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JACKIE, WE HARDLY KNEW YE
by Carly Berg
Jackie oughtn’t watch. Yet she waited, heart in wild rhythm, for The Kennedy Conspiracy Theories to begin. Anniversaries of the incident were hard, the ten years intervening barely helped. She would finally watch. Jackie set aside the stack of papers from her latest volunteer committee. She made her way across the plush aquamarine carpet and pushed the intercom button.
“I’ll have lunch now. In my sitting room…The usual Thursday diet plate will be fine. What’s on Ari’s calender?... In Paris until Monday. Okay, then. Consuela? Bring a pitcher of dacquiris, too.”
Jackie opened the drapes. The cold steel and concrete of Fifth Avenue below looked nothing like Dallas in March. That unpleasantness belongs to a different time and place. It doesn’t matter anymore. She lit a cigarette with the big ceramic table lighter, inhaling deeply.
When the maid left, Jackie turned the television’s volume knob up. Words and images veered in and out of her focus. The Warren Commission. Lee Harvey Oswald. The KGB. Castro… Did someone else show up as well, with an agenda of his own? Everything afterwards was a blur. She only remembered her silly hat.
There she was, getting into the limousine. Younger then, smooth-skinned in her pink Chanel suit and matching pillbox hat. Classic, cool Jackie. A fashion plate. But still, always, a mere woman. She thought John was different, a soulmate who considered her his equal. Then he trapped her as a wife and mother, with no choice but to take his infidelities. He wasn’t different whatsoever. He bleated about freedom and fairness for all, while putting his own wife through hell.
Sex brought him constant thrills. Sex brought her public shame, and deaths. Her dear little Arabella, created by sex with John, stillborn. Her dear little Patrick, created by sex with John, dead at two days old. The whole time, John cheated. People talked. Well, if she can’t keep her man satisfied, a man not properly tended will stray. Jackie carried on, elegant and poised. Numb and robot-like.
The screen flashed to Marilyn Monroe, eerie in the overly green tone of the TV. Jackie’s heart seized, dreadful glee. She gulped her drink and poured another. Jackie, whose humiliation before the world didn’t matter. Who doesn’t matter now, Norma Jeane? Her laughter calmed to pure blackness, the place in her mind she couldn’t bear. She pushed the button again. “Consuela, bring me another pack of Newports.”
Early August, 1962. Los Angeles. She called “Marilyn Monroe,” told her that she, Jackie, knew John’s heart belonged to Norma Jeane. Could they meet and plan how to transfer John with the least disruption? Surely, that was the civilized way. She showed up at the tramp’s apartment, disguised as a maid, invisible. The ridiculous thing believed the President of the United States would marry trash like her. Ha! Jackie slipped crushed valium into the cow’s drinks as the hour wore on, pleased that her own acting job fooled the big star. At the end, Jackie stripped her, curious as to what her husband found so alluring. Short legs, saggy breasts. Just simple tricks with make-up, hair dye and girdles. Nothing special.
Jackie took the telephone off the hook, a precaution to put time between her visit and the discovery of the body. If anyone called, they’d think the girl was vapidly blathering on. Jackie positioned the receiver in a limp hand. “Call John now, Norma Jeane. Ask him how he feels when sex leads to death.”
In the media frenzy that followed, no “maid” was mentioned in the “possible suicide.” John showed no feelings. He crushed Jackie, ruined her, over a little chippy he didn’t even care for.
There were many more. Extra-marital affairs with tramps were his right as a Great Man. Her dead babies and public mortification didn’t count.
She took the cigarettes from Consuela. The lunch-hour madness of Fifth Avenue swarmed below. Now I’m here, in a different life. The old unpleasantness is long over. The television blared. Jackie, crawling out of the limo and across the trunk. At the swearing-in of Lyndon Johnson, still in the blood-splattered pink Chanel suit, now without its matching hat. Calm and collected. Tormented beyond sanity.
November 22, 1963. Dallas. Jackie, getting into the backseat of the limousine. One foot in, swivel and perch, as quality girls learned young. In her exalted place beside the Great Man, the fornicating terror. At Dealey Plaza, a dainty swoop to retrieve her little Derringer from the pocket she’d sewn inside the pink pillbox hat. One shot, through the neck. Look, John. Sex leads to death. Publicly! A second shot to finish the job. Another swoop to tuck the tiny pistol neatly back under her hat.
She dropped the hat and gun into the incinerator at the hospital. No one ever suspected her. She didn’t count.
Carly Berg is a dark cloud hovering above sunny Houston. Her flash stories appear in dozens of publications. She welcomes visitors to her site: carlyberg.com.