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Legs

William Kennedy

Chapters 9 & 10

Chapter 8: Jack-in-the-Box

Important quotes explained

Summary

Chapter 9: Jack O' the Clock

Jack arrives for his second trial in Troy, this one for kidnapping, with Marcus and Alice. Kiki is secretly stowed away. Just before the trial begins, a youth approaches Jack and says Jack will soon be dead. He asks Jack if he wants to get it over with now. The prosecutor calls Jack the devil in the embodiment of American Puritanism. Marcus makes up a story about a nun who told him she knew Jack when he was a young boy and a devout Catholic, and there is no way he could have done the things he is accused of doing. Jack is acquitted, and the crowd cheers again. After the acquittal, Jack has a party at The Parody. Marcus toasts Jack and gives a speech about his miraculous ability to survive. Kiki is not there, because Alice would not be happy about her presence. Late in the evening, Hubert reports that Kiki is mad at Jack and demanding that he come see her. Jack excuses himself from Alice and the party. Jack promises Kiki that they will go to Haines Falls. Kiki says that Jack treats women like animals. They make love, but Jack cannot climax. Jack arrives at his apartment at 4:15 a.m. on Friday, December 18, 1931. He thinks about the bust-up of his mob, and the four years of federal jail time that await him.

Jack's landlord hears two men climb the stairs to Jack's apartment and fire six shots. She telephones the Parody Club at 6:55 a.m. By the time the police arrive, Jack is dead. Jack is supposed to by buried in Calvary Cemetery next to Eddie, but the church won't allow it. The priest backs out of the funeral ceremony, and Jack's thirteen-year-old cousin is forced to say the rosary in front of a thousand people.

Kiki begins a five-a-day stint at the Academy of Music just eighteen days after Jack's death. She is a box office smash. Alice is perturbed, but Marcus tells her to stop competing for the love of a dead man. Alice puts together a skit about how crime does not pay, which debuts thirty-five days after Jack's death at the Central Theater in the Bronx. Kiki and Alice both go on the road. By spring, Kiki is still traveling, but Alice is not. Alice survives by collecting union kickbacks still owed to Jack, which she is able to procure because of certain secrets Jack told her which the unions would not want made public. Alice is about to open a tearoom on Jones' Walk at Coney, which will almost certainly turn into a speakeasy, when she is murdered. Her killers are never apprehended, and Alice, like Jack, is barred from receiving an official Catholic funeral. Marcus sees Kiki for the last time in 1936 at the Howard Theater in Boston, where she is doing a burlesque show called The Pepper Pot Revue, in which she does a little stripping. Marcus chats with her. He comforts her when she cries, and tells her that she is keeping Jack alive (his name is on the marquee too). The Goose sexually assaulted a young boy in prison at the age of sixty-eight, and was stabbed in his good eye. Fogerty was let out of jail early because of sickness. He died of TB in the isolation ward of the Ann Lee Home in Albany.

The scene fades back to the Kenmore, where Packy and Flossie and Tipper sit with Marcus. Marcus thinks that a story Tipper tells about Jack's dog comes closest to revealing the truth of Jack. Jack had decided to take the dog for a walk, but wanted a sweater because it was cold out. So Jack told the dog to go upstairs and get his black sweater, and it did. A time passed, and the dog hadn't come back. Finally, Jack went upstairs to see what was wrong, and the dog was there, sewing a button back onto the sweater.

Chapter 10: Jacked Up

Jack Diamond sits up in bed in his underwear, looks in the mirror, and realizes that he is dead. Yellow fluid springs from his pores. There are visitors crowding into his room. Rothstein walks up and touches Jack's bloody skull. Marcus walks up to him and presses his fingers against Jack's arteries and instructs Jack to leave his body through the head, rather than the ear, so that he does not come back in the next life as a musician. Jack emerges from his body and stands in front of a mirror. The puss is gone. Marcus tells Jack to say a prayer. He asks God to turn him onto the Great White Way, and suddenly feels a clammy coldness. He remembers a prayer Rothstein taught him, and says that too. Jack's final statement is, "honest to God, Marcus, I really don't think I'm dead."

Analysis

Jack's death comes at a good time, in a way, for had he lived any longer, he probably would have been sent to a prison for a long time and gradually faded from the public's mind. But he dies a free man, just acquitted after a high- profile trial. The two young women who survive Jack do an exceptional job of continuing his legacy after his death. Kiki's shows keeps Jack's name in lights on marquees across the country for years. In one sense, through Kiki and Alice, Jack becomes the stage show star Alice wanted him to be.

Alice's show, which preaches that crime doesn't pay, is a version of the show Jack could have taken on the road himself. Alice is still trying to atone for her husband's sins. Still, she does not lead a spotless life. Marcus suggests that the restaurant Alice intended to open before her murder surely would have turned into a speakeasy, which suggests that Alice maintained a few of her husband's underworld connections. Alice also manages to collect the kickbacks, probably by threatening the unions. This threatening is perhaps what led to her violent death.

The final line of the book is an almost exact restatement of Marcus's declaration at the beginning of the novel: Jack is not dead. These identical statements frame the life of a man who still has a hold on the American imagination. As long as the legend of Legs Diamond survives, in some way, he will live. Marcus has used this statement as a touchstone for seeking out all of the many ways in which Jack Diamond lived, before and after his death. The final chapter is a brief, cerebral scene in which Jack seems to be carried off to heaven or hell. Marcus makes reference Jack's next life, suggesting that Jack has a chance at reincarnation. Perhaps what Marcus implies is that Jack's reincarnation has taken place in the form of the life he lives in this book.

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