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t was a cool, dry November morning in Texas, and out of the window of the building where Tom sat, he could see the tall and industrious city of Dallas. He was waiting for his name to be called. He was at an audition for bit part as a king in some low-budget playwoulddn’t usually have considered. But he really needed this job, because how else would he ever pay the rent on his apartment? He was a striking, sharply dressed, handsome man who looked like he was somewhere in his late-thirties or early-forties, his face weathered, but not yet with the wrinkles of an older man.
Tom noticed, as he looked out the windowsill of the waiting room, that a cowbird with a brown head and deep black feathers lay on the roof of a shorter, neighboring building, dead, crumpled, and motionless. He felt sadness and pity for this bird, because its grace and beauty had come to an end.
He continued to sit, reading the paper, when a speckle-faced, red-haired young man with enormous glasses entered the room and called in a weak, unimpressive voice, “Tom Atkins?” Tom rose, putting on what he thought of as his “audition smile” (which he always suspected was a little too large) and entered another room.
As Tom stepped through the door, into a room with a marble floor with streaks of black, he immediately felt it was not your average audition, because the room was far too fancy, more like an apartment building or a stage at the theatre.
Tense looking men, some with glasses, were scurrying about in a hurried way. Everyone on the casting panel looked emotionless and uptight (it was tremendously frightening), seeming more like congressmen than casting directors.
“We would like you to perform for us, a famous Shakespearean line of text ,” a middle-aged, auburn-haired man with very deep-set features said. “‘Now is the winter of our discontent.’ But, say it like you’re waving to a crowd.”
Tom repeated the text on the paper, “Now is the winter of our discontent,” he said, waving his hand uncomfortably. Tom thought ‘Why am I waving to a crowd? And Shakespeare?’ After Tom finished the phrase, there was a pause as the room fell silent.
“Very good,” the same man said. “Very, very good.” He repeated this slowly and deliberately, almost in a whisper.
There was much whispering amongst the casting directors. Then, suddenly, in the midst of the mysterious quiet chatter and constant glances at Tom, the first casting director said, “Has anyone ever told you that you bear a striking resemblance to a famous person?”
Tom answered, for the thousandth time, “Yes, I get that regularly.”
They once again broke into a consultation, which lasted, it seemed to Tom, for many long, drawn-out minutes. Then, the second casting director, whose name Tom overheard as Jane (an old woman with streaking grey hair put up into a barrette and wearing a red, short overcoat with a matching skirt) said, “Well, sir, we would like you to start right away. There’s a car waiting for you out front. You’ll be accompanied by several policemen, and you’ll drive through a parade.”
“A parade?” Tom asked.
“It’s for promotional purposes. Don’t worry, it’s not going to kill you,” Jane smiled reassuringly.
Tom smiled back, but felt surprisingly nervous. Leaving the room, he was accompanied by one of the older men to a jet-black convertible with an interior of black leather seats, and a retractable roof currently open to the sky.
A group of tall, stoic burly men wearing sunglasses, and clenching their right hands on handguns, accompanied the vehicle. A beautiful woman with dark brown hair and a pink pillbox hat sat in the car. “Did anyone ever tell you look like someone famous?” Tom asked. She smiled. One of the guards closed the door and the car started off slowly and steadily.
Nearby, watching the car, a tall man stepped out onto a balcony, looking at the waving crowd, some distance from the parade. A sudden gunshot could be heard and Tom Atkins slumped over in the car and sprawled onto the lap of the woman with the pillbox hat. The tall man on the balcony stood hidden from sight, watching the momentous event.
“We really did look so much alike,” John F. Kennedy said.