killing Gen. Walker, and his letters.

(21) I suggest the key sentence in all of Oswald's writings, the one that beguiled the Warren Report writers who wished to find him guilty in any event, and the one that most intrigues Mailer, is this from the pages on "The Atheian System:"

I wonder what would happen it somebody was to stand up and say he was utterly opposed not only to the goverments, but to the people, too the entire land and complete foundations of his socially.

               (Warren Report, A.P. edition, 1964, p. 172; Oswald's Tale, p. 780; misspellings in text)

(22) "I wonder what would happen it somebody was to stand up and say he was utterly opposed not only to the goverments, but to the people, too the entire land and complete foundations of his socially."

     These are the words that beget the figure in the Warren Report biographies, and the figure fleshed out to a great extent in Oswald's Tale. When you get into Oswald's world-sweeping, painfully distilled thoughts -- to paraphrase Mailer -- you want the little son-of-a-bitch to pull it off! This is the only Oswald that can seize Mailer's imagination, or my imagination, or anyone's. He's the Oswald we really know -- the Oswald we fear and love because he is we -- a deep nightmare wish come true: the lone individual taking history into his own hands -- lone wolf at the window, who jumped into the driver's seat, and drove History -- for six seconds, one sunny November afternoon. With repercussions which we still endure.

(23) Three shots, all from behind the President, from the southeast sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository: one missed (probably hitting turf and a piece of curbstone far across the Plaza, grazing the cheek of bystander James Tague), one "passed through the President's neck and then most probably passed through [Governor Connally's] body," and a subsequent shot penetrated the President's head." - The Warren Report, A.P. edition, p. 44.

     Four shots: two from the southeast sixth floor window of the Depository, one from the roof of either the Dal-Tex Building behind it on Houston Street or the County Records Building cattycorner, and one from behind the stockade fence on the grassy knoll in front of the President's limousine. The first, from the Depository sixth floor window, struck the President's neck. The second, from the Dal-Tex or the Records Building, struck the Governor's back. The third, from the stockade fence in front, hit the President in the right temple. The almost simultaneous fourth shot, from the sixth floor of the Depository, probably missed both men, hitting turf and a piece of curbstone far across the Plaza. - Josiah Thompson, Six Seconds in Dallas, Bernard Geis Associaties, New York, 1967, pp. 178-195.

     "Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at President John F. Kennedy. The second and third shots he fired struck the President. The third shot he fired killed the President. ...

     "Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy. Other scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the President. Scientific evidence negates some specific conspiracy allegations. ...

     "The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy." - Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives, The Final Assassinations Report, Bantam Books, 1979, Table of Contents.

     "Because the medical, witness, ballistic, and acoustic evidence has been so corrupted by the official investigations, there is no way to be certain exactly how many shots were fired in total. The minimum number of shots were the four that struck the president, but that requires ignoring the evidence of shots that missed. One shot struck the president in the front of the neck, just below the Adam's apple. One entered the back, six inches below the shoulder line and just to the right of the spinal column. One shot went to the rear of his head. And there was a shot that entered the right temple from the direction of the grassy knoll. One or both of the head shots could have been fatal. Then there were two shots that struck Texas Governor John Connally - one to his back by the right armpit, and another to his right wrist, which ended up in his left thigh. Finally, consider the four or five shots that missed the occupants of the car completely. One caused a minor wound to the cheek of a bystander, James Tague; another struck the inside frame of the front windshield of the limousine, above the passenger-side sun visor; three or four hit different areas of the ground in the plaza." - Robert J. Groden, The Search for Lee Harvey Oswald: A Comprehensive Photographic Record, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, London, & Viking Penguin, New York, 1995, p. 108.

(24) And, just above the right ear, pierced flesh, bone and meningeal membranes (hurling up a flap of scalp and neatly combed hair) and drove into the grey-white sea of glia cells behind the central sulcus, shredding every sense down the left side of the body, lips, tongue, hand and foot, all sense of sitting next to a wife, of keeling into her arms; sent shock waves back into the motor area, smashing Betz cells along the central sulcus, head, arm, trunk and leg, leaving, like a stroke, a ragdoll of half the body which had once towed an injured man through three miles of enemy waters, which once hugged bikinied voters in the California surf: smashing the neural projectors of the frontal lobe, where the road sign, lawn, and underpass in front of the still good right eye now formed no more picture than, say, a strategy for redevelopment in Appalachia or progressive desarrollo in South America. Here had lived the strong emotion, composed and distanced, the cool wit, the dry irony, the complex and agile vision which, liberal, pragmatic, put together in pictures what the insatiable curiosity of the left hemisphere broke down to see how things work. Here decisions were made, actions taken.

     And it did not undo what had been done, this force erasing memories by the scores of thousands in a thousandth of a second. It did not unfather son or daughter, did not unwed wife, did not unson father or mother. It did not void an election or unsign a nuclear test ban treaty.

     But so much had not been done. This was what was shattered. So much had just begun and this was what began immediately to decompose.

(25) Ripped to shreds an instinct to risk the unorthodox -- cut taxes in a boom to stimulate job creation -- order rockets built to send men to the moon.

     Ripped to shreds an intuition, facing nuclear missiles, that not the Soviet Premier but his military chiefs were the real adversary, that before U.S. troops invaded Cuba the Premier should be given one last day to honor the "quarantine" ... and so, without firing a shot, won the undeclared war that might have destroyed the world.

     Ripped to pieces the insight than an Asian civil war was turning into an American white man's war, ripped the decision to start withdrawing American advisors by Christmas.

     Before the unfrustrated bullet could penetrate a full inch that instinct, that intuition, that insight, that decision all annihilated as though they had never existed. But the bullet was not finished. It kept driving, dambusting the right lateral ventrical, sending tidal waves of cerebrospinal fluid and shards of cerebellum, wit and irony and vision, courage, caution, pain, lust, good deeds and betrayals and a generation of hopes, of memories, of dread, of illusions, of enthusiasms in a blast of occipital bone and cerebral tissue and a great deal of lifeblood across the trunk of the Lincoln, just beyond the desperate reach of a wife -- into nothing.

(26) The door of the Depository lunchroom burst open and a policeman pointed a revolver with both hands.

     "Come here!"

     The young man moving toward the Coke machine turned around. He started back toward the policeman. He looked slightly startled but walked up to the revolver until it almost touched him.

     The door opened again. It was a bigger, much older man.

     "This boy work here?" asked the policeman.

     "Yeah. He's Oswald."

     Then like a vaudeville team out the door again they went, running up the stairs.

(27) According to official reports, the order filler missing from the Book Depository roll call had been seen crossing a second floor office area Coke in hand immediately after the shots were fired. He was told the President had been shot, to which he mumbled something and kept walking toward the front stairway, which led down to the front entrance.

     The next reports differ. A deputy sheriff identified him as the man who ran down the hill from the front entrance and jumped into a light-colored Rambler stationwagon moving slowly along the curb, in the unblocked-off traffic, and which then took off.

     The official report, however, had the filler walk seven blocks up the street on which the Depository stood and board a bus heading back toward it. Two blocks later, as the bus slowed in heavy traffic, he got off. He walked another two blocks southeast and climbed in a cab (not without offering to yield it to a woman, who declined) and crossed the river and got out several blocks beyond his rooming house. After doubling back he whisked in and out of the house, now with a jacket and a .38 in his belt. The housekeeper saw him wait at the corner for a bus to take him north back into the city. Minutes earlier, while he was in his room, she had heard and seen a police car pull up in front and beep its horn twice before moving on.

     Moments later, about a mile to the southeast, a patrol car pulled to the curb of a residential street where a man wearing a jacket was walking. The man halted and went over to the car as though summoned. He leaned against the roof, talking through the window on the passenger side. The driver's door opened and as the patrolman stepped out the man stepped back from the car, pulled a pistol from his jacket and fired several shots. Four bullets hit the patrolman and he fell to the street, dead. The man with the pistol was heard to mutter, "Poor dumb cop," as he shook cartridges onto the corner lawn and ran down a short block to a business district.

     A man in a jacket, holding up a pistol, was seen trotting down from the residential street, past a used car dealer. He turned down a commercial pike and then in behind a service station.

     Some minutes later police radios reported a jacket found in the rear of the service station.

(28) Shortly before two in the afternoon a man who had been hiding from police sirens in the doorway of a shoe store slipped into the movie house next door without a ticket. The box office cashier was at the curb talking to her boss sitting in a car. The shoe salesman told them. He'd heard the radio bulletin about the patrolman shot up the street. When six squad cars arrived some of the police went in the back door, behind the movie screen. On screen Audie Murphy wearing all his medals was introducing a movie called War Is Hell. The house lights were turned up but the projector kept going. The police went row by row, politely frisking the scattered audience. When they reached the man fingered by the shoe salesman there was a scuffle. He took a gash in the eyebrow and one officer got a cut on the cheek. The officer said it was from the suspect's .38. The suspect, he said, tried to fire it but the hammer was bent. "It's all over now," they said he said.


Do you take this old whore
Death for thy lawful
Wedded wife?
Repeat after me
I do
I do
I do ...

     ... that undiscovered country
     from whose bourne no traveller returns who hasn't been
     there ...

Reach out your hand to Love's dark sister Hate, and walk with
her across that hill we slowly walked, and see if Love is
waiting at the top. Or who is waiting there instead.


(30) Now there were three of them laid out in the drying mud among the cars in the parking lot behind the wooden fence. They were laid out unconscious, heads together in a tire rut like peas in a pod. The Secret Service and the police held back the increasing crowd. They looked, if not exactly triplets, then sons of the same mother -- narrow, blank faces, shaven and unshaven, of indeterminate age -- young-looking at first sight, not so young on closer view. They lay like enemy dead: three swarthy militant anti-Castro guerrilla trainers, a slender teenage cellist and his bald fat middle-aged cashiered airline pilot-gun runner-private detective-cancer researcher-Old Catholic bishop lover, a burly crewcut deep cover CIA operative, a turkey-jowled Ku Klux Klan organizer, an explosive handsome grey-haired alcoholic anti-communist racist ex-FBI agent, a dapper moustached Cuban ex-diplomat export consultant exile leader, a lean wild-haired wild-eyed (secretly French-Corsican) Cuban Castro double-agent, a pouchy-eyed Mafia capo di tutti capi, three well-groomed boxcar tramps, a hard-eyed ex-con professional thief in town on oil business, a silver-skulled playwright international businessman and local CIA station chief, a cigar-chomping octagenarian billionnaire oilman who liked to brown-bag his lunch, his three sons, a brilliant and aggressive four-star general Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one short roly dog-humping ex-hood strip-joint operator who liked cops, and one self-unmade punk pseudo-Marxist.

     They knew what they wanted. They got it.

(31) "I didn't kill anyone. I'm a patsy!"

(32) They executed Lee Oswald at 11:21 in the morning in the basement of the city jail. The basement led out to a level of a steep ramp from the garage to the street. The area from the jail door to the ramp was low-ceilinged and crowded with police officers and newsmen. Newspaper, radio and television reporters had been brought in for the execution. Forty-odd newsmen bunched around one side of the jail door and seventy or more police officers cordoned off the other side. The newsmen were very excited. Three television cameras with bright lights stood along the railing. Two dozen newsmen and officers were strung across the ramp level, where an unmarked car was backing down into position.

     They came out onto the ramp level through the door from the jail. There were four or five of them but no priest. They came out one detective in front of Oswald, two detectives handcuffed to his wrists on either side, and one detective behind. He wore a dark sweater and looked with tight lips straight before him, glancing only once to the left. They had been asking him questions for forty-five hours.

     While they halted him for the microphones the two detectives, one dressed in white with a white Stetson and the other dressed in black, held him still and reporters shouted at him. "Did you shoot the President?" he was asked. "Did you shoot the policeman?" "Do you expect anyone to save you now?" "How's your sphincter muscle holding up?" "Do you have any last words?" Lee Oswald said something without looking at the reporter and when the reporter asked again he said it a little louder. "Don't mourn organize."

     When they stepped back for the executioner, who was a short, heavy-set man with no orange hair, wearing a dark suit and a gray fedora and carrying a snub-nosed .38, Lee Oswald started to walk forward, still staring straight in front of him at no one, the two detectives pulling apart from him slightly. The detective in white turned with a face of horror just before the grey fedora plunged.

More of JR Foley's work can be found at jrfoley.com.

JR Foley is also the author of "night patrol" in FlashPøint #5, "Lost in Mudlin" in FlashPøint #7, "Down as Up, Out as In:
Ron Sukenick Remembers Ron Sukenick"

"A Visit to Szoborpark"
in FlashPøint #8,
"The Too Many Deaths of Danny C." in FlashPøint #9,
and "Our Friend the Atom: Walt Disney and the Atomic Bomb" in FlashPøint #10.

Other websites concerned with the John F. Kennedy assassination can be found via the links page at The Missing Chapter.