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Legs

William Kennedy

Chapter 3: Jack, Out of Doors, Part I

Chapter 2: Jack Sauce

Chapter 3: Jack, Out of Doors, Part II

Summary

Jack is "the most hunted man in America" after the incident at the Hotsy Totsy, and ends up holing up in the Catskills. Joe "Speed" Fogerty picks up Marcus in Jack's custom-made green Cadillac. On the way to Jimmy Biondo's farm, Marcus thinks about Rip Van Winkle and Ichabod Crane, fictional characters that make the Catskills seem magical to him.

Fogerty is Jack's driver, and also handles Jack's money and the books on beer distribution. He is Jack's sidekick, a replacement for Eddie, Jack's brother who died of tuberculosis (TB). Fogerty had TB and survived. Now Fogerty carries around an unloaded, pearl-handled .32 that Eddie had owned. They arrive at an elegant white farmhouse. Jack, his wife Alice, and Biondo, who rents the place to Jack, are sitting on the porch. Jack takes Marcus to the barn, which is outfitted with a beer refrigeration unit and a wine and champagne storage room. Jack and Alice take turns firing tommy guns at a target on the wall with Dutch Schultz's face on it. At first Marcus feels odd firing the gun, but his aim turns out to be good, and he starts enjoying it.

They go to Jack's place in Acra. Marcus sits in the back of the car with Alice and admires her cleavage. Alice coos at two canaries perched in a silver cage, and walks inside. Mendel "Ox" Feinstein, a bodyguard, tells Jack that Marion called and wants to see him that afternoon. Jack curses and goes inside. Fogerty informs Marcus that Marion is Jack's "special friend," and that he calls one of the canaries Alice and the other Marion. Inside, Alice has placed holy pictures all over the walls, and Marcus notes three books on a small shelf: an encyclopedia of Freemasonry, a copy of Rabelais, and a Douay Bible. Jack returns and says he is a Mason because it's good for business. Alice doesn't like his Masonry and to annoy her Jack keeps a picture of an all-seeing eye, a God figure from Masonic symbology, on a wall in the upstairs bathroom.

Jack, Marcus, and Jack's cat Pistol go for a walk through the woods. Jack asks Marcus to work for him. Marcus had been thinking about going into politics, and Jack mentions that his acquaintance Arnold Rothstein has district attorneys and judges on his payroll. Jack wants Marcus to help him with the legalities of buying the whole hill and the forest. The man who owns the land, Van Wie, won't sell. Jack tells Marcus that in 1927, Van Wie asked him and Eddie to shoot a mad cat that had already bitten his wife. When they saw the orange and brown cat, it reminded them of Sugarpuss, their cat, and they refused to shoot it. The old man stabbed it with his pitchfork, and Eddie shot the cat to put it out of its misery. Jack recalls getting Sugarpuss when he was twelve after saving the cat from a dog.

On the way back, Marcus notices Pistol pouncing on a mole, letting it go, and pouncing on it again. When they get back Alice asks Jack which canary is Marion—she had overheard Oxie and Fogerty talking. Marion picks up the bird with a black spot on its head, wrings its neck, and throws it back in the cage, saying, "[t]hat's how much I love you." Jack takes the other bird, squeezes it to death, and shoves it down the crevice between her breasts. "I love you too," he says.

Analysis

Marcus's attraction to Jack's dangerousness grows stronger when Jack lets him shoot a machine gun. Initially nervous about handling a weapon of mass destruction, Marcus loves shooting after he tries it. Alice handles the guns, too, and with none of the nervousness Marcus feels.

In this chapter, we begin to see a connection between Jack and cats. Marcus notices several similarities between Jack and his cat, Pistol. Jack and Pistol both move with a swift lightness of feet, and Pistol hunts his animal prey just as Jack toys with his own gangster prey. Jack tells stories about Sugarpuss, the cat he and Eddie shared in Philadelphia, and he tells a story about Van Wie's cruel treatment of a cat. It is painful for Jack to remember being forced to kill his neighbor's cat, which looked just like Sugarpuss. It is possible that guilt over having to kill the cat that reminded him of beloved Sugarpuss reminds Jack of the many people he has turned against and betrayed over the years.

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