No one asks to be born and certainly no one would ask to be born on November 22, 1963. Especially not the very minute the president died and not in Dallas, the city in which he died. No one would be stupid enough to wish for that.
I don’t remember the first interview as I was just days old. My parents had been going to name me Sam Houston, like the Texas hero. After they heard of the tragedy, though, they saddled me with the moniker John Fitzgerald Kennedy Bishop.
Every five years after that the reporters would come around on my birthday. It was fun at first. When I was five and ten years old it was nice to get all that attention. I was still young enough that when they asked if I was going to be president I believed I could.
Then they came around when I was fifteen, my face speckled with acne and braces on my teeth. Ma twisted my arm into letting them take a picture. At school the next day I found a copy taped to my locker labeled, “JFKB—President of Loserville.”
From that day on I vowed to change things. I tried to get my birthday celebrated on a different day, but while you can change your name, you can’t change your birthday. In college I decided to take a more radical approach; I decided to create a time machine. The logic was simple: if JFK didn’t die then I wouldn’t be named after him and the reporters wouldn’t come around searching for signs I might be a reincarnation of the dead president.
By the time I finished the machine it was the 50th anniversary of his death. By then he’d been dead longer than he’d been alive and yet still a Gary Sinclair of USA Today tracked me down to the lab I’d built out in the desert south of Phoenix. Since I’d lost my hair and put on fifty pounds, no one asked if I was a reincarnation of JFK anymore. Now the tone of the questions became more whimsical, like I was a circus freak.
“So where’s Jackie O?” Sinclair asked.
“I’m not married.” Sinclair nodded as if this were expected. “Let me show you something.”
I took him to the lab to show him the machine. It might not look like much, just a bunch of wires and computer parts, but it worked. The day before I had gone back in time to the day before that. Now it would get its first real workout.
I already had the date set to November 21, 1963. “What’s this?” the reporter asked.
“I am going to make history. Or rather, unmake it.”
“I’m going back in time to stop the assassination. When I’m done no one will remember JFK except as a mediocre president who made some pretty speeches.”
“Really? This I got to see.”
“I’m afraid you can’t come with me. It’s sad to think if I’m successful, none will know of my genius.”
“Well, good luck then Doc Brown.”
“This is not a movie,” I growled. “It will work! I’ll prove it!”
Then I got into the machine and pushed the button.
I had already dressed in appropriate clothes for the 1960s and acquired some currency. I used this to buy a rifle. This being Texas, it was easy enough to procure the weapon and bullets. I had spent years practicing with similar weapons.
I had also learned the terrain of the area. I set up my rifle on a grassy knoll that overlooked the parade route, with a line on the book depository. I squatted down to look through my scope. There he was, Lee Harvey Oswald. In a few minutes he would shoot the president and forever damn me to be compared to that infernal man.
“Not this time,” I grumbled. This time things would be different. I would shoot Oswald before he could shoot Kennedy. Then I would disappear in time, back to the present. I already had a history book on my desk to open the instant I returned. I couldn’t wait to open it and see my liberation.
I gauged the wind speed and adjusted my weapon. I would only get one shot at this. The president’s motorcade appeared on the road. Through my sight, I saw Oswald get into position with his rifle. His finger went for the trigger, as did mine— ...Tweet